Sleep, Nutrition and Inflammation with Healthy Luxe

"A good night's sleep starts in the kitchen" is one of Shea Morrison's favourite sayings. In this episode, we are joined by the mother-daughter duo behind 'Healthy Luxe', Hannah and Jen, who share their tips to living a healthy balanced life through sleep and nutrition. As naturopath and nutritionist, they delve a little deeper into the first pillar of health, chatting to Shea about using their platform to share their love and appreciation for food and health! In this episode, learn more about restoring balance and reducing inflammation through our bodies systems, gut function and its link to mental health and sleep, and reducing the toxic load in your body.

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Keen to learn more from Hannah and Jen, but haven't had the chance to listen? Read the interview below!


Shea: So Hannah and gen, it is just so lovely to be talking to not only one but two beautiful people and I would love to know. The first question I'd like to ask all of our guests is how did you sleep last night?

Hannah: Well, thanks so much for having us. I'm Hannah, I slept very well. I typically sleep well. I'm very lucky to not really have too many issues, particularly over the, I'd say the past 3-4 years, I've really made it a priority to create a sleep routine. So I'm very, really just with my diffuser in my essential oils and all that sort of thing and just not having, trying to avoid screens as much as I can before bed. So I feel very, yes, very blessed to sleep well on the whole.

Shea: Beautiful, and Jen what about you?

Jen: And yes, I'm Jen. I also slept well last night, which I'm happy to say because really recently I've had a few patches where I haven't slept as well, which I'm sure we'll get into at some point it's, it's stress related and it was a really, really important aspect to sleep and I have a lot of tools and such which I'll talk about and then just to know that there can be additional things we can do when there are a lot of things going on and we can't turn off those thoughts.

Shea: Yeah, and I think you've, you've said it Jen, I think that a lot of people that we speak with that's probably one of the big problems that they struggle with is that they don't know how to turn those thoughts off and so they might fall asleep and then wake up or not be able to get to sleep because their mind is racing.

Jen: Absolutely, yeah. 

Hannah: That's one of our, I guess mum, Jen will dive into more tools, but something that we both find really useful is when you wake up in the night or can't fall asleep because your mind is racing with lots of thoughts, just having a notebook next to your bed too. Jot down a couple of the thoughts and it's amazing how much that does just kind of put your mind at ease and then you can just know that those thoughts aren't going away.

Shea: Absolutely, I love that idea and I think that's definitely a tool that we recommend to people and you know, I think when it comes to sleep, the interesting thing is that some of the best tools are the simplest and they don't cost a lot of money.

Jen: We have a lot of tools within, if we can just learn to harness those.

Shea: And so Hannah and Jen, um, you know, I love this idea because you're a mother daughter duo, um and Healthy Luxe, you are Healthy Luxe and I think it's just such a beautiful thing to be involved in business with your mother or your daughter. Um, so how did all of that start? Like where did Healthy Luxe, tell us a little bit about you,

Hannah: Yeah. Well it's start, I guess what it is or what it's evolved to today. It's all happened quite organically and over a period of about five or six years. So we started it when I was in uni. So I was studying media and communications and my mum's background is in natural, healthy, nutrition and psychotherapy. So she had a practice at the time and was often sending recipes and nutrition info and all that sort of just insight to her clients directly. And so I was kind of learning the basics of web design and like the power of social media and how that was going to become a really big thing. So we started a really basic website. Um, and an Instagram page, which was really just like what we were cooking I guess like putting a few really basic recipes up with some nutritional info and articles and that sort of thing. And we were just, I think we were really lucky with our timing that instagram wasn't so saturated with food bloggers and grasping developers that we were able to grow. It grew relatively quickly. And so then it evolved and that's when we thought about creating our app, which is where we host all of our recipes and we've been able to have ambassadors and create recipes and do photography for all clients, like a bunch of different clients in the health and wellness space. So it's just been amazing. 

Shea: Yeah. And you know, you have so if anybody hasn't been to Healthy Luxe please check it out because not only the Instagram feed with so many inspirational ideas and education and tools and then the app, which you know, how many recipes does it have on it?

Hannah: I think now it's actually over 600. So we update it with roughly six minimum, 6 per month. So that anyone who has it just to regularly get fresh inspiration because we know what it's like when you're kind of not sure what to make for dinner. And it's just an easy way for you to have access to a whole heap of healthy recipes.

