Ramadan Reset: Download your FREE E-Book!

Ramadan Reset: Download your FREE E-Book!

Download your FREE Ramadan E-Book!

Ramadan is just around the corner, and I am just as thrilled as you are to experience both the spiritual and physical health benefits of fasting. Consider this guide a springboard to long-lasting healthful habits. Each page brings you dietary tips, delicious and nutritious recipes for foods and smoothies, as well as a 30-day printable planner to gauge your success. Let’s meet our health and wellness goals this Ramadan and make it the best Ramadan ever! Enjoy this guide and be sure to participate in the #RamdanReset challenge!

Dr. Batool Dawood

Recipes

Healthy Habits

Weekly Meal Planners

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue Part II

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue Part II

Once upon a blogpost, our writers ripped the mask of a silent medical enemy and dragged its face into the unflattering limelight. We acquainted you with adrenal fatigue.

Perhaps you encountered that name in fleeting conversation, or while flitting from the doctor’s office to your car—someone you know is battling this enemy and you’re wondering how they’re doing it. You’re wondering, does adrenal fatigue even exist? Or is it some hyperbolic form of laziness and unrestrained gluttony draped as a diagnosable health condition? Adrenal fatigue is, in actuality, much more than a mediocre lifestyle; it’s when our adrenal glands crash and collapse beneath ongoing, compounding stressors, compromising our body’s healthy production of stress-fighting hormones; it’s when the good guys lose to the bad guys and we’re left catching our breath behind the darkest alleys of life.

Adrenal fatigue is real and it’s not pretty.

So why don’t several medical doctors recognize adrenal fatigue as a serious diagnosis?

It is true: most conventionally trained physicians don’t recognize adrenal fatigue as a real problem. Blood tests for these fatigued patients often reflect normal hormone production. Cortisol levels hover just above the healthy threshold—just enough to evade the common hormone-related diagnoses, such as Addison’s Disease or Adrenal Insufficiency (rare conditions in which the adrenals cannot produce enough hormones on their own and life-long steroid replacement therapy is usually required). So their doctors send them off with a chill pill prescription: “Just relax more,” they say. “Take it easy and you’ll feel better.”

What is the best way to test for Adrenal fatigue?

What is superior to blood tests, measures your cortisol levels several times a day, and is often accompanied by a “stick out your tongue and say ahh”?

Saliva tests. The results from these tests are like a log mapping your 24-hour hormone-secretion cycle. The functional and integrative medicine practitioners who make use of these tests collect your spit in vials at four points during the day to track your cell tissues’ hormone levels, enabling them to correlate your physical symptoms with medical data. More accuracy and no finger pricks required—how’s that for a medical hack?

How do you reverse fatigue and restore adrenal function?

As with all worthy feats in life, this one comes with no magic pill, no quick fix drink to whisk you back into recovery. A balanced life demands a balanced lifestyle, and your persistent initiative to overcome. Here are our three MUST DO’s for beating adrenal fatigue:

#1 Declutter your relationships.

Spring is upon us, a season that invites warmer weather, rain showers, and the human impulse to declutter. Skip the dusty books and untouched clothes this year; your decluttering party will take on a new approach, and you will have your adrenals thank you for it later. We can all endure our fair share of Debby Downers and Negative Nancys. But if your exhausted adrenals have left you in a sinkhole of symptoms, those Facebook “friends—whose only contribution to your feed is Grey’s Anatomy-level drama—need to exit your social stage. So do those casual acquaintances with trademark cynicism, filling every silence with a slanderous remark. They’re not serving you any good. If anything, they’re draining whatever traces of energy you have left to function. Here is your relationship decluttering checklist, at a glance:

  • Eliminate or minimize toxicity in your relationships.
  • Resolve ongoing conflicts with the people in your life whom you love.
  • Kindly set boundaries with negative/angry family members whose company is inevitable.
  • Unfollow and/or unfriend accounts on your social media feeds whose messages, attitudes, and comments serve no purpose but to spread negativity.
  • Build your social circle with kind, caring, and respectful individuals (even if that means making new friends!).

#2 Clock in some beauty sleep!

