Salt: The Zero-Calorie Saboteur

Earlier this year, I wrote about sugar and artificial sweeteners and how they can work against you in your weight loss efforts.  I would be missing a big part of the puzzle if I didn’t talk about salt and one of its components, sodium. Although it has no calories itself, salt, which is 40% sodium, can sabotage a weight loss program in a number of ways. I’ll talk about how that can happen, and how you can avoid excess sodium in your diet – even if you feel you are addicted to saltiness.

Sodium is a necessary element to the functioning of our bodies, so we need to have some in food or drink to replace what has been lost or used over the course of a day. The amount that needs to be replaced is actually very small – maybe 180mg by some accounts.  It’s the kidneys’ job to regulate the amount in our system, so any excess amount is flushed out. It is well documented and known that when we take in too much sodium, it can lead to stressed kidneys, high blood pressure and other serious health problems.

Salt and sodium can also lead to weight gain and impede attempts to lose weight even though it’s calorie-free. Eating an excess of salted or high-sodium foods can cause the body to retain fluids – water weight – and although that’s not the same as fat, it still increases your weight until fluid is released. Also, high amounts of sodium are often found in calorie dense, processed food or drinks, which will put on or keep on weight. Sodium is often a hidden ingredient in common foods, which are not associated with a salty taste, so you may not even know that you are going over the daily limit when you are.

How much is enough?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2300mg/day of sodium as the maximum for healthy individuals, and 1500mg/day as the maximum for individuals over the age of 51, African Americans, those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney diseases. It bears repeating and emphasizing that these are MAXIMUM limits, keeping in mind that the body needs a lot less.

What do these amounts look like in real life? If you use a measuring teaspoon, (the one you use for baking, not the one you stir your coffee with) you can get a visual idea of what I am talking about:

2300/mg of sodium ≈1 teaspoon of salt

1500/mg of sodium ≈ 2/3 teaspoon of salt

Remember though, it’s not just salt that you cook with or add at the table that needs to be measured, it’s also the intake of foods containing sodium, so now you can see that there is not much wiggle room when you work to normalize your sodium intake.

Sources of Sodium

We know that sodium is an additive in processed foods, but it also occurs naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables and meat.  For example, ½ cup of chopped celery contains 174mg of sodium. The amount of naturally occurring sodium in vegetables and fruits are much lower than in processed products. On the other hand, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, a processed, pre-packaged product, contains 1000mg of sodium.  All of this needs to be considered in your daily maximum.  The following graphic shows the main sources of sodium in the average US Diet:

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, most sodium comes from processed and prepared foods, so reading the labels is key to identifying where your sodium comes from. Remember that the sodium amount listed is that in ONE SERVING, so if you can’t eat just one, you need to adjust that number.  You can see how that could add up to your daily maximum very quickly. In ingredients lists, look for salt, soda or sodium as part of the ingredient’s name.

Additionally, the Center for Disease Control lists these foods as being the largest sources of sodium. While some are obviously associated with a salty flavor, some on the list are surprising.

Milk                                                                                           Sandwiches and sandwich meats

Bread and rolls                                                                      Pizza

Poultry                                                                                     Pasta Dishes

Cheese

What you can do to lower your sodium intake

Bringing your sodium intake down below the maximum level can be pretty simple by taking these actions:

  • Avoid processed products, snacks, and condiments, and foods from the above list as much as possible. Since these are where most sodium is located, you can make a big difference here.
  • Eat mineral rich vegetable and fruits, especially dark leafy greens, which will all give you the sodium and other minerals that you need in moderate, naturally balanced amounts.
  • Read labeling on all packaged products, even ones that are not salty like cereals, breads and sodas.
  • Taste your food before you add salt.
  • Give yourself time to adjust – approximately 2 weeks will do the trick.  Why? Because your tastebuds, which have gotten used to saltiness will die off in about 14 days and new ones that you can retrain to like real food tastes will appear.

 

Lela Reynolds, Certified Holistic Health Coach, AADP

www.afriendinthekitchen.com

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Tired all the time? Restore your energy today

It’s 6:09am and you’re about to slap that snooze button for the second time.  Your alarm is screaming for you to get out of bed but your brain is screaming something entirely different.  How can it be morning already?

Instead of feeling the optimism of a new day, you feel that familiar sense of dread creeping in…

Like everyday, you’re thinking about the pile of work that MUST get finished today and the number of emails that have accumulated in your inbox since you checked it last night.  And what exactly did you boss mean to imply with that comment he made before you left?  Did you really agree to meet so and so tonight for dinner?  Is your son’s pediatrician appointment today or tomorrow?

You haven’t even gotten out of bed yet and already you’re drained.

Does this sound familiar?

A lack of energy and feelings of exhaustion and tiredness are among the most common complaints seen by doctors today.  More than ever, we are seeing an increased number of seemingly healthy patients who struggle with low energy and fatigue.  We can all feel tired from time to time; however, chronic tiredness is debilitating and its effects undermine the quality of our work, relationships, health and overall well-being.  Though the causes and treatments for tiredness can vary, if low energy is interfering with your ability to fully participate in and enjoy your life, keep reading.

Tiredness versus sleepiness-what is the difference and does it matter?

Tiredness, fatigue, sleepiness and low energy are terms that are often used interchangeably and while they can be related to each other, they have two distinct meanings.  It might not seem important, but as a sleep specialist, if you tell me you’re sleepy my understanding of your symptoms and recommendations for evaluation and treatment will be different than if you tell me you feel tiredness and lack energy.

Sleepiness refers to drowsiness and a tendency to fall asleep.  With sleepiness, your eyes feel heavy and your head might bob up and down as you actually drift into light stages of sleep.   When given the opportunity, the sleepy person will be able to fall asleep and usually feels better rested after the nap.

Fatigue or low energy is often described as an overwhelming sense of tiredness, exhaustion and decreased motivation.  It can be physical or mental.   When given the opportunity, the person with fatigue/low energy desperately WISHES they could fall asleep to find some relief, but is generally not able to.  Even if they are able to fall asleep, the sleep is generally not restorative and the tiredness continues. 

