The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

As the end of the semester approaches, a lot of students tend to rely on things like coffee and pulling all-nighters in order to get their work done. Many have trouble sleeping or getting enough restorative sleep as they tend to be so stressed out. As a result, they turn to sleep medications. However, these sleep medications can leave the body feeling more drained and tired. Most importantly, they can mess with mental clarity and focus. That is the last thing anyone wants before an exam.

The body relies heavily on sleep in order to restore itself and prepare itself for each day. Sleep is the one chance the body gets to “shut down” and focus on itself. Naturally, there are many dangers of sleep deprivation. The risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, or diabetes increases. Not enough sleep also leads to irritability, learning impairments, anxiety, and depression.

The number one tip given out to students is usually “manage your time so you can get enough sleep”. However, that is not always possible as each student has many other different commitments besides school. The good news is that there are natural options available. Many students have heard of melatonin. However, taking melatonin can increase the amount of REM sleep every night. The deep REM sleep can lead to very vivid and lucid dreams which do bother some individuals. That being said, there are other options available.

There are other supplements that typically do not cause the same kind of lucid dreams. Kavinace is a company that offers around four different products that are sleep aids. The original formula blends ingredients, like vitamin B6 and taurine, that help promote the synthesis and activity of GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter in our brain that is very important for sleep. It calms the body down and helps to manage stress. However, stress can alter the activity of GABA which is why a boost from supplements is sometimes needed.

Melatonin, 5-HTP, magnesium, and theanine are the other supplements that can help promote sleep during stressful times. Taking time to listen to calm ambient music, taking an Epsom salt bath, or drinking an herbal tea can also help calm the nervous system down enough to drift off to sleep.

As always, it is important to do research and make sure that any of these supplements do not have interactions with medications.



The Pillars of Brain Health

Caring for the brain is extremely important as it is the most important organ in our lives. It regulates our quality of life and a healthy brain can ensure personal wellness. There are around six main pillars of caring for brain health. Those six pillars include physical exercise, nutrition, medical health, sleep and relaxation, mental fitness, and social interaction.

Physical exercise can help with maintaining a healthy weight, keeping bones and the brain healthy, and reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer. It is important to note that some exercise is better than no exercise. Regular exercise can generate brain cell growth and make vital changes to the brain. It has been found that regular exercise can boost the size of the hippocampus. This is extremely important as the hippocampus is involved in verbal memory, learning, and thinking. Ultimately, exercise plays a role in the health of brain cells, the production of new blood vessels in the brain, and maintains optimal health of current brain cells.

Nutrition also plays a vital role in brain health. Some research supports the Mediterranean diet as it is rich in whole grains, greens, fish, healthy fats, and nuts. All of those foods can keep the brain healthy and reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been found that foods high in saturated fats (red meat, butter, and other dairy products) can cause the development of neurodegenerative diseases to progress further. As always, fruits and veggies are extremely important for a healthy body. Leafy green vegetables and berries are exceptionally rich in brain health nutrients as they can slow down aging. Dark chocolate can increase the blood flow to the brain and decrease inflammation. Spices like ginger and turmeric can also decrease potentially harmful inflammation in the brain.

It is always important to get an annual checkup done in order to ensure that there are no imminent risks. Following the other 5 pillars of brain health can help keep blood pressure and body weight at a normal and healthy level. It is important to take supplements or medications as prescribed, cut down on things like processed food and sugar, and to stay active.

Cutting down stress leads to more sleep and relaxation. A healthy amount of sleep and relaxation cuts down the risk of depression, sharpens memory, manages stress, and allows the brain to stay in tip-top shape. It can be hard to destress, but it is important to think positively and allow events to unfold naturally instead of reliving it twice and being consumed with anxiety. It can also help to focus on the specific problem at hand.

Mental fitness can be improved by studying or learning a new hobby or task as it can fight mental decline. Listening to music while working out, playing an instrument, or finding some form of art that is appealing can improve mental fitness. Crossword puzzles, chess, card games, or online brain games can also help maintain a quick reaction time and it can improve the ability to solve problems

Finally, social interaction has many benefits. It is a source of support, can combat depression, cut down stress, and slow down age-related cognitive impairment. Pets can also provide the benefits of social interaction as they boost immunity, keep us active, calm us, and improve our social lives.



