Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Part 4 Discussion: the State of Produce

I've decided to launch a 10-part discussion feature on Nutrition...specifically the state of nutrition nowadays.  I hope that sharing the very basis of what I've learned from years working in the field might make it easier for some of you to start taking the right steps towards getting healthy!  If you missed my previous discussion post, click here

*Whew*  Things got a little sidetracked here with Mental Health Awareness Month last month and a trip to NYC right before that, but we're getting back on track!

Today for the 4th part of our discussion segment, we are talking about the state of our produce today.  This means our fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains and seeds.  Pretty much anything that grows in the ground.  I'll be breaking it down into simple but important points. Check it out:

Soil quality Most common fertilizers often only contain 3-4 of the basic minerals that used to be found in soil.  Therefore right out of the bat, our produce is less nutritious than it used to be when our grandparents were young.  Studies done by Globe & Mail and CTV news show that in some cases, the nutrient loss be anywhere from 50%-100% in some cases. -Source

Pesticides are another big one.  I know a lot of them are said to be safe for human consumption but that isn't necessarily the case.  Washing your produce can help but it's hard to say how much of those toxic ingredients actually leach into the food itself?  A lot of these chemicals haven't even been tested for long-term human consumption so who knows what effects they're having on us long term.

Freshness When buying in supermarkets, you can almost be certain the produce you're buying isn't local (unless it says so right on the item or it's shelf).  That means it's been shipped from who knows how far away.  You probably don't even want to know how long before ago it was actually harvested... and then just sat on a shelf or in storage somewhere before making it to your grocery store.  I mean, the stuff still looks fresh, but it really isn't. Often times the taste will give it away though - if it has any taste to it at all.

It's different for certified organic produce though because those items HAVE to have 3rd party certification that they are in fact 100% organic.  3rd party certification means that some outside party, not affiliated with the company in question has to come in and very every aspect of production, from seed to harvest to ensure all guidelines are followed.  Certified organic produce has absolutely NO pesticides or GMOs so you can be sure they're the real deal.

* That isn't to say that all organic produce is created equal. There will always be people trying to get around the rules just to be able to charge that extra amount of money for something organic.  That's why looking for ''3rd party certification'' is key.  You want all the assurances possible that the product you're buying is as green as can be.  That way you minimize toxic exposure while optimizing nutrient intake.*

Buying Local Since we brushed the subject there, let's keep going. Buying local is always a good option but again there's no guarantee that local means cleaner or pesticide-free.  Making sure you're food is clean should be a priority so if local farmers aren't offering as close to organic as possible, it's your right to ask them to; or find someone else who will.

Reality The reality is I don't always eat organic myself.  In the small community where I live, organic food is not always readily available.  And when it is, it's sometimes overpriced, even for organic.  In those cases when organic is not an option, there are always ways to work around it.  Buying local at least, means your food will be relatively fresher than the produce aisle of your grocery store. Especially if you can actually harvest the fruits/veggies yourself.  When produce isn't in season, just try to limit your consumption of the dirty dozen, wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly with natural fruit & veggie cleaner - or make your own, it's cheap & easy!

The Bottom Line is, eating fresh fruits & vegetables is always a healthier option than eating fast-food or overly processed snacks.  Adding produce to your everyday routine is always a good idea, so try not to stress too much about it, do the best you can and never mind the rest :)

The important thing to remember here is that big corporations are making decisions about the food you eat. They're using pesticides that haven't always been properly tested for human consumption (and you will consume trace amounts or more no matter what they say) so my goal here was to bring awareness to that fact.  If it bothers you, seek out organic produce. Talk to your local suppliers or governing bodies. Make yourself heard.  WE CAN make a difference here and the best time to start is now.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Dealing with anxiety - a personal story

Mental Health Awareness Month is hosted by Uncorked Thoughts & Blog of Erised.
For more information plis visit this link
In keeping with our theme here for Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be a perfect time to share my own personal experience dealing with mental health issues.  I've shared a bit of my story with you all before, specifically how I got into living green, where I talked about suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (which you can read here) and how I got it under control with proper nutrition and cleaner living.  For this post though, I'm focussing on the personal side of things.  No how-tos or tips, I just wanted to share my experience on how I started dealing with all this and how things have evolved since then.

