Category Archives: Green Living

Eco-friendly Healthy Living

7 Tips to Help Kick the Sugar Habit

The start of spring and summer often inspires us to make healthier choices.  Whether you hope to gain more energy, lose weight, sleep better, or just feel that it’s time for a change, reducing sugar intake is often a top priority.   We constantly hear and talk about the benefits of quitting sugar.   If you’re contemplating a sugar cleanse, you’ll find that psychological preparedness is vital. Part of that preparedness involves coming up with a plan that you can stick to.                                   

Sugar is addictive. It alters biochemical pathways in our brain and tampers with our dopamine receptors, which makes us feel good. In order for us to get the next dopamine spike, however, we need a greater dose of sugar. That’s why about 80% of processed American food are laced with some form of sugar.  We live in a culture where sugar is ubiquitous and oftentimes indistinguishable, carrying cryptic names like anhydrous dextrose, crystalline fructose, and evaporated cane juice. Sugar itself is a refined carbohydrate and source of calories that our bodies use as energy or store as fat. By the way, not all sugar is bad; it naturally occurs in fruits and other foods that, along with their healthy fiber content, provide our body with necessary nourishment. Excess sugar, and those hidden added sugars we don’t even realize exist can cause a multitude of issues.

High sugar content in processed food has been shown to contribute to common diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease, fatty liver disease or cirrhosis, hypertension, hepatic insulin resistance, and slower metabolism & obesity.  Increased appetite, insomnia, brain fog, mental chatter, depression, and various other symptoms all generate from excessive sugar consumption.

Here are some useful tips I use to help clients kick the sugar habit:

1. Find the sweetness in your life.

It is vitally important to invest in our own well-being, and the lack of self-nurturing is a common missing thread.  Creating space for ourselves, and finding time to do things that bring joy are necessary to our health and wellness.  Often, the people who are most susceptible to sugar cravings are working stressful jobs, living stressful lives, and feel out of balance.  In these cases we may disconnect from what our passions are in life, to the point where life has become a series of obligations rather than enjoyment. Taking the time to invest in ourselves is a great long-term strategy to give up habits that do not serve us.  When we are at ease and feel satisfied with life, the impulse to reach for sweets when stressed is greatly reduced.

2. Drink apple cider vinegar.

Raw apple cider vinegar helps to destroy candida yeast overgrowth in the body, which is often a contributing factor in sugar addiction. The body craves sugar to feed this yeast, which continues to grow and cause more cravings – as well as a host of other unpleasant symptoms. Be sure to buy only raw vinegars (apple cider or otherwise), as regular pasteurized vinegars can feed candida overgrowth and cause more sugar cravings. Apple cider vinegar also helps to change taste buds and after a while of supplementing with it, sugary foods often end up tasting too sweet. I have found people to crave less junk when they sip apple cider vinegar throughout the day.  You can also use this vinegar to make your own healthy salad dressing.  Try: Braags Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

3. Properly fuel your body.

In general, you want to get your calories from a balanced diet of the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. If you focus on clean eating—eating whole unprocessed foods as much as possible—you will be able to refocus your eating plan.

Protein helps your body feel full longer, so increasing it in your diet will help to curb those cravings, especially at that midday snack time. Try snacking on nuts, yogurt, or a hardboiled egg in place of processed and packaged snacks. Your body will thank you for it.

Carbs fall into three categories—sugars, starches, and fibers—but the body breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Find yourself drawn to french fries, bread, and pasta? Your sugar fix originates in excess carbs.  Avoid white and refined flour, rices, pastas, breads—and try nuts, seeds, and whole grains instead. If the carb is in its natural, unadulterated form, then it’s a good choice. When your cravings hit, try high-fiber foods to fill your belly and keep your digestive system moving like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And don’t get stuck in the meal-label game—switch it up! Have eggs for dinner, avocado for breakfast, or oatmeal for lunch.

4. Stay hydrated!

While you can crave anything from chocolate to a salty snack, cravings for sweet foods are common when the body is dehydrated because it interferes with brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.  Dehydration also makes it more difficult for the body to produce glycogen, a major source of fuel for our cells. A lack of fluids can cause difficulty in the production of energy output, and can trigger sugar cravings. It’s also not uncommon for the body to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger, meaning that you may feel hungry when what you really need is water.

