Sleep – Vital for Health

Get enough sleep! 

Close up of Indian woman sleeping in bedSleep is a crucial period where our brains and body rest, renew and regenerate.   Healthy and fulfilling sleep is necessary for long-term health (just ask anybody who suffers from insomnia!).   Having a deep, restful sleep is important for all of us. 

Not getting enough sleep can have severe consequences.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, “short sleep duration is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information”.

According to researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, “There is strong tiredevidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common-sense ‘do no injury’ medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation.”{National Sleep Foundation, 2009, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?}

But there is no easy answer to how much sleep you actually need or should get.   We are all different and our need for sleep can vary widely.   Getting too little sleep is obviously not great, but getting too much has generally been found to also contribute to a poorer state of health.  On average, adults need about 7 hours per night, with the general range being 7 – 9 hours.   Older adults have the same basic needs.  A child needs more sleep, as do teenagers.

Developing healthy sleep habits are really important, and it is good to start these at an early age with our own children.  

Some ideas that are conducive to a better, more renewing sleep are the following:  

  • Don’t eat too late in the evening, generally, stop eating by 7 pm.   Digestion can interfere with the relaxing process.  
  • Avoid exercising too late in the day.  Give yourself at least 3 – 4 hours after exercising before you try to sleep.  
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, especially in excess, in the evenings, as it also interferes with a healthy sleep.   Alcohol is a depressant and will make you feel sleepy, but it can increase the amount of time needed to fall asleep and also interferes with normal sleep patterns.   You will generally not feel rested after a hard night of ‘partying’.  
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex.   This is important, best not to have your office or a TV or computer in your room.   Your brain can have a harder time ‘shutting off’ if work and distractions are right there.
  • Watching TV at night, especially the news, not only keeps the bad news on your brain all night but can stimulate your mind so much that you really prolong the time needed to fall asleep.   
  • Keep your atmosphere relaxed, and comfortable.   Try to have a cool temperature and darkness as much as possible. 
  • Be consistent with your bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends!  
  • Have a comfortable bed and bed coverings/pillows. 
  • Have a regular nighttime routine, starting roughly an hour before sleep, for example, a warm bath, brushing teeth, reading (not an overly ‘exciting’ book – or you will be tempted to just “read one more chapter”) and really winding down for the day.

These are some ideas for you.   Look at your sleep habits and assess whether you are getting the amount of sleep that prepares you for your day.   Do you feel rested?  Energetic?   Sleep can be an area to look at.


Melatonin can be a helpful sleep aid.  Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone made in our pineal gland in the brains.  We make less melatonin naturally as we age.   Things like artificial lighting, especially the blue light from screens, time zone changes and going to bed too late can decrease melatonin levels further.

And sleeping pills?  Not your ideal solution.  They can be habit forming and also interfere with the normal stages of sleep, and often, even if you sleep, you don’t feel rested.  The side effects can be daytime drowsiness, memory issues, headaches and more.  Use only for short-term, acute situations.

Can you reduce your exposure to toxins?

It is one thing to eat a great diet, exercise, get a good nights sleep, have time for meditation and other nurturing, healthy habits.  However, we also need to be aware of the hidden dangers in our environment, food and water supply.  Our world has many sources of toxins, some obvious, such as car exhaust and smoking and some hidden, such as that pesticide coating the apple you are eating or the lining of that tomato can.

Natural or synthetic (or man-made) toxins are substances that are considered harmful to us as humans, plants or animals in the environment, the ecosystems, our planet, our atmosphere, etc.  Toxins can damage our cells, often permanently.  They do provoke some type of negative or undesired reaction even we if don’t notice.


The sheer number and amount of chemicals in the world is amazing!   The world load of chemicals has increased drastically in the last 100 years.  Between 1930 and 2000 global production of man-made chemicals increased from 1 million to 400 million tonnes each year.{WWF, 2009, Toxic Chemicals}

It is really quite staggering to realize that almost everything that we use, clothing, bedding, mattresses, food, water, the air, has man-made chemicals in them.   The chemical industry has become something ubiquitous in our world.  Yet how much do we really know about what we are doing to ourselves?

