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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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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

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.

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

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

When Probiotics Are Not A Good Choice

Health supplements are expected to reach a global market share of $278 billion by 2024. That’s a sizable market and it continues to grow. Probiotics are one of the fastest growing items in the category in the U.S. With so much focus on the microbiome and the as more information points to their effectiveness in minimizing digestive issues and promoting gut health, the demand for probiotics is all set to explode.

A recent report reveals that Canada could save up to $100 million CAN per year through probiotic use designed to minimize instances of upper respiratory infections. The supplement market in China, with probiotics at the top of the list, is also set for rapid expansion.

However, while probiotics are a great choice to combat many digestive issues, they are not always the best choice. That’s why it is important to know when to take probiotics and when to seek alternative treatments.

What Are Probiotics?

While bad bacteria can make you sick, good bacteria can help break down food and support your immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that work in harmony with your biological systems. Many probiotics specifically help support good digestive health, combating issues like diarrhea, nausea, malabsorption, and dozens of other symptoms of a leaky gut. 

You can get probiotics through consuming probiotic-rich foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables and yogurt or through beverages like kombucha and kefir. Or you can get them through supplementation. However just because they can have some health benefits doesn’t always mean that they always have health benefits. There can be times when it’s best to not take probiotic-rich foods or supplementation and you should actually avoid them.

3 Reasons to Avoid Probiotics

Below is a quick list of those occasions when it might be better to seek alternative treatments for digestive issues. In each of these cases, use of or consumption of probiotics is contraindicated until the condition has been resolved.

1. SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to a condition where you already have too much bacteria in your small intestine. Adding more is not a healthy solution to anything, even when it is otherwise helpful bacteria. For those with SIBO getting a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. But once you have a diagnosis there’s a specific dietary protocol and supplemental support required to support your system.

The symptoms of SIBO are quite diverse and can include

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • and more

2. Candida Overgrowth

Candida is a type of yeast that can overrun your intestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms. When your candida levels are under control, this yeast helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. When levels get too high, symptoms can range from simple things like a white coating on the tongue to more serious symptoms like:

  • Exhaustion
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic sinus and allergy problems
  • Gas and bloating
  • Weakened immune system
  • Frequent UTIs

This is just a small sample of the potential problems associated with an out-of-control candida overgrowth. While some low-level imbalances can be treated with over-the-counter medications (such as fluconazole for yeast infections), chronic overgrowth needs to be addressed through dietary changes, nutritional support, and possibly antifungal medications. The use of a self-scoring quiz can be helpful for diagnosis. Many people who switch to a candida protocol after scoring high on the test have good results ranging from clearer skin and better digestive function to clearing of infections and weight loss.

3. Probiotics Don’t Fix Everything

The effectiveness of probiotics depends entirely on the cause of your problem. If your gut flora is out of balance or you have too little bacteria to help with digestion, probiotics can be a great way to rebalance everything. If you have been on antibiotics, pairing those with probiotics might help prevent conditions like H. Pylori. Since H. Pylori can cause systemic and prolonged digestive upset, a bit of prevention is well worth the investment in probiotics. If you don’t suffer from any of these conditions or your digestive upset has nothing to do with your gut biome, probiotics won’t help.

While probiotics can be a great way to improve your digestive health, it is important to know when to take them. Unless directed by a doctor, you likely won’t want to take probiotics on a daily basis.

Added Probiotics

Unfortunately with all the news about the benefits of probiotics many food producers are starting to add them to a wide variety of items at the grocery store. Cereals, chocolate, cold brew coffee, salad dressings, and more are all being promoted as a healthy choice due. However, overconsumption of probiotics can lead to an imbalance of the gut and is not a healthy choice. 