5. Train your taste buds to like bitter.

Train your taste buds to like the taste of bitter—it really does a lot to suppress the cravings for sugar. Try plain unflavored yogurt, and bitter greens like watercress, arugula, chicory, endive, and kale. Within 30 days, your taste buds will reset and you’ll crave less sugar.

6. Take the “sugar destroyer” herb.

Gymnema sylvestre is an herb in the milkweed family and known as a “sugar destroyer” in Ayurvedic medicine, and it desensitizes our taste buds to sweet items. It can help promote healthy blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol due to supporting a healthy pancreas and liver function. It helps regenerate beta cells in the pancreas, which secrete insulin in order to take up sugar into the cells for energy. It also helps make cells more sensitive to receiving insulin. We tend to crave sweet items when we’re low on energy (perhaps not enough insulin or cells are resistant), stressed (increased cortisol causes the body to use sugar so we need to replenish), or poor sleep (also increases cortisol), for example, and gymnema helps balance spikes in blood sugar that could additionally be triggered by a poor diet. A few drops on your tongue before a meal can offset desiring sugar and last for about three hours, especially in conjunction with a nutritious diet and the desire to quit sugar. However, caution should be used if someone is taking oral medication or insulin, as it can alter prescription dosages.  Try: Himalayan Herbals Gymnema

7. Utilize high-quality peppermint essential oil.

One of the easiest ways to begin your journey involves utilizing high-quality essential oils to retrain your brain, to curb the sugar cravings, and to revitalize your life. Amazing research has been done concerning cravings and essential oils. The most famous is a study by Dr. Alan Hirsch, who found that peppermint oil is amazingly effective at curbing cravings. Simply inhaling the scent of peppermint also awakens the senses and enables the brain to focus on the real task at hand. While it may be hard to believe that a scent can keep you from bingeing on sugar, aromatherapy can be the key to many of your health care concerns as an all-natural way to reclaim your vitality and wellness.  Other essential oils that may help to curb cravings include black pepper, bergamot, cassia, cinnamon, clove, fennel, grapefruit, lemon, marjoram, and wild orange. Try: Amrita Therapeutic Essential Oils

We all have things we can change in our diets, our lives, our mindsets. Reducing sugar intake can be just the start of rebalancing your life. Don’t drastically cut out sugar from your diet and cause uncomfortable detox. Take it slow and let your body adjust. Start with a habit of awareness—being aware of labels, of what you put in your mouth, of your triggers, and of your personal wellness. Try mindfulness based exercises like yoga, tai chi, and meditation. Utilize high-quality essential oils to refocus your mind and body to rely less on sugar and more on the power of aromatherapy.  You can make this change in your life by replacing sugar with a positive lifestyle that fuels your mind, body, and spirit!

*The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

About the Author

Freya Farley is Evergreen’s Executive Director and an Acupuncturist at the Wellness Center at Evergreen where her practice focuses on Women’s Health and Fertility.  Along with acupuncture, and herbal medicine, Freya practices a food-as-medicine approach, helping her clients utilize the healing powers of food to nourish their bodies mind and spirits.  She offers private consultations & treatments as well as a weekly Community Acupuncture Clinic. The presence of yoga throughout Freya’s life has influenced and informed her ongoing path of health and wellness and she offers Open Studio morning yoga sessions to join in her practice.

Breathe Easy: Seasonal Allergy Relief

 

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, the excitement of spring can be marred by sneezing and stuffy noses.  Many clients come into my office at this time of year looking for allergy relief.  Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be quite effective at helping to ease symptoms and boost the body’s natural ability to respond less reactively.  Seasonal allergies have a strong correlation to our overly clean lifestyle and overuse of antibiotics, and some communities are also hit hard due to pollution exposure and poor diet. Vitamin D deficiency is another common underlying factor in people with allergies, and I generally recommend using a good quality supplement daily.  As inevitable as allergies may seem, there’s quite a bit you can do to minimize and potentially eliminate this seasonal occurrence.

