4 Reasons to Reconnect with Nature – Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors!

Cannot believe it’s already October and I only have a few weeks left in the Red. Although I’m very excited to see all of my family and friends (especially my two oldest sisters who I haven’t seen since June!), I’m sad to leave the place that I’ve called home for the past half year! I cannot begin to describe how enriching of an experience living out here has been or how happy I feel getting out there every day with some pretty amazing people that have become my climbing partners. I haven’t quite figured out my way back to Canada (trying to leave as late as possible), but I should be back home in a few weeks for my sister’s baby shower. After that, I plan on sticking around for a short while and then hopefully heading out for a month long bouldering trip a bit more south… Although the changes that are ahead of me are probably going to take me to new and exciting places, I’m very nervous and kind of scared about leaving my comfort zone in the Red. Only time will tell!

On a side note, check out my friend’s website http://themorningfresh.com/ ! She’s been living with her boyfriend in their van and travelling across North America for a year long climbing trip! She managed to fund her travels through her website, where she posts updates on what she’s doing and writes some pretty awesome articles.

Here’s a picture of me climbing at the Solar Collector in the Red yesterday :)
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This article can also be found on the Sunwarrior website :)

As many of you know, I have been living in a tent for the past six months, climbing full time and enjoying the great outdoors. Something I have noticed in myself and other outdoor dwellers is the sense of enjoyment, healthfulness, and happiness that we exude daily. I have never felt more vibrant, alive and strong as I do now, living on approximately $5 per day in a way that most would associate with poverty. Now I know what I’m doing is a bit extreme (not that I don’t think more people should be doing it) for the average person, but is there something to be said for the benefits of immersing oneself in nature in terms of overall well-being? With approximately 80% of us living in urban areas, and the reported 36% of us living sedentary indoor lifestyles, would recommendations for more time spent outside be appropriate to support a healthier overall population?

The term “nature-deficit disorder,” coined by Richard Louv, has been used to describe the lack of time outdoors, which has been replaced by demanding schedules and electronic media. This disorder is associated with obesity, asthma, ADHD, and vitamin D deficiency, all of which are risk factors for many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and mental health problems. Today, 21% of our youth play video games or browse the internet for at least three hours daily, and the average child spends another three hours in front of the TV daily. These numbers put us at greater risks for obesity, emotional and social problems (e.g. poor self-esteem), and reduced overall health.

With the increase in resource and time allocations to reading and math, programs such as gym, art, and recess have suffered serious reductions, and children have now lost about 12 hours per week of free time (including a 50% reduction in unstructured outdoor activities). While many may come to a conclusion that these changes are for the best, free unstructured outdoor play is an important part of childhood that allows children to develop creativity, strength, dexterity, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, and group work skills. In adults, chronic diseases and mental health problems are on the rise, coinciding with the reductions in outdoor activities and increases in go-go work schedules. As a population, social media is increasingly present and the average person now has a strong disconnect with nature. Could reconnecting ourselves with nature be an appropriate way to negate the outcomes associated with the “nature-deficit disorder”? With all of that said, here are four reasons to spend more time outdoors! (Don’t worry; tent-life is not required (but definitely recommended).)

1) Being outside more promotes higher activity levels!

Sedentary lifestyles are major risk factors for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental, and physical disability and are thought to be accountable for 1.9 million deaths annually worldwide. The health impact of inactivity in terms of heart disease is comparable to the impacts from smoking. Regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, reduces the risk of obesity and chronic diseases, reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, and promotes feelings of well-being. More time spent outdoors is associated with higher physical activity. For example, a study using children ages 10–12 demonstrated a 27 minute increase in weekly exercise and reduction of overweight prevalence from 41% to 27% with each additional hour spent outdoors. Proximity to outdoor recreation has also been demonstrated to influence childhood activity and weight, and children who live within a kilometer of a park with a playground were demonstrated to be five times more likely to be at a healthier weight than kids without accessible playgrounds. Motivating people to spend more time outdoors is an excellent tool to get people more active.

2) Being outside promotes mental wellbeing!

Being outside is widely known to have positive effects on one’s mental wellbeing, and experimental data has demonstrated a reduction of stress and mental fatigue with more time outside. Exercising in an outdoors environment has been linked with improvements in social networking, self-esteem, and feelings of connectivity. Our youth are increasingly being prescribed medication for mental health, with about 6% of teenager diagnosed with depression and 3% of kids younger than fourteen. Fourteen percent of adolescents categorized their stress as extreme and about half in the U.S. said their stress had increased over the past year. ADHD has also increased over recent decades, with around 9% of children diagnosed. About 9% of children (ages 4–17) were prescribed medication for difficulties with behavior and emotions and about 90% of these were treatment for ADHD symptoms. Natural environments have been demonstrated to improve attention (especially in those diagnosed with ADHD), reduce the impacts of stress, and reduce mental fatigue characterized by irritability, feeling distracted, and difficulty focusing.
3) Being outdoors reduces risks for vitamin D deficiencies!

There were 7.6 million U.S. children demonstrated to be vitamin D deficient and about 50.8 million had insufficient levels of vitamin D. In a recent study in a Boston hospital, about 42% of the adolescent patients examined had a deficiency and an estimated 1 billion people world-wide aren’t getting enough. In states of vitamin D deficiency, only about 10% of dietary calcium and 50% of dietary phosphorus are absorbed, leading to conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis, weakened immune systems, and a higher risk for seizures. Low vitamin D is also a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Luckily, adequate vitamin D can be achieved by time spent outside with exposed skin. In the summer, a time of 6–8 minutes may be enough, while in the winter, times increase to 7–50 minutes or so depending on the latitude.

4) Being outdoors promotes overall health improvements!

Outdoor activity in nature may also benefit one’s health by improving asthma, myopia, and chronic pain issues. For example, surrounding tree density was correlated with a lower incidence of childhood asthma. Myopia, or nearsightedness, has substantially risen over the past few decades and affects roughly 9.2% of American children. These numbers may be heightened by the increase in illuminated screen viewing and reading time. A higher level of time outdoors was associated with less myopia. In a 1984 study, patients with a view of deciduous trees took fewer doses of strong pain medication than a group viewing a brown brick wall, had shorter postoperative hospital stays, and fewer postsurgical complications. These health benefits are only the start, making more time in nature a valuable part of your routine.

Bowler et al. (2010) A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural

Environments. BMC Public Health, 10:456. Coon et al. (2011) Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A

Systematic Review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45:1761–1772. McCurdy et al. (2010) Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care 5:102-117.

6 tips for dealing with stress

It’s hard to believe I’ve been living in a tent for close to half a year now and even harder to imagine living another lifestyle then the one I am living now. Spending under $5 daily, I have never felt more alive, happy and healthy as I do now. My days have been pretty simple in terms of most peoples standards; I have fell into a 2 days on, 1 day off climbing schedule, while trail running 3 times a week and helping out in a local restaurant and writing with the rest of my time. I cook my meals on a small camp stove and, since I`m living out here without a car, go with friends into town to the grocery store once a week. I have met travellers from all over the world, each with different stories and different outlooks on life. As a result, my eyes have been opened to what it means to live a happy life, where being giving, open-minded, un-materialistic and loving are a necessity (to me at least). I`ve had some trying experiences out here also, that have taught me the power of being positive and optimistic. While living outdoors has had its ups and downs for me, by living so frugally and simply I have had the chance for self-reflection. In a half year living in a tent, here`s 25 things that I`ve learnt so far…

1) Just because your tent says it’s rainproof doesn’t mean it will keep 2 weeks’ worth of heavy rain out
2) Your body needs rest
3) It`s okay to fall
4) Not everyone has to like you
5) Carrots, sweet potatoes and apples are money while camping
6) A little quiet time is important to maintain sanity (for me at least)
7) Surround yourself with positive people and spend less time with negative ones
8) Failure is an important part of improvement
9) Networking will get you a long way (e.g. rides to work, groceries, etc.)
10) Platforms under your tent is key for long-term camping in a generally wet location
11) Not everyone has as good of intentions as you`d like to think
12) Cherish your close friends and be picky of who you spend the most time with
13) Be sure your belayer is a good one
14) sirracha and peanut butter makes a damn good spicy peanut sauce
15) Don’t dismiss quirky people
16) If you want to do something then do it! Don’t just talk about it or why you can’t do it- sacrifices are often necessary to get what you want.
17) Only doing one thing all of the time (e.g. rock-climbing) is a sure fire way to get demotivated. Having more than one thing is important (and healthier)
18) It’s better to have too much clothes then not enough while camping- freezing throughout the day (and night) really sucks!
19) I absolutely love trail running and exploring
20) Actually listen to people (don’t just nod along or half listen)
21) Money won’t make you happy- it’s the experiences you have and people you meet that makes for a fulfilling life
22) Rock climbing is when I feel the most in-tune with myself
23) Confidence will get you a long way in whatever you do
24) Family is important- remember that wherever you are and however far away they are
25) Don’t sell yourself short!