Shea: Yeah. And I guess that, you know, for all of our listeners it would be wonderful for you to share some information about the connection. We often talk about the three pillars of health: diet, exercise, sleep, and really looking at the connection of food and sleep and you know, what is it that you feel is really important in that connection?

Jen: So much, Shea. It's really from a naturopathic perspective, we're looking at restoring balance and rhythm to all of our systems, to bring more harmony to attend if you like to the deregulated physiology which occurs through poor diet through lack of sleep, through stress is a really big one for the deregulation of the nervous system. So you notice there's a lot of deregulation and that will lead to increased inflammation. Um Deregulated blood sugar. Um As I said, nervous system deregulation and imbalance of our gut flora. We've heard a lot about and about the gut having such important function not only for our digestion but also for our mental health. We make neurotransmitters. There are messages, more messages go from the gut to the brain than in the other direction. So it is all very interconnected with sleep. It has to be up there as one of the most I think of sleep as medicine because it was when we detoxify it's when we restore, we rest, and we process memories. All sorts of things happen whilst we're sleeping.

Shea: Absolutely, not only does our body get a chance to reset and our organs get to function and our blood gets to regenerate through. We're washing out all of the cells that the nasty cells from the brain, like there's just so many things that we can look at yet we're not in society in general. It feels that we're not really allowing that time that is required and it is such a personalised and individualised things and it's really working at how many hours sleep do I need and factoring the before and the after as well so that you're making sure that you get everything that you need for that rest period.

Jen: Absolutely and really prioritising that - we all know how we feel when we've had one bad night sleep when it's a few where it really impacts our functioning.

Shea: Yeah. And how do you, you know, you've got clients, Jen? 

Jen: Yes

Shea: And so how do you see that in your practice around, like what are some of the things that people are coming to you that you see if, if only they could get a balance out, um there may be some of their food choices and get better sleep. Obviously people come to you with problems. So what are those problems and how can they kind of address that?

Jen: Yes, you're right. And in the current, just the world in general, there's a collective level of stress that I think is just there. And then on top of that we've all got our own things that we're dealing with. And so the stress and that the adrenal cortisol cycle, which is just constantly in overdrive. It's almost putting us in our bodies into into a state of, of trauma because we're too much in that sympathetic charge, which means that it's we're really prepared to either everybody's heard of the fight flight or most people have prepared literally either to escape or to fight. That means that our the other branch of the nervous system, which is more the rest and digest is actually not prioritised. So we can't, we can't sleep and we can't digest. So that, well that's another way in which that's connected. So when people are experiencing a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress and not sleeping that which is obviously part of the rest and digest, they're also not, they're not able to properly utilise the nutrients even if they're consuming them, they may not utilise them because that functionality is actually shut down because all of the energy goes to our muscles so that we can, as I said, escape. It's a  very evolutionary way that our nervous system works. So and our muscles are braced. So and that keeps us alert. That's really what I mean when I talk about restoring those rhythms and slowing down so that we can prepare for sleep to get that restoration and even throughout the day, factor in those moments of mindfulness to really help with that nervous system. And of course our food is important because that's where we get our nutrients to make our neurotransmitters to have a healthy microbiome to have healthy blood sugar regulation and systems need to be able to absorb and utilise those nutrients so many different aspects.

Shea: And it's all happening while we sleep, you know and this is the thing isn't it that I think that if we took some time to look at all of these aspects of what happens while we sleep and getting maybe that extra hour or even for some people might be an extra two hours, there is, there is a reason why. So it's not that people are just saying, oh, you have to have this amount of sleep. We need it to function properly.

Jen: We do, we do. And the sleep cycles are about an hour and a half to two hours and we need a certain number of them to really get that restoration.

Shea: We touched on this earlier before we started the show, but talking about the current climate, you know, we're in a very peaked situation right now, um, for lots of people all over the world, but definitely also in Australia and where we are in our own cities. And so, you know, this extra stress and anxiety is certainly playing a role for people. So what are some techniques that you could recommend for people that might be feeling more stress and have some more anxiety to help with their sleep?

