When you’re stressed, so is your thyroid
Everything seems to be going wrong this morning—you’re out of coffee, traffic is bad, and you can feel tension from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Maybe you’re under constant pressure at work or can’t catch a break on your bills. Stress is a part of your life, and when it’s ongoing, it can affect everything—including your thyroid. Learn why this is significant and what you can do to help reduce the effects of stress on this important gland.
Your thyroid: The regulator of body functions
Sitting squarely at the front of your neck is the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped powerhouse of your body’s metabolism. As part of your endocrine system (a collection of glands in the body that produce hormones), the thyroid regulates many body functions including, but not limited to:
Another example of hormonal imbalance is insulin resistance, wherein the body resists insulin production, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. This leads to other associated health problems. Several of these conditions often occur with hypothyroidism (when the thyroid doesn’t make enough of its hormones). The result? Increased products of dysregulated sugar metabolism, which lead to lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood.3 Insulin resistance can also contribute to thyroid enlargement and nodules.4,5
Chronic stress has also been shown to increase the risk of developing an autoimmune thyroid condition.2By affecting the immune system through the nervous and endocrine systems, chronic stress can “flip a switch” and increase the risk of autoimmune thyroid disorders for people who have a genetic predisposition.2
Don’t stress about your thyroid
If you’re concerned about chronic stress and how it may affect your thyroid, ask your healthcare practitioner for more information. He or she is the best person to consult about stress and thyroid health.
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
By Whitney Crouch, RDN & Kirti Salunkhe, MD
What is stress?
Stress can be defined as a constellation of events, starting with a stimulus or stressor that causes a reaction in the brain leading to the stress response commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction that can affect many body systems.1 Unfortunately, stress is a fact of life that we all experience at some time or another. Stressors that are acute, or short-lived, are often physical or physiological. Psychological or emotional stress is usually chronic in nature.
The immune system and stress
The immune system is made up of cells, tissues, and organs working together as the body’s defense mechanism to protect us from illness. Scientists say short-term stress (lasting from minutes to a few hours) may be beneficial for our immune health, as it stimulates immune activity and prepares us for possible periods of longer stress—a “fire drill” of sorts. However, chronic stress is actually harmful.2
White blood cells (WBC) are critical for the body’s immune response to foreign invaders. These cells are produced, and stored, in many areas of the body including the spleen, bone marrow, and thymus (a small gland found behind the sternum and between the lungs).3 There are two types of WBCs associated with the immune system: Phagocytes, which actively attack foreign organisms, and lymphocytes, which remind the body to recognize previous invaders and help destroy them.4 The main phagocyte is the neutrophil. Neutrophils primarily fight bacteria and infections. The main lymphocytes are the B lymphocytes or B-cells and T lymphocytes or T-cells. B-cells start out and mature in the bone marrow. T-cells start out in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus. These two cell types are the “special ops” of the immune system and have specific functions. B-cells make antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses and T-cells directly attack invading organisms.4
Acute stress and the immune response
One of the most familiar reactions to acute stress is the “fight-or-flight” response. This physiological reaction usually occurs during an emergency or a fearful mental or physical situation.3 When a threat is perceived, there is a release of hormones to prepare you to either stay and deal with the threat or to run away to safety. It represents choices our ancient ancestors made when faced with dangerous situations. Nowadays, it’s more likely those dangerous situations are ones leading to a wound or infection, but our body reacts the same way.3 During periods of short-term stress, our sympathetic nervous system releases “stress hormones:” epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), as well as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), and cortisol from the adrenal glands.3 These work together to prepare the body for “fight-or-flight” by increasing alertness, focusing the mind, elevating heart and breathing rates, as well as increasing blood flow to skeletal muscles and brain.4
Interestingly, research has shown acute stress activates the immune system. Immune activation is critical to respond to immediate demands of a stressful situation that may lead to a wound or an infection. Acute stress triggers immune cells and stimulates production of proteins known as cytokines. The two major types of cytokines are: pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines. The pro-inflammatory cytokines process the pain often found with inflammation; the anti-inflammatory cytokines work by controlling, or limiting, the spread of inflammation. Both are necessary for normal healing.3
While acute, or short-term, stress acts as an “immune stimulator,” readying the body’s immune system for an adverse situation, situations involving long-term or chronic stress actually suppress and dysregulate the body’s immune responsiveness, leading to illness and poor outcomes.3
Chronic stress and the immune response
Just as we all have differing genetic and biochemical composition, we also have varying perceptions of stress and individual responses to how we process and cope with it.5
Occasionally, there can be a crossover between the mind and body, as in the “fight-or-flight” response. A mentally stressful situation may require a physical response or action, but what about those psychological or emotional stressors that may be difficult but don’t actually pose any pressing physical dangers? Stressors related to pressures of a work project requiring focused concentration over long days and nights, or the continual emotional drain from a difficult relationship or other similar circumstance?
