How to Apply a Castor Oil Pack (and why you’d want to)

Castor oil comes from Ricinus communis, the castor plant. Castor oil has many health benefits.  It can be applied topically or taken internally (in this post we will not be covering internal use). The main active component in castor oil is RA (ricinoleic acid).  RA relieves pain and inflammation. Because it is inexpensive, widely available, generally regarded as safe and effective, let’s talk about how to apply a castor oil pack (and why you’d want to)!

 

BENEFITS OF TOPICAL CASTOR OIL PACKS

 

HOW TO APPLY A SIMPLE CASTOR OIL PACK

  • Rub 1 tsp-1 Tbsp castor oil into the skin in your area of interest (liver, abdomen, lungs, joints, etc) or Saturate a small piece of cloth with castor oil and place over your liver or area of interest
  • Cover the area with an old towel or wrap the area comfortably with an ace bandage.
  • Throw on an old t-shirt (castor oil stains fabric, so wear something that is not precious to you)
  • Apply hot water bottle or a heating pad to the pack area
  • Sit or lay down, relaxing for 45 minutes to 1 hour (safe to wear for a few hours or overnight as well — NOT with the heating pad)

 

WHEN AND HOW OFTEN TO APPLY A CASTOR OIL PACK

Apply castor oil packs 2-3 times per week for general detoxification.  A castor oil pack can also be beneficial:

  • before an enema, colonic, or liver/gallbladder flush;
  • during chelation treatment;
  • for abdominal pain;
  • in addition to abdominal visceral massage.

DO NOT APPLY CASTOR OIL PACKS IN THESE INSTANCES

  • over an open wound
  • on abdomen when menstruating
  • on abdomen during pregnancy (castor oil can induce labor and should only be used during pregnancy if indicated by your physician or doula.)
  • if you are currently being treated for any medical condition, it’s best to check with your doctor before using castor oil.

BONUS USES

Castor oil can be very nourishing for the hair and scalp.  It is used as a serum to promote hair growth.  Eye lashes can grow in stronger, thicker and longer!  Ricinoleic acid is the compound in castor oil that may cause this benefit!  Ricinoleic acid can increases PGE2 in the scalp (and on other skin). PGE2 is a fatty acid, which seems to be vital for follicle health and hair growth.

When applied to the skin, castor oil is known to increase penetration of topicals and make it easier for things applied next to be absorbed. This is one of the reasons I love pairing castor oil with essential oils!  Interested in my favorite combinations?  Email me (sarah at yourholistichealthcoach dot com) if you’d like my Castor Oil Pack cheat sheet with essential oil blend bonus — and let me know where to email your copy!

Here’s my favorite hexane-free castor oil:

Why Your Body Poops Easier When You’re at Home

Why your body poops easier when you’re at home

Poop.  Every body does it.  From Kindergarten, we dive into books like Everybody Poops.  We are told that it is normal, natural and nothing to fear.  Yet, as we age, poop talk becomes taboo.  And the act of pooping feels taboo.  We shy away from pooping at work, when we are out at restaurants or even at friends’ homes.  Ever wonder why your body poops easier when you are at home?  Let’s look to the latest on how gut health (and poop) relates to our circumstance and location.

Why your body poops easier when you're at home

You may already know that a healthy gut is linked to everything from mental health to stronger immunity.  Society is comfortable with why we poop.  But the when and how we poop remain fringe topics. After today, I hope we can change that.

German doctor and author Giulia Enders, wrote Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ.  She gave a TED Talk in 2017 and described why she believes “bowels are quite charming.” Enders discussed a conversation she had with a roommate about bathroom habits and what she discovered about our anatomy that makes it so much easier to poop when you are in your own home.

Click to Read This Related Article: Herbs that Improve Digestion

The Tale of Your Brain and Two Sphincters

Basically, this is a tale of the brain and two sphincters!  We have two sphincters that control our bowels. The one we are familiar with is the outer sphincter, which we can control.  The inner one, Enders described as having more of a mind of its own. That inner sphincter opens a little bit and releases just enough gas or solid for the sensory cells near the anus to determine what happens next.

