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Fort Collins, Colorado 80521
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Genetics

(Or “How Your Life Can Affect Your Genetics”)

I love to figure out how things work. I have always been like this…I remember getting into big trouble on my 11th Christmas when I completely dismantled the transistor radio that was my “special present” to figure out how it worked. (Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to put it back together again.) My love of understanding the nuts and bolts of how something works is one of the most appealing things for me about being a clinical nutritionist.

This Christmas I gave myself a “special present”…a five and a half hour webinar by Dr. Ben Lynch on the complete genetic pathways of the Methylation Cycle. “What in the heck is the methylation cycle”, you may ask…I like to define it as the “cellular engine”. Without the biochemical activities of the methylation cycle in each one of our ten trillion cells, we would not be alive. Understanding the genetic underpinnings of the methylation cycle is the ultimate in “dismantling” metabolic function in the body.

For me, the five hours of learning about this complex subject was like savoring a piece of Christmas fudge (you know my love of chocolate…if not, see one of my first blogs), but when I was finished with the class, I realized that there was one big takeaway: the hardwiring of your DNA does not matter very much. What does matter is what we do to the DNA hardwiring that we are given.

From the moment we are conceived, we are installing software on to our brand new DNA ‘computer’. It starts as soon as our little egg begins to transform into a multi-celled zygote. The lifestyle habits of your parents (Did they smoke? Drink? Eat their veggies?) are the first bit of information used to influence your DNA potential. Did you grow up in the middle of L.A. or on a farm in Iowa? Did you have a stressful childhood? Party too much in college? Avoid the expense of organic food once you had a family? The list of things that affect your DNA negatively goes on and on. But so does the list of things that can positively affect it.

I am a good example of this…I did not have healthy parents; they both smoked and drank way too much. My mom thought TV dinners were haute cuisine. I grew up in southern California near an Air Force base. I was on the birth control pill for most of my adult life. I lived under the burden of extreme stress for most of my middle age. The list of assaults to my rather poor DNA profile is long. But so is the list of beneficial lifestyle factors. I have always been very athletic and exercise has been a priority in my life. I am also a good sleeper and have enjoyed quality and restful sleep since I was a kid. I would prefer a bowl of broccoli to a bowl of ice cream any day. I have multiple ways to modulate the stressors in my life. After tallying up the good and the bad influences to my DNA, the good have won out. I am a very healthy 63-year-old with great energy and zest for life.

So back to the main takeaway from my Lynch webinar…a healthy lifestyle matters.

  • Eat good, clean, real food.Methylation Cycle
  • Hang out with people who love and support you.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Move around a lot.
  • Find ways to become stress resilient.

If you didn’t do these things in the past, make the switch and work on doing them now. By the way, there is a fancy word for this concept: epigenetics. You may have heard this term before, but were confused by what it meant. In the next few posts, I will continue to explain how healthy lifestyle habits can positively affect your DNA and tell you more about what I have learned from the good Dr. Lynch.

 

January 11th, 2017

Posted In: Epigentics, Health Practices

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Menopause treatment from To Your Health Nutrition in Fort CollinsYou know what I realized the other day…I don’t think I have ever written about who I am and why I do what I do. My passion in life is to help middle-aged women feel as vibrant and look as fabulous as they did in their thirties. I am “62 years young” and I feel as energetic and as able to tackle life as I did before I went through menopause. It wasn’t always this way for me, however…Ten years ago, I was learning to live on my own again, going back to school, and fighting fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog the whole time. So, believe me, I feel your pain. But I am also here to tell you it can be different. At the end of this article, I will give you five quick secrets to help you regain some of your youthful energy and radiance (and a few other goodies as well).

 

So let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am a Nationally Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist® with a private clinical practice in Fort Collins, Colorado (I work with people all over the country and the world using Skype and phone). This is my third career; for 18 years I was an elementary school teacher and then owned a busy and profitable bookstore in the mountains of Colorado. A few years into my life as a bookseller, my stud-muffin husband, Dan, suddenly became a vent-dependent quadriplegic when a growth burst in his spinal cord. I was only 44 at the time and my good health and youth supported me through the initial few years of taking care of him and running my busy bookstore. But eventually the stress began to take its toll and I went through a very miserable and symptom-filled menopause. I gained weight, became depressed, lost my cognitive edge, and suffered from debilitating fatigue.

