You Need to Know THIS If You’re Trying to Avoid the Worst Fat for Your Health

I know you want to live a healthy and happy life. And I’m here to help.

That’s why I completely changed my post for this week to meet your needs.

Since last week’s post, I’ve received TONS of questions about the worst fat for your health (aka trans fat). For the record, I’m so glad you asked. Because this is SUCH an important topic.


Trans fats are so incredibly TOXIC to the body that I knew I needed to answer my most frequently asked questions.


As a recap, last week you learned ALL about trans fats. Why they are the WORST fat for your health,  common food sources, and how they hide in food. If you need a refresher, click here.


So today, I am answering YOUR questions and questions I commonly receive about trans fats in quick fire.


Q: Should I really care about trans fats?

Yes!!!!!!!!

Absolutely.

Please care!

Are you catching my urgency here?

There is a large amount of high quality evidence showing trans fats lead to serious health problems.

This is not rumor or myth. If you want more information and studies, check out this post.


Q: Skye, if trans fats are so bad for you, why do companies use them?

This is an excellent question. Trans fats are used for several reasons.

One, they are cheap for food manufacturers.

Two, trans fats extend the shelf life of foods. Natural oils (such as olive or safflower) go rancid much faster. Using hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) extends shelf life dramatically.

Three, trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture. They allow liquid oils to be solid or semi-solid at room temperature (think margarine). They give nondairy creamers a creamy texture.

Four, trans fats used to deep-fry food can be reused multiple times before replacing. This means convenience and cost savings for manufacturers.

You can see, there are many reasons why a food manufacturer would want to use trans fats (but no good reasons for your health).

Q: Trans fats scare me! How can I make sure I avoid trans fats?

I hear you. Trans fats are scary.

The good news is you don’t need them AT ALL in your diet.

Some tips to avoid trans fats:

  • Shop the periphery of the store
  • Make your own food from scratch
  • Shop at retailers that are trans fats free (such as Whole Foods or PCC)

Q: Skye, I love non-dairy creamer in my coffee. Now I know my favorite one has partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil [a trans fat]. What can I use instead?

This is a tough one because I know people LOVE their French Vanilla, Hazelnut, or Irish Cream nondairy creamer.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use real half-and-half or cream. If you miss the flavoring, add some natural vanilla or almond extract.
  • Use coconut milk. Coconut milk is creamy, rich, and has a nice natural flavor.
  • Try the 365 brand of coffee creamers (sold at Whole Foods). They definitely have sugar and oil, but are trans fat free.
  • Drink your coffee black.
  • Ditch the coffee and opt for a healthier beverage. Try my matcha tea latte or turmeric latte recipes.

Note: It may take time to acclimate to your new coffee and creamer routine. Don’t give up! Give yourself a solid week or two to adjust.

Q: Dr. McKennon, I loved the trans fat information. But . . . crackers are my favorite snack food. Does this mean I can never have crackers again?

No!

You can absolutely have crackers. Just avoid the ones that have trans fats.

Because I feel for you (and want you to still enjoy your favorite snack), I’m giving you a table of cracker substitutes.

Another great option is Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers. These crackers are absolutely delicious and fine for gluten-free folks. You won’t miss the trans fat at all!

Q: I’m addicted to peanut butter. Do I have to give it up? Are there any brands of peanut butter that are free of trans fats?

You do NOT have to give up your peanut butter.

MANY commercial brands contain partially hydrogenated oils. The good news is manufactures are hearing the message: consumers don’t want trans fats! Therefore, many conventional brands are replacing the partially hydrogenated oils with fully hydrogenated oils.

My personal preference with food is to enjoy it in its most natural state. For peanut butter, this means I only want peanuts and maybe salt on my ingredient list.

As of today, the following options contain just peanuts and salt:

  • Adam’s Natural peanut butter (found at most grocers)
  • Trader Joe’s Organic peanut butter (found at Trader Joe’s)
  • 365 Organic peanut butter (found at Whole Foods)
  • Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter (found at health food stores and natural grocers)
  • Once Again peanut butter (found at health food stores and natural grocers)

Q: How can I avoid trans fats when eating out?

This is another good one. Eating out can be tricky — you don’t have access to ingredient lists and labels.

Here are some tips to minimize your chances of having trans fats:

  • Eat at trans fat free establishments
  • Ask your waiter or the chef if trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils) are used
  • Avoid deep-fried foods (since many restaurants use partially hydrogenated oils in their fryers)
  • Stick to freshly prepared vegetables, legumes, and fruits

Q: Are there trans fats in animal products?

Yes.

Animal products may contain naturally occurring trans fats. Items such as beef, lamb, and butterfat may contain trans fat.

There are not sufficient studies to determine if naturally occurring trans fat is as detrimental to health as man made (such as partially hydrogenated oils).

The safe bet would be to avoid all trans fat until more information is available.

Q: What kind of diet should I follow to avoid trans fats?

Have a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, and legumes.

