Category Archives: Wellness

Why care about lifestyle when thinking about brain health?

Brain health is often paired with a discussion on healthful aging each of which stems from a combination of three overarching areas;

  1. genetic disposition and/or triggering of the genes
  2. lifestyle
  3. environmental factors

There has been a common perception that having a genetic disposition will absolutely ensure a specific health outcome.  However, as more recent bodies of evidence on various chronic disease outcomes have suggested, this is a misinterpretation.

You will notice that I included “triggering of the genes” in the list above.  Well, the triggers can stem from variables associated with lifestyle and environment.  So, as you may begin to see, we have overlap or intersection of the three categories above.

So what do you need to think about for lifestyle?

Well, much of it is really not that different than what you may have heard from other health experts honing in on lifestyle health overall.  Essentially dietary patterns, movement and physical activity, reduction of adverse stress, and appropriate sleep all play a role.

You may have also heard of cognitive exercises to nurture a facet of the brain called neuroplasticity.  A more comprehensive synopsis is available from the Positive Psychology Program.

However, what seems to be a missing link?

An area that is often overlooked in lifestyle health approaches is addressing environmental factors and understanding for the areas in which we CAN take action.

Research is emerging, but from a scientific lens, we are starting to observe more patterns in chronic disease manifestation associated to adverse environmental exposures, including those associated to the brain, such as forms of dementia.  Also, chronic diseases associated with the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, have observed increased prevalence, especially in industrialized nations.

It may seem as if we are helpless in this area.  However, a key take-way from this blog post is that there are certain shifts in the lifestyle that can support a reduction in the overall burden.

Approaches should center on some combination of realistic avoidance of adverse exposures and boosting our body’s detoxification pathways.  Then, as previously indicated above, focus on healthful behaviors and practices.

It is not uncommon for people to simply not know where to take action …or, out of ALL the options out there, understand what to place focus on. 

However, once some of the blinding curtains begin to come down, a clearer perspective for what to do can be gained.

Emphasis on the area of brain health is top of mind for so many people.  There is much more we could talk about for the “How to do it” with regards to lifestyle health and the brain.  It is this reason why I’m offering a free 5-day virtual challenge, Boost Your Brain Health in 5 Days, which starts April 29th, 2019.

Participation in this free educational challenge will get you started on realistic shifts in the lifestyle to further support healthful aging and the brain.  The challenge will include daily emails with an informational video and easy to complete activity plus daily engagement in a closed Facebook group.

The sign-up form can also be accessed for the Facebook event page HERE.

 

Photo by Fachy Marín on Unsplash

Journey with Network Chiropractic Care

Have you heard of network chiropractic care?  If you answered, “no”, you are likely not alone.

Network Chiropractic Care, otherwise known as Network Spinal Analysis (NSA), is a gentle touch approach that nurtures the nervous system.  The emphasis on a reset is multi-faceted across physiological and mental/emotional health.

The intervention occurs through spinal cord adjustments that support a re-organization of the tension within the nervous system.  Its aim is to shift out of a stress-based state towards more optimal functionality.  A more thorough synthesis is provided on Daocloud HERE.

It is EXTREMELY important to consider the health of your nervous system.  The nervous system is tied into so many other areas including hormonal regulation, detoxification pathways, and digestive health, then, of course, the brain!

I had been passively looking for a chiropractor with a focus on gentle applications.  Admittedly, I had been doing just about everything else for good health, but keeping this type of treatment on the back-burner.  Until recently, I didn’t realize that the gentle approach that I was looking for would equate to NSA.  However, upon the introduction, I was immediately drawn to the concept.

In the Functional Medicine community, we frequently talk about neurology and respective tie-ins to overall health.  The nervous system (or systems, because there are different components to the master system) is a foundational system imperative for both structural health and overall well-being, yet may be under-emphasized in personal approaches to wellness.

