Sugar, anxiety and insomnia…and other tips to get you to sleep better tonight!

I have always been able to switch off my bedside light and fall asleep within minutes. Even on my travels, often sleeping in youth hostels sharing rooms, it wasnt an issue for me. Ever.

When my son turned one a year ago, it changed. For his 1st year I slept well in between multiple night waking and breastfeeding sessions. Now he was starting to sleep better and all of a sudden this mommy couldnt fall asleep anymore…shock horror!

Is this a joke – no – it’s very real.  Some even call it “momsomnia” or postnatal insomnia.

When you suffer from insomnia, you either struggle to fall asleep or you wake up and then struggle to fall back to sleep again.

It’s one of those things that can quickly consume you as you start struggling night after night and experiencing the repercussions of not so much optimal functioning during the day.  You start almost dreading going to bed even though you are tired.  The “Tired but Wired” saying became quite real to me…

It’s a vicious cycle… Insomnia creates anxiety and this creates more insomnia. I experienced over the past year that if I have a better night, the anxiety almost immediately starts to decrease dramatically helping me to go into the better direction of sleep again.

So what can you do – the standard advice that you’ll get…

  1. Sleep hygiene
  2. Herbal aids
  3. Melatonin
  4. Sleeping tablets
  5. Antidepressants (more to treat the anxiety)

These are the things that has worked for me to a certain extent recently and over the past year:

  1.  You absolutely have to do the sleep hygiene thing i.e. NO screen time for at least an hour before bed time and keep lights fairly dimmed in the house if you can.  I also started to have a bed time routine – for me this was drinking either camomile tea / hot water with apple cider vinegar and a bit of honey / milk with quarter teaspoons of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  And also reading a book until I feel I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
  2. Consider cutting your caffeine.  I decreased it to one – two cups of coffee max all before 11am.
  3. Be careful of sugar as this can worsen anxiety symptoms and for me any form of sugar and even cocoa (dark chocolate) I found could increase my alertness and keep me awake.
  4. Alcohol – yes it helps to relax you – but I am not sure what it is – but I found this also didn’t help my sleep, so bye-bye drinks for now! (Insomnia is so tormenting that you will do ANYTHING to alleviate it).
  5. Melatonin didn’t work for me unfortunately, the herbal stuff also not, I wish it did as it’s not habit-forming.
  6. An anti-anxiety tablet and/or a sleeping tablet helped me at certain times to calm down at night and just re-set and get a night of good sleep – but it’s not for long-term use…
  7. Watch your mind… I found that the more I panicked when I couldn’t fall asleep the worse it all became.  I started meditating on Bible Scriptures about sleep, anxiety and fear which helped me a lot.  I also pray as part of my bed time routine.  And I watch out like a hawk for those evil thoughts that try to make me go into panic and fear mode.  I replace it with TRUE thoughts – Renewing my mind with God’s TRUTH.
  8. I have had to almost become quite relaxed about the whole thing – knowing through the grace of God that I WILL be ok the next day even if I didn’t sleep.  I had to make a point of tapping into the peace, joy and gratitude inside of me despite my lack of sleep and not feeling great the next day. Worshipping Him throughout became my Spiritual Weapon of choice.

This thing has become a lifestyle, spiritual and emotional journey for me.  Not something with a quick fix (believe me I tried all of that, spent a couple of R1000’s on doctors who couldnt really help although I am sure they wish they could.)

I really hope this helps someone out there…

Love Helene x x x

 

My sugar detox journal…hidden sugars to watch out for!

I finished my 21 days of trying my best to go off sugar.

HiddenSugarInfographicAlthough I am happy with my progress,  I am not entirely happy with how the 21 days went.

Why?

  1.  I had about 4 “cheat” days
  2. I didn’t cut out ALL sugar (for example: Honey, fruit and certain refined carbs)
  3. I don’t think I experienced the FULL BENEFIT of really detoxing from sugar… And this is what I am after – really getting to that point of moving beyond the withdrawal and cravings and starting to experience all the benefits.  Like…. better and a more stable mood, better sleep, clarity of mind, more energy and some weight loss.

