6 tips for a better sleep

alarmAccording to a 2010 study in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, the consequences of sleep deprivation at 24 hours is comparable to the cognitive impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Insomnia whether it is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or early morning waking is frustrating and can have significant impact on your overall health.

Sleep is crucial to our quality of life because it:

  • Improves concentration, memory and motor skills
  • Regulates appetite and metabolism
  • Helps with recovery and repair
  • Helps regulate our mood.
  • Is one of the building blocks of a healthy immune system.
  • Helps reduce stress
  • Helps the brain get rid of its waste

If you experience insomnia, practice the following suggestions to help you reestablish a healthy circadian rhythm.

1. Avoid hitting the snooze button
Any extra sleep you get is fragmented making it low quality. You also prepare the body for a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to finish resulting in fatigue throughout the day.

Solution
Set your alarm for when you actually need to get up. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day to support your natural sleep cycle.

2. Schedule it!
Catching up on sleep on weekends isn’t ideal. It can undo some but not all of the damage that sleep deprivation causes.

Solution
Go to bed and wake-up at the same time each day, even on weekends to stabilize your circadian rhythm.

3. Using technology before bed.
78% people engage in screen time before bed. The blue light from screens of computers, phones or tablets can delay the production of melatonin and keep you awake longer.

Solution
You can install the free software F.lux which changes the light of your computer depending on the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. You can also buy some blue ray blocking glasses to wear at least 2 hours before bedtime while viewing screens.

Instead of starting at a screen before bed, practice meditation to allow the body to relax.

4. Avoid stimulants before bed.

Solution
Avoid caffeine in the evening. If you are sensitive to caffeine try to limit your intake to mornings only. Finish your dinner at least 2 hours before bed. Avoiding alcohol close to bedtime as it reduces REM sleep, the phase which is associated with deep dreaming. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness. Opt for herbal teas such as chamomile, which has a sedative effect. Also limit your amount of fluids so that you don’t need to get up to use the bathroom.

5. Make sure your room is cool.

Solution
Your body temperature needs to lower for you to get to sleep. Set the temperature in your room between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. Cold feet are strongly linked to the sleep cycle. If you your feet are cold, put on a pair of socks to induce sleep more quickly.

6. Increase melatonin

Solution
Specific practices that increase melatonin are: eat/drink protein 30 min before bed for example 1 tbsp of almond butter, use dark out curtains or an eye mask.

If you have tried these recommendations and despite all your efforts you are still struggling to get a good night sleep consult a Naturopathic doctor to find the right natural sleep aid for you.

Make ahead lunches

soup-1006694_1280When it comes to making healthy lunches, planning is crucial. The good news is that once you get used to the routine it becomes easier.

Planning for healthy work or school lunches might look like this:

  1. during the week make a list of possible lunches
  2. create a grocery list
  3. create menu plan to ensure meal rotation
  4. prepare your meals Sunday and possibly a few on Wednesday

Choosing foods that stay in the fridge for a few days without going bad is key. As a general rule cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 to 4 days. This is why you might want to take some time Wednesday to cook a few things such as quinoa.

The following foods keep for at least 3 days once cooked and refrigerated:

Rice: 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Quinoa: 3 days in the refrigerator

Beans: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 1-2 month is freezer.

Chicken: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 4 month is freezer.

Boiled eggs: 1 week in the fridge.

Hummus: see the label. Most are good for up to 5 days after opening.

Foods that freeze well include: soup, stews, chili, pasta sauce, bread, baked goods, or homemade bars.

Not sure what to make? Here are a few lunch ideas:

Wraps
You can use flour tortillas, pita bread, collards or romaine lettuce as your wraps. Fill the wrap with your favourite fillings. Egg and tuna salad is good in romaine lettuce. Refried beans, salsa and cheese are good in a flour tortilla. Make a salad and stuff it into pita bread. Ideally you would have all the ingredients on hand and make your wrap in the morning so that it doesn’t get soggy overnight. You can also bring the filling in a separate container and make your wrap at lunch time.

Bento Boxes
For those who love variety, the possibilities are endless! If you need some ideas check out this post and if you want to make an extra special bento try these.

