Millions of people experience depression and anxiety, and often feel their only option is to take medications that may not completely resolve the issues. Studies show that anxiety and depression are related both to our genetic tendencies and our exposure to various stresses in life. We can address our genetic tendencies and help our bodies recover from stress using natural approaches such as mindfulness, dietary changes, nutrients, amino acid therapy, as well as optimizing hormones, blood sugar, and gut bacteria. Naturopathic doctors can serve this population and help people resolve mood-related issues once and for all.
To view the archive of past webinar recordings, please click here.
About the Presenter
Donielle (Doni) Wilson, is a doctor of naturopathic medicine (Bastyr University alumna), natural health expert, nutritionist, midwife and author who believes it is possible to be healthy, even when we are stressed. After experiencing and recovering from stress herself, Dr. Doni wrote a book called The Stress Remedy. In that book she redefines stress to include toxins, food sensitivities, and lack of sleep. She explains how stress causes adrenal distress, leaky gut, and blood sugar imbalances. And she offers expert guidance on how to reclaim optimal health with the approach she has used to help thousands of patients. She specializes in gluten sensitivity, intestinal permeability, adrenal stress, insulin resistance, neurotransmitter imbalances, hypothyroidism, women’s health issues, autoimmunity and genetic variations called “SNPs”, such as MTHFR, which can have a profound impact upon your health. For nearly 20 years, she has helped women, men and children overcome their most perplexing health challenges and achieve their wellness goals by crafting individualized strategies that address the whole body and the underlying causes of health issues. Dr. Doni is frequently called upon to discuss her approach in the media, as well as at both public and professional events. She writes a blog that you can find at DrDoni.com.
Welcome back to your weekly dose of healthy kitchen tips! Each week we explore a new herb and its health benefits. Today we’ll discuss one of the most common grains that you’ll be sure to come across in almost any kitchen—oats. Let’s get started!
Sometimes referred to as Avena (from the Latin name, Avena Sativa), oats are one of the most popular breakfast foods. Walk into almost any breakfast restaurant and you’ll likely see some variation of oatmeal on the menu. To be clear though, the kind of oats that you eat are important, as the glycemic index (how quickly a food gets converted to glucose by your body) can vary depending on how much they are processed and how they are prepared. In general, steel-cut oats have the lowest impact on blood sugar while instant or quick oats have the highest. Also, since grains are less nutrient-dense than other whole vegetables, it’s best to eat them in moderation.
Medicinally, the health benefits can vary depending on the part of the oat plant in use.
Oatmeal (made from the hulled kernel) is the breakfast food we’ve discussed so far. Oatmeal can also be used in an herbal bath for eczema or hives.
Oatstraw refers to the entire plant (both the tops and the stems). It also can be used as a food and may provide calming effects to the nervous system, with uses in both stress and insomnia.
Milky oats or milky green oats refer to the oat tops, and are picked fresh at the height of the season.
Where do oats come from? Where can I find them?
Despite their popularity today, oats were actually one of the last of the major grains to be domesticated—roughly 3000 years ago in Europe. This is likely due to the fact that they have a higher amount of natural fats and fat dissolving enzymes that make them go rancid quickly. It is these fats that give oats some of their health boosting effects.
Walk down the cereal aisle of any grocery store and you’ll likely find a container of oatmeal. When shopping for oats, choose steel-cut or rolled oats instead of the instant variety. A frequent question that comes up is whether oats are gluten-free. Oats themselves are completely gluten-free, however the machines that process oats are often used for processing wheat as well. Unless the container specifically says “gluten free” the oats may contain trace amounts of wheat.
How do oats help my health?
Oats are an excellent source of fiber. Because of this, they can help keep you regular while adding protection for the colon.1 They’ve also been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and even regulate the immune system. 2,3,4
What medical conditions/symptoms are oats good for?
Sugar is one of the oldest commodities, and has at times been so valued that it was kept under lock and key in a sugar safe! The domestication of sugar cane occurred around 8,000BC in New Guinea. Nautical trade routes were responsible for the expansion of sugar throughout Southeast Asia, China, and India. Eventually, sugar cane cultivation made its way to Europe and westward to the New World. Today, sugar production exceeds 190 million metric tons each year – that’s one sweet industry!1
In modern culinary application, sugar is responsible for much more than adding sweetness. It is used to facilitate the caramelization processes, balance acidity in foods, and contributes to the appearance, flavor, and viscosity of liquid food items like glazes, sauces, and marinades. There are many types of sugar and sweeteners. Choosing the right one is important in achieving the desired end product. When it comes to sugar and other sweeteners, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Consumption of sugar, particularly in excess, is linked to development of a number of chronic degenerative health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and cancer.2 The American Heart Association recommends no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams) of added sugar per day for men and no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) for women.3 Depending on energy expenditure, age and physical conditions, sugar consumption may be recommended at as close to zero as possible. The food market is home to a number of different sweetener options, each with different properties, strengths, and weaknesses.
Standard white table sugar is primarily made from sugarcane but sugar beets may also be used. This kind of sugar is highly refined and is often the type that comes to mind when people think of sugar. Sugarcane resembles bamboo and is a tropical plant that grows well in warm states like Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. The plant makes sugar in its large leaves then sends that sugar to the stalk/cane for storage.
Once the sugarcane is harvested it is transported to a factory where it undergoes a mastication process to extract the juice. Next, the juice is purified, filtered, and evaporated into golden brown, raw sugar crystals. The golden color is due to the presence of a thin layer of molasses. The raw sugar is then sent to a refinery where the molasses and sucrose are separated resulting in white sugar. The most common form of white sugar is the granulated form but other types such as turbinado, brown, and confectioners are also available.
Although refined sugar is considered a nutritive sweetener due to its 4 calories per gram caloric content, it is highly processed and does not provide any additional benefits such as antioxidants or minerals. However, the darker varieties such as brown sugar and turbinado sugar do retain some nutrients such as iron, potassium, and magnesium due to their molasses content.
Brown sugar is a moist, packable granulated cane sugar that has molasses added back to it. It can be purchased in both light and dark forms. Dark brown sugar has a stronger flavor and more molasses.
Turbinado sugar, also called “raw” sugar, is the result of the first pressing of the sugar cane. The syrup derived from the first pressing of the sugarcane is boiled to form crystals that are then spun to remove any remaining liquid. Turbinado sugar crystals are coarser, darker, and more well-rounded in flavor than granulated or brown sugar because they are less refined. Because it is less refined, turbinado retains more of the natural flavors and molasses than refined sugar does.
Tips for Use
White sugar can be used in baking and as a sweetener for drinks, though standard granulated sugar may be challenging to dissolve in cold drinks. Because turbinado sugar contains more molasses, it can lead to a more grainy and crumbly texture so it may not be the best substitution in baked goods. Brown sugar contains a greater liquid fraction so recipes may need to have the liquid input adjusted to compensate.
Also known as “confectioners sugar,” powdered sugar is simply white sugar that has been ground into a fine powder with a bit of corn starch added to prevent clumping. Powdered sugar can be found in various levels of fineness that range from an XX to a 14X with 14X being the finest. The type most commonly found in supermarkets is the 10X grind.
Although powdered sugar is considered a nutritive sweetener due to its 4 calories per gram caloric content, it is highly processed and does not provide any additional benefits such as antioxidants or minerals.
Tips for Use
The 10X variety is commonly used to make frosting, whipped cream, candy, and as a dusting powder for finishing cakes, pastries, and other desserts. The superfine 14X variety is the most dissolvable and is frequently used in cocktails, particularly rum-based beverages like mojitos. It is also used as a sweetener for non-alcoholic drinks like iced tea and coffee as well as in baking.
Stevia is an herbal extract from a plant that is a member of the chrysanthemum family. It has become a widely used calorie-free sweetener. There are a number of species of stevia, some of which are native to southwestern US, but the one most common sweetener is Stevia rebaudiana. This variety is native to Paraguay and Brazil and its leaves have been used to sweeten food for hundreds of years.