“There are sensory cells that analyze what has been delivered,” Enders explained, “and this is the moment when our brain knows, ‘Oh, I have to go to the toilet.'”

Once your brain gets the signal, it begins checking your surroundings and circumstances before deciding if now is a good time to release what is being held back by the internal sphincter. Finally, the outer sphincter and brain coordinate with the nervous cells to push poop back if you are not in a place where you feel comfortable using the toilet.

 

Control, Coordination and Communication

The control and coordination involved in the process is something that gave Enders a deeper respect for her body and digestive process.  If we reframe the feeling of needing to poop from being something embarrassing to being a biological cue, then we may be able to tap into that same respect.  By tuning into that feeling, Enders thinks of the inner sphincter as “putting a suggestion on her daily agenda.”

What would happen if we begin being more respectful of that smart sphincter’s suggestion?  While we have the option of putting that suggestion on hold, we also have the option of listening to our body and responding promptly.

In her book, Enders notes that waiting to poop when you have the urge can mess with the communication between the two sphincters.  Always delaying or denying yourself the ability to poop when the urge hits is what can create the disconnect.  There is no harm in occasionally holding off until you can reach a convenient bathroom!

 

Respecting Cues

That said, I talk with clients every day about poop, digestion, and nutrition.  Most people do not have any issues respecting their body’s hunger and thirst cues, sex drive, feelings of sleepiness, need to urinate or need to vomit.  While some of those cues are more pleasant than others, it makes me wonder why we have made poo so taboo.  After all, we teach our toddlers that Everybody Poops.  Even though we now know why your body poops easier when you’re at home, it doesn’t mean that pooping away from home has to be a challenge!  We need not be so wrapped up in embarrassment about something so universal, simple, and healthy!

 

As your Functional Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach, I would much rather you pop into the public bathroom, work toilet or a friend’s guest bathroom and poop when you need to, than hold out and create a belly ache or constipation.  Embrace your inner 2-year-old, poop when you need to!  When you walk out of the bathroom, do it with a smile and the knowledge that your body is amazing and your bowels are major players in your health and well-being.  If more of us normalize normal bowel habits then the days of blaming farts on the dog and feeling embarrassed about this basic, critical bodily function will be long gone.  Wanna join me in a #pooprevolution?

 

Here’s the thing… I know it is not always practical or possible to poop when the urge hits.  I also know that withholding and delaying bowel emptying can result in all kinds of distress.  If you are struggling with digestive challenges, click my email at the top of the page and reach out.  Depending on your exact circumstances, we can either work out a plan together or partner with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, like my colleague at the NH Health & Wellness Center, Falguni Vashi PT, DPT, PRPC.  Do NOT let bowel and pelvic issues wreck your life.  We can help.  

 

The Deal with Vitamin D, Health and Immunity

The Deal with Vitamin D, Health and Immunity

 

Vitamin D is an overachieving, jack of all trades, hands-into-everything Casanova. D’s relationship with your body is complicated, but full of love.

So, what is the deal with Vitamin D, health and immunity?  To understand that, let’s look at what Vitamin D actually is!  “Vitamin” D is not actually a vitamin at all, but rather, a fat-soluble hormone that directs processes in the body rather than just supporting them.

 

6 Reasons You Can’t Live Without Vitamin D:

  1. Proper levels of vitamin D are needed for your cells to use the thyroid hormone.
  2. It helps cells form correctly and cleans up any misbehavers.
  3. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium.
  4. It regulates insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity and balances blood sugar.
  5. Vitamin D is critical to the success and function of your immune system.
  6. Therapeutic doses of vitamin D are helpful in managing chronic pain and depression.

 

Get the picture? Vitamin D is an inside operator. The big deal about the big D is, without it, you risk your body tanking in a variety of ways. We are talking about increased risk of autoimmune disease, colon and breast cancer, depression, and chronic pain.

 

The Bad News: 

 

According to this article, in 2014 an estimated 50% of all people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. Almost 70% of adults in the U.S. were deficient. Whoa!

What is more troubling now is that reports show that 80% of the people who are ending up hospitalized with moderate to severe cases of Covid19 are Vitamin D deficient!

