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7 ways to improve your sleep


Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Having trouble losing weight? Do you feel groggy in the morning? If you do, you should definitely read this. Here are  seven important tips of how to improve your sleep habits.

  1. Minimizing or Avoiding Stimulants

Do you want to take a guess of what the biggest offender is?… drumroll… alcohol. It’s important to limit alcohol within three hours of going to bed because it is something that will negatively impact the quality of your sleep. Even though you might be asleep for seven hours, it doesn’t mean that you are getting the proper REM and deep sleep that you need. Have you ever woken up after drinking and felt a little crappy, under the weather, with a little brain fog? That’s the effects of alcohol.

Decrease TV and phone time! If you are using blue light, please consider wearing blue light blockers after 7 pm. Otherwise, this can be a huge stimulant. See number three for planning and preparation.

Third, consuming caffeinated beverages after two o’clock such as soda, coffee, or iced tea can contribute to restless nights.

You also want to limit any type of decongestants or other cold medicines because they act as stimulants.

Lastly, you want to try to limit aerobic exercise after six o’clock, or at least three hours before bed time.

These are all things that can keep you awake or prevent you
from going to sleep in the first place.

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  1. Decrease Nighttime Tension and Anxiety

First, avoid any anxiety-provoking or stimulating activities before bed. Some examples of these activities are watching the news, having an argument with your child or spouse, doing financials, reading the stocks, etc.

The more you perseverate on what you need to do the next day, the more stressed you become, followed by a rise in cortisol levels.  Also, try to limit negative judgments associated with not being able to go to sleep. If you feel like you can’t go to sleep and you keep having thoughts about why you can’t go to sleep, then that will also feed into the inability to fall or stay asleep. When you start to have those thoughts, try taking some diaphragmatic breaths and remind yourself that there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.

3. Planning and preparation.

The most important aspect of preparing for sleep is developing some type of ritual before bed. We know that the amount of sleep is really important and it’s a little bit different for each person. However, you do want to think about allotting for eight to nine hours of time in bed, although all of that will not be actual sleep time. So, when you are preparing your schedule keep that in mind so you can strive to prepare for that amount of time in bed.

Another thing to plan for is preparing for sleep about 30 minutes before bed with something that will relax your nervous system. This could be done by breathing, meditation, yoga, reading, essential oils, taking a bath with Epsom salt, etc. So, there’s lots of options and you just need to figure out what is best for you.

You also want to think about finishing eating within three hours
of bed time. The late-night snacking is not ideal because your body is trying
to digest, which is a huge metabolic process, while you’re trying to rest, regenerate,
and repair. It’s really challenging to do both of those things at the same
time.

Overall, just think about preparing your body to relax, so
you can calm your nervous system. Epsom salt baths and lavender can be really
powerful for that.

4. Strategies to use with trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

These strategies can be very beneficial and it doesn’t matter who you are, what age you are, or the reason for your ability to not be sleeping. These are all universal.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and you’re up for 20 to 30 minutes, then you want to actually get out of bed. Go into another room, perhaps a relaxing room and do something calming. That could be breathing, meditating, journaling, or write down what you’re experiencing in that moment. Try to down-regulate (i.e. relax) your system and then return back to sleep.

If your beloved partner is snoring, consider ear plugs to prevent you from awakening.

Drinking water before bed is almost a sure way to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate. Try to limit within an hour of bed.

Another strategy is to make don’t have any EMF within eight
feet of you, which includes your phone, tv, etc. This will help you get good
quality sleep.

5. Light, noise, temperature, and the environment

Try to keep your room as dark as you possibly can. You can use dark window shades and block out any lights that are showing in your room. Also, keep your room cool. Electric blankets, for example, can cause you to wake up very hot and frequently during the night.

6. Bedding and pillows

As it relates to bedding, think hypoallergenic. Also, the appropriate amount of pillows is important.  If you’re a side sleeper, for example, make sure you have enough support for your neck so that you’re not in an uncomfortable position that causes pain. If you have bursitis in your hip and it’s difficult to lay on your hip, roll away from the hip so there’s not as much contact there. And of course, if you have pain anywhere, see a physical therapist!

