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Migraines and Magnesium

Migraines And Magnesium

If you’ve been suffering with migraines for any length of time, you know that they can be complex to diagnose and treat. Causes vary from patient to patient and headache to headache.   

But here’s a cause you may not have considered: magnesium deficiency.  

Magnesium Deficiency and Headaches 

Studies indicate that magnesium deficiency may be one of the most commonly overlooked migraine triggers. There is also evidence to suggest that magnesium deficiency is even more common in migraine sufferers than non-migraine sufferers.  

The exact connection between migraines and magnesium is still being studied, but researchers believe that it may be related to magnesium’s role in regulating serotonin. An increase in serotonin from a lack of magnesium can cause vascular spasms and contraction which reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. It is believed that constriction of the blood vessels is a leading cause of headache pain.  

Because of this, magnesium is also being studied as an effective remedy for migraine sufferers. Several studies have indicated that taking magnesium for migraines can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines when taken as an oral supplement or intravenously.  In oral form, it can be effective on its own or as part of a supplement containing other minerals as well.  

Fortunately, both oral and topical magnesium supplements are safe, affordable, easy to find, and may reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines.  

How did we all become magnesium deficient?

Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body. It’s the second most prevalent intracellular fluid and is essential in over 300 chemical processes in the body. Magnesium helps promote a healthy heart and blood vessels, regulates energy levels, is critical for bone health, and is a natural blood thinner and vasodilator.  

However, it is estimated that nearly 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium! This is due to several factors including: 

  • Eating the standard American diet high in processed foods, meat, refined grains, and sugars 
  • Nutrient-deficient soils 
  • Overconsumption of alcohol, caffeine, and soda 
  • Drinking “soft” water that is low in magnesium 
  • Stress (which increases our demand for magnesium in the body) 
  • A genetic inability to absorb magnesium  
  • Use of calcium supplements 
  • Because of where magnesium is stored in the body, a deficiency does not generally show up on routine blood tests. 

If you think you may be at risk for a magnesium deficiency, it’s important that you pay attention to your symptoms. The effects of magnesium deficiency can vary from person to person, but, as you pay more attention to your body, you will begin to recognize your own signs and symptoms.  

Some common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: 

  • Muscle spasms and cramps 
  • Changes in mood 
  • Food cravings (chocolate is a common one that appears to pop up in magnesium deficiency) 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Low energy levels or feeling exhausted quickly

Personally, I know that I’m running on the low side when I start craving chocolate, experiencing twitching and spasms in my muscles, and sleeping poorly. Be on the lookout for your own cues. 

Choosing a Magnesium Supplement 

There are a few things you need to know before you begin experimenting with magnesium as a treatment for your headaches.  

First of all, one of the common side effects of magnesium supplementation is diarrhea and intestinal discomfort. It is recommended that you begin supplementation very slowly to determine what levels you can comfortably tolerate.

 Believe it or not, the most commonly recommended way to find the right dosage for yourself is to very slowly increase the amount you use until these side effects occur and then back off. Every body is different and uses a different amount at different times in their life.  

Also, magnesium comes in many forms – and not all forms are created equal! Here’s what we recommend: 

  • Magnesium malate is a mix of magnesium and malic acid. Because of malic acid’s role in the body, research suggests that malic acid can improve ATP production in the cells, thereby increasing energy and reducing pain. It is a favorite amongst people who also suffer from chronic fatigue and appreciate the energy boost. Some people find it overly stimulating, however, and prefer a different form.
  • Magnesium glycinate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium. It is also the least likely to cause intestinal problems. If you try malate and experience diarrhea or find it disrupts your sleep, you may want to try this form instead.  
  • Magnesium threonate has recently been studied to improve memory and brain function. This form optimizes magnesium levels in the brain and is a good option if you are not getting relief from the other forms. 

For neck and shoulder tension relief, we suggest avoiding magnesium oxide because it isn’t easily utilized by the body and magnesium citrate because it can stimulate the bowels before you absorb enough.  

You should also avoid magnesium glutamate and aspartate. These break down into neurotransmitters that can trigger headaches for many people.  

Making a quality magnesium supplement part of your regular routine can help prevent headaches by increasing magnesium levels in the body, which supports overall functioning of the body since magnesium is involved in SO many processes and pathways.

How much should I take?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this and you should be wary of specific recommendations for dosages. In the introductory course, The Ultimate Migraine Relief Course, you’ll learn more about why magnesium is important to include in your routine and how to find the right amount for your body, right now (it changes over time!!).

For magnesium to be effective, you need to be on the right amount for YOU and we show you how to do this with a series of trials over the course of several days. (Learn about the course here.)

You can also take an extra dose at the earliest sign of a migraine or PMS symptoms if you are prone to menstrual migraines. Taking magnesium along with cofactor B6 and B2 or a bioavailable B-complex can help speed absorption and provide faster relief.  

Topical Magnesium 

If the oral supplements listed above do not relieve your muscle tension or cramping or an adequate dose causes severe intestinal discomfort, you can also supplement through the skin. 

Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to your bath two to three times a week and see if the frequency or severity of your headaches decreases.  

You can also try topical gels, sprays, or oils with magnesium chloride. Here is one of my personal favorites.  Follow the directions on the package and experiment with different doses and products to find the one that works best for you.  

Talk to Your Doctor Before Starting New Supplements

Magnesium supplementation can be an effective preventative measure as well as a pain reliever when a migraine strikes.  

