Forget Resolutions, Focus on These 5 Achievable Goals Instead

Shannon Smyth
The new year often brings a sense of motivation and desire for change, leading many to set ambitious resolutions. However, research shows that most resolutions fail by mid-February. This year, instead of setting yourself up for disappointment with unrealistic resolutions, focus on these 5 achievable goals that will lead to real, lasting change.

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3 Healthy Vegan Recipes with Vitamin C and Zinc for a Nutritious Boost

Shannon Smyth
With cold and flu season here, it's important to be eating nutritious meals to keep you healthy. These three vegan recipes are not only delicious, but they also pack a nutritious punch with ingredients that are high in vitamin C and zinc.

The Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup is loaded with vitamin C-rich bell peppers and tomatoes, as well as zinc-rich beans and quinoa. The Vegan Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto features vitamin C-rich zucchini and avocado, as well as zinc-rich pine nuts. The Vegan Quinoa and Kale Salad combines vitamin C-rich kale and red onions with zinc-rich quinoa and pecans. Each of these dishes is a great way to boost your immune system and support your overall health.

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25 Healthy Smoothie Recipes

Shannon Smyth1 comment

a girl's gotta spa natural products

In search of some healthy smoothie recipes? We've rounded up 25 smoothie recipes that will tempt your tastebuds. From fruit to veggies to indulgent chocolate smoothies, we're sure you'll find something you'll want to try out today. We broke them down into categories to make it easier for you to find one you'll like.  

Blueberry Smoothie Recipes

Blueberries are chock full of antioxidants and lots of vitamin C. Below are smoothie recipes that contain blueberries.

Blueberry Kale Smoothie Recipe via Hot Pan Kitchen Kid-friendly Blueberry Kale #smoothie #recipe

Blueberry Banana Smoothie Recipe via Stylish Cravings Blueberry Banana #smoothie #recipe

Vegan Blueberry Cookie Smoothie Recipe via Food Meanderings Vegan Blueberry Cookie #smoothie #recipe

Dairy-Free Blueberry Smoothie Recipe via Arts & Crackers

Blueberry Spinach and Chia Smoothie Recipe via Powered by Mom

Blueberry Spinach Chia #smoothie #recipe

Mango Smoothie Recipes

Mangoes have fiber, vitamins A, B-6, K, C, potassium and folate. Any smoothie with mango in it is sure to be good for you.

Turmeric Mango Smoothie Recipe via Sidewalk Shoes Turmeric Mango #Smoothie #recipe

Orange Mango Green Smoothie Recipe via The Holy Mess Orange Mango #smoothie #recipe

Banana Mango Smoothie Recipe via Love Bakes Good Cakes Banana Mango #smoothie #recipe

Mango Chia Smoothie Recipe via Powered by Mom Mango Chia #Smoothie #recipe

Chocolate Smoothie Recipes

Are you addicted to chocolate? Here are a few chocolate smoothies that are truly healthy so you don't have to feel guilty.

Healthy Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie Recipe via Sizzling Eats Healthy Mint Chocolate Chip #smoothie #recipe

Low Sugar Chocolate Mocha Smoothie Recipe via All Nutribullet Recipes

Heart-Healthy Chocolate Cherry Smoothie Recipe via All Nutribullet Recipes Heart healthy Chocolate Cherry Banana #smoothie #recipe

Avocado Smoothie Recipes

If you're doing keto or are just a green smoothie fanatic, below are some delicious recipes that'll help you get your greens.

Green Keto Smoothie with Avocado and Mint Recipe via Low Carb Yum Green Keto Avocado #Smoothie #recipe

Avocado Spinach Smoothie Recipe via From This Kitchen Table Avocado Spinach #Smoothie #recipe

Strawberry Smoothie Recipes

Strawberries are a fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They're also a fantastic way to support heart health.

Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie Recipe via Little Sunny Kitchen

Strawberry Watermelon #Smoothie #recipe

Green Tea Almond Stawberry Smoothie Recipe via The Flavor Bender

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Smoothie Recipe via Love Bakes Good Cakes

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal #Smoothie #recipe

Coconut Milk Strawberry Smoothie Recipe via Low Carb Yum

Low carb strawberry coconut milk #smoothie #recipe

Raspberry Smoothie Recipes

This is the fruit that is best known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.

