Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2015

memory loss not normal aging copy

Do you always lose your keys, forget where the car is parked, or find words stick on the tip of your tongue? We associate these behaviors with aging, but losing your memory and brain function isn’t necessarily “normal” aging. Instead, it’s a sign of accelerated brain degeneration, or a brain that is atrophying too fast.

Can’t find the car?

The brain has different regions, and each region is in charge of certain functions, including balance, mood, memory, and problem solving. When a part of the brain starts to lose function, it shows up as symptoms related to those areas, such as poor coordination, depression, a worsening ability to do math, memory loss, or poor balance.

The temporal lobes are two areas of the brain located at either side of your head, above the ears. They are in charge of your hearing, memory, speech, emotional responses and sense of smell.

Within each of the temporal lobes is a region called the hippocampus, related to sense of direction, learning and memory, spatial orientation, and the sleep-wake cycle. Degeneration of the hippocampus can lead to issues in any or these areas, such as poor memory (“Where’s my car?”), being bad with directions, insomnia, and, eventually, Alzheimer’s.

What causes brain degeneration?

The brain is comprised of cells called neurons, which communicate with each other to manage all the body’s processes. When these cells die, it’s called neurodegeneration. Once neurons die, there’s no getting them back. However, the brain can compensate by forming new branches between existing neurons to aid in communication. That’s called neuroplasticity.

As we age, natural degeneration of neurons is normal. We can maintain good brain function by slowing neuron death and through good neuroplasticity, that is, making sure we’re always growing connections between neurons and protecting existing connections. In fact, how well your brain ages can be looked at as the balance between neurodegeneration and neuroplasticity.

When neurodegeneration outpaces neuroplasticity you lose brain function

Unfortunately, various factors can speed up brain degeneration so that it outpaces neuroplasticity, causing loss of cognition, memory, and balance, and increasing the risk of dementia. These factors include brain injury, chronic inflammation, poor circulation, insufficient stimulation (stimulation includes mental, physical, and social activity), and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

You can’t cure bring back or regrow dead neurons, which is why it’s so important to preserve brain health before it’s too late. Thankfully, it is possible to slow down the neurodegenerative process and improve brain function by protecting brain health and supporting plasticity between existing neurons. The earlier you catch brain degeneration, the more likely you are to make a difference.

Having a hard time with directions and losing your keys now can progress to dementia years later if you let accelerated brain degeneration progress unchecked.

Things to ask yourself about memory loss

  • Is my short-term memory worsening?
  • Has my sense of direction gotten worse?
  • Do I regularly forget why I walk into rooms, where I put things like my car keys, or where I parked my car?
  • Do I have tinnitus, that chronic ringing in the ears? (Although this can be caused by other things.)
  • Is it difficult to hear with background noise?
  • Do I have an irregular sleep-wake cycle with alertness at night and grogginess in the morning?
  • Do I have bouts of fatigue throughout the day?

Any one of these things can happen on occasion, but if they’re happening on a regular basis, it’s wise to investigate your brain health and how to preserve and enhance it. These can include measures to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and improve gut health (brain health is profoundly affected by gut health).

Also, exercise your brain! Like muscles, the brain will atrophy without use. Best brain exercise for you? Whatever you find difficult. If you’re not good at math, do math puzzles. If you fail at art, take a painting or sculpting class. Poor balance? Do balance exercises.

Brain exercises, lifestyle habits, and dietary measures that encourage healthy brain function, will support neuroplasticity and help you maintain a functional brain into your old age.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

eat better with batch cooking copy

Does a demanding schedule prevent you from cooking healthy? Are you that overworked parent who’s too tired to feed your family well? Busy lifestyles can send our eating habits down the drain, with our health and nutrition following right behind it. Many common health issues can arise as a result.

The solution? Batch cooking! Batch cooking is preparing multiple meals at once and storing them for later consumption. It’s an organized system to plan, create, and utilize meals, saving you an incredible amount of time, energy and effort.

In two- to three-hour sessions twice a week, you can prepare an entire week’s worth of meals for a family and simply pull them from the fridge or freezer. It takes some organization and planning, but the payoff is well worth it. People report reducing 20 to 30 hours of cooking and cleanup per week down to four or five!

When you come home from a busy day at work, or you just don’t have the pizzazz to make a meal for hungry kids, batch cooking can be your saving grace and save your family’s health and well being.

This set of simple guidelines will help you get started:

Planning your batch cooking menu

Pick simple, nutrient-dense recipes and save unfamiliar, complicated ones for their own special time, and follow these tips.