Let us let you in on a sleeping secret: somewhere between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., our bodies repair and regenerate themselves in preparation for the stressors ahead. Our adrenals, too, work their hardest during that time block. Exercise a bit of discipline and train yourself to sleep earlier. Calm the urge to binge-watch your latest Netflix obsession, and in hours leading up to bed, dim the lights and put away your electronic devices to maximize melatonin production. Here is your beauty sleep checklist, at a glance:

  • Commit to a relaxing activity before bed (yoga, meditation, praying, and stretching all help quiet your mind and prime your body for a good night’s rest).
  • Keep your coffee and caffeinated tea breaks before 2 p.m.; anything after will disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm.

#3 Healing foods for your body and soul.

Historically, humans sought remedy from sources beyond a doctor’s prescription. “Let food be thy medicine,” they said. This ancient mantra spawned an alternative healing approach called “lifestyle medicine.” It is especially popular with preventable, lifestyle-related illnesses. Without shunning Western pharmaceuticals, holistic healers use food plucked from earth herself to restore balance to their patients’ bodies. Just as we are made from earth, we need her seasonal harvests to thrive and keep illness at bay. So here is your fatigue-warding, adrenal-restoring food checklist, at a glance:

  • Eat small meals often. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue spike when patients skip a meal or forgo eating for an extended number of hours.
  • Decorate your plate with rainbow-colored food for optimal nutrition. When planning your meals, alternate between a variety of lean protein (mostly plant-based with the occasional sustainably-sourced meat), complex carbs with a low glycemic index (quinoa, brown rice, potato medleys, whole wheat, beans, and legumes—all of which keep your blood sugar levels steady and release a constant flow of energy), healthy fats (avocados, olives/olive oil, nuts and seeds), and organic produce.
  • Consume more salt. Fatigued adrenal glands trigger low sodium levels and low aldosterone production, leaving patients craving salt like it’s nobody’s business. So eat salty! Don’t worry about the risk of high blood pressure; that doesn’t apply with adrenal fatigue (but feel free to wear a blood pressure monitor for good measure). If anything, an extra dash of salt on every dish is both essential and therapeutic to your adrenal recovery.

If adrenal fatigue is your current reality, know this: restoring your adrenal glands won’t happen overnight, just as they didn’t crash overnight. Be patient when making these changes; lifestyle medicine takes time. The feelings of rejuvenation, a good night’s sleep, and endless motivation to tackle your biggest, wildest dreams are just around the corner. As always, we’re rooting for you along the way.

Missed part one of this blogpost? Learn more about Adrenal Fatigue here.

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue

Every so often, one of us encounters an enemy that locks us into complete paralysis. E-mail messages go unchecked, laundry stacks to the height of Everest, and personal relationships shrivel like leaves beneath a merciless breeze. It’s a silent enemy, leaving behind no physical side effects (except many empty coffee cups and energy drinks to help you reach Bare Minimum Adult Functionality). Your doctor assures you that all of your lab results are normal; medically, there’s nothing wrong with you. But you know, from the bottom of your tired and weary heart, that something is wrong… Your sinuses are flaring on a cool winter day (but doctor, I don’t even have allergies). Out of nowhere, pickles, Saltine crackers, and sushi rolls doused in soy sauce surge to your Top Three Foods list (what is happening to my taste buds?!). There’s something else disrupting your groove: bathroom breaks, which are inconveniently happening every hour (c’mon doc, what digs?).

While these could be symptoms of various health conditions, a silent enemy by the name “Adrenal Fatigue” is the most common culprit. It crawls into your life and leaves behind these life-crippling symptoms:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation (mainly due to lack of energy)
  • Low sex drive
  • Low mood
  • Easily irritable
  • Decreased ability to handle stress
  • Brain fog
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Salty food cravings
  • Increased urination
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Allergies

How does this happen?

This story, like all medical stories, begins with a tragedy. Somewhere in your body, an ecosystem of organs and parts suffers an imbalance that leaves its members malfunctioning. The ecosystem in today’s conversation is the adrenal glands. Perched above your kidneys are these small glands whose sole purpose of existence is to produce hormones: cortisol, your body’s built-in alarm system and blood-pressure-regulator; adrenaline, your body’s boxing gloves and running shoes in high stress situations; aldosterone, your body’s traffic control center for sodium, potassium, and blood flow. Each of these hormones, as well as many others, is essential to your functioning and critical for your survival. And when their production is compromised, you’re left depleted and depressed, hobbling through life’s lowest hurdles like an injured race horse. Little tasks, like meeting a work deadline or paying your bills on time, become monstrous pressures. In layman terms, you’re burnt out.

What causes adrenal fatigue?

