Easing Stress with Essential Oils

As the school year approaches, learning about natural stress-relieving tips can never hurt! Essentials oils have gained a lot of attention because there are many individuals in the holistic world that truly believe in the ability that they have to ease various symptoms or ailments. It can never hurt to try a more functional approach as well since the side-effects tend to be minimal.

Chronic stress can leave an individual with common symptoms like headaches, respiratory issues, and digestive issues. All of these are unwanted symptoms and can hinder daily activities, especially as a student with many demanding commitments. There is science-backed evidence that states essential oils can have a positive effect on heart rate, immunity, breathing, stress levels, and blood pressure. It has been found that the molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier. This has a clear impact on the areas of the brain that control overwhelming feelings of panic and depression. 

While essential oils are not a cure, they can certainly help ease tension related symptoms like headaches. The most common scents that help with easing stress are lemon, lavender, yuzu, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage, and jasmine. Dr. Mercola, NOW Foods, and doTERRA are some high-quality essential brands that carry these specific ones. 

Essential oils can be applied topically but they also can be blended and be diffused through a diffuser:

5 Essential Oil Blends for Stress

Aromatherapy Recipes for Stress Relief

Roll On Essential Oil Blend for Stress Relief

57 Essential Oil Blend Diffuser Recipes for the Mind, Body, and Soul

It can take some time to find the right combination of scents but there is a lot of inspiration on websites like Pinterest. 

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201604/six-aromatherapy-essential-oils-stress-relief-and-sleep

Natural Approaches to Self-Care

As the school year quickly approaches once again, it is always nice to come back refreshed and mentally prepared to start up another year. This post will go over some quick tips to get organized and feel physically and mentally ready. 

It can really help to set the tone for each day by visualizing goals, writing tasks down, and taking five minutes to either meditate or be mindful by putting electronics away. Apps like Simple Habit or Headspace can help with this and help ward off the stresses of the daily rat race.

It also can help to break a sweat early in the morning to get a rush of endorphins. It can be as simple as walking, going to a spinning class, dancing, yoga, swimming, or working out at home with an app like Daily Burn. As always, it is important to refuel the body with nutritious foods. Cooking can also be a mindful time and it can help for individuals that are trying to be a little more health-conscious.

Tackling the easiest tasks on a to-do list can help get the ball rolling with productivity. It is recommended to write down even the littlest chores so that the mind can be at ease as “brain dumps” can help relieve some stress. Working in increments of thirty minutes and taking five-minute breaks can make the work a little less monotonous. 

Creating a very calm atmosphere can also help to get things done and ensure a restful night of sleep. Having a consistent bedtime routine like showering, lighting a candle, drinking herbal tea, and reading a book can help the mind to know when it is time to unwind and rest. Nothing can make up for a lack of sleep. Both the body and brain require adequate rest to function optimally. Taking a bath with Epsom salt or applying something like Tiger Balm can help to relieve muscle aches and pains. A good book like “Good Vibes, Good Life” by Vex King can help ward off stress and encourage positivity in everyday life. Herbal teas like chamomile or valerian can help calm the nervous system down and ensure restful sleep. 

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet has been increasingly receiving hype over the past few years. This lifestyle essentially focuses on incorporating healthy fats, a lot of protein, and a minimal amount of carbs. The goal is for the body to enter “ketosis”, which allows the body to burn fat and use ketones for energy. Ketosis is a natural state that occurs when the body does not have enough carbs to burn for fuel. However, this state can be mimicked when following the guidelines above (high fat, protein, low carbs). 

Evidence based research has shown that the ketogenic diet can help with neurological disorders like epilepsy, improve cognitive function, boost weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, protect against neurodegenerative illnesses, reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, and even acne. In order to jumpstart the process, it is recommended to limit carbs to twenty grams per day. The number can gradually increase to fifty grams, once the individual has become accustomed to the dietary changes. Emphasis is placed on foods like ghee, avocados, MCT oil, seafood, low-carb vegetables, cheese, eggs, meat, yogurt, olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives, butter, and cream. All of these foods have minimal carbs but are either high in protein or fat. It is important to point out that once the body is in ketosis, it can be extremely satiating and not much effort is required in terms of meal prepping. 

