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9:32 am

Is Your Digestive System Working Properly?

Digestion 101
There's so much that can go wrong with our digestion these days. Millions of prescriptions are written for proton pump inhibitors, acid blockers, antibiotics and more. Plus, more than 500,000 gallbladders are removed every year (mostly unnecessarily!). There are a few simple measures you can take to improve your digestion. Let's work through them. 

Digestion 101


How Digestion Works

Digestion begins in the brain when we smell food. This triggers salivary enzymes. Then, we slowly (hopefully) chew our food, and the stomach breaks it down with ample amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Proper amounts of HCl break down the food, kill pathogens, parasites, bacteria and breaks down proteins. Then, the food moves into the small intestine where fats are broken down and absorbed, the pancreas sends out enzymes and bicarbonate, then it moves into the large intestine where bile and saliva are reabsorbed, feces are formed and peristalsis moves the bowels. This is how it's supposed to happen.

What Can Go Wrong?

If you are not in a state of relaxation when eating (or parasympathetic mode), you simply can not digest food properly. We need to be in Rest & Digest mode first. This means, no more eating on the run, in the car, while working, watching the news, or doing ANYTHING that stimulates the nervous system. Take a deep breath or take a moment to be grateful for your meal. Put down your fork in between bites and chew your food a minimum of 20-30 times until you swallow. If you don't have enough stomach acid (and it declines as we age), your food will sit in your stomach and ferment or off gas. This creates pressure on the lower esophageal valve and causes the small amounts of acid that is in the stomach to be expelled into the esophagus creating heartburn or reflux. The conventional notion is to take antacids, which can provide temporary relief, but it doesn't fix the problem of low stomach acid and prevents your food from being broken down for digestion. Some acid blockers and PPI's work for up to 24 hours - suppressing acid for each and every meal! You can take HCl acid supplements slowly to build up the acid in your stomach. (See a Health Practitioner for help with this) But do realize that taking acid blockers and antacids are for short-term relief and were never meant for long-term use. Without proper pH levels in the stomach, pathogenic organisms can thrive and wreak havoc on the GI tract!
The next concern is that when undigested food enters the small intestine, it can impact the microvilli. The lining becomes "leaky" and allows proteins and fat to pass through the gut in larger sizes, which overwhelms the immune system. The body views these as invaders and develops antigens to them - triggering autoimmunity and food allergies! Another concern is a low-fat diet. This creates atrophy in the gallbladder. (Remember the fat-free mantra of the 80's and 90's?) It's time to add some healthy fat back into our diets. Maldigested foods, fats, and parasites can be jammed into the large intestine now and disrupt the gut flora - our microbiome of 700 million pets! This can weaken the cells of the colon, cause diverticulitis, IBS, Crohn's, IBD, Celiac, and/or colitis - all exacerbated by gut dysfunction.

What Can You Do?

There are so many avenues of dysfunction in the gut, but there are many simple things you can do to repair it. Chewing slowly, being present for your meals, and making sure you have enough HCl acid in your stomach is a good start. Drinking beet juice can thin bile fluid if you've been eating low-fat or have trouble breaking down fats in your diet (you would notice fatty stools and/or have an autoimmune disease). Simple supplements like digestive enzymes, HCl, and certain foods can help repair a dysfunctional gut.

If you're suffering from gut issues, set up a Nutrition Therapy Consultation - a 90-minute consultation with a 30-minute follow up or the Leaky Gut Program - to discuss methods of repairing your digestive tract.
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12:08 pm

10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Cancer Risk


10 Things You Can Do Now To Reduce Your Cancer Risk

10 Things to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

October means fall and usually cool weather and shades of orange, brown and gold leaves litter the ground.  But, look around and you'll see magazines, retail stores, sports teams, and Facebook pages are laden with pink ribbons as this month is known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. We are all pretty darn aware of this nasty, prevalent disease. Cancer is expected to affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in their lifetime, and every day, nearly 1,600 Americans die from cancer. 1.6 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year!
I think a few of the charities may be worthy causes, but I would prefer to see more money being spent on prevention and not poisonous "cures."

I wanted to share some tips that can help reduce your exposure to toxins that may be contributing to your exposure. If we can mitigate our risk, we can turn off the genes you may be carrying that can "express" themselves as cancerous. Of course, there are no guarantees, but I'm going to do everything in my power to decrease my risk. With a family history of cancer stacked against me, you can bet I'm going to be as proactive as possible to fight this disease.

As you'll surely be asked to donate this month to "race for a cure" or slap on a pink ribbon, there are better, more powerful things we can do for our health. We need to ask our government for stricter regulations on our food, our personal care products, cleaning products, access to cleaner water, and decrease the amount of chemicals in our environment. If we can work more to reduce the CAUSE, we can work to reduce the number of deaths.

