I have always loved the combination of peppermint and chocolate – it is a classic. And mint chip ice cream? It’s like a Summer dream…well, except for the nightmarish amount of sugar it typically contains. And if you are dairy intolerant – the pain & discomfort that can follow.
Never fear – I have created a delicious, nutritious and easy superfood mint chip shake that rivals mint chip ice cream – but it has no sugar, no dairy, and is loaded with superfoods – yes, really!!
Also known as the horseradish tree and the drumstick tree, the moringa tree is native to North India – and it’s leaves & pods offer a number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Moringa is an excellent source of iron, vitamin B6, protein, magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, and other important vitamins and minerals. It may help to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and chronic inflammation. There is not enough research to determine if moringa is safe during pregnancy – so therefore talk to your doctor first.
Did you know that peppermint can be a useful remedy for headaches and digestion issues? Peppermint has a mild numbing, cooling, and anti-spasmodic effect, and can even improve the flow of bile, and kill certain types of bacteria. Peppermint may help reduce bloating and gas, and indigestion. However, persons with reflux or GERD may wish to avoid using peppermint. Peppermint may also help to thin mucosal secretions and help to decongest stuffy noses. Applied to the temples (make sure to avoid the eyes!), peppermint may help relieve headaches in some individuals.
Please be very cautious with using peppermint essential oils – as they are very powerful and could burn if applied directly to the eyes or skin, or mouth. Peppermint oils should NOT be used on infants or small children, or taken internally with persons with GERD or reflux. Talk to your doctor before using peppermint oil if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medications. If using peppermint topically – always dilute it with a carrier oil like coconut oil. If consuming peppermint oil internally, always make sure it is a certified therapeutic grade essential oil – and use only 1 or 2 drops diluted in your beverage or food. Learn more about doTERRA essential oils.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
Occasional mild constipation can happen to anyone – often it is due to a stressful event, interruptions to your routine, or diet (maybe you were traveling, or you just went a little crazy with the cheese plate). But generally, as long as you get back to you normal routine or diet, or the stress subsides – the constipation will resolve and you will be feeling normal in a day or so. If you have ever had occasional constipation, you know the feeling – discomfort, bloating, feeling full, gassy and sluggish. Now imagine what it would be like to feel that way most of the time. Chronic constipation is hte #1 cause of kids’ belly pain, and a common reason to miss school and activities. In addition – being constipated can impede the body’s ability to detoxify. When constipation is ongoing or chronic, it generally is a signal that something is amiss somewhere in the digestion and elimination process – with the organs, the nerves, and anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.
In some cases, constipation can become a medical emergency. According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise, “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.” If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction.
Not everyone agrees on the definition of constipation – some experts say as long as you “go” 3 times a week, you are fine. But most natural & holistic health practitioners say anything less than 1 daily movement is constipation. You should look before you flush, because another way to identify constipation is by the quality of the stool – even if you are passing stool – if they are hard, little pebbles – it is considered constipation. (see below Bristol stool chart). Another consideration is when you are not completely emtpying the bowel – incomplete evacuations are another sign of constipation. Also – if someone has to strain every time they go in order to pass the stool – this is another sign of constipation. The ideal situation is to have at least one complete evacuation of the bowel daily with a type 3 or 4 bowel movement on the Bristol Stool chart – which is a smooth and easy to pass stool. Some people may pass more than 1 daily.
Chronic constipation can be caused by a long list of issues including:
For constipation sufferers – the tasteless and odorless over the counter medication Miralax seemed to offer an easy solution to the problem – just stir it into a glass of water or juice, and drink it down – problem solved, right? Not so fast…although doctors have been recommending it as a safe solution for constipation in kids for years, prescribing Miralax is not FDA approved for use in children, so giving it to kids is an “off-label” use. And giving it to anyone for longer than a week is also off label. Miralax’s label – says that it is for use in people age 17 and over, and not for more than 7 days (without a doctor’s orders).
