Friday, February 10, 2017


T H E   G U I D E |  I N T E R N A L   S U N S H I N E
a guide to creating our own fire to light a spark against the wind, from increasing circulation to balancing biochemical pathways . . .

T H E   G U I D E |  I N T E R N A L   S U N S H I N E
Despite living in the high west Texas desert bordering Mexico, even I cannot escape the chills. Unlike those experiencing the true seasonal breezes and falls, my exposure to balmy weather has not waned yet I too still experience a seasonal shift. Many can empathise with my blessed curse of poor circulation that only thaws away by gnawing heat of a personal heater or sweltering temperatures. 

“We must process our thoughts, feelings, & emotions for proper flow of energy" 

This is because, according to Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine, our bodies process heat through what we physically and emotionally feed it. We must process our thoughts, feelings, and emotions for proper flow of energy or prana. Unprocessed or uncontained emotions get stored in our physical tissues and create energetic blockages. Release these emotions by reading my guide on feeling feelings or meditating, speaking with a therapist, art therapy, or journaling.

Yet, seasonal changes are still the predominant factor in mood changes or body chills. The waning sun and decreased sunlight cause biochemical imbalances in the brain. Our internal circadian rhythm, which regulates functions from sleep to hormones, shifts with the seasons. Coupled with environmental changes and more specifically shorter, darker days, melatonin production increases. This hormone signals the brain to prepare to sleep but, in the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it does so at inopportune times, like just when you pull up your chair at a monthly work meeting. This fluctuation leads to symptoms including fatigue; brain fog; irritability; lack of concentration; decreased libido; and even depression. As melatonin is a hormone, these seasonal reactions can cause a plethora of other hormonal imbalances when untamed, such as menstrual irregularities, digestive distress, and consequential skin breakouts.

Here are some holistic therapies to regulate mood and locate your internal sunshine . . .

light therapy I thrived on this when I was in college located in bleak New England. Light therapy consists of using a light box that simulates sunlight for brief periods of time daily to harmonise circadian rhythm and consequently boost mood. Here is a great option! 

conversational therapy I highly recommend not simply supplementing tension away with a pill but addressing the root cause of it. In many cases, that's either a physical dis-ease in the body manifesting itself as a mental stress or vice versa. If it's the latter, reconnecting with our feelings either one-on-one through journaling or sharing them with a therapist is helpful. We all have lives, so if journaling seems like too big of a time commitment, try to journal once per week. The same goes to therapy, which is often a time and financial concern. If these are an issue for you, I highly recommend BetterHelp, which makes professional counseling accessible, affordable, and convenient on its online portal.

supplements One of the most critical vitamins in mood regulation is vitamin D, which many people are deficient in no matter the season. Supplementation is especially necessary during the darker months, but not all vitamin D is created equal. Avoid Vitamin D2 and opt for hexane-free Vitamin D3 suspended in additive-free base. I have used this liquid D3 for years, which is suspended in a base of olive oil with no other additional ingredients. The price initially seems slightly higher but is cheaper compared in potency as it lasts forever with 572 servings . . .

The Omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught seafood, raw & sprouted nuts and seeds, and avocados heighten the function of neural tracks which regulate mood. Incorporate plant-based options such as complete protein hemp seeds, raw oysters high in mood-boosting zinc, or wild-caught salmon. Here in West TX, we don't have access to fresh seafood. I have been ordering sustainably-caught seafood from Vital Choice, which ships next day and arrives flash-frozen. I highly recommend you try it and, if you do, here is a discount for your first order! If you'd like to supplement, I recommend Jarrow's EPA-DHA Balance or, for a more potent option, Krill Oil.

Proper forms of B vitamins play a critical role in neurological function. Opt for preferably lypospheric for bio-availability or at least end-chain form B vitamins that are not derived from coal tar. My preferred option is this liquid one.

ayurvedic digestives Ayurvedic Medicine's base philosophy is that all imbalances—such as chills or mood irregularity in this case—has root causes in the digestive system. Stoke your digestive fire or agni and consequently balance your system by eating pre-meal digestives. This can include sauerkraut or fermented foods. A quick Ayurvedic preparation is an inch slice of raw ginger topped with a light smear of raw honey. The bitters in ginger and enzymes in raw honey work synergistically to create optimal absorption and digestive environment. 

In between meals, drink herbal teas such as antioxidant tulsi and avoid cold drinks, from water to smoothies.

spice it up Another Ayurvedic principle to regulate digestion and increase internal heat is to spice up meals. This not only makes meals more digestible by warming them and nutrients more absorbable but also more appetising. Add spices like ginger, turmeric, fennel, cumin, mustard seed, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ajwain, fenugreek, rosemary, thyme, and coriander. Adding grass-fed ghee to each meal will also elevate nutrient absorption and warming qualities.

herbs & plant matter Adding or increasing specific adaptogenic herbs and plant matter is one of the most powerful ways to combat or adapt to changes. Cold weather causes blood stagnation in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), so increasing blood flow is essential in restoring vitality and mood. Moving the blood will also aid in inflammation, poor memory, and menstrual irregularities. Some blood-movers and -builders are garlic, turmeric, prickly ash bark, evening primrose oil, cinnamon, and bilberry. 

For chronic chills accompanied by fatigue, weak digestion, lack of appetite, or physiological pain, consume fresh ginger, black pepper, licorice root, and trikatu. 

Sometimes cold extremities and irritability are not seasonal but a chronic condition, such as those with constant cold extremities. This could be a cause of qi or energy deficiency in TCM as qi is the dominant factor controlling blood flow. To increase vitality, astragalus and he shou wu can be supplemented with in small doses. The latter is also a reproductive tonic and especially restorative for those suffering from menstrual issues that manifest in their skin, hair, and nail.

wash & wear  It seems like I prescribe baths for every ailment and I will not make this an exception. Taking warm baths with epsom salt, mustard powder, fresh ginger, or baking soda release constriction, increase circulation, and soothe muscles that tense up in the face of cold—ever notice your hiked-up shoulders running through the streets? Follow your bath with warming oils—I absolutely adore woman-owned Jiva Apoha sold at women-owned CAP Beauty—and wear breathable yet heat-retaining natural fabrics such as silk or wool. Avoid synthetic fabrics such as polyester.