Every time we put something something into our bodies it's either healing us or harming us. Imagine if you knew how the food you eat in each and every meal was affecting you. Imagine if you knew what every meal was doing to your cells, your organs, your health and longevity and quality of life. Wouldn't it make you want to always make the best choice? Of course it would. I think once you knew even a fraction of what your food was doing inside of you and for you it would even fascinate you.
I think it's also true that if you knew how overly processed, sugary and nutrient depleted food truly affected every tissue, organ and cell in your body and how it severely comprises the functioning of our bodies you would be equally astonished. Wouldn't that make you want to avoid all that harmful stuff and stick to what’s natural? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”
Here’s a plate of delicious food for dinner. Let see what all this “medicine” does...
BROCCOLI - Vitamin C, A, K, E, B vitamins, folate, omega 3s, sulfur, amino acids. Good for skin, teeth, bones, immune system. Detoxifies and helps remove toxins that contribute to gout and arthritis. Combats anemia with copper and iron.
CABBAGE - Good for bone health and blood pressure with calcium, magnesium and potassium (vasodilator for blood flow).
PEAS - Vitamin C, K, good for bone health, digestion, skin, blood clotting, immunity. Contains phytoalexins, an antioxidant that inhibits H. Pylori, the bacteria that causes duodenal and stomach ulcers and cancer. Peas also help strengthen and increase sperm count.
CARROTS – Beta carotene, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin B6, biotin. Good for eye health, weight loss. Has polyacetylene which may protect against certain types of cancers.
TARO ROOT – Manganese, vitamin B6, E, C, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium. Good for blood sugar, good for gut health and has resistant starch that feeds good bacteria.
CAULIFLOWER – Contains vitamins A, C K and other nutrients. Has sulforaphane which has been shown to block carcinogen activity, halt cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death, and protect healthy cell DNA. Lowers inflammation, improves digestion. Antioxidants it contains support nutrient absorption and detox. Glucosinolates trigger Phase 2 detoxification, the body’s natural way of getting rid of free radicals and other toxins.
PARSNIPS – Vitamin C, E, K, B1, B6, magnesium, zinc, folate. High in disease-fighting antioxidants such as quercetin, kaempferol, and apigenin which can boost immunity and protect against infection and against cancer.
RUTABAGA – Vitamin C, E, protein, calcum, magnesium, ptoassium. Can prevent premature aging by reducing inflammation and fighting damage from UV radiation. Helps in the synthesis of collagen in skin through the action of vitamin C. Good for weight loss and bowel health.
RED BELL PEPPER – One of the most anti-aging and anti-inflammatory foods you can eat. Loaded with antioxidants, carotenoids and vitamin C, helps protect skin from sun damage, environmental toxins and pollution. Good for immune system, eye health and cancer prevention.
CUCUMBER – Vitamin C, K. potassium, manganese, magnesium, protein. Extremely hydrating. Hydration is crucial for temperature regulation, physical performance, metabolism, nutrient transportation and removal of waste products.
GARLIC – Potent medicinal properties. Good for immune system, reduce risks of heart disease, reduces blood pressure, can help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, boosts athletic performance. May help detoxify heavy metals, improves bone health and may help you live longer.
AVOCADO - More potassium than bananas and low in sugar. Vitamin A, C, K, E, B vitamins, folate, monounsaturated fatty acids. Help lower cholesterol. Avocados are a nutrient multiplier and help you absorb nutrients from your food anywhere between 2.5 – 15x better.
GINGER - Helps with nausea and weight loss due to its ability to increase number of calories burned and reduces inflammation. Helps prevent osteoarthritis, heart disease and reduces blood sugar. Can help with menstrual pain, gastric emptying and may help prevent cancer due to the gingerol it contains. Improves brain function, fights infections and protects against Alzheimer’s.
RADISH -Contains substances beneficial to stomach and liver and is a powerful detoxifier. Can help prevent piles (hemorrhoids). Radishes also diminish the destruction of red blood cells that jaundice causes by increasing the fresh oxygen supply to the blood. Good for diabetes, skin, urinary tract and contains vit. C, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus. Can protect kidneys and act as a fever reducer and help alleviate headaches and nausea.
LEMON – Vitamin C, hydration. Good for heart health, detoxification, preventing kidney stones, helps with anemia due the vitamin C which increases absorption of iron. Improves digestion, reduces the risk of cancer.
RED WINE VINEGAR – Antioxidants and anthocyanins that may fight bacterial infections and skin damage. The acetic acid it contains may fight skin infections. Acetic acid has been used medicinally for over 6,000 years to treat wounds and chest, ear, and urinary tract infections. Good for the heart and prevents damage from free radicals.
SEA SALT – Contains minerals that are usually stripped from regular table salt such as potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium. The chloride is sea salt helps produce stomach acid as chloride is a component of hydrochloric acid in stomach acid. This acid is necessary to break down food, kill bacteria and absorb nutrients.
“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
- 1 Timothy 6:8
“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,…”
- Ecclesiastes 2:24
Be nourished my friends.
The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that rates carbohydrate-based foods from 0 to 100 based on how fast they spike blood sugar levels after eating. Blood sugar begins to rise about 10-15 minutes after a meal and the degree of rise and subsequent fall is usually measured over a period of two hours. Low glycemic foods are ranked 55 or less, high glycemic foods are ranked 70 or higher, anything in between 55 and 70 is moderate. It effectively rates the quality or kind of carbohydrate (simple or complex). This rating is in comparison to reference glucose with a GI of 100. The higher the rating on the GI scale the faster the carbohydrate food raises blood sugar levels. If blood glucose (blood sugar) is raised too fast after a meal this leads to high insulin levels then a crash shortly after resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The raise in insulin and resulting hypoglycemia in turn leads to feeling hungry again shortly after meals. This can lead to overconsumption of calories (especially when eating calorie dense or high GI foods once again) and to weight gain. Eating low-GI foods results in slower and smaller fluctuations in blood sugar and therefore lower insulin levels. This keeps you fuller longer and prevents overeating. In short, high-GI foods spike glucose and insulin making you feel hungry again soon after eating. Low-GI foods do not spike glucose or insulin as fast and keep you satisfied for longer, preventing overeating. Fats and proteins are not rated on the GI.
The Glycemic Load
There’s also a scale called the Glycemic Load (GL). The difference is while the GI which rates the quality of the carbohydrate, the GL rates the quality and quantity of the carbohydrate. The GL is determined by not just using a linear scale but by taking the GI of the food, multiplying the amount of carbohydrates in the portion size in grams and dividing that number by 100 (GI x amount in grams/100 = GL). Taking into account portion size as well as type of carbohydrate is another method used in determining how a carbohydrate will react in the body. The reasoning behind the GL is that a small amount of a high GI food can have the same effect on blood glucose as a large amount of a low GI food.
Both the GI and GL are useful tools in helping to decide which food choices to make and how the carbohydrate will affect blood sugar and insulin levels at any given meal. Bear in mind that although a food might have a high GI or GL on their own, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will have a glucose or insulin spiking effect when eaten in combination with other foods. For instance, mashed potatoes have a GI of about 73 (high). However, eaten with a meal containing protein, fat, fiber, and veggies it no longer has as great of an effect on glucose or
insulin. So, it’s good to consider GI, GL and food combinations and use all these as a tool to effectively manage your blood sugar.
While all carbohydrates are broken down or converted into glucose (sugar) there are different types of carbohydrates.
There are two types of simple carbohydrates. Monosaccharides and
Monosaccharides: Are the simplest form of sugar that make up more complex carbohydrates. They consist of a single sugar unit (hence the prefix ‘mono’). Examples of monosaccharides would be glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.
Disaccharides: Are carbohydrates that consist of two sugar units (hence the prefix ‘di’). Examples include sucrose, which is made of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose; and lactose (the sugar in milk and dairy), which is made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose.
*Fun Fact: When dairy is said to be ‘lactose free’ that means the disaccharide lactose has already been broken down into its two separate constituent molecules glucose and galactose. For those who are lactose intolerant (they lack the enzyme to break down lactose on their own) this makes it easier to digest and can help prevent or alleviate stomach upset, gas, and bloating. Other options that can also help mitigate lactose intolerance is taking a lactase enzyme with food containing lactose and/or opting for fermented or cultured dairy such as yogurt or kefir (drinkable yogurt).
There are two main types of complex carbohydrates. Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides:
Oligosaccharides: Are complex carbohydrates that have 3 to 10 sugar sub-units. Some examples would be stachyose and raffinose.
Polysaccharides: Are complex carbohydrates that have more than 10
monosaccharide sugars linked together. Starch, which is made of amylose and amylopectin (multiple molecules of glucose) would be an example of a polysaccharide.
*Fun Fact: Since glycogen is the storage form of glucose it’s often mistaken for a simple carbohydrate as well. Although the mix-up is understandable, glycogen is actually a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) made up of thousands of glucose units. The molecular formula for glucose is C6H12O6 while glycogen’s formula is C24H42O21.
Breaking Down Carbohydrates for Energy
When it comes to digesting and breakdown carbohydrates for energy the first thing that needs to happen is mastication (chewing). There is a salivary enzyme called amylase that is released when we chew our food that starts the process of breaking down carbohydrates. That’s why it’s highly important to chew your food thoroughly or the entire process of digestion is hindered. Amylase breaks down disaccharides, oligosaccharides and starches. Salivary amylase only breaks down about 5 percent of carbohydrates to prevent too much glucose from being present in the mouth which can cause cavities. Once a bolus (mass of chewed food) is formed and swallowed it goes down the esophagus into the stomach where the process of digestion continues.
The stomach mixes the carbohydrates together into a substance called chyme and then passes into the small intestine. Once in the small intestine the pancreas secretes a digestive juice that also contains amylase while the villi (little projections on the inner surface of the intestines) release specific enzymes, such as sucrase, lactase and maltase to breakdown certain carbohydrate molecules, such as sucrose, lactose and maltose respectively.
After the carbohydrate chains have been sufficiently broken down into their simplest units of sugar (monosaccharides) they’re transported into the cells of the intestines called enterocytes. From there the monosaccharides enter the bloodstream with help of special transport proteins called GLUT transporters. When insulin is released into the bloodstream in response to the presence of glucose, insulin binds to the insulin receptor embedded in the cell membrane.
