Gratitude is an immensely powerful force that we can use in the most simple of ways to expand our happiness and cultivate loving relationships, it can even improve our health, both mental and physical.
Given the holiday, November feels like an appropriate month to share the Power of Gratitude, the very many powerful health benefits to a regular gratitude practice along with some tips and thoughts on how to cultivate a grateful heart, plus if you scroll to further down, I’m even offering a free download of a Gratitude Journal worksheet you can use daily, as part of your practice.
I invite you, this week and beyond, to explore ways to support living gratefully as a way of life, not simply something we celebrate once a year.
The list of health benefits of MCT Oil or medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat, includes fat loss, appetite suppression, increased energy, improved cognition, improved athletic performance, to name a few. Read on to see why I use it, how it differs from coconut oil, how to take it and more!
A balanced, nutrient-dense diet rich in healthy fats is essential to us being our very best! Every single cell in our body needs fat to function, most especially our brain cells. Our brain is actually the fattiest organ in our body at over 60% fat. You already know my feelings on the importance of healthy fats in a well-balanced, nutrient-dense whole foods diet, but you can read more about the Benefits of Healthy Fats.
At this point I have to imagine you’ve heard the buzz surrounding MCT Oil. One of the quickest sources of clean fuel for both the body and the brain, MCT oil is hands down one of the best ways to power up your performance or kick start a nutrition program.
What is MCT Oil?
“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has many health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. MCTs are a type of fat that can be readily used for energy by your body and do not have to be broken down before use. They are precursors to ketones and help your body burn fat instead of burning carbs. Ketones are one of the brain’s two primary fuel sources, and also a vital source of ATP energy for the body. ATP energy is what allows every single muscle in your body to move. While ketones from fat, rather than glycogen from carbohydrates, are the primary source of fuel for those on a ketogenic diet, but you don’t have to fully go keto to benefit from MCT oil and ketones.
MCTs get their name because of the length of their chemical structure. All types of fatty acids are made up of strings of connected carbon and hydrogen. Fats are categorized by how many carbons they have: short-chain fats (like butyric acid) have fewer than six carbons, medium-chain fats have between 6–12 carbons and long-chain fats (like omega-3s) have between 13–21.
Most fats consumed are taken into your body then must be mixed with bile released from your gallbladder and acted on by pancreatic enzymes to break it down in your digestive system. Medium-chain fats are digested easily and once they reach your intestine they are sent via the bloodstream directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism. MCTs even pass the blood-brain barrier to supply your brain with an instant boost of energy. MCTs are absorbed more quickly than longer chain fats, as there is less work for the body to do, in breaking down the carbon bonds, meaning they can be used quicker as fuel, rather than being stored as fat.
Medium-chain Fatty Acids May Help With:
Our thoughts have the power to transform our reality.
The Healing Practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam
Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam – Respond to negative thoughts and patterns by thinking and doing the opposite.
If you’ve followed Tasty Yummies for sometime, you are aware that my yoga practice has played a very integral role in my healing and my health, along with my journey toward self-love and self-confidence. I jokingly say that yoga is the gateway drug that came into my life, rocked me and changed me forever – the “drug” that got me on the path to healing. But in full honesty it truly was the stepping stone that brought me to a place where I could finally prioritize my health and from a totally non-ego centered approach, it allowed me to place ME and my happiness above all else. Yoga was the first introduction I had to learning to love and celebrate my body, to trusting myself and most importantly, to knowing that I was actually worthy of being happy, vibrant and well.
It was sometime in 2006 that I first stepped onto my yoga mat, and while I didn’t know this at that time, it was that first unrolling of my mat that fully changed the trajectory of my life moving forward. It was the first time that I made a choice to prioritize my self-care above all else, to give myself permission to fully love myself and to trust that what lied ahead, while intensely challenging, would make for a better version of me.
