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What is the ideal diet?

What is the ideal diet?

Over the years there have been countless ways of eating have been advertised as the “ideal diet”.

They are sold to us as miracle cures to illness and inflammation, weight loss, and fountains of youth, and while these diets may work for some, they aren’t helpful for everyone.

So what is the ideal diet or nutrition plan?

The ideal diet and nutrition plan is the one that works for your body and includes the following:

1. Eat intuitively

The ideal diet is one that works for you and your body. Your needs will vary based on your level of physical activity, the environment in which you live, and the current state of your health so it’s important to listen to your body and understand your cravings.

Listening to your body can be a challenge initially – there’s a lot going on in there! It may be a little easier, however, if you utilize the spiritual practices I recommend, like meditation. These help you to slow down and become more aware of different bodily sensations and cravings, so you have a better understanding of what you need in each moment.

Your body is wise and will crave what it needs.

Sometimes those needs are based on imbalances, like adrenal fatigue, stress, and emotional comfort. Other times, those needs are based on what you need nutritionally to nourish yourself and maintain optimal health.

2. Enjoy a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables

Our bodies are adaptive. This means that our needs fluctuate based on the climate and environment we live in. For example, here in Arizona, the air is very dry, so those of us who live here need to eat lots of hydrating fruits and vegetables. It just so happens that the foods that we need to thrive in this climate are the foods that grow locally.

If you can, take the time to visit your local farmer’s market and purchase foods that grow in your area. These will be fresher and sometimes more nutrient dense than fruits and vegetables that have to travel hundreds of miles to get to you.

As you are purchasing local foods, find out about the soil they are grown in. I recently noticed that many of my patients had high levels of thallium and cesium in their bodies. These are radioactive metals that they were consuming in cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. These are all healthy vegetables that I recommend often because they help to cleanse the body, prevent cancer, and recycle hormones,but they were being grown in toxic soil.

That said, it’s important to pay attention to your body and also pay attention to where your food is grown and sourced.  

3. Reduce foods that cause inflammation

I don’t recommend dieting or following strict ways of eating like the paleo and ketogenic diet. I do, however, believe the ideal diet is one that limits foods that contribute to internal inflammation because internal inflammation can lead to disease. These foods are gluten, dairy, refined sugar and genetically modified (GMO) foods like corn and soy.

I also recommend eliminating trans fats and hydrogenated fats as these have been proven to be detrimental to our health.

This is the way I eat and the way I recommend my patients approach food and eating.

If you want more specific food and eating recommendations, I recommend reading Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat.” It is one of the most coherent, well-informed, well-researched, and practical guides to food and eating that I’ve found. It’s a great companion to this blog post.

You can also come back here next week for the third blog post in my series on food and nutrition. I’ll be sharing how to eat a balanced diet using the principles of Chinese medicine, yin and yang.

It’s perfect for those of you who may be struggling with illness and in need of a way to bring more balance to your body through your diet.

I hope to “see” you back here soon!

xo,

A Naturopathic View of Dieting and Weight Loss

A Naturopathic View of Dieting and Weight Loss

At the start of every year, we’re inundated with advertising from diet companies promoting weight loss and promising to help you become a new, smaller version of yourself.

You won’t find that here, however!

What you will find here throughout the month of January are my thoughts on dieting and what constitutes an ideal diet, how to eat a well-balanced diet, and what superfoods I consume regularly to maintain and support my health.

The hope is that you’ll find a way to eat that doesn’t just focus on weight loss, but instead supports your overall health and wellness.

Let me start by saying I do not recommend extreme diets or yo-yo dieting as they can negatively affect your metabolism and your relationship with food. They can also lead to increased weight gain in the long run.

Have you ever dieted for a few months, perfectly followed the protocol for a few weeks only to “fall off the wagon” and binge eat all the foods you weren’t allowed to have on the diet?  

Or lose lots of weight on a diet then gain back the weight you lost plus some as soon as you start eating normally again?