The insulin receptor is polarized (positively charged one side and negatively charged on the other) due to the phosphorylation (addition of a phosphate molecule) of ATP (energy molecule). This activates the GLUT4 vesicle which stimulates the GLUT4 transport protein in the cell membrane which enables glucose transport. There are 12 transport proteins in all named GLUT1 through GLUT12. All of them facilitate the diffusion of sugars into the bloodstream. Monosaccharides are shuttled to the liver by the portal vein that connects the intestines to the liver. The liver is the first stop for monosaccharides where they are converted to glucose and either released or stored as glycogen for a future energy source.
Glucose levels are regulated by the pancreas just like a thermostat system in your house. Once a certain temperature is reached in your home, the thermostat shuts off. The pancreas works in the same fashion. When blood sugar levels rise, cells in the pancreas release insulin into the bloodstream and cells take up the glucose and use it for energy through the process of glycolysis (breaking down of glucose into pyruvate). Once glucose levels have decreased because your cells have taken up the glucose, the pancreas secretes the hormone glucagon which tells the cells to stop using glucose and to release unused glucose back into the blood (from the cells that did not use the glucose) and then back to liver to be stored as glycogen.
The Role of Fiber
Fiber (roughage) is a polysaccharide, a type of complex carbohydrate. Fiber is a component of plant cell walls and plays an important role in digestion and nutrition because it helps with gut motility, efficient bowel movements and helps you absorb sugars and nutrients into your bloodstream. Examples of fiber include cellulose, pectin, gums, and mucilage just to name a few. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble:
Soluble fiber: Soluble fiber dissolves in liquid and forms a gel-like substance when it dissolves. This type of fiber is broken down by gut bacteria in the colon (large intestine) and can help lower LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) by blocking the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol. It also slows digestion and prevents rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Insoluble fiber: Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and passes through our digestive tract largely undigested and doesn’t provide any calories. This type of fiber is what bulks up your stool and helps speed up the removal of waste from your digestive system. This is also the type of fiber that’s listed on the nutrition label of food products.
*Quick tip: If you want to calculate your net carbohydrates, which are the carbs that are actually digested and provide calories, simply subtract the dietary fiber amount listed on the nutrition label from the total carbohydrate amount and you’ll get your net carbs (Total carbohydrate - Dietary fiber = Net carbohydrates). This can be useful when tracking calorie and/or carbohydrate intake.
You want to make sure you’re getting both types of fiber in your diet as they both have beneficial properties, help the proliferation of good bacteria and are needed.
Written by Eric Morris Jr, CPT, Pn1
We’ve all been there- you eat something, you bloat and feel terrible. It’s not sexy and its’s not fun, but it happens. Digestive issues are difficult to deal with but they can be overcome. They can be complicated due to our modern and unnatural lifestyles, diets, environments and modern agriculture. Our soils are depleted of not only minerals, but also of the microbial diversity that would otherwise make our food more nutritious allowing us to digest a wide variety of foods. On top of this, our food is grown and sprayed with toxic chemicals that break down the lining of our guts thereby inhibiting our ability to digest what we eat. These chemicals and practices not only cause digestive issues but also lead to cancer, depression and other physical and mental health issues. There’s a number of things we can do or address to help our bodies in digesting the food we eat and reduce the prevalent problem of gas, bloating and digestive distress.
Not everyone can tolerate high amounts of fat. Even if you can there’s still a threshold which can vary from person to person. If you eat more fat in a meal than your body can handle it can cause gas and bloating due to irritation and inflammation of the gallbladder. You do need the right amount, however. Ten grams of fat seems to be the optimal amount of fat to stimulate bile secretion by the gallbladder and fully empty it and keep it exercised . Letting bile sit and accumulate in the gallbladder can result in unhealthy thick bile sludge and gall stones. Aim for about ten grams of healthy fat per meal and adjust accordingly based on your body’s reaction. If you need to reduce the amount, try to reduce it by about 2 or 3 grams and see how you fair. If you’re on a high fat diet you might want to look into taking lipase enzyme with your meals to assist in breaking down the fat. When the gallbladder is inflamed, it also irritates the phrenic nerve. Your phrenic nerve goes from the abdomen, through the chest, and into the neck. When you eat a meal that’s too fatty, it puts pressure on this nerve and causes referred pain in your right shoulder. This can also cause headaches. Dr. Eric Berg has an insightful video on a big fatty meal, bloating and the effect on the phrenic nerve.
LIMIT WATER DURING MEALS:
Drinking too much water during meals has the effect of diluting stomach acid which can impair digestion leading to gas and bloating. Too much water in general can cause you to pee too often, which causes you to lose sodium and water. Your body then compensates by retaining more water. Drinking too fast alone can also have this effect.
MAINTAIN MINERAL BALANCE:
If you're not taking in enough water your body will cause you to hold on to water in compensation and you will bloat. Facial bloating in particular is one of the last signs that you’re dehydrated. It’s a last ditch effort by your body to retain water and minerals to stay hydrated. Mineral loss, which comes along with dehydration, is one big reason your body is retaining water. It’s an attempt to keep the minerals that are supposed to be in your water such as sodium and magnesium. Magnesium is another mineral in which a deficiency will also lead to water retention and facial bloating, especially in women . Magnesium deficiency can also lead to Type 2 diabetes , heart disease, bone disease and chronic fatigue.
For the same reasons too much or too little water can cause you to bloat, caffeine can cause you to bloat as well. Caffeine can serve as a diuretic and cause you to urinate frequently. However, according to healthline.com in order for coffee to make you lose more water than you consume (which is what happens in dehydration) you would have to drink about 5 cups (40 oz or 1.2 liters) of coffee per day (which some people actually do) for this to happen. So just be cognizant and keep it reasonable.
WATCH SODIUM LEVELS:
Too much sodium (hypernatremia) causes you to retain more water to dilute all that sodium in your blood. Mineral balance is very delicate. According to the American Heart Association, we should be consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day with and ideal amount of 1,500 mg per day . On average, Americans consume more than 3,400 mg per day. On the flip side, insufficient sodium (hyponatremia) can be just as harmful, if not more. Although not as common of a condition, too little sodium in your blood can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, low energy, cognitive impairment such as confusion, cramping, muscle weakness, irritability, restlessness and bloating [9, 10].
MANY TYPES OF FOOD AT ONE MEAL:
Too Many different types of food at one meal is hard to digest because different types of food require different enzymes and different environments (stomach PH). You may overwhelm the stomach and its ability to release so many types of enzymes required to digest the entire meal. Different foods also have different transit times. For instance, fruit digests the fastest while protein and fat take much longer. For example, if you eat a steak and a piece of fruit in the same meal, the meat will impair the digestion of the fruit at the appropriate rate and the fruit will sit and rot in the gut instead of rapidly digesting as it normally would when eaten alone or with compatible foods. If your digestive system is not compromised in any way you may be able to handle all those different types of food at one meal, but the majority of the population has some degree of weakened digestion by virtue of our food supply, lifestyle and stress levels. Eating foods that have similar digestion rates can relieve an incredible amount of strain on our systems and lessen or eliminate the unpleasant symptoms that come with that. Food combining can be a deep dive. You can check out a good resource on the topic here in addition to this helpful chart on food transit times.
*Courtesy of advancedrejuvenation.us
DO NOT OVEREAT:
Eating too much in general (even of one type of food) overburdens the stomach and enzymes needed to digest your food. Eating too fast can also cause you to overeat due to your body not having enough time to signal that you’re full. Overeating caused by eating too fast can also cause you not to chew your food well which puts more strain on your digestive system. Eat slowly, mindfully and just until satisfied, not until you’re stuffed.
LOW STOMACH ACID:
Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) means you don’t have the proper hydrochloric acid levels necessary to break down your food. This could be due to age, vitamin deficiency (zinc or B vitamins), medications or stress. Eating too quickly can also weaken or suppress stomach acid. Apple Cider Vinegar, Betaine HCL and/or digestive enzymes can help with this. Drinking celery juice can also help rebuild stomach acid. Putting some sea salt on your food can help support stomach acid since chloride in salt (sodium chloride) contributes to the chloride present in stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).
LIMIT ALLERGENIC FOODS:
Gluten, dairy (lactose, casein), refined sugar, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners processed carbohydrates, grains, and GMO corn and soy are among the most problematic and allergenic foods for a large segment of the population. These foods are hard to digest and can cause leaky gut (gaps in the gut lining), poor nutrient absorption, gas and bloating.
Most people have parasites to some degree. They’re easy to contract through raw, undercooked or contaminated food. A small amount may not be an issue, but if it’s a certain type or a high amount then that can certainly be problematic and can wreak havoc on your body. There are a number of herbal remedies and medications that can get rid of them if you test positive for parasites or believe you have them.
CONSIDER H. PYLORI:
This bacteria that also acts as a parasite is a cause of stomach ulcers [5,6] that can lead to cancer. If present, symptoms include stomach pain, indigestion, gas and bloating. Just like parasites, you can get H. Pylori from undercooked or raw meat and seafood (sushi is a big offender- be sure to eat the ginger served with it as it will help kill any possible parasites or bacteria), and unwashed or contaminated food. Having strong stomach acid can also kill parasites and harmful bacteria like H. Pylori. There are antibiotics and certain probiotics, such as lactobicillus reuteri, that can help treat an H. Pylori infection . You may need to take antibiotics but it is advised to look into a natural route to avoid killing off your good bacteria needed for optimal gut health. If you do need to rebuild your good bacteria because of antibiotics, then prebiotics can definitely help. We’ll talk more about prebiotics in the section on fasting.
Stress shuts down digestion and puts you into a sympathetic (flight or fight) mode and can cause a cascade of bodily consequences including hormone imbalance, weight gain, weight loss, indigestion, and water retention. A number of these effects can then cause, you guessed it, bloating. Practice deep breathing, prayer and meditation, walking, not eating when you're upset, anxious, worried, rushed or otherwise stressed out.