The Benefits of Natural Skincare

The spotlight has recently been on natural skincare and the benefits of using all-natural ingredients on the body. There are many benefits as a lot of the skincare products on the market that sometimes contain harsh and toxic ingredients. To put this in perspective, women put an average of 150-200 chemicals on their body every day. Men tend to put on around 85 chemicals on their bodies.

It is important to understand that some of what is put on your skin, lips, and around the eyes can pass through the skin and enter the body. This can put unnecessary stress on the natural detoxification systems in the body. Parabens, triclosan, oxybenzone, talc, petrochemicals, and phthalates have all been found to be endocrine disruptors and may affect the normal function of the thyroid. This can affect hormone production, may contribute to developmental and reproductive toxins, may affect fertility, worsen allergies, and contribute to metabolic disorders.

Skincare products made from natural ingredients can clear breakouts, protect from sun damage, soothe irritations, and even ease conditions like eczema. A lot of natural ingredients have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that can do the exact same thing chemicals can but without the damage. They are gentle and can protect against adverse reactions.

Another benefit is that natural skincare is actually better for the environment. Normal beauty products require tons of mining for lead, aluminum, and petroleum. These ingredients all harm wildlife and are not any better for our health as these materials have been linked to things like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

A few well-known organic or natural brands include Acure Organics, Nardo’s Natural, and Avalon Organics. As always, it is important to do a patch test to ensure that an allergic reaction does not occur.



The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Optimal Health

The microbiome is extremely important for optimal health as it has been found that the microbiome plays a crucial role in either health or disease. The body is home to trillions of microorganisms. These microorganisms include bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. These trillions of microbes can coexist happily in a healthy person and ensure that everything in the body is functioning normally. However, problems start to arise when chaos erupts in the microbiome. Most of the microbes in the microbiome have a symbiotic relationship with the body but some of them also can be pathogenic and promote disease. As with everything, balance is key. The body remains healthy as long as there is a balance, but the balance can be broken by anything. The most common disturbances include infectious illnesses, excessive use of antibiotics, insomnia, and some diets.

Steps can be taken to ensure that the body remains at homeostasis and there is a balance of microbes in the body. Supplements that promote gastrointestinal health can also be used. It is especially important to replenish good bacteria when on antibiotics. Some recommended brands include Terry Naturally, DaVinci Labs, Life Extension, and Designs for Health. It is also important to eat a diverse range of foods so that the body receives the nutrients it needs. A diverse range of food can lead to a diverse microbiome which can enhance health. Eating fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, and yogurt can provide the body with probiotics and help it reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria in the body. It has also been found that artificial sweeteners can raise blood sugars and then have a negative effect on the gut. Finally, eating foods rich in polyphenols can reduce the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation on the body. This leads to the gut effectively breaking down the polyphenols and providing a boost to the microbiome.

It is also important to note that every person has their own unique microbiome. The microbiome is determined by DNA and can be influenced by a number of factors. This also means that not every product will work the same in every body so it is important to listen to your body and recognize what is helping and what is causing harm.



A Natural Approach: Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine originated in India but has become increasingly popular in the United States. The beauty of Ayurvedic medicine is that it aims to heal the whole body of all ailments by creating harmony between the mind, body, and spirit. It emphasizes the importance of preventing diseases through lifestyle choices. Ayurveda medicine aims to internally purify the body and then maintain that level of purification through lifestyle changes. It stresses the importance of maintaining health and wellness through practices like yoga, meditation, massage, and dietary changes.

Ayurveda states that there are five elements found in nature (air, space, fire, water, and earth). Vatta is represented by air and space. It controls the nervous system and hence has an effect on anxiety, fear, and pain. It also controls muscles, joints, and nerves. Pitta is represented by fire and water. It has control of certain emotions like anger, jealousy, and hate. Pitta controls other bodily functions like digestion, metabolism, and intelligence. Kapha is represented by earth and water. It governs the physical attributes of each body and the immune system.

Moving onto the lifestyle practices, yoga can be extremely beneficial for the mind and body. Physical benefits include increased flexibility, energy, muscle tone, cardiovascular health, and athletic performance. Mental benefits include relieving stress and improving concentration. Meditation benefits include reducing stress, controlling anxiety, promoting mental health, enhancing self-awareness, lengthening attention span, sharpen memory, improve sleep, help control pain, and improve mood. Finally, massages can help with stress, anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, sleep, and improve circulation.  