 

I started researching how to improve both my health and Dan’s through reading just about anything on healthy lifestyle and nutrition that I could get my hands on. (I actually read Michael Murray’s 946-page tome, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, from cover to cover.) I began changing our diets, our sleep patterns, and our toxic exposure. I made sure we both had some stress relief every day and I instituted a supplement regimen that complemented our new nutritional habits. Both Dan I began to feel the difference and I started the long journey to the vibrant health I have today. I also decided to sell my wonderful bookstore and go back to school for my nutrition degree.

 

After years of fighting pneumonia and kidney and bladder infections, Dan passed away peacefully one day while taking a nap. It was a sadness and a blessing all in one. I miss him terribly and think about him daily, but if it was not for that long painful journey, I would not be as happy and as healthy as I am today. And I would not have the absolutely amazing job of helping women like myself become happy and healthy also!

 

I specialize in helping women (and men, too) navigate the waters of middle age. It is neither natural nor normal for us to feel tired, depressed, overweight, and sleep-deprived as we move into our later years. In fact, with the kids out of the house, financial stability, and the gift of experience we should be having the best years of our life. But for many, this is not the case. Well, I am living proof that you can go through hell and come out smelling like a rose.

 

Here are five quick tips for menopause treatment and to turn your “MenoPause into MenoGo” as I have done:

1.     Make sleep a priority – Don’t let menopause turn you into a night owl! This will create an imbalance in your hormones and neurotransmitters making you grouchy, fat, and sleepy. Sleep is your fountain of youth! Click here for my Sleep Worksheet, Rejuvenate Your Sleep Naturally.

2.     Don’t diet…just eat real, whole foods as nature intended – As menopause looms, the hormones that regulate weight, appetite, and energy begin to go offline. The best way to rebalance them is to eat three meals a day of natural, whole food…very nutrient dense and full of the building blocks the body needs. No need to count calories if this is your “diet”.

3.     Do three things every day to give you stress resilience – Stress affects all aspects of our life and, unfortunately, there is no way to remove all the stressors from our world. The best way to deal with stress is build resiliency. The way to be resilient is to spend as much time in “rest and digest” (R&D) and as little time in “flight or flight” as possible. One way I do this is to go into R&D as many times in a day as I can. I have just taken up coloring (yes, just like when I was a kid, but with adult coloring books and fancy colored pencils…this is my favorite coloring book, The Secret Garden). This is a great activity to help slow breath, put your mind in the moment, and improve hand-eye coordination. Two of my other favorite R&D activities are listening to music and picking weeds in my garden.

4.     Reduce sitting and move everyday – Sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies were just not made to sit in a chair all day long. Try using a standing desk, a timer for the computer, and taking short walks throughout the day. Take a look at this amazing infographic illustrating some of the health issues related to Sitting.

5.     Reduce multi-tasking and focus on one task at a time – The more things we try to do at once, the less we actually get done. This is a proven fact shown by numerous studies on productivity. Many of my clients complain they are overwhelmed by the amount of things that they have to do and they just can’t seem to get to the bottom of the pile. This takes its toll on our energy and our well being. I suggest working on one task at a time…try not to look at email, answer the phone, or let out the dog out while working on something. Having said that, you will improve your productivity if you take a break every 45 minutes or so then go back to the same activity.

Try one or two of these tips and notice the difference in how you feel. Don’t get frustrated if you fall back into some old habits, just get back on the horse…It can take up to 15 times before a new activity becomes a habit. One small change can make a huge effect on how you feel.

July 25th, 2015

Posted In: Health Practices, Menopause, Rejuvenating Sleep, Vibrant Health

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Sleep is the Most Powerful Tool in Your Menopausal Toolbox

Menopause and sleep are not always easy to combine.  However, good sleep is essential for a healthy menopause.Time waits for no man…or woman, for that matter. We know it every morning when we wake up and look into the mirror and wonder what happened to that twenty-year-old cutie that used to stare back at us. But would you really want to go back to those days…I wouldn’t. I like where I am now, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a little of the “cute” back. Well, one way to do that is to honor your sleep.

In this post, I am going show you that quality sleep is one of the most important things that you can do to help you lose weight, improve your skin, energize your day, and sharpen your mind. I am also going to give you the five most important things you can do to get that youth-promoting sleep.

