Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do you have the guts to be healthy? pt 1


" All disease begins in the gut." These wise words from Hippocrates lead us down a path that  permanently changes our relationship with food. A quick glance of contemporary medical literature reveals digestive complaints are among the most common ailments today. The severity of the epidemic can be gauged by the fact that many people feel it is normal to require antacids, H2 blockers or PPI's on a daily basis. These things damage our natural cycles and are being added to the long list of things our body must battle against in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium. Having proper beneficial bacteria and PH balance in the gut is imperative to health and vitality. It is my intention to give you some tools to add to your food forays that will encourage health in this area so commonly ignored.

Getting friendly cultures into the fridge can be an exciting tour de taste bud with all sorts of tantalizing sour delights. Take a deep breath, relax your belly and open your mind to a paradigm shift around the need for sterility in food production.

 For starters, let's examine the brain in our belly. We have a secondary brain system called the Enteric Nervous System that is as complicated as our spine. It has over 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. Many of these resources are utilized in the process of digestion, yet our emotions are also regulated through this second brain. It controls our serotonin levels which is what antidepressants influence. The long and short of it is that when we address one we impact the other whether we are conscious of it or not. Let's not get too mired down in the scientific jargon of it all,  just know that it is more than a tummy ache that ensues from improper nutrition. The food we eat and the mood we produce are inextricably linked with our immune system.

We can talk about a lot of options to tweak nutrition for intended results of wellness, weight loss, energy or mood improvements, etc but unless our digestion is working properly it is futile. This is the first step to detoxification, weight loss, or any other type of healing.

So what to do?

It is usually recommended that we take probiotic supplements and enzymes in the form of pills or powders. Probiotic means "for life". Antibiotic means "anti life". No kidding! If you choose this route, buy from a reputable company. Even better if that company in close proximity to you. The bacteria in the  probiotics are supposed to be alive so it stands to reason the further it has had to travel to get to you the more likely a link in the preservation chain has been broken. I have read it is nearly impossible to tell if what you are eating is still living when you get these essentials from a pill. I think Bio Kult is a great one, and Dr Natasha Campbell McBride helped create it. She has done some amazing research in nutrition related causes of Autism.  Be sure to get a probiotic with multiple strains of different bacteria should you choose a different brand.

For me, making my own cultured foods has been a fun and tasty way to begin restoring optimal gut function. It is an easy, delicious way to increase the nutritional content of your food, preserve it and introduce the friend bacteria we need to be healthy into our bodies. Fermented foods have been used for millenia world wide and it is only in our recent history that these foods have fallen out of favor. Lacto fermented pickles, Beet Kvass, Kombucha, Kruats, Ketchups and even french fries all offer unique benefits. During our program together I can offer you some basic advice for getting started fermenting your way to fizzy bliss. Did I mention these foods also help with sugar cravings and weight loss? Sour is the antidote to sweet.

Another fun way to incorporate these vital foods is to add water kefir grains to coconut water to make a coconut kefir. This process eats up the sugar in the coconut water and produces a fizzy drink that can be mixed with a little fruits or ginger juice to make a soda. Sweeten with stevia for a treat the kiddos will ask for again and again.

Please note, the pasteurized kraut you find unrefrigerated at the grocery store does not offer these benefits. Look in your refrigerator section at a local health food store, community supported kitchen or take a few minutes every other week to get a batch going with whatever veggies you have floating around. I recommend the books Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation for more info on 'getting cultured'. There is so much information to cover here this will be a series. Next time we can get into leaky gut, IBS and a host of other unfortunate outcomes of the Standard American Diet and our dependence on pharmaceuticals.

Until then, Get fizzy with it!

For more info:

Weston A Price Foundation

Nourishing Traditions  with Sally Fallon

Donna Gates and The Body Ecology Diet

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride and Gut and Psychology Syndrome

The Abdominal Brain and Enteric Nervous System
David L. McMillin, M.A., Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D.,
Eric A. Mein, M.D., Carl D. Nelson, D.C.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Primary Food : Love, Career, Spirituality and Movement.

Primary food is a concept that was developed by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to describe the importance of our relationships, spiritual practices, body movement and careers to support our health and well being. When one of these areas is out of alignment we try to balance things out with food and unhealthy habits. As we work together we explore these concepts in a deep and meaningful way. Grab a cup of tea and snuggle up so we can dip our toes in for an introduction to this revolutionary idea.

When we consider changing our diet or the tendency to be a ‘workaholic’ we often miss the secret clues to lasting success. Our media propagates a skewed ideal of perfection that is not only unattainable, but toxic. We are told than in order to be loved and appreciated we must look a certain way, buy this and follow suit with our neighbor in pursuing the “American Dream”. This dream is twisting into all sorts of nightmares. Let’s wake up, shall we? 