Banyan Botanicals is one reputable brand that prides itself on being sustainably sourced as they use fairly traded herbs. Just like with anything else, it is important to exercise caution when using Ayurvedic herbs as it is possible that they can react with prescription medications or have adverse effects. However, Ayurvedic practices like yoga and meditation are safe practices that can be implemented into a healthy lifestyle. It has also been found that Ayurvedic medicine can have the best results when it is combined with standard conventional treatment.



Plant-Based Protein

The number of vegetarians and vegans in the United States has risen over the past 10 years. A considerable amount of people also try to go vegetarian or vegan for a little. This is also another reason that plant-based proteins and nut milks have been in the spotlight. This post will go over some benefits of plant-based proteins, some recipes for protein shakes, and the different kinds of plant protein.

Plant-based protein usually has a lot of fiber, tends to have fewer allergens, has alkalizing properties, provides minerals and vitamins, and is lower in calories.

Here are some links for different plant-based protein shakes:

The most common kinds of plant proteins come from peas, lentils, hemp seeds, soy, chia seeds, brown rice, and pumpkin seeds. All of the plant-based proteins have their own benefits.

Pea protein powder is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), can lower blood pressure, and help with muscle building. Lentils help burn fat and are generally are a great source of fiber, so they are easy to digest. Hemp seed protein powder has a relatively high protein content and is not too high in calories. It is high in zinc, fiber, and alpha-linolenic acid. Soy is a good source of protein and branched-chain amino acids. However, it is important to avoid genetically modified soy. Chia seed protein powder is low in calories but has a moderate amount of protein and quite a bit of dietary fiber. Brown rice protein powder is usually cheaper, hypoallergenic, and has a good amount of branched-chain amino acids. Finally, pumpkin seed protein powder is a good source of protein but low in fat. It is also rich in a lot of vitamins and minerals.

Some recommended brands are SunWarrior, Nutiva, and Garden of Life.



Neuroscience: Neuroplasticity

The word “neuroplasticity” means that the brain can reorganize or repair itself by forming neural connections throughout our lives. Neuroplasticity is a prime example of the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Due to neuroplasticity, the brain is very resilient and has the ability to function properly even after it has been affected by a disease or injury.

There are a few ways to increase neuroplasticity and heal or protect the brain. It has been proven that even just thirty minutes of mild exercise (cycling or walking) can lead to a rise in neurochemicals which then encourages the development of new brain cells and new neural connections. Meditation can also incite neuroplasticity as it is “exercise” for the brain. It trains the brain to rest and relax and can even encourage stronger neural connections in certain parts of the brain. This is also why meditating has the ability to boost memory, increase attention spans, and improve decision-making.

Food choices also have the ability to affect neuroplasticity. The brain needs nutrients to create, preserve, and protect brain cells. Those nutrients also help with forming neurotransmitters and maintaining homeostasis on the body. It has been found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate and the polyphenols found in berries can encourage brain health. Furthermore, it has been found that blueberries specifically have the capability to increase blood flow to the brain. That can improve cerebral circulation which can prevent neurodegenerative disorders. Blueberries can also enhance brain activation which can combat the negative effects of oxidative stress. Memory tends to be better and cognition improves.

Brain games recently have gained a lot of attention as well. It is important to note that many of these well-known games have not gone through controlled trials. However, BrainHQ is one of the games that did go through a controlled trial. The results showed chances of increasing brain plasticity.

Other suggestions to improve neuroplasticity include reading books, getting quality sleep, and reducing stress. Essentially, the brain can regenerate itself due to neuroplasticity, but things can also be done in order to encourage it.



The Nutritional Needs of a Young Adult

It is often very easy to get caught up in our daily stresses of school and work. Many of us put our health on the back burner and look for easier, usually unhealthier, dinner options while neglecting our nutritional needs. This post will go over some of the nutrients every young adult needs on a daily basis and ways to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into our busy lives.