Fasting (refraining from eating for long periods of time) is a great practice and should be done periodically and responsibly. One day a week or 2-3 days intermittently is fine for most people. Longer periods may be helpful if you’re addressing a condition or illness where it's warranted or helpful. When we fast we eliminate bad bugs in our system, which is beneficial. However, we can also eliminate good bacteria in our gut which we need for proper digestion. If this happens, a good thing to do is reintroduce good bacteria in your gut by consuming probiotics and prebiotic rich foods. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir can be beneficial at rebuilding good gut flora. Be mindful of any reaction as some fermented foods can be allergenic to some individuals and cause a histamine reaction. Some people react and are sensitive to histamine and other amines. They may experience headaches after consuming fermented food. This happens because amines stimulate the central nervous system, increasing or decreasing blood flow, which can cause headaches and migraines . If this happens, you may want to stick with probiotic supplements or find out which fermented foods you can tolerate. Prebiotics (resistant starch) feed your good bacteria and are fantastic to consume on a regular basis. Prebiotics may be even more important than probiotics as they’re not only what feeds your good bacteria, but also prevents the overgrowth of bad bacteria. You can grow a good bacteria population in your gut by just consuming food with prebiotic fiber even without probiotics. Prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, asparagus, green bananas, oats, apples, barley, cocoa, flaxseed, yacon root and seaweed. Starchy foods such as rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes produce large amounts of resistant starch when they’re cooked and cooled. If you’re not used to a lot of fiber in your diet then you need to increase it slowly. Working with a nutritionist or dietician can be helpful.
If you’re not keeping things moving the sewage line will get backed up- your colon will get filled, gases will start to build up and you will feel heavy and may notice distention of the gut. Get the right amount of fiber, eat the right type of foods that you know you can digest (a food log/journal can greatly help), limit processed foods, eat slowly, get exercise and stay in motion, drink water and reduce your stress. All of this can help keep you regular.
Make sure you’re getting enough exercise and movement throughout the day. Movement affects digestion and gut motility, as well as how your body processes nutrients and how much fat you store. Include a mix of anaerobic (resistance or weight training) and aerobic (cardiovascular training such as running, swimming, hiking or walking) about three times per week. Try to go for at least a 10-15 minute walk after eating. You don’t want to do a full workout session or very strenuous activity right after a meal as this can hinder digestions and cause bloating or an upset stomach. Light to moderate movement is all you need- a post prandial walk or even household chores is highly beneficial. This kind of movement after eating improves not only digestion, but circulation and oxygenation as well.
PUSH PLANT DIVERSITY:
There is quite a discussion to be had on bloating and eating a diet full of fiber. Fiber is absolutely key to a healthy gut, normal digestion and managing bloating. If you’re not used to a lot of fiber in your diet or have been accustomed to the SAD (Standard American Diet) lacking in an abundance of plants and eating heavily processed and refined grains, then introduce a diverse array of plants slowly and over time so your system can handle it. It also comes down to focusing mostly on the right type of fiber: resistant starch or prebiotic fiber feeds good bacteria and produces a chemical compound called butyrate in your gut. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that promotes gut healing and is found in resistant starch and fiber rich foods. Butyrate can be produced by the following types of foods:
Do you see how variety and diversity are crucial for gut and total body health? Just like we need microbial diversity in our soil to grow nutrient rich crops, we also need diversity in our diet to have microbial diversity in our guts to have healthy digestion and the ability to extract all the nutrition and goodness from our foods. When we have bloating issues we need to eat the right foods consistently over time and with as much variety as possible. Try to implement some of these suggestions laid out here. Take your time and remember that knowledge is power, everyone is unique and intuition is key. Happy eating!
Written By Eric Morris Jr
If you’re a survivalist you know there are things that you must have in order to survive. If you’re a prepper you know the importance of having certain things that will get you through tough times and enable you to keep going. Tools, knowledge, skill, connections, resources…things that get you through any circumstance and condition.
What about qualities? What about certain traits of character that can get you through any circumstance or condition? It is important to cultivate and acquire skills and knowledge in this life, but without traits of character that will allow you to better utilize any earthly resource you have, and that can get you through difficult times in the absence of tools, any challenge you face will be many times harder to navigate and put you at risk for the challenge you face to overcome you and break you.
John Knox was a 16th century Protestant reformer in Scotland who is known for his prayer life. Mary Queen of Scots, who is also known as “Bloody Mary” because of her ruthless persecution of Protestant Christians during this time is reported to have said “I fear the the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe”.
Prayer and praying for certain qualities the Bible calls “the fruit of the Spirit” is something that will get you through anything and make any challenge beatable because of the foundation of a right attitude, heart, mind and soul. Combine these qualities and prayer with any tool or resource you could ever gain on this earth and you will be unstoppable with an indominable spirit that comes not from yourself but from King and Creator. This is being a survivalist above any other kind.
A Prayer based on Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirt is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Pray that you have love not only for family or friends but all those you come across. Pray that you can respond with love whether it be to love shown to you, criticism or hate. Pray that you have love overflowing for those you know and for the stranger. Pray that you may show love without hesitation and without condition. Pray that you may have an unlimited amount from which to draw.
Pray that you may recognize His hand in all situations and rejoice in this that the joy within you will spread to others. Pray for joy because of the blessings you have and for the lessons you’ve learned. Pray that your joy may be full so that you can help the joy of others to be full also.
Pray for peace within your heart that surpasses understanding. Pray for peace in the midst of storms and insurmountable odds because you know that He is with you. Pray for the peace that He gives to you to be imparted to others that you encounter.
Pray for patience and the spirit of endurance. Pray that you are longsuffering in dealing with circumstance, tribulation, challenge, and adversity. Pray for longsuffering and patience with all people and things that no matter the length of time it would feel like only a moment in time. Pray that the patience granted to you would be imparted and be a blessing to others.
Kindness, Goodness & Gentleness.
Pray to be meek. Pray to be kind, good and gentle but bold for the truth in all your ways. Pray to be kind in words, good in your thoughts and actions and gentle in your dealings with others. Pray that you may treat every person with the gentleness that you would want them to show to someone you care about. Pray for goodness in your soul that will always seek to do the right thing in heaven’s eyes and that doing good will always be at the forefront of your heart and mind so that good will prevail and not evil. Pray that these things placed in your heart will be shared and placed in the heart of others too.
Pray for the self control, discipline and a temperament that will bring about favor and blessings to you and those around you. Knowing that appropriate actions and works are evidence of the character and virtue approved of by heaven and displayed by a believer in Christ Jesus. Pray for this to be instilled in your body, mind and soul and to be granted the blessing of health, abundance and wisdom that He gives with such a character and to be an example to the world for His glory and honor.
Practice and pray for the faith to know and believe that everything you prayed for will be done according to His riches and for His glory. Pray for the faith without which it is impossible to please Him. Pray for faith unshakable, for faith that cannot be breached or broken down no matter what you face. Pray for a faith that makes angels rejoice, demons tremble and Him proud. Pray for a faith that will get you out of and through any circumstance, keeping you in His favor and inspiring others to have that same trust in Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Survive anything this world can throw at you with these qualities of the spiritual survivalist.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
During sleep the brain detoxifies and clears out garbage, consolidates short term to long term memory. During sleep the body repairs and builds tissues, recovers from exercise and prepares you for another day's work. Sleep also helps in things like a slimmer waistline and preventing wrinkles. Something to think about next time you're deciding whether to party all night or get some shut eye. Deep, restful, quality sleep, is critical to an optimized functioning body and brain. Did you know when you’re exhausted your body is able to undergo microsleep episodes of 1-2 seconds while your eyes are open (1)? Did you also know that even one night of missed sleep can create a prediabetic state in an otherwise healthy person (1)? Sleep is pretty important and your body will try to get it any way it can if it comes down to it.
When it comes to the strength of your immune system you definitely don’t want to compromise your sleep. Your ability to fight off infection, sickness and viruses is bolstered when you get adequate amounts of good quality sleep. During sleep your body produces protective proteins called cytokines, certain kinds of which help promote sleep and other kinds increase when you’re under stress or sick (2). Lack of sleep reduces these protective cytokines and decreases antibodies that fight disease (2). Cytokines are good when stimulating the immune system to fight a foreign invader to destroy it. What you don’t want is damage from an increase in long term inflammatory cytokines from stress or lack of sleep. Skimp on sleep and you open yourself up to greater susceptibility to illness.
“Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
“Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.”
-Eric J. Olson, M.D.
I definitely wouldn’t consider it a badge of honor to function on little to no sleep. You may be able to get away with it in the short term, but in the long run you will notice the effects. If you’re always getting to bed late and cutting your sleep short, try to find areas in your life where you can cut down, expedite tasks and improve efficiency. Get the most important things done first and don’t try to cram in tonight what’s able to be done when you’re well rested and thinking at a higher level. Skimping on your rest is simply not worth the biological and physiological consequences.
It’s true that how much sleep we need varies depending on age, stress levels and activity levels, but there is a minimum number of hours we should all be getting. Any less will start to take its toll. The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you’re highly active and always needing to recover from exercise or are highly stressed you may definitely need a few (or a lot) more than the average recommendation. However, here are the updated recommended number of hours of sleep needed courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF):
There are different stages of sleep. At each stage the body and brain undergo certain changes. It’s important for each stage to be completed in order to have full repair and recovery for the next day. If our sleep is cut short or the quality is compromised, the effects on body, brain and mood can start to add up and be noticeably felt once a sleep deficit is great enough. Even one poor night of sleep has an effect but multiple nights in a row or chronic low quality sleep can seriously get in the way of learning and retention, affect mental and physical performance, weaken your immune system and reduce your ability to recover from any form of stress .
STAGES OF SLEEP:
During this transitory stage from wakefulness to light sleep of NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep, slow wave Theta waves are produced between 4-8 Hz frequency (3). During this stage eye movements and muscle activity slows down, core body temperature drops and you’re floating in and out of consciousness where you might experience hypnic jerks that jolt you back awake until you enter stage 2. You are still easily awakened during this stage and it usually lasts about 10 minutes.
In this stage of NREM light sleep your eyes stop moving, your brain waves slow down further with the occasional burst of sleep spindles and your heart rate drops. You spend about 50% of your time in this stage of sleep. In this stage you dream but can still be awakened easily. Brain waves are between 11-16 Hz and this stage lasts about 20-30 minutes.
This stage of NREM sleep produces delta waves in the range of 0-4 Hz and lasts about 30-40 minutes. Your muscles are completely relaxed. Your blood pressure, pulse and body temperature are lowest. This is the stage where you start to produce HGH (human growth hormone) and your body goes into repair mode. You are not easily awakened during this stage.
