Superfood: Yacon Root

I don’t know about you, but I love food. I love everything from Thai food, to Mexican, to waffles, to mangoes, to ice cream. However, finding the right food to eat and when to eat it is such a challenge. If I’m being honest, grocery shopping is a headache. Because I haven’t reached health guru status yet, I still get lost in the grocery aisles wondering what the hell I should buy. I hum and haw over recipes and stare off to space in the middle of the store. (Did you know you should try to shop in the outer edges of a grocery store because that’s where the freshest, healthier foods are?)

What’s a girl to do?!

Well, as I do more research, I keep stumbling across gold mines of delectable, satisfying, body awakening foods. Have you heard of “superfoods”? It’s a really popular term that is thrown around in the health world and the name really says it all. Superfoods are foods that contain many health-optimizing properties that promote weight loss, chronic illness reversal, and mental/emotional wholeness. They are foods that should be part of your diet simply because they are so good for you. These foods won’t solve all your problems, usually because health issues are more complicated than just adding in a couple of good foods. However, superfoods will provide a lot of beneficial nutrition that your body desperately needs.

That’s where yacon root comes in.

Yacon Roots

I discovered yacon root a couple of weeks ago when I was reading an article by Yuri Elkaim, a fitness and nutrition expert (who is awesome, by the way). I did a little research and I was sold on this nifty plant.

Yacon is a perennial daisy grown in South America for their sweet, tuberous roots (yacon root). The tubers contain  fructooligosaccharide, which is an indigestible carbohydrate made of fructose. This carb passes through the digestive system without being metabolized, which means that it has a very low caloric impact. It tastes sweet, but instead of going straight to your hips like that jelly-filled donut, it passes right through your system!

Daily consumption of yacon root has been known to contribute to weight loss, as well as lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides which are associated with heart disease. Do you struggle with constipation or diarrhea? Take some yacon root! It has a prebiotic function, which can improve and optimize digestive health and gut fermentation.

You can buy yacon root in pill form or as a syrup. I prefer the syrup because you can put it on toast, add it to smoothies, coffee, or tea, or pour it on waffles as an alternative to other syrups. It’s really sweet and satisfying with minimal effects on your caloric intake and blood sugar!

So if you want to lose weight or you’re just looking for an alternative to unhealthy sweet treats, give yacon root a try! You really can’t go wrong.

♥ Michaela


Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more health info and fun!

 

Cortisol – Part 3: Healing Your Body

Welcome to my final blog post in my three part series about cortisol. If you haven’t read part one and two, please give them a read. Those posts will provide the necessary background information as to why it is important to reduce cortisol in your system and strive for hormonal balance.

As I’ve previously discussed, cortisol is a necessary hormone that helps your body get into action and survive intense, stressful situations. However, when cortisol runs rampant, it can cause quite a bit of wear and tear on the body. This can lead to mild to severe symptoms that can overhaul your physical, mental, and emotional health.

So how can you combat cortisol, bring balance to your body, reduce (and even reverse) the effects of cortisol on your system? Keep reading!

First, let me list some simple things that may help to slow you down and relax. These practices may seem obvious, but they really work!

  • Getting a massage (either professionally or from a friend/partner).
  • Mild exercise, such as a walk, swim, or fun sport.
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong – You can join a class or find really helpful videos on youtube.
  • Mindfulness Meditation – I’ve provided some videos in my previous posts and there are more videos you can find on youtube.
  • Sleep – It’s really, absolutely vital that you are getting enough sleep. If you are sleep-deprived, not only are you throwing your body systems out of rhythm, but it will be harder to cope with daily life.
  • A balanced diet – It is important to eat healthy, raw foods more often than processed, sugary foods. Eating at every mealtime and enjoying healthy snacks in between can kick start metabolism and keep your body happy.

