READY FOR RADICAL WEIGHTLOSS?

A gut healthy diet aims to address a contributing factor to your health, and if you’re on the diet you are hopefully beginning to see it’s benefits. But what if you aren’t? Have you failed to see desired weightloss results despite doing everything right? If this sounds like you, you may be interested in the latest book by Anne Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS. In, Radical Metabolism, she lays out a 21-day plan to support weight loss by rebooting your metabolism while adhering almost completely to a traditional gut healthy approach. Anne Louise, who is respected for her integrative approach to wellness nutrition, ties in research and anecdotes to support her Radical Metabolism plan, while including a meal plan and recipes to help you implement it. In this, she recognizes the importance of gut health, but focuses on addressing a much more overlooked aspect of health which may be causing your problems – the gallbladder.

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Why Does Your Gallbladder Matter for Weight Loss?

Your gallbladder acts as a storage facility for bile, and bile is key for the proper digestion and utilization of those healthy fats I’m always encouraging you to consume. The benefits of healthy fats are increasingly gaining recognition, and are well supported by the research literature. Many gut-healthy dietary approaches such as SCD, GAPS, Paleo, and AIP are encouraging the consumption of healthy fats.  The highest fat consumption is with a ketogenic diet, which is widely being promoted for successful weight loss.  But what happens when you can’t actually digest all that good fat you are eating?  For people who are experiencing weight loss resistance while on a higher fat, lower carb protocol, Radical Metabolism is worth reading.

Your Poop Can Tell You a Lot

Next time you poop, take a minute to look in the toilet.  Your poop can give important clues as to the health of your gallbladder, and whether or not you are digesting your fats properly.  Signs that you may have poor fat digestion include an oil slick on the surface of the water, stools that float, diarrhea (especially with high fat consumption), stomach upset or nausea when fatty foods are consumed, and light coloured stools.

Additionally, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, have ever had gallbladder attacks, or have pain under the right side of your rib cage, then these are all indications that you need some additional support for your gallbladder.

Who should read this book?

Anyone struggling to lose weight.
Anyone who has any of the symptoms listed above.
Anyone who has had their gallbladder removed.
Anyone who has had gallstones.

Anne Louise Gittleman shows how the digestion and absorption of healthy fats is critical for successful weight loss, and for overall health.  She ties this information into a comprehensive nutritional approach that takes a holistic view.

She lays the book out in a simple format that is easy for the reader to understand and follow.  Her tables and quizzes add to the user-friendly aspect, and make this a good book to pick up even for those who don’t like to read.

Where to get Radical Metabolism

At Amazon for a Kindle, hardcover or audio version, or
at Indigo for hardcover or KOBO ebook

Happy, Healthy Eating Fats!
Tracey

BECAUSE AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH

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There is a lot written about anti-inflammatory diets, and there is a ton of research looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of foods and supplements.  Fish oil and tumeric are examples of supplements that have been extensively researched.  Take a minute and google 'anti-inflammatory diet', or 'top anti-inflammatory foods', and you'll see just how much information is out there.  Dietary approaches that are anti-inflammatory emphasize vegetables, fruit, healthy fats such as olive oil and the omega-3 oils found in fish, and nuts and seeds.  At the same time they eliminate foods that contribute to inflammation such as refined grains, sugars, and deep-fried foods.  The Mediterranean Diet is a good example of a well researched anti-inflammatory diet.

People can experience some great benefits when they make changes to their existing food choices that include more anti-inflammatory foods.  There is a dilemma with this approach though.  The problem is that an anti-inflammatory diet just manages inflammation.  It does not address why there is inflammation in the first place.  It can be a bit like trying to put out a fire that is still being fed fuel at the same time.  Imagine a fire that is being sprayed with water, while at the same time gasoline is also being continually added.  A similar thing can happen in your body.  You can be feeding it anti-inflammatory foods, but if the inflammation is still being fuelled, then the inflammation might diminish, but will never go away.  If you have an ongoing health condition, then this is likely the case.

WHAT IS FUELLING MY INFLAMMATION?

All chronic health conditions have an inflammatory component.  Whether you have a skin condition, a brain condition, an autoimmune condition, heart disease, digestive struggles or any other ongoing health issues, inflammation will be part of that condition.  Inflammation is a normal part of your body's healing cascade.  It is a part of your immune system's response to fix whatever is wrong in your body.  When a health problem becomes chronic, you need to ask yourself "what's fuelling my inflammation?"

HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHERE MY INFLAMMATION IS COMING FROM?

To understand what is fuelling your fire, it is important to start digging into possible contributing factors.  Here are some steps you can take to help determine where your inflammation is starting.

1.  Visit your family doctor and request some blood work.  Good markers of inflammation include:
- CRP (C-reactive protein) - this test is a good indicator of overall inflammation
- Fasting insulin and Hemoglobin A1C - these tests will provide a good picture of blood sugar imbalances, which can help you determine if this imbalance is fuelling your fire

2.  Visit a naturopathic or functional doctor.  There are some private lab tests that will help you figure out where your inflammation is stemming from.
- Urine Element Analysis - this test identifies heavy metal toxicity.  Heavy metals can include mercury, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and thallium.  If you have worked with any of these substances in your job, if you wear lipstick (many contain lead), if you eat a lot of predatory fish such as tuna, shark or swordfish or if you have received vaccinations, then you may have accumulated some of these metals in your body.  These can be inflammatory, and your doctor can help support safe removal of these from your body.
- Environmental Toxicity - in addition to heavy metals, we are constantly being exposed to other toxins through the air we breathe, the body care products we use, the cleaning products we use, the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on our food etc.  As with heavy metals, these can accumulate in some individuals and contribute to inflammation.
- Food sensitivity testing (IgG and IgA) - these tests measure whether or not certain foods are causing an immune reaction.  Any immune reaction involves inflammation.  If you are reacting to foods, then there is something deeper going on, so you'll still need to go one step further to figure out the origins of your inflammation, such as testing for leaky gut.
- Leaky gut - there are a variety of tests available to test if your intestines are permeable.  Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) allows a variety of molecules (including food molecules that trigger an IgG response) to leak through the intestinal barrier into your body.  When this happens your immune system reacts, resulting in inflammation.
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis - this test gives you a general picture of what is going on with your gut microbiome.  Your microbiome plays a large role in modulating and regulating your immune system, so if something shows up with this test (an overgrowth or an insufficiency) it can directly or indirectly impact inflammation.  Food sensitivities can result when your microbiome is imbalanced.  This test can also help determine if you have a parasitic infection.
- Organic Acids Test (OATS) - sometimes metabolic products resulting from your body's own processes, or those produced by your gut microbiome can contribute to inflammation.  This test will show you if some of your metabolites are outside of the normal range.  I find this test useful when you have had some of the other tests done, and have addressed those aspects of your inflammation, but are still struggling with ongoing inflammation.
- Infections - infections can be bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral.  Acute infections are easy to identify, but low-grade chronic infections can be harder to figure out, and might be fuelling your inflammation.  The kind of testing you do will be based on a doctor's evaluation, but might include the amount and type of antibodies found in your blood, white blood cell counts, or testing for something specific like H. pylori.  It's important to work with your doctor to figure out if any type of infection is present.

A DIET THAT ADDRESSES INFLAMMATION

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There are dietary approaches that address the root causes of your inflammation.  A Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) are all designed to address leaky gut, and feed your microbiome in a way that supports beneficial species and starves out pathogenic ones.  An AIP diet also addresses many of the most common food sensitivities, but SCD and GAPS can also be customized to address these. All three of these protocols can be considered Paleo or ancestral types of diets that are gut-healthy.

Once you have explored possible sources of toxicity or low-grade infection, then the option exists to pursue various treatment options through your naturopathic or functional doctor, and you can support those treatments with dietary recommendations specific to your area of concern.

If you are eating a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, then keep up the good work!  You are already  well on your way!  