Here’s of me climbing again in Lionshead! :)

This article can also be found on the One Green Planet website :)

Stress is something we’re all familiar with, being ever so common in our 24/7 lifestyles. While a little stress once in a while is okay, long term stress increases risks for heart diseases, diabetes, poor weight control, reduced immunity, depression, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, reduced fertility and overall inflammation. These problems are largely derived from the stress hormones, such as epinephrine, that are released during stressful situations to aid to our ‘fight or flight’ response. While this was clearly advantageous to our ancestors, resulting in higher heart rates, cortisol levels, blood sugar, blood vessel constriction and ultimately more strength, speed and endurance, long term stress is detrimental to us in modern times. With that said, here are 6 stress busting tips to help you mellow out and relax!

1. Find the stressor

Is it work? A broken relationship? Or maybe even financial problems? The first step in dealing with stress is to face your problems head on. Solutions are highly individual and depend on what kind of changes you’re willing to make. While the best thing to do would be to eliminate your stressor, which is often not possible, the next best thing would be to brainstorm what could make your situation. Maybe getting ahead on your workload or confronting your significant other?

2. Aromatherapy

Lavender flowers and their extracts have been used for centuries for anxiety, sleep troubles and depression. The relaxing experience associated with lavender fragrance has led to its therapeutic use in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy with lavender has been demonstrated to be effective for anxiety, depression and overall stress in both small and medium-sized controlled and uncontrolled clinical trials. Want to give lavender a shot? Head to your nearest health store and pick up a bottle!

3. Laughter

A good laugh is an excellent form of stress relief with both immediate and long term benefits. Laughter stimulates the release of feel good endorphins, relieves stress responses, reduces tension, improves your mood, relieves pain and improves your overall health. Laughter is a powerful and under recognized form of medicine that is both easy and fun to incorporate into your routine! Go ahead, watch that funny TV show, spend a night out with friends or maybe head to your local comedy club! A little laughter will do wonders to help you bust your stress.

4. Sleep more

Sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle but over the last 50 years Americans have reported getting less and less sleep. Modern work and school schedules constantly devalues a good night’s rest, with praises going out to those bold enough to pull an all-nighter to get more work done. While you can probably get away with a night here and there of poor sleep, resent research is linking sleep loss with our immune and inflammatory systems resulting in higher risks for not only stress and anxiety, but also chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes. How can you get more Zs? Naps are great! Short naps under 20 minutes will avoid a lot of the grogginess associated with longer naps. Try getting into the habit of going to bed earlier. If you have problems falling asleep, it would be a good idea to avoid brighter lights (e.g. computer) before bedtime.

5. Exercise

I’m sure you’ve heard of the mood boosting endorphins associated with exercise, making exercise programs superior drug free options to elevate your mental state and relieve stress. While one bout of exercise is a sure fire way to leave you feeling fresh and happier, long term exercise programs have been demonstrated to be seriously effective at treating mental disorders. By just walking an hour 5 days a week, exercise will actually increase brain hippocampal sizes in previously sedentary people! Getting started can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be! Try taking walks on you breaks or taking the stairs more frequently or maybe even pick up a new activity! Head over to your local college and consider some fitness classes or try something a bit more daring (rock climbing anyone?).

6. Eat a healthy diet

Long term stress has been linked with tendencies to store fat around the midsection, poor sugar control and reduced metabolisms. For many, stress is a serious barrier for weight management, which can result in more stress and so on. How can we make healthy changes to deal with stress? Eat frequently throughout the day and be sure not to skip breakfast. This will help boost your metabolism, maintain blood sugar levels and help maintain energy throughout the day. Focus on mood boosting nutrients, such as potassium (bananas and avocados), vitamins B (leafy greens) and C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, and kiwi) and magnesium (nuts and leafy greens). Finally, reduce your intake of high-glycemic, refined carbohydrates and eat the rainbow in terms of fruits and vegetables.


D’Andrea W, Sharma R, Zelechoski A, Spinazzola J.(2011) Physical Health Problems After Single Trauma Exposure : When Stress Takes Root in the Body. doi:10.1177/1078390311425187

Lucini D, Pagani M. (2012) From stress to functional syndromes: An internist’s point of view. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2011.11.016.

Toda N, Nakanishi-Toda M. (2011) How mental stress affects endothelial function. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1022-6.

10 tips on eating ‘plant-strong’ for athletic performance

Sorry for the break in posts- I was starting to feel less motivated to write so I figured it was a good time to take a short break from writing. I’m feeling quite refreshed now though and am ready to get back on the bandwagon!:) Anyway, nothing significant has changed with me over the past few weeks. I am very happy with my current tent setup- very dry, quiet and comfortable! A little bug has come through the campground and got me last week- feeling much better this week! Other than that I’m continuing to climb and am feeling pretty strong! Seriously considering moving south from Kentucky to Red Rocks in a few weeks- anyone else have suggestions on where I can head next? :D

Here’s a picture of me climbing at Lionshead in Ontario :)


Here’s a fun little article I wrote for One Green Planet (onegreenplanet.com)- Enjoy :)!

Certain nutritional strategies go a long way in terms of recovery, adaptation and improvement, yet many athletes are at a loss on where to start. While formulating a performance boosting diet can be daunting task for vegetarians, I assure you that with a few minor alterations, you’ll be ready to pursue success. Here are 10 tips to set you on your way!

1. Carbs

Low carb diets (3-15% calorie intake) consistently are shown to reduce both high-intensity and endurance performance. They are crucial for enhancing glycogen stores and as a result, boost recovery between workouts. Luckily most of the tastiest foods are filled with carbs; bananas and sweet potatoes are my go to foods while I’m training.

2. Protein

Protein has long been a considered a key nutrient for success. Athletes are traditionally recommended to consume about 1.3g/kg per day. This can be a daunting for many vegans as most plant-based proteins are incomplete. Fortunately, current research has shown that as long as amino acid profiles are completed within a day, adequate protein can be achieved. By loading up with veggies, legumes and nuts, you’ll be good to go!

3. Nutrient Timing

After a workout, muscles shift from breaking down to building up. Muscles have an improved sugar tolerance and blood flow, making it a prime time for the replenishment of glycogen stores, adaptation and recovery. As a result, carbs and a high-quality protein are important within the first 45 minutes following a workout to enhance recovery and muscle development. Carbs are easy, but what about high-quality protein in a vegan diet? There are some great vegan protein supplements on the market that would be a smart investment for the plant-based athlete. My number 1 pick is the ‘Sunwarrior Vanilla Warrior Blend’.It mixes great in just about anything and is a tasty addition while baking as well.

