Tag Archives: stress management

Your Gut Health and Mood

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We often feel a bit hungover when we return home from holiday travels after too many glasses of wine and a tad too much pie (let’s not kid ourselves, sample bites and partial pieces of pie add up to a whole slice). We wonder why the food coma haunts us for days, leaving us lethargic and foggy-headed, perhaps even coming down with a touch of a cold. As the holidays approach and we begin to daydream about those heaping piles of mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce, it’s important to remember that a lot of our health and immune function lies in the gut. When we mess with our gut health, we impact our hormones, immune system, nervous system and mood. Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

Today, I’m going to take a plain-language approach to gut health so that you can quickly and easily understand what hurts it and helps it, and why it should matter to you. Disclaimer: There’s just a liiiiitttttle bit of scientific jargon included because at the end of the day, I’m a nerd. 

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Gut Health…The Bad News

Research over the last several decades has increasingly pointed to poor gut health as a major contributing factor in a variety of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, autism, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. Chris Kresser, named by Greatist.com as one of the 100 most influential individuals in health and fitness for his leadership in nutrition, functional and integrative medicine, helps people understand what contributes to gut dysfunction and what they can do to restore good health.

Kresser claims that gut health comprises 75% of the immune system and can be broken down by the following lifestyle and health factors:

  • Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic infections                                                                 (Kresser, 2011)

While it’s easy to think that we may not have an issue with our gut health if our stomach and gastrointestinal function seems fine, an increase in bad gut flora and/or breakdown of the barrier of our gastrointestinal systems (i.e., leaky gut) can show up in all sorts of other forms. For example, gut health can be linked to depression, brain fog, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, heart problems and more. Even simple things like falling victim to multiple colds, infections and/or inflammation in joints/muscles which leads to injuries can be linked back to what’s going on in the tummy. Holiday weekends packed with stressful travel, extra rich food and exposure to germs (gotta love when someone sneezes next to you on the airplane) can throw us off our game.

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Gut Health…The Good News

Some things that stress our bodies aren’t fully under our control, so don’t guilt yourself if you feel less than optimal. There’s no telling exactly what the cause is or whose “fault” it is. The only thing we can do to feel better is remove things from our diet and environment which stress our bodies and add in positive foods and habits that will help us. In this way, we slowly allow our bodies to restore good gut health. This will allow us to have better immune function and hormonal balance. As we become less prone to feeling “blah,” we will find new energy and have an uplifted mood.

Kresser recommends the following for boosting gut health:

  • Remove all food toxins from your diet
  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
  • Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
  • Take steps to manage your stress                                         (Kresser, 2011)

If you take simple steps like these to feel better before the holidays, your gut health won’t take such a big hit from the stress you experience and the food you consume. You will be able to enjoy a few indulgent meals without making yourself overly inflamed and sick. After the holidays, gently steer yourself back on track with healthy habits and you’re good to go. There’s no stopping someone who feels GREAT!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Millennials; An Unhealthy Generation?

The Millennial generation is more likely than their older peers to exercise. So, why is it that this generation is also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors? Here’s the inside scoop…
Millennials 2 Please do forgive me for my use of this image…I came across it and thought it was so wildly inappropriate and hilarious that I had to use it. Like….REALLY?!

According to Media Post, “Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely than Boomers and Matures to engage in unhealthy behaviors like unhealthy eating, drinking alcohol, and smoking to manage stress.” Also, when Millennials were polled on their perceived levels of stress, they reported an average ranking of 5.4 on a scale that considers a ranking of 3-4 to be healthy.

Possible Roots of the Millennials’ Stress:

Overeducated and Underutilized. 

This generation is often highly educated but may be underutilized or underemployed in the workplace, leading to lower feelings of professional accomplishment. The Millennials have suffered greatly since the 2008 American recession, with fewer opportunities for job promotions and transitions. Although they are gradually getting more established in their careers, there is little doubt that this dreamy, optimistic generation has suffered some major setbacks, challenging their personal feelings of competence and purpose.

“A.S.A.T.” 

MediaPost says this acronym means “always social, all the time.” Fair enough. Millennials check their smartphones 43 times a day! There is a newfound need for constant feedback and validation, which can be captured via social media interactions. Yet, in spite of constantly tuning into their peers and world happenings, Millennials seem dissatisfied. They place a higher value on in-person interactions. Thus, it has become a priority for some of them to focus on disconnecting (digitally) from time-to-time so that they can focus on quality, real connections.

Millennials 1It’s Natural. 

According to WebMD’s “Happiness Quiz,” younger people are typically less satisfied than older generations. One of WebMD’s quiz questions is about which age group is most happy. News Flash: I guessed it wrong. Apparently, it’s people over the age of 50 who are happiest! WebMD writes “A recent survey of more than 340,000 people showed overall feelings of well-being improve as people pass middle age. Negative emotions such as stress and anger decline after the early 20s, and people over 50 worry less than younger folks. Researchers say it may be as simple as this: With age comes increased wisdom and emotional intelligence.” Wait, you’re saying my sporatic emotional breakdowns are par for the course?! Hooray! 😉 

How Can Millennials Get Happier and Healthier?