While magnesium overdose is rare, it is a risk, especially for people with reduced kidney function. It is recommended that you start with the lowest dose possible and increase slowly. Talk to your doctor about the best way to add a magnesium supplement to your health regimen and before making any changes to your supplementation programs.  

For more strategies on short-circuiting the migraine process, you will absolutely love the step-by-step method you’ll learn in The Ultimate Migraine Relief Course.

About the author:

Erin Knight, founder of Engineering Radiance, believes that no one should miss out on life because of migraine headaches. Erin has her Masters in Pharmaceutical Engineering from the University of Michigan and advanced training in functional nutrition and nutrigenomics. She suffered from debilitating migraines for over a decade before uncovering the underlying biochemical causes and went on to reverse engineer what worked. This led to the development of her 4-step Migraine Freedom process that is now a blueprint for thousands of people looking for root-cause solutions to their migraine pain.

Add more tools to your toolbox by downloading Erin’s Migraine Rescue Toolbox –a free PDF guide that includes 10 more great ways to get natural migraine relief.

Referenced articles 

Chiu HY, Yeh TH, Huang YC, Chen PY. Effects of Intravenous and Oral Magnesium  on Reducing Migraine: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Physician. 2016 Jan;19(1):E97-112. PubMed PMID: 26752497.  

Delavar Kasmaei H, Amiri M, Negida A, Hajimollarabi S, Mahdavi N. Ketorolac versus Magnesium Sulfate in Migraine Headache Pain Management; a Preliminary Study. Emerg (Tehran). 2017;5(1):e2. Epub 2017 Jan 8. PubMed PMID: 28286809; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5325888.  

Gaul C, Diener HC, Danesch U; Migravent® Study Group. Improvement of migraine  symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10:  a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. J Headache Pain. 2015;16:516. doi: 10.1186/s10194-015-0516-6. Epub 2015 Apr 3. PubMed PMID:  25916335; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4393401. 

Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 May;119(5):575-9. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0790-2. Epub 2012 Mar 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 22426836.  

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lacto-fermented condiments

Be Prepared To Make Condiments

Preparedness is a big topic these days and many people are looking at purchasing packages of food that are good for long term storage. The biggest challenge with pre-made prepared foods is all of the chemicals and additives that are in them. Of course, making a list of foods to have on hand for those times when you need it is important. But when you’re putting that list together consider skipping the condiments.

Making condiments

I’m not saying don’t have condiments on hand. However, I do believe it’s better to know how to make your own condiments. This way you’ll have them on hand fresh and tasty, plus you’ll avoid all the negative ingredients found in many condiments. And truthfully even those without too many harmful additives don’t last that long. By knowing how to make your own condiments and having a few simple, easy to store ingredients on hand you’ll always have delicious, nourishing condiments available.

You’ll need to remember that when fermented the condiments may have a slight bubble to them or may seem to separate slightly. They may also have a slightly tangy smell. Do not eat them if they are fuzzy, discolored, or smell really bad/moldy.  If you’ve done it right, this should not happen.

Needed ingredients

When making lacto-fermented condiments you start with a basic condiment recipe. Then you add some sort of liquid that helps with the fermentation process.  The two best options are whey, the liquid that’s left over from making yogurt, or the liquid you have when you make homemade sauerkraut.  You often have quite a bit of either of these left over after making the item. You can store it in a jar in the fridge until you need to use it to make recipes like these condiments below.

Lacto-fermented Ketchup
Print
Ingredients
  1. 6-ounces organic tomato paste (one small can)
  2. ½ c. whey (strained from yogurt or made from starter)
  3. 1-2 tablespoons whey
  4. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (raw & unfiltered)
  5. 1 tablespoon honey
  6. 2 teaspoons molasses
  7. ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  8. ½  teaspoon onion powder
  9. ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  10. generous pinch each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients (except 1-2 T. whey) together in a food processor until well combined
  2. Place in a jar and top with 1-2 tablespoons of whey to cover completely
  3. Cover jar and let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days
  4. After fermenting store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Quick and Easy BBQ Sauce
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup ketchup (see above)
  2. 2 tablespoons mustard (see below)
  3. ½ cup honey
  4. 1 ½ tablespoons molasses
  5. ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan and heat gently until just under a boil
  2. Remove from heat, cool and jar
  3. Store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
Lacto-fermented Mustard
Print
Ingredients
  1. ½ cup mustard seeds
  2. ½ cup sauerkraut brine (leftover/filtered from live kraut)
  3. 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (raw & unfiltered)
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1 tablespoon honey
  6. ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor
  2. Place in a jar, cover, and let sit at room temperature 1-2 days
  3. Store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Lacto-fermented Mayonnaise
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 egg
  2. 1 cup olive oil, divided
  3. 11⁄2 teaspoons mustard powder
  4. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar and a few fresh tarragon leaves)
  6. 1 tablespoon whey
Instructions
  1. Place the egg, 1⁄4 cup oil, mustard, and salt into a container
  2. Blend well. (A stick blender is the best tool for this.)
  3. When well blended, drizzle in another 1⁄4 cup olive oil and blend well again.
  4. Add the tarragon vinegar; blend well
  5. Slowly add the remaining olive oil and blend well
  6. Gentle blend in whey until completely incorporated
  7. Place in a jar, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours
  8. Store in refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
Olive Oil Dressing/Marinade
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups organic extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/4 Cup  apple cider vinegar  (raw & unfiltered)
  3. 3 tablespoons dry oregano
  4. 2 tablespoon dry basil
  5. 2 tablespoons dry parsley
  6. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  7. 1 teaspoon garlic salt
Instructions
  1. Blend well in a blender
  2. Store in the refrigerator
Variations
  1. Add ½ cup mayonnaise to make a creamy dressing
  2. Add ¼ cup mustard and substitute 1 clove fresh garlic for the dried
  3. Add ½ cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon paprika and substitute red wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar to make a Catalina dressing
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Holistic Remedies for Headache