 

When many people lack enough of the stuff that directly modulates almost every single cell in the body, we have a global health problem.

 

For my friends with thyroid concerns, it is important to note that inadequate Vitamin D may be impacting thyroid hormone production. People suffering from autoimmune thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ Disease should get their Vitamin D status evaluated.  Vitamin D deficiency is also a major factor in thyroid cancer.

 

The Good News:

 

That same 2010 study showing the link between Vitamin D deficiency and thyroid cancer also found that Vitamin D is protective of thyroid cells, and is actually preventing cells from becoming cancerous. 

 

Plenty of vitamin D is a sunbeam away!  Bikini and speedo clad bodies exposed to enough UVB sun rays just to pink you up a bit can manufacture enough Vitamin D to reach an equivalent of 25,000 IU. Incredibly, your body is a Vitamin D factory not only when exposed to enough sun, but also the Vitamin D that you make lasts at least twice as long as supplemented Vitamin D in your bloodstream… But there is a trick to it!

 

How Do You “Make” Vitamin D?

 

Want to be the best D-maker you can be? Of course, you do! There are a few things you need to know. When UVB rays hit the surface of your skin, your skin begins converting a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3. The problem is that the D3 formed on your skin does not immediately make it to your bloodstream. The absorption process takes up to 48 hours and requires that you do not scrub or soap it off (you are thinking about stinking, I know).

 

Healthy Action Steps:

  1. Start by getting your blood level of 25-hydroxy so you have a baseline number established.
  2. Next, begin trying to catch some rays every day.  10-15 minutes may be all you need.  Make the best decision based on your location and your personal risk for melanoma.
  3. Post sunning, in the shower, wash pits and private bits. Just rinsing off the rest will do.
  4. Finally, re-checking your levels in a few months and seeing if you are making a difference.

 

How Much Do You Need?

 

The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU daily for adults through age 70 and 800 IU daily thereafter. Intake does not really do much for you if you do not know your blood level though, so ask your doctor for that 25-hydroxy test. Blood levels about 30 ng/mL are considered adequate. However, for people with chronic illness and autoimmune disease and for COVID-19 protection, many integrative doctors recommend blood levels of 60-80 ng/ml.

 

Supplementing

Talk to your doctor about a good starting amount for supplementation if your numbers are not in range with sun exposure or if you can’t sunbathe because of a history of skin cancer or if you’re at high risk for melanoma.

  • A good Vitamin D supplement will be oil-based Vitamin D3.
  • You can choose liquid drops or capsules.
  • Re-check your levels every other month to avoid toxicity.
  • 500 mcg Vitamin K2, in the form of MK4 or MK7, has been shown to enhance the absorption of Vitamin D and helps prevent any calcium liberated by Vitamin D supplementation from being deposited in muscle tissue rather than in bones or teeth.  Note: do NOT supplement K2 if you are on a blood thinner or if you have Factor V Leiden.
  • If you cannot get your level to raise above 30 with adequate supplementation, consider getting tested for a defect on the VDR gene that could be prohibiting your body from absorbing Vitamin D.

 

Food Sources of Vitamin D and K2

graphic depicting Vitamin D sources

sunlight, raw milk, cod liver oil, salmon, caviar, sardines, mushrooms, eggs, mackerel, tuna

One of the few great sources of Vitamin D as far as food goes is mushrooms. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Adding a handful of ‘shrooms to a beautiful miso broth or sautéing them in a stir-fry with other veggies!
  2. Making a tall glass of your favorite juice or smoothie and go enjoy it while lounging in the sun under a gorgeous blue sky.
  3. Tapping in to Vitamin D in eggs to make omelets or scrambles.
  4. Enjoying a Caesar dressing made with sardine instead of anchovy (if you eat fish).

 

A vitamin K rich diet includes lots of cabbage, kale, spinach, Swiss Chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, wheat bran and sauerkraut.  Eating these foods with a little healthy fat, like that from olive oil, coconut oil or avocado will help boost absorption.  Like K2 supplementation, be cautious of a major increase in K-rich foods if you have clotting issues.