First, aim for a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet focused on whole foods like fresh local vegetables – especially seasonal bitter greens, fish, free-range animal products, nuts, seeds, and other plant foods. Incorporate fermented foods like kimchi, live kraut, kombucha, and shoyu into your daily routine, which can improve the wellbeing of your body’s beneficial bacteria and make you less reactive to various allergens.  (One exception would be in histamine intolerance, where fermented foods can make symptoms worse.)  Avoid any food allergens or intolerances that are problematic for you – common culprits include wheat and dairy.  Avoidance of these specifically reactive foods can make you less reactive to environmental allergens.

Eating raw honey has numerous benefits. It is a great antioxidant and has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-allergenic properties.  The practice of consuming raw local honey is a popular natural remedy for allergies. Bees collect pollen from the environment as they gather nectar from flowers, and in turn, honey from local sources will contain safe amounts of this pollen.  It is thought that eating raw local honey conditions the body to the presence of these local pollens.  Herb infused honeys are a wonderful way to include many added benefits. (Stay tuned for another recipe…)

Use a Neti Pot daily to irrigate and cleanse the nostrils and sinuses.  Neti flushes out irritants and thins the mucus, which results in  less congestion and easier breathing through the nose. It also alows the cilia in the nasal passages to do the job of filtering the air more efficiently. Stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, aromatherapy and massage are also helpful in reducing allergies.  In response to stress the body releases hormones and other chemicals, including histamine, the powerful chemical that leads to allergy symptoms. While stress doesn’t actually cause allergies, it can make an allergic reaction worse by increasing the histamine in your bloodstream.

Also consider the following herbs & a sparkling tea recipe for some all natural allergy relief…

Nettles

The benefits of nettles have been documented for centuries. Nettle tea is used to improve heart action, for headaches and for any internal bleeding. Nettle is said to be extremely beneficial for the kidneys, being useful in expelling gravel from the bladder and dissolving kidney stones. It is a powerful blood purifier that drives out toxins and metabolic wastes by stimulating the kidneys to excrete more water. Nettle tea is said to clean out the entire intestinal tract while activating the body’s natural defense mechanisms. It is used as an overall health tonic and to treat high blood pressure, anemia, skin inflammations and more. It is tonifying for the Liver and Kidneys, builds blood, and it is full of vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids.  Stinging nettle contains various compounds that decrease allergy-related inflammation and histamine. This is somewhat surprising considering that nettle’s stingers actually contain histamine.  Although the effects of freeze-dried nettle capsules are modest, it is a very safe herb. Anecdotally, herbalists report immediate symptomatic relief with nettle fresh-plant tincture.

Sparkling Nettle Lemon Mint Tea 

Nettle tea is springtime’s natural elixir. One of the earliest green plants to emerge each spring, nettles can be easily brewed into a tea which has healthful, restorative benefits which boost the immune system and awaken the body to spring.

Ingredients

  • Dried nettle leaves and stems, as needed (see note)
  • Boiling water, as needed (see note)
  • Ice, as needed
  • 1 tbsp honey per serving
  • ⅛ preserved or fresh lemon (or a ½-inch [1.5-cm] chunk) per serving
  • several mint leaves per serving
  • 1 cup sparkling water per serving

Instructions

  1. To steep the dried nettles, place the nettles in a teapot or a nonreactive pot and pour the boiling water over them. Let the nettles steep for 15 minutes, then strain them from the water.
  2. Add ice to a tall glass and muddle the honey and mint with the preserved lemon. Pour in ½ cup (120 ml) of the strong nettle tea and finish with the sparkling water.

Notes:

As a general rule of thumb use 1 tablespoon dried nettles per 1 cup water. But to make this strong to enjoy with ice and sparkling water, use 2 tablespoons dried nettles per 1 cup water. For example, to make 4 servings, use 8 teaspoons nettles and 4 cups water.  *Best – Use double the amount of fresh nettles leaves if you have access and steep overnight for a stronger tonic.