4. B12

Deficiencies in B12 among vegetarians are alarmingly common and can put a serious damper on your athletic performance. With symptoms that include fatigue and lethargy, it is impossible to achieve your peak performance if deficient. B12 deficiencies are not to be taken lightly, and an on-going deficiency can cause anemia and permanent nerve damage. While there are a few vegan food sources, including nutritional yeast, supplements are a trusty way to ensure you’re getting enough.

5. Maca

This Peruvian root has a long history of being used to improve both libido and reproductive health. More recently, maca has been shown to be a great energy boosting plant, with benefits ranging from improved metabolism, reduced pain and enhanced stamina. It works great as an addition to your pre-workout drink, giving you a boost before you’re out the door. Maca has a nice marshmallow flavor that is a great addition to many baked goods and my personal favorite, hot chocolate!

6. Turmeric

Turmeric, used medicinally as far back as 6000 years, is truly an up and coming super food! Not only has it been shown to be protective against infections, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it is also seriously anti-inflammatory, going a long way for recovery. Turmeric has a distinctly peppery flavor that will add a little heat to your curry entrees.

7. Iron

Iron deficiencies are quite common among vegetarians and have serious consequences in performance. By simply eating more foods rich in vitamin C (e.g. most fruits) and soaking your grains, nuts and legumes (to lower the phytate content), vegetarians can increase the bioavailability of plant-derived iron and get more than enough.

8. Ginger

On top of being effective at relief from arthritis, nausea, common colds and hypertension, ginger is particularly effective at reducing inflammation. It can be easily added to many dishes and has a nice zingy taste. Like smoothies? Try adding an inch slice to your next drink! My personal favorite is fresh ginger tea; grate ginger into boiling water, steep and add a little lemon and agave. This is my go to remedy whenever I’m feeling achy.

9. Vitamin D

Since vitamin D is derived from sunlight, deficiencies during the winter are extremely common. Deficiencies in vitamin D are a large part of the seasonal performance variability puzzle and vitamin D has been shown to be directly related to power, speed, strength and performance. While vitamin D is present to a small degree in mushrooms, a vitamin D supplement suspended in oil (e.g. soft-gel) is the most reliable source during the winter time.

10. Calories

While training for peak performance, it’s easy to not get enough calories to replace what you’ve burned, especially on a clean, plant-based diet. Not getting enough calories can be detrimental for your performance and recovery. While training, it is essential to match your calorie intake with your exercise demands to allow full recovery and adaptation. A quick an easy way to get calories with a lot of nutrition is to get creative with smoothies and mix in all your plant-powered ingredients into delicious and nutritious drinks!

5 tips to get a good night’s sleep!

Lots of change again! Had a great time climbing up in Ontario- met up with a few of my friends in Lionshead for the weekend. After that, I went home to Windsor to stay with my family for a few more days before heading back to the Red River Gorge for the fall season. I also finally got to my sister, who is VERY pregnant. It’s amazing to see the difference in the size of her belly since the last time I saw her in June! All in all, I had an amazing time in Ontario and am so happy I got to spend more time with all of my friends and family.

I’ve been back down in Kentucky since this past Thursday- I drove down with one of my Canadian climbing partners and climbed with him throughout the weekend. Before he left, he helped me upgrade my tent situation to a better spot! My tent is now lined with blankets and a comforter- so comfy! Next step- stick a tarp over it! So far my trip back to the Red has been excellent- I am very excited for the weather to turn for better climbing conditions!

Here’s a picture of me at mount nemo in Ontario, pulling through the roof of a route :)

This article can also be found at onegreenplanet.com :)

About half of all Americans have reported to struggle with sleep while close to 20% are clinically diagnosed with insomnia. Sleep loss is a serious problem and results in reduced insulin sensitivity, increased appetites, whole body inflammation, and as a result, significantly greater risks for many mental and chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. On top of that, sleepless nights have a major impact on work performance and are thought to cost, directly and indirectly, around 35 billion dollars per year in the US. Why are we, as a nation, having such a hard time getting those vital 8 hours? Could it be out diets and rising weights? Or maybe it’s our go-go lifestyles or the rise in artificial lights since the 1900 (i.e. TVs and computers)? Pharmaceuticals aimed to treat insomnia are commonly prescribed to those struggling with sleep but come with many side-effects, including the potential for addiction, which would be best avoided. While nutraceuticals (e.g. melatonin) can be a relatively quick fix while working through a particular time of stress, lifestyle changes can be a powerful way to manage insomnia. With all of that said, here are 5 tips to help you catch those Z’s and sleep soundly!

1. Reduce your stress level!

Sleep and wakefulness are largely controlled by our sympathetic nervous system. In times of stress, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, resulting in a hyper-arousal around bedtime. The end result is often a racing mind that is hard to shut off. The first step to solving this problem would be figure out what the stressor is. Perhaps work, an unhealthy relationship (or even a healthy one), or school? While eliminating the stressor isn’t always practical, there are always steps that can be taken for improvement. For example, try to get a better work-life balance, talk to a loved one about things bothering you, or stay on top of your work-load at school.

2. Avoid bright lights closer to bedtime!

Sleep is also regulated by melatonin, released by the pineal gland and having a role in making us sleepy at night time. The secretion of this hormone is influenced by a number of factors including light, allowing us to have evolved a circadian rhythm that correlates to the sunrise and sunset. Bright lights close to bedtime throws off this rhythm and can result in less melatonin at the end of the day with an end result of restlessness and wakefulness. Try dimming the lights in your home throughout the day and avoiding electronics within the few hours before trying to fall asleep. This includes TV, computers and data phones which all have bright screens. While forming this habit will be tricky at first, given that most of us are quite dependent on technology, it will get easier in no time!

3. Consider your diet!

While most of us know by now that our diet has a major impact on our general health, many of us are unaware of the influence that the foods we eat have on sleep. Meal regularity, fewer refined carbohydrates, and more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are seen to promote a good night’s sleep. The foods we eat typically promote sleep by increasing levels of serotonin, typtophan and ultimately melatonin. Many foods have these chemicals while others promote their production (e.g. foods high in B vitamins and magnesium). While most of these compounds are widely available in the above foods, vitamin B12 is a particular issue for vegetarians (generally only in animal products) and a deficiency can be a cause for insomnia. While some B12 can be in trace amounts on organic vegetables (from the soil) and in products like nutritional yeast, a B12 supplement is strongly advised for vegetarians.

4. Exercise!

Exercise is an excellent tool to both reduce stress levels and improve sleep. Getting started exercising can be a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while. Rest assured- starting a routing isn’t as hard as it seems and once you get going things will only get easier! Exercise can be added quite easily by making a few changes in your day to day schedule. Try walking to work, taking the stairs more often or taking a walk during your breaks at work. The best way to get going is to find something that you love so you’ll be more inclined to stick to it. Fitness classes are a fun way to get moving and are offered at most colleges and gyms, offering both instruction and support. Joining an adult sports league is another great option to find that new passion, meet new people and have a great time. Maybe even reconnect with the great outdoors; hiking, trail running, mountain biking or rock climbing anyone?

5. Consider a melatonin supplement!

If you’re dealing with a particular time of stress and sleeplessness, melatonin may be a good option to get you back on track with your sleep schedule. Melatonin doesn’t have the addictive potential or hangovers that many pharmaceuticals have and are both safe and well tolerated, even at high doses over years. Melatonin is especially effective in individuals over 55 due to an age related degradation of the pineal gland, a factor for the higher prevalence of insomnia in elderly individuals. Melatonin may also be a good consideration if you’re trying to take yourself off of sleep medication. If this sounds like you, I would recommend looking at an AOR product called ortho-sleep, one of the strongest neutraceutical sleep aids on the market currently. This product has been had quite the success rate in helping people with this transition.