Despite its long history of use, in the US, the FDA has not approved whole stevia leaves nor “crude stevia extracts” for use in foods. However, an isolated chemical extract form stevia known as Rebaudioside A has been approved for use in food and beverages.4
Stevia has no calories, and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same concentration. Because only the extract is used, there are no additional phytonutrients found in US products. There have been studies to suggest that stevia could have therapeutic benefits for a number health conditions including: anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory actions.5
Tips for Use
Though the stevia plant itself is associated with little aftertaste, Rebaudioside A extracts can have some. The level of aftertaste can vary significantly from one product to the next so trying multiple brands to find the most personally palatable may be necessary. Flavored (vanilla, orange, mint, berry, etc.) stevia extracts are also available.
The relationship between humans and honey can be traced back to cave paintings from 9,000 years ago. Honey was so valued by the ancient Romans that it was used instead of gold to pay taxes. Honey is familiar to most as the thick, golden, sweet liquid that bees make from flower nectar. Honey comes in a variety of colors and flavors both of which stem from the source of the nectar. As a general rule, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. Liquid honey is the most popular way that honey is sold, but it can also be found still in the chewy and edible wax-like comb.
Natural honey is around 82% carbohydrate consisting of around 40% fructose, 30% glucose, and 12% other sugars. It also contains a number of bioactive compounds including, flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and organic acids, all of which play an important role in its nutritional and medicinal qualities.6 It was used by ancient civilizations for its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.7 Honey was also used as a remedy for acute conditions such as ear infections, coughs, and sore throat.8 In particular, Manuka honey is treasured for its medicinal properties.
Note: Honey should never be fed to infants under the age of 12 months as their digestive systems are immature and more susceptible to infant botulism, an illness that may originate from spores found in honey that have no effect on older children or adults whose digestive and immune systems are more developed.
Tips for Use
Honey is considered a supersaturated sugar solution, and since the water in honey contains more sugar than it should naturally hold, it has a tendency to crystallize. It is natural for honey to crystallize and though many people incorrectly believe that the presence of crystals means that it is spoiled, the crystallization process has no effect on the honey other than color and texture. Although all raw honey will crystallize over time, there are several steps that can be taken to slow the crystallization process:
Store honey at room temperature or warmer. Crystallization happens much faster at lower temperatures so not store it in the refrigerator or an unheated area.
Store honey in a glass container. Plastic is more porous than glass and can allow excess moisture to seep in overtime which will increase the crystallization process.
Honey that is higher in glucose such as lavender, clover, and dandelion crystallize faster. Acacia, sage, and tupelo honey are all higher in fructose and much less likely to crystallize.
If honey does crystallize, simply placing it in a container of warm water will melt the crystals and return it to its original consistency.
Agave is a succulent plant and member of the Amaryllis family whose native growth spans from regions of southwestern US all the way down to parts of South America. Agave grow in large rosettes of long, strong, fleshy leaves with sharp “teeth” down the sides. Agave take a very long time to reach maturity, and has been distilled to make tequila since the 1500s.
There are a number of subspecies of agave, but the one most commonly used to make agave syrup is Agave tequilana the Blue Agave plant. Once the plant reaches maturity (approximately 7-10 years), the leaves are removed from the plant and the central core (known as the “pina” because it resembles a pineapple) is all that remains. The discarded leaves are left behind to restore the soil and reduce erosion. The pina can be quite large, weighing between 50-150 pounds.9 Next, the sap is extracted from the pina. This sap is filtered then heated at a low temperature. The heating process helps break down the natural carbohydrates into sugars. The resulting nectar is then filtered and it is this filtering process that determines the color and flavor of the final agave syrup. Thus, the light Blue Agave syrup is simply more filtered than its raw and amber counterparts.
Agave syrup contains small amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, and several common minerals. It is quite similar in color and flavor to honey and is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar (which means less can be used to achieve the same level of sweetness) but it is often thinner in texture. Agave contains more fructose than glucose which means it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar, but more likely to negatively impact metabolism and insulin sensitivity.10 Certain bioactive compounds in agave have been shown in research to serve important antioxidant and protective roles in the brain.11
Tips for Use
Agave syrup is a very free flowing and fast dissolving sweetener making it a great choice for cold drinks like cocktails or iced tea. Darker varieties are also used directly from the bottle as a syrup for pancakes, French toast, or waffles. Agave is sold in several varieties including light, amber, dark, and raw. Both the light and raw types have a mild, nearly neutral flavor, the amber variety provides a medium-intensity, caramel flavor, and the dark types have the strongest caramel flavor.
Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, is the traditional natural sweetener in South and Southeast Asia. It is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree via a natural two-step process. First, a cut is made in the flower bud through which the liquid sap is collected. The sap is a sugary fluid that circulates inside the plant.
Next, the sap is retained under low heat conditions until the liquid fraction has evaporated leaving behind a light brown, granulated substance that appears similar to raw sugar but with a smaller and more varied particle size. It is often mistaken for palm sugar (a similar sugar product made from a different type of palm tree). During the evaporation phase, the sap is stored at temperatures around 100F for a couple of hours, allowing the natural enzymes to remain intact as well. Other manufacturers boil the sap to crystallize the sugar which destroys the natural enzymes found in the plant. Because the coconut palm tree can continue to produce enough sap to harvest for about 20 years and does not require a lot of resources compared to other types of sweetener like cane sugar, coconut sugar has been named the most sustainable sweetener in the world.12
Coconut sugar is considered a nutritive sweetener containing about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon (the same as table sugar). Because the production of coconut sugar does not include any refining processes it retains many of its vital nutrients. Coconut sugar contains small, but measurable amounts of potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, B-vitamins, polyphenols, and boasts a good amino acid profile as well as short chain fatty acids and a special prebiotic fiber known as inulin. Inulin is rather unique in that it is not digested in your upper intestinal tract, but rather serves as a source of nourishment for the bacteria in the lower digestive tract. Clinical research has shown that prebiotics like inulin can yield many health benefits including, gastrointestinal health, colon cancer prevention, blood sugar and lipid metabolism, bone mineralization, fatty liver disease, obesity, and immunity.13 Coming in at around 45% fructose, coconut sugar is also lower in fructose than other sweeteners such as agave (90% fructose) and high fructose corn syrup (55% fructose). Fructose has a striking tendency to be converted directly to fat so consuming lower amounts can have significant health benefits.
Tips for Use
Coconut sugar has an earthy flavor profile similar to brown sugar. It is gaining popularity and is easy to use in baking because it does not impact the flavor or texture of the food (but it does turn the batter/dough brown so that may not always be ideal).
Monk fruit known in Chinese culture as “luo han guo” or the “Buddha Fruit” is a small round fruit native to Southeast Asia. It was first used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century and has been used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years, but only became approved by the FDA in 2010.13,14 The sweetener is made from the dehydrated juice of the monk fruit.
To begin the process, the seeds and skin of the fruit are removed, then the fruit is crushed, releasing the juice. The juice is collected and dried to form a concentrated powder. Monk Fruit sweetener is also called “monk fruit extract” and is up to 250 times as sweet as sugar.14 It is often mixed with other compounds like inulin or erythritol (a sugar alcohol) to balance the intensity of the sweetness.
The monk fruit itself contains calories and sugars in the form of fructose and glucose. However, monk fruit extract does not contain any calories nor any actual sugars. The intensity of the sweetness of monk fruit is due to the presence of a unique group of antioxidant molecules known as mogrosides. During processing of the monk fruit, the mogrosides are separated from pressed juice leaving the natural fruit sugars in the juice and making monk fruit extract calorie and sugar free. Mogrosides have been classified as GRAS or “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA.14 Monk fruit extracts have been shown to have various biological activities including antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic action.15 Monk fruit extracts are also known to benefit a number of health conditions such as hypertension, constipation, and aiding in relief of cough.15
Tips for Use
Monk fruit extract is available in liquid, granule, and powder forms. It is regarded as safe for all people including children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.14 Because monk fruit is often combined with other sweeteners, this may impact the nature of the end product as well as the nutritional profile. Monk fruit has a somewhat fruity taste that may not be appreciated by everyone and has been reported by some as having an unpleasant aftertaste. Because of the intensity of sweetness in Monk fruit extract, for use in cooking and baking, substantially less volume is required to achieve the same level of sweetness. The sweetness of an entire cup of white sugar can be replaced by less than a teaspoon of Monk fruit extract.16 it is important to note that because of the considerable reduction in volume between the amount of sugar and the amount of Monk fruit extract needed in recipes, the consistency, number of servings, and size of the finished product may be impacted by making the substitution.