Coping and responding to life’s stressors is easier when your adrenal glands are functioning at full capacity. They begin to fatigue, however, when that stress continues chronically and compactfully, giving you no room to rest. Picture this scenario: you came down with a case of bronchitis that eventually evolved into pneumonia. As you’re driving to your next doctor’s appointment, you’re rear-ended in highway traffic and spend what should be your recovery time making a police statement, calling your insurance agent, and visiting the auto repair shop for a claim estimate. You trudge along, coughing into your shirt sleeve, wondering what other misfortune is looming on the horizon. These are just the foreground events, major plot twists in the tragedy of your life; the background noise discloses a second layer of drama: a stressful job, an unhappy marriage, ongoing sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, failing friendships, and the loneliness that often accompanies middle age. Your adrenal glands struggle to catch up with these stressors, no matter how much more hormones they produce. Like yourself, they burn out and are no longer able to meet the body’s demands.

Perhaps our lives aren’t simply a string of tragedies. Perhaps we are healthy and well in our pursuit of a good life. There is no denying, however, that even the healthiest and happiest of us are products of the 21st century Western lifestyle. In our frittered good will, we pack our schedules with long work hours (we need the money) and graduate school (what’s a bachelor’s degree worth now, anyway?) and family obligations (let me just swing by my sister’s; I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews in weeks) and parenting (my daughter needs to be in sports and piano lessons, just like everyone else her age) and volunteering (gotta give back to the community!) and so-and-so’s dinner and so-and-so’s son’s birthday party and so-and-so’s social justice awareness event… “Chipotle for dinner okay with everyone?” you ask from the driver’s seat, remembering that you haven’t cooked for the fifth day in a row.

We are all chained to demands far beyond our capacity, and unfortunately, the very system designed to handle these demands suffers as a consequence. With too much unmanaged stress, our hormone-producing glands clash and we suffer from adrenal fatigue.

So why do many doctors refuse to recognize adrenal fatigue as a real problem?

That is a question for next week’s blog! When the conversation continues… Read Part II here.

The Power of Black Seed Oil

The Power of Black Seed Oil

Every home pantry has its staples. They are your daily essentials, the bread and butter fueling your every breath, the foundation to all of your kitchen creations. In our home, one of my pantry staples is black seed oil.

My story with black seed oil began roughly four years ago, just after I delivered my eldest daughter, Enaya. Her birth whisked me into a frenzy from which I struggled to recover: loneliness, fatigue, sleepless nights, diaper-laden garbage bins, and the rueful realization that the body I always knew was now as foreign to me as motherhood itself. All of this was my daily reality. Desperate and mildly neurotic, I searched for something to buffer the blows of these challenges. At that time, black seeds were like a formal acquaintance; I heard of them in flitting conversation, as protagonists in old wives tales or elusive elixirs from an archaic past. They were the “blessed seeds that cure every ailment,” Prophet Muhammad said, “except death.”

With these cultural and religious influences, I decided to add seed supplements to my daily regimen. A couple of weeks passed and the grogginess that haunted me in my waking hours began to dwindle and fade. I had energy. I could sleep better. I could speak coherently and maintain adult conversation, like once-upon-a-time before motherhood!

But the changes I experienced with black seed supplements went beyond internal. One time, I was nursing Enaya when friends and family noticed a change in my physique. “Batool,” they warned me, “You shouldn’t diet while breastfeeding. You’re losing weight too quickly!” But I wasn’t dieting. I hadn’t altered my meal portions, attempted Keto, or increased my jogging miles at the gym. My lifestyle resumed organically and without discipline, for my only goal was self-care amid the turbulence of motherhood.

The health changes I experienced were way too many to be incidental. As I was studying pharmacy, I gained access to scientific and medical literature, and with my newfound reading skills, I was determined to unearth the truth about black seeds, once and for all. A single database search generates over a thousand research papers on Nigella sativa (the Latin name for black seed). They spoke favorably of this humble, ancient seed, documenting it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, and immune-enhancing properties.

Today, I recommend black seed products to all of my patients, and their experiences with them never cease to amaze me. There is one particular patient whose story stays with me today. For years, respiratory distress compromised his quality of life, and activities we deem routine—moving, breathing, sleeping—became his daily struggles. He came to me after having given up on drug therapies and antibiotics, and he requested something different. “Have you heard of black seeds or black seed oil?” I asked him, handing him a bottle of the supplement. He recoiled, so I persisted. And with a sales pitch that bordered on the obsessive, I proceeded to share with him all of the health benefits these seeds have to offer. I told him of their unusual ability to fight bacterial infections, even drug-resistant  MRSA, as well as many other respiratory conditions. Two weeks later, before his next scheduled visit, he returned to my office just to tell me that these seeds helped him more than any other drug ever prescribed to him. “I feel amazing,” he said. I nodded, humbled by my experience seeing one of nature’s medicines work its magic once more.