 If you are still struggling with your symptoms, then maybe its time to start digging a bit deeper, and ask yourself where your inflammation is coming from.  Start by scheduling an appointment with your family doctor.

What is fuelling your fire?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS - I'll be taking a break for the summer, so you won't see a blog article until the fall.

 

 

AMAZING, SIMPLE PANNA COTTA YOU'LL LOVE.

Sorry I'm a bit later than usual in writing my blog!

As happens in life sometimes,  I've had a really busy couple of months.  Between teaching days and evenings, and giving workshops and presentations on the weekends, there was just no time left to write.  The little time I had left was spent with my family.

When things get that busy, having simple recipes is really important.  My kids like sweet treats (who doesn't!), so Panna Cotta fit my criteria for REALLY SIMPLE.  Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian custard-like dessert made from cream.  It is easy to make a gut-healthy version, and takes about 15 minutes of preparation time.  I hadn't made Panna Cotta until recently, but because it was so simple, I was still able to experiment with different flavours despite my busy schedule.  I could make a batch before heading out to work, and it would set in the fridge and be ready for my family that evening.  Since they were in charge of their own dinner preparation for many of these days, being able to prepare something special for them made me feel I was still nourishing them.

Usually Panna Cotta is a simple vanilla flavour, and gets topped with berries or fruit sauce.  It's a beautiful dessert, and looks lovely for special occasions, but I came up with some flavourful variations.  This delicious treat contains gelatin to support your gut lining, and healthy fats too!  

CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA

Chocolate is always a big hit in our household, so it goes without saying that I had to try a chocolate version.  Chocolate is rich in polyphenols and minerals!

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Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
1/3 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
1 1/2 teaspoons grass-fed gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (sifted so there aren't any lumps)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk 1/2 the can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  Remove from heat and add the honey, cacao and remaining coconut milk.
3.  Pour into 4 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

To make this recipe AIP compliant, swap the cacao with carob powder.
 

MANGO PANNA COTTA

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I love the mango for it's sweetness and beautiful colour, but mangos are also high in fibre and rich in anti-oxidants.

Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
3 cups cubed mango (or 400g) fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw the mango first)
1/4 cup raw honey
1 Tablespoon gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk the full can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  While the coconut milk is warming, puree the mango in a blender until smooth and creamy.
3.  Remove the milk from heat and add the honey, and mango puree.
4.  Pour into 6 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

 Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

MAKE UP YOUR OWN PANNA COTTA

The varieties of Panna Cotta you can make are endless, so be creative.  It's hard to make a mistake with something so simple.

Besides being quick and simple, this is a great recipe to impress friends with, or to add to a summer barbeque or potluck.

Do you have a favourite simple dessert?  Add your favourite flavour by commenting.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

 

3 DIETARY MYTHS BUSTED

MYTH #1 -  I SHOULD EAT A LOT OF FIBRE!
There is a lot of truth to this statement, but not everyone should be eating a lot of fibre.  The benefits of fibre are well documented and include pooping regularly, feeding your gut microbiome, and helping to clear debris and toxins out of your digestive tract.  But fibre can be very irritating to a damaged gut, especially insoluble fibre like that found in bran, whole grains, flax seed and legumes.

There are people who should actually be aiming for a low fibre diet.  If you struggle with frequent diarrhea, then you should be eating a low fibre diet.  Some conditions that can involve diarrhea include Celiac disease, diarrhea-dominant IBS, diarrhea-dominant SIBO, Crohn's, or colitis.  Other reasons might include the removal of your gallbladder, a parasitic infection, lactose intolerance, or colon cancer.

If you have ongoing problems with diarrhea, then it is important that you visit your healthcare practitioner to dig into the root cause.

A dietary approach to address diarrhea includes eating low fibre foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and a lot of meat stock or bone broth.  Fermented dairy or coconut products like yogurt and kefir are also good choices.  Low fibre vegetables include squash, carrots, beets, and turnips.  You can make other vegetables like broccoli, lower in fibre by removing fibrous stems. 

Once diarrhea subsides, then you can slowly add fibre back into your diet, and reap all of its benefits!

MYTH #2 - RAW FOODS ARE BEST!
Raw foods can be great, because they contain a lot of enzymes that can facilitate metabolic processes in the body.  Nutrients can be hard to extract from raw foods though, especially when your gut health is compromised.  You need optimal digestive function for the nutrients to be extracted from foods, and you need a healthy gut lining to absorb those nutrients.

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Leaky gut has been correlated to numerous chronic health conditions such as autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation (Source), as well as many neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease (Source).  When your gut is leaky, then the function of your intestinal cells becomes compromised, altering their ability to digest and absorb nutrients.  Given that leaky gut is correlated to many chronic health conditions, it becomes important to consume foods in an easily digestible format, and cooked foods allow for easier digestibility.

Cooking vegetables can break down cell walls making it easier for your body to extract many nutrients.  While some nutritional value is lost during cooking, it is important to consider the state of digestive function overall.  When digestive function is compromised, such as when leaky gut is present, then cooking foods ensures that nutrients can be extracted from foods.

Raw foods that are still easy to digest include soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented vegetables, and fermented raw dairy.

Once a leaky gut is repaired, and digestive function is optimal, then slowly adding raw vegetables and fruit back into your diet will allow you to benefit from all those great enzymes!

MYTH #3 - A VEGAN DIET IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET!
A vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to detoxify your body, and to bring down inflammation.  It can work well for some people, but not if you are dealing with a microbial imbalance in your gut, or if you have leaky gut.

Vegan diets rely on a combination of grains with legumes, nuts or seeds to meet protein requirements.  The problem with grains and legumes is that they are also high in carbohydrates that will feed pathogenic species in your gut microbiome, and can perpetuate dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome).  In my clinical practice, I have seen the vast majority of my clients having IgG food sensitivity reactions to a variety of grains, which indicates that the proteins in them aren't being digested properly and are leaking through the gut barrier (leaky gut).  

Additionally, phytates in grains (Source) and legumes (Source) bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium making them unavailable for absorption, so a vegan diet will not optimize mineral intake into your body.  Soaking, sprouting or fermentation will make minerals more available, but you will still be left with the high carbohydrate content.

You can still have a plant-strong diet that is low in carbohydrates, and that includes animal proteins.  Think plant-strong instead of plant-based.  If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, but suffer from chronic health conditions, then it might be time to switch to an ethically sourced plant-strong diet without grains and legumes.

MYTHS BUSTED
I hope that you are starting to recognize that some of our commonly held ideas about food don't apply to everyone, and may not be right for you.  Availability of nutrients is largely dependent on a food's matrix, which is a combination of a food's nutrients, and non-nutrients, along with their molecular relationship to one another (such as the way phytates bind to minerals). This is a growing area of study, and is helping us to bust common food myths.  It's important that you eat in a way that supports your health and that is customized to what is going on in your body, especially your digestive function and gut health.

Happy Healthy (and customized) Eating!
Tracey

 

 

BEER FOR YOUR GUT AND BRAIN???

Is beer your perfect drink?  Ever wondered if it could be part of a gut-healthy lifestyle?  Or what about for your brain health?  The effects of alcohol on the microbiome and the brain are well recognized to be detrimental, but here are some reasons to drink beer to support them both.    

BRAINY REASONS TO DRINK BEER

Beer is made from barley, hops, water and yeast.  The hops used to make beer contain a protective polyphenol called xanthohumol, which has been shown to be neuroprotective (Source). 

Beer is rich in B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, B6 and B12.  B vitamins are important to brain health in several ways.  Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to high homocysteine levels, which are associated with cognitive decline, so ensuring adequate intake is important to maintain a healthy brain.  Additionally, B vitamins are involved in brain function, and in the development of the brain, nerves, and myelin sheath (the protective sheath on nerves).

 HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

GUTSY REASONS TO DRINK BEER

Beer is a fermented beverage, which typically means it has probiotics.  The problem with commercial beers is that they have been pasteurized, which destroys any living probiotics.  Probiotics need to be living for us to confer their health benefits.  If you make your own beer, or have access to craft beer, then the luck of St. Patty is with you, and you’ll be getting those beneficial organisms.  These beers are sometimes referred to as “bottle-conditioned” or “non pasteurized”.  Probiotic organisms interact with the brain through the microbiota-gut-brain axis, so eating foods rich in probiotics can have a beneficial impact not just on your gut, but on your brain health too.

Some of Calgary’s unpasteurized, live beers include The Dandy Brewing Company, Big Rock,  and High Line Brewing.

Last year a research team at the National University of Singapore, created a probiotic beer using a strain of probiotic that regulates the human immune system, so keep your eyes open for it to appear on the consumer market.  

Another good option is a gluten-free beer.  Gluten-free beers can include rice, millet, or buckwheat instead of barley and wheat. Gluten causes the protein zonulin to be produced in the intestine, which directly causes leaky gut.  Once the intestines become leaky, then a cascade of events happens that have an effect on the blood-brain barrier and neurological health.  In the same way that consuming probiotics can help the brain, gluten can have a negative impact through the same gut-brain axis.

The number of gluten-free beers is growing as more and more people recognize that gluten is a problem for them, whether it’s celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So, if you know you'll be indulging in beer this St. Patrick's Day, then enjoy an unpasteurized or gluten-free beer!  And remember to drink responsibly. Regular beer consumption remains questionable for gut and brain health, but we all need to indulge in things we enjoy sometimes, so hopefully this article will help you make better gut and brain beer choices.

Do you have a favourite unpasteurized or gluten-free beer?  If you find a beer that is both, let me know.  If beer isn't your thing, then toast St. Patty's with a glass of kombucha instead!  It can be a great beer replacement.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

Further Reading:  to find out more about gluten and conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s read Is Gluten Killing Your Brain 

 

 

 

 

WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN TIMES OF TUMMY TROUBLE: RAPID GUT REPAIR

Already eating a gut-healthy diet?  It doesn't mean you won't experience times in your life when you experience tummy troubles.  

Sometimes life throws unexpected things your way that can be hard on your gut:
- a bad cold or flu
- situations that cause your gut-healthy way of eating to get side-tracked
- digestive upset from an infection, or from stress
- hospitalization or trauma

I've developed RAPID GUT REPAIR just for those occasions, or for when you want to speed up your current rate of progress.

IS RAPID GUT REPAIR RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you have had, or are currently experiencing nausea or vomiting, or your gut just can't handle food, then RAPID GUT REPAIR is a very gentle way to get nutrients without upsetting your gut.
If you are recovering from illness, hospitalization or trauma, then RAPID GUT REPAIR maximizes your body's ability to recover.
If you aren't happy with your current rate of progress, and want to speed things up, then RAPID GUT REPAIR can speed up your gut repair.

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USE RAPID GUT REPAIR WHEN YOU HAVE A COLD OR FLU, WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE DIGESTIVE UPSET, WHEN THINGS HAVE GONE OFF TRACK AND YOU WANT TO BRING YOURSELF BACK ON TRACK, OR WHENEVER YOU FEEL YOUR GUT NEEDS A BIT OF EXTRA SUPPORT.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

CARDAMON MILK RECIPE

Need some warming up?  We've had a couple of really cold spells here in Calgary recently.  Having some warm drink recipes is a great way to help you get through cold, wintery days.

This recipe is a new favourite.  I love cardamom in baking, so wanted to create a warm, spiced drink that incorporated this sweet spice.  

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CARDAMOM MILK

1 cup almond milk or coconut milk
2 medjool dates
¼ inch piece of ginger root
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
Optional:  ½ tablespoon collagen powder

Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  While it warms up put remaining ingredients in a high-speed blender.  Add warm milk and blend until the dates are emulsified into the drink.

The dates in this drink add sweetness without causing a spike in blood sugars.  Sometimes I double this and have it as my breakfast.
What is your favourite gut-healthy, warm drink?  

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

HOW KARAOKE CLEARED UP MY IBS

Have you ever had a run of bad luck?  Maybe your furnace broke down on a freezing cold day, you were rear-ended while stopped at an intersection, a hidden leak developed in a shower that caused significant water damage to your home…?  That was the month of November for me.  But more was to come.

Ever receive a diagnosis that didn’t make sense?  My run of bad luck culminated with a diagnosis of IBS in December. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the diagnosis, or the symptoms I was experiencing.  How could I get IBS when I had been eating a gut-healthy diet for over 3 years?  I was experiencing EXTREME bloating and constipation that came on rapidly, and were affecting my quality of life.   Some nights I couldn’t sleep, because my belly was so distended that it was uncomfortable enough to prevent sleep.  Most of the time I didn’t want to eat, because putting even a few bites of food into my stomach caused severe nausea and instant bloating and belching. 

I needed to start investigating.  I work with people suffering from bloating all the time, so I did what I do with my clients:

Week 1:  I did a Betaine Challenge, found I was low in stomach acid, and started supplementing with Betaine HCl with Pepsin.  This offered a small amount of relief from the bloating.  I also took the highest dose probiotic I could get at 500 billion CFU.  Each one of these supplements alone should have encouraged motility and helped me poop, but I was starting to become constipated.  It didn't make sense.  In frustration I went to see my doctor to rule out H. pylori, since my stomach was suffering so much.  I got a requisition form for the test and my doctor suggested a low-FODMAP diet to help with the bloating.

Week 2:  I started a very low-FODMAP diet, in addition to maintaining my usual gut-healthy diet.  It helped reduce the bloating significantly, but it was getting harder and harder to poop.  By now I was pooping little pellets with a lot of straining.  A low-FODMAP diet can be great for managing symptoms, but I knew it didn’t address the root cause of whatever was going on.  The problem was, I still had no idea what that could be.  As symptoms moved lower into my gut, I added digestive enzymes, and magnesium to see if they would help with the constipation.  Magnesium helps to draw water into the bowels making stools softer and easier to pass.

Week 3:  My H. pylori results were in.  Treatment typically involves multiple strains of antibiotics.  If my results came back positive would I consider antibiotics?  At this point I was so uncomfortable that I was definitely considering it.  I knew I could go to my naturopathic doctor for a non-pharmaceutical approach, but I wanted to stop my suffering now.  My results were negative, which was a relief, but still left me with the looming question of what was causing my symptoms.  My doctor asked me how I felt about the diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  What did I feel?  I was frustrated that there was no further exploration, that I didn’t have an answer to why I had these symptoms, and that I was receiving a diagnosis that was vague.  I like my doctor and respect him, but was dismayed when he said I’d likely have ongoing problems for the rest of my life.  What the heck?  At this point I could hardly poop anymore, and was willing to go on an osmotic laxative that draws water into the intestines, but isn’t absorbed into the body.  It felt like my entire digestive system was shut down. 

EUREKA MOMENT:  2 days after receiving the diagnosis of IBS I was sitting in a hot bath after dinner when I had my EUREKA! moment.   I knew my gut motility was extremely impaired, and was barely responding to any of the supplements I was using.  I kept coming back to the idea that it felt like my entire digestive system was compromised.  There was none of the usual tummy grumbling or digestive sounds I normally hear between meals, and I was pooping pellets every other day, so clearly things weren’t moving the way they should.  I was managing bloating on an extremely restricted diet.  If I didn’t figure things out soon I was certain I’d end up with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).  About 10 days before my symptoms started I had been in a motor vehicle accident, and had been rear-ended, and ended up with mild whiplash (remember my string of bad luck?).  What if the whiplash was at the root cause of my symptoms?  It made perfect sense!  The whiplash was a direct physical trauma to the spinal column in my neck.  The spinal column is part of our central nervous system (CNS), and the CNS has a huge role in gut motility.  Within the CNS there are the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” system and kicks in during times of danger or stress.  The trauma from the whiplash had put me into a chronic sympathetic state!  In contrast our parasympathetic nervous system is our “rest and digest” system.  You can only have one of these two systems dominate at a time, which means you are either in a “fight or flight” state or a “rest and digest” state.  I was now in a chronic “fight or flight” state, which meant I was not able to “digest”.  With this new understanding of what was happening in my body, I quickly climbed out of the tub, and called my teenagers to set up the karaoke machine.  I was going to sing my gut back to health!


