Emotional Health, Physical Health: They’re All Connected

This article, written by me, appeared recently in  MindBodyGreen.

When I had my perimenopause nightmare, I felt sleepless, achy, moody, anxious, overweight, and overcome with headaches and brain fog. At the height of my symptoms, I was lucky enough to find a doctor trained in both Eastern and Western practices who introduced me to ayurveda, the 3,000 year-old Indian medical system designed to bring the body into balance. It explains that total wellness requires us to address the mind and body to get to the root causes of illness.

I heard that very same message again later when I attended a lecture by Deepak Chopra. He added that there are, in fact, many types of wellness, including financial, spiritual, communal, and emotional.

Valencia Porter, M.D., MPH, FACN, director of integrative medicine at the Chopra Center, told me, “When standard treatments don’t work, it’s time to look deeper, for underlying problems, such as inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, toxicity—or emotional turmoil.”

WHAT DO CHAKRAS HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

Chakra is a Sanskrit word literally translating to “wheel.” In this case, an “energy wheel.”

CHAKRA: Think of a swirling wheel of energy

There are seven of them from the base of the spine to the top of the head, each one associated with a hormone-producing organ.

Another ancient medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), teaches that our emotions also directly relate to the body’s organs. “In Chinese medicine, we call the energy of the heart center ‘shen’ and that shen, also called mind, influences the entire body,” Chinese medicine practitioner Charmaine Oakley explained to me. “The health of the person depends on clear and unobstructed communication between strong and stable lower centers (the first, second, and third chakras) and upper centers of shen.”

Dr. Porter gave me a great example of how the chakras can govern the mind-body connection and serve as clues for diagnosis. A patient once came to her with chronic and debilitating neck and upper back pain that did not respond to conventional treatment. The neck is associated with the throat chakra, the center of communication, and Dr. Porter discovered that three years prior, around the time the neck pain started, the patient’s mother-in-law had moved in. Since then, she felt unheard and that her opinions were unimportant.

“As she told me the story, she looked at me, stating that the neck pain was suddenly gone. Discovering the root cause, which in this case was an emotional issue, helped to resolve the physical problem and deal with the real pain in her neck,” she said.

How each chakra affects the body:

Take a look at the following primer on chakras and see if any of these blockages sound familiar.

1. Root (Muladhara)

What it governs: knees, ankles, feet, hips.

If it’s blocked: exhaustion, change in appetite, brain fog, financial stress, anxiousness, nervousness.

Hormone-producing organ: adrenal glands.

2. Sacral (Svadhistana)

What it governs: lower back, large intestine, sex organs, bladder.

If it’s blocked: constipation, lower back pain, urinary and kidney infections, cysts, infertility, abnormal menstruation, emotional challenges.

Hormone-producing organ: ovaries and testes.

3. Solar Plexus (Manipura)

What it governs: liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, and small intestine.

If it’s blocked: diabetes, pancreatitis, reflux, weight issues, ulcers, anger.

Hormone-producing organ: pancreas.

4. Heart (Anihata)  

This is the symbol for the Heart Chakra

 

If it’s blocked: lung problems, asthma, poor circulation, digestive problems, low energy, jealousy, inability to forgive.

Hormone-producing organ: thymus.

What it looks like in practice: When someone close to me died, deep grief came with physical symptoms such as sharp chest pains. It lasted for months, and every test came back negative. I drew from my ayurvedic experience and worked on life balance. At another Deepak Chopra lecture, I listened as he ended the session with a guided meditation and asked, “When was the last time you felt joy and peace?” Visions appeared and I cried for hours. The pain was entirely gone the next morning.

5. Throat (Vishudha)

What it governs: throat, neck, jaws, teeth, shoulders, ears, mouth.

If it’s blocked: chronic sore throats, dental problems, neck pain.

Hormone-producing organ: thyroid.

6. Third Eye (Ajna)

What it governs: eyes, head, brain, nose, sinuses, brow, forehead.