  • Choose one-pot/skillet/casserole recipes, with a minimum of side dishes.
  • If you’re making a meal that uses protein such as a roast or chicken, make extra to use in simple meals later in the week, such as salads or soups. Plan for every meal of the week, not just dinners.
  • Make a written menu (and grocery list) so that when you pull a meal from the freezer on Tuesday night, you know which side dish goes with it on Wednesday. Also, write down timing for when a meal needs to be pulled from the freezer.
  • Write down all the parts that need preparing so you stay organized.
  • If making all oven dishes, make sure they use the same oven temperature so you can do them all at once and save time.
  • Another option: Choose a variety of meals that use either stove top or oven, so you don’t over crowd either location.

Kitchen logistics for batch cooking

Know what kitchen tools you’ll need and don’t double up on recipes that need them. For example, if you need the food processor for three dishes in one session, it will take more time.

Do you have the amount and type of storage containers that you’ll need? Plan your dishes with fridge/freezer space in mind. Look at which dishes can be frozen for later and which must go in the fridge and be consumed within two days. Coordinate the menu so you prepare some of both.

Putting your apron on

Choose one to two days a week for batch cooking, and dedicate two to three hours for each session. It may take you less time once you develop your own rhythm and familiar recipes. These tips will keep things running efficiently and quickly:

  • If you have young children who demand a lot of attention, try to plan it for while they are out of the house.
  • Start with a clean kitchen; you’ll have what you need at your fingertips, and it’s easier to keep a clear head.
  • To save time, do all the prep work at the beginning, not between dishes.
  • Use a timer; you’re multi-tasking and could forget something.
  • Clean as you go to save time.
  • Package the food in serving-size portions that are easy to defrost or serve from the fridge.
  • Always label each meal with masking tape and a Sharpie marker. You might not recognize a dish once it’s covered in frost!
  • Make sure you’re well fed and hydrated before and during your batch-cook session to help keep your brain sharp and your energy level stable.

Special tips for batch cooking:

Always have a couple extra meals stashed away in the freezer as last-ditch emergency meals to use only when you truly need them – such as when you get back from vacation.

Enlist your kids’ help – it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about nutrition and food prep.

For people who feel overwhelmed in general, batch cooking can seem daunting. However, everyone who batch cooks develops their own rhythm and system with practice, and this set of simple guidelines will help you get started.

Remember, the time you dedicate to planning your menu and making the food for each week will be more than paid off in saving time and energy when you hit the fridge or freezer to rustle up a meal. Most of the effort is in the planning; once you put on that apron, it’s easy to just keep rolling!

If you love the idea of batch cooking but want more information, check out this resource.

Read Full Post »

how avoid afternoon energy crash copy

Do your eyelids droop and does your energy flag every afternoon around 3 to 4 p.m? Is your answer to energy crashes a soda, coffee, energy drink, or sweet snack to sustain you until dinner? If so, you’re making a bad situation worse.

Even though it’s fairly common, the “afternoon crash” isn’t normal. Instead it’s a sign of unstable blood sugar  which wreaks havoc on the rest of your body’s systems. The afternoon crash means your blood sugar has dropped too low for your brain and body to function normally, causing you to become drowsy, mentally foggy, tired, and unmotivated.

The first thing most people reach for is a quick fix — caffeine or sugar. These may wake you up for a while, but they send an already imbalanced blood sugar system into another roller coaster ride of peaks and plunges. When this happens on a regular basis (several times a day for most people), it sets you up for chronic blood sugar imbalances including hypoglycemia and insulin resistance, a precursor to adult-onset diabetes.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

Wondering how to survive until dinner without a croissant and tall double mocha?

1. High protein breakfast: Eat a high-protein breakfast with plenty of healthy fats such as olive, avocado or coconut oil; a minimum of carbohydrates; and no added sugars or sweeteners. This provides your body with the necessary nutrients to bring it up to speed after a night of fasting (thus the word “break fast”), and allows your blood sugar to stabilize and get on a steady plane for the day.

Two examples:

  • Turkey sausage with steamed greens and sweet potatoes.
  • Smoked salmon or two eggs with sliced avocado, sauteed vegetables, and half a baked yam.

The idea of a savory breakfast might sound strange if you’re used to cereal or toast, but your body will quickly thank you for it. You’ll also notice a difference at 3 p.m.!

2. Minimize fruit, high-carb foods, and added sugars: Every time you eat fruit, high-carb foods (such as white rice, bread or noodles), and added sugars, you spike your blood glucose and the body has to struggle to bring it back into balance. Do this too often or too dramatically, and you can damage your body’s ability to handle glucose properly, causing hypoglycemia and/or insulin resistance (yes, you can have both at the same time). Blood sugar imbalances also create a hard-to-fight cycle of craving and bingeing. 

TIP: Always eat a bit of protein or fat when you have something sweet to slow down the uptake of glucose and a blood sugar spike.