So… What I am going to try to do over the next 21 days is to:

  1. Consistently cut out all forms of sugar (Including honey, fruit and hidden sugar in snacks – see this cool picture to the left…)
  2. Lower my overall carb intake (Mostly for me:  Bread; rusks; wraps; rice; potatoes; pasta; pizza)
  3. Decrease my caffeine intake to 2 cups max per day – mostly to help with the anxiety and insomnia.
  4. Trying not to get too ravenous (this is when I make my poorest food choices) – so filling my tummy with good stuff whenever I am hungry.

Here is a great list of all those other names under which sugar hides in foods:

According to the USDA and other sources, alternative sugar ingredients or names to watch out for when reading labels include:

There also “healthier” sugars, including coconut palm sugar, honey and blackstrap molasses. Generally since these are far less processed (especially real, raw honey), they are OK in moderation but still a source of sugar to keep to small amounts.

So today is another day 1 for me… wish me luck!

Love Helene x x x

My sugar detox journal – this is hard!

I am currently on day 15 of my 21 DAY attempt to detox myself from sugar.

The first 10 days were relatively easy for me – I think it was due to my human will power doing fairly well initially…

 Then my old habits started to taunt me… Let me explain:

I am a stay at home mommy of 21 month old Lucas.  My GO TO for when I am feeling a bit tired/bored/lonely/emotional is mostly coffee and sugar if there is any form of sugar in the house.

So a couple of days ago I gave my little boy a biscuit.  He didn’t want it.  For a moment I was in a battle in my head, and then I just ate the cookie… And then I finished the whole bag (kiddies bag I have to add in my defense 😉 And then I had some fruit cake that I had in the house the previous day for my in-laws visiting.

That old – almost uncontrolled way of eating – took over for that moment…

Later that same day I went to the mall and considered stopping for a piece of cheese cake – because (my old way of thinking) I might as well cheat properly!  And I was feeling tired and like I “deserved” it (again an old habit of mine…).

I didn’t give in to the cheesecake which was an achievement for me.  So the next day I just  kept going where I left off.

So be aware of your old ways of thinking… For those sugary snacks in the house… And don’t beat yourself up if you slip up – just carry on the following day.

Weight loss? Not dramatic in any way – perhaps because I havent given up carbs too.  But I have probably lost almost 1 kg.

But it’s about more than weight for me – its about my health and knowing what sugar does to the brain and body…

After the 21 days…?  The other day I listened to a podcast of Dr Caroline Leaf and she said it takes 3 cycles of 21 days to really create new habits… So perhaps I will push myself a little longer… and even look at cutting out some other things like too much processed food/perhaps I will be a bit more strict with my carb intake.  I’ll decide when I get there…

For now…baby steps and just keep going moment by moment…

What the sugar?? My sugar detox journal…

I am doing a sugar detox for 21 days. I am currently on day 6.

Why I decided to do a sugar detox? I feel that I have become addicted to sugar and that it was starting to affect my mood in a negative way. It is a personal mission of mine to achieve mental wellness, and I know its up to me to make it happen. About 6 months ago I started suffering from insomnia and this has seriously spurred me on to do everything I possibly can to start sleeping better again… Sugar potentially being one of the aspects that can affect your sleep negatively.

SugarWithdrawl_Graphic_1-768x3464
So the insomnia and mood issues are my main reasons for going on this sugar detox. (To be perfectly honest, other reasons for me include potential weight loss and the prevention of diseases.)
What a sugar detox looks like for me? A book that has helped me a lot is “I quit sugar” from Sarah Wilson. But there are many many books. So for me it basically means cutting out ALL sugar. A quick list would be : Actual sugar (brown, white) ; honey; any foods or sauces with lots of sugar added (check labels)and fruit (actual fruit, juices, dried). I am not cutting out all carbs – I have decided to make this about SUGAR.
How am I feeling? I felt perfectly fine for the 1st 2 days. On day 3 I started really craving and missing my sugar fix (usually cake/chocolate/sweets). On day 4 I started struggling emotionally and day 5 I felt completely depressed and tearful. I wondered whether this could be a detox symptom and found out that it absolutely can be…(have a look at this link.)

