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Emotional Stress and Your Gut – A (Not So) Love Story

Emotional Stress and Your Gut – A (Not So) Love Story

depressed statue by Flickr user Toni Birrer

Today’s society seems ever-focused on the high—high tech, high speed, and high stress, that is. Stress permeates all areas of life: your job (or frustration with unemployment), finances, family, daily commute, even your sleep. All of these areas affect your emotional state, which directly affects your gut and digestive system. Have you ever consoled yourself with food because you’re stressed, angry or sad? Skipped a meal because you were too angry to eat? Please, read on.

One of the most detrimental effects stress has is disrupting healthy eating habits. When you’re under high stress, eating right, or at all, isn’t high on the list. Outside pressure and a lowered emotional state create cravings for comfort foods—those high sugar, high fat, quick and tasty but nutrient-devoid treats. These junk foods slow down digestion and add to the already disrupted state caused by stress. This creates a vicious cycle of propping oneself up with sugar and caffeine, only to crash and feel worse off.

How do you know if your gut is ‘stressed’?

Symptoms of stress on the gastrointestinal system include, but are not limited to:

  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Changes in bowel habit causing diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Difficulty breaking down food and absorbing nutrients
  • Stomach discomfort or fatigue directly after meals
  • Weakened immune response (more than 60% of your immune system is in your gut)
  • Increase in food sensitivities/intolerance

What can I do about it?

For general stress management, try to get one relaxing activity in each day. Pick something you’ll actually enjoy, but won’t cause additional stress. Some good options are yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, swimming and walking. Assessing your daily diet is also a good step. Replace fast foods/processed junk with more natural, healthy options. There are many healthy meals and snacks that can be made in less time than it takes to hit up the drive-thru. Need some ideas? Check out some healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack options.

good things jar by Flickr user StacieBeeWhat about the emotional distress? In order to truly heal, it is necessary to tackle not only the surface manifestation, i.e. the physical symptoms, but also the emotional stress creating problems. The good news is, adding general stress management activities to your day can help. You may also benefit from keeping a daily journal, which is a healthy way to process and manage things that are bothering you. You can also start a Good Jar. Any time something good happens, regardless of size or significance, write it down on a bit of paper and put it in a jar or other container. This helps remind you that good things do happen, even on bad days. You can also revisit the bits as pick-me-ups on rough days.

If you feel your stress, be it emotional or digestive, is much to handle alone, don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help. For some, professional assistance with emotional stress and/or working on a personalized nutrition plan may be the best start. Digestive (and emotional) stress can take time to overcome, but you’ll be surprised at what seemingly insignificant changes can do for you. The first step is taking charge of your own recovery and believing in yourself to do so. Don’t you deserve to feel better?

“There is no true healing unless there is a change in outlook, peace of mind and an inner happiness”   -Dr. Edward Bach

Image Credits: Depressed statue by Flickr user Toni Birrer; Good Things jar by Flickr user StacieBee

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Hypochlorhydria – Do You Have an Underactive Gut?

Hypochlorhydria – Is Your Gut an Underachiever?

bandage on stomachIs your stomach going on strike? Are you finding undigested foods and supplements in your stool? You may have an underactive stomach. Scientifically known as hypochlorhydria, this condition is an insufficient amount or level of production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).

Unfortunately, when hydrochloric acid is low it causes malabsorption resulting in malnutrition, various digestive problems such as constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea and more and eventually a myriad of health problems. HCI mainly digests protein, breaking it down into small molecules in your stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), the smaller molecules formed are further digested and then absorbed in the intestinal tract.

How does one get into such a state? Diet, lifestyle, and other medical conditions can all be factors, but one of the biggest culprits is stress. When you experience high or chronic stress, your whole body can pay the price. The gut is often hardest hit, as it controls digestion and a majority of your body’s immune system. Moreover, HCI production requires a lot of energy and resources, and if there aren’t enough to go around, your gut (and you) suffer.

Hypochlorhydria, Heartburn, and ‘Acid Blockers’

so many antacids by Flickr user shawncampbell

Holy plethora of antacid products, Batman! Why do we need so many?

