Joy Journal

Joy Journal #25: November 12, 2022

Now that the time has fallen back, and there are less hours of sunlight in the day, my friends and I are back to swimming in the ocean in the early morning hours. Rich in magnesium, seawater helps release stress, relax your muscles and promote deep sleep. Swimming in the sea has also been linked to stimulating the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair and can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. 

Exposure to full spectrum sunlight in the morning causes our bodies to produce serotonin, which not only helps later on with nighttime sleep, but improves mood throughout the day. Bright lights have been used for a long time as standard treatment for seasonal depression. Outdoor light, even on a cloudy day, delivers considerably more lux than indoor light.

I love this special time with my friends. We always laugh a lot and it is a great micro opportunity to catch up on each others lives. Although I never want to go into the cold water (and it does not get easier), I never regret doing it. It makes my body and mind feel electric for the rest of the day. #JoyBlogging

Things I Love: New York Times Cooking

As a working mom, I am always looking for heathy, inexpensive and delicious recipes for my family. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I recently signed up for a one-year subscription to the New York Times cooking app and web site. It is a digital cookbook and guide with a massive library: at $50 (Canadian), it is good value. I have been really impressed with the quality and variety offered by this resource so far. Recipes are rated through a five-star system and users provide additional feedback and ideas through the comments. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Codependency & Over-Functioning

What does it mean to function optimally in life? It means showing up in every area of your life without overpromising or doing more than your share. You get things done, you follow through, you keep your word, and you are clear about what is and is not your responsibility. You have enough time to take care of yourself and you know your limits. You know when to ask for help or support and feel comfortable doing so. You are not regularly doing more than what is required to accomplish your goals.

High-functioning codependency is behaviour that includes disordered boundaries, where you are overly invested in the feeling states, the decisions, the outcomes, and the circumstances of the people in your life to the detriment of your internal peace and wellbeing. 

A high-functioning codependent is often smart, successful, reliable, and accomplished. They can do it all. But what is the cost? Over-functioning leaves a person burnt out and exhausted from trying to maintain an impossible workload and keep all of the balls in the air.

If you identify as an over-functioner, it is important to get really clear about what is your responsibility, and what is not. When you take responsibility for things that are not your own, you are overstepping a boundary. At its core, codependent behaviour is a bid for control. Even if your heart is well intentioned, if your actions are driven by fear, you are not giving from a place of love and fulfillment.

Something to Inspire

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I am making a home inside myself.
A shelter of kindness where everything is forgiven, everything allowed— 
a quiet patch of sunlight to stretch out without hurry,
where all that has been banished and buried is welcomed, 
spoken, listened to—released.

A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own.
I am throwing my arms open
to the whole of myself—                                                                                                                                                                 especially the fearful, fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts,                                                                                                                                  knowing every seed and weed, every drop of rain, has made the soil richer.

I will light a candle, pour a hot cup of tea,                                                                                                                                       gather around the warmth of my own blazing fire.                                                                                                                                  I will howl if I want to, knowing this flame can burn through
any perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism,
any lying limitation, every heavy thing.

I am making a home inside myself
where grace blooms in grand and glorious abundance, 
a shelter of kindness that grows
all the truest things.

~ Julia Fehrenbacher

Heart Centered Learning: Intermittent Fasting

Cynthia Thurlow is a Western medicine trained nurse practitioner and functional nutritionist who is passionate about female hormonal health. She believes that the inherent power of food and nutrition can be your greatest asset to your health and wellness journey. In this talk, she discusses how intermittent fasting can have profound impact on bio-physical profiles. It is easy to implement, inexpensive and flexible.

NOTE FROM TED: Please do not look to this talk for medical advice and consult a medical professional before adopting an intermittent fasting regiment. This talk only represents the speaker’s views on fasting, diet, and health. TEDx events are independently organized by volunteers. The guidelines that they give organizers are described in more detail here: http://storage.ted.com/tedx/manuals/t…

Fuelling a Heathy Gut

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Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (Dr “B”) is a world-renowned gastroenterologist. In his book, Fiber Fueled, he discusses how gut health is essential to weight management, overall health and well-being.

If the gut is not working efficiently, the body cannot receive the necessary nutrients for its cells. When food particles and other substances are absorbed incorrectly, the immune system goes into high alert, and it attacks them as pathogens.

This immune response, creates inflammation in the bloodstream, and it moves throughout the body. It causes digestive distress such as bloating, heartburn, or diarrhea. Interestingly, the most common symptoms for poor gut health symptoms show up in the brain: depression, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, and poor memory.

