I walked into a massive health food store yesterday and took a deep breath. The time had come to make some changes. My first thought was “Ah, I remember that smell.” Having grown up with a health conscious mother in the 70s and 80s health food stores were where we got many of our pantry staples. And they have a unique yeasty smell of wild and healthy concoctions. My second thought was “where the fuck do I start?” Knowing you have to make changes can be just as overwhelming as the changes you have to make. I turned to the fridge that was just inside the front door, and conveniently located at the very spot that I had frozen in indecision, and grabbed a Kombucha – the latest ‘must have’ healthy elixir. That much I knew. It was cold. It was fizzy. It was all over social media. It must be good.
Then I found a girl that looked bright and helpful. Because that’s what I needed. Help. I told her why I was there and then told her not to overwhelm me with options. Just give me the basics. My brain can’t take in any more right now. She nodded and I was comforted that she knew exactly what I meant. So she didn’t reel off ideas and facts and products. She simply grabbed two options and told me what to do with them. And I immediately felt brighter. I’d made a start.
I have been walking around (or slowly dawdling) for the past few weeks…actually it’s probably been months… in a kind of foggy haze. Just keeping my head above the parapet of life, barely keeping up with my daily routine of mother, writer and producer and generally just willing for bedtime to roll around. I haven’t been sleeping very well, I haven’t had the energy to exercise and my usually good eating habits have slipped into cheese and wine for dinner more often than usual (I never discount the cheese and wine for dinner option from time to time…just so you know!).
My life is no different to yours. Unless we’re Oprah or Beyoncé we all experience the highs and lows of day-to-day stuff. Family. House. Cooking. Work. Weather. Chores. To-do Lists. Friends. Holidays. Bills. Sickness. Shopping. Routine. Routine. Routine. Most of the time we can enjoy the smorgasbord and live a full life and all the accoutrements that come with it. But when you live with depression, like many of us do (or any mental illness) this routine can feel onerous and like one big hurdle you just can’t lift your suddenly weighty backside over.
The triggers for depression are as varied as the people who live with it. My greatest challenge is staying mentally well enough to carry through the haze when it hits. And that’s fucking hard. Because when you feel foggy you can’t retain information. You can’t make decisions and you find yourself wandering from room to room trying to remember what exactly it was you were doing. And when you’re not doing that you’re howling at the state of the world and why nothing you do will make any difference to those poor poor refugees fleeing actual hardship and what the fuck is wrong with you anyway, you white privileged overly sensitive moron!
And breath…sorry, got distracted where was I? Oh yeah…depression.
Even though I have been living with depression and brain fog for many years there’s one thing I’ve only recently cottoned on to. Gut health. The connection to brain function, alertness and serotonin levels can be directly linked to how healthy your gut is. Which makes sense when you realise that serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract (Google it). Sure, I’ve had naturopaths explain this to me over the years but I’ve always seen it as getting over an ailment, like a cold or gastro. I’ve actually never related it to mental health. Der! If you want the facts and the science there is a stack of research out there – just get on The Google and click away. I’ve done a bit but I don’t have patience for the facts and stats – I just trust the gurus I choose who have done the research and are way smarter than me in that department. I tend to choose my gurus and then just follow their path until it doesn’t suit me.
THREE TIPS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED
So, if you’re in a fog and tired all the time and just can’t motivate your backside to exercise every day and make better food choices here are my 3 tips for just getting started…and then everything else will fall into place once the fog clears.
- Do One Thing. You can’t do it all. Wellness and changing eating habits take time. And if you look at success stories and try and implement everything they’ve done at once you’ll probably end up on your couch in the foetal position watching Netflix. It’s too damn hard so you’ll quit before you’ve made any changes for good.
- Find an eating plan that you can follow. It might be a week of home delivered meal packages that are designed to give you a nutritional balance, it might be a week of healthy meals that you plan yourself or it might just be as simple as veggie soup for a week. Reduce processed foods (anything that you know is doing you no favours!). You can eliminate them later, but for now just lay off them a bit. Also think about reducing dairy, gluten and sugar…no need to go hard core unless you really want to.
- Choose some supplements to give you a kickstart. When I was travelling in Europe many years ago I met a very active and healthy older couple who carried with them (in a bum bag no less!) a cocktail of about 30 different vitamins that they took every day. Every damn day. And yes they looked the epitome of eternal youth and happiness but there’s no way I could replicate that approach (refer tip 1). So just choose one thing that will help make a difference for your personal circumstance.
As the fog clears and clarity reappears you’ll be amazed at where your motivation gets to. You might even start…oh I don’t know…exercising again! Shocking isn’t it?
MY PERSONAL PLAN TO LIFT THE FOG
Yesterday I got started on a new path: a path of supplements to help me get my mojo back. I like to call this little path my personal “village”…because, well…it takes a village, right? And it might be just one villager at a time that does the trick.
Because I’m impatient I can also be a bit heavy handed to just get shit done. I’ve always been like that. Impatient and in a hurry (probably could work on the calm a bit too I guess…but will save that for later). Right now, today I just need to lift this bloody fog so I can think straight. So when I was at the health food store with the helpful and bright lady I just bought up large and am taking it all. Cos it’s natural I doubt any of it is contra indicated but I guess I’ll find out!