Along with healthy, stress reducing practices, there are also vitamins, minerals, and herbs that can really help with reducing stress and balancing cortisol in the system. For example:

  • Vitamin C – As mentioned in my previous posts, cortisol can inhibit your immune system. Take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily when you are feeling stressed and run down.
  • Magnesium – This mineral is necessary for enzymes to convert carbs, protein, and fat into energy, which will obviously help with increasing energy, but also losing weight caused by cortisol. It is also important for nervous system function. Supplementing magnesium at night time can help calm and relax your system so you are ready for a deep sleep. Most people are low on magnesium, so it’s a good idea take it regularly even if you aren’t stressed.
  • All B vitamins  – You can by a B-complex supplement, which should contain all essential B vitamins. These vitamins are important for enzyme function, as well as mental function and stress reduction.
  • Magnolia Bark – An antioxidant used in Chinese medicine to treat low energy, anxiety, and depression by modulating neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain.
  • Ginseng – An adaptogen (meaning it brings balance to the physical processes of the body) that can improve mental function. It can also increase energy and endurance and improve the immune system. I mentioned in my previous blog post that cortisol can increase testosterone. Well, ginseng can reverse this effect by bringing balance to testosterone in the body.
  • Ashwangandha – Nicknamed “Indian Ginseng” because it has similar effects on the body as ginseng. This herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine to “balance life forces”, meaning it is used to treat insomnia, adrenal fatigue (which can be caused by too little or too much cortisol), and promote bodily relaxation.
  • Kava Kava – A great root for treating stress and anxiety. For more information, check out this post that I wrote about Kava.
  • St. John’s Wort – It is often used as an herbal alternative to antidepressants. It is used to improve mood and energy, as well as provide relief from fatigue that is caused by depression and high stress. It does all this by bringing balance to neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • 5-HTP – Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted by the body into 5-HTP, which can then be converted into serotonin. Increasing serotonin (if you are lacking), can relieve depression, insomnia, and stress. There is are certain type of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that aim to do exactly the same thing as 5-HTP. If you are currently using SSRIs, this may be an effective, natural alternative for you.

There are many more supplements and herbs that can be used to boost relaxation, reduce stress, and calm the body, but I just wanted to highlight a few that I have come across. Like all supplements and herbs, please do research before diving in and taking them. Most of these supplements can be taken safely, but some of them cannot be mixed with other medications or chronic illnesses. I would also advise seeking health advice from your doctor, naturopath, or other health care professional.

If you suffer from chronic stress, it may be a good idea to seek out professional help. There’s no shame in seeking outside assistance, especially if you have experienced some sort of trauma in your life. Life can be really hard to deal with, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through. Let’s face it: our society does not teach people how to handle stress and emotions properly and safely. It’s no wonder depression is an epidemic that’s only rising in North America! I have listed some therapies below that have been proven to help people manage their stress (some of which I have tried myself). I hope that one or all of these therapies can be effective for managing your stress.

  • Cognitive/behavioural therapy – This is probably the most popular form of therapy in the Western world. It used to change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviour, as well as solve current problems. I tried this therapy for two years and found it very helpful. There are many therapists and counselors available, so a quick google search should help you find one in your area.
  • Somatic experiencing (SE) – This is a form of therapy used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related effects from trauma (mental or physical). The essence of SE is that trauma (or stress) is stored up in the body as energy. The goal is to release that energy to relieve built up tension and pain. I’m currently seeing an SE therapist and I am finding it quite helpful!
  • Tension, Stress, and Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) – This therapy is very similar to Somatic Experiencing, but more intense. I haven’t tried this myself, but I know others who have benefited from it. I follow a blog called The Ass Movement and there’s a great post on TRE that you can read there.

That wraps up my three part series on cortisol! I hope that some of what I’ve shared has and will help you combat stress. Trust me, we’re in this together! If you have any questions, feel free to comment.

Make sure to take a breathe, meditate (Ommmm), and stretch out those limbs yoga-style! You deserve it!

♥ Michaela

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more health info and fun!

Cortisol – Part 2: How it Works

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. ‘Blorft’ is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

Can you relate to the above post? Are you overwhelmed with life, but you just keep going, pushing onward through the stress even though you can feel its wear and tear on your body? The amount of stress that we put ourselves through is astronomical in the Western world and, what’s even crazier, is that it’s largely unnecessary. Even though stress and busyness is considered normal, sometimes even praiseworthy, that constant stress will come back and bite you in the ass.

