Q&A WITH JARROD TUCKER FITNESS

I am beyond exited to share this interview I had with Jarrod Tucker. Jarrod is a fitness instructor, Zumba presenter, Strong by Zumba master trainer and the owner of Energize Studios running multiple exercise classes throughout the week. I personally have been attending his Strong by Zumba classes weekly for about 1 year now and it is by far my favourite way to move, its fast paced and varied and, with Jarrod leading the workout, you’ll push yourself harder and achieve far more than you thought was possible. His energy is contagious, his passion is obvious and his own personal health and fitness journey is one to inspire and transform. I know you’re going to get so much out of this interview, and I highly encourage any and all of you to check out one of his classes here in Newcastle – you are more than welcome to join me for Strong by Zumba each Monday and Wednesday evening.

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Q: Tell us what you do?

A: What I do is two-fold, I am very fortunate to be the Australia/New Zealand Master Trainer for the Strong By Zumba program which is a High-Intensity Interval Training and Muscle Conditioning program synced to music and also a Zumba Education Specialist and trainer for the original Zumba Dance-Fitness programs. 

Q: What does this involve?

A: Basically my job is to travel Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world and train instructors in how to teach these programs so they can run classes their own classes in gyms, community halls etc

 The second part of what I do is teaching regular group fitness classes every single week at my fitness studio, Energize Studios. I along with other members of our team deliver many group fitness classes each week in a variety of programs, styles and fitness levels to help inspire people to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Q: How did it all begin?

A: Strangely enough, my real journey through fitness and teaching began when a job I was at closed down and I was forced to fall back on skills I had which happened to be singing. So, with a few week’s notice I raced around to find out what venues I could hire and spoke to friends I had in the industry and I opened a dance and talent school. 

During that first year back in 2010, Zumba Fitness came to Australia and everyone was running classes. So I thought “we have to have this as well to stay relevant”. A dance teacher and I went to the training to become instructors (I was intending to be the backup) and when it came to crunch time, I ended up being the one who had to teach the classes. It turned out to be something I loved, and it helped me with my own fitness cause I enjoyed it (I was 110KG when I started. It also led me down the path of wanting to teach, help and inspire people with their health and fitness. 

Q: What does health and wellness mean to you?

A: Health and wellness is more than just about weight loss and looking good etc, although it often starts that way with many of us.

“I realized very quickly how important leading a healthy lifestyle was to my mobility, joint pain, energy, motivation, drive and also confidence. It really does help to remove limitations people place on themselves. Health and wellness is about being able to live your life feeling good and loving it on your own terms for as long as you are able to”.

Q: How do you have so much energy?

A: from the very beginning of my fitness journey I gave 100% to everything I did and even when I got tired I told myself “suck it up, you can do this”. So, my body has learned to adapt and operate at a high level.

Of course, you can’t do this without the right fuel and what you put in your mouth makes a huge difference to your energy levels. This doesn’t mean dieting always, or depriving yourself, but making smart choices about what you want from your health and your life.

Q: What is your number 1 tip for balancing everything?

A: Make time to enjoy your life. It’s so easy to get caught up in this cycle of training/crazy eating and chasing unrealistic goals. Make time to train, time to work, time to chase your dreams BUT don’t forget to make time for what you love to do and what helps you relax unwind and be yourself. 

Q: You’ve had an amazing fitness journey what do you credit to your success?

A: Two things mainly: find physical activities that you love and make you feel good so they become a want instead of a need, and always remember to continually push the boundaries of what you think you can do. The human body is capable of so much and there is little stopping you, except for you. 

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A photo of Jarrod himself from 10 years ago (2009)

 

Q Who inspires you the most?

A: In all honesty I am most inspired by the people I teach and train. I don’t follow a lot of celebrities or social media rubbish, but I am inspired when I have people in my classes or trainings that want it, and I see them continually strive for more. When I see those people achieve what they set out to do and continually improve it really drives me.

Q: What tips do you have for people starting a fitness journey?

A: A few simple points to remember: 

  • Start by finding an activity that appeals to you

  • At the beginning just try and make the chosen activities part of your regular routine so you don’t have to think about doing them instead of stressing about going hard and getting a huge workout

  • When you feel you can give more, give it

  • Make some positive changes to your eating habits 

Where can people find you if they want to connect?

You can follow me and/or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

If you would love to come and try a class you can see our full timetable here or stay up to date on Facebook.

If you would like to become a Zumba Instructor you can find training online here.

If you would like to become a Strong By Zumba Instructor and teach an awesome new high intensity program you can find a training online here.

 I hope you found some inspiration and encouragement from my latest interview. Check out a class near you and get in touch if you have any questions for myself or Jarrod about health, wellness, weightloss and fitness.

Yours in Health,

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Q&A WITH JORDAN PIE

It was such a delight to get to chat with Jordan Pie. This blond beauty is someone I gravitate towards and connected easily with over social media. I have been following along intently ever since, constantly being inspired, educated and encouraged. I love her food philosophy and approach to nutrition as well as her simplicity in her self care advice - definitely worth the read!

You can find out more about Jordan and connect with her through her instagram and her website - where you can also grab a copy of her incredible cook book Gutalicious.

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Q: Tell us about what you do, what is at the heart of it?

A: I’m a Qualified Nutritionist, GAPS Practitioner, freelance food stylist and photographer, recipe developer, a health and wellness blogger, oh and a cookbook author. I believe food can be used as medicine, so I help to educate people to see food in a brand new light by providing delicious, easy, gut friendly recipes.  

Q: What does health and wellness mean to you?

A: I believe it’s different for each individual. However, my food philosophy never changes;

  • Eat food your great grandmother would recognise

  • Less is more when it comes to ingredients

  • Include a wide variety of vegetables—you can always add more

  • Just because the ingredients change, doesn’t mean the menu has to. There is always a healthier alternative to your favourite foods

  • Eat to be well, not to be thin

Q: What is your number one health tip for general well-being?

A: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming, and you don’t need a million and one things on your plate to make it tasty. It’s simple: Eat real food (preferably spray free/ organic). I truly believe that the worst thing you can put into your mouth is ‘guilt’. Because if you’re constantly stressed about what you eat or drink, it’s actually going to cause more weight gain, more hormonal imbalances, more digestive distress, and more sensitivities to healthy foods. This is why it’s so important to tune into your body, understand what YOU need, and ditch dieting all together!