The 10 main essential vitamins include:

  • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin A has the ability to protect the eyes, support the immune system, reduce the likelihood of acne, support healthy bones, and promote healthy growth.
  • B Vitamins
    • The benefits of B vitamins are numerous. They ensure that nerves stay healthy, protect the brain and immune system, combat everyday stress, and boost energy.
  • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin C is known as the vitamin that boosts the immune system. However, it also is essential for excellent cardiovascular health.
  • Vitamin D
    • Vitamin D is extremely beneficial for the body. A majority of young adults have a deficiency in Vitamin D. It can lower inflammatory markers in the body, prevent certain psychiatric diseases, help with autoimmune disorders, and help with insulin resistance in diabetic individuals.
  • Vitamin E
    • Vitamin E helps the immune system, brain, skin, vision, and reproduction systems in the body. It has vital antioxidant properties. Antioxidants essentially counteract the negative effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are created by stress and can cause long-term damage to the body.
  • Vitamin K
    • Vitamin K is extremely important because it plays a role in healthy blood clotting. It helps produce four of the thirteen proteins needed for clotting.
  • Magnesium
    • Magnesium can help calm the nervous system and encourage deep sleep. It also can help alleviate anxiety symptoms and keep the brain healthy.
  • Calcium
    • Calcium is needed for strong bones. The heart also needs satisfactory amounts of calcium in order to function properly.
  • Zinc
    • Zinc is particularly great for the immune system. It encourages proper wound healing and can provide a shorten the span of a cold.
  • Iron
    • Iron plays a huge role in the production of red blood cells. It carries oxygenated blood to the brain and can help with neurotransmitter synthesis.

Figuring out a morning routine can help ensure that vitamins are taken every day. Meal prepping on the weekends can also help with keeping away from unhealthy foods throughout the week. It is also important to find a way to stay active. It can be as simple as dancing in your room for thirty minutes, walking around campus for a set time, finding an at-home workout to follow, or doing some simple yoga poses to stretch your body.

As always, it is crucial to find reputable brands for supplements. It is important to avoid brands that add fillers, dyes, or preservatives. Some recommendations for supplement brands are Douglas Laboratories, Standard Process, and Life Extension.



Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms usually are known as a vegetable that is added to dishes to make them tastier. Interestingly, there are many different types of mushrooms and each one has a variety of benefits for the body. The most talked about mushrooms are Reishi Mushroom, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Cordyceps, and Chaga. This article will break down the benefits of each and the ways each one can be consumed.

Reishi mushrooms are known to help increase longevity, have anti-cancer properties, can help restore the liver, enhance the immune system, and improve mood. This specific mushroom is also known for the neuroprotective properties it has. Intriguingly, it can protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases and has properties that increases the nerve growth factor in the brain. The nerve growth factor in the brain is extremely vital for healthy neurological function and controls the way neurons develop and survive. It can be consumed as a supplement or as a tea. It also might be easier to consume it as a latte (Reishi Chocolate Latte).

Lion’s Mane is known as the “mushroom for the brain”. It improves memory and focus, can reduce depression and anxiety, can stop or reverse damage caused to the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, and significantly lower inflammation. Lion’s Mane can also be consumed as a tea, supplement, or a latte (Lion’s Mane Mushroom Matcha Latte).

Maitake is especially beneficial for immunocompromised individuals or with individuals that have sugar resistance problems.  These mushrooms can be roasted and added to soups or be eaten with rice.

Cordyceps can help boost endurance during exercise, prevent the effects aging can have on the brain, fight insulin resistance problems, protect cells from cancer, and can even help with viral infections like strep throat. Like the others, Cordyceps can be consumed as a supplement, tea, smoothie (Cacao Cordyceps Smoothie), or a latte (Cinnamon Vanilla Cordyceps Latte).

Chaga stimulates and regulates the immune system, reduces inflammations, helps with gastritis, normalizes blood pressure, prevents aging, and improves the skin. Chaga can also be consumed in the same way as the others. The most common way to consume it is to drink it as a tea or make it into an elixir so that it is tastier (Spiced Chocolate-Chaga Elixir).

It is extremely important to buy medicinal mushrooms from reputable and certified suppliers. This is because mushrooms tend to mimic the qualities of a sponge. They absorb whatever they are grown in. This means that they can easily absorb toxins and be high in pollutants or heavy metals. Fungi Perfecti is one of the brands that strives to make high-quality supplements. They make various products that provide immune system support, respiratory support, brain and nerve health, heart health, energy levels, and help in aiding stress responses.



Preventing or Treating a Cold by Giving the Immune System a Boost

The flu season is quickly approaching. The good news is that there are many ways that you can help your body out during this season.