Hearty soup, stews and chili
Make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch. Use a slow cooker to save time.

Veggie Bowls
Add steamed, roasted or raw veggies over cooked rice, quinoa, rice noodles or another grain. Top with it beans, nuts, or lean meat for added protein and add a drizzle of your favourite sauce.
This is a simple and delicious sauce that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can add it to a veggie bowl, salad or use it as a dipping sauce.

Tahini Lemon Sauce
Blend 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup water.

Burrito Bowl
Layer some rice, refried beans, salsa and avocado. This is one of the quickest lunches to put together when you have everything on hand.

Once your meals are prepared, pack them in containers free of BPA and other toxins. It’s best practice to stay away from plastic as much as possible. If you do use plastic make sure they are dishwasher safe if you use a dishwasher and do not heat your meals in plastic.

Some ideas for safe packaging include: mason jars, stainless steam thermos and parchment paper. Ikea sells these glass containers that have good lids so they are less likely to leak. Terra 20 has a few stainless steal contain options such as this 2 layer sandwich box.

If you have children include them in the planning and prepping process so that they get into the habit of preparing healthy meals.

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

granola-787997_960_720Are you getting enough fiber? Most Canadians only get half the recommended daily amount. According to a survey by the Heart and Stroke foundation the average Canadian daily intake is about 14 grams instead of the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Fiber does more than keep us regular, it helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight, controls blood sugar, and lowers the risk of disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies are discovering the importance of fiber on gut microbiome. Research has found that when your gut lacks fiber the microbes are starved and start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut which can lead to inflammation and disease. You can read more about fiber and gut health here.HighFiberList

The article notes that you need to eat a high fiber diet consistently to maintain a healthy gut. If you currently aren’t eating enough fiber you will want to increase your intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating and discomfort. You will also need to drink more water to help move the fiber along.

There are 2 main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gel-like when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through largely intact. Some foods contain both types of fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types.

Here are some tips to increase your fiber intake:

  • Always compare food label when grocery shopping and opt high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Eat vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner.
  • Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.
  • Have some hummus and veggies as a snack.
  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and shredded coconut to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt
  • Download this list and keep it handy to make high-fiber choices.

By focusing on adding more fiber rich foods to your diet you will inevitably make better eating choices!

Be Sun Smart

beach-715603_1280

The best way for us to get vitamin D is from the sun but what are the best practices to do so safely? With so many sunscreen products available how do we know we are making a good choice?

A good place to start is to visit EWG’s Skin Deep Database to verify the safety rank of your sunscreen. Ratings of 3 or below are considered good, and zero is the best possible rating.

When shopping for sunscreen, you want to read the labels well and avoid conventional sunscreen which contain harmful ingredients such as: Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, parabens and more.

Instead opt for a mineral base sunscreen. The two common minerals are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. A few brands use only Zinc Oxide which is preferred because it’s a critical mineral nutrient and covers the full spectrum of UV protection and doesn’t contribute as much to free radical development. Titanium Dioxide doesn’t offer full spectrum UV protection and is not as natural for the body.

What about nanoparticles vs non-nano particles and chemically coated zinc oxide vs uncoated?
For these answers head over to the Badger Balm site where they have it all explained in depth. Badger.jpg

My top pick for suncare is Badger Balm because of the ingredients. It uses only uncoated non-nano zinc oxide, as its main active ingredient and has a short list of natural non active ingredients. The only unfavorable attribute is that it leaves a bit of a white layer on the skin. I have used the Sport version that is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Remember to reply to prevent a burn!

Other sunscreens that use only Zinc as their main active ingredient and are fairly easy to find include: Boo Bamboo and derma e® but the list of non active ingredients is long and some ingredients are questionable. Raw elements USA has good ingredients but it’s harder to find in Canada. It is available on Amazon.

To recap, the ideal sunscreen:

  • Is mineral based, uncoated and non-nano
  • Offers broad spectrum protection
  • Contains natural inactive ingredients
  • Comes in a tube not a spray. You don’t want to inhale the product.
  • Has an SPFs no lower than 30 and no higher than 50.

