Education

Linking Insomnia, Anxiety, and Indigestion

What do insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion have in common? That may depend on your own physiological uniqueness. But for many individuals with these 3 complaints, chronic cortisol is the link.

What is cortisol and how is it made?

When your brain perceives a threat – either from within or from without – it needs a messenger to spread the alarm and get the body ready for action. So, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to make cortisol from cholesterol.

You might mistakenly believe that cortisol is the enemy. Many call it The Stress Hormone and give it a bad rap. But what many people don’t realize is that cortisol is critical for you to wake up, focus, set goals, meet your deadlines, and even exercise. That’s because it rouses you out of your resting/healing state. It does that by increasing blood pressure and heart rate and raising blood sugars to that you can have energy to mobilize – whether that be dancing, debating, or dodging a bullet!

The problem is that when cortisol output becomes chronic, your body never gets to rest and digest and heal. That’s when you begin to see health issues.

Why do so many people have chronically high cortisol levels?

First, this is a go-go-go world of ongoing crises from sun-up to sundown, with alarms, alerts, and emergencies all clamoring for your attention. Urgencies control your focus. Your body responds intelligently by producing the hormone that will help you meet those demands. Unless you deliberately choose to slow down, shut down, and turn off, your body will continue to produce cortisol day and night.

Second, 60 to 80% of the American diet is refined carbohydrate, everything from Rice Krispies to Wonder Bread, and from French fries to pasta. And that’s not counting chips, candy, or pop! When you eat like that, your body needs cortisol to come to the rescue. Think of it like this:

What happens after I toss a bowling ball 10 feet in the air? Of course! It comes crashing down! Well, blood sugars are the proverbial bowling ball. You launch them into the air by loading up on meals and snacks that are not balanced with appropriate proteins and fats. The laws of nature say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, inevitably, blood sugars plummet!

A blood sugar dip may contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion

Your brain can’t tolerate that. It must be guaranteed a constant supply of glucose in order to direct the minute-by-minute management of all your body functions. So, it declares an emergency, and the hypothalamus signals the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to release cortisol to raise blood sugars back up.  Cortisol alerts the muscles and the liver to release stored glucose for immediate energy. In effect, when you grab a doughnut, a Kit Kat, or a Pepsi, you stress your body into fight-or-flight.

How does cortisol instigate insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?

Your body is smart. It knows how to put first things first. If you have a battle to fight, it will energize your muscles, increase your blood flow, and sharpen your vision. But…it will also shut down digestion and keep you alert so you don’t drift into slumber easily. After all, those things are a lower priority than simply surviving! Therefore, people with chronically high cortisol often notice symptoms such as heartburn, bloat, anxiety, and insomnia.

How can you reduce insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?

Start in the morning by building a slow-burning, enduring metabolic fire. You prevent a cortisol spike by avoiding a blood sugar trough. Figuratively speaking, you have to put coal in your steam engine. What would happen if you tried to run a steam engine train with a pile of newspapers? It wouldn’t work! The train would get 2 feet down the track and stop.

Fruit juices, cereal, white flours, and sweeteners are like newspapers. They burn hot and fast, and extinguish quickly. They don’t power you for the long haul. “Coal” comes from healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, butter, coconut oil, olives, and avocados.

That might mean adding Greek yogurt to your oatmeal, putting an avocado in your green smoothie, eating a couple of eggs with your toast or having a sausage patty with your hash browns. Please, please, please don’t grab a bowl of cereal with skin milk, or run out the door with a granola bar!

Next, when you grab a snack, pair a healthy fat with a high-fiber fruit or vegetable. For example, you might eat hummus and carrots, cottage cheese and peaches, coconut milk and blueberries, olives and baby bell peppers, almond butter and apples, or guacamole and mango.

While there are many factors that contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion, stabilizing cortisol output with balanced eating can improve these complaints dramatically.

Need to end bloat from too many cookies?

End Holiday Gas, Bloat, and Heartburn

Is binge-eating synonymous with Christmas?  Too often, merry turns into miserable when gas, indigestion, and heartburn strike after a night of gorging on goodies! Functional Nutrition can help you digest and absorb your food better in order to end holiday bloat.