•Bittencourt L, Santos-Silva R, Mello M, Anderson M, Tufik S.(2010) Chronobiological Disorders: Current and Prevalent Conditions. doi:10.1007/s10926-009-9213-0
•Bixler E. (2012) Sleep and society: An epidemiological perspective. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2009.07.005.
•Cardinali D, Srinivasan V, Brzezinski A, Brown G.(2012) Melatonin and its analogs in insomnia and depression. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079X.2011.00962.x.
•Passos G, Poyares L, Santana M, Tufik S, Mello M. (2012) Is exercise an alternative treatment for chronic insomnia? doi:10.6061/clinics/2012(06)17.
•Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R.(2012) Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2012.03.009.
•Siebern A, Suh S, Nowakowski S. (2012) Non-Pharmacological Treatment of Insomnia. doi:10.1007/s13311-012-0142-9.

Lifestyle interventions and diabetes: what you need to know

Exciting week on my end! Headed back up to the Guelph area this past Friday where my climbing partner and I spent the weekend catching up with my friends and climbing at the craigs in the area. We headed to Collingwood Wednesday, where we climbed at Metcalf so far- next stop is a craig called Devils Glen. We’ll finally make our way up to lionshead on Saturday, where we’ll meet with a few more friends for a fun time climbing and camping. We’ve been lucky enough to find refuge with friends up until now- come Saturday we’ll actually have to spend some time in the wilderness :p.

Here’s a picture of me at Lionshead from a few months ago- excited to get over there!
This article is quite long- given the topic, I wanted to be as thorough as I could be! I also opted to just publish this article onto my site instead of submitting it to the companies I work for- hope you guys like it! :)

Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is an up and coming chronic disease that currently affects about 25.8 million people in the US, with about 1.9 million of those individuals under the age of 20. Approximately 35% of U.S. adults fall into the pre-diabetic range, while an estimate 12.0% have diabetes. When diagnosed midlife, T2DM is associated with a loss of 10 years off of lifespans and is associated with a fourfold higher risk for heart disease, which is responsible for up to 80% of the deaths in people with diabetes. On top of that, diabetes is a major risk factor for premature blindness, need for amputation and kidney failure. In 2010, diabetes accounted for 11.6% of the total health-care expenditure in the US. T2DM in Children is a new concept that has emerged over the last few decades, with most of the cases before-hand being type 1. Because diabetes is increasingly prevalent in younger individuals, it is expected to result in a devastating blow to the health of future working-age individuals. Are you or someone you know struggling with diabetes? Read on for more information and tips to help you on your road to recovery.

The control of blood sugar is essential for good health; both high (>7mM) and low (<4mM) blood sugar can be detrimental and potentially fatal. Blood sugar levels in healthy humans are tightly regulated to maintain about 5mM sugar concentrations throughout the day. Our muscles, fat cells, organs and brain (predominantly skeletal muscle) are responsible for the uptake of sugar following a meal via glucose transporters (GLUT4) at their cell membranes. This uptake is highly dependent on insulin stimulation which is released from the pancreas. Insulin stimulates the uptake of glucose at the cell membranes to lower blood sugar whereas glucagon promotes the release of glucose from the liver to increase blood sugar. Healthy blood sugars are maintained largely by the release of these two hormones.

How does diabetes happen? T2DM is a chronic and progressive beta cell (cells in the pancreas that release insulin) dysfunction that results in insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. The main risk factor for diabetes is too many daily calories, either through too little exercise or too much food (or both). When we chronically overeat or eat high glycemic diets, sugar is constantly being pumped into our blood. To deal with higher blood sugar, insulin is released from the pancreas to stimulate the uptake of glucose. When insulin is chronically released, eventually our tissues, specifically our glucose transporters, become less sensitive to insulin. At that point, our body becomes less capable of taking up glucose so blood sugar remains high; insulin resistance is the term for this condition. The net effect of high blood sugar is poor protein production, acidosis, etc. In this early stage of diabetes where reduced insulin sensitivity is present, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance can be reversed through a variety of interventions including a change in lifestyle or medication.

In terms of pharmaceutical treatment options, metformin and insulin are currently the only medicines approved by the US FDA for the treatment of T2DM in youth. Although insulin is effective at lowering blood sugar, it results in a need for future injections and a risk for hypoglycemia. Furthermore, insulin inherently improves the body’s ability for fat storage and protein production. Since obesity and high body fat are major factors for insulin resistance, insulin injections tend to feed into a vicious cycle that often prevents patients from improving and recovering. Metformin is a widely used drug that acts as a glucose sensitizer, suppressor of hepatic gluconeogenesis and glucose production with a low risk for long-term side effects. Although metformin is quite effective, reducing risks for diabetes by 31%, it is still less effective compared to lifestyle interventions.

With all of that said, here are 5 components to consider while undergoing a lifestyle intervention geared for diabetes prevention and treatment…

1) Diet

In terms of diet, recommendations include a reduction in portion sizes, fat and sugar, increases in fruit and vegetable consumption, and an elimination of high-sugar beverages. The key for insulin sensitivity improvements seems to be weight loss and overall lower caloric intakes. The percentage of daily macronutrients (e.g. fat, carbs, and protein) ideal for improvement is still unclear and there is evidence for improvements at just about any percentage. For example, high protein diets and high-fibre, low glycemic diets have been both demonstrated to improve satiety and insulin sensitivity. Fibre also effectively decreases total and LDL cholesterol and decreases inflammation and can be commonly found in plant-based foods (e.g. nuts, seeds, fruits, beans, lentils, flax, legumes, carrots, etc). Ketogenic, low-calorie diets have also been demonstrated to improve insulin sensitivity. With all of that said, too little evidence is available on the ideal levels of carbs, fat and protein in a diet to suggest macronutrient adjustments.

The case for vegetarian diets

Plant based diets have long been used for improving insulin sensitivity, weight loss and lowering risks for heart disease. Vegetarian diets are traditionally defined as the absence of meat but there are many variations including lacto-vegetarians (includes dairy), lacto-ovo-vegetarians (includes eggs and dairy), pesco-vegetarian (includes fish) and vegan (no animal products). Overall, vegetarians tend to be slimmer, at a lower risk for chronic diseases and have a greater longevity then omnivores. Epidemiological data supports the notion of diabetes prevention with plant-based diets. For example, vegetarians have been demonstrated to have overall lower fasting blood sugar, cholesterol and TAG levels, however results are confounded by the weight-loss associated with plant-based diets.

With that said, are there specific dietary components in vegetarian diets protective against disease? Vegetarian diets tend to include more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre and are consistently associated with a lower risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases. Vegetarian diets also tend to be low in omega-6 and saturated fat, which has been shown to have positive effects on blood lipids and insulin sensitivity. Excess iron sores, associated with meat consumption, has also been shown to promote insulin resistance. Reduced calorie intakes will happen naturally on a plant based diet through a lower fat content, lower energy density and higher overall fibre content, so calorie counting is not typically required in order to lose weight, which seems to be the key to improve insulin sensitivity.

Red and processed meat intake has been consistently linked with T2DM, heart disease and certain cancers. Red meat consumption is associated with a 42% higher risk for heart disease with each 50g/day. Furthermore, 50g/day has been linked with a 19% higher risk of diabetes and frequent processed meat intake was associated with a 41% higher risk for diabetes. The lack of meat in vegetarian diets may also be a contributing factor for insulin sensitivity improvements.

If you’re thinking of trying out a vegetarian diet, here are a few tips to make sure you do it in a healthy way. Firstly, since plant-based iron is less bioavailable than animal based iron, make sure you couple your iron sources (e.g. greens) with vitamin C rich foods (e.g. citrus fruits), which effectively increase their bioavailability. Vitamin B12 is almost only found in animal based products and deficiencies can result in serious health consequences. Supplementation with vitamin B12 is vital while on a vegetarian diet in order to avoid a deficiency. Lastly, vitamin D supplementation is important, especially in northern latitudes with less sunlight exposure or during the winter (important for everyone, not just vegetarians). Despite what many people think, protein is not a big concern for vegetarians and as long as a complete amino acid profile is consumed throughout the day, easily achieved through healthy servings of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, we can get more than enough protein. If your still concerned or like the idea of adding protein to your shakes to boost satiety in between meals, head over to your local health store and check out the vegan protein supplements. Sunwarrior and Vega both make excellent protein supplements. My favorites are Sunwarrior’s Vanilla Warrior Blend and the Vega One French Vanilla shake.