“Wait a minute!” you say. “I sleep okay. I want more to know more elusive ways to make me feel like I did before menopause.” Okay…then answer these questions and if you answer ‘yes’ to all of them, then you can skip this post and probably teach me a thing or two. But if you answer ‘no’ to any of them, then you are not getting the restorative and youthful sleep that you need to “turn your MenoPause into MenoGo”:

  • Do you usually fall asleep within ten minutes of turning out the light?
  • Do you get your best sleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.?
  • If you wake in the middle of the night, do you go back to sleep within a few minutes?
  • Do you wake up with the sun and feel refreshed and ready to go?
  • Do you abstain from eating between dinner and bedtime (even something healthy)?
  • Do you turn off your TV or computer/pad/smart phone within an hour of going to bed? Do you keep it out of your bedroom while you are sleeping?
  • Do you sleep in a quiet, darkened room?
  • Have you cured your mate from snoring or banished your pets from the bedroom so they do not wake you?

These are just a few of the things that can mess with your sleep quantity and quality. I believe that one of the most important things you can do for turning back the clock is to get great sleep.

Sleep is much more than just taking a break from the day. Every thing in nature, including the human being, follows a diurnal body clock. This clock is regulated by the day/night cycle. Every one of our 200 metabolic hormones has a relationship with this clock and is released or halted in a complex sequence that is regulated by our daily rhythms. These hormones promote fat burning (60% of our fat is burned while we sleep), stress regulation, tissue regeneration and reproductive hormone balance. Here are just a few of the ways that our lifestyle can create poor sleep:

  • The appetite-regluating  hormones of insulin, leptin, glucagon, and ghrelin are all influenced by sleep and can block the processes of glucose and fat metabolism – turning on fat-storage rather than fat-burning programs. When you eat after dinner, this raises your insulin, unbalancing all of the other metabolic hormones during sleep.
  • Cortisol and melatonin are in an inverse relationship to each other…in other words, when cortisol (a major stress hormone) is high, melatonin (our major sleep hormone) is low. Anything that raises cortisol before sleep will reduce melatonin at the same time. Insulin also raises cortisol…so now you are wide awake and storing fat instead of burning it.
  • Daylight contains the “blue light” spectrum…this blue light tells us to wake up and reduces melatonin. All computers, televisions, smart phones and pads emit blue light. When using them after dark, the brain (specifically the pineal gland) thinks it is daytime and blocks melatonin production.
  • And one last fun fact…sleep is also the time that the brain detoxifies and removes the waste products created by busy brain cells. Ever wonder why you feel “fuzzy” after a poor night’s sleep…your brain didn’t get a good “scrub” during the night. Sleep is a shower for the brain!

So as you can see, your nutrition and lifestyle have profound effects on your sleep and vice versa. What can you do about this? One thing is to make sleep a priority in your life. I promised you five of the best tips for improving your sleep, here they are:

  1. Eat three well-balanced meals during the day and no snacking, especially after dinner. This is a big topic to summarize here (my next post will be focused exclusively on “well-balanced” meals), but in general a well-balanced meal has the following attributes: real food as close to nature intended as possible, nutrient density that includes healthy protein, fat, and carbs in each meal, 500 to 700 calories per meal (I don’t want you counting calories here, I just want you to know that you need to eat enough at each meal to sustain you.) and think about making breakfast centered around protein, lunch centered around healthy fats, and dinner centered around healthy carbohydrates (Healthy carb??…fresh fruit and lots of veggies, both starchy and non-starchy).
  2. Create a bedtime ritual that is calming to the nervous system and the body. Modern times really messes with our primal senses that tell us it is bedtime. Lights, sights, and sounds tell us to wake up, not go to sleep. Try to be in bed by 10:00 and develop a routine that lulls you into sleep. Some ideas are: Turn off all electronics by 8:30 or 9:00, take a soothing bath or shower using either Epsom salt in the bath or spray on magnesium after the shower, soothing music, and/or read a real book (not too exciting) with a dim light.
  3. “Blanket” your bedroom from the world. Your bedroom should be used for two things: sleep and sex. It should be your refuge from the stressors of your day. Once you turn out the light, your room should be as dark as possible (not even an alarm clock light…I cover mine with a cloth) and as quiet as possible. Use blackout curtains and a sound machine or ear plugs if needed. One other tip…use an alarm clock that wakes you with light and a soothing sounds. This is the one I use.
  4. Increase your activity during the day. To promote healthy sleep, you need to be active during the day. As you will soon learn, I believe that movement needs to be regular, enjoyable, and natural…I am not a big fan of going to “the club”. Go for a walk, reduce your sitting, take the stairs, stretch or do some yoga, or garden. These activities will not be building tons of muscle or “burning off the calories”, but they will promote great sleep that will promote fat burning and give you energy.
  5. Realign your metabolic hormones with a small amount of melatonin before bed. As I said earlier, today’s lifestyle has made it difficult to regulate our metabolic hormones, which can mess with quality sleep. One way to kick start hormonal balance is to use melatonin at bedtime. The body naturally makes melatonin in very small amounts, so it is best to mimic that dosage. I suggest starting with .5mg and working up to no more than 2mg. Take it an hour before sleep and make sure to eliminate blue light before bed and get some natural morning light first thing in the morning.