6 Holistic Remedies For Headache Relief

A headache can often be uncomfortable. In some cases, such as migraines, they can be painful and even debilitating. Whether it’s frequent and chronic headaches or an occasional bout of acute pain, it can interfere with your life, making it difficult to do the things you want to do. Although there are prescription medications and OTC options to help you deal with migraines, try some of these holistic remedies before you reach for the pharmaceuticals.

While there can be any number of reasons for a headache it’s important that you track them in order to be more aware of what your triggers are.  Keeping a headache or migraine journal, in combination with the holistic strategies below, may help reduce you reduce the frequency and/or severity of your headaches.

Food-based issues

Sometimes your headache may be due to specific foods or sensitivity to ingredients. It could even be due to a deficiency of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  If any of these appear to be contributing to your headaches you’ll want to work with a doctor or nutrition professional who can help you identify some of these triggers and support you through the necessary changes to your diet.  Beyond food-based changes, there are a number of other strategies that you can use to help you with your headaches:

Hydration

Many people who experience headaches may be chronically dehydrated.  According to the literature, water-deprivation headache was resolved in as little as 30 minutes by drinking an average of 2 cups of water.  In addition to headaches, dehydration can cause a number of other symptoms such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, dry skin, and fatigue.  Proper hydration can help relieve these symptoms as well as boosting circulation in order to help with detoxification. In addition to drinking more water, choose hydrating foods for a healthy boost to your diet.

Stress Management

One very common cause of chronic headaches is stress. Whether your stress is caused by work, relationship issues, anxiety, or the habit of overanalyzing everything, stress can be a significant factor when it comes to headaches.  Managing your stress means looking at those factors that are, well, giving you a headache, and finding ways to either avoid them or reduce their impact on your life.  Some top tips for reducing your stress include:

    • Spending time with friends and family
    • Getting enough rest (sleep deprivation can be a significant  factor in stress)
    • Participate in some form of regular exercise
    • Find a fun activity that you enjoy such as art, gardening, or music
    • Meditate

Some studies found that meditation was helpful in reducing both pain and tension. The participants in the study were new to meditation and were only given one 20-minute guided session to learn from. 

Massage

Massage is helpful for relaxing the muscles and can improve the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. According to one study in the Journal of Headache Pain, massage and physiotherapy (which includes massage plus heat and exercise treatment) were effective options for treatment. 

In combination with massage, it may be helpful to apply either hot or cold compresses to help further stimulate blood flow and reduce the headache.  Cold compresses are generally applied to the forehead and temples while hot compresses are often applied to the back of the neck or head.  People tend to respond differently to either hot or cold so you’ll need to experiment with both to see which works best for you.

Some people also find applying weight over the eyes or to the forehead can be helpful and like to use a rolled up towel or an eye-pillow similar to those used in yoga practice.

Acupuncture/Acupressure

This ancient Chinese therapy uses small needles to stimulate certain points or meridians on the body and in doing so balance your Qi or energy. The use of acupuncture has been found to trigger the body so that it produces endorphins, brain chemicals which help reduce pain. One study, in particular, found acupuncture to be similar in effectiveness to preventative pharmacological therapies. Acupuncture can be beneficial for other pain issues as well.

In addition to acupuncture, there’s always the use of self-administered acupressure. Acupressure doesn’t use needles but still applies pressure to certain areas to help relieve the pain of a headache. There are three acupressure points that are most supportive.  GB 20 is the pressure point at the base of the skull, LI 4 is the web in between the thumb and forefinger, and there are four points on the feet.

Herbs

Herbal therapy can be very powerful and there are a number of herbs that are specifically beneficial for headaches. Most people tend to use herbal teas for their headaches. These can be made by adding 1 teaspoon of dry herb to 8 ounces of boiling water and letting it steep for 4-5 minutes.  Strain and serve, if needed you can add a little honey or stevia as a sweetener.

    • Basil
    • Butterbur
    • Catnip
    • Chamomile
    • Fennel
    • Feverfew
    • Ginger
    • Lavender
    • Rosemary
    • Spearmint/Peppermint

Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for various health issues for thousands of years. Two, in particular, seem to be very helpful for dealing with headaches.

Lavender

Lavender essential oil is often used for its calming effect. In one study participants used the lavender essential oil by inhaling it every 15 minutes for two hours. Results showed that a majority of the test subjects responded positively to inhaling the lavender. Another study looked at using lavender essential oil proactively as a preventative. In that study, both the number and the intensity of the migraines were reduced.

Peppermint

The other beneficial essential oil is peppermint. A cooling, soothing oil, it has been shown to help reduce the pain and sensitivity that often comes with headaches. Peppermint oil also appears to help improve blood flow to the forehead when applied there.