There are many studies that highlight the sheer number of chemicals in our bloodstream.  In the incredible book, The Hundred Year Lie, many statistics are given that reinforce the danger of our increasing chemical burden in our bodies.  “Five major public surveys testing blood and urine for chemical contamination have been conducted among thousands of volunteers, with the results indicating that every resident of industrialized countries now carries within his or her body an average of seven hundred synthetic chemicals absorbed from our food, water, and air.  The actual number of chemicals constituting our body burden is probably much higher because some toxins are embedded deep in organs and tissues. “{Randall Fitzgerald, 2006, The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the…}

So knowing that there are so many toxins out there, what can we do? j0178881

  1. Eat organic when possible, especially with the “dirty dozen”: veggies
    1. Apples
    2. Peaches
    3. Nectarines
    4. Strawberries
    5. Grapes
    6. Celery
    7. Spinach
    8. Sweet bell peppers
    9. Cucumbers
    10. Cherry tomatoes or regular tomatoes
    11. Potatoes
    12. Hot peppers

These are the most heavily sprayed produce out there – spend the extra for organic versions of these!

2.  Look at the labels of all products you buy,  avoiding additives and chemicals as much as possible.

3.  Replace home pesticides and herbicides and look for natural, non-toxic remedies.

4.  Use saunas regularly — especially the high infrared sauna which has the great ability to remove toxins more effectively than the traditional steam sauna.

5.  Drink enough clean, filtered water.  We have wonderful detoxification systems in our body and proper hydration helps these to function optimally.

6.  Reduce canned food and eating out of plastic. BPA is present in the liners and often in the plastic.  Other unknown chemicals could possibly leach from these into our food and water.

7.  Avoid substance abuse and avoid tobacco and avoid second-hand smoke.

8.  Be aware of prescription and non-prescription drug usage.  I will have a post about these toxins specifically at a later date.  Often these can contribute to your toxic load, so use wisely and judiciously.

9.  Reduce stress.  Deep breathing and yoga really help!

10.  Use natural household cleaners, many companies exist that use natural, organic substances, or make your own!

There are many ways to help detoxify the body.  That’s also for another post!

Stay Healthy Tribe!


The First Yama of Yoga – Ahimsa

The first Yama, Ahimsa, means non-violence.  This is the first and foundational principle.  Violence towards self or others makes a journey into the yogic lifestyle impossible.  Non-violence towards yourself means forgiveness, understanding and love towards yourself.  Towards others, ahimsa shows up as compassion, forgiveness, understanding and the task of not perpetuating more violence or harm.  Do no harm extends to nature and all of mother earth, since we are nature and nature is part of us.


It is easy to love a cute animal, baby or even people who love us back.  How about animals we are scared of?  How about people who disagree with us, our ex’s, or the guy who cut us off on the way to work?

And the big one, ourselves?  Do we love ourselves?  Do we say kind things to ourselves in our head?  This can often be the greatest task.  Often we treat ourselves much worse than anyone else and we would never say things to another person that we say in our heads.

Challenge:  Monitor what you say to yourself.  What are your thoughts like?  Don’t worry about changing them, but start paying attention.

just love yourself

Yoga – Mind, Body & Spirit

I just finished my 200 hr Yoga teacher training!  I was blessed to delve into yoga for 200 hours and this educated me, inspired me and really wet my curiosity to learn more.  Learning about yoga has improved the quality of my life, helping me to more clearly see the path for my life, my purpose, my dharma.

Yoga means union.  It is a linking of our body, mind and spirit, bringing unity to our lives.

Yoga is more than postures, asana, and has many forms.  Raja yoga, or Ashtanga yoga, follows the eight-limbed path, only one of which is asana.

The great Yoga teacher Patanjali wrote about the eight-limbed path (Astanga yoga) in his book of yoga aphorisms, the Yoga Sutras.  Out of the Sutras, meaning thread in Sanskrit, come the Yamas and Niyamas.  These are the first two limbs of Astanga yoga and are the ethical principles, personal and social observances that help create a more open and joyful life.  These are not Rules or Commandments, merely guidelines to help the yogi increase her own awareness and fulfilment and are the starting points to moving along to the other limbs.  These are asanas, (physical postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (deep meditation) and samadhi (unity or bliss).