Are you too tired to recognize the signs?

It seems almost impossible to not know that your energy tank is empty right?  Wrong.  Tiredness and low energy usually have a gradual onset and it’s not uncommon for many of my patients to not recognize or fully appreciate the extent to which their quality of life is compromised.  Other times, they might recognize that they are drained, but assume a hectic work/home schedule, stress, aging, a depression, boredom—you fill in the blank here—are the culprits.  They go through the motions of their day-to-day lives without realizing that better energy is not only possible, but may be easier to achieve than they realize.

Consider the following questions:

Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning?

Do you awaken just as tired as when you went to bed?

Do you have difficulty with focus and concentration?

Do you have difficulty motivating yourself to start or finish a task?

Are you easily overwhelmed or have difficulty making decisions?

Do you cancel or avoid plans because you don’t feel up to it?

Do you have difficulty carrying out day-to-day tasks?

Do you say to yourself “If I could just rest I’d feel better?”

Are you dedicating enough time to sleep but still feeling tired?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may be running low on energy.  As a next step, let’s look at some to of possible causes of decreased energy and tiredness.

Possible causes of low energy include:

Medical Conditions: Anemia, allergies, thyroid condition, reflux, chronic pain, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, infection, sleep disorders, inflammatory disease, vitamin/mineral deficiency

Psychiatric Conditions: Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, chronic stress

Medications: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, blood pressure medications, antihistamines

Lifestyle/personal habits: Diet, exercise, sleep

Now that you know some of the signs and possible contributors to your low energy, although this list is not nearly exhaustive, let’s look at some steps you can take today to reclaim your health and vitality.  

Increase Your Energy – Steps to Restore, Revive and Take Back Your Energy

Exercise: The benefits of exercise to physical and emotional health are endless.  Decades of research consistently show that exercise promotes energy, mental focus and clarity, in part by stimulating chemicals in the brain that promote alertness.  If you’re not exercising enough you will feel tired and fatigued.  I know the mere thought of exercise when you’re already exhausted makes your eyes glass over but it is absolutely necessary component of any treatment to increase energy.  You don’t have to join a gym.   Find an activity you enjoy (or can at least tolerate) and just 10 minutes 2-3 times a week will start to recharge your energy stores.  On the contrary, too much exercise can also be draining.  If you suspect you might be over-training, cut back on the intensity or duration of your exercise and reevaluate.

Drink More Water: Not more soda, coffee, iced tea, juice or energy drinks, just more plain old water.  You don’t need to give up these drinks altogether, but you do want to drink more water.  Most Americans and most of my patients are chronically dehydrated, which results poor digestion, sluggish thinking, skin breakouts, headaches, bad breath and general fatigue, just to name a few.  Think about what would happen to your pets or your plants if you didn’t give them water.   Drinking more water is one of the single most important things you can do to restore energy.  If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Start by drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning and keeping a bottle of water accessible throughout the day, whether you are on the go or at a desk.   Create a routine so you’re sure to get your daily dose.

Eat for Energy: Food is energy.  Food is medicine.  The food choices you make as well as when you eat will hands down either deplete your energy or boost your energy.  Want to boost your energy?  Increase your intake of whole grains (like oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain or wheat breads and pasta), fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables (especially the green ones), and lean meats.  Limit or avoid processed (packaged or boxed items) foods, which lack actual vitamins and minerals and provide little to no nutritional value; as a general rule, the longer the list of ingredients, the less nutritious the food.  Avoid refined carbohydrates (white sugar, white flour, white rice), which cause blood sugar level to spike and then sharply fall.  When blood sugar drops, we feel more fatigued and sluggish and over time, we’re left in a constant state of exhaustion.   Eat breakfast!  And do not go more then 4-5 hours without eating.

Sleep: To have good energy, you need both sufficient sleep quality and quantity.  Deficits in either will leave you drained and wondering where along the way you lost your zest for life.   Some people need 8 hours while others only need 7.  If you’re not well rested with at least 7.5 hours a night, you may have a disorder of sleep quality (such as atypical brain wave arousal bursts, restlessness in sleep, sleep disordered breathing) or a disorder of wakefulness (in which the activating system of the brain doesn’t fire up efficiently).  If you are unsure, find a sleep specialist who will perform and design a COMPREHENSIVE evaluation and treatment plan, NOT just a specialist who will run a screen for sleep apnea.  

Managing stress: If I had the secret to a stress-free life, I’d let you know, but I don’t.  We’re all stressed and we all know that stress wreaks havoc.  What I do know is that to protect and restore our energy and vitality in the face of stress, anxiety and adversity, we must not only identify the activities and techniques that connect us to our energy and best selves, but we must also give ourselves permission to regularly engage in these behaviors and practices.  Do what you enjoy, every day or every week—do it.  Notice those people in your life who feed your energy and those that drain it.  Try to understand why.  See if you can transform the relationships that drain your energy by communication and setting boundaries.

See Your Doctor: As a rule, I’d recommended following up with your primary care physician for a routine physical and blood work every year.   As mentioned previously, tiredness and low energy can result from any number of reasons.   Blood work will help identify possible underlying medical factors that are and are not contributing and will help us get to the source of your low energy more quickly.  Be sure to tell your doctor that you’re struggling with low energy so they can order the appropriate blood work.  Generally, blood work for low energy, to start, should include:

1)     CBC (complete blood count)

2)     Electrolytes

3)     Blood glucose (fasting if possible)

4)     Thyroid function

5)     Urinalysis (for kidney function)

6)     Liver function

7)     CPK and ESR (which evaluated level of inflammation)

8)     Serum iron, serum ferritin and % iron binding capacity

9)     Vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

If these return normal, there are additional tests as well.   If your doctor dismisses your compliant, with all due respect to your doctor, find another one.