The start is always the HARDEST. But I have found that once you get started it gets easier.

It’s almost like you need to learn how to trust yourself again too. Trusting yourself that you will honour a decision that you make to commit to something. Even if no one else is checking up on you.

Day 6: Yesterday we celebrated my bother’s 46th birthday and since his wife always bakes with zero sugar I thought the birthday cake was a gluten and sugar-free version. After this 1st couple of bites I realised that it wasnt this time 😉

For a moment I felt like I was a failure and had to start all over again.

Then I decided to be kind to myself. So I am adding an extra day to my 21 days and today I am continuing as normal despite my little “glitch”.

People trying to eat healthier can often be so hard on themselves for having a weak moment – that weak moment then becomes a weak month of year… These type of negative emotions and guilt just never serve you.

So currently I am still on day 6 and so far so good. I had a scone this morning with butter and cream (no jam) and coffee without sugar. Also had a seed cracker with sugar-free peanut butter. And I am feeling a lot better today in terms of my mood…

I will do another post in 1 week!!! I will write about which sugar alternatives are BAD and which ones are OK. I personally like Xylitol… And of course an update of how it’s going with my detox…

Why not join me?

Love Helene xxx

20180707_133647_000.jpg3c17e9c86d309f43f7325071b8986d51-zoom

 

Could wheat & sugar be the root cause of your eczema?

Hi everyone!  I hope you are keeping warm in this icy cold weather!  You might be experiencing some skin issues often associated with cold weather – skin can become dry, sensitive and flaky.  In Part 1 & 2 I discussed how sugar and wheat could contribute to skin ageing and acne.  Today in my final part on How what you eat affects your skin, I cover a common skin concern which also often flairs up during cold winter months:

ECZEMA

Dermatologist Dr. Satish Bhatia states that the consumption of excess sugar is bad for the skin. “Increased sugar levels can cause a build-up in the liver or colon giving rise to the majority of fungal infections and eczema.”

Livestrong.com states:  There’s one food that all eczema sufferers should try to limit. Sugar, especially in its more refined form, may be the common culprit behind many inflammatory conditions. When we consume foods that are high in sugar, our body releases insulin. Harmful free radicals are released along with the insulin hormone and then have the potential to damage our cells. This damage promotes an inflammation response as our immune system attempts to fight the free radicals.

Many people who have eczema have food allergies, so eating a healthy diet may help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. Eat fewer refined foods, and sugar. These foods contribute to inflammation in the body. Source: Eczema | University of Maryland Medical Center

Food allergies associated with eczema are typically: Dairy products, Eggs, Nuts and seeds, Soy products, Wheat

Have a look at my previous blog for some tips on treating sensitive/eczema skin and how your mind and stress levels might be causing and/or aggravating this skin condition.

Another interesting read… US News – Health News: Healing your skin with your mind – The solution to your skin issues, from eczema to psoriasis, could be in your head.

Short term solution: Try and get to your dermatologist for a short term solution in the form of medication (internal or topical). STOP using any active cosmetics e.g. products containing VIT A/FRUIT ACIDS/High concentrations of anti-oxidants etc. Rather get yourself a cleanser and moisturiser for very sensitive skin conditions. I like Bioderma’s Sensibio range. Uriage also has products for sensitive and irritated skin.

I have tried these products…

Bioderma (Available at Dischem and online at Dermastore):

Soothing, Purifying Cleansing Gel R189.95

2015-05-16 15.53.26I like the fact that this cleansing gel foams up and gently and effectively removes all my make-up (including eye make-up). I can highly recommend it to anyone with sensitivity and combination to oily skin.

Water Cleanser R179.95

h2o_250This is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITES.  The best eye make-up remover around and a great way to remove heavy make-up before your second cleanse.  I can highly recommend this product to anyone!

