What More Water Can Do for Your Skin and Mental Health

We’re always told, “drink more water”. However, many of us won’t jump on that bandwagon until we conceptualize what benefits it can bring to us in the immediate.

First day of our water challenge

I did a 30 day water challenge with a friend from work where we aimed to drink more water each day (I ended up taking in about 100 oz. a day). However, before you pull out your jug and start chugging… here are some things to know first:

  • Drinking too much water can be very dangerous. 
    Water intoxication can happen if someone drinks too much water too quickly. In rare cases, it can be deadly so never drink more than medically recommended for you.
  • Your stomach may not be able to physically hold a larger intake of water at the start.
    I wanted to get in close to a gallon of water on the first day of the challenge. In reality, it took me a week to reach a gallon per day. My stomach wasn’t used to holding that much liquid. Plus, I realized I personally didn’t need a gallon to see results.
    These pictures were taken only two weeks apart. As you can see, my face slimmed out because I wasn’t retaining as much water. Also, my skin looked and felt so much more hydrated.

Now, let’s hit on the positives that drinking more water brings to our mental health:

Brain Power

braintwoOur brain is made up of about 75 percent water and when we are nurturing it properly, the benefits can be game changing. We can focus better, think faster and have better clarity and creativity.

Feel like your hormones are off? Try drinking more water because it’s a key source for the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters.

Depression and Dehydration

Being dehydrated can cause serotonin levels to decrease. Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters in our mental health and it impacts brain cells linked to our mood, sleep and social behavior.

So when we are not getting enough water, we are doing our brain a disservice by not allowing it to produce the chemicals it needs for optimal mental wellness.

Stop Stressin’stress

Studies have been shown that dehydration can dramatically increase our cortisol levels. Most of us know cortisol as the “stress” hormone because it’s released as part of our internal “fight-or-flight”. While that serves us well if a black bear shows up by our camping tent, it does not serve us well when things arise that do not merit constant fear or stress.

Higher cortisol levels can also increase our risk for other mental illnesses, like depression. So, keep the water intake high and the cortisol levels low.

Tips for drinking more H2O

When drinking water isn’t a part of your daily routine – finding that routine can take as much effort as drinking water itself.

Here are some tips straight from the CDC which I love:

  • “Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work or running errands.
  • Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
  • Choose water when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
  • Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 5.46.56 PMFor me, tracking and drinking more water was much more enjoyable because I used a bottle from Mossy Oak. If you’re wanting a Yeti but aren’t willing to spend $70 to $100 on it, this is a great solution!

This brand does an incredible job keeping water cold, for 24 HOURS. No joke. You can find these two, 17 oz bottles on Amazon for $24.99. I would suggest two because when you are drinking more water, you will have to wash your bottle more frequently.

Personal Insight Blog Disclosure: I am not a doctor or licensed health professional. This blog is for entertainment purposes and readers should use these tips at their discretion. Information included is strictly from my personal experienes other than what is sourced.

Want A Calmer Mind? Check Your Gut! 4 Foods To Limit In Your Diet

You always hear, “you are what you eat” but this could really ring true when it comes to anxiety.

Sweaty palms, a racing heart and a hyper-active mind are all symptoms people with anxiety often suffer with. However, certain foods we eat can give us these same sensations. Which in turn, can make our anxiety worse.

Here are 4 foods to limit if you’re battling the anxious mind and things try instead:

Drink Coffee Espresso Caffeine

1. Caffeine

Did you know that caffeine-induced anxiety is a thing? Studies have shown that people who take in high amounts of caffeine, 200 mg or more a day, can increase their anxiety and even induce panic attacks.

By the way, 200 mg of caffeine is just two cups of coffee!

According to American MedTech, caffeine-induced anxiety can look different for different people. Along with panic attacks, people can also see obsessive-compulsive symptoms or phobic symptoms.

05-hands-sweaty-palmsSome of the physical signs you see with too much caffeine are sweaty palms, restlessness, and a racing heart. All of which people with anxiety can experience.

