Six Suggestions for Soothing an Upset Stomach

As I mentioned before, I have suffered from many allergies and chronic inflammation MY…ENTIRE…LIFE. As a result, sometimes I can experience lots of moments of embarrassing and uncomfortable indigestion. You know the kind where you’re sitting at your laptop and you have to tighten your abs—not because you’re pretending to be Vin Diesel—but because you want to prevent your stomach from making a horrible gurgling sound. Okay, maybe it’s just me 😊. Stress, diet, and side effects from medication can also cause an upset stomach. One of the first things I like to do is practice an elimination diet. Too much sugar or gluten are common culprits for me. Maybe I’ll try a yoga asana like a standing forward bend or seated spinal twist to stimulate those digestive juices. You can learn more about what yoga poses help with indigestion here. There are wonderful time-tested natural solutions such as fennel seeds, ginger, dill, and turmeric that are effective with mild indigestion (BTW: please see a physician if this is a chronic condition). But there are some remedies that I return to again and again. Here are a few of them:

Basil

I grew up eating dried basil. I never knew the wonderful aroma and taste of freaking fresh basil until I was an adult. And child!

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It makes such a difference when it comes to flavoring your favorite meals. Basil is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. This plant is an antioxidant but it is also antifungal and antibacterial. In addition, some studies have shown that it is anti-dyspepsia. That means basil contains compounds that work to alleviate indigestion. I like to put fresh basil on pretty much anything like quinoa, sandwiches, and pasta.

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Miso

If you have any kind of gastrointestinal issues, I highly recommend fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. Miso is made from soybean bean paste fermented with yeast, mold, and bacteria and then it’s combined with salt and water (Note: miso can also be made from rice, barley, and chickpeas). It can be aged from one month to three years. Younger misos are lighter colored than the older ones. Miso contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B2, vitamin E, choline, lecithin, and vitamin B12 . The real magic happens during the fermentation process. Soy contains carbohydrates that are difficult to break down for digestion. But the fermentation process degrades complex carbohydrates and proteins to make soy much easier to digest. When I have an upset stomach that won’t quit, I love to have a cup of miso soup. Just a scoop of my favorite miso with some warm water and I’m good to go!

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Chamomile

Chamomile is probably one of the best herbs for nervous tension and anxiety. As a child of West Indian parents, peppermint was a huge staple in my household. So I didn’t discover chamomile until I was a teenager. I honestly don’t remember why I decided to try it but I’m so glad I did. If you are a chamomile fan, you know that it provides serenity and calm in this chaotic world and sometimes we all need that. Numerous studies have shown that chamomile is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antispasmodic.  This antioxidant herb has also been used to treat sluggish digestion, diarrhea, and nausea. Recently, I found this yummy tea with plum overtones that has chamomile as a primary ingredient along other herbs such as licorice and gotu kola.

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Thyme

Growing up, I remember my father putting handfuls of fresh thyme in dishes like rice and peas. That oregano-type taste was always comforting and warming to the tongue. It wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me. In fact, carvacrol and thymol, two major components of thyme, create that warming sensation. Also, these constituents work to ease flatulence and soothe the digestive system. What’s more, thyme is antimicrobial and antifungal. It is great for relieving congestion associated with colds because it stimulates the lungs and expels mucus. If my stomach has been flip-flopping during the day, I will sprinkle dried thyme on my evening meal.

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Millet

Millet is high in protein and dietary fiber, and it contains essential amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. This antifungal grain is rich in phytochemicals like phytic acid that lower cholesterol. But millet is also a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of bacteria that is beneficial to the colon. And it is gluten-free, which is helpful for those of us who suffer from certain digestive disorders or chronic indigestion. I really love this veggie burger that is made with millet (and I’ve tried countless ones over the years!). I almost always have a veggie burger for lunch with a chopped salad of broccoli, tomato, and avocado. It is simple, comforting, and of course, delicious.

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Limes

My husband recently turned me on to limes. I’m usually more of a lemon kind of gal. He started putting slices of limes in his glass of water and I was intrigued. Limes are high in vitamin C and fiber, and low in cholesterol. We all know that citrus fruits like limes are good sources of flavonoids that may protect the body against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Some studies suggest that citrus flavonoids aid in the digestion process.

