How the simple practice of Mindful Breathing can have a huge impact on your health.

How the simple practice of Mindful Breathing can have a huge impact on your health.

This simple practice can have a huge impact on your health.

The act of mindful breathing has been practiced for thousands of years amongst Eastern cultures to restore or enhance health1. This slow, mindful breath is an overlooked practice that affects every single aspect of your health. In this article, we’re going to discuss your breath and its powerful role in taking you from “fight-or-flight” to “rest and digest”. We’ll discuss how deep breathing can be a powerful tool for managing stress, reducing anxiety, improving digestion, and finding your inner calm (among many other benefits).

The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in the maintenance of homeostasis yet functions without conscious, voluntary control. There are two divisions of the autonomic nervous system in the body: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Each of these systems are dominant under certain conditions.

The sympathetic division forms the “fight-or-flight” response to an emergency or stressful situation. The overall effect of the sympathetic system under these conditions is to prepare the body for strenuous physical activity. More specifically, sympathetic nervous activity will increase the flow of blood that is well-oxygenated and rich in nutrients to the tissues that need it, in particular, the working skeletal muscles2.

The parasympathetic division forms the body’s “rest and digest” response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. The parasympathetic works to undo the work of the sympathetic division after a stressful situation. Among other functions, the parasympathetic division works to decrease respiration and heart rate, increase digestion, and permit the elimination of wastes3.

The amount of stress we’re under and how we control that stress will determine which branch is firing most often. With a pandemic, homeschooling, working from home, financial struggles, social media, air pollution, water pollution, plastics everywhere, and a food-system that pushes processed Frankenfoods leaving many malnourished, the majority of us are in a constant state of “fight-or-flight”. This sympathetic dominance creates an overall imbalance in our bodies, affecting all non-emergency processes, such as digestion, detoxification, and sleep.

Here is where voluntary and conscious behavior comes into play. Mindful, slow breathing can be a potent and pivotal practice to toggle your nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic. This conscious breath will bring your body into balance, permitting digestion, detoxification, repair, and relaxation.

Mindful breathing calls for a focus on your breath. It encourages the shift from short, shallow chest breathing to deep belly breathing with a slow inhale and extended exhale. There are many different mindful breathing techniques and strategies, and I encourage you to explore the type of slow breath that works best for you. One helpful strategy is to take the 5, 6, 7 approach. Before you begin eating, when you’re feeling tense, or anytime you’d like to further relax, try inhaling for a count of five, holding your breath for a count of six, and slowly exhaling for a count of seven. Repeat five times or until you feel yourself relaxing.

Slow, mindful breath is a simple yet powerful practice that will encourage your body to find balance and function optimally. Our breath is a potent tool to support the parasympathetic nervous system and many vital functions within the body. As an act of self-love and self-healing, be sure to find time each day to come back to your breath.


The three major culprits of air pollution in your home

The three major culprits of air pollution in your home

The three major culprits of air pollution in your home

It’s common knowledge that good indoor air quality is incredibly important for your health. To achieve clean air, people may purchase air purifiers or even display air-purifying plants, but few understand what contributes to poor air quality in their homes. Today we’re going to explore three major contributors that pollute indoor air: candles, air fresheners, and fragrance plug-ins.

Let’s first ask what causes poor indoor air quality? According to the American Lung Association, there are many sources of indoor air pollutants including, but not limited to, bacteria and viruses, building and paint products, carpets, cleaning supplies, household chemicals, dust, water damage, formaldehyde, lead, mold, pet dander, secondhand smoke, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Candles, air fresheners, and fragrance plug-ins all fall under the last category of VOCs.

VOCs are toxic gases that are released into the air when you use certain products. They evaporate readily at room temperature, so they can quickly become part of the air that you breathe1. Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea, and can damage the central nervous system and other organs. Some VOCs can even cause cancer2.

Fragranced Candle burning air pollution into the air

When you burn candles, spray your pillows, or even plug-in an air fresher, the fragrance and accompanying VOCs are polluting your air. The terms “fragrance” or “perfume” are used as placeholders on products for a wide range of VOCs and other toxic chemicals3. Unfortunately, companies are not required to disclose the ingredients that make up their scents because they are considered trade secrets4. A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed many products emitted more than 100 VOCs, including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws5. Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones6.