As previously discussed in Cortisol – Part 1: the Stress Hormone, cortisol is a hormone that the pineal gland generates to help the body cope during extremely stressful situations, like fighting off a rabid dog. However, if cortisol levels remain too high for too long, the body may become unable to regulate cortisol in its system.

Before I talk about what you can do to manage your cortisol levels, I wanted to discuss how cortisol actually effects the body. This way you can see that it is an essential hormone, but also one that can cause a lot of problems if our stress levels run rampant. Please read below to find a general overview on the impact of cortisol on the body system.

  • Cortisol can inhibit insulin from moving glucose (sugar) into the cells, which raises the level of glucose in the bloodstream. Naturally this can cause blood sugar imbalances, which may lead to hypo- or hyperglycemia.
  • It can partially shut down the immune system by interfering with t-cell production and function. Because of this, you can become more susceptible to illness. If you find yourself frequently catching a cold or flu, this may be why.
  • It can inhibit the uptake of amino acids into muscle cells and inhibit bone function and calcium absorption, which can decrease bone density and muscle mass.
  • Cortisol can make the body more sensitive to epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). This can cause vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels), which will increase blood pressure and heart rate.
  • It can interfere with the production and function of thyroid hormones causing your thyroid to work too hard (hyperthyroidism) or not hard enough (hypothyroidism).
  • It can increase gastric acid production in the stomach, which can cause acid reflux, digestion issues, and intestinal problems.
  • It can interfere with fertility and pregnancy, which can make it difficult to conceive and may interfere with the health of your baby.
  • It can interfere with your metabolism and this can cause intense hunger, food cravings, and an increase in abdominal fat.
  • It can have an impact on the hippocampus in the brain, which can throw off your emotions, inhibit your memory capacity, and cause cognitive impairment.
  • Cortisol is naturally released in your body during the morning hours to wake you up. However, if you have an imbalance, cortisol may be released at night time. This can cause insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
  • Because of the general impact of cortisol in your system, it can cause fatigue from lack of sleep and an overworked or sluggish system.
  • Cortisol can increase in testosterone, which can cause high blood pressure, increase in body fat, an increase in estrogen, mood swings, water retention, & more.

If you were in a survival situation, most of the side effects of cortisol would be very helpful. If we go back to my rabid dog scenario, it makes a lot of sense that your body would need an increase in adrenaline to either get you fighting or running away from said dog and a decrease in metabolism, which would not be a very helpful function in the moment. However, as you can see, prolonged stress can have quite a toll on the body. Without proper management, cortisol can do more than make you anxious. It can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering what you can do to decrease your stress and normalize your levels of cortisol. Well, you’ll just have to wait for my final installment: Cortisol – Part 3: Healing Your Body.

Until then, hang out with a dog (which is scientifically proven to reduce stress), go to bed early, and listen to this 5 minute mindfulness meditation!

♥ Michaela


Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more health info and fun!

A Revolutionary Way to Oxygenate Your Body!

A Revolutionary Way to Oxygenate Your Body!

Check out my boyfriend’s post on exercise with oxygen therapy! It really is a revolutionary therapy that is having a huge impact on the health of those who use it.


Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more health info and fun!

As you may know, there are many avenues of potential exploration when it comes to breathing techniques, protocols, and technologies. Recently I have been reading about a revolutionary way to increase health and oxygenate the body that I think after understanding the implications you will be just as excited to hear about!

Meet Manfred Von Ardenne, the man who helped develop an atomic bomb… and an astonishingly simple technique to oxygenate the body and heal disease.

Siegmund_Loewe_&_Manfred_von_Ardenne

Ironically, the same man who worked on the atomic bomb also developed an incredibly powerful technology for health, not destruction!

Talk about reversing bad karma..