It is a known fact that doctors are quick to prescribe acid blockers to patients who complain of heartburn, but the unfortunate thing is that many who have in fact an under-acidity of the stomach may well have signs and/or symptoms of heartburn, which the doctor may well interpret as over-acidity. The normal human gut pH range is typically 1 to 2. The pH of an underactive gut can be between 3 to 5, which is considerably less acidic. By addressing all heartburn as a sign of too much acid/too high pH, we’re often making the issue worse.

Hypochlorhydria is often induced by antacids, H2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors. In fact, prolonged hypochlorhydria can potentially increase one’s risk of osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases simply because the body does not have the ability to pull in sufficient minerals through digestion to build strong and healthy bone tissue. This is the same reason why many with hypochlorhydria experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Signs and Symptoms of an Underactive Stomach

fingernails damaged by lack of nutrientsDon’t wait until it becomes painfully obvious there’s a problem. If you’re under a lot of stress, eat a diet that includes tea, coffee, alcohol, red meats and any foods containing sugars/starches, or experience frequent indigestion, start supporting your gut. The older you become, the more likely it is for you to experience hypochlorhydria. Here are some common signs and symptoms of low stomach acid:

  • Frequent stomach pain, discomfort or bloating after meals
  • Feeling unwell/fatigued right after eating
  • High protein or fat foods cause nausea/upset stomach
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Reflux and/or heartburn
  • Poor appetite or feel overly full easily
  • Poor fingernail health (splitting easily/white flecks)
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Trouble digesting red meat
  • Frequent constipation
  • Low iron levels
  • Frequent nausea
  • Nausea/reflux after supplements (e.g. fish oil)
  • Burping after meals
  • Thin, weak or fragile hair

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8 Fibers You Should be Taking for Digestive Health

 

fenugreek seeds by Flickr user zoyachubbyFiber is often thought of as some blah-tasting uniform mass you have to choke down just for regularity’s sake. Truth is, there are many different kinds of fibers, and an assortment is necessary for good health. You need insoluble fibers, which bulk up and soften stools to maintain regularity, and soluble fibers, which help remove toxins and by-products of digestion that can cause gas, bloating and discomfort.

Think of fibers as tiny brooms and your gut as a big room to clean–there’s a lot of nooks and crannies, so you’ll need different sizes and shapes of brooms to get it clean. Watch out for common supermarket and drugstore fiber: they often contain sweeteners and fillers like maltodextrin and corn syrup solids that can do more harm than good. Here’s a list of 8 helpful, multifaceted fibers that work together to help keep your gut clean and running strong:

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is the fibrous outer shell of the psyllium plant seed. The husk is high in mucilage, a clear colorless gel that bonds with and absorbs water. This helps keep bowel movements soft and easy to pass, which helps prevent constipation.

Slippery Elm (inner bark)

The inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree is made of durable fibers used for many purposes, including rope making, jewelry, and string for instrument bows. It’s good for your digestive system because of its high levels of mucilage and its ability to gently sweep debris out of the intestines.

Cellulose

Cellulose is a fibrous organic compound found in many things, particularly green plants and algae. This abundant compound acts as a bulking agent for bowel movements, giving feces a texture that holds together and is easy (but not too easy!) to pass.

Rice Bran

Rice bran is the hard layer between the inner rice grain and the outer hull. In addition to containing various helpful antioxidants, rice bran contains a high amount of several types of fibers that can get into those nooks and crannies and keep things clean.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)

FOS are a form of oligosaccharides (a carbohydrate made of simple sugars) that act as a soluble fiber. FOS occur naturally in many vegetables, including onion, artichoke and asparagus. In addition to being an effective fiber, FOS also has known prebiotic benefits and can help with absorption of certain minerals.

Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek seeds are used internationally to add flavor and nutrients to dishes. Some Indian restaurants will have bowls of fenugreek seeds at the register instead of after dinner mints. In addition to its high fibrous qualities, fenugreek seed has also shown to help with the breakdown and processing of insulin in the digestive system.

Oat Bran

Like rice bran, oat bran is the hard layer sandwiched between the grain and husk. Grains like oat bran are used for many beneficial purposes, from cholesterol management to cardiovascular support. Oat bran is beneficial to the digestive system because of its high concentration of fiber, particularly beta-glucan.