This leaves us, as consumers, in a position where we’re forced to do more research to protect our health. The Environmental Working Group, to empower consumers, has rated 307 air fresheners, including sprays and plug-ins. Over 77% of those products were rated a D or an F. This should be worrisome and shocking, as any exposure to these VOCs can negatively affect your health.

So how can you swap these products that make your house smell so good?

Instead of paraffin or petroleum-derived wax candles (which additionally release chemicals into the air when burned), opt for all-natural beeswax candles. Beeswax is the purest and most natural of all waxes and acts as a natural air purifier! Etsy is a great place to find high-quality beeswax candles while also supporting small businesses. Fair warning, a lot of companies are greenwashing their candles, so be sure to read the ingredients. A beeswax candle should have one ingredient: beeswax!

Instead of sprays and fragrance plugins, opt for diffusing high-quality essential oils. Essential oils capture the “essence” of a plant through distillation or mechanical pressing. Essentially, these oils are concentrated extracts that retain, and even magnify, the fragrance and effect of their source7. Ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable company, as many essential oils on the market are fake and made from the same chemical fragrances we’re trying to avoid. If you’re interested in learning more about sourcing high-quality essential oils, Plant Therapy is a great resource!

Ensuring your home is a safe and non-toxic space that promotes health is incredibly important. Small swaps, like the type of candles you burn or scents you spray, can be a significant step on your journey to living a more holistic and non-toxic life!


Why It’s Vital You Read Ingredient Labels

Why It’s Vital You Read Ingredient Labels

Are you just beginning your health journey and don’t know where to start? Here’s an easy entry point — start by reading ingredient labels. In this article, I’m going to break down the importance of reading ingredient labels, how to purchase packaged foods wisely, and ultimately, what ingredients you should be avoiding.

In a perfect world, your diet will consist only of nutrient-dense whole foods and you’ll avoid anything that comes in a package and processed in a factory. In real life, this is highly unlikely. So, in these real-life circumstances, let’s empower you with the information to make smart purchases when you’re purchasing packaged foods.

Let it be said that not all packaged foods are created equal. Chips are a perfect example. You can purchase chips with three ingredients: potatoes, salt, and olive oil or you can purchase chips with twenty-five ingredients, including vegetable oil, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, natural and artificial flavor, dextrose, artificial color (yellow 6, yellow 5, and red 40), lactic acid, citric acid, sugar, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.

The first package of chips was Boulder Canyon, the second was Doritos. For many on their health journey, a simple chip with three ingredients may be just fine as a snack from time to time. On the other hand, for many, a chip with multiple artificial flavors and ingredients may cause unwanted inflammation and sensitives that compound and eventually lead to illness and disease. So where do we begin?

Let’s start with a general rule of thumb: make sure you can pronounce and recognize each ingredient listed on the label. So, that’s to say, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient or if you don’t know what the ingredient is, put it back on the shelf and continue on. This rule will help guide you in purchasing the best-quality packaged foods until you’re able to investigate each ingredient listed and determine if it’s right for you.

The most common ingredients to stay away from include gums (e.g. guar gum and xanthan gum), refined sugars (e.g. high-fructose corn syrup and sucralose), carrageenan, “natural” flavors, and artificial colors. If you’re interested in learning more about the why behind each of these, the Environmental Working Group has a food score database that will help you navigate the potential health effects of these processed and artificial ingredients.

A note about refined sugars — they’re hidden everywhere! I want to include a list of the most common names of hidden sugars so you know what to look out for (scroll down for the entire list). With that being said, if you’re following the general rule of thumb, it’ll be fairly easy to avoid these hidden sugars because you’ll know what to look for.

Ultimately, the focus should be on consuming whole foods, even if they do come in a package. Choosing food items with clearly recognized ingredients on their labels will ultimately guide you in purchasing the best-quality foods to nourish and support your body.

Names of Refined Sugars

  • barley malt
  • beet sugar
  • brown sugar
  • brown sugar
  • buttered syrup
  • cane juice crystals
  • cane juice solids
  • cane juice
  • caramel syrup
  • carob syrup
  • concentrated fruit juice
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • date sugar
  • dehydrated cane juice
  • dehydrated fruit juice
  • dextran
  • dextrin
  • dextrose
  • diatase
  • diatastic malt
  • disaccharides
  • ethyl maltol
  • fructose
  • fruit juice crystals
  • fruit puree
  • galactose
  • glucose
  • glucose-fructose
  • glucose solids
  • golden syrup
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt
  • malt extract

A Better Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

A Better Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s make this year different than any before! I’m suggesting we skip the lofty New Year’s resolution that often leaves us deprived and unhappy and trade it in for living an intentional and mindful year that prioritizes self-care.