This is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and produces alpha and beta waves. In adults there’s usually about 4 to 5 stages of REM sleep. The first stage is around 10 minutes and the later stages can be around 30 minutes. In this stage of sleep your muscles and body are paralyzed. Dreaming occurs the most in this stage. This stage of sleep is important for optimal concentration and staving off fatigue during the day.
Now, there are some major factors contributing to the quality of sleep we get. They are movement, food, light and mentality (stress). We can optimize the quality of our sleep by addressing these factors. Even addressing a few of these factors can greatly impact our quality of sleep for the better. But for consistent optimal restorative sleep try to address all factors. Your body and brain will thank you.
EXERCISE IN THE MORNING:
Exercising in the morning increases energy even better than a cup of coffee and can last the whole day. This doesn’t have to be extremely strenuous. You just want to get the blood and lymph fluid circulating and increase oxygenation. A walk, light jog, stretching or light to moderate resistance training will do the trick. If you feel up to a hardcore workout, that’s completely up to you. But just getting moving and breathing is all you need. Studies have shown that individuals who exercised around 7am as compared with those who exercised during afternoon or evening hours spent more time in the stages of deep sleep. Later morning exercise definitely has benefits as well. Combine this with sunlight through outdoor exercise and get even better circadian rhythm regulation which also promotes better sleep.
If you want another added benefit, exercising in a fasted state (before eating breakfast) can help you burn about 20% more fat as your body will utilize stored fat for energy instead of newly consumed calories to fuel your workout. Just keep in mind that if you're worried about athletic performance then afternoon exercise may be better as strength, sprint speed and aerobic capacity is greater when your body temperature is at its highest (around late afternoon or early evening). But, if you just want to burn fat, naturally have increased energy and sleep well, then a morning workout is great for this.
Oh, and try to avoid intense exercise at least 3 hours before bed. Exercise increases heart rate, body temperature and adrenaline. These are all things we want to reduce if we want a restorative night’s sleep. You definitely want to avoid producing adrenaline right before bed.
ADEQUATE NUTRITION AND A HEALTHY DIET:
We all know diet and nutrition play a crucial role in any and everything. But did you know a diet high in fiber and low in added or processed sugar can greatly help restful sleep. It can help you get deeper slow wave sleep and, through the reduction of added sugars, help prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night and help you drift off to sleep faster. Not drinking too much close to bedtime can also help if you find yourself waking up to pee. We all hate that.
Sticking to a healthy mainly whole food diet can improve sleep by reducing fat around the midsection which in turn makes you less likely to struggle with problems like sleep apnea, insomnia and restlessness. Generally speaking, the stress hormone cortisol is increased when we don’t sleep which makes us susceptible to storing fat. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help us cope with stress better and allow us to get better sleep. Additionally, supplements like magnesium, 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan), GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) and low dose melatonin (0.3mg for older adults 60+ and 0.5mg to 3mg for average adult) can be very helpful in getting a good night’s rest.
With melatonin, unless advised by a practitioner, you don't want to take high doses as this can desensitize your body's melatonin hormone receptors and make it so you don’t produce it naturally on your own. High doses can also cause sleepiness during the day which is something you don't want.
MEAL TIMING AND FOOD CHOICES:
The timing of your meals also goes a long way in contributing to sleep quality by helping produce melatonin later on in the evening.
"Dr Ramlakhan, who offers sleep coaching and is author of Tired But Wired: How to Overcome Your Sleep Problems, said “Believe it or not, eating breakfast can help you sleep. It’s as simple as this, if you don’t breakfast, your body believes it is living in famine and produces stress hormones that are not conducive to restful sleep. But by eating breakfast, you’re letting your body know there is enough food and you are living in safety, which in turn switches on your sleep, energy systems" (4).
A heavy meal right before bed is also something that can prevent a good night's sleep. Digesting a large amount of food or food that takes longer to digest (fat, protein) is a big tax on the body. Large meals and these types of foods are generally better left for breakfast or lunch or at least 3 or more hours before bedtime.
Even though you may think of our parasympathetic nervous system being activated after eating (rest and digest), which is true, this doesn't necessarily apply to full on sleep. For optimal deep sleep the entire body needs to be calm, at rest and have all of its duties done for the day. As one of my favorite authors puts it...
" When we lie down at night, the stomach should have its work all done, that it, as well as other portions of the body, may enjoy rest. But if more food is forced upon it, the digestive organs are put in motion again, to perform the same round of labor through the sleeping hours. The sleep of such is often disturbed with unpleasant dreams, and in the morning they awake unrefreshed. When this practice is followed, the digestive organs lose their natural vigor, and the person finds himself a miserable dyspeptic" (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, Chapter 4: Relation of Diet to Health and Morals)
This may not mean the stomach has to be completely empty. At times going to bed hungry can keep you up with a growling stomach. Some foods that contain certain nutrients or help produce certain hormones such as melatonin, tryptophan or magnesium in small amounts before bed can calm the body and mind and assist in restful sleep. Foods such as walnuts, almonds, chamomile tea, etc. Here’s a good list. But you should not be digesting a large meal right before bed.
LIGHT AND AVOIDING/REDUCING EMFs BEFORE BEDTIME:
Light in general can disrupt sleep by making the body think that it's still daylight and preventing you from winding down in order to fall asleep. Blackout curtains or a sleep mask can help with this. But there's one thing that disrupts sleep even more so...
EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) severely disrupt sleep. Some are produced by the earth and are good for us, others produced by our electronic devices are not. The ones that are unnatural are known as non-native EMFs. Even if you can fall asleep in the presence of them (like dozing off in front of the TV), the quality of your sleep will be impaired. Non-native EMFs not only come from our cell phones, cell towers and Wi-Fi and internet routers, but also leaks from the wall outlets, extension cords and pretty much anything that's electronic, plugged in or turned on. Yeah, I know, our modern day set-up is just not conducive to allowing us to get some rest.
Reducing blue light exposure before bed is one way to help get quality sleep. I would recommend trying to do so about 3 hours before bed but at least an hour before is helpful too. You can do this by simply making it a point to turn off or avoid using your cell phone, computer or watching tv in the hours before bedtime (in a perfect world, right?). If you can't do this then you can don a pair of blue light blocking glasses and use these while looking at device screens. You can also use the blue light filtering functions on your device (most devices now have this feature) shifting everything to the red spectrum and eliminating blue light. You can also reduce screen brightness.
STRESS AND MINDSET:
Calming the mind is, in my opinion, the most important and effective way to get restful sleep. It happens to be, at least for some of us, the most difficult as well. Knowing oneself, controlling oneself and calming oneself is a skill rather elusive. Racing thoughts, demands of the day and the day to come and our feelings and emotions are powerful energies that can override all other factors even if everything else is perfectly dialed in. The mind is the control center and the mind can, well...have a mind of its own, staying on when we need it to power down.
Meditation is a valuable tool in the struggle for rest. Meditation has proven benefits ranging from improved memory, attention and pain reduction to...you guessed it, improved sleep. There are many ways and types of meditation and doesn't have to be a monk type protocol that takes years to master. If you’re talking about transcendental meditation, that's a bit more involved. But to get rest and calm down, meditation can be simple breath work (the 4-7-8 method has been shown to be very helpful), journaling or anything that calms you down. Recounting things you're grateful for instead of thinking about the long day's work or something that bothered you is a great way to meditate on good things that bring you calm, happiness and peace. For me, I count prayer as one of the best ways to meditate, thanking God for all the blessings in my life. You can cover all your bases with this one. Praying and being grateful, asking for guidance with challenges or everyday life, expressing your heart and letting go of any anxiety, animosity, fear or any feelings that trouble us. But whatever your belief or practice, just be grateful. Going to bed angry or irritated is also a sure way to prevent a good night's sleep.
"...do not let the sun go down on your wrath"
-Ephesians 4:26 NKJV
If the issue is with family or significant other, keep in mind that you love them and love for them doesn't go away because of a disagreement. Talk to the person or write if you feel speaking isn't the best at the moment. Make it right and resolve those issues before you lie down so that your sleep may be sweet.
You may think that clearing the mind is what meditation is. It can be, but that's not what it only is. It's positive thinking that can grant benefits of meditation as well. Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation states "Thoughts are not the enemy of meditation. Effort is. Telling your mind to stop thinking is like telling your heart to stop beating". I agree. What we want to do is make those thoughts pleasant, not stressful. Ponder on the good, the happy, the hopeful and the peaceful. Some thoughts you can't avoid but once they arise, acknowledge them, then let them pass and let the next thought be positive. I know what you're thinking, “but it takes effort to change what you think." You're right. But all good things take time and a little effort. Every new skill learned is difficult at the beginning. Afterwards, it will become second nature and the effort will be gone and it will just be the way you’re wired. To be positive.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
-Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Whatever wholesome things brings you joy and happiness and calms you down is what you need to focus on. Make it a point to take the mind off of self and ponder on showing kindness, helping others and gratitude. I know it sounds like it's only something nice to say that doesn't work, but give it a chance. Its effects can be profound. Positive thinking and meditation are one of the best things you can do for overall health and stress reduction. Sometimes, we just need to chill out. This is a great way to release the tension and relax.
Sometimes our environment, stress level, diet and lifestyle can make it difficult to get a good night's rest, especially in our modern hectic world, but there are things we can do to address this. Having some knowledge on ways to combat the things that can get in the way of sleep is number one. If you don't know, how can you do it? Everyone is different and what dramatically affects one person may have minimal effects on another. As always, listen to your body and determine what works best for you. But I assure you, practicing these healthy techniques laid out here can only help you no matter who you are.
Written by Eric Morris Jr
We all know the benefits of exercise. Regular exercise keeps the blood and oxygen circulating, increases metabolism, helps improve body composition, elevates mood, increases cognitive function, improves sleep, helps burn fat and increases energy levels and the list goes on. Also keep in mind that exercise doesn’t always have to be in a gym. Remember the legendary film Rocky IV? Ivan Drago vs Rocky Balboa. Rocky trekked in snow, pulled logs and chased chickens. Drago trained in a world class gym, ran on a treadmill and was hooked up to sophisticated equipment and I’ll tell you, Drago in no wise had the upper hand. Being forged by the earth, tested by nature and against all odds, Rocky won. So go ahead, hike or rock climb. Chase a rabbit, squirrel or chipmunk. I don't care how much you bench press, If you catch a bunny or a squirrel...You're pretty awesome. Just don’t hurt them and try not to get bitten.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a gym. It absolutely has its place, especially when you can’t go outside. Plus, you do need to be exercising in some fashion so if that’s how you’re starting, the way you’re keeping a fitness routine or getting help from a personal trainer, then keep going and don’t stop. You’re on the right track. The most important thing is not to be sedentary. However, there are benefits that are compounded when you take your body and your workout outside.