  • If you cook with oil, use naturally occurring oils that are unhydrogenated. Examples include olive oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.
  • Check labels for trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid ALL products that contain either.
  • Stay away from commercially prepared cookies, crackers, pies, and cakes.

That wraps up the Q and A session on trans fats.

If you still have questions, please reach out! I’m always here for you.

Until next time,
Skye

 

The Absolute Worst Fat for Your Health and How to Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease by 30%

You’ve heard of “good” fats and “bad” fats, right?

How about the worst fat ever?

The worst fat you can possibly eat is a trans fat.

Why? Trans fats are associated with serious health issues. Studies show trans fats are associated with:

Trans fats are manmade fats that wreck havoc on your body.

By simply reducing your intake of trans fats by 2%, you can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.

That is not a typo. A reduction of two percent leads to a decrease of almost one third.

Medically speaking, a 30% reduction in cardiovascular disease is HUGE. As in there are medications primarily used to reduce heart disease that do not have that large of an impact.

And a 2% decrease in trans fats? That is so tiny! And very achievable.

I’m going to tell you all about it and show you how to do it.

First, there are a few things you NEED to know.

1.) Trans fats hide in many foods.

Some sources of trans fats are more obvious.

Fried.jpeg
  • Many margarines
  • Fried foods
  • Store bought baked goods (unless made with real butter)
  • Frozen pizzas

Trans fats, however, hide in foods you would not suspect.

  • Conventional crackers
  • Boxed cake and pancake mixes
  • Premade frosting
  • Frozen meals
  • Non dairy creamer
  • Conventional peanut butter
  • Microwave popcorn in butter flavor
  • Granola bars and snack bars
  • Refrigerated (or premade) dough

2. Trans fats can go by different names.  

Allow me to do some translation for you.
Partially hydrogenated = trans fat.
and
Trans fat = dangerous for your health.
Therefore,
Partially hydrogenated = dangerous for your health.

Think of partially hydrogenated as a fancier word for trans fat. It’s similar to calling an old, moldy, and dumpy apartment a “domicile with old world charm.” Either way you say it, it’s still bad news.

3.) Foods labeled with 0 grams of trans-fat can actually contain trans fats!

It’s true. The FDA allows foods that contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving to be labeled as having no trans fat. Pretty sneaky, huh?

The moral of this story? Don’t take the manufacturers word for it — check out trans fats details for yourself.


4.) You MUST check your food labels for trans fats and check ingredient lists for “partially hydrogenated” oils.

This is the only way to be confident the food you are buying does NOT contain trans fats.

Consider Ritz crackers, a very popular (and tasty) snack food.

The nutrition label says:

Ritz.jpeg

If you didn’t know any better, you would think Ritz crackers were free of trans fats.

But because you are a super savvy consumer, you know to search one step further.

You check the ingredients list and this is what you see:

Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1, Riboflavin Vitamin B2, Folic Acid), Soybean Oil, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Leavening (Baking Soda and/or Calcium Phosphate), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soy Lecithin, Malted Barley Flour, Natural Flavor.

Did you see that? Yep. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

So Ritz crackers, do indeed, contain trans fats.

5.) You should entirely eliminate trans fats from your diet.

There are very few things I will say to completely eliminate. Trans fats are one of them.

Trans fats have no unique health benefits, but a host of serious health detriments.

So seriously do yourself (and your body) a HUGE favor by avoiding trans fats completely.

From Learning to Life

I truly love learning, especially about health and wellness.

But information without real, transformative action doesn’t do much good.

So I challenge you to take this learning and translate it into real life.

What can you do right now — today — to decrease your intake of trans fats?

Perhaps you decide to switch from nondairy creamer to almond milk or real cream. Or you ditch your conventional peanut butter. Perhaps you take it further and have a kitchen clean out and dump anything with trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils).

No matter how big or small your change, you will be doing your health a favor! Remember, just a 2% reduction in trans fat intake means a 30% reduction in heart disease.

In health and happiness,
Skye

 

A Gift, A Giveaway, and A One Year Anniversary

THE ANNIVERSARY

This week marks the one year anniversary of A Better Way Wellness.

One year ago, I listened. Listened to my intuition, to the small and persistent voice in my head. The voice telling me people like you

  • would benefit from my wellness struggles and solutions
  • desire a holistic approach to health and wellness
  • are tired of the traditional health model and are wary of questionable “health” information circulating online
  • are trying their best to be healthy, but are going about it the wrong way and not getting the results they desire.

There is a true need for holistic evidence-based health and wellness information.

And while I am far from perfect, I knew I was blessed with the experience and training to provide real, evidence-based, wellness information to guide you to a healthier, happier, and sustainable life.

This is why I committed to A Better Way Wellness. I committed to moving past my fears (do I have enough time to do this? will anyone actually read this? can i put myself out there?) to creating an online community for wellness.

For this first year, I committed to writing an e-book to teach the foundations of wellness, sending wellness newsletters and posting evidence-based content regularly.

Mission accomplished!

For this next year, there are some exciting developments in the works. Until I’m ready for these big reveals, I will share my commitments for the next year.