In February of this year (2019), I started my journey with Network Chiropractic Care.  The timing was a little off due to some pre-established travel plans, but like with anything in life, there never really is a perfect time and sometimes we just need to dive in.

I wasn’t expecting favorable results from my initial scan, but I was also surprised at how much tension I was actually carrying.  Therefore, after wrapping up my travel, I returned in March to enroll in a 3-month intensive.  (The specific practice I enrolled can be accessed HERE).

At this point, I’m a few weeks into my care plan.  It will be an exciting update down the road upon completion of the intensive.  However, for now, a few initial observations are as follows;

  • Most of the applications are very, very light in touch.  It’s is nothing like getting a massage.  However, it is amazing how relaxed your muscles feel after a session.
  • For now, I’m still dealing with tension and tightness that returns, sometimes in little as a few hours to a day after a session, but, so far, the treatments have made me MUCH more aware of how I engage with my body.  Operating in a subconscious, auto-pilot sort of way, I have realized how often I have been twisting and contorting throughout the day and evening, particularly around the shoulder and upper back area.
  • The relationship between neurology and breathing is even more clear.  I have been aware of this mind-body connection area for quite some time.  It appears in so many healing modalities from meditation to yoga to visual frameworks, such as guided imagery.  However, in the NSA framework, you really feel it.  A minor touch on a specific point can almost immediately shift your breath.  I would like to think this is a release within the body and further demonstration of what is working.  To be continued…

I would love to share more about my journey with Network Chiropractic Care.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to learn more about the experiences and insights I have had thus far.

In the meantime, a few additional resources are below;

New Day Network Wellness

Information on Daocloud

Family Network Chiropractic, About NSA™, Network Spinal Analysis

A free directory of providers

Epienergetics website

 

*Photo by Stuart Poulton on Unsplash

Finding Balance while Living with Autoimmune Related Conditions

March is autoimmune disease awareness month.

For those of you who know or follow me, you are likely well aware that living healthful and well is a key focus area for both my personal life and professional niche.  This may be in spite of having chronic conditions or underlying physiological dysfunction.  The fact that I carry my own diagnosis and am a fit to “autoimmune wellness warrior” can present certain idiosyncracies to maintaining balance.

Professionally, I work with people to live better, well, and most healthful, while personally, I am often holding on tight while navigating through turbulent, bumpy roads all while working to keep it all together!  Naturally, it can give me greater ability to express empathy, but it can also leave me feeling that I have a massive case of imposter syndrome.

A few insights on autoimmune related conditions are as follows (more can be found via the AARDA):

  • Approximately 50 million Americans are afflicted with an autoimmune-related condition.
  • There are over 80 conditions confirmed associated with underlying autoimmune dysfunction and the list is growing.
  • Women are disproportionately affected.
  • Late or misdiagnosis has been common.
  • Despite supportive evidence for lifestyle interventions significantly influencing outcomes, immunosuppressant treatment is still common yet may result in devastating long-term side effects.
  • The body of research centered on effects from environmental factors and the manifestation of autoimmune-related conditions is mounting.

For people who are able to put autoimmune conditions into remission, a 3-5 year timeline is common.  This is typically curated through a “lifestyle-medicine” approach which will involve a range of shifts including dietary approaches, relationship with sleep and stress, reduction in adverse environmental exposures where possible, and a potential range of therapeutic related approaches to nudge the body closer to healthful homeostasis.  For many of us, like myself, complete remission may not be realistic, but a significant reduction in the severity could be possible.  Therefore, 5 years not just after a diagnosis, but from the time in which notable lifestyle changes are begun is kind of a relevant time to do a robust check-in.

This spring will mark 5 years since I have had a formal diagnosis for autoimmune related conditions, (which often cluster and may come with secondary conditions that are considered to be present as a result of the specific autoimmune condition(s) manifestation).  In many ways, things are going relatively well.  There may still be an occasional flare-up or mishap, but many of my symptoms have been significantly reduced, my antibody labs came back the best results I have seen since I started this journey, and I have indoctrinated the lifestyle changes to become my new normal without much mental anguish to think it all through.

