You Are What You Believe

Written by: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

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We humans are meaning making machines. We go through our days experiencing any number of events and connecting emotions and story to what we observe. The meaning that we attribute to our experiences can impact our entire lives—for better or worse.

As an autoimmune community, we’re just beginning to understand the impact that our brains can have on our physical symptoms. We’ve chatted before about the agency we have in that process. Today I want to explore the interplay between neuroscience and healing a little more deeply. Read more!

Improve Your Sleep, Naturally!

Written by: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

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It's one thing when we don’t prioritize sleep, allowing other responsibilities and tasks to take precedence. However, it's another thing when we struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep, in which case sleep disturbances interfere with meeting our sleep need. Remember, our sleep need is between seven to nine hours per night. A good general rule is to aim for eight hours of sleep every night.

Many Americans try to resolve their sleep disturbances in ways that can actually make poor sleep worse. Here are three common sleep aid mistakes people make:

  1. Consuming alcohol to fall asleep: Alcohol may help people fall asleep quicker but it has been shown to disturb REM sleep and be particularly disruptive to sleep in the second half of the night.
  2. Taking over-the-counter sleep aids: Many people use sleep aids with antihistamines to help them sleep. However, the use of antihistamines for the purpose of sleep presents potential complications. While antihistamines may help you fall asleep, overall sleep quality is compromised. Many people also develop a tolerance very quickly.
  3. Watching television to fall asleep: The light in televisions and computer screens tricks your brain into thinking it is still daylight, affecting melatonin production, which has a direct correlation with our ability to fall asleep. Laptops, tablets, and phones are just as harmful as television. Avoid electronics for 2 hours before bed.

To successfully start improving sleep try the following ways to counter sleep disturbances and best support sleep:

  1. Sleep in a dark room. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for creating your circadian rhythm, or biological clock. Cover your windows and turn off night-lights if you are able. If you need a light, install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb. 
  2. Get some sun. Your circadian rhythm needs light. Ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure in the morning will let your internal clock know that daylight has arrived, making it less confused by weaker light signals during the night. Do your best to get outdoors daily for thirty to sixty minutes during the brightest portion of the day. 
  3. Take a hot bath 1.5-2 hours before bed. Baths increase your core temperature and when you get out of the bathtub the resulting rapid drop in body temperature can signal to your body that you are ready for sleep. 
  4. Know your biological clock. Most people’s melatonin release peaks around nine or ten at night. Falling asleep is easiest during peak melatonin releases. When your melatonin peaks you will likely feel a rush of fatigue and start feeling ready for bed. If we go to bed after our melatonin peaks it is harder for us to fall asleep and get into deep levels of sleep. Pay attention to your own biological sleep clock, which is probably in tune with going to bed around nine or ten o’clock. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. 
  5. Cool down your room. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 and 68 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. 
  6. Identify physiological barriers. Some common physiological factors that affect sleep are hormone imbalances—especially in perimenopausal and menopausal women—thyroid problems, uncontrolled stress and anxiety, poor diet, food sensitivities, and imbalances in the intestinal flora, to name a few. It is a good idea to seek the help of a trusted naturopath or medical doctor versed in non-pharmaceutical sleep interventions to identify and address the root cause.
  7. Consume foods that support sleep. Believe it or not the food we eat before bed as well as throughout the day has a significant impact on our sleep. I had a client who could not sleep more than four hours a night until she ditched sugar and processed foods and increased her intake of vegetables and minimally processed food. She also identified that a dairy sensitivity was a major contributor to her poor sleep (and depression). She now sleeps 7 to 8 hours a night consistently.
  8. Avoid caffeine in the evening (or all together). This isn’t news, right? Some individuals can’t even have caffeine in the morning without being affected in the evening hours.
  9. Exercise. The 2013 Sleep in America® poll concluded that exercise, or physical activity in general, is good for sleep, regardless of the time of day the activity is performed.
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Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World. Learn more at www.this-one-life.com.

Change the Channel, Change Your Life

Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

Has someone ever made a remark that hit you the wrong way, and you held onto it far longer than you should? I know it’s happened to me. For whatever reason, I’ve had folks who have made offhand comments to me through the years that have echoed in my head for weeks and months afterward — and the reason is that they resonate with the messages my inner critic is telling me.

All of us have an inner critic. It’s the voice that confirms all our limiting beliefs about ourselves and even seeks evidence to back them up — I’m not enough, I’m unlovable, I’m not attractive, I’m not smart, I’m untrustworthy and unreliable… I call this radio station in my own brain “K-BULL radio” (because everything on it is bull) and when I have the volume turned up, look out! I can’t find an optimistic thought about myself if you pay me! We’ve talked already about how mindset can impact our ability to heal from autoimmune disease. In this article I dig into the details of these beliefs that hold us back and keep us from living rich, full, healthy lives. Read more at Autoimmune Wellness.

3 Ways That Thinking Outside the Box Can Improve Your Family's Health

Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

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It’s not exactly news that the way in which we address health as a nation isn’t working. With cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and dementia on the rise, America is in an obvious health crisis. We are spending more money on healthcare than any other developed nation yet our health outcomes are among the worst.1 With a healthcare system that is designed to treat “illness,” rather than create “wellness” or “health,” we are clearly falling short.