Use these five tips to keep your holidays happy:

  • Eat real. Focus on foods that don’t come with a nutrition label. You are more likely to be satisfied with less when you eat whole foods. Consider which of these offerings is likely to give your body what it needs so it will turn off the hunger signals. They are both fish: Atlantic salmon, and Swedish Fish candies.

salmon dinnerSwedish Fish ingredient list

  • Sip herbal tea: Used for centuries, peppermint and chamomile are two pleasant herbs that can power up digestion, relieve gas, reduce bloat, and end indigestion. Additionally, sipping the hot water can soothe your stomach. As the water moves through your your system, it hydrates your organs so they are better able to eliminate waste.
  • Nibble bitter food. Fennel seeds and ginger root are classified as digestive bitters. A little at the end of your meal will promote gall bladder contractions and intestinal movement to prevent stagnant stomach. You can toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet until golden brown for enhanced flavor and performance. Ginger can be shaved to be eaten in thin curls.
  • Stretch into some yoga poses. Marichyasana improves digestion by twisting and massaging the abdominal organs. Pavana muktasana releases trapped gas and cures indigestion by stimulating peristalsis, the wavelike motion of the intestines.
  • Go for a walk. Rather than slumping onto the couch, which accentuates lethargic digestion, get up and move! Even just a slow stroll will stimulate your organs to work better.

Now, on the list of don’ts: avoid reaching for Tums or Zantac. We believe in functional nutrition that what you absorb is just as important as what you eat. To rev up sluggish digestion, you need MORE stomach acid, not less. So, enjoy good food and good company, don’t rush your meals, chew thoroughly, and implement the strategies above to prevent and end holiday bloat, gas, and indigestion.

 

 

 

Inability to focus may be connected to inflammation

Inflammation Can Bust Your Willpower

Inflammation might be messing with your willpower. Check yourself. First, do you get distracted easily from your goals? Next, does your thinking seem foggy? Finally, do you give in to temptations after you have vowed to abstain? While self-discipline is an important quality, your ability to focus on your intentions may have physiological roots.

A new study tested how inflammation impacted willpower. The results indicated that higher levels of inflammation correlated with undesirable behaviors. For example, subjects were more likely to be impulsive, to delay gratification, and to have difficulty focusing when their inflammation levels rose.

A group of researchers at TCU measured chronic inflammation in their subjects through various blood tests. Then they provoked inflammation by administering LPS (lipopolysaccharide). At length, they determined that the higher inflammation levels were, the more likely their subjects were to report poor concentration, greater impulsivity, and less self-control.

The Role of Inflammation in Your Body

Articles and blog posts lead us to believe that all inflammation is damaging. However, inflammation does play an important role in your health. When you receive an injury, your brilliant body creates inflammation to kill infection and clean up damaged tissues. Once your body heals the injury, inflammation subsides. But for many individuals, inflammation is chronic because the injuries are ongoing from poor lifestyle choices.

Unfortunately, inflammation that doesn’t go away contributes to scores of health problems, from headaches to heart disease, and from constipation to cancer. With the recently-published study from TCU, it seems that inflammation even hurts your willpower. Once deep-seated inflammation takes root in your body, you may be more prone to poor decisions that increase inflammation even more. For instance, you might eat more candy, drink more alcohol, or vape more nicotine because your willpower diminishes. So it becomes a downward spiral. The sugary treat you indulge in once actually makes you less capable of self-control over future temptations.

Sources of Inflammation

Many factors contribute to inflammation. Most of these causes are linked to lifestyle: chronic stress, insufficient sleep, alcohol and tobacco use, and food choices. Diet can have more influence than any other cause. Diets high in sugars, refined and processed foods, and unhealthy fats seem to be the most inflammatory.

Control Inflammation, Control Willpower

Want to reduce inflammation and increase your willpower? There are many tactics you can employ today that will increase your control over your mind. These include:

  • Significantly limiting your intake of sugars and processed foods.
  • Choosing whole foods free of preservatives and additives.
  • Working with a health care practitioner to identify nutritional deficiencies and to make dietary adjustments to return your body to balance.
  • Limiting alcohol and smoking.
  • Participating in moderate physical activity every day.
  • Engaging in stress-reducing activities frequently and consistently.
  • Sleeping more than 7 hours every night.

The bottom line is that to triumph by mind over matter, you need to support matter over mind.

 

omega-3 fats can be obtained from fish

Do I Have to Eat Fish? The Omega 3 Question

Do I really need more omega-3 fat in my diet? How much is enough? How can I increase my omega-3 levels? Isn’t flax seed oil just as good as fish oil? These are questions I hear a lot in my practice.

Why are Omega-3’s Essential Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as essential because your body can’t make them. But you need them for life itself. Every cell in your body incorporates omega-3’s into its membranes, in order for nutrients to enter and wastes to exit. Omega-3 fats are necessary for cell receptors to work properly. Not only that, you have to have omega-3’s to create hormones that regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and arterial dilation. They seems to be important in preventing heart disease and stroke, and may help control eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and other immune conditions. They may even be cancer-protective.

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is the most common in the American diet, showing up in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, particularly walnuts, chia, and flax. The other two omega-3 fats are considered marine oils because they occur mainly in fish. EPA and DHA do not exist in plants.

Why is DHA Important?

DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, perhaps should be considered an essential fatty acid in and of itself. While your body can convert some ALA from nuts and seeds into DHA, that conversion rate is less than 10%.

conversion of ALA to DHA is less than 10%

DHA is critical for your brain. A full fifth of all the fat in your brain is from DHA. Additionally, DHA functions like the insulation on all the electrical wires in your house: it forms the myelin that insulates all your brain circuits. The reason animals have DHA and plants don’t is because it’s used for focus, decision making, and problem solving. I haven’t met any reasoning plants, yet.

Studies show that the fewer animal foods you eat, the lower your DHA levels will be.

DHA levels are lower in plant-based diets

How Much is Enough?

The science of essential fatty acids is still young, and there are not defined minimums for omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. But here are some recommendations that we do have: According to the National Institutes of Health, an adequate intake of ALA for women is 1100 milligrams per day (1600 mg/day for men). The USDA 2015 dietary guidelines encourage adults to obtain at least 250 mg per day of marine omega-3 fatty acids to protect against heart disease.

Best Sources of DHA

Land animals have very little omega-3 compared to fish. While grass-fed beef may have twice as much omega-3 fat as corn-fed beef, still it only has about 80 milligrams in 3-4 ounces, compared to 1000 milligrams in the same size serving of salmon. Recently, however, lamb has come to the forefront as an alternative for those who can’t abide the smell or taste of fish. The chart below compares the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in various cuts of meat.

omega-3 fats in various meats

Still, those numbers include ALA, and are not truly reflective of the amount of DHA available for your body. So, the bottom line is that yes, you do need to eat fish! A good recommendation is 8 ounces per week.

teddy bears sick with colds and flu

4 Ways to Fight Colds and Flu

You know washing your hands helps prevent the spread of germs, but there are 4 more action tools you can use to fight colds and flu.

1. Deeply Nourish Your Body

Your immune system is a nutrient hog. It uses more nutrients than any other system or organ – even your brain. To work optimally, it needs vitamins A, C, E, D, K, B6, B9, and B12. In addition, it requires the minerals zinc, selenium, iron, iodine, magnesium, and copper. Also, your immune system needs antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

So while it might be easy to gulp an “Emergen-C” tablet with a glass of water when you feel a sore throat coming on, you need a lot of nutrients all the time to fight colds and flu. It’s smart to regularly eat foods that are nutrient dense. These include dark leafy greens, brightly-colored produce, omega 3-rich fatty fish, and organ meats. I posted about how these foods are also anti-inflammatory. It’s as if nature is showing us their benefit by displaying such rich, vibrant colors.

2. Relax a Lot!

We know that stress raises inflammation. Did you know it raises your blood sugars, too? That’s bad news if you’re under chronic stress. Why? Chronically high blood sugars lead to insulin resistance and even more inflammation.

But that’s not all. Scientists think they have found a link between insulin resistance and decreased immunity. Insulin appears to boost immune T-cells. When mice were genetically engineered with missing insulin receptors in their T-cells (to mimic insulin resistance), they were unable to fight certain infections, including the H1N1 flu virus.

So the bottom line is that to fight colds and flu, you need to guard against inflammation and insulin resistance that can impair immunity. In order to do that, you need to manage your stress effectively. Take time every day to unwind. It only takes a few minutes to employ one or two of the 50 stress hacks I have compiled.

3. Feed the Right Bugs

Since as much as 80% of your immune system lies within your digestive tract, it makes sense that the micro-organisms that live there should be healthy. If you feed the symbiotic bacteria that lie in your GI tract, you can boost your immunity. These helpful bacteria serve as “bouncers” against pathogenic strains of microbes that cause illness.

Your “good” bacteria like to eat fiber! They especially like to feast on cruciferous vegetables, the onion family, and asparagus! But they don’t digest simple sugars. In fact, white sugar and white flour are fodder for pathogens.

Cutting out refined carbohydrates from your diet does not guarantee you can fight off all colds and flu. But your odds are much higher if you do get sick, that you’ll bounce back quicker if you cut down on the sugar.

4. Sleep More

When you sleep, your body “cleans house.” It repairs what is broken, sweeps up what is dirty, and takes out the trash. This is the time when your immune system is most effective at fending off invaders and reducing inflammation. So, reason says that if you are sleep deprived, you are less able to fight cold and flu viruses.

But there’s more. When you are chronically sleep-deprived, your body actually initiates a stress response, raising blood sugars and creating inflammation. You can become insulin resistant with just 36 hours of sleep deprivation.

Ultimately, you end up with an impaired immune system. That means greater susceptibility to illness.

Here are some suggestions for better sleep:

  • Create a bedtime that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • Eat a nutrient dense diet (see #1).
  • Exercise, but do it at least 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Stick to the same sleep schedule every day.
  • Get sunlight in the morning.
  • Cool your room.
  • Avoid blue light before bed.
  • Engage in evening meditation.