  • Sleeping is the best way to heal and repair the body. Many studies have concluded that not enough sleep can compromise the immune system. This can lead to being more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Lack of sleep can also prevent the body from healing quickly.
  • Hydration
    • Lots of water and tea can ease a sore throat or loosen the congestion.
    • Note: It is important to avoid sugary drinks.
    • Matcha is another option and is excellent for the immune system.
      • Matcha is extremely high in antioxidants and EGCGs. It can help your body produce more T-Cells and fight off viruses more efficiently.
      • Matcha also has a naturally high chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll detoxifies the body and gets rid of any chemicals, toxins, and heavy metals. This ensures that the immune system can focus on fighting off pathogens instead.
      • Matcha has the ability to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation in the body.
      • A recipe for Matcha Ginger Immunity Tea:
        • 1 Teaspoon Matcha Powder
        • 1 Tablespoon Grated Ginger
        • 1 Tablespoon Honey
        • Hot Water or Nut Milk
        • Optional: ½ Lime
  • Try drinking your nutrients by having something like bone broth.
    • It is easy to digest and the vitamins and minerals in it help boost the immune system.
    • More information about the benefits of bone broth.
  • Vitamins for the Immune System
    • Vitamin C
      • Vitamin C helps to strengthen the immune system.
    • Vitamin E
      • An antioxidant that aids the body in fighting infection.
    • Vitamin D
      • A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to the body being more susceptible to infections.
    • Probiotics
      • Probiotics add good bacteria to the gut and this is crucial because gut bacteria helps to regulate the immune system.
    • Turmeric
      • Turmeric enhances antibody responses in the body.
  • Sauna or Steaming or Sinus Rinses
    • These three options can help flush out the sinus cavities from any allergens or bacteria.
  • Invest in a Humidifier
    • Humidifiers take care of dry indoor air and can ease sinus related problems. Moisture in the air makes it easier to breathe when congested.
  • Essential Oils
    • Eucalyptus, peppermint, and spearmint essential oils are the best for congestion-related sinus headaches.
  • Shower Melts” can also help with congestion and are easy to make.

All of these remedies can help take some stress off of the body and help with getting back to optimal health.



Benefits of Having a Pet and How to Care for Them Properly

There’s no denying that having a pet can be a lot of work. Pets can be very time consuming but the benefits of having one are endless. Dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend,” and there are many justifiable reasons for this.

Dogs provide companionship, can help with anxiety, relieve stress, make their owners more social, lower blood pressure, and even lower the risk of heart disease in their owners. Intriguingly, a study concluded that there was a correlation between cardiovascular health and dog owners. Dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases. This conclusion was still found to be true even after accounting for various factors (smoking, socioeconomic status, and body mass index).

Pets can do so much for us but how can we ensure that we are treating them in the best possible way? A lot of “premium” dog food on the market is full of ingredients that furry friends do not need. Many people are not aware that pet food is made up of the waste products from food that is made for human consumption. Pet food advertisements will make it look like the pet is getting top of the line chicken in their food. The truth is that there is barely any chicken in it. It is essentially just what was left over from manufacturers for human consumption. These “premium” pet foods also often consist of corn and soy as their main ingredients. Corn and soy are sprayed heavily with toxic pesticides and a lot of it is genetically modified. Many of us have realized that humans should avoid those two genetically modified ingredients so shouldn’t they also be removed from the diet of our pets? Eating these ingredients may potentially lead to chronic health problems in, pets but it is preventable.

Conscientious pet owners should do their research before buying food for their pets. The internet is a great resource, but a veterinarian can also usually suggest the best pet food options. Many pets will face various ailments throughout their lives and companies like Pet Wellbeing offer gentle and natural options to help with those minor symptoms. It is important to take care of our pets properly. It is our job to ensure that they get the proper nutrition that they need.



Neuroscience: The Mind-Body Connection

I recently read the book “Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself”. The book emphasizes the importance of the mind-body connection. It is said that the mind is a powerful thing, it can play tricks on us, but it can also help us heal ourselves in an essentially natural and more sustainable way.