Cream R189.95

ds_creme_1

This day/night cream has a light cream/gel consistency.  I have an oily skin and still found it a bit too light for me.  It felt as if my skin being so irritated and flaky needed something with more moisture.  I will recommend this to anyone with sensitive and very oily skin or men who prefer a very light texture.

SkinMedica (available at Skin Renewal branches and other medical practises nationwide):

Redness Relief CalmPlex

skinmedica-redness-relief-calmplexThis is a product I thought I would personally never have to use.  Well, in skincare emergencies like I’m having you will try anything.  The cream has a rich texture and causes tingling upon application due to the active ingredients.  Although it has a heavy texture, it didn’t make my oily skin more oily and I actually enjoyed the comfort of cream.  This is a pricy product, but I can recommend this to anyone with red and sensitive skin conditions.

I wish you beautiful and healthy skin!

Chat soon

Helene x x x

Does what you eat affect your skin? Part 2 (Acne)

Hello again!  In part 1 of “Does what you eat affect your skin”- I discussed sugar, wheat and how these could potentially cause a lot of damage showing up as skin ageing – all the things that we DON’T want to see when we look in the mirror!  Today I am going to share with you how what you eat can also potentially lead to a common skin problem even in adults…

ACNE

4687180430_c3ff93615c3Sugar consumption can also affect acne. When our blood sugar and insulin levels rise, whether from a poor diet or from stress, we experience a serious increase in inflammatory chemicals at a cellular level. This causes inflammatory diseases such as acne to worsen dramatically. Cortisol and other adrenal steroids can act as androgens (male hormones) and stimulate the sebaceous (oil) glands resulting in a flare-up of acne.

Dr. William Davis states in his book Wheat Belly:wheatbelly-book320

Evidence suggests that it is not a genetic issue, but one of diet. Cultures that rely only on foods provided by their unique location and climate allow us to observe the effects of foods added or subtracted to the diet. Acne-free populations such as the Kitavans of New Guinea exist on a hunter-gatherer diet of vegetables, fruits, tubers, coconuts and fish. Japanese Okinawans, probably the most long-lived group on planet earth, until the 1980’s consumed a diet rich in an incredible array of vegetables, sweet potatoes, soya, pork and fish; acne was virtually unknown among them.

Cultures without acne consume little to no wheat, sugar or dairy products. As Western influence introduced processed starches such as wheat and sugars into groups such as the Okinawans, Inuits and Zulus, acne promptly followed. In other words, acne-free cultures had no special genetic protection from acne, but simply followed a diet that lacked the foods that provoke the condition. Introduce wheat, sugar and dairy products, and Clearasil sales go through the roof.

More recently, studies have once again pointed at carbohydrates as the trigger of acne formation, working their acne promoting effect via increased levels of insulin.

Woman with PCOS, who demonstrate exaggerated insulin responses and higher blood sugars, are strikingly prone to acne.

Insulin levels are highest after carbohydrates are consumed; the higher the glycemic index of the consumed carb, the more insulin is released by the pancreas.

There is so much more that I can say about adult acne and breakouts.  I will leave this for a future blog, but I would still like to end of with a couple of tips and a few of my personal favourite products to treat acne.

1.  Look out for products that are specifically designed for the oily and acne skin.  They should include ingredients like Salicylic Acid; Vitamin A; Benzoyl Peroxide and other purifying ingredients.

2.  Always ensure that you cleanse your skin thoroughly with an effective yet gentle cleanser – not the cheap & nasty products that will just dehydrate your skin making it look and feel even worse.

3.  Next, I would strongly advise you to LEAVE YOUR SKIN ALONE!  The more you touch and pick at your skin, the more infection spreads worsening the condition.  Use a spot treatment for those stubborn spots as well as a treatment product specifically for oiliness/acne underneath an oil-free moisturizer and sunblock.  I will write about all of these products in blogs to come – for now here are a couple of cleansers I have recently tried for oily and blemish prone skin:

2015-06-01 16.44.20Bioderma Sebium H2O R159.95and Sebium Foaming Gel – R169.95

What I like about the Bioderma Sebium H2O cleanser is that it has all the great properties of their legendary Sensibio H2O cleanser with added benefits for oily skin. It still gently removes all make up while purifying and regulating excess oil on the combination and oily skin type.