Apparently, the following stress management techniques help this generation:

  • Exercising
  • Listening to Music
  • Spending Time with Friends
  • Eating (Hopefully not stress eating!)
  • Shopping

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So, ignore the social media apps on your smartphone and, instead, load up some new tunes into a playlist. Enjoy your music while you go on a jog or walk en route to meet a friend for a nice meal or a little shopping. All the birds with one stone. Perfect!! 😉

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie wellnesswinz blue sea

 

 

 

Mindfulness; It’s Not Just for Celebrities

I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Pike, our contributor for today’s guest post! Sarah and I share a lot of the same passions – women’s health, writing, health technology, volunteering, and working with children. Please enjoy the wisdom she has to offer. We’re SO happy to welcome her to WellnessWinz! 

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One thing you won’t find in a typical list of healthy “do’s,” is the use of mindfulness/meditation practices.

Before you roll your eyes at another “out-there” quack extoling the virtues of meditation, know that I too was once one of those eye-rollers. It’s hard to understand the benefits of something as intangible and difficult to measure as mindfulness. But after hearing Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington preach about the difference it made in their lives, I started to pay attention.

After all, if such successful people are advocates of this practice, then maybe there’s something to it. These days everyone from Katy Perry to Kobe Bryant sing the praises of meditation and mindfulness practices. But I wasn’t one to simply take a celebrity’s word for it. Neuroscientists have proven that there are real, positive effects to engaging in meditation.

Beyond a sense of calm and general well-being, a group of neuroscientists from Harvard were able to measure improvement in learning, memory, emotion regulation, and sense of self. They found that regular mindfulness practices can actually change your brain and increase overall well-being and even improve quality of life.

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Meditation for Beginners

Testing the waters of meditation can be intimidating. I had images of sitting cross-legged for hours, chanting strange words while Eastern music played in the background. But mindfulness doesn’t require uncomfortable positions or unfamiliar words.

The main goal is to practice focusing on one thing at a time. Usually the easiest way to start is to pay attention to your breath. You can follow Huffington’s advice and start with just a few minutes, and then work up to longer durations as it feels more comfortable. If your mind tends to race with non-stop thoughts, you can use that to your advantage in meditation as well.

Instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, instead of getting caught up in each thought, simply let them go. Over time, this practice will help improve concentration and your ability to be present in the current moment.

10 apps for mindfulness

The Top 10 Apps to Improve Mindfulness

The good news is that you don’t have to jump into meditation all by yourself. If the thought of counting your breaths or figuring out how to let your random thoughts go is intimidating, try an app to help you get into a mindfulness routine. And, contrary to what you might think, using technology to help you meditate isn’t contradictory. In fact, it’s been found that there’s a correlation between connectivity and happiness.

Here are my 10 favorite apps to help jump-start your meditative life and get you on the road to feeling more holistic, healthy, and happy.

  1. Emojiary

If you’re not quite ready to sit quietly and breathe, this app can help you get into the general mindset of meditation, which is increased awareness of how you’re feeling at any point in time. This app checks in with you throughout the day and asks you how you’re feeling. All you have to do is pause, consider, and answer with the appropriate emoji—a great way to get your mindfulness practice started.

  1. Stop, Breathe & Think

This is the perfect app for beginners. The whole idea is to teach you how to meditate with customized programs that help you identify how you’re feeling before you start. It also tracks your progress over time and helps you easily expand and extend your mindfulness practices as your comfort with the process grows.

  1. Centered

Another great resource for beginners, Centered helps you manage stress and increase mindfulness with daily reminders and meditation timers. It even syncs with Apple Health to help you track all of your healthful activities in one, convenient place.

  1. Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell

If you’re ready to expand your meditation practices, this app is a great tool. In order to bring mindfulness to all of your daily activities, the Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell sends you reminders in the form of bell tones throughout the day. When you hear the bell, you are reminded to breathe, pause, and take in the current moment.

  1. Calm

For those whose meditation level is intermediate, Calm offers a variety of guided meditations lasting anywhere from two minutes to half an hour. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, this app can also offer help to get you that restful night you’ve been craving.

  1. The Now

This app offers another great way to bring mindfulness into all of your daily practices. The goal is to help you live in the present moment. Using push notifications as cues, this app helps you remember to take in your environment, focus on what is currently happening, and look at people and situations with compassion and empathy.

  1. Athlete Minder

If you’re looking for a way to track the health of your mind, body, and spirit, this app might be your new best friend. Athlete Minder helps you keep track of your exercise habits and state of mind before, during, and after workouts. What you learn will let you make the right tweaks and changes to your routine to maximize the benefits.

  1. The Mindfulness Diet

Exercise isn’t the only aspect of your health routine that can benefit from mindfulness. This tool helps you add focus and awareness to your eating habits. And, thanks to helpful reminders, you will be encouraged to slow down and truly savor each bite.

  1. Guroo

For mindfulness pros, this app sends you random reminders to catch you off-guard and give you the chance to re-set your perspective throughout the day. Whether you need to knock their socks off in a presentation or be calm during a parent-teacher conference, this training app will help you fine-tune your mindfulness to make sure you’re at your best in every situation.

  1. Meditation Experience

This 21-day experience is designed for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or have been meditating for years, this interactive program designed by Oprah and Deepak Chopra will quickly move you to a more tranquil state of mind.

With so many easy-to-use resources at your fingertips, now is the time to add meditation to your daily health regimen. Give one of these apps a try and see the difference a few minutes of mindfulness can make!

Thank you again, Sarah! I can’t wait to try a few of these out and I’m sure readers feel the same! Good luck being mindful, ladies! ~Maggie

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Contributor Bio:

Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next vacation. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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