If you said yes to either scenario, you’re not alone and you’re normal.

That’s right, your body is having a normal response to restriction and deprivation – binge eating and slowed metabolism, both if which can result in weight gain.

Extreme dieting requires you to restrict caloric intake and in many cases eliminate entire food groups. When you do this for an extended period of time, (days, weeks, or months) your body prepares itself for famine by slowing down your metabolism so you have the resources you need to maintain proper functioning.

Dieting also creates stress which can increase internal inflammation, thus increasing your chances of developing disease and illness in the long run.

Extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can deplete your body quite quickly, causing a deficit in iron and b-vitamins which can result in hair loss, brain fog, fatigue, dry skin.

On an emotional level dieting can cause isolation and depression. Not being able to eat what everyone around you is eating or not wanting to be tempted by foods you “shouldn’t” be eating can reduce your desire to eat with and in front of friends and family.  

Instead of dieting, I recommend taking a holistic and medically safe approach:
  1. Get tested to be sure there are no underlying deficiencies, imbalances, or toxins present that may be causing weight gain.
  2. Eat a balanced diet that supplies you with all of the vitamins and minerals you need to function optimally while allowing yourself to enjoy foods like cookies and cheesecake in moderation (more on this later).
  3. Move your body regularly.
  4. Address your mental health since carrying emotional weight can cause you to gain weight physically.

Of course, a holistic weight loss approach can take longer than most extreme diets and is not a quick fix so it tends to be less desirable. It is the healthiest way to approach weight loss, however.

If these measures fail, I recommend dieting only under the guidance of a trained and certified health care provider. Work with someone who has a comprehensive understanding of your body and it’s nutritional needs.

It’s important to remember that you are more than your weight. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Good health is more than weight loss, it is multifactorial.

Nutrition is important, but let’s not obsess over calories.

Instead, shift your focus to nourishment on all levels. Nourish your mind and your relationships. Develop healthy mindsets and coping mechanisms – all of this is important when it comes to your health.

For more information on dieting and its effects on your body, read this book.

Come back next week to learn more about the ideal diet. My thoughts on this may surprise you!

xo

Dr. Judy’s End of Year Spiritual Practices and Rituals

Dr. Judy’s End of Year Spiritual Practices and Rituals

This is the final blog post in a series of four on spirituality and its connection to our health. Since it’s the end of the year and a time when many of us are making new year resolutions and thinking about ways to begin the new year refreshed, renewed, and motivated to create change, I felt it appropriate to share the spiritual practices that help me transition from one year to the next with ease.

If you’ve been following along in the series, you know that spirituality is an important part of my personal and professional life. It’s a tool that I use to help myself stay grounded and well while running a busy medical practice, but it’s also a tool and resource that I offer to my patients as part of their treatment.

If you missed any of the blogs in this series and want to know more about spirituality, how to create a spiritual practice, and chakra health, feel free to click the provided links.

Spirituality is an important part of my everyday life, but it is especially important for me at the end of the year and something that I incorporate into all of my end of the year rituals and practices.

Among these spiritual practices are connecting with friends and family, self-reflection, creating a vision board, and “burning the year” —

Connecting with Friends and Family

As the year comes to a close, I find it necessary to slow down. The holidays are often so busy and hectic that it can be difficult to truly connect with our loved ones, so it’s essential for me to slow down and create time for connection.

I take a break from work and make time to visit family and friends. Sometimes I travel to Ecuador to be with my family, but this year, I’ll be traveling to South Africa to visit my husband’s family.

Self-Reflection

A big part of my spiritual practice is writing or journaling. I take advantage of the slower pace of life to journal and reflect on the things that have occurred throughout the year. I note my successes as well as my challenges.

I find it beneficial to assess the past; to look at what happened during the year, acknowledge the things I accomplished and the things I am proud of, as well as the challenges and the lessons learned from those challenges. I do this for all aspects of my life – career, love, family, finances, physical health, mental health, and spiritual health.