If you suspect you have gut health issues it’s best to work with a health professional and be evaluated to see if you need to add or avoid probiotics in your diet.

cinnamon

Choosing The Right Cinnamon

Can you smell it? The apple pie roasting in the oven on a cold winter’s night?  Some of the fondest memories of my childhood involved a spice that in many parts of the country defines classical Americana, Cinnamon.   What some don’t know is that Cinnamon can do more for us than create the sweet scent of our childhood.  It has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicines.  Today it has become fairly well known in herbal medicine and for good reason.  The bark we love dried up and ground for cooking has powerful medicinal qualities.  In fact, Cinnamon has scientific evidence as a natural treatment for diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in addition to being an antibacterial agent and antioxidant.

Types of cinnamon

There are over 250 species of the cinnamon plant, of which four are used as the spice we know as Cinnamon.  When it comes to the therapeutic potential of Cinnamon there are two species to consider.  You may have noticed this at the grocery store when you looked for some in the spice aisle where you find “common” Cinnamon, often marked as Cinnamon, and another type of Cinnamon, marked as Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon, Sri Lankan cinnamon, or by its botanical name Cinnamomum zeylanicum. Ceylon cinnamon is considered by traditional herbalists and culinary aficionados as the most authentic of cinnamon. 

Which one is better

In addition to its more authentic sweeter taste, Ceylon cinnamon is also the superior cinnamon when it comes to its therapeutic uses.  The reason for this has to do with a chemical found in cinnamon (and a variety of other foods and spices we eat) called coumarin and its toxicity to your liver via the Cytochrome P450 detoxification system.  “Common” cinnamon has a high amount of coumarin yet Ceylon cinnamon often has little to none of it which makes it safe to use in therapeutic dosages.  At first glance, this may seem alarming but think of this system as one of the ways that our bodies take certain foods, medicines, and herbals and turn them into a form that our body can make use or get rid of.  Without it, many well-known plants, foods, and medicines would be toxic to our bodies.  You may have heard of this system before and not even knew it as it’s the system in our liver behind grapefruit juice’s impact on a variety of medications.   

Why choose Ceylon

Considering that “common” cinnamon can contain up to 1,000 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon, it puts a lot of pressure on respectable herbal companies to use it in medicinal formulations and this helps to drive up the price compared to “common” cinnamon.   The price of Ceylon cinnamon is a reason why most processed food manufacturers use “common” cinnamon more.  One study showed that out of a variety of bakery and cereal products, the highest coumarin came from cinnamon and the cinnamon used was the “common” variety.  If you have considered using cinnamon for its therapeutic potential, or if you just love the spice like I do and find yourself putting it in everything, then do your liver and tongue a favor and check to make sure you are purchasing Ceylon cinnamon. Oh and add crummy quality cinnamon to the list of reasons why it’s better to just stick to your own home cooked foods and kick the processed food habit. Don’t put that extra stress on your liver.

 

Resources:

Abraham, K., et al. (2010). Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research54(2), 228-239. 

Blahová, J., & Svobodová, Z. (2012). Assessment of Coumarin Levels in Ground Cinnamon Available in the Czech Retail Market. The Scientific World Journal2012, 263851.

Fentem, J. H., Hammond, A. H., Garle, M. J., & Fry, J. R. (1992). Toxicity of coumarin and various methyl derivatives in cultures of rat hepatocytes and V79 cells. Toxicology In Vitro: An International Journal Published In Association With BIBRA6(1), 21-25.

Kiani, J., & Imam, S. Z. (2007). Medicinal importance of grapefruit juice and its interaction with various drugs. Nutrition Journal6, 33. 

Medagama, A. B. (2015). The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials. Nutrition Journal14, 108.

Nabavi, S. F., et al. (2015). Antibacterial Effects of Cinnamon: From Farm to Food, Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical Industries. Nutrients, 7(9), 7729–7748.

Ranasinghe, P., et al. (2013). Medicinal properties of “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine13, 275. 

wheat gluten field

Glyphosate And Gluten

Glyphosate myths, facts and a reality check
by Sara Russell, Ph.D., NTP

I’m really glad that more and more people are learning of the dangers of glyphosate. 
Please remember that, no matter how awful glyphosate may be (and that’s a whole lot of awful), it doesn’t make everything else harmless. In this age of memes and click-bait titles, it’s easy to come to the wrong conclusion through reductive thinking processes. But for those with severe health problems, misconceptions about glyphosate may cause very grave harm.

