Welcome to 2017! Stress is at an all time high in America, and people are looking beyond the prescription pad for solutions. Most of us are fed up with masking symptoms with more and more drugs that don’t help us deal with stress and the true causes of chronic disease. As a holistic, natural health professional, I’ve spent the last 6 years uncovering the myriad symptoms that are really just the result of chronic stress, because my clients don’t have healthy methods of coping with the challenges of modern life.

Modern psychology and neuroscience has been studying the effects of stress on the psyche for decades, and only recently, on the rest of the body, as well. Some might argue the world has more sources of stress than ever before, like arguments at home, pressure from your boss, bills and debts and taxes, just to name a few, which are constantly triggering our stress response so we never get to relax. According to the Mayo Clinic:

But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life.

Do these symptoms sound familiar? Maybe you’ve even tried a prescription or herbal supplement to try and deal with these symptoms, but the constant stress makes it impossible to find relief. I’ve seen many, many clients who were desperate for answers, and really just needed to learn better techniques for coping with stress, including chronic pain. So, I started helping people with postural problems, and saw dramatic improvement in stress symptoms, but still, relaxation seemed elusive for many.

My interest is in helping people be and do their best in life. Something recently being dubbed “Peak Performance” in the wellness industry. Especially in highly competitive markets, like New York City, otherwise healthy people are constantly searching for that “edge” over the other fish in the pond. Some people do have health challenges to overcome before that is even a consideration, but interestingly, it all really does start with addressing stress.

If we can improve the body’s ability to manage stress, relax the nervous system, we can see improvement in many areas of life. This is where BRAINnasium™ come to the rescue. BRAINnasium™is a non-invasive, non-medical, non-psychological, neurofeedback training that is designed to increase relaxation that has been associated with enhanced performance. There have been many subjective reports of benefits to one’s work, social, and personal life. Neurofeedback is a self-regulation skill that teaches trainees to regulate specific cerebral functions including the electroencephalography (EEG), event related potentials (ERP), slow cortical potentials, and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF). BRAINnasium™ specifically promotes growth and change at the cellular level of the brain. It takes science out of the laboratory and places it into the hands of private health professionals, like myself. The brain can be encouraged to improve itself without medical intervention, using neurofeedback like BRAINnasium™, by inspiring growth through self-awareness.

BRAINnasium™ training entails half hour training sessions in which a sensor is placed on each of your earlobes and one on the back of your head to detect your brainwaves. Your brain’s activity is transmitted to a powerful computer equipped with patented software that detects brainwaves patterns associated with optimal performance. This is all done while you lie back, relax, and listen to pleasant ocean and stream sounds. You learn how to quiet brainwaves associated with low performance and increase brainwaves associated with optimal brain functioning. BRAINnasium™ clients report increased relaxation, an ability to focus better, and an increase in a concept scientists call “authentic happiness.”

Specifically, the BRAINnasium™ training is designed to encourage alpha (8-12hz) and theta (4-8hz) waves to emphasize this naturally occurring phenomena, reinforcing desired brainwave patterns. The mechanism previously described for accomplishing this is similar to the concept illustrated by Pavlov’s dog with which many people are already familiar, and furthered by B. F. Skinner’s research into operant conditioning. Therefore, neurofeedback systems like BRAINnasium™ always rewards the trainee, they never punish. Neurofeedback was first developed by Joe Kamiya in 1963, when he demonstrated that a trainee could be taught to voluntarily regulate his brainwave activity.  Alpha/theta training that developed from there, similar to BRAINnasium™, has been used since 1989, when it was developed by Peniston and Kulkosky for the treatment of PTSD.

Theta waves are associated with creativity and spontaneity. Alpha waves are associated with meditation and a sense of inner calm or peacefulness. Our goal is to optimize their function in the brain to bring out these positive characteristics in the trainee. While many clients report these benefits, often after their very first session, optimal results are achieved after 6 weeks of sessions, once per week, and then a session every 2-4 weeks to maintain benefits. That is just the minimum, and many trainees continue with weekly or twice weekly sessions to maximize their results. Of course, clients who supplement their training with healthy diet, exercise, and other practices may further enhance the benefits they enjoy from BRAINnasium™.