7. Supplements

Melatonin is the most commonly prescribed over the counter sleep supplement. One to five milligrams can be taken to fall asleep, and/or you could take five to 20 milligrams of a time- release melatonin to stay asleep. Taurine and magnesium can also be beneficial. There are calming herbs like ashwagandha that can help decrease cortisol. Also, drinking herbal teas before bed can be very beneficial.

Summary

These are seven tips that can really help you get that quality sleep you deserve. Just like anything else, start small. Choose one or two things out of this list and work on them until they become a habit.  

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help,
reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash



How to start a fitness program or step up your game


Who’s excited for the New Year? You may be thinking “new year, new me,” so you want to either start an exercise program or step up your game. I am here today to help you with that! This is a time where so many people get injured because they are trying to start a fitness program for the first time or they’re trying to step it up too quickly. And nearly 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Let’s take this as an opportunity to help you think about some different aspects of fitness, so you can prevent injury and get the most out of your fitness and your health this year.

Know your baseline

The first and most important thing is knowing your baseline. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced fitness enthusiast? Do you have any pain or discomfort, or any potentially old injuries that you’re dealing with? What is your mobility/ stability, or functional movement, baseline? Working with a qualified professional to properly screened and know exactly what your starting point is highly recommended.  If you don’t have that opportunity, then you really want to be able to seriously reflect on your true baseline, your starting point, so that you know how to systematically progress safely from there. Once you figured that out, now we can jump into what to include in your fitness program.

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1)Warm-up and prepare

This does not mean jumping on the treadmill for five minutes to get your body warmed up for your workout. It means taking the time to tune into your body. Notice what pain or tension you might have that day. Are you tired? Did you eat well that day?  Really take a deep inward look to see how you are feeling that day and how that will affect your workout. Once you’ve established that, then you can think about how can you prepare yourself best for the demands of the activity that you are about to embark on. If you are going to do strength training for example, then doing some static stretching, ie holding a stretch for 30 seconds, is not beneficial. Instead, think about how you can prepare your body for the demands of the activity. For example, instead of jumping on a treadmill and walking for five minutes, you could do lunges with a reach. This will help to activate and wake up your whole body and nervous system, so you are fully prepared for your workout. 

2) The systematic progression of your activity.

For this to be successful, it is vital to have a preparation period. One to three months preparation time is recommended to prepare for it, so that you can just go into it with ease. The last thing you want it to do is create stress, ie. Inflammation, on your body.  You’ll want to make sure it is the right time in your life and things are relatively calm. It is extremely challenging to eat out when you are on the Elimination Diet. Lastly, it’s often easier if you slowly work out one to three foods at a time and find replacements for them before you begin. You want to be fully prepared, which is why it is strongly recommended to work with a professional to guide and support you through the process.   

How to do this for a running program

If you are just starting out with a running program, running for 30 minutes three times a week is unrealistic, especially if you haven’t done that in months or years. That will set you up for injury. When, starting a running program, or any program for that matter, you want put stress on your body, and then take it off, put stress on your body, and take it off, and so on. This will create an adaptation, which means you are getting your body familiar to a certain exercise or training program through repeated exposure. This will help to create fascial elasticity in our body, like a rubber band, which can really aid in preventing injury. If you want to start a running program, make sure that you can walk for 30 minutes three times a week first without any symptoms before you progress to running in any capacity. You encounter 1-1.5 x your body weight in force with walking and almost double that with running. When you’re symptom-free and ready to progress, you would slowly start with a walk-jog interval. You could start with the one minute of walking and one minute of jogging. I would suggest starting at five minutes total, so it’s only a few minutes total running time. Once you feel comfortable with that, then you can slowly progress to 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes and so on. This is going to take weeks to months to get you to 30 minutes of running. On the other hand, if you’ve already been running, and you want to step it up you could follow the same protocol, but you would just have a different baseline than a beginner does. For example, if you want to go from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, then every other day you can add a few more minutes to your run assuming there’s no symptoms, pain, discomfort, or injuries. You can continue to progress that way to achieve whatever goal you have.