Hemicellulose

Hemicellulose, like cellulose, is a polysaccharide, but is made of shorter glucose chains. Hemicellulose is especially helpful for its prebiotic properties, meaning it can help the feeding and growth of helpful bacteria in the gut.

Image Credit: fenugreek seeds by Flickr user zoyachubby

References and Resources:

Burton R, Manninen V. Influence of a psyllium fibre preparation on faecal/serum parameters. Acta Med Scand. 1982:668:S91-S94.
Rodri’guez-Cabezas ME, Galvez J, Camuesco D, Lorente MD, Concha A, Martinez-Augustin O, Redondo O, Zarzuelo A. Intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of dietary fiber in HLA-B27 transgenic rats. Clinical Nutrition. 2003 (22/5):463-471.
McRorie JW, Daggy BP, Morel JG, Diersing PS, Miner PB, Robinson M. Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for treatment of chronic constipation.Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 May;12(5):491-7.
Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Feb;16(2):197-205.
Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, Li D, McMichael M, Tower CM, Smith RD, Alberte RS. Pro-inflammatory enzymes, cyclooxygenase 1, cyclooxygenase 2, and 5-lipooxygenase, inhibited by stabilized rice bran extracts. J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):615-23.
Nilsson U, Johansson M, Nilsson A, Bjorck I, Nyman M. Dietary supplementation with o-glucan enriched oat bran increases faecal concentration of carboxylic acids in healthy subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2008 (62/8): 978-984.
Su P, Henriksson A, Mitchell H. Prebiotics enhance survival and prolong the retention period of specific probiotic inocula in an in vivo murine model. J Appl Microbiol. 2007 Dec;103(6):2392-400.
Kannappan S, Anuradha CV.Insulin sensitizing actions of fenugreek seed polyphenols, quercetin & metformin in a rat model. Indian J Med Res. 2009 Apr;129(4):401-8.
Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Komiyama Y, Yagi M, Andoh A, Sata M. Preventive effects of enzyme-treated rice fiber in a restraint stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome model. Int J Mol Med. 2010 Apr;25(4):547-55.

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Three Tasty, Quick and Healthy Ways to Get Your (Essential!) Daily Fiber

 

Fiber–where would we be without it? Not the bathroom, of course. Fiber is essential for proper digestion, healthy bowel movements, and good overall health. Yet, most people only get about half the fiber they need daily (you need 20-30 grams per day). We’ve found some great snack and beverage recipes high in fiber and other nutrients, as well as taste, that are quick and easy enough to fit any schedule.

No-Cook Oatmeal Parfaits

protein fiber fridge parfaitsThis portable nutrient-rich food can be had as a breakfast item or anytime snack. In addition to having lots of fiber, protein and calcium, these goodies also pack plenty of taste. Once you make these you’ll want to have them all the time.

To make, you’ll need half-pint or pint glass jars with lids. This recipe can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, so feel free to make several varieties at once. To each jar add 1/4 cup natural old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup skim milk (can use any type of milk or milk substitute you prefer), and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried chia seeds.

Now it’s flavor time! We tried several varieties: Blueberry Maple (2 tsp. maple syrup and 1/4 C blueberries), Apple Cinnamon with Cranberry (1/4 C unsweetened applesauce, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, 1 tsp. honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon), and Peanut Butter Chocolate (1 tbsp. sliced almonds, 1 tbsp. PB2 powder, 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder). Once you’ve added your preferred goodies, put a lid on the jar and shake to mix. Fruit may be easier to mix in with a fork. Once mixed, place jars in fridge and let set overnight.

High Fiber Green Smoothie

green smoothie by Flickr user Stacy SpensleyThis smoothie is a cornucopia of nutrients and flavor, and can be made in 5 minutes. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pear, chopped, with skin
  • 1 kiwi fruit, chopped, without skin
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Heaping handful of raw baby spinach
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup ice

To make, simply add all ingredients to a blender and mix until you get your desired consistency.