HOW KARAOKE CLEARED UP MY IBS

What a relief!  I finally had something tangible I could do that would help.  I was going to start stimulating my vagus nerve!  The vagus nerve is the nerve that controls the parasympathetic nervous system.  It runs from the brain to the gut (along with numerous other organs), where it is involved in signaling stomach acid and digestive juice production, and motility.  And guess what?  A symptom of vagus nerve dysfunction is IBS.  If my vagus nerve wasn't functioning, then it would explain my symptoms.

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Singing is one of the ways to stimulate the vagus nerve.  I spent the next hour belting out Christmas carols and songs from the 80s with my two teenagers.  The next morning I added gargling to the routine, but continued with karaoke.  Aggressive gargling is also a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve. 

Within 36 hours I was feeling noticeably better.  The distention in my belly was going down and I had my first normal poop in weeks.  Pooping never brought me more joy, than it did at that moment.

I stopped eating a low-FODMAP diet.  With Christmas just a few days away, the timing couldn’t have been better.  I also stopped the osmotic laxative that I had taken for a few days.

Over the next week things were up and down.  If I forgot to gargle before bedtime, I would still be constipated the next day, so I made sure I didn’t forget.  Sometimes I still felt crummy after a meal, but I was improving with each passing day.

Right now, two weeks after my Eureka! moment I still gargle in the shower in the morning, and before going to bed.  I’m pooping every morning, and I don’t have to strain.  All the bloating is gone.  I’m still undergoing treatment for my whiplash, so will continue to gargle (or sing) until I’m confident that things have settled down with my nervous system.

Do you still have unexplained bloating, constipation, IBS or SIBO?  Have you had a physical trauma that included whiplash, concussion or a motor vehicle accident in the past? Start adding loud singing or gargling 3 times each day to see if it helps.

Happy, Healthy Singing!
Tracey

 

CALGARY'S BEST JUICE CLEANSES

Ever done a juice cleanse?   Or maybe thought about it?  Holiday season is already here!  Maybe after indulging in too much holiday merriment your gut could use a bit of a rest, and your body a bit of cleansing.  I’m going to give you the scoop on Calgary’s best Juice Cleanses, and help you decide which one is the right choice for you.

Usually the goal of a cleanse is to support liver detoxification, give the digestive system a rest, and to help bring inflammation down in the body.  The first few days can be a bit rough, but then you start to feel better and see positive changes in your body.   A few people shouldn't cleanse.  If you have diabetes, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, then a cleanse is not for you right now.  If you are on pharmaceuticals, you should discuss with your doctor to find out if it's a good idea.

In the past I’ve done 3-5 day juice cleanses using juicers I have in my kitchen, but the problem is that cleaning them is a lot of work.  Recently that has been a significant deterrent to juicing, because my schedule has gotten busier leaving me with little time to clean a juicer.

Amazingly it had never occurred to me that I could buy my juices, until recently when I met a woman who had just completed 30 days of juicing.  She runs her own business and has kids, but managed the 30-day cleanse successfully because she could order her juices.

So I decided to try a 21-day cleanse where I would sample the best cleanses that Calgary had to offer.  My criteria were that the juices had to be organic, cold-pressed and unpasteurized.  I found 4 places that met these criteria and the cleansing began.  I’m presenting the cleanses in the order I tried them.

The Juice Shop

 The Juice Shop's Liver Cleanse

The Juice Shop's Liver Cleanse

The best thing about The Juice Shop is that it has a menu of cleanses to choose from.  Not only do you have the option to choose from the menu, but you can have a cleanse completely customized to be unique to you.  The Juice Shop was the only company to actually screen me, and make sure I was suitable for a juice cleanse.  I tried both their liver and skin cleanses.   They are about to launch bone broth in their line of products.

Length of cleanse:  Options include anything from 1-5 days.
Delivery: available.  Price varies depending on distance of delivery.
Customize option:  Yes.  Best customization available of the cleanses I tried.
Flexible start date: Yes.
# of cleanses: 14 different cleanses on the menu, plus the ability to customize further.
Provides instructions:  Detailed pre and post cleanse instructions are emailed out once screened.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients are on the label, but no nutritional label.
# of bottles:  Varies depending on the cleanse.  4-6 bottles per day.  Some cleanses come with a "shot", which is added to hot water.  Shots include Immune Shot, Candida Shot, Flu Shot...
Cost:  Starting at $40 per day up to $60 per day.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

JUSU bar

 JUSU bar's Easy Cleanse

JUSU bar's Easy Cleanse

The best thing about JUSU bar is that it has multiple locations throughout the city, so if you want to pick up your cleanse, then you can choose the location closest to you.  Since it is a store with branches in various cities, it is well branded and packaged.  On the down side, staff may not be very knowledgable at these locations, but I was able to get my questions answered through email.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options
Delivery:  available
Customize option:  Similar juices can be swapped out if an allergy or sensitivity exists.
Flexible start date:  Tuesday or Saturday afternoons.
# of cleanses: 2.  An Easy and a Deep Cleanse.
Provides instructions:  Available on the website.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients and nutritional label on each bottle.
# of bottles:  6 bottles per day.
Cost:  $60 for 1 day cleanse and $165 for 3 day cleanse.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

Wild & Raw Bava Juice

 Wild and Raw's Bava Juice

Wild and Raw's Bava Juice

The best thing about Wild and Raw is the depth of flavour in their juices.  They pride themselves on their use of Superfoods.  The bottles are beautiful, which might have some appeal to gourmands or someone who can reuse them.  You have the option of adding bone broth to your cleanse.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options.
Delivery:  included in the price, but pickup is an option.
Customize option:  Can be customized if allergies or sensitivities exist.  There is an option to add bone broth to the cleanse.
Flexible start date:  Yes.
# of cleanses: 2.  Basic Cleanse and Deep Cleanse
Provides instructions:  Detailed instructions on what to expect during the cleanse, and post cleanse are emailed.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Neither is on the bottle.
# of bottles: 4 large bottles, plus an elixir to add to water between juices
Cost:  $120 for 1 day and $333 for 3 days
Order to drinking juices:  Indicated in instructions

Juice Because

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The best thing about Juice Because is that you can take the glass bottles back and get store credit.  If you are concerned about your environmental foot print, then this is the best option.  You can also save some money using their Cleanse with a Friend option.  You have the option of adding bone broth to your cleanse.  I have to admit that I was disappointed with the flavours of these juices, and to see agave in one of their juices.  Agave is a high-fructose sweetener that is not gut-healthy.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options.
Delivery:  Available
Customize option:  Similar juices can be swapped out if an allergy or sensitivity exists.  There is an option to add bone broth to the cleanse.
Flexible start date:  Tuesday or Saturday start days.
# of cleanses: 2.  Cleanse I (and JB Cleanse 9.0 which I'm not covering in this article)
Provides instructions:  Brochure provided in the box with pre and post cleanse instructions.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients and nutritional label on each bottle.
# of bottles: 6 bottles per day.
Cost:  $65 for 1 day and $190 for 3 day cleanse.  There is a discount if you cleanse with a friend.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

Which one do I choose?

Determining factors for whether I'll use any of these cleanses again are taste and convenience.  The Juice Shop, JUSU bar, and Wild and Raw all have my vote for great juices in the flavour department.  Convenience for me means grabbing the juices I need and throwing them into my backpack to take to work.  This was very difficult to do with the glass bottles from Juice Because, and Wild and Raw.  They are very heavy, and if I had more than one in my bag I had to be careful they didn't bang against one another.  If you are doing your cleanse at home, then this isn't an issue, but if you need to carry juices with you, then it could become a problem.  When looking at both taste and convenience The Juice Shop and JUSU bar worked best for me.