Other common herbs for allergy relief:

Reishi  & Astragalus

These immune tonics help modulate or regulate immune system response when taken on a regular basis. This means that your body is better able to fight germs yet less over-reactive in allergies and autoimmune disease (for some with autoimmune disease astragulus may stimulate the immune function too much to tolerate well – reduce intake to build up slowly). Complex starches, called polysaccharides, in medicinal mushrooms and astragalus send your immune system back to boot camp, improving immune cell function and signaling. Polysaccharides extract particularly when simmered in water for hours. Reishi and astragalus blend well with chai spices like cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg for tea, or you can add them to soup broth. Feel free to include other medicinal mushrooms like shiitake and maitake, which have similar polysaccharides. Reishi has unique anti-inflammatory and adaptogen properties and has performed well in preliminary studies for asthma and allergies. If you don’t tolerate mushrooms, astragalus root has similar polysaccharides and has been shown to decrease the severity of seasonal allergies.

Butterbur

Among all the herbs used for allergies, butterbur has by far the most clinical research to back its use for allergies, with widespread use in Europe for seasonal allergies, migraines, and asthma. Studies have found it significantly better than placebo and comparable to common allergy medications Zyrtec and Allegra. It can be used symptomatically for occasional symptoms and daily in chronic allergies. Unfortunately, this isn’t a do-it-yourself remedy because butterbur root contains liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Seek PA-free butterbur such as Petadolex.

I hope this helps you get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather!

*The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Evergreen’s Wellness Center; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

About the Author

Freya Farley is Evergreen’s Executive Director and an Acupuncturist at the Wellness Center at Evergreen. Her practice focuses on Women’s Health and Fertility, which at its essence is the manifestation of balance and health within the body.  Along with acupuncture, and herbal medicine, Freya practices a food-as-medicine approach, helping her clients utilize the healing powers of food to nourish their bodies mind and spirits.  She offers private consultations & treatments as well as a weekly Community Acupuncture Clinic. The presence of yoga throughout Freya’s life has influenced and informed her ongoing path of health and wellness and she offers Open Studio morning yoga sessions to join in her practice – (free to those registered in another class!).

Gentle Cleansing Techniques for Springtime

Spring is finally here on the Eastern Shore! It took long enough – now what?  According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the cleansing season.

We each react differently to this seasonal shift, and in fact, I have a client who dreads springtime; there is too much drama, too much chaos.  The sun is out and we are compelled to come out into the world also to meet its challenges.   To make room for the new growth, creativity and action of spring, cleansing practices help to remove debris and stagnation built up through the long, cold winter.  In the same way that you spring clean your home, take an opportunity to cleanse and rejuvenate your body!

While there are many cleanse programs available, such as juicing, fasting, or eating raw fruits and vegetables, these methods can feel intimidating and extreme. The good news is that there are more subtle and gentle techniques that you can use to support your body in clearing toxins.

Why Cleanse?

Why should you consider incorporating cleansing techniques in your life?

Your body is an incredible organism that has a natural built-in filtration system to help you get rid of toxins, the harmful substances that have a negative impact on your health. The primary organ that helps to process excess toxins is your liver. Your liver is a powerful filter for toxins, but it’s worth noting that you are exposed to more toxins than any previous generation. This influx of toxins comes from pollution in the air and water, toxic ingredients in beauty care and household cleaning products, electric and magnetic fields from technology, and more.

Some common symptoms of an excess toxic load in your body include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Infertility
  • Skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.)

Here are some gentle cleansing techniques to try this spring so that your body will begin to eliminate toxins more effectively and efficiently, and keep you feeling ready for anything.

  1. Dry Skin Brushing

Dry skin brushing specifically helps to activate the lymphatic system that resides directly underneath your skin. You can think of the lymphatic system as the stream that helps to get rid of toxins. When you activate your lymphatic system, it helps move toxins more efficiently through your body.

This cleansing practice is best done before you get into the shower. To get started, you’ll need to buy a dry skin brush or glove (look in your local health food store or online). Your dry skin brushing practice will only take about three minutes. Starting at your feet, brush your skin in a circular motion up toward your heart. Work your way up your entire body. Then, using the same circular motion, brush both of your arms—starting from the hands.

Once you are done, hop into a hot shower to experience the full benefits of this gentle cleansing practice. Skin is the body’s largest organ. As you can release toxins through your skin, this exfoliation method also supports healthy detoxification through your skin.