So how is BRAINnasium™ different from every other kind of neurotherapy peak performance training? 

First, it is totally research-based: It is based upon original research and every BRAINnasium™ session adds to our continuing research.

Second, it has been determined to be safe, on the basis of research and experience, for the general population.

Third, it is effective. Whether looking at either the universe of BRAINnasium™ clients or individual users, resoundingly it is evident that BRAINnasium™ increases relaxation, focus, and happiness.

Fourth, it is affordable. Neurofeedback peak performance training is no longer reserved for “elites,” paying up to $25,000 for one week of neurotherapy, but it is now available to the general public.

Fifth, BRAINnasium™ has expanded the availability of neurofeedback peak performance trainers from the office of professional mental health practitioners to Certified BRAINnasium™ Trainers, like myself, who operate under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

All of the equipment and methodologies used by BRAINnasium™ are approved by the FDA for the purpose of relaxation. The FDA does not require any side effect warnings. BRAINnasium™ training is non-invasive, nothing gets put into your brain. You will not feel anything from the sensors attached to your head. You’ll listen to pleasant sounds and relax.

BRAINnasium™ is not designed to treat psychological or neurological problems, but rather, it is exclusively designed to help an individual achieve peak performance through enhanced relaxation. People currently receiving psychological or neurological treatment will have to provide written permission from their healthcare provider prior to receiving BRAINnasium™ training.

Bone Broth

If you are feeling the chill, definitely get yourself some bone broth! I first started learning about bone broth a couple years ago, and was a bit overwhelmed with the process of making it in my slow cooker. But last spring, I got an InstaPot off Amazon and now I can make great tasting broth with herbs and spices in about 1-2 hours without any scorching or waiting! Bone broth made with grassfed beef bones is incredibly inexpensive to make yourself, whether you make it plain or add great medicinal herbs like I do. Some of my favorites are lingzhi mushrooms, turmeric, dried chiles, rosemary, thyme, and seaweeds. I always wait and salt it when serving, so not to damage the salts with high heat. Bone broth is full of nutrition and collagen, plus, if you're trying to cleanse because you feel a sniffle coming on, it's an easy way to fast in the winter! All it takes is 2-3 bones from your butcher in 3-4 liters of water or Alphay lingzhi tea in the pressure cooker for 90 minutes. Play with spices and seasonings until you figure out what you like. Some people will add a little apple cider vinegar to the liquid before cooking, but that's optional. Enjoy!

Is your favorite healthy beverage slowly killing you?

That’s no hyperbolic click bait. You may actually have this ingredient in several “healthy” foods in your fridge right now.

If you drink non-dairy milk or yogurt alternatives, or even some coffee creamers, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice creams, infant formula, hummus, toothpaste and more… This list goes on and on!

Depending on who you ask, this is one additive that can be completely benign, or merely be an occasional intestinal irritant, or possibly even be linked to intestinal cancer. In fact, many people who have consciously eliminated carrageenan from their diets have noticed it single handedly reduced or eliminated symptoms of IBS and digestive disorders.  

So, if there’s so much confusion, do you really need to avoid it?

Well, really, that’s up to you. But it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. Industrialized food processing has succeeding in creating consistent, long lasting, aesthetically pleasing products as cheap as possible. And that means non-nutritional additives of questionable, debatable, dubious implications to our health. Many of these ingredients are not subjected to long term human studies, but merely short term animal testing and little or no human testing. Long term, just like pharmaceutical drugs, the general population is largely unaware of this ongoing experiment. The experiment is to figure out how many chemicals can be used to sustain human life for the lowest possible cost with the minimum of actual food ingredients. Milk alternatives with carrageenan are like the Twinkie of the health food world, almost no real food ingredients!

So what is carrageenan?