How to do this for
strength training program:
If you’re strength training for the first time,
I would suggest starting at two sets of eight to 12 repetitions two times a
week. Then you can slowly progress that towards three sets of 10-12 repetitions
three days a week.

How to do this for a yoga program: There are a lot of different yoga classes out there, but you need to make sure that it’s a yoga class that you can do safely. For example, a Hatha yoga class may be more appropriate for a beginner as opposed to a power yoga class. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever do that, it just means to start with something where you can learn how to control your body and coordinate your movement with your breath first before you go into something more advanced.

How to do this for a HITT training program: Please reference the video on for pros and cons of HIIT training here or read the blog post here. For the intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiast, this can be great way for you to step up your program. Beginners have a higher injury risk because they really need to develop a basic fitness or strength baseline before they move into something more advanced like HITT training.

3) Cool-down

A cool-down is different for every person. It could be a short walk, stretching, basic breath work, or even meditation. It can also be a great way to reflect on what happened in that session. That means reflecting on what went right and what didn’t go as well.  Does your body feel energized and revitalized or does it feel kind of worn down and sore? Did you work too hard or not hard enough? Use this information as an opportunity to change your next session.

Summary

Fitness is a journey, no matter if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced. You are always fine tuning, and reflecting on how to maximize what your doing.  Do you need to add yoga in because you’re doing too much strength and HITT training? Do you do too much yoga and need to add in strength and  power exercises? I definitely encourage you to reach out to a professional that can help you reach your goals while staying injury- free. It is important to take ownership of your health and movement to be able to continue to stay pain-free for a lifetime.

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help,
reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.



How to do an Elimination Diet


Have you been experiencing fatigue, chronic pain, allergies, sinus issues, depression, anxiety, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or constipation? Or maybe you just aren’t feeling your absolute best.  If so, you might want to consider the elimination diet. The elimination diet is the gold standard for uncovering food sensitivities and food intolerances that are frequently overlooked as a major contributor to a whole host of inflammatory conditions. It’s been used by allergists and registered dietitians for decades and is currently used frequently in functional medicine.  It can be extremely valuable in finding information.  It uncovers foot triggers which can help you determine what foods are best for you…and of course, what foods are not. There is no one size fits all.  Everyone is unique.

What does the Elimination do?

The elimination diet helps to decrease inflammation, identify food triggers, reduce intestinal permeability i.e. leaky gut., decrease inflammation, reduce toxic burden, and it is high in phytonutrients and it is not calorie restrictive. If you have already been diagnosed with leaky gut, autoimmune, or any other inflammatory condition (nearly 90% of all conditions), then this would be something that is highly recommended to initiate a gut healing protocol to remove these potentially inflammatory foods. It is not a calorie restricted plan, so it is not meant to be a weight loss diet. Instead, it is meant to be an “information diet”, which means it is not a forever plan. This diet is comprised of all whole natural foods, there’s nothing processed. You are eliminating all of the potentially inflammatory foods. Some of those foods include, coffee/tea, alcohol, corn, soy, peanuts, processed meats, red meat, gluten, dairy, and so on. (See below) You would be eliminating these foods for at least four weeks.

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What foods do you eliminate?

  • corn
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • white sugar
  • shellfish
  • soy
  • beef
  • processed meats
  • pork
  • coffe, tea, chocolate

How to prepare

For this to be successful, it is vital to have a preparation period. One to three months preparation time is recommended to prepare for it, so that you can just go into it with ease. The last thing you want it to do is create stress, ie. Inflammation, on your body.  You’ll want to make sure it is the right time in your life and things are relatively calm. It is extremely challenging to eat out when you are on the Elimination Diet. Lastly, it’s often easier if you slowly work out one to three foods at a time and find replacements for them before you begin. You want to be fully prepared, which is why it is strongly recommended to work with a professional to guide and support you through the process.   