Maple syrup is made from the xylem sap of several types of maple trees, chiefly the sugar, red, or black varieties. In northern latitudes, these trees store starches in their roots and trunks before winter which are then converted to sugars that form in the late winter and early spring months. The basic process of producing maple syrup involves drilling a hole into the tree trunk and collecting the sap that drips out then processing that sap by boiling it to evaporate off much of the water content leaving behind the sweet syrup we all know and love. The origins of maple syrup date back well before the settling of North America by Europeans. However, it is not known which tribe first discovered it since a number of tribes pass down a similar legend surrounding its use and availability.17
Many legends center around the theme that a God or demigod discovered that people were becoming lazy from drinking the syrup directly from the tree rather than working and hunting and foraging for their food. As such, legend has it that the deity then added water to the syrup necessitating its processing by boiling before consumption. Other legends involve the use of the sap in cooking as the means to the first discovery.18 Indigenous tribes collected maple sap through a v-shaped incision into the bark of the tree and placement of a wedge at the bottom that lead the sap to drip into a wooden bucket placed at the base of the tree. When European colonists arrived, they learned about tapping maple trees from the Native Americans but they used a hole drilled with an auger that was plugged with a wooden spout. A bucket was hung from the spout to catch the sap as it poured out the spout. During the 1800s, many technological innovations, such as flat pans (instead of the formerly used iron kettles), improved the ease of processing maple sap. In modern times, there are many further innovations that make the process faster, easier, and cheaper including the use of tubing that transports the sap directly from the tree to the sugar shack where the processing takes place. If the sap is over boiled and most of the water is removed, all that is left is a solid sugar known as maple sugar. Maple sugar was actually the preferred form for Native Americans because it had a long shelf life and could easily be transported.
The source of maple syrup is of course the sap of several varieties for maple trees. The sap does not contain fat or protein, consisting mainly of sucrose (a disaccharide molecule that is also the chief component of white table sugar containing one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose) along with smaller amounts of free glucose and fructose that are created during the boiling process. The free glucose and fructose are responsible for the varying degrees of darkness seen in maple syrup varieties. Nutritionally, maple syrup has about 52 calories per tablespoon. Maple syrup contains significant amounts of manganese and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) as well as moderate amounts of zinc. It is a moderate antioxidant, rivaling the protective capabilities of carrots. It also contains trace amounts of magnesium, calcium, and potassium.18 Maple has a very distinct flavor and although it is unknown exactly what compounds are responsible for creating it, it is believed that the primary contributors are furanone, strawberry furanone and maltol.19 Maple syrup contains a wide variety of phytochemicals which may impart benefits to human health.20 It has a much lower glycemic index (meaning it causes a slower rise in blood sugar) than honey and is also slightly lower than white sugar.
Tips for Use
Many of the top brands of pancake syrup in the US do not contain any actual maple syrup and rely solely on corn syrup as the main sweetening ingredient. It is important to look at the ingredient list when purchasing to make sure it is pure maple syrup. While maple syrup can be substituted one-to-one for liquid sweeteners like honey, agave, molasses, or corn syrup, some adjustments must be made if substituting for granular sugars like white or brown sugar. To use maple syrup as a white or brown sugar alternative, use 2/3 cup of maple syrup for every cup of granulated sugar, reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients in the recipe (water, milk, juice) by about 1/4 cup and lower the baking temperature by 25° F. Maple sugar can be reused just like cane sugar and has similar performance in baked goods. However, because maple sugar is about twice as sweet as white cane sugar, reducing the amount by a little less than half is recommended to avoid having an overly sweet finished product.
Although the term “alcohol” is in the name, sugar alcohols are chemically different from (through structurally similar to) alcoholic beverages. More importantly, they do not contain any ethanol. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in foods and come from plant products such as fruits and berries. They are also industrially produced form sugars. Sugar alcohols are sold as white, water-soluble granular solids and look similar to white table sugar. They are used widely in the commercial food industry as bulking agents, thickeners, and sweeteners in place of sugar. Additionally, you can also find them combined with other high-intensity sweeteners to moderate the sweetness level. Most people eat sugar alcohols every day and don’t even know it. Some of the most commonly used sugar alcohols include:21
Mannitol which is found in fruits and vegetables like pineapples, olives, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes and even seaweed! Mannitol is less sweet than sugar by about 50-70% meaning that more must be used to provide the same level of sweetness.
Sorbitol is also found naturally in fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, dried fruits (like raisins, figs, and dates) as well as stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. Commercially, it is manufactured from corn syrup. Sorbitol is about half as sweet as table sugar meaning twice as much must be used to exact the same level of sweetness. It is often found in sugar-free gums and candies.
Xylitol is also called “wood sugar” because it was first extracted from wood. It is also found in corn cobs, cereals, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables. Xylitol has about the same relative sweetness as sugar and is often found in chewing gum and toothpaste.
Erythritol was originally discovered by a Scottish chemist in 1848. It is naturally found in fruits like watermelon and pears as well as fermented products like wine, cheese, and soy sauce. Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as white sugar and is labeled as “non-caloric” (even though it does contain about .2 calories per gram) in some countries like the US and Japan.
As a sugar substitute, sugar alcohols provide fewer calories (about a half to one-third less calories in most cases) than regular sugar.21 Additionally, they convert to glucose more slowly, have little to no insulin requirements, and are not known to cause spikes in blood sugar. Sugar alcohols have other health benefits as well. Regular use of xylitol for example results in around a 75% reduction in the number of streptococcus mutant bacteria (the main bacteria associated with the development of dental cavities) in the mouth.22 It may also be helpful in both the prevention and treatment of Type II Diabetes as well as reducing fat accumulation in the abdominal area.23 Erythritol has been shown to have potent antioxidant capacity and to have a favorable impact on the vasculature.24 Due to the fact that they are not well absorbed in the digestive tract, sugar alcohols have a tendency to cause gastric distress (nausea, rumbling, diarrhea, reflux, etc.), particularly when consumed in large quantities. Some sugar alcohols have a greater tendency to cause these effects over others.
NOTE: Some sugar alcohols, particularly xylitol, are toxic to dogs. It is important not to share foods containing xylitol with dogs.
Tips for Use
Most sugar alcohols are less sweet than sugar and require a greater volume to be used to achieve the same level of sweetness. However, xylitol can be used in a one-to-one exchange with sugar. Sugar alcohols are sold in a variety of forms with granular versions being among the most popular. Sugar alcohols may change the taste of the finished product slightly so it may take some experimentation to determine appropriate amounts.
Artificial Sweeteners (i.e. sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and high fructose corn syrup)
Sold under trade names like Splenda, Nutri-Sweet, Equal, and Sweet-N-Low, these sweeteners are readily available in any restaurant, coffee shop, convenience store, or grocery store. High fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to sugar, but results in the addition of unnatural amounts of fructose to the system. The human body has limited capabilities for metabolizing fructose and when overloaded, the excess is converted to triglycerides which are then stored as body fat.25 All of them have been approved by the FDA but their use is controversial due to their potential for deleterious health effects. These products are synthetic, unnatural chemicals and their consumption can lead to a number of deleterious health effects. 26, 27 Their use should be avoided.
The food market is home to a number of different sweetener options, each with different properties, strengths, and weaknesses. With the information above you can make in an informed decision on which sweetener is best for your overall health and baking purposes.
Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor
Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!