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Those are my stomach soothers—what works for you?

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Five Foods to Sharpen Your Focus

Usually, I’m a pretty detail-oriented person. Maybe that’s part of being an introvert. But there are days when every little thing in the world distracts me and my brain is like a freaking hamster on a wheel that fell off the spikes. You know how it goes: you want to finish an assignment by a certain time but then the mind minutia rolls in. Did I pack everything for my son’s lunch? Did I put away that thing before I left the house this morning? Do I have time to do that thing in the evening?

What I’ve found is that it is helpful to give myself little ten-minute breaks throughout the day. Then I’m able to refocus and follow through on my main priorities. The other thing is just to appreciate small things in nature. It sounds corny as hell but sometimes just staring at a succulent plant or listening to a bird chirp for a couple of seconds can provide newfound energy for anything that you need to do. Most importantly, don’t forget to hydrate yourself with water throughout the day (believe me, I have to remind myself too :)). Dehydration has been linked to poor mental performance. Here are some other things that helped me to firm up my focus:

Rosemary

I love the smell of rosemary. During the Thanksgiving season, I love to put huge amounts of fresh rosemary on my stuffing. But I usually settle for dried rosemary during the rest of the year. Some studies suggest that rosemary is a powerful antioxidant and antidepressant. In addition, some research indicates that the aroma of this herb may enhance alertness and cognitive function. I like to toss some rosemary on a bowl of potatoes when things start getting a little tense during the afternoon or evening.

Cashews

Cashews, like many nuts, are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. Cashews are also a great source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that serves as a precursor to the production of that feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Diets that have a significant level of antioxidants and tryptophan may have a positive impact on mood and cognition. My husband and I love to snack on cashews. They are creamy and buttery delicious. Also, we enjoy Miyoko’s Creamery cheeses*, which are made primarily from cashews. For those of you who are newly vegan, I implore you to please, please try her products because some vegan cheeses can be scary and just…meh. These cheeses are the truth. When I first tried Miyoko’s, I got really scared because I thought I ate dairy. It’s that good, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Lentils

Lentils are one of the best plant-sourced proteins that you can get. These legumes also contain magnesium, which along with folic acid and vitamin B12 helps increase the level of the amino acid tyrosine in the brain. Tyrosine is eventually converted to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which promotes mental energy and alertness. Lentils are a staple on my weekly dinner menu. Why? Because they are hella-easy to prepare. Red lentils do not require any soaking at all and take thirty minutes in the rice cooker if I’m in a hurry. But other times, I will pick up prepared lentils from the supermarket and use them for tacos.

 

 

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are chock full of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) the precursor to omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You can read more about it here. DHA is essential for brain plasticity, maintenance of learning and memory, and neurological development. Some studies indicate that low levels of DHA may be linked to cognitive decline in older adults. So we want to consume as many healthy fats like this one (BTW: walnuts and flaxseeds are wonderful sources too). My all-time number one breakfast is chia pudding because it is so simple to make. I mix in things like oats, pumpkin seeds, pineapple—you name it, if I want it, then it’s all up in there! On days when I really need that extra boost of energy, I will throw in a little protein powder like this one.

 

Broccoli

Broccoli was one of the few vegetables that I liked eating as a kid. I remember my mother would buy the frozen rectangular packs from the supermarket for our side dishes during the week. You know the ones where the broccoli is drenched in cheddar cheese sauce because that was the only way that my brother and I would eat it. It took many years for me to really learn how to prepare and appreciate this wonderful vegetable. Broccoli is high in vitamin C, an antioxidant and free radical scavenger that promotes brain function. Despite my scary introduction to this vegetable, I am blessed to say that I am now mature enough to enjoy broccoli without a darn thing added to it.

Those are just some of the foods I enjoy for boosting my mental energy. What are some foods that you enjoy?

*Please note the opinions are my own. I was not paid to plug Miyoko’s cheeses.

Five Tips for Alleviating Allergies

During the early spring and late fall, allergies can be quite grueling for me. For years, the inflammation from allergens like pollen or ragweed resulted in severe eczema. Other times, I get into coughing or sneezing fits. The first thing I like to do is make sure I have plenty of rest. It’s harder for allergies to attack your immune system if your body is operating at full speed. Then, I like to minimize or eliminate whatever stress exists in my life, which is easier said than done. But I find once I do those things, the other methods just ease your body along as it heals.