 10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Cancer Risk:

  1. Reduce your sugar intake. Cancer feeds on sugar and it promotes cancer cell growth. Look at food ingredient labels and reduce consuming products made with High Fructose Corn Syrup, sugar, dextrose, maltodextrin, malitol, fructose, sucrose, sorbitol, Splenda, Equal and simple carbohydrate foods (like white bread and pasta) that can spike insulin levels. Try to keep sugar levels below 25 grams a day, which includes fruit. Add in a glass of water with a lemon or lime instead of that sugar-laden soda.
  2. Eat more Veggies! Specifically, dark leafy greens like kale, collards, broccoli, and spinach. Aim for a serving at each meal. (Read my post on incorporating more veggies here.)

  3. Eat more berries, onions, mushrooms, seeds. Berries have loads of antioxidants and prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer. Eating more beans increases your fiber intake, which can lowers colon cancer risk and more fiber lowers breast cancer risks. Eating onions, garlic, shallots and leeks result in lower digestive cancers. Mushrooms contain substances that have anti-cancer properties and compounds that block estrogen production. Some seeds — sesame, chia and flax in particular — are rich in lignans, plant estrogens that protect against breast cancer; in one fascinating study, women were given flaxseeds daily after being diagnosed with breast cancer and reduced growth and increased death of their tumor cells was found after just 4-5 weeks.

  4. Smoking and alcohol use increase your risk for certain cancers, including second-hand smoke. Take steps to quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. One drink per day increases your cancer risk by 7-10%!

  5. Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Consuming more animal protein and especially dairy products raises blood levels of IGF-1, and elevated IGF-1 levels have been associated with increased in breast cancer risk in many studies. Choose grass-fed, pastured meats if you're going to eat meat.
  6. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. Look beyond air pollution and start reading the labels of products you put on your body. Many personal care products contain harmful parabens, neurotoxins and chemicals that cause cancer. Inspect your kitchen for BPA-containing plastics and stop using non-stick coated cookware (which contains PFOA). Stop using chemicals to treat your lawn and pesticides to kill bugs and find more natural ways to address these issues. Household cleaners are also full of cancer-causing chemicals. Use baking soda, vinegar or plant-based enzyme cleaners to clean your house.

  7. Choose Organic when possible. Buy organic versions of produce listed on the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. Source local farms for hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat. Visit www.localharvest.org for farmer's markets and www.eatwild.com to find a grass-fed farm near you. Conventional beef contains industrial carcinogens, such as dioxins, which accumulate in fatty tissues of beef and chicken.

  8. Reduce exposure to excess estrogen. Don't take hormone replacement therapy, reduce your consumption of soy products, and consider breastfeeding for two years (which lowers estrogen levels).

  9. Maintain a healthy body weight. Higher weight levels means more estrogen, which means a higher increase in breast cancer risk. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.

  10. Consider adding in superfoods and superherbs to your daily regimen. Along with Vitamin D and Omega 3's, superfoods such as spirulina, gogi berries, aloe vera, hemp seed, raw cacao, bee products, maca and medicinal herbs can promote nutritional health.

When all else fails and you don't know what to eat or how to incorporate spirulina into your diet, give me a call and let's set up a time to have a Health Strategy Session! I'd love to support you in reaching your health goals!

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12:59 pm

Do you need a Flu Shot?


do you need a flu shot_copy

As a Holistic Nutritionist, I approach the flu, with curiousness because that means there is an imbalance in the body. When proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken, illness is rare.  When someone is sick, some detective work is necessary to find out what missing pieces are interfering with the efficacy of their immune system.

My goal is to help you strengthen your immune system so there is less risk of a virus affecting you, leaving you vulnerable to its aftermath of feeling sick and miserable.

When the immune system is compromised it has less ability to fight off the flu, or really any of the myriad viruses, bacteria or toxins we are perpetually faced with every minute of every day.

I give some tips for preventing the flu at the bottom of this article. Personally, I always start with food because it is the best medicine.

But first, let’s take a look at how flu vaccines work.

The Vaccine:

Each year health officials inoculate this year’s virus into chickens.  Then, they take the created viral strains to use as the antigen - the agent which elicits an immune reaction in the human body so you create your own antibodies against that strain of flu. But creating antibodies is not the same as protection against a disease.

It takes about two weeks after you are vaccinated for your body to create these antibodies. We assume scientists match the vaccine to the exact flu strain going around.  It’s an educated guess essentially and the efficacy of the vaccine lies in our ability to match the two correctly. The CDC states the rates of efficacy are 0% to 52% in any given year. Yes, that’s right, 0%.

You can still get the flu if you have been vaccinated if the strain you caught doesn’t match that which was in your vaccine.  And you can still get the flu even if the strains were properly matched but your immune system is not functioning properly!

What’s In a Flu Shot?

