Are you sabotaging your own success with your chosen exercise routine?
To answer this question we need to start at the beginning – do you actually have the foundations in place to enable you to do the exercise that you are doing. In the very same way that a building will start to crack and fall down if the foundations are not good enough, the body will break down and develop injuries if you do not have a good foundation in place.
What do I mean by a “good foundation”?
What are some signs that your core may not be doing its job properly?
There are no quick fixes to a fit body – even a body that looks ok from the outside may have issues on the inside. If you are heading into an exercise programme and you have been out of the exercise arena for a while, get checked out and make sure that you have a good foundation. This is particularly important if you have had a baby (or more than one) or undergone pelvic/abdominal surgery – both of these things have a huge impact on your ability to connect and integrate core function into your daily lives, as well as your exercise routine
Do you need to have a pelvic floor and core assessment?
Is more exercise better?
I often see people who having made the decision to get fit, go all out to kill it. What are the pitfalls of this kind of exercising and what do you need to be thinking about to make sure that what you are doing is right for your body and sustainable.
What is the answer?
There are a few thieves which may be raiding your bones without you knowing it:
HIGH SODIUM FOODS - The more salt you eat the more calcium that is excreted out of the body. Medical researchers at the University of Alberta discovered an important link between sodium and calcium. These both appear to be regulated by the same molecule in the body. When sodium intake becomes too high, the body gets rid of sodium via the urine, taking calcium with it, which depletes calcium stores in the body. High levels of calcium in the urine lead to the development of kidney stones, while inadequate levels of calcium in the body lead to thin bones and osteoporosis.
CAFFEINE - Caffeine is also responsible for leaching calcium out of the bones, but this can be overcome by ensuring your diet has adequate calcium intake and limiting your coffee intake.
CARBONATED DRINKS (COLA) - Reaching for a fizzy can of soda may be doing more damage to your bones than you think. Soft drinks are packed with phosphoric acid, which causes an increase in the blood's acidity levels. As a result, the body pulls calcium out of our bones in order to bring the acidity levels back to normal.
ALCOHOL - Alcohol prevents osteoblasts (bone-building cells) from absorbing any bone-friendly minerals, like calcium, which in turn slows down a broken bone's healing process and weakens the bones overall.
EXCESSIVE PROTEIN - The right amount of protein is important for building healthy and strong bones, but there can be too much of a good thing. Women need about 46g of protein a day and men need about 56. Too much protein particularly from red meats, can change the pH balance of our bodies. The more acidic environment can lead to bone loss. Someone who eats a diet heavy on the protein and light on the fruits, vegetables and grains can be particularly out of balance.
INFLAMMATORY FOODS - Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant, can cause bone inflammation, which can lead to osteoporosis. However, these vegetables contain other vitamins and minerals that are good for your health so they shouldn’t be totally avoided. As long as you make sure to get enough calcium in your diet.
PROCESSED FOODS/TRANS FATS - Hydrogenated oils are man-made fats produced by contaminating vegetable oils with hydrogen gas under super high pressure—which creates artery-blocking trans fats. This process destroys any naturally-occurring vitamin K in the veggie oils. And since vitamin K is essential for strong bones, we recommend forgoing any foods that contain trans fats completely (think fast food, frozen food, pastries, and some coffee creamers). To ensure your foods aren't contaminated by these foul fats, check the ingredient list (even if the label reads trans fat free!) for any "hydrogenated oils" or "partially hydrogenated oils."
SMOKING - Smoking reduces the amount of calcium your bones absorb. Vitamin D helps bones to absorb calcium, but smoking interferes with how your body uses vitamin D. Less calcium is then available to build strong bones. As a result, your bones start to get brittle.
Smoking lowers oestrogen levels in both men and women. Estrogen is important because it helps the bones to hold calcium and other minerals that make them strong. At menopause, a woman’s body makes much less estrogen, and this puts her naturally at risk for osteoporosis. Smoking increases her risk even more.
To hold calcium, the bones also need help from weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. Smokers, however, tend to get less exercise than non-smokers do. Smoking is also toxic to osteoblasts (bone-forming cells).
STRESS - You may wonder what stress and sleep have to do with bone health? As we know chronic stress and sleep deprivation can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which have been associated with bone loss. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with osteoblast formation and dramatically decrease bone building—resulting in reduced bone density.