Thoughts can most definitely affect the body and the book highlights how thoughts can manifest into a reality. The neuroscience explanation for this would be that thoughts have a direct impact on the neurotransmitters in the brain. For example, a state of chronic stress usually leads to negative thoughts. Those thoughts and the state of chronic stress reduces serotonin and increases the hormonal levels of cortisol in the body. Naturally, neurotransmitter depletion and hormonal imbalances have a negative influence on the body. Stress can also deplete the natural killer cells in the body, leading to a decrease in immune system function, which can contribute to chronic illnesses. This sounds overwhelming, but there are ways to conquer the mind and prevent the negative effects it can have on the body.

Conventional medicine often diminishes the fact that the mind-body connection is very powerful. Little things are overlooked and missed. Not enough time is spent with patients to realize that other natural approaches can be integrated along with medication. This approach would ensure that the body does not get dependent solely on the medication and that the ease in symptoms is more long-term. As mentioned in the “Neuroscience: The Mind-Gut Connection” post, the gut will always tell the mind when something is wrong or imbalanced in the body. I do believe that allopathic medicine is a wonderful thing, but I also think it can cause serious side effects or other problems if it is not necessary.

The body is a miraculous thing that often has the ability to heal itself naturally with a little bit of help. Practices like concentration meditation, heart-centered meditation, mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, visualization, positive thinking, acupuncture, reflexology, and massage therapy can help restore the body. These practices can also help the body respond better to allopathic treatments. In essence, taking care of the mind will help with taking care of the body and vice versa.



Kicking off the Semester Right

Classes have started again, and things have already started to get hectic for a lot of us. It is extremely important to start off the semester right so this post will go over some tips in order to ensure a successful semester.

  • Try to sleep a little earlier and wake up earlier.
    • Apps like Sleep Cycle can help make waking up a little easier.
      • The Sleep Cycle app monitors your sleep cycle and wakes you up when you are in the lightest sleep phase. This ensures that you wake up feeling refreshed. It can tell when you are awake, sleeping, or in deep sleep. It can also detect if you snore and will notify you in the morning.
      • Establish a morning routine that works for you.
    • Drink at least 8 ounces of water.
    • Try to plan out your outfit the night before so that time is saved in the morning.
  • Find a light workout routine, do some simple stretches, meditate, or go to a sauna.
  • Make a healthy and easy breakfast.
    • There are a lot of easy recipes on Pinterest.
      • Smoothies can be a very easy way to get nutrients in. It is even easier if you cut up your favorite fruits or veggies and freeze them in baggies ahead of time. This saves time and effort in the morning. All you have to do is add water, milk, or a nut milk.
    • Make a to-do list or write a journal post.
      • Can write this on an agenda, on a calendar whiteboard, or on an app like the 5 Minute Journal.
    • Take your vitamins.
      • It is important to make sure that you are taking your vitamins from a reputable brand. Many brands will add preservatives and many extra ingredients that are not needed.
      • Organize your supplies and write down the important dates for each class.
      • Use one notebook for lectures. This notebook can be messy and all over the place. Use another notebook to neatly write notes out and work out practice problems after class.
        • This makes it easier to study when it comes time for exams and also ensures that you have seen the material more than once. The retention of the information will be even higher if this is done within a few hours of class.
      • Utilize tutoring sessions and office hours.
      • Make a friend in every class in case you have to miss a day.






Healing the Body Naturally

It’s true that our lives have become a rat’s race. There’s constantly something to do and we do it all but that can result in our mind and bodies becoming overwhelmed. Finding a balance in life can be hard but it is most definitely achievable. Taking care of our mind and bodies should be a top priority since it can hinder all of our other goals in life.

Establishing a morning and nighttime routine can be extremely beneficial. A set routine is important for the mind and body. The body will slowly get used to the bedtime routine and will start to unwind because it will recognize that it is time to sleep. The nervous system will slowly start to calm down and that can ensure a good night’s sleep.

Examples of things that can be added to a morning routine:

  • Stretching
  • Showering
  • Meditating
  • Drinking Lemon Water
    • Lemon water has many benefits including hydration, providing a dose of Vitamin C, clearing skin, and aids in digestion.
  • Taking supplements or medications
  • Eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast
  • Listening to upbeat music to start the day off on a right note

Example of things that can be added to a nighttime routine:

  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Bedtime Yoga
  • Reading a book
  • Journal/Brain Dump
  • Making a cup of Tea
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • No electronics before bedtime
    • The blue light in phones and laptops causes a surge of cortisol in the body. Cortisol depletes and inhibits the production of melatonin. A loss of melatonin messes with the sleep/wake cycle of the body.
  • Turning on an essential oil diffuser
  • Setting out clothes for the next day
  • Writing a To-Do list for the following day
  • Deep Breathing
    • 4-7-8 Breathing Technique. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.