Here are some very easy ketogenic recipes to make the adjustment process a little easier:

·     Zucchini Noodles Recipe (Keto Zoodles Alfredo)

·     Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

·     Spicy Keto Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wrap

·     Baked Avocado Egg Recipe (Egg Stuffed Avocado)

·     Keto Low Carb Milkshake Recipe – Vanilla

·     Low Carb Keto Microwave Bread Recipe with Coconut Flour

·     Low Carb Gluten-Free Keto Soft Pretzels Recipe

·     Easy Low Carb Keto Custard

·     Baked Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables 

·     The Best Keto Mashed Cauliflower Recipe

These recipes incorporate low-carb alternatives to some classic starchy dishes. With that being said, it is important to exercise caution when implementing such a big dietary change and it should only be done after thorough research. 

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-ketosis

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-foods#section15

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-1-diabetes-guide/what-is-ketosis#1

The Benefits of Wheatgrass

If you have heard about wheatgrass shots, then you probably have heard that they do not taste the best. Nonetheless, the health benefits most definitely make up for the acquired taste. The good news is that this taste can often be masked by other fruits or vegetables in smoothies!

Wheatgrass is extremely high in nutrients such as chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Around seventeen amino acids, iron, magnesium, calcium, glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A can be found in a typical wheatgrass shot. This drink is also a good source of antioxidants that help to protect health cells and to remove free radicals from the body. Some individuals will drink a wheatgrass shot in order to detox since it is high in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is believed to help regulate a healthy inflammation response, has antimicrobial properties, support blood product and the immune system, and help with feelings of vitality.  

Fresh wheatgrass can typically be purchased from various health food stores or the powdered version is also available through companies like Amazing Grass. Here are some different ways to incorporate wheatgrass into meals:

Wheatgrass Shot

Wheatgrass Lemonade

Matcha Wheatgrass Latte

To the Max Green Smoothie

Orange Wheatgrass Smoothie

Wheatgrass Avocado Kiwi Smoothie

Green Tea and Wheatgrass Smoothie

Lime + Avocado + Wheatgrass Smoothie

Baby Spinach, Blueberry, and Wheatgrass Smoothie

Alkalizing Green Mango, Banana, and Wheatgrass Smoothie

All in all, there are other unsubstantiated claims that it can kill cancerous cells, reduce cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar. It is believed that wheatgrass can be beneficial to patients with chronic illnesses as wheatgrass can lower harmful amounts of inflammation. As always, it is important to make sure these claims are scientifically proven before believing them. 

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wheatgrass-benefits

https://www.healthline.com/health/liquid-chlorophyll-benefits-risks

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/wheatgrass/faq-20058018

Ways to Get an Adequate Amount of Protein if You’re Vegetarian or Vegan

It used to be believed that there was no real way for vegetarians or vegans to get an appropriate amount of protein without eating meat. However, it feels as if many individuals have switched over to being vegetarian or vegan within the past few years. It is also being recognized that there are plenty of ways to get plant-based protein. This post will go over some of the easiest and healthiest ones. 

Lentils, chickpeas, green peas, almonds, peanuts, spirulina, quinoa, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are some of the most common sources. Soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are also some rich sources of protein. With that being said, it is essential to make sure that the soy is organic and non-GMO as soy is one of the most contaminated products in the United States. 

Another common way is to make protein shakes with a variety of added superfoods. Orgain is a popular brand that is known for their high-quality organic protein powder and they avoid common allergens like gluten and soy. They also sell convenient pre-made protein shakes that include twenty-one vitamins and minerals and can be used as a snack, workout booster, or meal replacement. 

Soups, salads, smoothies, shakes, or hearty Buddha bowls might be some of the easiest ways to incorporate the protein-rich sources mentioned above. Here are some ideas:

Baked Tofu

Green Pea Soup

Asian Garlic Tofu

Vegan Lentil Soup

Spicy Chickpea Salad

1-Pot Vegan Lentil Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Sweet Vanilla Green Smoothie

Protein Packed Berry Smoothie

Simple, Hearty Vegan Lentil Soup

Chickpea Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes

Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs

Resources:

https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20718479,00.html

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians

Evidence-Based Benefits of 5-HTP

There are always new supplements in the spotlight for things like sleep, anxiety, and depression. 5-HTP is one of those supplements that has been around for a while and is known to help individuals that suffer from illnesses related with serotonin-deficiency. 