MEDICATIONS - A number of medicines can cause bone loss if used over the long term (several years). Some common ones include:
May is National Osteoporosis Month - and I am using this as an opportunity to raise awareness about building bone strength and density when you’re younger to achieve peak bone mass and to maintain bone health and strength as you age.
BONE HEALTH - the facts
The Statistics are alarming–but there seems to be a lack of dialogue about osteoporosis?
The Skeleton is a living organ. Bones are constantly being remodelled with old bone being reabsorbed and new bone being formed. As we grow up large amounts of calcium and other minerals are deposited in bone steadily increasing bone mass until it reaches its "peak" when we are about 25, and after that bone loss starts to outpace bone gain.
The good news is that by considering your posture, your diet and addressing negative aspects of your lifestyle you can optimise your "peak bone mass" and prevent the natural ageing process from becoming pathological. Healthy bone is strong and does not break easily.
Bone building is a complex mechanism and contrary to popular belief calcium is important but its not the only factor –Magnesium, phosphorous, boron and Vitamins C D and K are all important. Magnesium in particular helps the body to use and absorb calcium, and so getting a healthy balance of both calcium and magnesium is important.
The first thing that people think about when you mention bones is calcium and dairy, and although dairy is a good source of calcium women can often become lactose intolerant as they enter the perimenopause and the menopause and dairy products also contain virtually no magnesium.
To get a balance of both calcium and magnesium try and include a diet rich in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, broccoli and cabbage.
Adding foods such as fish which are rich in omega3’s particularly salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies have also been shown to really help with the absorption of calcium.
It is also really important to make sure that the digestive system is healthy and that the body is able to absorb the nutrients it requires from the food we consume – a high fiber diet, with probiotics and good hydration will certainly help.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and the action of Sunlight on your skin provides your main source of Vitamin D. Living in Kenya we are lucky that we have sunlight all year around (well nearly all year around!!) – but in climates where winters are cold and dark getting the required sun can be a problem.
Did you know that if you pop a punnet of mushrooms on a sunny windowsill for an hour or two you will get a 100 x more vitamin D from them.
Finally moving more is key for bone health - movement is hydrating to your soft tissues and fascia, the more you move the better you move. If you don’t move you will lose joint range, lose mobility all of which will have a negative impact on your posture and your bone health. Studies have shown that with specific exercise, bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or actually increased –so lets do it.
1. ADD WEIGHTS AND RESISTENCE - to maintain or build muscle tohelp with posture and general ADL’s.
2. ADD IMPACT- research has shown that subjecting bones to abrupt stress prompts them to add mass or at least reduces their loss of mass as people age. To get the levels of stress needed on the bone to build or maintain boney mass you need weight bearing exercise. Don’t forget that the wrists are a vulnerable point for fracture and so a few ½ press-ups loading up your arms are also fab.
3. GET SWEATY - to reach Lactate Threshold. To do this you need to get out of breath, and feel the burn’ but not for extended periods. This is vital for weight management and hormonal balance too.
4. Make sure your routine includes stretching to maintain range of movement and improve posture AND don’t forget to work your balance. As you age balance is one of the first things to go and it goes without saying that if your balance is poor you are more likely to slip and fall and break something.
5. FINALLY, add in that RESTFUL RESTORATIVE exercise which is essential to combat stress – Stress elevated cortisol is a trigger for many of the hormone cascades that disregulate the entire endocrine system which will affect your bone health.
Do you know how many chemicals you are coming into contact with every day and what they may be doing to your system?
You are being exposed to thousands of toxins daily. Many of these toxins can block or promote oestrogen and other hormones, affecting your hormone balance and causing numerous problems that you maybe mistakenly attributingto stress, aging or just normal aches and pains.
A scientific statement issued by the USA Endocrine Society in 2009 expressed concern about EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) and the grave health issues they can cause, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, PCOS, obesity, thyroid disease, and reproductive issues.
Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormones.. The vast majority have not been tested at all. WHO, 2012
Some of this exposure is unavoidable, however youcan be more mindful about the way youdo some things and really reduce your contact with some of the worst hormone disrupting chemicals.
TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR TOXIC EXPOSURE
When it comes to living a healthy and natural lifestyle, what you put on your body is just as significant as what you put in your body. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and since it is porous, it absorbs whatever you put on it. Many cosmetics, moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners often contain ingredients that disrupt your hormonal balance.
Avoid wearing allot of make up and highly fragranced products and perfumes. I always look for Parabens, Phalate and SLS free productsall available at Healthy U. Use natural moisturisers like coconut oil, I often put it in my bath too to keep my skin hydrated.
There are a range of hormone disrupting/oestrogen mimicking chemicals used in the production of hardened plastics but one of the most researched is Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupting carcinogen (cancer causing). BPA can leach into food from the coatings of canned foods and from plastic food storage containers, water bottles and baby bottles. The degree to which BPA leaches into food and liquid held in plastic containers is thought to increase as temperature increases and with the age of the container.
3 things you can do right away:
Swap BPA plastic for glass or stainless steel
Eat fewer canned foods especially highly acidic foods like tomatoes which leach more BPA from can linings. Try and buy fresh or in jars.
Store leftovers in glass containers avoid making contact with food and plastics and clingfilm.
These are the chemicals found in non-organic food produce, insect repellent sprays (DEET), weed killers. They are designed to kill living organisms such as plants, bacteria, insects and fungi. Imagine what they are doing to your friendly gut bacteria and immune system? And because they are fat soluble, they are stored in your fat cells, and most likely messing up your metabolism too.Buy organic produce wherever you can OR grow your own, and use natural alternatives for pest repellents.
The Environmental Working Group compiles a list every year of the most (dirty dozen) and least contaminated (clean 15) produce and updates it every year check out their website to get your free guide http://www.ewg.org.
Check out this link for the best ways to wash your veggieshttps://foodrevolution.org/blog/how-to-wash-vegetables-fruits/
4. MEAT AND POULTRY
Allot of commercially farmed meat and poultry can be loaded with hormones that, once eaten, will end up in your body throwing your hormone balance totally out. These hormones build up the animalsso that farmers can get the highest possible meat, milk or egg yield. Just think, those same hormones used for making a cow huge are going into your body when you eat themeator drink the milk.
To reduce exposure, look for organic, grass-fed, and free range products from small or local farms that are committed to raising animals using methods that are healthier for both the animals and the humans who consume them.
Here are a couple of local sources:
The Well Hung Butcher –firstname.lastname@example.org
Highland Castle Farms – email@example.com
5. KITCHEN AND COOKWARE
The coatings in nonstick cookware, plastic wrap and plastic containers, especially when heated are toxic. The less you use them, the better.
Use glass containers for food storage.
Cook with less toxic cast iron and ceramic cookware options.
If you use a microwave, heat foods (frozen or not) in microwave safe glassware or ceramic containers; never plastic, no matter what the label says!
Bin your old, flaking, plastic cooking utensils, strainers and cutting boards for metal or sustainable bamboo versions.
6. CLEANING PRODUCTS
Look at what products you are currently using to clean your house, I bet many of them are loadedwith industrial chemicals that have the potential todisrupt your hormones.
Try cleaning with greener alternatives or blend up your own using natural, non-toxic ingredients like old-fashioned soap, lemon, vinegar, etc. There are lots and lots of websites with great ideas for non toxic cleaning.
I use the ecover range of cleaning products at home which I know areexpensive but they do work and I feel at peace with that decision. I have NEVER used bleach in my house since the day we moved in.
This week we are looking at the role of Magnesium in our general health and well-being, what symptoms you may be experiencing if you are not getting enough and what you can do to boost your magnesium levels to bring things back in to balance.
You are probably wondering why I am devoting a whole newsletter to Magnesium! Well it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your entire body. If your magnesium is lacking, so are you! Magnesium is responsible for over 350 life providing biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium deficiency is said to be growing into one of the largest health problems in the world today, yet it is the single MOST IMPORTANT MINERAL for maintaining electrical balance and metabolism in our cells.
Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well-functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency (Wellness Mama – Magnesium the Master Mineral).
Magnesium was once abundantly available in our food, produce and water, but today it is significantly reduced. Why??
If some of the things on that list sound familiar to you – please don’t be daunted, the good news is that magnesium deficiency is relatively simple to resolve:
There are a few things that you may be doing on a daily basis that are affecting your magnesium levels:
Many carbonated beverages contain phosphates which bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract rendering it unavailable to the body and flushing it out of the system. If you are a bit of a “pop” junky, have a think about swopping in some healthier alternatives.
CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL
Magnesium levels are largely controlled by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess magnesium and other minerals. Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption will cause the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of the body status. So this is not about cutting things out completely, but trying to modify if you feel you need to.
Refined sugar contains zero magnesium but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.
In addition – if your diet is loaded with processed food it is unlikely that you will be eating the healthier options loaded with macro and micro nutrients.
Try and crowd the more processed foods out of your diet, and add in the healthier options, remembering that good gut health is also crucial to the utilisation of the nutrients that you are taking in.
If you are supplementing with calcium – make sure that you are also taking sufficient Magnesium. Calcium supplementation on its own can lead to a reduction in magnesium absorption and retention. If you are not sure about this consult a qualified nutritionist or your GP.
Stress can cause a magnesium deficiency AND low magnesium can magnify the effects of stress – a double edge sword. Remember to take care of you and learn to use that ever so small but HUGELY important word “NO”. Self-care must be top of your list – when it comes to anything to do with your health and well-being this is FUNDAMENTAL.
Many of the magnesium supplements on the market are pills or solutions meant for oral consumption. Although these can be effective they can also cause some digestive issues and stress the kidneys. Experts estimate that magnesium absorption from the digestive system is only 20-55% (depending on the research), but this means over half of it is leaving the body as waste.
A great way to supplement with magnesium is through the skin:
A solution of magnesium can be sprayed on the skin, and the body will absorb what it needs, directly into the blood and tissues, restoring magnesium levels to their optimal range without affecting the kidneys.
You can buy Magnesium spray or here is a recipe to make your own from Wellness Mama:
EPSOM SALT BATH
Epsom salts are a form of Magnesium and are readily available at Laikipia Pharmacy. Add a good cupful to your bath and spend a luxurious 20-30 minutes soaking to get maximum benefit. If you like nice smells, put the salts in a jar layered with lavender, and the salts will absorb the wonderful lavender fragrance, enhancing your experience – ENJOY!!
EAT MAGNESIUM RICH FOODS
Sleep is one of the most fundamental acts of self-care that we can bestow upon ourselves and is essential for a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Lack of sleep contributes to weight gain, sickness, inflammation and general imbalance. Long term sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Sleeplessness can rear its ugly head as a result of many things – poor diet, hormone imbalance, anxiety, overwork, new parenthood or a combination of things. In my case as I entered peri-menopause my sleep was all over the place. I regularly woke up at 3 am and was not able to go back to sleep, I remember worrying that I would never get a full night of sleep again and how I would cope. The knock-on effects on my daily life were enormous, so I know how important this information is to someone who is not getting enough sleep at night.
Sleep is not a luxury “nice to have” part of our lives – it is absolutely essential for our health and well-being.
sleep loss massively disrupts our hormone balance – lack of sleep directly affects metabolism, resulting in high blood glucose levels and increased insulin resistance, which leads to fat deposition inside and around the abdomen, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increased feelings of hunger, and decreased levels of satiety.
Lack of sleep affects brain function – sleep plays a large role in our ability to process subconscious thought, think creatively and make difficult decisions. In order to be able to do all of those things we need to experience all stages of sleep especially the deep sleep.
Sleep is restorative – whilst we are sleeping the bulk of our growth hormone is produced, and the body repairs itself.
Rest assured, sleeping is not selfish and NOT sleeping is not the badge of honour it may once have been. If you want to be your best self – make sleep a priority. Here are a few tips to help you do that:
30 minutes of aerobic exercise can completely transform your sleep. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, increase how long you sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. Physical activity increases the time spent in deep sleep – which is the most restorative phase of your sleep – boosting immune function, supporting cardiac health and controlling stress and anxiety.
When is the best time to exercise? This can vary for different people, try monitoring what works best for you and your sleep patterns. Hard exercise later in the day can spike your body temperature which may keep you alert and awake.
REMEMBER it is all about balance – excessive exercise may have the opposite effect and keep you awake at night.
Have you noticed how some foods make you sleepy, or how going to bed on a “too” full or empty stomach can sabotage your sleep.