The Foaming Gel is as good as any good quality gel cleanser for combination, oily and acne skin.  It doesn’t foam up as much as I would like it to, but that’s just me.  Hubby loves this one!

2015-06-01 16.43.10Neostrata Clarifying Facial Cleanser – R419

This gel cleanser contains all the active ingredients to purify your oily skin and fight those breakout causing bacteria.  Added bonus is that a little goes a long way and it foams up gloriously – Yay!

Eucerin DermoPurifyer Cleanser – R79.95

Good value for money foaming gel cleanser for oily skin types.  I finished this one a while ago – therefore no picture!  Great for me and hubby – the type of cleanser you can leave in the shower and not skimp too much on using because of the good value.

Skinceuticals Blemish & Age Cleansing Gel – R832

blemish_cleansing_gel_retail-500x500I haven’t personally owned one of these – but have used it in professional Skinceuticals treatments as well as having received feedback from clients using it at home.  This cleanser perfectly combines targeting two issues that many women struggle with – Ageing and Oily skin (Blemish prone/Acne prone).  For most women this is a real frustration, because there are plenty of products for either of the two concerns, but not many targeting both at the same time.  You only use a little bit at a time and it foams up beautifully giving you a thorough cleanse without stripping the skin. It is both exfoliating (fruit acids) and brightening.

A final word – have a look at this recent article published on US News – Health News: Healing your skin with your mind – The solution to your skin issues, from eczema to psoriasis, could be in your head.  This links up with my previous blog: Stress and your skin.

If you are struggling with one or more of these skin problems and have tried different treatments and/or products – maybe its time to think about how your mind and what you eat could be the root cause.

Love

Helene x x x

DOES WHAT YOU EAT AFFECT YOUR SKIN? – Part 1

This has been a question that’s been asked for years by clients as well as skin care professionals. I remember as a student, we were told that it’s an absolute myth that what you eat like for example junk food, dairy or sugar can affect your skin.

Well, luckily since then we have moved on and have been enlightened by new scientific research to answer the question that YES – what you put into your body every single day doesn’t only affect your body weight (which is the main concern for many of us), but also your general health and subsequently your skin condition too!

This is a very personal thing and something you will probably figure out through trial and error. I have known about the potential adverse effects of sugar and wheat on the skin – but I believe I haven’t experienced it first-hand until recently. In my previous blog I wrote about my recent skin care woes in the form of redness, dryness and swelling (eczema) and a bout of mild adult acne on my face. Short term oral and topical medication worked for a while, but like most short-term solutions, the problem didn’t go away. At the first glimpse of stress/some irritant/cold dry air – it came back. Now I feel ready and desperate enough to try to find a long-term solution. Unfortunately with many of these kind of medical issues – it is often up to you to do your own research and figure out the long-term solution that will work for YOU. This can be a frustrating but a necessary path in the pursuit of obtaining your optimum health and wellness.

I will look at 2 of the most common dietary villains: SUGAR & WHEAT – and the potential of causing and/or aggravating 3 common SKIN ISSUES: AGEING, ACNE & ECZEMA (Acne & Eczema: Part 2).

SUGAR

Let’s start by clarifying this substance called sugar. Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of glucose and fructose and some say that FRUCTOSE is the real enemy. So this will include ALL the thousands of products in our grocery stores containing sugar often disguised with over 55 different names:

sugarGenerally speaking, if the food (can you really call it food…?) comes in a wrapper/box etc. it is called processed food and all processed food contain heaps of hidden sugars. And I’m not only talking about your sweet foods, check out the labels on your savory items too.

Fruits contain natural fruit sugar called fructose. So now what…? Fruits used to be an occasional treat for our ancestors.  Try to see fruit as an occasional treat or even one a day if you need to. Eat the fruit that you enjoy, but remember that certain fruits like mangos, bananas and pineapples are the highest in fructose. I’m not going to even talk about fruit juice… I think most of us realize by now that fruit juice is everything but healthy containing as much sugar as sugar laden fizzy drinks.