These recommendations just merely scratch the surface and my hope is that they will give you a place to start if you’re finding that you can’t seem to generate the energy to enjoy and participate in your life.  I have been fortunate enough to work with many people who have been able to improve their energy and vitality even when they were told that nothing could be done.   Don’t give up.  You don’t have to accept that feeling drained and depleted is your new normal.

 

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Simple Solutions for a Complex Problem

The human body is so beautiful in its complexity – especially fascinating to me are the different chemical compounds and systems and how one effects the other.  One chemical – a hormone, let’s say – increases, and another decreases in response. A particular enzyme is secreted, and causes a biological system to react to it.

For those of us who are having difficulty losing weight, it would seem that the solution is as complicated as these interconnected occurrences in our bodies. However, there is good news.  Recent research on the role of physical activity and weight loss says that the opposite is true.  You must be thinking that activity and weight loss have been known to be linked for quite some time, and you would be right.  But scientists are saying that even the most basic movements – like standing or puttering around send signals to the body to burn fat rather than store it.

Here are some of the findings:

  1. Get off your seat.
    Telling your body that it’s time to burn fat can be as easy as standing up.  Dr. Marc Hamilton, professor and biomedical researcher at the University of Missouri, found in human experiments that obesity can occur twice as often in people who sit for long periods of time.  The reason is that sitting shuts off an enzyme called lipase, which assists the body in breaking down fat. Data show that when people sit for long periods of time, lipase, which is normally present and ready to do its work, almost disappears.  In the absence of lipase, fat is stored in the body rather than burned as fuel.  The suggested fix for this is to limit the time that you sit by standing and moving around to break up long periods of sitting, or to chose standing, if possible, rather than sitting when doing usual sedentary tasks.  Not only will you bring back the fat burner lipase, you will also expend more calories standing.
  2. Be a fidgeter.
    We were all probably told to sit still a thousand times when we were kids.  The lesson produced a well mannered child, but the adult will find it a challenge to burn fat.  Many studies with human subjects found that people who made small movements, like fidgeting or pacing, were able to lose or maintain weight than subjects who sat or napped during the same periods of time.  Although the daily number of calories burned by these small movements was small, day over day, it added up to fat burning and weight loss over time.
  3. Step away from technology.
    Computer use if pretty much a given during work hours, but researchers caution against excessive computer use during non-work hours.  A study in Australia produced data concluding that people who used computers for 3 or more hours during their leisure time were 2.5 times more likely to be obese. If you think you can make up for sitting at a computer by more work in the gym, think again. Amazingly, the data also showed in this and similar studies, that people who use the computer for more than 3 hours a week during leisure time are more likely to be overweight even if they are highly active in their leisure time.  The researchers concluded that it is not enough to cut down on sedentary behavior, but it is also necessary to increase leisure time physical activity.

So how can you bring this research data to life? Here are some of the simple things you can start doing today to solve a complex problem of losing weight and burning fat.  Like Bob Marley sang, “Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!”

  • If you have the choice of standing and doing a task rather than sitting, choose to stand.
  • Cut up long periods of sitting time by standing and walking around.
  • Putter, pace, fidget, take the long way to your destination. Stop only to smell the roses along the way.
  • Park far away from the store, get off the bus a few stops early, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Give up your seat on the bus or train to someone.
  • Reduce your computer time outside work.

By: Lela Reynolds, CHHC, AADP

 

References:

 

Vandelanotte C, Sugiyama T, Gardiner P, Owen N, Associations of Leisure Time Internaet and Computer use with Overweight and Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors: Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2009, 11 (3): e28.  URL: http://www.jmir.org/2009/3/e28

 

Weil MEd, CDE, Richard, Does Fidgeting Help Burn Calories?, MedicineNet, Inc., 2012. URL: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=99521

 

___, Stand Up for your Health: Physiologists and Microbiologists Find Link Between Sitting and Poor Health, Science Daily, 2008. (originally produced for American Institute of Physics, Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science, Ivanhoe Broadcast News)  URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2008/0610-stand_up_for_your_health.htm

 

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Top 21 Foods for Healthy Eating On a Budget

Eating healthy seems to be getting harder in our current economy. Food prices are climbing, and many are still looking to fast and packaged foods for cheap eats. But low cost doesn’t have to mean low quality. In fact, some of the most inexpensive things you can buy are actually the best things for you.

At the grocery store, getting the most nutrition for the least amount of money means shopping on the periphery of the store-near the fruits and veggies, meat and dairy, and the bulk grains–while avoiding the expensive packaged interior aisles. By doing so, your kitchen will be stocked with healthier foods and your wallet won’t be empty, either.

Most of the items below are available year-round. While I am a great advocate for shopping at farmer’s markets or co-op’s and buying seasonal, local and organic, many people I work with find this option financially challenging for their lives. When that is the case, I recommend buying such items whenever possible to include them in your meals or as snacks. Even just one or two items a week can make a difference. Remember to wash any and all produce before you eat it, particularly when you don’t know it’s organic status.

1. Oats
High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap–a dollar will buy you more than a week’s worth of hearty breakfasts. Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with nuts and fruit in the morning, make oatmeal cookies for dessert.

2. Eggs
Don’t be afraid of eggs-be more afraid of the processed substitute instead. You can get about a half-dozen of eggs for a dollar, making them one of the cheapest and most versatile sources of protein, and when eaten in moderation they are a fine part of a healthy diet. They are a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may ward off age-related eye problems. Serving suggestions: Huevos rancheros for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches for lunch, and frittatas for dinner.

3. Kale
This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch. Serving suggestions: Chop up some kale and add to your favorite stir-fry; or steam and drizzle with apple cider vinegar.

4. Potatoes
Because we often see potatoes at their unhealthiest–as fries or chips–we don’t think of them as nutritious, but they definitely are. Eaten with the skin on, potatoes contain almost half a day’s worth of vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. If you opt for sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll also get a good dose of beta carotene. Plus, they’re dirt cheap and have almost endless culinary possibilities. Serving suggestions: For lunch, make potato salad; for dinner, have them with sour cream and chives.