Many published studies outline the safe and successful uses of black seeds and their various byproducts. Most notably, they can help treat these ten conditions:

  1.     Fighting Infections
  2.     Reducing Scars
  3.     Relieving Allergies
  4.     Enhancing Weight Loss
  5.     Relieving Breast Pain
  6.     Reducing Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
  7.     Relieving Indigestion and Heartburn
  8.     Improving Memory
  9.     Enhancing Men’s Fertility
  10.  Lowering Cholesterol

As creatures of habit, we are all guilty of defaulting to our built-in, subconscious choices. Our pantries and refrigerators look the same, week after week. We recycle the same meals, the same health foods, the same shopping lists. These habits, convenient though they are, deprive us of the health benefits that come with nutritional variety. So I’m going to challenge you, Dear Reader, to experiment with black seeds—as supplements, as an oil, as whatever form you can commit to as a health-conscious consumer. Just be sure to purchase the extra virgin, cold press black seed oil from a reputable company (my recommended brand can be found here).

 

The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

There is a new food superpower in our midst, and it has gained ranking for its superb antioxidant properties: Chaga mushrooms. With a mix of charcoal and gold hues, these mushrooms slag and sprawl like infected meteorites on the backs of dead birch trees. They are powerful, parasitic, and (almost) as promising as Wakanda’s Vibranium.

…except you can’t make an epic suit out of it. But with the innate properties of Chaga mushrooms, you won’t need to. Research shows that this fungus contains promising health benefits for people of all ages. Its high antioxidant content makes it superior to its line of competitors, such as blueberries, pomegranates, acai, and their likes.

I’m going to get a bit personal now. Although I’m a pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner, I, too, like to live life on the edge. I indulged in some reading recently—just a casual afternoon cuddling with research studies and medical journals—and shortly thereafter, I decided to commit to Chaga mushrooms, once and for all. So I woke up the next morning, dumped my regular smoothie, and settled with a cozy cup of Chaga mushroom tea. My first sip brought with it a whiff of familiarity. I know this taste. It was like the shy little sister of bold black tea: humble, mute, and vaguely visible. I sipped some more.

Twenty minutes later, I found myself busting into my running shoes and bursting out my front door. Something felt different. A transformation occurred—like I had morphed from a suburban, mother-of-two pharmacist and into an unstoppable Wakandan warrior. I must wear out this energy! I ran for miles and miles, hours on end, until my feet met a previously unpursued path. I had never run that far before, but I continued anyway. And when I returned home, my newfound endurance carried me through more weight lifting and into a work day with utmost mental clarity. It was a beautiful sensation. That effect—that energy boost, that unabated agility, or whatever you want to call it—lasted for days.

What exactly is Chaga Mushroom?

In two words: a fungus. It’s not the prettiest plant in the woods, but what a Chaga mushroom lacks in outer beauty, it makes up in medicinal aptitude. Chaga mushrooms have one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity (ORAC) scores of any food, which speaks to their ability to protect the body from aging and fight disease-causing free radicals. Hmm, maybe they are just as good as Vibranium, after all?

What are some of Chaga Mushrooms’ superpowers?

  • Anti-Aging
  • Anti-Viral
  • Improve physical endurance
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Prevents and treats cancers
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts  immune system
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Lowers blood glucose

How do you consume this superfood?

You don’t need to be a Kimberly Snyder or a Dr. Mark Hyman to whip up a Chaga-infused concoction. The method is simple. Add two to three chunks of Chaga mushrooms to one to two quarts of water in a slow cooker/crock pot. Set the mixture on low and cover the pot while the mixture steeps for up to 12 hours. Drink it hot or chilled, as a base for flavored tea, coffee, or your favorite fruit smoothie. There are no rules! Chaga mushrooms are versatile enough to be bent to your preference, so be creative. For the little ones, blend half a cup of Chaga mushroom tea with ice and honey and serve! The kiddos will absolutely love it.

If you do give this superpower a chance, like I did, please share your experience with me in the comments below! I would love to hear all about it. Here’s a brand I really recommend.

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