How to reintroduce

The reintroduction phase is the most important part and many people fail to do this. They sometimes get frustrated and eat something that has multiple inflammatory triggers like pizza that includes gluten, dairy, and tomato sauce. Then, they don’t feel their best and don’t really know why. What it the gluten? The dairy? The tomato sauce with all the preservatives? This is why it’s really important to do a very careful and systematic reintroduction of foods. To give you an example of how that looks, you would do the elimination diet for 30 days. Then, on day 31 you choose a food that you really want to bring back into your life. Let’s say its eggs. So, what you would do is have eggs on day 31 in the morning and in the afternoon. You would wait four days, and you would see what kind of symptoms or adverse reactions you may have. A food reintroduction tracker is very helpful for this information. You might have nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, joint pain, etc. If you have negative or adverse symptoms within that four-day window, then eggs, right now, are a ‘no go’. You would wait at least three months before you reintroduce them again. This might mean that your gut needs more time to heal or that eggs are never going to be part of your diet. You can then make a conscious decision to include this in your life knowing the effects it has on you, or now that you have that information, limit or eliminate it. The goal is to find this information, so you know exactly what is helping you feel your best. That means having energy and living with vitality, versus feeling like crap every day, but not really knowing why.

Summary

The elimination diet is extremely valuable when you’re
dealing with multiple medical symptoms. It is very challenging for many because
they don’t realize just how many of the foods they are consuming on a regular basis.
Most people need a lot of support and guidance through the process.  So, again I strongly encourage you to reach
out to a registered dietitian or functional medicine doctor to help you through
this process.

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help,
reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.



Pros and Cons of HIIT


With the holidays coming around, many of you may want to get fit as fast as you can. We all know deep down that’s not the best solution. But, part of improving your fitness quickly probably includes some kind of speak of high intensity interval training (HIIT). As with anything, there are pros and cons of HIIT and I’d like to educate you on making an informed decision of whether or not it’s appropriate for you.

What is HIIT?

You may be asking yourself what is HITT ? It is essentially a vigorous activity, followed by a low to moderate intensity activity in an interval format that is often done between five to 30 minutes, and the intervals can range from 15 seconds to two to three minutes. There are many options to perform HITT such as using bodyweight, calisthenics, free weights, or even a machine like an elliptical or stair climber.

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Pros

First, it can help to decrease body fat, as well as improve overall metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is really important because it helps you to burn more calories throughout the course of the day when you’re not working out, which is really powerful. Second, it can help improve oxygenation, which is the muscles ability to use oxygen. This means if you do 60 minutes of HITT training versus 120 minutes of steady state cardio you can have the same benefits. This leads me to my next point, which is that you get maximum benefit for decreased time investment. Since we are all super busy and stressed for time, and can’t find the time in the day to exercise, this can be very valuable. It has been shown to also increase muscle growth, however, that is not the gold standard of muscle building.  Strength training always wins. Even though there has been shown some benefit, it’s not the most valuable way to build muscle.

Cons

Let’s shift gears now and talk about some of the disadvantages. First, it can lead to a higher injury risk. Some of the reasons why I think this happens is because many people that choose to do HITT training are often deconditioned at first and they think ” this is a fast way to get in shape”. So, they begin doing it at a high volume, high intensity and often do not have a solid movement foundation, or even a fitness foundation to support it. This is why I would recommend starting out slow and then gradually building yourself up. Second, recovery time is always important in exercise, but it is especially important in HITT training. This is because it is a physical stressor on your body, so you need more time to recover. HIIT four to six days a week is extremely high because the it may take two to three days to recover from a session.  I typically recommend my patients and clients do it no more than two to three days a week if they are an appropriate candidate. Lastly, if you are training for a sport or a movement skill, you need to make sure that you’re really focusing on the specificity. HITT training is not geared towards specificity whatsoever. It is general conditioning, so you may want to consider that with your training goals.  

Other considerations:

  1. Stress? Are you experiencing a tremendous amount of acute or chronic stress in your life. If so, I do not recommend HITT training, because again, it is a significant stressor, a physical stressor. This can contribute to a constant cascade of stress hormones which also can further impact hormonal and immune health.
  2. Beginner? If you are a beginner, I do not recommend HITT training. Learn how to develop the proper movement patterns, learn about your body, and really understand what’s happening to be able to recognize if you are feeling discomfort or pain. Tune in through mindful movement and develop a basic level of fitness first before volume and intensity is added.
  3. Intermediate to Advanced? If you have been working out for a while and you want to take things to the next level to really boost your cardiovascular fitness and fat loss, then I think HITT training can be really valuable.

