Categories Advice, Food, Gut Health, Nutrition, Sleep, Stress

Nutrition for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 10 Steps to Improve Your Energy

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) affects millions of individuals each year.  It is generally defined as extreme fatigue that lasts for six months or more and does not improve with sleep or rest.

Individuals suffering from CFS may find it difficult to participate or engage in physical activity, and may struggle with concentration, memory, or the completion of mental tasks.

While no laboratory test will diagnose CFS, there are a few theories about what contributes to it. Certain viruses, hormone imbalances, a compromised immune system, as well as high levels of chronic stress are all possible considerations.

Additional factors that can contribute to CFS include:

  • Food allergies /sensitivities
  • Celiac / Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Hypothyroid / Hashimotos
  • Insulin Resistance
  • IBD
  • Candida
  • Oxidative stress / cell damage
  • Certain medications
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Intestinal permeability / Leaky gut)
  • HPA Axis dysregulation / adrenal fatigue)
  • Impaired sleep
  • An imbalance in energy demand vs energy expenditure

Although there is no definitive treatment for CFS, many individuals are able to find relief through diet modification, gut healing, and supplementation. One key factor to consider is mitochondrial support.

The mitochondria are the main energy source or “powerhouse” of the cells. They are found throughout the body. When they are damaged, less energy is produced. By targeting and supporting the mitochondria, individuals often find that higher energy levels can result.   

For those suffering from CFS, it is important to evaluate nutrient insufficiencies related to mitochondrial damage and replete if necessary. A micronutrient test is a great place to start.

The following nutrients are often associated with fatigue and CFS:

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • B Vitamins (especially B12)
  • Vitamin D
  • L-Carnitine
  • Fatty Acids
  • CoQ10
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Chromium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Glutamine
  • Choline

To help promote restful sleep and provide additional support, the following supplements have shown beneficial effects:

  • L-Theanine – Found in foods like green tea, L-theanine supports healthy sleep.
  • Melatonin – A naturally occurring hormone, Melatonin supports restful sleep and supports mitochondria homeostatis
  • Magnesium – This amazing mineral has many purposes. Magnesium promotes restful sleep, healthy gut motility, stress reduction and is a natural muscle relaxer. If you want to sleep well, include magnesium rich foods to your diet and either an oral or topical magnesium supplement.
  • Rhodiola rosea – A natural adaptogen, Rhodiola has been shown to improve energy levels in those who suffer from CFS.

Finally, look for ways to modify your lifestyle in order to replete your energy stores. I recommend these tips:

  1. Improve your diet – reduce intake of white sugar and highly processed foods. Adopt a whole foods diet with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins that include organic poultry, wild caught fish or grass-fed beef and non-GMO whole grains. In addition consider the following types of foods that will supply your body with melatonin, tryptophan (a precursor to melatonin), magnesium, and choline.
    • Eggs
    • Fish  
    • Pistachios
    • Cow’s milk
    • Oats
    • Mushrooms
    • Cherries
    • Black and red rice
    • Poultry (Chicken, turkey)
    • Cheese
    • Seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
    • Nuts (Almonds, cashews)
    • Peanuts/Peanut butter
    • Spinach
    • Soy milk
    • Beans (black beans, kidney beans, lima beans)
    • Edamame
    • Avocado
    • Potato
    • Brown rice
    • Oatmeal
    • Wheat germ
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Liver
  2. Identify food sensitivities and intolerances. Work with a qualified dietitian to identify any potential foods that are antagonizing your symptoms. Do a trial elimination with a food journal and analyze your results.
  3. Balance your plate with the correct ratios of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stabilize blood sugar and promote energy balance. Include protein at every meal.
  4. Be sure to incorporate enough calories to support activity and energy output. If calories are too low to support your level of activity, fatigue will result. Remember that food provides your body with energy and fuel.
  5. Identify sources of inflammation including environmental toxins, and work to reduce them.
  6. Identify nutritional deficiencies especially if taking certain medications such as acid suppressing mediations, lipid lowering, oral contraceptives, anticonvulsants, loop diuretics, and anti-hypertensives. I recommend a Spectracell Micronutrient test.
  7. Strengthen and heal the gut. In addition to removing inflammatory foods, incorporate a probiotic supplement that contains Bifidobacterium infantis, F. prausnitzii, and L. acidophilus.
  8. Improve sleep; Increase daytime light exposure and reduce exposure to blue light / screens especially at night. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Consistency is key.
  9. Reduce stress. Consider deep breathing exercises, daily meditation, delegating tasks, asking for help, being out in nature, laughter, journaling, and seeking out a licensed counselor when needed.
  10. Begin a steady exercise program. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise.

