Water: My #1 Nutrition Tip

Recently someone asked me what my number one nutrition tip is. You might be surprised to know that my response was to ensure that you are drinking plenty of pure, filtered water. It is super simple and this one change can provide huge benefits to you and your families.

 Believe it or not, water (hydration) is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. today. Dehydration is a chronic problem today and many common ailments and health issues may just be your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink more! Signs that you are dehydrated may include: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, cravings, cramps, and headaches. Water plays a hugely important role in our body and how it functions – it is the primary substance and leading agent in the routine events that occur constantly in the human body and most of us do not get nearly the amount that we need to sustain proper functioning and a healthy environment.

Here are some of the roles that water plays in the body:

  • Improves oxygen delivery to cells

  • Transports nutrients throughout the body

  • Enables cellular hydration

  • Moistens oxygen for easier breathing

  • Cushions our bones and joints

  • Absorbs shock to joints and organs

  • Regulates our body temperature

  • Removes wastes

  • Flushes toxins

  • Lubricates joints

  • Empowers the body’s natural healing process

A good general baseline is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For EACH diuretic you consume (i.e. coffee, juice, teas – including herbal teas, alcohol etc.) you should add 8 – 12 ounces of water per beverage consumed.

Water Blog Post

Here are some strategies that can help you to incorporate more water into your diet:

  1. Drink an eight ounce glass of filtered water first thing in the morning and another eight ounces right before bed. Don’t incorporate more water around meals as this can hinder digestion.

  2. Add a pinch of sea salt or a squeeze or two of lemon to your water a few times per day for better assimilation of the water into your body’s cells.

  3. Get a nice looking, high quality, reusable water bottle to drink out of between meals and sip out of it all day long.

  4. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables that have a high water content. Some examples include: green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, zucchini, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, melon, berries, and citrus fruits.

It is super important to drink water that is pure and clean. Tap water can contain contaminants such as heavy metals (like lead), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. All of these are extremely harmful to human health and can have adverse effects, especially when we consume it regularly over time. The containments in tap water have been linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage, developmental defects, fertility problems and hormone disruption. Bottled water can sometimes have fewer contaminants, but can leech estrogens and other toxins from the plastic. Bottled water also comes at a higher cost to our wallet and also to the environment. 

One would think that our federal and state agencies that regulate municipal water would be safe for human consumption and it’s true that the majority of the nation's drinking water supplies get a passing grade. However, while many of the 250-plus contaminants detected through water sampling and testing are at levels that are perfectly legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act or state regulations, they are also above levels authoritative scientific studies have found to pose health risks. In addition, much like the personal care products industry, the criteria to be considered safe is quite outdated. The Environmental Protection Agency hasn't added any new contaminants to the list of regulated drinking water pollutants in more than 20 years. Basically there are no legal limits for the more than 160 unregulated contaminants found in tap water throughout the U.S.

To learn about the quality of the tap water you are drinking, I recommend that you research your municipality’s tap water. It can be expensive up front, but purchasing a filtration system for both your kitchen sink and your showers or even a whole-house filter is an investment in your household’s health. The health benefits from drinking pure, clean water and the potential for lower medical expenses, will more than make up for the cost of your system. At minimum, look for a filter that has been certified by the independent testing group NSF.

 Aim for at least one of the following as any filter is better than no filter:

  • Pitcher: Removes some contaminants but usually not heavy metals or chlorine

  • Faucet-mounted: Can remove most major contaminants

  • Counter top:  Can remove most major contaminates

  • Under the sink: These are usually reverse osmosis filter-based and typically remove the most contaminants. They can often remove the good minerals found in water, but some of them actually ADD minerals back in.

  • Shower/bath: Our skin absorbs contaminants too and these contaminants are even more volatile in hot, steamy environments. These types of filters are usually pretty affordable and easy to install.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions!

Sources/products to check out:

How to Naturally Support Stomach Acid Production

A lot of factors influence the amount of stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCI) our body produces. As we grow older, our bodies naturally produce less but this is also likely a function of our diet and lifestyles as well. Common factors that inhibit HCl production include stress, excess sugar and alcohol consumption, nutritional deficiencies or allergies.

HCl is a critically important part of digestion. It is a gastric secretion originated in the stomach that enables the body to break down proteins (into amino acids to be used for neurotransmitters), activate important enzymes and hormones, and acts as a first line of defense against pathogens, parasites and bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Given that HCl is such a critical part of the process at such an early stage, not having enough can really wreak havoc on the entire digestive chain.

 You might be surprised to know that symptoms of low stomach acid include heartburn, indigestion and bloating. Conventional wisdom has led us to believe that these symptoms are caused by too much stomach acid and doctors commonly provide us with prescriptions for antacids, H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors all of which are designed to reduce or block stomach acid. Most of the time, people with these symptoms actually have low stomach acid, and not high. These drugs end up masking the problem instead of actually trying to help it and often make the problem even worse.

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Other symptoms of low stomach acid may include a desire to eat when not hungry, a sense of fullness after meals, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea. So many of my clients have at least a couple of these symptoms. So how do we best support our bodies to allow them to naturally increase HCl production?  

Here are my top three suggestions to naturally and easily support HCl production without adding another supplement to your diet. All of these strategies will work best if done 10-15 minutes before you sit down to eat a meal.

  1. Drink warm water with lemon. This will stimulate the production of gastric juices. Use the juice of half a lemon, in warm, but not hot, pure, filtered water. This is my favorite way to start the morning and set myself up for good digestion throughout the day.

  2. Drink apple cider vinegar. Take one to two teaspoons diluted in about a half cup of room temperature water. The key here is, raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (preferably organic). 

  3.  Take bitters before meals. Bitter flavors stimulate the digestive flow, increasing the production of saliva and salivary amylase and triggering stomach acid and other digestive juices. Take about ¼ teaspoon of bitters before your meal (or suggested serving size) straight or diluted in a half cup of water. Make sure to use real bitters (my favorite is Urban Moonshine) that are made from organic ingredients and don’t contain fillers or additives. These days I keep the travel-sized bitters in my bag and use it on the go. Instead of the dropper, it is in a convenient spray able bottle. I use my larger bottle to refill the travel bottle when it runs low.

 These strategies are great for supporting your HCI production and digestion in general, but make sure that you are also in a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state when you eat, eat slowly and chew your food well in order to truly fire up your digestion and have it function the way that it is meant to.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20361959

https://nutritionreview.org/2018/11/gastric-balance-heartburn-caused-excess-acid/

Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You by Jonathan V. Wright

My Must Haves to Combat Cold and Flu Season

I get asked all the time how I support myself and my family during cold and flu symptoms. Here are the items that I keep stocked in my cabinet throughout the season. Check back often as I will add to this list as I find new tools.

Please keep in mind: The information presented is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and hasn't been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The content is intended to be helpful and informative, but it isn't intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any condition or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle changes.

  • Propolis Throat Spray – Propolis is a substance bees make by collecting plant and tree resins. It is used to line the hive walls, where it functions as the immune system of the hive by protecting everyone inside from outside germs. It contains over 300 powerful natural compounds renown for helping to support immunity and wellness. Take it daily as a preventative measure throughout the season, take throughout the day at the onset and during a cold or flu. I carry this spray in my purse and take it as needed when I am exposed to a lot of people and germs. It’s great for kids and to take when you travel!

  • Life Extension Zinc Lozenges – Take at the very first sign of a cold!  I learned about these from Dr. Chris Masterjohn. They are the ONLY lozenges in the market that use zinc acetate — by far and away the best form based both on basic science, patient data, and clinical trials.

  • Elderberry Syrup – Ederberry syrup has powerful antibacterial and anti-infectious qualities and is very commonly used to ward off cold and flu. Take it daily throughout cold and flu season, double it up at the onset of sickness. Make your own to save money. The one linked is my favorite

  • Oregano Oil Tablets – Suck on a tablet for as long as you can handle (they can be intense!) at the onset of sickness and feel suck on them throughout.  Especially good for sore throats!

  • Source Naturals Wellness Formula – take at the onset and throughout your sickness. You can even take this daily when you are feeling run down or are travelling for extra support.