5. Apples
I’m fond of apples because they’re inexpensive, easy to find, come in portion-controlled packaging, and taste good. They are a good source of pectin–a fiber that may help reduce cholesterol–and they have the antioxidant vitamin C, which keeps your blood vessels healthy. Serving suggestions: Plain; as applesauce; or in baked goods like Pumpkin-Apple Breakfast Bread.

6. Nuts
Though nuts have a high fat content, they’re packed with the good-for-you fats–unsaturated and monounsaturated. They’re also good sources of essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and protein. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, you only need to eat a little to get the nutritional benefits. Although some nuts, like pecans and macadamias, can be costly, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, especially when bought in the shell, are low in cost. Serving suggestions: Raw; roasted and salted; sprinkled in salads.

7. Bananas
One dollar gets you a banana a day for the workweek. High in potassium and fiber (9 grams for one), bananas are a no-brainer when it comes to eating your five a day quotient of fruits and veggies. Serving suggestions: In smoothies, by themselves, in cereal and yogurt.

8. Garbanzo and Other Beans
With beans, you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but garbonzos are also high in fiber, iron, folate, and manganese, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And if you don’t like one type, try another–black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless. Though they require soaking and cooking, the most inexpensive way to purchase these beans is in dried form; a precooked can will still only run you around a buck. Serving suggestions: In salads, curries, and Orange Hummus.

9. Broccoli
Broccoli contains tons of nice nutrients–calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. As if that isn’t enough, broccoli is also packed with phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Plus, it’s low in calories and cost. Serving suggestions: Throw it in salads, stir fries, or served as an accompaniment to meat in this Steamed Ginger Chicken with Asian Greens recipe.

10. Watermelon
Though you may not be able to buy an entire watermelon for a dollar, your per serving cost isn’t more than a few dimes. This summertime fruit is over 90 percent water, making it an easy way to hydrate, and gives a healthy does of vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant that may ward off cancer. Serving suggestions: Freeze chunks for popsicles; eat straight from the rind; squeeze to make watermelon margaritas (may negate the hydrating effect!).

11. Brown and Wild Rice
It won’t cost you much more than white rice, but either version is much better for you. Brown rice is a whole grain, contains more fiber than white rice, and provides you with essential minerals like magnesium and zinc, and at a cost of only 10 cents per 1/4 cup serving. Low in fat and high in protein and also fiber, wild rice is gluten-free, and is a great source of complex carbohydrates. It packs a powerful potassium punch and is loaded with B vitamins. Plus, it has a nutty, robust flavor. Serving suggestions: Use brown rice as a side dish, in a salad, as part of a stir-fry, or serve it with soup or stew; mix wild rice with nuts and veggies for a cold rice salad, or blend with brown rice for a side dish.

12. Beets
Beets are my kind of vegetable–their natural sugars make them sweet to the palate while their rich flavor and color make them nutritious for the body. They’re powerhouses of folate, iron, and antioxidants. Serving suggestions: Shred into salads, slice with goat cheese. If you buy your beets with the greens on, you can braise the greens in olive oil like you would others.

13. Butternut Squash
This beautiful gourd swings both ways: sometimes savory, sometimes sweet. However you prepare the butternut, it will not only add color and texture, but also 5 grams of fiber per half-cup and lots of vitamin A and C. When in season, butternut squash and related gourds are usually less than a dollar a pound. Serving suggestions: Try Pear and Squash Bruschetta; cook and dot with butter and salt.

14. Whole-Grain Pasta
In the days of Atkins, pasta was wrongly convicted, because there is nothing harmful about a complex carbohydrate source that is high in protein and B vitamins. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest staples you can buy. Serving suggestions: Mix clams and white wine with linguine; top orzo with tomatoes and garlic; eat cold farfalle salad on a picnic.

15. Sardines
Because not everyone has acquired a taste for these guys, you can still get a can of sardines for relatively cheap. The little fish come with big benefits: calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. And, because they’re low on the food chain, they don’t accumulate mercury. Serving suggestions: Mash them with parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil for a spread; eat them plain on crackers; enjoy as a pizza topping (adults only).

16. Spinach
Spinach is perhaps one of the best leafy greens out there–it has lots of vitamin C, iron, and trace minerals. Plus, you can usually find it year round for less than a dollar. Serving suggestions: Sautéed with eggs, as a salad, or a Spinach Frittata.

17. Tofu
Not just for vegetarians anymore, tofu is an inexpensive protein source that can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. It’s high in B vitamins and iron, but low in fat and sodium, making it a healthful addition to many dishes. Serving suggestions: Use silken varieties in Tofu Cheesecake; add to smoothies for a protein boost; cube and marinate for barbecue kebobs.

18. Milk
Yes, the price of a gallon of milk is rising, but per serving, it’s still under a dollar; single serving milk products, like yogurt, are usually less than a dollar, too. Plus, you’ll get a lot of benefit for a small investment. Milk is rich in protein, vitamins A and D, potassium, and niacin. Serving suggestions: In smoothies, hot chocolate, or coffee; milk products like low fat cottage cheese and yogurt.

19. Pumpkin Seeds
When it’s time to carve your pumpkin in October, don’t shovel those seeds into the trash–they’re a goldmine of magnesium, protein, and trace minerals. Plus, they come free with the purchase of a pumpkin. Serving suggestions: Salt, roast, and eat plain; toss in salads.

20. Coffee
Though it has been thrown on the stands for many a corporeal crime-heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis- coffee has been mostly exonerated on all counts. Coffee, which is derived from a bean, contains beneficial antioxidants that protect against free radicals and may actually help thwart heart disease and cancer. While it’s not going to fill you up like the other items on this list, it might make you a lot perkier. When made at home, coffee runs less than 50¢ cents per cup (fancy coffee drinks not included here, just the plain version).  Serving suggestions: Just drink it.

21. Water
Good old H2O is the least expensive and still the healthiest drink around. If your city water isn’t the best, invest in a pitcher with an internal filter or one for your kitchen faucet. You can also add a squeeze of lemon or other fruit juice to it for better taste.

