7 Reasons to Love Magnesium

If you’re planning for the new year by taking a look inside at what you can do to improve your health, let me introduce you to magnesium. Despite being an essential mineral, magnesium deficiencies are actually quite common. 

As we go through all the benefits of magnesium, reflect on whether you find you’re lacking any of these benefits, because if so, it might be time to focus on increasing your intake. 

Mood Balancing

As magnesium is linked to brain biochemistry and neurotransmitter regulation, it has a direct impact on your mental health. Maintaining your levels supports your ability to stay positive, with deficiencies being linked to depression. 

Anti-inflammatory 

Magnesium has been shown to support the mitochondria’s resistance to oxidative stress. In doing so, it reduces the likelihood of developing conditions like hypertension, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Reducing Insulin Resistance 

When our body can no longer sufficiently absorb glucose from the bloodstream, we develop insulin resistance. Multiple studies have reported magnesium as a key element to effective glucose and insulin regulation. 

Managing Blood Pressure 

As noted above, there are links between magnesium deficiency and cardiovascular function. This is because it’s required for the production of nitric oxide which signals blood vessels to relax. 

Peak Performance 

When we’re active we sweat and secrete minerals. One of those minerals is magnesium. If you’re looking to maximize sports and exercise performance, aim to raise your magnesium levels to support electrolyte levels, blood oxygen levels, and energy levels. 

Reducing Migraines 

Unsurprisingly due to the links to mental health, blood vessels, and pain, magnesium deficiency has also shown to increase migraine prevalence.

Improving PMS Symptoms 

As all of the primary symptoms of PMS, fatigue, depression, mood changes, headaches, and pain fall under the umbrella of links to magnesium, they can be reduced by increasing magnesium intake. 

If you’re still not sure if you’re magnesium deficient, here are some common indicators: 

  • Irregular heart beat
  • Low energy
  • Muscle weakness, cramping, and soreness
  • Low appetite
  • Nausea 

If you feel you’d benefit from any of the above, or are suffering any of these symptoms, here are some great food sources to boost your levels:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Buckwheat
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Black Beans
  • Bananas
  • Avocados

What You Should Know About Digestion

As we dive into this month’s blog I want to make you consciously aware of a subconscious function: digestion. 

For many, we go about our day, we eat, maybe we have a stomach ache, maybe we’re fine and have energy until we snack or sit down for our next meal. 

The reality is the digestion process is far more complex and within our control if we’re mindful about our lifestyle and how it impacts digestion. 

First, let’s talk about what digestion is. 

Phase one begins when you see, smell, and anticipate eating food. Your body begins to secrete gastric acid to prepare for consumption. 

Once we’ve started eating, chewing, and swallowing, we enter the gastric phase, where our stomach expands, more gastric acid is secreted, and our pH level rises to break down food.

There are two key components to supporting a healthy gut: probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that aid in digestion and support immune function. You may have taken a probiotic supplement before when prescribed antibiotics but you can also gain them through your diet. Consider this a starting point for foods to grab and slowly introduce next time you’re at the grocery store:

  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso Paste
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt
Prebiotics 

So probiotics are great, but they can’t thrive and support your health without prebiotics. Prebiotics are the fuel source for probiotics, while also supporting gut lining maintenance, calcium absorption, and balanced glucose levels. They’re primarily found in foods with dietary fibre:

  • Bananas
  • Wild Blueberries
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Chicory Root
  • Artichokes

Alongside knowing what you can do to help your gut, it’s important to also know what might be hurting your gut and digestion. Here are the big four:

Sleep

Sleep and digestion are mutually impactful. On one hand, if you eat close to bedtime, your body continues to digest food until it’s finished, even while sleeping. That means your body will have to wait before it can reach deep cycles of sleep. 

When our sleep quality is impacted, we see a decline in healing response and inflammation management, making you more prone to food sensitivities that negatively impact digestion. When sleep deprived, we become more prone to stress, and cravings for high sugar foods increases. 

Sugar 

Not only does regular sugar consumption cause negative changes to the gut microbiota, it also increases inflammation, and negatively impacts sleep quality. Excess sugar can lead to bloating, diarrhea, and gas as the sugar sits in the bowels and ferments. 

Stress

As we know, stress increases overall inflammation which is bad for digestion. It also triggers the fight or flight response which make you feel nauseous and cause throat spasms, release acid causing indigestion, and cause diarrhea or constipation.  As a worst case scenario, prolonged chronic stress can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease

Alcohol

For starters, alcohol largely impacts digestion because the body treats it as a toxin, working to remove it as fast as possible before resuming the breakdown and digestion or other nutrients. This increases inflammation, and causes a rise in blood sugar levels. Further to this, alcohol is a diuretic, increasing dehydration, and can cause diarrhea or constipation. 

If you’ve been following closely, you’ve likely noticed a running theme of strain and inflammation on the body across all four areas and how they contribute to digestive issues. Even if you’re eating healthy foods daily, if you’re not mindful of these areas of impact, you’re likely compromising your gut health regardless.

