14 Natural Remedies For Joint Pain

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Joint pain can leave you stopped in your tracks. It seems that it is becoming more and more common, especially amongst adults. Typical intermittent aches and pains can plague all of us, but when joint pain begins to become chronic, it can feel like it is becoming a way of life. And, simultaneously taking away from the ease of your life. 

Joint pain is most often felt in areas such as knees, hips, low back, shoulders, ankles, and wrists. Inflammation is the main culprit but the root cause could come from overuse, injury, muscle strain, muscle weakness, autoimmune disease, and general systemic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can help to ease the discomfort in the short term, but rarely addresses the root cause of that inflammation. Not to mention, in some cases, these medications can make you feel great in the short-term but actually worsen the root cause. 

There are many options to naturally decrease joint pain. If the joint pain onset is related to a deeper foundational root cause (i.e., weakened gut health, leaky gut, systemic stress, etc), then implementing some of these natural remedies could greatly decrease your joint pain and also heal your body on a deeper level. You don’t need to do all of these tips, but picking the ones that seem to work for you could greatly decrease your pain and discomfort (and bring more ease back into your life!). 

  1. Drink plenty of water (and stay hydrated). This tip is one of the most important and most foundational, yet one that gets overlooked all the time. Water lubricates and cushions the joints. Make sure that you are drinking half of your bodyweight (in lbs) in ounces of water daily, more if you consume dehydrating beverages (i.e., coffee, teas, and juices) and/or sweating often.
  2. Remove gluten, dairy, and sugar from your diet. Your body becomes more inflamed the more you eat foods that can increase inflammation. These are the main foods that cause inflammation and body flare ups. This includes not only joint pain, but also acne, rashes, and other inflammatory-related symptoms.
  3. Eat the right kind of fats. Fats are essential for overall body and hormone functioning, but the right kinds of fats are important. Remove inflammatory Omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, and other seed oils. Add in more Omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as wild-caught salmon and extra virgin olive oil. These are excellent for managing and decreasing inflammation. If you don’t do fatty fish, you could try consuming a fish oil supplement to help get these healthy benefits. 
  4. Get plenty of sun (with skin exposure) or take a Vitamin D/K2 supplement. Vitamin D is important for supporting healthy bones. It helps with calcium absorption and those with low levels of vitamin D are linked with higher levels of osteoarthritis. 
  5. Consume plenty of high-quality animal protein. Your body needs the full set of amino acids to keep your bones strong, support muscle recovery, and decrease inflammation/joint pain. Animal protein will give you the complete range of amino acids, B-vitamins, choline, magnesium, and iron that you need to support healthy tissue. The key word, however, is high- quality — grass-fed beef, pasteurize- raised poultry and eggs, and wild game such as venison. The muscle meat is not the only part that is nutritious for your joints…
  6. Consume a form of collagen. Along with the animal protein, consuming forms of collagen are super helpful in calming joint pain. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the your body and it helps to build joints and keep connective tissue strong. Consuming collagen, gelatin, or bone broth are ways of getting in natural glucosamine, which have been shown helpful in reducing joint pain. 
  7. Use high doses of curcumin. Turmeric has become popular specifically because of it’s active ingredient curcumin. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  8. Up your magnesium intake. Most people are deficient in magnesium, even if they are eating a nutrient-dense diet. Low levels of magnesium can cause muscle aches, joint pain, leg spasms, weakened bones, and unhealthy nerve function. If you are low in magnesium or suspect that you are, try taking a high-quality magnesium supplement. 
  9. Get active. Regular exercise is critical for healthy muscle and joint function. It helps to strengthen the muscles and joints and decrease your potential for injury. Exercise is also important for balancing hormones such as human growth hormone, cortisol, and other hormones that play a role in appetite and aging. Make sure that you lift heavy weights (appropriate for your body) and stretch regularly to loosen the pressure placed on your joints. 
  10. Eliminate nightshades foods. Nightshades include foods like peppers, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, goji berries, paprika, and ashwagandha. These foods can play a role in joint pain and muscle aches — inflammation — possibly due to the alkaloid content, or toxic compounds, that those plants can give off as a self-defense. 
  11. Try a glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM supplement. This combination has been shown to be helpful in nourishing the joints for some people. It can support the health of the cartilage. There are some people who notice worsening effects, so if you try it and your symptoms get worse or you don’t notice anything, stop taking it. 
  12. Try a high-quality CBD or hemp oil daily. CBD and hemp oil have very powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can be the “thing” that helps lessen the effect of chronic pain and inflammation. Make sure that when choosing one of these oils, that you find a company that is high-quality, tested for metals or toxins, and is sustainably resourced. 
  13. Use essential oils. Lavender, Frankincense, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Rosemary are just a few of the essential oils that have been linked to decreasing joint pain. Dilute 1-2 drops in a carrier oil (coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, etc) and rub over the affected area to help decrease pain and discomfort. 
  14. Try the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), if you are still have joint pain. If you are still having problems after doing the foundational steps, you may need to take a deeper dive. Eliminating foods such as coffee, eggs, grains, and nuts can help to calm your body’s inflammation and chronic pain. Doing this for a few months has given some people great relief and has helped them to discover exactly what foods are triggering their joint pain. 