While self-care has become quite the trendy term, it simply boils down to prioritizing one’s own physical and mental health. It requires turning inward to uncover the things that bring happiness and joy, and ensuring we do more of those things!

So this year, instead of creating a rigid list of foods or activities you’re swearing off, consider creating a list you can draw upon whenever you’d like to revitalize your commitment to self-love and self-care. Begin this self-care list by taking inventory of all of the things that bring you joy. This list may include people, places, actives, hobbies, and perhaps even smells and tastes! Know that this list is ever-evolving, so remain flexible and update it as needed.

To help you succeed at this ongoing self-care practice, I’ve created a list of foods you can draw on to incorporate as part of your self-care practice.

Foods to help you focus:

Salmon (and other fatty fish) — Many researchers consider DHA to be the most important fat found in the human brain, and the unusual concentration of this omega-3 fatty acid in salmon helps explain the research-documented benefits of salmon including better brain function, better overall cell function, and improved control of the body’s inflammatory processes(1).

Strawberries — The strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits provided by strawberries have proven to improve brain function. Certain research studies have shown the connection between strawberry consumption and new nerve generation in the hippocampus, which is often involved in the learning and recall of new information(2)!

Cinnamon — Just smelling the wonderful aroma of this sweet spice boosts brain activity! Purchase cinnamon in it’s dried stick or powder form, or as a high-quality essential oil to diffuse in your home office.

Other suggested foods include avocado, blueberries, oranges, walnuts, and green tea.

Foods to decrease stress and tension:

Turmeric — Prized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, recent studies have shown the spice plays an active role in treating various central nervous system disorders as well as offering a protective action against stress(3). Turmeric can be utilized either fresh or dried and is easily incorporated into many types of cuisines.

Eggs (and other proteins) — Incorporating high-quality, pasture-raised and organic, protein, like eggs, is key to supporting your body through stress as it will fuel your system from a cellular level, ensuring your body will return to balance. Eggs are also an excellent source of choline, a nutrient that has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress(4).

Leafy greens — Leafy greens, including spinach, kale, and chard, all contain choline as well, which as mentioned above, play an important role in managing and reducing stress in the body. Additionally, the antioxidant richness found in leafy greens is helpful in the reduction of oxidative stress.

Other suggested foods include broccoli, parsley, organ meats, sweet potatoes, and water.

Foods to soothe and relax you:

Walnuts — A fascinating aspect of walnuts and their potential health benefits involves their naturally occurring melatonin. Melatonin is a widely-active messaging molecule in our nervous system and is critical in the regulation of sleep, daily (circadian) rhythms, light-dark adjustment, and other processes(5). If you’re looking for improved sleep and relaxation, grab a handful of walnuts!

Chamomile — Chamomile is best known for its wonderful calming action and is used to ease tension and stress, emotional upset, nervousness, and insomnia (6). Purchasing dried, organic flowers in bulk is an easy and affordable way to always have chamomile on hand to be utilized as a tea, compress, or a lovely addition to your bath.

Bananas — Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium, an important mineral that relaxes your muscles and activates your parasympathetic nervous system that regulates “rest and digest”.

Other suggested foods include honey, nuts, seeds, and eggs.

Foods to energize you:

Coffee or Green Tea — Both beverages naturally contain caffeine that stimulates the brain and central nervous system, helping you stay alert and energized. If coffee makes you too jittery, swap your afternoon pick me up for green tea.

Cacao — Cacao is a superfood that will boost your energy! It comes in many different forms, including powder and nibs, and can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.

Apples — Due to its comprehensive macronutrient and micronutrient profile, this fruit provides a burst of energy in the form of carbohydrates and natural sugars, while also stabilizing blood sugar.

Other suggested foods include rice, quinoa, potatoes, pineapple, and dark chocolate.