Raspberry Gingerbread Smoothie Recipe via Food Meanderings

Gingerbread Raspberry #Smoothie #recipe Dairy-Free Raspberry Cheesecake Smoothie Recipe via Powered by Mom

Diary-free Raspberry Cheesecake #Smoothie #recipe

Healthy Smoothie Recipes

If you aren't seeking any particular fruit or green to make up your smoothie recipe, below are a few overall healthy recipes.

Pomegranate Smoothie Recipevia Sidewalk Shoes

Delicious pomegranate #Smoothie #Recipe

Healthy Green Fruit Smoothie Recipe via Savvy Saving Couple

Healthy green fruit #Smoothie #Recipe

Healthy Berry Breakfast Smoothie Recipe via Little Sunny Kitchen

Delicious breakfast #smoothie #recipe

Breezy Blossom Smoothie Recipe via Arts & Crackers

Nutricious breakfast #smoothie #recipe Detox Smoothie via Mirbeau Inn & Spa

Detox smoothie recipes from @mirbeauinn via @agirlsgottaspa

Have you tried any of these recipes yourself? All images used with permission.


25 smoothie recipes #Yum #Smoothies

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10 Little Habits to Relieve Stress

Shannon Smyth

There are so many stressors in our daily lives. From work, life at home, to even daily life, we are constantly bombarded with stress. Over time, all these little stressors can start to add up!

10 little habits to help relieve stress:

Read a book

Sometimes it can be nice to step outside of all the things going on in our lives and get lost in a good book. When choosing a book, look for something that is fiction or a book you can envelop your entire attention.

Get moving

Exercising at least 30 minutes every day can not only help reduce stress, but help release endorphins to boost your mood. Take a fitness class or go for a run, if you don’t have time to leave the house, look on YouTube for a good workout you can do from home. (I personally love Rebecca Louise.) Another great way to move your body, but also reduce stress is with yoga. I attend a Yin Yoga class once a week and this has made such a difference in my life. (It also helped with reducing pain.)

relax with a girl's gotta spa!

Write it down

If you have a lot on your mind that is causing you stress, write it down. Sometimes journaling can help to see all your thoughts or starting a to-do list on paper can help you start prioritizing and get better organized.

Eat a healthier diet

Sometimes the reason we feel so bad is because of what we’re putting in our bodies. Junk food or unhealthy food can affect our overall mood and make us feel less than stellar. Fruits and veggies will do the trick to getting you back on track. Read: Recipes with Vitamin C and Zinc

Do some deep breathing

If you are stressed out, take a moment to do some deep breathing. Simple breathing cannot only help you relax and calm down but also help you refocus. A great app to do this with is Calm. I also personally use Insight Timer (there is both a free and paid version) to help me fall into a more restful, deep sleep at night. This small change for me, made a big difference.

Do a quick declutter

If you are stressed or feeling stressed in your home, it might be that you have too much stuff. Sometimes the best thing you can do is remove the clutter and sort through it, and better still, donate what you no longer need.

Learn to say no

Having too much on your plate can cause stress, and not everything requires our attention. Learning to say no can help you not only have more free time, but keep you from having a full to-do list all the time. Amen to that!

Unplug every now and then

You don’t have to completely power down your phone, but you do need to put it down from time to time. Let the outside world wait for a little while and unplug when you can. Aim for an hour of unplugged time per day, usually leading up before bed is a good time. (Which gives you the opportunity to incorporate tip #1.)

Go for a walk

Even if it’s just around the block, getting out for a walk can be a great way to reduce stress and help you feel better. If you can, try and incorporate a daily walk into your daily schedule. Nature is good for the soul. Read: Why Nature is Good for Your Mental Health

Learn to let things go

There are so many things out of our control. You can’t change everything, and there will be plenty of things that don’t go your way. Learn to let go of those things and don’t let them consume you. Instead focus on the things you can change - like your mindset. These little habits will have a big impact on how stressed you are and help you be able to manage your stress better in the future.

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Medifast Results, Cost and Review

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. Opinions are my own.