Fight Colds and Flu

No one can avoid all illness forever. But taking care of your health by eating well, relaxing frequently, sleeping enough, and nourishing your microbiome will keep you strong so that if you do get sick, you can recover rapidly.

 

 

Food provides weapons against inflammation

3 Weapons Against Inflammation

You may take supplements to reduce inflammation, such as curcumin. But there are several entire food types you need to include in your daily routine! These groups are your weapons against inflammation. In fact, their mere absence in your diet may make you vulnerable to inflammation.

Inflammation Education

Let’s review a few key concepts:

  • Inflammation is the battleground where your white blood cells clash against invaders. When there is injury to your tissues, inside or out, the body sends its soldiers, white blood cells, to the scene, to fight against whatever is causing harm. That might be bacteria, in the case of a skinned knee, or foreign proteins, in the case of an allergy. A special substance, known as histamine, opens up the tissues to let the white blood cells in. During and after the battle, there is a lot of cell debris that must be cleaned up. These open tissues, full of white blood cells and cellular debris are classified as “inflamed.”
  • Oxidative stress causes inflammation. The process of living creates free radicals – atoms with unpaired electrons. Since electrons naturally seek to be paired, these free radicals cause tissue damage when they “steal” electrons from various cells in your body. Normally, your body has “antioxidant mechanisms” to combat this damage. But when the number of free radicals outstrips your antioxidant potential, the tissue damage accumulates and you become inflamed.
  • If you have symptoms, you have inflammation. Simply put, when inflammation is occurring, you perceive pain, swelling, heat, or other forms of discomfort. Symptoms are the signal for you to slow down, take care of yourself, and support healing. Good nutrition, restorative sleep and stress management allow your body to amass its resources against the problem.
  • Only chronic inflammation is a problem. Because inflammation is a necessary part of healing, we don’t want to squelch it all together. But not being able to put out the fire puts your body in a state of distress that leaves you open for diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and heart disease. Since chronic disease in America is epidemic, you need several weapons against inflammation.

Inflammation Weapon #1 – Polyphenols

Polyphenols are absolutely vital! They are the antioxidant compounds! Therefore, they fight free radical damage and are thereby anti-inflammatory. Polyphenols are naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. There are literally thousands upon thousands of polyphenols. You might recognize some of their them: quercetin, catechins, anthocyanins, lignans and resveratrol. The biggest group of polyphenols are known as flavanoids. These are the pigments that that give brightly-colored produce their rich, vibrant colors.

To make sure that you can combat oxidative stress, you should eat at least of cup of richly-colored produce daily. A cup every meal would be better. To do this, eat the rainbow! Include fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue, and even white every time you eat.

An additional benefit of polyphenols is that they feed your health-supporting gut microbes. Consequently, they increase your wellness because a happy microbiome makes a happy host.

#2 – Fight Inflammation with Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens, such as cress, arugula, chard, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, and spinach, are tops (pun intended)! Not only do these plant tops fight inflammation, they help stabilize blood sugars and also support detoxification. Stabilizing blood sugars is important because blood sugar fluctuations can trigger inflammation.

Dark green leaves are full of polyphenols, including beta carotene and quercetin. But they also contain folate, which is a must for detoxification. You see, in order to mop up the inflammation, your liver has to be able to detoxify all those waste products from the battle. Your liver depends on folate in a process called methylation where it makes your master antioxidant, glutathione. You cannot fight inflammation without enough folate as a weapon.

Every indigenous culture has depended on some type of leafy greens as a mainstain in its diet. Asians, Africans, and Indians can teach us much about how to eat more greens. Challenge yourself to not eat a meal without dark leaves included.

#3 – Fatty Fish are Anti-Inflammatory

Dark and oil-rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring, are your best source of the Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are associated with lower levels of inflammation. However, your body can’t manufacture them. So, it’s important to get them through your diet. While plant sources of Omega 3’s, including flax and chia, are popular, they provide only ALA, that must be converted to DHA and EPA. Your body doesn’t do this conversion very efficiently, and you lose much of your Omega 3 potential during the process. Consequently, it’s best to not rely only on plant sources for these anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

As a bonus, the dark-fleshed fatty fish also include a special polyphenol called CoQ10. This polyphenol has powerful antioxidant properties. Eating fish about 3 times per week will provide the anti-inflammatory benefit you need.

Bonus Inflammation Weapon

There’s one food that has more Vitamin A than brightly-colored produce, more folate than leafy greens, and more coQ10 than fatty fish. That’s organ meat – specifically liver. Of course, it makes sense that the organ that plays the biggest role in fighting inflammation would be a storehouse for the nutrients needed for this process. Although liver is not a significant part of American food culture, you can include it in your diet by mixing ground liver in with ground meats – hamburger, pork sausage and ground poultry products, such as turkey sausage.