Fiber and Protein-Packed Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffins by Flickr user Steve A JohnsonThese tasty and very portable muffins have 7 grams of fiber and 23 g of protein per muffin. Pretty impressive, eh? Here’ s what you’ll need to make them:

  • 1 tbsp. flax seed
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp. blueberries
  • 3 tbsp. steel cut oats (cooked are preferred)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

To get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get your muffin pan greased up while you’re at it (this recipe makes 6 muffins). Add protein powder, flax seed, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a bowl and mix. Now add the oats and egg whites and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the greased muffin pan, then add a sprinkle of blueberries to the middle of each muffin. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, but check them after 20. Depending on how you like your muffins, baking time will last 20-40 minutes.

Image credits: Green smoothie by Flickr user Stacy Spensley; Blueberry muffins by Flickr user Steve Johnson

 

 

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Dr. Bakker’s Tips to Say Hello to Good Digestion and Goodbye to Constipation

white t-shirt with the phrase I heart regularityDr. Bakker’s Tips to Say Hello to Good Digestion and Goodbye to Constipation

Now that I’ve covered the common causes of constipation, let’s get to the good stuff: how to fix it. Here are my easy, sensible tips to help ease and prevent constipation:

Stay away from “junk” foods

  • The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” very much applies to your gut. Processed boxed goods, sugary treats, fast food and potato chips slow down digestion, create stomach discomfort and often lead to constipation.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid overeating

  • Many of us treat eating as a secondary act we have to do. We eat while working, while watching TV, while browsing the internet on devices. We may feel like we’re saving time by multitasking, but we’re really not. Distracted eating makes for difficult digestion. Take the time to sit down, unplug, chew and enjoy your food. Skipping/combining meals is a big no-no as well. Ideally, have a bigger breakfast, a good sized lunch, a modest dinner, and several healthy snacks in-between.

Cut back on the caffeine

  • Caffeine irritates the stomach lining, causing excessive production of stomach acid, which can lead to a variety of digestive disorders. Included in this is a loss of liquids (dehydration), which can easily lead to constipation.

Get more bran in your life

  • Unprocessed oat bran is a great food additive than can help promote digestion and regularity. Bran can be added to hot cereals and yogurt. When choosing a bran/fiber cereal, make sure it does not contain processed bran or junk filler.

Eat more “lubricating” foods

  • Foods such as okra, kiwi fruit, beets, honey, prunes, pears, apples, walnuts, almonds, alfalfa sprouts, cauliflower and carrots can help keep the digestive system running like a well-oiled machine.

Eat more “moving” foods

  • Foods such as papaya, cabbage, coconut, peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit and figs can help move stool through the intestine and promote regularity.

Keep a good bacteria balance

  • Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha tea, miso, and sauerkraut contain bacteria, which can be good for the gut. Bacteria is natural and essential to digestion, but when the gut is overrun by bad bacteria, bad things can happen. Keeping a good bacteria balance is essential.

Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains

  • I know you probably hear it all the time, but I have to say it: get more fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet. Year after year, the CDC’s report on intake shows most Americans are not consuming nearly enough fruits and vegetables, which are key to good digestive health.

Stay hydrated

  • Another one you probably hear all the time, but I have to ask: are you drinking enough water? REMEMBER to drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Dehydration can be hard to detect, but the effects are quite noticeable: fatigue, constipation, headache, and nausea to name a few.

Take Squeaky Clean

  • This outstanding product developed by Dr. James Wilson was designed to comprehensively support intestinal health by promoting regularity and complete natural evacuation and elimination of toxins, cleansing and conditioning the small and large intestines, and helping to establish a healthy balance of intestinal flora. More information on Squeaky Clean

Speak with a specialist

  • Are you already living and eating according to the tips above and still constipated? Diet and lifestyle won’t help every case of constipation. Sometimes there’s a deeper root cause, so making an appointment with a specialist or your trusted physician could be best.

About the Author

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

 

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When Everything’s Not Coming Out Okay: 6 Causes of Constipation

When Everything’s Not Coming Out Okay: 6 Causes of Constipation

I have a question for you: how often do you poop? You may find the question uncomfortable, but we all do it, and not going enough can be trouble. How often you go is a direct correlation to how well your gut is functioning (unless you have acute diarrhea from an infection or parasites, giardia, appendicitis, etc). If you aren’t going 1-2 times a day soon after meals, you may be constipated. Below are some causes of constipation. Read through each and make note of the ones that sound familiar.