Dr. JoAnn Yanez, Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (right), joins Pain Free and Strong Radio host, Dr. Tyna Moore (left) to discuss how to stay sane naturally during the busy holiday season.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
Naturopathic specialty associations
Announcer: This is ContactTalkRadio.com, consciousness in action, and you are taking action into your consciousness by tuning into Contact Talk Radio. And on tunein.com and UpSnap mobile. Contact Talk Radio. From the Rose City in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we are bringing you the latest updates in regenerative and stem cell medicine from around the world. It’s Pain Free & Strong Radio with Dr. Tyna Moore.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Welcome to Pain Free & Strong Radio. I am your host, Dr. Tyna Moore, and my guest today is Dr. JoAnn Yánez. She is the executive director at the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. I have had the pleasure of doing, we did a webinar in the past, you and I together, and I’m really excited to have you on the show. We’re going to talk about beating holiday stress naturally, and this is a perfect time, because the holidays are upon us, people are already dealing with the stress of it, and we’re walking into Christmas, and so this seems like a perfect time to address some of these issues. Do you want me, is it okay if I call you JoAnn for the show?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Oh, absolutely.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Okay, great.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: I answer to everything, even, “Hey, you!”
Dr. Tyna Moore: That’s because you’re a mom.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Very true.
Dr. Tyna Moore: And a wife, that’s how it goes. So, JoAnn, go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience and tell us a little bit about your journey and how you got here.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Sure thing. I’m currently serving as the executive director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s a big mouthful, we represent the seven accredited schools across North America, and really all of the academic efforts, the joint recruitment efforts, anything that all of the colleges do together. Right now, we’re working on a vaccine paper on the education regarding immunizations for naturopathic graduates. Our association covers the gamut of anything that the ND schools do all together. But you asked me about my journey. I’m trained as a naturopathic doctor. I studied at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine back in the stone age, back when there were actually three ND schools in the US at the time. Naturopathic medicine for me was a calling. I had always wanted to be a doctor, and really saw myself utilizing nutrition, psychology or psychiatry at the time is what I knew of it, and physical medicine, and I didn’t know that there was a profession like this out there that used all of those things and wrapped it up into a beautiful package for patients. And so, it took me a little bit of time, this was pre-internet days, to find out about naturopathic medicine. It was actually totally by accident, talking to a chiropractor, and he mentioned, “Hey, it sounds like what you want to do is to be a naturopathic doctor,” and I said, “A naturo-what?” And so that’s how I found naturopathic medicine. Long story short, I studied, I graduated, I taught for a while, I worked in accreditation, and then got involved in licensure and working on public affairs and public health, and that led me to a public health master’s and that led me to the AANMC. So that’s kind of me in a quick nutshell.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Wow. So, you are a champion for naturopathic medicine, in a nutshell.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Sometimes. (laughs)
Dr. Tyna Moore: Sometimes. (laughs)
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Sometimes.
Dr. Tyna Moore: You’re just herding the cats, right?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: You know, I have been told that that was my title, that’s kind of my unofficial job title is ‘cat herder in chief’.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Awesome. Well, it’s a pleasure to have you here today because I think that you bring a unique perspective to things. You know, it’s important I think in any profession that we have different types of people in the trenches, in different trenches. So, some of us are going at it clinically, some of us are, I’m trying to bring more of an awareness clinically and online. You’re working, and I don’t want to say behind the scenes, I would say at the forefront, of keeping, it’s super important that our schools, that they’re known. I know that they’re all unique, they all sort of have their own thing. But really, the one thing that I try to bring to this profession is … What’s the word I’m looking for? I really just want to bring, I want to keep everybody in the fold. I find that when I just was recently at the AANP, and I know you were there, as well, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians annual conference in Arizona, it was interesting to see how separated and distinct it felt to me. I didn’t feel, and that’s something that I this year really want to help change, is that there just seemed to be this, everybody was sort of in their own camp, so to speak. And I can’t really put my finger on it, it was more of a feeling that I had than anything specific that people said. And I don’t want to use the word homogeneous, but I really think that keeping everybody in the loop, keeping everybody under the same umbrella, and there being an understanding or some kind of resource out there that lets the students and the practitioners out in the field, keeping us all together, because I remember a time maybe five, ten years ago, when I would show up to the AANP and it felt very cohesive, and I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. The elders knew the students, the students knew the elders, everyone knew who each other was. And I didn’t feel that this time around. And maybe it’s just because it was such a big event and we have so many new faces in the profession, but that sort of cohesiveness is what I’m ultimately after.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well, I know from the AANMC’s perspective, a few years ago, we worked on the clinical competency document, which was basically like this blueprint or framework for what are the expectations for students when they get out of naturopathic school. And it was the unifying document, and you know, we went back and forth, and like you said, the schools have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, but really the unifying factor are our core principles. And at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that when it comes down to the basics of naturopathic medicine, we agree on the principles. We agree on docere, or to teach our patients. We agree on prevention. We agree on the healing power of the body and the healing power of nature and treating an individual. Those are all unifying, whether you’re doing pain medicine or pediatrics. I think that those are those unifying principles that bring us all together, and that’s why it was so core to our competency document and all of the other competencies that we’re going to be putting together in the future, really just as a baseline expectation of what we expect our docs to know, and more so to communicate. You know, I think one of the things that I’ve found over the years is there are so many misperceptions about what naturopathic doctors are, what we do, what we believe, what we don’t believe. I just recently had an eye doctor appointment and he said, “Oh, do you believe in that naturopathic stuff?” And I was thinking, it’s not a religion, you know, it’s not a religion, it is based in evidence, it’s based in the body’s ability to heal itself if we give it the tools to do so. And so, I think that at the end of the day, those are the types of things that drive me, that help me be so passionate to advocate for what we do, what we teach, and to dispel some of those misperceptions. In the early days when I first started lobbying in New York for licensure back in, gosh, 2003, I would literally have legislators say, “You know, I was expecting you to show up, you know, kind of with some beads on and some crystals-“
Dr. Tyna Moore: Wow.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well, you know, and I said, “No, that’s just on Saturdays.” I would make a joke out of it, but I think there was this misperception that we couldn’t present ourselves professionally. I think that’s what they were really saying is, you know, I was expecting you to not come to this meeting in a professional manner. And not that any of those things aren’t professional per se, but when you’re in a business meeting, there are certain expectations, especially if you’re on Capitol Hill or at your state capital. So really what we started doing was breaking down those barriers and breaking down the misperceptions and the misconceptions. And so, a lot of what we’ve been doing at the AANMC with some of our documents is helping to educate the public, to educate insurers, to educate state licensing efforts on what’s taught at the schools, what really is taught, and not leave it up to some of the naysayers to speak for us. And so that’s really what our emphasis has been with the AANMC over the last couple years.
Dr. Tyna Moore: I love that. I think it’s really important. I hear that all the time from people, too. Patients will come in and say, “Well you don’t look like a naturopathic physician,” and I’m thinking, “What exactly are we supposed to look like?” You know? And I know that the public has an impression of us that might not fit exact, but more and more I’m seeing, and I think that the old guard, they were like the well-dressed hippies, and they honored the principles of naturopathy really well and they honored the principles of taking … it is, it’s kind of a, if you want to call it, hippie mindset, but I don’t think hippies have to be dressed up with peace symbols around their necks and headbands on. Any of us can be protectors of the environment. Any of us can be nurturers of the vis medicatrix naturae, which is the healing power of nature, and I think that that idea, that concept, can really permeate a lot of different professions, as well. And I’m even seeing that in environmental capitalism, just these, I listen to different startup companies talk about their core principles, and I’m thinking, “This sounds like our tenets of naturopathy.” You know, it just-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yeah, well, you know, it’s so funny because at the end of the day, I think when I’m speaking to prospective students, one thing I love so much about prospective students that we see, as well as the career itself, is the diversity. You can be Dr. Tyna Moore and make naturopathic medicine look exactly like you want it to look. I can be Dr. JoAnn Yánez and make my naturopathic medical practice, at least when I had one, look exactly like I want it to look. And that’s the beauty that I think naturopathic medicine offers that maybe some other professions don’t quite offer to that same extent, is that ability to personalize the medicine, to take those tenets and what they mean to you, how you create your dream practice and your dream experience for your patients that are drawn to see you. And that’s the beauty of the medicine. That is really, I think, our strength and what so many folks, especially now, are expecting out of their careers, they really want that work-life balance, they want that flexibility, they want the ability to have something that they wake up every day and adore. And I’ve seen Facebook discussions and chats with naturopathic doctors and if you woke up tomorrow and you won the Powerball, would you still see patients, and astoundingly, you know, for folks who this was a good career fit for them, I was shocked to see how many people were like, “Yeah, you know, maybe I would scale it back, I wouldn’t work as hard, but patients drive me. I wake up in the morning and it fills my heart. It fills my soul.” And how many professions can really say that? So, I think that is something that is so powerful. Sure, maybe we wouldn’t work a 60-hour workweek if we won the Powerball, but so many people still wake up every day and say, “You know, no. I would still want to do this.” I don’t know how many professions you can point to where people would say that.
