nYou know that getting a good night’s sleep is theoretically important, but managing a solid eight hours still might not be your first priority.
According to research, not getting enough sleep can be very damaging your health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of trouble, including memory issues to heart disease. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases the risk of obesity by messing with the hormones that regulate hunger while also increasing appetite.
Natural Sleep Supplements
If good sleep hygiene is not sufficient for getting quality, restful sleep, and your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions that might be disturbing your sleep, you should consider a natural sleep aid or herbal supplement. Sleep supplements produced from organic, high quality ingredients have been shown to be beneficial for many people. It is a good idea to consult with your health care provider before starting a sleep supplement.
Kava Kava and Passion Flower: Nature’s Valium
Kava kava is a root native to the South Pacific islands and has been used as a sleep aid—as well as for general de-stressing and relaxation—for thousands of years. Kava kava has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia while boosting the immune system. Benefits of both: Supports the nervous system. Soothes the nerves. Supports restful sleep.
Passionflower leaves have been used traditionally as a mild calmative. In fact, Algonquin Indians used passionflower tea to help soothe their nerves. Passionflower supports the nervous system in a variety of ways. Many have found that it helps with relaxation of tense muscles. It is widely used to promote a restful night’s sleep. It works as a natural benzodiazapine. (xanax)
Both can be taken in supplement form, or my favorite... TEA.
While the people of the South Pacific used kava kava for thousands of years, the people of Europe used valerian root.
Valerian is often grown in gardens throughout Europe and North America for its sweetly scented pink or white flowers on tall stalks, but it is the root that is prized for its natural sedative effects.
How Valerian Root Works
Phytochemicals in the root stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the “rest and digest system,” one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. While scientists can’t yet tell us exactly how valerian root aids in better sleep and relaxation, they believe it is because the phytochemicals in the root help to increase the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA regulates nerve cells and has a calming effect on the body. Many anti-anxiety prescription drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) or Valium (diazepam) are designed to increase GABA, and while valerian root has a weaker effect than these prescription drugs, it is thought to have far fewer side effects.
Valerian root calms anxiety and helps you fall asleep faster while improving the quality of your sleep. Valerian root is not known to cause morning grogginess, and it is non-addictive.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone made by your pineal gland. Melatonin plays a part in your body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s daily physiological cycle), with levels rising in the late afternoon and evening to encourage calmness and sleepiness as the sun sets.
How Melatonin Works
Melatonin is at its lowest levels during the morning and early afternoon—especially if you are exposing yourself to adequate sunlight during the early part of the day. Melatonin acts in conjunction with cortisol, a hormone that promotes alertness during the morning and early afternoon. As the day progresses, melatonin levels rise while cortisol levels fall, helping you to feel naturally drowsier as the sun goes down and the sky gets dark. What people don’t often realize is that melatonin can only be produced properly is you are producing enough serotonin as well.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
As you age, your body produces less melatonin, which may be one of the reasons older people often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for more than a few hours at a time. In the world of light screens and technology melatonin production is hindered or prevented as well. Turn off those blue lights!
Gentle, natural sleep aids and supplements are best for the body, though they should be used under the care and supervision of a doctor or certified herbalist. Kava kava, valerian root, and melatonin can all be effective ways to combat stress, insomnia, and night-time waking.
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When you consider that our bodies are literal products of the food we eat, the importance of gut health can’t be overstated. Without a healthy balance of enzymes and good bacteria, even the healthiest foods can’t be broken down into usable and essential micronutrients, leaving you malnourished and prone to a host of major and minor health issues. This is very often the case when we are talking Chrohns Disease, IBS, Leaky Gut, Auto-immune disorders that affect digestion, stomach acid, nutrient absorption.
Digestive supplements and enzymes are designed to restore the balance of enzymes and good bacteria throughout your digestive tract and bring your gut back to optimal working order. They also help you to break down food. (see earlier posts) Anyone who regularly experiences the following ailments should seriously consider incorporating digestive supplements into their diet.
Throughout the course of your day, do you experience above-average:
Food enzymes (amylases, lipases, proteases, and peptidases) break down their corresponding types of food for better nutrient-absorption into the bloodstream. Supplements containing these essential enzymes, among others, will assist in preparing the food at each stage in the digestive tract for proper digestion when taken between or directly before meals.
Our digestive tracts are alive with countless microorganisms: good and bad bacteria. When the good bacteria becomes outnumbered by the bad, whether by the use of antibiotics, poor diet, or illness, it can lead to weight gain, various skin conditions, and bowel issues. Probiotics support the production of good bacteria, which in turn aids in healthy immune system function and proper digestion.
While other supplements work to restore balance to affected digestive systems, antacids provide immediate relief to the uncomfortable symptoms.
The small intestinal system and the colon both play an important role in your digestive system. Take care of them and life is much more comfortable. The average American diet can wreck havoc on the intestinal system. And an unhealthy intestinal system can lead to a host of other problems.
Small Intestinal System
Some questions to Help Know if Your Colon May Be Healthy:
Nutritional Supplements that Support a Healthy Intestinal System
Aloe Vera Liquid:
It’s normal to think of bacteria as something that’s bad for your overall health. After all, bacteria is often associated with disease.
Generally, you’d be right. However, there is such a thing as good bacteria. In fact, research shows that without the right bacteria in your digestive tract – your stomach and intestines – you’re at much greater risk for obesity, depression, and an immune system that’s less effective than it could be. So those suffering from auto-immune disorders, this is especially for you.