If you are brand new to juice cleanses, then the Easy Cleanse from JUSU bar, the Beginner's Cleanse from The Juice Shop, or Cleanse I from Juice Because are your best choices.  JUSU bar and Juice Because only have two delivery/pick up dates, so if you need more flexibility, then The Juice Shop offers that.  

Moderate cleanses would include Wild and Raw's Basic Cleanse, JUSU bar's Deep Cleanse, and The Juice Shop's Intermediate Cleanse.

If you already lead a healthy lifestyle that includes an organic, whole foods diet, and you want to do a more intense cleanse, then The Juice Shop's Advance Cleanse, or their Liver Cleanse, or Wild and Raw's Deep Cleanse are your best choices.

If you want to add bone broth, then you can choose Wild and Raw, or Juice Because, and The Juice Shop is anticipating having their broth out soon too.  Of course you can also add your own broth, which is what I did for most of my 19 days.  Why would you add broth?  Amino acids are needed for phase 2 of liver detoxification, and broth will provide you with the specific amino acids you need to also nourish the gut lining.  It offers all of that without requiring digestion, so still let's your digestive system rest.

If you need customization, then Calgary's local shops offer the best choices.  The Juice Shop, Wild and Raw, and Juice Because have knowledgable staff that you can talk to.  JUSU bar allows you to swap similar juices, which may or may not be easy depending on your food sensitivities.  The Juice Shop comes out on top for customization, with Wild and Raw being the next choice.

If flavour is your biggest determining factor, then here are some considerations.  Wild and Raw had the richest depth of flavour in their juices.  JUSU bar includes a chocolate almond milk, so if you have a bit of a chocolate addiction then this has you covered.  The Juice Shop has the greatest variety of juice blends, which is especially nice for longer cleanses.

Lastly, if cost is the biggest determining factor, then JUSU bar or Juice Because's Cleanse with a Friend are the best choices.

I hope all those criteria help you decide which cleanse is right for you.  With the holidays right around the corner, think about adding a Juice Cleanse to your holiday wish list, or pre-order a cleanse for yourself or a loved one.

Winter Cleansing Tip

Coming off a cleanse requires a slow reintroduction to solid foods.  In the winter months the best way to transition back to whole foods is to eat a lot of blended soups made with meat stock or bone broth.  These will help warm you while adding foods in a way that are easy to digest.  Gradually make your soups chunkier and heartier.  The longer you have cleansed, the longer this transition period will be.

Click on one of the websites for juice cleanses above, and place your order for a January cleanse.  Do it for yourself or a loved one.  What are you hoping a cleanse will do for you?

Happy, Healthy Cleansing!
Tracey

 

 

 

I DON'T COOK BECAUSE I'M A NUTRITIONAL CONSULTANT

 My son made these amazing waffles while I baked some plums.

My son made these amazing waffles while I baked some plums.

Everybody assumes I love to cook.  Let’s set the record straight.  I don’t enjoy cooking.  In fact, most of the time I dislike it.  Whenever I tell people I don’t like to cook, I get one of two responses:  “But you are an amazing cook!” or “But you are a Nutritional Consultant”.

Just Because

Just because I work in the field of nutrition, doesn’t mean I like to cook.  There are a lot of people in my field who love to cook, and they are the ones writing recipe blogs, and creating cookbooks, or offering cooking classes.  That’s not me.  I love the clinical aspect and working with complex cases.

Are you like me and don’t like cooking?  Read on!

I Cook To Nourish

Just because I don’t like to cook, it doesn’t mean I don’t do it.  One of the most important ways for me to nurture my family is to nourish them.  The great thing is that there are simple ways to nourish them that don’t require complicated meals.  Keep It Simple is my motto.

I make sure the produce I buy is as fresh as possible and that it’s organic, and that the meats and eggs I get are free-range or pasture raised animals.  Fish is always wild.  Good quality ingredients mean good quality meals (usually – it’s not fool proof).  That is the reason people tell me I’m a good cook.  It’s hard to go wrong with good quality ingredients.  I also save time by getting a grocery delivery once a week.  I still like to visit farmers’ markets and health food stores every week, but by getting a delivery once a week it reduces the number of trips I have to make each week and saves time. 

Once I have the ingredients, then I do my best to create one-pot meals.  Sometimes the pot is my crock-pot, sometimes it’s a big roasting pan, sometimes it’s a saucepan or frying pan.  Whatever my cooking method, the meal has animal protein, lots of vegetables and some healthy fat in it.  Then I might add a salad, or raw or steamed veggies on the side.

I Get Help

It took me a while to feel comfortable asking for help in the kitchen, but as my work-life got busier it became a necessity.  My husband doesn’t like to cook either, so even though he offered to help, it wouldn’t have been a good long-term solution.

I ended up doing 3 things:

-       I hired a personal chef to help out.  I wanted someone who could put together Gut-Healthy meals, and who would also have culinary skills that were better than mine, so that we would have some amazing meals in addition to my good ones.  I found Callie of Callieflower Nutrition.  She comes in and does some dinner preparation, as well as prepares something to go into my kids’ lunches:  fish cakes, frittata, muffins or veggie fritters.  Her dinners include mouthwatering marinated meats, ferments, soups and ground meat dishes where she hides liver and other offal.  She also preps vegetables, so that they are ready for me to throw in the oven or steamer at dinner.  Callie works in 3 hour sessions, and it’s amazing how much she gets done in that time.  I’m pretty sure she still has some openings in her schedule, so if the idea of having some professional help appeals to you, contact her.

-       I involved my oldest son.  My son loves to bake, and plans to make it his career.  He’ll make any Paleo baking recipe I ask him to.  In fact, he just tried cassava flour waffles.  On Fridays he sometimes makes nut or coconut flour pizza crusts!   If you have kids, find ways they can help, even it it’s just washing the vegetables, or putting something in the oven that you prepared in advance. 

-       Even though my husband doesn’t like to cook, he does a great job of scrounging for leftovers and putting lunches out.  He also washes the dishes – always.

If you need help in the kitchen ask your spouse, partner or kids what they would enjoy taking on, and when during the week they can help.  Everyone in your household should have a role in preparing the food they eat.

Other Options

Cook in bulk.  I always make huge batches of soup, cook a big roast or make a large batch of whatever it is I’m making.  I try to make enough dinner to feed my family of 5, provide leftovers for lunch, and still have some leftovers to put in the freezer or eat later in the week.  It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a great strategy, because it lightens my cooking load on other days.

Maybe hiring someone to help out isn’t an option for you.  Instead try connecting with family members, people at your church or friends, and see if they can help out.  Maybe a meal exchange can be organized, maybe someone is retired and looking for something to keep them busy.  You won’t know until you ask.

I Don’t Cook Because I’m a Nutritional Consultant

I don’t cook because I work in the field of nutrition.  I cook to nourish myself and my family.  I don’t  really enjoy it, but a bit of help and advanced planning goes a long way towards making it manageable. 

What tip can you share that make cooking easier for you?
Who will you ask for help?  Send that person an email right now!

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

3 YEARS INTO MY GUT-HEALTH JOURNEY: MY PERSONAL STORY

It’s hard to believe I’ve been on a gut-healthy diet for 3 years now.  Starting the journey was a difficult decision to make.  I think most of you can probably relate, when I say that the difficulty is not in eating a gut-healthy diet, but the hardest part is just starting.  Change can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I had huge incentive to start though.  I did it for my youngest son, Sam.  We adopted him from China when he was 3 years old.  After receiving the diagnosis of microcephaly and global developmental delay, we spent the next few years immersed in the world of sensory integration and neurodevelopmental therapies.  I know these therapies are life changing for many individuals, but we saw no changes in our son after 3 years.  In frustration I decided it was time for me to go back to school to get a break from working with my son.  Even though I was doing it for purely selfish reason it was to be the most beneficial thing I would do for Sam (and for me).  I spent a year studying nutrition, and then went on to become certified in the GAPS diet (The Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet).  By the time I had finished studying Natural Nutrition, I knew that I needed to learn more about the gut to help Sam.

