Healthy, Wealthy, & Smart Episode 351: Taking Control of Your Health
Karen Litzy brings on Sharon Holand Gelfand to discuss stress and nutrition. They cover topics including how stress impacts physiology, vitamins, and minerals most people are deficient in, and how to heal your stomach with fermented foods.
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Welcome to the Healthy Wealthy & Smart podcast. Each week, we interview the best and brightest in physical therapy, wellness, and entrepreneurship. We give you cutting edge information you need to live your best life. Healthy, wealthy, and smart. The information in this podcast is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as personalized medical advice. And now here’s your host, Dr. Karen Litzy.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today’s episode is brought to you by Net Health. So if you’re looking for an EMR that can do pretty much everything, check out ReDoc powered by xfit, which is a cloud-based fully integrated EMR and billing solution. You can expand your visit capacity, get paid, ramp up patient engagement and eliminate worries about documentation and compliance, all in one place. So you can treat your patients and let ReDoc do the rest. To learn more about ReDoc and complete revenue cycle management services, check them out at nethealth.com/healthy.
Okay, onto to today’s guest. I am so happy to have Sharon Holand Gelfand join me today. Sharon’s path to nutrition began when her son was diagnosed with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and ileitis. Her decision to tackle his condition, led her to change careers and sent her to graduate school where she completed a master’s of science in applied clinical nutrition. During this process, Sharon realized she had been ignoring her own symptoms, including IBS, migraines, eczema, and hypoglycemia, to name a few.
She learned how to heal herself, her son and her whole family through proper functional testing, food, supplements, and changes to her lifestyle. Sharon is a certified functional nutritionist and a member of the American College of Nutrition. So I just want to thank Sharon for coming on and sharing a lot of her knowledge with us today. So what do we talk about? How stress impacts our physiology and the first warning signs of being overstressed, the vitamins and minerals most people are deficient in, I’m one of them, food and supplements to incorporate into your diet to combat stress and how to heal your gut with fermented foods. And she also gives us a great recipe. So thanks to Sharon and thanks to everyone for listening and enjoy.
Hey Sharon, welcome to the podcast. I’m happy to have you on.
Well, thanks for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
And now I read obviously, your short bio when we started here, but can you expand on that bio? Let the listeners get a little bit more info about you.
Sure. I’d be happy to. So, as you were reading in my bio about my journey from my son’s diagnosis, it was really interesting because I had never really realized how I’ve been compartmentalizing my own health issues and how, especially as practitioners and as people who are taking care of everybody else, we don’t take care of ourselves. So we compartmentalize everything. And the big wake up call of wow, a diagnosis from your child or somebody you love makes you realize what else don’t I know. And it was just peeling back the onion. And click, click, click on the computer and turning to my sister who’s a doctor and saying to her, “Oh my God, I need to really understand this. I have to go back to school. I really have to get to the root of this.”
And for me, it just became organic of, “Wow, if I don’t know this, who else doesn’t know this? And how can I get the word out there and just share this information?” And before I knew it, I went from banking and finance and owning a business to being a healthcare professional and just sharing and helping people get healthy and connect back to their bodies, which is what’s missing, I think. But that’s my journey.
And so often it takes that outside force that affects you personally to make that change. And so in this case, it was your son. I’ve heard from other people, it was their husband, or it was themselves, and they’ve just had a complete career change.
Right. Well you know what’s interesting about that is that we are actually given so many signs, but we don’t pay attention to them. And there were many signs from my son at that I was kind of paying attention to, but I was going through a divorce. So it was like too hard to do everything all at once. Until something really hits you in the face and it’s like, you have no choice. The brick has been thrown at you and you have to, well you always have a choice, but you have to do something.
Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that leads us into what a big bulk of our discussion is going to be about today, and that’s about stress, the stress of life, the stress of work, the stress of, in my case and a lot of my listeners’ cases, would be the stress of being that healer, being the provider, being the person that’s taking care of everybody else. And the old saying is you take care of everybody else and yourself last. Right?