You’re a Distracted Eater

tv dinner by Flickr user Magnus D

Do you work while you eat? Take bites between emails? Maybe eat in front of the TV? Check Facebook on your phone? How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Having a meal in relative peace with no distractions is ideal for optimal digestion. Busy? Take a dedicated meal break (you have the time!). Chew your food thoroughly and take time to enjoy it.

You’re Not Getting Enough Water

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. Divide your weight in half-that’s how many ounces of water you should be drinking daily. You may not be getting anywhere near that amount, particularly if you have been quite constipated for years.

Not Enough Dietary Fiber

bowl of fresh raspberries by Flickr user smith

Far too many of us are not getting enough daily fiber. Not only do many of the foods we eat lack fiber, but their lack of nutrients can also cause digestive issues. Some great natural sources of fiber include: legumes (navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans); nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, peanuts); fruits (prunes, pears, mangoes, apples, raspberries); vegetables (artichokes, soy beans, Brussel sprouts); and breads and grains(rye bread, bran flakes, quinoa).

Long Periods of Immobility, Stress or Depression

Emotional and mental strain can have a heavy impact on digestive health. If you aren’t as regular as you should be, take a stress assessment. Any recent changes in lifestyle? Serious illness or accident? Relationship problems? Job woes?

Medication

various prescription pills on counter next to bottlesIf you listen to the fine print on drug commercials, constipation almost always makes the side effects list. Medications like codeine and morphine can do great things for pain but can also reduce the motility of stool. Even aspirin can seriously affect the digestive tract, particularly the stomach, liver and small bowel. Some antidepressants can cause constipation as well. You may want to check with your practitioner for alternatives/solutions.

Gallbladder Problems

Long-term constipation can be a sign of a deeper issue. For one, constipation can be a sign of a gallbladder issue. Other common signs of a problematic gallbladder are pain or tenderness between the shoulders or under the ribcage, light or chalky colored stool, indigestion after meals (especially fatty or greasy foods), excess gas and bloating, and nausea.

In my next blog, I’ll offer tips to help combat and prevent constipation. There are several natural methods that can help, and most cases of constipation will improve just by making a few small lifestyle changes.

Image Credits: TV dinner by Flickr user Magnus D; raspberries by Flickr user smith

About the Author

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Beating Negative Thinking During the Holidays Part 2

Here’s part 2 of my tips to beat negative thinking during the holidays (and anytime, really). You can read part 1 here.

6. Magnification and Minimization

magnifying glassAnne is a 1st grade teacher and she overslept the day of the big holiday program. She rushes to get ready and makes it to school just in time to get her students to the stage. The show goes on without a hitch and many parents tell Anne she put together an amazing program. Anne chalks it up to dumb luck and dwells on being late.

People in this category tend to magnify failures and minimize successes (like looking out of the wrong end of a telescope). To avoid this trap, think about the old adage “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, take a step back and view the big picture. Anne spent a lot of time writing and decorating, and the students practiced hard all week. The program was a great success for good reason, regardless of a small mistake.

7. Emotional Reasoning

Paul volunteered to be host for a work holiday get-together, and the place is a mess. People will be arriving in a couple of hours and Paul starts to freak out. Great, he thinks. It’s hopeless to even bother cleaning now. They’ll have to party in my filth. Why did I even try?

Paul has judged his situation based entirely on how it makes him feel, rather than the actual scale. Sure, the situation is stressful and it’ll take some work, but is it really hopeless? Paul has let the situation overwhelm him and feels there is no reasonable solution. When a situation feels overwhelming, try this: Break down the task/problem into a list of bite-sized pieces. Prioritize each bit and start with #1. Once you knock out a few tiny bits, you’ll be amazed at how manageable the situation actually is. After Paul takes out the garbage, cleans off the kitchen table and washes the dishes, he realizes he’ll be good on time and is now excited for guests to arrive.

8. Should Statements

Lindsey is at a department store doing some last minute shopping. She’s tired, bleary-eyed, and all out of holiday cheer. When Lindsey gets to the checkout, she notices there are only a few registers open and the lines are crazy. Agh, shouldn’t they have more lanes open? Why should we have to wait so long? Lindsey thinks.