Studies have shown prolonged mental stress can adversely affect regular lifestyle routines, including decisions we make about sleep, nutritional intake, and exercise and can even persuade us to use poor judgement regarding alcohol and drug intake.5,6 These studies have also shown the adverse effects (acute and chronic) that mental and emotional stress places on physical health and wellbeing and have been directly linked to suppression of the immune system.5 How acute mental stress affects physical health was seen in a recent study of college students during their final exams.7 To understand the link between mental stress and changes in blood biomarkers, researchers took blood samples and administered questionnaires about anxiety and depression to 24 college students during finals week. Baseline values had been established by prior blood draws and questionnaires completed midsemester. When compared to baseline levels, during finals week, there were elevations in pro-inflammatory cytokines along with increased reports of anxiety and stress.7 Other studies have noted increased stress can lead to prolonged wound healing time with reduced levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines and increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines.6
Multiple studies have evaluated the immune response in conditions of long-term and emotional stress. These conditions are similar to those found with caregiving of an ill or elderly relative, experienced after a difficult divorce and have even been reported as related to loneliness.7-9 Findings from these studies showed links between emotional stress and increased risk for viral illness, reemergence of latent viruses (Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex, and cytomegalovirus), and onset of autoimmune disease.5,10,11 Other studies have shown long-term psychological stress was linked to detrimental cardiovascular health12-14 as well as increased risk for immunologic conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, atopic dermatitis, and celiac disease.15-18
Even the most vulnerable members of the population, our children, can be affected by psychological stress that results in a reduced immune response. Investigators evaluated children who had a history of recurrent colds and flu and reported higher levels of psychological stress. The data demonstrated the children had reduced salivary immunoglobulin ratios (IgA/albumin). A reduction in this ratio supports a potential link between reduced immune function with a greater susceptibility to colds and flu.19
Lifestyle approaches to stress management
While the effects of stress can be useful on some occasions, adverse effects of stress can play a role in both acute and chronic illness. While there are a number of strategies that come into play with stress management, evidence supports the benefits of lifestyle modification and improved dietary or nutritional intake as a part of a comprehensive strategy.
Recommended lifestyle modifications:
This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT
Whitney Crouch is a Registered Dietitian who received her undergraduate degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of California, Davis. She has over 10 years of experience across multiple areas of dietetics, specializing in integrative and functional nutrition and food sensitivities. When she’s not creating educational programs or writing about nutrition, she’s spending time with her husband and young son. She’s often found running around the bay near her home with the family’s dog or in the kitchen cooking up new ideas to help her picky eater expand his palate.
It is not a myth that men can lose weight faster than women.1 The inherent physiological differences between the sexes play a big role when it comes to losing weight, especially in the initial stages.2 Men possess characteristics that may favor greater weight loss as compared to women.3 To understand the reasons behind this, we must consider the sex differences in energy metabolism, hormonal profiles, and behaviors that may contribute to the differences we see in the ability of the sexes to lose weight.
