February’s community meeting featured guest speaker, naturopathic doctor Dr. Anne Hussain, ND who gave a talk about using natural methods to boost our energy and get better sleep.
Before Dr. Hussain’s talk, BIST member and author Shireen Jeejeebhoy spoke about updating her book, Concussion is Brain Injury. For more information on why Shireen has chosen to update her book, and how you can support her, go HERE.
Dr. Hussain began her talk by reminding us that our energy level and mood are connected. You can not talk about boosting your mood without talking about your energy, and vice versa. Factors that can affect your energy include being low on Vitamin B12 and iron. Your blood needs iron to move oxygen around your body, while B12 helps in the maintenance of your body’s blood and nerve cells. Meanwhile, hormones, such as serotonin, are largely produced in the digestive system, which help us feel good. Not having a healthy digestive system can therefore have an impact on your mood.
A trauma such as brain injury changes our neurological wiring, Dr. Hussain said, and recovering from that takes a very long time. Here are some techniques Dr. Hussain shared to help recover from trauma, and boost energy and mood.
Dr. Hussain said that not being hydrated (during the day, your urine should be pale in colour, if its dark yellow, it means you’re not drinking enough) leads to our blood not having enough water, which can make us feel un-well. How much you need to drink depends on your activity level, the weather, the foods you eat and how much salt, caffeine and alcohol you consume. So pay attention to your body and drink enough.
The act of breathing moves oxygen through your whole body, including your brain, which boosts your energy. If you’re feeling down, focusing on your breath with a quick, 30 second or one minute breathing exercise can boost your mood and increase your energy.
DEEP BREATHING EXERCISE
- Place one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your belly
- You want to make your hand that’s on your belly move out as much as possible by taking deep breaths
- It’s best to breathe through your nose and out your mouth, but if this is uncomfortable, breathe whatever way feels right to you
4-SECOND BREATHING SQUARE*
This exercise is great for stress relief, shifting focus and returning to the present. It’s a great exercise to do before falling asleep, if you find that your mind races at bedtime.
Follow a square with your eyes for 16 seconds (four seconds for each side of the square). The square can be anywhere – a window in a room you’re in, or something on the wall. Break up your breathing process into four components to coincide with each side of the square.
- As you go along the horizontal length of the square for four seconds, breathe in
- Hold your breath at the top for the next four seconds as you go down the vertical side of the square
- Exhale for the next 4 seconds as you go along the second horizontal length of the square
- Hold your breath at the bottom for the last four seconds as you go up the last vertical side of the square
- Repeat as many times as you like
THE STIMULATING BREATH (BELLOWS BREATH)*
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from the yogic Breath of Fire. It’s great for early morning or if you are feeling tired and need an energy boost.
- Rapidly inhale through your nose and exhale while keeping your mouth shut (not tightly, but relaxed). Your inhales should be equal in duration but short and slightly forceful. You are inhaling the air into your belly and using abdominal recoil to push the air out.
- A short period of time – for example 30 seconds, is actually a sufficient amount of time for the stimulating breath to be effective; however, it is prudent that you start at 15 seconds and then work you way up to a full minute.
We need food to live, and eating regularly is important in order to maintain our energy levels. When we overeat, our body uses too much energy on digestion, which makes us tired. As such, Dr. Hussain asked us to consider:
- do you have lots of gas?
- are you always sick, is your immune system down?
If so, it’s likely making changes to your diet will help.
FATS, FIBER AND PROTEIN
Dr. Hussain recommends focusing on plant-based foods, being mindful of fats, proteins and fiber. Examples of nutrient-rich, energy boostings foods that have all three:
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, fava beans)
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
- Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
B12 AND IRON
Foods which are high in B12, as mentioned, also help boost energy levels. In her experience, Dr Hussain finds that most people are low in B12. Foods which are high in B12 include:
- Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut
- Meats, especially red meat
Iron is easy to get through leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. Tofu is also high in iron.
Magnesium might not be at the top of your list when it comes to thinking about a healthy diet, but Dr. Hussain says that most of us have low magnesium levels, mostly due to our soils being low in the mineral. Magnesium is responsible for neuro transmitter functions, and increasing your intake can help if you tend to wake up a lot at night.. In addition, taking magnesium citrate can help with constipation.The best foods to boost your magnesium levels are:
- Black beans
- Leafy greens
And for those of you who love your bathtime, epsom salts are magnesium salts and soaking in these salts can also increase your magnesium levels.
Magnesium is not toxic, and taking too much will result in diarrhea, but do no other harm. Dr. Hussain says that low magnesium levels are so common, doctors generally do not test for them, but it’s always important to check with your doctor before taking supplements to see if you are on any medications which may interfere.
Dr. Hussain reccomends teas as a natural way to boost your energy and your health. Dr. Hussain said that teas are generally safe no matter who you are because they are not concentrated. Here are some of the teas she recommends:
- Chamomile and lemon balm tea – for sleep, reducing stress and anxiety
- Licorice tea – not good for high pressure, as it may interact with medication – otherwise good for sore throats, and your digestion
- Holy Basil tea – for sleep, blood sugar control and cognition
The bad news for the couch potatoes out there: exercise is important, and there’s nothing you can do to replace the benefits we get from staying active. But Dr. Hussain stressed that exercise can be anything, and you can get benefits from doing whatever you are able to do. Even making changes like standing, not sitting, in front of the TV can help. Add in exercise to your daily routine, take two flights of stairs instead of one – just get moving!
Do you have a good bedtime routine? Dr. Hussain recommends starting a regular, hour-long routine before your head hits the pillow. Drink tea, stretch, brush your teeth and ditch stimulants like TV, your computer and your phone an hour before you go to bed. And when you goes to bed counts too, every hour of sleep you get before midnight, is twice as restful as the sleep you get after midnight.
*INFORMATION TAKEN FROM HANDOUTS PROVIDED AT DR. HUSSAIN’S PRESENTATION
Next community meeting: Monday, March 21st, 6 – 8 p.m.
(one week earlier due to Easter)
TOPIC: Making Music Together