Summary

Nothing is black and white. It’s really about understanding the different pros and cons of this or any other fitness program to see if it is appropriate for you at this time in your life. If it is not appropriate for you at this time in your life, then just hold off and revisit it later.  It will always be there.  Movement is a skill that you keep refining your whole life. There’s so much to learn. You really want to continue that journey forever, so there’s always room for improvement.

If you are not sure where to start, please reach out to schedule a private session to begin your movement journey.



3 Simple Informal Mindfulness Practices


Let’s chat about some informal mindfulness practices that you can do in your day to day life to become more aware, more present, and more connected. Often times we think about meditation as sitting in a meditative seat for 30 to 45 minutes. You might think, “how on Earth and I am going to do that?” I want to reinforce how important that practice can be in an overall mindfulness practice, however, that’s not for everyone. There are many things that you could do in your daily life to become more present in your own life, become more connected, more aware and hopefully help you to live your best life. h the holidays in full gear, many of us struggle with those darn sugar cravings. Some people suffer with some type of sugar craving or even a so-called sugar addiction all year long.

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Three Informal Mindfulness Practices

  1. Find an anchor.

Read moRE



How to decrease sugar cravings in 3 days


With the holidays in full gear, many of us struggle with
those darn sugar cravings. Some people suffer with some type of sugar craving
or even a so-called sugar addiction all year long.

We know that sugar cravings cause a dopamine response as
well as other neuro chemicals that ultimately creates a biochemical and neuro
chemical response in the body. The addiction of sugar can cause a similar
response in the brain as in drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.  However, there’s a little bit more to sugar
cravings than just that.

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Sugar Cravings and Gut Bacteria

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Are you overpatterned?


Did you know the body is actually very asymmetrical in its structure? This is due to the organs which are oriented in a very calculated way and separated from our right and left side of the body. We have our liver and gallbladder on the right, and our pancreas, spleen, stomach, and most of our heart on the left. We have different functions of our hemispheres in our brain, too. So, there’s so much asymmetry in our body, and it’s really powerful.

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Asymmetry in athletes

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The 5 R Framework for Gut Restoration


All disease starts in the gut

Often times we think of stomach pains, bloating, constipation or diarrhea when we think of “gut problems.” But, did you know that “gut problems” can disguise themselves as pain, brain fog, the inability to lose weight, anxiety, psoriasis, autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, and even Parkinson’s, MS, and Alzheimer’s (just to name a few). As Hippocrates once said, “All disease starts in the gut.”

Inflammation and disease

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Forward head posture: A non-traditional approach


If it isn’t you, I’m absolutely sure that you know a friend or loved one that has forward head posture. You may have even gotten frustrated with someone for slouching. “Stand up taller, Mom.” “Johnny, stop slouching!” You know what I mean.

Watch a video on forward head posture and three simple exercises to improve it here.

Why does this happen?

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How to understand and eliminate low back pain (Part 3)


Part Three of a Three Part Series

In the last blog, we talked about how low back pain in managed in the US. Today, we are going to discuss evidence-based and practice based measures of effective low back treatment. The evidence shows us that there are specific criteria to indicate which treatment is best. 

Why acute low back pain becomes chronic?

As mentioned before in part 1 and part 2 articles of this low back pain series, because most back pain in the US is mismanaged, the time it takes for someone to get the best treatment is prolonged. Imaging is typically unnecessary and prolongs the period of time that you are experiencing pain, which ultimately can contribute to a sense of hopelessness and chronic pain, otherwise known as chronic sensitization of the nervous system.

Once you have acute low back pain, you naturally become fearful of having it again. So, you change your movement, activities and even thoughts and emotions. Pain is simply information. It is a signal. Are you moving well? Too much? Not enough? Eating highly processed foods? Drinking too much alcohol?

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