Sam and I marked a date on the calendar for the end of October 2014, and I talked to him about the diet daily.  I ended up moving our calendar date ahead by a week.  Once I’ve made a decision I like to jump right in.

The changes for Sam were life altering for him and for us as a family, but what I hadn’t even considered at that time was how it would impact me.

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Here’s how things have changed for me after 3 years on a gut-healthy diet:

1.     I used to be a mouth breather at night, and often during the day as well.  When I look at my history, I realize I’ve had sinus inflammation for my entire life.  I still have some inflammation, but I breathe well through my nose all the time now.

2.     I don’t have seasonal allergies anymore.  I used to dread spring, because it meant months of itchy eyes, a drippy nose and severe fatigue.  Anti-histamines never seemed to work.  Amazingly those allergies are gone.

3.     Other allergies are disappearing.  This summer for the first time in 35+ years I have been able to pet dogs without getting hives.  It feels amazing to be able to interact with a dog.  Reactions to other animals are diminishing.

4.     I’ve had skin issues since I was a baby.  Rashes and dry skin plagued my childhood, and then I developed eczema on my hands in my early teens.  Like most people, I had tried every topical solution known to man.  NAIT treatments helped (an acupuncture desensitization) but they still weren’t addressing the cause.  I still get some eczema, but it is much better.  Dry skin is a thing of the past.  It still gets dry in our Calgary winters, but “normal” dry, not cracked, scabbing or severely itchy.

5.     Like my skin issues, I’ve had multiple chemical sensitivities for as long as I can remember.  I can remember feeling nauseated from being in a new car or from the smell of gasoline as a young child.  With each passing year I seemed to react to more and more scents, until I couldn’t be close to anyone wearing perfume, or sometimes even be close to someone wearing scented lotion or deodorant.  At its worst, I couldn’t go into a store if anyone in the store had perfume on.  I certainly couldn’t go into a conventional grocery store with its aisle full of scented laundry and household cleaners.  I used to have to hold my breath to get through the perfume section of a department store.  Sometimes exposure to scents left me vomiting and bedridden for a few days.  I still have to be careful to avoid chemicals, but I’m just so grateful that I’m not living a life of avoidance anymore.

Since most of these issues had plagued me my whole life I hadn’t even recognized them as problematic.  I had just assumed it was normal for me to breathe through my mouth, have itchy, irritated skin and react to most environmental triggers.  It seems so absurd now, but like many people I had just accepted that that was the way I was.

I still have a ways to go.  I measure my gut leakiness regularly.  I figure I have another year to go to reach optimal gut health.  I don’t plan on ever eating grains, or legumes regularly again.  Maybe my future will include small amounts of sprouted ancient grains, but I don’t miss them.  I like muffins and pancakes made with nut flours and butters better. 

Where ever you are on your journey, I hope you are seeing the changes you want.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  When I think of how long I was suffering from health problems, the last 3 years seems short.  After decades of damage, repairing it all takes time.

What has been the best thing about your journey?  Are there still symptoms you struggle with?

Happy, Healthy Journey!
Tracey

 

 

 

 

SECRET INGREDIENT! LOOK CLOSELY!

Have a look at these amazing Paleo, gut-healthy tacos!  What do you see?
a dollop of cultured cream
mango salsa
fried onions and peppers
guacamole
shredded beef tongue
lettuce

Did you read those ingredient right?  Yes, it's really TONGUE!

If you are a client of mine, or have seen some of my past blog articles, you'll know just how healthy organ meats and offal are.  I regularly eat liver and other offal, and sneak it into my kids' diet in meat loaf and other ground meat dishes.  Despite my passion for liver and other organ meat,  it took me a while to actually venture into buying beef tongue.  I ate it as a kid, and have memories of enjoying it with mustard.  When I queried my mom, she said it was smoked tongue that we used to eat.  I have never seen smoked tongue at the health food stores (you won't find tongue at your local grocer), but had noticed that beef tongue had been in the freezer of the health food store I shop at.

I finally mustered up the courage to buy one and bring it home.  It sat in the freezer for a few weeks before I finally decided on a way to prepare it.

Since I love slow cooking with my crock-pot, I decided to thaw the tongue and give the crock-pot a try. I seasoned it with Himalayan salt, threw it in the pot with a bit of water, and let it cook on low heat for about 8 hours.  Once it was done I placed in on a cutting board and quartered it.  Quartering it allowed me to easily pull the skin off - trust me, the skin doesn't look appetizing.  Then I used two forks and pulled the meat apart (imagine pulled pork).  I seasoned it with Homemade Taco Seasoning.  That's all.  Add the remaining taco toppings to your favourite soft taco (lettuce, coconut wrap, sheet of nori seaweed...) and you have delicious TONGUE TACOS!  

Have you tried tongue?  What's your favourite way to eat liver or other offal?  If you have any other tongue recipes you like, please share.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

HORRAY! PRIMAL KITCHEN HAS MADE IT TO CALGARY

I'm a bit late it sharing this news, so I apologize for that.  I don't often promote or endorse a product unless I know it strictly complies to a gut-healthy diet, and the quality is good.

Primal Kitchen mayonnaise has long been a favourite of mine.  It is the only mayo on the market that I know of that is 100% grain free (using a non-grain derived vinegar), and it uses only avocado oil (a healthy fat).  Additionally it is sugar free, soy and canola free and dairy free.  Every time my husband would travel to the States for business, I would ask him to pick up several jars of Primal Kitchen mayonnaise to bring back, but now he doesn't need to do that anymore!  Prior to discovering it, I made my own mayo at home, which was amazing too, but it takes time to make, and I didn't always have the time.  Sound familiar?

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For the last couple of months Primal Kitchen mayonnaise and salad dressings have been in most of the health food stores in Calgary, so next time you are shopping have a look to see if it's on the shelf of your local store.

If you don't tolerate eggs, then these products aren't suitable for you.  But if you do, go out and grab some!  Dip grilled shrimp into it, mix it with cultured pickles (like Bubbies brand) for a quick tartar sauce to go with fish,  add some garlic to it for a mouth watering aioli, spread it over your bunless burger, or use it in salad dressings.  

 The salad dressings have some thickening agents in them like tapioca starch and cream of tartar, so these won't be suitable for everyone, especially if you are in the early stages of your gut-health recovery.

The salad dressings have some thickening agents in them like tapioca starch and cream of tartar, so these won't be suitable for everyone, especially if you are in the early stages of your gut-health recovery.

On a similar note, I continue to be an advocate for you in getting more gut-healthy products on store shelves.  I communicate with local businesses about the need for these products, but change is happening slowly, so I'm starting to explore other options.

I recently placed my first order with Vitacost in the States.  There are some great products available in the States that haven't made their way into the Canadian market yet, but Vitacost will ship to Canada, and it's free over $100.  My order is on its way, and will be here very soon.  I've ordered a variety of grab-and-go items that fit a Paleo, gut-healthy lifestyle.  I'll be sharing these items with you on Facebook as I try out each one.  If you aren't already following me on Facebook, but want to find out about the foods I'll be trying, just click on the link.

What condiments do you miss, or not have time to make?  Ketchup? BBQ sauce?
Add Primal Kitchen mayo to your shopping list!

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

BECAUSE YOUR BRAIN MATTERS: THE 9 POINT BRAIN PLASTICITY CHECKLIST

You know your brain is important, but do you know how to take care of it?

There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your brain stays healthy and to make sure your brain plasticity isn’t compromised.

WHAT IS BRAIN PLASTICITY?