When using essential oils it’s important to note that they are so powerful that they should not be taken internally. Applying essential oils directly to the area, either neat or diluted, or inhaling them using a diffuser or inhaler is all you need. Because essential oils are so potent it may be necessary to dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil.

Dilution Chart (based on 1 tsp. of carrier oil)
1% – 1 drop (best for children and the elderly)
2% – 2 drops
3 % – 3 drops (for specific issues, as directed)
10 % – 10 drops


Resources

  • Blau, JN, et al. Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Headache. 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83.
  • Chaibi, A and Russel, MB. Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Headache Pain. 2014 Oct 2;15:67.
  • DaSilva, AN. Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache.2015 Mar;55(3):470-3.
  • Göbel H, et al. Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine. 1995 Oct;2(2):93-102
  • Rafie, S, et al. Effect of lavender essential oil as prophylactic therapy for migraine: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Herbal Medicine. Volume 6, Issue 1. March 2016. Pages 18-23.
  • Sasannejad P, et al.Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91
  • Tonelli, ME and Wachholtz, AB. Meditation-based treatment yielding immediate relief for meditation-naïve migraineurs. Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Mar;15(1):36-40.

Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash

Summer Vegetable Soup - The Ingredient Guru Recipe

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup

I love my Instant Pot

Ever since I got an Instant Pot® (IP) it has become my favorite appliance. I use it so much that I got tired of dragging it up from the cupboard under the counter and now it lives on my kitchen counter full-time.  It gets used regularly for a wide variety of dishes.  That includes for summer meals. 

Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean that we should not eat soup. And while there are lots of delicious cold summer soups, like this amazing gazpacho, even hot soups can be a wonderful summertime dish because they take advantage of the season and what’s fresh.  Of course just because we want to enjoy summer soups, doesn’t mean we want the heat and humidity in our kitchen that comes along with cooking soup. That’s where the instant pot is such an amazing kitchen tool. it takes so much less time and therefore adds less heat to the kitchen.

This recipe is so quick and easy to put together that it’s sure to become one of your summertime (or anytime) favorites. And one of the best things about it is that it’s actually a pretty flexible recipe. Don’t have green beans? Use lima beans.  Or asparagus. Don’t have zucchini, add mushrooms. You really can add a wide variety of vegetables to this.  (pssst…I’ve sometimes been known to clean out my crisper drawer by simply throwing a bunch of veggies into the instant pot, following the general proportions of this recipe, adding bone broth, herbs, and letting the IP do it’s magic.)

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 4 large stalks celery, chopped
  4. 4 large carrots, sliced
  5. 1 medium red onion, chopped
  6. 1 cup green beans, cut into pieces
  7. 1 cup zucchini or summer squash, diced
  8. 8 cups bone broth
  9. 1 pound red potatoes, quartered
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  11. 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  12. 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  13. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped
  14. 2 cups fresh baby greens such as kale, spinach or arugula
  15. Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  16. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  17. Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved or grated
Instructions
  1. Add olive oil to liner pot and set function to Sauté
  2. Add garlic, celery, carrots, and onion,
  3. Sauté until onion is wilting and golden in color, approximately 4-5 minutes
  4. Add green beans, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper
  5. Add bone broth and stir to combine
  6. Put on lid and lock into place, setting the vent to “Sealing”
  7. Set pot to “Manual” for 3 minutes
  8. When cooking time is finished, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure
  9. Remove lid and add baby greens and lemon juice, stirring to combine well
  10. Serve immediately topped with freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
  11. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
Headache or Migraine

Food Facts For Migraine Health

What are Migraines

Migraines are more than just a severe headache. They often tend to be made up of several symptoms including:

  • pain or throbbing of the head, forehead, neck or stomach
  • visual aura
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sensitivity to smell, sound, or light
  • sensitivity to touch or weight of clothing or blankets
  • tingling or numbness of hands, feet, or face (sometimes only on one side of the body)

Symptoms may not be the same from episode to episode and the length of an episode can vary from several hours to several days. There are a wide variety of triggers however food and food-based ingredients tend to be a big culprit. Below are four different categories of migraine triggers that may have to do with what you are eating or drinking. We’ll discuss each of the categories below, at the end of the article we’ll share a strategy for monitoring

Food Triggers

One potential trigger for migraines can be a sensitivity to or inability to properly process certain foods. These often include fermented or aged foods including:

  • alcohol
  • cheeses
  • chocolate
  • citrus
  • shellfish
  • caffeine
  • MSG
  • natural flavorings”
  • or preservatives such as nitrates, nitrites, and sulfites

About Tyramines

Another potential trigger for migraines can be tyramine, a trace element from the amino acid tyrosine. It functions as a catecholamine releasing agent (the catecholamines are neurotransmitters in the brain, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine). Foods that are high in tyramines include:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • beer
  • cabbage
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • most cheeses
  • soy products – soy sauce, soy bean paste, tofu, or natto
  • sauerkraut
  • pineapples
  • eggplants
  • figs
  • red plums
  • raspberries
  • peanuts
  • brazil nuts
  • coconuts
  • yeast
  • cacti
  • processed meats (lunchmeat, sausages, canned fish, etc).