Q: You’re a recipe developer and make the most amazing creations – what inspires you in the kitchen and how did you get such skills?

A: Cooking, creating new recipes, styling and photography is my creative outlet. If I wasn’t able to do this as part of my job, I think I would go a little cuckoo haha. I’m inspired by in-season produce and what I find at my local farmers market. I also get inspired by having only 4 or 5 ingredients in the fridge because I love the challenge of trying to create something incredibly delicious with only a handful of basic ingredients.

Q: You, like myself, do a lot of work from home and a vast variety of tasks, what are some of your hot tips for keeping on track with it all – do you have a routine or practice that ensures you get things done but also stay balanced and grounded?

A: As an entrepreneur, and someone running and growing my own small business, I find it so incredibly hard to stop myself and take a break sometimes. In the past I’ve definitely had the bad habit of working Monday-Saturday, slacking on taking my supplements, not leaving the house for 2 days and burning the candle at both ends. I can sometimes feel guilty if I take a break (even if it’s well earned). It’s taken (still taking) a lot of effort to put myself first. But the truth is, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not taking care of anything. So each week I try to remind myself to fill my own cup up first, and that I do have permission to rest. I’m not responsible for fixing everything and I don’t have to make everyone happy. This is challenging for me as I’m the classic nurturer - aka used to putting everyone else first. I have found planning out my days or week in advance super helpful because I schedule in research, meetings, one-on-one consultations, free-lance work, recipe days as well as down time and catching up with my loved ones.

Q: As a health practitioner it can be hard to remember to give back to yourself, and to keep your own health as a priority, tell us how you implement self-care:

A: I think a lot of people can get overwhelmed by the notion of what self care/ love is and may think they’re not doing enough. But self care can be as small as flossing your teeth. Or saving money for your future. Booking that holiday you’ve been dreaming of all year. Self care is saying no to a party you know you’re too tired to attend. It’s going to bed 30 mins earlier. It’s letting yourself eat your favourite chocolate or applying a face mask while you make yourself a cup of tea. I think self care and self love looks different to everyone, but the sentiment remains the same. We practice it so we can work on being the best version of ourselves. My favourite self care practice is to get out into nature, I find it so grounding, energising and it helps to re-set my body and mind. But I also love taking an epsom salt bath or making myself a cup of bone broth to drink or sometimes it may be as simple as watching a really good movie. 

Please comment below your key takeaway from this, I know I will be taking on board the self care practices and keeping things really simple.

Yours in health,

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Q&A WITH LUKA McCABE

If you don’t already, I’d strongly encourage you all to check out the incredible work Luka is doing over on her instagram. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Luka this week on a topic that is very near and dear to me. Luka is a mumma, mid wife, nurse and health & wellness advocate empowering others and providing incredible resources to guide, nourish and inspire. She educates around all matters of child nutrition, baby led weaning, parenting, health and more. In this interview we cover the why behind why she does what she does, how she got to where she is and what her home-birthing experiences were like!

This is a powerful and truly moving interview, Luka is one bold, compassionate and empowered woman who is doing incredible things for the health and wellness space - providing evidence based recommendations so that other mums who are overwhelmed with the information can find peace, clarity and confidence in how to feed and raise a healthy family.

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Q: Tell us about what you do – what is at the heart of it? 

A: I run a small instagram account called @boobtofood which focuses on ideas to help guide, nourish and inspire mum’s (and dad’s) and their babies journey from ‘boob to food’. How to navigate the world of first foods focusing on foods that are nutrient dense, gut loving, easy to digest and provide the ‘why’ behind the foods - why should we eat it, or avoid it and what is it doing to our bodies. My aim is that mums will be INFORMED, educated and can then make evidence based decisions regarding their babies health. That they will see food as medicine, as fuel, and that their babies will grow up healthy and hopefully see preventable diseases decrease (eg obesity, hypertension, diabetes etc).

Q: How did it all begin? 

A: Ive been interested in health for years, and definitely really ‘cleaned up’ my diet when I was pregnant with my first born Flynn. Pregnancy seems like a very common time for women to focus on looking after themselves - as they are now caring for two! When it came time to introduce him to solids I did ALOT of research. At the time the recommendation was to start solids at 4 months (from the healthcare system) however after attending nutrition seminars for babies and doing my own research especially into gut health it was clear to me that babies should start food at 6 months (which the recommendation has been recently changed back to). It was also recommended to me that I start him on rice cereal (which went against everything I believed in), so instead I searched for alternatives. He was started with egg yolk, liver, bone broth, marrow, sardines, sauerkraut, and lots of fruit and vegetables. He has grown into a healthy toddler who eats anything and everything! I was surprised with my second born Florence that again I was recommended to start her on rice cereal (I have a blog post on why I hate rice cereal!), so I decided to start @boobtofood and HOPE and PRAY that people would see the message, and see feeding their baby as an opportunity to nourish them and help them thrive, not just fill them with empty ‘cardboard-hydrates’.

Q: What does health & wellness mean to you?

A: Everything! Im not strict, I don’t diet, and I live life. If I go out with my friends I will eat the gluten etc. However for my daily life, my home life and my kids life we place health and wellness in the highest regard. I INVEST our money into good ingredients; an investment into our health, we cook everything from scratch, we also look after our physical bodies; we see regularly chiropractors, remedial massage, I go to the gym most days, my husband practices Jiu-Jitsu and surfing most days. I know what it feels like to live life with optimum health, and I don’t want to ever feel any different!

Q: What is your number one health tip for general well-being?

A: My biggest rule of thumb is if that food didn’t exist (or couldn’t have existed without machines/heat etc) 200 years ago, then we shouldn’t eat it! Theres alot to say for ancient traditions, and thats how I treat our health. 

For wellbeing, especially for mums would be to take time for yourself  as often as you need. For me this is the gym in the morning, or a walk, or a coffee with friends without children. I also need to see people daily to help me feel alive and sane!

