Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Importance of Bugs

As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist the gut (intestines) and liver are areas that I most often first work on with a client. Today I just want to point out a few beneficial things for our gut and why it's so very important to keep our gut healthy.

According to Dr. Natasha McBride, "Our bodies are just a shell, a habitat for this mass of microbes which live inside us.  And we ignore these microbes at our peril because their effect on the rest of the body, on every aspect of health in the human body, is absolutely monumental".  Our guts are teeming with billions of beneficial bacteria and microbes that we NEED to be healthy.  These little critters are hard at work protecting us from enemy bacteria and other little critters that don't belong in our bodies. Our environment, antibiotics, chemicals, etc. can tip the scale and allow the bad microbes to multiply and create an abnormal gut flora.

What happens when we have an abnormal gut flora?

  • Food may not be digested and absorbed properly which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. 
  • A porous, leaky gut can allow food to trigger immune system responses (i.e. allergies and autoimmune diseases).
  • Allergic reactions such as asthma and eczema can take place.  
  • Since 85% of our immune system is located in our gut, we can get sick easier.
What you can do NOW:
  • Only take antibiotics when you absolutely NEED them (i.e. antibiotics do not work for viral infections like the flu or a cold).
  • Focus on healing your gut by supplementing with a good quality probiotic. Probiotics must be refrigerated in order to keep their potency.
  • Consume fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha teas, kefir, sauerkraut - these are all teeming with billions of probiotics!! These fermented foods are also predigested which means your body doesn't have to do a whole lot of work to absorb their great benefits.
  • Meditate/Deep breathing exercises to help with stress.
  • Avoid foods such as sugars and simple carbohydrates that unhealthy bacteria thrive on.
I also love this quote by Dr. McBride, "The health of the soil determines the health of the roots and the plant.  The health of the human gut determines the health of the person".  Our gut flora is our soil.  The body cannot be healthy if the gut is not healthy and the brain cannot be healthy if the gut is not healthy.  

The way that God designed human bodies is to be full of energy, healthy, and to be able to enjoy life to the fullest!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Fat Says it All

Fat. So many people avoid it but did you know that we actually NEED fat.  The right fats are needed for many functions in our bodies and our brains require it!  Yes, there are beneficial fats and then there are detrimental fats.  Since covering this subject of fat may be long and boring for you to read, I will just cover a small area here.

By now I'm sure that most people have heard about Omega 3 fatty acids. This is not the newest health kick out there, Omega 3 fats are so needed and are slowly getting pushed out of many fatty foods.  The culprit behind this? Fats such as Omega 6's and 9's.  These insidious little attention-seekers are found in animal products and most vegetable oils.  Why are these fatty acids taking over these foods?  Before the era of factory farms cows were allowed to graze on grassy fields and spent much of their days outside.  This is what nature intended.  Once people start messing with nature funny things happened.  Instead of having the correct BALANCE of the fatty acids (i.e. Omega 3's, 6's, 9's) the balance become one sided and the content of the Omega 3's in cow meats and milk became lower and lower.  The grasses, weeds and flowers that the cows graze on contain amounts of Omega 3's: when the cow consumes this, these highly beneficial fats are then found in the animal.

Makes sense, right?  This is why some manufacturer's are including Omega 3's in dairy.  And now, there are more and more small farms popping up (well, they were already there but society is finally taking notice) that are providing us with grass fed beef and dairy.  I've been ordering meat from Burgundy Farms, a local farm that sells grass fed beef that is pretty much organic.  It's very difficult for farms to get the USDA Organic Certification (lot's of red tape, etc.) but I consider this farm to be organic.  You can both TASTE and SEE the difference!  I love this farm.  The great thing is, there are many, many more small, family farms throughout North America that can provide you with excellent products such as this!

 As my readers know, I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for just over 13 years now.  RA is an autoimmune disease in which the body basically attacks itself.  When I was first diagnosed my doctor believed me to have an aggressive form and wanted to immediately put me on medication.  I was actually trying to get pregnant with my second child at the time and wasn't able to take the meds.  That was a good excuse on my part because I wanted to avoid medication as much as possible.  So I went on a quest to find out what could help me.  This is why I became a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and, with diet and other modifications, I have been able to avoid medication and am able to live a pretty healthy life.  Why I'm explaining this to you is this: I truly believe that many diseases come down to inflammation in the body.  I believe that if we can keep inflammation down this is a positive and proactive step in our personal health and longevity.  One of these ways is to consume beneficial fats like Omega 3's.

Omega 3's are also found in fatty fish such as salmon (most fish actually contain some amount of Omega 3's).  The great thing about fish is that the Omega 3's are already converted to DHA and EPA, long chain fatty acids that our bodies can readily use.  The rare person may not be able to convert Omega 3's properly so this is why fish is a great option.  Walnuts, flax seeds, grass fed beef and dairy, salmon and sardines are excellent sources.

