Pop quiz! What does your pineal gland do? Most people know it as a little blob in your brain that makes melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that's made when it gets dark outside. Your eye has really cool photoreceptor cells that sense light, so it can tell the brain (and pineal gland) that it's time to start making melatonin. Melatonin makes you sleepy and lowers your body's temperature. Have you ever taken a trip to a different time zone? Even a change of one hour can be annoying, right? It's because your body already has an established "sleep/wake cycle." That means you will still get sleepy at the same time, but the daylight (or darkness) outside will not agree with you! Your body is used to making melatonin at similar times every day, so even if you fly halfway across the globe (a 12 hour difference), you will have jetlag: aka a hard time staying awake during a bright, sunny day! There's more. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants keep cells from being damaged by free radicals. Read more about antioxidants and free radicals here!
With Halloween and the holidays right around the corner, it might come in handy to speak the language of your intestines. Do you have any food allergies? Do you know the difference between allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity? According to Wed MD, almost 30% of Americans think they have a food allergy, but only 4 to 5% have true food allergies. Allergies cause the immune system to get involved. This means your body makes histamine, which starts an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can show up as hives, eczema, itchy mouth, nausea, diarrhea, sneezing, and even anaphylaxis. Food intolerance, on the other hand, is caused by not having enough of the specific enzymes needed to break down what you ate. The most familiar example is lactose intolerance, which can be fixed by taking lactase enzymes when eating dairy. Other tell tale signs of intolerance include diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, nausea, headaches, and migraines. See the University of Maryland's write up about common food intolerance culprits here. Lastly, food sensitivity is a general term that includes any adverse reaction to a food (unless, of course, you get food poisoning, which is caused by eating spoiled food). Do you have a favorite dessert recipe that makes your intestines happy? I'm dying to make this raw, vegan, non-gluten, no refined sugar dessert (Has nuts, though). Let me know if you try it!