**Click here for easy access to recommended supplements above.

Joint pain and body inflammation does not need to stop you from enjoy all that life has to offer. There are plenty of natural approaches you can try to help give you relief. Not only will these help to give you relief, but they also help to support the body as a whole!

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How To Stimulate The Vagus Nerve To Improve Your Health

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Are you feeling a little out of control? Like you don’t know how to calm yourself down? Have you ever felt stress so deeply that it feels overbearing and like you might be swallowed up into a black hole at any given moment? 

You try so many practices to calm the mind or lessen the grip of that stress, but it still feels like a black cloud hanging over your head. 

So, you turn on some music — sometimes your favorite song and other times a song that feels emotionally strong — and you start to hum. You start to sing. And then it happens…

A break in that black cloud. A lessened grip. You know the stress is still there, but something feels different and a level of relief fills you. 

That relief might be minimal or it might be gigantic. All you know is that there is a shift in how you were feeling.

You are not imagining your relief! The lessening of the stress is all so real and that is because of what you have physically stimulated. What you activated. 

What you might not know is that a simple humming or a singing of your favorite song stimulated a nerve that is critical to help you not only manage your stress, but to also help you boost your immune system, optimize your gut health, balance your blood sugar — along with a slew of other health benefits. 

The Vagus Nerve

Your sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that moves you into action. It is your fight or flight system and if it detects a threat, real or perceived, it will trigger your fight or flight response. If there isn’t a real threat, and you do not need to activate the sympathetic nervous system, then you lean in and recruit the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part that calms you down. 

The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in your parasympathetic nervous system. It functions like your body’s natural reset button — playing heavily on both your emotional and physical body. The vagus nerve extends from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, through your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Movement or recruitment of these areas help to stimulate the vagus nerve so it can learn how to be more flexible (vagal tone). Healthy vagal tone can be thought of as an optimal balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system actions that allows you to respond with resilience to the ups and downs of life. Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve allows you to bring the calm and feel more collected.

Vagal Tone

Chronic stress and unresolved trauma can be a real bummer! Not only do they impact your life deeply, but it can also create a great imbalance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of your nervous system. Because we live in a world that is over-stimulating and activating for the sympathetic nervous system, many of us need access to tools that help us engage the parasympathetic nervous system on a daily basis. 

Like I mentioned, the vagus nerve has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system activity. But, it is also important to recognize that individuals with unresolved PTSD or trauma often resort to a primitive expression of the parasympathetic nervous system which can lead to symptoms of fatigue or depression. When left untreated, chronic stress and unresolved PTSD can disrupt your physical, mental, and emotional health. The good news is that practices that focus on stimulating the vagus nerve can help regain balance if you are either keyed up with anxiety or shut down with fatigue.