Jen: So, to begin with, having enough movement during the day. So that there is that physical tiredness and all of the benefits of exercise of course, and preparing for sleep. So, as I said earlier, really prioritising that, which means perhaps taking an hour beforehand to prepare to not look at screens and not to scroll your phone. And I have to say, I can be guilty of that too. Even in the, in the current climate with the uncertainty, we can think, oh I just want to find out what's happening, what's happening and then we're tempted, we're drawn back into that. So just being mindful and trying if we can to. There's also the electromagnetic fields that we get from all of those devices around us. So there's that, there's the blue light, but there's also the stimulation and and reinforcing those patterns in that neural circuitry around that stress and worry and uncertainty. So we can do that. And this is where I think your products are amazing in having the diffusers with the essential oils like lavender and some of the drops, homeopathic drops which are wonderful with the passive flora, the nervous system nutrients, all of those things helped to prepare or it could be a camomile tea, a turmeric latte, a routine making sure the bed is really comfortable and it's dark. The darkness in terms of the pineal gland and really reinforcing that circadian rhythm. The sleep wake cycle is really important and if it's not possible, perhaps a pillow like a silk pillow or something like that over the eye mask.

Shea: I'm with you on the light, it's such a big thing. I'm sure people who have listened to all of our podcast would know that I talk about light all the time, but I I am a true believer and I can see it in my sleep patterns when I've been exposed to too much light too late. Um it really affects my sleep and I know that this is just standard, but it is something that we could become more in tune with. And it's again a simple, free technique. It's simply a matter of cutting out not just blue light, but just light in general. We are so wide and tired and there is so much light around us every day, everything's back lit and everything. Even my car's got this, you know, lights that come on everywhere. So we're so exposed to light and we need to try and really minimise the amount of light that we have at night time so that the melatonin can be released and we can start to really, you know, settle into, as you said, into our circadian rhythm.

Jen: I think that's really important. And there can be other tools such as mindfulness, look, breath work, their music that is settling and what we're doing with all of that is slowing down that nervous system so that we can prepare to be in the, in the rest and digest branch and have have not only enough sleep in terms of quantity, but quality sleep absolutely waking refreshed.

Shea: Yeah. And and on that, talking about food. So in a rest and digest when looking at certain certain foods that affect our sleep. Either, you know, in a good way or a bad way. It be great if you could, as a nutritionist could share a little bit more about the link between food and sleep. 

Jen: Definitely there's the one of the factors is inflammation because we can be chronically inflamed by just our lifestyles etcetera. So food plays a really big role here and it's complicated in terms of the biochemistry, there's also a lot of very simple fundamental rules which are nutrient dense, fresh organic as much as possible because toxins will give more work for the liver to do. And all of those things help with the microbiome. They help with blood sugar regulation and providing enough nutrients. All of the functions in our body require nutrients. So if we're having good fats like fish and nuts, all of those things help to support the manufacture of the neurotransmitters, settle down the nervous system and support the liver in its detoxification. So we're not fighting when we're eating foods for example with a lot of sugar and obviously we don't want to be having caffeine in the afternoon, ideally there aren't very many people who can process that well enough to still sleep well. Obviously we're all different but they're the general avoiding the sugars, the processed foods and caffeine, alcohol minimising. So that's those things to avoid, particularly in the afternoon, um the caffeine and the sugar that is also inflammatory. So if we can do one thing, if we can reduce the amount of added sugar is that there's sugar in vegetables and in fruit and we that's also comes with fibre and all of those other nutrients that balance that. So it's a whole, it's a whole food rather than an added fructose or an added sugar, found in, you know, sugary drinks and cakes and lollies.

Shea: Yeah. And if you were, I'd like to also come back to inflammation in a minute. But you know, for people out there thinking, okay, well you're talking about all this, what does a healthy meal at nighttime look like, you know what does your plate look like at nighttime?

Jen: Well for us it might be, we eat fish. So for those who eat fish and I'm very particular about the type of fish, the way that it's um, that it's either wild or it's organically raised and fish such as salmon, mackerel, those oily fish have good omega three. So that's a good protein base. Otherwise we we use a lot of uh lentils and pulses and a variety of vegetables. When we think about a range of vegetables, the colours means that you're getting a range of nutrients as well. So it's and what's in season will be also more dense in those nutrients because it's not frozen or imported, it's fresh. Yeah.