Body composition—women have a higher fat percentage Men and women show significant differences in the amount of body fat and lean muscle tissue they carry, with men having more lean tissue and women having greater fat mass.3,4 Lean tissue is more metabolically active than fat; thus more lean tissue contributes to a higher resting metabolic rate.3 This means that in general, men burn more calories than women, even at rest. Higher levels of testosterone in men are largely responsible for the variance in body composition, since testosterone is critical for building and maintaining muscle mass.5 On the other side of things, estrogen also contributes to the gender differences in body composition, namely fat mass.6 From the onset of puberty through to menopause, women maintain a higher percentage of body fat, which was evolutionarily there to support the ability to reproduce.6 Evidence shows that estrogen acts on the liver and adipose tissue, preferentially promoting postprandial conversion of fuel into fat tissue—and which may make fat loss more difficult for women.3
Fat distribution—men “appear” to lose more weight Not only is there a difference in the percentage of body fat and lean mass between genders, there is also a difference in the distribution of body fat.2 This relates back to the differing hormonal profiles of men and women and the locations of receptor sites for these hormones.3 For example, estrogen receptors are higher in the subcutaneous tissue in the buttock, hip, and thigh regions in women, which explains why women hold excess fat in these locations.3 Men, on the other hand, have a pattern of central obesity, where the fat tissue is mainly visceral, abdominal fat.2 When weight loss is controlled between the sexes, it has been found that men lose more intra-abdominal fat than women, whereas women lose more subcutaneous fat.7 Fat loss around the abdomen is generally more noticeable, so even if weight loss is similar, it appears that men are losing more weight, even if they are not.
Emotional eating—women are more likely to turn to foodAlthough both men and women struggle with overeating, women are more likely to turn to food to cope with stressors than men, which is thought to be due to the greater intensity of expressed emotions by women.8,9 This may present as another challenge for women to lose weight. Women are more likely to report eating in response to emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, and depression.10 Interestingly, even the stress caused by the desire to be thin and dissatisfaction with body size is positively correlated with emotional eating.11 Women who experience higher levels of emotional stressors have more episodes of binge eating, resulting in weight gain and further impairing self-esteem, adding to the existing emotional strain.8 Since women, in general, are more prone to experiencing more intense emotions, emotional eating may be contributing to the inability to lose weight as easy as a male counterpart.
Other contributing factorsBody weight is predominately controlled by diet and physical activity, but there are underlying factors that can also contribute to enhanced weight gain or difficult weight loss.12 For women struggling to lose weight, it may be important to explore some of these other potential factors.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the most common endocrinopathies affecting 6-18% of reproductive aged women.13Of these women, approximately 50% are overweight or obese, specifically carrying excess weight in the abdominal region.14 Due to the underlying insulin resistance found in most women with PCOS, it can be a challenge to lose weight effectively, even after appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.15
Thyroid hormones play a critical role in the regulation of body weight through controlling energy expenditure.16 It is well known that thyroid dysfunction, namely hypothyroidism, leads to a lower resting metabolic rate, and weight gain is a primary symptom of the disorder.17 When considering the prevalence of hypothyroidism in men and women, women are 4-6 times more likely to be affected, and the incidence continues to rise.18,19 This means that an underlying thyroid disorder should be considered in a woman who is unable to lose weight. Furthermore, if a thyroid disorder is identified but a woman still has symptoms or is not losing weight, an alternative management strategy may be needed; many patients are underreplaced with levothyroxine therapy or do not receive the expected results.20 Interestingly, it has been found that improving TSH levels are not associated with weight loss; rather it is the free T3 and total T3 that are the most significant predictors associated with the greatest changes in body weight and resting metabolic rate.21 Unfortunately, most practitioners test TSH only. This may suggest that a simple TSH measurement may not be enough in a women struggling to lose weight, and more comprehensive testing may need to be done in a woman with suspected hypothyroidism.
Combined hormonal contraceptive use
It is very common for a woman to be using combined hormonal contraceptives, like the pill, vaginal ring, and the patch.22 Although their effects on weight and weight gain is debated, there is some evidence that suggests combined hormonal contraceptives may contribute to weight gain in some women by causing fluid retention and increasing storage of body fat.22 However, weight gain and weight loss are both noted as side effects of hormonal birth control, and not all women are effected.22If a woman is using hormonal contraceptives and is struggling to lose weight, this should be explored as a possible cause.