Reduce Refined Sugars

Sugar can be highly inflammatory; consuming high levels of sugar and simple, or highly refined, carbohydrates can negatively impact blood sugar levels. When this happens the body releases insulin which in turn causes a drop in blood sugar. This cycle, sometimes referred to as a blood sugar roller coaster, can be a potential link to headaches or migraines. Learning to understand where sugar hides in the diet can be key to managing your blood sugar levels and possibly have a positive impact on your migraines.

Healthy Hydration

For many migraine sufferers dehydration can be a trigger. Making sure that you are getting proper hydration is an important part of migraine health. To figure out how much hydration you need calculate body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid. Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off set your liquid in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again. Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either. Hydrating foods such as soups, herbal teas, and food with lots of liquid (like watermelon) all count towards a daily hydration goal.

Be Mindful of Micronutrient Status

Nutrient deficiencies are a possible trigger for headaches which may or may not include migraines. And in addition to eating a highly processed diet, or a diet that is low in nutrient density, taking certain medications can deplete nutrients, potentially adding to the issue. Working with a medical or nutrition professional who can order appropriate testing to check your micronutrient status would be helpful.

Food Changes

Because there are so many different foods that are highly linked to migraines, one way to possibly support reducing migraines is to remove them. But while removing whole foods can be helpful, it’s important to know that some processed foods can contain hidden ingredients that can be migraine triggers . And because many of these ingredients are used in a wide variety of items, this makes reading the labels, understanding these ingredients, and avoiding them an important part of your migraine wellness plan.

Monitoring your headache/migraine activity while avoiding triggering food groups can help you more clearly identify which ones may causing your issues. Using a food journal can be a good way to do this. As you build a complete picture of your food-based migraine triggers and change your diet this should help to reduce your episodes. It’s important that if you are working with a doctor and/or nutrition professional to help you resolve your migraine issues you let them know about these changes.

lotus flower - meditation tips

Ten Tips For Meditation Newbies

Why meditate?

Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is getting a lot of attention these days.  As people begin to really understand and accept the idea of a mind-body-wellness connection, this practice is becoming more popular. And studies show that meditation has a wide range of health benefits:

  • reduces stress
  • reduces anxiety
  • increases focus
  • improves self-awareness
  • may help with memory
  • may help reduce addiction and addictive behaviors
  • improves sleep
  • has been shown to help reduce pain

Getting started

Many people can be hesitant or nervous about starting a practice. That’s because most people equate meditation with sitting still for hours, possibly in lotus position (if your knees bend that far), hands in a mudra position, all while chanting Om and clearing your mind of all thought. While that can, as does, work for some people, for many other’s that simply isn’t going to cut it.

We tend to forget that we are all bio-individual human beings.  Mind and body. So just as one particular diet is not going to work for every single human on the face of the planet, there is no one single meditation practice that works for everyone either. It’s important to find a practice that works for you, that means one that you are comfortable with and are willing to continue to practice.

Meditation is not meant to be overwhelming. It can be simple and enjoyable. It can even be something simple like a gratitude practice one to two times per day. If you want to start or improve your meditation practice without stress, however, there are a number of things you need to know. Getting a good start will help you enjoy the process of learning, support you while you find what works for you, and increases your ability to maintain a balanced meditation practice.

Tips for meditating

  1. Start slow Most people seem to think that they need to jump into an extensive practice, meditation for 30 minutes or an hour at a time. It’s better to begin and develop a practice, even a short one, that you can stick with. Starting with even as little as two to three minutes can be a good start. And you’ll feel so good about it that you’ll want to continue.
  2. Stretch first Especially if you’re new to a meditative practice, sitting or lying still, even just for a few minutes, can get, well, a bit fidgety. If you move your body first, stretching, bending, even just jumping in place if that’s what you need to do, you’ll be much more likely to clear your energy enough to be able to be calm for your practice.
  3. Remember to breathe Sometimes the easiest way to get started is to simply focus on your breath. Breathing helps you maintain awareness and connects you to the present. It also allows you to focus on breathing deep into the belly for full relaxation and oxygenation.
  4. Counting helps If you’re having a hard time focusing on your breath you can add a simple counting practice which has the added benefit of creating just a little more awareness.  One popular method is called box breathing. This is where you breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breath out for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four.  Repeat.
  5. You’ll still have thoughts Clearing your mind of all thought is extremely difficult. Instead of trying to not think, simply let your mind float. When you have thoughts come up, and they will, acknowledge them. Don’t focus on them thought, simply recognize that they are there and then return your focus to your breath..
  6. Get comfortable You are not required to bend yourself into a pretzel shape in order to achieve some sort of meditative nirvana. If you’re doing a still meditation (which is what most people start with), simply sit or lie comfortably.  Adjust your body to make sure you don’t feel cramped or crooked. Rest your hands comfortable, at your sides, on your belly, on your lap, whatever works for you. Making yourself comfortable first means you won’t get distracted from your practice by discomfort in your body.
  7. Use a timer Especially in the beginning, the temptation is to keep cracking open your eyeballs to peek and see how much time has passed.  Yes, even if you’re just meditation for two minutes.  If you’re not used to it, two minutes can be a long time.  A timer allows you to let go of that concern because once your time it up it lets you know.  You may find yourself surprised at how quickly the time passes when you don’t have to worry about it.
  8. Try meditating multiple times per day By trying different times of the day you’ll find the time that works best for you.  You’ll probably also discover that, especially in the beginning, it’s easier to do 3-4 mini sessions while you work your way up to a longer one. s
  9. Be patient Like anything new, in theory, it would seem that it should be really easy to meditate.  Especially if you’re only doing it for a few minutes. But we’ve become conditioned to always being busy, especially with technology and our always-on social life. It takes time and effort to break this habit. Be kind to yourself, be patient and know that you will get there.
  10. Keep it up Make it a habit to set aside time every day for meditation.  The more you do this the more you’ll come to appreciate the restful break from our overscheduled and busy lives that meditation provides. Don’t push yourself to move too quickly. Simply acknowledge that you are building a new skill, and that takes time.