Don’t try to do all of this at once…try one idea and give it three to seven days to see if it helps. Sometimes, a combination of these ideas will start to make a lasting change. To get more information on how to improve your sleep naturally check out this E-book by Kevin Geary, RemRehab.

Good sleep is absolutely essential to turn your Menopause into Menogo…nighty-night!

January 5th, 2015

Posted In: Health Practices, Menopause, Rejuvenating Sleep, Vibrant Health

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Turn Your MenoPause into MenoGo

Learn how to get menopause relief. You can turn your menopause into menoGoMenopause. Interesting word. The dictionary defines it as “the ceasing of menstruation”. Pretty straightforward; nothing dire or life-threatening. But if you type it in to a word search on web, you come up with medical definitions that involve the words “disease”, “condition”, and “symptom”. I think one of the ways that our conventional medical system has failed us is that it has turned the natural processes of the body into things that needs to be fretted over and maybe even feared to feel menopause relief.

I went through menopause a long time ago. I am now 61-years ‘young’ and have absolutely no ill effects and a whole lot of benefits from this stage of life. Believe me, I do not miss the monthly hassles that went along with being in the baby-making mode. Neither do I have any of the “symptoms” of being menopausal except that I weigh ten pounds more than I did when I was a teenager. (There is a very good reason for weighing slightly more than you did in your teens when you go through menopause…I will get to this in later posts on this topic) I do see many clients however, who are miserable in their journey through their middle and later years and who exhibit many of the signs of an unhealthy menopause or peri-menopause.

There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but the most logical and obvious one is that our lifestyles have evolved to impede the natural process of “ceasing to menstruate”, which has negative affects on every metabolic and hormonal system in the body. I am going to give you Five Secrets to getting your middle-years back on track:

  1. Eat real food at the right times
  2. Promote healthy and quality sleep
  3. Become resilient to stress (it is almost impossible to get rid of daily stressors, but you can make them less impactful to your health)
  4. Move naturally every day (reduce sitting)
  5. Create a healthy and well-functioning digestive system

Whoa…this list is a lot easier said than done, right? These are large, over-riding principles that guide how you live your life, not just quick steps to feeling like your old self again. So for this post, let me give you one quick and easy “action step” for each of the Five Secrets to help you get started (well, maybe not easy…no change is easy):

  1. Eat real food at the right times – Cook at least half of your meals at home. Michael Pollan says that anything made and eaten at home is better than eating the same food in a restaurant…even French fries. He has a great two-minute video about this idea. I completely agree with him and I try to make a full meal for myself at least five nights per week with enough for leftovers the next day.
  2. Promote healthy and quality sleep – Make sure your room is as dark as possible when you sleep. Any light, even the small amount from an alarm clock, can reduce your melatonin production and interfere with your sleep quality.
  3. Become resilient to stress – Find time for an activity that you love to do, everyday…even for 5 minutes. When you occupy your time with an enjoyable activity, you turn on the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system and turn off the “flight and flight” processes that promote the ill effects of chronic stress
  4. Move naturally every day (reduce sitting) – Get up from your chair every 45 minutes. I set a timer when I am working at my desk or even reading a book on the couch. When the timer goes off, I go to the bathroom or wash a dish or chat with my office mate for a few minutes. I am actually more productive and this interrupts some of the damaging effects of having a sedentary job. Check out this great info-graphic from the Washington Post on the problems of sitting too much.
  5. Create a healthy and well-functioning digestive system – Dechlorinate your drinking water. One of the most damaging things that you can do to the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract is to expose them to the chlorination in water. If you don’t have a filter, you can set a pitcher of water on the counter for six or more hours and the chlorine will evaporate. Here are a few more ideas to improve your water quality.

Making small changes lead to bigger ones and can make a pronounced change in how you feel. In future posts, I will give you many ways that you can turn your MenoPause into MenoGo just as I have done. See you soon!

 

November 22nd, 2014

Posted In: Health Practices, Menopause, Vibrant Health

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Nutrition Counseling is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, mental or physical, and is not intended as a substitute for regular medical care.
Nutrition Counseling does provide nutritional evaluation, balanced diet planning, nutritional supplement suggestions, and lifestyle recommendations for the purpose of enhancing health.

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