Fluctuations in the menstrual cycle
Female hormones are much more complicated than male hormones; the fluctuations in luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, and progesterone throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle influence her caloric intake, cravings, exercise performance, and ability to build lean muscle mass.23,24 It has been found that in the second half of a woman’s cycle, her luteal phase, women are more likely to have dysregulated eating habits, with an increase in binge-like episodes.23During this half of the cycle, woman also have greater cravings for sweet foods.23 Moreover, these hormonal variations influence the ability of a woman to build lean body mass.24 Prior to ovulation, muscle strength is increased, and this phase of the cycle favors a gain in muscle mass, which contributes to a higher metabolic rate and further weight loss.24 Fluid retention that also can occur at times in the menstrual cycle can create the illusion that a woman is carrying more body fat.25
As reviewed, there are many physiological differences between the sexes that contribute to the ability to lose weight. Body composition and fat distribution clearly differ between genders, but one must also consider the effect of emotions, hormonal variances, and certain underlying conditions that may make it more challenging for a woman to lose weight compared to a man. Now, although it is true than men can lose weight faster than women, research shows that after about six months of a weight-loss program, the results even out and become similar between the sexes.2
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
Bronwyn Storoschuk, ND
Bronwyn Storoschuk, ND is a board-certified naturopathic doctor trained at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Prior to attaining her ND, Dr. Storoschuk completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Kinesiology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She currently works in private practice in Toronto, Ontario. One of her practices is located within an integrative fertility clinic, where she provides naturopathic care to individuals undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART). Dr. Storoschuk integrates evidence-based medicine with the understanding of the body’s natural physiology and innate healing wisdom. She is passionate about empowering women to take control of their hormonal health and has a clinical focus in hormone balance, reproductive health, and fertility.Dr. Storoschuk is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.
Ever feel like your mind is as cluttered as a messy desk? Multiple tasks and responsibilities clamor for your attention, such as caring for children or elderly parents, worry over relationships or financial issues, coupled with the latest news from always-on technology. It can leave your mind feeling like a scrambled egg.
When your mind gets cluttered like this, you are not just momentarily distracted. Your thoughts jump everywhere, and it can be hard to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds. Productivity suffers, as well as the ability to make good decisions, and you may be tempted to indulge in unhealthy foods or drinks in an attempt to get some short-term relief.
Consider these 10 easy-to-implement, effective, healthful ways to help declutter, calm, and soothe your mind instead.
So start de-cluttering your mind. Pick one of these tips and incorporate it into your life. Then add others as desired. You will love your newfound sense of calm!
Food plays an important role in the development of a child’s brain. Children have very active and busy lives, now more than ever before. Their days are long and packed with schoolwork and after-school activities. The brain is constantly working to help fuel thoughts, movements, breathing, etc.; therefore, their bodies and brain need an adequate amount of fuel to stay energised and focused throughout the day. The brain consists of highly metabolically active tissue that requires a constant supply of calories and micro nutrients to meet its energy needs. What kids eat or don’t eat can impact their overall development and cognitive function.
Here are 10 foods that can help kids be sharp and get the most out of their learning and activities:
Eggs: Eggs are a great source of high-quality protein and choline.1 Adequate protein is essential for proper growth and development, whereas choline is a precursor to several neurotransmitters that help with cognitive development and memory function.1
How to serve: Eggs can be served a number of different ways—scrambled, boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, etc. Pick your child’s favorite way of eating eggs and serve with whole grain toast for a hearty breakfast or an after-school snack.
Salmon: Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc. contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), essential fatty acids, which are crucial for brain growth and development.1 Including at least two servings/week of omega-3-rich food can help support cognitive function. Learn which fish pack more benefits than others.
How to serve: Introduce the kids to different types of fish early on, because eating fish/seafood can be an acquired taste for many. Try making salmon patties, tacos, or grilled sandwiches.