A little bit of liver goes a long way. Just an ounce a day will provide the many nutrients you depend as weapons against inflammation.

 

 

Play helps kids eat veggies

Help Kids Eat Veggies

Will your kids eat veggies? Perhaps they’ll be more eager when you apply the principles below.

Veggies are Vital

It is not just a good idea to eat veggies. It is imperative! Without abundant vegetables in the diet, it is unrealistic to expect that you or your children will be getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to regulate the immune system. The tragedy is that an immune system that does not have sufficient micronutrients becomes vulnerable to cancer, infections, autoimmunity, allergies and asthma. If you want to prevent chronic disease in your family, you have to eat more nutrient-dense food. That means lots of leafy greens, plenty of vibrantly-colored vegetables, and ample sulphur-containing vegetables (those in the cruciferous, onion, and mushroom families).

In addition, when you eat veggies in place of other carbohydrates, such as grains and fruit, you help balance blood sugars. We have an emergency to steady our blood sugars, because statistically, one in three is pre-diabetic.

Help Kids Eat Veggies

It’s not a psychological mystery that children love making cookies and hate eating their vegetables. Beyond the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars, there are fundamental distinctions in the way we approach cookies versus vegetables.

It’s a sign of “mom love” to make cookies together. You and your child bond when you share the experiences of mixing ingredients, frosting, and celebrating with cookies. But do you get excited to make vegetable recipes and serve them to friends during holidays and special occasions? Most likely, you sternly tell your children that they have to eat their vegetables before they get a treat.

Principles for Celebrating Vegetables

The following principles are taken from the work of Melanie Potock, feeding therapist, who blogs at My Munch Bug.

  • Friendship Principle: If you want to be friends with vegetables, they have to come play at your house frequently! Not only that, you have to model a friendship with veggies yourself.
  • Curiosity Principle: Let your child experience and explore veggies through cooking, eating out, growing food, and culinary field trips. A child should be able to touch and smell a vegetable long before he is expected to touch it to his lips, put it on his tongue, and eventually eat it.
  • Play Principle: Encourage him to use all of his senses in exploring the unique characteristics of each vegetable! Be creative and spontaneous. No ultimatums here!
  • Firmness Principle: If your child knows that you will not require him to eat something if he doesn’t like it, he will learn he doesn’t have to try anything new. Instead, model this sentence: “I don’t care for it yet, but I’m practicing!” Kids must understand that vegetables are not optional.
  • Kindness Principle: Kids may have anxiety about eating new foods. So, rather than forcing them, help them become comfortable by repeated exposure and play.

Play with Your Veggies

Here are some ideas evolved from Potock’s book, Adventures in Veggielandthat you can use to help your children eat more veggies.

  • Stamp on some tattoos with beets, then rub them off with potatoes.
  • Create sheep, or even teddy bears and other beasts, with cauliflower, broccoli, and toothpicks.
  • Play Mr. Potato Head with large vegetables, such as eggplant, butternut squash, celery root, or jicama.
  • Build log cabins with asparagus stalks. Also, you could also use green beans, or julienned yams, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or parsnips.
  • Play Tic Tac Toe with any veggies that can be made into coins and matchsticks.

Make Veggies Playful

I suggested several ways to present vegetables in a playful manner in my post, The Nutrient-Dense Lunchbox. In addition, you can always use vegetables in making a treat. For example, you could put pureed spinach in chocolate pudding, or make cake using cauliflower (See my post, Eat More Veggies.) How about ice cream with red bell peppers in it, or apple crisp that uses squash?

Recipes to Help Kids Eat Veggies

The following recipes are adapted from Potock’s book.

Can’t Be Beet Dip

  • 1 medium beet, or 2-3 small beets
  • 1 small banana
  • 3 Tb. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tb. honey (optional)

Roast the beet(s) by wrapping in foil and baking at 375 for 45 minutes or by slow-cooking in a crock pot for 2-3 hours. (Hint: you may cook a whole batch at once and refrigerate them until use.) Cut off the ends and slip the skin off. Puree in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Serve with apples and crackers.

Chocolate-Asparagus Fondue

  • 4 large asparagus stalks
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate bar (70% cacao)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Strawberry & banana slices for dipping

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel away the thick skin. Steam asparagus until very soft. Place in blender with 2 Tb. of the coconut milk. Process until very smooth. Melt the chocolate with the remaining coconut milk and the vanilla over low heat. Add the asparagus mixture and get ready to dip!

Cauliflower Popcorn

  • 2 heads cauliflower, different colors if desired
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tb. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, break cauliflower into tiny florets. Combine coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon and pour over florets, coating evenly. Spread on foil-lined  baking sheets and roast 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Butternut Squash Crumble

  • 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed ( or 8 oz. package)
  • 1/4 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 Tb. melted butter
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a square baking dish. Cover with topping (below). Bake 45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.