Which brings up a good point.  As much as these conditions are physiological, there is also a chaotic dance in store for the mindset.  However, although sometimes haphazard with certain unexpected variables, it’s still one that can be orchestrated.  Therefore, a few wellness tips can also be rather impactful!

Manage expectations through letting go of perfect.  “Well” does not mean perfect.  Hey type A-ers, I’m talking even a little more closely to you.  Systems and plans can be fantastic for staying on track, but remaining flexible while having a sense of humor can also go a long way!

It’s ok to say No.  Not everyone is going to understand what we are dealing with.  It’s not personal, educate when it’s appropriate, but otherwise, let it go.  Time and energy are much better spent on other areas in which we can enthusiastically say “yes”.

Focus on the unintentional gifts.  For me, I have significantly more knowledge and perspective than I would have had otherwise.  Also, I have been able to shift various focus and responsibility to a more meaningful purpose.

A few other bloggers’ posts that are a little similar to this one that may provide further insight and inspiration.

Autoimmune Disease Warriors, About Us

The Advantages of Disadvantages

Why I Am Not an Autoimmune Warrior

 

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Live Out Your Joy

It was a blast to plan out an Instagram contest with a fellow entrepreneur who takes center on healthful living.  Be sure to follow @theConureLife and @LiveConscientiousLiveHealthful on Instagram to play along.

It starts on February 13th (US time) which also happens to coincide with “National Self Love Day”.

The daily themes center on healthful habits and behaviors that can be easily and consistently addressed, such as hydration, breathing, eliminating negative facets that don’t serve you, movement, and appropriate rest.

Additional ideas for you to “Live Out Your Joy” can be found in this Mind Body Green article, 10 Everyday Choices for a Soul-centered, Joyous Life.  I also love this article written by Eric Barke, How to Live Joyously Like an Old Person, that gains perspective on joy from our elder population.

Feel free to join us!

 

 

Photo credits to @JuicePlus and @WellnessStockShop

Support your body to better ward off infection & illness with this recipe

Herbs and spices have various “healing” properties.  They can also play a role in prevention.

Specific profiles will vary, but in general, appropriate usage of herbs and spices in our dietary protocols can make a favorable impact on digestion, circulation, blood sugar regulation, and immune response.  Within the scope of health-beneficial herbs and spices, options such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are often revered.  (click on each of them for more info)

I am happy to share this nourishing hot beverage from my mother’s recipe Rolodex.  A true inspiration, she has been steadfast in practicing whole-food, natural-living protocols for many years.

This warming drink comes especially in handy for times that you notice signs and symptoms of a nasty bug coming on, such as a cold or other viral infection.

Start with the following:

  • cinnamon stick (break it up if you can)
  • 1 tsp whole clove buds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • two large mugs of water

Put the water in a pan and bring to a high boil.  Add cinnamon and clove.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Turn off heat and add ginger.  Steep for about 15 more minutes.

Time to get warm and spicy.  Drink up.  Strain the desired amount.  Add lemon juice and honey to taste (optional).  Keep any remaining beverage to sip on later.

Photo credit Wellness Stock Shop #wellnessstockshop @wellnessstockshop

Free Fitness Fav’s

This fall I ended up booking a fair amount of travel across a 6-week period.  Previously, I had not leveraged various online fitness resources.  However, this time frame allowed me the chance to give them a try and figure out my favorite go-to’s.

In considering this avenue, there are essentially two directions to take;

  1. pick and chose from pre-set workouts, many of which are on platforms that include filters to help make a decision
  2. sign up for online programs that provide courses in a sequential nature

It seems a little more likely to find free options in category #1, but for paid options in category #2, the price point may not be high and the structure they provide could help to stay on track.