Probiotics are our healthy gut bacteria, and prebiotics are the foods that enables them to thrive. Fibre is a prebiotic and it is part of a plant’s cellular structure. If you want to get fibre naturally, the most efficient way to do it is through eating more plants. One of the most extensive studies on microbes, published by Dr. Knight in 2017, shows that the single most significant predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is incorporating a diverse range of plants into the diet.

Research suggests that we should be eating up to thirty different plants per week to support a healthy microbiome. Every plant type feeds a unique microbe community, and the more varied the plant intake, the more diverse the microbiome in the gut.

Dr. Bulsiewicz outlines an easy way to incorporate more plants into our diet through following the acronym, F-GOALS. This acronym stands for: fruits and fermented foods; greens and grains; omega-rich nuts and seeds; aromatics; legumes; and sulforaphanes. And although it can be intimidating to begin with, here is a list of plants to get you started. You can use either frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables. Dry legumes (beans), seeds and nuts are an inexpensive and accessible option and they add fibre-rich protein into the diet; these items can be purchased from most bulk foods or grocery stores. Be careful when using canned options, however, as there is often added sugar and salt, so read the ingredients carefully.

Fruits and Fermented Foods

A study from Cornell University shows that eating a combination of fruit results in increased antioxidant activity in the body. Berries are incredibly nutrient-rich, and one study shows that eating two servings of berries per week, can reduce Parkinson’s disease by 23%.

Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha, are rich in healthy bacteria, or probiotics. Almost every culture on earth has fermented foods as part of their food tradition because it is excellent for health and it is an efficient preservation method. Here is a link to ten fermented foods that you can easily make at home.

Greens and Grains

When it comes to grains, Dr. B encourages dropping the refined options, such as white rice and highly processed bread, and incorporating whole-grain options. One particular ten-year study of dietary patterns examined 37 different food groups and showed that whole grain consumption had the most potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body. 

Omega-3

The most efficient way to get more Omega-3 is by incorporating more seeds into your diet, such as flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Seeds are easy to incorporate into salad, porridge, smoothies or just by sprinkling onto a meal for texture.

Aromatics

Aromatics such as onions, leeks and garlic contain an enzyme called allianase, which is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. In order to activate this enzyme, Dr. B suggests using the “Chop and Stop” method. Chop up your garlic or onions and wait ten minutes before adding it to the frying pan.

Legumes

Legumes are packed with fibre. A cup of green peas contains 7 grams of fibre and lentils 16 grams. If you combine a legume with a whole-grain, such as brown rice, it creates a complete protein.

Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is unique to the cruciferous family of vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. He especially encourages the consumption of broccoli sprouts, which you can grow at home for a very low cost.

I found this book to be really informative and I appreciated the recipes and resources provided. Dr. B lays out the complex science behind gut health in a simple, factual and accessible manner. He also recently released a more extensive cookbook, which helps to put the F-GOAL concepts into action. Both books should be available to borrow through your local library. If not, there are also a lot of great free resources available online providing delicious, plant-based recipes, such as this one.

If you do not have time to read the books, or cannot easily access them, I highly recommend listening to this great interview with Dr. B and Rich Roll. It provides a comprehensive summary of the key concepts and why they matter to your health and well-being.

Unhealthy Attachments

This recent video from the Holistic Psychologist really impacted me. I had never before heard a love relationship described as a trauma bond. It explains why some couples stay together, despite being an unhealthy combination. I can personally relate to it as it reflects the roles that my ex-husband and I played during the latter part of our marriage. It is invaluable to gain awareness and understanding of how familiar patterns from childhood can show up in our adult lives and attachments. It reveals the complexity of human relationships and confirms we are not isolated and alone in our disfunction. More importantly, with conscious attention, practice and awareness, it gives hope that it is possible to prevent repetition of the cycle in future relationships.

Unpacking Menopause

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“It shouldn’t require an act of feminism to know how your body works, but it does. And it seems there is no greater act of feminism than speaking up about a menopausal body in a patriarchal society. So let’s make some noise.” ~ Dr. Jen Gunter

I am turning forty-seven in October. In the last six months, my period has significantly changed for the first time in thirty-five years. It has gone from being regular and predictable to intermittent. This is an early sign that I am entering into perimenopause. Perimenopause means “around menopause” and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.