A body resilient to injury, resistant to sickness and disease. A level of fitness not attainable with indoor stagnant air and no sunshine. To be optimally fit we need different terrain, grass, dirt, trees, rocks and natural stimuli that only nature can provide. Your body is developed differently when moving across uneven ground, lifting and moving things imperfect in shape, and handling odd objects. The microscopic oscillations that occur in the deeper strands of the muscles achieve a higher degree of balance and coordination that can’t be achieved through just linear, even sided resistance or a smooth ground surface. A body tried and tested by Mother Nature and forged by the elements. A body granted and grounded by the earth. This develops not only the body but the mind and the spirit as well. We came from earth and are earth. This is the benefit of optimizing body through outdoor exercise.
Stronger Immune System
Being out in nature isn’t dirty. Surprisingly, it combats pathogens and harmful microbes. Ben Page founder of Shinrin Yoku LA explains "Trees shower (or bathe) themselves in an antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial compound called phytoncides. This is how trees combat disease. When humans inhale these phytoncides, it triggers the human body to produce a specialized white blood cell called NK cells, or Natural Killer cells." These NK cells then attack cancerous and tumorous growths in the body, improving immune strength.” (1). So get outside and get the benefits of improved immunity.
Less Likely To Get Injured
Gradually increase your intensity level on outdoor terrain being mindful of obstacles. You’ll flex your ankles more and end up overall with stronger more resilient muscles (1). Your muscles and coordination will develop better and you'll be able to navigate any terrain better. This is something called proprioception which is simply your awareness of the position and movement of your body without having to look at the limb or body part involved in the movement. Ever hear of your dog or other animals being "sure footed"? This is what’s developed when you expose yourself to varying terrain in nature. What’s even better is letting your feet feel as much of the ground as possible while still being protected. It’s worth mentioning some functional minimalist footwear that allows your foot to respond to the feedback it’s receiving from the terrain. Companies like Vivobarefoot and Earth Runners are great for allowing this type of sensory feedback.
Vitamin D & Sunlight Exposure
This also boosts immune system, reduces stress and helps increase bone density helping prevent breaks and fractures (2, 3). Just practice smart exposure prioritizing early sunlight or wearing healthful non-toxic protection if out for extended periods or during hotter parts of the day. We need vitamin D to properly use and absorb calcium, proper immune system function and help maintain healthy energy levels. Low levels are also linked to a greater chance of being obese. Only about 10% of vitamin D comes from food sources (4) such as sun exposed mushrooms, quality dairy products and oily fish (preferably all your food sources being organic, grass fed and wild caught). The remaining amount we need is produced by the body itself as long as we have adequate sunlight exposure. So be like Superman and harness the power of the sun.
Makes You Happier
The outdoors can increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to well-being and happiness (3). Science has shown that getting out in the fresh air, sunshine and nature does wonders for elevating mood and combating depression. Along with the many benefits aforementioned with getting vitamin D when we get sunshine, mental health and fighting depression is one big way being outdoors can make you happier. Vitamin D is actually a prohormone, something our body uses to make a hormone. Too little can be linked to mental illnesses, mood disorders and depression (4). This prohormone also helps the body produce a sense of well-being and feel good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Just being out in nature and seeing all the sights and wonders and appreciating the scenery that just isn’t present in a gym setting has shown to contribute to a sense of happiness (1). A 2015 study conducted by Stanford University found that students who walked through a campus park for an hour felt less anxiety than those who didn’t (1).
Burn More Calories
Being exposed to ever changing terrain, wind resistance and obstacles in the surrounding environment will increase the amount of calories you burn. Plus, you'll get more energy through sunlight and fresh air that will enable you to go harder, faster for longer. You'll get exposed to stressors that you otherwise wouldn’t in an indoor atmosphere which provides a greater hormetic effect. You’ll end up better conditioned from being tried in all the varying degrees and elements of nature rather than just working out in a linear fashion that most have grown accustomed to in a gym.
Earthing and Grounding
Negative ions balance out and discharge dirty electricity from wifi signals, cell phones, computers and other electronic devices that degrade our cells and disrupt sleep. Outdoor exercise is a modern day must for desk and indoor workers. Ironically, the more time you spend inside connected, the more it's imperative you spend outside disconnected. Earth Runners sandals mentioned earlier also have a built in copper plug in the soles of their sandals to allow for negative ion flow for “earthing” or “grounding” similar to walking barefoot in grass, on the beach or dirt which has numerous healing benefits. Even turn other minimalist footwear into grounding shoes with their Earthing Shoe DIY kit. You might also want to check out this amazing podcast with Ben Greenfield interviewing Clint Ober on the effects of earthing and grounding. After this, I promise you will go unshod every chance you get.
It’s Free, Interesting And The Only Thing You Need
No gym membership and no fancy equipment to buy. Just you, the outdoors and your desire to explore your surroundings. Plus you can discover new and exciting wildlife and previously unexplored areas. You’ll come across bunnies, lizards, squirrels, birds, snakes (yikes!). Just be careful. Nature is beautiful but can also be dangerous. Sometimes it may be best to admire without disturbing unless you know what you’re doing.
See, with the outdoors and nature all around you, really don’t need a gym to exercise or accomplish your health and fitness goals. They’re great, fun and can offer nice amenities, but you don’t need one to get fit or get healthier. What you do need is fresh air, sunlight and to be grounded if you want to thrive and not just live. If you start keeping this in mind you can eliminate a big hurdle that causes a number of people to skip exercise altogether. The infamous “I don’t have time to go to the gym!” excuse. You very well may not, but having time to go to the gym and having time to exercise are two very different things. The gym is anywhere you are. Your house, your office, any secluded or open space and of course, the great outdoors, are yours for the fitness taking.
Ways to Workout Outside
Find a park, grassy field or desert
I personally love a secluded barren desert with some boulders to throw around. Finding objects difficult to handle with uneven loads challenges the body in a completely different way. This is truly functional training. Always training in a linear, even loaded fashion is fine but doesn’t pose the same real world scenarios that provide a better stimulus and greater balance and core strengthening that offset loading affords, which you’ll inevitably be exposed to if you’re lifting with what you find in your natural environment. This can definitely be done in a gym, but outside you won’t even have to think about training this way. Using what you find around you, it'll just happen and you’ll get all the other benefits of being outdoors. A lot of parks have a dedicated exercise area too with monkey bars, parallel bars, ladders, ropes, pull up bars and sit up stations. And if not, a park still has what you need to get a good workout. A grass field, a bench, a trail, or just simply space (and sometimes you don’t need a whole lot of space either). Go ahead, jump around, play and exercise.
Plyometrics, Isometrics, Calisthenics & The Environment
Plyometrics, where you perform dynamic explosive movements to develop your speed and power. Sometimes with a little less intensity if you’re just starting out or just looking to tone up. These are fantastic for an outdoor workout as you’ll be breathing hard and the invigorating, therapeutic benefit of fresh air gives you better oxygenation and aerobic capacity (unless you’re around copious amounts of smog). Isometrics where you hold a position without moving, press against a wall, tree or other fixed object or yourself (glute squeezes anyone?) are great for outdoor or indoor exercise. These can be done anywhere you find even the smallest space. Valuable when you don't have time or space for anything else. You can even do isometric exercises undetected in the presence of other people. Start isometrically pushing or pulling against any fixed object you can securely grab onto and push or pull in a pulsing fashion. You can push your legs or thighs against fixed objects as well or even against your own arms. Calf raises are simple enough to be done standing or sitting wherever you are. Do them single leg without raising your whole body. These techniques can allow you to get a workout in and no one will ever know. These are all things that can be done outside or inside to stay stoned and strong all the time. You don’t always need to do an intense, brutal workout to stay fit. In fact, too much or too many extremely intense workouts done too often can actually work against you by overtraining and adrenal fatigue (which can be caused by too much exercise or other stressors such as familial, financial or work). Calisthenics is another great body weight workout option, which in my opinion, is actually best done outdoors. This type of exercise involves a variety of exercises and movements that target large muscle groups and multiple muscles at the same time and can greatly increase your level of fitness in a short amount of time. A fantastic way to get in your cardio and resistance training simultaneously. Find a set of bars at the park or even use tree branches and get to work.
Take A Walk
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise there is. You can drastically improve body composition by simply walking and a nutritious, whole food diet. For many individuals, due to certain conditions, this may be the best or only option for exercise and maintaining movement of the body. This also is a great way for anyone to get started exercising. With many conditions this is a great way to speed up healing and keep the blood circulating. Of course, do anything according to your ability and specific circumstance, but walking and incorporating a few extra steps in your day can do wonders for your overall health. Walk to the grocery store with a backpack and walk back, park farther away (especially if you’re going to the gym!), walk to the farther restroom (if you can hold it), walk to the farther checkout stand, take the stairs instead of the elevator, clean up a spill instead of calling someone else and get the benefit of walking and moving as you gather the supplies and clean up the mess. Walking and just taking a few extra steps in any action you take or in your daily travels will yield great benefits in the long run...or walk.
No matter what your goals or reasons for exercise are, just remember to move. Bruce Lee said “Be water, my friend” to adapt to your environment. This also means be like a stream, moving water. Keep flowing and moving. Adjust to your surroundings and find a way to move. Stagnation in a pond breeds disease. It's flowing water that's pure. So goes for the body.
The rocks, the dirt and the trees are your playground. The terrain and the elements are your trainer. Your creativity and desire is your program. Your body is your equipment.
The world is your gym.
Written by Eric Morris Jr
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. (NKJV)
This applies to all aspects of development both physical and mental. Let's talk about the physical (nutritional) aspects for now, which do spill over into the mental. Children require the best nutrition from the start. Just like anything else starting out strong will undoubtedly give you an advantage.
In the Bible, the parents of John the Baptist and Samson were given instructions on how to care for themselves and the children they were to bring into the world to produce offspring with sound physical and mental capacities to complete the work ahead of them. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was told that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son named John and “...he would be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He would also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” - Luke 1:15.