The magic weapon that I have found against allergies is to stock up on natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods. Why? Antioxidants such as vitamin C protect the body from free radical damage and anti-inflammatories suppress the effects of histamines that make allergies a frigging nightmare. With that said, here are five ways that I like to attack allergies:

Kombucha

I have been drinking kombucha for years. I love, love, love GT’s Kombucha brand. Kombucha has B vitamins and vitamin C. In addition, it contains lactic acid, which makes it antimicrobial. But what makes this beverage special is gluconic acid that detoxifies the body. I usually like to drink kombucha with my dinner anyway on most weeknights but when allergy season hits, I indulge in a little extra.

Amla Powder

Amla, amla, amla. If I could, I would have ya all day, every day. Amla is a superfruit: according to some studies, it is reported to contain 20 times more vitamin C than orange juice! It contains quercetin, which like vitamin C, is a natural antihistamine. So just taking amla alone will do wonders for allergies. Some research indicates that amla is also anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic. Since amla fruit is hard to get in my neck of the woods, I settle for the powder. I like to sprinkle about ¼ of a teaspoon in a cup of tea or orange juice. Please note that amla is a diuretic, so take it as needed.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are bae! I love sweet potato fries, sweet potato soup, baked sweet potato, stir-fried sweet potato, sweet potato tacos—the list goes on and on. Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, as well as other antioxidants like vitamin C and E. This makes sweet potatoes powerful free radical fighters. In fact, some varieties of sweet potatoes may contain more than the daily recommended value of vitamin A. I like to drizzle unsulfured blackstrap molasses on thick slices of sweet potatoes for an extra boost of essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, selenium, and potassium.

Kale

Whenever I feel any sort of allergy symptom like a scratchy throat or congested chest, I immediately amp up my intake of kale. Kale is packed full of flavonoids, which protect the body against chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer. This also means that kale contains antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. I admit: it took me a really long time to appreciate the magic of kale. I had to get used to it. So start off by enjoying a small cup of sautéed kale then work your way up to raw kale.

Pineapple

What I absolutely love about pineapple is that it has a high-water content. I love to eat chopped pineapple right before I leave the house to run a few errands. Pineapple contains bromelain, which is another great anti-inflammatory agent. Some studies indicate that bromelain can also speed healing and reduce swelling and pain associated with certain conditions like hay fever.

Those are my five–what are some ways that you deal with allergies?

Five Great Ways to Fight Fatigue

This past week has been really really challenging: my son was off for spring break, the neighbors were especially noisy (#livinginNY), and we experienced indiscriminate weather changes like dry heat/low humidity one minute then moist air/high pollen count the next minute. Not to mention other personal or self-employment stresses. Just make ya wanna holla. So, getting a good night’s rest can be an issue. But I know that when these situations pop up, the very first thing I need to do before I employ any sort of natural remedy is to give thanks for the things that I do have. I have a healthy family, a place to sleep, and food to eat. And believe me, that is a lot! Gratitude must be the foundation for any true healing to begin. Okay, enough preaching—here are some of the things that I use to combat fatigue:

Ashwagandha

I have recently started using this adaptogen and it is bananas how well it works. Adaptogens allow us to handle environmental stressors without further damage to our bodies. This differs from a stimulant, which can decrease brain catecholamines like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Various studies indicate that ashwagandha has antistress, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. When I feel especially exhausted, I combine the suggested dose with a glass of water before breakfast. Please note that some studies indicate that ashwagandha may alter thyroid function and testosterone levels, so please consult a doctor if needed.

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Sunlight and Vitamin D supplementation

Soak up as much sun as possible when you can. Consistent fatigue may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Older adults, those with increased skin pigmentation (e.g. African Americans like me), those that are obese, and those on medication are especially at risk for deficiency. When possible, I try to work sitting near an open window but this can be difficult during the colder months. So, I supplement with a multivitamin that contains 1,000 IU of vitamin D. The daily recommended dose is 600 IU for those age 1 to 70 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women. You can find out more about it here. In addition, many fortified foods like milk and orange juice contain vitamin D. Again, please consult your doctor if needed.