Dr. Tyna Moore: I agree. I agree. I thought that was really interesting, too, when I saw that feed. So many people said they would stay in the game for sure, which I thought was great, so. Well, let’s dive into our topic, which is-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Absolutely.
Dr. Tyna Moore: … this is a perfect segue way. So, we’re going to talk about beating holiday stress naturally, and I’m going to let you take it from here, because I know that the holidays for me hold a lot of different emotions, not all of them great, and as I get older and as families blend, having been in blended families, I can see how much stress everything brings to the table. So, what does beating holiday stress look like to you?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Wow. You know, it’s kind of a loaded question, and I think you already started going there. You know, for a lot of people, they expect the holidays, and regardless of whatever your religious or not-religious bent is, most of us get wrapped up into holiday parties and events with family and things of that sort just by the social nature of life. So even if you’re not necessarily a religious person for whatever persuasion, we all have holiday things that we get roped into. And so I think for me, when I’m thinking about holiday stress, it’s often about all of the pressures that we put on ourselves to make all of the events, to be perfect, to set the perfect table, to have the perfect present, to do all of those things that are on self-imposed to-do lists, none of which the world will stop tomorrow because they don’t happen, but all of these big things that we put in our brain that we say, “Oh, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that, and this is what the holidays mean,” and putting all of that stress on ourselves. So, I think at the end of the day for me, it’s how do we make this time of year manageable and break it down. What are the essentials? What has to get done? What will life go on without it being done? And I think those are the types of areas where I first see friends and family who are freaking out and planning months and months and months in advance for holiday gifts and spending more money than they have and all of the things that we kind of get caught up on because it’s “the holidays.” I don’t know what your thoughts are on that.
Dr. Tyna Moore: I think the spending more money than they have thing is insane to me, and it goes year by year and you can see just with the political climate and where things are at, how people’s spending habits change, and they track all this and I listen to these reports and I just think, “Wow, people are chasing a dopamine hit.” There’s a dopamine hit to buying and then there’s a dopamine hit to giving and there’s a dopamine hit to receiving, and I just think that sometimes holidays become such a huge production and so unnecessarily so. I think that being with your family or loved ones or even choosing to be alone if you want to, not necessarily the worst thing in the world. I’ve spent a few holidays alone. I generally spend holidays with my parents. I’ve never been a big holiday goer. In fact, going to big events stresses me out, so I avoid it. I’m a little bit of an introvert, so I avoid it. And then just, you know, entering into relationships and then one family has their traditions and then the other family may have theirs, and how do you balance that all out. All of that can be just so overwhelming, and-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well and-
Dr. Tyna Moore: Oh, go ahead.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Oh, go ahead. No, and I think for some people too, just touching on what you said, holidays also bring up loss. They bring up the people who aren’t with us anymore, and there’s that component of, especially as folks age and they think about large family gatherings that are no longer large and the people who are no longer there or traditions that aren’t kept because the placeholder or the fire-keeper of that tradition passed away. I think those, again, it’s setting up the expectation and whenever, you know, I try to live life in the moment and again, life is practice, life is not perfect, but really, in being in that moment, accepting what life is right now. Maybe it isn’t the holidays of your childhood. Maybe it isn’t the holidays of last year, but how do we enjoy the holidays of now? And like you said, there could be a really beautiful holiday that you spend alone watching Netflix. Curled up on your couch and sipping some hot cocoa and watching Netflix could’ve been the best holiday that you ever had.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yes.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: You know, and so I think that being present in that moment, listening to yourself, following those naturopathic tenets of paying attention to the moment, being in that moment, addressing who you are at that time and what you need. I think for me, the basics are always stress, sleep, and nutrition. And how do we manage all of those things. And so, with stress, I don’t know about your techniques, but a lot of times, what I see with folks is when they start to get overwhelmed, all of our mechanisms that we use, or hopefully are using, to manage our stressors and to keep ourselves healthy, often are the first ones to go out the window. Yesterday, I’m rehabbing an injury right now and I had a meeting with a trainer and he asked me about self-care, and I had a chuckle, because I’m like, “Here’s the naturopathic doctor and she’s being asked about self-care,” and he said, “Well, do you know anything about mindfulness meditation?” And I’m like, “I may have given a lecture or two on it,” you know I said kind of offhand, but it’s a reminder that we have to practice what we preach. And so especially during times of stress, making, I like to call it a mindfulness minute. I think a lot of times people get overwhelmed, especially during the holidays, when our to-do lists are giant, by thinking, “Oh, well mindfulness, that’s one more thing I have to add on to the plate.” And if you break it down into little chunks, and however it is manageable for you, you know, I call it the mindfulness minute. If you can call it a minute, it doesn’t seem all that overwhelming, and sometimes that’s all it takes to get yourself centered and grounded again. If you’ve got that holiday party or you’re about to walk into a roomful of relatives where maybe you don’t agree politically, all you need to do is take a minute, center yourself, and remind yourself, “Hey, we’re here to love each other. We’re here to join together as a family. We’re not here to talk about politics or get riled up,” and as long as you get yourself into that mindset of enjoying the moment, enjoying the blessings of what you have and not thinking about those negatives. And if you start to kind of get taken there, go back and get mindful again. Get back into the focus of what you’re there to do, what you’re there to enjoy with each other. And I think those are the types of things that help people get through some of those holiday tensions that can creep in.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Right, and I think that unfortunately one of the first things people do in those situations, and I’m guilty of this, is you reach for a glass of wine or you reach for an alcoholic beverage at the event, and people start to lose their ability to be mindful after alcohol. So, walking in stabilized, I think is a great concept. What I usually do is, and I love that mindful minute, because I don’t think meditation, I’m not very good at meditating. I’m not good at sitting down for 10, 20 minutes. I am good at calming my mind for minute or two, though, and letting the process just sort of wash through me instead of grabbing that emotion and rolling into it at full bore, physically and emotionally. I could sort of let it pass me like a car passing on the street or maybe water beading over the window, just breathing through it, and being mindful. Joan Rosenberg, she’s a psychologist, and she talks about how bad feelings will only last about 90 seconds, and when you have a bad feeling, what comes with it is a physical response, right, and so you’re physically going through that with the cortisol elevation and all that, and she just talks about if you can get through that 90-second wave, you’re going to be fine. So just knowing it’s 90 seconds long, so a little bit more than a minute, and letting that, but even if you can do it for 60 seconds, just box breathing is a great idea. I usually get a good workout in before I go to the event. I usually have some food in me walking in. I don’t go in hungry ever, because next piece of what you’re going to talk about is nutrition, so I’ll have a protein shake after my workout or I’ll have some protein or I’ll have something high fat that’s satiating and gets my neurotransmitters happy, maybe some dark chocolate, so when I walk in, I don’t derail on the alcohol and I don’t derail on the food, because that’s what leads to a lot of people’s mental emotional imbalances, too, is they start, they … for some reason, like October 31st hits with the chocolate or the candy for Halloween, and it’s like all hell breaks loose for the next four months.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: I know.
Dr. Tyna Moore: People just go off. I’m like, “What are you doing? You can’t derail, don’t derail now. Maybe derail for a day at Christmas, but keep yourself steady until then.”