My yoga practice has evolved greatly over the years. From a daily, rigid, before dawn, self-led mysore practice, to group ashtanga practice, to sweaty vinyasa classes anywhere and everywhere I could take them in, from coast to coast. A few years ago my personal practice eventually reached a place that I was yearning for more and it was then that I received my 200-hour and then 500-hour certification to teach, which I used to host retreats and teach regular classes, publicly and privately. These days, my personal yoga practice is much more private and intimate, with a far less stringent, regimented approach.
While I don’t have a scheduled 90 minute practice daily anymore, yoga still seeps into every single one of my days, even if just by way of the philosophies and methodologies inspiring my approach to daily living. Often it’s the practice of conscious breath work in a stressful moment, or quite literally physical stretches prior to or just after lifting heavy weights or having a rigorous workout of some kind. Some days I make my way to the beach to flow. Often I don’t. I find myself, most days, without consciousness, creating a symphony of breath and movement when I need it most or finding that beautiful balance between effort and steadiness in all aspects of my living. There may not be any greater constant in my life than the practices I have cultivated through yoga.
Throughout my yoga teacher training in 2014, I had a great many lightbulb moments. Literally open mouth “Aha!” moments. Realizations not just in what my body and mind were capable of, but rather in recognizing the control that I had unknowingly harnessed through my practice over the years up to that point. The control of creating my own happiness on the mat and in my life. There were beautiful practices that I had cultivated, unconsciously, which greatly contributed to changing me and much of it finally had explanation with these teachings. I could finally put words and thoughts to them and almost tangibly hold them in my hands so that I could study, cultivate, practice and share them with others.
Studying the yoga sutras and more specifically, Pratipaksha Bhavanam, were probably the most eye-opening aspects of my teacher training and to this day, despite my practice and my teaching career having changed drastically than what I ever could have imagined, they continue to provide daily practices and inspiration for a better life.
Yoga at 8,839 feet?
It was at the very top of Half Dome mountain on a trip to Yosemite last week, at the end of the most intense and rigorous hike (and experience) of my life, after facing my biggest fears and heading head on into place of great discomfort – that I had a great moment of true revelation! It was on top of that mountain, while sobbing in pure pride for what I had just accomplished, that I had the great realization that it was my yoga and the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam that got me through and to the top of that mountain that day! Both literally in the actual hike to the peak, but also the years of healing and transformation that led me to even being able to take that journey to be there, in the first place.
In every moment of self-doubt on the journey that day, in every intense thought of great fear, in every question of “But, what if I fall?” I had the unconscious ability to tap into this important practice and change both the dialogue and the outcome. I wouldn’t allow it to continue, I honored it in the moment, I expressed gratitude for it’s teachings and it’s purpose, then I shut that shit down and then literally heard the words – “Oh, my darling, but what if you fly?” (Erin Hanson)
2016 will go down in the books as an intensely challenging and pivotal year for a great deal of us. If you too are counting down the days to starting over in 2017 with a vow to change and have a better year, let’s reflect on these resolutions and how to make them last. Mentally we need that idea of pressing a magic reset button in hope that we can leave our baggage behind in a four digit number and wash our hands of it. By the end of the year it’s as if our candle has been burned at both ends and we grasp at the belief of starting over at the stroke of midnight.
I have learned through my own ritual work with the moon and seasons that everything is on a cycle and having our own practice to mark the beginning and end of them can help you manifest things you want to attract and release that which no longer serves you. The moon expands, gets full and bright and then retracts until its dark only to start the cycle again. In the fall, the leaves die and fall off of the trees, everything retreats and goes within for Winter and emerges with new life and birth in Spring. We are not immune to these natural cycles. It’s why we focus so much on the New Year! But before we can make room to bring new things into our lives, we must release the old and clear out the clutter. I am going to help you set this intention for release through a simple ritual I have experienced results with.
I am excited to bring you the first post in an ongoing series from Brook Albrigo, a Shamanic Reiki Master and very dear friend of mine. You have heard me speak previously about the very important roles that reiki and the subtle body have played in my healing journey, I have also shared very specific details of healing sessions with Brook. Brook will be joining us here monthly to share more about reiki and the strong influence in which energetics can play in healing, including simple tips to restore balance and promote vitality and wellness.