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

No matter how much we eat clean, stay hydrated, follow your skincare routine, and exercise regularly, all of this goes out the window if we don’t get quality sleep.

Sleep hygiene is so important to effective development. Eight hours of sleep isn’t eight hours of sleep. The actual quality of the sleep, ie. amount of sleep cycles, length of cycles, deepness of sleep, etc, determine if your body actually heals.

So how do you optimize sleep hygiene?

Hopefully you’re doing everything I listed at the start, eating well, staying active, staying hydrated.

Once that’s covered we need to establish a rest only area, aka the bedroom. This should be your sanctuary. No TV, no electronics, no clutter. Just a bed and your body at the end of the night.

The reason for this is because of contextual association. If your brain doesn’t associate where you sleep with ten other activities, it will automatically wind down when you enter your bedroom which is exactly what we want. For this reason, you should also wake and rest at the same time everyday.

Next is a routine.

Aim to stop eating three hours before you want to sleep so your body has time to finish digesting. Ditch the screens after dinner and go for a walk. Not only will this aid digestion but it’ll relax you.

If you come back and aren’t ready to hit the hay, do some stretching or grab a book. Both will keep you occupied and calm, versus repeatedly spiking your dopamine while scrolling your phone.

Part of screen avoidance is to also manage your natural melatonin production as we’re not built to have bright lights around past sundown.

If you’re doing everything here and still have issues sleeping well, you may need to also optimize your melatonin production. Manage your stress levels throughout the day, get some sun exposure early in the day, and consider an OTC supplement after consulting your doctor.

6 Important Hormones and How They Help You Function

Today we’re talking about hormones basics.

First of all, what are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate with tissues and organs throughout your body via your bloodstream.

Every hormone is crucial to proper bodily function. There are upwards of fifty hormones that serve a unique function in our body, but today we’re focusing on just six that can make or break out day to day lives.

Those hormones are: cortisol, estrogen, insulin, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones.

CORTISOL


Cortisol can be best thought of as our stress hormone. When under stress, our adrenal glands start producing more cortisol, causing an adrenaline rush, to prepare your body for what is ahead. In doing so, our blood pressure rises, along with our glucose levels so we have expendable energy at disposal.

As you can imagine, this is useful short term, however sustained stress means your cortisol levels can’t regulate, leading to appetite and digestion issues, inflammation, insulin resistance, poor sleep, and loss of energy.

ESTROGEN


Estrogen is one of two sex hormones in women, although to be clear, men also have estrogen, just in lower amounts. Estrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries, with adrenal glands and fat tissues serving as secondary sources. The primary function for this hormone is to regulate menstrual cycles, while also impacting cholesterol levels, cognition, bone and cardiovascular health.

In addition to this, estrogen is responsible for managing physical changes including egg growth, vaginal wall and uterus mucous membrane, and breast tissue growth.

PROGESTERONE


Progesterone is the second sex hormone, produced similarly to estrogen, and also from the placenta during pregancy. This hormone is equally important for the regulation of menstrual cycles, secreting proteins to prepare the endometrium for egg growth and fertilization in the second half of the cycle. If conception does not happen, both progesterone and estrogen levels drop, triggering menstruation.

TESTOSTERONE


Testosterone is usually associated with men, however it is still produced and present in women. For men it is produced in the testicles, and for women it is produced in the ovaries, as well as adrenal glands, fat and skin cells.

While for men it has implications to body fat, bone density, hair growth, muscle growth, sex drive, and production of sperm and red blood cells, however, it acts differently in women, because some is actively converted to estrogen. For women contributes to regulation of bone and breast health, fertility, menstrual health, sex drive, and vaginal health.

THYROID HORMONE


There are two types of thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both are produced in the thyroid gland which is a 2 inch long, butterfly shaped gland in your neck. This is triggered by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland located in the brain.

When T3 and T4 levels drop, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which stimulates the thyroid gland to begin converting iodine to hormones.

These circulate through your bloodstream to every cell in your body and contribute to regulating heart rate and metabolism. As your levels drop, you can experience a reduced heart rate and rate of digestion, potentially leading to weight gain. As your levels rise, you can experience an increased or irregular heart rate and rapid digestion, which can lead to unhealthy weight loss.

What You Should Know About Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are all around us.

We take in heavy metals through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Ideally, our bodies should be able to dispose of them, but if we take them in faster than they can be eliminated, they can accumulate in our tissues.

Not all metals are bad for our health.

Some metals are essential to core functions of the human body, and we can’t store or produce them, which means we need to consume appropriate amounts of zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese through our diet or supplementation.

Overexposure to any of these metals can cause imbalance and deficiencies in others.

Today, though, we’ll be breaking down toxic heavy metals and how we might acquire them.