  • Egg proteins: Including avian contaminant viruses
  • Formaldehyde: Known carcinogen, in amounts of 5-25 mcg
  • Thimerosal: Mercury-based preservative (only in multi-dose vials), 25 mcg
  • Other heavy metals such as aluminum: Known neurotoxin
  • Sugar: The essence of all inflammatory disease
  • Triton X100: A detergent, 50-250 mcg, varies by specific brands
  • Neomycin, an antibiotic
  • Polysorbate 20 and 80, known to cross the blood-brain barrier, opens tight junctions, causes infertility in mice
  • Other additives known to cause allergic reactions

Influenza (Afluria)

beta-propiolactone, thimerosol (multi-dose vials only), monobasic sodium phosphate, dibasic sodium phosphate, monobasic potassium phosphate, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium taurodeoxycholate, neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B, egg protein, sucrose

December 2013

Influenza (Agriflu)

egg proteins, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide, neomycin sulfate, kanamycin, barium

2013

Influenza (Fluarix) Trivalent and Quadrivalent

octoxynol-10 (Triton X- Į-tocopheryl hydrogen succinate, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), hydrocortisone, gentamicin sulfate, ovalbumin, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, sucrose, phosphate buffer

June 2014

Influenza (Flublok)

monobasic sodium phosphate, dibasic sodium phosphate, polysorbate 20, baculovirus and host cell proteins, baculovirus and cellular DNA, Triton X-100, lipids, vitamins, amino acids, mineral salts

March 2014

Influenza (Flucelvax)

Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell protein, MDCK cell DNA,

Cetyltrimethlyammonium Bromide, b-propiolactone, phosphate buffer

March 2014

Influenza (Fluvirin)

nonylphenol ethoxylate, thimerosal (multidose vial–trace only in prefilled syringe), polymyxin, neomycin, beta-propiolactone, egg proteins, phosphate buffer

February 2014

Influenza (Flulaval) Trivalent and Quadrivalent

thimerosal, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, egg proteins, phosphate buffer

February 2013

Influenza (Fluzone: Standard (Trivalent and Quadrivalent), High-Dose, & Intradermal)

formaldehyde, octylphenol ethoxylate (Triton X-100), gelatin (standard trivalent formulation only), thimerosal (multi-dose vial only) , egg protein, phosphate buffers, sucrose

 

Ingredients in Vaccines, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, B-10

The biggest controversy about the ingredients in the shot surrounds the use of the preservative Thimerosal.  Thimerosal contains mercury.  Exposure to mercury leads to systemic health problems running the gamut from neurological dysfunction (memory loss, confusion, inability to concentrate) to depression, renal failure, skin troubles and gastrointestinal disturbances.

But aren’t Flu Vaccines recommended for pregnant women?

Yes, they are. But none of the 24 flu vaccines on the market have been tested for safety in pregnancy. In fact, none are FDA approved for use in pregnancy. This past week, a new study found a 7.7 fold increase in miscarriage and flu vaccines. This is probably due to the Thimerosal (my summation). Thimerosal is mutagenic for developing embryos. It actually says this very fact on the label of the box – “Causes mutation in mammal germ cells” - otherwise known as developing embryos.

Pregnant women and infants are often advised to opt for the single dose mercury-free vaccines as once mercury is in the body it can enter the fetus via the placenta.  Studies have also reported that children can become symptomatic from mercury toxicity from as little exposure as 10 mcg/kg/day.

Many flu vaccines contain up to 25 mcg of mercury per dose so this is one area where I will state how important it is to look for a mercury-free vaccines.  Some may argue that this isn’t very much, but consider this fact: 25 mcg in a .5 ml shot = 50,000 PPB. Two PPB is the FDA limit for drinking water and 200 PPB is considered toxic and requires a hazard label. That’s 250x the allowable limit in a flu vaccine. By comparison, the average can of tuna contains120 PPB.

Here are some options to ask your doctor about:

Types of Vaccines Available:

  • Single-dose vaccines such as Fluzone: Contains an inert virus that is incapable of causing infection and tends to be free of mercury.
  • Some pre-filled syringes such as Afluria are mercury-free.
  • Multi-dose vaccines tend to contain the most mercury.

If mercury is such a problem, then why are we even using it?  Mercury is part of the preservative necessary when using multi-dose vaccines. The single-dose vaccine doesn’t require the preservative which is why this vaccine is preferred. It is also the least cost-effective for manufacturers to produce so until this changes.  YOU, the consumer, need to advocate for yourself.

How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?

While the CDC reports that safety is always being monitored to ensure risk from the vaccine is negligible, certain serious complications have been reported:

  • Allergic reactions (anaphylactic)
  • Fever (dangerous for pregnant women)
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (can be fatal)
  • Neurological disorders

Always contact your local physician if you suspect any serious complications post injection.

A study by Cochrane Review states the evidence is poor and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of flu vaccine for those 65 and older. In another study by Dr. Ben Cowling, of 100 vaccinated with the flu vaccine, they were found to have 4-5 times higher incidence of non-flu viral infections than those unvaccinated. In 2016, there were 108 cases of severe injury and death due to the influenza vaccine. It has the highest rates of adverse events of any vaccine, according to the Vaccine Adverse Events website or VAERS.

