If you have ever had trouble sleeping you are well aware of the consequences of lack of sleep: fatigue,decreased brain function, cognitive decline, skin problems, insulin resistance, obesity, increased risk of major disease and accelerated aging. A good night sleep is paramount in maintaining good health and preventing aging. Here are some important tips to help increase deep sleep:
1. Your circadian rhythm is your internal biological clock triggering hormones like melatonin that
we need for adequate sleep. Sunlight is required to produce the melatonin we need at night.
The best time to get this dose of sunlight is first thing in the morning. So going for a walk in the
morning is the best way to get a good sleep at night. Cloudy day? No worries, there are still
melatonin producing rays.
2. No screen time for two hours preceding bedtime. Take a warm bath, read a book, and do some
3. Make your room pitch black, or as dark as possible. Black out curtains, getting rid of night lights
and electronics with lights on them, and wearing a sleep mask or hood all help. You will not
produce melatonin when there is light in the room.
4. Eating late at night dramatically affects your sleep. Try to finish your supper by 7 and avoid late
night munching. Eating something sugary leads to a blood sugar spike and then a crash that
triggers a release of adrenaline which keeps you up until 3 p.m.
5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol or drug use before 2 p.m. All suppress REM sleep.
6. Go to bed before 10 p.m. for better quality sleep and a balanced circadian rhythm. Try to be
consistent regarding going to bed and getting out of bed times.
7. Exercise regularly but no aerobic exercise before bed.
8. Drink herbal teas before bed such as chamomile, valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, talsa or
holy basil, kava or lavender. I rarely recommend a particular product, but I do like Distinctly
Tea’s Good Night tea blend. I have found it to be the most effective. Their website is
9. A warm glass of milk and some ashwaganda are my go to, but there are many supplements that
help sleep. Magnesium, melatonin, passionflower, valerian root, lemon balm, GABA, L-
Theanine (from green tea), Vitamin B6 and Lactam ( bioactive milk-derived peptides) are some
10. After my last restorative yoga class one of my students told me she slept 9 hours straight and
woke up pain free for the first time in months. We need to activate the parasympathetic
nervous system (versus sympathetic, fight or flight, system) in order to sleep and heal. Come to
a class or start a home practice of restorative poses before bed. (Read previous blog on
restorative yoga at susannej.com)
Getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended by most professionals but the quality of sleep is even more important. During deep sleep our body and mind renews, heals and regenerates. This is important for our cells, brains, energy level maintenance, and for strengthening our immune system. I hope these tips help. Sweet dreams.
I love to have soup ready for busy lunches and dinners when I am on the run, but have you ever tried combining squash and broccoli? This week I’m sharing a new recipe for broccoli squash soup that is thick and rich and can be made to taste like broccoli cheddar soup if you like. Make it totally dairy free and gluten free, as well. Win/win!
Check out other great soups in my cookbook, Fight Fire with Food.
Here’s my version of broccoli squash soup.
2 to 4 tbsp. (30 to 60 ml) avocado or coconut oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup diced onion and celery
3 cups (420 g) cubed butternut squash
2 cups (500 ml) unsweetened almond, or coconut milk
2 cups (500 ml) vegetable broth (or bone broth)
3 cups (273 g) broccoli, chopped
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 to 2 tbsp. maple sugar
*½ cup (24 g) nutritional yeast, parmesan cheese or cheddar cheese
*I love the soup without this ingredient but the yeast or cheese give it a more true broccoli cheddar taste. Try it both ways.
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil, garlic, celery and onion. Cook until onion and celery soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the squash.
Cover and cook for 4 minutes or until squash is soft and golden brown. Add the broccoli, milk, broth, spices, vinegar and maple syrup. Add nutritional yeast, if using. Bring to a low boil and cook until vegetables are soft. Blend using an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and puree until creamy and smooth.
If using cheese, add just before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Worried about stress and disease? Get a good night’s sleep! Ahh, but how to get enough consistent sleep? How to avoid waking up tired and cranky?