Conclusion

Do you feel like you have a better understanding of the Deal with Vitamin D Health and Immunity?

Are you struggling to get your Vitamin D status into the healthy range?

Are you more concerned that your Vitamin D level is low now that Covid 19 is such a huge factor in world health?

If you want to dig in more deeply and get personalized support, let’s get you on the schedule.  Email sarah@yourholistichealthcoach.com and we can get started!

More information

 

The Secret Bedtime Drink For People Who Need Better Sleep

In a world where more people are turning to prescription and supplement sleep aids, a whole food solution for sleep and health may not be the first choice.  However, as a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner, whole foods and natural options are my go-to.  If a good night’s sleep is a challenge for you, join me.  I will share my secret bedtime drink for people who need better sleep.

 

Turmeric is one of the most researched plants on the planet. Over 8000 scientific studies explore and confirm turmeric’s medicinal properties. Everything from depression and diabetes, to inflammation and blood pressure regulation; even liver detoxification and immune system support! 

 

This is an ingredient that you definitely want to have on hand.

First, the good news: turmeric is affordable and available.  Second, it has a neutral taste.  Third, it is easy to incorporate into your daily routine.  Hint: it’s the star of our bedtime elixir recipe!

 

Traditionally, turmeric is used in teas, curries, broths and herbal supplements. Those are great ways to get turmeric into play. But, as a healthy foodie, you are probably familiar with adding turmeric to a meal. 

 

Here’s my truth:

I’ve had a relationship with turmeric for years. It’s been in my soups and stews. I toss in with my potatoes and pasta sauces. It even gets added into my morning smoothies! As a student of Ayurveda, I learned that daily use of turmeric could have a profoundly positive impact on my health.  So, we’ve been in a hot little relationship ever since!  

 

Turmeric tea sipped throughout the day is a go-to if I’m feeling bloated or at all inflamed. I simply slice a piece of turmeric root and a piece of ginger. Then, I grate them and add to a pot with water. Finally, simmer, steep and sip. 

 

Incorporating turmeric into my nighttime routine has been magical. You deserve something magical, too!  

 

Turmeric And Coconut Milk Bedtime Elixir

Servings: 4

Turmeric-infused coconut milk is delicious and warming. Try this before bed to improve digestion. It can calm the nervous system and help prepare you for restful sleep. Best results will be seen over time. The ingredients work to nourish and replenish your body.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tsp powdered turmeric or 2 tbsp peeled, fresh turmeric 
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger or 2 tbsp peeled, fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup, raw honey OR a squirt of liquid stevia
  • 12 peppercorns, gently crushed

Directions:

  • First, combine everything except the coconut oil into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. 
  • Next, let the mixture bubble gently for about 5 minutes, then shut off the heat.  
  • After about 5 minutes of cooling, strain the mixture through cheesecloth (or a fine strainer if you prefer a smoother texture).
  • Stir in the coconut oil.
  • Finally, taste and add maple syrup, honey or stevia if desired! 

 

The Amazing Benefits and WHY You Should Consider This Turmeric Coconut Bedtime Elixir:

  • Coconut Milk And Coconut Oil – The fiber and fat content of coconut are what help coax sound sleep. Fiber and fat support balanced blood sugar.
  • Ginger Natural anti-inflammatory that can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, bursitis and other musculoskeletal issues. Particularly calming for the digestive tract. For sleep, it’s the melatonin present in ginger that seals the deal!
  • NutmegActs as a natural relaxant in small doses.
  • Black Pepperpiperine in pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin. It contains nutrients, including manganese, iron and vitamin K. Also, commonly used to calm digestive issues.

 

Bonus Tip –

Some golden milk recipes include cinnamon. As a Functional Nutritionist, I encourage you to skip cinnamon at bedtime. Why? Because cinnamon is more of a stimulant. Traditional aromatherapy uses cassia and cinnamon oil to promote alertness. While the scent is warm and comforting, the spice helps stimulate digestive fire. So, save cinnamon for the morning cup!