  • Vitamin C – Take extra vitamin C at the onset and throughout

  • Umcka Cold Care – drink up to 2- 3 times per day at onset and throughout the time you have the cold

  • Tea – Traditional Medicinals Cold Care, Throat Coat, Elderberry and Breathe Easy are my favorites

  • Four Sigmatic Chaga Mushroom Elixir Chaga is rich in Beta-D Glucans which boost the immune system, helping to support your body’s ability to fight illness.

  • Bone Broth – Make your own or find a high quality brand at the grocery store. Bone broth has multiple nutritional benefits and has been used by many cultures around the world to treat flu, colds, coughs and sinus issues for hundreds of years. Drink a cup a day as a preventative measure, more when you are sick.

  • Essential Oils – Doterra Onguard, Doterra Breathe or their equivalents in other brands are my favorite for immunity and sickness. Citrus oils and conifers (like Douglas Fir or Eucalyptus) are great cleansing oils and will kill germs and help you to breathe. Diffuse in your homes or apply topically with a carrier oil. I personally don’t recommend taking essential oils internally.

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Resources:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872021/

  • https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/chaga-mushroom-the-immune-boosting-superfood/

  • https://empoweredsustenance.com/ingesting-essential-oils/

  • https://beekeepersnaturals.com/pages/benefits

Optimize Your Sleep

Sleep is the cheapest strategies in our health arsenal and quite possibly the most important. It plays a vital role in our physical and mental well-being. Getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep gives your body more time to heal, repair, and detoxify from the day and can revitalize your brain, allowing your brain to form new pathways and perform better the following day. Ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. To help you get to sleep earlier, try cutting your screen time short and unwind with light stretching or yoga, a warm bath (try adding Epsom salts!), meditation, or a good book. If there is just no way that you can get 7 – 8 hours of sleep in a night, aim to take a 10-20 minute nap during the day. Studies show that a short nap can provide similar benefits to a longer one. You also don’t want to disrupt your night time sleep by sleeping too much during the day so keep it to 20 minutes if possible.

An inability to fall asleep or stay asleep can mean that something in your body is out of balance or your diet or lifestyle needs some tweaking. Here are my top ten tips for improving your sleep hygiene.  If these strategies don’t help, it may be time to seek out help from a practitioner.

sleepycat
  1. Keep a routine.  Help your body find its natural sleep rhythm by going to bed at the same time every night (or most nights), ideally by 10pm (especially in the darker seasons) and waking up at the same time every morning. Aim for eight hours a night. Individual needs vary some and you can decide how much sleep makes you feel your best, but eight hours is a good rule of thumb.  Avoid staying up too late because you can end up spiking your cortisol to give your body energy which will affect your sleep when you finally get into bed. 

  2. Don’t eat right before bed. Eat your last meal at least two to three hours before bed to allow your body to digest your last meal before you hit the sack.  This will also allow your body to focus on the many other processes your liver, brain and other organs go through to reset and refresh your body overnight.

  3. Leave technology out of your bedroom.  EMFs (electromagnetic fields) are all around us, night and day and we do not yet know the long-term effects of their exposure. Reducing your exposure overnight not only can improve the quality of your sleep but can give your body a break from the constant exposure.  Try putting your Wi-Fi on a timer in order to turn it off a night. You can also put your cell phone in airplane mode, turning it off or keeping it out of your room entirely. Use a battery operated analog or LCD alarm clock instead. Keep other EMF emitting things like laptops, televisions, DVD players etc., out of your bedroom altogether.

  4. Keep your room as dark and as cool as possible. Our bodies like cooler temperatures for sleep. You can go down to 54 degrees in the winter months and 74 degrees on the high end in the summer months.  Outside of this range is not optimal for your body. Additionally, aim to keep your room as dark as possible, even small amounts of light can disrupt your sleep.

  5. Reduce caffeine. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and are a big coffee or caffeinated beverage drinker, consider reducing or eliminating caffeine to see if that helps.  The link between caffeine and sleep is two-fold. For one, in some people caffeine can raise cortisol levels and keep them elevated throughout the day which will affect sleep in the evening.  Additionally, people who are slow metabolizers of caffeine (possibly up to ~half of the population) can still have caffeine in their system by bedtime which may cause problems falling or staying asleep.

  6.  Drink less alcohol.  Sorry folks. While it may appear that alcohol helps you to get to sleep, it actually negatively affects your sleep quality.  It lessens the amount of time you are in the REM (deepest) cycle.  This can cause you to wake up more frequently and you may feel more tired in the morning.

  7. Move your body every day. Exercise is known to lift mood and reduces stress. It can strengthen our circadian rhythms which will promote daytime alertness and help bring on sleepiness at night. Research has also shown that exercise can help to improve not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality. Physical activity may stimulate longer periods of the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep. Try working out a different times of day to see what works best for your circadian rhythm. For many, physical activity first thing or sometime before the early evening can be the sweet spot for optimal sleep.

  8.  Avoid evening blue light.  In the evenings, blue light exposure from screens or the TV can wreak havoc on your ability to sleep. Try to avoid screen time within 1-2 hours of bed time if possible and if you can’t give that time up, consider purchasing some blue light blocking glasses. While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night is the worst culprit.. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

 

Sources:

Transitioning To a Real Food Diet    

We are experiencing a health crisis of epic proportions today. Obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety and autoimmune conditions (the list goes on) are at all-time highs despite many people’s attempts to “eat right” and exercise. Dogma is rampant in the health and wellness world and marketing sends mixed signals or even outright incorrect information bases on motivations rather than actual data or facts. Western medicine can be so helpful for targeted treatment plans for some illnesses or acute conditions, but it is failing us in many ways as we are sicker than ever on the whole.

Today’s health epidemic is likely caused by many factors including but not limited to: our diets, lifestyles, and the environment we surround ourselves with.  If there is one thing that most health and wellness experts agree on – it is that eating real, whole foods can significantly improve your health. I know that it is not always practicable to eat this way 100% of the time, but getting in as much real food in our diet as possible will allow you to thrive. You may notice that you are sleeping better, have more energy, fewer mood and blood sugar swings, and are even seeing improvements in your traditional health markers.

What is Real Food?

You might think that this term is not worth defining, but I want it to be super clear. Real food is food found in nature or that comes from a whole, unprocessed source. These untouched or minimal processed foods are typically the highest in nutrient density as well. Our bodies are built to recognize these foods, digest them and most importantly, utilize their nutrients (assuming that we prepare them in a way that does not harm their nutrient profile). Some examples of natural sources of food besides the obvious fruits and vegetables, include wild-caught fish and grass-fed or pastured meat, dairy and eggs. When an animal eats the food that it is meant to eat, its own meat and milk will have the highest sources of nutrient possible. An animal is what it eats so if it is eating inappropriate, inflammatory foods, this will get passed on to us when we eat it. Conventionally raised meats from animals raised in tight quarters, on feedlots have a significantly different nutrient profile than an animal raised on pasture. Butter from grass-fed cows have significantly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is supportive of heart health, and eggs from pasture-raised chickens have more Vitamin A, D, E, C, omega-3 fatty acids and folate than their conventional counterparts. You can often tell how nutrient-dense a food is by its color. This goes for the deep, rich colors of many fruits and vegetables as well as animal products. For example, pastured egg yolks have a much deeper color which comes from that higher nutrient content. 

Realfood

Dairy. If you tolerate dairy, look for non-homogenized and raw milk form of cheese and yogurt when possible. The homogenization and pasteurization process denatures the milk and significantly reduces the nutrient quality, eliminating it as a real food. At minimum, look for organic and preferably grass-fed varieties.  It is definitely harder to find non-homogenized, non-pasteurized, raw dairy unless you are purchasing straight from a farm.

Produce. While all fruits and vegetables are considered real food, aim to purchase organic versions, especially when it comes to the dirty dozen. It is likely that fewer pesticides and organic growing methods allow for more nutrients in the soil, raising the nutritional content, and making these fruits and vegetables more nutrient dense.  One study found organic strawberries to have more vitamin C and antioxidants than conventional strawberries while another concluded organic tomatoes have more polyphenols (an important antioxidant) than commercially grown tomatoes.

Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These are also considered real food, assuming that they are properly prepared and not coated in refined sugar or inflammatory oils. Purchasing these items in their natural, raw form and prepping them at home will ensure you are removing as much anti-nutrients as possible and getting the maximum nutrition. This will also allow you to control the ingredients that go into your prepared dishes as these pre-packaged foods often contain sugar, inflammatory oils and fillers which your body does not recognize as real food.