Q: What is your favorite food/meal

A: My favourite meal is a very simple one - good quality sourdough with avocado and all the toppings! My favourite food would have to be haloumi ;) 

Q: What is your number one tip for balancing all that you do – work, marriage, family, health, relationships?

A: Not sure if I can say I have balanced it all, most days feel like a juggling act and I feel like i’m failing at one aspect every day. If i’m focusing on family I feel like I can’t focus on ‘work’, if I focus on ‘work’ I feel like i’m not doing enough for my kids.. but I feel like thats life, its that ‘mum guilt’ we all get! 

The best thing I can do, is to love the kids dad, to stick together as a family unit and hope that together we can raise nice children and keep a roof over our heads! 

Q: Since becoming a mum, what is one of the most important lessons you have learned?

A: I always thought I would hate to be a stay home mum, that I would be so bored and want to go back to work straight away - how I was wrong. Becoming a mother released my purpose for life that I didn’t know existed. I learnt to wholeheartedly put others first, to become selfless, giving and a source of strength. Ive been taught patience, empathy, love, understanding and also to look at things again through a child's eyes. To slow down, to realise whats important, what true joy looks like, and also what sleep deprivation and the brink of insanity feels like haha!

Q: Tell us about your experience with pregnancy, homebirth and raising healthy children? 

A: Ive had two children - Flynn (nearly 4) and Florence (11 months). My pregnancies were straight forward and relatively easy (although both were nearly 2 weeks overdue). 

With Flynn I planned a birth at Belmont birthing centre, as we lived in a granny flat at the time and wasn’t enough room to birth in. My birth was ok, it was long (about 36 hours total) and I had a water birth but unfortunately had a nasty tear that required surgery at the John Hunter (which was embarrassing as thats where I work as a midwife haha). For Florence I planned a home birth and it was again very long as she was posterior, but NO TEAR (thanks to perineal massage! Too much info? Haha). My recovery was great with her!

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering doing a home birth – what do they need to consider and what can they expect? 

A: Homebirthing is amazing, to not have to leave your sanctuary, to not have to get in the car, to not have to adjust to a new sterile environment, to control who is in your space, to go to bed straight after birth - it was beautiful.

However, in saying that, home birthing was something I really wanted. For me I felt ‘safer’ at home, and had a peace to stay at home, and was more scared to go to hospital than to stay home. I had complete trust in my birth team; in my midwives. I never had doubts because I trusted their opinion explicitly. 

But for some people, the thought of home birth could inflict fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. You need to birth somewhere where YOU feel comfortable, as if you have that fear and anxiety in labour, you will produce adrenaline, which counteracts the oxytocin that is helping you to labour well - and in turn you might not labour well because of your fear. 

Remember that your birth choices are yours, educate yourself, be informed and remember that you are always a part of decision making when it comes to your pregnancy and labour xxx


You can connect with Luka via instagram and be in the know of any upcoming workshops and E books she has. She has recently released the Nourished Kids Lunchbox which is a must have for any parents out there. Please let us know in the comments below what you loved about this interview and if anything really resonated with you from this.

Yours in health,

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POST NATAL DEPLETION (+ AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT)

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv.Dip Nut Med)

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Transitioning into motherhood not only brings on enormous waves of emotions, but it also brings about some complex and overwhelming experiences for both mum and dad. Many mothers experience postnatal depletion, which can occur within weeks, months, years – or even a decade after the birth itself. Which, when you think about it, makes complete sense. You are growing a tiny human inside of you for 9 months and this draws upon your own nutrient stores & resources leaving you with less. This is why preconception care is so important to ensure that you’re nourished and well fed to take on the task of growing and birthing a tiny, precious, human into this world.

DID YOU KNOW? A mothers brain shrinks by 5% within the third trimester? This is to support the growth of our babies - that baby brain is a legitimate thing!

The purpose of this article is to get the information out there, to build awareness on the topic so that mothers can get the care and the advice of how to nourish and replenish their stores to give them back their vibrancy and their vitality. Yet commonly we see new parents running off little to no sleep, feeling overwhelmed and forgetting to feed themselves which not only affects their own health and wellbeing but puts a strain on their relationship with their partner, or even those with family and friends.

It takes a village to raise a child, but in this modern day, many women are doing it all themselves – the cooking, cleaning, caring, washing, driving, more cleaning and more washing at the expense of their own sleep, nourishment, and sanity. This scenario itself being stressed out and overwhelmed contributes further to the loss of nutrients and combined with breastfeeding (If you do) is a recipe for depletion.

In traditional cultures, women in their reproductive years of life would be fed specific diets that were laden with nutrient dense organ meats, fatty cuts of meats and broths to ensure that they remained well nourished. You’re eating for two in the sense of nutritional needs, rather than caloric requirements.

What Does Post Natal Depletion Look Like?

  • Exhaustion

  • Pain

  • Forgetfulness

  • Indecisiveness

  • Moodiness

  • Weight gain or significant loss

  • Foggy head or ‘baby brain’

  • Low mood and lack of concentration

Is this sounding familiar? Well fear not because it’s not all bad news - there is hope. I’ve got an online short course in the works ‘Nourishing Mums & Bubs’ that will be designed with new mammas in mind to be time savvy, cost-effective and with practical advice & education on how to replenish the stores and keep up with the demands nutritionally, physically and mentally post-birth.

The Nourishing Mums & Bubs E-Course Will Include:

  • A preparatory phase that will begin in your final trimester of pregnancy to get you ready for what lies ahead. We will talk through your after birth plan - will you have family close by to help with the cooking and cleaning? Do you have a partner on board who will take time off work to be your hands and feet? Have you got nourishing meals batch-cooked and ready to whip out of the freezer for a fast and stress-free dinner? These are some of the things we will go over in short segmented videos that you can watch in the comfort of your own home.

  • Identifying and supporting the changes in hormones, when they occur, how you may expect to feel and how best to support the changes and the transition through.

  • A list of nutrients that have been lost with simple and easy ways to get them to combat the depletion.