Topping:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 c. oat flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. softened butter

Mix topping ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Scatter over the squash filling.

Cherry & Red Bell Ice Cream

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 1 c. frozen cherries
  • 2 c. half & half (or coconut milk, if preferred)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend until smooth. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

The Functional Nutritionist uses clinical tests to evaluate nutrient sufficiency

Functional Nutrition Supports Healing

Functional Nutrition seeks to give you living nourishment for optimal wellness, supporting you on a cellular level from the ground up.

When you’re motivated to improve your health, what practitioner is best to guide your eating habits? Should you contact a dietitian, a health coach, or a functional nutritionist? That depends on the question you’re asking.

A Dietitian Diagnoses and Treats What is Wrong

Suppose you are concerned about your weight. A dietitian will identify whether you are simply overweight, or whether you are actually obese. She may even classify you as insulin resistant or pre-diabetic. She will then prescribe a diet aimed at correcting that condition. A dietitian’s program will most likely work for you in the short term.  It is what we call an “end-stage” approach.

A Health Coach Assesses How You Can Treat Your Condition

A health coach will take on more of a mentor role, and will discuss options that fit your lifestyle. He may present you with several possible diet plans and will work with your to craft the one that harmonizes best with your individual needs. He may also suggest exercise and stress management plans, for a more whole approach to wellness. You may engage in several fitness challenges with other program participants and have classes on implementing new lifestyle strategies.

A Functional Nutritionist Asks Why You Are Having Trouble

She will look for root imbalances. Are you gaining weight because of eating habits, stress, hormone imbalances, lack of activity, disease, or food sensitivities? Her goal is not to treat the weight itself, but to bring your body back into homeostasis (stability) so that your weight will normalize within your ideal range. She is not diagnosing or even “treating a condition.” She is looking at the “terrain” of your body. Her aim is to work with dysfunction on a cellular level to support optimal wellness before you reach the end-stage condition.

A Comparison of Conventional Nutrition and Functional Nutrition

The conventional nutritionist works within the framework of:

  • A diet plan based on symptoms
  • The low-fat, low calorie approach
  • Emphasis on food quantities
  • Less meat, sugar, fat, and sodium
  • Inclusion of some processed and fortified foods
  • Increased exercise to burn more calories

The functional nutritionist’s paradigm includes:

  • Your relationships to food and other individuals
  • The roles of stress, sleep, and exercise in your life
  • Emphasis on quality of food
  • More nutrient-dense options in your menu
  • Suggested testing for nutrient sufficiency and genetic tendencies
  • A bio-individual approach based on personal need

Your Story Matters to a Functional Nutritionist

Before your appointment, your functional nutritionist will ask for a health history and a food journal. She will then assess all of your symptoms – everything from dry skin and brittle nails to burping and bloating after meals. She’ll want to know whether you have headaches when you skip a meal, and whether you crave greasy, fatty, or sweet foods matters. Don’t be embarrassed to share if you poop “rocks,” “snakes,” or “pudding.” She will even be interested in the times you feel anxious, spacey, or depressed. In her book, all the body systems are interconnected, and she is looking at you as a whole person.

What Happens During Your Office Visit

After reviewing a graph she has printed based on your symptoms, she will ask to check a few reflex points, look at your pupils, or take a saliva pH. She may ask you to put some nutrients in your mouth, or take a standing blood pressure. Using clinical tests developed by doctors before labs tests were widely available, she may take your pulse or put a blood pressure cuff around your calf. Finally, she will counsel with you about your openness to dietary changes and supplement recommendations. Then, she will develop a personalized plan for you to follow that ensures life-giving nourishment.

How Functional Nutrition Helped Me

When I was just 33, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. At the time, nutrition science and epigenetics were largely undeveloped. The doctor said it was probably my genes. So, I would just have to take medication for the rest of my life. I wasn’t happy over that verdict of what I should do. Why was my health  deteriorating at such an early age?

My search led to my becoming certified as a functional nutritionist. Along the way, I gained tools to stabilize my blood sugars and support my adrenal health. Also, I learned of my body’s own tendency to be deficient in B vitamins and my need for extra Vitamin D, based on my geographical location. Encouraged to develop my own recipes, I enjoyed an abundance of healing foods without deprivation. At last, I had the thrill of watching weight and my blood lipids normalize! Now, I no longer have Metabolic Syndrome!

The real difference was that the functional approach provided true healing from the bottom up. But the conventional approach was only like a band-aid.

Would you like to see this change in your life? Let’s talk about how I can help you!