I tried the following;

  • Fitness Blender is very easy to follow, has great filter settings and covers a wide range of fitness type and levels.  Also, I LOVED the timer.
  • Jessica Smith TV had been featured in a Greatist article.  Her cues are well paced and easy to follow.  For someone who needs a little music, her videos are synced with instrumental fitness-oriented beats and tunes.
  • Commune offered a sequential online yoga program for free and it was perfectly timed to my travel schedule.  Courses are considerate of all levels and often shorter in duration so they can fit into busy and/or irregular schedules.

Tips I would provide are likely familiar but good reminders;

  • invest in resistance bands and keep 2-3 options for varied workouts (also, these pack easy and don’t add extra weight to luggage)
  • talk to your favorite trainers before you leave for their best tips and tricks on the go
  • keep a flexible perspective as there will undoubtedly be variability in various factors such as space, weather, and scheduling

Other suggestions are to check out retailers such as Athleta or Lululemon for community-based options.  Also, yoga studios, both franchise and locally owned, are fantastic resources.  I even found some local community center options for pilates and yoga.  Many events can be found through perusing Eventbrite or Facebook.  You might even make a new friend!

*Photo credit to Wellness Stock Shop.

Reasons to Get to Know your Local Farms

#ShopLocal represents a bit of a movement for many reasons…  supporting local economies, helping small businesses and entrepreneurs, and enjoying specific, regional options are a few of those.  When it comes to nutrition, it can also equate to greater transparency, produce picked at peak ripeness, reducing an urban footprint, and some regional health benefit, such as honey that is more likely to support a reduction in allergy symptoms related to a local area.

It’s also a personalized experience! 

A recent trip to a local grower, Wauka Meadows Farm, near the area my mother retired to introduced a new food (for my knowledge) that carries a nutritional punch, the muscadine grape (pictured above).  It also led to a healthful discussion with one of the owners with regards to local produce, the growing environment and regional climate, and some barn kittens running around the property.  Having the ability to speak directly with the owners is a fantastic opportunity for places such as this.  It also allows us to vote with our consumer dollar which for transitional farming areas may be quite impactful.  Finally, you may just meet a local billy goat who relishes the idea of your attention!

*Livestrong.com provides a write up on muscadine grapes HERE.

*Find sustainable and organic farms in the North and Central Georgia area via Northeast Georgia Locally Grown CSA (community supported agriculture) program.

Bug Off…

It’s summer in the US and I definitely do not blog as much between June and September.  However, a news alert caught my eye this past weekend; Scientists say record floods could brew bad batch of mosquitoes (Chicago Tribune).  This on top of reports of the first case of West Nile virus in the state of Illinois this year…  Eeek.  Southern regions may be seeing even greater batches of the little buggers.

Unfortunately most commercialized insect repellents are higher dose chemical concoctions.  Considering the alternative of an invasive virus, the choice may be simple.  However, lower toxicity options do exist in the essential oil (EO) spectrum and, bonus(!), some of these EO’s may assist in overall immune health.

Lara Adler, a reputable and resourceful expert educator on environmental toxins reminds us that “a number of essential oils have clinically been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, including clove oil, tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus, lemon-grass, and cinnamon oils.  Some oils are more effective against bacteria, while others are more effective against viruses, so combinations can be more effective than just using one oil on it’s own” (nd).

Furthermore, certain EO’s are particularly effective for insect repellent.  In this area, I’ve seen several blends usually including options such as lemon-grass, peppermint, and/or citronella.

My amazing friend and camping expert shared the following insect repellent recipe (for a 2 oz bottle):

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 8 drops citronella
  • 8 drops cedarwood
  • 6 drops lemon-grass
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops peppermint
  • 5 drops rose geranium
  • 3 drops thyme

*Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water.

Check out Cricket Camping blog for more outdoor living tips and some cool narratives.

This summer, further support conscientious healthful living by getting outside and active, but with consideration for the option of lower toxicity “bug off” approaches.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Adler, L. (nd). Tools for Teaching Toxicity. Essential Oils as Cleaners.