Carrageenan has been used since the 1930s as an emulsifier in foods, cosmetics, chemicals and more. It’s seemingly benign, extracted from a natural seaweed. But like many other things that are safe in in small quantities, once they’re extracted, concentrated, and ubiquitously added to everything, they may begin to pose some serious threats to our health. If you haven’t already, why not take a look at your pantry and your fridge and see how many ingredient lists have carrageenan on them? What other ingredients do you see that maybe don’t sound so natural, but keep popping up label after label? How many of these foods are you eating, day after day, that your body has to filter out these non-nutritional or synthetic additives?

In addition to carrageenan, many of your favorite non-dairy milk alternatives contain other emulsifiers of questionable safety, and “nutritional” additives like vitamin A palmitate or D2. Not to mention levels of sugar that would rival your [least] favorite soft drinks! A quick google search of these ingredients reveals even more controversial ingredients all over your kitchen.

But if these non-dairy alternatives are supposed to be “healthier” than the real thing, why do they need to supplement them?

Probably, because there’s very little of the almond or any other purported base in the product at all. It has been the subject of recent lawsuits that these companies are basically hawking sugar water with emulsifiers that just make them seem creamy and “milk-like.” Combine that with pasteurization and you really just have dead nut flavored sugar emulsion with artificial vitamins. And usually, it doesn’t even taste like nuts, just the vanilla additive they typically use (I was looking at nut milks recently and noticed that the “original” and “vanilla flavored” variety of several brands had the exact same ingredients!)

Another concern is the environmental impact of the two most popular non-dairy milks, almond and soy. Both of these crops rely on intensive mono-cultures that, even when they are organic, can have a devastating impact on the environment. In fact, the cultivation of almonds requires bees be shipped in from all over the world just to pollinate them for 2 weeks every year. These monocultures essentially create vast desert wastelands that provide no benefit to bees and wildlife for 90+% of the year. Even organic soybeans require lots of “organic” high nitrogen fertilizers contributing to ocean dead zones and algae blooms, and neonicotinoid pesticides that may be linked to bee colony collapse. So, for example, here in New York, a better alternative might be sunflower seeds and dried cherries from a small farm in the Finger Lakes region to make a delicious milk alternative.

So, what’s a coffee or cereal lover to do?

Easy! Get a good blender and a nut milk bag, and follow these easy steps to discover the real potential of “mylk!”

1.      Pick your favorite nuts, seeds, and even dried fruits

2.      Cover them in water and soak them for at least half an hour, or even overnight to maximize the nutritional benefits of germination of raw nuts and seeds

3.      Drain and rinse them, and then add 1 cup of any combination of nuts, seeds and dry fruit to 2-3 cups of water depending on how thick you want your mylk

4.      Blend thoroughly on high speed and strain through your nut milk bag

5.      [optional] add the pulp back to your blender with 1 cup of water and blend again to fully extract the fats and carbs with all their nutritional goodness and strain again!

6.      I always add a couple pinches of salt to my mylks for taste and to keep them fresh in the fridge for up to about 48 hours

Some great alternatives to combine with or move beyond the soy, almond, coconut, rice and oat milks you’ve been guzzling (these can be mixed and matched in any combination or proportion):

Green pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, quinoa, apricot kernels, buckwheat or flax seeds (but do some research and find something that’s sustainably produced in your region).

These can be sweetened with dried fruits like dates, cherries, raisins, craisins, mulberries, figs, blueberries, or bananas (you can use fresh or frozen fruit, too!)

Two of the latest “mylk sensations” are Tiger Nut horchata and pea mylk! They’re both super rich and creamy, with lots of nutritional benefits that taste great.

Some people find homemade nut mylks lack consistency when added to hot coffee or tea. I recommend experimenting with safe, healthy emulsifiers like sunflower lecithin, a drop or two of limonene oil, or agar agar. Also, using a probiotic as a culture, you can make your own non-dairy kefir to get more live probiotics in your diet (but that may need to be the subject of another blog post!)

The moral of the story, is to read labels, and know what you’re putting in your body. Even though it may seem like some extra work, making your own foods like nut mylks can be fun, especially for kids who like to pick their ingredients and strain the mylk themselves. And it’s an easy way to get a little extra variety in our diet.