What about CARBS like bread, pasta and rice?  All foods high in carbohydrates rapidly convert to glucose when eaten. This subsequently causes a spike in your blood sugar levels and an increase in the secretion of insulin by your pancreas into your blood stream. Insulin has been labeled the fat storing and inflammation causing hormone.

WHEAT

Wheat is EVERYWHERE.  Just start checking food labels on anything from sauces, soups, ready-made-meals, deserts and all your “obvious” CARBS (breads; breakfast cereals; crackers; biscuits; pastries; pasta; wraps etc.) – and you will notice wheat is very much THERE.

Dr. William Davis, MD – author of the international bestseller: Wheat Belly states the following:

Wheat, more than any other foodstuff is woven into the fabric of the Western food experience.

Modern commercial wheat production has been intent on delivering features such as increased yield, decreased production costs and large-scale production of a consistent commodity.  All the while, virtually no questions have been asked about whether these features are compatible with human health.

Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active endorphins, exaggerated blood sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with heightened appetite, the process of glycation that underlies disease and ageing, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.

THE EFFECTS ON YOUR SKIN

AGING

skin ageing

Sugars in your bloodstream can permanently attach to protein like collagen and elastin in our skin and rest of the body. This process is called GLYCATION and results in the formation of harmful advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Prevention.com says the following:  The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion,” explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City. Most vulnerable to damage: collagen and elastin, the protein fibres that keep skin firm and elastic. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Dr. Perricone also states that:  At the point of attachment between the protein (collagen) and sugar molecule, there is a small mechanism creating inflammation, which then becomes a source of inflammation in its own right. This inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen, resulting in wrinkled, sagging skin. In addition to inflammation, glycation also causes cross-linking in our collagen, making it stiff and inflexible where it was once soft and supple. Glycation creates “free radical” factories known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which also increase cellular inflammation.

A study was done demonstrating the ageing effects of sugar:

Scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Unilever in the UK measured the blood sugar levels of 600 men and women aged between 50 and 70. Photographs of these people were presented to a board of 60 independent evaluators. What these evaluators perceived in this study was that those with higher blood sugar levels looked older than those with lower blood sugar levels. The researchers also discovered that with every 1mm/liter increase in blood sugar, the perceived age of that person rose by five months!

 Dr. William Davis states in his book that: Wheat can exert age-advancing skin effects, such as wrinkles and lost elasticity, through the formation of advanced glycation end products.

 WHAT CAN YOU START DOING NOW?

Look out for products containing anti-oxidants; retinoids and AGEs fighting ingredients.

Some of my personal favourite anti-oxidant skin care products:

2015-05-26 16.53.56 Skinceuticals Phloretin CF:

I love this anti-oxidant serum.  It has a super light, liquid texture and a few drops are applied onto clean skin in the morning before your moisturizer and sunblock.  This is perfect for my oily and hyper-pigmented skin.

2015-05-26 16.51.56SkinMedica Vitamin C+E Complex:

This amazing anti-oxidant has a velvety/silky texture making it more suitable for more normal to dry skin types.  It is also applied only in the morning under your moisturizer and sunblock.

F30030X-w1000Neostrata’s Skin Active Anti-oxidant Defense Serum

This affordable anti-oxidant serum has a liquid clear gel consistency and glides onto your clean skin every morning before your moisturizer and sunblock.  Oily skin types could find that they do not need an additional moisturizer.  Personal tip:  Don’t apply too much, if you do and then try to rub it in it can form little “bits” on the skin’s surface.

All products available online at Dermastore.co.za and at all Skin Renewal branches nationwide as well as other medical aesthetic practises.

But you can’t get away from starting on the INSIDE.

Here, five steps to eat right and keep your skin looking its youngest.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information on how SUGAR AND WHEAT can cause havoc on your skin in the form of AGEING, ACNE AND ECZEMA (Look out for Part 2 where I will discuss Acne & Eczema!).

I will be writing about my efforts to eliminate sugar & wheat in the next couple of weeks!

Helene x x x