5 ways to “pretty up” your beauty routine

The beauty industry is a big business!  This spring, I kicked off with a blog The ‘Real’ Spring Clean detailing a few ways to clean up lifestyle approaches and living environments with regards to harmful exposures.  Personal care is a huge area within this topic, partially attributable to lack of adequate evaluation (see a 2004 Environmental Working Group report).

5 faucets to consider within this focus area include the following;

  1.  Upgrade your products for more bang for the buck.  One thing that blows people away is that well formulated, low-toxin beauty care products often require a lower amount for adequate application.  What does this mean in simple terms?  Investment in this sort of product will stretch, ie “less is more”.
  2. Pay attention to substrate when color is involved.  Essentially, liquids involving color have a greater chance of causing harm when applied to the skin.  Therefore, paying attention to chemicals, particularly those relating to endocrine disruption*, and carcinogens in products such as gels and creams may take higher significance as compared to a dry powder.  Definitely pay close attention to that lip color and be sure yours does not include lead.
  3. Avoid synthetic scents.  “Fragrance” is not well regulated in the U.S. and can consist of many proprietary chemical concoctions unclear to the end consumer.  The frustrating thing is even with “good” options, it can be hard to avoid.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) maintains a guide called Skin Deep to help assess this.  A good habit is to check whether labels have the word “fragrance” OR if a natural, plant-based substrate, such as a specific essential oil, is indicated.  Also, consider swapping out chemical based perfumes for essential oil blends!
  4. Take a break.  Find opportunities to avoid or reduce applications, for example there are ways to reduce how often we wash hair with shampoo and conditioner which, as it turns out, often leads to better hair quality.  Not only will making these reductions help lower the risk of cumulative low-dose exposures from personal care, it will save money over time.
  5. Remember internal health.  Finally, and most importantly, the real “skin deep” starts from within.  Cellular health is impacted by nutrition, toxicity, and emotional health.  Proper care for your internal systems will illuminate in better skin and hair quality leading to less need for external applications.

Although, admittedly, I’m still figuring this out myself, there are a couple options that I have come to favorable resolution on (for now);

Annmarie Skin Care multi-purpose foundation relies on a mineral powder, which can be used dry, or combined with facial oil, cream, or serum.  Blend a small amount of the mineral powder with oil, cream or serum in the palm of your hand to create the liquid consistency for foundation.

Typically I blend with their signature herb-infused oil (also available in unscented), but it has surprised me how nicely it also applies as a direct powder application.  In consideration of point 1 above, this product stretches well.  I hardly use any of it to make for full coverage.

Neal’s Yard Remedies is a product line was introduced to me by the lovely Lara Adler.  Based in the UK, it is distributed through retail channels throughout Great Britain and via independent consultants in other countries.  An unexpected bonus is I found that a friend from grade school had become a rep so I was able to reconnect with her through the process (see her page).

I have been absolutely amazed at how happy I have been when using Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser.  The formula cleanses and moisturizes simultaneously and can be used simply as an under eye make up remover or as a total facial cleanse.  Their Full of Grace solid serum is also a great multi-purpose staple.

Mineral Fusion products, although not perfect (mostly due to fragrance), rank pretty favorable across EWG’s list, come at a reasonable price point, and are available through a variety of accessible channels, including Whole Foods.  In addition, they have hair care formulas for color treated hair which is less commonly found within natural/organic centered personal care products.

One discouraging thing about being a Hashi’s patient is that I have experienced a fair share of eye brow thinning.  ZuZu Luxe pencil comes in a tobacco color that I love and their products rank pretty well on EWG’s list as well.

A company that I have not tried yet, but am considering for future use is 100% Pure.  The company relies on natural, plant-derived pigments and avoids iron oxides which have to be tested for lead.

Many also turn to Beauty Counter which is positioned at the fore front of education in the US beauty market and centered on reduction of substrates that are harmful in personal care products including their coined “Never List”.  Link to the page for one consultant in my network.