Here is what I promise:

  • To guide you toward a healthier and happier life.
  • To give you scientifically backed wellness information in an easily digestible form.
  • To serve as a holistic wellness resource for you.
  • To be available to answer your questions.

THE GIFT

In honor of this anniversary, I want to provide you a gift.

This gift was created based on questions and feedback from readers like you, clients, and patients.

It’s something I seriously considered sharing with a larger media outlet.

But I knew deep down it was something I should share directly with you and our community of wellness and truth seekers.

This gift is something especially for you and of no cost.

If you already receive my newsletter, this gift was sent directly to you. If not, click here to access your special gift!

THE GIVEAWAY

If you find value or learn any pearls (and I think you will) from my special gift, I ask you a sincere favor. I ask that you share it with at least two people you love. Two people that you want to bestow the gift of wellness upon.

It’s easy to share:

  1. Share the gift by email using this link.

  2. Send an email to your loved yourself and include the following link: goo.gl/XXlkE1.

  3. Text your loved one the following link: goo.gl/XXlkE1.

  4. Use the Share Button at the end of this post to Tweet.

If you share my gift with at least two people, please let me know. I want to enter you into a drawing for a 1:1 wellness mentoring session with me*.  You can enter the drawing here.

The drawing will end on August 16, 2017 and winner will be notified shortly after.

I’m so glad you’re part of this community so please accept my gift as a small token of my appreciation. And I want our little corner of the internet to reach everyone that wants a better, happier, and healthier life so please share the gift with anyone you care for.

With gratitude,
Skye


*One-on-one wellness mentoring is the perfect solution to feel healthier, happier, and freer. I take a holistic approach to wellness and together we will create a sustainable wellness plan personalized to you and your needs. You must have access to Skype or a US telephone number to my eligible for the one-on-one mentoring session.

HOW TO BE HAPPIER AT WORK

If you are reading this, you probably have a job. If not, you wouldn’t be learning how to be happier at work.

Maybe you love your job. Maybe you despise it. Or perhaps you are somewhere between those two extremes. Or somedays you love it and others you despise it.

However it is you feel about your job, did you know having a job makes you happier than someone that is unemployed?

It’s the truth.

Wellbeing is higher in those with jobs compared to those who are unemployed.

Pretty cool, right?

But how do you become happier at work?

I’m going to tell you.

And so you know, this information comes from the 2017 World Happiness Report.

Select the Right Type of Work for You

What you do for work matters.

Some jobs are associated with higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.

Those with the highest reported levels of happiness were managers or executives. This is closely followed by professional workers, clerical or office workers, and service workers.

Those with the lowest levels of happiness? Farming, fishing, and forestry workers. Construction workers and miners closely followed.

So if you are dissatisfied by your work, consider this information before choosing a new direction.

Be Actively Engaged

According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, active engagement is extremely important to job satisfaction.

The more engaged you are in your job, the happier and more satisfied you are with it.

What does it mean to be actively engaged in your work?

Actively engaged workers are passionate about what they do and feel committed to their job or employers.

Disengaged workers are are “checked out” and put in time without much energy or passion.

According to a Gallup poll, only 30% of Americans are actively engaged in their work.

How do you get actively engaged? Change your mindset or change your responsibilities/job.


Negotiate for a Raise


Higher wages are predictive of greater wellbeing.

This goes counter to advice or graduation speeches you’ve heard.

But the facts are those in well-paying jobs tend to feel happier and more satisfied with their lives compared to those in lower income brackets.

This isn’t a purely linear relationship, though. The lower you are on the income spectrum, the more a raise will contribute to your wellness.

Likewise, the HIGHER you are on the income spectrum, the less a raise will contribute to your happiness.

This is a tricky subject, because you have to consider work-life satisfaction. A higher paying job that substantially increases your commute time or causes you to worry at home will leave you LESS happy. Read the next tip for more details.

Leave Work at Work

This is a fascinating one.

Even though you may be enticed with the idea of job-flexibility or work you can do from home, this may detract from your happiness.

If your job interferes with your ability to spend time with loved ones, your happiness level goes down.

If your job causes you to worry about work matters when you are off the clock, your happiness level goes down.

If your job leaves you too tired to enjoy non-work factions of life, your happiness decreases.

Volunteer for Variety & Learn Something New

Variety is more than the spice of life — it is a key to job satisfaction and happiness.

Those with jobs that entail variety and the need to learn new skills are generally more satisfied with their work AND their lives.

So volunteer to learn something new or take on a new project — your happiness may increase!

Take Control Over Your Day

Having control - or autonomy - over your work is a significant contributor to happiness.

If possible, exert control over your workday and your pace of work. Workers that do this have higher wellbeing outcomes.

Find Your Work Tribe

Keeping your nose to the grindstone and staying to yourself at work may result in less happiness.

The level of social support you receive at work is strongly predictive of wellbeing.

Finding social support, and even being a member of a union, can increase your happiness at work.


Work for Someone You Respect and Feel is Competent

Your boss has a big impact on your job happiness (some of you may be thinking “duh” on this one).