2) Exercise

Exercise results in improved insulin sensitivity, increased uptake at the muscle, and a reduced need for medication, having the greatest influences as the intensity of the exercise increases. In the Finnish Diabetes Prevention study, for example, participants enrolled did 30 minutes of exercise per day, lost weight, lowered their saturated fat intake and increased their fibre intake had a 58% lower incidence of diabetes after the trial. In the ‘Nurses’ Health Study and Physician’s Health Study, vigorous exercise almost halved risks for developing T2DM. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigerous aerobic exercise weekly, based on the large body of evidence that exercise helps prevent diabetes, heart disease and all-cause mortality. This recommended time has been demonstrated to reduce diabetes risks by 58%! High Intensity Training (HIT) seems to be extremely effective at inducing a number of changes at the skeletal muscle including fibre composition, angiogenesis and mitochondrial biogenesis, with the end result of significantly improved insulin sensitivity.

Getting started exercising can be a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve hit the gym or been on that high school sports team. Rest assured, achieving that 150 minutes isn’t as hard as it seems, and once you get going you’ll only be happy with the improvements you see. The best way to go is to find something that you enjoy so you’ll stick to it! Intermurals are a great way to reconnect with your inner child, have fun and meet new people. Interested in some group classes? Most colleges and gyms offer some pretty stellar fitness classes that will have you fit in no time. Looking for a new sport? There are so many adult leagues available to get you started; it’s never too late to find a new passion (rock climbing anyone?)!

3) Support

Social support has been shown to improve clinical outcomes, reduce symptoms and increase the commitment of patients to lifestyle interventions. Higher levels of social support have been associated with better glycemic control, more knowledge, better adherence to treatment and an overall improved quality of life. It is also helpful in accepting a diagnosis, adjusting emotionally and decreasing the stress associated with diabetes. On the flip side, a lack of social support is associated with a higher risk for complications and death. If you’re trying a lifestyle intervention, make sure you have the support you need to ensure your success. Let your family members, significant other or friends know that you need a little encouragement. Support groups may also be a good idea or even teaming up with others (e.g. friends or family) while doing these lifestyle changes.

4) Sleep

Sleep deprived individuals reportedly have a 35% greater chance of gaining more than 5kg over the course of 6 years. Lack of sleep (less than 6 hours per night) alters our metabolisms in profound ways, the end results are dramatic; insulin resistance, decreased energy requirements, enhanced appetites and damaged immune systems. When treating diabetes, good sleep habits are essential! Getting to bed earlier can be hard at first but with time your body will adjust to this new routine. If your having a hard time falling asleep earlier, try dimming the lights in your home throughout the day and avoiding electronics within the few hours before trying to fall asleep. This includes TV, computers and data phones which all have bright screens. Avoiding bright lights before bedtime is an effective way to get you sleepier and more relaxed.


My last consideration would be to include some anti-diabetic food items into your daily routine. A few of my favorite options include green tea, turmeric, aloe, garlic, ginger and apple cider vinegar. Try incorporating a few of these items every day to help you on your way to better insulin sensitivity.

Ajala O, English P, Pinkney J. (2013) Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr 97:505–16.

Bird S, Hawley J. (2012) Exercise and type 2 diabetes: New prescription for an old problem. Maturitas 72:311– 316.

George M, Copeland K. (2013) Current Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Youth: Today’s Realities and Lessons from the TODAY Study. Curr Diab Rep 13:72–80.

McEvoy C, Temple N, Woodside J. (2011) Vegetarian diets, low-meat diets and health: a review. Public Health Nutrition: 15(12), 2287–2294.

Trap C, Barnard N. (2010) Usefulness of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets for Treating Type 2 Diabetes. Curr Diab Rep 10:152–158.

Shin J et. Al. (2012) Prevention of diabetes: a strategic approach for individual patients. Diabetes Metab Res Rev 28(Suppl 2): 79–84.

Strom J, Egede L. (2012) The Impact of Social Support on Outcomes in Adult Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review. Curr Diab Rep 12:769–781.

5 nutrition tips for healthy and clear skin!

Annnnddd back to Canada! Was lucky enough to get a ride with one of my climbing partners to Detroit, where my parents picked me up and brought me home. It’s been really nice to be home with family. It’s amazing how good a bed and long hot shower feel after a few months of cold showers and sleeping on a wooden platform with a strip of foam :p. It’s also been pretty great being able to use my parents vitamix blender- I definitely have a passion for making smoothies!

I’m currently waiting for an American friend (Nick) to swing by my place so we can head up north(ish) to climb for the next 2 weeks. We’ll stop first in the Guelph/Milton area to climb, where I’ll also be able to stop by my old climbing gym and catch up with my friends. Following that we’ll make our way to Collingwood for a day or two and then spend the rest of our time in the Lionshead area. So excited to climb in Ontario again and to see my friends :). After that we’re going to head back to Windsor, spend a night with my family, and then drive back to Kentucky where I’ll be living for the fall season. Cannot tell you how happy I am being able to climb and travel so frequently!

Here’s another picture of me climbing in Kentucky :)
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This article can be found on the One Green Planet website! :)


Acne is a common nuisance that affects about 85% of teenagers and about 50% of adults. Waking up and finding a big, red spot on your face can really put a damper on your day, leaving you less confident to strive for success. While there is overwhelming evidence for the role of diet in acne and skin health, most dermatologists continue to recommend drugs before considering nutrition. As a result, most people have no idea just how powerful a healthy diet can be at improving skin health. With that said, what can you do to get that clean and clear, glowing and healthy skin with nutrition alone?

1) Reduce your refined sugar intake!

High sugar intakes are a large problem we face as a society. Not only is it a factor for just about any chronic disease, especially diabetes, obesity and heart disease, it is also an underrepresented factor for acne. High sugar intakes result in an increase in insulin activity, leading to an increase in the production of both fat and androgen hormones (e.g. testosterone). These increases enhance the excretion of sebum, making people consuming high sugar diets more prone to acne. Refined sugar can be a challenge to remove from your diet but with a little dedication, you’ll be on your way to a low sugar diet. In as little as a few days of removing sugar, cravings will subside, making it easier for you to stick to your guns. Still craving something sweet after a meal? Opt for fruits! Fruit smoothies can be a great way to both satisfy your sweet tooth and amp up your daily fruit consumption!

2) Drink more water!

Water is essential for life yet most of us don’t drink nearly enough. Water important for the health of every cell and organ in the human body, skin included. This can be easily seen in dehydrated individuals, who tend to have less elastic, more wrinkle prone and dull skin. By drinking enough water, your skin will transform to be more vibrant, elastic and healthy all-around. I find the best way to ensure I’m getting enough water is to drink a tall glass with each meal and to carry a water bottle with me for the rest of the day. Don’t like plain water? Give your drink a healthy boost by adding orange, lemon or cucumber slices. I like to make a large pitcher to keep in the fridge, making it easily accessible at any time.

3) Eat more fruits and vegetables!

We know that fruits and vegetables are important for good health, yet the majority of us don’t get enough. Fruits and vegetables are high in many important nutrients, phytochemicals, fiber and antioxidants that make them superior for promoting healthy skin. The antioxidant content in plants, for example vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, are excellent at fighting free radicals. By reducing free radicals, fruits and vegetables effectively reduce signs of aging, acne and inflammation! They are also great for improving insulin sensitivity, further contributing to both diabetes and acne prevention.