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Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D, vitamin B, fiber, selenium, zinc, and iron. They are also antimicrobial. What’s more, some research suggests that these mushrooms may boost energy, which is a godsend for us tired folks. I like to drizzle olive oil on shiitake mushrooms and scallions and bake them in an oven for about 8 to 9 minutes. You can toss in a nervine herb like rosemary to ward off any issues associated with fatigue like sadness. (BTW, this is a pic of some random fungi that I took while I was walking but it looks similar to shiitake so enjoy😉)

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Tomatoes

Sometimes, I’ll indulge in a small plate of chopped tomatoes on a veggie burger sans bun for lunch to prevent that midday slump around 3:00 or 4:00 pm. Tomatoes are one of many vegetables that contain tyramine, an amino acid that encourages the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Enjoy some tomato salsa with fresh cilantro when you need that extra boost of energy.

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Ginger

Ginger is an absolute staple in our home. We use it for colds and digestion issues and, unfortunately, there are plenty of that in our household! Ginger is a circulatory stimulant that can increase blood flow to extremities like hands and feet—a definite plus when you’re fatigued. I like to have a cup of green tea with a splash of ginger juice first thing in the morning. I also like to have a few ginger slices with my avocado toast.

These are some of the tips I use to fight fatigue. What are some ways that you handle it?

 

How I Manage Stress–And You Can Too!

Confession time: I am not always great at managing stress. In fact, there are times when I get angry and just like most people and say the wrong thing or slam a door or two. But there are times when I’m aces at handling stress. I’ve found that when unexpected situations pop up I can usually deal with them just fine. The situations that are difficult involve times when I go against my personality or nature. For example, I am an introvert, so I energize by being alone in quiet settings. So a challenge might be dealing with a person who is the opposite (i.e. an extrovert) in a confined setting. Or another stressor might be when I push myself into a decision to do something that I honestly don’t believe in. The lesson is to be as authentic as humanly possible in everything that you do.

But I digress, here are a few of the stress-relieving tips that have helped me:

Pumpkin seeds

Okay, let’s just pause for a second so I can just explain how much I love pumpkin seeds!

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Pumpkins seeds are just crunchy and satisfying and wonderful! One cup of pumpkin seeds equals a whopping 168 mg of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is tied to stress. I like to sprinkle some in my morning chia seed pudding of coconut milk yogurt and oatmeal. Occasionally, I’ll put a small amount in my homemade protein balls made from shredded coconut, almond flour, and carob powder. It is simple and delicious just the way I like it.

Coconut oil

Yes, I know, I know, *cue yawn*. What can’t coconut oil do? Coconut oil is a MCFA (a medium-chain fatty acid). Some of you may know that this MCFA promotes better calorie burn in the body because most of it goes to the liver instead of the muscles or fat like other saturated fats. But did you know that coconut oil can also be an antistress oil too? A 2014 study showed that mice treated with virgin coconut oil exhibited increased levels of antioxidants in the brain, which may prevent further neuronal damage. I like to put a teaspoon or so of coconut oil on my morning avocado toast. I am able to start my day off in a calm and energetic mood.

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Lavender essential oil

This oil has been a godsend for myself and my family. Lavender oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Whenever a cold is about to hit one of us, we sprinkle a few drops in a steaming shower and we are good to go. In addition, I use lavender oil in my homemade hair leave-in spray of amla powder and aloe vera gel. But studies have also shown that lavender oil may also induce sleep and reduce anxiety. Mix 3 to 4 drops with a carrier oil like olive oil or jojoba oil for a soothing neck massage.

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These are just some of the ways that I manage stress—what are a few ways that work for you?

Welcome and What to do about Dry Skin

Welcome to my new blog! I created this space for sharing natural remedies and solutions that have helped me along the way. Some remedies I’ve tried and they were okay. Some tips I’ve been meaning to try because I’ve heard wonderful things about them. But as I travel on this journey, it is important that I try to use home remedies and natural products that are plant-based. That means no honey, no goat’s milk, no bone broth, or whatever else in the animal kingdom. I do follow a plant-based lifestyle. But I live with my husband and ten-year-old son who do not follow that lifestyle, so I leave the honey and what-nots to them. Anyway, let’s get started!