I began my Medifast journey in October and followed it for 3 months. I remained realistic about losing weight for my age (40's) throughout the whole process and learned a whole lot. As I'm typing this and critiquing my before and after photo, my 16 year old came up behind me and said, "Wow, that's a big difference." To me, the most noticeable difference is when I look at my side profile before and afters and it makes me realize that hard work has paid off. Before and After pics on the Medifast Go program via @agirlsgottaspa. Happy with the inches lost so far! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Before and after pics on Medifast Go via @agirlsgottaspa. Inches lost are obvious! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Then I started looking at pictures of me from the holidays and for once, I am happy with how I look. Typically when I take a photo, I'd say "Only take it from mid-chest up" because I was embarrassed about my weight (do you do this, too?) But you can tell from the smile on my face that I genuinely felt confident in my own skin. See for yourself:

So happy with my #medifast results! #sponsored #weightloss #dietingMy brother and I when I visited him in Utah.

An "ugly sweater" that made me look super cute!

My husband and my boys!

My final results were that I lost 6 pounds and 14 inches. I think you can see from the photos that 14 inches lost makes a big difference! I mainly lost it in my bust, waist, hips and butt. I literally pulled my belt so tight that I had to create new holes just to keep my jeans up! Some things I have learned is what Medifast is really like - the food is good, it sets you up for success and it's not as difficult as it seems. I learned that you can absolutely discover new ways to maintain your diet through the holidays, but that if you have a momentary lapse in judgement due to complete temptation, that you can still sometimes cheat on your diet and lose weight. Lastly, I learned that any time of year can be your motivation to lose weight, not just January 1st. I'm really happy with my results over 3 months and to be honest, it's given me the boost I need to keep going. If you jump onboard, I strongly encourage you to take pictures of yourself along the way. You look at yourself every day and may not realize the weight melting away in different places on your body. But slap up a side by side, and just like me, you'll notice that it is all making a difference. Try 30 days of Medifast with 7 Days of Free Meals included in the first month's order with a renewal plan. Offer expires April 30, 2018 or get $15 Off orders of $150+ with promo code SAVINGS15 at checkout! Some exclusions apply. Offer expires April 30, 2018. Leave a comment and tell me how you did! Here's the complete journey: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? 5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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Any Time of Year Can be Your "January" to Kick Off Your Weight Loss Journey

Shannon Smyth3 comments

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All opinions are my own. Any time can be your "January" to kick off your weight loss journey via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #diet #weightlossgoals

The first month of the year is synonymous with getting back in the gym, joining a weight loss program and making a resolution for better health. It's viewed as being the month of new beginnings, fresh starts and a clean slate. But for all of the motivation and energy January brings, February and March usually see a sharp decline in momentum. Maybe we set unrealistic goals and are frustrated at the lack of progress achieving them. Maybe it's not as easy as you thought it would be. Maybe real life got in the way. All I know is that I have experienced each one of these hypotheticals myself. Have you? The thing is, no matter what month or season it is, any time can be your January. Why? Because you deserve to be healthy. You deserve to feel better about yourself. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. And you know what? You can decide to make that happen whenever you choose, not when society dictates it. In March, in the middle of a hot August day or right after you have over-stuffed yourself on that secret stash of Halloween candy you've been hiding from everyone. You deserve to say, the time is right now. In fact, I made October of last year my January and began the Medifast Go weight loss program. People thought I was crazy since it was the season of food. Wouldn't I miss out on all of those glorious meals and treats? Wouldn't I feel deprived and miserable? It made me worry, too... can I really do this? But Medifast Go taught me a lot. It's really not just about meal replacement bars, shakes and ready-made meals. If your diet plan makes food the focus, then you're on the wrong weight loss plan... because what happens once you stop? Why, the weight comes back of course. While obviously Medifast's food is the basis for their program, it is not the foundation. Wait, what? The foundation of Medifast is education. This education propels you forward in making a lifestyle change that sticks because it is a guide in understanding food and yourself.  With my month's shipment of meals came a cook book, one that is filled with savory and sweet recipes for a large variety of food. It also showed how to incorporate your Medifast meals into it to really switch things up. I personally am not creative when it comes to the kitchen and let's face it, there's only so many times you can eat soup. The cook book is one of the ways Medifast sets you on the path to success. Then there's the booklet for dining out. It literally lists every chain and popular restaurant you can imagine and tells you which meals you can order to keep you on track. This booklet has been a staple for me because my family only eats out on weekends. And when I want to order from a locally owned restaurant, I simply find a similar menu item on the list. They really make it easy for you. Lastly, there's the food journal, which really makes you accountable to yourself to help you keep on track. Combining these tools with the food you'll be eating aid in changing how you eat going forward. I don't know about you, but it's not neccessarily food that is my problem, but the way in which I eat. My mindset, habits and lifestyle choices. I value a program like Medifast Go that takes those things into account and makes them an important piece of their plan. Before and After pics on the Medifast Go program via @agirlsgottaspa. Happy with the inches lost so far! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Before and after pics on Medifast Go via @agirlsgottaspa. Inches lost are obvious! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment (and I'd love to know which month you're making your January!) You can also follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? 5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now Try 30 days of Medifast with 7 Days of Free Meals included in the first month's order with a renewal plan. Offer expires April 30, 2018 or get $15 Off orders of $150+ with promo code SAVINGS15 at checkout! Some exclusions apply. Offer expires April 30, 2018. *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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Can You Lower Your A1C with Diet and Exercise?

