Let Food Be Thy Medicine

By |2010-02-02T08:40:13-07:00February 2nd, 2010|Happy Campers Wellness Champions|

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”

I debated starting with that quote, as it is everywhere—on countless Nutritionists’ and Integrative Doctors’ websites, written in quotes at the bottom of email signatures, written on packages and chalkboards at the health food stores. We have heard it over and over again and I say it to my patients (and family) pretty much on a daily basis. But it is just SO true and resonates so deeply with my values and the core of my practice.
I see it in my kids all the time- whenever my son gets sick he loves to eat warm vegetable soup. When my daughter is looking a little low on iron she gobbles up kale or beef (grass-fed free range organic of course) by the handful. When they eat sugar or processed food- and yes I give my kids chocolate cupcakes sometimes-they are bouncing off the walls and their emotions get magnified by the moment. When we all eat a protein and healthy fat rich breakfast we are calm and clear and grounded (most of the time).
In office I try to incorporate food as medicine in every way I can. I find myself prescribing brazil nuts over selenium pills, tomato sauce over lycopene supplements, kale chips and salads over green powders. I keep raw cacao nibs in my office for patients to try and teach people that real chocolate -without all the added cream and sugar- is actually amazing for blood sugar and anxiety and I prescribe it as medicine. I also keep goji berries in office and have them drink them in tea or sprinkle them in trail mix to help raise testosterone. I teach people how to tweak their diets in tiny ways like adding cinnamon to their almond butter or in major ways like cutting out gluten or dairy or soy or nightshades. They tell me it works, they tell me that changes in their diet (whether tiny or huge) deeply affect them. They tell me they feel better, their mind is clearer, they are less angry and more grounded off sugar. By adding a couple cups of greens a day they tell me their face glows, they don’t crave sugar as much, their iron numbers went up. Or by eliminating gluten their eczema went away, or they stopped needing their asthma medication, or their jeans fit because they aren’t bloated anymore. By cutting out sugar they can remember where they put their keys now and don’t yell at their kids as much. By adding some hemp or chia seeds to their diet they don’t need Metamucil to poop anymore. Or they added a couple tablespoons of pumpkin seeds to their daily diet and their periods regulated. Or their child stopped hitting once they added more protein in the morning. Or their joints don’t hurt anymore once they cut nightshade family vegetables and started drinking turmeric. Some say with dietary changes they can sleep better, they feel sexy, energized, younger. Or their labs come back and they are no longer diabetic and the only interventions we used were dietary. I hear it and see it and live it daily- food is medicine.
My goal is to guide people to see this and love it. To really feel the way food feels in their body. Good food especially. To enjoy the food they love and appreciate the power of food as medicine!

Spotlight: In Defense of Grains

By |2010-02-02T08:34:31-07:00February 2nd, 2010|Happy Campers Wellness Champions|

Gluten-containing grains, including wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt), barley, rye, and triticale should be avoided for those with Hashimoto’s and for some, going completely grain-free can be helpful for managing any form of autoimmunity.
But Lisa and I don’t believe that whole, gluten-free grains are categorically bad for everyone, especially after your Hashimoto’s/autoimmunity is managed. Being grain-free for life would be a difficult row to hoe for most people – including me.
The argument against grains is that they contain the anti-nutrients phytic acid and lectin, along with enzyme-inhibitors that block mineral absorption and irritate the intestinal wall, which is clearly what you want to avoid when on an autoimmunity recovery program. Yet these anti-nutrients are also found in vegetables like beets and dark leafy greens, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat these foods.
Grains are naturally high in vitamins and minerals and the key is to properly prepare them to release these nutrients. It’s only recently – the past century or so – that we’ve gotten away from the traditional practices of leavening/fermentation, soaking, and sprouting (germinating), which “pre-digests” grains. Additionally, Vitamin A inhibits the potentially negative effects of phytic acid.
Properly-prepared grains also help to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings about a sense of comfort, calm, and alertness.
When prepared traditionally, grains are much easier to digest and we’re able to absorb their nutrition. In my practice, I find that people who are intolerant of grains are once again able to digest them well once they’ve healed their digestive system. But when you consider that sprouted grains encourage the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in antioxidants, we have to ask ourselves if moderate consumption of grains, along with a gut-healing protocol, is really such a bad idea.
Addressing the myth that our ancestors only ate meat and vegetables, Dr. John Douillard states, “According to the latest anthropological findings, much of the ‘gathering’ was harvesting grain from indigenous grasses. This contributed greatly to the starch that researchers believe made up some 35 percent of the hunter-gatherer diet.” He continues, “The anti-grain sentiment that floods the media today has much to do with the fact that we have over-eaten grains. New studies suggest that we have microbes and specific enzymes specially designed to break down the hard-to-digest gluten protein – when eaten in season and in moderation.” (x)
In sharing Dr. Douillard’s quote, I’m not suggesting that anyone with Hashimoto’s eat gluten. But I think that we can extrapolate his thinking about gluten to any grain meaning, grains are likely tolerable by most people, in moderation.
Justin Sonnenburg, PhD and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford is the author of The Good Gut, co-authored by his wife Erica Sonnenburg, PhD. They’ve been trailblazers in researching how the fiber in grains (and legumes) improves the health of our gut microbiome, our 100 trillion organism-strong “mini ecosystem” also known as “the forgotten organ.”
The Sonnenburgs are considered some of today’s preeminent experts in digestive health and when asked about their family’s dietary habits, said, “We eat a lot of whole grains, a lot of legumes, a lot of vegetables and a lot of fruit. This diet is rich in complex carbohydrates…and is designed to create and maintain diversity within the gut microbiota.” (x)
Many experts also claim that grains improve digestive health by way of their prebiotic activity. Prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in our digestive system. Unlike probiotics, which are living organisms, prebiotics are a “functional food” and feed the good bacteria already present in the gut.