5-HTP stands for 5-Hydroxytryptophan. It is an amino acid that the body produces, and it is used to produce serotonin. The production of serotonin is vital as it is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for sending signals to nerve cells. It plays an integral role in mood, social behavior, memory, sleep, appetite, and cognitive function. The depletion of serotonin is known to lead to ailments like insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, and depression, so this is where 5-HTP can come in handy. 

It has been found that 5-HTP can aid in weight loss as it can send signals to the brain that tell the body that it has eaten enough. It can also alleviate some symptoms of depression since it increases the levels of serotonin. The role of serotonin in depression is still a little unclear but several studies have found a correlation. While correlation does not mean causation, it does provide some hope to those suffering from mental health illnesses. 5-HTP can also improve the aches and pains caused by fibromyalgia, reduce migraines, and increase melatonin production in the body. 

5-HTP typically only comes in capsule form and can be purchased from a reputable company like Biotics Research. As a side note, Biotics Research does require a consultation with a healthcare practitioner to ensure that the right supplements are being taken. It is important to talk with a professional before taking a supplement like 5-HTP to ensure that the side-effects won’t outweigh the benefits and to also check for any potential interactions with medications. 

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-htp-benefits

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248

Amino Acids: The Benefits of L-Theanine

Let’s start off with some background information on amino acids. Many of us have heard of amino acids in our biology or organic chemistry courses, but why are they so important to our bodies? Amino acids play a significant role in developing proteins within our bodies. They also are crucial for encouraging muscle repair, healthy tissue growth, and regulating immune function. There are twenty-two amino acids, but the spotlight is usually on the nine essential ones. These nine essential amino acids can’t be naturally produced in our bodies and are required from other sources. On the other hand, non-essential amino acids are produced in our bodies on their own and they play a vital role in eliminating toxins or supporting metabolism. 

Now that we have some background information on amino acids in general, let’s dive in deeper to a specific one called L-Theanine. This amino acid is specifically found in tea leaves or mushrooms but it can also be found in supplements. It is most commonly known and used for the relaxation benefits, however, there is a long list of benefits. Studies have shown that it can significantly reduce the negative feelings of stress and relieve anxiety. It has been found to have a synergistic effect when combined with caffeine as it can increase attentiveness. Individuals often feel more alert in thirty minutes or less. L-Theanine can boost immunity, control blood pressure, improve the quality of sleep, give sinusitis relief, and even boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments. 

Here are some links to recipes that have either have L-Theanine in them naturally:

Coconut Matcha Latte

Matcha Chia Seed Pudding

Chocolate Matcha Butter Cups

Matcha Granola with Blueberries

Vanilla Matcha Protein Smoothie

Dark Chocolate Matcha Date Bars

Healthy Matcha Green Tea Coconut Fudge

L-Theanine Packed Matcha Green Smoothie

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/essential-amino-acids

https://www.vitalproteins.com/blogs/stay-vital/what-are-amino-acids

The Healing Properties of Turmeric

Turmeric has been a prized and extremely treasured herb in India for over 4,000 years now. It was most commonly used for medicinal reasons, in cooking, and in religious ceremonies. Turmeric has also recently become increasingly popular in the United States as many individuals are turning towards more holistic and functional approaches. 

According to studies, turmeric has been proven to increase the antioxidant levels in the body, improve brain function, lower the risk of heart disease, relieve arthritis, and even fight against depression. The main ingredient in turmeric known as curcumin can effectively help you to manage inflammation. It is important to realize that all inflammation is not detrimental and harmful. In fact, it is vital and tremendously important as it helps ward off foreign pathogens and repairs damage. However, that is only if it is acute and short-term.  Chronic inflammation plays a role in many neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and metabolic disorders. Curcumin has been shown to work with a healthy immune system and the regulating factors that may help to maintain normal levels of inflammation in the body.. 