Shannon Smyth2 comments

If you just received test results back from your doctor and he/she has indicated that you have an elevated HbA1C (or A1c for short), you may be wondering what that means and just what you can do to lower it to within normal range.

Back in December I decided I wanted to be a Living Kidney Donor. I'm at a point in my life where I'm no longer satisfied with just living a basic life. I want to do more, see more and touch more lives before my time is up.

To become a candidate for living kidney donation you have to go through a battery of tests over the course of several months. The very first round of bloodwork includes testing your HbA1C level to determine if you have diabetes or are considered "pre-diabetic."

Obviously you don't have to be looking to donate a kidney to have this test done, as it's something your doctor will do when you have blood sugar issues. Mine was in the pre-diabetic range (5.8%) and it left me trying to figure it out what I needed to do to lower it.

What is HbA1C?

Dr. Manisha Ghei of Praana Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Center, PLLC told me that, "HbA1C is a test of hemoglobin glycation and hemoglobin is present inside our Red Blood Cells (RBCs). Our RBCs regenerate every 120 days so it will take A1C approximately 3 months to change. A1c is a test of average long-term blood sugar control over the three months prior to the date of the blood test."

Think about what you eat over the course of 3 months. Do you have a few "bad days" where you emotionally eat or go on a chocolate and fried food binge? No? Just me? Well for those of you not in the big fat liars club, Dr. Manisha says that since it is a test of an average of your levels, even a few very high or very low blood sugar readings over the 120 day cycle will unfortunately show up in the average.

Kelli Shallal, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer, further explained that, "Hemoglobin is protein found in the red blood cells which carries oxygen, but in an irreversible process it can bind to sugar in the blood helping lower the free sugar in the blood. The levels will not lower until that red blood cell is replaced, usually every 2-3 months. In the mean time the goal is to prevent this process from occuring in new red blood cells."

How is HbA1C measured?

Stephanie Dunne, Registered Dietitian and Integrative & Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner, told me that hemoglobin A1C measures how much hemoglobin in the blood is glycated, thereby giving an estimate of how much glucose has been in the blood.

This is why the number is reported as a percentage, as it represents the percentage of hemoglobin that is glycated. When you see the A1C number as a percentage, this can be translated to the average blood glucose as follows: 5% A1C = average blood glucose of 97 mg/dL 6% = 126 mg/dL 7% = 154 mg/dL 8% = 183 mg/dL 9% = 212 mg/dL 10% = 240 mg/dL

The reason A1C is a better measure of long-term blood glucose levels than a simple fasting blood glucose number is because a single number only tells you what is happening in that moment. As the body becomes resistant to insulin (also known as prediabetic), the fasting blood glucose number may still be normal, but the A1C number may be inching up as the blood glucose level rises after meals.

The A1C number tells us what's happening over a period of time. A normal A1C is anything under 5.7%. A level of 5.8 - 6.4% is considered pre-diabetic and above that means you either have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

What's the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, Dr. Manisha explains, is an auto-immune condition where the body's immune system starts attacking itself, specifically the pancreas in this case, so eventually there is absolutely no production of insulin from the pancreas. This leads to severe elevation of blood sugars due to inability of the cells to take in sugar unless an external source of insulin is provided to the patient.

This disease usually presents in childhood or young adulthood. Treatment with insulin becomes an absolute necessity for survival. Conventional medicine has no treatment for reversal of this disease.

She told me that Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes. It is not an autoimmune disease and usually, but not always, presents in adulthood, although the incidence of onset during childhood is now on the rise.