My husband also does this exercise and we come together to share our experiences as well as our goals and intentions for the coming year.

Create a Vision Board

With the visions I come up with during my self-reflection, I create a visual representation of what I want to feel, see, and do in the year to come. You can do this by writing your hopes and intentions on a piece of paper or clipping images from old magazines that represent what you want to experience in the new year and arranging them on paper or poster board.

Creating your vision in this way can be really powerful. In fact, many of the things that I add to my vision board and set my intention to do, see and feel actually come to fruition.

This is because imagination and intention are really powerful tools that can be used as part of your spiritual practice to help you create the things you want in life.

“Burning the Year”

The year wouldn’t be complete without one of my favorite spiritual practices, a ceremonial ritual called “burning the year.”

In Ecuador, where I’m from, New Year’s Eve is a big celebration. It always involves a fire and a figure of an old man sculpted from newspaper. We dress up the old man and he watches the celebration.

As the old man watches, a close friend or family member will acknowledge the good things as well as the challenges each person in attendance has experienced during the year and offer blessings and encouragement for their journey through the next year. For example, a family member may look at me and say. “ Judy, I know that you’ve accomplished so much this year and had many struggles, so in the new year I wish you abundance, peace and ease.”

At midnight, we write down the things we want to let go off or release before entering the new year and we burn the paper along with the old man made of newspaper.

The paper burns in the fire symbolizing letting go of the past and the creation of new energy so that we can welcome the new year refreshed and with a clean slate.

This celebration is one of my favorite parts of the year. It’s a celebration that we do every year in my country. I love it so much that I try to recreate it even when I’m not spending New Year’s Eve in Ecuador!

This is the way I end the year. These rituals and spiritual practices have helped me to end each  year filled with gratitude, grounded in spirituality, and ready to start the new year feeling inspired and hopeful.

I hope they do the same for you!  

Before I sign off, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here. Vitality Natural Health Care wouldn’t be what it is without you.

Thank you for reading my blogs week after week, engaging with us on social media, and allowing me and my team to provide you with quality health care in our Tempe, Arizona clinic.

I wish you and yours a peaceful, safe, and joyous holiday.

xo,

Understanding Chakras and their Role in Healing Your Body

Understanding Chakras and their Role in Healing Your Body

I believe spirituality is an essential component of wellness, so I decided to write a four-part series on the topic. So far we’ve defined spirituality and discussed the importance of creating a spiritual practice. In this post, I’m going to take things a little further and discuss chakras – what they are and how they can help you to heal.

Chakra is a sanskrit word that means “wheel.” This is because these subtle energy centers that start at the top of your head and end at the base of your spinal cord contain prana, or life force, that moves inside of you in a spinning motion.

This spinning energy is housed at seven distinct centers and is responsible for carrying energy throughout the body, regulating all its processes, – like organ and immune function. They also play an important role in emotional regulation.

There are seven chakras, each with its own vibrational frequency, color, and location.

They also have an associated phrase that can be used to create awareness and healing through self-reflective journaling.

To help you understand the chakra’s and amplify your own spiritual practice, here is some in-depth information on each energy center:

Root Chakra

The root chakra is located at the base of the spine, near your tailbone, and is associated with the color red. It represents your foundation and when all is well with this chakra, you will feel secure, grounded in reality, and calm. In contrast, when this chakra is blocked or out of balance due to a threat to your basic survival needs, you will feel uncertain or anxious. You may also experience lower back pain and low energy levels.

To begin healing this chakra, I recommend journaling using the phrase “I am…

Set aside some time to reflect on who you are. Are you smart, capable, generous, a mother, a father…write it all down and notice how each word feels as it makes it way into your journal.

Sacral

The sacral chakra is orange and is located approximately two inches below your belly button. It is the center of your creative energy as well as your sexuality. When your sacral chakra is out of balance you may feel bored or uninspired, experience low sex drive, or resistance to change.