Why Do We Get Sick?

I find it interesting that “flu-season” coincides with the start of sugar season - Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies and holiday treats, coupled with dry indoor air, a lack of sunshine and decreased activity. This is why we get sick!

Why confuse ourselves about the pros and cons of a vaccine’s worth, safety, and strain availability when we have so much in our medicinal arsenal to fight the flu’s onset?

Preventing the flu depends on improving the quality of our lifestyles to include more pleasure and relaxation, increasing access to fresh, nutrient-dense food, and limiting sugary and processed junk food in our lives.

Taking care of the way we eat, keeping fit, getting enough sleep and taking a few nutritional supplements including a multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D can prevent most from ever getting sick in the first place. Don’t forget about frequent hand-washing too!

The influenza virus can be very uncomfortable and cause a major disruption in our busy lives.  It is important to remember that most healthy people will suffer a mere 3-5 days.

While the fever/chills, sore throat, headache, and fatigue are definitely not fun, they usually come and go without much major harm caused to the body.

In fact, most deaths are only associated with the flu via contraction of pneumonia and its influence on existing medical conditions.  The CDC reported 500 deaths in 2010 from flu, most were elderly with co-infections, like pneumonia. The flu’s mortality rate itself is much less common-in fact, more people die each year from malnutrition than from the flu!

Preventative Measures:

Get your vitamin D levels optimized (50-80), focus on your diet by adding in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, eat lean and grass-fed protein and healthy anti-inflammatory fats from fish, nuts, and seeds, and healthy olive oil, ghee and coconut oils. Consider a Vitamin C supplement.

Add garlic, ginger, raw honey, turmeric and fresh spices and herbs to your meals. If you do feel the sniffles coming on, immediately crush 2 cloves of garlic and place in a small glass of water, add a splash of raw honey and drink. This is the equivalent of 1 dose of antibiotic and will kill bacteria and viruses.

Stay well hydrated, practice common sense hygiene, and create time to rest and restore your energy.  And of course get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer this season!

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy Winter!


10:16 am

The Microbiome and Hormone Connection

The Microbiome & Hormone Connection_copy
Did you know that 1 dose of an antibiotic reduces your gut bacteria by 90%?

If you suffer from PMS, belly bloat, period problems, breast lumps, acne, digestive issues and low libido, you could have a hormonal imbalance which probably is stemming from an unhealthy microbiome.

So much amazing research has come forth recently in regards to our microbiome and our health. The latest research shows that the microbiome is now considered to be an endocrine system and produces and secretes all of the hormones we utilize in the body! Say what?!!

It also regulates the expression of the hormones - meaning our gut bacteria is our "master control" for everything hormonal. We need to address the gut first when looking to balance our hormones. For example, Serotonin is produced in the gut (90% is made in the digestive tract). This is our "happy hormone" and it has the ability to help us relax, sleep, alter our mood, and support gut motility. Serotonin communicates with the gut and the brain. Depression is actually preceded by gut issues!
Our gut also produces Dopamine (the reward centers of our brain). If Dopamine is low, addiction issues can result (sugar, drugs, alcohol).
Our gut bacteria also produce norepinephrine - the stress hormone. An imbalance in the gut can lead to an overgrowth of the wrong kind of pathogenic bacteria.
The microbiome also produces all 3 forms of estrogen. The most important of those being Estriol - the protective estrogen. In a healthy gut, more Estriol is produced and this helps in reducing perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, bone loss and weight gain. More Estriol is good and creates Estrobolome which breaks down estrogen so you don't end up with an imbalance. An overabundance of estrogen contributes to breast cancer and lumps.
So, you can see that having a healthy, thriving microbiome or gut is absolutely essential. But, how do you achieve that?

Here are some tips:
1. Take antibiotics only when you have a bacterial infection and absolutely necessary. Discuss the risk/benefits with your doctor. Consider olive leaf extract or oregano oil as your first line of defense against germs.
2. Limit exposure to prescription medication and over-the-counter meds that may disrupt the microbiome.
3. Manage your stress with deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
4. Watch your exposure to toxins via processed foods, drinking water, plastics, cleaning supplies, personal care products, and vaccines.(I write about this in Chapter 12 of my book, Unprocessed Living.)
5. Get daily exercise to help your body release excess estrogen. Sweat it out!
6. Add lots of fiber-rich foods in your diet. Chia, flax, leafy veggies, and broccoli.
7. Drink lots of water to flush out excess waste that can be toxic to your microbiome.
8.
Limit your intake of dairy, gluten, and sugar. These can exacerbate bacterial imbalances.
9. Birth control pills can also encourage the bad guys to multiply and decrease the good bacteria. Consider more natural options.

10. Take a well-studied, high quality Probiotic and eat fermented foods. I like Thrive Probiotics as a supplement and fresh kraut, kombucha, kimchi and fermented pickles to increase my good bugs!