First, let’s discuss the importance of sleep and look at what lack of sleep can cause:
It’s the time of year when chronic stress can build causing unwanted physical and emotional symptoms. Anxiety, flu and general fatigue will flourish just when you have the least amount of time for dealing with them!. Your best defense is to be ready with a plan to prevent illness and help you cope with all the demands on your time.
Here are some tips that help calm the nervous system:
Though ideal, it is not always realistic to get all our nutrients from our food. If you were prescribed high dose vitamin C (5000 mg) by your health practitioner, you would have to eat 75 oranges to get that amount of Vitamin C into your body. That’s a lot of oranges. Supplementation is clearly the simpler route. However, when faced with the plethora of vitamin brands in the market, how is one to choose? Here are some hints, facts and recommendations:
Last week I discussed common vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This week I'd like to focus on
what to do if you have symptoms of deficiency. First of all, get your blood work done to confirm that your symptoms are due to deficiencies and not something else. Ask your doctor for specific vitamins to be tested and explain the need. A naturopath can also request blood work.
Here are some hints to improve your vitamin and mineral profile:
1. Taking a good quality multi-vitamin is like an insurance plan against malnutrition. Most cover
the full spectrum of vitamin and minerals needed for good health. Avoid any brands that have
fillers, chemicals, or preservatives listed in the ingredients, active or non-active ingredients.
2. Eat from the earth. A whole foods diet with a broad range of foods works best.
3. Eat vegetables and fruits especially superfoods like berries, apples, onions and greens that
contain healing antioxidants.
4. Avoid Frankenfoods (manufactured, processed foods) which are full of chemicals and toxins.
5. Eat both prebiotic and probiotic foods for good digestion. Poor digestion and gut health inhibits absorption of vitamins and minerals so work on your gut microbiome.
6. Sugar and alcohol taken with a meal inhibit the absorption of precious nutrients from your meal. Cut down on these saboteurs!
7. Our food today doesn’t necessarily provide all the nutrients our bodies need. Add individual
supplements to your vitamin regime depending on symptoms. A nutritionist can advise you on
which you may need and optimal amounts.
Optimal health depends on a solid foundation of nutrients available for your bodies use. Your body utilizes vitamins and minerals to perform hundreds of functions in your body. They heal wounds,protect your vision, boost your immune system, and help maintain bone health. There is a reason we call them “essential” as most disease can be attributed to a poor diet and most conditions can be helped, or even cured, by proper nutrition.
Study after study reveals that North Americans are not eating enough vegetables and fruits. A new study finds that there are many who do not even eat one serving per day. This is why malnutrition is common in our society even though there is an abundance of food available for most. In my years providing nutritional counselling I have never seen anyone have perfect blood work if minerals and vitamins are tested along with the standard blood work.
The most common deficiencies I see are:
1. Vitamin D – it is believed that at least 40 per cent of Canadians have less than the minimum
requirement for D. Many experts believe this minimum level is way to low for optimal bone,
mental health and disease prevention. Symptoms may take years to display themselves.
2. Iron – deficiency effects 25% of population worldwide. Young children, menstruating and
pregnant women and vegans and vegetarians have increased risk of deficiency unless great care
is taken with diet. Symptoms include fatigue weakened immune system, and impaired brain
3. Vitamin B12 - is necessary for every cell in your body to function especially your brain and
nerves. It is believed that much of dementia among the elderly is actually a B12 deficiency as
absorption decreases with age.
4. Magnesium - defiency is common among 50 per cent of the population and even more
common among the sick, elderly, those that take prescription drugs, and those with digestive
5. Vitamin A – is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and is vital for a healthy immune
6. Iodine – deficiencies are more common due to the use of sea salt versus processed salt which is fortified. 1/3 of people are lacking worldwide. Iodine is essential for thyroid function, brain
and bone development and maintenance.
These deficiencies result in serious symptoms and have long term consequences. Get tested so you know for sure where you stand and eat a whole foods diet high in vegetables and fruits.
Supplementation is also recommended. A good multivitamin is good insurance.