To begin finding balance in your sacral chakra make time to journal and reflect on the phrase “I feel…

Give yourself time and permission to feel this area of your body and to tap into your creativity and passion. Write down sensations and emotions as they arise. Or even consider tapping into your creativity and painting, coloring or drawing what comes to you as you feel into your sacral chakra.

Solar Plexus

The solar plexus chakra is often referred to as the “personal power” chakra as it is the center for self-esteem, autonomy, and determination. It is located in the stomach area in your upper abdomen and is associated with the color yellow.

When this chakra is balanced you will feel confident in your abilities and sure of your life path. An imbalance in this area can manifest as digestive issues or disease in internal organs, like the pancreas, liver, and kidneys.

To increase awareness of this chakra and begin healing, reflect on the phrase “I do…

Think about all the things you do in life and write it down. If you want to take this a step further, reflect on how all of the things you do make you feel.

Heart

As you might expect, the heart chakra is located in the center of the chest, just above your heart. It is associated with the color green and governs our capacity to love and be loved. Balance in this area affords us with the ability to be empathetic and compassionate while an imbalance can lead to unhealthy boundaries, a lack of trust in ourselves and others, relationship trouble, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure.

Reflect on the phrase “I love…” to maintain balance in this chakra.

Write down the people, places, and things that you love as well as how they make you feel. Also make note of what you are grateful for. Gratitude lifts up the heart chakra!

Throat

The throat chakra regulates self-expression and communication. It is associated with the color blue, and as the name suggests it is located in the center of your neck at the level of your throat. Balance in this chakra manifests as clear and honest communication that inspires those around you. An imbalance here is associated with throat pain or infections, and difficulty communicating.

Use the phrase “I speak…” to promote healing of this chakra.

Reflect on the words that you use and the ways that you communicate with others. Are your communications honest and truthful or callous and deceitful? Or do you have a hard time speaking your mind?

Third Eye

Your third eye chakra influences your intuition and ability see the big picture. It is indigo and is located on your forehead, between your eyebrows. An imbalance in your third eye chakra could manifest as trouble sleeping, lack of clarity, or inability to see the big picture.

Reflecting on the phrase “I see…” can help to clear blocks here.

Write down and reflect on the way that you see yourself, the ways in which you see others, what you see around you, and in your future.

Crown

Your crown chakra is located at the top of your head and is associated with the color purple or violet. It represents your ability to connect to spirituality or higher consciousness. On a physical level, it is often associated with the brain and nervous system.

A crown chakra imbalance can manifest as depression, spiritual uncertainty, lack of joy or excitement, chronic headaches and disconnection from the body.

To maintain balance in this chakra, reflect on the phrase “I understand…

What do you understand about yourself, the world around you and your spirituality? Reflect on ways you can enhance your connection to your inner world and the spiritual realm.

It’s important to understand each of your chakras and their significance because signs and symptoms of physical illness can be an indication of a chakra imbalance.

When you are well and healthy, your chakras are open and rotating at the speed needed to provide your body with the energy and support it needs to maintain balance physically, mentally, and emotionally. In contrast, if your chakras are too open, closed, or spinning too quickly, your health and well-being will suffer.

I have a vested interest in the physical health of my patients, but I am also interested in their spiritual and energetic well-being.

As part of their treatment, I explain what’s happening in their physical body and make recommendations to help them heal this part of themselves using food, movement, and other lifestyle and medical interventions, but I also help them to understand what’s happening to them on a spiritual and energetic level using information I’ve garnered from years of study and training with spiritual leaders, including those like Carolyn Myss, the author of “Anatomy of the Spirit.”

To help you better understand your chakras and improve your spiritual health, I’ve partnered with one of my favorite companies, Wholistic. Check out their tools and resources to help you optimize your spiritual practice.