Being mindful is the key to really knowing how our bodies respond to anything.

“Take a moment and really reflect,” says Dietitian, Brenda Fikry. “How are we feeling before we have the caffeinated beverage? Are we feeling calm? How does our heart rate feel?”

Try Instead: If you’re used to having hot coffee every morning, Brenda suggests trying decaffeinated tea or all-natural fruit/veggie juice (that is low in sugar content).

“The really high amounts of nutrient-dense foods really give us a good boost of energy.”

2. Refined and Artificial Sugars

sugar_spoon_cutlery_sweeteners_sweet-1331928.jpg!dThe thought of sugar being taken out of our diet can already be a depressing thought. However, for those already dealing with anxiety, reducing your sugar intake could be the medicine you need.

Sugar does not cause anxiety, but it can worsen your symptoms.

Side effects from sugar include blurry vision, difficulty thinking and fatigue. When someone who has anxiety is feeling these symptoms, they could interpreted these as signs of a panic attack. All the while, this is making their worry, fear and anxiety worse.

Also, it’s not just a sugar rush but the crash that has it’s own side effects similar to anxiety. Symptoms include pounding heart, racing pulse, shakiness, dizziness, confusion and irritability.

Try Instead: Brenda suggests natural sugars. Examples being pre-chopped fruit, all-natural frozen fruit bars and in moderation, chocolate covered almonds and raisins.

3. Alcohol 

When you have a glass of wine… or two… or three, in the immediate, it feels great! You finally relax, stress leaves and anxiety decreases. However, that quickly changes.

wineIn fact, your anxiety can increase within just a few hours of consuming alcohol; and the effects on anxiety can be felt the next day.

A study done by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found heavy drinking rewires our brains and can increase our chances of anxiety issues.

The CDC defines heavy drinking as:

“For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.”

Try Instead: Brenda suggests doing some inward reflection to learn healthy things you love which make you feel calm. Examples being: playing guitar, reading, or working out. She also suggests trying the App Calm which has free 5 minute meditations, breathing techniques and bed time stories.

bread4. Gluten/Processed Food

You might be saying…. “I’m not allergic to gluten” and you may be right!

However, if you suffer with an anxiety disorder, you could be a part of the 1 percent general population who has a gluten-intolerance. If you are, you’re not alone. I was diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance 8 years ago. 

One of my favorite local grocery stores: Earth Fare

Most people with gluten issues have physical symptoms like digestive problems and anemia. However, there are “non-classic” symptoms of gluten which include brain atrophy, epilepsy, depression and anxiety.

“Gluten is mostly found in highly proceeded food,” says Fikry. “There was a specific study done that has proven that anxiety increases by 25-29 percent with consumption of the Western foods – which is known to be highly processed.”

Brenda also points out that our gut plays a huge role in our mental health.

“95 percent of serotonin receptors are in our gut,” says Fikry. “And serotonin is the hormone that makes us feel happy and helps ward off depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms.”

Try Instead: Gluten is found in a lot of our comfort foods like, bread, cake, cookies and pizza. You can replace those carbs with naturally gluten-free options like rice, potatoes, quinoa and beans.

Get To Know The Face Behind The Knowledge: 
Brenda Fikry MS, RD, LD, EP-C

Brenda is a dog loving, yoga-practicing, health guru who is also my go-to dietitian in Tampa Bay! She’s always willing and ready to answer any of my nutrition questions and is ready to do the same for you.
Connect with her on Instagram!

Anxiety Keeping You Up? 5 Things That Can Help You Fall Asleep

Personal Insight Blog: See Below

One of the first things that can be compromised when we suffer from anxiety is our sleep.

According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million American adults have a sleep disorder. When you add anxiety to the mix, your sleep problems can get even worse.

Trust me, I’ve tried all the sleep hacks. I’m in the news and work really abnormal hours – making it even harder on my circadian rhythm.

