A popular product class is the “sleepy time” tea. These are the teas which purport to help you unwind from a rough day, relax in the midst of exterior (or interior) chaos, and chill out in a state of relatively peaceful bliss. Many of us live in a state of constant stress punctuated by bouts of acute but transient ease of mind, when it should be the other way around (constant ease of mind punctuated by bouts of acute but transient stress), and these teas and their ingredients claim to help you correct the imbalance. But supplement manufacturers say a lot of things, not all of them true.
What works? What actually helps you ease troubled thoughts? What’s actually worth your money and the time it takes to brew a cup of hot water?
Last week, I broached the topic of co-sleeping. The reception was almost unanimously positive, with plenty of you chiming in with your own c0-sleeping success stories. Before you toss the crib, however, realize that co-sleeping isn’t as simple as flopping down in bed with your baby and drifting off to sleep. Co-sleeping is a healthy, effective, and arguably “natural” way to raise independent children, but it must be done safely. Remember those studies I cited last week where co-sleeping was associated with infant deaths? Yeah, when co-sleeping is done poorly or incorrectly or unsafely, it becomes an effective way to harm children. Sadly, most parents no longer have access to the “village,” that treasure trove of knowledge full of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and infinite cousins with parenting advice for days, so we read books, and articles, and magazines, and blogs for tips and knowledge. These aren’t the same, sure, but they are helpful in their own way. Certainly better than left to fend for ourselves.
So, how does one co-sleep safely?
Living Primally is first and foremost about taking responsibility for your own health. Though we might not be able to control each and every facet of our lives and genetics, we have considerably more power than we think. Diet, exercise, sleep, sun, social connection, and play all figure centrally into our health. (If you’ve been with us at MDA for even a week, you’ve probably figured that out.) That said, there are also more nuanced facets to wellbeing – subtler influences and interactions that we might not consider each day. True, when we rein in the bad habits and rewire unhealthy patterns, we open the door for an unprecedented level of thriving. Some of us, however, carry other kinds of baggage burdensome enough to keep us from ultimately passing over the threshold. I’m talking about the emotional cargo we live with – the anger, resentment, repression, sadness, guilt, or inertia (to name a few) – and its inevitable toll on our physiological health.
In this edition of Dear Mark, I provide rapid fire answers to five of your questions. First, I discuss another situation where the deload week(s) make(s) sense and may even have to be extended: when exercise starts taking away from the quality of your life. Next I explain why for some people raw milk is a highly-coveted food, and then whether or not a banana should be breakfast. After that, I discuss the potential impact of ketosis on breastfeeding. Finally, I discuss the benefits and potential downsides of Bikram yoga.
Why are certain things “good for us”? Why does lifting weights make us stronger? Why does running a mile on a regular basis improve our aerobic conditioning and allow us to improve our times? Why does skipping a meal every now and then increase insulin sensitivity, lower body fat, improve lipid numbers, and generally make us healthier? Why are plant polyphenols so consistently associated with health benefits?
The answer is hormesis. You see, back when Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” he may not have been talking about the positive and beneficial physiological effects of exposing yourself to various stressors and toxins, but he could have been. All those things – the exercise, the fasting, the plant phytochemicals, plus more – stress our systems and force us to adapt to the imposed stress. Organisms, after all, like to maintain homeostasis, stability, and balance, and hormesis is ultimately about the push to maintain homeostasis in a changing environment. If the environment changes – say, because of a weight lifting session – the body must become stronger, healthier, better in order to maintain homeostasis and handle the situation next time it occurs. Best of all, you don’t just compensate for the stressor. You supercompensate. You get stronger/faster/healthier/more resistant to disease than you were before. Think of hormesis as your body “hedging its bet” and going a little above and beyond just to be safe.
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