The research on the long-term safety of propylene glycol (PEG) use in kids is limited at best. And there have been concerns regarding the safty of Miralax’s use in children for several years. According to the NY Times, “the Empire State Consumer Project, a New York consumer group, sent a citizen petition to the F.D.A. on behalf of parents concerned about the increase in so-called adverse events related to PEG that health professionals and consumers have reported to the F.D.A. over the past decade.” According to this NY Times article, tests conducted by the F.D.A. in 2008 on eight batches of Miralax, found tiny amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) in all of the samples – which are ingredients in antifreeze. Despite being conducted in 2008, the results of the tests were not disclosed to the public. The article also said that taking Miralax for long periods of time could lead to developing “acidic blood.”
Since the start of 2017, a growing number of parents have come forward complaining of a myriad of psychological, behavorial, and neurological symptoms that they have been linked to the active ingredient propylene glycol (PEG) found in Miralax and some other laxatives – these side effect include tics, stuttering, anger/aggression, depression, anxiety, memory issues, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and more. There is a Facebook group called Parents Against Miralax that has grown from about 2,000 to over 18,000 members in just a few weeks time.
Many doctors are still recommending it as a safe option, while others are questioning the safety. “Every pediatric GI physician, I would guarantee you, has told a family this is a safe product,” said Dr. Kent C. Williams, a gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Now, he worries, “it may not be true.” According to the NY Times, “Scrutiny for Laxatives as a Childhood Remedy.”
Many kids and families have been using Miralax without being told of the potential risks, and having never been offered any natural alternatives to try first. Now with the possible side effect concerns – a lot of parents are scrambling to find a safe & natural alternative to Miralax – that works.
The good news is there are lots of natural alternatives that are safe, effective, and offer lots of positive health benefits.
Note: Do not expect constipation to resolve overnight – take your time and implement changes very slowly and gradually to allow the body to adjust. Any major changes made to the diet or with supplements are best done on the weekend when the child is not rushing out of the house, and can be near a toilet in case they happen to get loose stools, and home relaxing in case there is any discomfort, gas, or bloating. Kids under the age of 4, or with a medical conditions (such as kidney disease), or currently taking medications – should speak to their pediatrician or specialist before implementing any of the below suggestion. The content of this article is not to be construed as medical advice. – all information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Contact your doctor or specialist with any questions about how this information pertains to you, your child.
Studies show that most kids are not replenishing enough fluids each day, making them chronically dehydrated. Without proper hydration, the stools can become hard and difficult to pass (Type 1 and 2 on the Bristol chart). Overtime this situation can become chronic constipation. Just correcting hydration alone can potentially solve the constipation problem for certain kids!
When constipation is chronic, going on an allergy elimination diet is a very good idea. Undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities can cause inflammation, digestive troubles, problems absorbing nutrients, and constipation. It is also important to discover a food sensitivity because they can lead to damage in the small intestine, and many other very serious health issues overtime. I generally recommend keeping a food journal for a few days before starting the elimination diet, during the elimination period, and after. Download this Food Mood Journal for free.
Almost any intolerance to a food could cause constipation, two of the most common culprits are dairy and gluten:
Test – Don’t want to do an elimation diet, or would rather just test? A food intolerance panel can be run to identify food intolerances as well – such as the ALCAT test.
Cutting back on sugary and processed or “enriched” foods will not only benefit digestion – but it will benefit weight, energy, and overall health too. Processed foods lack enzymes, fiber and nutrients. Diets that are highly processed and sugary not only can lead to constipation, but can also lead to inflammation in the gut and an overgrowth of candida, which is a yeast. Also – the more sweet foods a child eats, the less they will enjoy unsweetened foods like vegetables, so getting rid of the sugar for a little while helps to reset the taste buds and metabolism. High sugar consumption also raises our triglycerides, blood sugar, and increases our risk of many diseases. Read: 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar to learn more.
Increasing foods that are naturally rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals like fruits and vegetables will help to get the digestion moving better. Some particularly good foods for constipation include: prunes and other dried fruits, pears, kiwis, blueberries, cooked beets, cooked sweet potatoes, cooked oatmeal, and (well hydrated) chia seeds.
If you want to get “things” moving – get moving!! Exercise is really important for overall health and digestion. Kids have more reasons than ever to be sedentary – lots of screentime, homework, etc. Kids who are not out being active can suffer from sluggish digestion. In addition to promoting regularity, exercise also benefits our mood, weight, energy, and sleep. So turn off the screens and get moving!