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yeah, you know, it’s really funny, and I think one of the things that I always talk to folks about, and I try and practice myself, is really getting to know yourself. And I think there’s something that’s been lost in the education system as well as in just general being and how to be a grownup. I wish they had a class in college on how to adult, how to be a grownup. One of the first things that I would put in a class like that would be get to know your body and what makes you feel good, what makes you not feel good, and you know, if that’s managing your stress through mindfulness, getting enough sleep, eating the right things that make you feel good. Because as I’m sure you’ve seen with the patients that you see, so many folks walk through this life with not a lot of awareness on the interactions between their food, their environment, and their health. And so, and then you throw on the holidays on top of that and Christmas cookies at every turn, Halloween candy and candy corns and all of that stuff, and it does, it throws people off the rails. You’ll see folks getting more colds and flus around that time. It lowers our immunity. So, there are so many different things that I think, you’re not going to be able to manage and to be centered, to manage that cortisol shift if somebody mentions something that kind of triggers you, you’re not going to be able to manage that so well if you’re teetering on the edge of hangry. So, I love your idea, and I’ve always heard this, too, about going to parties not hungry, really because then you’re tempted to eat a whole bunch of stuff that you probably wouldn’t be eating under normal circumstances.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yes, and don’t go thirsty. People get themselves dehydrated, especially in the winter as everyone’s cranking the heat in their house, they’re slowly dehydrating their bodies and they’ll show up, I’m super guilty of this, I’ll show up and just put down a glass of wine, not because I’m trying to drink fast the alcohol, it’s because I’m thirsty. And especially if you’re going to do some exercise or movement prior to the event to calm your nerves, you’re going to find yourself thirsty. So, a great tip there that I have, that I use, is, and I use this year-round, and when I forget to use it is when I end up not feeling well. If you’re going to have alcohol, pace that with a glass of water or a bottle of water or like a soda water with lime. So, every other is, so you really slow down your alcohol intake, because I think that’s where people start to get hung up, and the effects of that, alcohol’s a poison, right, so the effects of it last for days longer. So, if you’re doing the holiday circuit, as I call it, especially the two weeks before Christmas, you’re sort of, it’s alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. It’s often a lot more alcohol than most people are used to, and so pacing yourself on that, walking in prepared, not hungry and not thirsty. And that’ll help a ton, I think, too, just keeping people in line. And that’ll allow for that mindfulness to take place.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yeah. Well and also, if you think of, you know, you talked about alcohol is a poison, but it also converts very readily into and raises your blood sugar, and so I think the component that folks don’t always realize about alcohol is the blood sugar component and the highs and the lows that happen with the crash, especially if you’re drinking eggnogs and super sugary types of drinks that also have alcohol in them, and what that does to your cortisol balance as well as your insulin and your blood sugar regulation, and then subsequently your immune response. And then you’ll see that week around Christmas, everybody’s nose is running and they’re getting sick and their throats are sore and it’s a combination. I’ve always known with myself, I can deal with stress or I can deal with a little bit less sleep or I can deal with not eating well. I can’t do all three together or otherwise I get sick.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Amen. That’s such a true statement. You’ve got to pick your, yeah, you start doubling and tripling up on lifestyle stuff, and … I have autoimmune disease and I have a pretty wonky immune system, and I’ll go from a sniffle to pneumonia, full blown, pretty quickly, and even with as healthy as I have been in the last few years. It always amazes me, but when I look back, it’s like, okay, I was burning the candle at both ends and then I added a few more wicks and lit those on fire, and I derailed everything. I compromised my sleep, I compromised my alcohol intake, because I’m pretty strict about what I will allow myself alcohol wise, because it is a poison. I do like to enjoy a glass of whiskey a couple times a week, I think that there’s a balance there, but I don’t think that the way that people drink casually, especially in our age group, I see a lot of people becoming really good functional alcoholics, and it’s a little bit concerning, even for high-level professionals and other colleagues that are in the medical profession. They’ll drink three to five alcoholic beverages a night on the regular, and that’s just how they’ve kind of aged into their 40s, and they’re very functional for it, their bodies learned how to deal with that, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not totally derailing things. Then they ramp it up during the holidays. And I’m not coming down on anyone, I’ve had my half bottle of wine a night decade myself-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Decade.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Getting through school and starting a practice, I know how that goes, but it’s really easy to let that creep up on you. So anyway, compromising those main lifestyles, what do we want to call them, tenets almost. Your sleep is sacred. You’re-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: It’s the foundation.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yeah, your nutrition is critical. Especially if you start throwing a lot of sugar in it. Now and for the audience, alcohol turns into sugar in the body, and sugar, I was taught in naturopathic school if somebody tends towards alcohol, they’re also probably a sugar addict, and vice versa. So, if you’re cutting one, I always encourage people to cut both at the same time. I’m not saying do that during the holidays, but just so people know, especially come January first when people want to clean up their diet a bit, if they want to cut alcohol out for a month, I think that’s always a great idea in January, but remember to cut your sugar, too, because it’s one and the same, really, in how your body handles it. In a nutshell.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well and you know, the January stuff always kind of makes me chuckle. I know many people have practices and their practices get busier in January because folks are now on the resolution bandwagon, but I’ve always been a proponent that if you’re going to make a change, don’t wait. If you know something is good for you, let’s start today. What’s tomorrow? I’m always, it’s like, “Well, oh, I have this great idea. Let’s do it next month.” That’s just never resonated with me personally, and I gave up the whole resolutions thing eons ago. People sometimes kind of say, “Oh, you’re not making any resolutions?” And I said, “No, I make them every day. You know, if I find that I’m doing something that isn’t serving me any longer, I’m not going to wait to some arbitrary day on a calendar to start implementing it. I’m going to implement it now.”
Dr. Tyna Moore: Absolutely. Because in my head, I train, I strength train, and it’s a sport, in my head, and I’m an athlete in this sport, and that’s not something I just start in January or get more serious about in January. I’m serious about it all the time, because I have to be, because it’s what keeps my autoimmune disease at bay. It’s what keeps me healthy, so I don’t ever look at it as like a, “Oh, I’ve got to start this new hard battle. I’ve got to overcome this hill of obstacle.” I look it at as like, “Sweet, this is my treatment plan. This is the work I do.” You know? The reason I eat the way I do is because that’s part of my treatment plan. That’s what keeps me steady. The reason I don’t compromise my sleep year-round is because that’s part of it and all hell breaks loose if you start to compromise, for me, any of those, but certainly all three of those. So, what do you tell people who, maybe they’re at ground zero. They don’t feel well, they feel sick, they’ve maybe got some weight to lose, they’re frustrated. This all sounds super overwhelming to them, and we look at it as just pieces of the puzzle, but they’re looking at it as this insurmountable chore. What do you tell people to get started?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Take one bite at a time. Take one step at a time. Don’t look at, you know, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Don’t look at the big picture and get yourself overwhelmed, and I think the other thing, Tyna, is every patient is different. I’ve seen folks where they need to hit rock bottom in order to be motivated enough to actually make changes that will last and will be those long-term, lifelong changes, and then other folks are able to have the motivation to be able to do that incrementally. I think you have to meet people where they’re at it, and if you’ve got somebody who is, they’ve had a massive heart attack or they’ve had a big health scare and they are ready to make those types of changes, they may be willing to do everything all at once. For other folks, they may, and they may want to do everything all at once, they say, “I’m terrified I’m going to die tomorrow, you know, tell me everything I need to do and let’s do it right now,” versus other folks who will say, “You know what, I can only take so much on my plate. I’m willing to focus right now on nutrition. Don’t give me any exercise. I’m not there yet.” I think there are doctors and there are practitioners for every one of those types of patients. So, I think meeting people where they’re at and recognizing, okay, you’re willing to work on nutrition. Let’s start there. Let’s get that under control. Maybe you need to learn how to cook and that’s the biggest obstacle right now, because all you’re doing is eating fast food because you don’t know how to prepare vegetables or food in a way that you’ll like to eat it. So maybe we start there. Let’s get you in some cooking classes, let’s teach you how to food shop and make that change, get it to stick, and then make the next change, get that one to stick, and keep knocking them off. So, for a lot of folks, that is a more lasting way to get the changes to actually stick.