Finally, I have noticed several small, craft based options picking up momentum.  A few favorites in the Chicago area include Bonnie and Biba Lips.  Lip applications have not had the best track record, such as testing for lead.  Especially with consideration to point 2 above, lip color is a key area to pay attention to when assessing for potential toxicity.

Additional resources can be found via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

*Chemical-based substrates associated to endocrine disruption include phthalates (a class of chemicals related to “fragrance”, softeners, solvents, and stabilizers in personal and household related products), parabens (used as preservatives), and phenoxyethanol.  Endocrine disruptors refer to substrates that mimic or block hormone signals which, in addition to gland and organ health, have been studied for their role obesity.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure - Annmarie Gianni & 100% Pure links direct to my affiliate pages which may generate very small amounts of monetary income.

The ‘Real’ Spring Clean

How do you define clean?

I hope to challenge your definition and for those in which I’m “speaking to the choir”, let’s sing!

Toxins are a result of man-made chemicals as well as naturally occurring.  Repetitive low-dose exposure to these compounds over time, such as phthalates, is what we refer with the terms “toxic load” or “burden”.  Collective dose has been a subjective topic within the scientific community.  However, there is a supportive body of evidence for associations between toxic exposures and the onset of a whole host of chronic diseases from autoimmune to cancers.  Children, pregnant women, and older aged adults are significantly more sensitive and vulnerable to toxin exposure such as those from pesticides.  Substrates with toxicity can be found in consumer products, food, and the environment in which we engage.

Do I have your attention?

O.k., now “what the heck can you do about it?“…

I cordially invite you to redefine your spring clean.  Conduct an intervention for yourself by focusing on ridding yourself of the ugly (cleanse) and shifting to more healthful alternatives.  The easiest changes will be in your home.  Pick a room to start with and get going.  (Hint, this will likely be your kitchen and/or bathroom).

Primary areas in which you can easily make shifts;

  1. Personal Care – Color, fragrance, additives, synthetic chemicals that few would accurately pronounce… you name it.  Each of these are areas to become keen on when assessing potential toxic load.
  2. Cleaning Products – Besides data on unintentional poisoning leading to adverse outcomes including death, the average US household cleaner contributes to indoor air pollution.  These products carry rather harsh hazard warnings, such as “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, for a reason.  Yet, natural alternatives do not need any of this.  Consider the alternatives.
  3. Food –
    • How many ingredients are in a piece of produce?  No, this is not a trick question.  Answer:  ONE!  A follow up question, do you know how that piece of produce was grown, ripened, and shipped?
    • How many ingredients are in the average processed food item?  To be honest, I could not find this data, but I’m certain the average number is over 5!  Whole-food recipes, ie products of resulting in multiples of one, are not what I’m referring to here.  I’m calling out additives, derivatives, isolations, etc.  Many nutritionists suggest to shop by “Five or Fewer”. By this, we mean if it has more than five ingredients, don’t buy it.
    • Finally, pesticide resin, which can also be systemic, and potential harmful exposures picked up during shipping and transit are also variables to take into account.  The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists provide preliminary guidance (see below).
    • BONUS – don’t forget to check out your food storage, packaging, and cookware options, especially those used for heated items and/or those holding fat based items.

A special note on fragrances – In some cases, natural derivatives can contribute to the scent of an item, however, often the term on a product label is code for chemical concoction and full disclosure is not legally required.

Changes in each of the areas can parallel each other.  We often think of health as diet and fitness and the term “clean living” has been coined to food.  However, our health is impacted by many more variables each of which can be addressed in a “Spring Clean”.  Healthful shifts will incorporate reasonable reduction and realistic transitions.

What about communal spaces?

On a public health landscape, we certainly have work to do.  However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does incorporate this area into their healthy workplace initiatives and can be leveraged as a resource for change within communal spaces.

Other Resources;

Clean 15-Dirty Dozen