This disease starts with cells becoming insulin resistant where they stop responding to insulin and the sugar, though present in high amounts in the blood, cannot enter into our cells and provide energy. Initially this disease can be treated and reversed with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes and if needed, blood sugar lowering oral medications. Gradually over time, the insulin production reduces drastically and insulin treatment may eventually be needed.

Need to lower your A1C? you're going to need to cut out the sugar. via @agirlsgottaspa My A1C is 5.8% and above, how do I lower it?

First and foremost, create a plan of action with your doctor. For me, that meant further testing to see what my insulin level was (e.g. was I insulin resistant) and a thyroid test to see if my thyroid was contributing. Once both of my tests came back in the normal range, my doctor then scheduled me to see a nutritionist.

Dr. Manisha suggests keeping your blood sugar consistently in a near normal range over the 120 day period to get a true picture of the control of your pre-diabetes or diabetes over the three months. That means no binging on your favorite high-sugar, high-carb, high-calorie comfort foods.

Easier said than done, I know.

"Eating clean is the way to go, I avoid all things processed and focus on protein and fat. The majority of my carbs come from vegetables. Also, being that I am a type 1, I correct anything over 120," said Allison Caggia, editorial director of Diabetes Daily and Type 1 Diabetic. "Keeping your blood sugar in range at nighttime is also important. This tight control will definitely be reflected in your A1C."

Allison recommends the app MyFitnessPal to help track macros, nutrients and calories. I recently downloaded this app and was so surprised where sugar, fat and carbs would sneak in. So many things in the app are free and will give you a better understanding of the nutritional value of the food you are eating.

"The first thing to cut out is boxed cereals, white bread, white pasta, desserts, pastries and soda pop," reports Michael Ham of Leisure Guy and Type 2 diabetic. Soda, whether it contains calories or not are to be avoided, "The artificial sweeteners sort of trick the body and also maintain the taste for sweets."

He recommends staying away from all added sugars. Ham also has a "no bites" rule - "I put food into my mouth only at mealtimes and for the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. At all other times, no food allowed, not even a taste of a sample at the grocery store."

Ms. Shallal offered these tips:

1. Limit intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar. Stick to lower glycemic index whole foods such as whole grains, beans, whole potatoes (cooked), and limited quantities of fruit for carbohydrates.

2. Try not to eat more than 30-45 grams of carbohydrates per meal.

3. Never eat a carbohydrate on its own, pair it with a protein or healthy fat.

4. Exercise regularly. Both strength training and cardio are important for promoting pathways that help regulate blood glucose.

Wait, wait, wait did she just say I could eat carbs?

So many friends and family who offered advice told me to nix carbs altogether, including vegetables that are considered starchy, as they'll convert to sugar. But she explained that whole grains and whole potatoes are "whole foods" that also contain fiber that will slow down the blood sugar response and are not the same types of carbs that, say, you get from noshing out on a bag of chips. She reminded me that, "a balanced diet is best for long term weight loss."

How you can lower your A1C with diet and exercise if you are pre-diabetic or a Type 2 diabetic via @agirlsgottaspa Does losing weight help lower your A1C?

Weight loss is directly related to A1C change, Ms. Shallal (and my own doctor) confirmed. In my case, I had been lowering calories, but increased carbs and although I was losing weight, it caused my A1C level to increase to 6%.

The best thing is to aim for balance, protein, healthy fat, and 30-45 grams of fiber rich low glycemic index carbohydrates per meal.

What about fruit? Doesn't fruit contain sugar? Ms. Shallal clarified that fruit is considered a simple carbohydrate and should be eaten in small amounts timed around your workouts. Berries are best, but whichever fruit you choose, eat it in moderation and don't overdo it, but avoid fruit juice and dried fruits.

Once a dietary change is made, it takes 3 months for the A1C to fully adapt. This is because red blood cells live an average of 3 months in the blood stream. As such, after 3 months, every red blood cell will be new and the A1C number will reflect the dietary change.

Of course, all red blood cells are not created or recycled at the same time, so the number will slowly change over the 3 months as the existing red blood cells are recycled and new red blood cells are created, Ms. Dunne explained. She continued that in order to lower the A1C number, a person has to lower the average amount of glucose in the blood for an extended period of time.

What this means is that huge spikes in blood sugar must be avoided as these spikes increase the average over time. The best way to lower blood glucose is to avoid carbohydrate containing foods that are easily digested and absorbed. The faster carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the blood stream, the bigger the blood sugar spike will be.