3:14 pm

3 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid & Why

3 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid & Why

As a woman, I never really thought about what was in my skin care and makeup. Instead, I paid attention to the claims on the front of the packaging – “Fewer Wrinkles” or “Long, Beautiful Lashes” or “Perfect, Pouty Lips.” You want products that work, right and make you feel good? Of course, you do! And that’s why the ads with beautiful models (who are usually 17) grace the pages of women's magazines with claims making bold statements like the above.

I’ve been reading my food labels for several years now and staying away from chemicals and preservatives lurking in packaged foods and I made over my cleaning supplies to get rid of the nasty chemicals and fragrance, but what about my personal care products like lotions, skin care, and makeup?

Did you know that the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938? That’s almost 80 years of no regulation and no oversight. No safety testing!

Last year, I started reading the labels of my lotions, skin cleanser, mascara, lip stick and foundation. I was appalled at what I learned! My favorite (and best-selling) face lotion had endocrine-disrupting parabens, my body lotion did too along with fragrance, which contains phthalates. (More on that in a moment) My favorite lipstick had high amounts of lead! LEAD!!

They also contained SLS – or sulfates, that can trigger allergies and skin irritation. Yes, the same products that are said to calm skin and clean it are causing irritation and allergies! Fragrance is one of the worst. The chemical cocktail used to come up with specific fragrances are trade secrets and therefore do not have to be labeled. These cocktails can contain up to 3000+ chemicals containing phthalates, or plasticizers that hold onto fragrance on your skin or hair. Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting, meaning they mess with every system in your body and wreak havoc on your hormones.

In the past few days, I’ve been behind people standing in line (wreaking of fragrance), had clients in my office whose lotions and perfumes lingered for up to 6 hours after they left, and walked down grocery store aisles wreaking of perfume even though no one was there. These are those chemical plasticizers at work. If a product says, “fragrance” on the label, it can contain 1000’s of chemicals responsible for that smell. Those chemicals are damaging your health!

Here is a list of my top 3 chemicals to look out for when shopping for Personal Care items:

  1. Parabens - (METHYL-, ISOBUTYL-, PROPLY- Butyl - OTHERS)

A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Specifically, parabens mimic estrogen; they can lock on to our cell’s own estrogen receptors and mess with important natural signals. They may play a role in triggering breast cancer. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, and lotions. Also, baby wipes!

 

  1. PHTHALATES (DBP, DEHP, DEP AND OTHERS) AKA Fragrance - A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, lotions, body wash.

 

  1. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE AND SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS AND SLES)

SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, even toothpaste.

 

Safer Options?

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are dozens of chemicals and items like coal tar and formaldehyde in today’s makeup. But there are safer options! Safer skincare? Is there such a thing? YES! For the last year or so, I have been using BeautyCounter products. Their products are rated #1 with EWG and don't contain ANY dangerous chemicals.  I love their Tint Skin Foundation, their lip glosses, mascara and the new BeautyCounter + skin care line.
beautycounter ad

You'll love their mascara and lip glosses. I LOVE their sunscreen in the summer months. Sunscreen is one of the WORST when it comes to dangerous cancer-causing personal care items. OXYBENZONE, found in most sunscreens, is an ultraviolet light absorber linked to
irritation, sensitization and allergies, and possible hormone disruption.
Become a Band of Beauty Member ($29) and you'll receive 15% future product credit, free shipping on purchases over $100 and a free gift when you make a purchase over $50 (not including BofB membership).

PLUS, in the month of March, if you make any purchase, you'll be entered to win a full-size Balancing Facial Mist, value $35.balancing facial mist
What are your favorite "clean" skin care and makeup lines?

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4:44 pm

Could You Go a Year Without Alcohol?

Dry 2017? Are you crazy?!!

Two years ago I was sitting in an auditorium in New York City with a thousand other health coaches. One of our speakers that day was Dr. Daniel Amen, renowned brain specialist. He shared a story of an average, middle-aged woman who was a moderate drinker. She was gaining weight, had brain fog and wasn’t feeling her best. He conducted a brain spect (a scan of the brain showing blood flow). Her scan showed areas of improper blood flow – meaning there were parts of her brain not receiving much blood!  Her scan looked like her brain had holes, divots, and pockets of emptiness. This truly scared me as he went on to explain how he’s seeing dementia and Alzheimer's years before symptoms arise. Since the latter appears to run in my family, I decided to do something about it. I stopped drinking in 2016.

I was never a heavy drinker or even a nightly glass-of-wine drinker. I’ve been a mom for the last eleven years and haven’t really found the time or inclination to drink much.  But, I did have my fair share in my twenties and thirties. I probably drank too much in college and my early twenties.  In recent times, I would go out and have a few drinks and have the worst hangovers the next day. My liver wasn’t really processing it all very well, so it made sense to stop. Plus, after working hard to put my autoimmune disease into remission, why undo all of that hard work.