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When will the rollercoaster of emotions from the past few weeks stop? The severe divisions, the resulting solidarity being shown in protests and by people vowing to stand up for one another, the complete shock of realizing how profoundly the beliefs of others can potentially affect us. If the current events have left you raw, breaking down crying at the grocery store, or fumbling for control of your anger or incredulousness perhaps what I have to share can help you get your bearings amidst absorbing other peoples’ emotions and amplifying this difficult time. The beauty of this is that we are all waking up to just how deeply connected we are to one another.
In hindsight, as I was in Yosemite national park a week before election day, the powerful flow of the storm fed waterfalls and rivers were a premonition. I gathered strength from the waters, mountains and trees not knowing I was being prepared for the events that were to follow. As a shamanic healer I use a technique known as Nature divination- the practice of connecting to elements in nature to receive guidance. Messages come from particular nature spirits -like trees, plants, mountains or waterfalls. We believe in shamanism that everything has a spirit living inside of it that we can communicate with if we learn how to listen. On my solo adventures on hiking trails, I gave attention to each rock, tree and animal; tuned to receive messages. Lucky for me, I was alone and spared the curiosity of fellow hikers wondering why I was talking to a tree!
I was intensely concerned with the violence and conflict at Standing Rock in North Dakota and while the guidance I sought was regarding that situation, I found it to be relevant to what we are experiencing today as a human collective and have felt comforted by receiving this knowledge. When we feel helpless, sometimes that is a sign that we need to re-center and remember that we are part of a higher calling, a bigger picture, and we should listen to our guides that are right in front of us everyday. This is how I was able to maintain the past week and be of assistance to others.
I realized the tools and techniques needed to ground and care for ourselves may get lost in the daily shuffle of life but they are always there and I have created a simple list of self-care rituals to help us all through. We just need to decide our well being is worth making the time for and be willing to get a little bit out of our comfort zones.
I am so excited to introduce you all to Brook Albrigo, a very dear friend of mine. You have heard me speak previously about the very important roles that reiki and the subtle body have played in my healing journey, I have also shared very specific details of healing sessions with Brook. I am very honored to announce that Brook will be joining us here monthly to share more about reiki and the strong influence in which energetics can play in healing, including simple tips to restore balance and promote vitality and wellness.
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If someone had told me 6 years ago that I would become a Shamanic Reiki Master I would’ve laughed in their face and told them to get their head checked. Those words just didn’t exist in my vocabulary until the day, immobile and injured, I sought physical pain relief and found healing on an extraordinary level.
The path that followed was one I never for one moment felt that I chose, but rather that it chose me. I had to surrender to it or be dragged kicking and screaming. Either way, THIS was happening!
Before I discovered healing through energy work, I was completely comfortable in my routine of self destructive and toxic co-dependent ways. I was living in New York City, working in the beauty industry, sometimes working weeks without a day off. I was convinced all the sacrifice would pay off – it’s all part of the ‘city hustle’ and you can sleep when you’re dead, right? The stress and disregard for self care was so out of control that I had developed insomnia, digestive issues, a constant eye twitch and I couldn’t calm my nerves enough to take the subway home without at least two drinks in my system.
Looking back and knowing what I know now, this was all just a major distraction. A diversion I had unknowingly created to avoid the real issues underneath the surface. I was more willing to sacrifice my health, happiness and overall well-being than face the hard truth – I simply did not love myself. Even worse, I hated myself. I had been on antidepressants for years trying to numb this feeling of never being enough or worthy. I was adept at smiling and pretending that I had it all together, but deep down was this great deal of self loathing and suffering. While initially antidepressants did help me get through a tough time, I had come to rely on them for too long and wanted to eventually come off, but did not think I was capable. All of these circumstances combined with my Saturn Return (an event that happens to all of us about every 28—30 years which brings about major change), the perfect storm was created.