I've dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for over 10 years.  As a child, I didn't think I was more anxious than average but looking back I was high-strung, hyper and very sensitive, so I guess there were signs early on that I'd been more anxious and prone to anxious flare-ups.  I began noticing something was amiss when I was in Uni but by then it had been accumulating for some time so initially, I was misdiagnosed as suffering from depression.  Many of you will know that often times anxiety and depression get misdiagnosed because suffering from depression for a long time can trigger anxiety and suffering from anxiety long enough will lead to feeling depressed. It can be a vicious cycle. So anyways, after a few unsuccessful depression medication treatments, we figured out the core issue was anxiety and I got started on a treatment plan to manage my symptoms.

After that for awhile things were better.  I wasn't having as many flare-ups with my panic attacks as I had been and when I did I was able to keep them more or less under control with the prescription my doctor had given me but I never felt like I was home-free.  I still had a hard time dealing with my anxiety and it still had an impact on my day to day life.  It was like I was "ok" but looking back I wouldn't have called  myself well

After about 5 years, I started to realize that instead of just treating my symptoms, somewhere down the line my meds had led to me really feeling emotionally numb.  I didn't get the normal highs and lows that regular people do when it came to my moods. Instead, I just felt desensitized to everything.  It was at that point when I started researching getting off the anxiety meds I was on - only to find out that getting off them was more of an ordeal than anything.  It had to be done gradually and the withdrawl effects from the drugs could last anywhere from 6 months to a year.  At that point I had something of a mini-meltdown but thankfully, I'd also started working in natural health by that time and was able to ease my withdrawls with specific natural supplements.  I'm not going to lie to you - I did feel those withdrawl effects for close to a year after getting off my prescription.  It was a major challenge, I'm not going to lie and some days I felt just like I'd done at my lowest point all those years back, but I knew I was finally getting on the right track for me.

Going the natural route really turned things around for me.  After that initial rough patch I got a whole new outlook on life. With the help of a trusted naturopath & therapist, I was able to virtually eliminate my panic attacks - honestly I can't remember the last time I've had one; it's been years!  My anxiety is totally manageable now and situations that used to trigger flare-ups have gotten infinitely easier.  It just goes to show how far a good support system tailored to YOUR needs can take. 
All of that being said, I'm not here to tell any of you that my way is the way for everyone.  We all have our paths to take and our choices to make.  For me, going natural worked but I had many mentors & trusted professionals helping me along the way.  My best advice: do your own research.  Look into all the different options for dealing with anxiety or depression or panic attacks or whatever. Read up online, visit the library, talk with your doctor.  If you don't like what he or she has to tell you, get a second opinion.  Talk with a therapist or other people going through the same thing.  Collect all the facts you can and then make an informed decision as to how you want to handle your mental health.  The most important thing to remember is that there is hope for anyone and everyone, no matter how far gone.  You can get through the rough patches and come out a better & stronger person!
And that's my story!  Please feel free to share your story or your thoughts in the comments below :)

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

**This post was originally featured on Uncorked Thoughts as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. To view the original post, please click here

Hi all!  In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, one of our hosts Leah over at Uncorked Thoughts suggested I whip up a Top 10 post on the best ways of dealing with anxiety/stress.  Of course, considering my background in natural health, these will have natural health leanings but I've also mixed in generalized tips and advice as well!  While this post first went up on Uncorked Thoughts, I still wanted to post it on the blog here so my readers wouldn't miss it! So here are my top 10 tips:

1. Breathing. Breathing is important -  it sounds like common sense or too simple to actually have an effect but time and time again studies have shown that taking a moment to stop and focus on breathing in and out slowly has positive results in calming down nerves, anxiety or panic attacks.  I shared a fun little 60 second video previously that addresses proper breathing techniques, to view it click here.

2. Nutrition.  Think of your body like your car.  Food is the fuel that keeps your car running smoothly.  If you're prone to anxiety or panic attacks you should be aware of how caffeine, sugar, artificial ingredients (food colouring, preservatives, aspartame etc) can negatively impact your nervous system and overall mental health.  Speaking from experience when I started eliminating coffee and processed foods from my diet, I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxiety levels.  That doesn't mean I don't have caffeine or sweet deserts in my life but instead of visiting a local coffee chain, I drink homemade tea and instead of processed store-bought cheese cake, I make my own so I can decide what goes in it.