Oils and fats. Most oils and fats are found in nature and are nutrient dense, meaning they are considered real food. You have to be careful though because many oils on the market are man-made, highly-processed and the opposite of nutrient dense. These man-made oils, including canola (or rapeseed), soybean, sunflower safflower, corn and cottonseed come from tough seeds and legumes that were originally grown for industrial use. Their consumable form is only achieved through an incredible amount of processing, often times using harsh, petroleum-based chemicals to bring them to an edible form and to extend their shelf life. They are toxic and inflammatory to the human body, especially when heated, as they degrade and release volatile toxic compounds into the air and our food. The best real food oils and fats are those found in nature and have not been altered. My favorite fats for cooking include: ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, for higher heat and butter, sesame and olive oil for lower heat cooking. Animal fats can be great too if they come from quality sources.  As a general rule, consider cooking with saturated fats as they are more heat stable and have a higher smoke point. Use butter, olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats as finishers for serving. These fats have lower smoke points and easily oxidize when exposed to heat or light.

Tips for Transitioning

  1. Shop the perimeter of the store first – This is where you will find the bulk of the REAL food like produce, dairy, proteins etc.

  2. Aim for a minimum of five colors on your plate – This will ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals at each meal and are including plenty of vegetables (which tend to have the best color variety)

  3. Eat local whenever possible – Find a farmers market close to your house, purchase produce and meat products from Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) or grow your own food in a garden. These foods are higher in quality, are more nutrient-dense and taste better too!

  4. Meal prep one day a week – Planning your meals in advance and prepping items ahead of time will set you up for success. Our lives are busy today and we eat what is convenient! Set aside a few hours a week to plan out some meals and prepare parts of them ahead of time to make it easier to get real food on the table.

  5. Be gentle with yourself - Go slow and change things one step at a time. There is no rush to this process and no need to beat yourself up for not always eating this way. Even one small change will improve your health!

 

Sources:

My Favorite Four Sigmatic Products

Consumed for centuries, mushrooms can provide a great natural, nutrition boost to improve your immunity, energy, and longevity. When I first heard Tero, the founder of Four Sigmatic on The Model Health Podcast speak about the healing power of mushrooms in 2015, I had to give their products a try. You can find many of the Four Sigmatic products at retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, as well as online at FourSigmatic.com or Thrive Market. I tend to purchase direct from their website because I believe it’s the only place that carries their entire product line. If you decide to try out any of the products direct from the website, please use my discount code “ahealthybalance” for 10% off your order. In full disclosure, I am an affiliate with this company because I love the products so much and recommend them so often. I love the quality of the Four Sigmatic products and they make mushrooms so palatable and consumable through their great tasting coffees, elixirs and blends.

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I have tried most of their product line, though I am not always able to keep up with all of the new, innovative items they introduce regularly. Here are some of my favorites, the products I recommend most to my clients and why. If you want to learn more about using mushrooms to improve your health, I highly recommend this book written by the Four Sigmatic Founder.

Coffees & Hot Cacao

All of their coffees come in an “instant”, powder form which is great for easy preparation and travel. I like them by themselves or mixed with my favorite non-dairy milk and collagen for more of a latte feel. They also contain only about half the caffeine that a regular cup of coffee does, but you wouldn’t even notice the difference with the superfood mushrooms and adaptogens they add in.

Adaptogen Coffee 

I love how the adaptogens in this coffee help to combat stress and reduce the anxious feeling that coffee alone can give you. It contains Tulsi a calm-promoting adaptogen, known to uplift mood, support digestion, and promote balanced energy. They add Astragalus, another adaptogen which contains saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides. Saponins are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer. Flavanoids have anti-oxidative qualities, control and scavenge free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses. Polysaccharides are known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities, among other health benefits.

Coffee w/Chaga and Cordyceps 

This was one of their original products and still one of my favorites to date. I take this one when I need a boost pre-workout, especially if I am doing something on the more challenging side. Cordyceps support energy, stamina and athletic performance, and have been found to have strong antioxidant properties in some studies. Chaga mushrooms help support your daily immune function. I recommend consuming Chaga tea (or the Four Sigmatic Chaga Elixir linked below) when you are starting to feel under the weather.

Coffee w/Chaga and Lion’s Mane 

This coffee is great for when you need to focus (like when you need to have a productive morning at the office). Lion’s Mane is a powerful nootropic as it helps increase Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, a protein that is crucial for the survival and function of nerve cells. When the amount of NGF in the brain increases, it enhances cognition by reducing inflammation, encouraging neural growth, and improving overall brain health. As I mentioned before, Chaga is a wonderful immunity booster. This coffee also contains the adaptogen Rhodiola, also known as “golden root,” is known to have tremendous fat-burning, energy-enhancing and brain-boosting power as well. 

Hot Cacao w/Reishi 

This isn’t your usual hot chocolate but it will satisfy your craving for sure. Made with organic cacao, cardamom, cinnamon, Reishi mushroom, and a touch of coconut sugar and stevia. I normally don’t love stevia, but I hardly notice it in this beverage. Reishi is one of the world’s most studied mushrooms and has been shown to help support sleep and occasional stress. They are believed to help a wide range of health issues including inflammation, liver disease (it’s a great liver detoxifier), digestive/gut issues, heart disease, anxiety and depression. I enjoy this one in the afternoons or evenings mixed with warm water or a non-dairy milk.

Chai Latte w/Turkey Tail & Reishi

All you need to do is mix this with water and you have a wonderful, nourishing chai latte. The Reishi is calming and stress relieving while Turkey Tail is a strong immunity booster and is one of the most nourishing mushrooms for gut health.Turkey Tail is a powerful prebiotic which supports the microbiome by feeding the good bacteria in the gut. This beverage is a healthy option when the afternoon sugar cravings hit or you are looking for a warm, sweet beverage to wind down in the evening with.

Elixers

I love them all! They come in Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane versions and can be mixed with water or added to other beverages. See the benefits of each of these mushrooms in my previous comments above.

Blends

10 Superfood Blend

I love this blend because you can get the benefits of so many mushrooms in one little serving.  This is the product I use the most.  I add it to coffee, teas and my morning smoothie.  I even add it to sauces, soups and stews for a boost of mushroom nutrition.

Adaptogen Blend

This blend of mushrooms and adaptogens is great for those needing adrenal/stress support in the mornings.  You can add a teaspoon of this blend to your morning coffee, tea or smoothie. 

Sources:

Intermittent Fasting In a Nutshell

Humans throughout history have feasted and then fasted in regular intervals, sometimes by choice (the ancient Greeks were known to fast) and sometimes by necessity.  Some cultures and religious groups still practice periods of fasting today. Our bodies were built to respond and adapt to this type of nourishment (and lack thereof) for periods of time. For a number of reasons, fasting practices became less popular over time, until pretty recently.

For most of civilization, we lived without grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and meal or grocery delivery services. Now that we have these novelties, we can (and do!) eat during every waking minute because it is convenient. Conventional wisdom (and diet culture) has also taught us that eating smaller meals throughout the day can kick your metabolism into high gear and allow you to lose weight more effectively since you are constantly “stoking the fire”. When you look at how our bodies work in response to what we put into it, research shows that the opposite is actually true. We are better off giving our digestion a break sometimes.

The more often we eat, the more often the pancreas needs to release insulin to regulate blood sugar.  With more ups and downs, this blood sugar roller coaster can lead to irritability and mood swings, increased cravings, and even more fat storage. The body no longer needs to use fat stores to fuel the body between meals, but instead uses whatever is coming in, usually in the form of glucose. Whatever is not going to be utilized right away is stored as fat. Additionally, each time food enters our body, the process of digestion is kicked off all over again and energy is allocated to breaking down that food which takes away from other tasks that are required by the body for other purposes.

Ideally, we should have a fairly steady blood sugar ride throughout the day with balanced meals of fat, protein and carbs to satiate us until our next meal. We should not constantly rely on food for a quick hit of energy. This is not to say that eating regularly or snacking is bad, but giving your body a minimum of 3-4 hours between eating can provide the digestion cascade with the rest it needs and be very beneficial to the body.

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So, what is it?

Intermittent fasting is a practice in which you choose to forgo food for a pre-determined period of time between meals, typically between your last meal of the day and whenever you decide to eat again (usually the following day). This process enables your body to enter a prolonged fasted state whereby it utilizes or burns fat stored on the body for fuel. You experience a longer period of low insulin in the blood as opposed to the constant switching of low to high and back when you your body is constantly taking in food.