If it’s blocked: headaches, poor memory, moodiness, fatigue, excessive talking.

Hormone-producing organ: pituitary gland.

7. Crown (Sahasrara)

What it governs: head.

If it’s blocked: migraines, mental problems, depression, anxiety.

Hormone-producing organ: pineal gland.

If physical ailments make you think that one of your chakras is blocked, the first thing you need to do is get a medical evaluation to rule out underlying problems. Then, begin to ask yourself questions that relate to that chakra. For example, if you’re addressing your root chakra, these would look like: “What was going on in my life when these symptoms started?” “Am I worried about finances?”

There are plenty of ways to begin healing chakra balances, but my favorites include meditation, affirmations, and self-care exercises like aromatherapy. You can also use mantras, essential oils, ritual baths, and Pilates.

What are the subtle messages your body is telling you? Listen to them and you just might start enjoying complete wellness.

 

OXYTOCIN: NATURAL, FREE AND MOOD STABILIZING

On one of Deepak Chopra’s meditation challenges, I heard him say “Abundance is all around us, and it’s free for the asking.”  He was talking about flowers, fauna, blue sky, water–nature in general.

And THAT is also how you can increase your oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love” or “happy” hormone.

Let’s face it: With those hormone havoc challenges can come some pretty awful mood swings.

Following is an article I wrote for Creations Magazine (www.creationsmagazine.com) on Long Island, NY. It’ll tell you all about this wonderful hormone.

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The soul suffers when the body is diseased or traumatized, while the body suffers when the soul is ailing – Aristotle

As a health coach who specializes in natural hormone balance, one of the first things I advise clients is to increase their “love hormone,” oxytocin, especially if they’re experiencing mood swings and stress.

It’s completely natural, free, and readily available—but make no mistake: It’s also powerful, acting as a brain neurotransmitter that can gives you an overall feeling of well being. It’s sometimes even called the “trust hormone,” so any social anxiety is alleviated.

Oxytocin, which is particularly responsive to touch, is boosted during sex or childbirth, but you can access it in other ways, such as playing with animals or babies, hugging or shaking hands, gardening, dancing, seeing a friend, getting a massage, etc. If you live near a park, and the weather is nice, sit for a while and meditate.

OXYTOCIN:

Lowers cortisol. In small doses, cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone, is okay. It gets us ready to flee from danger or get ready for that big test or event, but it creates havoc when it’s out of balance, resulting in: sleeplessness, exhaustion, weight gain, anxiety, negative thinking, and more. Balance is key, especially with hormones, so a healthy dose of oxytocin will help counteract excess cortisol.

Makes you laugh. Because you’re happy, you laugh and smile more—and smiles are one way to increase immunity. Oxytocin also supports serotonin, a chemical that stabilizes moods and affects every part of the body, from emotions to motor skills, so you’ll get a boost there, too.

Gives you a stronger sense of community. Oxytocin reduces social fears and stress, says the National Institutes of Health, in turn building self-esteem, trust, optimism, and better communication. That means better relationships; recent studies show that loneliness and social isolation are as dangerous to health as obesity, says Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Makes you happier. Many of us have heard the term, “amygdala hijack.” The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls emotions. When it is not functioning properly, i.e., “amygdala hijack,” depression, anxiety, fear, excessive stress and more occur. However, oxytocin calms the amygdala so you can control your emotions and fears. That said, it’s only natural that you’d lean harder into your joy, giving you faith, assertiveness, self-possession and trust.

You’re more productive. Happy brains just work better, and much of that is because of the chemicals released by our thoughts. In an article in Psychology Today, it is explained that focusing on negative thoughts releases substances that slow the brain, possibly minimizing its ability to function. On the other hand, when we think uplifting and positive thoughts, it decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well being, helps us sleep and even helps us manage appetite.