Although that bag of 99¢ Doritos may look like a bargain, knowing that you’re not getting much in the way of nutrition or sustenance makes it seem less like a deal and more like a dupe. Choosing one of these twenty-one items, might just stretch that dollar from a snack into a meal and keep you much healthier in the long run.

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A Ticking Clock

Last year, I started doing yoga with my friend, Gina. The particular class we take is in the Vinyasa style, in which one moves through certain poses and positional sequences while focusing on breathing.  While there are many different types of yoga, in general, yoga is based in the belief that physical, emotional and spiritual health can be achieved through exercise, breathing and meditation.

The ending poses (which is not only my favorite pose but the only one I’m any good at) is called “Shavasana” or the corpse pose.  For those of you unfamiliar with yoga, it’s pretty much as it sounds–for 3 minutes, while laying on the back, with eyes closed and with the arms and legs spread at about 45 degrees, we’re instructed to breathe naturally, but with awareness of the rise and fall of the abdomen.  Shavasana is usually the last pose of almost every yoga session.

As we’re laying in our “final resting pose,” one particularly instructor always says (and very emphatically I must add), “You are dying.  Each and every day. You. Are. Dying.”  While these words are the least favorite part of the class for Gina, they are the best part of the class for me.  Her issue is that she does not feel the need to be reminded of such a thought as she is trying to relax.   For me, who admittedly is a touch on the anxious side, those words are the not so subtle reminder that time is precious…and fleeting.

They also remind me of something I read several years ago…

Imagine there is a bank which credits your account each morning with $86,400, carries over no balance from day to day, allows you to keep no cash balance, and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day.

What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course! Well, everyone has such a bank. It’s name is time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success.

  • To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
  •  To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
  • To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
  • To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
  • To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
  • To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
  • To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have. And remember, time waits for no one.              Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

The clock is running. Make the most of today.                                                                                                                                                               -Anonymous author

Realizing that some of you might find this cliché, the message is an important one, especially for those who more easily get lost in the commotion of daily life and in what, at least in the moment, seems critically important.  It is meant to momentarily and purposely shift our perspective to the bigger picture.   While my yoga instructor might be right (sorry Gina), as long as we’re here, we also have the ability to begin again each and every day.

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Healthy Movement and Activity: Tips and Ideas for Incorporating More Into Your Life

SwimmingMost everyone understands that increasing exercise and activity levels can help  with weight loss. But it’s about more than just burning calories and building muscle: healthy movement benefits our minds and emotions–our internal environment–just as much as our physical bodies. And when we feel stronger inside, we can see dramatic improvements begin on the outside, too!

Regular mild to moderate activity can improve your life by:
1. Easing stress and anxiety. A twenty-minute bike ride won’t sweep away life’s troubles, but exercising regularly helps you take charge of anxiety and reduce stress. Aerobic activities release hormones that relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being.
2. Lifting your mood. Exercise and activity can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication by releasing endorphins, the powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
3. Sharpening brainpower. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
4. Improving self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful.
5. Boosting energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more energy. Start off with just a few minutes a day, and increase your activity level as you feel more energized.
6. Promoting sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, exercise and activity help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. The more often you do it, the better the pattern gets.

You don’t have to spend hours pumping weights in a gym or pounding on a treadmill.  The key is to try to do some physical activity—however little—on most days. As it becomes more of a habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you remain consistent in your efforts (even if it’s just one day each week), the benefits will begin to pay off.

Top 5 Easy Exercise Ideas
1. Move more in your daily life. Walk, bike, take the stairs, garden, take stretch breaks or do short bursts of activity.
2. Find something fun, and vary your activities. Some trial and error is usually involved.
3. Get involved with a partner or a group. Make sure it’s someone who will stay positive and that you like being around.
4. Start, and progress, slowly, and expect ups and downs.
5. Measure, don’t weigh. To gauge your progress, stay off the scale and go by how your clothes fit, or take regular measurements of your arms, legs, waist and hips.

And some more helpful suggestions…
Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself.
Start where you are. Try not to compare yourself to others. We are all unique!
Find an activity you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep doing it! This is one of the main reasons people stop exercising. Self-discipline will only take you so far.
Start and progress slowly.
Maintaining momentum is much easier with a coach, partner, or group. This is one of the best ways to stay on track and get support.
Try keeping a fitness journal to track progress.
Remember it takes time to form new habits! Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day at the gym (or even a whole week) or skip your workout video. Don’t get down on yourself! Get back on track when you’re ready, and keep your goals in mind.
Lastly, listen to your body, and be patient and kind to yourself.

Change takes time. But by changing habits and being consistent, you can achieve healthy weight-loss goals and maybe even have some fun along the way!

 

 

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Discover Chia Seeds

Finding Your Strength with Chia Seed!

Chia! Chia!..Hearing those words remind of the commercial of the ceramic animals that can grow green hair…Your Chia Pet!

Today Chia Seed is one of the hottest talked about superfoods on the healthy choice market. So what is all the fuss about? Chia seed is an ancient superfood and a member of the sage family (Saliva Hispanica). The seeds are available in black or white and were a staple of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” is actually the Mayan word for strength. In fact, these little wonder seeds were considered a mega-energy food and were carried by hunters and messengers in small pouches as an incredible sustaining energy source. I’ve read that one tablespoon was believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours.

Personally I can attest to the sustained energy. I use chia seeds daily in my green protein drinks, as well as, in my banana pudding that my 12 year old son and I enjoy. Yummy!

Have I perked your interest? Why would you want to include Chia in your diet?