Plasticity is defined as changes in neural (brain) pathways and synapses due to changes in the environment, which allows for changes in mental and motor function to occur.  A simple definition of plasticity is that it is the brain's ability to change itself.  Whether you know it or not, you want good plasticity, and there is a lot you can do to support it.

WHY YOUR BRAIN MATTERS?

If you want to develop a new skill, prevent mental decline as you age, or keep learning throughout your life, then you want a plastic brain.  Learning requires brain plasticity.

Brain plasticity has far reaching implications.  There are a growing number of fascinating therapies that utilize brain plasticity.  These therapies challenge the brain in areas where there are weaknesses, such as with learning disorders, or developmental delays.  There are therapies to help stroke victims regain the function lost in the damaged area of the brain such as movement, vision or speech.  People with Alzheimer’s can gain lost cognitive function using specialized computer games.  Plasticity is being utilized increasingly in neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis where movement may be compromised, and there are even applications for regaining movement after a spinal cord injury. 

If you want to find out more about some of the therapies that can help your brain regain lost or missing skills, then I would highly recommend Norman Doidge’s books The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW!

Here’s a 9 point checklist you can use to make sure your brain has everything it needs to be primed for learning or to get the most out of rehab therapies.

1.  Vitamin D:  Make sure your vitamin D levels are good.  Ask your doctor to do a blood test to check your levels.  Supplement if your levels are low.  Get plenty of sunshine too – when the sunshine hits your skin, your body makes vitamin D.

2.  Omega 3:  Like vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for brain plasticity.  Eat wild, cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines regularly, or supplement with a fish oil.  My favorite is cod liver oil, because it contains vitamin D as well.

3.  Biomarkers:  Go to your doctor and request blood tests for homocysteine, fasting insulin and CRP (c-reactive protein).  If these aren’t in the normal range it could be affecting your brain.  Diet, exercise and supplementation can help improve these biomarkers.

4.  Hormones:  Hormonal balance is important to brain health, so while you are getting other biomarkers tested, you might as well ask your doc for a full hormone panel that includes estradiol and testosterone. There are different ways to bring your hormones back into balance.  If you have eliminated toxins, are eating organic food, managing your stress and exercising (see below) and your hormones are still out of balance you can talk to your doctor or naturopathic doctor about options.

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5.  Exercise:  Do whatever you enjoy to get yourself moving.  Exercise promotes BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which is a necessary protein in the body that stimulates brain growth, and is necessary to support plasticity.

6.  Sleep: Most people don’t get adequate sleep. If you don’t wake up feeling refreshed then it could be a sign that you are getting too little sleep or your sleep is interrupted.  Your brain takes a “bath” when you are asleep to clear out metabolic debris and detox itself.

7.  Stress:  Finding ways to reduce or manage stress can be challenging for many people, but it is extremely important.  Ask yourself if you have enough time to do the things you love, spend time with the people who make you happy or to just be lazy.  If not, then it’s time to simplify life or start implementing some strategies to manage stress such as restorative exercise such as yoga, deep breathing or whatever works to calm you.  Sometimes counseling or additional support may be needed.

8.  Toxins:  Your brain is very susceptible to toxins, so take a look at some of the toxins you expose yourself to daily and try to reduce them.  Start with your body care products (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant etc) and look for a natural ingredient list free of chemicals.  Do the same thing for your household cleaners and laundry products.  Health food stores are great places to find natural body care and cleaning products.  Is the air you are breathing clean?  If not get an air filter.  Is the food you eat clean or is it sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides?  Start eating more organically grown foods.

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9.  Good nutrition:  Eating to support your brain goes a little deeper than just healthy eating.  If your biomarkers showed problems with homocysteine, blood sugar levels or inflammation, then diet can be customized to help bring test results back into a healthy range.  Eating to support plasticity also involves getting the nutrients the brain needs, as well as providing the building blocks for nerves and neurotransmitter production.  Eating to feed your gut microbiome is also important.  The organisms that live in your gut communicate a lot of information to your brain via the microbiota-gut-brain axis.

Wondering how your brain is doing?  Visit  Food For the Brain  and do their Cognitive Function Test.  Whether your score isn't as high as you'd like, or you just want to do everything you can to keep your brain at its best, then follow these 9 points.
Start by scheduling a doctor's appointment to get biomarkers tested, including vitamin D and hormones.  Then decide what your next step will be.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

A couple of months ago my 15 year old daughter, Anya, decided to become a vegetarian.  This is a reasonably common decision for teenage girls during a developmental period when their empathy grows, and they make the decision to stop eating meat for ethical reasons.  

If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I support a Paleo or Ancestral way of eating that is especially focused on restoring gut health.  I had to go through my own health crisis and journey to reach where I am at today, and that journey included being vegetarian for 10 years.  While I was a vegetarian, my health declined even as the quality of my food increased.  I spent several days completely bedridden each month with extreme nausea and fatigue, and I suffered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder that at times left me vomiting and exhausted after exposure to perfumes or chemicals that off-gassed.  Finally an alternative practitioner told me I had to start eating meat again, and that was the turning point in regaining my health.  That was long before I became a nutritional consultant and started researching the gut microbiome and intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Once I understood how inflammatory grains and legumes were in the gut there was no turning back.  I am not 100% free of my chemical sensitivities, but the nausea and fatigue are long gone, and the hay fever that I've suffered from since I was a child is also gone.

So you can probably imagine my reaction when my daughter stopped eating meat.  I should mention that like me, she also suffers from chemical sensitivities and hay fever.  We have spend many hours discussing leaky gut, and how being a vegetarian will make it worse, but at 15 years of age she doesn't have a frame of reference to really understand what it means to be in poor health.  At this stage, the life of an animal is more important to her than her own health.

When I realized she had stopped eating meat we had a discussion about what a good vegetarian diet looks like to ensure she is getting complete proteins (all the amino acids the human body needs to repair and grow).  I told her that legumes, and nuts and seeds needed to be part of her diet.  I emphasized how often people just take meat out of their diet without understanding the need to replace the nutrients that meat provides.

The next step was to inspire Anya with great vegetarian recipes that were still nutrient dense.  Sadly there seem to be very few good vegetarian cookbooks.  I think I have signed out every cookbook the Calgary Library offers, and have been dismayed by most of them.  Entree recipes typically rely on pasta or bread with vegetables.  Rarely are there recipes that ensure adequate protein combinations.

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

One of the biggest dilemmas has been finding meal ideas that everyone can eat, but luckily there are a few sources of complete protein that fit into both a vegetarian and a Paleo diet.  These ideas can be great to take to dinner parties or social events where you don't know the dietary needs of people.

Vegetables and Fruit
Luckily all vegetables and fruit can be eaten on both diets with the exception of potatoes.  Some people on a Paleo diet can eat potatoes, but from a gut-healthy perspective they are too high in carbs, and people with autoimmune conditions can react to them.  It's very easy to find a wide variety of vegetable dishes including salads, stir-fries, roasted vegetables and soups.

Fats
Avocado oil, olive oil and coconut oil are all plant based fats that are great for both vegetarians and Paleo eaters alike.  Use coconut oil for cooking.  Olive oil should only be used for salads or drizzled over dishes - never cooked with.

Protein Sources
Hemp Seeds - these offer complete proteins and can be used in a variety of ways including making hemp seed milk.
Chia Seeds - these great little seeds also offer complete protein, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.  
Spirulina - an algae that contains complete protein.  Can be added to smoothies.
Other nuts and seeds - not complete proteins, but a great source of fats, and flours and butters can be used for baking.
Eggs - a nutrient powerhouse and a complete protein.  They are incredibly versatile for those people who tolerate them.
Raw or Cultured Dairy - raw milk is difficult to get in Alberta.  I suggest everyone avoid pasteurized milk.  Cultured dairy includes yogurt, kefir and aged, lactose-free cheeses, which all offer complete proteins.  Dairy isn't tolerate well by many people, and lactose should always be avoided when restoring gut health.