Manfred von Ardenne (20 January 1907 – 26 May 1997) was a German research and applied physicist and inventor. He took out approximately 600 patents in fields including electron microscopy, medical technology, nuclear technology, plasma physics, and radio and television technology. From 1928 to 1945, he directed his…

View original post 964 more words

Cortisol – Part 1: the Stress Hormone

Everyone knows that stress is bad for you. In our busy society, stress is an expected, even accepted, part of life. However, it is very clear that human beings were not meant to have crazy schedules and run themselves ragged. We aren’t meant to live off of less than 6 hours of sleep a night and chow on fast food between daily activities. We were made to relax. That crazy notion flies in the face of our society that equates busyness with success. However, continuous stress will wear down your health, make you fat, and destroy your mental and emotional well-being.

Take it from someone who knows. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder about three years ago because my stress actually put me in the hospital on several occasions. Because my anxiety was off the charts, I was having seizure-like episodes and I actually thought that I had developed epilepsy. I had to temporarily move back in with my parents so that they could take care of me, take a break from work, and drop out of university. It was a crazy time in my life, but I’m really glad that my anxiety and stress levels are much lower now.

Speaking of, have you ever heard of cortisol?

Cortisol, also aptly nicknamed “the stress hormone”, is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and released as part of the body’s natural cycles. Cortisol levels in the blood rise in the morning to pep us up for the day and then drop to its lowest point around 3am to ensure a good night’s rest. Cortisol also helps the body handle stress by shutting down unnecessary bodily functions to direct all its energy to dealing with the stress at hand. This can be quite important if, say, you’re being attacked by a rabid dog. Instead of your body focusing on digesting the sandwich you ate 15 minutes earlier, it will harness all its energy to fighting off the dog. Great, right?

While cortisol is quite important when we are faced with stressful situations, this can become a problem if our stress does not go away. Most of us rarely encounter life-threatening situations, yet our stress remains at high levels on a daily basis. Our bodies stay in survival mode, ready to attack or run away during an extremely stressful situation, even though we may just be upset because our coffee is cold or the kids are late for school. Because of this, cortisol levels can remain too high for too long and the body may become too worn out to normalize the amount of cortisol in its system.

But what exactly does cortisol do? How does it help the body handle stress? And why can this be harmful over an extended period of time?

Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned for Cortisol – Part 2: How It Works!

In the meantime, try taking some time out of your day to relax. Do some yoga, read a book, have a bubble bath, and eat a couple pieces of dark chocolate. If you have a partner, snuggle under the covers with them, ask them to give you a rub down, or enjoy some sexy time with them. Also, check out the guided mindfulness meditation below to reduce anxiety and stress. It really works!

♥ Michaela

P.S. Sorry for the absence. I, myself, have been under some stress and I’ve been focusing on resetting my system. I definitely needed some R&R!

Kava

Kava is a root that is native to the South Pacific, more specifically from Vanuatu, and it has a historical role in rituals and ceremonies practiced by the people that live there.

Now that Kava has been discovered by the wider population, it is used to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness and it is used to treat insomnia. It has also been used to treat ADHD, epilepsy, psychosis, depression, and other cognitive and psychological ailments. In scientific studies, Kava has been shown to work better or as well as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications and, naturally, it can reduce sleep problems that are caused by anxiety. Kava can improve cognitive performance, while common prescription drugs for anxiety and depression can decrease cognitive ability. (Funny how drugs for mood disorders have so many side effects that can actually inhibit brain function instead of helping it.)

Kava can also help relax muscles. It works specifically on striated muscle (muscles that are under voluntary control), but not smooth muscle (such as the heart or lungs). Because of this, greater amount of oxygen, carried by the blood, can enter the tissues, such as the brain. This can really help with relaxation, while also aiding in brain function and providing relief for those that suffer with chronic pain.

The traditional preparation for Kava involves chewing (best results), pounding, or grinding the root and then adding the powder to cold water. The resulting Kava drink looks like muddy water, tastes a little like dirt, and depending on the concentration, it can have a numbing effect on the tongue and mouth. Kava is also available as a tincture and in pill form. It is also gaining such popularity that there are Kava bars cropping up around the world!