Read the rest of this entry »
I received compensation from Alcon for the below post, but all opinions expressed here are mine.
Glasses and contact lenses have been a part of much of my life. When we moved to California over three years ago, I actually had to give up wearing contact lenses as I began to suffer from dryness, allergies and itchy eyes – nearly daily. This certainly complicated things as wearing glasses in the kitchen, dealing with the steam of the oven or the dishwasher fogging up the lenses, can complicate things while cooking. Plus, glasses while at the gym or yoga practice, sliding off your sweaty face is also annoying and cumbersome. After some changes to my lifestyle, managing ongoing allergies and getting back to tip top eye health, I am back to wearing contacts again and I am loving my new DAILIES TOTAL1® contact lenses. Daily disposable contact lenses are totally new for me, but I am loving the freedom to enjoy my on-the-go lifestyle without the hassle of glasses and I love that each day, my contact lenses feel fresh and new. If you would like to try them, visit DAILIESChoice.com to learn about the Alcon DAILIES® Choice Mail-In or Online Rebate Offer and how to save up to $200 on a year’s supply of DAILIES TOTAL1® contact lenses!*
Research shows that much like the rest of our bodies, what you eat can also help support eye health as you age. Of course, as always, it is recommended that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in color, like orange, yellow, red and dark green as these are particularly likely to include the vitamins great for eye health. Foods rich in antioxidants are also known to help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans; as well as cataracts and other eye-related conditions. It is documented that people who supplement their diet with Vitamin C, antioxidants, zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamin E experienced about a 25% reduction in risk of developing serious AMD1https://www.macular.org/antioxidant-vitamins-and-zinc-areds.
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Digestion 101: A North to South Process
Here we are, at the end of the road. The large intestine is the final step in the process of digestion. By this point you probably more than understand the concept of digestion being a north to south process. We have talked about it at length starting first the brain and the mouth, and the importance of being in a parasympathetic state and properly chewing your foods, then of course the stomach and the dire need for proper hydrochloric acid production, how the accessory organs, the pancreas, liver and gallbladder continue the process of digestion, releasing bile, enzymes, various hormones and allowing the small intestines to finish digestion but more importantly do it’s very important job of assimilating nutrients and finally last but not least, the large intestine.
How it Should Work
The large intestine, or the bowel, is compromised of 3 sections, the cecum, colon and the rectum. The leftover chyme from the small intestines, passes through the illeocecal valve and first into the ascending colon. At this point in a healthy digestive system, what is left as chyme (the digested food) after the small intestines, is indigestible fibers, lots of water, sloughed off cells and bile. The large intestine is all about absorption and recycling.
As in the esophagus and the small intestine, the contents of the large intestine are pushed forward by a sequence of muscular contractions called peristalsis (a type of motility or muscular movement). After passing through the illececal valve the remains travels from the ascending colon, across the transverse colon where waste forms, into the descending colon, to the sigmoid colon and then the stool moves out of the body.
Digestion 101: A North to South Process
As we continue more south in digestion, after first the brain and the mouth, then the stomach we move from the first part of the small intestines, the duodenum and it’s interaction with the accessory organs, the pancreas, liver and gallbladder and into the function of the small intestine.
After we leave the duodenum, the small intestine is less about the actual process of digestion, from a sense of breaking down the food we eat and it is more about the assimilation and absorption of nutrients.
The first part of the small intestines, the duodenum, acts more as a part of the stomach than the small intestine and the jejunum, ileum and villi are responsible for assimilation.
How it Should Work
The small intestines have a dual role as an organ and a gland.
As we talked about in the previous post, The Accessory Organs – The Pancreas, Gallbladder and Liver, the small intestine releases mucous to keep things moving and it also releases two hormones: secretin and cholecystokinin.
Secretin stimulates the pancreas to release bicarbonate to lower the pH of the chyme and pancreatic juice. The CCK stimulates the gallbladder to release bile (to read more about these processes please see post #3).