     Bonus tip

     Unless you’re using one of the meditation apps listed below, be sure to turn off your cellphone so that
     you
are not interrupted while you’re trying to meditate. Even if you are using an app, set it to do not
     disturb so that you won’t be in the middle of a session when your phone goes off.

Meditation resources

There are a number of resources out there that can help you as you learn to build your practice. These include meditation apps and books. Don’t forget to invest in a comfy pair of yoga pants, and maybe even a yoga mat or a zafu meditation pillow, if you’re going to do a more traditional style of meditation.

The beauty of meditation is how many different ways there are to practice it and how easy it can be.  By incorporating a meditation practice into your life you’ll achieve both physical and mental benefits. Using the tips and resources listed above you’ll become skillful at this wonderful practice, developing a healthful habit that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.

Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Smoothies are a familiar way to get fruit into your diet. But you can take it one step further by adding veggies and healthy fat. This means you’re not simply getting a dessert disguised as a healthy snack, you’re actually getting several nutrient dense servings of fruit and vegetables.

If you’re familiar with the idea of smoothie bowls, then you know that there are a wide variety of bowl types as well as a never-ending list of ingredients to choose from. Smoothie bowls are a great way for you to get a lot of nutrients in an easy to digest dish. So where do you start?

This article provides a smoothie recipe that you are really going to love. The Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl delivers great nutrition that’s easy to prepare and simply delicious.

Why You Should Try It

The reduced sugar in this smoothie is a definite plus. It’s more than just a fruit and fruit juice sugar bomb.  With the addition of leafy green veggies plus avocado for a healthy fat, you’re getting a more nutrient-dense smoothie. And the toppings are booster foods that add a delicious and nutritious extra.

  • Dark leafy greens are always a good choice. Rich in antioxidants and important nutrients they tend to be high in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and more. Due to their bitter nature, they’re also great for heart health and can help stimulate the liver.
  • The bromelain in pineapple aids the digestive function. A fabulous source of vitamin C and manganese, pineapple is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant-rich food. 
  • Avocados are a good source of pantothenic acid and fiber, but they also deliver a nutrient dense punch with vitamin K, copper, and folate. Studies have shown them to be supportive of cardiovascular health as well as helping to balance blood sugar.
  • Known for their phytonutrient dense qualities, blueberries are high in vitamin K, manganese and are a great source of anthocyanins. Research indicates that they are helpful for blood pressure regulation, memory support, and have anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Using green tea instead of juice not only cuts down on the sugar, but it also bumps the antioxidant qualities of this smoothie. Rich in the amino acid theanine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), green tea has been shown to be supportive for brain health, boosting the metabolism, protective of brain function, and it’s anti-carcinogenic.
  • And last but not least are the toppings. The seeds are wonderful sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The cacao is high in both fiber and iron as well as providing antioxidants and magnesium.

So all in all this smoothie is a great choice for real food nutrition. Either as a bowl or a traditional smoothie, it definitely delivers a nutrient-dense punch.

Powehouse Summer Smoothie Bowl
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup organic baby kale or spinach
  2. 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
  3. 3/4 cup green tea
  4. ½ cup pineapple
  5. ½ of an avocado
  6. 1 scoop collagen protein powder
Topping suggestions
  1. ¼ cup granola
  2. 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds or mixed sprouted seeds
  3. 1 Tbsp. flax seeds
  4. 2 Tbsp. cacao nibs
  5. 1-2 Tbsp. blueberries
  6. 1 Tbsp. goji berries
Instructions
  1. Start by blending the blueberries, green tea and leafy greens
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  3. If a thinner consistency is desired (for a smoothie rather than a bowl) add a little more tea
  4. If a thicker consistency is desired then freeze the pineapple before adding to the blender
  5. Pour/scrape into a cup or bowl
  6. Use toppings of choice and garnish the smoothie as desired
  7. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Turnips, The Under Appreciated Root

A different kind of root vegetable

When thinking about root vegetables most people are familiar with carrots, potatoes, and onions. There are, however, a number of other root vegetables. One overlooked vegetable, in particular, is a great addition to the diet; especially when you’re looking to eat a rainbow that has more than green veggies in it. This amazingly healthy choice for root vegetables is turnips. This creamy-purple root vegetable is part of the Brassicaceae family and tends to be grown in temperate climates.  It has a similar look to beetroots; with a bulbous shape and large green leaves. Turnips are easily grown on a small scale in a backyard small garden or they can be planted in containers. All parts of the plant are edible, root, leaves, and sprouts from the seeds.

Nutrition in turnips

Turnips are a must have nutrition-packed vegetable for the diet. A delicious and filling low-calorie root vegetable, they provide dietary fiber plus numerous vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Bs, C, K, folate, magnesium, iron, and calcium, copper and phosphorous. Sprouts made from turnip seeds have been shown to have the second highest level of glucosinolates (mustard sprouts are the highest) which is highly anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.