  • Support for sleep - how to enhance it, when to get it and how to cope with less of it

  • Tips, tools and tricks that will safeguard your mental and emotional health

  • Exercise guides to begin with (thanks to my husband who is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist)

  • Plus many recipes (that won't take you too much time or effort) but that will be replenishing and nourishing for both mum and bub (once bub is ready)

I will also get you thinking for the months ahead and what obstacles may arise – how to avoid mastitis, or treat it if needed, how to care for cracked and dry nipples, beat the baby blues and so much more. This will be formatted in a way that’s easy to view, access, learn from and apply.

If you’re interested to learn more about this or would like to sign up to the course please leave an expression of interest below and I can get in touch to give you the run down and the expected date of launch.

Yours in Health,

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TAKING TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION IN A NEW DIRECTION

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc - Nut, AdvDip Nut Med) 

For a number of years now depression has been thought of as a condition triggered by some ‘chemical imbalance’ within our brains – more specifically a deficiency of a neurotransmitter serotonin. However, more recently depression is now more understood of as a condition influenced by inflammation and closely connected to our immune system – and we now know that the majority of our immune cells are located within our gut (also where 97% of our serotonin is produced!).

Studies have found that depressed people have elevated levels of inflammatory proteins in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, with increases of cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-6 and C-reactive protein.

Tryptophan is of importance to note - as an amino acid that is required for the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin. However, there is also a lesser known biochemical pathway for tryptophan and this is known as the kynurenine pathway. This kynurenine pathway accounts for about 99% of ingested tryptophan that isn’t used for protein synthesis (amino acids make up the structure of proteins within the body), and this pathway was first thought to be involved in the creation of a substance known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (Davis & Liu, 2015)

…. (please stay with me through these biochemical terms – its really interesting stuff!)

The kynurenine pathway has been linked now with neurodegenerative disease, tumour proliferation, inflammation and depression! You see, when inflammation is present, more tryptophan goes into the kynurenine pathway to produce quinolinic acid and kynurenic acid, and not serotonin. Quinolinic acid and kynurenic acid are neuroactive and its believed that they contribute to behavioural changes experienced by individuals when inflammation is increased through exposure to stimuli like chronic stress, toxin exposure, diet or lifestyle. Common antidepressant medications (SSRIs) work by increasing the amount of tryptophan to serotonin, but also ignoring the effects of the inflammatory cytokines which have triggered the depression (Raison et al, 2010).

Factors that increase inflammation and increase risk and severity of depression

  • Inactivity

  • Reduced sleep

  • Social isolation

  • Obesity

  • Diet low in omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory fatty acids)

  • Low serum cholesterol

  • High sugar diet

  • Smoking

Interventions that reduce depressive symptoms have been reported to lower inflammatory and/or increase anti-inflammatory, immune-regulatory activity in the body and brain (Raison et al. 2010).

Apart from SSRI’s, there are a number of dietary interventions and lifestyle habits that can help to reduce inflammation, alleviate feelings of depression and help combat future occurrences of the condition…

Get in touch if you’d like to know more, I’d be happy to work with you as your health practitioner, using food as medicine and lifestyle modifications to have you happy and healthy.


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References

Davis, I., & Liu, A. (2015). What is the tryptophan kynurenine pathway and why is it important to neurotherapy? Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics15(7), 719–721. http://doi.org/10.1586/14737175.2015.1049999

Raison, C. L., Dantzer, R., Kelley, K. W., Lawson, M. A., Woolwine, B. J., Vogt, G., ... & Miller, A. H. (2010). CSF concentrations of brain tryptophan and kynurenines during immune stimulation with IFN-α: relationship to CNS immune responses and depression. Molecular psychiatry15(4), 393.

 

 

 

SEVEN SUGGESTIONS FOR SOUND SLEEP

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed) 

Humans need sleep. If we don’t sleep, we will die. It’s an essential part to complete a healthy life style – yes, I do believe wholeheartedly that food is medicine, but without quality sleep you won’t get far in terms of health, disease prevention or longevity.

Sleep is an active process, in terms of detoxifying the central nervous system, memory consolidation, synthesis of neurotransmitters, tissue repair, cellular repair and DNA repair. Our sleep cycle is, in part, regulated by the hormones cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol should spike in the early hours of the morning to get us up and out of bed, then taper off towards the evening as melatonin surges. Melatonin helps to prepare you for sleep, then fades throughout the night as the morning nears, which is when cortisol begins to rise yet again, and so starts another day.

This sleep cycle is known as our circadian rhythm, and it’s hardwired into every cell & organ system in our body. We have our ‘master clock’, but then with each organ they have their very own ‘clocks’ [circadian rhythms], which is not only dictated by sleep, but also our eating and drinking patterns too… for example, with our liver and digestive system.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the main controller of our circadian rhythm, it is located within a region of the brain known as the hippocampus. When altered, by either staying up late or waking earlier – our rhythm is disrupted, making consistency with our sleep and wake times crucial to optimal health, with exception to minor variations due to seasonal changes – i.e day light savings.

Almost 90% of Australians suffer from a sleeping disorder. Inadequate sleep and the issues that arise with day to day functioning affect 35-45% of Australian adults, and on average it is reported we are getting about 7 hours, although 12% report sleeping less than 5 ½ hours and also note that their daytime activities and ability to function is impaired.

It’s something that needs to be addressed, for this, some things need to change.

Seven and a half to nine hours is recommended for optimal quantity, but quality also counts. There are many different factors that can influence sleep quality, and how you set yourself up for the day in the morning, as well as the tasks and diet you have during the day can have huge impacts on how well you sleep that night.

1.     Get sunlight exposure first thing in the morning

Exposure to bright light, as in outdoor sunlight helps to regulate the sleep wake cycle. Getting outside first thing in the morning, even just for a walk around the block, or driving to work without sun glasses on, allows the sunlight to get into your eyes. Indoor lights or screens from phones/laptop/iPads do not count in this instance. 15 minutes is desired – it’s important to help change how our central nervous system synthesises serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin, our sleep inducing hormone… Getting back outside at lunchtime will also help further – Try taking your lunch break away from your desk and sit outside, if possible.

2.     Eat a protein rich breakfast

Serotonin, as mentioned previously, is the precursor to melatonin. Serotonin is made from an amino acid tryptophan, which is found in protein rich foods, particularly of animal origin. Starting the day with a breakfast of eggs is a great way to get the tryptophan into your diet, a quick scramble, boiled, poached or fried – whatever you feel.