Here are the 10 exact things in my village right now. Remember this is my life and my rules. It’s just what’s working for me right now. You should absoloodle do your own Dr Google. None of these are sponsored or endorsed. Links are provided because I’m helpful like that…
1 – Magnesium
I’ve taken magnesium off and on for about a year but for some reason I had lapsed these past few months. I’m back on it. One tablet before bed. Helps me relax and rest easier. There’s a host of options – powdered and tablet. I find the tablet works best for me because it’s quick and I don’t have to mix it. Currently taking Swisse – straight off the supermarket shelf. Easy. Here’s an article about Magnesium https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits
2 – Zoloft
My long time friend. I’m listing it here because it’s part of my daily routine and leaving it off the list would be remiss of me. I can’t deny a medicinal drug alongside these natural remedies. It takes a village. Read about Zoloft here: http://www.zoloft.com/
3 – Probiotic
Again, I’ve taken probiotics from time to time over the years but mostly at times of illness or low immunity. My Ob Gyn put me onto Usana when I was pregnant and it’s a great quality option if you can get it. I also rate Bioceuticals which is readily available from your chemist. I bought a Medlab one yesterday for no other reason aside from the fact that I wanted to try it and Bright Helpful girl at the health food store was helpful. I’m taking two a day; one before breakfast and one before dinner.
4 – Gastro Daily
This is a little bit of everything to heal and seal a leaky gut (apparently). I bought it as a matching set to the probiotic above and I like a one-stop-shop approach. I’m having it once a day in the morning mixed with a glass of water. You can read more about it here https://www.medlab.co/nutraceuticals/products/gastrodaily
5 – Apple Cider Vinegar
This shit works. It’s like a Mr Muscle for your insides because it just sweeps through, cleans up and reaches into those hard to get nooks and crannies and flushes them out. Scientifically, it’s the high concentration of acetic acid that helps us to absorb the good minerals from the foods we eat. And good fights bad which equals healthier machinery. But whatevs…like I said this ugly little liquid works. It can be hard to take though because it’s quite potent. At the moment I’m taking 1 tablespoon in a ¼ cup of juice every morning. Just throwing it back like I used to with my Sambuca shots at Heaven nightclub in 1992.
6 – Coconut Clarity MCT Plus+
This is a new kid on the block for me. It’s basically a supercharged Coconut Oil. I learnt about it from the genius that is The Natural Nutritionist (see below) and because I just do what she tells me I bought it within a nanosecond. According to the label its high performance formula “rapidly metabolises into ketones to increase mental and physical energy. Ketones provide the brain and body with an alternative fuel derived from quality fats rather than sugar.” MCT is Medium Chain Triglycerides and I have no fucking clue what that means except that it’s easy to drink a tablespoon twice a day. You can even pour it over your granola, use it as a dressing or blend in a smoothie.
And the absolute best thing about the product from Nuilife is that it’s Australian owned, handmade and certified organic oil where 100% of the profits go directly back to the communities who make it. They pay the villagers first before selling the oil on to people like you and me. None of this corporate head office purchase order accounts on 90-day payment malarkey. This is the real deal. Changing lives, one village at a time. The way life should be.
Read more about it here: https://www.niulife.com.au/
7 – Fermented Vegetables
Ok, so I’m an old hand at drinking my fermented fruit…but alas my generous wine intake does not equal a source of good bacteria alone. I’ve just started taking a tablespoon of sauerkraut with lunch and dinner. Apparently this helps my food digest and gives my little cells better access to nutrients. This has been an easy thing to implement because I quite like the taste. You may need to experiment with ones that you like. There is a range of options out there and once again, Google is your friend.
This is the one I bought yesterday. Family owned and tasty as hell…they have a huge range http://kehoeskitchen.com/
Read more about Fermented Foods here: https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/nutrition/superfoods/articles/fermented-foods
8 – Kombucha
This is the cool kid in school. It’s everywhere…even Coles. It’s because its got scabies…I mean SCOBY that it’s so cool. The Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, which is a combination of super powers that turn sweet tea into a probiotic tonic. Like Jesus turning water into wine (which I never believed) SCOBY turns sugar into useful acids and probiotics for our body. Cheers. I’ll drink to that. You can also make it yourself by sharing SCOBY (which I couldn’t be faffed doing but I like saying “sharing SCOBY” because I’m immature like that)
I bought this one: https://remedykombucha.com.au/
9 – Kefir drinking yoghurt
Yet another fermented friend in the village. Kefir is a naturally occurring bacteria and yeast that is another easy way to get those probiotics into you! I bought one that is local to Melbourne and have just been having a swig here and there. Read more about Kefir here: http://aziva.com.au/
10 – The Natural Nutritionist
Steph Lowe is the Natural Nutritionist. She (and her superbly qualified team) are my current food gurus. I don’t need the details. If Steph says it’s good I trust her and I buy it. Her nutritional guidance has led me to much of the 9 things above and I would highly recommend checking her out. You can also get one-on-one consultations if that’s your thing. But her website alone is a wealth of easy to digest information (pun intended) and recipes. Start with this article about gut health: https://www.thenaturalnutritionist.com.au/gut-health-101/
Oh, and finally DRINK WATER. Lots of it. Always. Every day. Get yourself a swanky new drink bottle and attach it to your phone. Take it everywhere.
PS…I also got a full blood test last week just to check that there was nothing dastardly going on and I just had to lift my nutritional game. All clear. I recommend that, if nothing else, you start with a simple blood test too.