In addition to mineral base sunscreen you can also practice being sun safe by:

  • Avoiding sun exposure at peak times (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Wearing a hat, sun glasses and UV sun protection clothing
  • Staying in the shade when possible

Enjoy the sun!

 

5 ways to have more energy

energyDid you know that feeling exhausted is so common that it has its own acronym, TATT, which stands for “tired all the time”? If you regularly feel exhausted it’s a good idea to consult your health care professional to rule out any underlying health issues. Tiredness can also be the result of a busy lifestyle. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert throughout the day then you might want to try some of the following suggestion to boost your energy.

1 – Stay Hydrated with Water and Electrolytes

The human body is 55-75 percent water. All bodily systems depend on adequate water to sustain regular metabolic activity. Even mild dehydration can compromise function and lead to symptoms like thirst, dry skin, constipation, fatigue, headaches, and weakness.

How much water should you drink? Here is an easy formula to get you started:

Your weight (lbs) ÷ 16 = Daily intake (cups)

_______________ lbs ÷ 16 = _______________ cups

If you had an intense workout, try coconut water or water with lemon and honey to help replace the electrolytes your body sweated out.

2 – Limit or avoid caffeine

Caffeine and coffee simply fool your body into producing fake energy. Caffeine temporarily takes large amounts of adrenaline from your adrenal glands, resulting in a longer-term of energy levels and a greater dependence of caffeine for energy.

If you do consume caffeine have your last caffeinated drink before midday. It takes women 8 hours to metabolize caffeine.

Substitute your cup of coffee with Rooibos tea. Rooibos tea is made from South Africa’s red bush plant and is packed with antioxidants including aspalathin, which regulates the adrenal hormones, helping to reduce stress and maintain high energy levels.

3 – Natural light

Exposure to bright, natural light first thing in the morning is the best way to wake up your brain and to regulate your biological clock and keep it on track. Enjoy your breakfast in by a sunny window or better yet, get outside for a few minutes and enjoy the natural light and the fresh air which will also help you feel more energized.

4 – Daily Exercise

Incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise into your day will not only give you more energy, it will make you healthier and happier. Exercise releases endorphins that will leave you feeling uplifted. Physical activity also sends oxygen and nutrients to your cells, helping your system work more efficiently. For an extra boost of energy exercise outdoors in the morning to get the benefits from the natural light.

5 – Eat Chia Seeds

Did you know that the ancient Mayans and Aztecs warriors used to eat Chia seeds for energy and alertness during war? Chia seeds have high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 that help regulate glands, fight adrenal fatigue, and reduce inflammation. They are also high in protein and fiber, which keep blood sugar stable.

Stating your day with refined carbohydrate such as a bagel, muffin or high sugar cereal can disrupt blood sugar levels, causing a mid-morning crash. Adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie or oatmeal can help satisfy your hunger and avoid an energy crash.

Chia seed pudding is a delicious snack and it’s easy to make.

Chocolate chia pudding

  • 1 ¼ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 4 pitted dates

Place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour the pudding in glasses or small jars and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.

Spring cleaning – Go green!

vinegar-768948_960_720Before you get ready to do some Spring cleaning take some time to re-evaluate your cleaners. Conventional cleaning products are full of chemicals that can be harmful to our health and the environment. Some chemicals do not break down at all and can pollute our food chain. In effort to make Spring cleaning as less toxic as possible I did some research for natural DIY cleansers and found some interesting blog posts which I am sharing below.

Did you know that if you place essential oils in a plastic container you can increase the chances that the plastic will leach chemicals? If you make DIY products find out how you can easily make your own glass spray bottle and natural all-purpose cleaner here.

Speaking of DIY cleaners… Did you know that there are some natural cleaning ingredients you should never mix? Head over to Brendid.com to find out more.

Cleaning wipes are convenient but they can be wasteful. Here is a post on how you can easily make your own with a few ingredients and an old shirt.

DIY isn’t you thing? For a list of safe cleaners and their ratings, visit Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

If buying your own products why not support your local stores?

Terra20
Herb and Spice
Rainbow Foods
Kardish
The Natural Food Pantry

Now you are ready for some Spring cleaning! You will save money, cut wasteful packaging, and keep everyone in your house (including your pets) safe from toxins.