Healthy fats help to lubricate the colon and keep things moving. My favorite fat for constipation is coconut oil. It is antiviral, antibacterial – so it will help to improve the bacterial balance in the colon, and it also does not require bile salts for digstion – so those with a sluggish gallbladder will still be able to digest it well. It is also metabolism-boosting and easily converted into energy. Any adult that has tried a Bulletproof coffee (which has 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil, plus 1-2 Tablespoons of grass fed butter in it) can attest to the fact that eating a lot of coconut oil and butter can make you “go!” Other healthy fats that benefit digestion and metabolism include grass fed butter, flax oil (not for cooking), olive oil, and avocado oil.
Some ways to get coconut oil into the diet are – adding it to smoothies, stir into oatmeal, cook with it, and making these “coconut oil chocolates”:
It is important to make sure your child has enough time each morning to sit and relax on the potty before going off to school. Even if you have to wake them up earlier in the morning – make sure they have plenty of time after breakfast to sit on the potty. Morning is one of the most optimal times to have a bowel movement. Sometimes kids will “hold it” at school, traveling, or if they are out in public. Some teachers might restrict bathroom breaks, to limit disruptions to the school day. If your child suffers from urinary tract, constipation or digestive troubles; make sure to inform the teacher so he knows to not to restrict your child’s access to the bathroom. If the teacher does not agree, bring your issue to the principal, there is a disabilities act that prevents kids who have continence issues from being restricted from using the bathroom.
The modern toilet is not designed to put our bodies into the ideal position for moving our bowels. Raising the feet up onto a stool or a Squatty Potty can be very helpful in getting the anatomy in the right position to make a bowel movement. Especially little kids whose feet don’t even reach the ground – they need a little support. The Squatty Potty comes in two sizes, to fit the individual just right and get them into the right squatting position for optimal bowel movements. It also stores neatly under the toilet when not in use. If you don’t want to invest in a Squatty Potty – you could stack up some books, or use a little step stool – but once you do – you will see how great it is to get in the right position and you will want the Squatty Potty – because it can be washed clean, and fits perfectly next to the potty. As they say “try the stool for your stools!”
Too much calcium and not enough magnesium can lead to constipation (it also has been linked to increased risk of heart attack, due to calcifications of the arteries). As many as 70% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. This can result in constipation, headaches, sore muscles, nerve troubles, restless legs, nervousness, and even increased fractures. Taking magnesium before bedtime is helpful with constipation. For some kids, taking magnesium before school is also helpful – as magnesium is called “the calming mineral’ – so it can help them to be calm in school.
Seek out foods that are rich in magnesium – like dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. If you are craving chocolate, it could be your body telling you that you need magnesium, because cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate) is one of the highest known food sources for magnesium. Most people also will benefit from taking a magnesium supplements, such as Natural Calm (for ages 4 and up). Magnesium can also be absorbed via the skin by soaking in an epsom or Dead Sea salt bath – I particularly like this brand Dead Sea Warehouse‘s salt bath product – it is very high quality and affordable. Another option is using magnesium oils – which can be applied topically.
If your bowels are feeling sluggish, vitamin C supplements can be a wonderful way to get the bowels moving. Chewing one or two of these vitamin C gummies on an empty stomach in the morning, might just be what is needed to produce a bowel movement (BM). – they are 125 mg each. For older kids, you might want to find a capsule, powder, or liquid vitamin C with 500 mg./serving. Vitamin C (like magnesium) can be taken to bowel tolerance* (the amount needed to produce a BM). If the stool is loose*, just take less vitamin C. If the vitamin C bothers the tummy – look for a buffered brand, or take with food (it will have less of an effect of moving the bowels however if taken with food). If tummy upset occurs from taking vitamin C, 1 glass of water with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in might help reduce the acidity of the vitamin C. Learn more here: vitamin c for constipation.
* Taking too much magnesium or vitamin C can lead to diarrhea, so you want to gradually increase it over several days. If diarhea does occur – make sure to give your child an electrolyte replenisher and fluids – I like Scratch Labs electrolyte replenisher packets, or Nuun tablets. Make sure to back off and take less magnesium and vitamin C if this does occur.