 

  1. Greens Powder

While I recommend increasing the amount of green vegetables in your diet as a great place to start, I know it can be difficult to get the variety of concentrated nutrients that you’ll find in a greens powder supplement by eating alone. The concentrated vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (such as polyphenols, terpenes, and organic acids) that are found in a complex greens powder are helpful for gently opening up detoxification pathways and supporting liver cleansing. Most greens powders contain sea algae such as chlorella and spirulina, which are phytoplankton from the ocean that have antioxidant effects in the body. Chlorella is rich in chlorophyll, which assists in heavy metal and pesticide detoxification.

I like to add one scoop of greens powder to a cup of coconut water with half a fresh lemon in the morning. This is a great way to jumpstart your system and help the body cleanse the liver & kidneys. Drink your greens powder either in the morning or mid-afternoon as a gentle way to boost your energy levels.  (Though not for the faint of heart – I love Amazing Grass Elixir Brain Blend with a blend of fermented and easy-to-digest greens like wheatgrass and alfalfa, adaptogenic herbs that help the body deal with stress, and plant extracts like matcha, lion’s mane fungi, and chocamine that may help with concentration and clarity.)

  1. Yoga & Breath Work

The movement and breath work in Yoga can help gently cleanse the system, oxygenating and rejuvenating the whole body.  Gentle twists can, in fact, help “wring out” the organ systems and help them release the last remaining stuck areas.  Deep yogic breath fills the entire lungs with fresh pure oxygenated air and each exhale releases toxins.  In addition to cleansing your lungs, this form of breath work also helps to oxygenate your cells, which helps to purify your blood.  While most people’s everyday breathing is shallow and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), this full yogic breath stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and allows the body mind spirit to rest easy releasing built up cortisol thereby allowing other hormonal systems to rebalance.

  1. Bodywork

Massage and bodywork stimulates the release of metabolic waste products stored in the cell tissue.  The circulation resulting from massage enhances oxygen exchange among local tissues and improves colon drainage capability, this is a good addition for helping escort impurities out of the body.  Integral to detoxification, the lymphatic system sequesters circulating threats in the body and aids in their elimination. Thus, draining the lymph nodes of accumulated toxins with lymphatic drainage massage removes blockages and improves their cleansing function.  Drinking plenty of water will allow for the elimination of waste products from the body, thus detoxifying the cell tissue and boosting the immune system.

  1. Salt Baths

Skin is a toxin carrier and what better way to flush the toxins out than have a nice detox bath.  Soak up daily in warm water with Pink Himalayan Salt, Sea Salt, or Epsom salt and a few drops of your preferred aromatic oil to draw toxic waste swiftly out of the pores. Bath salts are beneficial to health due to the presence of minerals in them, primarily magnesium. A salt bath helps relieve stress, detox the body, sleep well, improve blood circulation and decrease blood pressure. Since magnesium plays a crucial role in all intracellular physiological functions, a deficiency in the mineral can lead to various neuromuscular, cardiac and nervous disorders.  It helps you sleep better, maintain healthy heart rhythm and blood sugar levels, and regulate hormones. The sulfur in these salts can help in the production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, which plays a major role in methylation, a biochemical process in the body involved in almost all of its functions.

  1. Infrared Sauna

An infrared sauna helps to increase your blood circulation and stimulate your sweat glands to help get rid of toxins. They also heat the body from the inside out, raising your core temperature and driving toxins and heavy metals out of the largest organ in your body—your skin.  Infrared sauna treatments may be available at different levels: near, middle, and far.  These different levels represent the different sizes in infrared wavelengths and refer to the intensity of the treatment. Near-infrared levels are best for wound healing and increased immune function, middle-infrared levels are ideal for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation, and far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes. If you are new to using an infrared sauna, start slowly by going in for 10 to 15 minutes. Eventually work your way up to 25- to 45-minute sessions, three to five days per week.

There are many different ways to support your body’s detoxification process. These gentle cleansing techniques help maintain your health and prevent disease. “Gently” press the reset button and start experiencing the many healing benefits of cleansing toxins from your body this spring!

