Feeling miserable, upset and frustrated because you can't get some shut eye? Have you lost track as to how many sheep you've counted over the week? I know many people turn to an over-the-counter sleep aid or even medication to help fall asleep. During stressful events in my life, especially when studying for exams in university, I also turned to over-the-counter sleep aids. Upon waking I found I had severe brain fog (similar to what happens when I eat gluten) and was slow to start my day.
When it comes to lack of sleep and insomnia, one of the biggest issues we overlook is determining what the root of the problem is. While an over-the-counter sleep aid is a band-aid solution, dealing with insomnia or sleeplessness (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) can be what's ailing you, and can be a culprit to weight gain.
Sleep is necessary for hormone balancing, cellular rejuvenation, stress management and brain health. Ideally, health and wellness practitioners suggest getting seven to nine hours of sleep. Anything less will interrupt your sleep cycle and imbalance your hormones. Lack of sleep can also inhibit your body's efficiency to rest, repair and eliminate wastes.
As a holistic nutritionist, I strive to treat the problem not the symptom. I recommend my clients re-set their sleep patterns. If you feel you are experiencing sleepless nights, assess how you are feeling. Increased levels of pain, anxiety, stimulants and your bedroom environment can be major culprits. Stress (high levels of the hormone cortisol), depression, hypoglycemia and sleep apnea (interrupted breathing) can also lead to insomnia.
To help get a good night's sleep, and have a relaxed and restful night, try incorporating these tips:
1. Exercise early into your day. This helps give you an outlet to release tension and running thoughts that are going through your mind. Plus it also releases endorphins, so you can mellow out your nerves and anxiety. A great way to incorporate exercise into your day is trying an early morning Pilates or Yoga class.
2. Avoid coffee and stimulants. Learn to wean yourself off of coffee, caffeinated beverages and sugar. These are big NO-NOs. Change your habit of drinking warm coffee or tea in the morning by substituting it with warm water and lemon. You'll feel better and have a little mini cleanse every morning. Now that's a win-win!
3. Don't drink and eat a big meal late a night. Alcohol combined with a big meal late and night may initially make you feel bloated, stuffed like a turkey and sleepy. Plus it leads to indigestion or heart burn (even weight gain) and cause you to wake up at night.
4. Reduce your exposure to electronics - including laptops and your cell phone before bed. Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can lead to sleepless nights. Instead, make it a habit to shut off all electronics and unwind at least an hour before bed.
5. Add a few drops of organic lavender oil to your pillow before bed.
6. Create a wind-down routine at night, so your body has a natural rhythm.
7. Try a few yoga poses in the evening.
8. Meditate. Close your eyes and sit in stillness for a few minutes before going to bed.
9. Do a brain dump. Got so many thoughts, ideas and feelings going through your head? Write it all out on a piece of paper or notebook then go to bed. Upon waking, look at the notebook.
10. Try taking a Magnesium supplement at night. Magnesium is a natural relaxant and tranquilizer. It relaxes skeletal muscles and smooth muscles of the blood vessels and GI tract. A recommended dosage per day ranges from 310 - 400 mg.
Assess your diet and sleep patterns. Do you usually eat your meals late at night? Do you frequently have coffee and or other stimulants mid to late day? Do you wake up every night at the same time? Track your patterns for a week or two. You may be surprised at what culprits in your diet and lifestyle can be preventing you from getting some shut eye.
Did these simple sleep strategies work for you?
Let me know your thoughts.
Laura De Sanctis
Before I became a holistic nutritionist I used to hate cooking. I always wanted to eat healthy but was strapped for time. I wanted to look healthy and feel healthy from the inside-out, but didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen on recipe development and trying out different foods that were compatible for my digestive system.
I prefer to cook with whole healthy grains as opposed to cooking with pasta or rice. I suggest that my clients also cook with healthy grains and incorporate grains like spelt, brown rice and quinoa in their diet instead of wheat and white rice.
If you're like me, always on the go, then you want fast, easy recipes that you can make for lunch or dinner, and that would be filling, nutritious and satisfying for you, and the whole family. I've found a great recipe for asparagus quinoa risotto which is super easy to make. This recipe is packed with flavour, low on the glycemic index and is filled with nutrients.