For more tips like these to or schedule a consultation with me personally, contact me here.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/index.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-a-to-z

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/457918

http://info.spectracell.com/bid/54668/Vitamin-B12-Function-Deficiency-Symptoms-and-Repletion

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28219059

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

Ferreira, S. 2018. A dietitian’s guide to assessing and treating fatigue.

https://www.spectracell.com

Categories Advice, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition, Weight Loss

10 Tips For Meal Planning

Do you struggle with planning your weekly meals? Does your goal of healthy eating become sabotaged by last minute food choices?

Meal planning is key for maintaining a balanced diet. Here are some simple tips that will set you up for success and help you to stay focused on your nutrition goals.

1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your menu for the following week. It is recommended to plan your meals on a Thursday or Friday, so that you can grocery shop and prep over the weekend. Organize your list by food group: Fruits, vegetables, proteins, starches, dairy/dairy subs, and healthy fats. Strive to make as many foods as possible whole real foods with minimal ingredients.

2. Determine the number of dinners you have in your meal plan. If you double the portions, you will have enough for leftovers. Remember the phrase “cook once, eat twice”. Leftovers can be used for either lunch the next day, or for dinner later in the week. This will significantly reduce the number of meals you need to prepare each week.

3. Make a list of all ingredients needed to create the meals. Ideally, do this while you are at home so that you can take inventory of what you already have. Cross off the items you do not need to purchase. This will help you to greatly reduce costs for unnecessary items.

4. For an additional means of cost cutting, scan store apps, circulars and newspapers for coupons. If you can’t find coupons for the foods in your meal plan, try using coupons for other household goods such as paper products, cleaning products, and personal items.

5. Don’t be afraid to repeat what works. If everyone loves Mexican, keep a Mexican dish on your list each week but just vary what you serve (fish tacos, bean burritos, chicken enchiladas etc).

6. Try using a weekly template. Here’s an example: 2 nights per week poultry; 2 nights per week fish, 1 night per week beef or pork, 1 night per week vegetarian, 1 night per week dining out. Another way to plan a template is by theme: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Crock-Pot Wednesday, Stir-Fry Friday, etc.

7. Got picky eaters? Try stations or “bars” that provide variety but also satisfy individual preferences. Examples include: Salad bar, taco bar, pizza bar, potato bar etc. Each family member can customize to their hearts delight.

8. Stumped for ideas? Get the family involved. Ask each family member to help you come up with 1-2 meals each week. For kids, have them pick the night of the week the want “their meal” served. Take it one step further and have them help you prepare and serve the meal. This is a great way to get kids more involved in the kitchen.

9. Keep an inventory of meals that are family favorites. Ideally, build this up to 15-20 recipes. You can pull from this inventory each week to allow for non-stressful meal planning.

10. Stock your freezer and your pantry. Load up on beans, whole grains, healthy oils, frozen vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Set aside 1-2 days per month to make and freeze meals. This will really come in handy during busy times when you may not have been able to effectively meal plan.