3.     Cut down caffeine

Caffeine has about a 6-hour half-life, longer in some who are sensitive. This can blunt your ability to wind down sufficiently for sleep that night. Even an afternoon coffee can cause a disruption in your sleep cycle later that night. Anyone who is having issues with insomnia, I would recommend going cold turkey on this stuff and monitor how it makes you feel and how it changes your sleep quality overall. Just try it for a week to see the difference.

4.     Alcohol must go

Alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to get into that REM cycle of sleep, it’s also a toxin to the body, meaning that while sleeping, when the body has many other processes to get through, it will prioritise the removal of alcohol before anything else. Initially it has a sedative effect, however the delayed effect of this is actually a stimulating or disrupting effect. If you do choose to drink in the evenings, try having them earlier to give the liver time to break it down and metabolise.

5.     Put the electronics away

Screens and lights from laptops, TVs, iPads, phones emit blue light, which sends your brain the message that ‘it’s still light out’ and will block or delay the melatonin secretion. Having at least 2 hours break between screen time and bed time is suggested or investing in blue light blocking sunglasses or using a filter on laptops if you must be on your device for whatever reason. However, its not just the blue light that’s the issue - just the stimulus of what is being viewed [60% of the brains stimulus is through what we see], whatever it may be, can be emotionally taxing and trigger a stress response which can impact on our sleep quality that night.

EMFs are also a problem, these secrete from electronics its best to have them all out of the bedroom altogether, and if the phone must be in the room for alarm or whatever the reason – have it on aeroplane mode at the bear minimum or invest in an old school alarm clock.

6.     Sleep Hygiene

This involves setting up the right environment for your body to prepare for sleep and maintain quality sleep through the night. Having the temperature slightly cool, a dark room, with clean sheets – all really important. The body’s core temperature must drop slightly to help induce sleep, taking a warm bath prior can have a rebound effect, letting off some heat before bedtime. You want it to be cool enough so that its uncomfortable to be not under the covers. Having the room dark enough is also vital to optimal sleep – as we know, melatonin is sensitive to light and dark. Your eyes are not the only light sensitive part of your body – so even if your eyes are closed and there’s some slight light coming in through the door or the blinds, your body will pick this up and it can disrupt your sleep.

Sleep hygiene also makes note to keep the bedroom for 2 things only – sleeping and sex. Not for watching Netflix or scrolling through social media. This sets the tone for the room, what its purposes are, so you know, and your body knows once it enters the bedroom it’s one of two options.

7.     Have a bedtime routine

A ritual to wind down, to signal to the body that its preparing for sleep. This can include taking time to read, meditate, pray, practice deep breathing, have a bath, maybe take a light walk, reduce the lights in the house, stop all work – don’t check emails etc. Keeping this consistent evening to evening is ideal, psychologically can have profound impacts on your sleeping patterns. Use this time, if you find a racing mind is impairing sleep preparation, then go deal with those issues – write things down, sort them out, so that you can quiet your mind ready for sound sleep.

Of course, this is a quick guide with some tools to help improve the quality of sleep, for specific health advice regarding medications, health conditions and so on I must advise that you work with your health care practitioner for further and more individualised treatments. 

Sweet dreams,

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WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH VITAMIN D?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and predominantly most of Australia’s population residing along the coastal fringe yet there is a notable number of people having sub-optimal and even deficient levels of vitamin D. The Australian Bureau for Statistics (ABS) concluded that during the years of 2011 and 2012 approximately 4 million Australian adults were considered vitamin D deficient. It was found that 23%, or 1 in 4 Australians adults suffered some form of vitamin D deficiency (ABS, 2013).

We know for one, that we increase our levels through sun exposure, [through a complex procedure within the body which I won’t go into detail] but we also need to obtain this fat-soluble vitamin from dietary sources such as butter, egg yolks, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and dairy (Paxton, 2015).

So, what is the deal with vitamin D? and why do we need to have more than adequate levels? 50nmol/L is recommended to prevent osteoporosis, however optimal levels should exceed 100nmol/L and most of us are not hitting this mark.

Vitamin D is known for its benefits to our bones, maintaining skeletal homeostasis, however it is also a vital component of our immune system, acting as an immuno-modulator, targeting specific immune cells, which contain vitamin D receptors, including our T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages (Baeke et al, 2010).

“Several epidemiological studies have linked inadequate vitamin D levels to a higher susceptibility of immune-mediated disorders, including chronic infections and autoimmune diseases”

(Baeke et al, 2010).

Vitamin D adequacy can be attributed to telomere length… Studies found that those with lower vitamin D levels had shortened telomeres which correlated to additional years of age and subsequent cellular damage (Richards et al, 2007).

Side note: Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands which protect our chromosomes and are a biochemical marker for aging and cell damage. As these telomeres shorten with every new cell division (which is occurring all the time throughout our lives) they ensure that the DNA remains intact. Eventually telomeres get to the point where they are too short to continue to function, this results in our cells to age and cease functioning properly themselves. Telomeres can therefore be considered as an aging clock in every cell within our body.

Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with autoimmune disease (AID), occurrence of AID in Australia has also been increasingly apparent (AIDA Report, 2013). Low vitamin D levels has also been attributed to obesity through its mechanisms of influence on insulin secretion, as well as showing positive effects on blood sugar levels (Earthman et al, 2012; Alvarez & Ashral, 2010).

The purpose of this article is to educate on the many functions of vitamin D in humans, backed by research. As we can see there are a multitude of benefits of having optimal levels, however too much can be toxic to the body. If you’re wanting to increase or assess your own levels of vitamin D please consult with your health practitioner to get appropriate supplementation and dietary interventions for your own individual needs.

I am happy to have a consultation with you, if you haven’t found yourself a practitioner to work with. You can book online here

Yours in health,

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References

Alvarez, J. A., & Ashraf, A. (2009). Role of vitamin D in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. International journal of endocrinology2010.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, 2011-12.

Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology10(4), 482-496.