1. Add olive oil, onion and garlic into a small pot. Add filtered water and vegetable broth or chicken broth, and boullion cube to pot. This will help ensure the oil doesn’t overheat. Sauté ingredients on medium-low for 2-3 minutes.
2. Stir in quinoa, coating it with the oil. Turn heat to medium-high and add more vegetable or chicken broth to the pot. Continue to stir constantly so the quinoa does not stick to the pot. Stir for 10-15 minutes, until most of the stock is absorbed and the quinoa has softened.
3. Add Himalayan salt to the mix and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a simmer, cooking on low for approximately 10 minutes, and stirring occasionally.
4. Add asparagus spears and green onion. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5: Add squash purée and fresh herbs.
6: Serve immediately and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from: Julie Danulik
*Nutritional tips – .Quinoa is high in protein, and contains all of the amino acids. It's full of fibre, B-vitamins and is low on the glycemic index. Quinoa is also safe for people with Celia and digestive disorders to eat, as it's a gluten-free grain.
*Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, required for a healthy nervous system and brain function. Asparagus is also jam packed with vitamin B, which promotes healthy metabolism, energy levels and balances out blood sugar, mood swings and irritability.
Restoring balance to your body takes time, but with a clean diet and proper supplementation, you can dramatically improve your digestive system. It is important to remember that if we are unable to digest and absorb fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, poor health will definitely follow. From an energetic standpoint, if we are unable to digest our food, our reality on the outside,then we are unable to digest our reality on the inside.
As a Digestive Health Coach and Holistic Nutritionist, I've met several women who struggle from IBS, Crohn's disease, constipation, excessive gas, heartburn and reflex. While there is no quick fix for curing the gut, there are several holistic remedies that can help heal your gut.
Through yeas of struggling with IBS, I've found that changes to my lifestyle and food choices worked in synergy to help me heal.
Below are my top 10 tips to help keep your gut in good health:
1. First thing in the morning, drink at least 8 oz of warm water with lemon juice in the morning. This allows the liver to begin dumping toxins accumulated during the night and will help produce a bowel movement in the morning.
2. Eat breakfast 20-30 minutes after drinking lemon water.
3. Incorporate 1 tbsp of Omega 3, flax seed or borage oil in your morning smoothie or shake. Oils help lubricate the colon, heart and joints. They also help reduce inflammation in the body.
4. Take a probiotic! Multiple strains of probiotics help restore proper micro-flora in the small intestine.
5. Avoid eating raw foods, as they are hard for the body to breakdown, and can lead to excess gas and bloating.
6. Drink water at least 20 minutes before a meal, and again 1 hour after a meal. I caution my clients to avoid drinking with their food, to prevent them from diluting digestive enzymes which are needed to breakdown food.
7. Avoid sugar and high glycemic foods as these foods are nutrient void, raise blood sugar and cause inflammation in the body.
8. Drink a minimum of 2-3 litres of water a day! Add a few tablespoons of liquid chlorophyll, lemon or cucumber to your water. This will help alkalize yoru body, cleanse your body of toxins and reduce acidity in your body.
9. Follow proper food combining rules. A good rule of thumb is to remember that vegetables and salads should be eaten with meats, or vegetables and salads should be eaten with carbohydrates.
10. Get a food allergy/food sensitivity test. We are usually allergic to the foods we constantly crave. In Energy Medicine, and in many spiritual healing modalities, food allergies are connected to fear, while food intolerances are connected to judgement or inadequacy. Food allergies and food sensitives contribute to many diseases including high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Known as "silent inflammation," food allergies and food intolerances can damage your immune system.
Eating clean, wholesome foods, managing stress, exercising and embodying a powerful mind-body connection will help lead you to a path of gut bliss. Be mindful of what you eat, how you eat and take the time to chew your food. Savor every bite - as you truly are what you eat. Most importantly, extend gratitude and kindness to yourself. Be kind to your body and be kind to your gut.
Laura De Sanctis
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