Let’s face it: things can’t always be the way we think they should. Some situations just downright stink, but if you can’t change it, there’s no point fighting it. It’s simply not worth the stress. Here’s how Lindsey can reframe the situation: I can’t make lanes magically open, and once I’m done here I can go home and rest, so I’ll suck it up, smile, and get through this.

9. Labeling and Mislabeling

John has been on a diet for a month. He gives in to a piece of homemade chocolate cake at work and immediately afterwards thinks “Great—I’m a diet-cheating pig. I’ll never lose weight.”

Hello my name is Sucess name tagWe’re often our worst critics, and John has just labeled himself with some pretty cruel words. When we place labels on ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up with an excuse to become that label. The trick to get over this trap is to reassess and cover the negative label with a positive one. Up until that point, John’s self-discipline has been strong; he’s been exercising, eating good quality foods, and losing weight. John’s new label should be Success, because overall he is succeeding in his goals and will keep working hard (without beating himself up).

10. Personalization

Amy’s 11 year-old son Luke is grounded during the holidays. A group of friends invites him to go sledding, and Luke must refuse their offer. Luke becomes upset with his mother and shuts himself in his room. Amy blames herself for her son’s disappointment and feels terrible.

Amy’s folly is taking all the blame for her son’s actions. What Amy is failing to see is that she grounded Luke for a reason. She’s done her best to raise her son to do the right thing, and she must accept that at the end he is responsible for his own actions. The way to combat this type of thinking is to first ask yourself “Am I really to blame for this?” Then, realize that we can’t be responsible for every action others make (as much as we wish we could).

Everyone’s situations and circumstances will vary, but I hope you can use these examples as tools to create personalized positive solutions to your own negative thoughts. Recognizing that we all get negative thoughts from time to time is a great first step. Our thoughts form our world; practice turning negative thoughts into positive ones and you’ll notice a big difference.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

 

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The 10 Stresses of Christmas: Beating Negative Thinking During the Holidays

The holiday season can bring a lot of joy and happiness, but it’s also a time when expectations or consequences can bring negative thoughts and high stress. Financial worries, canceled flights, sick loved ones, and pressure to have a perfect holiday are just a few things that increase stress during the holidays. I’ve outlined 10 different types of negative thinking, with ways to avoid each. Below are 1-5.

1. All-holiday blues by Flickr user Stephen Kelly Photographyor-Nothing

Ted’s 6 year-old son has been asking non-stop about a hot new Christmas toy. When Ted goes to buy the toy, he discovers it’s sold out in all the stores. He searches frantically online with no success. Ted now thinks Christmas is ruined and his son will never forgive him.

This type of thinking is characterized by absolute terms like always, never, and forever. However, very few situations are this severe. When you feel the need to use these words, first think about the situation. Will Christmas truly be ruined? Will a toy cause eternal disappointment from your child? Here’s how Ted can reframe this thinking: A toy is a toy, and I can do other non-material things to ensure my son has a happy, memorable Christmas.

2. Overgeneralizing

Christy is typically a homebody, and she’s received several invites to holiday parties from friends and family. Christy typically hates crowds and thinks about how awful and crowded each of these parties could be. She refuses to go to any of the parties based on this generalization.

When one overgeneralizes, one takes one instance and applies it to every possible related incident. I had an awful time at one party, therefore all parties will be awful. When you catch yourself overgeneralizing, remind yourself that each situation and individual is different. There will be good parties and not-so-good parties, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from spending quality time with friends and loved ones. Keep in mind you’re in control, so if you go and are not having a good time, you can leave. What if you miss the time of your life?

3. Mental Filtering

Alex is at the grocery store getting items for a family meal. He checks out and goes to leave. As he’s leaving, someone stops him at the door and hands Alex his wallet, which he left at the register. As Alex is pulling out of his parking spot, a speeding car almost hits him. Enraged, he thinks the holidays are full of jerks and little else.