There are other ways to relax and take care of the body too. As pointed out in the last post, listening to your gut is super important as the body will tell you what it needs. It’ll guide you in the right direction. Lots of sleep, engaging in a hobby, getting away for the weekend, catching up on chores, cleaning the space around you, and exercising can all help an individual reset. Sleep will help the body recharge, engaging in a hobby will help distract the mind, and exercise will give the body a boost of endorphins.

It is crucial to take care of the body and the mind.  Helping it out as much as possible is the key to preventing illnesses.

Neuroscience: The Mind-Gut Connection

The correlation between the gut and brain has recently been brought into the spotlight. It has been found that there is a direct communication system between the gut and brain known as the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis consists of the central and enteric nervous systems and links the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain to peripheral intestinal functions. There are around 100 billion neurons in the brain and around 500 million neurons in the gut. Those 500 million neurons in the gut are connected to the brain and this is noteworthy because neurons are responsible for conveying information throughout the body.

This is also why it has been found that the gut-brain connection can contribute to anxiety and many digestion problems. Emotions like sadness, happiness, and anxiousness can elicit symptoms in the gut. There are many feelings and expressions that also allude to this like feeling nauseous, having a gut-wrenching/gut feeling, or having butterflies in your stomach. These expressions have some truth behind them as there is a direct connection between the brain and the gut. Our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode as soon as a fear of danger is perceived, and the enteric nervous system responds by slowing down or stopping digestion to conserve energy.  The gut is also known as the “second brain” since the gut sends signals to the brain. This is what allows us to make decisions based off of our gut. It also means that nervousness and anger can cause our bodies to produce unwanted symptoms like heart palpitations or stomach problems.

There are trillions of microbes in our bodies. These microbes make up our microbiome. A microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria that helps out the cells in our body. A lot of these microbes are in our gut and help to balance blood sugar, absorb nutrients, combat inflammation, aid in digestion, and control the immune system. Gut health has a direct effect on the brain, so this also means that things like probiotics can have an effect on memory. The good bacteria in the gut produce a bulk of the neurotransmitters in the body and those neurotransmitters send signals to the rest of the body. Naturally, that can have an effect on brain health.


Caring for the Body with Carotenoids

Carotenoids have been researched for a while now and are known for their incredible benefits. Carotenoids are essentially the pigments that give foods their color. For example, they give sweet potatoes their orange color and blueberries their bright blue color.

Dietary carotenoids are known to protect the body against cancer. They are thought to be very beneficial because of their ability to function as antioxidants in the body. The most well-known carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and astaxanthin.

Beta-Carotene is known as a carotenoid that has the ability to be converted to vitamin A in non-toxic doses. This is great news since a supplement of vitamin A usually gives the body more vitamin A than it can handle and can damage the liver. Since beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, it has the same benefits of vitamin A. These benefits include the ability to protect the brain from cognitive decline, keep the eyes and lungs healthy, and replenish the antioxidants in the body. Some natural sources of beta-carotene are apricots, broccoli, asparagus, kale, spinach, peppers, carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes.

Lycopene is an antioxidant in fruits that are red or pink. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants, has numerous benefits for the skin, helps prevent cancer, helps keep the eyes and heart healthy, is beneficial for the brain, can lessen neuropathic pain, and can lessen oxidative stress in our bones. Some natural sources of lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, asparagus, red cabbage, grapefruit, guava, and mango.

Lutein is an antioxidant found in the eye and can be found in yellow or orange foods. It helps protect the eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts. Natural sources of lycopene include mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, squash, collards, and bok choy.

Astaxanthin is a dark red color and can support the muscles, nerves, skin, and eye health. It can also protect the brain, digestive system, and can support exercise recovery. Astaxanthin can protect the nervous and immune system from oxidative stress. It is seven times stronger than vitamin E and suppresses DNA damage. It is also different from the other carotenoids because astaxanthin is primarily found only in seafood. Common sources include krill, shrimp, crab, lobster, crawfish, and salmon.

Overall, carotenoids are very beneficial in protecting the body against oxidative stress. It is very important to keep the levels in the body balanced since a decrease in antioxidants and an increase in free radicals is a critical factor of the pathogenic processes to chronic illnesses.