So how does all of that stress affect our bodies and what can we do about it?
Wow, great question. And it affects it in so many ways because it really, it starts with our adrenals. It starts with the release of cortisol. It starts with all these changes in our hormones because our body’s trying to compensate. It’s trying to adapt internally. But as we get older, it becomes more chronic and you reach a point where you’re beyond adapting, you’re beyond compensating. You’re so exhausted and that’s when the body starts to fall apart. So, as practitioners and as business people, as parents, as caretakers, whatever our role is, if we don’t put that oxygen mask on ourselves first, what good are we if we’re dead, right? So the key is to really start paying attention to, everything’s awareness.
It’s starting to pay attention to, what is my body telling me? How do I even know what that means? I don’t know if you and I have actually talked about this, but when I do my workshops and I speak to people, I kind of use an analogy of a car because our bodies are machines. But with a car, you get a dashboard that has all the indicator lights, all the bells and whistles telling you somebody in the lane next to you and the tire needs air. But nobody’s taught us what to listen to in our bodies, yet we do have a dashboard. We just haven’t been given the instruction manual. So to me, the first sign of that overwhelm and that stress and that shortness of breath and the inability to focus and pay attention is just taking a step back and first of all, just taking a deep breath. We’ve gotten so used to just having shallow breaths right up here. And just taking a deep breath and realizing, I need to allow oxygen into my body, into my brain because we need the oxygen.
And then really paying attention to what am I doing? What could it be doing in my body? And if I’m under all this stress and it’s going haywire, what’s it depleting from my body? What can I do to add to it? And what I’ve noticed, with so many people I speak to, is that everybody’s got the same symptoms. They’re tired, they’re exhausted and they have no energy and they’re getting headaches or migraines and their stomach’s bothering, whatever. They’re basically the same symptoms. And a lot of times, it’s a magnesium deficiency. We don’t even realize the importance of magnesium as a mineral in our body, which like 80% of the population is deficient in that mineral. And yet it’s implicated in over 300 different pathways and functions that we need to relax, we need for blood pressure, that we need just to have normal flow in our organs. So if we’re not able to even realize that, it’s well, where do I start?
Exactly. And now, is this something, so if we were to say, if you’re going for your, and I know you’re not a physician, but if you’re going for your let’s say yearly physical, are they testing in blood work for magnesium deficiencies?
That’s a great question. They don’t. There’s no real way to get a true test of magnesium because it’s more in your bones than it is in your blood because your blood is going to keep it stable as it can. So there’s no real test to show for deficiency in magnesium. The only way to know is just by the symptoms that you may be experiencing, the PMS or the moodiness, or being tired, or brain fog. And again, because it can mask so many other types of conditions or ailments, it’s hard to really say, “Oh, it’s a magnesium deficiency.” But I just noticed when I work with clients that because of the food supply and the lack of that mineral in the soil these days, that it’s one of those minerals that you can very easily take a supplement for.
Or eat more foods that are rich in it. Avocados, they’re very rich in magnesium. And almonds and pumpkin seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate. People are like, “Oh, I can have chocolate?” Well, not milk chocolate filled with sugar, but dark chocolate, yes. So I tell people, even practitioners, go ahead and have a piece of dark chocolate. Keep something that’s 70% or higher. Ideally even 85%, but it takes time to adjust to that. But it’s okay to have a piece because then it’s helping you also satisfy a little bit of maybe a craving that you’re having. But it’s giving you not only magnesium, but some protein, some fiber, some iron, and now you have a little treat that you can enjoy and get something out of it that’s going to be healthy for you.
Just to kind of recap. So if you’re feeling stressed or you’re feeling sluggish or tired, some stomach issues, I think the problem with all of these is they’re signs like you said, for a lot of things.
If we start adding some of these more magnesium friendly foods into our diet, like green leafy vegetables, or dark green vegetables, avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds. And we start to feel better. Is that sort of your benchmark of, well, maybe you were a little deficient? It’s sort of like a trial and error and if you start to feel better, then that’s a good thing?