            2 Tablespoons of Chia seeds have been reported to contain:

  • 5 grams of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • 7 grams of Fiber
  • 4 grams of Protein
  • 205 milligrams of Calcium
  • Antioxidants Rich
  • Vitamins & Minerals: Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Molybdenum, Niacin, and Zinc

You are probably thinking that these seeds sounds very similar to another superfood, Flax Seed. Chia seeds look like tiny grey beads or some say tiny dinosaur eggs. Like flax seed, Chia seeds are highly “hydrophilic” meaning the seeds absorb water, expanding to 9-12 times their weight in water and are highly absorbable and Gluten Free.  One advantage that Chia Seed has over flax seed is that they are so rich in antioxidants, that the seeds do not deteriorate, and be stored for long time without becoming rancid. An unlike flax seed they do not have to be ground to have the nutrients become bioavailable.

How do you use these little jewels?

I mentioned above about my banana pudding, Chia seed when soaked for 15 to 30 minutes forms a gel and can be blended with fruits to make fruit puddings. As a raw food, they have a mild nutty flavor and sprinkle them on salads, add to granola mixes, or yogurt for extra protein and fiber. Ground them in a clean coffee grinder, you can thicken soups by adding the “Chia Flour” and giving your soup a nutritional boost. The uses are endless, easy, and beneficial.

Still on the fence about this wonderful little superfood? Let me share with you some of the     Top 5 reported benefits of Chia Seeds…

Lose Weight: The Chia Seed is considered a dieter’s dream come true…due to the fact that when absorbed expands to 9-12 times its size. Its water absorbing quality slows digestion, promotes a feeling of fullness and helps to moderate your blood sugar

Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: You non-fish lovers and vegetarians rejoice! You now have plant source that is high in healthy oil. By weight, Chia contains more omega 3s than salmon. Omega 3 fatty acid is an important component in the fight against high cholesterol and heart disease.

Helps to fight Diabetes:  When eaten with carbohydrates, Chia creates a gel that forms a physical barrier between the carbohydrate and the digestive enzymes that break them down. Basically, helping to slow down the impact to your blood sugar. Chia seeds enable the energy from carbohydrates to enter your system steadily, resulting in endurance, rather than a high spike and then plummeting.

Helps to fight the Anti-Aging Battle:  If you read anything about how to look younger, you would have read how Antioxidants are must in your diet. Antioxidants fight off free radicals in your body that damage the cell structure (collagen) and can cause disease and aging. Chia seeds are so rich in antioxidants that the seeds do not deteriorate; no other seed has such staying power.

An Intestinal Cleanser:  Having issues with getting enough fiber in your diet? Chia Seeds packs 7 grams of fiber in just 2 Tablespoon, Wow! Chia seeds work like a cleanser, working its way through our intestinal tract, helping to dislodge and eliminate old accumulated waste in our intestines. Many people find that easily adding Chia seeds to their diet has helped to promote more regularity.

Helping you live your life better, daily!

Kelly Lavieri, CHHC, CNS, AADP

References: www.longevity.com; www.drweil.com; www.cleaneatingmagazine.com

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Let’s Get Real about Artificial Sweeteners

After my last article on hidden sugars, where I gave tips on how to find sugars in the ingredients lists of processed foods, I had a terrible thought – in my zeal to drive you away from sugar, I may have steered you towards using more artificial sweeteners.  This was not my intention, so I want to take this opportunity to correct the course for a number of reasons, most importantly that these sweeteners can sabotage your weight loss efforts and prevent you from losing weight.

Artificial sweeteners have been around since the early 20th century and are used to sweeten food without sugar or calories, making it “safe” for diabetics or a “free food” for those trying to lose weight. If a dieter looks at this from a purely caloric perspective, there are fewer calories going into the body, paving the way to weight loss. But if you are reading my and my colleagues’ articles here, you know that we don’t look at things from a purely caloric perspective. Here are some of the reasons you should stay away from artificial sweeteners and some tips to reduce or eliminate them from your diet.

  • Research shows that using artificial sweeteners blocks the body’s natural ability to control calorie intake, and can actually sabotage your efforts to eat less.

Our bodies have a natural ability to regulate the intake of calories. When you eat or drink something, the body’s wisdom has learned that based on taste and texture, it needs to begin certain processes to get ready to accept the nutrients and gauge caloric intake. However, artificial sweeteners have been found to confuse the body’s natural process, and in breaking the link between sweet taste and managing caloric intake, makes it difficult to cut back on calorie consumption. So you might say that the diet soda you are drinking actually stimulates your appetite or at least makes it difficult for you to eat less.

  • Artificial sweeteners are chemicals with no nutritional value.

Plain and simple, most of these sweeteners were created in a laboratory and are chemical compounds that our bodies do not use as nutrients. A couple of the popular ones were discovered by accident: saccharin was found in experimentation with coal tar derivatives and sucralose was found during research to find a substitute for the pesticide DDT. (In both cases, the scientists tasted the results of their experiments, which is just weird.) Another common sweetener, aspartame, breaks down in the body into a number of poisons, like formaldehyde, and is associated with more than 92 health problems including migranes, depression, menstrual changes, and asthma. These and other artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA and are found in many food products, but that doesn’t mean that we must ingest them.

  • Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than natural sugars and naturally sweet foods.

Because so many of us are used to the ultra-sweetness of these substances, our own sense of taste has been dulled to the point that we cannot enjoy the sweetness of natural sugars and sweet fruits and vegetables which can satisfy our need for sweets and supply the body with needed nutrients as well.  Eliminating sweeteners and replacing them with small quantities of quality natural sugars over time will help you regain your taste for true sweetness with nutritional values.  As you wean yourself from artificial sweeteners, incorporate fresh fruits and sweet vegetables (like corn, squash and sweet potatoes) into your diet and use small amounts of quality, less processed sugars such as honey, maple syrup and brown rice syrup to sweeten foods and drinks.

How do you feel about artificial sweeteners? Let us know by responding to this post. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Lela Reynolds, Certified Holistic Health Coach, AADP

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Acupuncture: Ancient Science For Weight-Loss Today

While it may sound exotic and even a little “far out” to some people, acupuncture is really an ancient practice that has been used successfully to treat a variety of health conditions, including obesity and weight loss. When utilized as an adjunct therapy to dietary and lifestyle changes, acupuncture is very effective in a few key ways at making it easier for people to lose weight and then maintain the loss successfully.