By the time that the chyme has left the duodenum, thanks to the processes of the accessory organs, the chyme should be almost entirely digested.
- The carbohydrates have been broken down into glucose molecules
- Proteins are broken down into amino acids and polypeptides
- Fats are broke down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules
Peristalsis, a series of wave-like muscle contractions moves these absorbable molecules into the jejunum and the ileum, the middle and end parts of the intestine.
Within the small intestines, we have millions of villi, tiny finger-like projections that protrude from the epithelial lining of the small intestines. These villi and their microvilli absorb the nutrient molecules directly into the bloodstream, where they are carried throughout the entire body.
Digestion 101: A North to South Process
As we move further south from the stomach, while the small intestines are next in line for the food, but we first take a small pause/detour to discuss “the accessory organs of digestion”. The pancreas, liver and gallbladder, each play a very important role in the digestive process and each can be affected with their own dysfunction as well.
The stomach, small intestines and large intestines are all part of the system of digestion we call “the alimentary canal”, “the gut tube” or “digestive tube”. Between each of these organs we have valves or sphincters that keep the food where it is supposed to be and move it along when the time and the environment is right. These accessory organs are not a part of this tube or system but they play a major role in the process.
There is a synergistic and symbiotic relationship with the small intestines and these accessory organs, so we will discuss first how these play a role before we move into the function of the rest of the GI tract.
The duodenum is the start of the small intestine, but it almost acts more as part of the stomach, in it’s roles of breaking things down further playing a larger part in the process of digestion, vs the rest of the small intestine being less of a digestive organ and more about absorption or assimilation.
THE PANCREAS, GALLBLADDER AND LIVER:
How It’s Supposed to Work
When the pH of the chyme (the digested food moving from the stomach into the small intestines) is in it’s normal range, 1.5 – 3.0 , which we talked about in the stomach post. This is very acidic and necessary to the stomach performing it’s duties. As it hits the pyloric valve and into the duodenum with it’s proper pH, this is where the roles of the accessory organs come into play. This highly acidic chyme is what triggers these functions.
The duodenum no longer wants this highly acidic chyme and in order for the enzymes to work correctly it has to take that chyme to a neutral pH of 7.0. This happens by way of sodium bicarbonate, which is released by the pancreas to alkalinize the chyme. This release of sodium bicarbonate is signaled by secretin, a hormone released by the small intestines, which as you might have already guessed, is triggered by the (proper) acidic level of the chyme, that pH of 1.3 – 5. (Ahem, here is that reminder to look north, if the stomach isn’t producing proper HCl, then none of this will function properly, either!!)
Digestion 101: A North to South Process
As we continue more south in digestion, after the brain and the mouth, next up we have the stomach. Before we get started, I wanted to remind you that you will constantly hear me reiterate as we go through this step-by-step process to “always look north” and I want you to truly understand what this means, exactly. I am referring to the fact that often times dysfunction that presents itself from further down the line, is actually due to a malfunction more north. For example, as you will read about in this second post and as we talked about briefly in the first, (the brain and the mouth), if you are eating in a stressful state and your body doesn’t make the necessary switch to that parasympathetic mode (rest and digest), then before your stomach ever had a chance to function properly, the brain basically threw it under the bus. So, while the symptoms may present themselves in the stomach (or even further south) it may not make sense to supplement, treat or approach the symptoms specifically until we instead move more north to investigate if these malfunctions are treatable with just some simple lifestyle and mindset shifts.
This is not at all to say that all digestive dysfunction starts in the brain, that would make my job and my own healthy journey so much simpler. In fact, there are many reasons why dysfunction can exist, as you will see, but beginning the investigative process at the start, way up north, allows us to rule out the possible, more simple resolutions before we move deeper and into more challenging treatments.
How it’s Supposed to Work
After we chew our food, it turns into what we call a “bolus”. The bolus passes through the esophagus and the cardiac valve (the lower esophageal sphincter) and the bolus then enters our stomach, At this stage gastric juices are released. I like to think of the stomach as a blender. Mucous, pepsin and hydrochloric acid are all released for the “churning and burning” stage of digestion. Both mechanical and chemical breakdown happens at this stage.