Great question. With magnesium, it is a little bit trial and error. But when I work with clients, it’s more, it’s looking at other pictures of the puzzle. So when you were saying, ways to do that with magnesium, you do also want to ask yourself, “Have I been drinking enough water?” Because our bodies are made up over 60% water. And if we’re dehydrated and we don’t realize it, then it slows down our kidney function, which then in turn slows down our liver function. And sometimes just drinking some water is going to do it because you need to be able to have that so that everything starts to flow. So I always tell people, you drink half your body weight in ounces, approximately.
Okay. That’s easy to remember.
Exactly, it’s easy to remember. And then another easy thing to remember because especially as practitioners, you may have days where you’re going back to back with clients and you’re lucky if you have time to go to the bathroom.
Absolutely. Yeah, that’s a big complaint that a lot of PTs have because sometimes you’re seeing two, three, four patients an hour, every hour. So yeah, how are you supposed to get half your body weight in water? You drink it all in the morning and all at night and nothing in the middle of the day.
Right? And then if you drink the water in the middle of the day and they’re like, “Oh my God, what if I have to go to the bathroom? I have to see my patient.” That’s more stress.
You don’t want to exacerbate that. So I always tell people like, look at your day, see how your schedule looks and then break it out so that you can at least figure out approximately and then put it in your calendar as a notification. Because then if something dings, it goes off, it’s like, “Oh yeah, drink my water.” Because sometimes, if you do like a 15 minute appointment, you have about 10 minutes between patients. Granted, people run behind schedule.
But there’s always a way to find its way into it. And my thing is always, do the best that you can. I think part of the challenge is that we feel this pressure, that it has to be perfect, it has to be right on. Because if it’s not, we’re failing and then why bother do it, right?
So thinking in terms of I’m doing the best that I can and I’m just taking baby steps, don’t try to do it all at once. If you know that you have a crazy day, do the best you can, and that helps people. But it’s like anything else, it’s a habit and it’s practice.
The other thing with stress that I talk to people about is you might need some herb support, like an adrenal support that has ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, that will help, there are adaptogenic herbs that will also help to kind of just make everything a little bit more calm so that it can reduce your anxiety. Because you generate anxiety from the stress.
It just all becomes like this domino effect. Then it’s like, what can I do to just take those baby steps? And there are some amazing supplements out there. Some that are from nutraceutical company, some that are whole food companies. It’s really about finding the right one that works for you. But I know I take one every single day. That really helps me. And I honestly, sometimes I’m like, “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Yeah. So it’s kind of like, so if you’re feeling this stress, which all of us do. I mean, I’ve been kind of in this stressful mode for the last two months and I am really tired and I get a little grumpy and not my usual like high energy self.
And so just this past week I have come to the conclusion that I need to kind of do a diet change. And so, as you’re saying, avocado, almonds, getting all these really great little tips on maybe what to eat. There are things that I’m going to have to add back into my diet. And I know I’m not drinking enough water. So I will definitely be setting the alarm that just says like drank water. And I have no excuse. I should be drinking more water and I know I’m not drinking enough. So I love the setting the alarm. You can set multiple alarms on your phones to go off every hour, every hour and a half or something, just to take a couple of sips. Because some days I’ll go through my day and I’ll have the same bottle of water in my bag and I haven’t even drank any of it.
Right. It’s true. But at least knowing that you’re taking those steps and people kind of roll their eyes at me at first, “You want me to set my alarm, set my notifications?” I say, “Yeah.” And then they’ll call me a few days later, “Oh my God, it works.”
Yeah, it works.
Now, what else can we do to, are there any other foods we can eat or strategies that we can do to help when the stress of taking care of everyone else and not ourselves? Easy tips?