And for the month of December 2018, get Wholistic’s Chakra Oils at 20% off!

Stay tuned for the next and final blog post in this series on spirituality where I’ll be sharing how your spiritual practice can help you move into the year ahead with ease and in good health.

xo,

How to Start Your Own Spiritual Practice

How to Start Your Own Spiritual Practice

In my last blog post in this series on spirituality, I talked about spirituality and the importance of having a spiritual practice when it comes to your health. This week, I want to take it a step further and give you a few tips that will help you start your own spiritual practice.

I’m sure there are many of you who already have a spiritual practice, perhaps one that is rooted in faith and religion. An existing spiritual practice is not a requirement, however, and even if you already have a spiritual practice there may be tips here that will help you to deepen your practice and take it to the next level.

That said, I want to offer you some tips and resources that will help you create space for spirituality in your life based on what has worked for me.

Establish a Sacred Space

Start your own spiritual practice by first finding a quiet, private space. One that feels safe and special to you. This space can be in your bedroom, a corner in your living room, or even outdoors.

Once you’ve identified a space, decorate it in a way that makes you feel connected to yourself and any Higher Power that you believe in. A few suggestions: statues of religious icons, photos of ancestors or family, gemstones, candles, and any other objects and icons that connect you to greater purpose and meaning.

I just came back from Bali and one of the most fascinating parts of my trip was getting to see the temples inside each of the houses we visited. This is not a common sight in the United States, but in Bali, each home has a dedicated space for contemplation no matter what the socioeconomic status of its owner. Each space was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and other meaningful items and used twice a day for 20-30 minutes of spiritual connection.

You may not have a temple, but you can create a sacred space with the resources you have available.

Set Aside Time Daily

When you start your own spiritual practice, it is essential that you choose a time each day to connect. There’s no right or wrong here, but choose a time that you can consistently set aside to connect with yourself and The Divine.

You can use this time to sit quietly and connect with yourself – notice how you’re feeling or feel the ebb and flow of your breath.

If you’re comfortable praying, you can say a prayer. If not, sitting and meditating for a few minutes is just as effective. There are several meditation apps that can help you get started with meditation if you need support at the beginning of this process.

A few of my favorites are:
Headspace
Calm
Mindvalley
Insight Timer

No matter how you choose to spend your time, before you get started, set an intention. Think about your goals and what you hope to achieve during the time you’ve dedicated to connection.

I find it helpful to pull an angel card, cards with messages from angels. These help me to feel as though I am connected to the wisdom and guidance of The Divine. You may find it more comfortable, however, to read a scripture from The Bible or speak an affirmation. Choose something that helps you to feel connected to yourself and a Higher Power.

Engage Your Senses

Engaging your senses is a great way to feel a greater sense of connection when you start your own spiritual practice. It’s also a great way to remind yourself of your spirituality when you are away from your sacred space.

I like to use candles and essential oils in my sacred space to help me feel grounded and balanced. I also carry these scents with me when I’m at work or out and about, away from my sacred space. These scents provide me with little reminders throughout the day of my spirituality and spiritual practice.

Another great way to engage your senses is with music. Not only does this activate your sense of hearing, but the vibrations of the music can help to soothe and relax your nervous system.

Below are a few musicians and songs I love to listen to when driving to work, in the sauna, taking a walk, and any other time I want to feel more connected and grounded outside of my sacred space:
Deva Prayer
Loreena Mckennitt
Peia
Tina Malia

Wear or Carry Symbols That Help You Feel Connected

As you can see, your spiritual practice doesn’t just happen in your sacred space, but in every moment of every day. Just as keeping sensory items on hand can help remind you of your spiritual practice, jewelry and pictures can serve a similar purpose.

Some symbols that may help you feel connected throughout the day are: a necklace with a cross, mala beads, or an amulet. You can also carry pictures of your ancestors, inspirational quotes, or scriptures in your wallet to help you feel connected to something greater than yourself.