8 limbs

Living healthy is more than just the physical, although the physical is vitally important. We must do our best to strengthen and train our physical bodies, through movement, healthy and nourishing food and reducing our toxic load. And we must nourish and strengthen our mind and emotions so that we can move through life with more ease and less conflict, both within ourselves and with others.

Let’s delve into healthy living.  We can use yoga as a tool, along with many others.

Be mindful.  Listen.  Move with alignment.  Breathe.

And the enemy is…SUGAR!



Why is sugar our enemy?

  1.  Weight gain, excess sugar gets converted to fat.  Healthy fats, omega 3s and monounsaturated fats, can help increase metabolism.  So it isn’t fat consumption that makes us fat, but the excess sugar.
  2. It is addictive and we crave it:  see this wonderfully informative Ted-Ed talk about the dopamine response and sugar.  Learn how sugar behaves like a drug.
  3. We eat too much of it (see #2) and this replaces healthy foods, leading to a worse diet and much worse nutritional status.  Sugar is cheap and thus easy to add to foods, replacing healthy alternatives.
  4. Tooth decay.  Ok, we all know that sugar attracts bacteria that attack our tooth enamel, putting us at higher risk for cavities.  No one wants cavities.
  5. Eating a lot of sugar can increase our triglyceride levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
  6. Too much sugar can lead to diabetes.
  7. To much sugar causes glycation in the skin causing damage to the collagen and elastin, making us look older and our complexions less healthy.
  8. Insomnia, due to the crashes and highs of the sugar rollercoaster.  These can keep us up at night.
  9. Worse memory.  Too much sugar can make the memory function less optimally.  People on a low sugar diet have improved memory functioning.

What is the number one New Years Resolution?  Yup.  Lose weight!  One way to effectively lose weight is to cut out sugar from your diet.  Sugar makes you fat. Simple.

And then you go to point number 2 above and so on.

And please don’t go to those artificial sweeteners!  They aren’t any better and don’t help with weight loss either.

The best replacement sweetener that I have found is Xylitol, which has the added benefit of being healthy for the teeth, or Stevia.  Both are plant based.

Based on my personal experience, simply cutting out sugars helped me lose weight.


Read labels. (Don’t eat anything with more than 5 gms of sugar per serving!!!)  Sugar is everywhere!  So many products in the grocery store contain sugar, things you wouldn’t even think of!  Ketchup, bread, sauces, cereals, etc.  So read those labels!

Be aware of all the different names for sugar.

Never eat ANYTHING with sugar as the top ingredient.

Remember that breads, pastas, starchy carbs are converted to sugar by the body.

I will talk more about sugar in later posts, as it is just too important and such a simple way to lose weight and be healthier.



Start Dreaming!


Everyone has dreams.

When you were a kid, what were your dreams?  Be an astronaut?  A teacher?  A doctor?  Maybe it was to be a palaeontologist!  Whatever your dreams were, it was enough to transport you into a great big world of your imagination.

How can we as adults, with all the stress and worry of our everyday lives and jobs, find that spark of imagination and adventure again?

  1.  Start a dream book.
    1. Find a wonderful plain journal/book.
    2. Fill it with pictures cut from magazines, printed from the net.
    3. Write your dreams all over it!
    4. Don’t edit yourself.  In this book, anything is possible!
  2. Try new adventures.
    1. Take a course
    2. Go with friends and do something new.  For example, rock climbing, caving (spelunking), writing a novel, go to a “paint nite” in your local bar or whatever.  You are only limited by your imagination!
    3. Sign up for adventure website, travel sites and others.
  3. Start a bucket list.  Add to it daily.  This is a work in progress and will change as you change and grow.  So wonderful to have and to begin to cross things off!
  4. Keep asking yourself, “What would I do or could I do with my life if I didn’t have to work?”  This can help clarify your passions and interests.

Once you start your imagination going again, it can gain momentum.  Remember your old dreams, start dreaming some new dreams.  Start living with dreams in your eyes and adventure in your heart!


The Increase in Chronic, Degenerative Disease

FireplaceA chronic, degenerative disease is one in which our normal body structure or function deteriorates over time causing unwanted symptoms and effects on the body. As opposed to an infectious disease caused by a foreign organism, usually bacterial or viral in nature, these chronic degenerative diseases are caused by the body’s cells not being able to function properly.