Right. So when we’re busy and stressed, sometimes we don’t have time to eat. Right? And then when we go too many hours without food, the blood sugar gets dysregulated and our brain gets a little foggy. So I always tell people have a bag of mixed nuts and seeds. And a lot of people are worried about the fat. And here’s what’s really important to know is that there’s good fats and there’s bad fats. There are the anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s that you get from your wild salmon and your nuts and seeds and your olive oil and your avocado. Then there’s the pro-inflammatory Omega-6’s that you get from the canola oils and the foods that are part of the standard American diet.
So I encourage people to not be afraid of eating fat because it does a few things. You need that for your brain to function. And so that’s very important. Our brain is made up of a lot of fat, right? So you need that. But it’s also, it helps to keep us satiated. So if you’re making sure you’re getting enough protein and fat and a lot of vegetables that are color of the rainbow and just doing the best you can with combining all of that, that will keep your blood sugar stable, making sure you’re having a lot of high fiber foods and the dark green leafy vegetables. All of that is what’s going to help keep your blood sugar stable, help keep you focused and allow you to get through your day.
And then if you need a snack, I carry around not just almonds, pistachios, cashews, nuts and seeds, but even Brazil nuts, which are very fattening, but are amazing for you in small doses.
Because these give you minerals that you’re not getting. So it’s a great way to get it from your food is through some of these food choices.
Got it. So carry around a bag of nuts versus stopping for those salt and vinegar potato chips. So that it’s not going to cut it, is what you’re saying?
Not really, no.
All right. Well, a girl can dream.
And on that note, we’re going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor Net Health. PTs, what do you hope to accomplish in 2018? I bet providing even better patient care and increasing revenue are top on the list. First, expand your visit capacity, then get paid for your services, ramp up patient engagement and eliminate worries about documentation and compliance. The good news is there’s one solution that brings it all to the table. ReDoc power by xfit is a cloud-based, fully integrated EMR and billing solution. Imagine PT billing, coding, compliance experts, taking the back office work off your hands and reporting to you. Learn more about ReDoc and complete revenue cycle management services at nethealth.com/healthy.
What else can we do to kind of keep ourselves, and I love that you brought up that term satiated, to keep ourselves satiated so that we’re not having these spikes of blood sugar throughout the day?
Right. Well, fortunately, now that the weather is getting warmer, it’s so much easier to have a lot of vegetables and to have salads and just all different colors of the rainbow and fruits. But, and here’s a little caveat because people think, “Oh, I love fruits. It’s summertime. I’m going to eat it.” But some fruits have way too much sugar, which will throw off our insulin, which will throw off our ability to focus and which actually, because it raises your blood sugar and then you crash. So I tell people really minimize fruits except for blueberries and raspberries because you want foods that are going to be high in antioxidants, but low in sugar value. Go ahead.
I was going to say, what about like oranges or grapefruits, citrus fruits?
I love oranges and grapefruits. Some people that are on certain medications have to be careful of it. And here’s the thing with the oranges and grapefruits, they’re medium sugar value, not as high as like bananas, mangoes or pineapples. But if you eat the white around the fruits, like when you are peeling it, that has fiber in it. Eat that part because that’s actually helping to keep the blood sugar from spiking and fiber’s for you. It helps to bind to cholesterol, it helps with elimination. So that’s another thing. People aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet, and they don’t really know what to do about that or like, “Well, where do I start?” And “What does that mean?” Again, green leafy vegetables. But a lot of times I’ll say to people, “If you’re making yourself a shake, let’s say a protein shake, throw some psyllium husk into it or have some oatmeal, that has fiber. Sprinkle some cinnamon on the oatmeal because cinnamon can balance your blood sugar.”
That’s what I have every morning.
Oatmeal with cinnamon.
So tell me, how do you make your oatmeal? Because I have a great recipe I’d love to share.
Well, you’ll probably cringe. I put water in it and throw it in the microwave.