When you work for someone you respect and feel is competent, your work wellbeing increases. Bosses and supervisors make a HUGE impact on satisfaction.

Data aside, I can personally attest to the importance of this one. I’ve been lucky to have mostly wonderful bosses. And in those circumstances, my team and I were happy and thrived. I can think of one situation where this was not the case — where I did not feel confidence on my boss. Instead of my team thriving, we were unhappy, stressed out, and overall lacking in wellbeing.

Turn Information Into Action

Information is only so helpful — it is action that will transform your life.

So take inventory of your job and life. What changes can you initiate to make you happier at work?

Write one or two down and commit to incorporating them into your life.

The Happiness Series

Do you want to be happier?

If so, read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the happiness series!

Sending you health and happiness,
Skye

Mood Boosting Supplements that May Be Dangerous

Last week you read about supplements that can boost your mood.
 
I received encouraging comments on how much you appreciated the information.

Thank you for the comments and feedback. I love hearing from you!

I also received some great questions about other supplements that boost mood that I did not discuss.

You asked and I’m answering.

I want to take today to share WHY I did not include two particular supplements in my discussion.

It’s all due to safety.

Keep reading to learn about the two mood-boosting supplements that may be dangerous for you to use.

There is a common misconception that “natural products” and “supplements” are safe.

Some folks assume just because something comes from a plant or a health food store it is innately safe.

Newsflash: poison ivy, hemlock, and arsenic are all “natural” products that are most definitely UNSAFE for humans.

The reality is some supplements and natural products ARE safe while others can cause SERIOUS health problems.

It just depends on the product and its quality.

People ask me about supplement and natural product safety all the time.

When considering supplements, safety and effectiveness are my top priorities.

If something is unsafe, I don’t even consider using it. Or suggesting others use it.

And if something is not effective, I don’t waste my money (or anybody else’s) on it.

There are supplements that help boost mood, but are considered dangerous.

That’s right.

There are two supplements that have strong evidence to support they boost mood, but also strong evidence to suggest they may be dangerous to use.

Your health and safety is my top priority.

That is why I’m sharing all the details on why kava and St. John’s wort did not make my cut.

The first culprit is kava.


Kava is known to help with anxiety. Multiple studies show kava is superior to placebo and in some cases, even anti-anxiety medicine.

So kava meets the effectiveness criteria.

Safety, however, is another story.

Kava is associated with over 100 cases of liver toxicity — including the need for liver transplants and even death.

For this reason, kava was withdrawn from Canadian and European markets.

Canada and Germany have since lifted kava bans, however safety is still a concern.

Due to liver toxicity concerns, kava does not meet my safety criteria.

Even though there is reasonable evidence to show kava works, due to side effects it can be potentially dangerous.

The second culprit is St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort is a flowering plant found in sunny, well-drained locations.

St. John’s wort has a wealth of evidence to show it helps with depression. Studies show it is superior to placebo and even commonly used depression medicines (such as SSRIs).

In fact, St. John’s wort is associated with FEWER side effects compared to standard anti-depressants.

So, you may be wondering, what’s the problem with St. John’s wort?

Great question.

St. John’s wort is associated with MANY serious interactions with certain medicines.

When used on its own, studies show St. John’s wort is safe when used for 12 weeks (and in some cases even longer).

What is unsafe is the drug interactions St. John’s wort has when used with other products.

The risk of interactions is so serious that St. John’s wort products were banned in France. Other countries require cautionary labeling on St. John’s wort products warning of serious interactions.

St. John’s wort can decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs.

Some examples include:

  • Oral contraceptives (aka birth control pills) - St. John’s wort decreases oral contraceptive levels and effectiveness, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy and breakthrough bleeding.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medicines — St. John’s wort can decrease serum levels of HIV medicines, which can lead to treatment failure and resistance.
  • Seizure medicines — St. John’s wort may increase the metabolism of seizure medicines, which can result in loss of seizure control.
  • Anticoagulants or blood thinners — St. John’s wort can decrease the effectiveness of anticoagulants, which may lead to blood clots.

Despite the risk of drug interactions, many people still choose to use St. John’s wort.

And this is probably fine, so long as they disclose all medicines and supplements they are using to their healthcare providers.

The problem is when people do NOT let their providers know everything they are using.

If you want to try St. John’s wort, make sure you work with a healthcare provider to make sure you are using it safely.

I’m not opposed to using St. John’s wort. What I am opposed to is using it in an UNSAFE way.

Mood Boosting Supplements that May Be Dangerous

Happiness is important to us all and we know the main detractors from happiness in the Unites States are depression and anxiety.

You know there are supplements that can boost your happiness (see this post for more details).

There are other supplements that are effective, but can be dangerous.

Kava can cause serious liver damage and St. John’s wort can cause dangerous drug interactions when used incorrectly.

Now you know the good, the bad, and the potentially dangerous about kava and St. John’s wort.

Want More?

Are you looking for more information on happiness? Read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the happiness series and be on the lookout for part 6.