Myth # 1: “It’s the glyphosate, not the gluten”

One common refrain that has been repeated over the past few years in various permutations is some variation on the theme of “It’s not the wheat, it’s the glyphosate” or “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate” and that because glyphosate is evil, people with celiac disease and other serious medical conditions who avoid gluten for health reasons can safely consume gluten-containing grains as long as they are organic and heirloom.

Myth #2 “Wheat in Italy and France is safe for everyone”

Another common myth is that if you’re celiac or otherwise severely gluten-sensitive, eating a croissant or baguette while on vacation in Italy or France is fine because “their gluten is different” and “they don’t use glyphosate in Europe…”

Did you know that 40% of the wheat consumed in Italy is imported from North America? And you may be surprised that glyphosate is actually pretty common in European agriculture, including Italian and French, although less widespread than in the US and of course not permitted in organic agriculture. If you digest your food better while on vacation, that’s because you’re more relaxed. Italy has an incredibly high rate of celiac disease, and while there are a few very sick celiac patients in Italy who still sneak wheat products here and there, most of them are smart enough to stick to their doctor’s orders to consume a strictly gluten-free diet. The Italian government considers this such an important issue that each diagnosed celiac in Italy is given vouchers of 100 euro per month that are valid on specific gluten-free foods.

Myth #3: “If it’s bad for me, I’ll know right away”

A lot of celiac disease is “silent” – that means that many celiac people feel no immediate stereotypical gastrointestinal reaction in many cases and a significant number of people with celiac disease struggle with mysterious fatigue, nutritional deficiencies and neurological and/or psychological symptoms for decades before getting a diagnosis. Sometimes parents or even grandparents only get a diagnosis after a child in the family gets diagnosed.

Harmful rhetoric

While it’s true that glyphosate is a poison for all of us, a lot of people are sensitive to gluten and/or allergic to gluten-containing foods, and I do think the line of thought that exaggerates the glyphosate piece is putting a lot of truly gluten-sensitive people at risk (including some celiac people who are being advised against all reason to consume gluten-containing organic and heirloom varieties of wheat). 
Yes, glyphosate (or stress, for that matter) can definitely accentuate the effect of gluten on weakened body barriers, but a body that has mounted an autoimmune or allergic response to gluten is a gluten-sensitive body in its own right.

Exceptions?

I think that only those people with a sub-clinical gluten sensitivity (not an allergy and not an autoimmune response to gluten or its components) may fit with the picture of a possible wheat intolerance being correctable by taking care to reduce glyphosate exposure. This doesn’t mean just switching to organic, heirloom wheat. It means avoiding environmental exposure from yard chemicals in your neighborhood. It means not living in an area where glyphosate is sprayed on crops. It means avoiding crops that are sprayed with glyphosate, including – sorry, everyone – wine. It means doing the long, hard, deep work of foundational healing before re-introducing possible trigger foods into your diet.

Toxicities are synergistic, not mutually exclusive

I feel that the line of saying “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate!” is a bit like saying, “It’s not the mercury, it’s the aluminum!” or “It’s not the lead poisoning, it’s the EMFs” – these are false dichotomies, which acknowledge one danger by denying another. Yet the effects of toxic exposures, allergies, autoimmunity are compounded and synergistic, not mutually exclusive.

 

Sara Russell is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who works remotely with clients worldwide, specializing in complex health conditions. Sara’s approach is client-centered, approaching each clients’ health goals from a foundationally from a root-cause-oriented, bio-individual perspective. She resides in the Tuscan countryside with her husband and seven-year-old son. You can learn more about Sara’s work and read her blog at Build, Nurture, Restore

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable


STRESS RELIEVER
According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

ELEVATES MOOD
Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

THE UN-TECH EFFECT
Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

IMPROVES FOCUS
Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

ANYONE CAN COLOR
Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

HIGHLY PORTABLE
Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.