Earthman, C. P., Beckman, L. M., Masodkar, K., & Sibley, S. D. (2012). The link between obesity and low circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations: considerations and implications. International journal of obesity36(3), 387.

Paxton, F. (2015). Foundations of Naturopathic Nutrition.

Richards, J. B., Valdes, A. M., Gardner, J. P., Paximadas, D., Kimura, M., Nessa, A., ... & Aviv, A. (2007). Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition86(5), 1420-1425.

FATS TO FUEL THE BRAIN

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed) 

Our brains are primarily made of fats, in fact the brain is 60% fat! (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009) and these fats are required through dietary sources to maintain structure of the brain, help with development through times of growth and to form the fibres of nerves to enable nerve transmission. This is important for cognition, balanced moods, memory, learning and vision (Kidd, 2007; Haast & Kiliaan, 2015).

Effects on the brain

Essential fatty acids, our Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential as they must be obtained through diet as they cannot be synthesised by the body (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009).

DHA is especially important for the brain. The structure of DHA is rather unique and its functions are involved within nerve synapses in the brain (Paxton, 2015, pp.89-92). Brain tissue has a high concentration of DHA, as well as the retina, testes and sperm. DHA protects the brain against oxidative damage, it aids nerve development and enhances transmission. It is particularly important during times of rapid growth and development, as in pregnancy, new-borns and infancy. Breast milk contains large amounts of DHA as it is vital for the development of the baby’s central nervous system (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009).

Phosphatidylserine a component of cell membranes and part of the phospholipid family is also another major player when it comes to brain health and function. Phosphatidylserine is particularly concentrated within the regions of the brain. It forms part of the myelin sheath of nerves as well as having a role in cell communication and the transmission of biochemical messages within the central nervous system (Paxton, 2015, p.100). It also regulates the functions of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine which are all involved in promoting a good mood and help with concentration and memory (Purves, Augustine & Fitzpatrick, 2001). Phosphatidylserine is also involved in glucose utilisation in the brain as well as displaying antioxidant activity (Paxton, 2015, p.100).

Fats are of particular benefit when it comes to brain health and most certainly not to be feared. All macronutrients serve a purpose within the body and restrictions of some may effect other systems or the body in its entirety. Pease consult a trained professional before making major changes to your diet.

Yours in health,

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References

Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan18(4), 231-41.

Haast, R. A., & Kiliaan, A. J. (2015). Impact of fatty acids on brain circulation, structure and function. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA)92, 3-14.

Kidd, P. M. (2007). Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Alternative medicine review12(3), 207.

Purves, D., Augustine, G.J., Fitzpatrick, D. (2001). Biogenic Amines. Neuroscience 2nd edn. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11035/

THE SCIENCE BEHIND MEDITATION

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

I’ve only just recently jumped on the band wagon, as of this year, and more recently made it a non-negotiable as part of my daily routine. When I started I didn’t really think there would be much change overall, but after even just 20minutes of meditating, my very first time I felt different and so I wanted to explore more the mechanisms of this action and figure out the science behind it, which brings us to this post. But first, a little background…

A LITTLE ABOUT ME;

I’ve had a history of anxiety and depression throughout childhood & adolescence, which subsided with age and a few lifestyle/dietary changes. But then just this last year they both began to rear their heads again. I had a few recent anxiety attacks, heart palpitations & months to a year of this flat, low, depressive mood that I couldn’t shake –

My kind of personality type is susceptible to anxiety and depression, I can be a bit of a perfectionist, I tend to succumb to a kind of stress referred to as ‘rumination’ – that constant worrying, about past or future, also considered a chronic stress. Rumination is also associated with high levels of cortisol which in turn effects the brain, the gut, immune system and hormones.

Anyway, the point of all this is that through meditating I felt a shift, things changed, my mood began to lift, my energy was improving, my sleep was more refreshing, anxious moments were deteriorating & I wanted to know more - I wanted to know the exact mechanisms of what meditation, mindfulness and breath work had on the brain, the nervous system, the body as a whole…

THE SCIENCE

Studies have shown that mindfulness practices may protect against the negative effects of rumination and helps to reduce the burden of chronic stress. In the brain, meditation increases the production of gamma waves, these gamma waves are an indication of neural plasticity – which is also linked to being able to learn new things, and a marker of youth and increased resilience.  

A study was conducted on individuals who had never meditated, they were instructed to meditate for 40mins per day, for a total of 8 weeks. The results were incredible! FOUR different brain regions were effected: The hippocampus (effecting our learning and memory), the pons (part of the brain stem where many neurotransmitters are synthesised), the parietal junction (which is associated with feelings of empathy and compassion) and the posterior cingulate (which is responsible for our ability to let our minds wander). In addition, there was also an observed decrease in size of the amygdala which has a role in the stress response, this was associated with a reduction in stress hormones (Hölzel et al, 2011).

What’s more is that science has demonstrated that through the simple act of deepening and slowing our breaths we can take our bodies out of this ‘fight or flight’ response and get back into our parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’, reducing the effects of unnecessary stress on the body (Jerath et al, 2006).

There have also been many studies conducted by Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel prize winner) demonstrating how mindfulness & meditation can buffer the effects of stress on telomere length, which can reverse the ageing of some tissues – telomeres are like these little caps on the ends of our chromosomes which protect our DNA from damage, they shorten naturally each year and as cell replication occurs. This goes on & on until there’s no telomere left, resulting eventually in cell death. Stress can in fact accelerate this shortening, so by simply practicing meditation and mindfulness we can reduce this effect.

THE PRACTICALITY

So, how can we start to incorporate meditation into a busy life – well, there are a number of great apps you can download – 'headspace' for one, or my favourite ‘10% happier’ which contains a number of different guided meditations to choose from, ranging in times from 1 minute to 20 minutes, even with some guides that you can do on your daily commute, making it super easy to incorporate into day to day life.

I put the challenge out to you - try it, even if its only for a minute or two a day, or if its just to focus on taking long, slow deep breaths whilst driving to work, or waiting for the kettle to boil, these simple practices can have profound effects on wellbeing overall. 

As always, be kind to yourself & happy breathing! 

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REFERENCES;

Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging191(1), 36-43.

Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical hypotheses67(3), 566-571.

 

'COLD WATER THERAPY' - THE KIND OF STRESS YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE!

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip Nut Med) and Matthew Kolasinski (MClinExP, BExSc)

How therapeutic does a cold shower sound right about now? For many, (especially those who are in the southern hemisphere with me and getting well into winter months) this may not be so tempting to give it a go, but let me first present some of the science coming out in this and see if this can motivate you to give it a go!

What started out as a conversation with friends and sharing ideas, turned into listening to many-a-podcasts and deepening our understanding & knowledge of this we have both dived right in and made cold water showers part of our daily routine.

From a purely anecdotal experience we found that after only a few minutes of cold showering we felt this physiological high - our moods were lifted, energy increased and tolerance to the cooler temperatures outdoors was heightened. From this we decided to look into the available research to understand what mechanisms are at play in contributing to the response, this rush from a cold shower.

A study conducted in 2008 by N.A Shevchuk tested the hypothesis that cold water exposure (2-3mins long at 20degrees celsius) could be used as a treatment for depression. What was found was that the cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the blood levels of noradrenalin. Noradrenalin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s important for attentiveness, emotions, learning and dreaming. What’s more is that the anti-depressant effects can also be attributed to the high amounts of electrical impulses sent from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, as the skin contains a high concentration of cold receptors, responding to the cold-water exposure (Shevchuk, 2008).

Dr Rhonda Patrick, (Ph.D. in biomedical science) has found that not only does cold water exposure create a 2-3-fold increase in noradrenalin but that when the body is cooled many genes shut down, the exception, however, are genes involved in lipid metabolism (fat burning) and the group of proteins known as ‘cold shock proteins’. Noradrenalin also contributes to having an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, these effects can be achieved with short periods of cold stress and has been recommended for the treatment of chronic pain. (link to the full report can be found at here.

As it has been identified in animal studies, it is currently hypothesised that the effects of cold water exposure lead to an increase in cold-inducible RNA-binding protein 3 (RBM3). RBM3 is found in the brain, heart, liver, and skeletal muscle. This cold shock protein RBM3 has the ability to decrease cell death, thus preserving muscle mass as well as showing positive neural effects (Ferry, Vanderklish & Dupont-Versteegden, 2011).

What may be criticised socially, or considered a little crazy just seems to make sense biologically and the effects we’ve felt from it personally is enough for us to keep up with this daily practice! Important to note that you must always consult your health professional before attempting anything discussed in this article – this post was written out of interest from our own personal experiences, to share some of the information we’ve come across, but not to be used as medical advice.

Happy showering!

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References

Ferry, A. L., Vanderklish, P. W., & Dupont-Versteegden, E. E. (2011). Enhanced survival of skeletal muscle myoblasts in response to overexpression of cold shock protein RBM3. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, 301(2), C392-C402.

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical hypotheses, 70(5), 995-1001.

EFFECTS OF STRESS & HOW TO COPE

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed)

We’re all busy, our lives are full of hustle & bustle, families, kids, work, friends, cooking, cleaning, shopping, travel, events, oh, life!

With these busy lives can come a whole lot of stress. For our bodies when stressed, can enter into a ‘fight or flight’ response – it can even occur due to intense exercise/physical exertion. This ‘fight or flight’ response involves many physiological and biochemical changes, making the nervous system hypersensitive. The body responds to any sort of stress, be it physical, mental or emotional by activating our sympathetic nervous system and our adrenal glands to start releasing hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Through this the body will conserve energy from other organ systems, thereby slowing down their function and divert this energy to our arms, legs and brains. This was for our survival, originally a ‘stress’ would occur to man from an attack or some sort of threat, a tiger for example. So by the body slowing down other processes and directing the extra energy to our limbs we could then turn to ‘fight’ or to get away from the threat, fast! After this attack or danger would occur, cortisol would turn off the release of adrenaline and the body would return to function as normal.

But now, in this day & age the stressful event could be long term & ongoing from time constraints, job pressures, study, relationships, weddings & other events to more serious conditions of long term illness, chronic pain or emotional distress. Our bodies will remain in this stressed out state, still experiencing the same physiological and biochemical changes –leading to slow digestion, decreased immune system, changes to menstruation, effecting fertility, increased blood glucose levels, depleting our adrenal stores & keeping our cortisol levels high. During this, the bodies nutritional demands are increased, but with our digestive system being effected it leads to poor function & nutrient absorption. The elevated cortisol, the depleted adrenal stores & the effects on blood sugar can then in turn effect our moods, leaving us feeling irritable and even anxious. Sleep is also effected, that feeling of being ‘tired but wired’ leaving us as insomniacs or waking unrefreshed after a long nights sleep.

This long-term stress and adrenal depletion can leave us with a label of ‘adrenal fatigue’ – you may or may not have heard this term already. Basically, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, following a diurnal cycle. Levels should be high in the morning when we wake, then steadily decline throughout the day. People who are chronically stressed will have elevated basal cortisol and a flattened diurnal curve, resulting in flat cortisol – this response is referred to as ‘adrenal exhaustion’.

Chronic stress is inflammatory, it raises our biochemical inflammatory markers which affect our serotonin levels, leading to anxiety or depression. It’s associated with poor memory, that ‘foggy headed’ feeling, with mood changes and irritability. With stress also decreasing our immune function leaves us susceptible to allergic diseases and the development of conditions such as chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, premature aging, atherosclerosis, abdominal weight gain and even cancer! In women their menstruation & fertility are also effected.

As we can see, being stressed out can have some serious side effects, so what can we do about it? We can’t always escape the stress in our lives but there are ways we can deal with it.

The first thing is to assess the stress – look at what you can change, what is in your control & what you are willing to let go of, you might be able to lighten your load with work or other commitments & have more time for yourself (SO important!).