Acupuncture is a needle-based alternative therapy, believed to help promote weight loss primarily by suppressing the appetite, boosting metabolism, and reducing stress and anxiety, all factors known to contribute to overeating and weight-loss difficulty. Considered more of a secondary goal in acupuncture, weight loss is often the result of treating the physical, emotional, and mental imbalances that lead to weight gain in the first place.

How Acupuncture Works
Though the exact mechanism is uncertain, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, illness in a person arises when the cyclical flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), or life energy, becomes unbalanced or is blocked along certain pathways in the body. By inserting needles into specific points along these pathways (termed “meridians”), acupuncturists can unblock and re-balance the flow, resulting in healing.

Western medicine views acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and increase blood flow to stimulated areas, which promotes healing.

Acupuncture points are also considered to have increased electrical sensitivity, and inserting needles at these points stimulates sensory receptors in the nervous system. Nerves then transmit these impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain, causing the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, promoting relaxation throughout the body.

So how does this help with weight-loss? When a person is feeling relaxed, emotionally stable, and is thinking more clearly, it is easier to deal with the stress, frustration, and anxiety that can trigger overeating and binging on fattening foods. Endorphins also affect the digestive and hormonal systems, so acupuncture can help restore the body systems that may be out of balance (i.e., the metabolism and the will power).

What To Expect From A Session
An initial consultation is the first step toward undergoing acupuncture treatments for weight-loss. A practitioner is likely to ask about your entire health history, as well as patterns of overeating and any real digestive difficulties. To determine the type of treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask many questions about your symptoms, behaviors, and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
•  The shape, coating and color of your tongue.
•  The color of your face.
•  The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulses in your wrist.

An initial evaluation may take up to 60 minutes or longer. Subsequent appointments usually take about a half-hour. A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve six to 12 treatments, scheduled over a few months. The cost is typically $50-$85 per session, and insurance may even pay for treatments.

Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body, but many that contribute to weight loss are located on the external portion of the ear. In Chinese medicine, the ear represents one of several microsystems of the body, and it is used frequently during treatments.

Acupuncture needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes very little discomfort. Between 5 and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a twinge, or even a deep, aching sensation once a needle reaches the correct depth. This sensation indicates the imbalance, and will usually dissipate within a few minutes. Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after they’ve been placed, or apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.

In most cases, the needles will remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still on the table and relax and the practitioner monitors you. When it’s time, there is usually no sensation of discomfort as the needles are removed.

The practitioner may also prescribe various Chinese herbal remedies, foods and dietary changes, breathing exercises, and activity or exercise plans for you to follow. The number of acupuncture treatments considered necessary will vary and depend much on the individual being treated, primarily their efforts and commitment to following the practitioner’s recommendations.

Research On Acupuncture and Weight Loss

Although there is a need for more scientific research on the role of acupuncture in promoting weight loss, some studies have been conducted. In a research review published in 2009, scientists analyzed 31 studies (with a total of 3,013 participants) and found that acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction of average body weight and improvement in obesity. In another 1998 study, frequent acupuncture (administered twice daily for four weeks) was found to suppress appetite and promote weight loss among overweight participants.

What to Know Before You Go
The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, licensed acupuncture practitioner. As with just about any medication or other type of therapy or treatment, there are some possible side effects and complications:
• Soreness. After acupuncture, you might have soreness, minor bleeding or bruising at the needle sites
• Organ injury.  If the needles are pushed in too deeply, they could puncture an internal organ — particularly the lungs. This is an extremely rare complication in the hands of an experienced practitioner.
• Infections. Licensed acupuncturists are required to use sterile, disposable needles. A reused needle could expose you to diseases such as hepatitis.

Not everyone is a great candidate for acupuncture, or for particular types of acupuncture. Conditions that may increase your risks of complications include:
• Bleeding disorders. Your chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increase if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin).
• Having a pacemaker. Some types of acupuncture involve applying mild electrical pulses to the needles, which can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation.
• Being pregnant. Some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.

Results You May Experience

After a session, some people feel relaxed while others feel energized. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If you are following your prescribed treatment plan and going for sessions but don’t experience improvement with your weight-loss efforts within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be helpful for you.

There is also evidence to support that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work. Since acupuncture has few side effects, it may be worth trying as an additional treatment for people who have had difficulty losing weight through diets and other conventional methods. It’s important to keep your regular doctor informed, also, so your health can be monitored from both approaches.

The Bottom Line
The basics of healthy weight loss and maintenance will always be nutrition- and activity-based changes. But there is a “third part, the mind-body aspect, you need to make sure you’re not missing out on,” says Wendy Kohatsu, MD, an integrative medicine specialist and assistant clinical professor of family and clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Acupuncture may help us bridge that mind-body connection more effectively, helping to heal the issues of overeating and weight-loss difficulty on a much deeper level.

If you decide that acupuncture might be a good approach for you, look for an acupuncturist with experience in the treatment of weight loss and management on www.Acufinder.com.

 

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Do You Know The Facts?

I sat with a new patient yesterday who came to see me because of a 15 year history of poor quality sleep. He describes feeling as if his brain is half-awake and half asleep, “like it’s aware of everything even though I know I’m asleep too”. He’s in his mid 40’s, is happily married and has a successful career as an attorney. He could not recall anything specific that provoked the poor sleep but feels his sleep quality has been progressively worsening with time. He feels “drained and depleted,” that he is not working up to his full capacity, is forgetful and has little energy for his family by the time he gets home from work. Extensive blood work and a complete physical exam revealed that he was basically healthy. After talking with him further and conducting the rest of his intake, I asked him what previous treatment attempts were made to address the poor quality sleep. He looked at me in a manner that I can only describe as confused. Surely during his 15 years of difficulty he must have tried something right? Wrong. “I just thought it was me” he said, “I never knew anything could be done about it until a coworker mentioned that she had similar problems and got help”.