Chronic implies a long-lasting effect, not a sudden, one time occurrence, but changes that take place over time.

To truly understand degenerative diseases, one must understand the root cause of these diseases. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, MD, author of the book The Anti-Oxidant Revolution, delved deeply into the cause of these diseases. His exploration of free radicals has greatly expanded our understanding of how these debilitating diseases actually start! Free Radical Damage is linked to many of these chronic degenerative diseases. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

Numerous studies have shown this strong link between free radical damage and disease. Studies have shown that normal aging in the brain and abnormal brain function can be linked to free radical damage.{Rao, 2009, Indian J Biochem Biophys, 46, 9-15}

A good explanation of how a free radical can damage the body is given by Dr. Ray Strand in his excellent, eye-opening book, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine, 2002.

Here is Dr. Ray Strand:
“Within every cell in the body is a furnace called the mitochondria. Imagine yourself in front of a crackling warm fire. It burns safely and quietly most of the time. But on occasion, out flies a cinder that lands on your carpet,burning a little hole in it. One cinder by itself does not pose much of a threat, but if this sparking and popping continues month after month, year after year, you will end up with a pretty ragged carpet in front of your fireplace.
Similarly, this microscopic organism, the mitochondria, within the cell reduces oxygen by the transfer of electrons to create energy into the form of ATP, and produces a by-product of water. This process goes on without a hitch at least 98 percent of the time. But the full complement of four electrons needed to reduce oxygen to water does not always happen as planned and a “free radical” is produced.
The cinder from the fireplace represents a free radical, and the carpet represents your body. Whichever part of the body receives the most free radical damage is the first to wear our and potentially develop degenerative disease. If it is your eye, you could develop macular degeneration or cataracts. If it is your joint space you could develop arthritis, If it is your brain, you could develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. After the passing of time our bodies can look just like the carpet in front of the fireplace: pretty ratty.””{Strand, 2002, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine}(Page 20 – 21)

Within the last 100 years the incidence of many of these chronic degenerative diseases is increasing. According to the book, the Hundred Year Lie, cancer rates are increasing at alarming rates. For example, prostate cancer is up 286%, thyroid cancer up 258%, Liver cancer up 234% and so on. {Randall Fitzgerald, 2006, The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the…}(page 30). What can be behind this alarming increase in the leading cause of death in Canada and the United States? Presently in Canada , 1 in 4 people are expected to die of cancer! {Canadian Cancer Society, 2015, General Cancer Statistics,} And because the incidence of cancer is rising, even adjusted for age and the longer life span of people, the medical system is left scrambling and wondering.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States, scientists are struggling to understand how the environment interacts with our cellular genetics, which causes molecular changes that start the disease reaction. To quote from their website, “Scientists liken the changes to a cascade — a series of ever-larger waterfalls of cellular changes — that may lead to cancer, Parkinson’s arthritis, heart disease or other diseases. Though we still do not understand the root causes of many of these serious chronic diseases, we suspect they can be caused or triggered by chemicals and other environmental exposures from years before.” {National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “Our Chemical World, and Our Dilemma”, 2012,}

However, according the free radical understanding model, we do know that the underlying cause of cellular DNA or molecular changes is damage to the DNA of the cell, caused by those harmful free radicals.{Sinha et al., 2009, Indian J Cancer, 46, 146-50} Free radicals are produced by many things, normal cellular metabolism, even disease processes themselves increase free radical production {Fearon and Faux, 2009, J Mol Cell Cardiol} environmental elements such as pollution, chemicals, the sun, our processed foods we eat so much of, and of course daily stress. Even exercise increases our bodies production of free radicals. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

These free radicals cause damage in different areas of our body, called oxidative damage, like rusting metal. Like we are rusting on the inside. Much of this damage leads to inflammation. Inflammation is also seen in almost every single degenerative disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.

With this in mind, if you are truly interested in protecting the health and longevity of your body, you begin being interested in reducing your exposure to free radicals and neutralizing them once they are in your body, to reduce your oxidative stress and inflammation.

Louis Pasteur, the developer of the rabies vaccine and many other scientific discoveries, stated that the secret to health lies in host protection. Getting the host, our bodies, to have extraordinary health and cellular strength leads to its ability to resist disease and injury and operate at the highest functioning.