3. Exercise. Similarly exercise has been proven to help with a variety of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic attacks.  And I'm not specifically referring to lifting weights at the gym - although if that is your thing that's cool too!  But the reality is anything you can do to get your blood pumping works just as well.  You can have a nice walk in the park, do yoga , or even dance up a storm in your living room! Whatever way you chose to stay active, so long as it gets you moving and works up a sweat ;)

4. Using food as medicine - this differs from my point in #2 where I talked about certain foods aggravating mental health issues.  In this case, we're talking about adding certain foods to your diet which have been shown to alleviate symptoms of stress and depression.  Foods like avocados, chia seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, berries, salmon and dark leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts...), because of their nutritional content have been known to lessen symptoms of anxiety, stress and mood disorders.

5. Adding certain natural supplements to you diet.  Again I won't go into specifics because I'm a strong believer that a personalized approach to nutrition is best but for the most part, people with mental health issues can benefit from a good quality B-complex vitamin, omega-3 oils (like from salmon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nuts, avocados or olive oil) and minerals such a magnesium are very helpful with stress, anxiety and depression.  Be sure you purchase these at a health food store or in the natural section of your supermarket.  Shopping big box stores will offer better discounts but be mindful of any added preservatives they could sneak in there.  *Note that this is generalized information that doesn't take into account personal allergies, or medication interactions.  Consult your health care practitioner before making any drastic changes to your health routine.

6. Pets and plants. Study after study has proven that caring for a pet helps people lessen symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress...etc.  Animals have healing powers for people because they offer no-strings-attached companionship and loyalty.  And if you live somewhere where pets aren't allowed, don't let that discourage you.  There's always the option of getting fishes for a fish tank or even hamsters, ferrets, birds, lizards...Similarly plant life has been know to be beneficial for mental health.  Having greenery in the home is a wonderful way to take care of something living without tying yourself down with a dog or cat.  And of course there's always the option of helping out at your local animal shelter.

7. Journaling This is another time-tested technique that has shown useful in dealing with all kinds of mental health issues.  Sometimes the trouble is just being overwhelmed by stressful or sad feelings and writing these things down is a good way to release them - journaling helps get all that negativity out of your system and also sort through your feelings.  You'll find that they become much less overwhelming when you can make sense of them a bit.  It may sound too simple to work but many people swear by this practice.

8. Living well A general sort of point here that may sound like a no-brainer to some but it bears repeating: If you live a healthy life, you'll have better mental health.  That means that excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fast-food.. etc will have a negative impact on your overall health, including mental health.  The same is true for smoking, use of recreational drugs or abuse of prescription drugs.  Living well is an inside job that requires some work but the results are well worth it.

9. A good support system - this includes family, friends, loved-ones, online network, support groups, therapy...what have you. The important thing is that you surround yourself with people who are willing to support you when the chips are down and you're at your worst.  It's crucial to realise that we're not alone in dealing with mental health issues.  Often times just talking with other people who are going through the same thing or who understand where you're coming from and know how to help can make a world of difference!

10. Bottom line: do whatever works for YOU.  If working out helps you deal with stress, then go run around a few times a week and burn off those nerves.  If you start looking at nutrition and notice a change, you owe it to yourself to establish some rules for trying to avoid what doesn't agree with your body. Whether it's meditation, music, or journaling your feelings - find a regime that fits and stick to it!  With a little work, you can get on track to a better quality of life :)

I hope you enjoyed my top 10 tips.
If you have any other tricks that work for you, share them in the comments below.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Month


I have something a little bit different than the norm for you all today.  Many of you probably know that I also run a book review blog.  Well two of my favorite bookish bloggers: Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts & Ula @ Blog of Erised have gotten together to host Mental Health Awareness Month for the month of June.  Even though Mental Health Awareness month was held in May around these parts, in the U.K., they actually have it in June. When I was asked to participate, I couldn't refuse because raising awareness for mental health issues is something I strongly believe in.  For their part, this will mostly involve reading books that deal with mental health issues in any and all it's forms.  I will be reading and reviewing a few books relating to MH on the book blog but I also wanted to participate through Holistic Chick as well.

Things will be a bit different over here though, less focus on the bookish aspect naturally ;-)  I'm thinking of having one or a few discussion posts and possibly a few tricks of the trade on dealing with various mental health issues - from a natural standpoint of course :)  Keep an eye out for these come June!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Tricks of the Trade - Baking Soda

Tricks of the trade is a regular feature here at Holistic Chick where I showcase a simple, natural item that can commonly be found in the home and how it can be used to make your life more simple...and more green. It spotlights helpful tips involving cleaning, beauty & body care.