So to start, I’m not cringing, but it’s a start. At least it’s with water and not with dairy. So something that you could do to increase the nutrient value is so you’re getting some fiber, you’re having some protein, it’s a good complex carb and the cinnamon are regulating your blood sugar. But it would be great to have a little fat in there.
So what you could add is a good almond butter that gives you a little bit more protein and some more minerals and your good fats. And so now you have the carb, you’ve got the fat, you’ve got the protein. And then, I throw in frozen blueberries because I like the frozen crunch against the hot. And then I also do overnight oats. So now you’re getting your antioxidants. So you’re getting a bang for your buck in a great breakfast that could keep you going for four hours and you’ll be full and you’ll get all the energy you need.
Okay. I can do that. I can add some almond butter and some blueberries. I can use fresh blueberries too, right?
Yeah. Yeah, now that summer’s coming and we have like more of these fresh fruits, if I have it, I’ll throw it in as well.
Right, right. It’s important though, with berries, to get them organic because they’re a highly sprayed pesticide fruit because of all the bugs that get into it.
So it’s really important that it’s organic. Oh my God, we can get to the conversation another time about pesticides. We won’t go there now.
Right. Yeah, that’s a whole other show.
Oh, it definitely is. It definitely is.
Okay, great. So I feel like I’ve got, and the listeners, I’m being so selfish, it’s not just me. And the listeners have some great choices now for all of our meals. We’ve got some breakfast choices. We’ve got lunch and dinner kind of colors of the rainbow, leafy greens, avocados, almonds, nuts, all that stuff, which is awesome. I know before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about fermented foods.
What does that mean? Is that like a kombucha?
Yes, it is actually.
So all of this that we’re talking about with stress and foods in our body, which by the way, B vitamins are very important also, which I forgot to mention, that our bodies get depleted from very quickly when we’re stressed. Everything affects our gut and over 70% of our immune system lies in our gut and everybody has some sort of a challenge and it’s not really our fault because we haven’t been taught right. So we’re doing the best we can with food, but there’s the air we’re breathing. It’s the chemicals on our products and skincare and all of that, that’s affecting it. So what can we do to offset that?
And for me, yes, probiotics., Getting a variety of different strains. But the way, and the easiest way to even do it on your own, fermented foods are taking, cucumbers or carrots or string beans or whatever vegetable you like, and fermenting, and I’ll give you a recipe in a minute for that, where, what it means is that the water and the salts that you have the vegetable sitting in are slowly starting to digest itself. So it’s fermenting in its own acids, in its own juices. And it’s creating probiotics. And it’s the healthiest way to get a probiotic into your system because it’s coming from food itself.
Real food, yeah.
Okay, so how do we do this? How do I make a fermented food?
Okay. So you take a cup of water, filtered water, and one cup of water to one tablespoon of sea salt.
And then you put it in a Mason jar, and I’m just giving you like one cup to one cup, and you put like dill and garlic peppers, whatever herbs you want, take your favorite vegetable, put it into the Mason jar. Then you need to take a smaller jar that you can submerge into it because it needs to stay underwater. Because if the food goes above the waterline, it’ll start molding.
So you get a cup of water and salt, right?
One cup of water, one tablespoon of salt.
One tablespoon of salt.
You put it in a jar.
You put it in a jar.
You put your vegetables in, but the vegetables float to the top.
So you need to keep them under the water.
Okay. So when you put another jar in the jar, does that jar have like water in that jar and you put it in?
You can put anything in that jar to weigh it down, penny, beans, whatever you want.
Okay, anything. Got it.
That’s just to keep it submerged. Then, cover it with a cheese cloth or some sort of a towel, put it into an area that’s a dark area of your kitchen, your cupboard, not too hot, not too cold, and let it sit for five to seven days.
And then you go in and you taste the water. And if it tastes like it’s kind of like a half sour pickle, or a dill pickle, and when you like the taste of it, then you screw the lid onto the jar, put it in your refrigerator. This will slow down the fermentation process. And then every day, either take the vegetable or take a teaspoon or two teaspoons of the liquid. You’re getting natural probiotics from fermented food. You can go and buy kimchi and drink kombucha and do all of that from the stores. But it’s so easy to make it home. Simple.