3. Energy crash? Eat smart: If you find yourself slipping into the afternoon blahs, don’t reach for stimulants or sugar, no matter how much your brain shouts for them. Instead, grab a snack high in protein and healthy fats, with perhaps a bit of healthy carbs included. This powers your brain with useful nutrients and avoids the blood sugar crash that follows a caffeine or sugar binge. And don’t forget — if you have a mid-morning snack, the same rules apply. Two snack examples:

  • A quarter cup of pecans and a handful of plantain chips.
  • A boiled egg with sliced carrots and avocado.

TIP: prep your morning and afternoon snacks each night before bed, so you can bring them to work and avoid the panicked rush to the café or candy machine.

4. Caffeine in moderation: Caffeine is hard on your adrenal glands, the glands that manage how you deal with stress. If you would rather give up your right arm than your daily cuppa, just make sure you drink that coffee early in the day, and make it a single shot. Even better, learn to love a healthy, brain-energizing drink such as kombucha or a veggie smoothie. They make great conversation starters at the water cooler, too!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll find yourself easing out of those afternoon crashes. Your energy will be more consistent throughout the day and you won’t feel the need to resort to snacks that spike and crash your blood sugar, brain function, and energy level. Feeling doubtful? Try it for a week and then decide.

Read Full Post »

poor recovery exercise copy

If recovering from exercise is so difficult it feels like it’s ruining your days and sapping your motivation, you may be suffering from loss of exercise tolerance. Exercise is supposed to make you feel better and give you more energy, not make you feel worse.

The occasional off day is nothing to worry about, but if you find you’re consistently having a hard time handling your workouts, it’s important to find out why.

Symptoms of poor exercise recovery

  • Can’t complete normal workouts
  • Difficulty recovering after exercise
  • Need a nap after exercise
  • Unexplained depression
  • Loss of general motivation or enthusiasm
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Aggression or irritability for minor reasons
  • Weakened immune function
  • Loss of menstrual cycle
  • Symptoms of leaky gut

Seven things that can cause poor exercise recovery

1. You’re overtraining: It’s possible you’re simply taking too much on during your workout. Anyone can make this mistake. Try backing off for a couple weeks; if your symptoms change, overtraining could be your answer.

2. Your body wants a different kind of workout: Ways to exercise include extended aerobics, high intensity interval training, and weight training. Try a different form of exercise for a few weeks and see how you feel.

3. Insufficient protein intake: The U.S. RDA for protein is .08g per kg of body weight per day (1 lb = 2.2 kg). Macronutrient requirements vary depending on age, health, and diet, but for some this may be too little to recover. Many active people feel better eating protein at rate closer to 1.4 to 1.8g/kg daily. Do the math and experiment with your protein intake.

4. Inappropriate carbohydrate intake: How many carbohydrates one should eat is a controversial topic, but at the end of the day we’re all unique. If you frequently feel run down you may be eating too many carbs…or too few. Too many carbs can cause blood sugar to skyrocket and plummet so energy levels crash. Too few can short you on fuel so that energy lags. This is especially true if you have adrenal fatigue and are struggling to adapt to a low-carb diet. Experiment adjusting your carb intake with healthy produce-based carbs, such as sweet potatoes.

4. Not enough sleep: Sleep is key to exercise recovery. Are you getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night? If you’re having unexplained sleep problems, ask my office for advice as many health issues can cause poor sleep.

5. Micronutrient deficiencies: Staying well nourished can be difficult if you’re busy. If your body is low in vital nutrients such as Vitamins D and B12, iron, and other minerals, it can affect your ability to recover from exercise. Ask my office about making sure you’re meeting your micronutrient needs.

6. Low adrenal function: Your adrenal glands are the walnut-sized glands atop each kidney that manage your body’s ability to deal with stress. Americans are stressed out and as a result many people suffer from compromised adrenal function  This is a common cause of constant exhaustion and an inability to recover from exercise. If you’ve lost your get-up-an-go, adrenal function is one of the first things to consider.

7. Chronic inflammation: If you have an autoimmune disease that is not being managed or that is constantly flaring, or if you suffer from chronic inflammation, this will hamper your ability to recover. Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or psoriasis. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include joint pain, digestive difficulties, inflamed skin, or brain fog. If your body is already struggling to function in the face of chronic inflammation, exercise will put it over the edge and recovery will be difficult.

These are some common factors that can hamper exercise recovery, although there are many more, such as compromised thyroid function or a defect in your MTHFR gene, which plays a role in detoxification and metabolism. Untreated MTHFR can affect energy levels. Fortunately, it’s easy to diagnose and treat.

Any time you notice a change in your energy level or ability to recover from exercise, there is a reason. Don’t push it, and don’t ignore it. Ask my office for support in helping you find underlying causes of poor exercise recovery so you can feel and function better.

Read Full Post »