So, in 2016, (starting with New Year’s Eve of 2015) I made the decision to severely limit my alcohol consumption. Since I had already stopped drinking beer a couple of years ago due to a gluten allergy, I was halfway there. I was down to just an occasional glass of wine and a fancy cocktail if I went out.

I made it all the way to Mother’s Day and had a Bellini with brunch (but didn’t finish it). Then, I had a few sips of a few drinks on a cruise to the Bahamas this summer (it was all-inclusive) and one cocktail over the holidays.  That’s it. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, nor did I feel socially awkward.

I made the empowering decision and realization that “I don’t need to drink!” When I was under stress or had a “bad” day, I nourished myself with a bath or herbal tea or cuddled on the couch in my jammies with some ridiculous television show. Why give my body something that is demoting to my health when what I really need is something nutrient-dense and beneficial to my health? And apparently, I’m being trendy as more and more folks are skipping the booze.  There’s more websites, restaurants, and bars catering to those who don’t drink anymore with delicious mocktails.

mocktail pic_copy
My friend and fellow Health Coach, Caitlin Padgett, wrote a book called Drink Less, Be More. Check it out.

So, what positive things happened to me without alcohol?


I didn’t need to buy any pain-relievers this year!

I maintained my weight.

I felt clear-headed.

I saved a bunch of money.

I slept great!

I was always there for my kids! (No more Saturday morning hangovers!)

Could you do the same? If you saw a scan of your brain would you make adjustments to your life to halt disease?  Using alcohol to “unwind” or relax from a stressful day is a learned behavior. As a society, we turn to alcohol due to career stress, social stress, financial stress and stress in relationships. This only offers temporary relief and escape. We are numbing ourselves with alcohol and drugs to give us that dopamine spike – the one that makes us feel invincible. This offers a short-term solution and never fixes the problem. I’m not saying you should cut it out completely, but consider your brain, your liver, and your waistline the next time you reach for a drink.

I encourage you to dig deeper for relief. Connect with friends over herbal tea. Enjoy a fancy meal without a bottle of wine and save some dough and your health.

12:10 pm

How a Desk Job Can Ruin Your Health & What You Can Do About It

If you were asked to list the top 10 dangerous occupations, an office job probably wouldn’t be one of them. In fact, the thought of writing “desk job” on your list might be enough to make you laugh out loud. However, sitting too much can cause a variety of uncomfortable and even dangerous health concerns that rival the most feared diseases. Surprised? Here are the top ways a desk job can ruin your health and what you can do about it.

 

Obesity

When you spend all day sitting behind a desk, your metabolism slows down and your body burns far fewer calories than it would if you exercised regularly. Weight gain is often the unfortunate result of consuming more calories than your sedentary lifestyle allows you to burn off. If left unchecked, minor weight gain can eventually lead to obesity while increasing your chance of developing metabolic syndrome.

 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has been linked with sitting for long periods of time. When high blood pressure is left uncontrolled and untreated, it can potentially damage your heart in a variety of ways, including coronary artery disease, stroke and heart failure.

 

High Blood Sugar

According to a 2008 study printed in the Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, people who spend more time watching TV or sitting behind desks tend to have higher glucose and blood pressure levels. People who sit all day tend to also have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

 

How You Can Fight the Odds

You don’t have to become a statistic just because you have a desk job. In fact, fighting off obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar is easier than you may think. The solution seems to be simply moving more throughout the day and sitting less.

What Can I Do?

Need a few ideas to get you out of your office chair? Try standing at your desk rather than sitting. You might also want to try an active surface board that allows you to stand at your desk while subtly balancing your weight and strengthening your muscles. You can also take a quick lap around the office after eating lunch or schedule a 10-15 minute break after every 50 minutes of work. Even the smallest changes can have a big impact on how you feel.


10:08 am

7 Foods to Add to a Healthy Kitchen in 2017

 

If you’re looking to improve your health, increase your energy and fight off pesky illnesses, look no further than these seven foods. Every whole foods kitchen needs to be stocked with certain essentials that can elevate our health and these superfoods do just that. I make sure I’m always stocked with number 1 and 3 throughout the winter months to keep the sniffles away.

  1. Fermented Foods – These are foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, raw yogurt, kombucha, miso and tempeh. They are naturally rich in probiotics and feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods also help to improve digestion and make it easier for us to absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat.

 fermented veggies

Try this: Add a handful of fresh-from-the-farm green beans to a mason jar, fill with a clove of garlic, fresh or dried dill and a few peppercorns. Add 2 tbsp sea salt and fill with water.  Add the lid, gently tighten. Leave on your counter for a few days until you see bubbles, then place in the fridge. Voila! Homemade Fermented Veggies!