HOW TO USE SUPPLEMENTS TO BOOST HAPPINESS

Here we go:

You’re at Whole Foods and browsing the supplement aisle. All of a sudden you remember hearing something about a certain supplement that boosts happiness.

Except you can’t remember exactly what it was. And you don’t want to waste your hard earned money on something that doesn’t really work. So you either buy something without confidence or just leave the store.

I don’t want this to happen to you!

I want you to be able to make educated and confident choices. How can you do that? It’s easy!

I will help you learn what boosts and detracts from happiness and give you the tools to decide what actions are right for you.

Remember, the biggest detractors from happiness are depression and anxiety.

That’s right. And by keeping depression and anxiety at bay, you can boost your happiness levels.

There are several ways you can do this. A general overview of ways to boost your happiness can be found here.

And proven alternative therapies to boost happiness can be found here.

But what about supplements? Are there natural products you can use to support your mood?

Absolutely!

There ARE evidence-based and proven supplements to support your happiness.

I’m going to be completely honest with you: there are supplements that either do not work or cause harm to you.

That’s the reality.

I don’t believe in using supplements unless there are real and proven facts to support their effectiveness AND safety.

That is why I am sharing products that have both.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only. Please seek personal advice from your healthcare providers before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.

Supplements that Boost Happiness

Probiotics help your mood - not just your gut.

Most of the time, you think of probiotics as helping your stomach and ailments such as diarrhea or irritable bowels.

Did you know gut microflora play a role in anxiety, depression, and mood, too?

That’s right.

You can get probiotics through food OR by using supplements.


Studies show consumption of fermented foods, like kefir and yogurt, decrease depressive symptoms.

There is also evidence that consumption of probiotic capsules have the same effect.

Vitamin B9 (folate) deficiency is strongly linked to depression.

Vitamin B9, otherwise known as folate, is important for a variety of human functions — growth and brain functioning, to name two.

In terms of mental health, low folate levels are associated with depression.

Ensuring adequate folate levels is EXTREMELY important to prevent depression.

How do you ensure adequate folate levels?

The United States recommended dietary allowance of folate is 400 micrograms.

Folate can come from dietary sources or through supplementation.

Foods that are rich in folate include:

  • Dark, green, leafy vegetables (espeically spinach )
  • Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Legumes
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Mushrooms
  • Papaya

When diet is not enough, supplements are an option.

Folate supplements are NOT all created equally. Personally, I avoid the folic acid (synthetic) form of vitamin B9 because it can be difficult for the body to process and has been linked to enhanced tumor development.

If you supplement vitamin B9, choose methylfolate, levomefolic acid, L-5-MTHF, L-methylfolate, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or (6S)-5-MTHF.

Magnesium supplements promote relaxation — and prevent anxiety.

Magnesium deficiency, like vitamin B9 deficiency, is linked to depression. Anxiety is also a concern in those with low magnesium levels.

Approximately half of Americans are deficient in magnesium.

This is because our soil is depleted of minerals such as magnesium (which means food grown in the soil lacks magnesium). Another reason is magnesium is often removed from water during routine municipal treatment.

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 320 to 420 micrograms.

Increasing magnesium intake can occur through diet and via supplements.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Dark, green, leafy vegetables (are you seeing a trend here?)
  • Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Avocado
  • Bananas

Some magnesium supplements are difficult for your body to absorb.

For example, magnesium oxide supplements are not readily absorbed by the body.

Magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium taurate are better options.


Boosting Happiness with Supplements

Happiness is important to us all and we know the main detractors from happiness in the Unites States are depression and anxiety.

The good news is there are supplements that can boost your happiness. probiotics, B vitamins, and magnesium are options that help. Even better — you can get many of these through food.

Your Turn

What happiness hack will you try this week? I encourage you to pick one (or all three) to help keep depression and anxiety at bay.

Loved this post? Then share it with a friend!

Are you looking for more information on happiness? Read parts 1, 2, and 3 of the happiness series and be on the lookout for part 5.

HOW TO BOOST HAPPINESS USING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES: 3 PROVEN WAYS

Last week I was teaching an Intensive Lifestyle class and one of my participants asked me a great question.

She asked:

 “I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to prevent anxiety and depression. I exercise five times a week and try to eat right. What other natural things can I do to prevent depression and anxiety?

This is a question I get a lot. And in the spirit of our happiness series, I am here to answer.

Just to recap from last week, the biggest detractors from happiness are depression and anxiety. So I am going to share 3 alternative therapies that are proven to prevent depression and anxiety.

You may be concerned with the cost and effectiveness of alternative therapies. I completely sympathize your concern.

That is why I am only offering alternative therapies that are proven (and I share the links to the medical articles that show the support) and affordable. In fact, two of the three therapies I share can be obtained for FREE.

THREE ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES PROVEN TO BOOST HAPPINESS

1. Music Therapy

Music therapy has solid evidence to help anxiety and depression

Music therapy is the use of music to influence physical, emotional, cognitive, and social wellbeing and quality of life. It can include listening to music or performing music.