This is why the tone of the vagus nerve is so significant.  Higher vagal tone is associated with better general health — better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, improved digestion and a reduction in migraines. Most importantly though, it is associated with increased emotional stability, resiliency and longevity, that which helps to balance out every other area of your life. 

Curious what your vagal tone looks like? You can easily measure it at home! Heart rate variability is a way to measure vagal tone. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when you breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. The higher the tone, the more efficient you are at relaxing. 

An increase in vagal tone is linked to a reduction in overall inflammation and an increase in emotional health and well-being. Lower vagal tone is associated with mood instability, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, chronic inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. 

Activating Your Vagus Nerve

  • Do yoga, but specifically any yoga practice that stimulates the path of the vagus nerve can have a profound influence on the tone of the vagus nerve.
  • Meditation — especially loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Om chanting increased heart rate variability
  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. In studies, ujjayi breathing showed quite effective. This type of slow breathing involved 6 breaths per minute, which would be about 5 seconds per inhale, 5 seconds per exhale.
  • Humming, chanting, or singing — especially emphasizing the long, slow exhalation to stimulate the vocal cords.
  • Thinking positive thoughts of others and increasing social connection — this stimulates the heart center of the vagus nerve.
  • Using cold water. Take a cold shower or splash cold water on your face. You can also achieve the same effect by holding a ziplock bag filled with ice cubes against your face and holding your breath. Or submerge your tongue in cold liquid.
  • Laugh more and laugh out loud!
  • Practice the Valsalva Maneuver — Exhale against a closed airway by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. It increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity thereby stimulating your vagus nerve.
  • Take your probiotic. Cultivating healthy intestinal bacteria improves the mind-gut connection and your vagal tone.
  • Get some mild exercise in — it stimulates gut flow and vagus nerve activation needed to initiate this response.
  • Do some gargling. It activates the vagus nerve by activating the muscles in the back of the throat while exhaling slowly.
  • Get a massage. Neck, foot, and pressure massages may stimulate the vagus nerve, as can gently massaging around the carotid sinus located on the sides of your neck.
  • Get enough zinc. This was shown to increase vagus stimulation and is a common mineral that some people don’t get enough of.
  • Eat more seafood — According to several scientific reviews, omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA increase heart rate variability (HRV) and lower heart rate. HRV is directly linked to vagus nerve stimulation.
  • Engage in prayer and pray out loud.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature is soothing and calms the nervous system, but some studies link sunlight to increasing vagal tone.

Stimulating the vagus nerve stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turns reduces your neurophysiological experience of stress — super important for optimal health and wellness. It reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, influences the limbic system in your brain (where emotions are processed), and stimulates digestion so your body can absorb the nutrients you are giving it. Start practicing the art of stimulating your vagus nerve to relieve anxiety, depression, tension and the general sense of unease when stress builds up. 

Try to practice daily as a preventive measure to ensure greater emotional resilience and improved health!

Are you looking for a quality probiotic to help get your gut health (and ultimately your immune system) in better balance? I use and love Just Thrive probiotic.  If you want to try it, you can get 15% off with the code Tansy15 !

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9 Immune-Boosting Foods

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The topic of immune health is quite popular, especially during times of the year when it feels like we are highly susceptible and don’t have time to get sick.

Getting sick and being sick can feel like your world stops — everything is put on hold. And that is part of why we get so intense about the extra measures taken to NOT get sick in the first place.

*Cue in all the health books, wellness podcasts, and immune boosting products…

Keeping a strong immune system was once thought only important during the cold weathered months when catching a cold or the flu was high. What you may not know is that a strong immune system proves to be important at all times of year and at all stages of life. Getting and being sick is not just about the germs we encounter. It starts way before that and with the rise in sugary drinks and processed, packaged foods dominating the store shelves, protecting your immune system is a key component to long-lasting vitality and health for years to come. 