*The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Evergreen’s Wellness Center; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

About the Author

Freya Farley is Evergreen’s Executive Director and an Acupuncturist at the Wellness Center at Evergreen. Her practice focuses on Women’s Health and Fertility, which at its essence is the manifestation of balance and health within the body.  Along with acupuncture, and herbal medicine, Freya practices a food-as-medicine approach, helping her clients utilize the healing powers of food to nourish their bodies mind and spirits.  She offers private consultations & treatments as well as a weekly Community Acupuncture Clinic. The presence of yoga throughout Freya’s life has influenced and informed her ongoing path of health and wellness and she offers Open Studio morning yoga sessions to join in her practice – (free to those registered in another class!).

 

Everything Under the Sun: Healthy Sun Exposure

As the days get longer, nature beckons you outside for a summer full of fun and activity.  Life is good, and you should embrace as much of it as you can. The sun invites you to sit, relax, and play in its warmth. Your family and friends get together on the beach, in your backyard, or at a local park for hours on end.  While soaking up the sun can boost your mood and your body’s vitamin D levels, it is important to be safe while doing so as frequent overexposure to UV radiation can also damage your skin.

Benefits of Sun Exposure

There are many health benefits from taking in sufficient amounts of sun exposure and it plays an important role in:

  • Boosting hormones like vitamin D
  • Reducing blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health
  • Improving mood by releasing endorphins

Spending moderate time in the sun has even been shown to contribute to pain relief in people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia.

The most commonly known benefit of sun exposure is inducing production of vitamin D, a critical steroid hormone that acts on receptors throughout the body, influencing bone health, heart function, and inflammation.  When UVB rays from the sun strike exposed skin, the body can synthesize vitamin D3, which is transformed by the liver and kidneys into the biologically active hormone.

Due to a variety of factors including lifestyle and environment, vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide.  Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Excessive Sweating
  • Fatigue & Muscle Weakness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Broken Bones
  • Depressed Mood

If you think you have a Vitamin D deficiency, ask your doctor for a simple blood test to measure your levels.

While there are different ways you can increase your Vitamin D levels, emerging research suggests that natural sun exposure may regulate vitamin D in a way that supplements cannot mimic. For example, vitamin D produced in the skin may last at least twice as long in the blood compared with ingested vitamin D.

Risks of Overexposure

While there are multiple benefits to sun exposure, there are also risks. Sunlight includes rays of invisible ultraviolet light of varying wavelengths (UVB and UVA), which can contribute to:

  • Sunburn
  • Accelerated skin aging
  • Skin cancer
  • Cataracts

The majority of UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is UVA, which penetrates more deeply into the skin (compared to UVB rays) where it can indirectly damage DNA via the generation of free radicals. UV radiation can also damage collagen and accelerate aging of the skin as well as contribute to cataracts.

Like most things related to health, bioindividuality and lifestyle habits are important when it comes to sun exposure. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to the negative impacts of UV sun exposure and may require different strategies to avoid harm. For example, those with certain autoimmune conditions such as lupus can be exceptionally sun sensitive. Further, medications such as tetracycline antibiotics, used to treat various infections, can increase sun sensitivity.

People with a personal or family history of skin cancer or other genetic susceptibilities, which can make it more difficult to repair UV-induced DNA damage, need to be more vigilant to avoid too much sun exposure.

Limit Your Exposure

Expose unprotected skin to the sun for 10 to 20 minutes at times of the year and day when UVB rays are optimal for vitamin D production. The best time for sun exposure is around noon, according to studies done at NIH, when UVB rays are most likely to reach your skin and boost vitamin D production, and when UVA rays, which increase the risk of skin cancer and photodamage, are minimized.

Incorporate Natural Dietary Skin Support

Many of the fresh healthy foods available in summer can help fortify your skin. For example, a mix of carotenoids including lycopene (found in tomatoes and watermelon), lutein (found in spinach and other dark-green veggies), and beta-carotene (found in orange, red, and yellow produce) can reduce your skin’s susceptibility to ultraviolet damage. Astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment found in microalgae and seafood like salmon, shellfish, and krill, also contributes to skin health.