The four most common heavy metals humans are exposed to and can absorb in toxic amounts are: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Even small amounts of these metals can be considered toxic. Once heavy metals are in our bloodstream they can be stored in our tissues and organs for years, predisposing us to chronic health issues until addressed.

Removing heavy metals reduces inflammation and oxidative dress, and may improve neurological, digestive, cardiovascular, and immune system functioning.

Arsenic

Poisoning Symptoms: inorganic arsenic poisoning usually presents gastrointestinally; nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can lead to dark urine, rapid dehydration, muscle cramping and abdominal pain. Visible symptoms can include red or swollen skin, and warts or lesions.

Exposure Sources: environmental sources include working around hazardous waste without the appropriate protective gear, residing in a region known for higher concentration levels in rocks, water, and soil, or ingesting agricultural chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides.

You can also consume arsenic through your diet, notably in seafood. Finfish, shellfish, and seaweed are known sources of arsenic, however, the majority of these sources are organic arsenic which is non toxic to humans.

Cadmium

Poisoning Symptoms: similar to arsenic, cadmium poisoning symptoms can present as gastrointestinal distress in the form of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also lead to raised body temperatures, respiratory issues, kidney failure, and reduced bone density.

Exposure Sources: Primary environmental sources come from working in the industrial industry. When ore is processed, smelted, or a compound containing cadmium is welded, cadmium can release and bind to smaller particles which are then ingested. Manufacturing workers of batteries, plastics, solar panels, and metal coatings, as well as construction workers using coated building materials are more susceptible to exposure.

Cigarette smoke is the main source of ingested cadmium. While some sources of rice can contain cadmium through contaminated soil, the average level of cadmium in rice found in North America is very low.

Lead

Poisoning Symptoms: while lead poisoning can also present in the stomach, as loss of appetite or constipation, it is primarily shown in cognitive degeneration. Symptoms of sleep problems, headaches, and fatigue, lead to memory loss, aggressive behaviour, and irritability are consistent with lead poisoning.

Exposure Sources: environmental exposure to lead includes residing in an older house with lead based paints and lead soldered hydro piping. Industrial manufacturing and construction work.

Mercury

Poisoning Symptoms: mercury poisoning is associated with physical and neurological impairment including lack of coordination, difficulty hearing and speaking, muscle weakness and nerve damage, and vision issues.

Exposure Sources: primary sources of mercury exposure are mining and process of mercury, and manufacturing and disposal of incandescent light bulbs and mercury thermometers. Consuming fish or shellfish with raised levels of methylmercury can also lead to poisoning.

It’s worth noting that while we’ve listed a number of symptoms for these four heavy metals, the prevalence of these symptoms comes from long term exposure, when high amounts have accumulated and stored in your soft tissue, so you are unlikely to notice any indicators early on. As such, it is in our best interest to be mindful of potential sources of exposure, and reduce the odds of absorption as much as possible.

The Secret to Reading Nutrition Labels

If you’ve found this blog through Instagram, you would already know the importance of not buying into flashy and trendy marketing labels such as gluten free, natural, and vegan.

It really is crucial to flip your packages over and see what’s actually in your food before you buy it. Many products that sub out the “usual” ingredients come along with a slew of additives we don’t need to be consuming.

If your usual approach when shopping is to vaguely scan the back of the package to see carbohydrate, protein, and fat amounts, only to shrug and toss the food in your basket, this post is for you.

Nutrition labels offer a lot of information about a product that can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to look. There is a simple logical flow to follow to ensure you’re getting what you want in the foods you buy.

Let’s start with the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1 – Serving size: this is found at the top of the nutrition label, don’t just assume the nutrient amounts listed are for the full package contents, or even a full bottle of beverage. Scale the amounts relative to how much you plan on eating.

Step 2 – Calories: found below serving size, the amount of calories if you consume one full serving amount. Multiply calories by how many servings, less or more, than one to calculate the appropriate amount.

Step 3 – Look at the % Daily Value: listed on the right of the nutrition label, use these percentages as a quick guide to determine how much a product will contribute to your daily nutrient balance, and whether or not it is a significant source of specific nutrients

5% or less is an insignificant amount

15% or more is a significant amount of a nutrient per serving.

These percentages are based on an average daily consumption of 2,000 calories. If you count your calories and know your daily target is different, scale it accordingly. Similarly, if you have a specific macro and micro nutrient spread designed for you, a little more math is involved to maintain accuracy and consistency with your dietary goals.

Step 4 – Review the nutrient spread following daily value %.

Nutrients to eat more of: dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.
Nutrients to eat less of, or none at all: saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and cholesterol.

Step 5: Check where your nutrients are coming from with the ingredients list. The list is ordered by weight, with the heaviest ingredients listed first.

If this is your first time learning how to review nutritional labels it may take a moment to digest (pun intended), so save this page and come back to it before your next trip to the grocery store.

If you found this post useful and want to learn more about healthy living follow along @everydaynd.