Here are 5 things that help me get a good night’s rest.

1. Soft Silicon Ear Plugs

IMG_3112Do not tune me out by saying, “I’ve tried foam earplugs already.” I have too and they’re terrible. They don’t stay in and they seem to block out zero noise. Silicon ear plugs stay in and you can’t hear a thing. Simply take a piece, split in two, cover them over your ear opening and then hear nothing.

If worried you won’t hear your alarm in the morning, don’t be. The plugs become looser in your ear as the night goes on. By the time you need to wake up,  you’ll hear that alarm.

Plus, I’ve used them multiple times if they’re still clean. A case like this is less than $4 at your drug store and has easily lasted me over a month.

Tip: You will start to hear your breathing louder than before but instead of getting uncomfortable, take that opportunity to listen to yourself take deep breaths in and out as you relax.

img_60862. Form Fitting Eye Mask 

Eye masks that form closely around your face can help calm the nerves and make you feel protected.

Studies find that certain pressures help relax the nervous system. When pressure is gently applied to the body, it encourages serotonin production, which lifts the mood. When serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, your body takes the cue to rest.

Weighted blanket have been proven to help relax the body due to the pressure. However, they can be expensive and hot. I have found the same feeling of comfort with a $5 eye mask.

3. Keep The Temperature Low

thermostateTurn the thermostat low. I mean, real low. Like 63 degrees low. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults keep their bedroom between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

You get to sleep faster when your body doesn’t have to regulate itself with extremely cold or hot temperatures. When your body gets a break, you get to sleep faster and sleep deeper.

Plus when it’s colder in the bedroom, you naturally want to curl up in the covers. Some therapists say curling up in the covers in return can give you that sense of comfort described in tip 2. So, drop it low and bundle up!

4. Music With Headphones

headphonesThe headphones make the difference. 95% of the time, the silicon ear plugs work but when the mind is in hyper-mode, take them out and replace them with the headphones (for safety, I recommend wireless).

Your mind simply won’t be able to focus on both your active thoughts and the music. It will choose the music and before you know it, you’ll wake up with your Pandora station asking “are you still listening…?”

When that does happen, put that song(s) in a “sleep” playlist.  I have found that my mind now starts to associate my sleep music with… sleep.

However, if you try falling asleep to certain tracks and they don’t get the job done, don’t use them again for sleep. It could just cause you more anxiety.

Tip: Usually you’ll hear people say to pick music without words. I say, do pick music with words. Without lyrics, it still leaves a door open for you to think about whatever is causing anxiety in that moment. Focusing on lyrics helps eliminate those thoughts. 

Keep the music low, with a slow tempo and lyrical.

5. Tell Yourself You Can Power Through…. Wait What? Yup. You Heard Right. 

Should you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night? Yes. But let’s be honest, we live in the 21st century and life can keep us from that perfect schedule occasionally.

And I don’t know about you, but the root of a lot of my anxiety is, perfection. Have you ever had to get up and do life, even with very little sleep?

If the answer is yes, then use that to your advantage when you’re tossing and turning.
Ask yourself:

What will happen if I don’t get a lot of sleep tonight? Well, I didn’t get a lot of sleep when I ___ (insert an event you remember here), and I got through it. Tomorrow will be no different.

Most times we keep ourselves awake simply because we fear what will happen tomorrow. However, if you can find peace with letting go of what you cannot control about tomorrow, the better off your mind will be.

Is it healthy to function on little sleep? No. But occasionally, it will happen and you need to tell your brain not to panic.


Personal Insight Blog Disclosure: I am not a doctor or licensed health professional. This blog is for entertainment purposes and readers should use these tips at their discretion. Information included is strictly from my personal experienes other than what is sourced.
If you deal with sleep deprivation, insomnia or anxiety you should see your doctor. They may recommend you be put on non-habit forming medications and connect you with therapists to help solve the underlying issues.