Over time, this type of fasting may encourage your hormones to reset and return markers such as blood glucose, blood pressure and liver function to normal levels. It may also allow you to better recognize hunger cues and bring about a better relationship with food. Some research has shown that intermittent fasting can help to prevent modern health problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, fatty liver, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and even dementia and Alzheimer’s.    

Women and Intermittent Fasting

All of the benefits sound great, but almost all of the research done on this topic is with men (are you surprised?), rats, or the women participants did not experience the same positive results as the men did. In fact, as of now, there are no intermittent fasting studies using only women. Furthermore, the studies that have been done on humans haven’t gone beyond researching body weight or cardiovascular benefits. Women are very different, we have completely different hormones and nutritional needs then men. Anecdotally, some women who practice intermittent fasting report low energy, sleeplessness, anxiety and stress, irregular periods, hormone imbalance and brain fog. This raises a red flag for me.

It makes a lot of sense why women in particular might feel this way. Fasting, which is a stressor to the body in itself, signals your brain (and your body) that it is in famine mode. For women, this may prompt the body to halt ovulation until the stress on the body dissipates and the nourishment entering the body is at a sufficient level to support reproduction and sustain another life. This may be true for men also, but biologically women are much more sensitive to these effects.    

Is it right for me?

I am not saying that women should never practice intermittent fasting. What I am saying is that we are all bio-individual, what works for one person may or may not work for someone else. This goes for both men and women. We all need to read the signs our own bodies gives us to determine what diet and lifestyle practices will make us feel the best. It is definitely more challenging for women to intermittent fast, but it could be a tool worth trying try in order to heal your relationship with food, balance your hunger hormones, or use it for therapeutic reasons. If you are trying to have a baby, planning on trying, pregnant, are a nursing mom or have a history of disordered eating, intermittent fasting is not appropriate. If you struggle with blood sugar issues, I recommend working with a practitioner work through the issues and get your body to burn fat for fuel, before starting a fasting practice. Fasting will only cause you more harm than good if your body is unable to tap into its own fat stores. Many different types of intermittent fasting practices exist, some with benefits backed by research and others not, but there are only a couple of ways that I believe are appropriate for women (and of course men too!) given our general make up and evidence of its validity. 


 1. Overnight fasting: This one is the easiest to implement and the one I recommend most. It involves fasting for 12 to 16 hours at a time 4-7 days per week. For example, you stop eating at 7:00 PM and fast until sometime between 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM the next morning. This practice can actually be as simple as not eating anything after dinner, and skipping breakfast. For people wake up hungry and like to eat breakfast, this can be a challenging transition.

To help extend your fast later into the morning, drinking coffee or tea with some added fat (Bulletproof style), but no sweetener will help your blood sugar stable and your hunger pangs at bay until you are ready to eat a meal. You may end up eating only two meals a day with this type of fast and it is important to eat nutrient dense, healthy foods during your eating window to ensure you are getting enough of the proper nutrients your body needs.

The time you break your fast is flexible and depends on when you feel hungry.  You may want to start with 12 hour fast and over time, lengthen your fasting window. This type of intermittent fasting still allows you to give your digestion a rest, potentially burn fat, and restore your hormone balance, but it won’t restrict calories long enough to cause your body additional problems. Always be sure to drink plenty of water (you can even add a pinch or two of salt to your water – my favorite is Real Salt) while you are fasting. I find that this type of fasting (when I practice it) works the best for me and I find it to be the most natural for my body and lifestyle. 

2. Spontaneous Meal Skipping: You can still reap the benefits of intermittent fasting without actually doing anything structured. This practice involves simply skipping a meal from time to time, when you don't feel hungry, travelling across time zones or are too busy to cook and eat. It is a myth that people need to eat every few hours or they will hit starvation mode or lose muscle mass. As I mentioned before, we are well equipped to handle periods of not eating so skipping a meal now and again will not only not be harmful, but can be beneficial. I find this type of fast to be easy to implement and pretty natural for the body. If preparing and eating a healthy meal is going to cause you stress, or you are travelling and there are simply no good options, or maybe you are trying to adjust to a new time zone, skipping a meal may be very appropriate. Again, just make sure that when you do eat again, you are refueling with high quality, nutrient dense foods.

Intermittent fasting is definitely not for everyone. It is not something that you need to do for your own health, it is just another tool in the toolbox that can be useful for some people. Generally, men tend to do better with longer fasting windows and fasting more often than women do. When in doubt or if you want to try something new, I always recommend working with a practitioner who can help you to work through what is best for you and your health.

 

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Give Your Body An Oil Change

Using the right oils for cooking and consumption is one of the easiest way to improve your overall health. Oils and fats are not all created equal. Some are natural and nutrient dense.  Others are man made and toxic to our bodies. Some are robust and can stand up to high heat, others are fragile and breakdown easily, causing them to lose all of their nutritional properties.

In the U.S., butter, lard and tallow were the primary cooking fats for generations. In the early twentieth century, this all changed when artificial trans fats were invented for mass-production and the convenience market. One hundred years later, when trans fats were finally deemed unsafe, industrially processed seed oils (also known as vegetable oils) took their place in processed foods given their mass-production appeal. These oils are even worse for us than their predecessors.

These man made oils, including canola (or rapeseed), soybean, sunflower safflower, corn and cottonseed do not easily convert to an oil form. They come from tough seeds and legumes that were originally grown for industrial use. Their consumable form is only achieved through an incredible amount of processing, often times using harsh, petroleum-based chemicals to bring them to a consumable form and to extend their shelf life. They are toxic and inflammatory to the human body, especially when heated, as they degrade and release volatile toxic compounds into the air and our food. Consumption of these compounds has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, digestive distress, kidney and liver issues, cancer, neurological problems and more.

Olive Oil.jpg

As a society, we are consuming so many of these oils (which are higher in omega-6 fatty acids) that our ratios of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids are out of balance. While both sources are important for optimal health, most of us don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids. These are the fats which promote healthy cells and hormones, are anti-inflammatory and decrease risk of stroke and heart attack. Although we do need omega-6 fatty acids to maintain cell wall integrity, for brain function, muscle growth and hormone production, too much omega-6 fatty acids over omega-3 can increase inflammation in the body.

By reducing your reliance of processed foods you will automatically avoid many of these oils and help to bring your omega-3 / omega-6 ratio closer to balance. I know this is easier said than done given they are in countless processed and packaged foods and even in freshly prepared foods at the most high end grocery stores and restaurants. Almost all brands of bottled salad dressings and jarred mayonnaise contain at least one of these notorious oils as do chips, crackers, breads, baked goods and beyond. At home, try making your own vinaigrette or look for the Primal Kitchen brand or others that contain only olive or avocado oil listed in the ingredient list. 

What else can you do?  Cooking at home is the best way to control the oils you are consuming. Check out my Fats & Oils Cheat Sheet here (link coming soon). If you eat out regularly, it will be a bit more challenging to reduce your exposure to industrial seed oils, but it is not impossible. Avoid fast food restaurants, and especially fried foods as often as possible and don’t be shy about inquiring about how things are cooked or prepped. You can always ask to have your meal prepared without cooking oils or with olive oil or butter instead. I often times will bring along a small (travel sized) bottle of high quality olive oil with me and ask for vinegar or lemons to dress salads. Depending on where you live, you may find that more restaurants are cooking with better quality oils as people become more educated about this topic. Do some research and find some go to healthy spots in your neighborhood or town or a place that you are travelling to. Your body will thank you.  

 

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All About Nutritional Therapy

What Is Nutritional Therapy?

Nutritional Therapy is a holistic approach to wellness.  It is a practice rooted in the philosophy that many of the health problems plaguing us today is a direct result of weaknesses in our body’s physiological foundations brought on by poor nutrition.

Nutritional Therapists study at the Nutritional Therapy Association, a school dedicated to helping individuals and healthcare professionals understand and reverse the tragic and unsuspected effects of the modern diet on our families, patients, and clients.