So as Ms. Shallal mentioned you can eat a simple carb like an apple, or a complex carb like a whole potato because it is also high in fiber. Ms. Dunne advises that if you do consume easily digestible carbohydrate containing foods, be sure to eat other foods that will slow down the overall digestion and absorption process. This includes protein and fat containing foods, or foods high in fiber.

By the way, this is why complex carbs like whole grains and vegetables don't cause a blood sugar spike - the fiber in the food gets in the way of the other carbohydrates being digested and absorbed. But that doesn't mean go tap out on cake and white flour foods like bread and pasta because these are the big no-no's and will cause your blood sugar to spike.

Ms. Dunne explained that if a person changes their diet to have more protein and fat containing foods, as well as carbohydrate containing foods with a lot of water and fiber (like vegetables, fruits and legumes), then the amount of glucose to be absorbed goes down. The reality is that glucose metabolism and insulin production are not simple things, she reminded me.

What causes the A1C level to rise?

Whenever there is excessive amounts of sugar in the blood stream, Dr. Manisha explains, it attaches to hemoglobin in our Red Blood Cells (RBCs). This causes a change in the protein structure of the hemoglobin molecule. We call this change, glycation, and the glycated hemoglobin is the known as Hemoglobin A1C.  

The higher the sugar in the blood, the more it attaches to hemoglobin, thus the higher the HbA1C. "Because we are incredible systems of thousands of interworking parts, there are many things that can cause blood glucose to go up," Ms. Dunne explained.

Some other factors that can cause an A1C number specifically to increase are:

  • Pregnancy Iron deficiency anemia
  • Lead poisoning Uremia (abnormally high levels of waste products in the blood)
  • Hemoglobinopathies (genetic disorders of hemoglobin, like sickle-cell anemia)
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Sleep apnea

Beyond those things that are specific to an increased A1C, the following chronic conditions can cause blood glucose levels to be higher:

  • Stress or other causes of amped up adrenal glands
  • Hyperthyroidism Pancreatitis (acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic use of some medications, including steroids, epinephrine, furosemide, thiazides, phenytoin and statins
  • Chromium deficiency Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Asthma Toxicity from environmental toxins like plastics and polluted air
  • Excess testosterone (when produced internally, as opposed to using steroids as mentioned above)

So, if someone was eating well and sticking to the low glycemic index, she recommends to have your doctor start looking for other potential causes that aren't related to the diet.

Another area that would contribute to elevated blood sugars and diabetes are nutrient deficiencies of certain key nutrients like chromium, magnesium and certain B vitamins that help the body process the sugar load adequately.

If someone is deficient in these due to malabsorption or any other reason, their ability to handle even normal amounts of carbohydrate loads will be reduced, explains Dr. Manisha. To Ms. Dunne's point above about stress, Dr. Manisha concurs and says we cannot underestimate the role of stress in raising blood sugars.

Under stress our body produces the stress hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol causes the release of sugar from stores in the liver. Unless we are able to lower cortisol levels with mindfulness and relaxation techniques on a daily basis, this will continue to not only cause elevated blood sugars but also possibly to high blood pressure, lowered immune function and many other chronic diseases.

Addressing some of the above root causes can most certainly lead to resolution of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Sandra J. Eleczko, DDS, brought up another good point - periodontal disease and diabetes are interrelated and will effect each other.

Good oral hygiene is essential to maintaining a healthy A1C. The bacteria and the inflammatory mediators that these bacteria stimulate will enter the blood stream and effect the entire body, reeking havoc everywhere in the body. So one of the things that you need to do to decrease your A1C is to see a dentist and have your teeth cleaned and make sure you floss every day. Can you lower A1c with diet and exercise? Can your A1C still be pre-diabetic if you lead a healthy lifestyle?

According to Dr. Manisha, a "healthy lifestyle" may differ from person to person. Her area of expertise is Functional Medicine, which involves an individualized approach to any chronic disease including diabetes mellitus.

"In Functional Medicine, we believe that it is important to get down to the root cause of any disease and the root cause(s) for the very same disease may vary in different individuals. One of the areas to look at, regarding the root cause of diabetes could be food allergies and food sensitivities which can both impact gut health and cause inflammation."