Mental filtering is another way of saying your glass is empty. This type of thinker often places greater emphasis on negative events over positive ones. The truth is, how we feel after any instance is much within our own control. Learn to look for the silver lining. A much less stressful response for Alex would have been to assess that no one was hurt, nothing got damaged, and there are obviously good people around (remember the wallet?).

4. Disqualifying the Positive

Jennifer spent a lot of time decorating the office for the holiday party. As people start filling in, they compliment Jennifer on a job well done.  No one has an unkind word to say, but all Jennifer can focus on is a decoration that’s starting to come undone from the wall. Great–this looks horrible and they’re just trying to be nice to me, Jennifer thinks.

Those of us with depressive natures can find it difficult to own and appreciate a compliment. Often, we feel like we simply don’t deserve the praise. The best way to avoid this type of thinking is to learn to love the kindness.  The next time someone offers you kind words, simply say “thank you” and smile. It may not come naturally, but the more you do this, the easier it will become.

5. Jumping to Conclusions

Brent’s friend Phillip has planned to meet him at church to help put care packages together. It’s now 20 minutes past when Phillip said he’d be there, and he hasn’t called or texted. What a flake, Brent thinks. If he didn’t want to help why’d he sign up?

This kind of thinking is another example of us being human and playing into our insecurities. Brent doesn’t know why Phillip hasn’t arrived yet, but he’s assumed the worst and is already disappointed before knowing the reason why. The best way to beat this type of thinking is to practice giving the benefit of the doubt. What if Phillip had to tend to an emergency? What if he’s on his way and is being responsible by not messing with his phone while driving?

Image credit: Flickr user Stephen Kelly Photography

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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How Vulnerable are You to Stress?

stress headline collage by Flickr user marsmet481

“It is not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.”  That quote is credited to Hans Selye, a pioneer in researching the effect of stress on the body. Stress is not inherently bad; in fact, some stress can even be good for you. How much a stressful situation or event affects your health depends on the stressor itself and your ability to respond to it.

So, how susceptible are you to the effects of stress? Read through each category and take note of each that apply to you.

Daily and Chronic Stress

Stresses that involve your daily life, such as a troubled marriage or difficult job, are more likely to cause severe distress. These stresses could also be chronic issues, such as an autoimmune disorder or depression.

Intense Crises and Trauma

A sudden and intense traumatic event, like being involved in a car accident or the sudden loss of a loved one, can be overwhelming and highly stressful. Without immediate intervention and treatment, like counseling or rehabilitation, this type of stress can be debilitating.

Accumulating Stress

Are you a stress collector? Stress is a problem that compounds. The more daily stresses and life changes you’re dealing with, the more intense the symptoms of stress can become. An accumulation of stressful events/habits with no resolution can lead to a weakened stress response, and even adrenal fatigue.

Your Stress Perception

How do you react to unavoidable daily stresses? Do you blow a little steam, take deep breaths and deal with it, or does it set you back for the whole day or even week? One of the most effective ways to lessen the stressful effects of an unavoidable, difficult situation is to reframe or refocus your perception of the situation. Do you get easily overwhelmed by unavoidable stress? Work on some daily stress management techniques, like making problem-solution lists and taking mental relaxation breaks.

Your Preparation and Knowledge

Heavy stress can make it difficult to concentrate, but the more you know about a stressful situation, the better prepared you’ll be to face it. Say you or a loved one has an upcoming medical procedure. Knowing the risks, what to expect afterward, and making preparations beforehand can go a long way in minimizing the effects of stress once it actually happens.

Your Tolerance for Stress

Do little stresses seem like big ones? Has it become easier to get frazzled from stress and bumps in the road, big or small? With stress, you have to be the duck; you’ve got to let it roll off your back. The more confidence you have in yourself and your ability to stand up to and overcome stress, the better. (Even if you have to ‘fake it until you make it.’)

Your Support Network

Communication allows a person to see their worries and concerns in a different light. You may notice that by talking about your worries and problems with somebody you trust you will often begin to see a clear path. When you’re under a lot of stress you may feel like withdrawing and isolating yourself from others, which actually makes things worse. You may be surprised by how quickly a big scary stress can deflate and become not so scary once it’s put into perspective by a friend or loved one.