The second is to slow down. You’re busy, I get it & this doesn’t mean that you should have hours of meditation and stillness, but you can incorporate small pockets of ‘still’ into your day. What’s one thing you do every day? When you shower, or brush your teeth, even when you make a tea/coffee or are driving from one place to the next – make these moments a time of mindfulness. Breathing long, slow, deep breaths. Create awareness in that moment, noticing how you feel, your thoughts. Science has shown that by changing our breath from short, shallow breaths to long, slow & controlled we can get our bodies out of that ‘fight or flight’ response and back into a rested state. This can even be including 5-10 long breaths upon waking, taking your time to get up and out of bed – doesn’t have to be a radical change to your routine or take up too much time but you can find these pockets of still & embrace them.

Thirdly, single task! Do one thing at a time, for at least a few of the tasks you have to do in your day, not all of them – or you probably wouldn’t get anything done, ha! It is impossible for us to be focused on more than one thing (sorry self-proclaimed multi-taskers out there). When stress is rising focus on one thing you are thankful for – it can be as simple as ‘clean water’ or ‘your pillow’, changing your thoughts in the moment does not make the stressful event go away, but at least your body will be focused on something positive & help to diminish the negative effects associated with stress - worrying will not solve the problem either!

And lastly, what can we do nutritionally –

For one; (I’m sorry) but caffeine will have to go! This raises your stress hormones and puts more pressure on your adrenal glands.

Two; sugar also – get rid of it, stress raises your blood sugar levels, as well as sugar being highly inflammatory. This means no soft drinks, confectionary, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, even white, refined carbohydrates from breads, pasta etc

Three; get some vitamin C! Your adrenal glands need it, and they need to be supported – you can talk with your qualified practitioner about supplementation specific for you and include more coloured vegetables and fruits in the diet

Four; B vitamins – these are depleted in times of stress, again speak with your practitioner about supplementing and doses needed. This way you know you’re getting the best quality practitioner only supplements at a dose that is tailored to you and your current needs

Five; Magnesium - this mineral is also depleted during times of stress and is required for hundreds of enzymatic functions within the body, relaxes muscle & assists with energy production - deficiency can contribute to anxiety and depression, again consult your nutritionist/naturopath for the appropriate form of magnesium & the correct dosing. 

Six; Eat fat! Yep, lap it up! Good fats I’m referring to here (I’ve written a blog post on fats which you can find on this site, so you can know which ones to eat). This can include oily fish, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds – these fats are anti-inflammatory, great for brain health and development and help to balance blood sugars. Fats also give flavour to your foods & increase satiety with meals, they are not to be feared!

Seven; Practice mindful meal times; digestion begins before you take your first bite. The site of food, smell of food & the thought of it begins to prepare your body to eat and digest. This in turn triggers saliva to begin to secrete digestive enzymes ready to break down this food. When we are eating on the run, working through our lunch breaks, or mindlessly eating whilst watching TV this process is inhibited. We can end up eating way more than we need to, leave us feeling bloated and sluggish, or with indigestion and we wonder why? Maybe you have food allergies, or maybe you’re just approaching food and mealtimes with the wrong mind set. Sit down at meal times, give thanks for your food - practicing gratitude, enjoy each bite, CHEW your food (its crazy how many of us don’t chew enough) and really be present, noticing how you feel, how it tastes – it can be almost a meditative experience.

With impaired digestion, some might find benefit in utilising a slow cooker, having more soft, water rich foods in the form of soups & stews – the slow cooking starts to break down the foods, with the water increased can help to aid digestion and reduce any digestive disturbances you may be experiencing.

Also to note – exercise can help with stress relief & the body’s ability to cope with increased amounts of stress, however if you’re already in that burnt out ‘adrenally exhausted’ phase, I recommend to exercise in a way that will not be overly stimulating, as that can create more stress on the body, but through a walk in nature, pilates & stretching – does not have to mean HIIT classes at the gym & can even just be 10mins of movement included in your day – even if you just park further away from work or wake a bit earlier each day to include this.

And lastly, seek help – if you’re not coping, or have in fact experienced a trauma, don’t try to tackle it alone. There is a big difference between being stressed out, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – please, speak to your health professional about getting the appropriate support & treatment. Vulnerability is strength and asking for help is in no way showing weakness.

Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.

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WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE & BLUE-GREEN ALGAE HAVE IN COMMON? …

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

Ahh that feeling you get when you let that sweet chocolatey goodness just melt in your mouth, feelings of euphoria, the endorphins released and the happiness in your heart (and in your belly) – you could also say these are somewhat like the contentment you feel when captivated by a good book, focused on a project or the ‘runners high’ when you get back from a challenging workout, but to associate these all with the blue green vegetables of the sea? .. that’s probably not such a common feat.

The most well-known member of this blue-green algae family would be spirulina, and thankfully its becoming more popular as time goes on (with good reason!). It contains all our essential amino acids, making this guy a complete source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, has a wide range of B vitamins, contains vitamin E, and the essential minerals potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, & zinc.

The deep blue-green pigments of spirulina are all thanks to the phytonutrients within; chlorophyll, phycocyanin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein & many more. These guys are responsible for the potent antioxidant levels, fighting free radical damage on a cellular level within the body. Spirulina also contains different enzymes & trace elements.

Spirulina has shown benefit for strengthening the immune system, displaying anti-cancer properties and its use for conditions such as diabetes mellitus type 2 through its blood-lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory potential.

So how do you associate the algae’s with the chocolates of the world? It all comes down to a little substance known as ‘PEA’ (phenylethylamine). A chemical that can be made within the body by the brain or adrenals from two of our amino acids – tyrosine and phenylalanine. The action of PEA increases neurotransmitters in the brain that help us focus or pay attention – those times that you’re just so engaged that you lose all track of time – that’s attributed to PEA. Studies have shown that high levels of PEA are found in happy people’s brains, due to PEA’s action of preventing dopamine from being deactivated, therefore, raising its levels. High levels of dopamine are associated with an optimistic attitude and increased concentration.

PEA is often referred to as the ‘love chemical’, and its responsible for the endorphin rush post exercise, when you are so captivated by a good book or movie or even when indulging in a chocolatey treat.

Some great ways to incorporate more algae into the diet can be through adding spirulina into green smoothies, home made salsa, salad dressings or just mixed into water with lemon juice. Always start with a small dose when having things for the first time – even if it is a naturally occurring substance, we are all different and can all respond differently to foods.

Enjoy the sea vegetables & all the happiness they bring x 

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