Gut Health: Do’s and Don’ts

Gut health is front and center all over social media and in the news. Everyone talks about the “best” things you can do for gut health, but I’m here to tell you something different…they are almost all wrong, because nutrition and gut health is unique and personalizedThere is no one solution for everyone; sure, there are best practices and suggestions, but it all comes down to your own lived experience.

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My first tip is simple: listen to your body. Take note of how different foods make you feel.

  • Do you get a stomachache after your morning bowl of cereal and skim milk? Try a plant-based milk instead.
  • Do you feel queazy after a cup of tea on an empty stomach? Hold up on caffeine before eating.
  • Do you have trouble falling asleep? Try having your last snacks either earlier in the evening or closer to bedtime.

It sounds trite, but so many of us listen to the typical routine of three square meals a day or not eating after a certain time or getting stuck with our preferred habits.

Second tip: experiment! It is not normal to always have stomaches or bloating. If you are experiencing those things, try something different. That might mean working with a nutritionist on an elimination diet, adding new supplements into your routine, or simply keeping a food journal to track how certain foods make your body feel.

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I used to suffer from bloating, stomachaches, cramps–you name it, I had it. These symptoms impacted my life quite a bit. I would hesitate to go out with friends at night, was nervous about trying new foods, and would often just want to sleep through my pain. Over time I learned more and more about what triggered my stomach pain and bloating, and I’ve had way fewer problems since! I still experience symptoms occasionally, but nowhere near as severe or frequent.

I’ve been trying natural supplements for prevention and to help ease my occasional discomfort. For the past month or so, I’ve been using Quality of Life Supplements Probiotics and Peptisol supplements. I have been taking probiotic supplements for years, and it can be really difficult to discern what’s working and what’s not working. I’ve been taking ProbioPure for the past month and have been really happy with the results. The ingredients are simple and they have the research to back up the effects. There are a ton of probiotics out there that have little clinical evidence so choose your probiotics wisely!

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The Peptisol supplement is one that both my boyfriend and I take if we feel indigestion or any kind of upset stomach (usually this happens around dinnertime for me). It’s made with ginger root, artichoke leaf extract, and GutGuard DGL. Ginger has long been used as a stomach soother across traditions and GutGuard has significant research showcasing its benefits.

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These might not be the right supplements for you, but again…it’s all about experimenting and listening to your body! If you do want to give these a try, use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements.

Ted Talk Friday: Best-Self Activation

What a wonderful talk; this came out only a few days ago and it might be one the best talks I’ve seen in a while. Dan Cable, a new name to me, wove together a beautiful, complex, and persuasive story of what it means to “activate our best selves” and how we can do it more often.

I’ve completed the peer surveys for friends in the past and see it as such a valuable tool. Cable also mentioned a test to determine your values and positive character strengths–I highly recommend taking it. The survey is called the VIA and can be found here.

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When do you feel like your best self is activated?

How you view intention + how it shapes your interactions

I believe we construct so many detrimental stories about others and how they treat us. We assume they are trying to leave us out, trying to make us feel bad, or trying to ignore us. But what if we change that and instead assume they are oblivious, self-focused, or are struggling with their own issues? While this does not change the actions of others, it can help us feel better about the intention, about the why we so often struggle with.

When we frame others as humans who only want belonging and happiness, the negative assumptions we make often melt away. I don’t want to seem naive; sure, there are always those malicious people who are actively trying to hurt us, but they are far less common than we think. I know I would rather feel naive than bitter.

This way of thinking is self-protective and inherently positive; leaving the space for us to give others the benefit of the doubt where we often fill in the blanks with malintent.

I think of all the times someone made an off-hand comment or forgot to thank me when I assumed it must have been a purposeful, spiteful choice. In my experience, spite is the exception, not the rule. While it is not easy to cultivate a positive outlook on others, it can be easy to begin questioning assumptions–and even asking the person directly in some instances.

What if that guy who cut you off in the parking lot just lost his job or is worried about his ailing mother? Would you feel differently about how he stole your spot? Maybe you wouldn’t cuss him out or send over a death glare. Maybe you would instead feel compassion for him and his situation. I know feeling compassion always leaves me feeling happier and healthier than an expression of rage or frustration in moments like these.

Ted Talk Friday: Cracking the Grace Code

I used to associate the word “grace” with a specific religion, but in the past few years I have realized that this is not aways true. Grace is about gratitude, spirituality, and feelings of connection and wholeness, in my opinion, and none of these have to be religious in nature. Living with grace is about gratitude and self-compassion; Anne Barry Jolles’ does an amazing job of explaining how to use grace as a tool and way of being in the world. I hope you enjoy her talk.

 

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What do you think when you hear “grace”?

Ted Talk Friday: The #1 Public Health Issue Doctors Aren’t Talking About

I am on a Lissa Rankin kick! She has such a fresh perspective on wellbeing, and her engaging speaking style makes her so relatable. She does the perfect job of mixing scientific studies, anecdotes, and her own opinion to create a cohesive story. I have recently moved from a community-centered college and my home, where I am surrounded by family, to a totally new city on the West coast. I am consciously working to combat loneliness; I am prioritizing social events and opportunities not just for fun, but also for my health.

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Do you agree? Do you live in a community?

Mindful Monday: A First

I’ve decided to introduce a new staple to my blog–Mindful Monday! This series will be focused on living mindfully and what that means day to day. Mindfulness is a huge buzzword, but what does it really mean? There are dozens of definitions out there…

According to google,

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Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center describes mindfulness as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” The site goes on to mention the importance of acceptance of self, thoughts, and feelings.