Green leafy vegetables: Spinach, kale, collards, etc., not only contain dietary fiber but are also packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients such as folic acid and lutein, which can help support cognitive development and memory.2
How to serve: Kids usually aren’t thrilled about eating their greens. So, you can try hiding spinach, kale, or other greens into a smoothie, quiche, pasta sauce, or omelet.
Blueberries: Blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, purple grapes, and eggplant contain anthocyanins, a polyphenol shown to support brain health and function by positively affecting memory and focus.3
How to serve: Add blueberries to whole grain pancakes and Greek yogurt for a hearty, protein-rich breakfast.
Almonds: Almonds contain vitamin E, an important nutrient that aids with neurological functions such as balance and coordination.1
How to serve: Swapping out peanut butter in sandwiches for almond butter is a great way of incorporating almonds in their diet. Another great way of including almonds is adding them in pesto sauce instead of pine nuts and serving over whole grain pasta.
Meat: Lean meats such as beef, chicken, turkey, etc., are a rich source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is required for rapid cell growth and division, especially during fetal brain development. Inadequate B12 status can impact cognitive functioning and impair brain growth.1
How to serve: Try making beef kebabs or add shredded chicken or turkey in soups, stews, chilli, or wraps.
Avocados: Avocados contain a rich supply of monounsaturated fatty acids or “healthy” fats that help support overall vascular function which can help deliver adequate nutrients to the brain.1
How to serve: Avocados are another food that can be an acquired taste. Adding avocado into a smoothie is a great way to mask the taste and add creaminess.
Beets: Beets are a good source of nitrates, which help support blood flow to the brain and promote mental performance.4
How to serve: When mixed into foods, beets can turn any food into a fun bright jewel colour that’s fun to eat. Try mixing beets into hummus, pasta sauce, or hash browns.
Dark chocolate: A small amount (1-2 ounces) of dark chocolate is a great addition to the diet due to the high content of flavonols it contains. Flavonols are phytonutrients containing anti-oxidative properties that may help support memory and brain function.1
How to serve: Rather than choosing milk or white chocolate, look for at least 70% dark cocoa when selecting chocolate. Instead of giving your children hot chocolate from a mix, create a healthier version by mixing a tablespoon of dark cocoa powder with warm almond milk.
Turmeric: Turmeric is an ancient spice that has been used for centuries in India. It contains curcumin, a polyphenol that gives turmeric its yellow colour. Curcumin contains anti-oxidative properties, which may help with cognitive function.1
How to serve: Create your version of “golden milk” by adding 1 teaspoon turmeric powder to warm almond milk.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Yoga Alliance, yoga in America is expanding at an almost exponential pace, with some 37 million people in the U.S. (nearly 1 in 10 Americans!) practicing it on a regular basis. What is behind yoga’s explosive growth and popularity? Why are both men and women of all ages flocking to this ancient practice?
Traditional yoga, which originated in ancient India more than 2,000 years ago, is a complex, rather esoteric system involving eight different “arms” or divisions. These arms include such disciplines as breathing, postures, concentration, meditation, withdrawal of the senses, and other practices, beginning by focusing on the outer world, then turning the focus inward until liberation or enlightenment, known as samadhi, is achieved.
Modern yoga, especially in the West, is almost exclusively focused on the physical postures known as asanas, as well as breathing and concentration. But even this mostly physically focused yoga is much more than just a set of physical poses, and it differs exponentially from simple stretching or other fitness routines. Yoga connects everything, including the movements of your body and the oscillation of your thoughts, to the rhythm of your breath.
Through this connection, your attention is naturally directed inward. And it’s this inward directedness that helps you to become “friends” with your thoughts. Instead of trying to suppress them or judge them or change them, you simply become aware of them and how they change from moment to moment. Gradually, you become more aware, and over time, as your body becomes more flexible, so does your mind.