Music therapy is shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and stress. Furthermore, music can enhance mood and induce relaxation.


The best type of music for depression and anxiety is still being determined.

Research suggests that music familiar to your culture is the most helpful for anxiety.

Classical music has been found to be relaxing and comforting. Rock music, on the other hand, may result in stress.

Interestingly, both calming and stimulating music may improve pain tolerance.

Music therapy is theorized to work by reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and the release of stress hormones. See this and this article for more information.

Music therapy is considered to be safe.

Multiple clinical studies have used music therapy without side effects.

2. Light therapy

Light therapy is shown to help with depression.

Light therapy (or phototherapy) is the use of various wavelengths of light to produce a therapeutic effect. It can use lasers, LEDs, fluorescent lamps, and bright, full-spectrum light.

You may have heard of using light boxes to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressive condition related to changes in the seasons. There is quite a bit of evidence to support light therapy for SAD. In fact, light therapy may be as effective as using traditional antidepressants.

You may not know light therapy is also useful for non-seasonal depression.

Bright light therapy has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms in individuals with non-seasonal depression.

To help with non-seasonal depression, white light (versus yellow or red) appears to have the most evidence.

Studies show that durations as short as 2 to 4 hours per day improves symptoms.

3. Yoga

Yoga decreases depressive symptoms in children and adults.

Yoga is a mental, physical, and spiritual practice that originated in India thousands of years ago.

Yoga’s popularity has increased significantly in Western cultures over the last several decades.

Research shows yoga improves depressive symptoms in individuals that are using antidepressant medicine and those that are NOT using antidepressant medicines.

Yoga works by improving blood pressure, blood sugar, stress, and anxiety levels.

These are all modalities that appear to improve depression and anxiety.

Yoga appears to be safe in most individuals.
Aggressive forms of yoga or yoga in highly heated environments may not be safe, especially for beginners, older adults, and those that are pregnant. It is best to practice yoga under the supervision of a certified instructor.

Several different types of yoga decrease depression and anxiety.

Studies show:

  • Sudarshan Kriya Yoga,
  • hatha yoga, and
  • sahaj yoga

decrease depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Boosting Happiness with Alternative Therapies

Happiness is important to us all and we know the main detractors from happiness in the Unites States are depression and anxiety.

The good news is there are alternative therapies proven to PREVENT depression and anxiety. Music therapy, light therapy, and yoga are affordable options that help.

Your Turn

What happiness hack will you try this week? I encourage you to pick one (or all three) to help keep depression and anxiety at bay.

Loved this post? Then share it with a friend!

Are you looking for more information on happiness? Read parts 1 and 2 of the happiness series and be on the lookout for part 4.

How to Avoid the Biggest Detractor From Happiness - Happiness Series Part II

It’s a safe bet to say you desire happiness.

Almost all of us do. It’s ingrained in the foundation of the United States. Our Declaration of Independence says

. . . life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .

are unalienable rights.

But Americans consistently rate themselves as being unhappy.

Why?

You could hypothesize many different reasons. But there is actual research surrounding happiness.

That’s right — there is evidence to help us better understand what makes people happy and miserable.

And the results may surprise you.

Top Detractors from Happiness

The 2017 World Happiness Report was recently published. This extensive document highlights happiness trends across the globe, but I am focusing on the results from the United States.

So what’s the biggest detractor from happiness?

Mental illness — particularly depression and anxiety.

That’s right.

Not income, relationship status, or employment.

It’s mental health.

How to Prevent Depression & Anxiety

If you’re a regular around here, you know I am passionate about prevention. So that is why I’m focusing on ways to PREVENT depression and anxiety.

Note: Depression and anxiety can be serious medical conditions. And there are times where they require medical treatment and intervention. I’m in no way minimizing the dire importance of adequate mental health treatment. Instead, I am focusing my attention on prevention.

Did you know there are proven ways to prevent both depression and anxiety?

There is so MUCH you can do to prevent both these mental health conditions. And I am going to highlight 6 evidence-based ways you can avoid them.

1. Eat for Mental Wellness

 

I’m going to be completely frank with you here: the modern American diet contributes to mental health problems.

A diet full of processed and pro-inflammatory foods contributes to depression and anxiety.

On the contrary, a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fat promotes sound mental health.

Don’t just take my word for it. There are hundreds of studies supporting my statement. A prospective study that shows the Western diet is predictive of depression can be found here.

How do you eat for mental wellness? First, fill your plates with vegetables and fruit. Then add whole grains and other lean protein sources. Second, steer clear of processed foods, refined carbohydrates (like sugar and white bread), and trans fats (this means anything “partially hydrogenated”).

Eating for Mental Health

2. Move Your Body

The benefits of physical activity on mental health have been proven time and time again.

Here’s a recap of the evidence: moving your body leads to less depression and anxiety.

Regular exercise:

  • Releases feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (endorphins and endocannabinoids)
  • Reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increases body temperature which can have aiming effects

Furthermore, exercise can help increase confidence, relieve worries, improve social interaction, and help with coping and resiliency.