What most people don't know is that they are deficient in nutrients. When I was diagnosed with cancer I discovered that I was deficient in Vitamins D, B12, and Iron. I was also deficient in melatonin, magnesium and zinc. All of these vitamins and minerals are linked to increased cancer risk and present themselves in symptoms that we often ignore.
Here are some of the symptoms you should never ignore:
1. Pale skin or unusual pallor
2. Ridged or spoon-shaped nails
3. Mouth issues - cracked lips, ulcers, fissures, swollen tongue
4. Fatigue and muscle weakness
5. Food cravings
6. Inability to loose weight
7. Lightheadedness, feeling faint, heart palpitations
8. Constipation or diarrhea
9. Skin problems
10. Hair loss
11. Neurological disorders - vision issues, dementia, brain fog
12. Numbness and tingling
13. Menstrual issues
14. Depression and Anxiety
if you have these symptoms ask your doctor for blood work so that you can start a vitamin regime.
Stay tuned for the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Last week I shared a story about a boy who went blind due to his poor diet. Many people wondered how the parents could allow the child to eat so poorly. North American rates of childhood obesity are higher than ever and consequently, rates of illnesses like diabetes, autoimmune, liver and gallbladder disease are on the rise. Many "older people" diseases are now appearing in young children and it is predicted that this generation of children will not live as long as their parents if something is not done. Sadly, this child is not unique.
Observe what the public is buying and consuming and you will see why the majority of people in North America are on at least one prescription medication. Toxins, preservatives, chemicals, and pesticides are being purchased along with tons of sugar and unhealthy fats.
I compiled some statistics and facts about food consumption in Canada:
It is time we just say no to "junk food" or food that is processed, refined or full of chemicals. We need to change the world with our dollars using them to buy real foods that come from the earth. If we do this, we will live longer and better, be more productive and happier people.
Keep following for more tips on eating healthy.
Stress has as much effect on our body and mind as does the food and products we consume. In fact, stress is the bottom line. If you address the gut rot, microbiome, nutritional deficiencies, toxins and lifestyle habits but don’t manage your stress you are missing a big piece of the pie in terms of achieving optimal health.
One thing we know for sure is that when your body is racing so is your mind. In our never stop, going all the time lifestyle the physical, mental and spiritual become imbalanced-out of whack. Relaxation, in the form of being still and aware, bring balance back. Unlike other forms of relaxation, like reading a book or plopping yourself in front of the television, real relaxation works at a deeper level in much the same way meditation works. It allows the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in resulting in certain mental and physiological responses to occur.
Restorative yoga is a practice that can benefit everyone. It is a type of relaxation that focuses on using props to support your body in passive stretches that allow your body to soften and let go. By slowing down your body your brain slows down too.
1. Full and deep stretches that allow your body to soften letting go of tension and tight muscles.
2. Poses that can benefit your entire body due to improved respiratory and blood circulation. Even internal organs are affected. Practices can be geared to healing particular health issues.
3. You becoming aware of habitual tension you may not even know you are carrying. Alignment issues that may be causing you pain are highlighted. Self awareness is a huge benefit of this practice.
4. Relaxing muscles to help with pain management.
5. Poses allow for exploration of the breath.
6. Balancing your nervous system that allows for renewal and rejuvenation.
7. Quieting the mind allowing you to drop into a place of stillness and enjoy being in the present moment.
8. A drop in cortisol levels due to the practice resulting in weight lose.
9. Better sleep results due to parasympathetic engagement.
10. Getting into a deep state of relaxation which is necessary to speed up the healing process after illness or trauma. It is a practice available to you if you are exhausted or feeling weak.
11. Improving your immune system.
12. Self-care, an opportunity to put yourself first and heal emotional injuries.
13. A great bridge from your yoga practice to meditation.
14. Most restorative yoga poses are easy to do. Variations are available and can be done anywhere. Props are used in class but pillows and blankets work for a home practice.
Restorative yoga is a real treat for the body and mind. It is like going on a holiday without the hassle or stress of travelling. A class is great but even 20 minutes at home will lead you to bliss.
Susanne Jakubowski is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, Thai Yoga Therapist, and cancer survivor.