For ways that you can personally reduce inflammation in your body please contact me at or click on the link to the right to find me on Facebook.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What is Health to You?

"Health is the greatest of all possessions; a pale cobbler is better than a sick king." ~ Isaac Bickerstaff

What is health to you?  Is it a number on a scale, is it how you look or feel, is it the absence of disease?  What is it to you?  For me personally, health is how I feel, it is the absence of disease, it is in breathing clean air, it is my energy levels, it is having a positive mindset, it is having good friends to talk with, and it is having a personal relationship with God.  Health and nutrition go hand in hand and I believe that every human being has the right to good nutrition.  Lately, however, I have been getting so discouraged over how the media (and our society) portrays good nutrition.

Good nutrition is not taking out an entire macro nutrient, let's say for example, carbohydrates, and replacing that with meat.  Whether grass fed or not, it is still meat.  I have written before about the importance of carbohydrates and that our daily intake should constitute about 50-60% of our daily diet.  Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and include fruits, vegetables and grains.  People have been eating grains for thousands of years and grains provide many vital nutrients; it is discouraging to me that so many people are currently anti-grain.  Like anything, this latest trend will pass, however, soon to be replaced by something else.  Now I'm certainly not against meat and it is a personal choice whether or not you choose to consume it. I do think that meat should constitute a much smaller percentage of our daily diet than carbohydrates and having a meatless meal once or twice a week is a healthy thing.  A serving of meat is generally about 4 oz for women and 5 oz for men (about the size of a deck of cards).  Too much meat/protein and not enough carbohydrates can lead to the body producing something called ketones.  Ketones are toxic to the body, and so the kidneys begin to flush out these toxins.  This will lead to water loss in the body, which is hard on the kidneys and also puts stress on the heart.  Although this water loss will look like a reduction in weight you will also lose muscle mass and bone calcium.

There are some parts of the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet that I do agree with: no refined carbohydrates, no processed foods, no refined sugars, consuming grass fed beef or wild game, and eating healthy fats.  Of course - these are all components of a healthy diet.  However, grains (whole grains) and legumes are also integral components of a healthy diet and these are avoided when eating Paleo.

In my opinion, the "ideal diet" is one that mimics the Mediterranean way of eating.  The principal aspects of this lifestyle include a proportionally high consumption of olive oil (used for salads, cooking, bread), legumes, fruits, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as yogurt and cheese), moderate to low wine consumption and low consumption of meat and meat products. This is a very clean way of eating and provides the body with healthy fats, great complex carbohydrates, and loads of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Within this "ideal diet' there is so much room for personal choices. As well, the ideal diet will adapt and fluctuate: daily, weekly, monthly, even yearly according to our own individual needs.  Each person is different, and each person's needs vary.  Nutrition and diet is often portrayed as a confusing mess of "which diet do I choose this month?" when it shouldn't be.  Keep nutrition simple: consume food that "remembers" where it came from, shop the perimeter of the store, don't eat foods that your great-grandmother wouldn't have recognized, avoid processed foods and avoid boxed goods with ingredients that your 8 year old can't pronounce.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Energy Anyone??

Okay people, let me put it out there: human beings NEED carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are probably the most important of the three main classes of foods (carbohydrates, protein, fats) since they are our main source of energy. Carbohydrates should ideally be about 50-60 percent of our daily diet.  I know - there is SO much hype out there about bads carbs, good carbs that people get so confused about the whole thing.  I don't like to classify foods into "good" and "bad" but, just to help clarify things, the "bad" carbs are carbs you should avoid and are considered as simple carbs (sugars, refined flours, white flours, processed foods) and "good" carbs can be found in whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and legumes.

So, we not only need carbohydrates for energy but we also need them to regulate protein and fat metabolism.  With protein and fats, carbohydrates help to promote growth of bones and skin, lubricate the joints and help to fight infections.  On top this, most carbohydrate foods contain a good amount of fiber and you know what that means, yes, smoother flowing bowels folks.

I love using and incorporating ancient grains into my daily diet.  The wheat of today is so processed and refined and even whole wheat flour has been changed from how it originally produced.  As a society I do have to say that too much wheat is consumed.  But there are other wonderful grains you can use: spelt, kamut, oats, barley, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, rye and quinoa are some great examples.  Quinoa, kamut, spelt, barley and millet are considered ancient grains as they have been around for thousands of years.  I'm glad to see more and  more of these grains on the supermarket shelves.  Of course, if you're truly gluten-intolerant you will need to consume whole grains that you are able to digest more readily: brown rice, corn, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth are some examples).

One of my very favorite wheat-substitutes that I use is spelt flour.  Although this versatile flour is a relative of wheat, it has a hard, protective husk that shields it from pollutants and insects, so farmers can avoid using pesticides.  It is a hearty, tasty grain, loaded with fiber, protein and B vitamins and is a potential option for those suffering from gluten insensitivity.  I use it in a lot of my baking and, as I sit here writing this blog, the delicious smell of banana bread is wafting from the oven.