Did you know?  Taking care of your gut health is key when wanting to boost your immune system — 70% of immune cells are in the digestive tract. We want to keep the gut strong and feed the body the nutrients it needs, all at the same time. 

Here are 9 foods that are power-packed with immune-boosting health benefits:

  1. Dark green leafy vegetables: Naturally low in sugar and high in life-giving chlorophyll, green leafy vegetables give you more sustained energy. They are also high in fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K. Eat a variety of greens such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, dandelion, collard greens, beet greens, swiss chard, just to name a few. 
  2. Vegetables: Vegetables are packed with a variety of immune builders and it pays to eat a variety. They are high in prebiotic fibers which help to nourish the growth of good bacteria that exist naturally in your gut by contributing to an environment that is optimal for good digestive health. Gut health is critical for immune health. Vegetables are also high in Vitamins A, B6, C, K, copper, and polyphenols. Try foods such as broccoli, carrots, brussel sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kale, onion, root vegetables, and seaweed.
  3. Bright colored fruit and berries: Even though fruit can be high in sugar, they still give your body a healthy dose of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and polyphenols. And, foods like apples, bananas, and berries are loaded with prebiotic fibers. Since fruit can be high in sugar, stick to 1-2 servings of fruit a day. Try noshing on guava, kiwi, currants, or any other fruit that fits your tastebuds. 
  4. Nuts and seeds: These gems are not only loaded with heart-healthy fats, but they are also high in Vitamins B6, E, thiamine, selenium, and zinc. Boost your immune system with almonds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios. 
  5. Fish/Seafood: Choosing a high-quality fish or seafood is an excellent source of protein that nourishes the immune system as well as the heart and the brain. These are high in Vitamins B12, D, selenium, phosphorus, and zinc. Make sure to buy wild-caught instead of farm-raised. Try mixing it up with fish, sardines, mackerel, cod liver oil, oysters, salmon, and trout. 
  6. Fermented foods: Like prebiotic fiber, fermented foods are good for gut health. They help to boost the good gut bacteria and create a stronger gut lining, important for a strong immune system. Try foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, fermented and/or cultured foods, etc. 
  7. Bone broth: Bone broth improves your gut health, enabling the immune system cells there to function effectively and prevent pathogens from moving from your digestive tract throughout your body. It also helps to restore the intestinal lining, resulting in improved intestinal functioning.
  8. Herbs and Spices: Busting at the seams with antioxidants, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and/or antiviral properties, herbs and spices are likes the icing on top of the proverbial cake — they boost the power of your food. They are also abundant in Vitamins A, C, B6, E, K, folate, and iron. Try chili, cayenne, tarragon, garlic, turmeric, thyme, basil, bay leaf, curry, oregano, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, etc.
  9. Beans and Lentils: Not only are beans delicious, but they are also rich in fiber to keep things moving along. Eat a serving of beans and you will also get folate, thiamine, and iron. Try aduki beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils.

Want to really get the best bang for your eating buck? Eating these foods locally and seasonally will boost your immune system even further. Seasonal foods are at their freshest and most dense in nutrients, giving you the biggest bang for your buck. And the local food benefits? Not only do they support your community and local farmers, but they have less travel time and can be picked when they are at their ripest! 

Are you looking for a quality probiotic to help get your gut health (and ultimately your immune system) in better balance? I use and love Just Thrive probiotic.  If you want to try it, you can get 15% off with the code Tansy15 !

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7 Tips To Decrease Sugar Cravings

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Food cravings can mean the death of many of your nutrition goals. Even the most dedicated can find themselves slipping and giving into the gnarling voice of their cravings.

Sugar and salt seem to be the most craved, with sugar in particular, being so addictive that willpower and intellect alone have little to do with pushing it away. You can only willpower your way through a sugar craving so many times until you eventually give in and throw all caution to the wind.