Not only are these amazing vegetables delicious, but they are also versatile and can be enjoyed in different forms. Turnips can be added to stews, grills, appetizers. They can be steamed, mashed, slightly cooked, or roasted and used in the preparation of a variety of cuisines worldwide. Baby turnips are very tender and can even be eaten raw. Braced by their long shelf life, these veggies ideally should always be included on the grocery list. But you may be wondering how turnips benefit our health?

Health benefits of turnips

In addition to their wonderful flavor and versatility, it turns out there is a wide variety of ways that adding turnips to your diet can support good health

Fight Inflammation

Due to the high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, turnips are a highly anti-inflammatory food. Given the connection of inflammation to chronic health issues, adding anti-inflammatory foods, such as turnips and turnip greens, to the diet is a beneficial way to reduce risk factors for many different diseases.

Reduce the risk of chronic illnesses

Part of the nutritional content of turnips includes high levels of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C provides the body with superior defense against chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer by boosting the immunity of the body. It does this by protecting the cells from free radicals. In addition to Vitamin C, turnips are an excellent source of Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin which has been shown to be beneficial for reducing cancer risk, preventing osteoporosis, helpful against insulin resistance, supportive for cardiovascular health, and it and also be beneficial for supporting brain health in older adults.

Helpful for good digestion

The fiber content found in turnips does a great deal for our digestive system. Fiber promotes good bowel movements and is generally supportive of overall bowel health. Regular elimination, due to better fiber content in the diet, is frequently associated with better detoxification. Fiber also provides pre-biotic content, the food for the probiotics living in our gut, and helps to maintain a healthy system overall. A higher fiber diet means a stronger, more supportive microbiome and ultimately a healthier you.

May help support weight Loss

Turnips combine the advantage of high fiber and nutrient dense (lots of nutrients for very little calories) content. The fiber is supportive for gut health and can help contribute to satiety, the feeling of being full after eating which may in turn help with weight loss. This dietary fiber, found primarily in the roots, can help to boost the metabolism as well as controlling sugar levels in the body. This, in turn, can be part of the key to maintaining a healthy weight.

How to eat turnips

No matter how healthy turnips are the best part is how delicious they are. Here are a few ideas on some great ways to include turnips in your diet:

  • Baby turnips are very tender and tasty, these can be sliced and eaten raw or diced into salads
  • Turnip sprouts are a tangy addition to a salad or can be added to other dishes
  • Sauteed with the greens, some onions and a little garlic, turnips are mild and very delicious
  • Roasting turnips is a great way to bring out their flavor, either on their own or in combination with other root vegetables
  • Instead of potatoes consider boiling and then mashing turnips with a little butter, salt, and garlic. Or you can make a medley by combining different root vegetables and mashing them together
  • Turnips are also wonderful in soups and can be a fabulous way to get a little more veggie (and fiber) into your diet

 


References:

photo courtesy of jackmac34

Earth Day Every Day – 10 Ways To Celebrate

Happy Earth Day!

The start of Earth Day

This annual event, celebrated on April 22 around the world, is a holiday that focuses on the environment. It’s meant to raise awareness of and appreciation for this beautiful planet that we live on.

First started in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI-D), the event was created after a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, CA. That first Earth Day celebration was a tipping point, bringing together people of all backgrounds, political affiliations, and across all socio-economic strata who were concerned about the environment and wanted to effect change. That first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, saw demonstrations all across the country with 20 million people gathered to protest the harmful things being done to the environment.

CBS News had a special presentation with Walter Cronkite, Gaylord Nelson, and more.

Earth Day 1970 CBS Special

1970 also saw the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 

The growth of Earth Day

The Earth Day movement continued to spread. In 1990 it leaped onto the global stage. That year there were 200 million people in 141 countries protesting on behalf of the environment. Around this time there was also a big push towards global recycling efforts. And in 1992 there was the first United Nations Conference on the Environment and Diversity in Rio De Janeiro. 

From there the movement grew and is now considered to be one of the largest secular observances around the world. Billions of people participate in a variety of ways from environmental cleanup efforts, to planting trees, to promoting activism on behalf of the environment.

Celebrating Earth Day

There are many different ways to celebrate Earth Day. Focusing on environmental issues, recycling efforts, it’s also a good time to develop a personal awareness of Earth-related issues. Here, in no particular order, are ten of our favorite resources that are earth friendly today and every day:

  • Join EarthDay.org to stay on top of this celebration and to be in the loop for activities and events around the world.
  • Buy a water bottle that is reusable and shatterproof at Glasstic – get 10% off the last water bottle you will ever own.
  • Protect yourself and the environment with 3rd Rock Sunblock – no parabens, no hormone-disrupting chemical, GMO-free, and not harmful to coral or other underwater marine life.
  • Switch your laundry detergent for a great environmentally friendly product, My Green Fills.  Bonus, you’ll save money by getting “the last laundry detergent bottle you’ll ever buy.”
  • Ditch the plastic, get your own beautiful glass straws. This helps to reduce the harmful impact of plastic straws on marine life as well as reducing the use of this non-biodegradable product.
  • Ditch even more plastic by bringing your own utensils when you eat out using this beautiful Bamboo Utensil Travel Set.
  • Buy organic as much as possible, especially for the Dirty Dozen (those 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides, for animal products (so the animals can be raised without the use of added hormones, heavy antibiotics, and high levels of pesticides in their feed, and for the most common genetically modified crops – corn, canola, and soy.
  • Take a little time to connect with the earth through the healing practice of grounding.
  • Donate to an environmental cause of your choice. One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, is currently running a matching grant program that will triple your gift to help protect species around the world. Other environmental organizations include The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, The Sierra Club
  • Plant a tree, preferably from a local nursery so you’re sure that it will do well in your area.