Today we're talking about Baking Soda, which has SO many different uses it almost sounds too good to be true. Seriously, when I started researching this post I was already using baking soda for cleaning, personal care, as an odor remover and for getting rid of stubborn stains but I was surprised how many new uses I found for this simple, affordable, everyday item.

Deodorizing - Baking Soda is brilliant at absorbing odors.  You've heard of people putting a box of baking soda in their fridge?  That same idea can be used for anything from  removing smells from footwear, the car, clothes (in the washer) cat litter-boxes...even as a natural under-arm deodorant - just rub a bit of it on under-arm area after the shower!  It works wonders sprinkled in trash cans, stinky drains, lunch boxes...pet bedding - you name it!  If there's a smell, baking soda can get rid of it safely.

Stain Removal- Baking Soda is GREAT for removing stains from clothing but it also works wonders for clearing up things like rust stains in your sink and appliances.  I've shared a post awhile back regarding the many uses for Vinegar including a bit on how White Vinegar is great for removing stains (read the full post here) and whenever baking soda or vinegar alone don't cut it, combining both usually does the trick.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a tough stain out of a white top with a combination of vinegar, baking soda & a little elbow grease.  NO harsh chemicals AND it gets the job done.  Gotta love that!

For Body Care - Baking Soda has been used as a teeth whitener for centuries but did you know you can also use it as a natural body scrub and even for hair care - i.e. making a natural shampoo, mouth freshener and like I mentioned about underarm deodorant.  Because baking soda not only cleanses but also deodorizes, it's the perfect ingredient for a lot of different body care routines.

As you can see, the possibilities are virtually endless.  If you need something cleaned, whitened or deodorized, you can likely use Baking Soda to get it done.  It can be abrasive though so mix it with water before using it on surfaces that could get scratched and test on a small inconspicuous area before going nuts with it.  As always, if you're unsure - do your own research to be sure. A quick Google search should do it ;-)

How do you use Baking Soda around the house? Did I miss any good tricks?
Let me know in the comments below!

**This post was featured on Natural Living MondaysPennywise Platter Thursdays & Real Food Wednesdays**

Friday, 28 March 2014

Healing with Herbs - Ginger

For this installment of Healing with Herbs, I thought I'd feature Ginger Root, a simple and affordable herb that I've know about for some time but only recently started using for healing.

For whatever reason, I'd never really been taken in by it's flavor.  I'd had ginger juice in the first health food store I'd worked in but it was pulpy and too strong for me to truly enjoy. Then, as I was reading once again about all of it's amazing benefits (which I'll be sharing below), I happened upon a basket full of actual ginger root at my local corner store and figured I would try brewing tea from it...and since that day, I've been having 1-2 cups of fresh ginger tea each and every day!

Ginger is an herb closely related to Tumeric and indeed it does have many similar properties: both anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic and antibacterial.  Ginger specifically is better know for treating digestion issues, nausea, morning sickness, headaches/migraines, arthritis and joint pain.

Ginger is also know for improving circulation, increasing blood flow, alleviating coughs and colds...in fact, the basic nutrients found in Ginger have shown to help support lung function. Ginger has also proven to be liver tonic because of it's ability to regenerate, protect and cleanse the liver.  Similarly, Ginger has the ability to support and cleanse the kidneys.  Finally ginger is also an adaptogenic herb which means it helps the body adapt to stress by supporting your adrenal glands.

So- for someone with digestive/liver issues, migraines, inflammation and 
adrenal fatigue,you can probably see why I'm excited about ginger ;-)  

**To brew a tea from ginger root: slice 4-6 thin slices of ginger root and add to boiling water.  Steep for about 30 minutes and enjoy ~ Honey can be added to sweeten and both can be combined with lemon juice for an serious immunity boost!

How do you enjoy Ginger?

As always, this post should only serve as informational & for general knowledge.  No two people are alike & therefore no one reacts to any herb in the same way.  If you are inexperienced with herbs, please do your own research or consult an herbal specialist.  Always check with your health care provider before embarking on a new supplement regime.