Here are some tips on how to eat right for great sleep:
Most protein rich foods contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid in the manufacture of serotonin (feel good hormone) which converts to melatonin. Increasing the bloodstream levels of melatonin signals to the brain and the body that it is time for sleep.
Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain.
Foods rich in Vit B6 are used by the body to make serotonin
Foods with a high tryptophan concentration include – yoghurt, cottage cheese, eggs, fish poultry, red meat, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina and bananas.
Eating a large dinner less than 3 hours before bed time.
Eating spicy or acidic foods and fluids at night
Snacking on highly sugary or processed foods at night that will spike your blood sugar levels
3. Magnesium Supplements:
Magnesium can help to take any night-time routine to a completely new level by helping you wind down and wash away the aches and tension of a full day.
To aid sleep try taking 500mg – 250mg at lunchtime and 250mg an hour before bed.
An Epsom salt bath may also help to improve sleep.
Just like food some drinks leave you feeling energised and others make you feel sleepy. Let’s take a look at some of the drinks we like and what they maybe doing to our sleep.
Chamomile Tea contains the chemical glycine which relaxes nerves and muscles and has a mild sedative effect. Drunk 90 minutes before bed it is said to be calming and can assist with sleep.
Milk contains high levels of tryptophan. If you are not lactose intolerant a glass of milk (warm or cold) 90 minutes before bed may help you fall asleep.
Water is important to drink throughout the day for optimal health, but try and drink as much of that quota as you can by late afternoon. Drinking water right up to bedtime can stimulate your kidneys and have you needing the loo in the night.
Alcohol may make you feel nice and relaxed as you drink it, however it has a drastic effect on your blood sugar levels and hormone balances which will have you waking up about 3-4 hours after you have gone to bed and not able to get back to sleep.
Coffee and caffeinated sodas are used to promote alertness, but as I am sure you have experienced this high is relatively short lived and is followed by an energy crash. This has a similar effect on blood sugar levels and hormone balances as drinking alcohol and can be very disruptive to sleep.
Stop drinking any fluids one hour ahead of your bedtime, as this will reduce the likelihood of disruptions in the first few hours of your sleep when it is deepest and most restorative.
5. Ditch the Technology
Trying setting yourself a “technology”curfew a couple of hours before your bedtime. Blue light, from electronic devices has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns, circadian rhythms and Melatonin levels.
6. Make Your Bedroom Into a Sanctuary
Make your bedroom dark and quiet, consider installing blackout curtains on the windows or even wearing an eye mask to keep light out.
Any lighted dials on your bedside table should be turned away from you.
If you live somewhere noisy, a “white noise: sound machine may help to mask disruptive noise.
Try and keep your bedroom uncluttered and tidy, as this will help to calm the mind as you go to sleep.
Make sure your bed is comfy and beautifully made with good quality linens. I don’t think you can over-estimate the importance of going to sleep in a bed that feels and smells beautiful. For me pillows are so important – I have to have a comfy, just so high, just so soft pillow and it literally can make the difference between a good and a bad nights sleep.
Try using some calming essential oils on your pillows.
Keep your bed for sleeping, don’t eat in bed, watch TV in bed or work in bed as these things are all associated with wakefulness and not sleep. Keep a notebook by the bed so if you do wake up in a fluster you can jot down what you are thinking about, and go back to sleep knowing that it will be there for you in the morning to deal with – ruminating at night is exhausting and pointless.
Keep pets out of the bedroom – we have finally decided to not have the dogs in our bedroom and OMG what a difference to our sleep. We love our furry friends but they snore, are restless and they were waking us up all through the night. BEST decision ever!!
If you get up in the night and need to go to the loo, try not to turn on the main lights, this will send a “wake-up’ signal to your internal clock. Use a torch with red light as this is far less disruptive on your system.
Room temperature is really important and investing in a fan really helped me to re-establish a better sleep pattern. In order for us to be able to fall asleep our body temperature needs to cool down, and a hot room can block that process. For me its all about my feet and my head, if they are cool I find it much easier to fall asleep.
Have a bedtime routine – be consistent with the time you go to bed. Try reading a book to quiet the mind before you turn off the light – a real book where you have to turn the pages!!! I actually like to do some deep breathing, it helps me to turn off my mind and quiet any anxiety before I fall asleep.