So while it’s a bit odd to wrap your head around the fact that you need bacteria in your diet, this is a nutritional fact you should be aware of. You get these bacteria from a host of daily foods, the most popular is likely yogurt. This dairy product contains lactobacillus, bifidus, and acidophilus. These are three major bacteria that your body needs in order to break down food and distribute the food’s necessary nutrients to the rest of your body. When you have the right amounts of these types of bacteria present your body is able to literally squeeze the most out of the food you eat, meaning less of it goes to waste.
Another great bacteria to have in your diet is called lactobacilli plantarum. This particular bacteria has been proven to give your immune system a huge boost – something we could all use, right? That’s not the only thing lactobacilli plantarum can do for you, though. It also aids in helping your body digest lactose-based foods much easier (think dairy products) so if you love cheese or milk but don’t enjoy the infrequent bouts of indigestion that come as a result of dairy consumption, adding this particular bacteria to your diet can be exceptionally helpful.
Lactobacilli plantarum is commonly found in sauerkraut, which is great news for those of you who love hot dogs at summer ball games. Consequently, sauerkraut is one of the new favorite foods of dietitians across the country.
Lastly, you’ll want to find good sources of probiotics in general. If dairy or sauerkraut aren’t your idea of enjoyable diet foods, then you should definitely look at some of the different probiotic dietary supplements on the market. These are often capsules (though some come in the form of teas) that you take with or without food throughout the day to ensure that your body has a high enough level of all of these bacteria that help your intestinal tract function properly.
While looking at bacteria – affectionately, the flora and fauna of your digestive system – as integral to your overall health goes against the grain of regular thought, it’s definitely something to remember. Without these important bacteria, you’ll have a much harder time maintaining the level of health you want – and deserve.
You’re at your favorite restaurant. You’ve just been seated. Your eyes scour the menu: barbecue bacon cheddar burger, three-cheese macaroni, loaded steak fries, Cajun chicken alfredo. Your stomach grumbles and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, you start to salivate. Can you believe it? You haven’t even placed your order yet, but the process of digestion has already begun.
Your body is a miraculous machine that knows just what to do when you give it the fuel it needs to maintain health, upkeep your internal organs and systems, and recover from illness. But how does it all work and how do you keep it all from going wrong?
Our bodies are sensitive machines.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat,” but if we want to get technical (and we do, don’t we?), a more accurate credo would be “You are what you digest.” After all, eating is a superficial part of the process while digestion goes behind the scenes to perform the latent tasks that keep us going, literally. Ever tried making through an entire day’s to-do list on an empty stomach? It’s a drag.
Eating is a conscious, voluntary act we often do more for pleasure than practicality, and that’s typically where we run into trouble. Why? Well, the most pleasurable things to eat are usually the least healthy for you: processed foods high in fats and sugar. But you eat them for the experience, or convenience, and (un)fortunately you don’t have to give much thought to what happens afterwards. Your body simply picks up the baton (your meal) and starts running with it. That is, until the first cramp hits:
o bloating and gas,
o diarrhea, heart burn,
o weight gain (or loss)
Why is your body reacting this way?
Well, as miraculous as your body is, it can’t function at optimal capacity without your help. These adverse side effects are a result of kinks in the digestive process, often beginning with your general digestive health.
And what’s one thing all healthy digestive tracts have in common? You guessed it: digestive enzymes (enzymes that specifically aid in the digestion of food) and pancreatic enzymes (enzymes produced in the pancreas). Or, more accurately, the presence and quantity of naturally occurring or supplemented enzymes that are hard at work breaking down the foods we eat.
What is an enzyme?
The digestion of food is a process of biochemical reactions that serve to break macronutrients down into absorbable micronutrients. Essentially, enzymes disassemble the complex structures of our foods, reducing them to a molecular level which can then be absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine.
For the three major macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—there are certain digestive and pancreatic enzymes that, like specially designed keys, unlock or break down a certain type of food.
o Carbohydrates Key enzymes: salivary amylase and pancreatic
o Proteins Key enzymes: protease (pepsin, chymotrypsin, trypsin).
o Fats Key enzyme: lipase.
Of course, there are many different types of digestive enzymes and agents at play in the digestive process, but these players are key in the work of providing us energy, rebuilding tissue, and cleansing and replenishing our systems.
What’s the cause of poor digestion?
Poor digestion, or the malabsorption of life-sustaining micronutrients, (especially due to the below conditions) creates lasting damage that can lead to chronic conditions if left untreated, this includes:
o Auto-immune disorders (Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Graves, Sjogren)
o Acid reflux
o Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
o IBD diverticulosis (Crohn’s disease)
What can upset the balance of enzymes? A poor diet, illness, aging, and the use of antibiotics can all throw off the digestive process, which makes the work of maintaining a healthy digestive system an ongoing and unavoidable task. Remembering that you are what you digest, don’t put off consulting an expert if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of poor digestion. Make the decision to prioritize the health of your digestive and pancreatic enzymes today and start feeling better for years to come.
Food Enzymes assist the body with the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to help prevent and relieve occasional indigestion.
Has had Hashimoto's for 13 years. I am passionate, I live and breathe, helping you to overcome your struggles with weight, stress, and chronic health issues.