Here are some easy ways to incorporate turmeric into the diet:

Turmeric Chicken and Rice 

4-Ingredient Golden Milk Mix

Ginger Turmeric Orange Juice 

Morning Turmeric Detox Drink 

24 Karat Gold Vanilla Turmeric Latte

Healing 3-Ingredient Turmeric Tonic

Turmeric-Ginger Tonic with Chia Seeds

Inflammation-Busting Pineapple Slushy

Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime

Fried Brown Rice with Turmeric and Kale

Overnight Oats with Cashews, Seeds, and Turmeric 

Yellow Pepper and Corn Salad with Turmeric Dressing

Supplementation might be the easiest way to implement a daily incorporation of turmeric and these supplements can be found at health food stores. NOW Foods and Life Extension are reliable brands as their supplements contain the active ingredient, curcumin, in them. 

Resources: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section4

Mushrooms and Matcha: A Powerful Duo

It has always been apparent that neurodegenerative diseases are extremely crippling but there was never much research on the prevention of these ailments. However, as more and more studies are being done, it has become increasingly evident that certain foods can slow down or prevent the progression of these diseases.

Nature has been a source of inspiration for its potent healing properties with minimal side effects. Yet, only recently have things like matcha and medicinal mushrooms have been extensively studied, and they are some of the two newest superfoods linked to brain health.

Let’s break down the healing properties of each. Matcha is extremely rich in chlorophyll, enhances mood, promotes a feeling of relaxation, lowers blood sugar, gently detoxifies, and has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants when compared to other foods. Not only is it a neuroprotective superfood but it also has anti-microbial properties. It also contains amino acids and l-theanine that promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves play a significant role in boosting creativity, alertness, intelligence, and memory.

Medicinal mushrooms have been known to modulate the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, purify blood, detoxify the body, increase energy, improve mental clarity, lessen the symptoms of depression, and support healthy cellular production. That is a very watered-down version of their benefits, but a study recently showed that mushrooms had the ability to cut down mild cognitive impairment in the elderly by fifty percent.  

Matcha can be consumed with water, milk, or nut-milk. There are many reputable brands for matcha such as Encha, Art of Tea, and Matchaful. As for the medicinal mushrooms, Host Defense carries all different varieties of supplements. Finally, Four Sigmatic also carries a matcha latte mix with medicinal mushrooms in it for more of a synergistic effect.  

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6044372/

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/general/what-are-alpha-brain-waves/

https://www.nutrition53.com/blogs/blog/9363667-8-incredible-benefits-of-matcha-green-tea

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2019/03/26/mushrooms-and-brain-health-new-research-finds-a-potential-link-worth-considering/#2acff8e1f1bc

Taking the Load off of the Digestive System with Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics

Many studies have proven countless times that gut-health can affect everything else in the body, including the brain. This is why it is vital to be proactive and recognize when the gut might not be functioning optimally. Symptoms such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, and diabetes can all be indicators of an unhealthy gut. This post will go over two ways to ease the load off of the digestive system.

Enzymes are required to break down the foods that are consumed every day in order to properly absorb nutrients. Enzymes such as amylase, lipase, and proteases/peptidases are responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. However, sometimes the body is not able to produce enough of these naturally-occurring enzymes by itself and gastrointestinal symptoms start to arise. This can cause some unnecessary strain on the body, but the good news is that excess strain can be alleviated.

The first option would be to consume foods that contain natural enzymes such as pineapple, papaya, mango, bananas, avocados, honey, and ginger. The Happy Digestion Smoothie contains most of these foods and can be an easy way to implement these changes. Enzymes can also be taken over-the-counter and there are several brands like Enzymedica that carry these supplements. Enzymedica aims to help their clients experience better health as their cutting-edge enzyme formulas are recognized for aiding with healthy digestion and metabolism.

On the other hand, probiotics replenish the microbiome with healthy bacteria. These beneficial strains of bacteria can help ward off various infections, gastrointestinal symptoms, and several different skin disorders. Fermented foods like kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha can provide these valuable strains.

As always, it is important to exercise caution before introducing anything new to the body. It is recommended to talk to a physician or to do research to ensure that there are no likely negative side effects.

Resources:

https://www.bepure.co.nz/blogs/news/signs-unhealthy-gut

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-digestive-enzymes#section12

https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/gut-reaction-a-limited-role-for-digestive-enzyme-supplements