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN:

SUNDAY: Baked cod, asparagus, sweet potatoes

MONDAY: Broccoli, red pepper, garlic frittata, salad, roasted potatoes

TUESDAY: Fish Tacos (use leftover cod from Sunday), salad (leftover from Monday)

WEDNESDAY: Roasted chicken, broccoli, butternut squash

THURSDAY: Leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner

FRIDAY: Beef stir fry with veggies and rice

SATURDAY: Dine Out

Suggestions like these can make meal planning easy and fun. For more ideas or to book a private session, contact me here.

Categories Advice, Health, How To, Nutrition, Sleep, Stress, Weight Loss

8 Steps to Better Sleep

Ahh, sleep. How many of us out there wish we could get more of it? We know we should be aiming for 8 hours per night, but an estimated 33% of the population falls short of that goal. Hectic schedules, chronic stress, anxiety, excessive screen time, and alcohol consumption can all contribute to regular amounts of sleep deprivation.

Poor sleep leads to poor health outcomes. According to the CDC, individuals who achieve less than 7 hours of consistent sleep per night – meaning you fall asleep easily and stay asleep – are at a higher risk for weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and cancer.

So what can you do to improve your sleep? Here are 8 quick and easy steps to show you how.

  1. Strive for a consistent bedtime each night. The more consistent you can be, the better. Your bedtime should allow you to achieve 7-9 hours of sleep per night and ultimately should occur during our prime sleep hours (10pm-7am).
  2. Unplug all electronic devices 2 hours prior to bedtime. The artificial blue light from these devices will lower the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is needed to help you fall asleep. Devices are also a trigger for stress and emotions. Give yourself plenty of downtime in order to ready your body for sleep.
  3. Practice stress relaxation techniques. A warm bath, reading, journaling, listening to soft relaxing music, prayer, meditation, yoga poses, whatever you like. Implement one of these strategies each night as you ready yourself for sleep.
  4. Keep your room dark and cool. Avoid having any devices or electronics near your bed that can emit light. Use room darkening shades if necessary.
  5. If you are a light sleeper, consider using deep breathing or meditation techniques to achieve deep sleep. Another thing that can help is a sound machine that will generate white noise. 
  6. When possible, expose yourself to sunshine or daytime light upon waking either by going outside or opening a window. This will support healthy melatonin levels throughout the day.
  7. Consume dietary sources of Melatonin. These include eggs, fish, pistachios, mushrooms, oats, black rice, organic cow’s milk (if tolerated), green beans, cherries. You can also consider a melatonin supplement.
  8. Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods such as bananas, almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, peanut butter, and avocado, or take a magnesium supplement if needed. Magnesium can help your body relax and achieve restful sleep throughout the night.

Set a goal to implement these strategies in order to enhance your sleep. Along with proper diet and exercise, quality sleep can help you to significantly improve your health. For more information, contact me here.

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

Resources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12114-causes-of-sleep-problems

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

Ferreira, S. (2018). A Dietitian’s Guide to Assessing and Treating Fatigue.

Categories Advice, Exercise, Fitness, Food, gym, Health, How To, Nutrition, Sleep, Weight Loss

How To Get Back On Track With Healthy Eating

I had a great Easter holiday. We spent a couple of days at the Jersey shore, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I indulged in some of my favorite treats. Pizza on the boardwalk, salt water taffy, fudge. Yes, that’s right, I’m guilty. But I loved every minute of the time I was able to spend with my family, away from the day to day stress of life in general. If felt really good to relax and just enjoy myself.

But now it’s back to reality.  Those few days of letting go and giving in to temptation were fun, but it’s time to get back to eating healthy again.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation after a vacation or a holiday? If so, recognize that for the most part this is normal. And while for some, it can affect morale and leave you feeling unmotivated to get back to your routine, it is possible with a few easy tips.

Hold yourself accountable – Accountability is one of the best ways to get motivated and stay on track with your goals. One of the easiest ways is to track your food intake. Whether it be through an app or a traditional food log, food tracking works. It can be a real eye opener in terms of calories, fat, and sugar consumed. If food tracking just isn’t your thing, you can still find other ways to be held accountable. Write down your goals, tell a friend, share your progress on social media, or work with a dietitian. Once the accountability is there, you will be much more inclined to stick to a plan.  