In her experience with her patients, she has seen blood sugars drop dramatically once the trigger foods are eliminated from that person's diet. She believes that testing for trigger foods can have benefits in the management of diabetes.

Gut health should also be looked at with a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, so that if there is gut inflammation or imbalance in the gut bacteria, it can be addressed as well.

Some books Ham recommends reading to understand sugar are:

Why We Get Fat and What to Do about It,” by Gary Taubes

"The Case Against Sugar" by Gary Taubes

"The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz

I also plan to get "Zero Sugar Diet" by David Zinczenko and "Blast the Sugar Out" by Dr. Ian K Smith because I honestly feel like I have no idea how to do this when there is sugar in absolutely everything.

I hope this article was able to help you. If it did, please share it with others.

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Home Workouts to Lose Weight and Keep Fit

Candyce Ross
Let the gym class come to you with Flex TV! @agirlsgottaspa We’ve all had those mornings. We press snooze on our alarm clocks at least four times and convince ourselves through a series of excuses that we don’t have to/shouldn’t go to the gym or leave the warmth of our bed for anything other than breakfast. The thought of leaving your bed for an early morning workout to start the day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea…after all sleep is important, right? Thankfully FlexTV has solved the problem of ‘endless snooze button hitting’, allowing you to fit in a workout in the comfort and privacy of your own home. From Pilates to barre classes, HIIT to meditation, FlexTV gives you access to over three hundred live classes a day. There are even specialist sessions in pre & post-natal fitness so that pregnant and new moms don't have to worry about one more thing to juggle with their new addition. FlexTV is perfect for busy people who struggle to fit gym classes and workouts into their day to day lives. Classes are scheduled around the clock and range from ten-minute yoga classes to hour long cardio circuits, so you can tune in whenever you have a moment and from wherever you are. Schedule in an easy (but challenging) workout at home with FlexTV via @agirlsgottaspa After logging into your account online, you can schedule classes to fit your daily routine. Tailoring your workout timetable means that you can plan your week in advance and you receive an email straight to your inbox to remind you of upcoming classes. A handy chat box also allows you to talk to the instructor, ask questions and engage with other class participants so you don’t miss out on the social aspect of fitness. My favourite classes are ‘Empowering Yoga with Lucia’, ‘Kundalini yoga for circulation and focused mind’ and ‘Kettle Bell Barre Fusion’. If you thought that a home workout couldn’t challenge you - think again! FlexTV is an inexpensive way to stick to your exercise routine, especially during the winter months when waking up at the crack of dawn in the dark is your idea of torture. It’s an easy way to fit in a workout – I usually just roll out my yoga mat and set up my iPad in front of me and the instructor talks you through the workout whilst doing the exercises with you. For more information visit - there is even a 30-day free trial! Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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Exzo Clenzo Detox Teatox Review