Here’s to a new year where we swap the complicated resolutions for clear intentions and fuel our bodies with foods that support our goals! Wishing you only health, happiness, and joy for 2021.


  1. “Salmon.” The World’s Healthiest Foods
  2. “Strawberries.” The World’s Healthiest Foods
  3. Kulkarni, S K, and A Dhir. “An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medknow Publications, Mar. 2010
  4. Glenn, Melissa J, et al. “Supplemental Dietary Choline during Development Exerts Antidepressant-like Effects in Adult Female Rats.” Brain Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Mar. 2012
  5. Walnuts.” The World’s Healthiest Foods
  6. Justis, Posted By Angela. “A Family Herb: Chamomile Flower.” Herbal Academy, 25 Jan. 2018

7 Ways To Combat Inflammation This Holiday Season

7 Ways To Combat Inflammation This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The Holiday season is known to be filled with love, joy, family, and friends. It’s also a season filled with stress, lack of movement, and over-consumption of sugar and alcohol which means systemic inflammation can be at an all-time high. In this article, we’re going to discuss 7 ways to combat inflammation this Holiday season!

1. Stay hydrated.

Water is the most important nutrient in your body! It flushes toxins, enables cellular hydration, and transports nutrients, which all play a huge factor in managing and combating systemic inflammation.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces of hydrating fluids each day. For example, if you’re a 140lb person, your daily goal is 70oz of hydrating beverages. These hydrating beverages include high-quality filtered water, coconut water, bone broth, and uncaffeinated herbal tea. Keep in mind, for every 8oz of dehydrating beverage you consume (coffee, tea, juice, alcohol, soda) you’ll want to add another 12oz of hydrating beverage to your daily baseline.

Young woman doing floor exercises.

2. Move your body.

Moving your body is crucial for a variety of reasons. Regular physical activity has health benefits that includes stress reduction, weight control, strengthening of the heart, bones, and muscles, and reducing the risk of certain diseases1 — all of which are vastly important for combating inflammation. Additionally, exercise is critical for the movement of lymphatic fluid that is responsible for filtering out bacteria, viruses, and toxins, which, if left stagnant, causes high levels of inflammation.

3. Slow down and breathe.

While we cannot go three minutes without oxygen, too seldom do we sit and focus on breathing deeply. Our respiratory system is responsible for filtering out fumes, allergens, mold, and airborne toxins, all of which are highly inflammatory to our system. Focus on breathing in deeply to oxygenate your cells and breathe out completely to remove carbon dioxide and other accumulated toxins in the lungs. In addition to the oxygenation of our system, this deep breathing slows down our nervous system and allows the body to enter a parasympathetic state so we can “rest and digest”.

4. Chew your food.

While this may seem like an odd suggestion, it’s a small but powerful habit to combat inflammation. When we eat too quickly, we swallow air and large chunks of food, which can cause digestive dysfunction and therefore systemic inflammation. Aim to chew your food 20-30x per bite or until the food is a liquid-like consistency. This tiny habit will vastly improve digestion and combat inflammation.

5. Sleep

Sleep is a time where we restore and repair! Ensuring you get 7-9 hours of deep restorative sleep per night is especially key during times of excess stress and overindulgence of sugar and alcohol (i.e. the Holidays!).

6. Avoid too many sweets.

A high sugar diet can have harmful effects on your health and can result in chronic inflammation, where the body’s immune system activates, resulting in damage to healthy cells2.

To reduce inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense whole foods. During the Holidays, do the best you can to avoid overindulging in sweet treats filled with refined sugars. If possible, enjoy a dessert made with naturally sweet ingredients like maple syrup or honey!

7. Cook with high-quality oils.

Hydrogenated oils like vegetable, canola, and soy, are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs. These industrial seed oils come from genetically modified plants that are toxic to our systems, full of additives, and have been linked with a variety of health problems.

For high heat cooking choose animal fats or ghee from pasture-raised sources and for medium heat cooking choose extra virgin olive oil or butter. These fats and oils are critical for our health as they boost the immune system and reduce systemic inflammation!

Ensure your days will be merry and bright by following these seven ways to combat inflammation this Holiday season!

1. “Does Sugar Cause Inflammation? What the Research Says.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International.

2. “Exercise … It Does a Body Good: 20 Minutes Can Act as Anti-Inflammatory.” UC Health – UC San Diego.