What kind of physical activity is best? There isn’t one best type. Low-intensity exercise, high-intensity exercise, and even yoga have been shown to prevent and even improve depressive symptoms.

My personal practice is to move my body every single day. Sometimes this is high-intensity, but other times it is lower-intensity. Some days I go running and others I take an exercise class, do HIIT, or even go for a brisk walk. So long as I am moving my body.

3. De-Stress

A few months back, I wrote an entire series on stress. If you want more information, check it out here.

The basics: stress promotes production of stress hormones like cortisol. Long-term cortisol elevations disturbs various metabolic processes the body and can lead to depression and anxiety.

If you have too much stress, either eliminate the source or augment your response to the stress. Or a little of both!

If you are interested in surprising ways to decrease stress, check out the article.

4. Get Your Zzz’s

Sleep is more important to health and wellness than you may imagine.

In fact, sleep deprivation is associated with mood changes, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety.

Both the quantity and quality of your sleep matters. Most adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for maximal physical and mental health benefits.

Do you want more information on sleep? Check out my article here.

5. Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins

According to the World Health Organization, several pesticides are linked to depression, anxiety, and suicide.

The most common culprit? Organophosphates.

Organophosphates are effective pesticides that can have serious impacts on the nervous system. Overexposure to organophosphates result in something called cholinesterase inhibition. This allows acetylcholine to build up and symptoms such as fatigue, headache, sweating, vomiting, twitching, and even depression, anxiety, and death may occur.

The good news is organophosphates are banned for use as home insecticides due to their poisonous effects.


The bad news is organophosphates are widely used in conventional agriculture and used on food crops such as fruits and vegetables.

Bottomline: you may be exposing yourself to organophosphates (and increasing your risk of depression and anxiety) from what you eat.

How to protect yourself? Consume food that was not exposed to organophosphates. The easiest way to do this is to eat organic.


6. Eliminate Nutrient Deficiencies

You may be surprised to learn certain nutrients play a key role in your mental health. I could write an entire book on this, but for your sake (and time) I will keep it short and to the point.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are CRUCIAL in neurosynthesis. In particular, vitamins B6, B12, and folate are important keys. In fact, studies show increased folate intake is associated with lower risk of depression.

How can you get B vitamins through diet? Include leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.

Vitamin D

If you have vitamin D deficiency, you are at higher risk of depression. What is less clear is if supplementing vitamin D reverses this effect.

The safe bet is to get natural vitamin D through food and sun exposure. Foods such as fatty fish are good vitamin D sources. And making sure you get 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week can help.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have a host of benefits. Studies suggest omega-3’s may help in the treatment of depression and have a mood-stabilizing effect.

The most available sources of omega-3 fatty acids come from marine sources. Fish and fish oil are the most common ways people get their omega-3’s. Marine algae is another potent source.

Zinc

Depression is associated with lower levels of the trace mineral zinc in the body. Studies show supplementing with zinc decreases depressive symptoms.

Dietary sources of zinc include oysters, legumes, nuts, and peas.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency — a fairly common issue in the United States — is associated with anxiety.

You can get magnesium through your diet. Foods such as almonds, spinach, cashews, legumes, soy beans, and broccoli all contain magnesium.

WHEN PREVENTION IS NOT ENOUGH

Maybe you have tried my evidence-based tips to prevent depression and anxiety.

And maybe you still need help.

Then please do not hesitate to see a healthcare provider for help. Modalities such as therapy and medication are effective.

RECAP & NEXT STEPS

There is much evidence surrounding happiness. And (maybe) to your surprise, mental health issues (particularly depression and anxiety) are the BIGGEST detractors from happiness. The good news is there is lots you can do to prevent depression and anxiety.

Eating right, moving your body, decreasing stress levels, getting adequate sleep, reducing your exposure to environmental toxins, and avoiding nutritional deficiencies can ALL help prevent depression and anxiety.

Over the next week, I challenge you to pick one actionable thing you can do to prevent depression and anxiety. It can be as easy as adding a serving of fruit to each day. Give it a try and see if you notice anything different!

 

Sending you happiness and health,
Skye

Get Happy . . . NOW - Part I

Do you want to be happier? Have you ever thought:

  • “I just want to be happy.”
  • “How come s/he always looks so happy? How come I can’t be like that?”
  • “I’ll be happy as soon as I have a new job/a new partner/a new house/a new outfit?
  • “Why can’t I just be happy?”

My guess is yes because most of us desire happiness. And most of us feel like we aren’t as happy as we should be.

If this is you, you are not alone. Most of us desire happiness and feel like we aren’t as happy as we should be.

 

The pursuit of happiness surrounds us. Americans spend millions of dollars each year searching for happiness. From self-help books to medications to material possessions, it is likely you have purchased something to enhance your happiness.

What you may NOT know is that happiness has been studied and there are evidence-based ways to improve your happiness.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?

So if you want to be happier NOW, keep reading. I’m starting this series with BIG picture happiness hacks.