Hannah: So it typically, it's approaching whether that's a plant based like a tofu or tempeh sometimes with green vegetables or as one set a variety of colours or fishing fish and greens. That's the favourite of ours.

Shea: Yeah. And I think that you know people like they're thinking, oh but you know organic is so expensive and as you commented on before, you know, it doesn't have to all be organic, but where you can then you're, it's going to be more helpful and even just understanding where the food comes from and making sure that you're buying it seasonally, you know, listening to something the other day. Um and they were talking about that apples can live in Gas Chambers for I think it was 18 months or something ridiculous, you know, so if you don't know where your food is coming from, you don't know how long it's been sitting where and what's been happening to it. So just understanding that is probably the first step and it's not hard to do that either in this day and age. You know, there's some wonderful fruit and vegetable boxes that you can subscribe to, they get delivered to you. 

Jen: That can be also promote some creativity with all what what will I do with this and another I think really useful thing to do, which I often do because I live on my own, is have organic spinach, your vegetables in the freezer so that because sometimes it's hard to eat them all and then you can always add a bit of extra spinach, a bit of extra vegetables and that's not too costly. And as you said, it's about reducing the toxic load. So and it can be expensive and it's that's it's just being, as you said, aware and those boxes are a great idea.

Hannah: Supermarkets are helping out a lot more with doing like whether it's the odd bunch or those different offerings, but it's the imperfect fruit, but maybe they're organic or they're fresh or they're from the farmer's market, but people don't buy them typically because they don't look perfect. Whereas it doesn't matter if it's fresh and it's probably organic.

Shea: And as we know, organic doesn't really look perfect. It always looks imperfect really. Exactly. Yeah. And I just want to go back to inflammation because I think that it's a really interesting topic, but I also think it's something a lot of people don't know about. So Jen, I don't know if you can break it down a little bit when we talk about inflammation. Maybe if you can just give a quick simple snapshot of what you mean by inflammation.

Jen: To make it simple, we're supposed to have information if we have an injury then the inflammation helps us to heal, but a lot of us these days have a chronic inflammation and then that's the the a lot of the gut issues are around inflammation and that comes from too often. Too much stress, too much sugar, too many stimulants and it's it's a lot of work for the body to do. It's a lot of work for the liver to detoxify. And it can ultimately manifest in pain type syndromes, bracing, bracing patterns of of the muscles that in itself is inflammation. Even when we're sunburned, that's inflammation. As I said, in the right balance, it's there for a purpose, it's there to help us heal in an acute sense. But the foods which are in that was so probably what makes the most sense to a lot of people is gut inflammation, that sense of painful bloating, um, irritability. It might have irritable, irritable bowel syndrome or you can't get off the toilet or can't go to the toilet or whatever. And of course our brains can have inflammation. We might not necessarily know about it, but it's until it becomes a problem. So often it's a low level inflammation that we might not be aware of. We may once it starts to become symptomatic. So if we can put that back into balance by really being hydrated is an important, is an important factor because a lot of people are chronically dehydrated.

Shea: And again, when we look at hydration, hydration and sleep work hand in hand. So well because we lose a lot of our hydration through breathing at night time while we are asleep. And so being hydrated can be again, it's one of those simple and free things that you can do and a lot of people that I speak to say, I just can't get into the habit of it, I don't like the taste of it. It makes me get up in the middle of the night. But you know, there are some simple things that you can do and that's having a water jug that might be two litres. So starting off with one Litre and building to two Litres or whatever it might be. And again, maybe finishing the majority of your water intake by mid afternoon so that if you do have a problem with it, waking up later at night time, that you're going to minimise all of those problems. But adding water and being hydrated could be the key difference between getting a good night's sleep and not.

Jen: Absolutely. And as you said, very simple. It's another habit. You know, when we have habits are formed through repetition and reinforcement. So creating a new one is not necessarily going to be easy. It takes again to be repeated and reinforced. Yes, yes and not being also making smaller changes can be helpful as well, not being too hard on ourselves remembering that we don't learn any new habit or new skill just simply by being told to do that. But we can be more mindful and then start to then we create a new pattern and that becomes the habit.