Try these 9 steps before you detox

Before You Detox

Before you start any detox protocol, it is imperative that you support your elimination pathways and insure they are functioning well. You may want to detoxify your body if you have an overactive immune system, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue or chronic inflammation. Persistent anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed are also indications you may need a detoxification protocol. This guest post from Kristine May, BSHS, NTP, tells you how to prepare for detox therapy.

Before You Start

Before you detox, gut healing and liver cleansing are vital. It may take a month or longer to heal these pathways, depending on how your system is running. If you feel like you are still struggling with digestion, please hold off on the detox. If you start releasing toxins into a system that can’t dispose of them properly, many times this can create unpleasant symptoms and cause more harm than good.

Avoid Constipation

Maintaining healthy, regular bowel movements is one of the most important elements in any detox. Keeping things moving is crucial! If you are struggling with constipation, your body may have a harder time with toxin disposal. I recommend improving this BEFORE starting your detox.

Heal the Gut, Heal the Body

For the next several weeks, try to implement these changes into your routine:

  • Morning Beet Salad:  First thing in the morning, eat ¼ – ½ cup of shredded raw red beets with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top. When I tell people to do this, they usually look at me like I am crazy, however, most people love this once starting it and want to continue. This concoction is not only a superfood, but it also helps to stimulate bile production in your body, cutting through grime and grease and breaking food down into smaller particles. Bile transports wastes for disposal. Many people are deficient in bile. When you implement this, it is very normal to have red or purple stools because of the bright red color of the beets. Please do not confuse this with something more serious.
  • Eat Anti-Inflammatory Meals: Avoid all gut-inflaming foods. These include – grains (especially wheat/gluten), dairy, starches,
    refined sugars, processed foods, vegetable oils (canola, corn, etc.) and legumes. Eating a nutrient-rich diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and quality protein / healthy fats is key for gut healing. Avoid alcohol, coffee and energy drinks.

Include Supplements

  • Support Digestion: Hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes are beneficial because they help break down your food so that you can absorb the nutrients. Many people struggle with insufficiency of these, so they are not getting the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids their bodies are screaming for. Zypan (Standard Process) or HCl Balance (Nature’s Nx) + SuperGest (Enzyme Process) are really great options for this support.
  • Take Gut Healers Between Meals: L-glutamine is a powerful gut healing amino acid. One of the single most important supplements for healing the digestive lining, it offers potent properties necessary for the growth and repair of the gut’s mucosal lining. It’s excellent for healing because it helps to rebuild the intestinal junctions that have become weak, loose, and permeable. [editor’s note: a double- or triple-strength mixture of slippery elm and marshmallow root tea is also very beneficial, sipped between meals.]
  • Take Probiotics: A high-colony-count probiotic is essential when trying to improve your digestive health. For the next few weeks, get one that has at least 50 billion CFU’s. The Good Guys probiotic (Nature’s Nx) is my favorite. It is 100 billion CFU’s and enteric coated to ensure delivery into the colon. Healthy flora balance is essential to healing.

More Helpful Tips

  • Hydrate: Drink ½ your body weight in ounces every day. Water is something that is often overlooked, but can be the simplest solution. Many people struggle with dehydration. You must have adequate water intake for your mucous membranes to heal. Do not drink distilled water. It is void of minerals. Drink spring water or artesian water instead.
  • Eat Fermented Foods: Getting foods that are high in live cultures is very beneficial to the gut. Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut (Bubbie’s is a great brand), once a day is a good idea. Other options are kefir, kimchi, or kombucha. Be careful not to overdo it on kombucha, however, especially if you struggle with Candida tendencies.
  • Drink Bone Broth / Vegetable Broth: Right before bed each night drink ¼-1 cup of bone broth or a gut healing broth made from fresh vegetables. This step is very important for gut healing. The nutrients contained in broth are in an easy-to-digest form and the high amino acid content is superb for healing the gut lining. The benefit to drinking this right before bed is that you have no food going through your system for 8- 10 hours. So, the broth can really stimulate repair in your digestive tract. An added benefit: it usually also helps people get a more restful night’s sleep! Making your own bone broth or vegetable broth is simple. If you are always on the run with no time to make your own, there is a wonderful Bone Broth product called “Bonafide Bone Broth”. It is in the freezer section of natural health food stores. Bone broth off the shelf in the store is not sufficient for what we are trying to do.

We Are on to Great Things….

If you are consistent with your efforts to heal your digestive lining, you will notice a huge difference in how you feel and it will prepare your body for detoxification. Remember, some people may need to be on this protocol longer than others. It is important to listen to your body. If you are still not regular or if you are having digestive dysfunction, please wait to start your detox protocol.

If you feel like you need additional help in this journey, please don’t hesitate to ask for it! Schedule a consultation. It can be challenging to change your diet and lifestyle so having the support of a knowledgeable nutritional therapist is ideal.