 

  1. Coconut & Its Products – I love all things coconut and it’s a great whole food to add to your recipes, especially if you’re trying to avoid dairy. You can drink coconut milk and electrolyte-rich coconut water, add shredded coconut or coconut flour to your baking and snack recipes, and the king of all things coconut is the oil. Coconut oil is great for high heat cooking and sautéing vegetables and meats. Coconut oil is primarily saturated (over 90%), with the bulk of it coming from lauric acid, a medium-chain saturated fatty acid, which has antimicrobial properties.

Try this: Make this delicious Fat-Burning Chocolate Smoothie with coconut oil.

chocolate smoothie


  1. Bone Broth – This superfood is becoming quite trendy and rightfully so. It’s made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and key amino acids, such as glycine and proline, which are needed to make collagen. Potential health benefits include joint and bone health, along with some claims of reducing inflammation.1

Try this: Save money and make your own broth or stock from leftover bones.

 chicken broth (800x600)

  1. Ghee (Clarified Butter) – Ghee is made from butter that has been slow-cooked to remove the water and milk solids, making it a great high-heat cooking fat for those sensitive to dairy. It contains Vitamins A, D, E and K2, along with butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats that may reduce inflammation, promote gut health and inhibit cancer growth.2

Try this: Sauté your favorite vegetable or protein in a tablespoon of ghee. My favorite is kale or collard greens, with some pan-seared salmon.

 

  1. Mushrooms – Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and all of the B vitamins, selenium and copper. They are powerful immune modulators and possess anti-cancer properties.3 Load up on all different kinds like Portobello, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, and Maitake.

 

  1. Raw Cacao – My personal favorite superfood is Cacao – or pure raw, unheated chocolate from the cacao pod. It’s full of antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. It can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.4

 

Try this: I like blending raw cacao in my smoothies and teas and using it in snack items, like these Cherry Chocolate Bites.

 cherry chocolate bites

  1. Sea Vegetables – I know what you’re thinking, but stick with me here. There are so many different ones to choose from like arame, dulse, nori, kelp, chlorella and wakame. These edible sea veggies are full of iodine, which can promote healthy thyroid function, along with fiber and health-promoting plant compounds.5 Nori is typically used in sushi rolls, arame is great in a salad, and chlorella is typically ground as a powder and used in smoothies or as a supplement.

 

Try this: Toss some fresh wakame with a little rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and sesame oil for a delicious salad.

How many of these foods are in your kitchen right now? Share your favorite uses in the comments!

Cindy Santa Ana is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Culinary Nutrition Expert. Her book, Unprocessed Living, shares how to read confusing food labels and how to transition away from processed foods. She helps to inspire her clients to reach their ideal weight and increase their energy while juggling their career and personal life. Find her at www.UnlockBetterHealth.com, @unlockhealthnow and Unlock Better Health on Facebook.

References:

  1. Zhong, Z. "L-Glycine: A Novel Anti-inflammatory, Immunomodulatory, and Cytoprotective Agent." Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.S. National Library of Medicine, 06 Mar. 2003. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  2. German, J. Bruce, and Cora J. Dillard. "J Bruce German." Saturated Fats: What Dietary Intake? Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 01 Sept. 2004. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  3. Hassan, MA. "Mushroom Lectins: Specificity, Structure and Bioactivity Relevant to Human Disease." International Journal of Molecular Sciences.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  4. Davide, Grassi. "Insulin Sensitivity Increased in Glucose-Intolerant." The Journal of Nutrition. American Society for Nutrition, 7 Sept. 2008. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
  5. Kapil, Umesh. "Health Consequences of Iodine Deficiency." NCBI. National Institute for Health, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.

 


10:18 am

THE Best Gluten-Free Banana Bread - like EVER!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

banana bread

My new gluten-free Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Bread is so moist and delicious – no one will ever know it’s gluten- and dairy-free. Enjoy it warm from the oven and you’ll make friends fast.

Better yet, package a loaf up and share as a neighborly gift.

Don’t be intimated by the unusual flours. These are my go-to flours for making delicious gluten-free baked goods.  Sorghum flour lends a sweeter taste and is perfect for banana and zucchini breads.
I made mine with a little bit of Homemade Nutella - a sinful treat!

banana bread 2_copy


Ingredients:

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about three medium-sized bananas)
2 large pastured eggs, beaten
1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted
1 cup coconut palm sugar (for even lower sugar, use ¾ cup, it won’t be as sweet, but still good)
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 tablespoon brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup mini chocolate chip, like Enjoy Life brand (optional, but tasty)
1/2 cup walnut pieces (omit if nut-free)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with a piece of unbleached parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Then, beat the mashed bananas with the eggs, oil and coconut sugar till combined. Add the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, vanilla and cinnamon and beat until a smooth batter forms. Stir in the walnut pieces and chocolate chips by hand. (Use can simply use a fork or hand mixer to combine the ingredients)

Scoop the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake on the center rack for 55 minutes, until the center is done (a wooden toothpick should come out clean). Ovens vary, so check the loaf at 50-60 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

This banana bread stays moist overnight if tightly wrapped- but I doubt it will last longer than a day or two if your family has anything to say about it!