Ask anyone who practices yoga on a regular basis why they do it, and you’ll get a variety of reasons from “yoga just makes me feel better” to “I like being more flexible.” But as it turns out, there is a plethora of scientific studies to back up yoga’s impressive effects on physical and mental health.
Here are seven powerful reasons, all backed by science, why you should begin your yoga practice today:
If you are anything like the average smartphone user, you spend about five hours per day on your device. In addition, you skim through work emails on vacation and check your social accounts before bed, poring over articles and double-tapping photos on Instagram. Maybe you aren’t aware of it, but the only time you truly unplug is when you’re asleep at night.
It turns out dependence on technology isn’t great for mental health. According to a 2016 University of Illinois study, mobile device addiction is linked to depression and anxiety—specifically when people use devices for escapism or to fill a void.
Removing stress is an effective way to improve well being, but this becomes difficult when people become addicted to the very source of their anxiety.
The good news? Awareness goes a long way, and there are a number of concrete steps you can take to disconnect in today’s connected world. Implement the following tips to unplug, improve your mental health, and ultimately boost your sense of fulfilment.
1. Leave work at work.
Make a point of relaxing after work hours—especially on weekends and vacations. Rather than treating these times like lighter versions of your actual workday, refrain from checking your work email or accepting calls that aren’t urgent when you’re off the clock.
If you feel your boundaries aren’t respected, gently inform your colleagues that constant connectedness can hinder workplace productivity. The 2016 study “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect” reveals that it’s not only the time workers spend responding to emails after hours, but also the anticipatory stress, or the expectation of having to respond to after-work emails, that is stressing them out.3
Similarly, if you work from home, try to maintain standard work hours. Keep your clients informed of these hours and avoid returning to projects during your off time. A little self-imposed structure will help you disconnect in a big way.
2. Take a social media detox.
Social media use has been linked to issues such as depression and social isolation. According to Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, those who reported spending more than two hours a day on social media had double the likelihood of perceived social isolation than people who spent just half an hour per day on social platforms.4
This is why taking a social media detox can work wonders for your mental health. Either limit your use of social media to just once or twice per day or go cold turkey and take a full week off. Regardless of how you structure your break, the numbers are in your favour.
3. Engage in activities without your phone.
Disconnect by taking up device-free activities such as hiking or yoga. Team sports are another compelling option. Know from the start that you are making a conscious decision to use your phone less frequently and get in shape while you unplug.
For an added challenge, the next time you have the urge to look at your phone during what’s supposed to be a relaxing activity, go without your device. Rather than researching recipes online, grab a cookbook and spend a tech-free evening making dinner. Or if you’re meeting friends for drinks, leave your phone in the glove compartment of your car. In order to truly disconnect, you must get used to being without your device.
4. Disconnect with your loved ones.
Have you ever planned a nice night with your family, only to find that everyone is glued to their phone? Rather than banning devices outright, you and your family can agree to disconnect at specific times. This will make it seem like you’re working together rather than monitoring one another’s technology use.
So on dinner next Thursday, request that everyone go without their phone. Or plan a Sunday evening game night during which all devices must be in another room. Disconnect together in order to connect with one another.
5. Put all devices away before bed.
This is a crucial piece of advice. Do not look at your phone, tablet, or computer screen before bed or you risk compromising the quality of your sleep. A pair of Michigan State University studies indicated that smartphone use keeps workers mentally engaged late at night, which can interfere with their productivity the next day.5
Not only that, but the blue light emissions from digital devices can throw your physiological clock out of whack. If you want to disconnect at night, keep your phone in another room for optimal results. No doubt, it will be waiting for you the next morning.
6. Commit to a daily meditation practice.
Pick a time and place and commit to a routine meditation practice. Embrace the quiet environment, even if sitting still proves a challenge. If you can only spare 10 minutes each day, that’s perfectly fine—your mind and body will thank you for the break, no matter how short.