We are unique in that we are trained to identify dysfunction in the body and address the root cause of imbalances through nutrition and lifestyle changes, while respecting the bio-individuality of each person. To be clear, we do not diagnose or treat disease or illness. We do look at the body as a whole, using qualitative and quantitative tools as well as a hands-on assessment to identify and help correct nutritional imbalances in five foundations of health: hydration, digestion, blood sugar balance, fatty acids, and mineral balance. Through whole food nutrition in addition to herbs and supplements (if needed), we aim to support the foundations of health and assist your body’s natural healing process to help you achieve optimal long-term health.  Your nutritional therapy plan will be unique to you and your needs.

Who Should See A Nutritional Therapist?

Nutritional therapy is appropriate for anyone who wants to feel their best or live a healthier life but it can also be useful for people needing healing from or experiencing:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Fertility
  • Prenatal and postpartum
  • Adrenal health
  • Digestion & gut healing
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Skin conditions
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Children and family health
Photo: Madeline May Photography

Photo: Madeline May Photography

What Can You Expect?

We ask you to complete a food-and-mood journal to evaluate your current diet and to help you to be more mindful about the foods you are eating and the connection to how they make you feel. You will also fill out a questionnaire that goes deep into determining how body is functioning. We then perform a functional evaluation (if seeing you in person) to help assess how well specific systems and organs are functioning, and where there may be dysfunction (i.e. adrenals, parts of digestion, thyroid).

The functional evaluation is a hands-on process helping us to identify organs or systems under stress. We palpate a series of points correlating to specific organs or systems in the body. You rate these points on a tenderness scale. Each client’s baseline is different and custom to their own body, but allows us to connect directly with the body’s innate response to help determine your best nutritional therapy protocol.

We then use lingual-neuro testing, a valuable biofeedback tool that enables us to determine what (if any) therapeutic supplementation your body may need. It taps into the body’s ability to discriminate between what it needs, and what it doesn't, in order to correct a specific problem or imbalance, for example, a weak organ or a nutritional deficiency. This simple and effective technique helps provide you with a personalized nutritional therapy and supplement plan to support your health journey.

Why Nutritional Therapy?

Nutritional therapy needs to be a priority. Chronic disease is a growing public health crisis and is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. today. It is hurting our quality of life and the lives of our children and it is only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it. Most of these illnesses can be avoided altogether by simple diet and lifestyle changes. Nutritional Therapists like me can help you to bring your body into a state of balance so that you can live a long, healthy life. What are YOU waiting for?    

What's Up with Supplements?

Do we need them? I’d love to say no, but unfortunately given today’s environment the answer is yes for most people. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. Soil diversity and quality has declined in modern times, decreasing the nutrient density of the food that comes from this soil. Modern farming has also led to a reduction in the diversity of plant foods that we eat on a daily basis and an increase in environmental toxins. Not to mention, most people don’t eat nearly enough of the right foods to obtain the amounts of nutrients that our bodies thrive on.

  2. Our generation grew up with chronic antibiotic use, long-term use of birth control pills and other medications which wreak havoc on the liver and digestive and endocrine systems. We have reached a point where healing the gut and reversing damage to our bodies require more than dietary changes.

  3. Our lifestyles today are challenging. In general, we are chronically stressed, we have poor sleep quality and quantity, we are not getting enough activity and movement in or we are over exercising, and we don’t spend enough time connecting with nature or spending time with one another.

Supplements

I encourage my clients to obtain as many nutrients from food as possible because nutrient dense, whole foods are essentially pre-packaged nutrients that fit together naturally, containing many co-factors and enzymes required to absorb those nutrients. Though as I mention above, most of us are not obtaining the optimal level of at least some nutrients. Supplementation may be necessary indefinitely or for a period of time depending on the situation. For example, many of us are vitamin D and magnesium deficient. Other vitamins that we tend to be deficient in include vitamin A, K2, C, B12, selenium and iodine.  Given our years of consuming more omega-6 vegetable oils when saturated fat had a bad rap, many have an imbalance in their omega-3 / omega-6 ratio as well (they should be balanced).

Because we are all so different and our bodies have different needs based on our lifestyles, diets and history I don’t make blanket recommendations. The best way to determine what deficiencies you have is to work with a functional medicine or holistic practitioner. As practitioners, part of our job is to research and test the best supplements for our clients to ensure that they are getting the appropriate nutrients their body needs. We help to monitor any adverse reactions or interactions with other medications you may be taking and help ensure proper dosing and timing. Some nutrients are known to be toxic if taken in high doses. For example, vitamin A can cause liver problems, too much zinc can reduce copper in the body and vitamin E and selenium may be linked to prostate cancer.

It is also important to note that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA and is in fact, not regulated at all. Standards for quality do not exist and there is nothing keeping companies from making false claims on their packaging which is ineffective and even dangerous. A Canadian research group conducted a study on a variety of different generic brand supplements. They found that many of these supplements found in well-known pharmacies (e.g. Walgreens, Wal-Mart) contained unlisted fillers, contaminants, completely different compounds than listed, and in some cases no active herbal ingredients at all. Over 60% of the store brand supplements tested had incorrect labeling, and more than 50% didn’t contain the advertised ingredient.

Given this problem, it is very important to purchase high quality supplements from trusted source. It is also important to find brands whose products are considered to be pharmaceutical grade which are at the top-tier of quality and generally only dispensed (or at least endorsed) by practitioners and clinicians. These supplements are produced under rigorous laboratory conditions, tested for purity, contaminants, and are free of allergens and questionable ingredients. The companies package synergistic compounds together to help improve your body’s ability to absorb the active ingredients. You can also be sure that you will be getting only those ingredients listed on the labels, without fillers and toxins.

Supplements can have a place in our health journey, provided we use them sensibly and not at the expense of a whole foods-based, nutrient dense diet. Ignore the dogma that is rampant in the health and wellness industry about the latest and greatest supplement and figure out what will work best for YOU with the help of someone trained to do so. You may find that in the long run you save money on products and supplements you don’t need and actually feel better using the supplements that serve your mind and body and improve your health.

 

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Read This If You Eat Grains

Grains, beans (legumes), nuts and seeds contain naturally occurring ant-nutrients which are a plants innate defense mechanism.  In fact, almost all plants have some form of anti-nutrient or toxic substance to protect itself from being eaten. These anti-nutrients can negatively affect our health if we let them. For example one anti-nutrient, phytic acid, inhibits the absorption of other nutrients in the food and can cause digestive distress and blood sugar issues for some people. Others contain substances such as lectins , which can irritate the gut lining and eventually cause skin conditions and autoimmune responses. In extreme cases, some beans and raw seeds are highly toxic when eaten raw.

To alleviate this problem, many popular diets today appease the masses and simply eliminate them completely from their plan and don't get me started on the debate in health and wellness circles on this topic. It is unfortunate because many of us can actually tolerate these foods, especially when they are prepared properly. Once the anti-nutrients are degraded with proper pre-treatment, these foods become excellent sources of nutrients.  

The concept of soaking and sprouting grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is not new. In fact, many ancient cultures around the world soaked, sprouted or fermented these foods and still do today. Over the years, they learned that preparing these foods in this way helps to alleviate the digestive distress and makes the nutrients more bio-available. The Chinese were the first people to sprout beans as they sailed on voyages overseas. The abundant vitamin C in sprouted mung beans prevented the crews from getting scurvy. Instructions for sprout dried peas for soups were found years ago in French cookbooks and bulgur, an ancient grain from the Middle East, is made from sprouted wheat. 

Ideally, grains should undergo a long ferment (such as traditional sourdough or beer). However, this is not always practical given our time and storage constraints. After fermentation, sprouting is the next best preparation as it can still help to reduce anti-nutrients while simultaneously increasing the nutrient density of the food. Soaking alone will also help in the reduction of anti-nutrients, though not quite as well as soaking.

almonds

It is important to mention that some of our population cannot tolerate these foods (particularly grains and legumes). Other people choose to omit them because they may feel better without them or are obtaining the nutrients in these foods from another source. We are all different and have different needs and belief systems that influence how and what we eat. For those who choose to eat grains, beans, nuts and seeds – aim to eat them in their properly prepared form as often as possible so that you can take in as much of their nutrition as feasible and reduce your chances of mineral depletion or digestive distress later. If you are unsure about whether you tolerate these foods well or not, it may be helpful to eliminate them for a period of time as a test. If you do eat them in your home, take the time to properly prepare them.  Your body with thank you!