Find Sress-Reduction Practices

Studies have led researchers to believe that chronic stress can increase the susceptibility of your skin to UV damage. Stress weakens the immune system and makes you more susceptible to the effects of free radicals, which can lead to skin damage and cancer.  In fact stress alone, without sun exposure, has been shown to damage DNA and increase signs of early aging. Adopting regular stress management practices such as meditation, yoga, and mind-body practices can make you more resilient to resist the damaging impacts of chronic stress, including sun damage and skin cancer.

Throw Some Shade

When you plan to be outside for long periods of time, one of the best ways to enjoy a sunny day without suffering damage is to minimize your time spent in the strongest rays. This means staying in the shade when possible to avoid extensive time in strong sun and wearing lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats that are specifically designed to block UV rays.

Choose a Safer Sunscreen

Sunscreen provides either a chemical or physical barrier against the sun’s rays. When choosing a sunscreen, ingredients matter to ensure adequate protection without harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals, potentially affecting reproduction and development hormones. Some toxic ingredients to look for and avoid include oxybenzone, octinoxate, retinyl palmitate, and homosalate, which can alter hormones and/or cause skin irritation.

Synthetic fragrances should also be avoided in all personal care products, including sunscreens. These chemicals, such as parabens, phthalates, and synthetic musks, are linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive impacts, and even cancer. Instead, look for non-nano  (meaning the particles are less likely to be absorbed by your skin) physical or mineral-based sunscreens like zinc oxide.

Tried & True Mineral Based Sunscreens:

Bare Republic Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion

 

Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen SPF 30 Mineral Lotion

 

Brush on Block Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Powder Sunscreen

 

All Good Lips Tinted – SPF 18 Lip Balm- Alpine Pink

 

*The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Evergreen’s Wellness Center; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


Experience profound rest and renewal by attuning to the natural rhythms of your body at Evergreen’s Wellness Center.

THE YIN & YANG OF SLEEP

Are you starting to feel the rising Spring energy? The winds, chaotic weather, and beginning of more daylight? With this shifting and rising energy many people may notice some kind of sleep disturbance. Almost one-third of the US population is affected by insomnia on at least an occasional basis. Given the prevalence of insomnia in today’s society, the need is great for effective treatment. Though drugs used in Western Medicine may provide acute relief, they often fail to address the root cause of the insomnia and may have unwanted side-effects. The approach taken by Chinese Medicine is to balance the individual as a whole and treat the root energetic cause of the imbalance.

FiveElementCycle

What is sleep?

“If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.” -Allan Rechtschaffen, Ph.D.

Sleep is generally defined as an active state in which the body and mind are less responsive. It is believed that sleep is a restorative process.1

Sleep is composed of different stages:1,2

  • Stage 1– light sleep, between awake and falling asleep
  • Stage 2– onset of sleep, disengage from surroundings, regular breathing and heart rate
  • Slow wave sleep (3-4)-deepest and most restorative, blood pressure drops, slower breathing. Relaxed muscles, tissue growth and repair, energy restored, hormones released
  • REM– 25% of night, about every 90 minutes, energy to brain and body, brain is active, dreams occur, eyes move but otherwise immobile
  • “Good” sleep allows all stages to be completed in many cycles (3-4).

What is insomnia?

The problem of insomnia in our society is huge and complex. However, from the perspective of the average citizen, it is like the weather – everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything.” -William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D.

Insomnia is characterized by difficultly initiating or maintaining sleep.  Consequences of insomnia include impaired daytime functioning, irritability and mood disturbance, fatigue and sleepiness.  Insomnia comprises both daytime and nighttime components, with the perception that sleep is short or fragmented with associated negative daytime consequences. 3

  • Most frequent sleep disturbance- 30-35% “mild” or “occasional;” 10-15% “severe” or “chronic”
  • Negatively impacts work, physical, and social performance and overall quality of life
  • May come from general hyperarousal
  • More easily aroused from sleep and slower to return
  • Link with levels of waking arousal (heart rate)
  • Elevated HPA-axis activity and cortisol

Despite the prevalence and impact of insomnia, it is not often recognized or treated by many physicians.4  When insomnia is treated in Western Medicine, pharmacological treatments are often used (though cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective).  Chinese Medicine focuses on the individual’s unique pattern and designs a unique treatment to balance the individual’s qi.