Create Time for Retreat

Oftentimes, our day to day routine can leave us feeling burned out, depleted, and disconnected. In order to stay spiritually nourished, it is important to get away from the hectic nature of everyday life and feed our souls. This could be in the form of a yoga retreat or a silent meditation retreat.

Another wonderful way to connect, if you need a change of scenery or sitting isn’t your thing, is to go outside.

Walking is a great way to connect to a greater sense of purpose, especially walks in moonlight or during sunrise. If you choose to walk as part of your spiritual practice, use this time for self-reflection, not for exercise or sport.

These are some things that have helped me. I hope you find them helpful as you start your own spiritual practice.

Remember, no matter how you choose to connect, it is a practice and requires a daily commitment.

In the same way that you fo to the gym to exercise and strengthen your physical muscles, committing to a spiritual practice regularly will help you to strengthen your spiritual muscles, so you feel connected and purposeful whether you’re in your sacred space or out in the world.

xo,

Why a Spiritual Practice is Essential for Good Health

Why a Spiritual Practice is Essential for Good Health

It’s December, a month where many of us celebrate spiritual and religious holidays, like Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s also the last month of the year, which lends itself to reflection as we move into the new year.

With this in mind, I felt it was appropriate to spend this month talking about spirituality: what it is and how having a spiritual practice is essential for overall health and wellness.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, good health is more than just eating well. In order to truly be well, we have to take our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health into consideration.

 

So What is Spirituality?

There are many definitions and ideas about what spirituality is, but I want to share some of my beliefs and thoughts around what it is and how it can impact your life.

My definition of spirituality is greatly influenced by Dr. Christina Puchalski. She is the director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health and has a beautiful way of describing what spirituality is. She defines it as…

 

“The aspect of humanity that refers to the way humans seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the self, others, nature, and to something significant or sacred.”

 

I believe spirituality is also a sense of connection with a higher self, a higher purpose, The Divine, or God. It is a connection to something bigger than ourselves that is not seen but can be felt. This connection helps us to uncover deeper meaning and purpose in our lives, something we all need and long for.

This need and longing is one of the reasons religion was created. It’s one way we can connect to something greater than ourselves. However, you don’t need to be religious to be a spiritual person or to have a spiritual practice.

While many religions are rooted in spiritual ideas and a belief in something bigger than ourselves as a governing force in our lives, being a spiritual person is simply connecting deeply with yourself. This connection will influence how you connect with others, your connection with nature, and your connection with God or The Divine.

Spirituality can have a really important role in our lives, creating space for self-reflection and deep connection. This self-reflection and connection can occur through more well-known and conventional ways, like prayer or going to a temple, but it can also occur through less obvious means, like meditation, taking a walk in nature, sitting around a campfire, or moving through yoga asanas.

 

We all have the ability to connect to a deeper meaning and purpose and have an experience that transcends the physical body, creating a sense of deep connection with a higher source.

 

Studies have shown that individuals with a spiritual practice who are connected to a higher sense of purpose through meditation and prayer, experience several positive health outcomes, including better quality of life than those without a spiritual or religious connection. I also find that many of my patients that have a spiritual practice are more positive when dealing with challenging health concerns. They have a greater sense of peace, gratitude, and acceptance, all of which can have a direct and positive impact on their overall health and well-being.  

Good health is not just physical, and spirituality is a key part of our health and well-being. I’m really excited to dig into this topic with you this month. Also, having been a very spiritual person my whole life, this topic is very important to me, so I’ll be sharing my own spiritual practice with you in the next blog to help get you started if this concept is new to you.

To close, I want to share one of my favorite quotes with you because I believe it highlights many of the points I am sharing with you in this post and those I plan to share in posts to come – having a spiritual practice helps you to develop a greater sense of trust, belief, courage, and faith, so you are better able to face the daily challenges of life, including those involving your physical health.

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” – Thomas Merton

 

xo,

 

 

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