 

Sources:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03511/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Golden-Milk.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78

These Two Sexy Low-Sugar Smoothies Are Your New Secret Weapon

Low Sugar Smoothie Ideas  

Smoothies are a filling and nutrient-dense, but I can’t tell you how many of my clients come in wondering why their weight loss has stalled or why they are breaking out when everything seems to be on point… smoothies included.

The problem with many smoothies is that they are loaded with high glycemic fruits which spike blood sugar and can trigger hormone imbalance and a host of other health issues.

Don’t ditch your blender just yet, though!

Healthy smoothies are not only possible, but they’re easy and delicious! 

The keys to making smoothies that will be your new secret weapon on the journey to health:

  1. Take a break from sugar-laden fruits like bananas, mango, and papaya.
  2. Opt for fiber, fat, and protein from flaxseeds, hemp seeds, dark leafy greens, and avocados.  Believe it or not, cauliflower is another great substitute for banana when it comes to creaminess and neutral flavor!

Your body will get the nutrients it needs to remove toxins, boost weight loss, and help to strengthen your immune system, minus the blood sugar spike from traditional smoothie recipes.  

I love drinking a green smoothie first thing in the morning to get my day started.

The Green Magic Smoothie (see below) is my favorite energy booster.  If you’re struggling with extra stress, try the additional cacao or maca for magnesium and minerals known to help keep stress levels in check. 

Green Magic Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder or 1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)

  

Wellness 101 Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ orange, peeled 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds 
  • Dash of cinnamon 

For both smoothies, simply add all ingredients to your high powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You can add ice if you prefer a colder drink.  Do try to drink your smoothie right away as these are best fresh. 

Tip: If 2 cups of spinach grosses you out, start with 1/2 cup and work your way up.  Baby stepping is a-ok when it comes to shifting into healthier habits!

 

Your Action Steps:

  1. Comment below and share your favorite low-glycemic smoothie combo.
  2. Post a pic of your secret-weapon smoothie on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @yourholistichealthcoach and hashtag #smoothieswsarah 
  3. Join me over on Facebook and on Instagram (Like and Follow so you don’t miss a thing!)
  4. Check out my new partnership with Soul Path Wellness — we are offering off a FREE 7-Day Sugar Challenge October 20-26. Don’t miss out on this goodness — trust me!  Get all the details here! 

 

Cheers,

Sarah

 

Beyond Food: How Smiling More can Improve your Health

I’ve been wanting to start this section of the blog for a long time.  I’ll be using the Beyond Food columns to share information about things you can do to nourish yourself and improve your health that are not food.  Let’s explore the many things that can nourish us… starting with a smile!

Back in 2012, researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling has a positive effect on our happiness and physical health.  In the study, they measured how participants responded to stress while making a fake smile, creating a real/natural smile and then while having a neutral face.  The results showed that smiling during a taxing task—not just after—can help the body and mind recover more quickly from the stressful event.  Previous studies have shown similar benefits that last after stressful events have passed.

Bottom line.  Smiling is good for you.

Let’s look at some of the reasons WHY…

When you smile, your body releases endorphins.  Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels.  The movements of the muscles in your face are interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases endorphins.

Faking a smile (or a laugh) works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way. This is known as the facial feedback hypothesis. The more we smile and laugh, the more often we feel happier and relaxed.

  • endorphins act as the body’s natural pain killers. Laughing and smiling can be very effective in chronic pain management.  It also helps with short term pain issues. 
  • endorphins decrease cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that becomes more active when we feel stressed.  It contributes to unpleasant feelings and anxiety but also impacts heart rate and blood pressure. By lowering cortisol and keeping it balanced, we can reduce negative feelings and feel better!

Smile more often:

  • Smile and laugh regularly. Your brain does not know the difference between a fake or real smile, and by doing so more often you will feel better, and become more likely to smile and laugh more spontaneously.
  • Try to smile when you are in the midst of something challenging.  Personally, I think about something that makes me genuinely happy and I lift the corners of my mouth, soften my eyes and smile into the thought… but the research shows you can just make a smile and go from there.
  • Spend time with people who smile.  Just like laughter, smiles are contagious… it is hard to keep a straight face when people around you are smiling.

Pin It on Pinterest