Most Americans do not get nearly the amount of fiber they need each day. There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water, creating a gel. Insoluble fiber passes through undigested, so it adds bulk. Adding too much fiber to the diet too quickly is not a good idea – it can cause discomfort, and can even make the constipation worse, especially if fluids are not increased along with the added fiber. So make sure to drink extra liquids as well when increasing dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber because it needs to soak up water in order to work. Adding in too much fiber, too fast, without enough fluids could not only cause discomfort, gas and bloating – it could even potentially cause a blockage – especially if there are already hard stools stuck in the colon. If a stool has not been produced within the past day, before adding in fiber to the diet – consider using an enema or suppository to make sure the colon is clean first – this will make a blockage less likely to develop from the added fiber. And remember to add the fiber in gradually.
Ideally before adding in any bulking fibers (insoluble fiber)… the bowels should have moved and be fairly cleaned out. If all of the above steps have been implemented and the bowels have not been moved. It is a good idea to do a thorough bowel “clean out.” Often, doctors will prescribe Miralax for this. But there are many other ways to achieve a clean out without Miralax. A glycerin or liquid pediatric suppository or an enema may be used at this point. If a suppository or enema is chosen, it is important for everyone to remain calm and not to appear embarrassed – the child often will mirror our behavior and attitude, and if they are tense – it can make it more uncomfortable. Using a little coconut oil as lubrication can make it significantly more comfortable. (Read: How to give a child an enema in 5 Steps).
Approximately how much fiber should my child get each day? It can vary from person to person – but a general guideline for kids ages 3-18 is to add the number 5 to your child’s age, and in general, that is the number of grams of fiber they need daily – so an average 11 year old, should have about 16 grams of fiber per day. A 6 year old needs about 11 grams. Recommednations for an average adult are to get about 25 grams each day. But again – this can very from person to person. Through experiementation – find what works for you and your child – and try to have a balance of soluble and insoluble fibers.
Some good fiber sources:
We need to balance out the bacteria in our gut – probiotics boosts the good bacteria, which is very important for healthy digestion, a balanced weight, and a strong immune system. Fermented and cultured foods and drinks such as kefir and yogurts can provide natural probiotics, or you can add a probiotic supplement to the daily routine. Prebiotics are also helpful – because they are food for the probiotics. Prebiotics are founnd in certain fibrous foods, and supplements.
There are instances when taking probiotics or prebiotics may not be a good idea – at least initially. If someone has Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), that means that there is bacteria growing in the small intestine, this can lead to bloating and distention when carbohydrates are eaten. If you suspect that your child may have SIBO ( gas, bloating after eating carbs), then you might want to seek out a SIBO specialist to have them evaluated and treated – they may or may not think probiotics are a good idea. Once the SIBO is resolved, probiotics may or may not be appropriate for repopulating the gut to prevent further dysbiosis. Some of the supplements mentioned above have probiotics and prebiotics
Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.
The body naturally produces hydrochloric acid (HcL) and enzymes to digest foods, which are needed to break food down for absorption and digestion. If we are low on stomach acid or enzymes, food may not get properly broken down for digestion, so it will be harder to pass through the digestive tract, and also the body will absorb less of the nutrients. If you suffer from acid reflux, you might think that you need to reduce the acid in your stomach. But usually, it means you do not have enough acid or enzymes.
Constipation can stem from issues with motility. When the migrating motor complex or the vagus nerve re not working optimally – this can lead to slow motility. If that is the case, stimulating the vagus nerve can help to get things moving again. Singing, vigorous gargling, gagging, and deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve. Or you can use a device called Nervana – which stimualtes the vagus nerve through the ear. In addition to improving motility, stimulating the vagus nerve can help with reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting a calm feeling and good sleep.
One of my favorite ways to sneak lots of good nutrition, fiber and hydration into a glass are smoothies. Especially good for picky eaters – smoothies are a great way to sneak in healthy ingredients!
Orange Dream Smoothie:
Makes one 8 oz. smoothie
Essential oils can be very helpful for dealing with the discomfort of constipation and helping resolve digestion issues. I like a product called Digest Zen from DoTerra. Peppermint essential oil is also very helpful when there is bloating or discomfort. But please be aware that essential oils are very powerful – even one drop is powerful – so always be sure to keep them out of young children’s reach. When using topically, always use a carrier oil (coconut works wonderfully). You can put a tablespoon of coconut oil into a little container – and add a few drops of essential oil like Dgest Zen – and then rub that on the belly as needed. You could also order or make your own DigestZen rollerball that has the carrier oil in it. Another topical remedy to consider is castor oil. Just rub a little castor oil on the right side of the abdomen (this is the liver area) before bedtime.