Unfortunately, this type of situation occurs quite frequently in my practice. Which got me thinking, the Internet offers an endless supply of information so how is it possible that there can be such confusion out there? Sometimes there is so much information that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. And just to complicate the situation further, sometimes the answer isn’t black or white, but every shade of gray.

Why so many shades of gray? Think about it this way. You’re meeting your friends Jack and James at your favorite restaurant tonight-how do you get there? Do you drive? Take the bus? Get into the subway? Walk? Or maybe you have a friend with a helicopter? Whatever the method, all are possible mode of transportation that will leave you at your destination; albeit some faster than others, some more comfortable than others and some more costly than others. Many factors should go into your decision (how far is the destination, what time of day am I going, is there construction on the subway, what is the weather, and am I trying to drive across town in rush hour). And then there are factors that are unique to each individual. Meaning it would make more sense for Jack, who lives ten blocks away, to walk; while James, who lives five miles away, better not walk unless he only wants to meet for desert. Now, I didn’t mean to traumatize you with flashbacks from your algebra class, but the same type of approach would go into your sleep treatment and explains why one person can exercise or use the computer just before going to bed and sleep well, while another cannot.

Last month, we went over sleeping for health. You now know the hazards of not sleeping enough or having poor quality sleep. So the next question becomes: What is normal? To help clarify, how would you answer the following true/false questions? No cheating now!

1. The average sleeper falls asleep in 8 minutes?
2. Increasing sleep time prevents daytime sleepiness and fatigue
3. A sleep study is generally useful only if I snore or think I have sleep apnea
4. Feeling tired is normal, I just have to live with it.
5. Insomnia is always a symptom of depression and anxiety

1. The average sleeper falls asleep in 8 minutes
Answer: True. On average, Americans falls asleep in 7-10 minutes; however, the range can vary considerably. Before you lose any sleep over it, consider these points first. If you fall asleep in less than 5 minutes and truly feel rested and alert through the day, than consider yourself one of the blessed few and worry no further (I’m secretly envious of this group!). However, for most, falling asleep too quickly (less than 5 minutes) can be a sign that you’re too sleep deprived, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, poor concentration and a host of other physical, emotional and cognitive consequences. On the other hand, it’s also perfectly normal to take upwards of 30 minutes to fall asleep. Falling asleep is typically a gradual process working more like a dimmer switch rather than an instantaneous flip switch. If you’re lying awake much longer than 30 minutes or feel physically or emotionally restless, you may have insomnia or a circadian rhythm disorder, both of which can be treated.

2. Increasing your sleep time will prevent daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Answer: False. When we don’t feel rested, it’s common to assume that we’re not sleeping well or enough, but that’s not always the case. Just like one can have a problem that interferes with one’s sleep quality, there are disorders that effect daytime alertness as well. If you are sleeping 7-8 hours a night and not feeling rested, it’s important to figure out the source.

3. A sleep study is generally useful only if I snore or think I have sleep apnea
Answer: False. This is one of the most common misconceptions held not only by the public, but by many physicians and even some sleep specialists. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because when I sit with you, I hear you. I believe you. I know that you’ve tried everything and you’re at the end of your rope. That you’re exhausted and your boss, friends, and spouse have lost patience with you. You’ve lost patience with yourself and can’t stand to face one more sleepless night or exhausting day. So when I recommend a sleep study, it’s not to “prove” that you’re experiencing what you are, it’s to better understand the physiology behind your experience. A sleep study performed in a sleep center allows a unique opportunity to look at how you are generating sleep. That means I want to learn about more than just your breathing physiology, I want to learn about your muscle physiology and how your brain is generating sleep. Are you going into all the sleep stages? If so, are they occurring in the order that they should? Are you getting enough of some stages? Not enough of others? What is happening when you’re drifting in and out of sleep? When you’re restless in sleep? Are leg movements or atypical brain wave arousal bursts disturbing your sleep? A sleep study can provide the information needed to not only understand whether your symptoms are related to a disturbance of sleep quality or to a primary sleepiness disorder, but also help to guide treatment decisions.  

4. Insomnia is always a symptom of depression or anxiety
Answer: False. Depression, stress and anxiety can certainly interfere with sleep; in fact, short term insomnia is a very normal response to stress and sleep often improves when the source of the stress is either resolved or you’ve grown accustomed to it. It is also true that people who experience chronic insomnia have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than self-reported good sleepers. Further, chronic insomnia, if untreated, can increase our risk for future development of depression or anxiety even if you’ve never been depressed or particularly anxious. So clearly there is a connection between sleep and emotional health. Poor sleep and insomnia can happen to anyone—rich or poor, young or old, stressed or completely care-free, happy or depressed. Sleep is a neurophysiological process and we can experiences changes in our ability to sleep just as we experience changes in our ability to manage our blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, etc. Since low mood and anxiety commonly result from poor sleep, it can be difficult to tease apart which came first.

5. Feeling tired is normal, I just have to live with it.
Answer: False. We live in a world that breeds tiredness, fatigue, low energy and sleepiness. We’re all stretched too thin and have next to no boundaries between the end of the day and taking time out to relax and attend to our personal needs and health. If you suspect you may be burning the candle at both ends, as a first step, make a concerted effort to spend more time winding down and increasing your sleep time. However, if that doesn’t help or if it doesn’t seem that clear cut, it may not be. Tiredness, fatigue and sleepiness are some of the most common symptoms that sleep specialists see and they often signal an underlying condition that requires treatment. And yet it is estimated that only 1/3rd of people experiencing debilitating and dangerous fatigue ever mention it to their doctor. Aside from a sleep disorder, some other causes of persistent tiredness, sleepiness, fatigue include thyroid conditions, heart disease, anemia, vitamin and nutrition deficiencies, immune system dysfunction, chronic infection, hormonal imbalances, mood disorders and certain medications.

So there you have it. While not all sleep specialists would agree (thus the shades of gray), these are my thoughts regarding some of the concerns that commonly come up in my practice. Do you have a sleep question and you’re having difficulty separating fact from fiction? If so, we want to hear from you.

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