Shea: And if somebody was, if we were just to round off the inflammation so if somebody said, hey maybe I've got some inflammation and I do need to look at it. What would you suggest? I mean you know we always suggest people to seek advice from the medical practitioner um go and talk to a natural path. You know, there are ways that you can do some tests to diagnose any of these underlying problems as well.

Jen: I mean certainly there are medical blood tests that can they test for c reactive protein and yes there are inflammatory markers that they may test for as well as a number of others. Um and otherwise there's a subclinical um symptomatic way in which that may present that I talked a little bit about and even including anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric like ginger and of course all of the fruit and vegetables are anti-inflammatory.

Shea: Yeah and there again, really simple things, you know using them in your cooking and um as you mentioned before having a lot um you know that can be a really simple easy thing that you can add into your daily diet as well.

Jen: And the real inflammatory foods, the processed foods and sugars, they're probably the biggest culprit. So even if they could be reduced.

Shea: Reduced over time even and I love the you know, that whole rule around, if you can avoid a supermarket and just stick to if you think about it, you know really you want to just be looking at the external aisles where the fruit and veg section is and staying to the to the fresh outside aisles and not getting too detailed internally because the more deeper you go into the supermarket is where you're going to find a lot of the processed, prepackaged things that really you don't need.

Jen: Yes you're right. I mean it's a really good rule of thumb just to think about the closer it is to its original source, the more likely it's going to have health benefits.

Shea: I love that. So what are some of your favourite recipes that you can share particularly for sleep?

Hannah: I'd say it's more like around the sleep drinks like it's the ritual side of things. So having some sort of tonic at the end of the day whether it's yeah turmeric. But um just some sort of warming drink latte or tea that yeah just kind of like -

Jen: Yeah, we really don't want to eat too close to bedtime either.

Shea: Yeah. And just looking at, you know if you are going to look at you know if you're trying to minimise the sweet processed foods, we always like to think about you know maybe adding in a bliss ball some sort of protein ball that doesn't have a cow in it may be, but that has um you know, some of those, the cashew, maybe a cashew based. I think that that's you know, if you're trying to create, if you've got that sweet craving, that's a nice thing to go to.

Hannah: Absolutely. And then you're, in terms of recipes, I think as we were saying earlier, it's just having a whole food like whether it's a yeah quality piece of fish with some veggies or something with tofu or having some sort of protein and healthy fats and then just all your antioxidants through vegetables and that sort of thing, eating it relatively early but not so early that you go to bed hungry because I know personally I can't sleep if I've eaten too early, then you fall into the trap of having a late night snack.

Shea: I think that there is that such a movement in the fad dieting phase around not eating carbs, or not eating carbs in general, but not in carbs at night time, but adding that small amount of carbs, good carbs can be that fulfilling element that you might need as well.

Hannah: And that's like our philosophy is kind of is quite steering clear of the sort of fad diets and avoid this, avoid that because it just gets so restrictive and so complicated when really obviously it's individual and some people can eat gluten and dairy. But we're more about moderation of those foods and I if I guess if they're good quality, typically they all have their own unique health benefits. So incorporating some for some, like for most people having healthy carbs, I guess like vegetables have carbs, so cutting out carbs is, is going to be really difficult and uh really restrictive for most people.

Shea: Absolutely. And on your website and on your app there are some beautiful, as we said, there's over 600 recipes and there's some amazing recipe ideas that you can get. So if you're a bit stuck and you're thinking, oh they're talking about that and I don't really know how to do it. You know, there's um there's so many great inspirational ideas from there. So if you are thinking okay, this is, I'm going to get onto this journey. I think that having a look at the Healthy Luxe website and the app is a great place to start.

Hannah: Thanks so much Shea. Thank you.

Shea: Pleasure. And you know, just to round everything off, I think, Jen, you mentioned this is that really what we need to look at is sleep as medicine. Sleep is medicine and it's something that we can get every day and really start to thrive rather than waking up feeling exhausted, feeling anxious and that you can't tackle the day just by making some of these changes and you know, really supporting people like Hannah and Jen who are making such a difference for our society by providing so many free resources as well as ideas and putting you on the right path I think is such a great place to, to be so, so thank you for sharing all of this with us today. And, if you are interested head on over to Healthy Luxe to either look at the website or download the app.