Here's the recipe! (Sorry, I don't have any pretty pictures to post!)

Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 bananas, finely crushed
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Feel free to add some wheat germ or grind up some flax seeds if you like
  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and crushed bananas and combine well.
  3. Sift together flour and baking soda.  Add to creamed mixture.  Add vanilla.
  4. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Biggest Influence

Obesity in children is truly a growing epidemic. In a conversation I recently had with my children's pediatrician I was surprised to find out how both type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are now affecting more kids than ever! The fact that either of these adult-onset issues affects kids at all is a big deal!

What can be done? For starters, we as parents are the best examples to our children. Children are always watching us and they mimic what we do.  If we eat it, it must be ok.  If we eat lots of the "bad" stuff and not so much of the "good" stuff well, they'll do that too.  Good nutrition starts in the home and, since we're the parents and have the money, its up to us to make good decisions in the grocery store.  Up to a certain age if we don't buy it then our kids won't be able to eat it.

Here's a shocker - many obese kids (and adults) are actually nutritionally starved.  Consuming too many processed foods and not enough REAL foods can leave the body so low in so many important vitamins and minerals.  As well, sugar (and its digestion) robs the body of vital nutrients.

Food should never become a power struggle between a parent and a child. Serve your child good, healthy choices and don't make a big deal about what is eaten and what isn't. Many parents overestimate their children's needs and the amount of food required (which we do for ourselves as well).  Its best to create simple meals and serve smaller portions more frequently throughout the day - especially for younger children.  A child's caloric needs and many of the basic nutrients will vary from ages two through ten and a child knows when they are hungry and full.  The more we can support our children in avoiding empty calories (processed foods, sugary drinks, fast food, etc.) the better chance they will have of optimum growth and health and therefore help to avoid obesity.  Like adults, boredom and eating for emotional reasons can happen. Any emotion can be a trigger for over eating and as parents it is our job to teach our children productive tools that can help them with the tirade of emotions they may face.

Many children like to help and be part of their nutrition and we can nurture this by creatively inspiring their food choices and by teaching them about the benefits of food and having them help us cook.  Avoid battles and hassles over food and avoid rewards and bribes of dessert and sweets for eating their vegetables.  Food can have such an emotional stronghold on us and this can carry over from childhood to adulthood.

Of course, there's much more to the story than this and much more that can be done.  Childhood obesity is rampant in our society and there are so many facets that contribute to this. But for now, love and enjoy your children just the way they are - be their example of how to eat healthy and then get out and incorporate this thing called exercise in a fun way!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Brand New, Shiny Year!

Well, here it is 2013 and it started off with a bang for me.  Or, maybe not so much as I was in bed by 9 o'clock on New Year's Eve with the flu.  Yes, I'm one of those people who do not get the flu shot but instead, try to allow my body to be able to defend for itself.  Sometimes, however, whether due to holiday travel (think total confinement for 3 hours in an airplane breathing in the air that probably, no definitely, contains various germs that make themselves known through everyone's coughs and sneezes), or partaking in some holiday indulgences, the body's defenses are just not up-to-par.  So, I got the flu.  I am happy to say that after six days I am almost back to normal.  The tiredness and cough are still lingering but those only serve to remind me to take it easy and REST.

There was a time when I made a conscious effort to make a New Year's resolution only to have forgotten it somewhere between Valentine's Day and the end of February.  This year I really don't feel that there is one resolution that I would choose and if I could choose only one, I think that would be difficult.  As human beings we are constantly growing and changing and learning.   Through out my life I have always been very, very hard on myself in my quest for something unreachable - perfectionism.  I am learning, finally at this age, to be happy with who I am and how God made me. And so, if I were to make any sort of resolution it would be more of a change of my mindset from the unattainable to acceptance.  To accept my limits and boundaries and to be at peace with who I am.  An example of this is with sports - growing up I disliked being on sport teams; however, I loved to run.  And so I joined the cross country running team and LOVED it.  Time passes by and running was placed on the back burner until a couple of years ago when I decided to take it up again.  Well, I thank God for my chiropractor and a wonderful and very gifted massage therapist who have treated my many aches and pains and have gently pushed me in the direction of gentler exercises.

My body is not meant for hardcore exercising.  As much as I would love to run miles each day, take up boxing, boot camps, or participate in triathlons, I am not meant for these.  Instead, I have chosen to listen to my body by being a student of yoga, walking my dog, dancing for fun, hiking with my family, and anything else that get's me outside and enjoying this big, glorious world.  What do you like to do?  Making an effort to do some sort of daily exercise can make such an improvement in your life.  If its been awhile, start off with a 10 minute daily walk.  If you're time-constrained, start off with a 10 minute daily walk.  Get it?  It doesn't take much to start and that 10 minutes will eventually turn to 15, then 20, then 30 then.... Well, you get the picture.  Happy 2013!!