There have been about 25 known cases of liver damage after the use of Kava, however this hasn’t been directly linked to the root itself. The liver damage could have been caused by other medications that are metabolized by the liver, the improper preparation of Kava (for example, pills that use Kava leaves, which are toxic), and also the use of alcohol during Kava consumption. Despite the “fear mongers”, as my boyfriend calls them, the World Heath Organization has declared that Kava is safe for use.

With all medicine, herbal or otherwise, be cautious before taking Kava. If you are taking other medications or you have underlying health conditions, consult your doctor, naturopath, or herbalist. I’m not a doctor or licensed health practitioner and I am only passing along the information that I have gleaned from research. With all new health protocols, be wise!

I have tried Kava and I quite like it. My boyfriend makes Kava on a regular basis and he has kindly made me a cup or two. He is still experimenting with it, so every cup has contained a low concentration of Kava. I have to be careful with drinking Kava because I do take prescription medications that are metabolized by the liver. While Kava is very low risk, I’ve done the research and I know that some of my medications can interact with it. Better safe than sorry! I struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, so I’m still on the prowl for herbs that will help me relax without interacting with my meds.

If you feel stressed, have anxiety, or depression, give Kava a try! It’s really fun (and easy) to make at home, but you can also buy it in pill form or as a tincture. Keep in mind that pills and tinctures will have a higher concentration of Kava. Read all instructions before taking it. Also, make sure you do your own research before you dive in!

If you have tried or know of any herbs that are good for relaxation, post ’em here! Also, let me know if you’ve tried Kava & how you like it.

Here’s to a less stressful world!

♥ Michaela

Happy Thanksgiving!


In September, I wrote a post about cultivating gratitude and how it’s so important for healing and wellness. Without gratitude, it is so easy to sink farther into depression, illness, and the darkness that life sometimes brings. Because Canadian Thanksgiving just passed, I decided to write a post about what I’m grateful for. This will be something that I can look back on when I’m feeling down or overwhelmed and hopefully it will be a source of inspiration for yourself.

  1. My family. I won’t sugar coat it: my family has caused me strife at times and have also irritated me on multiple occasions. However, my family has also stuck by me when life has spiraled and they have provided laughter, support, a safety net, and a home for me to come back to.
  2. My boyfriend. We’ve been together for nine months and it has been a whirlwind of excitement, growth, love, challenges, and adventure. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for us.
  3. My best-friends. I don’t have a lot of people in my “inner circle” and I cherish the few that are there. They have supported me, loved me, challenged me, kicked me in the butt, called me on my crap, encouraged me endlessly, and never judged me. It has taken a lot of effort to cultivate these friendships, but it’s been so worth it.
  4. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I am so thankful for where I live. I love Vancouver. Sure, it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the world, but it is beautiful, progressive, safe, and filled with adventure.
  5. The acquisition of knowledge. I’m really thankful for books, google, science, archaeology, education, philosophy, art, intellectual conversation, brilliant minds, curious folks, and the like. As Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power”.
  6. Human potential. My potential, your potential…I really appreciate that there is always room to grow and progress. We never have to be stuck in any given situation. I’m not saying that it’s easy to change or enhance our lives and well-being, but the possibility is always there.
  7. Animals. I am so thankful for all creatures, well, almost all creatures. (I won’t deny that I’m not a fan of creepy crawlies.) I get so much enjoyment and comfort from animals, especially my dogs. This earth is an incredible menagerie and I am so grateful to be a part of it.
  8. Nature. Along the same lines, nature is truly a mystical beast. I frequently find myself in awe and wonder at the beauty, magic, and ferocity of nature.
  9. Laughter. Humour is my coping mechanism. Without laughter, I would probably waste away. I’m really grateful for the people in my life that can make me laugh and also for the hilarious comics that are out there
  10. My career. I’m ever so grateful for the wonderful career that I have. I never, ever thought that I would become a care aid, but I’m so thankful that I took a chance on this line of work. For me, it’s such a fulfilling career and I am so glad that my work can make a difference for others.

So there’s my list! I have many other things that I am thankful for, but I thought I’d just write down a few. Now it’s your turn: What are you thankful for? Leave a note in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

♥ Michaela