Instructions for soaking grains and beans:

  1. Place your grains/beans in a glass bowl or large canning jar and cover with twice as much warm (not hot) filtered water.
  2. Add one tablespoon of an acidic medium like lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, or whey plus a pinch of salt to help breakdown the anti-nutrients
  3. Cover the bowl and leave on your countertop for 12 hours or overnight.
  4. Rinse the grains/beans until the water runs clear and cook as usual.  Cooking time may decrease slightly.

Instructions for soaking nuts and seeds:

  1. Place your nuts/seeds in a glass bowl or large canning jar and cover with twice as much filtered water. 
  2. Add one teaspoon of salt (for each cup of nuts) and stir to ensure the salt dissolves
  3. Cover the bowl and leave on your countertop for 12 hours or overnight.
  4. Rinse the nuts or seeds and eat right away or use a dehydrator or warm oven set to 15 degrees to dehydrate until they are dry and crisp.  Soaked nuts or seeds will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.

Instructions for sprouting grains, beans, nuts and seeds:

The instructions for sprouting all grains, beans and seeds is the same for each, though the length of time it takes to sprout varies.

  1. Fill a canning jar about 1/3 full with your dried grains, beans, nuts or seeds 
  2. Add enough filtered water to cover by a few inches and cover with a sprouting lid or square of cheesecloth (be sure to secure it at the top).
  3. Soak overnight then drain and rinse well.
  4. Invert the jar into a bowl and prop it up so that it sits at an angle to drain and be sure to keep out of direct sunlight
  5. Twice a day, rinse the seeds and in two to five days the sprouts will be ready
  6. Store in the refrigerator to eat raw or until you are ready to cook them.

 

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Break Up With Diet Culture

Diet culture is something that is all around us yet most of us don’t think about it specifically or even know what it is. It feels normal to us even though it is anything but.  Diet culture exists because our society values the number on the scale over health and longevity. It sends the message that restrictive eating through calorie deficits and the elimination of food groups, or whatever fad diet is in favor will help us to lose weight and therefore make us happier and healthier. It also tells us that the more we work out and the harder we work out, the more likely we are to have six pack abs. It reinforces the belief that if you are thin and or appear fit that you are a happier person. Diet culture is black and white – putting foods into buckets labeled good or bad with the aim of creating shame in our minds so that we continue purchase products and services that will give us that “bikini body”, help us get our body back after having a baby, or give us the energy of our youth.

This culture wants us to be in the cycle of wanting to lose weight and trying to keep it off, hating our bodies and shaming ourselves, it wants us to feel like a failure or worthless when a “diet” isn’t working. They want us to spend more money on the next diet, supplement or workout program. We can choose not to engage in this cycle, but it is dificult because it is so engrained in our society today. We deserve better.

Diet Culture

 

Here are some strategies to help you reframe your thoughts and allow you to take charge of your mindset around health, while allowing you to stop feeding into, and thereby supporting diet culture: 

1. Instead of labeling foods as good or bad or eliminating certain foods just because you believe they are too high in fat, carbs or calories, try to think about all foods as neutral and really pay attention to how they make you feel.  Are these foods working for you, nourishing you and making you feel good? Stop reading labels for recommendations on how much you should be eating and eat what feels right to you, when it feels right and the amount that will nourish and sustain you. Aim to push out the guilt and anxiety associated with former “bad” foods. So long as the bulk of your meals are based on whole foods with lots of organic greens and vegetables (fiber), high quality proteins and healthy fats and you are feeling well generally, you can still enjoy some of the foods that our diet culture associates with guilt, shame or whatever else they have come up with to manipulate our thinking.

2. Stop exercising for punishment or to negate something that you ate and consider how exercise makes you feel. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t negate something you ate with running ten miles or taking two hours of spin class.  We have very little control over our actual metabolic rate. While our food intake accounts for 100 percent of the energy that we take into our bodies, exercise burns off only somewhere between ten and thirty percent depending on a variety of factors at that time. It is pretty hard to erase your diet with hours on the treadmill and it isn’t worth the time or the hardship to your body. More exercise isn’t always better.  In fact, most of the time it introduces more stress to your body. Over time the behavior of using exercise as punishment for poor dietary decisions can be extremely detrimental to your heath and your mindset.  Exercise should be something that brings you joy and should be used as a tool to make you feel strong in your body, have more energy and confidence and add to your health and well being. So seek out the forms of exercise that you enjoy and do them because you care about your body

3. Let go of the idea that the number on the scale or your clothing size determines your worth, capabilities, health or happiness. Diet culture will tell you time and time again to follow a specific plan and you will lose weight and therefore be a happier person. There are unhappy people at all sizes and your worth and capabilities in any capacity are not tied to your weight or how you look in a bathing suit.  This is a big one, especially with postpartum women. As new moms we often feel like we have to get our bodies back and in short order. Why?  Because in diet culture, we are made to feel that we are not ourselves until we can successfully fit into our old clothes and have the same body that we had before having children.  When you really think about it, is that even rational? Pregnant or not, our bodies change over time depending on our lifestyles, stress levels and seasons of life. A mother’s body should be celebrated for having the strength and amazing ability to carry a life, give birth and nourish that life. It is normal to not look the same afterwards because let’s face it, we are not the same afterwards.  Your body never goes away it just changes with your experience, just like it does with other life experiences.

When you stop spending so much time stressing about your weight and focus on living your life – spending time with your children, nourishing yourself with foods that make you feel good, move your body as we are designed to, and do things for yourself that bring you joy and peace, you may just find that you are happier.  You may never again fall into the trap of dieting and over-exercising only to fail and feel bad enough about yourself to do it again and again.

There are so many other ways that diet culture infiltrates the messaging we see all around us.  I could go on about this forever so I picked a few of the common themes I see. I hope this post helps you to think about how diet culture has influenced you over the years, what you can do minimize its harmful effects and move forward in a more positive way that can help your own health and mindset.  Hopefully over time the power that diet culture has over our society will diminish or even go away completely.

Let’s make it happen!

 

 

Practical Ways to Reduce Your EMF Exposure

Our bodies process thousands of toxins and environmental stressors on a daily basis.  There is a direct link between how many toxins we are exposing ourselves to and our ability to achieve optimal health and well-being. Some of these exposures are avoidable by changing what we put on in our bodies, on our bodies and what we do in our homes. These stressors are often hard to understand because they are not something that you can see or feel.

EMFs are electromagnetic fields and are all around us via electronic devices like our cell phones, Wi-Fi, electric wiring and lighting in our homes and even refrigerator motors. These EMFs pass through our bodies constantly, disrupting out bodies own unique electromagnetic energy field and potentially harming our cells by changing how our cells communicate with one another. While there is a huge amount of uncertainty over how harmful EMFs are to human health, there is a common theme that chronic EMF exposure may be related to ailments such as chronic fatigue, sleep issues, neurological and behavioral problems and even cancer.

EMF Exposure Unsplash

High levels of constant EMF pollution are most problematic, particularly for a subset of the population particularly susceptible to adverse symptoms from excessive exposure. Children also appear to be more vulnerable to EMFs than adults. Reducing exposure to on a daily basis can be helpful in achieving better health for you and your family. A great place to start is in our homes – where we can control the level of EMFs we are exposed to.

Here are some of the easiest and most economical ways I have found to reduce exposure:

  1. Change out the light bulbs in your homes from fluorescent or CFLs to incandescent.  I know, it seems this is moving backwards, but these newer bulbs give off radio frequency radiation in addition to UV radiation and dirty electricity. The old school incandescent light bulbs give off much less of these by-products (though they do use more electricity). Energy efficient LED light bulbs don’t contain radio frequency radiation or UV radiation, but they still produce dirty electricity.
  2. Reduce you exposure when you don’t need it – while you sleep. Start by putting your Wi-Fi on a timer in order to turn it off a night (cutting your exposure in half). You can also remove high EMF sources from your bedroom by putting your cell phone in airplane mode, turning it off or keeping it out of your room entirely. If you need to access your phone at night, keep it across the room from where you are sleeping to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation.  You can also purchase a battery operated analog or LCD alarm clock. Keep other EMF emitting things like laptops, televisions, DVD players etc., out of your bedroom as these electronic devices are constantly emitting an EMF that affects you while you sleep and may even affect your sleep experience itself.
  3. Reduce your usage of cell phones and other devices including wearables like an Apple Watch or FitBit. Turn your Bluetooth off, and keep your phone in airplane mode whenever possible. If your kids play games or use apps on your phone or their phones, ensure they are playing in airplane mode. While the evidence on this isn’t totally clear, there may be a link between certain cancers (including brain) as well as infertility to high levels of exposure to cell phones.  Having your phone (or wearing it) close to your body is exposing you to constant radiation and EMF exposure.
  4. Take regular Epsom salt baths to reset and recharge your body.  For a great detox bath and a way to reduce the bodies’ toxic burden from chemicals and radiation, mix one cup of Epsom salt with a half cup of baking soda. Add 2-4 drops each of frankincense, lavender and juniper berry essential oils directly to the mix, then pour under running water. Do this as often as possible, at least once a week.