Manoah, father of Samson, had a wife who was told that she would bear a son who would be a deliverer (defender) of her people. She was instructed “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink and not to eat anything unclean” being dedicated for a purpose "...until the day of his death” -Judges 13:4,7.
Did you know the first 3 years of a child’s life are some of the most important? “It is a time of rapid cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and motor development” (1) and in their first year alone "babies triple their birth weight. To grow that much, they need a lot of nutrients -- more than at any other time in their life" (2)
It’s especially important during this time to achieve optimal nutrition for brain development. Essential fatty acids and omega 3, choline (helps brain cells in the production of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter for mental focus and learning (3) and iodine (sea vegetables are a great source) for brain and cognitive development. I know we think of vitamin c for the immune system. That is true but let’s not forget vitamin A for helping your child resist illness and infection (vitamin A is fat soluble so get those healthy fats!) as well as skin, hair and vision. Since these are all required nutrients even before the baby is eating solid food it’s crucial that the mother eat a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet so this can be passed on to the child in her milk and then of course, instill these healthy habits into them as children for life long health.
Dr. Weston A. Price was Canadian dentist who firmly believed in the relationship that existed between nutrition, dental and physical health. He stressed the importance of getting good fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K (dark leafy greens and vegetables are good sources of K1 and good sources for K2 are egg yolks, fermented foods like sauerkraut and natto along with fatty fish, organ meats and hard cheeses). He was intrigued by the common occurrence of dental cavities and tooth decay in modern westernized culture even with our modern dentistry and observed that “primitive” cultures with no access to such had well-formed teeth and bones and almost no dental issues. When he analyzed the foods used by isolated peoples, he found that, in comparison to the American diet of his day, they provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins...” (5). Interestingly, getting adequate amounts of good fats and fat-soluble vitamins is linked to symmetrical development (6).
Even though he advocated for a diet rich in animal foods as good sources for these nutrients, which is true, you can also get the same from a plant-based diet if you choose. You can do so with proper food preparation such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting (increasing bio-availability) and food combining (7). Keep in mind these cultures were eating grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free meat and dairy.
-Recommended Amounts for Adequate Intake (AI)*:
Omega 3 fats for children
*Established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA (13)
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) in international units (IU) and micrograms (mcg).
-Vitamin A (Beta-carotene plant form)
Note: Sunlight, supplementation and mushrooms exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light are best vegan sources. Also, adults 70+ need 800 IU (20mcg)
Note: Adults 51+ need 18 IU (12mcg)/day
-Adequate Intake* (AI) in micrograms (mcg) for Vitamin K
Note: There are two types of Vitamin K, K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone). You need both. K1 is found in plant sourced foods. K2 is found mainly in animal foods but also in fermented plant foods such as natto and tempeh (fermented soy), sauerkraut, kombucha and is has been shown to be created by intestinal flora (gut bacteria) (15), so probiotics can be beneficial. Egg yolks are a good vegetarian but not vegan option.
Other Important Nutrients Include:
Let's not forget babies and toddlers need exercise too. They just need to move. "The need for even the very young to be physically active is something parents often don't understand," (4).
-Jane Clark, PhD, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland.
"The earlier infants, toddlers, and preschool children get exposure to daily movement and exercise, the better the likelihood of healthy development in later life," Clark says.
So, All In All...
The main takeaway is to have variety and a balanced diet to get these important nutrients and best coming from a whole food, natural diet and refrain from the processed, refined and sugary foods. All this ends up in our bodies and is what brain, bone and muscle is made of. So, it’s definitely important to start off right and instill healthy habits right from birth.
Parent and child need to get exercise and physical activity. Great to do it together and form stronger bonds as well. Movement helps the circulation and blood flow, which increases nutrient delivery, which helps organs and cells get what they need better, which means better development in every area of mind and body. A beautiful chain reaction. All this being done from the onset creates health of mind and body that lasts into old age. Truly, healthy habits learned from infancy can last a lifetime. I would not doubt any centenarian I come across was a robust little tike ;)
It’s easy to forget how important what we put into our body is. It affects us in ways we may not even realize. It’s known that our diet not only affects our health but our personality and mood as well (8) and starting as soon as we can to develop good health and a healthy mind and character is something we should do. The health of the body affects the mind, the mind affects the thinking and our thinking affects our morals and behavior.
"Mental and moral power is dependent upon the physical health.”
“Physical and moral health are closely united”
-Ellen G. White, Healthful Living
1. Ensure intake of all nutrients and a well-balanced diet and focus on getting enough good fats, omega 3s, choline, iodine and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K for brain development and resistance to illness.
Sources of good fats include grass-fed, organic dairy/meat, organic free-range or pastured eggs, wild caught fish, olive oil, algal oil which is a great vegan source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)/DHA (docosohexaenoic acid), chia and flax seeds which are great sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) (16) which converts into EPA and DHA, other nuts and seeds (preferably soaked or sprouted) such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas or pumpkin seeds. For Vitamins A, D, E & K eat leafy green vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, yellow/orange fruits and veggies (will convert beta-carotene to vit. A in the body), best lightly steamed or cooked, whole grains (preferably soaked/sprouted), pastured eggs, organic liver. Also get a moderate amount of sunlight for vitamin D.
2. Avoid processed or fast food as much as possible. Enjoy homecooked meals (cooking with the family is fun and builds strong family bonds). Avoid refined sugar. Sugar should be natural and unrefined like the type found in raw honey or fresh fruits and vegetables.
3. Kids mimic what they see. If they see you practicing healthy habits, they're likely to want to do it too.
Ben Greenfield Podcast:
-10 Ways To Grow Tiny Superhumans – Ben Greenfield’s Top Tips For Raising Strong, Resilient Happy Kids
-Why You shouldn’t Let Modern Baby Food Anywhere Near Your Baby (& What To Use Instead To Make Your Baby Stronger And Smarter)
-Counsels on Diet and Foods
by Ellen G White
-The healthiest baby food I’ve come across: Serenity Kids
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “what does not kill me, makes me stronger,” and I know you’re familiar with that quote, if not because of Nietzsche, because of belting out the song “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. This quote like others (“no pain, no gain” anyone?) has pervaded the health and fitness industry through the many inspirational social media posts and hashtags (and gym tank tops of course), but did you know there’s real scientific merit behind it?
In an ideal world, no one experiences any hardship in life, yet you’d be hardpressed to find a single person you know who has not dealt with some sort of stress, anxiety, or adversity.
And if you’re reading this thinking “Hmm... I’ve had no stress in my life at all,” consider for a moment the 73% of people who regularly experience emotional symptoms caused by stress (1), or better yet, the 77% of people who experience physical symptoms caused by stress (2).
Quite the epidemic wouldn’t you say?
Yet, in this article, I’d like to explore the idea that not all stress is “made” the same. Here’s where that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” quote comes in again. According to certain studies, some stress, in certain amounts, can actually make you a stronger person... both mentally and physically.
To put a name to this, let’s talk about the biological truth, “hormesis.” Sure, we could get into the whole scientific description (here’s a link if you’d like that), but hormesis simply means that a low dose of chemical, environmental, or physical stress can make you better able to handle that same stress in the future. It’s kind of like not taking the flu shot and instead allowing your body to experience the flu. This exposure makes your body better able to fight it off in the future. [Not to mention, medical experts agree that protecting yourself from the flu vaccine is more important than the flu itself... but that’s another article for another day (3)!]
Throughout our life, we’re exposed to a number of stressors such as a big work presentation, the traffic jam that makes you miss the first 15 minutes of your daughter's ballet recital, or something traumatic like the sudden death of a loved one. In response to these stressors, our body releases the stress hormone known as cortisol (4). In some situations, another hormone, adrenaline may be released. You may also find your body responds physically to help you deal with the situation like an increased heart rate, fast reflexes, or increased strength.
Essential to our survival, we do need a certain amount of stress to thrive in this world, but as I mentioned before, not all stress is the same. There are two sides of the stress coin; Eustress and Distress.
Eustress, the positive stress, is what allows us to perform well. It’s often short-lived, is exciting, motivates, and helps us focus. Despite the stress that looms ahead, we feel like we can overcome it, and will overcome it; and a better life is waiting just around the corner. Moving across the country, starting a new job, having a baby, learning a new language, and retiring are all examples of eustress.
On the opposite side of eustress is distress... which you may be a bit more familiar with. This is the type of stress that tends to linger and is chronic. Distress can be both short and long-term and can lead to anxiety, depression, mood swings, poor concentration, and many (often debilitating) physical symptoms.
Knowing the types of stress you can experience in life, let’s take a look at how you can use this knowledge to your advantage moving forward so that you can live a more balanced life.
How Eustress Makes us Mentally Tougher and Even More Empathetic to Others (If You Let It)
Although eustress is a positive stress, the power to harness it all lies in which belief you hold regarding stress. In a study conducted in the United States with over 186 million adults, those who believed that stress was harmful to their health experienced more mental and physical symptoms of stress than those who believed it was actually helpful (5).
The positive perception of stress allows one to develop a mindset that is equipped with the ability to accept and face challenges head-on, rather than invoking the fight or flight response. Over time, this acceptance of challenge (stress), turns into resilience, which in the fewest of words empowers one to reach their fullest potential, despite what challenges may come.
In the words of Psychologist Kelly McGoniga, “you create the biology of courage” when you look at physical symptoms such as a racing heart as a “call for action” instead of the opposite, a call for apprehension. Watch McGonigal’s full Ted Talk on How To Make Stress Your Friend, it’s well worth the 14 minutes.
How Exposure to Physical and Biological Challenges Makes us More Resilient and Capable to Fight off Disease, Sickness and Weakness
Exposure to eustress can be beneficial in many ways, psychologically and physically. As human beings, we are naturally more inclined to manifesting a life that includes some amount of stress. Having errands to run, activities to do, and work projects that are piling up may seem like a recipe for disaster; but it’s these daily stimuli that help us avoid a life of boredom; and instead, makes our lives fulfilling. Of course, creating (art, music, etc), and helping others also goes a long way in living a fulfilled life.
In the work environment, for example, you may think creating a relaxing atmosphere would have employees more relaxed and working better, but as a 2018 study in the Journal of Neuropsychology & Stress Management found; when there is no challenge in the workplace, boredom is likely to set in amongst employees (6). This boredom may lead to dissatisfaction where the employees feel frustrated with not only the work but themselves too. Continuing in the cycle, this frustration then turns into low self-esteem and depression which bleeds into other areas of their life as well. However, in the same study, workplaces that supported an environment of well-managed eustress, saw peak performance from their employees.