Makes one 9-inch loaf


Credit: Cindy Santa Ana, Unlock Better Health

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12:04 pm

Your Guide to a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

Did you know that a typical American Thanksgiving meal is an average of 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat?!!! Whaaaaatt????
That's way too much for your body to handle in one sitting or even one day for that matter. Don't ruin your healthy eating or get off track this year. Try some of these quick, healthy, yet super delicious side dishes. Some of these are vegan and some are raw to suit all dietary needs in your family. They're all full of fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamins to nourish every cell in your body.
Start by choosing a pastured turkey from a local farm. Those close to me in Northern VA are blessed to have plenty of options here. I love Whiffletree Farm's birds and this is my fifth year buying a pastured turkey (that means they're raised outdoors on green pasture and eat bugs and grass - their natural diet). These turkeys are juicier, leaner and even cook faster than a conventional, store-bought turkey. Yes, they do cost more, but it's totally worth it  - YOU are worth it.
Make sure you pick off all the meat and save those bones for making stock later on too! (For those not local, visit www.eatwild.com to find a farm near you.)

One Tip: Be ready for faster cook times. Pasture-raised turkeys will cook faster than factory-farmed birds. Figure on 12-15 minutes per pound, uncovered, at 325 degrees as you plan your dinner. That said, oven temperatures and individual birds will always vary. Use an internal meat thermometer to know for sure when the bird is cooked. They’re done when the breast reaches 165° F.

I usually stuff the body with an onion cut in half, a few pieces of celery and sometimes a lemon. Rub olive oil and salt & pepper on the outside. 

Healthy Side Dishes
These are quick and healthy side dishes your whole family will love! Start with fresh, whole ingredients and locally grown is always best.


Quinoa Squash Un-Stuffing

quinoa squash unstuffing
Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp light olive oil or ghee
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cups (6 oz)  diced butternut squash, 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or honey)
1 cup baby spinach or kale
3 sage leaves, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)
2 tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 tsp crushed black pepper
Directions:

1.     Place 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa in a medium saucepan on high heat. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down to low and simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork when done. Set aside.

2.     Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil or ghee.  Add shallots and garlic and sauté over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, or until golden. Add butternut squash, cranberries, maple syrup and 1 tablespoon water and cover; cook on low for 10 minutes.

3.     Remove lid and add kale or spinach, salt, sage, and pepper, cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Mix in pecans or walnuts.

4.     Add this mixture to the cooked quinoa and stir to combine.

 I did a demo of this recipe on WUSA-TV, Great Day Washington. Watch it here.

me on WUSA
Lemony Brussels Sprout Salad

raw Brussels sprouts
1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp mayo
1 Lemon, zested
2-3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Chopped pecans, dried cranberries (optional)

Trim ends of 1 lb. of raw Brussels sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise. Place in a food processor and shred. Combine 2 T mayo, grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, ¼ cup olive oil and 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Whisk together dressing and pour over raw sprouts.  Can be made up to 4-5 hours in advance. Keep in fridge. You can also add chopped pecans or walnuts or dried cranberries.
This is really good - probably my favorite creation this year! So fresh and lemony!

Massaged Kale Salad

kale salad
Serves 6 as a side

1 head organic kale, de-stemmed (any type will do)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 handful sunflower sprouts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (omit for Nut-Free option)
2 Tbsp olives
Options: Feta Cheese, Dried Cranberries

Instructions:

1. Slice kale leaves into thin strips, transfer to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with the

lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkle on the salt. Gently massage them for 3 to 5

minutes, until they start softening and the color gets dark and beautiful. Set aside.

2. Add in the sprouts, walnuts, and olives, and toss with more olive oil and lemon juice.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions

sweet potato thanksgiving
(Serves 4-6 servings)

Ingredients:
2 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, cut in 1 inch cubes
2 small red onions, cut into pieces just larger than 1 inch
2 T olive oil (or slightly more, enough to coat all the veggies with oil)
½ tsp sea salt and black pepper
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
Dash of cinnamon, ground ginger

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450° F.  

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into cubes about 1 inch square.  Peel red onions and cut into pieces slightly over 1 inch square.  Put sweet potatoes and onions into a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil (or slightly more if you need it to get all the veggies coated with olive oil.)  Add orange zest and juice to coat the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle spices over the veggie mixture and toss until all the vegetables are coated with the seasonings.


Spread the vegetables out on the baking sheet (use two baking sheets if they're even slightly crowded.)  Roast about 20 minutes, then flip them over with a turner.  


Roast 10-20 minutes more, or until the sweet potatoes and onions are both nicely browned and sweet potatoes are soft.  (They don't get very crisp, but there should be some browning on the edges.)  Total roasting time will be 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of the sweet potatoes, your pan, and the oven.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Cindy
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