Realize that digestion issues may take a while to resolve, and it might be a good idea to slowly ease into the changes. If the constipation and digestion issues continue to persist, it might be prudent to schedule an appointment with a holistic or integrative practitioner to see if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed – such as an infection, parasites, SIBO, or another issue.
And just remember that if allowed to go on for a long time or get severe, constipation can become a medical emergency. According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise, “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.” If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction. Or in rare very severe cases – constipation that has gone on too long – could lead to sepsis, a very dangerous infection. So it is important to not allow a child to go more than a a few days without eliminating – you may need to use an enema or a glycerin suppository to prevent a blockage if a child has gone more than a couple days without having a BM, and is getting very uncomfortable, is not eating well, and is not able to produce a stool on his/her own. If this is happening – please seek medical attention right away/have your child evalated by a gastroenterologist or pediatrician.
* Please note: the content in this article is for children ages 4 and up, and without any kidney disorder. This content is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Persons experiencing problems or with questions about their health or medications, should consult their medical professional. Persons should carefully read the labels of all foods and supplements, and those who are taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions. Linked articles are provided for further resources and information and should not be construed as medical advice.
Drug for Adults Is Popular as Children’s Remedy – Previous title for this article was: “Miralax – a popular cure but never approved for children”
I could call this the “Sleepy time” drink because resistant starch (found in tiger nut flour) can support healthy sleep and stable blood sugar levels. So this would be a great bedtime snack – because it could help you get a good night’s rest! But it is also great during the day because resistant starch helps to provide long lasting energy too.
Put the liquid into the blender, add the cashew butter and blend it thoroughly to make into a milk. Add the Tiger Nut flour (and protein powder if using) and let it sit for a couple minutes to soak. Then add the vanilla, cinnamon, and pinch of salt – blend well. Add a cube or two of ice if you wish to chill it, blend again.
Pour into a glass and serve. Give this a try before bedtime and see if you don’t sleep like a baby!!
In addition to improving sleep, and energy – resistant starch can help us feel more satisfied and full, it can also benefit digestion, even potentially lowering the risk of colon cancer! To learn more about the benefits of resistant starch, and get some more recipes – sign up for my eCourse: All About Resistant Starch.
As a foodie and a nutritionist – I believe that it is possible for food to be both delicious and nutritious – it just takes a little ingenuity in the kitchen!! I love to make “upgraded” healthier version of foods – like this Wendy’s style “Frosty!
When I am choosing what I put into my body, it needs to taste great and support my body and brain to function at it’s best. Foods that are high in sugar might fit the bill on taste – but they will just make you crash and burn and feel like crap in the end. Plus, it is easy to make something taste great if you just load up on the sugar – where is the challenge in that? Overtime, a high sugar diet can lead to a host of health issues – read 20 Reasons to Break Up with Sugar to learn more.
To me, it is just not worth the impact on my health to eat high sugar foods – especially when you can make a healthier version that tastes just as good (I think this one tastes even better than the original).
This smoothie is a delicious recovery drink for athletes too!
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I am not one to drink a glass of milk for a snack – unless it is cashew milk! For some reason – I just love a nice cold glass of cashew milk. If I add a little cinnamon and vanilla to it – it is a serious treat! You could also add a teaspoon or two of raw cacao powder to make this a Mexican Chocolate Milk. This milk is great in coffee, and also quite filling and satisfying due to the healthy fats and protein. The cinnamon supports healthy blood sugar levels too.
And best of all – this recipe whips up in about 3 mins too! Why buy store-bought milk (many of which contain the questionable ingredient carrageenan) when you can make it at home in 3 mins?
Quick Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Milk:
makes one 8 oz. glass of milk (store any leftover in refrigerator for up to 2 days)
Put everything except the ice into the blender and blend well to combine. Add in the desired amount of ice cubes – blend again – and pour into a glass. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top if desired. You could also omit the vanilla and cinnamon if you needed a plain/savory milk for recipes.