About the Author

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Good Gluten Gone Bad: Dr. Bakker’s Guide to Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease

To gluten, or not to gluten

Have you been thinking about going gluten free, but fear the thought of complex recipes using obscure, tasteless ingredients? Many of my patients who want to go gluten free think they are heading for a world of joyless, bland food. But this couldn’t be further from the truth—with accurate information and a little imagination you will be making delicious, gluten-free food with no troubles (and likely wondering what all the fuss was about in the beginning!).

Is gluten actually bad for me?

Of the many patients I have seen in my clinic over the years, the ones who avoid gluten tend to be amongst the healthiest. Why is this? Because avoiding foods containing gluten (and wheat products in general) tends to benefit one’s digestive system, and a healthy digestive system is vital to good whole-body health. You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to avoid gluten. I am not gluten intolerant myself, but I do avoid gluten and wheat as much as possible and shy away from virtually all types of bread, biscuits, crackers and baked (flour) goods.

man with stomach pain by Flickr user Peter Gerdes

Does gluten leave you feeling like this? Image credit: Flickr user Peter Gerdes

What exactly is gluten, anyway? Gluten is a complex protein made up of many smaller components, including the simple protein, gliadin. Gliadin is often considered to be the toxic component of gluten. Recent research suggests that gliadin is one of the leading causes of intestinal damage in the Western world, where a large chunk of gluten and wheat products are consumed. In people with a gluten intolerance, the body does not process gliadin properly. When a food or drink containing gluten is consumed, the immune system sees gliadin as an invading object and goes on alert. The immune system then launches an aggressive attack by creating specific antibodies to fight against the gliadin. One of the side effects of this epic battle is inflammation, which can result in stomach pain. Those with a gluten intolerance who consume gluten on a regular basis stand to cause serious potential damage to the intestinal tract and other parts of the body, like the brain and neurological system.

Celiac disease and gluten: Enemies for life?

coeliac path

Celiac disease (red) attacking the small bowel. Image credit: Samir @ the English language Wikipedia

If you have celiac disease, your body treats gluten as a harmful substance, leading to digestive inflammation and irritation. This can lead to the lining of the small intestine becoming damaged. Since many nutrients are absorbed through this lining, celiac disease can lead to deficiencies in minerals and other nutrients. If you are a true celiac (diagnosed by way of a small intestine biopsy, not just a blood antibody test), consuming even the smallest traces of gluten can cause serious and lasting health problems. The most common problems associated with celiac disease originate in the digestive system and include diarrhea, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, and ulcers and lesions. Non-digestive specific problems include significant weight loss, osteoporosis, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia, and mood disorders such as depression and irritability.

Managing celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

The only way to truly get a grasp on celiac disease and gluten sensitivities is to avoid gluten in any and all forms. For many, the only real option is to avoid gluten on a lifelong basis, as difficult as this may be. Each meal needs to be adapted and made with careful consideration of ingredients, and finding gluten-free options in a restaurant can be especially tricky. For some, assistance from a dietician experienced in gluten-free diets can be helpful.

Ingredients and food products to avoid

homemade whole wheat bread by Flickr user pierrotsomepeople

You say homemade wheat bread, a celiac sufferer says OUCH! Image credit: Flickr user pierrotsomepeople

Baking ingredients are the most common sources of gluten, but it is also often used in processed foods where flour is used as a binder, filler or processing agent. Wheat starch is processed to remove the protein, but it still contains some traces of gluten as it is not possible to remove all protein. Note: When flour is used as a processing agent, or as part of another compound, it does not have to be declared on the label. If you have doubts on any item, check with the manufacturer or the Celiac Society’s food and ingredient guide. Here are some common food sources of gluten:

  • Wheat flour and wheat products
  • Spelt
  • Barley
  • Biscuits
  • Bran
  • Bread
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Cake cereal filler
  • Cereal protein
  • Couscous
  • Licorice
  • Malt
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Oats pasta
  • Pastry
  • Rusk
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Soy Sauce
  • Triticale wheat
  • Wheat breakfast cereals
  • Wheat starch
  • Wheat germ

Living gluten free can be quite challenging and frustrating at times, but it doesn’t have to mean eating joyless food forever. For a list of recipes and tips, check out the gluten-free food guide on my website.

About the Author

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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