These tips will help you unplug from your devices and disconnect from the chaos of your daily life. Make a point of taking time to unwind each day. In doing so, you will experience less stress and be more productive in the long term.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
Let’s set a scene. It’s 12:34 AM, and you’ve been lying in bed for about two hours, wide awake. You tell yourself to relax and go to sleep, but it doesn’t happen. Your mind is racing. “What is wrong with me?” you ask yourself. Oh no! You forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. “I guess I’ll just do that first thing in the morning.” The madness continues for another hour before you finally see the back of your eyelids.
Sleep issues plague countless people in the world, and for a variety of reasons. Those may be due to diet, lifestyle, or anxiety, among others. Lack of sleep can lead to health issues including confusion, lethargy, and memory loss.
It’s hard to attack the day when your mind is in a fog. Maybe that’s why the coffee industry is booming?
Personally, I experienced bouts of insomnia throughout my life and usually at the worst time possible. This is not ideal for someone battling Crohn’s disease and driving race cars at 180 mph, but I have some good news! There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. After tireless research and trial and error, I’ve created a plan to help get myself (and you) back on track.
Functional Medicine was a critical aspect of my ability to obtain healthy, restful sleep. Before working with a medical provider to create a functional lifestyle plan, I was tired, dizzy, sluggish, and worn out! This functional lifestyle optimisation transformed all aspects of my health and daily life.
However, sleep isn’t entirely about nutrition and diet. There are changes you can make to further your ability to get at least 7 ½ hours each night.
Start with adjustments to your nighttime routine. Finish daily chores (dishes, trash, walking the dog, etc.) about two hours before your target sleep time. Next, work on nightly hygiene requirements and clothing. Brush your teeth, take a shower or bath if needed, finish bowel movements, and put on comfortable clothes. Give yourself about an hour to an hour and a half for winding down afterwards.
Limit exposure to artificial light at this point. Too much, and your body will think it’s daytime. Hormones like cortisol will continue to get released, which keeps you up. But remember, cortisol is an essential hormone to help wake you in the morning!
Get your surroundings in order. Make sure your room is dark with no artificial light. Cover up any small illumination from electronic devices (masking tape works well) and install blackout shades over the windows. Your body has various light receptors in the eyes and skin to tell itself it’s time to go to sleep. Keeping the room dark supports that process and promotes the release of hormones, such as melatonin.
If you are easily startled at night by sounds, like me, then creating an atmosphere with continuous background noise or none at all can help tremendously. It’s hard to eliminate noise entirely, so work with various resources like your AC unit, sound machines, or your phone. I use an app on my iPhone that plays constant brown noise to smooth sudden sounds throughout the night.
Temperature also plays a significant role. Keeping the room on the colder side will allow you to enjoy your bed and covers. No one wants to sweat during the night! Usually, you’ll find between 65 to 72 degrees as the perfect temperature. Don’t freeze yourself, though! Make sure you’re comfortable.
Let’s talk about the bed. Humans spend a significant portion of their lives sleeping, so make your bed a sanctuary. I’ve tried various mattresses, and for me, a medium stiffness memory foam mattress is the perfect softness and support for a great night’s sleep. Find one that’s right for you, but make sure it limits your exposure to chemicals.
Recapping. At this point you are physically ready for bed, lights are dimmed or off, the sound is consistent or eliminated, and the temperature is perfect. As you slide into bed, you are ready to relax and calm the mind. You are now set to enter the sleep zone! But how do you get there?
Pick an activity (or multiple) such as reading, meditation, talking to a loved one, or journaling for the next hour. Avoid the TV, phone (yes, that means no Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook…the list goes on), and anything work-related.
Everyone is different, and some things that work for you may not work for someone else. That’s OK! For example, my ideal scenario is meditating and reading. About an hour before my target sleep time of 10 PM, I start with a guided meditation using the Head space app on my iPad.
After meditating, I’ll read for 5 to 45 minutes. Sometimes, I find myself falling asleep only a few minutes after a long day of training or racing. While reading, I make sure to focus on the book and not alternative thoughts. My mind starts to relax, and before I know it, my eyes get heavy. At that point I know it’s time to fall asleep!