Want to make cashew milk using the nut (not nut butter), and find out how to increase the calcium and fiber content? Click to learn more about The Best Alternative Milk!!
Do you like ginger? Ginger root is warming and calming to the digestive tract. It can help to reduce gas and indigestion, and can even help to relieve nausea and motion sickness. It has potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, potentially even offering relief to arthritis and asthma sufferers.
Research published on September, 2015 found a compound in ginger to be 10,000x more potent than chemo against cancer cells, read more here.
I have been literally obsessed with ginger lately – it is featured in my Green Lemonade recipe, and it is the star of this fresh Ginger Lemonade – a wonderful way to include ginger in your life!
Ginger Lemonade Ingredients:
*avoid sugar made with sugar beets – as that is typically GMO.
Ginger Cucumber ‘Spa’ Water:
This water supports hydration, digestion and is anti-flammatory.
Put all of the ingredients into a large jar – allow the flavors to come together for a couple hours. Strain as you pour into a glass. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Learn more about Ginger:
This green lemonade recipe is my go-to favorite juice – it features alkalizing lemons & greens, warming & soothing ginger, a little sweetness and detoxifying malic acid from the granny smith apples, heavy metals-detoxifying parsley, and the celery adds organic sodium – a very important electrolyte for proper hydration and muscle/nerve support.
Ingredients (makes about 24 oz. of juice):
Directions: Put everything (except the avocado oil/chia seeds) into the juicer.* Pour desired amount into a glass, save the rest in a glass jar in refrigerator up to 1 day. Stir in the avocado oil (or if using chia seeds – stir and allow them to soak 3-5 minutes before drinking). *If you don’t have a juicer – use your blender and strain out the pulp if you like!
*Why add the chia seeds or avocado oil to this drink?
Many of the vitamins in a green drink are fat soluble, so in order for them to be properly absorbed, there needs to be a carrier – a fat source. The fat also helps to keep the blood sugar stable, which is important for a healthy metabolism. You could also have this juice with a handful of almonds, half an avocado, or you could take your fish oil supplement too!
Read more: The Key Ingredient Your Green Juice is Missing.
**Note: when making juice – I highly recommend using only organic ingredients – because each 8 oz. serving can contain 2 pounds of produce – and conventional fruits and vegetables can be treated with pesticides (especially important for the Dirty Dozen and anything that you do not remove the peel). Also – make sure to rinse (or peel) your ingredients before juicing. **
We are told that we all need to cut back on the salt. And for most people – this is very prudent advice – especially those who are inactive or eating highly processed diets – which generally delivers too much salt. Excess dietary salt can increase blood pressure, which is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, and can also strain the kidneys. For high risk people, cutting back on high salt foods and increasing the intake of potassium-rich foods could reduce stroke by 21% studies show. (Read: Shifting the balance of sodium and potassium). Often – just cutting way back on processed foods can accomplish that!
Certain people might actually need more sodium than they are getting – including those suffering from adrenal fatigue/hypofunction, chronically low blood pressure, and endurance athletes.
Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride – which are two important electrolytes. Electrolytes are electrically charged ions in our blood – they regulate our fluids balance, blood pressure, are needed for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, and energy production – they are kind of like our ‘spark plugs.’ When an athlete works out – they sweat – which means they lose fluids and electrolytes. So if an athlete gets depleted of electrolytes (including sodium) – they could start to feel fatigued, weak, sore and generally could run out of steam. If allowed to progress – it can become more serious, even life-threatening.
If an athlete has worked out hard for more than an hour – especially in hot conditions – plain water is not likely enough to properly and fully rehydrate. In fact, guzzling a lot of plain water when someone is dehydrated can lead to a condition called hyponatremia – which is a low concentration of sodium in the blood. Generally chronic hyponatremia (which develops more gradually) produces milder symptoms, while the acute type can be very serious, potentially leading to brain swelling and coma. According to the Mayo Clinic, “A normal sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Hyponatremia occurs when sodium levels fall below 135 mEq/L.”
Dehydration can cause muscle aches/cramps, headache, and nausea. If caught early when symptoms are mild, these generally will respond to a rehydration drink or salty/mineral-rich foods paired with water. But if an athlete displays any signs of serious dehydration or hyponatremia – including disorientation, slurred speech, weakness, or strange behavior – seek medical treatment immediately as it can be a life-threatening situation.