4) Try ginger and turmeric

Both ginger and turmeric have long been used for their impressive array of health benefits. They are both extremely effective at reducing inflammation, as well as acting as an anti-bacterial, making them great for maintaining clear and glowing skin. Ginger has a pungent and fresh taste that works great in many recipes. It can be grated on many dishes to give them a nice ‘kick’. Like smoothies? Try adding a slice of ginger to your next concoction. My favorite way to use ginger is making fresh ginger tea: grate ginger into boiling water, steep for about 10 minutes, add lemon and agave and enjoy! Turmeric on the other hand has a distinctly peppery flavor and mustardy smell, making it a delicious addition to many curry dishes. By also incorporating pepper with turmeric, you can amp up the health benefits associated with consuming turmeric!

5) Use green tea!

The health benefits of green tea are bountiful, extending to improvements in oral health, odor, arthritis, cancer risks, diabetes, heart disease, weight control and blood pressure. Green tea is also excellent at boosting skin health, with documented effectiveness at reducing risks for skin cancer, managing psoriasis and eczema, reducing inflammation, slowing the signs of aging and reducing the incidence and severity of breakouts. Most of these impressive health benefits come from the polyphenols, catechins, which are found in high concentrations in the leaves of tea. These catechins are powerful antioxidants that are useful weapons against free radicals. When drinking green tea, the tea should be steeped in water a bit cooler than boiling temperature for about 2–3 minutes; otherwise the taste may become too bitter. Green tea bags are also highly astringent and can be used topically to manage inflammation. Struggle with morning eye puffiness? Try using frozen green tea bags on your eyes to take away the swelling.

Basnet P, Skalko-Basnet N. (2011) Curcumin: An Anti-Inflammatory Molecule from a Curry Spice on the Path to Cancer Treatment. Molecules 16:4567-4598.

Gupta S, Patchva S, Aggarwal B. (2013) Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. The AAPS Journal 15:1.

Johnson R, Bryant S, Huntley A. (2012) Green tea and green tea catechin extracts: an overview of the clinical evidence. Maturitas. 2012 Dec;73(4):280-7

Kubra R, Rao J. (2013) An Impression on Current Developments in the Technology, Chemistry, and Biological Activities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 52(8):651-88.

Melnik, B. (2012) Dietary intervention in acne: Attenuation of increased mTORC1 signaling promoted by Western diet. Dermato-Endocrinology 4:1, 20–32.

Reynolds R, Lee S, Choi J, Atkinson F, Stockmann K, Petocz P and Brand-Miller J. (2010) Effect of the Glycemic Index of Carbohydrates on Acne vulgaris. Nutrients 1:1060-1072.

Top 4 Natural Ways to Boost Your Sex Life!

Lots happening with me this past week! Finally finished and submitted my research paper that I wrote for the field course I took a few months ago (due today). My paper looked at the mercury content of a few fish that are commonly eaten from the Great Lakes. I did a cost-benefit analysis between the mercury levels and the levels of omega-3… Somehow I’ve managed to make my zoology paper completely nutrition based :p. Now I am completely done with my undergrad- horray!

Aside from that, my parent’s arrived back to Windsor, Ontario from a month and a bit trip to Europe! They went on a cruise for a month first and then visited family in Serbia for a few weeks following that (very jealous!). With their arrival back home, I’ve decided to make my way back to Canada again for a few weeks. I’ll be headed home for close to a week this coming Tuesday and then going on a 2 week climbing trip again up north in Ontario :D (and then back to the Red for the fall season!). Incredibly excited to see my family and friends in Ontario and to also get on some limestone!

Here’s another picture from my last trip to Ontario a few months ago :)

-As a side note before the article… sorry mom and dad! lol

This article can also be found on the One Green Planet website! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/top-4-natural-ways-to-boost-your-sex-life/

Throughout human history, there have been countless uses of natural substances to increase libido, performance and sexual desire, with the coined name of an aphrodisiac, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. The search for a substance to best the ‘manhood’ of males has been an obsession of many past civilizations, whether they were eastern or western, religious or atheist. In ancient Rome, starfish were sold on the streets, potable gold was used in medieval times, and even animal genitals where consumed by Chinese civilizations. This obsession is still carried on today, seen by the popularity of pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals to enhance sexual performance. Are you part of the majority looking for some ideas to rev up your libido? Need a little boost to amp up your sexual performance? Here are my top four picks to set you on your way to a great sex life.

4. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate (Cacao), made from Cacao beans, has long been used to boost sexual performance and libido. Reportedly, it was used by the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, before visiting any of his wives to increase his libido. Chocolate is often considered to have some of the greatest impacts on mood and has been demonstrated to have some pretty impressive health benefits, widely derived from its flavanol content. Although flavanols are found at low concentrations in red wine, tea, and many fruits, flavanols are found in the greatest concentrations in dark chocolate (responsible for its bitterness) at about 510mg per 100g! Aside from the benefits associated with heart disease and diabetes prevention, antioxidant activity and reductions in inflammation, several studies have reported an improvement in sexual function. Chocolates that have been either fermented, roasted or alkalized will have significantly lower flavanol contents, so when deciding which chocolate to buy, opt for a good quality dark chocolate to max out the health and libido benefits! There are plenty of raw, vegan, and low sugar chocolates out there that would make great options for a flavanol rich, healthy chocolate. Try out the 10 Best Vegan Dark Chocolate Bars, and if you feel like making something decadent, these Raw Dark Chocolate Cherry Cream Cups or Blueberry-Almond Dark Chocolate Bark are great options!

3. Maca

Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers) has been used in the Andes for centuries to boost the fertility and health of animals and humans alike. It has been demonstrated to improve several health aspects, such as bone density, energy levels, depression, metabolism, and immunity, but has been particularly effective for reproductive function. It has been shown to improve libido, fertility, erectile dysfunction, hormones in women with amenorrhea (loss of menses), and has even had promising research showing its effectiveness as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy in menopausal women. When looking for maca products, a good quality product is key to ensure a good flavor (my personal favorite is by the company Organic Traditions) (Side note- if you have high blood pressure, use maca with caution and don’t get a product more potent than the powdered form). Maca has a nice toasted-marshmallow taste that goes great in hot chocolate (can be used to replace your morning coffee), smoothies and baked goods. To learn more about Maca, read this article and try this recipe for Raw Vanilla Cake with Chocolate “Buttercream” and Maca.

2. Yoga

Yoga, an ancient practice with eastern roots, has long been used to not only enhance overall health, but also sexual health. Yoga involves a number of physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayamas) that make yoga an amazing practice for overall well-being. Aside from the demonstrated benefits of improved well-being, mental health, blood pressure, heart rat, lung capacity and overall health, yoga, as well as other eastern approaches like tantra, tao and acupuncture, has been shown to enhance fulfillment, pleasure and libido. On top of that, yoga is an excellent way to keep you limber, in tune with your body, and confident, all vital for a satisfying sex life. New to yoga and don’t know where to start? Head over to your local yoga studio! Most studios give great introductory classes, ensuring you develop the technique required to safely practice yoga. I absolutely love practicing yoga in a studio; there’s something about being in a supportive group with ambient music and a knowledgeable instructor to leave you feeling amazing for the rest of the day. There are also a number of excellent yoga DVDs, ranging from all ability levels; head over to your nearest book store or yoga studio to see what they have to offer (even more can be found online!).

1. Red Wine

Regular red wine consumption is not only linked to some pretty amazing health benefits, including a reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes, it has recently been demonstrated to be a natural and tasty sex booster. Red wine is high in a number of health boosting polyphenols, including the recently famous and popular resveratrol. The polyphenols present are thought to be the major contributors to the amazing benefits associated with drinking a glass a day. In terms of sexual health, red wine has been demonstrated to enhance overall sexual function, desire, lubrication and sex drive, making it a great drink to give you a little boost in bed. Red wine makes a nice addition to dinner, is easily accessible and is delicious (in my opinion); there is really no reason not to enjoy it (in moderation! ;)).