The hydrochloric acid (HCl) being the most important of these gastric juices as it creates an acidic environment that disenfects the food and aids in the breakdown. Despite popular belief the stomach is absolutely meant to be acidic. In a healthy individual the pH of the stomach during digestion should drop to 1.5 to 3. We have a thick mucosal layer in our stomach, that acts as a barrier that protects the cells from the acid.
As many of you know, my digestion has been the source of much on and off distress over many years of my life. While I found the greatest relief by going 100% gluten-free after discovering an intolerance over 11 years ago, my digestion in the time since, has still not been without challenge and discomfort and at times, straight pain. As I began the journey to heal my body of my newly discovered autoimmune condition last year, we first needed to address my still, not-so-great digestion. This foundational approach to the healing of consequences, such as autoimmune conditions, by first treating digestive dysfunction – is a common approach, especially for functional and naturopathic doctors and nutritionists, who know that without properly functioning digestion, we cannot expect to ever find health and vitality. Without proper digestion we can be sure that we aren’t going to adequately assimilate the necessary nutrients through the food we are eating, no matter how healthy we eat and no matter what supplements or medications that we take. In working with a naturopathic doctor, we discovered early last year that I was struggling with leaky gut, and even found at the start of this year, after a year of dealing with the leaky gut, yet still not feeling 100%, that I had an unwelcome parasite and an excess of pathogenic bacteria (both likely the results of having a leaky gut, for who knows how long). It’s been a long year, to say the least.
Through the process of my own personal journey, I have and I continue to learn so much about digestion. This personal, ongoing path towards healing and all of the knowledge and know-how I have collected along the way, is what ultimately prompted me to go back to school to become a certified nutritional therapist. I wanted to truly learn and understand all of this in much deeper and fuller way, to allow me to not only continue to help and heal myself and my loved ones, but to also share this knowledge with others and hopefully help them help themselves, in the process.
So much of what we have been learning in school, about nutrition and more specifically, digestion, has really struck home for me. Much of what we cover are very simple concepts that I truly believe most people need to understand, and support – all of this ultimately has inspired me to share with you guys more about the process of digestion! I know so very many of you, too, are plagued by these varying epidemic levels of dysfunction and I want to empower you with the knowledge to overcome them.
In this series of posts I am going to break down the north to south process of digestion, covering how proper function should occur and also discussing the typical dysfunctions that can derail this process along the pathway. I am also going to offer advice, tips, foods, supplements and other remedies, both traditional and not, to hopefully bring you healing.
Digestion 101: A North to South Process
Digestion is a north to south process, it begins in the brain and ends in elimination. More often than not, while we feel the signs and symptoms of poor digestion further down the line, in the stomach or the upper or the lower GI, simply treating those symptoms with band-aid-like approaches, natural or not, likely won’t get to the root of the problem. To properly address any digestive dysfucntion and truthfully many other nutritional deficiencies, dysfunctions, illness, allergies, etc – we must first start up north, acknowledging possible dysfunction and continue moving south until we address all possible culprits.
Just as proper digestion is a north to south process, so is dysfunction. So, to properly understand and diagnose digestive dysfunction, we have to start all the way at the top, up north in the brain. Yes, the brain is one of THE most crucial elements of digestion. One of the most important take-aways, I hope this first post gives you, is an understanding that remedying digestive malfunction and dysfunction doesn’t always rely on supplements and major dietary changes, oftentimes if can be simple lifestyle changes that can make all the difference in the world. All of the tips I offer in this first post, won’t cost you a dollar, you don’t need to track down supplements or special foods and in fact, you can start today. So, let’s peel back the layers of digestion, before we supplement our way out and instead, let’s support the process as it’s supposed to happen.
As a side-note, these northern-most points in the digestive process are probably my most favorite to cover, they are the starting points of the entire process, but they also require so little, in terms of support.