My Top Wellness Books

World Book Day is this Monday and I could not resist sharing some of my favorite books on health and wellness with you. I have to admit I’ve always been a book junkie. I love curling up with a good book. I can be reading anywhere from one to three books a week.

 

If you’re interested in picking up a book to do a deeper dive into improving your health and wellness here are some books to check out:

 

  1. Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch. A great read. I gobbled this one up in a day. The great thing about the genes he talks about is how we can clean them up and get them functioning better to relieve a lot of symptoms and/or health issues we may be experiencing.

 

 

  1. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman does it again with yet another best-selling book. He gives a really good general account of what you should be eating and dispels many misleading myths in the food industry.

 

  1. No Grain No Pain: A 30-Day Diet for Eliminating the Root Cause of Chronic Pain by Dr. Peter Osborne. This was a game-changing book for me. If you want to learn more about gluten and gluten sensitivity and how it’s affecting you this is a must-read.

 

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Did you know clutter can stress you out and affect your health? I used this guide to do a serious tidy up in our apartment and my mom’s house. If you need some relief from clutter this is the book for you.

 

3 Ways to Meditate Without Meditating

Too busy in your day to meditate? I hear you. When we have a lot on our plate or something disrupts our routine a meditation class or practice can easily go by the way side. Or you may have never practiced it in the first place and that’s fine.

Here are 3 simple, easy techniques that can give you the same great benefits of meditation like improved concentration, more energy and increased happiness without really doing it.

 

  1. Breathe gently and slowly through your nose.

 

Sounds counterintuitive right? It is not uncommon to be told to breathe deeply and especially through your mouth. However, mouth breathing and deep breathing aren’t the answers. In fact, according to Patrick McKeown, author of The Oxygen Advantage, breathing through the mouth using just the upper chest increases our flight or fight response and makes us more agitated and stressed.

 

Focus on breathing through your nose gently instead. Try this:

  1. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.
  2. Focus on the airflow in and out of your nose. No need to force your breathing or count the number of seconds.
  3. Aim for gentle, slow breathing.
  4. Slow it down to the point where you feel air hunger because air hunger signifies that CO2 has increased in the blood, which is actually a good thing.

The body breathes to get rid of excess CO2 so the air hunger you feel when you do this exercise doesn’t mean your oxygen levels have dropped. When you work on slowing down your breathing, CO2 increases in the blood and your blood vessels open up, making you feel warmer.

 

When to do it: in front of the TV, in the shower.

 

  1. Use Becalm Balls.

 

These little squishy balls called Becalm Balls are based on carniosacral therapy – a technique used to improve the functioning of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

 

The balls induce something called a “stillpoint”. A stillpoint essentially shuts off your body’s response to stress. Your central nervous system and its fluids switch to a state of calmness from its usual state of alertness. It also helps ease muscle tension and helps improve the functioning of your nervous system.

 

When to do it: in the morning when you hit snooze or right before you go to bed. Just place the balls under your head at the same level as your eyes. You can start slow by just using it for 3-5 minutes a day and work yourself up to more if need be.

 

  1. Unleash the power of prayer.

 

Spiritual meditation meaning prayer was actually found to be more effective than secular meditation, according to a study done by Wachholtz and Pargament at Bowling Green State University. They found that the group who practiced spiritual meditation had greater decreases in anxiety and more positive mood, spiritual health, and spiritual experiences.

 

Say a simple prayer out loud, in your head or anyway you want to do it. You can ask for help, healing, happiness or more health in your life. Anyone can do it regardless of your background or beliefs.

 

When to do it: in the elevator, on your commute to work, in front of your computer- any time of day works.

 

If you’re interested in learning more ways to relax download your free guide “7 Quick & Easy Ways to Relax” here.

What You Can Learn From My Health Journey

This past year has been a big year for me especially healthwise. I’ve been missing in action and for good reason.

 

I’m all about eating healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle. I eat a lot of organic foods and a lot of veggies. I meditate and manage my stress well. Sleep is a huge priority for me. Yet I felt something was off and what I was already doing was not enough. Little signs cropped up that made me think there was more to it.

 

Signs like feeling tired for no real reason. I thought I just needed to slow down. I only wrote a few pages a day for my upcoming book and limited my speaking engagements. But that still wore me out. Not normal.

 

I needed to dig deeper. I started first by getting my gut tested. I also got tested for toxins, heavy metals and mineral deficiencies. My tests revealed A LOT. I found out I have:

 

  • A gluten sensitivity
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
  • Copper toxicity
  • Arsenic (it can be found in our drinking water and rice. Eating brown rice was a daily must for me)
  • Mercury (I love sushi so I’m not surprised. Even eating wild caught fish doesn’t help)
  • Severe mineral deficiencies for zinc, potassium, sodium, and magnesium to name a few. (My blood test only showed low zinc)

 

In short, my energy levels were like a car with its tires stuck in the mud. I was stuck.

 

To say the least my health was a hot mess. Healing has become my #1 priority. I’m following a protocol designed especially for my unique needs right now. It’s a journey. Being healthy is a lifelong journey, not a destination where you stop once you reach a specific goal. It’s ongoing.

 

What can you do?

 

I encourage you to listen to your body – really tune in. What signs and symptoms are you getting? Dig deep and become the CEO of your health. Find out what might be at the root cause of your problems. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for you.

 

Become your own health advocate. Educate yourself and ask tough questions. I certainly do. While I’m working with a great team of functional medicine and wellness practitioners I update them on what I’m experiencing and what I know and have learned about myself and challenge them. I also know all my test results and have a bird’s eye view of what is happening to my health.