All my life I’ve had an abundance of allergies and severe dry skin. I’ve suffered from eczema from the age of nine. After school, I remember taking off my turtleneck and seeing blood stains from scratching the back of my neck all day. As I got older, I experienced random bouts of flare-ups but it never occurred to me to change my diet or lifestyle. As a teenager, I hated that dermatologist visits were a regular part of my existence. But no one, including my doctor, suggested that the oily pepperoni slices or the milk chocolate bar I enjoyed might be the culprit in my skin issues.

Later, as a 20-something working adult, I befriended a vegetarian. She was a lacto-ovo/pescatarian-type vegetarian but she ate no meat whatsoever. I was fascinated! She always had bounds of energy and could go clubbing and hop on that NYC transit iron horse at 4:00 a.m. with the best of them. It sparked something in me. But it wasn’t until three years later that I finally made the leap. I still ate eggs, cheese, and fish occasionally, but I considered myself a full-fledged vegetarian.

I was doing fine for a while—until I got pregnant with my son in my thirties. After giving birth, my hormonal changes were never the same. I would experience vicious and painful eczema flare-ups that were just indescribable. I had long since stopped using corticosteroids to alleviate the rashes because I didn’t know how they would affect my son during my pregnancy. I discovered that unrefined shea butter was a godsend for scars. Flare-ups would come and go over the next few years.

Finally, I had my worst flare-up about two years ago. Why? I had been a vegetarian/pescatarian for thirteen years. Wasn’t I healthy? I was under a tremendous amount of stress but I thought my diet was okay. But I was in pain yet again. So I really started questioning what I was doing with my body. I had toyed with the idea of veganism but I always thought it was too restrictive. But it was either continue the way I was or look at a new way of eating that might actually help my behind. Then, I did some research and found out that veganism wasn’t restrictive. It is kind. It is compassionate. And hallelujah, it is HEALTHY! But not restrictive. Now I’ve been following a plant-based diet for two years and it has helped my skin immensely. I will get a rare mild rash on areas where I sweat like my back during the winter because of the dry heat and low humidity but I am pretty much eczema-free now.

There are some remedies that have really helped throughout the years. I’ve found that dry skin is really dehydrated skin. It is best to start from the inside out. With that in mind, here are some things that have helped me along the way

Moisturize from the Inside

I love to eat fleshy, pulpy fruit that is full of water. Oranges, pineapples, and mangoes fit that bill. These fruits are great sources of vitamin C, which helps prevent free radical damage to your skin and aids in wound healing. But be careful because fruit does contain sugar, which can wreak havoc on your skin. So limit your servings. Also, nothing beats plain ole’ water in terms of hydrating your skin. Green tea is also great because it contains antioxidant that bind to those free radicals to prevent damage to your skin. Dark leafy greens like kale and mustard have chlorophyll, which boosts your immune system and beta-carotene for skin tissue renewal. In addition, I like to put at least a teaspoon of coconut oil, another immune-system supporter, on my avocado toast in the mornings.

Oil and Butter are Your Friends

I love any oil or butter that is antibacterial or antimicrobial. These properties promote faster wound healing. Shea butter is all those things. I mix my shea butter with coconut oil (see above plus antiviral), sweet almond oil, jojoba oil (also antibacterial) and vitamin E oil for a moisturizer.

Meditation

Life is stressful sometimes, we all know that. Won’t stop, can’t stop. But we all have to develop ways to alleviate that. I’ve found that meditating for at least 8 to 10 minutes during the mornings before everyone else gets up really helps with that. There are many, many websites that can help you learn meditation. I learned meditation several years ago but I’ve probably been doing it seriously for the last two years. Here’s a short primer*:

  • Sit in a sturdy chair or in lotus position with your hands resting comfortably in your lap
  • Fixate on a spot about two feet in front of you
  • Soften your gaze
  • Bring a sense of awareness to the area below your belly button
  • Use a mantra as you inhale and exhale
  • Observe as you breathe in and out

These are just some of the methods that have helped me. What are some things that have helped you?

*Please note I am not a recognized expert of any kind on meditation. After attending a few meditation centers in New York, this is just what I do for my own practice.