I will try this fermented foods. I will try it. I have a Mason jar. How big of a jar? I know this is like getting into the weeds, but how big of a jar? Like a big jar?
As big as a jar that will fit in your refrigerator after. So like a large jam jar, I guess. I don’t know, like an oversized. I’m not sure. Not the little ones.
Yeah, I’m thinking the little ones. Okay, so a big one. All right.
Oh, I guess more of like, I want to say like a quart size maybe.
Half a quart or something like that.
Okay, okay. All right, all right. Well that makes sense. I will try it. I mean, I am a fan of eating whole foods and trying to get as much from your foods as you can, because I think that’s where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, right?
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And people think that eating healthy and organic is expensive, but as practitioners, especially, like we’re so busy we want to help people, we’re paying for our health in some way, shape or form. So it’s, do you want to be proactive about it or wait until something happens and then have to react and be like, “Oh my God. Now, what do I do?”
I think we all want to be more proactive than reactive. I mean, that’s what we tell our patients. As a physical therapist, part of my job is to help keep people healthy.
So that’s where the nutrition and the physical therapy and wellness can blend so nicely.
Right. And this is also great because all the practitioners that are listening, these are just simple tips that yes, you can share with your patients and realizing like just taking one step at a time. It’s like, what can I add in? Instead of saying, “What am I supposed to deprive myself of?” Or, “Oh my God, I can’t,” what can I just add in? How can I improve it? And just taking one step after the other, we all didn’t get to where we were overnight. Right? We didn’t become great physical therapists and nutritionists or whatever our profession is overnight. We practiced.
And that’s what we have to do for ourselves and our patients is teach them that same thing because that’s self care. When you’re feeling better about yourself, then like the sky’s the limit. Then you can do anything.
Yeah, absolutely. And I was just going to ask you if you could kind of wrap up what we spoke about, but I think you just did. I didn’t have to ask the question now. That was perfect. You wrapped it up in a nice bow.
How about that?
Let’s get to the last question I always ask everyone. And that is knowing where you are now in your life and in your career and in your case, careers, plural, changing and moving, what advice would you give to yourself as let’s say, a new grad out of college?
Well, it’s funny that you asked that because the thing is, the advice I would give to myself, would I still listen to it? Right?
But, I would say, stop trying to be perfect. Stop trying to aim for perfection because it’s going to paralyze you and then you’re not going to get anything done. And to really just be easy on yourself and realize that it’s just baby steps and don’t be afraid to try, because even if you fail, you’ve learned something from it and you’ll just keep moving forward and growing. And that’s really what we’re all here for is to keep growing and learning and sharing so that we can be the best version of ourselves.
I love that advice, very timely for myself right now. So thank you for that.
If people want to find out more about you, where can they go? How can they find you?
Well, my website is SharonHoland.com. I have a great guide that’s break free from cravings, diets, and deprivation that you can get. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. I’m starting to do more videos. So I’m going to be building my YouTube channel.
And if you need to reach me, feel free to email me email@example.com.
Excellent. And just so all of you out there listening or watching right now, all of this information will be a click away at podcast.Healthywealthysmart.com. And so Sharon, thank you again for coming on and giving all this great information. So thanks so much.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great.
My pleasure. And everyone else, thanks so much for listening as usual, have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.
A big thank you to Sharon Holand Gelfand for sharing all of the great info. And of course a huge thank you to our sponsor for today’s episode, Net Health. So Net Health is ReDoc powered by xfit, which is a cloud-based, fully integrated EMR and billing solution. Plus you can opt in to completely outsource billing services. That’s the best way to optimize revenue. Imagine PT billing, coding, and compliance experts taking the back office work off your hands and reporting to you. To learn more about ReDoc and the complete revenue management cycle services, check them out at nethealth.com/healthy.
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