Bonus – because taking time for low-tech quiet activities is never a bad idea. And if it happens to focus on the earth, so much the better.

For more seasonal and superfood info check out these posts:

Shopping The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Is it Safe on the Outside?

There are over 50,000 items for sale in a typical grocery store. The sad truth is that most of them are not food. They are processed conglomerations of ingredients. Because of this, there’s a common myth that if you shop the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll be “safe” from food challenges. More and more people are shopping just the “outside” of the grocery store, convinced that if they avoid what’s in the middle they’re only getting healthy food. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Most grocery stores are set up in a similar pattern. Walk into the produce section which is usually near the bakery or the deli. Moving around the outside edges, the perimeter, of the grocery store you’ll find the fish counter, meat, poultry. The dairy section is at the back of the store. This is because the further into the store you have to walk to buy staple ingredients, such as milk, eggs, and butter, the more time you spend in the store. The longer you are there the more money you are likely to spend. On the inside aisles is where you’ll find all of the packaged, canned, and frozen foods. You often have to walk through them to get from one section to the next, increasing the possibility that you will be tempted by what is in the aisles.

Does It Belong Here?

While the fresh food is usually found on the perimeter of the grocery store it’s important to be aware of two big issues that impact that section of the grocery store. The first is something called product placement or product creep. Grocery stores and food producers are well aware that consumers are purchasing more heavily from the outer edges of the store. Their job, however, is to sell as much as they can. One way they try to influence consumers is by moving in items that would not normally be in a particular section (but that go with those foods).

One example of this would be finding packaged shortcake, glaze for strawberries, and cool whip or some form of canned whipped cream in the produce section at the height of strawberry season. The grocery store may attempt to promote this as being “for your convenience” but the truth is it’s there to tempt you to purchase it and to increase their sales and profits.

Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to read the labels you may get more than you bargained for. That glaze for strawberries, for example, contains genetically modified ingredients, excessive sugars, artificial colors, and possibly MSG. Rather than just getting fresh fruit, if you purchase these add-on items you’re also buying a wide range of chemicals and additives which may be harmful to your health.

This happens all around the grocery store. Salad dressings by the salad, seasoning mixes and marinades by the meat, etc. Product placement is a big factor for grocery stores. As a matter of fact, food manufacturers pay something called a slotting fee to grocery stores to determine where in the store their product will appear. This idea of manipulating the perimeter is a big reason that eggs and dairy are all the way in the back of the store. The grocery chain, and by extension the food manufacturers, are looking to get you to spend as much time in the store as possible and encourage impulse buying. They know that the longer you are there the more you will spend.

What’s In What You’re Eating?

Another major concern with shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is not just what the food items are, but what’s in them. Unfortunately, it’s things that we can’t really see that pose an even bigger challenge to health.

Produce

When shopping in the produce department the second thing you need to be aware of is the Dirty Dozen. Those twelve fruits and vegetables which are highly contaminated by pesticides. Eating them increases the toxic body burden. This list changes each year as the Environmental Working Group evaluates the current state of pesticides and toxins used to grow produce. The only way to avoid the toxic burden of the Dirty Dozen is to purchase organic for those twelve fruits and vegetables. To make it easy to remember the list (and stay on top of the changes) simply download the Environmental Working Group’s free app, EWG Healthy Living (ios and android).

Meat and Poultry

In the meat and poultry section buying organic is your best choice. Conventionally raised animals are given high levels of antibiotics, partially to keep them healthy in spite of the crowded conditions they are raised in. It’s also because these antibiotics act as a growth stimulator. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are passed on through the to end product when we then wind up consuming them. It’s important to note that the overuse of antibiotics in farming has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs. Conventionally raised animals are also allowed to be raised on genetically modified (GM) feed which is often heavily laden with pesticides. These items can have an impact on your body as well as affecting the environment. Note that the term “natural” is not the same as organic. Although there are some rules around the natural label when it comes to meat products, this label still allows for the use of GM/pesticide-laden feed. The only way to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and genetic modification is to choose organic.

Dairy

The dairy section is another area of concern. Not only because of the antibiotics, GM feed, and high levels of pesticides found in conventionally sourced dairy products, but also because of added hormones. rBST sometimes referred to as rBGH, is a growth hormone which causes cows to produce more milk. Studies have shown that dairy with rBGH tends to have more Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). This, in turn, has been linked to cancer, specifically of the breast, prostate and gastrointestinal tract. Although it is possible to do the research and avoid dairy with added hormones if it is conventionally raised all of the other issues still remain. Once again, choosing organic is the best, healthiest option.

Summary

  • Be on the lookout for product creep — items that are in a category where they don’t belong
  • Be mindful of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetable, buying organic for those choices
  • Choose organic meats to avoid added hormones and antibiotics
  • Avoid added hormones and antibiotics in dairy products by choosing organic
  • Read labels to help you avoid negative ingredients