Here are a few extra notes:
I know things aren’t always perfect, especially if you travel, have stress, or are burning the candle at both ends. All I can say is that your daily life will be much more productive with proper sleep. You’ll surprise yourself with the amount of work or chores you can accomplish in a short time when your mind and body are functioning at full capacity!
Sleep is a crucial component of a happy, healthy life. Plus, it helps your memory! Your body requires rest to recover and rebuild. It enables you to regain the strength and stamina needed to approach each day with confidence and vigour to achieve your maximum potential.
Lawson Aschenbach is a seven-time professional sports car racing champion. He started racing karts at the age of 8 and went on to win state, national, North American, and four Grand National Championships. In 2005, he finished on the podium in his first sports car race and then burst out onto the scene in 2006, winning the SPEED World Challenge GT Championship in his rookie year. Aschenbach has over 35 professional race wins and currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge Series.
Lawson Aschenbach is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.
By Deanna Minich, PhD, CNS
What are you thinking right now?What were you thinking a few minutes ago?
It wouldn’t be a surprise if you couldn’t remember your thoughts. You’re certainly not alone, as most of us are not aware of our thoughts, much less realize their profound impact on our health.
It’s been said that we think something on the order of 50,000 thoughts every day and that most of those thoughts are recycled and negative.1 If we conceive of every thought being powerful enough to change our physiological function as we know from the well-established placebo and nocebo effects, then it would make sense to ensure that we sift through all the mental information that we are feeding ourselves every day, right? Yet, most of us just let thoughts waft in and out without any discretion. For some of us, we might be up to speed on food and food labels, but we aren’t as diligent about “reading our thoughts.”
Similarly, just like eating poor-quality food can lead to unwanted health impacts, so too can thinking poor-quality thoughts take us down a path of possible inflammation and stress, ultimately leading to potential imbalance and illness.
Here’s what the studies tell us about the science of thinking on our health:
About Deanna MinichGuest blogger Dr. Deanna Minich is an internationally recognized health expert and author with more than 20 years of experience in nutrition, mind-body health, and functional medicine. Dr. Minich holds Master’s and Doctorate degrees in nutrition and has lectured extensively throughout the world on health topics, teaching patients and health professionals about nutrition. She is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, a Certified Nutrition Specialist, and a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. Currently, Dr. Minich teaches for the Institute for Functional Medicine and for the graduate program in functional medicine at the University of Western States. Her passion is bringing forth a colorful, whole-self approach to nourishment called Whole Detox and bridging the gaps between science, soul, and art in medicine.
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Specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) are a way to help support the body’s natural ability to resolve physical stress.1 While the body can make SPMs naturally, supplementing with exogenous SPMs may help facilitate the body’s natural resolution process and completion of its response to physical challenges.2,3*
Metagenics, in collaboration with world-renowned leaders in the field of resolution physiology and other SPM experts, set the standard for defining SPM oils based on activity for use in nutraceutical formulas. But where do these SPMs come from?
From the first drop of marine oil through a specialized fractionation protocol and creation of the finished product, Metagenics follows a stringent, patent-pending process to create SPM Active®.
The SPM fractionation process:
SPM Active is developed through an advanced, patent-pending fractionation process which Metagenics exclusively brings to practitioners. SPM Active is a fraction produced from a high-quality marine oil. This fraction contains standardized levels of 17-HDHA and 18-HEPE, which can lead to the formation of resolvins, an important group of SPMs, in the body. The SPM Active fraction has also been shown to be bioactive and support the existing resolution mechanisms of the body.*
While SPMs are sourced from marine lipids, they are not the same as fish oil. In fact, work done during the development of SPM Active shows that fractions, from the same marine oil starting point, behave differently—not all are pro-resolving, and some fractions may have the opposite effect.4 This makes it essential to test and understand the bioactivity of SPM-rich oils.
Additionally, even though EPA and DHA are the precursors of SPMs, they do not have pro-resolving properties of SPMs.1 EPA and DHA require multiple downstream enzymatic conversions to form 17-HDHA and 18-HEPE, which are further converted into specialized pro-resolving mediators.