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Absolutely. And just letting people know that they’re more powerful than they think. The best way to stop feeling addicted to food is to stop eating that food. Our food supply is, especially the processed foods, they’re designed to keep you wanting more, and the food manufacturers have got this dialed. It’s not about taking away or saying you can never eat that again, it’s about changing things up. I think that adding in copious vegetables or leafy greens or adequate protein is a wonderful way to fill up the tummy, and then you’re not so inclined to want the sweets, and doing the right things to give your neurotransmitters the hit you’re looking for, so instead of getting it from food, you might be getting it from exercise. Getting adequate sleep so that your neurotransmitters aren’t so hungry, so that you’re not looking for the next hit. Because that’s really what we’re doing. We’re all dopamine addicts, all of us are. We get it from different places. Some people get that from shopping, which is a huge stressor during the holidays that we talked about before. I think we really underestimate that, especially with online. You can actually go shopping online and put all the things you want in your cart and then close your cart out or forget about it and nothing gets ordered, and you still get the same dopamine hit, because you shopped. So just realizing that we’re chasing the dopamine dragon pretty much at all times, and giving yourself a chance to find healthful ways to meet that need versus gorging on sugar, alcohol, keeping yourself up all night, which is just going to make things worse, that kind of thing. So, what about movement? Movement’s my favorite topic. What do you suggest people do, and how did you counsel your patients around this?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: You know, it really is, and it’s one of the aspects that drove me to naturopathic medicine, because we recognize how important and how vital movement is, regardless of whether, you know, you don’t have to be an athlete like at the level that you take it. For basics, a very good friend of mine, our realtor that got our house, just was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and I was saying, “Hey, just start baby steps. Just start walking,” and I think for folks who get intimidated by the gym, scared by, “Oh, it’s just overwhelming,” or “Oh, I don’t know how to do it,” or “Oh, I don’t have money for a gym or a trainer,” or all that kind of stuff, just get out for a walk if you can. If you’ve got animals, dogs are fabulous, and I know you love dogs. They’ve found that animal owners or dog owners are way more physically active than folks who don’t own animals. So, reconnect with nature if you can, weather permitting. I know we’re in winter now. If you have a dog or consider getting a dog, they will keep you more active. There are some basic ways that you can make exercise a part of your life, or movement a part of your life without making it feel like it’s exercise. If you are a gardener, you like to tend to plants, that’s a way, maybe not in the middle of December in a snowstorm, but that’s a way that you can also connect with movement. So, I think people can get experimental about it. What works for you, and again, make it fit into your life and make it enrich your life. Exercise shouldn’t be one of those things that folks dread having to do. I see posts from people and they’ll be talking, “Oh, I’ve got to go and do this.” Life’s too short to not have fun with it. Get something movement-wise that you enjoy. In med school, I always tell this story, and this is actually how I got my injury, I took up salsa dancing, and for me, I was originally a gym kind of person, but then med school happened and the stressors of trying to get into a gym were just hard for me to do, because I also missed the social interaction, so for me, I started taking salsa classes. I started social dancing, and that was the release, the stress release for me, that was fun, and it was lighthearted, and it was a way to blow off steam from being in school all day long, and I think that you find what works for you. I’ll tell you, I would have to bring changes of clothes because I would sweat that much.
Dr. Tyna Moore: That’s awesome, and it sounds like it was super fun, which-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yes.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Oh, fun. People underrate fun. I have a rule in my house that I don’t watch, especially after I went through a divorce and things were pretty heavy there for a while years back, no heavy movies allowed. Only funny things. Only things that would make you laugh. I think fun is underappreciated, fun exercise is undervalued. You don’t have to kill yourself. You don’t even have to do more than get a little bit of a damp sweat, just a little clamminess, if you will. Just-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well and you know, I’ve got this 5-year-old kid and it’s amazing what, I’ll take a beach ball in our living room and we’ll just bat that beach ball around and after running after it a few times, you are a little bit on that clammy side. Another one of my favorites is I’ll grab hula hoops, and we’ll start hula hooping. The other day, I was hula hooping with my little kid and I had my arms up, and like, “Wow, I’m feeling this in my delts, I’m like actually, you know, I’m feeling this in my muscles.” So, I think there are ways that we can incorporate movement, like you said, in that fun manner where it isn’t just this dreaded, “Oh, I’m going to go on the treadmill for a half an hour and dread every second of it while I’m doing it.” Incorporate movement into your day, make it fun. I work from home, and a lot of times people say, “Oh, what do you do?” I say, “Well, I schedule conference calls for myself personally, I try to anyway, when I can, during a time of day when that cortisol dip is dropping, so like at that two to three pm time where I know I’m going to be a little kind of more sluggish, I’ll schedule a conference call where I know that I can likely walk around. I’ll get on my headset and I’ll move, and I’ll move for most of that call.”
Dr. Tyna Moore: Brilliant.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Or if I’m sitting at my desk, I can do it right now while we’re talking, I’ll do leg extensions, and I’ll just start flexing and extending my legs to get moving. So, I think a lot of times people, like I said earlier, they get intimidated by the big workout. “Oh, I’ve got to get dressed, I have to go to the gym, I’ve got to shower afterwards,” and it becomes this big production that it’s very easy for people to make excuses not to do. Well, if you make it not-a-production, if you make it, “Hey, do 50 leg extensions while you’re sitting on the phone,” that becomes a lot more palatable. You didn’t have to put on tennis shoes, you didn’t have to drive to a gym or do anything like that. It’s easy. So that’s what I would tell folks, is make it easy, make it part of your day, and it’ll be more likely to stick.
Dr. Tyna Moore: And do what is fun for you, I think it was Robb Wolf who said it, and others have said it, “The best form of exercise is that which the patient will do or the person will do.” I am a big fan of lifting heavy for specific hormonal reasons, and I think that it’s a-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Sure.
Dr. Tyna Moore: … really wonderful treatment and it’s sort of a non-negotiable in my world, only in that it really does such a remarkable job of keeping insulin resistance at bay and kind of the root causes of a lot of illness, but there’s something really fun about putting on a Tae Bo video that you have from the 90s or, I’m not kidding, my friend Jane Barlow, she does step aerobics and she’s just recently started broadcasting it live on her Facebook. On Facebook live on Fridays, she teaches a class, and I was like, “Are you kidding me? Step aerobics?” And she was like, “No, it’s great,” and I said, “My mom used to make me take a step aerobics class every quarter in college or she would not sign off on my student loan check.” So the deal was, even though I was super unhealthy, and my audience knows this, I chain smoked, I was not a healthy person, I was a little skinny punk rock girl, and I didn’t take really great care of myself, and I didn’t eat very much or very well, but I did that darn step aerobics twice a week, every week, and it was so fun, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, Jane. I want to live broadcast your Facebook live, I want to do that on Fridays. That sounds like a blast.” So, whatever will get you moving, and she swears step aerobics is making a comeback, and I believe it. I think that a lot of, the Jane Fonda videos, there’s a lot of valid worth in there. So anyway, whatever gets you moving, do it. If you-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Whatever gets you moving, exactly.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Now this is different than changing body composition. If you want to change body composition, that’s a different subject, but really just to keep yourself stress free, to keep yourself happy, to keep that dopamine sparked and those other good neurotransmitters, just move. Hula hoop, do a couple push-ups, pull-ups. Just throw it into your day. It doesn’t have to be your main workout. It’s better to move a little bit all the time than it is to go work out hard two or three times a week only.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yes.