3 Smart Carbs to Eat Every Day

The amount of carbohydrates in your diet is important. But even more important is the type of carbs you eat. While some carbohydrates may be detrimental to your health, others are vital to your well-being. Do you know which ones to eat and which to avoid?

Americans Are Carb Loaders

Measurements of the American diet indicate that 60-80% of our calories are coming from refined carbohydrates. Although carbohydrates are valuable for providing quick energy, especially to athletes, those kind of ratios leave little room for protein and fat.

Protein, of course, is the building block of the body. Not only does it help amass muscle, it is vital to create blood cells, hormones, antibodies against invading germs, and enzymes to jump start all the biochemical reactions in your body. Fat is a fuel and carrier for essential nutrients such as Vitamins A & D. It is critical in making brain cells and in forming the membrane around each cell, including the cells of the myelin sheath that protect your nerves. Fats are even more important to mitochondria, the “batteries” in your cells, because these powerhouses have two membranes.

Not getting enough protein and fat translates to a lot of fatigue and dysfunction.

However, it’s not just the quantity of carbohydrates that’s alarming. Americans are not eating the right kind of carbohydrates. They are loading up on pop, chips, crackers, cookies, and other junk snacks.

Carbs are More Than Pasta and Potatoes

In order to talk about smart carbs, we need to define “carbohydrate.” Simply, a carb is anything that’s not a protein or fat. Olive oil and ground beef are obviously not carbohydrate. But what about apples, lentils, or pumpkin seeds? A narrow view of carbohydrate says that it is pure starch or sugar. Thus, we count Wonder Bread and cane sugar as carbs. The truth is that many foods have components of all three macronutrients.

Whole milk, for example has milk fat, milk protein (casein), and milk sugar (lactose). Legumes, which vegetarians view as a protein source, are roughly 25% protein and 75% carbohydrate. Similarly, nuts tally around 25% protein and 75% fat. To make a generalization, we might say that carbs are typically foods that come from plant sources.

Are You Carb Loading Ignorantly?

Even if you are eating clean, you may still be getting too much carbohydrate in your diet. When you trade in sugar for honey or agave, you are still consuming carbohydrate. If you drink juice instead of pop, your carb count is nearly the same. All of your healthy fruits are still carbs. Not that there’s anything wrong with fruit, except that you prefer them and may eat too many servings per day. Your morning smoothie and oatmeal don’t contain adequate protein or fat. Yes, even spinach and oats are carbs.

Don’t be shocked that these foods are high carb. Just ask yourself, “Well, are they high in protein or fat? What else could they be if not carbohydrate?”

What Makes a Smart Carb?

A smart carb is one that provides needed microutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, or antioxidant agents that help the body fight off tissue damage from daily wear and tear. Smart carbs are nutrient-dense. That is to say, the nourishment to calorie ratio is very high, especially when compared to a refined food, such as a doughnut, that is low in nutrient value and high in calories. These preferential carbs contain many plant chemicals – phytonutrients – with fancy names like quercetin and lycopene, that serve special purposes in your body. Some of these purposes are to lower harmful blood lipids, decrease inflammation, and stabilize blood sugars.

3 Smart Carbs To Eat Daily

Dark Leafy Greens

Vegetables such as chard, collards, and arugula can’t be beaten in their nutrient density. You really can’t carb load on spinach because you will get full long before you’ve eaten even 50 calories.

Self Nutrition Data has developed a tool to assess the nutrient density of any given food. Under their evaluation, all dark leafy greens fall in the upper right-hand quadrant. Raw spinach has a rating of 4.5 for fullness and 5.0 for nutrition content per calorie (nutrient density).

smart carbs fall in the upper right quadrant of this map

Brightly Colored Vegetables

These visually-appealing vegetables are high in plant pigments called flavanoids. Usually Purple, red, orange, or yellow, flavanoids are notoriously beneficial as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. Like greens, they are quite low on the glycemic index, meaning they contain very minimal sugar and starch content. So, while contributing greatly to your nutritional status, they don’t add much to your carb count.

Sulphur-Rich Vegetables

Not as popular as other vegetables because of their strong flavor, these vegetables, however, are workhorses when it comes to detoxification. They include mushrooms, the onion family (shallots, chives, leeks, garlic, scallions), and all cruciferous vegetables. The cruciferous family includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, radishes, bok choy, arugula, and watercress.

These are perhaps the most important category to include daily for optimal health. A cup per meal may sound ambitious. Realistically, that quantity is employed in nutrient rehab programs such as the Wahl’s protocol.

Get Help With Your Carb Ratios

Confusion among dieters is common. Is a keto diet right for you? Do you need a low-carb diet? I can evaluate your food journal, assess your nutrient needs, and guide your food choices to help you attain optimal health.