The 2017 World Happiness Report

The 2017 World Happiness Report was recently published. This extensive report ranks countries on happiness and objectively ascertains determinants of happiness and misery.

What was the happiest country in 2017?

Norway.

And the least happy?

The Central African Republic.

How does the United States rank?

14th, after countries such as Iceland, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Costa Rica.


What Makes You Happy

For the purpose of this article, I am focusing on happiness in the United States. This is because the majority of my readers are American. If you are interested in happiness information on other countries, please reach out to me and I’d be glad to share.

According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, income, years of education, employment, partnership, and health all contribute heavily to happiness and satisfaction. Another factor that contributed to happiness: being female.

Why Health Matters

Of all the happiness factors, health was the highest contributor.

This research mimics my personal experience as a clinician and practitioner. I have firsthand experience and have witnessed the transformative impact of wellness on individuals, families, and communities.

This is one of the reasons I am incredibly passionate about helping others lead healthier lives and focus so much effort on prevention.

Preventing physical and mental illness IS possible.

Really, this is the unofficial theme of A Better Way Wellness.


How to Improve Your Happiness

This series will take a close look at how health impacts happiness and provide you with real, evidence-based, actionable ways to improve your own health and happiness.

What you need to do in the meantime is take an honest assessment of your happiness and health.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry! I’ve got you. I’ve put together quizzes that will help you gauge both happiness and health.

Happiness Quizzes

Health Quizzes

What’s Coming Next Week

Next week, we will specifically discuss the impact of mental health on happiness. Part of this will include ways to prevent the most most common mental health disorders. Stay tuned!

Sending you happiness and health,
Skye

Natural and Effective Ways to Prevent Hay Fever

What Hay Fever Is

’Tis the season for hay fever and if you find yourself:

  • sneezing constantly
  • with a runny and stuffy nose
  • itching your eyes or skin

it is likely you (like 50 million other Americans) suffer from allergic rhinitis (more commonly know as hay fever).

Why Hay Fever is a Problem

Hay fever is more than just annoying. It is linked to decreased concentration and focus, decreased decision-making capacity, impaired coordination, irritability, sleep disturbances, and even vehicle accidents.

No thank you!

Personally, I have suffered from allergic rhinitis since childhood. And since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to prevent and treat my dreaded allergy symptoms.

And because I don’t want ANYONE to suffer unnecessarily, I am sharing my top tips to prevent hay fever.

How to Prevent Hay Fever Symptoms

In many cases, pollen is the cause of allergic rhinitis. If pollen is your problem, there are several effective ways to prevent allergies. Basically, you need to reduce your exposure to pollen. This is tricky when you are outside and away from your home. But when you are home, there is a lot you can do.

Even though you may not be able to see it, through the day, your hair, clothes, and exposed skin collect pollen. Without proper precautions you can then track pollen throughout your home. This turns your previously healthy and happy home into an allergy hotbed.

How do you reduce your home pollen levels?

1. Make Your Home a Shoe-Free Zone.

Leave your shoes at the door to prevent tracking pollen (and other potential allergens) throughout your house. If going barefoot seems strange to you, invest in some comfy house slippers (I have a great pair from Toms [https://www.amazon.com/Womens-Slipper-Loafers-Slip-Ons-Stripe/dp/B011631PTE]) or fuzzy socks.

2. Change Your Clothes When you Get Home.

As soon as you get home, switch into clean and pollen-free clothes. This is a win-win — you keep your pollen exposure down AND prevent tracking pollen throughout your house.

3. Switch to Bedtime Showers.

This may be difficult if you adore your morning showers. However, if you wash away pollen and allergens before bed, you are doing yourself a BIG favor. Consider you (ideally) spend 8 hours asleep in bed; making sure your sleep time is low-pollen will help keep your allergy symptoms at bay during the night.


4. Keep Your House Clean

This may seem like no-brainer, but keeping your house clean can truly help allergies. The fewer allergens you are exposed to, the better your symptoms will be.

One way to keep your house clean is by keeping the windows closed. This is especially important when it is windy outside.

5. Sleep in a Room Without Rugs or Carpet

While cozy and warm, rugs and carpets are hot beds for pollen and other allergens. Keeping your sleep environment as clean as possible will help reduce your exposure to allergens.

6. Wash Your Hands and Face Regularly    

Keeping your hands and face clear of allergens will help prevent dreaded hay fever symptoms. Even better, use fragrance-free products to prevent unnecessary exposure to other potential allergens.

7. Dry Your Clothes Inside

Drying your clothes outside on a clothes line can be refreshing, but it is best to avoid this during your allergy season. The reason? Your clothes will inevitably get pollen deposits on them.

Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergies

If you’ve already tried these natural approaches to allergy prevention and your symptoms persist, there are options.

Butterbur (petasites hybridus), nasal irrigation, and probiotics are proven ways to alleviate allergy symptoms. More details (and studies to support their use) can be found here.

Spread the Love

If you suffer from hay fever, try one of my natural prevention strategies. Your nose will thank you! And if you have a loved one with allergic rhinitis, forward this post along.