Candyce Ross

*This post is sponsored by Exzo. Opinions are my own.*

Review of @exzohealth Clenzo Detox Teatox via @agirlsgottaspa

January – the month that starts off with you dragging yourself back to work, the realisation that you’ve eaten your weight in turkey and mince pies over the festive season and the mild onset of depression when you realise that it’s finally time to sort yourself out like you kept telling yourself you would as you were throwing back the mulled wine and pouring on the brandy sauce throughout December. The start of the year can, however, also bring with it a renewed sense of motivation to introduce healthy habits into your lifestyle and a detox is an ideal way to jump-start the process. The benefits of detoxing include increased energy, a stronger immune system, and improved skin as the body releases toxins, clearer thinking and improved sleep. I recently tried a 7 day Exzo detox teatox cleanse in December as a way to avoid the pre-Christmas bloat that is often brought on by the excessive amount of festive dinners and drinks in the lead up to Christmas. I wanted to see whether Exzo’s Clenzo Herbal Blend Tea would actually make me feel different during the busiest and most indulgent month of the year (you know, since most detox teas require you to eat nothing but kale and claim that the tea is the reason you’re feeling on top of the world after 7 days.) @exzohealth Clenzo Detox Teatox review via @agirlsgottaspa I also tried not to read up too much about how I ‘should’ feel when I take the tea, because I didn’t want to unintentionally be influenced about how the tea made me feel. Yes, this may seem like an unconventional approach but I wanted to really test the tea and I’m happy to say that I was seriously impressed with the way I felt! Usually at the end of December I feel worn out, bloated and generally unhealthy. And with a trip to Mauritius at the end of the month, I wanted to see whether using Exzo would make the idea of wearing a bikini in just a couple of weeks’ time, feel a bit less daunting. I did however try to avoid alcohol and refined sugar, but in all honesty the tea banished cravings and helped keep me on track. The first thing I noticed about the Clenzo blend was the taste – it was delicious! Unlike some herbal blends it didn’t taste like grass, but instead had a refreshing, lemongrass flavour with a hint of goji berry and ginger. I genuinely looked forward to my next cup (recommended 3 times a day during a 7 day cleanse.) @exzohealth teatox via @agirlsgottaspa The second thing I noticed was how calm I became, I felt so relaxed. This surprised me because I remember when I tried a different detox tea years ago I began feeling a bit dizzy and anxious. After the teatox when I researched the ingredients, I learned that this was due to the high GABA content, which is a neurotransmitter that naturally calms the body and helps reduce stress. I felt alert – even though December was packed with late nights, during the week that I tried Exzo tea I noticed that I concentrated more on tasks I was doing and was not as easily distracted. Exzo banished all cravings for sweet or unhealthy food and stabilised my blood sugar. It made me feel lighter and full of energy and the thought of a fatty meal or junk food was the last thing I felt like. I noticed that my usual 3pm trip to the office pantry was replaced with a trip to the kettle – the tea is not designed to be a meal replacement, but I noticed that I began snacking less. Clenzo is also not a laxative, meaning that you are guaranteed no damage to the digestive system and any weight loss you notice is real instead of the dehydrating and mineral eliminating laxative effects that come with other detox teas (which can contain harmful ingredients, such as Senna.) @exzohealth Clenzo Detox Teatox review via @agirlsgottaspa The great thing about Exzo is it can be used whenever you like and alongside any diet – you don’t have to use it purely for a 7, 14 or 21 day cleanse. Whether you want to avoid packing on the kilos in December or start the year off a bit lighter, Exzo is the perfect solution. It is packed with energy boosting and bloat busting ingredients making it the perfect addition to any healthy lifestyle. These natural ingredients include Oolong, dried ginger root, nettle leaf, goji berries, liquorice root, fennel seeds, lemongrass, ginseng and garcinia cambogia. Exzo herbal tea is also eco-friendly (yay!) and contains no harmful ingredients. I would highly recommend Exzo and I personally can’t wait to start another 7 day cleanse to kick start 2017 with a healthy bang…and to make up for all the curries and noodles I had whilst on holiday… Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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Coconut Water: Hydration with Skin and Health Benefits

Gail Lewis
Invo Coconut Water review via @agirlsgottaspa Whatever time of the year you are reading this - now is the time to get healthy. And it can start off small, easing into one thing at a time to make it a positive, healthy habit. I'm a big fan of coconut everything - from coconut oil, to coconut scented beauty products, to eating the fruit and drinking it. Coconut is a go-to for its many health and beauty benefits. Coconut water is something I like to sip on, and recently had the opportunity to try cold-crafted, INVO coconut water. INVO uses high pressure processing to keep the nutrients from the coconut as pure and intact as possible. (Drinking an INVO is like sipping direct from the coconut itself!) Benefits of coconut water via @agirlsgottaspa I'm sure you are aware of the many health benefits of coconut water. If you're not, it's known to boost hydration, reduce blood pressure, facilitate digestion and aids in weight loss. Coconut water is rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. In addition to the great health benefits, coconut water also has some pretty amazing beauty benefits when it comes to your skin. Thanks to its anti-microbial properties it helps to fight blemishes (much like drinking lemon water - but this is much more tasty!) It also contains a protein called cytokines that is responsible for encouraging cell growth and cell activation. Invo Coconut Water via @agirlsgottaspa Each bottle of INVO coconut water is packed with 5 essential electrolytes, which promotes rapid hydration.  It is low in sugar, 99% fat free and has as much potassium as a whole banana. You may notice that each bottle pictured seems to be a different color. I tested INVO's Pure Coconut flavor (they also have Tropical and Sencha Green Tea), and despite the color ranging from clear to a deeper pink, they all tasted the same and were completely refreshing (chilled is my preferred way to drink it.) The pink color comes from enzymes working to change the color of some of the beneficial polyphenolics found naturally in coconut water and do not affect the quality or taste. Do you drink coconut water? What are the benefits you've seen from it? Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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