Ashwagandha for Anxiety

Ashwagandha is a herb that is native to India. It has been used for many years in order to reduce the effects of stress on the body. It encourages a healthy stress response and can also help with anxiety, adrenal fatigue, inflammation, thyroid problems, and joint pain.

Anxiety and panic attacks cause the brain to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol continuously. Naturally, this can lead to headaches, dizziness, and a strain on the central nervous system.

Ashwagandha helps because it has very powerful protective effects on the nervous system and can prevent neural damage. Preventing neural damage is crucial for protecting the brain and nervous system against neurodegenerative diseases. The stress, environmental toxins, and lack of healthy food that we are constantly exposed to impacts our nervous system. Since ashwagandha can protect brain cells, it has the ability to be used as a tranquilizer or antidepressant. It can protect individuals exposed to chronic stress or chronic nervous tension.

Ashwagandha creates a “stress-response modifier” which is also known as an adaptogen. Adaptogens help manage the hormones in the body and the response to tension. Adaptogens are essentially a group of herbs that improve the health of the adrenal system by enhancing the body’s capability to cope with stresses and anxiety. They prevent the body from being in a constant fight-or-flight mode. They normalize the hormonal imbalances in the body and they create a more stable source of energy for the cells in our body.

As mentioned earlier, ashwagandha can help with inflammation in the body by regulating inflammatory factors in the immune system. A common misunderstanding is that all inflammation is harmful to the body. The truth is that the immune system uses inflammation in order to protect and heal cells from injury. However, an excess of inflammation can have adverse effects on the body, so it is important to manage the amount of inflammation in the body. Helping with inflammation can also help ease joint pain and mobility problems.

Ashwagandha can help with hormonal imbalances so it also naturally affects thyroid health. It contains antioxidants that encourage thyroid activity and shield hepatic tissue from impairment. Ashwagandha has a direct effect on the adrenal glands and HPA axis in our bodies. This means that it can prevent the aches and pains that are associated with adrenal fatigue.

Lastly, sleep can help the body recover in miraculous ways. It can calm the mind and body down and allow cells to repair. Ashwagandha, GABA, and melatonin supplements can all naturally support the body to ensure that it self-repairs.





Neuroscience: Rewiring the Brain with Meditation

Meditation has the ability to rewire the brain as mindfulness-based practices can help encourage neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity essentially emphasizes the fact that the brain is also a muscle that can be strengthened and improved throughout our lives.

In addition to the ability to affect neuroplasticity, it can also increase the amount of gray matter in the brain. The tissue in the brain is made up of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter controls memory, speech, impulsiveness, decision-making, and emotions. A loss in gray matter can also lead to numerous illnesses like psychosis or schizophrenia. The amount of gray matter also naturally decreases as the brain ages. The brain shrinks as an individual gets older but it can be retrained and the good news is that the damage usually can be reversed with care. Meditation can prevent gray matter losses associated with aging and can protect the maturing brain.

Meditation enhances brain activity and promotes new growth of neural pathways in the brain. It can rewire the prefrontal cortex which plays a significant role in mindfulness and self-awareness. The prefrontal cortex helps with cognitive behavior, decision-making, and expression of emotions. It has the capability to control thoughts and actions. This can bring significant improvements in the ability to concentrate and memorize so it can dramatically increase the amount of work an individual can do.

Like mentioned earlier, meditation can literally change the structure of the brain. It can increase the volume of the brain in certain parts and the biggest increase is usually found in the hippocampus. The hippocampus primarily controls memory and learning. It promotes faster learning, creativity, and better focus. Naturally, that means that meditation can enhance performance at work and in school. It can also decrease the volume in certain parts as it has the power to shrink the amygdala. The amygdala is known as the reptilian part of the brain and is responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. A smaller amygdala means that symptoms of PTSD, stress, and trauma can be reduced. The brain can feel calmer, balanced, and happier. All of these benefits can significantly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.

Other benefits include:

  • An increase in immunity
  • A decrease in inflammation
  • A decrease in pain
  • A decrease in loneliness

There are numerous ways to combat the amount of stress placed on the brain every single day. It is important to remember that the brain shrinks with age but can be strengthened with mindfulness-based practices like meditation. These practices can significantly help heal and support the brain.