 

Resources you might want to look into

 

If you’re ready to look deeper here are some resources that can help:

 

 

  • Blood test with your doctor, especially a functional medicine doctor. More specifically some things to look out for:
    • Your thyroid (the full panel including TSH, T3, T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies)
    • Your liver enzyme ATL levels (if it’s higher than 19 for women or 30 for men it’s suggestive of non alcoholic fatty liver disease which is reported to affect 38% of the population)
    • Your CRP levels which indicate the amount of inflammation in your body. High levels are considered a non-specific marker for disease.

 

 

  • GI Map is the most reliable gut panel. It gives you a pretty comprehensive report on what is going on in your gut. (NOTE: if you live in NY look for a practitioner out of state who you can work with long distance. NY currently does not allow for testing. You can contact the lab to get a list of practitioners.)

 

  • Hormone testing. Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book The Hormone Cure is a great place to start understanding your hormones (reproductive, adrenal and thyroid). She provides is a quiz to find out where you may need extra hormonal support.

 

  • Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) to test for heavy metals and mineral deficiencies. A HTMA looks at what minerals are reaching your cells, which cannot be seen through most other tests. For example my magnesium levels were normal according to my blood test but the HTMA revealed that I was severely lacking. This is also the most reliable test to find out if you are copper toxic. You could easily be if you’ve ever been on birth control, used a copper IUD, are or have been vegetarian, have copper pipes and/or have adrenal fatigue. The best labs to use for testing are Trace Elements (TEI) and Analytical Research Labs (ARL) through a practitioner. One place you can look one up is here. http://functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com/practitioner-inquiry-form/

 

(NOTE: if you live in NY look for a practitioner out of state who you can work with long distance. NY currently does not allow for testing.)

 

  • Genetic testing. Ben Lynch’s book “Dirty Genes” is a fantastic resource that provides a questionnaire to find out which genes you may need to “clean up” without necessarily going through the testing. The science of epigenetics, which the book focuses on, helps you understand how you influence your genes and health. You can totally support your genes to prevent disease and optimize your health. I found that by doing a real genetic test I got some profound and more detailed insights on my health and root causes of my ailments that the book does not go into. If you really want to dig deeper you can order your genetic test through 23andme and send the raw data for further analysis to Strategene.

 

  • Gluten intolerance testing. The most reliable way to know if you truly are sensitive to gluten and not just to the mold in it, for example, is genetic testing. You can order it here. The GI Map can also indicate whether you are sensitive or not by measuring your antibodies for gliadin, a marker for gluten sensitivity. To know for sure if you are genetically hard-wired to be sensitive to gluten get the genetic test here.

 

Most of your testing can be done through your functional, integrative or naturopathic medicine doctor or practitioner but if not you can order some basic hormone tests at:

 

The Canary Club www.canaryclub.org

Direct Labs www.directlabs.com

 

This is an investment. If you feel off despite your best efforts to lead a healthy life it’s worth it. You are worth it and most of all you deserve it.

3 Ways to Handle Difficult Conversations Without Losing Your Cool

Have you ever been in a difficult conversation and you feel like yelling, kicking or screaming? It can be hard to keep your cool especially when emotions are running high on both sides.

 

Your blood pressure can soar, your palms sweat or your cheeks flush. Your brain gets bogged down with feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, embarrassment, fear or shame.

 

We’ve all been there whether it’s a conversation we try to sweep under the carpet or it comes when we least expect it and we don’t know what to do.

 

No two situations are ever going to be alike. Practicing responses and how you’ll deal with these situations can help you keep your cool to effectively communicate and resolve any issues. But remember always use your best judgment.

 

Here are three techniques that can help you handle difficult conversations with your boss, colleague, friend or family member.

 

  1. Expressive writing. According to Tammy Lenski, conflict mediator, expressive writing helps the mind work less hard, which is crucial for a critical, difficult conversation.

 

Researcher and psychologist Hans Schroder came out with a recent study along with his colleagues Jason Moser and Andy  Henion to prove that expressive writing gives us an edge.

 

According to Moser “expressive writing makes the mind work less hard on upcoming stressful tasks, which is what worriers often get “burnt-out” over, their worried minds working harder and hotter. This technique takes the edge off their brains so they can perform the task with a cooler head.”

 

Based on the research Lenski suggests doing the following to use expressive writing to your advantage:

  • Pick a quiet spot and do expressive writing right before you step into the difficult conversation.
  • Write for roughly 10 minutes and write freely about your thoughts and feelings, otherwise, you’re missing the point.
  • You can get rid of the writing. There is no need to hold onto it unless there is something constructive and useful in it for the upcoming conversation.

 

 

  1. Acknowledge responsibility and honor the other. Holly Weeks from Harvard Business School says this technique can be effective especially when you use it at the beginning of a conversation. The reason is that it immediately focuses attention without being aggravating, on the difficult things the speaker needs to say and the listener needs to hear. It honors all parties, the speaker, listener, the relationship and the speaker’s responsibility.

 

This can be especially effective in stressful conversations because it honors the other person. It can start off simply by saying, “I apologize for not being as open/honest/forthright with you as I wanted to be regarding fill-in-the-blank.

 

  1. Win them over by restating your intentions. Weeks calls this the clarification technique, and it’s a highly disarming one. It’s best used in situations where the other person has misinterpreted your intentions. Without having to psychoanalyze the other party in a difficult conversation you can diffuse it by restating your intentions with something like. “I can see how you took what I said the way you did, Mike. That wasn’t what I meant. Let’s go over this list again.”

 

By using this technique the conversation can go from confrontation to a point of agreement. It’s about understanding and hearing out the other person’s intentions and not arguing for your own.