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Merriam-Webster defines it as ” 1. the quality or state of being mindful 2. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also:  such a state of awareness.”

I think mindfulness can be achieved in almost any moment, yet it is still so challenging. I find it particularly challenging in that I have a mind that does not turn off, which is something I think many of us can relate to! I am always thinking about things on my to-do list, worries, or things in the future–which is certainly far from mindfulness. While I have not started a mindfulness meditation practice, I am working to incorporate mindfulness more naturally into my life.

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I take a shower mindfully, I try to practice mindfulness in bad traffic, I cook a meal mindfully. All of these moments, however small, punctuate my day and add a moment of calm and a sense of being even just slightly more centered. I think the key lies in taking baby steps. Adding a twenty minute mindfulness meditation every morning to start is just a little too ambitious for me and where I am in my life right now, but these little moments count. For me, it is more about sustainability and quality rather than going all out–and I am okay with that.

In an effort to share my practice, and hold myself accountable, I am going to begin a weekly series focusing on mindfulness and reflections of my mindfulness practice.

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Do you practice mindfulness? What does your practice look like?

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Is Glycemic Index Useful?

“Glycemic index” is a common indicator of how a food impacts blood sugar, or how quickly blood sugar rises after consumption. High glycemic diets are linked with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a variety of cancers, and cardiovascular disease.[1] Glycemic index helps classify carbohydrates beyond the categories of simple or complex; simple carbohydrates are sugars or highly refined grains compared to complex carbohydrates, which include unrefined grains, whole grains.[2] This has led to recent trends focused on “low glycemic” foods and sweeteners, like agave syrup or coconut sugar.

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The glycemic index (GI) is based from the glycemic impact of glucose, or simple sugar, which has a has variable GI depending on the GI reference list used. GI scores differ across different sources, but always use glucose and white bread as reference points within the index. While this variability in scores has been attributed to methodological differences in the past, it is becoming more clear that GI may be more complicated than researchers once believed.[1]

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A recent study at Tufts University found that GI can differ as much as 25% among individuals and 20% within an individual. This study found the same food can have low, moderate, and high glycemic impact, which makes it difficult to create categories that are accurate across individuals. The study used white bread, which is often villainized as a high glycemic food, yet in the study it had moderate to low impact for a number of participants. Additionally, the same foods have variable impact even within the same individual. The results suggest that glycemic index has far less value than was previously believed.[3]

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While glycemic index promotes healthy choice in theory, it is not a reliable measure. A senior author of the study suggests that individuals should choose whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean meats. Glycemic index also only observes the impact of carbohydrates in isolation, rather than looking at the effects of a whole meal; individuals eat more than carbohydrates in any given meal, which renders the isolated effects of a single carbohydrate source far less meaningful in real life situations. While advertisements may continue to tout the benefits of low GI food products, research has shown that the benefits are limited.

References: 
1: Foster-Powell, K., Holt, S. H., & Brand-Miller, J. C. (2002). International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. The American journal of clinical nutrition76(1), 5-56.
2: Saris, W. H. M., Astrup, A., Prentice, A. M., Zunft, H. J. F., Formiguera, X., Verboeket-van de Venne, W. P. H. G., … & Vasilaras, T. H. (2000). Randomized controlled trial of changes in dietary carbohydrate/fat ratio and simple vs complex carbohydrates on body weight and blood lipids: the CARMEN study. International journal of obesity24(10), 1310.
3: Matthan, N. R., Ausman, L. M., Meng, H., Tighiouart, H., & Lichtenstein, A. H. (2016). Estimating the reliability of glycemic index values and potential sources of methodological and biological variability. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition104(4), 1004-1013.

This post was originally featured here on 03/29/17. 

Ted Talk Friday: Good Boundaries Free You

I have found that boundaries are one of the most challenging things to maintain in relationships. We are not taught them, and they are often seen as cold, unkind, or distant. I love this talk because it highlights the real benefits of boundaries and how they can improve both your own life, but also your relationships. Boundaries in work, relationships, and with ourselves are crucial and I think Sarri GilmanSarri GilmanSarri Gilman does a great job explaining that.

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How do you practice good boundaries? Where do you find boundaries the most challenging?

Ted Talk Friday: Balancing our Adams

Most of the Ted Talks I post are about fifteen minutes long, but here is a shorter talk that still packs quite the punch. David Brooks gives a great five minute talk on two types of virtues; the dichotomy he describes between Adam I and Adam II really rang true for me. I constantly catch myself caught up in my Adam I virtues–striving to get into this or that program or wanting to get a certain grade. While Adam I certainly has a role in our lives, it is important to respect and nurture the virtues of Adam II in order to live a truly rich, fulfilling life. I plan to do a more in-depth post on this in the future, but for now…here is the amazing 5 minute Ted Talk!

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Can you think of moments where one Adam takes over in your life? How do you handle those moments?

Ted Talk Friday: Grit

I think grit is what differentiates people who excel versus individuals who do well and “make it by.” Everyone I know who has achieved amazing things has an immense amount of grit. While hard work is not always everything–I don’t think that people who struggle simply aren’t trying–grit is the key to accomplishing many tasks. You’ll notice that this talk ties in very well with last week’s Ted Talk on growth mindset with Dr. Carol Dweck. Grit is so important, especially for people who don’t feel particularly gifted with one skill or “special” talent. Being smart, funny, or gifted is not everything…it’s about putting in the work.

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Do you feel like you have grit? Where did you learn it?