Some signs you could be deficient in organic sodium – muscle weakness, spasms, or cramping; loss of flexibility; headaches/migraines; heart burn or digestive issues; stiff or painful joints; fatigue; restless legs; osteoporosis; and hardening of the arteries.
Foods with naturally occurring organic sodium or a high quality unprocessed salt like pink Himalayan, Celtic, or Real Salt brand are not the same as table salt. Processed table salt typically has anti-caking agents, and processing removes all of the trace minerals, which makes the remaining sodium and chloride less bio-available to the body – and it is more difficult to excrete excesses too. It may not be possible to always get the good quality salt – but it is the only kind we use in our house. Note: unprocessed salt generally should have some color – pink, grey, etc. Potassium-rich foods help to balance out our sodium levels.
The best thing for an athlete to do – is to follow the good ole’ boy scout motto – and be prepared. Come to your workouts and competitions well-hydrated, and have everything you need in your bag to stay that way.
You could also make your own homemade sports drink by combining 8 oz water (or coconut water), with 8 oz. fresh juice (such as orange), 1/8 tsp high quality salt (300 mg of sodium), and 1/2 tsp honey or your favorite natural sweetener. Here are some other homemade sports drink recipes to consider trying too.
Some other considerations:
Research shows that the majority of kids today are chronically dehydrated, with 1/4 of all kids drinking no water all day long! Young athletes need to take their hydration seriously. One reason that kids may not be drinking enough water – is because they are not thirsty! You might find that adding a little more sodium-rich foods to the diet can help to re-stimulate the thirst mechanism. On hot days, I often put a small pinch of Real Salt in my kids water bottle that they bring to school, especially the morning after a hard workout. I also like to use a trace mineral supplement called SpectraMin which contains 63 ionic trace minerals and helps support hydration, it also pairs well with a product called Rehydration – which together helps to encourage thirst and get the fluids and electrolytes into the cells.
Some additional reading/articles:
I had a big bunch of mint and a fresh pineapple, and some coconut in the freezer – so this morning I whipped up this pineapple mint smoothie – it was absolutely delicious and refreshing, it made me feel like I was in the tropics!! Pineapple, mint, coconut and chia seeds all support healthy hydration and digestion. I think this will be a new staple for Summer/Spring for me, and I hope for you too. This recipe is dairy-free, vegan and gluten free.
Put the coconut water and chia seeds into the blender – allow to soak. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend to combine. Add in a handful (or whatever amount desired) of ice cubes and blend. Serve immediately!
*Note: If you are prone to getting canker sores from pineapple, you might want to substitute mango for the pineapple in the smoothie recipe.
Save your pineapple core in the refrigerator or freezer – I am posting a recipe tomorrow that will make use of the core!
One of the most interesting things about sweet potatoes, is that despite having “sweet” in their name, and tasting sweet, they are low glycemic. Low glycemic foods gradually raise your bloodsugar. Sweet potatoes spike your bloodsugar significantly less than a regular white potato!
They are a nearly perfect food with high fiber, rich in vitamins like beta carotene (which gives it’s flesh the rich orange color), and have been shown to aid in recovery for athletes. Read 15 Superfoods for Peak Performance to learn about how sweet potatoes and other foods are good for performance and recovery.
I actually prefer yams over sweet potatoes, because they are darker in color, which means richer in vitamins and nutrients (sweet potatoes and yams are often used interchangeably and confused). So this recipe should really be called yam pie – but that does not sound as good.
Last night we had roasted sweet potatoes and I sprinkled on some cinnamon and swirled in some applesauce into them. It was so good – it tasted like a cross between apple and pumpkin pie. So today I decided to recreate that yumminess with a Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie smoothie!
Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie:
Whip this up before heading to the gym, because it is chock full of superfoods for peak performance!!
* Cinnamon is a wonderful spice for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. The more common form of cinnamon sold in the United States is cassia cinnamon. Cassia has coumarin, a compound that is toxic to the liver in high doses. Although less common in the U.S., Ceylon type of cinnamon is considered “true” cinnamon, and it does not contain coumarin. It might be a little more expensive, but I find Ceylon to be milder, a little sweeter, and more complex – definitely the best cinnamon choice!
© copyright 2017 Sara Vance