The Yin and Yang of Sleep

Ideas about health in Chinese Medicine are based on the yin and yang energy. These energies are interdependent, in opposition, always in motion, and transform into each other. To be in good health, one’s yin and yang energy must be balanced moving, not blocked.

YinYang

In Chinese Medicine sleep and wake are viewed as yin-yang to each other. According to this, consciousness and waking are the result of yang energy rising to the head.5 Sleep is the result of the yang energy descending back to the core after it has been used by the day’s requirements to be nurtured by the yin.During sleep, yang energy that has been depleted is nourished and revitalized to be used again upon awakening.  The body’s yin and yang energy follow the light of the sun and ascend and descend accordingly.

Causes of Insomnia

For good sleep, yin and yang energy must be balanced. According to Chinese Medicine, one reason insomnia may result is because the yin energy becomes very week (e.g., as a result of aging) and cannot control the yang energy.  Thus, the yang energy may flow upward and ascend when it should not.  The yang energy may be depleted by the end of the day so that the person is able to fall asleep, but if there is inadequate yin energy to keep the yang down it will rise upward too early, resulting in an inability to fall back asleep.  In general, anything that results in yang energy rising and moving outward will exacerbate insomnia.4 Chinese medicine (e.g., acupuncture) may treat insomnia by stimulating the body to produce more blood and yin.

Factors leading to insomnia through an imbalance of yin and yang in the body include:

  1. Excessive/ over-active thinking
  2. Frustration or emotional stress depressing flow of qi OR Yang energy, moves upward, disturbing the tranquility of the heart.
  3. Excess activity; Yang hyperactivity resulting from insufficient yin
  4. Lack of exercise, poor diet (including eating greasy or fatty foods).
  5. Being overweight
  6. Overeating a large meal before bed; causes an acute case of insomnia by blocking the yang energy from returning to the body’s interior.

Tools and Practices to Improve Sleep

Practices that address Yin/ Yang imbalance:

  • Acupuncture and Acupressure
    • Improves sleep quality and quantity6
  • Meditation
    • Improves daytime functioning following sleep loss7
    • May decrease sleep need in long-term meditators7
  • Yoga
  • Spending time outside in Nature
  • Essential Oils
    • Lavender inhalation improves sleep quality8
    • Lavender works to decrease general arousal and excitability of the body and nervous system.9

 

Tracy (2)Evergreen Practitioner & Contributing Writer:  Tracy Rupp Hockmeyer Ph.D., M.Ac., L.Ac. practices Five Element Acupuncture; a nature inspired and based medicine with its fundamental principles based on the movement and energetics of nature. She specializes in sleep and addressing sleep complaints.  With her background in research and practice as an acupuncturist, Tracy offers a knowledge base from both Eastern and Western medicine. She addresses individuals’ sleep complaints using acupuncture, essential oils, and lifestyle recommendations.

References:

  1. www.sleepfoundation.org
  2. Purves D (2004). Sleep and Wakefulness. In Purves D, et al., ed. Neuroscience, 3rd ed.. Sunderland, MA, U.S.A.: Sinaur Associates, Inc. Ch. 27.
  3. Drake CL, Roehrs T, Roth T (2003). Insomnia causes consequences and therapeutics: An overview. Depression and Anxiety18, 163-178.
  4. Sateia, M.J. (2002). Epidemiology, Consequences, and Evaluation of Insomnia. Sleep Medicine. Editors Lee Chiong, T.L., Sateia, M.J., Carskadon, M.A. 151 – 160.
  5. Flaws (1997).
  6. Cao et al. (2009). Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15 (11).
  7. Kaul et al., (2010). Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance and may decrease sleep need. Behavioral Brain Function, 6.
  8. Goel, N., Kim, H., & Lao, R.P. (2005). An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int, 22, 889-904.
  9. Duan X, Tashiro M, Wu D, et al. (2007) Autonomic nervous function and localization of cerebral activity during lavender aromatic immersion. Technol Health Care, 15, 69–78