For more information on reducing your EMF exposure in and out of the home, I linked a few books and other sources below.

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The Case for Consuming Collagen

Collagen is a group of proteins originated from the hides, hooves and bones of animals. It is the most abundant protein in the human body and an important building block. The amino acids present in collagen are the glue that holds our structure together and commonly supports the integrity of the skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, as well as parts of digestion. There are many different types of collagen in our body, but most are Type I, II or III, with the majority being Type I collagen.  In our twenties, the collagen in our bodies starts to decline, leading to stiffer joints, weaker bones, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

Our ancestors and traditional cultures around the world largely consumed collagen and gelatin too. No part of an animal was wasted and the bones were often used to make mineral rich and nutrient dense broths. These nutrients are not nearly as abundant in the modern diet as we are less likely to eat nose to tail. We tend to consume a lot of muscle meats (i.e. chicken breasts) which do not contain this important protein and rarely other parts of the animal. 

Two essential amino acids abundant in collagen are proline and glycine.  We need to consume them through our diet because our body cannot make them. Glycine is an amino acids with many functions. It helps build lean muscle mass and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Proline is important for stimulating collagen synthesis and works as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals to prevent cell damage.  Both of these amino acids help heal the stomach and prevent stress-induced ulcers making them important for supporting digestion.

Collagen

My favorite way to get in this important nutrient is in homemade or high quality store bought bone broth.  Not everyone has the access or time to make their own broths and store bought broth can be quite pricy.  That’s where collagen powders come in.  They are an accessible way to replenish your body’s collagen supply from years of undereating natural sources of collage in an easy to consume powder form.  The collagen powders are tasteless, have no texture and easily blend right into foods and beverages. You can add it to your morning coffee or tea, smoothies, soups or other recipes. You can also bake with it. It’s important to note that many topical beauty products contain collagen, but they are not entirely effective. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.  We need to consume it internally to get the benefits.

Collagen is not all created equal.  Like all of our food, the sourcing and quality of the collagen we consume matters, especially if it is something we utilize daily.  It is important to find a brand that sources their collagen peptides purely from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle or from sustainable wild-caught fish.  This will ensure that the collagen you buy is pure and doesn’t contain toxins or additives and comes from healthy animals. 

Collagen is one of few supplements I believe everyone could benefit from taking daily, especially if you don’t have access to bone broth.  The benefits of consuming it are abundant. From more youthful looking skin to reducing inflammation, and supporting digestion, collagen is a nutritional powerhouse that is worth considering to support your health for the long term. Though please bear in mind that not all supplements are right for everyone.  If you are unsure if collagen is right for you, please check with your doctor or functional medicine practitioner.

Sources:

  • https://www.furtherfood.com/collagen/
  • https://www.vitalproteins.com/pages/why-collagen
  • https://www.peptan.com/science/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collagen

Feel Your Best, Even When Travelling

Sticking to your usual diet and lifestyle routine can seem daunting and stressful when you are travelling, particularly when you are travelling for work. Here are my strategies for feeling your best no matter where your plans lead you. I realize that sometimes we don't want to stick to our schedules when on vacation, for example, so please feel free to take from this post what you want and disregard what you don't find helpful or useful to you.  Travelling can be stressful enough!

Lodging. If possible, find a place that offers a mini-fridge or even a small kitchen in the room in order to store healthy snacks and prep quick meals. Sometimes hotels are the only option, but some may have kitchens or refrigerators available in the room.

Food. You can easily take a variety of foods with you depending on the length of your trip, and the luggage you are travelling with.

For perishable foods, take a small cooler bag along with ice packs to keep foods cold during transit. When flying, if you’re unsure if you will make it through security with your ice packs, bring along a closable bag and get ice from an airport vendor once you’re in the terminal.

You can always prep a few items to bring if you have the time. All of which will survive just fine without ice packs.

  • Precut raw veggies of all kinds (i.e. carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumber, bell pepper)
  • Fruit, wash and bring whole if it travels well or cut up and put in small containers
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Homemade muffins 
  • Homemade granola
  •  Energy bites
  • Trail mix

You can also bring, or purchase any of the following when you arrive at your destination:

  • Bananas, apples, citrus, berries, and avocados
  • Single serving packs or small containers of guacamole, hummus, coconut oil and nut butters
  • A loaf of your favorite bread
  • Packets of plain oatmeal
  • Granola (watch for sugar content and vegetable oils, this one uses a small amount of coconut sugar and coconut oil)
  • Grass-fed yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • Grass fed jerky or beef sticks (watch for added sugar)
  • Olives
  • Wild caught tuna, oysters, sardines or salmon in pouches or BPA free cans/tins
  • Hemp hearts, chia seeds, and raw nuts
  • Dried or freeze dried fruit
  • Refined sugar free bars like: RX Bar, Lara Bar, Epic Bar
  • Bars of dark chocolate
  • Saurkraut and/or kombucha to keep your digestion in check

 Eating out. Try not to stress too much about this, especially if you are on vacation.  Sometimes what we eat can’t always be in our control and some balance is good for us. It is ok to not always eat 100% healthy all the time.  If you eat well most of the time, your body can handle some not so great for you meals once in a while. Some digestive enzymes and HCL support can help support your digestion if you are eating things that you are not used to.  A warm cup of lemon water can be helpful too following a meal or in the morning. Here are my tips for when you do what to stay on track:

  • Let wait staff know if you have any dietary restrictions and ask for their suggestions, especially at places where items are not labeled (i.e. gluten free, dairy free
  • When ordering salads, find out what kind of oils they use.  If they don’t know or if they are vegetable oil based, ask for a side of olive oil and lemon wedges or vinegar. Ask them to hold any croutons or cheeses if you’re avoiding gluten and processed dairy.
  • Burgers without the bun or a lettuce wrap are always an easy option.  When in doubt meat or wild-caught fish with vegetables are your best bet. You can avoid sides fried in vegetable oils by asking for a side salad, or steamed or grilled vegetables.
  • Avoid vegetable oils by asking if there is an option to have your meat or vegetables cooked in butter (instead of the typical canola or soybean oil).
Travel Post 2.jpg

Creature Comforts. Bring your own reusable water bottle and travel mug for coffee or tea to use throughout your trip. Don’t’ forget your usual supplements, favorite teas and additional immune boosting supplements in case you need them. As your digestion can be off when travelling, some extra magnesium can help to keep you relaxed and keep things moving. Natural Calm makes some handy packets that are great when you are on the go. I like to bring my favorite essential oils too, along with a detoxifying face mask or beauty treatment for some inexpensive self-care. I always bring good walking shoes to make sure I can get in some movement and if I have the space I bring my travel yoga mat (if I have room) for hotel room workouts in case there isn’t a good gym or the weather outside isn’t ideal. It is important to note that if you are not up for working out at your usual level, don't stress. Travelling is tiring to your body and this might be a great time to give your body a rest or try a different way of being active or working out that your normally don't do. Keeping as normal of a routine as possible is crucial to overall health and longevity, especially if you travel for work often.  If you are travelling for pleasure, try to unplug and de-stress as much as possible, you have earned it!  

Natural Ways to Boost Immunity

It is definitely cold and flu season.  We just entered fall, and everyone in my house has already had their first cold of the season.  We all know the usual ways to boost immunity – loading up on zinc, echinacea, vitamin C to name just a few.  Our immune systems are complicated though and directly tied into lifestyle factors like stress and sleep given their relationship with our adrenal and digestive systems.  Here are some easy strategies to support your immune function throughout this season both before you are sick and when you have already come down with something.