Exercise – Get back to your favorite activities. Whether it be the gym, yoga class, walking, golfing, tennis or gardening just make the time to move your body. Commit to 3x per week minimum. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Exercise will also help you to have more energy, lose weight, and feel great.

Drink more water – One of the simplest things you can do to get back to a healthy routine is to drink more water. Drinking water will help control your appetite and reduce calories if you are using it to replace sugary beverages. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces per day. Use a reusable water bottle, have a glass or two in the morning before your first cup of coffee, keep a water bottle  in your car, drink water before your main meals, or plan it into your schedule (Example: Drinking a set amount at the gym) and stick to it.

Double up on the vegetables– Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and they are low in calories. They are truly your best defense in terms of maintaining a healthy weight. Plus they are delicious! Start out by filling at least half of your plate with vegetables, which is equivalent to two servings. Include a serving or two as a snack and you will be well on your way to meeting the recommended goal of 5-7 servings per day.

Up your protein – I always recommend spreading your protein throughout the day by including protein at each meal – especially breakfast. Protein helps you to feel fuller longer and crave less. It also helps to build and maintain muscle. Strive for at least a quarter of your plate to include protein, which is about 3-4 oz or the size of the palm of your hand.

Get back to meal planning – Plan at least a weeks worth of meals. One simple tip is to prepare 3-4 meals but make double the portion so that the recipe yields leftovers. This will cut your meal planning for a week in half.

Go to bed earlier – Restful sleep promotes hormone balance, which will help you to crave less. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If this is something you struggle with, set a goal to go to bed 30 minutes earlier for one week. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, and how much easier it is to stick to a healthy eating routine.

To sum things up, we all have those moments in life where we let go, relax, and indulge. I support this in moderation. We need to live life!! But if you find this derails your progress and your motivation know that you are not alone. Let go of the guilt and tell yourself it’s time to get back on track and continue forward with your goals.

For more tips and support, contact me here.

Photo by Peter Bravo de los Rios on Unsplash

Categories Advice, Health, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Things like this really fire me up!

Really??!! Would you want to get nutrition advice from these guys?? I wouldn’t.

When I see crap like this I get so frustrated!

Would you get medical advice from a random salesperson at the local shopping mall? What about legal advice or tax advice? Nope. You’re smart enough to know that seeking advice on these topics from anyone other than a licensed professional could be a huge mistake and cause you potential harm.

Why should nutrition advice be any different?

I love the field of nutrition, and I love my job as a dietitian. It was a second career choice for me, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. But you know what? It was HARD WORK getting here.

It took me years in school learning about nutrition, anatomy, biology, biochemistry, metabolism, clinical nutrition therapy, psychology, and the art of counseling. Not to mention a year of internship in a variety of settings including a top-notch hospital in Philadelphia, plus a rigorous exam that I studied for and stressed over for months.

Why is the process of becoming a dietitian so demanding?

Because as dietitians we dedicate our lives to the field of nutrition. We believe in food as medicine. We want to help others live their best life. Dietitians truly care.

I know there is a lot of controversial nutrition information out there. So much that it can make your head spin and be completely overwhelming.  There will always be a new diet trend, a new shake, a new pill, and a new promise. But know this…invest your time, your health, and your money in someone who takes nutrition recommendations seriously.  Someone who knows the facts.  Someone who cares as much about your health as you do.

I mean it when I say that. I care about you and I want to help. When you are struggling I am here to help you sort it out. When you are overwhelmed, I am here to make things easier. When you are feeling defeated, I am here to pick you up. And when you celebrate your victories, I celebrate with you.

So don’t fall for the snake oil salesman. Get your nutrition advice from an expert. Don’t settle for anything less.  You are SO worth it.

March is National Nutrition Month. Celebrate with me by giving yourself the gift of health. Book your session today by clicking here.