People continue to feel sick because what they are doing isn’t working. To get different results we need to do something different. In my health coaching practice, I teach clients to “think outside the box” in order to ditch their chronic ailments, start feeling good, and finally live their best lives. 

Here are 3 ways in which I help people “think outside the box” when it comes to health.

  1. Consume foods that are outside of a box, bag, or package whenever possible. You’ll find that “outside-the-box” foods likely come directly from the earth rather than a manufacturing plant. Simply put, foods that consist of plants and quality animal products have the ability to nourish and heal our families. Eat foods similar to what we used to eat before we had factories and the ability to process and package our food. Many people experience that eating “real” food has the power to heal long-standing health problems and significantly improve quality of life.
     
  2. Don’t forget to look inward for dietary advice. What works for me might not work for you. One person’s medicine might be another’s poison when it comes to health. Understanding overarching principles of health is no doubt a critical first step (like, eat real foods that are minimally processed and increase vegetables), but self-awareness and self-trust will help us identify what specifically nourishes our individual bodies best. This is a paradigm shift in our culture because we tend to look externally for direction and answers. 

    In my family, we have a spectrum of egg tolerances. I used to be a total egg pusher for breakfast everyday. I figured that eggs were a perfect real food protein—so we dumped cereal and got on the egg bandwagon. After we invested in 6 hens to keep up with our supply we learned that all three of my children have egg sensitivities. Each of my kids is affected very differently by eggs—from emotional sensitivity to sleep disturbance to eczema. Meat consumption is another example of how we can be different. Some individuals thrive on meat for protein; others require very little to no meat to feel their best. It is crucial to look inward to assess a food’s impact on our personal health versus merely looking externally for hard and fast rules about what is “supposed to” fuel and nourish us. 
     
  3. Recognize that the true path to health is much deeper than diet alone. Eating healthy food isn’t enough, because a good diet is only part of the health picture. Although what we eat is important, we don’t always realize that there are widespread factors that impact our health equally as much as diet. In addition to nutrition, we must also look at our relationships, career satisfaction, sleep habits, movement, stress levels, and connection to our spirit. When anyone of these factors is neglected it is hard to be healthy. A toxic relationship or a high stress job can nullify the benefits of a pristine diet. It is critical to look at the big picture—and put together the whole health puzzle.

We had to think outside of the box when addressing my middle son’s health. For the first two years of his life he never had a solid stool. He had extreme emotional outbursts, passed out from screaming regularly, woke frequently at night, and was hypersensitive to light touch. When mainstream medicine couldn’t help us with answers we looked to naturopaths for help. We were able to identify the root problem that involved food sensitivities and an imbalance of bacteria and yeast in his gut. After a few months of dietary modifications we saw big results—his digestive issues were resolved and a completely different kid emerged—calm, content, emotionally regulated, and….a good sleeper. 

How we thought outside the box to heal our middle son:

  1. We found a Naturopath Doctor to guide us when mainstream medicine wasn’t giving us the answers and support we needed. The naturopath helped us balance his intestinal flora.
  2. We discovered that he had food sensitivities to dairy, glute, corn, eggs, and almonds and removed those foods from his diet. We learned what foods were medicine to him and what foods were poison.
  3. We began to refine his (and our whole family’s) diet to a cleaner, less processed diet—focusing on eating real foods that were largely outside of boxes, bags, and packages.
  4. Over the last year we have expanded our understanding of good health to go beyond the focus of food alone. We try to get our daily dose of oxytocin through connecting with each other and filling our plates with meaningful activities while limiting/avoiding the depleting ones. We strive to carve out time to slow down and not always be so rushed. We talk about how important it is to breathe and connect with our spirits. We even talk about stress and poor sleep and how they negatively impact the body. 

If we wouldn’t have done something different with our son’s health it is possible that he would be living with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder and irritable bowel syndrome—and we would continue to be a stressed family. I am grateful that we were able to address the root cause of his health needs and help him to thrive. I encourage you to think outside the box as a way to improve your family’s health. Learn more about how to do so in my book Full Plate—get a free digital copy of the first three chapters here

References

1) Ashley Allen, “Countries Spending the Most on Healthcare,” USA Today, accessed 3 Sept 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/07/countries-spending-most-health-care/12282577/

Life is Happening Now! (And Why It Matters in Autoimmune Disease)

Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

“When my body finally feels good…
“When I have energy again…
“When I lose 20 pounds……
“When I can think more clearly…
“When I’m not so overwhelmed and stressed…
“When I can exercise again…

…that’s when I’m going to be happy.”

This concept, or a version of it, is a trap that we can quickly get caught in—and it’s easy to understand why. We convince ourselves that we’ll experience health, vitality, and happiness when our illness is gone: “When I heal I will be happy. When my autoimmune disease is gone I will be healthy and I can finally start living again.” Sound familiar?

Yet we can still tap into joy even while we’re grinding through a tough diagnosis or dealing with problematic symptoms. Read more to learn how!