Me and You, we all live in Motion. We jump when we are happy. We run to work every morning. And we have endless thoughts. We are all living active lifestyles. And taking care of ourselves in this busyness should be our utmost priority.
Today we are excited to launch our brand-new Life in Motion interview series and begin by looking at what the single most important element of an active life is.
Is it performance? Success? Drive? Not this time, folks. At the end of the day it’s all about a proper UNPLUG routine. To know how to de-stress is to be able to recharge for the day ahead and optimise your mental and physical wellbeing. And believe it or not, it is yet another journey that starts on your plate.
Our Nutritional Therapist, Phoebe Liebling will now run us through key nutritional strategies for unplugging, de-stressing and re-charging for next day. So slow down and listen up, folks!
Thanks for tuning in, Phoebe. You recently ran a seminar on Nutrition for Unplugging as part of Brain Health Awareness Month with Motion & Planet Organic. Can you tell us why ‘unplugging’ is so key?
Our current way of living is one of constant stress which can mean our innate protective and survival mechanisms can become dysregulated. This means our bodies are forced into a perpetual ‘fight or flight’ mode, which leads to the depletion of resources, decreased effectiveness of other body processes and additional consequences such as anxiety, fatigue and sleep disorders. This in turn will then have a significant effect from a nutritional perspective.
What do you mean by a nutritional perspective?
High levels of stress, and chronic stress especially, can be quite damaging to the digestive system. This ‘fight or flight’ response opposes the ‘rest & digest’ state that is optimal for effective metabolism and nutrient absorption. As a couple of examples, when we are stressed we naturally produce less stomach acid, this then means we don’t absorb minerals and cannot break down protein particularly well. This can cause bloating and nutrient insufficiencies. Stress will also affect the probiotic bacteria in our digestive tract and these directly interact with the nervous system. So consequently, imbalances here can affect things like our mood, sleep cycle and weight.
Wow, is there anything we can do to fix this apart from just trying to have more of a ‘relaxed’ approach to our lives?
Of course. There are plenty of nutritional strategies that we can apply, and a number of simple alterations we can make to minimise the impact of stress on our wellbeing. One of the first being to make sure we do not cause any extra internal body stress, as this will attenuate the effects of those external stressors. A fundamental point here is to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Crashes and hikes in blood glucose cause internal stress as our bodies struggle to balance our energy levels and make us more likely to reach for less healthful foods, caffeinated beverages and other stimulants, which again in turn cause that internal stress we’re looking to avoid.
No crashes, no hikes – sounds simple! But how do we actually do that?
Luckily, it’s not complicated at all, it just requires a little care and attention when it comes to constructing your meals.
Firstly, and most importantly is to start your day with a breakfast that is rich in protein. This will keep your energy on an even keel, supplying the body with a steady release throughout the morning and avoiding a rollercoaster situation happening later in the day.
And this rings true as you move through lunch and dinner – always aim to balance carbs with protein and/or fats, and focus on getting them from real, whole foods. Eating a source of protein, fiber and healthy fat with all of your meals will help stabilize blood sugar. When you’re choosing your carbs, opt for those rich in dietary fibre such as starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, and whole grains like brown rice.
Lastly, however busy you are really try not to skip meals and breakfast as this will push your body into that stress state and have you reaching for those less beneficial sugary snacks.
5. What if your sugar levels are balanced but your digestion is still not quite right?
Our digestion is pretty complex, and everyone is different, but there are a couple of basic things to try to support the different elements. If you struggle with high bloating, reflux or fullness after meals it may be that your stomach acid is a little low so try having a shot of apple cider vinegar or the juice of 1/2 a lemon mixed with 200ml 15 minutes before eating. Digestive bitters can also help and will improve your digestive efficacy overall. Another incredibly simple and yet effective practice is to try corpse breathing as this induces that ‘rest & digest’ state, making your body ready to receive the food you’re eating.
If your issues are lower down however it could be to do with all those important probiotic bacteria, not only do they interact with your nervous system, but they also harness nutrients from our food and act as the first line defence of our immune system. A probiotic supplement and/or the daily inclusion of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fresh miso, kefir and kombucha will help to support these. *
*if you have an issue with yeasts or histamine this will not be appropriate for you however
Yass, it’s all about gut, isn’t it? What about other ways of improving our mood through food? Are there any other ways of reducing stress in our bodies?
Yes, flushing out the excess of the stress hormone – cortisol – and of other excreted waste is absolutely key to make us thrive and feel good! This is where we need to focus on our liver and really make sure we are supporting our elimination pathways through food and exercise. As a general rule, you should consume plenty of water, vitamin C rich foods and fibre to prevent the circulation of excess waste and cortisol. Think parsley for vitamin C and oats for fibre.
And just a note on oestrogen – as a by-product of the use of oral contraception we see a lot of excess oestrogen circulating in our water system, and this can contribute to many issues for many people. A quick foodie remedy is to include lots of broccoli sprouts as they are rich in indole-3-carbinol which will help to remove this.
And what about improving our mood?
There are many things to consider here but two basic points would be – essential fats and B vitamins. Low levels of EPA/DHA (forms of Omega-3) as well as B12 deficiency have been linked with depression, anxiety and other brain health disorders. Thus, ensuring we have the right balance of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids will be super important for brain health and mental wellbeing. Our dietary levels of Omega 3 tend to be much lower than those of Omega 6, so it is all about pumping up those Omega 3 levels. If you are vegan, I suggest including 2 tbsp of cold pressed flaxseed oil a day, or for non-vegans/vegetarians a good quality fish oil supplement in addition to 2-3 portions of oily fish a week. As an easy way to remember these think SMASH-T – AKA sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring and trout.
When it comes to B vitamins, a B12 supplement will be a necessity for vegans. Others can indulge in eggs, fish, seafood and poultry whilst also being mindful of supporting their digestion as explained above to ensure they’re absorbing these adequately.
8. Ok, it looks like we are all good when it comes to optimising our mood, digestion and energy levels. What about sleep? It is the ultimate way to recharge? And why do so many people struggle with it..
It is true, I’m definitely seeing a rising number of clients suffering with insomnia and sleep disturbances. More and more people now struggle not only to get to sleep but also to have a more restorative sleeping experience. I generally recommend increasing your dietary tryptophan intake for a more restful sleep cycle as this essential amino acid is the precursor to our neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan rich foods include oats, dates, turkey and chicken and organic whey protein which when we’re looking to increase serotonin in the brain is the most bioavailable source!
In addition to thinking of what we put on our plates, there are also certain things that we should try to avoid. When it comes to improving your sleep, it is key to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake as well as avoiding other stimulants. Supplementing with magnesium provides the body with the cofactors to make those sleep inducing neurotransmitters, and Montmorency Cherry contains natural melatonin which can also be helpful. Magnesium baths are particularly effective, and for most will work immediately. Make sure you brush your teeth before you jump in though as they tend to make people feel pretty sleepy straight away!
Haha, good advice, thanks Phoebe. Any other supplements you would recommend?
Motion’s Unplug formula of course! 😉 I always advocate a food first approach to avoid sending my clients away rattling with pills, but what Motion have done is create a super smart blend combining all the vitamins and minerals your nervous system needs to function optimally with herbs that very effectively calm the nervous system and promote restful sleep. The combination of L theanine, Montmorency Cherry and Brahmi powder is definitely my favourite, and for many will not only improve their sleep cycle but also have them waking up feeling far more rested.
BSc (Hons), Dip NT, mBANT, mNNA, CNHC registered, GNC registered