This post was featured on Pennywise Platter ThursdayReal Food Wednesday & Natural Living Monday

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Part 3 Discussion - Nutrition basics for EVERYONE

I've decided to launch a 10-part discussion feature on Nutrition...specifically the state of nutrition nowadays.  I hope that sharing the very basis of what I've learned from years working in the field might make it easier for some of you to start taking the right steps towards getting healthy!  If you missed my previous discussion post, click here

Happy 2014 everyone!  I hope the holidays were as wonderful for you all as they were for me ♥  And I hope you'll forgive my holiday-hiatus but I'm back in full-swing and ready for part three of our discussion feature!  For this installment,  I wanted to share some very basic and general nutritional information that can benefit pretty much anyone - assuming of course, that there are no pre-existing health issues or concerns that require a special diet or supplement protocol.  Some of these tips might be no-brainers for a lot of you, but I think they bear repeating.  Others still might go against things we have been lead to believe for years by the general health population.  If my years of working in the natural health industry have thought me anything, it's that a little change...can do you good ;-)

Alright so - here we go:

Water.  Water is likely THE most important and overlooked healthy habit to get into.  I won't get into all the benefits of water (again) since I've posted more than once about it here and here...and I don't want to nag y'all but for ANYONE even remotely invested in their health or well-being; start by drinking more water.  It is the easiest way to detox, energize and help your body do all the things it needs to!

Protein Fat & Carbs - know as macro-nutrients, these are the three basic groups everything we eat fall under.  Here's the most vital piece of information I can give you about them: EVERYONE needs to eat protein AND fats AND carbs. Period.  Cutting out all fat is BAD for you. It's a simple as that. You need GOOD fats to help your body get rid of bad fats. It may sound wrong, but it is a fact.  People trying to lose with by cutting out all the fats in their diet will likely not be able to meet their weight loss goals.  Why?  Because starving your body of the fat it needs makes it hold on to whatever calories it can...making it very hard to shed those pounds.  

The typical ratios to guide yourself by here - considering you have no pre-existing dietary requirements is as follows:  Daily and for EVERY single meal: proteins should make up about 40% of your caloric intake. Carbs should take up about 30-40% but these should be complex carbs - none of that refined pasta and bread guys! The final 10-20%...leaning more towards 20% should be healthy fats which include but are not limited to: olive oils, nuts, seeds, butter, avocados, coconut (meat/oil/milk) and the fat from meats and cheeses if you eat them.

I mentioned weight loss briefly there, so here's another simple tip: skipping meals will not help lose weight. Your body needs fuel and if you restrict it too much, it will go into starvation mode and STORE MORE CALORIES.  And that's pretty much going against your weight-loss goals.

GMO's are bad.  They are worse than bad.  When we ingest them, are bodies can't even recognize them as food. It's as if we were ingesting plastic Their nutrient value is significantly less than regular foods AND they cause more harm than good in the long run.  Keep in mind that genetic modification is a very new process that hasn't been tested for long term human consumption.  A good rule of thumb with food is: if it didn't exist 100 years ago, you probably should avoid it.

Rest -  this might sound like a no-brainer, but take it from a former night-owl: sleep is good.  When someone becomes sleep-deprived, they tend to have worse metabolism, anxiety, mood-issues...not to mention low energy and brain fog.  If you have trouble getting or staying asleep, I recommend consulting with a natural health practitioner.  Supplementing with Melatonin, herbs like Chamomile and Catnip - even drinking a small glass of  pure Black Cherry Juice before bed can do wonders!  Personally speaking when I began taking a quality protein powder before bed, my sleeping habits & quality improved immensely.

Exercise -is another kind of obvious one, but it's also habit that's easy to let fall by the wayside.  Yet study after study has shown that having an active lifestyle does wonders for your health and well-being.  No matter how slow you go, getting off of that couch will surely improve your quality of life!  Whatever the weather, if you dress accordingly, you should be able to enjoy yourself and improve your well-being!

Breathing - duh right?  But I'm talking about deep, relaxing breathing here.  Either through yoga or simply by taking time every day to take deep cleansing breaths, you can calm your nerves, get more energy and think more clearly.  Do it with me now: inhale, hold it for a few seconds than sloooowly exhale.  Repeat this process for one whole minute and you'll notice the difference.

Supplements - should only be taken as needed for a pronounced lack in nutrients -OR- to correct and/or regulate an existing condition.  Supplements can't and shouldn't replace a proper balanced diet and just because someone you know had impressive results adding a certain mineral or herb supplement to their regime does not mean you will get the same results.  I recommend consulting with a nutritionist of naturopath that does nutritional testing like hair analysis or blood analysis to find out what supplements you ought to be taking.

I hope these simple reminders helped put some things in perspective for you! 
 Anything to make getting healthy easier for us all - right in time for the new year...
Here's wishing all of you a healthy 2014 :)