Today’ s world can hand us a lot of stressors, and a lot of things can create that “mean girl” syndrome, including food, lifestyle and a lack of self-care. With some intention and a few tweaks to food and lifestyle, that “mean girl” will disappear forever.

ABOUT IRENE ROSS

Irene Ross is a health coach specializing in natural hormonal balance. A graduate of the
Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), she conducts both private and group sessions.
Irene’s mission is to “rid the world of all those hormone stereotypes—one pill at a time.”
www.lifewellnesscoach.net.

Woohoo! Two Little (Phone) Classes on Weight and Sleep

 

 

 

Did you know that just a little sleep reduction can mimic the legal levels of alcohol intoxication?

Yup, studies have shown it. You may as well be drunk!

….AND….Do you ever wonder why you’re always so hungry, even after a big meal? Do you get frustrated when you spend hours at the gym, only to consume cake, pizza, or tear into that bag of potato chips?

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From anywhere in the world you can get a 30-minute phone class where I’ll explain how you can get deep, uninterrupted sleep–so important to health. OR you can take a class on controlling the “hunger hormone.”

OR, you can take both.

  1. Rock Your Sleep

Never let anyone tell you that “oh, it’s normal to sleep less as you age.” You can, and should, have deep, uninterrupted, blissful, dream-filled sleep at any age. It’s what keeps you youthful looking–and you’ll also feel great. (And by the way, sleep DOES affect weight.

   2. Say Buh-Bye to Uncontrollable Hunger Forever

I’ll tell you what the “hunger hormone” is, what causes it, and what you can do to control it–in 7 easy steps!

Questions? Concerns? I’d love to address them.  Feel free to e-mail me: rossirene93@gmail.com

 

Can’t Sleep? It Could Be Your Hormones

We all have an occasional night of sleeplessness–but if it’s a constant for you, there could be an underlying reason–and a hormonal imbalance could be the culprit.

From my latest in MindBodyGreen.Com

 

While almost anything can cause insomnia, hormonal imbalances are a big reason for sleep disturbance. Hormone imbalances create vicious cycles—often triggered by underlying issues and then circling around to make those very same issues even worse.

“The first thing I always check is the adrenal glands (which produce cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline),” says New York Tri-State Area doctor of naturopathic medicine Dr. Doni Wilson. “And then I check the gut, because stress causes leaky gut, and leaky gut causes inflammation that affects the nervous system.” Knowing this, if you’re having trouble sleeping it’s important to look at the big picture and consider inflammation, your nervous system, and overall hormonal health. Here are ten hormone imbalances that could be jeopardizing your sleep:  Continue reading here.

The 5 Hormones Controlling Your Weight & Mood + How To Keep Them Balanced

This is an article I wrote for MindBodyGreen.com. It was published on February 4, 2017.

 

When I experienced my own hormonal nightmare I felt fat, dowdy, old, and tired. I was moody, couldn’t concentrate, and I was constantly stressed. If you’ve been feeling frumpy lately, it could be that your hormones are out of whack. And as a health coach I’ve found that these are the five hormones we should all be monitoring:

1. Insulin

Insulin is usually associated with diabetes, but it can also affect the whole body causing weight gain, lethargy, sleeplessness, irritability, and brain fog. My insulin fluctuated wildly, sometimes it was so low I’d be dizzy and lightheaded. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, likely from a low blood sugar episode, which would cause next-day exhaustion and cravings for sugary, high-fat comfort foods.
2. Cortisol

This fight or flight hormone “blooms” in the morning and then tapers off during the day. When you have too much, you’ll be sleep-deprived, anxious and hungry. Curious about your cortisol levels? Here are 10 Signs That You Have Way Too Much.

3. Ghrelin

Are you always hungry, even after a big dinner? It could be because of this “hunger hormone” that can get spin out of control when you are sleep deprived. Ghrelin can also lead to body fat storage, which isn’t something we are usually looking for.