1. Drink bone broth.  Broths have been used in traditional cuisines around the world for thousands of years. Properly prepared meat broths are extremely nutritious – containing minerals, electrolytes and gut healing gelatin from animal bones, cartilage, marrow and vegetables.  Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found that the amino acids produced in the making of chicken bone broth reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. Bone broth supports normal immune system function (probably as a link to reduced inflammation in the gut) and reduce symptoms of allergies, asthma, and arthritis. Homemade is your best bet but Kettle and Fire makes an excellent shelf stable bone broth and Bonefide Provisions is distributed nationwide and can be found in the freezer section of some grocery stores.  Let’s face it, we don’t always have the time or the means to make it ourselves.

2. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods go through a lactofermentation process where natural bacteria feed on sugars in the food, creating lactic acid.  The fermentation helps to preserve while creating beneficial enzymes, vitamins and various probiotic strains.  Probiotics not only introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of flora, they are also known to support the immune system by secreting antibacterial peptides capable of killing off harmful bacteria in the gut. They also help strengthen the barrier function of the intestinal lining, lowering the chance of bacteria entering into the blood stream. This function may decrease the chance of infections and immune related reactions, therefore supporting the immune system.  I like to eat my probiotics through eating foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, but a high quality grass fed or non-dairy yogurt can be helpful too, as are fermented drinks such as water kefir and kombucha (watch the sugar content).

3. Minimize refined sugars. According to a 1973 study by Loma Linda University, eating or drinking too much sugar reduces the ability of your white blood cells to kill germs and bacteria (possibly up to 50%) for at least a few hours after you consume it.  White blood cells need vitamin C to destroy bacteria and viruses and sugar impacts this process by competing with vitamin C for space in those cells. The more sugar in your system, the less you will uptake vitamin C into your white blood cells. Consuming sugar inhibits your body’s ability to fight off infection and keeps your immune system from doing its job.  Try to eat mostly natural sugars in the form of fruits, vegetables and properly prepared grains and legumes.  Aim to consume natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup in moderation.

4. Get outside. Not only can getting some sun help to naturally boost your vitamin D levels naturally (which supports the immune system), but physical activity may help to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways thereby reducing your chances of getting sick. Moderate exercise also causes antibodies and white blood cells to become more active which may allow them to detect illnesses earlier. Some anecdotal evidence shows that the brief rise in body temperature during and after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing and may help fight infection better (similar to how a fever works).  Moderate exercise or activity such as walking, yoga and light movement can be beneficial when you are sick, but listen to your body and do not overdo it. Too much and too extreme exercise could actually cause more harm than good.

Mug and Bed

 

5. Minimize stress. Stress can create physiological stress in our bodies, lowering our immune defenses and making us more vulnerable to illness. Stress is also known to lower our white blood cell’s ability to kill germs which can inhibit your recovery.  When you are feeling under the weather (or even when you are not), aim to get plenty of sleep and try to take some time off from work and other daily stressors. Meditation, yoga or a short walk may help to reduce stress and allow your body to heal faster. This is the time to catch up on your reading or podcast list or to veg out with your favorite Netflix show. I know that this is easier said than done, especially if you have a demanding job or are a parent, but your ability to rest will directly correlate to how quickly you are feeling better and back on your feet.

Resources:

https://draxe.com/the-healing-power-of-bone-broth-for-digestion-arthritis-and-cellulite/

https://www.enviromedica.com/probiotics-immune-system

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract

 Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

3 Reasons to Choose Pastured Eggs

1.      It’s the right thing to do. Chickens that are pasture-raised are able to roam (relatively) free and are able to eat the foods that most closely match their natural diet. We see the term “vegetarian fed” on many egg labels as a marketing scheme, but chickens are not naturally vegetarians.  Allowing them to move around on pasture allows them to enjoy the fresh air and eat a variety of foods such as seeds, grasses, insects, and worms. There is far less crowding when they are able to roam free, leading to better conditions and less stress for the chickens. 

2.      It’s better for the environment. Chickens raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) create a toxic environment, polluting the air, waterways, and soil with the large amount of waste they produce. Pasture-raised chickens, however, are able to leave their droppings in the pastures they are grazing upon, which fertilizes the soil and allows for new life to grow — completing the life cycle.

3.      Eggs produced from pasture-raised chickens are more nutrient dense. In 2007, Mother Earth News, an advocate for better farming practices, studied the nutritional differences between eggs from pasture-raised chickens and eggs from conventionally raised factory chickens. Compared to a conventional egg, a pasture-raised egg may contain:

·        2/3 more vitamin A

·        2x more omega-3 fatty acids

·        3x more vitamin E

·        7x more beta carotene

Other studies have shown that vitamin D in pastured eggs may be up to four to six times higher than conventional eggs given all of the natural sunlight pasture-raised chickens are exposed to. Pastured eggs may also yield higher levels of folate, and even measurable levels of vitamin C, likely stemming from the natural diets they are eating.

Photo credit:  Madeline Mae Photography

Because of the lack of regulation in the egg industry (much like the meat industry), the term “pasture-raised” on a label may not mean much. Some egg producers choose to obtain certifications like the “Certified Humane®” pasture seal. This seal identifies eggs that meet certain standards and that come from farms that have been inspected by the Certified Humane program. Certified Humane farms go through regular audits to ensure every egg that goes into a carton comes from Certified Humane® pasture farms.

So how do you choose what type of eggs and which brands will work best for you? I put together the table below to help you to make the most informed decision for you and your family when purchasing eggs. It’s important to note that pastured eggs are typically the most expensive eggs on the market. If price is a sticky point, it will be worth shopping around to find local farms, farmers markets, or stores in your neighborhoods that offer competitive pricing for pastured eggs, or purchase them only when you find them on sale. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always buy the highest-quality pastured eggs, we can only do the best with the resources and options that we have. Hopefully someday, all of the eggs available for purchase will be from chickens raised on pasture.

Sources:

https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/free-range-eggs-zmaz07onzgoe

http://certifiedhumane.org/article-explains-difference-pasture-raised-free-range-eggs/

https://vitalfarms.com/pasture-raised-eggs/

Sources: Humane Society, Cornucopia Institute

Sources: Humane Society, Cornucopia Institute

4 Simple Health Hacks

We are busy and most of us don’t have the time to dial up our health another notch. Here are four simple ways to help you on the journey to feeling your best without a huge time or resource commitment.

 

Bedroom
  1. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Sleep may be the most important thing in our health arsenal. It plays a vital role in our physical and mental well-being. Getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep gives your body more time to heal, repair, and detoxify from the day and can revitalize your brain, allowing your brain to form new pathways and perform better the following day. Ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. To help you get to sleep earlier, try cutting your screen time short and unwind with light stretching, meditation, or a good book.
  2. Drink more water. I know you hear this message a lot, but are you really drinking enough water given your activity level and lifestyle? The general rule of thumb for daily water consumption is to drink half of your body weight in ounces plus an additional eight to 12 ounces for each diuretic beverage you consume. Diuretics include juices, coffee (even decaffeinated), most teas including some herbal teas (i.e., peppermint), and alcoholic beverages. One way I’ve found to easily get in all that I need is by drinking at least 12 ounces of water right before bed, another 12 or so upon waking, and then splitting up the rest throughout the day, especially between meals. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go and track how many times you refill it. Spruce up plain water with lemon (which is especially great served warm in the morning for better digestion), sliced cucumber, mint, or berries. 
  3. Chew your food longer. This one isn’t entirely obvious but is so important. Chewing your food well not only ensures that the entire digestive process gets kicked off but also allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food. It makes digestion easier and reduces digestive issues like gas and bloating. Chewing slowly will also lead you to eat slower, providing your brain with the time it needs to register that you are starting to feel full. This simple act may keep you from overeating and help you to maintain your weight. As an added benefit, eating slower may actually allow you to enjoy your food and taste it better. 
  4. Incorporate more fermented foods into your diet. Many cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for generations – think sauerkraut in Germany and kimchi in Korea. Studies have shown a strong link between probiotic-rich foods and overall health. Sadly, with advances in technology and food preparation, these traditional foods are not as prevalent in today’s society. Not only are fermented foods rich in immune and gut-boosting probiotics, but they also contain beneficial digestive enzymes and a wide range of vitamins and minerals making them quite nutrient dense. Sauerkraut, for example, is rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, and the lesser known vitamin K, which is essential for bone health. Aim to eat or drink something fermented 2–3 times per day as a condiment. Try my easy sauerkraut recipe to get started.

Sources:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_K

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/31/chewing-foods.aspx