Rethinking "Healthy"

By |2010-02-02T08:32:14-07:00February 2nd, 2010|Happy Campers Wellness Champions|

When you hear the word “healthy” what’s the first word that comes to mind?
For most people it’s likely “diet.”
So much of our conversation about being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle has focused exclusively on food, and shifting our choices towards healthier, more nutrient dense options.
Beyond that, we’ll consider things like exercise, managing our stress, getting enough sleep each night, and avoiding obviously unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking.
For most people that is the full scope of what we consider to be “healthy”.
As an environmental toxins expert and educator, I want to help you expand your definition of “healthy” to include consideration of the products that we buy, use, and consume every day, whether they are food related or not, and how they might be impacting our health.
Right now, most people’s kitchens – the room we most closely associate with being healthy – are full of chemicals that are linked to a long list of health conditions from weight gain and diabetes, to infertility, thyroid disorders, and cancers.
These are some of the same conditions that inspire people to take their health more seriously in the first place, so making sure we address these chemicals, along with proper diet, exercise and stress management is super important.
Harmful Chemicals In Consumer Products
There are currently about 84,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States, with about 1,000 more added each year. The vast majority of these have never been tested for safety and are freely permitted to be used in the products you and I buy, and bring into our homes every single day.
Not all of these chemicals are bad or harmful. Many of them have indeed made our lives better and longer, but research is mounting that shows that a large number of these chemicals, even in tiny amounts, have the ability to negatively impact health.
Chemicals used in everything from household cleaners and personal care products to food packaging and furniture are being linked to hormonal disruption, behavioral disorders like ADHD and autism, weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions, and various cancers.
While it’s definitely easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about how to address these chemicals, it doesn’t have to be!
Making small, but meaningful changes to the products we buy and use and our habits around the house can have a measurable impact on the amount of these chemicals we’re exposed to daily. This, in turn, can ease the burden these chemicals place on our bodies, allowing us to better safeguard our health.
Starting in The Kitchen
The best place to start addressing the chemicals in your home that may be impacting your health is in the kitchen!
Why here? Because this is the room where you’re likely already flexing your “healthy muscle” by turning towards healthier, more nutritious and healing foods for you and your family.
Making small changes in the kitchen is simply an extension of the work you’re already doing.
While there are all kinds of chemicals lurking in this room (think: cleaners under the sink, contaminants in drinking water, etc…), after switching to an all or mostly organic diet lower in pesticides, the next easiest step is to address plastics.
Plastic Food Storage Containers
Nearly everyone at some point has encountered the forever orange stained plastic container that once housed leftover pasta sauce. No matter how many times you washed it, or ran it through the dishwasher, it always stayed a little bit orange.
Go check your kitchen cabinets and see if you have any lurking there.
This happens because the molecules of the polymers and other chemicals that make up that plastic are not tightly bound and can easily shed or “migrate”. Some of these chemicals are in a near constant state of shedding, perpetually being released into or onto the materials they are in contact with.
There are a few things that can exacerbate the shedding of those chemical molecules; heat, oil, acidity, and abrasion. That leftover pasta sauce, which is hot, acidic, and oily is a perfect recipe for speeding up the shedding of those molecules. So much so that the surface of the plastic becomes compromised, resulting in openings that allow molecules of that sauce to embed themselves into the physical structure of the plastic!
This also means that those plastic chemicals are ending up inside your sauce – that you’re going to eat.
This shedding of molecules is why researchers consistently find traces of some of the chemicals made to manufacture plastics and other materials in the foods we buy and eat every single day.
So why is this bad?
While not all chemicals that make up plastic are necessarily harmful, there are a few that are very concerning. Depending on the type of plastic container (clear, shatterproof ones, or more resilient flexible ones) different types of “plasticizers” are used.
Bisphenol-A, or BPA is often found in clear, hard, shatterproof types plastics and is responsible for its strength and durability. Softer plastics often contain phthalates, a class of chemicals that can make plastics flexible and bendy (like garden hoses, or shower curtains).
Both BPA and phthalates (pronounced thall-ates) easily migrate from plastic materials they are used in to the foods and liquids they are in contact with, and both of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors.
Our endocrine system (aka our hormonal system) is responsible for regulating just about every bodily function we have, from metabolism and mood, to stress, sleep, brain health, development, fertility, and even the immune system. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can pose as natural hormones in the body, either blocking or mimicking their behavior and as a result wreak all kinds of havoc.
Because our bodies were designed to respond to extremely tiny doses of natural hormones, these “synthetic hormones”, often blocking or mimic the role of estrogen in the body can have a dramatic impact on our health.
Not in ways that will send you to the emergency room, but is more subtle ways that build over time:

  • Weight that creeps up and won’t go away no matter how well you eat or how much you work out…
  • Early onset puberty in children (mostly girls) that can increase their risks for things like breast cancer in adulthood…
  • Chronic thyroid disorders or autoimmune conditions…
  • Contributing to sub, or infertility…

While it’s likely impossible to phase out all plastics in the kitchen, it’s important to start moving away from it as much as possible when used for food storage.
Safer Alternatives
Thankfully safer, non–chemical-leaching alternatives are both readily available, and generally inexpensive!
I encourage all my clients to opt for glass storage instead of plastic, especially when it comes to hot foods (like tomato sauce!). Stores like Target, Walmart, Ikea, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. have dozens of options for glass containers.
Yes, they are heavier, and yes, they can break, but their inert surfaces mean no chemical, no leaching, and no unintended exposures!
For children, who are often not allowed to bring breakable glass containers into school, stainless steel containers are the way to go. Look for ones with a silicone seal to keep them air-tight!
Inexpensive mason jars or even re-used glass nut butter or sauce jars are easy to clean (toss in the dishwasher), and small enough to pop in a purse.
There are literally hundreds of places in our homes where chemicals can be found. Rather than become overwhelmed by how much there is to do, often resulting in doing nothing, just pick one simple step: swap out your plastic food storage containers (this includes those old yogurt tubs you’ve been reusing!) for glass or stainless steel, and feel great about it!

Eat Without Apology: Creating Your Recipe for a Real Life

By |2010-02-02T08:30:15-07:00February 2nd, 2010|Happy Campers Wellness Champions|

As a health coach, I’ve learned a lot about nutrition, including expert theories that say you “should” eat this and “shouldn’t” eat that.
As a real person, business owner, and busy mom, I’ve learned that formulas and expert advice don’t always work.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in the power of healthy food, and I’ve learned from my own experience that what I eat makes a huge difference in how I feel when I wake up, in my energy through the day and whether my skinny jeans fit. But that doesn’t mean that I always eat perfectly, or that I don’t make mistakes. Instead, I work to create my recipe for real life by doing the best I can for myself and my family, and understanding that some days will be better than others.
To create your own recipe for real life, here’s what I suggest:
Let go of the “should and the “shouldn’ts”. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. Diets tend to be unsustainable – this is why most people set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or get healthier year after year. Instead, turn inward and start paying attention to the foods that support your body and the foods that don’t. For me, this means cutting out gluten, and no cheating! This is why I’m so grateful for Happy Campers bread – it makes it a lot easier to stick to my gluten-free diet to have a healthy and tasty alternative.
Prioritize your own self-care. Listen, I get it – life is busy. With a busy 2-year-old, a husband who travels, and a thriving health coaching practice, I could easily claim that I don’t have time to take care of myself. The truth is that I have to consciously make time to exercise and relax, because when I don’t, the rest of my life suffers. Finding time for myself is key in my ability to show up for my clients, my family, and my friends. Start with small increments – a ten-minute walk before picking up your kids at school, or saying a mantra to yourself when you first wake up in the morning.
Let your cravings be a lesson. Food cravings can be frustrating, but they are also often a signal that your body needs something. Craving a chocolate cupcake? First, check in to make sure that your basic needs are being met: are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you lonely? Your body’s craving for a chocolate cupcake could be a sign that your blood sugar needs a boost, or that what you really need is a hug and a little sweetness in your life. Cravings don’t have to be the enemy when we’re open to experiencing them and learning from them rather than trying to dismiss or ignore them.