Unlike the transition into puberty, this stage of a woman’s life seems to be shrouded in mystery. Neither myself, nor the friends that I have talked to about it, have any real idea what to expect, or how to prepare ourselves. In general, our mothers did not share their experiences, and due to my own mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease, I can no longer ask her about it.

I have decided to start educating myself on menopause and I am heartened by some of the good information that I have found out there so far. Notably, The Menopause Manifesto, was published in 2021 by gynaecologist Jen Gunter. It is a combination of personal anecdotes, hard science, and medical advice. Gunter breaks menopause down into its component parts, robbing it of its shame and secrecy. The book is organized in a way that makes it possible to pick and choose what to read based on need and curiosity. Each chapter ends with a useful summary, and diagrams help to illustrate the book’s statistics.

During the menopause transition, women can expect to experience symptoms such as weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal bleeding, temporary cognitive changes, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, decreased libido, depression and joint pain. There is also increased risk of osteoporosis, dementia, metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity), type 2 diabetes and urinary tract infections.

It is not all, however, doom and gloom. As a gynaecologist, Gunter provides vital information on available treatments and support, from traditional hormone replacement therapies (HRT) to alternative medicines. She also discusses where we may be led astray by celebrity endorsements of natural remedies, and by “compound” therapies – treatments that resemble traditional HRT, but which remain largely unregulated and untested.

Gunter notes that patriarchal social structures mean that a woman’s worth is often weighed based on her youth and fertility. Gender and racial bias in the medical profession increase the risk of women with symptoms of menopause being dismissed. There is also a strong link to cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for the death of 1 in 3 females: more than die annually from breast cancer. This is why it is so important for us to be educated on our options and make informed choices about our healthcare.

In addition to reading Gunter’s book, I also recently listened to an interesting podcast released by Zoe on menopause, which I found to be very helpful. It features an interview with Dr. Louise Newson. She is a menopause specialist who holds an Advanced Menopause Specialist certificate with the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Menopause Society. She is passionate about improving education about the perimenopause and menopause and improving awareness of safe prescribing of HRT to healthcare professionals.

I hope that these resources are useful to you and I encourage you to share any others that you come across with me. I am interested in learning more about this transition so that I can support myself and my friends through this significant life change.

The Great Backslide

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On June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of federal abortion rights in the United States. I cannot express the anger that I feel towards this reckless and dangerous decision. I am infuriated that four middle-aged men (three white) and one middle-aged white woman have the authority to overturn a decision that impacts the autonomy and safety of millions of women: a high proportion of which are marginalized.

Dissenting voices were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. They wrote that the court decision means that “young women today will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothersfrom the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”

Almost half the states are expected to outlaw or severely restrict abortion as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, which is related to a highly restrictive new Mississippi abortion law. The laws will affect women across the United States, many of whom will have to cross state lines to seek reproductive health care, and potentially face criminal charges for their actions. This includes those who have been sexually assaulted, suffered incest, and face grave danger if they carry pregnancy to term.

For me, this is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue. Every woman has the fundamental right to autonomy over her own body. I am incensed that my daughter is growing up in a time where rights for women are sliding backwards rather than moving forwards. I am enraged that other human rights, such as access to contraception, same-sex consensual sexual relations, and same-sex marriage are now at risk.

It is hard to not feel despair and hopelessness right now a lone individual. It is an incredibly difficult and distressing time for so many. I am, however, committed to doing what I can to help. I am donating to groups who provide marginalized women with access to abortion the United States. I am supporting the work of local abortion funds and the Repro Legal Defense Fund, which provides bail support and legal fees for anyone arrested for self-managing their abortion. I am writing to my Member of Parliament about the importance of protecting these rights in Canada. I am signing petitions. Moving forward, I will use my vote to bring about change. I will march and protest. For the sake of our children, and for those women who cannot advocate for themselves, we must show up and fight for a better future together.

Better Brain Health Challenge

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioural and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.

Two of my close family members suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It is a terrible, debilitating illness; but research is showing that lifestyle choices make a big difference in prevention. I recently shared the amazing work of two neurologists, Drs Ayesha and Dean Sherazi, who have dedicated their careers to raising awareness on what can be done. They are launching a free 7-day challenge, starting on Monday June 13th. I will be taking part and I encourage you to check in out.

You can sign up for free by clicking on this link:

https://betterbrainhealthchallenge.mn.co/share/IocuZmDrME3G-7FO?utm_source=manual