4. Leptin

Often referred to as the “satiety hormone,” leptin regulates appetite and energy. But you won’t get it when you’re sleep deprived, so be sure to get plenty of deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep. Caution: too much Leptin in the blood can also create a problem. Remember, the goal when it comes to hormones is always balance.

5. Adiponectin

The more adiponectin you have, the more fat you’ll burn. But the more fat you have, the lower your levels of this hormone will be. The mineral magnesium fires up adiponectin so eat dark, leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds, and fish.
Balancing hormones, naturally.

Many people have been taught that hormone balance always requires pills, injections or creams, but it’s possible that all you need is a change in the way you live. Food, lifestyle and stress management are of utmost importance. Start with basic “clean eating” (nothing processed) and then either add or eliminate foods that pertain to your particular situation. For instance, with my blood sugar instability and cortisol problem, I avoid caffeine entirely. It’s the same with exercise; I do a lot of yoga because it decreases cortisol. So find what works for you.

When it comes to balancing hormones, everyone should practice deep breathing. When you do so, you’re inhaling oxygenated air and exhaling carbon dioxide. It releases stress-reducing hormones, resulting in a calm and more focused mind. Depending on the type of breathing, it can even energize you at the same time. I also tell my clients to meditate, pray, and to identify a favorite quote or affirmation, repeating it to themselves often. Mine is from a Psalm: “Let there be peace within your walls and quietness within your towers.” I repeat it especially when I’m anxious about something, and it brings me right down. You might even call it a “moving meditation.”

With some intention and a few key lifestyle changes, I was back to my old self in no time. And that is what I want for you!

The Coffee Chronicles (from The Huffington Post)

The Coffee Chronicles (from The Huffington Post)

 

 

Following is an expert from an article I wrote for The Huffington Post on the subject of the long debate on the health effects of coffee.  No matter what side you’re on, there are a few things you can do to make it slightly healthier.

 

As a health coach, I do have my concerns about negative health impacts, but I also know research is pointing toward more health benefits than we first thought. I certainly also emphasize moderation and would never approve of a six-cup-a-day habit.

Let’s be completely honest, though: The bottom line is that I just love the taste of coffee. I even loved it as a young kid. I’ve never been successful in giving it up. Oh, I’ve tried, and I’ve had my share of green drinks, smoothies and health teas, but I’ve never been able to last more than a week or two without my “cup of joe,” and, seriously, that probably only did more harm than good because I’d drink more than usual just to make up for those days of deprivation.

To read the full article,  click here.

Are You Making This Mistake When Eating?

 

I wrote this for The Huffington Post back in 2013–but it’s just as valid today. Mindful eating and rituals can help you control your weight.  Food has a big affect on hormones, sleep and overall well-being.

 

So while you’re being mindful, ask yourself another question:  “Is it worth it for me to feel lousy tomorrow–sluggish, irritable, bloated–for just a few moments of happiness eating this?”

Here’s the article:

“There’s scientific proof that even the smallest rituals can ultimately help us eat mindfully, resulting in portion control and possible weight loss.

 

A study published in Psychological Science shows that something as simple as singing happy birthday, wrapping or unwrapping an item or even cutting it in half before eating can affect the perception of food. This applies to anything, whether it’s cake, candy or a carrot.

It’s thought that perhaps the delay time between performing the ritual and the actual consumption builds anticipation. That means flavor is enhanced and we eat slowly and mindfully, giving our minds and body a catch to catch up and register satiety.

That’s a big difference from our fast food culture which encourages gobbling, mindless eating and multitasking. We eat far more than we need — portions are out of control and we continue to eat long after we’re no longer hungry. This causes us to feel stuffed, bloated and fatigued — not to mention what this gulping does to the parasympathetic nervous system, the place where digestion is regulated.

Here’s how I learned about the importance of the food ritual…..continue 

ABOUT IRENE

Irene Ross is a holistic health practitioner who focuses on natural hormonal balance.  To learn more, please visit:  www.lifewellnesscoach.net