The reality is most Americans are now overweight, taking several prescription medications,  and unsatisfied with their finances. This is the first time we have a generation of parents expected to exceed the life expectancy of their children. Our future generation is being drugged with medication for issues that could easily be addressed with dietary and lifestyle changes. Parents are busy and demoralized by misinformation and failed attempts to get out of the cycle. How can we pull ourselves out of this sinkhole?

When we examine modern dietary literature we find recommendations for calorie consumption, fat percentages, nutrient recommendations, exercise advice and the like with not even a nod to our primary needs. It is imperative that we address our entire life in order to get to the crux of the biscuit and this can be overwhelming to tackle on our own. We cannot expect our situation to have any lasting change until we nurture our most basic needs and accept who and where we are in this moment. That includes the short temper, the muffin top, and the frustration of our daily commute. Observation is the first step in changing any dynamic.

Do you notice how when the love birds are chirping it is easier to put away your Ben and Jerry’s? When our intimate relationships and meaningful friendships are well fed and flourishing our tummy needs far less stimulation. A simple exercise you can do is list the people in your life and write a few words describing how you feel during your interactions with them and some words that come to mind describing the flavor of your relationship. In doing this you will notice some people nourish a positive impression while others drain us. Experiment with crowding out time with people who drain you by scheduling activities with those who support and inspire you. No need to be drastic or confrontational, just fill your dance card with those who make you smile so hard your face hurts and watch the magic unfold.

The amount of time we spend at our jobs necessitates a candid review of its impact on our health and happiness. Are you in a career you feel good about? Are you doing something that moves you in a direction that makes your heart sing? Does it allow you creative expression and compensate you in a way that feels fair? Unhappiness in this area can lower our morale and sap us of vitality. This is one of the more challenging areas to step outside the comfort zone. Whether it is due to age, financial responsibility or pressure from loved ones, we often feel boxed in when considering a career change. A qualified lifestyle coach can assist you in moving towards an inspiring job by providing support and resources that may just help you transform your previous impression of what is possible. Without regard for ‘should’ and ‘can’t’, I invite you to take a few minutes to jot down what you might be doing if you could choose any career path. If thinking about a different career is too daunting, you can start with just listing activities and areas of study that interest you. This combined with relaxation can yield insight into jobs that let your light shine. Over the years, I have used this exercise to map out and prioritize shifts with great success. I look forward to helping you do the same.

During our modern age, information and entertainment are just a click away. These tools have become so widely used we rarely go on adventures in nature or a walk to the library. Elevators, escalators, curbside pick-up and similar conveniences have chipped away at the tiny bits of movement those in car based cities experience. We have to move to be healthy. It is not optional. The type of movement is not as important as consistency. Remember when you were a child and you could entertain yourself for hours running around the yard, riding your bike, climbing trees and hosting talent shows with jump ropes for microphones? We played hop scotch, hide and seek, tag and could stay in the pool or roller rink for hours. This free movement breeds energy, revitalizes us, and transmutes the natural forces that propel us forward each day. If we do not find something we love that stretches our muscles and includes some type of weight bearing exercise we will atrophy and lose vigor. Start simple.  Park at the back of the lot, take the stairs, and if you are a couch potato just get up each time a commercial comes on. I love to hula hoop (with an adult sized hoop), spin poi, and play on my inversion set up with flying yoga poses. Exercise does not have to be boot camp. We can laugh and play even as adults. When we work on your program I will give you simple tips that you can utilize whatever your current level of fitness to get going in a positive direction. Remember perfection can paralyze us, just do something.

Spiritual practice has been widely researched and explored for its various benefits physically and internally. People with some sort of practice live longer, happier lives. No need to get into religious debates, as the type of spirituality that inspires us is deeply personal. The method is not as important as sincere action. For some people, being in nature is their way of reflecting on Divinity. Meditation, prayer, singing, fasting, and various other rituals all dwell in the vibrant realm of spiritual practice. We can start by simply being aware and paying attention to our breath. Begin to really be present and notice all that is inside and outside in order to cleanse your proverbial palette. I encourage you to take a few minutes reviewing this area of your life to see how you are stoking the flames of your heart. As a health coach, I provide resources and books from many rich traditions and practices that resonate with my clients without any dogmatic agenda or judgment.

I hope this has given you some food for thought and a jumping off point for delving deeper into the connection between primary food and what goes into our mouths. In order to heal, we must address our entire situation  with tenacity and honesty. If I can assist you in anyway, please contact me to set up an initial consultation.

Whether we work together or not, may the force with you on this exciting road to rejuvenation.