Brotto LA, Mehak L, Kit C. (2009) Yoga and sexual functioning: a review. J Sex Marital Ther. 35(5):378-90.

Gonzales G. (2012) Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 193496.

Lee M, Shin B, Yang E, Lim H, Ernst E. (2011) Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review. Maturitas. 70(3):227-33.

Mondaini N, Cai T, Gontero P, Gavazzi A, Lombardi G, Boddi V, Bartoletti R. (2009) Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women’s sexual health. J Sex Med. 6(10):2772-7.

Shamloul, R. (2010) Natural Aphrodisiacs. J Sex Med. 7:39–49.

Talmer R, Mechanick J.(2007) Dietary Supplements and Nutraceuticals in the Management of Andrologic Disorders. Endocrinol Metab Clin N Am. 36:533–552.

Wilson P. (2010) Centuries of seeking chocolate’s medicinal benefits. Lancet. 376(9736):158-9.

3 simple steps to manage a sweet tooth!

Busy weekend for me! Worked A LOT and did quite a bit of writing! Feeling pretty productive and am deffinitely ready to get down to buisness on some of my summer projects (climbing) tomorrow! :) Aside from that, I have also been developing quite a bit of a sweet tooth out here. It’s hard to turn down cookies when I’m so far from the grocery store… as a result, I’ve been having a fair bit of cookies every day :p. With that said, I’m planning on doing a bit of a challange- feel free to join me (I made a facebook group- feel free to join! https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/30dayrefinedsugarfree/ ): 30 days without refined sugar! Think you can handle it? :)

Another picture of me at Torrent!
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This article can be found on the One Green Planet website! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/3-simple-steps-to-manage-a-sweet-tooth/

Do you have a sweet tooth that just can’t be satisfied? Do you have a hard time passing up that piece of cake (carrot cake in my case) or adding a little extra sugar to your coffee? While our sweet preferences have been positive forces throughout human evolution, helping our ancestors identify more nutrient and energy dense foods, they are now a driving force behind many of the weight problems and chronic diseases we see today. Diabetes is at an all-time high, with about 35% of Americans in the pre-diabetic range, 12% with diabetes and 35% classified as obese! Furthermore people with diabetes are at a fourfold greater risk for heart disease! With these scary statistics aside, why do you have the sweet preferences you have and how can you manage a sweet tooth?

The science behind sweet preferences

Our taste receptors for sweet flavors are found in both our mouths and intestines; when stimulated, the ultimate result is a feeling of pleasure that has some overlap with the brain’s response to addictive drugs. Sweets even have pain reducing qualities, easily seen in babies who drink something sweet following painful stimuli. Since sweets help reduce both pain (e.g. from PMS or even a heart break) and stress, they have been coined as ‘comfort foods’, with good reason.

While the factors for sweet preferences are multifactorial, they begin as early as in utero, with the influence of the mom’s diet. Newborns have obvious sweet preferences and will notably consume more fluid if it’s sweetened. Sweet beverages will help a baby relax in the face of distress and also help a stranger win over a baby’s affection in the future. Children base their food choices largely based on familiarity and, if exposed to sweet foods early on, are more likely to have a sweet tooth later in life. About 16% of the caloric intake of children 2-5 years of age and 19% for 6-11 aged children were estimated to be accounted by sugar, mostly from flavored milk, juice and pop. This is a big problem that is making it harder on our future generations to maintain a healthy weight and sugar intake. While some of us choose to opt for low-calorie sweeteners to replace sugar, this may actually make matters worse and heighten a sweet tooth and risks for becoming obese.

While it’s clear that our sweet preferences are largely associated with our upbringings, that certainly doesn’t mean that all hope is gone once you reach adult hood. By making some shifts in your diet and sticking to your guns, a sweet tooth can be overcome, setting you on your way to a low-sugar, clean and healthy diet.

With all of that in mind, here are 3 simple steps to manage a sweet tooth!

3. Take the 30 day added-sugar free (or reduced) challenge!

While the first few days are sure to be a challenge, within a week of hard dedication you’ll notice that your cravings for sugar have subsided. I find that the best way to kick a sweet tooth is to eliminate it completely so that your body has a chance to become more accustomed to a lower sugar diet (largely attributed to the bacteria in your large intestine). While naturally sweetened fruits are okay during this stretch, try to avoid foods that contain added refined sugar in their ingredient list. Now I know that is a daunting task for most people, so just try your best! Slowly reducing the sugar in your diet is another option, but again, completely zapping the sugar from your diet will be the fastest way to manage your sweet preference.

2. Eat more protein rich foods!

Protein rich foods are a great way to boost your satiety after a meal, making it easier to say no to those sugary dessert items. Great vegan sources of protein include nuts, seeds and legumes, which can amp up just about any recipe. Still looking for an after-meal treat? There are some incredible vegan protein supplements that are not only delicious and satisfying, but also healthy! My two favorites are the Sunwarrior Vanilla Warrior blend, which uses all raw ingredients with the addition of coconut oil to really boost its nutritional value and taste, and the Vega One French Vanilla shake. The Vega One shake is not only a great protein source, but also contains 50% of your daily vitamin and mineral requirements with additional power foods like the energy boosting maca root. Both shakes can be incorporated into some pretty tasty smoothies! The Warrior blend can even be baked with to make some protein rich cookies, bars, muffins, or whatever your heart desires!

1. Eat more vegetables!

Vegetables are not only a great source for vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, but are also invaluable contributors to our daily fiber requirements. Fiber, like protein, is another excellent way to boost satiety. Furthermore, fiber helps reduce blood sugar, enhance insulin sensitivity, reduce risks for diabetes, reduces inflammation, reduces LDL cholesterol and heart disease risks and helps keep a healthy intestinal tract, improving regularity and reducing risks for diseases such as colon cancer. Eat the rainbow in terms of vegetables (and fruits) and you’ll be on your way to a healthy, low sugar diet!

With the obvious implications of a high sugar diet, don’t wait to kick your sweet tooth to the curb! There’s no reason like the present to show your body the love it deserves in the form of a low-sugar, clean and healthy diet!

•Drewnowski A, Mennella J, Johnson S, Bellisle F. (2012) Sweetness and Food Preference. J Nutr; 142(6):1142S-8S.
•Goff LM, Cowland DE, Hooper L, Frost GS. (2012) Low glycaemic index diets and blood lipids: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Jan;23(1):1-10.
•Khardori R, Nguyen D. (2012) Glucose control and cardiovascular outcomes: reorienting approach. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 3:110
•Sonestedt E, Overby N, Laaksonen D, Birgisdottir B. (2012) Does high sugar consumption exacerbate cardiometabolic risk factors and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease? Food Nutr Res.; 56: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.19104.

4 reasons why exercise is holistic medicine!

Continuing to love life here in kentucky, keeping busy with climbing, working and writing! I am so incredibly happy with how things have been going for me lately and I am so lucky to have the oppourtunities for travel that I have so far. I’ll hopefully be heading to a new climbing location in a few weeks; am excited to continue exploring and meeting new people :D. Check out my profile on the new magazine website I’m working for! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/author/jennifer_novakovich/ -I feel so legit :)

Here’s a picture of me enjoying my own little paradise at the Motherlode crag in Kentucky :D

This article can also be found on the One Green Planet website! (Great site for anyone interested in some amazing recipes and environmentally friendly ideas :) ) http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/4-reasons-why-exercise-is-holistic-medicine/

With the steep rise in chronic diseases today, many of us have turned to a quick fix drug without realizing how powerful a clean diet and exercise can be at managing and preventing many of our most common ailments. While the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, less than half of Americans regularly exercise. These numbers are even lower among elderly individuals who are often discouraged about exercise programs. Only about 15% of Canadians and 30% of Americans have reported to meet the 150 minute time recommendations and about 36% of Americans have reported to have sedentary lifestyles. The lack of both a clean diet and active lifestyle can be pinpointed as the major benefactor for the increase in the chronic diseases present today. Exercise can be a powerful tool for good health and should be more recognized as the holistic medicine that it truly is. How can a new exercise program help you achieve outstanding health?