If you’ve ever sat in a stadium or on the couch with friends watching a sports match, you’ve likely felt that feeling of “we are one” or togetherness it brings. Competitive sports are a great example of how eustress not only can benefit athletes, but also the fans. When athletes choose to embrace the pain (distress) in a game as enjoyment (eustress), their experience of the sport changes. We often see this when the underdogs are able to rally together as a team and instead of simply thinking of winning or losing, but rather of being present in the moment and enjoying the game, doing the best they can. This belief of being part of something bigger (team vs me), allows the athlete to become a master over the stressors and overcome the challenges. It also amplifies what 'Blue Zone' communities all over the world are already doing; fostering strong bonds through community and connection with one another.
A fairly common form of eustress you may be well aware of is dietary restriction or better known as, fasting. This is when we willingly decide to restrict calories consumed for a period of time such as 12-36 hours (sometimes more) in order to harness our bodies magnificent abilities to lower insulin, and blood glucose; which is promising for weight loss and preventing diabetes (7). Another study found that the stress placed on the body by not eating activates the body's ability to upregulate anti-inflammatory and antioxidant defenses (8).
Associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Firdaus Dhabhar, PhD, has been conducting studies for over 10 years between the link of stress hormones and the immune system. In a 2012 study he led, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, Dhabhar found that when exposed to short-term stress, immune-cell redistribution occurred within a 2 hour period, enhancing postoperative recovery. Regarding the findings of this study, Dhabhar said “So nature uses the brain, the organ most capable of detecting an approaching challenge, to signal that detection to the rest of the body by directing the release of stress hormones. Without them, a lion couldn’t kill, and an impala couldn’t escape.” (9) It goes without saying of course, that a strong immune system can help protect you against a wide array of illnesses, and diseases.
Knowing When Eustress Becomes Distress and When the Hormetic Effect is No Longer Being Tapped Into
When our body is put through acute stress (eustress), a complex yet coordinated stress response is activated and our body responds as needed in order to help us respond to the situation at hand. These reactions when short-term are perfectly healthy and beneficial to our health, but when it becomes a sustained reaction in response to chronic stress, problems may arise.
Just as driving your car without ever servicing it can lead to early wear and breakdown, the same can happen to your body. Early onset aging (wrinkles, lines, sagging, etc), raised blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, weakened immune system, cancer, ulcers, and obesity are just a few ways long-term stress (distress) can affect the body.
Identifying when eustress is becoming distress is an important skill you can master for your physical and mental health. External situations (death of a loved one, loss of a job, money problems, legal problems, sleep problems, injury) may be the cause of distress, but recognizing the feelings internally is what can ultimately help you tap back into the hormetic effect.
Here are the internal signs to watch for:
You should also watch for the following behaviors:
Promoting Balance: Tips on How to Prevent Eustress from Becoming Distress
Managing stress in a proactive manner is something many have yet to “master” if you will. It’s not enough to simply sit in a bubble bath and listen to Sade (although who doesn’t love doing that?) once stress sets in. Approaching stress from a holistic point of view means preparing your mind and body to cope with stress, well before it creeps in.
Below are a few methods you can use to promote balance in your life so that when stress does get you, you’re prepared.
The practice of yoga and controlled breathing, specifically Sudarshana Kriya Yoga (SKY), has long been recommended as a low-risk and low-cost tool for stress-related disorders. One study published in the International Journal of Yoga, showed that “SKY can be a beneficial, low-risk, low-cost adjunct to the treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress-related medical illnesses, substance abuse, and rehabilitation of criminal offenders.” (10) Tree pose (Eka pada pranamasana) is an excellent yoga pose for improving concentraion and helping balance the mind and body; as well as opening the third eye (Ajna Chakra) which helps to balance out the hormone system in the body. (11) Ujjayi breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and lions breath are three more breathing techniques to help calm and reduce stress.
Stress-eating affects 38% of American adults who overeat in response to stressful situations (12). And it doesn’t help that when those stress-eaters do reach for a mouthful of food, it’s usually junk food. This food is not only junk for your waistline, but it’s also junk for your mind too. One study showed that chronically stressed women who turned to foods high in trans fat and sugar experienced oxidative damage and insulin resistance (13). After the initial “high” of eating fast food wears off, mood swings, and signs of irritability manifest. And to think, that’s on top of the stress! Instead, turn to whole, non-processed foods that can impact your mood positively, stabilize blood sugar and reduce tension. A few of the best hormetic foods include green tea, curcumin (turmeric), and cruciferous vegetables. (14). According to John Dempster, a Toronto based Naturopathic Doctor, he has “yet to find a patient NOT have a nutrient deficiency,” which for those experiencing stress could mean a deficit in B vitamins, amino acids, and certain minerals (i.e. magnesium and zinc). It’s best to visit with a local ND to get your blood test which will show your nutrient deficiencies (15). Furthermore, in lieu of fasting, a concept called Xenohormesis could be used to mimic the effects of dietary restriction (16).
Unless you’ve been living off-grid for the past 20-30 years, it’s hard to notice how increasingly sensationalist the media and news has become. It doesn’t help that these days a swipe or tap on our smart phones is all it takes to find the latest stories, and even engage in a war of response to it with people from 3000 miles away in seconds. Perpetually viewing the news however has negative implications far more serious than simply wasting your precious time that can be spent doing more meaningful things. Fear mongering, scare tactics, and outright lies used by news journalists have people not only sadder and more anxious, but also more depressed about their own lives. In his book “The News” author Alain de Botton examines typical news story outlines and gives his own reasoning as to why shunning the news is the most sensible thing to do. He comments that news organizations are, “institutionally committed to implying that it is inevitably better to have a shaky and partial grasp of a subject this minute than to wait for a more secure and comprehensive understanding somewhere down the line.” Sounds a bit like social-media-society, in general, doesn’t it?
We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine at some point in our lives, yet how many of us actually put it into practice? An overwhelmingly positive sensation, laughter is a non-invasive, non-pharmacological method of boosting ones mental health. In a 2015 study, it was found that laughter “decreases serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, growth hormone, and 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid (a major dopamine catabolite), indicating a reversal of the stress response.” (17) Find a funny movie, book, or get together with a few friends for a night of games and laughs!
Most of us had those few years in adolescence where we ran straight to our room, escaping the “bore” or “chore” (however you saw it at that time) of having to hang out with our family after school. Recent studies, however, are showing that this isolation can hinder our ability to function in social settings later in adulthood. Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, created a study that simulated those very isolated years of adolescence in teens with a group of isolated mice. When returned to the group after isolation, the mice still exhibited the “abnormal behaviours” associated to mental illness and his team set out to simulate social isolation associated with the difficult years of adolescence in human teens. They found that isolating mice known to have a genetic predisposition for mental illness during their adolescence triggered 'abnormal behaviors' that continued even when returned to the group. They found that the effects of adolescent isolation lasted into the equivalent of mouse adulthood. The "tend-and-befriend" response is the exact opposite to "fight-or-flight". The"tend-and-befriend" response or fostering closer bonds with other people (friends, family, partner, etc), increase oxytocin (healthy molecule) and decreases cortisol. So, spend more face-to-face with those you love, and less face-to-screen time with those you likely will never meet in life (ahem, social media)!
Just like forming bonds with friends and family, forming a bond and being connected to our Source allows us to achieve an even greater benefit to humanity and leave a lasting legacy of love, kindness and peace to our fellow man. Prayer, meditation, volunteering and service to others, gratitude and appreciation all have a profound effect on health and happiness which is conducive to longevity and a sound mind and body. Proverbs 17:22 NKJV says “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” It is well known that emotions and feelings, which determine our level and type of stress, do have an effect on our health. Saying your morning prayers, keeping a gratitude journal or focusing on helping someone else through a challenging situation can all help you through your own challenges, alleviate your own stress and make you resilient all because you helped make someone else resilient. This is the concept of reaping what you sow or Karma. Even if you don’t consider yourself a spiritual person, taking the focus off of self, attending to the needs of others and being thankful for all the good things in your life, big and small, can do wonders for stress relief and turn distress into eustress. You’ll be thankful you did.
Written by Tamryn Burgess
Unless you live on a faraway island, completely isolated from the goings on in the world (although you wouldn’t be reading this if you were), by now you’re well aware of the synthetics lurking in conventional skin care and the impact they can have on your health. Not to mention, all the GMOs being pumped into our food supply that can drastically increase the risk of disease in the body.
But there’s another not-so-talked-about missing component in the discussion on toxin exposure...
Be honest, have you ever stopped to wonder what effect these same synthetics in your skin care and GMOs in your food can have on your mental and physical performance?
I’m not just talking about students and athletes, anyone of any age can struggle with the side-effects of toxins. In fact, it’s especially alarming when you see the neurodevelopmental effects (ADD, autism, and cerebral palsy) caused by chemicals on the developing brains of children (1).
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are natural ways of protecting yourself against free radical scavengers, just keep in mind it all comes down to a long-term healthy lifestyle, rather than a temporary quick fix (dieting) , but more on that later on!
If you find yourself forgetful and dealing with brain fog a little too often, or if you find that you lack the stamina to push through your workouts, then your body may be struggling with toxin overload.
So put your to-do list aside for just a few minutes and keep reading, you’ll be glad you did!
What is the impact of heavy metals on athletic performance and mental health?
Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium sounds like the makings of a horror film; but I hate to be the one to tell you, they make their way into your daily life more often than you’d possibly imagine. The scary fact of the matter is that these heavy metals are found in small traces in everything from our water supply to our cosmetics so avoiding them may seem virtually impossible.
IMPACT ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Contributing to impaired athletic performance and affecting virtually every organ system, lead , in particular, may lead to muscle and joint pain, deficits in motor function, decreased reaction time, memory problems, as well as nerve disorders. Found mostly in “ lead-based paint in older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery” this heavy metal is tough to avoid for the average person (2).
Arsenic from contaminated drinking water can impair the musculoskeletal system and contribute to a decline in muscle function (3) while cadmium and mercury have shown negative effects on skeletal muscle in animal studies (4).
Another heavy metal that has detrimental effects on both the mind and the body is one that is more common than you may realize... I’m talking about mercury of course.