Dr. Tyna Moore: And then there’s little under the chair cycling things that you can cycle your feet with, but I like what you do, I do the same thing. I call it keep your monkey feet, like keep your feet active so that they could grab things if you need them to, so that you are able to have healthy calves and healthy blood return to the heart and you don’t get those blown out varicose veins. You know, just keeping things moving.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yes. Very important.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yeah. For sure. So, we’ve got just a few minutes left. What else do you think is critical that you want to share with the audience on keeping your stress managed during the holidays?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Happiness.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yeah. For sure.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: You know, I think, we’ve talked about all of the above. We’ve kind of talked about stress and sleep and nutrition and movement, but I think at the end of the day, it’s happiness. It’s do what fills your heart, do what fills your cup. Make sure that there’s something that is filling you up at the end of that day. Whether that’s family, whether that is rolling around on the floor with your dogs or calling up a loved one, whatever it is that brings you that sense of fulfillment. There’s literature on happiness and scholarly research, and at the end of the day, a lot of times what they find is the happiest folks are the people who are giving, and that happiness is really related to giving. I think, especially in this time of year with the holidays, people forget the importance of giving. They think about me, me, me, what I want or what I’m doing, but really, what is it that we get when we help others, and what is that true spirit, if you are a religious person, of the holidays? It’s loving, it’s being surrounded by love and the things that fill our hearts. So that’s where I always go. Oftentimes, people focus on the negative or what they don’t have and they don’t recognize or have that appreciation for the things that they do. Especially those of us who have lost loved ones, you can kind of get caught up and wrapped up in that sense of loss and, “Oh, you know, this is my first holiday without my husband,” or “This is my first whatever without my mom,” and really kind of get sucked into that feeling of loss, rather than appreciating what it is you do have. Recently, there was a big terrorist attack that happened in a city that I had visited, and I was kind of wallowing in it for a little bit and saying, “Wow, I was in that exact spot just one year ago where that terrorist act happened,” and my husband looked at me and he said, “You’re still here, right?” I said, “Yup,” and he said, “Well, be thankful for that. Don’t wallow in the experience of what could’ve been or where you could’ve been. Be where you are, be thankful for what you do have.” So I think at the end of the day, we can think about all of the things that didn’t go well, the party that didn’t happen exactly the way we planned it or the gifts that didn’t happen exactly the way we wanted it to or any X number of fill in the blank things that you could be dissatisfied with, but at the end of the day, if you can find those things that are good. There’s a journaling exercise that I used to do, and every once in a while, I’ll pull it out when I feel I’m needing it, and it’s at the end of the day, write down three things you’re thankful for.
Dr. Tyna Moore: That’s great. I think that’s, yeah, gratitude. Just having-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: And it’s gratitude, yes.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yeah, gratitude grounds you, and I didn’t practice it as often as I should’ve when I was younger. I was almost averse to it when it was propositioned to me, I was like, “What are you talking about?” But yeah, even if it’s just mental, going to bed, sometimes it’s the same three things over and over again in my head, but to remind myself that they’re there.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Why were you averse to it?
Dr. Tyna Moore: I don’t know. I just was sort of so down in my grind at a certain point. My mentor was dying, Dr. Rick Marinelli, and I was just lost, and I felt like I was swimming through shark infested waters and they were black and nobody could see me, and so I was like, “What do you mean, practice gratitude? It can’t be that easy.” Nobody wants to hear there are simple solutions. They are not always easy, but they are simple, and it was one of those. It’s like when you tell somebody to eat better and exercise and they’re like, “It can’t be that simple.” You know? But yeah, I think it had a profound effect on me. So, what about, do you have any suggestions for people as far as boosting their mood? I always tell people to go volunteer or go do some act of service.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yeah, and there are so many opportunities during the holidays to do that, whether it’s food kitchens or gathering gifts for kids. One of the things that I do with my son, and I’m trying as best as I can to implore and impart on him some values, you know, and “Hey, you’re pretty lucky, you’ve got a clean bed to sleep in every night and you’ve got a mom and a dad who love you and you’ve got shelter over your head and food in your tummy and there are lots of people that don’t have that,” and I think like you said, that grounding, sometimes when we go and we help, it helps us realize that gratitude. I’ll never forget my first trip abroad. I was 22, it was my first year in med school, and I went visit family of mine in Cuba, and I was there and here I am, this kid who’s never been out of the country, and I go to turn on the water in the bathroom to wash my hands, because that’s what you do after you go to the bathroom, and guess what happened? The water didn’t come on. I go running out to my uncle, and I’m like, “What happened to the water?” And he said, in a matter-of-fact way, “Sometimes we have water, and sometimes we don’t.” I literally stood there in the living room kind of with this face of shock, like, “What do you mean you don’t have running water?”
Dr. Tyna Moore: “What have you gotten me into?”
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: “What do you mean you don’t always have running water?” And I will tell you, at the end of that trip when I came back home and I had a one night layover in North Carolina and I’m driving to whatever hotel I was staying at, and I saw the American flag flying and I got tears in my eyes, because for the first time, I recognized what freedom meant, and I recognized the gifts that we have, and it gave me this sense of gratitude, that this 22-year-old little snot-nosed kid had no idea about how other people lived in the world on a daily basis, and how much I took our freedoms, our running water, our electricity, things like that, for granted. I had no idea. So, I think volunteering, getting in touch with things that make you grateful, is a really vital component to being a human being.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Right, and also in that, you start to learn how to roll with the punches a little bit. Instead of each thing being such a huge ordeal, it’s like, “Meh, so I don’t have running water right now,” or whatever, it’s like, “I still have my family around me,” or I still have this or I still, there’s so many wonderful things that we do have, and just health, health is wealth. Just being healthy.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Well, and I will tell you, I still think back to those times, and many of family members I visited back then are now deceased and I think of, okay, yeah, we may not have always had running water, but I had some of the fondest memories of my life during those trips.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yes, exactly. You have wonderful memories, and the water’s sort of irrelevant. It’s a marker, but, you know, and something I want to add, and then I want to move forward and ask you to share with the audience how they can find you and what’s going on with you, I think crafting is an awesome thing to do during the holidays. It’s always been a huge stress reliever for me, whether it’s you buying some inexpensive essential oils and making blends up for people, or figuring out how to make a lip balm or a lotion with inexpensive ingredients, things that you can do with your kids. Crafting is excellent. It raises your oxytocin, it raises your dopamine, the scents of the things that you’re making, the textures, all of those are really nice and happy to the brain and to the mood. Huge stress reducer, and it’s a very, I can’t tell you, I have spent some very poor Christmases where I had no money and I didn’t know what to do. One year, I made those cookie jars, except it was all gluten free, and I was able to make, I think like 25 jars for very little money, and people loved them. They ask me every year, “Where’s my cookie jars?” One year, I made lip balm. All of these things are super fun things to do to bring even yourself, it’s very fun to do with a partner, that’s how you make memories, and as you meld and merge memories with people you love, you form stronger bonds with them, so those will be the events you remember versus just buying a bunch of stuff and being stressed out of your mind at Target, consider crafting. Crafting is a great thing to do, so anyway. I will leave my ranting on that. So where can people find you or the work that you’re doing, and especially for the naturopathic profession out there, if they want to get involved or just being kept up to date?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Sure, so the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges is found online at aanmc.org and on social media, and we also are now offering the residency match process for the naturopathic medical community, so if you’re interested in becoming a resident or hosting a resident, we’ll have a lot of information about that on our website, as well. So those are the types of things that you can find on our website. We also love connecting folks with the schools and the members as well as what’s happening at the schools, so you can sign up for our newsletter on our website, too.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Awesome. And is there a student association or a way for students to learn more? I didn’t even know about you guys until I was out of school, which is atrocious. No one ever mentioned that there was an overseeing body of the schools, which would’ve been really helpful to know, being as what I was going through. So is there, I’m just asking, sometimes there’s student-
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Yeah.
Dr. Tyna Moore: … associations or ways for students to get involved.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Awesome. Super good to know, because I think that’s where it starts. I think having a, students always have so much good, invigorated energy, and we get a little beaten down when we start practice because we realize there’s so much more to it, so it’s nice to be enlightened as a student. Well, Dr. Yánez, thank you so much for all of these tips and tricks that we’ve covered. I think the audience will really enjoy them. I hope that everybody enjoys their holiday season, and it is filled with peace and joy and gratitude, and not stress. Thank you.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Amen.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Awesome. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Take care.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Okay.
Dr. JoAnn Yánez: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Tyna Moore: Yeah, awesome. Thank you.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Pain Free & Strong Radio with Dr. Tyna Moore. Dr. Tyna offers a wide range of online courses for both physicians and to the public. To learn more or to work with her as a patient, visit her online at www.drtyna.com.
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