1. Exercise increases your metabolism!

Regular exercise effectively increases an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase as well as the mitochondrial content of fat cells. The combination of these two increase your body’s ability to burn both fat (up to 4-fold!) and calories! Exercise also enhances your ability to conserve amino acids and produce proteins, refining your muscle building skills. More muscle will also not only help amp up your metabolism but also help you trim up to achieve that beach body status.

2. Exercise reduces your risks for disease!

The most striking example of disease prevention through exercise can be seen in people with diabetes. Exercise increases the rate that sugar is taken up by our cells by stimulating more glucose transporters to their membranes. As a result, exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and is both great for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. By exercising just 150 minutes per week, diabetes risks have been demonstrated to be reduced by 58%! Exercise is also effective at drastically reducing the risks for just about any chronic disease, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. It effectively reduces inflammation and excess body fat, making it a powerful tool to improve your all around health!

3. Exercise helps you age with grace!

While inactivity increases the progression of muscle loss and weakness as we age, predisposing us for higher fall risks and reduced function later in life, exercise is an excellent way to keep your youth, both mentally and physically. A combination of both strength and endurance exercise is seen to effectively counteract the function declines associated with old age. Regular exercise is an excellent way to maintain a healthy body weight, improve balance, reduce reductions in bone mineral mass while aging, reduce inflammation and improve overall flexibility. As a result, exercise would be a smart addition at any age and it’s never too late to start! Side note, if you have any medical conditions, be sure to check with your doctor before starting up a new exercise program.

4. Exercise boosts your mental health!

While depression is becoming increasingly common, especially among older individuals where it is predicted to be the most prominent disease by 2020, exercise is also a great way to enhance mental health. It has been demonstrated to improve mood, slow the cognitive decline associated with aging, reduce dementia risks, improve sleep, reduce stress and increase self-confidence. Studies consistently show that active individuals are less likely to have mental health problems. Exercise isn’t only great for staying in shape but is also a drug free way to elevate your mental state.

New to exercise and don’t know where to start?

Getting started exercising can be a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve hit the gym or been on that high school sports team. Rest assured, achieving that 150 minutes isn’t as hard as it seems, and once you get going you’ll only be happy with the improvements you see. A little exercise can be easily incorporated into your daily life without too much of a hassle. For example, try taking the stairs more often or maybe take a walk on your breaks at work. The best way to go is to find something that you enjoy so you’ll stick to it! Intermurals are a great way to reconnect with your inner child, have fun and meet new people. Interested in some group classes? Most colleges and gyms offer some pretty stellar fitness classes that will have you fit in no time. Like the water? Aquafit is a great option; my mom has been doing it for years and has only raved about how much fun it is while being not too hard on her body. Looking for a new sport? There are so many adult leagues available to get you started; it’s never too late to find a new passion (rock climbing anyone?)!

Whether you’re new to exercise or have been on board for a while, there’s really no reason not to take advantage of the health benefits associated with active lifestyles. Exercise is a powerful and free holistic medicine that can go a long way in terms of your quest to a healthy, vibrant and happy life.

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Ginger: a spice for health!

Still in Kentucky and loving life! Now that I’ve started writing for the online magazine (One Green Planet) I’ve been pretty busy! Life is good and continuing to do the two things I love doing most ( writing and climbing :D)! I’ve made the recent discovery though that as a Canadian I can only stay in the states for 6 months out of a 12 month period… since I really want to enjoy the fall season in Kentucky, I think I might head back to Canada for a month or so pretty soon! Thinking about heading over to Squamish, BC for some multipitch adventures and hard bouldering (making climbing stops along the way). Looking forward to the change and seeing some fellow Canadians! :D

Here’s a picture of me climbing in Ontario! Anticipating some hard moves ahead :p

This article can also be found on the Sunwarrior website! http://www.sunwarrior.com/news/ginger-a-spice-for-health/

Ginger, a pungent spice natively found in southern Asia, is an up and coming plant with exciting health benefits. Research is mounting on ginger’s action on inflammation, cancer-prevention, heart health, nausea, pain, etc. It is grown extensively in the tropics, with India, Nigeria, Australia, China, and Jamaica being the top producers. Discoveries of the beneficial health outcomes associated with ginger consumption are increasing; it’s no wonder Indians considered it as Mahaoushadha, which translates to “the great medicine.” With these amazing results, ginger is an easy addition to your diet to achieve some of its health promoting effects.

Ginger (zingiber officinale) is a member of the Zingiberaceae plant family, comprised of a mixture of constituents, including the active components gingerols, shogaol, and zerumbone. Next to black pepper, it is one of the most commonly used spices world-wide. It has been used traditionally for thousands of years in Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Unani-Tibb medicine for various ailments. Its uses have extended to treatment of nausea, common colds, heartburn, migraines, impotence, influenza, hypertension, digestion, and pain, as well as arthritis prevention and management, platelet inhibition, appetite stimulation, blood vessel dilation, and the list goes on.

Current research has concurred with these older practices, showing exciting health improvements associated with ginger consumption. Preliminary research has demonstrated ginger’s effectiveness at cancer prevention, heart disease prevention, migraine relief, anti-inflammation, reducing pain, etc. Ginger may be a safer and cheaper alternative to many of our current pharmaceuticals recommended for the above ailments and chronic diseases in general, which are largely regulated by inflammation. Although currently research is largely either on an animal or in-vitro scale, ginger has exciting potential for future human research.

What makes ginger so effective? Gingerol, the active component in fresh ginger that is chemically similar to capsaicin (responsible for spiciness in peppers) demonstrates protection against cancer cell proliferation. When ginger is cooked, gingerol is converted to zingerone, which is less pungent. Shogaol, a component similar to gingerol, is also produced when ginger is dried or cooked. Another constituent, zerumbone, acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, and a cancer protective agent. Ginger’s biological activity is achieved through its inhibition of various molecular pathways and ultimately provides protection against inflammation and oxidative damage, making it effective at managing chronic diseases.

Ginger has a pungent and fresh taste and is a great spice to use on a daily basis. How can you add more to give your dishes more of a ‘kick’? In many dishes, ginger can be simply grated in while cooking to make the dishes a bit more exotic and pungent. Feeling sick? My go-to remedy is always freshly made ginger tea; grate fresh ginger into boiled water, let it steep 5–15 minutes, and add a bit of lemon or lime (sweetened to preference). Ginger tea can be enjoyed both hot and iced.
Are you an athlete who wants some extra help recovering? Since ginger is so anti-inflammatory, it makes a great addition to post workout meals, shakes, and drinks. Try adding fresh ginger in your smoothies! My personal favorite use of ginger is in a pumpkin pie smoothie! I use one scoop of the vanilla Warrior Blend by Sunwarrior, a scoop of pumpkin puree, about an inch of fresh ginger, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, 1 banana, ice, and almond milk. Something to look forward to for either breakfast or post-workout shakes!

The health benefits of ginger are vast and the flavor is delicious (in my book, anyway). Ginger can be cheaply purchased in most local grocery stores. There’s no reason for more people to not take advantage of ginger and its health-promoting qualities. What are your favorite ways to use ginger?

Al-Suhaimi EA, Al-Riziza NA, Al-Essa RA. (2011) Physiological and Therapeutical Roles of Ginger and Turmeric on Endocrine Functions. Am J Chin Med. 39(2):215-31.

Kubra IR, Rao LJ. (2012) An Impression on Current Developments in the Technology, Chemistry, and Biological Activities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 52(8):651-88.

Terry R, Posadzki P, Watson LK, Ernst E. (2011) The Use of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for the Treatment of Pain: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Pain Med. 12(12):1808-18.