Humans are exposed to mercury most commonly through vaccines, contaminated fish (5+ tons of mercury is released into the sea each year), dental fillings, and workplace exposure; and while you can’t actually see it, it's wreaking havoc within. Muscle atrophy (eg. one leg appearing smaller, not shorter than the other) is typically due to inactivity, yet a study published in 2000 showed that exposure to mercury vapors in an occupational setting also shows moderate to severe atrophy in participants - dental technicians and dentist (5). This is especially awakening for athletes or active people who work in the dental field and seem to be losing muscle mass, instead of gaining. Toxic overload from mercury may be a contributing factor you should investigate with your doctor. Furthermore, if you’re working out and finding it hard to get a good contraction or proper “pump” action, then take a look at your surroundings and lifestyle to see if mercury may be involved as it is known to prevent proper contraction of muscle fibres.
Ultimately, heavy metals block specific enzymes that are needed for the body to produce energy and protein (6). Without sufficient energy and protein, your body will simply not perform at optimal levels. As a result, injuries, fatigue, lack of energy and inability to recover can occur.
Drinking pure, filtered water and limiting exposure to lead by using lead-free paint in your home, throwing out conventional cosmetics and using only natural cosmetics and household products are all important to reduce your risk of heavy metal toxicity.
IMPACT ON MENTAL PERFORMANCE
Just when you got your head around the different ways toxins can affect your physical performance, you’re then confronted with how it can impair your cognitive health and mental performance.
Lead is in the line of fire again here, with direct effects on learning and memory when the brain is exposed to high amounts, although it is now said that no amount of lead exposure is safe (7). In adults, lead exposure is linked to brain and nervous system damage and other problems including high blood pressure and even impotency. In children, however, the effects of lead are well-known and have shown a lowered ability to learn (8).
When it comes to mental performance, high mercury exposure has been linked to central nervous system changes. These changes could result in anything from headaches, fatigue, and irritability, to hallucinations, hearing and cognitive loss, tremors, behavioral changes, and even death (9). The same study found that an increase in toxic exposure increases oxidative stress which is linked to “neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease” and most likely due to the fact that exposure to mercury increases the production of free radicals in the body.
TAKE ACTION AGAINST HEAVY METALS
Educate yourself about potential lead found in common children’s toys and check for lead in common, daily cosmetics such as lipstick.
Lead is rampant in conventional lipstick and the problem with this is that it could get directly into your mouth where it has easy access to your bloodstream (because it doesn't have to penetrate your skin first) . This means you are more likely to take in concentrated levels of lead via products like lipstick and even contaminated home cookware, jewelry, and imported foods and candy (10).
Eliminating mercury from the body can be a long, difficult process but is well worth it for your overall health. If you have dental fillings, it’s important to work with a trained biological dentist to assess your mercury fillings and to formulate a plan to remove and replace them with a safer alternative. On your own, you can begin the mercury detox process slowly by preparing your gut first (eliminating allergens and taking pre and probiotics) , increasing your healthy fat intake (boost your liver’s detox capabilities) and mineral intake (zinc and selenium help your body get rid of heavy metals), as well as eat a diet rich in sulphur foods like broccoli, garlic, onion, kale, and collards. Of course, for a personalized nutritional plan, we always recommend you work with a trained nutritionist.
What is the impact of antibiotics on athletic performance and mental health?
We've been taught to put our faith in conventional medicine, including antibiotics, to treat bacterial infections and keep us healthy, but are you aware of the side effects of routinely used antibiotics on physical performance?
IMPACT ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
It’s no secret that athletes who train at a maximum level are at a higher risk for illness and infections, making antibiotics the go-to for many athletes on a regular basis (11). However, regular antibiotic use could lead to decreased performance issues, fatigue has been linked to “tendon injuries, cardiac arrhythmias, diarrhea, photosensitivity, cartilage issues, and decreased performance.” (12)
IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” and for good reason! Everything that goes on in your gut has a direct impact on your mental health. If your gut is impaired in any way, you may be at a higher risk of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (13).
Antibiotics destroy harmful bacteria that may contribute to illness, but what you may not know is that it also destroys good bacteria needed for a healthy gut environment.
TAKE ACTION AGAINST ANTIBIOTICS
Filling your daily diet with nature’s natural antibiotics help to boost immunity and prevent infections in the first place.
Garlic, mushrooms, and onion are just a few of our favorite natural antibiotics. In fact, garlic is fantastic for killing bacteria associated with both viral and antibacterial infections and its effectiveness has been compared to conventional antibiotics. The difference is that garlic only destroys bad bacteria and leaves beneficial bacteria intact and it also destroys a larger range of bacteria than conventional antibiotics alone (14).
Additionally, increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods to help promote the formation of good gut bacteria. Our favorite plant-based probiotics include miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and coconut yogurt.
How do toxins increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimers?
Exposure to chemical agents at high levels can alter brain function and increase the risk of cognitive decline related illness such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, there is limited knowledge (apart from cigarette smoke exposure) “that ongoing exposure to low levels of toxic pollutants and chronic bioaccumulation of these agents can cause sustained disruption of physiologic function including brain biology.”
Too much emphasis is placed on genetics, and while genetics certainly do play a role in the onset of chronic illnesses, a larger contributor is environmental factors:
“In keeping with recent evidence that the majority of chronic illness is not primarily genetic, but environmental in origin, a lack of etiology-centered medicine is sometimes allowing the underlying causes of disease to go unnoticed while clinicians focus on symptomatic management. Exposure to toxic substances has historically been recognized as one of the five fundamental etiologies of chronic illness...” (15).
It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re young, those regular takeouts or constant use of conventional products take years to do damage, that is until you’re older and can’t turn back time to correct your mistakes. Set yourself up now for a life of health. Your future self thanks you!
What happens when I start to detox from toxins?
Detoxing your system from toxins takes time and isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. It all comes down to daily changes that become a habit, a way of life, rather than eating an unhealthy diet and then trying to be healthy by drinking a green smoothie once a week.
Your current way of eating plays a role too, and if your current diet consists of only processed, unhealthy food then we’re going to urge you to wean off them slowly to avoid toxin overload. When you start the detox process, toxins that may have coated your insides for years start to dislodge and first enter your bloodstream before making their way out of your body.
This is why you may feel terrible initially when you begin cutting back on unhealthy food and start introducing natural, whole foods into your system. This is often the point many people quit, believing it’s the healthy food making them feel sick when it’s actually all the nasty toxins they’ve consumed for years trying to make their way out of their body. It’s crucial to stick with it!
Signs your body is detoxing:
As you can see, detoxing is not very pleasant, but once these toxins have made their way out of your system you’re going to feel better than you’ve ever felt before, trust us!
I recommend starting slowly to avoid severe symptoms, especially if you have to work and can’t take time off as you wish. Perhaps cut back on takeouts the first week and experiment with making your own meals.
Then aim to eliminate sugar the next week, dairy the week after and so on. Keep a food diary, keep track of how you feel and listen to your body. This is the most important tip of all! We’re all different and our bodies know what works and what doesn’t so pay close attention.
3 tips to help you on your detox journey
There are many ways you can ease the discomfort of toxins making their way out of your body. We recommend avoiding heavy workouts and sticking to light walking and stretching to help to keep things moving, without placing unnecessary strain or stress on your body right now in addition to staying hydrated, loading up on antioxidants, supplementing with magnesium, and resting.
DRINK LOADS OF WATER
Water is key to help flush those toxins out of your body so be sure you’re drinking at least 2-3 liters of water to help speed up the process.
Only pure, filtered water should be used, and you may add a squeeze of lemon for an antioxidant boost, peppermint to help soothe your tummy or cucumber to ease bloat and provide essential vitamins and minerals.
Herbal teas count too and are wonderful alongside food to help aid in digestion. Peppermint and dandelion are two of our favorites for digestive health.
EASE PAIN AND MOOD DISTURBANCES WITH MAGNESIUM
Magnesium is my absolute favorite mineral for relaxation and when you’re going through a roller coaster of emotions during a detox, you’re going to need all the help you can get! Magnesium is also excellent for alleviating muscle and joint pain so an Epsom salt bath may be in order for you too!
Be sure you take the highly absorbable magnesium glycinate form that won’t upset your stomach rather than the magnesium citrate form that may cause diarrhea.
REST WHEN YOU NEED
I’ll say it again; listen to your body! Rest is so important to help your body recover from the onslaught of toxins making their way out so if you feel tired then allow yourself to rest. Take a nap, read a good book, indulge in an interesting Netflix documentary.
Don’t feel guilty for taking time out. Remember, you’re doing something incredible for your body and these symptoms are only temporary.
FIGHT FREE RADICALS WITH ANTIOXIDANTS
This is the time when your body needs additional support in the form of antioxidants to help counteract the negative effects of free radicals in your body due to toxins.
It wouldn’t hurt to drastically increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods from the get-go and you may want to consider taking a Vitamin c supplement, as well as an all natural multi-vitamin, just to ensure you’re getting all your nutrients right now.
Here are a couple of recipes to help you along:
Antioxidant Power Bowl
You’ll be blown away that healthy can taste this good!
This antioxidant bowl is bursting in antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats to keep you full without feeling bloated. It’s vegan too, making it perfect for everyone to enjoy!
This beautiful, abundant bowl also includes one of our favorite antioxidant spices; turmeric! This vivid, sunny spice has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and provides a wonderful warming feeling within the body.
Probiotic Smoothie Bowl
Sometimes you need something to satisfy that sweet craving and this will do that in the healthiest way possible!
This probiotic smoothie bowl has a base of frozen berries in delicious coconut yogurt for a dose of healthy fats and to keep your gut happy. Try any combination of these toppings for an extra dose of vitamins and minerals: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, sprouted nuts, pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, vegan chocolate chips, fresh berries, fresh sliced fruit.
Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie
Popeye would be envious of this smoothie, that’s how healthy it is!
This detox smoothie includes 5 ingredients designed to pull heavy metals out of your system, including fresh cilantro and rich blue-green spirulina.
As you can now see, when it comes to reducing toxins in your body, it all comes down to starting small and making small changes for a long term impact. Increase your vitamin and mineral intake through fresh, whole foods, while eliminating toxic skin and body care products. Doing this, you’ll be well on your way to optimal physical and mental performance!