There are many reasons of why sugar can feel like it has a stranglehold on you — stress, nutrient deficiencies, imbalanced blood sugar, food memories, poor relationship with food, not enough sleep, and not being mindful of what you are eating. This is only naming a few of the reasons.

There is a belly-mind connection and it is much stronger than your willpower in the long run. 

And because of this belly-mind connection, it is super important to address a layer of reasons of why you may be struggling with your cravings. Some of those layers may feel very challenging to move through, while other may feel a bit easier and more direct. 

When starting a successful habit change, you want to focus on those low hanging fruit layers — those easy to grasp and where you can see quick results. Not only does it help to get the ball rolling, but it is also super motivating to see quick results.

Changing your relationship with food and the memories associated with your cravings can prove to be a little bit more challenging and typically demand deeper mental and emotional work. You can start here, but it might be easier to make some simple nutritional changes. This will help to decrease the physical and nutritional issues that may not be associated directly with your relationship with food.

Here are 7 easy tips that can begin to ward off cravings and balance your blood sugar:

  1. Drink more water. Let’s start with a simple one. The more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for the body to metabolize glycogen (stored glucose) for energy, so our bodies crave sugar to provide us with a quick source of energy when we actually just need to drink a little more water. 
  2. Add in cinnamon. This spice helps your body control the amount of sugar in your blood, evening out the highs and lows that lead to cravings. One study found those who took 3g of cinnamon a day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose-tolerance test than those who did not take the cinnamon. And, your sugar cravings can drop immediately after consuming something with cinnamon!
  3. Eat your bitter foods. Research has found that consuming bitter foods shuts down the receptors in your brain that drive you to desire and consume more sugar. Bitter foods and plants can help slow the absorption of sugar and regulate blood sugar levels. You can eat foods such as dandelion, citrus peel, artichoke leaf, licorice root, and even burdock root. Or, you can make it super simple and use a tincture of bitters either before or after your meals (this helps with digestion too!). My favorite bitter tincture is by Urban Moonshine.
  4. Try spinach extract. Spinach extract, also known as Appethyl, is actually a weight loss supplement. It contains thylakoids, which consist mostly of proteins, antioxidants, and chlorophyll. Spinach extract has been shown to delay fat absorption (but not total inhibit it) and increase the activity of the hormones that reduce appetite and hunger. 
  5. Say no to the small bites. Feel a craving coming on? Don’t eat the small bites here and the small bites there. Those first few bites are inevitably the most tasty and your brain is going to be triggered by indulging in just a few bites. Not to mention, this creates a mindset of deprivation and can actually make you crave harder and jeopardize your relationship with food.
  6. Avoid getting too hungry. Make sure to eat regularly and not allow yourself to get too hungry. Fasting is all the rage and everyone seems to be either doing it or wondering if they should do it. Fasting can be super beneficial to help with cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells (autophagy) but when you fast for too long, it can create a great imbalance in your blood sugar, causing hunger and cravings. If you are choosing to fast regularly, keep your time frames on the shorter side, aiming between 12-16 hours. If you are a woman, keep those time frames in the 12-14 hour range. 
  7. Make it hard to get. This is technically a behavior change, but it falls right in line with nutritional behavior changes. One of the first line of defenses when making a habit change is to make what you want hard to get. That could be by placing it out of sight and out of mind, placing it in the highest cupboard of the kitchen (needing a step stool every time you want to get it), or even not buying it at all and only being able to get it by going to the grocery store. When you create a challenge or obstacle and it is not so easy, this delays the food to mouth time AND it also gives you more time to think about the choice that you are making. Sometimes simply creating space and time can be enough to allow you to decide that the craving is just not worth it!

Getting rid of cravings can be super complex and has many layers attached to it. Often, you have to dig and uncover those layers to get to the root cause of what is causing your cravings in the first place. This is where a coach and support system can help guide you on your journey. Are you ready to finally uncover your layers? Click here to learn more about my signature “Break Your Plateau” health coaching program!

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