NOTE:  If you are in the early stages of an autoimmune protocol, then none of these sources of protein are good options - stick to animal proteins.

MEAL IDEAS

Cooking for the whole family has been challenging over the last couple of months, but we have found some great favourites that everyone can eat.

 I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

Frittatas - eggs and a collection of a variety of vegetables.  An easy and simple idea for any meal.  Try mushrooms, spinach and black olives.  Cheese can be added for those who tolerate it.
Smoothies - leafy greens, fruit, MCT oil and water or a milk alternative.
Hemp & Chia Seed Porridge - served with fruit this dish makes a hearty breakfast.   Try this recipe.  For a gut-healthy version use honey as the sweetener.
Vegetable Fritters - grate up a variety of root vegetables or zucchini, and mix them up with eggs.  Form into patties and bake or fry.  Great to freeze or grab on the go.
Almond flour or coconut baking - muffins, cakes, and breads can all be made with a variety of Paleo flours and eggs.  My current favourite are Blueberry Lemon Muffins.
Nut & Vegetable Patties - These add variety to the Vegetable Fritters we make.  Try this recipe.

Are you living in a household with a variety of dietary needs?  What are your strategies to simplify meal preparation?  

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS:  Do you want more relevant information about gut health?  Check me out on FaceBook.

SEBASTIAN'S EASY CHERRY PIE

My 17 year old son made an amazing gut-healthy pie last week.  It was so good (he has promised another) that not a crumb was left.  We all had a piece, and then I declared that we might as well finish it all, since it was so amazing.  My son will be attending a Baking and Pastry Arts program this fall, because he loves baking, but the good news is that this was REALLY EASY, so anyone can make it.  Sebastian loves working with whatever ingredients are on hand, so as soon as he saw the huge bag of cherries I came home with he was inspired to make a pie.

Sebastian used my favourite pie crust recipe from Elana's Pantry.  It only has 4 ingredients making it the easiest pie crust ever.  The dough just gets pressed into the pie plate, so no rolling required.  Can't eat eggs?  Replace the egg in this recipe with a gelatin egg.

Then he made a simple, delicious 4 ingredient filling.  

SEBASTIAN'S CHERRY PIE FILLING

2 pounds fresh cherries
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tapioca flour

Wash and pit the cherries.  Mix the tapioca flour with the lemon juice.  You can add a bit of water if it's not enough fluid.  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir continually until the mixture thickens (5-10 minutes).  Allow to cool and pour the cherry filling into a baked pie crust.  Refrigerate until set (if you can wait that long) and enjoy!

Visit your local farmer's market this weekend to get amazing cherries.  Let me know what you think of Sebastian's Cherry Pie.  What are your favourite pie fillings?  Saskatoons?  Peaches?  It's that time of year for a lot of great pie making.

Happy, Healthy Baking!
Tracey

PS:  I made the crust with a "gelatin egg", and used blueberries for the filling and it was just as good!

THE GUT-HEALTHY ROAD TRIP SNACK GUIDE

I'm starting to get ready for our trip to Windermere and thought I'd share some of the snacks I pack for a road trip.  For longer trips we will usually plan a stop somewhere along the route for a meal, but this trip is a shorter one, so won't require a stop.  

If you are doing a longer trip, it's helpful to take a few minutes to plan where you will stop, since eating a gut-healthy meal does require a bit of advanced planning.  Traditional diners usually work well, because it's pretty easy to get an omelette or a steak and salad (ask for olive oil and lemon for your dressing).  Franchised restaurants don't tend to work well, since much of their menu is prepared, frozen and shipped to restaurants, which makes it very difficult for restaurants to customize your order.  Start by choosing a town that you anticipate reaching at lunch or dinner time.  Do an online search for gluten-free menus.  Once you find restaurants that accommodate for gluten, it's pretty easy to customize to gut-healthy from there.

Some other gut-healthy meal ideas are:
Italian - order a chicken, fish or meat dish that is baked or grilled (not breaded).  Ask for extra vegetables instead of pasta or rice.
Mexican - grilled meat and vegetables without the tortilla.  Ask for vegetables to dip in guacamole.
Burgers - call ahead to find out if they use fillers in their burgers.  If not, then you are good to go.  Order a burger without the bun, or ask them to wrap it in lettuce for you.   Add a side salad.
Japanese - sashimi and seaweed salad.  Make sure the salad doesn't include soy sauce.

Regardless of whether or not you stop for a meal, some snacks are always important to have along, especially if you have kids in the car.  It's almost impossible to grab a gut-healthy snack at a gas station, so a little bit of planning goes a long way to making a road trip enjoyable.  

This year, I'm packing some homemade crackers:  flax seed crackers and a sweet chocolate almond flour cracker, both of which were made in my dehydrator.  As you'll see, a dehydrator can be invaluable for road trips.  Other snacks I made in my dehydrator are beef jerky and kale chips.  Before we leave I'll get some fresh fruit and veg, and some nitrate-free sandwich meat and salami to go with those crackers.  Two of my kids love seaweed, so I'll also have some Seaweed Snax on hand, and we'll be trying out some plantain chips I got at Blushlane.  I'm hoping we'll see fresh fruit vendors somewhere along the way as well, but this is the first time I'm making this trip since I was a teenager (that was a few decades ago), so I'm packing fruit to be on the safe side.  Additionally we'll have some nuts and seeds on hand, and we'll have extra water on board.  Some bottles of kombucha will round things out nicely.  I always end up packing more than we need, but on those few occasions when we've been delayed it has been great to have food on hand, especially for the kids.

 Here are my dehydrator snacks, plus a couple of items from the store.

Here are my dehydrator snacks, plus a couple of items from the store.

What do you pack on your road trips?
What do you end up grabbing on the road if you don't pack snacks?

Happy Healthy Snacking!

Tracey 


 

 

YOU'LL LOVE COOL CUCUMBER SOUP ON HOT SUMMER DAYS

Cold soups don't have a lot of appeal most days of the year, especially living in Canada, but on those days where it's sweltering hot, nothing beats a cold soup.  In Calgary, we had some of those sweltering days last week, and a few more are expected in the coming days, so cold soup will be a welcome treat.  The best part is that Cucumber Soup only requires a blender to prepare, so in addition to being a tasty, cool meal, it is incredibly easy to make.

I have a simple Basic Cucumber Soup recipe, and then you can choose from any of the following variations, or create your own.  These recipes are gut-healthy, Paleo, and can easily be adapted to a Keto diet, by adding more olive oil.  Serves 4.

Have you made a cold soup before?  Has soup making ever been this easy?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

Basic Cuke Soup

2 English cucumbers, chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.  Add water if needed to create a thinner consistency.

cuke soup lemon herb2.JPG

Herb & Lemon Soup

Juice from a lemon
Handful each of fresh dill, and oregano (or your favourite fresh herbs)

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  If you like an intense lemon flavour, add the zest from the lemon a well.

Green Curry Soup

Juice from 3 limes
3 handfuls fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon green curry paste
dash of your favourite hot sauce (optional)

Add the first 3 ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped. Sprinkle in a bit of hot sauce to taste.

Sweet Green Goddess

3 pears, chopped and seeded
3 handfuls fresh mint

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  The pears might seem like an unusual addition for soup, but they make this soup very refreshing on a hot day.

I HAVE THE GENETIC MARKER FOR ALZHEIMER'S! HERE'S WHY I'M NOT WORRIED.

Ever wonder if you are going to get a dreaded disease that you have a family history of?  That was the case for me with Parkinson's disease.  My grandfather had Parkinson's, and sometimes I wondered if I had the same genetic markers that predisposed my grandpa to getting the disease. About a month ago I got an email from 23andme letting me know that they were going to be changing their website, and that if I wanted access to locked genetic information, I would have to access it before those changes came.  The locked information included genetic markers for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and breast cancer.  I had previously decided to keep that information locked, because I know that diet, exercise and stress management are key factors involved in gene expression.  As a nutritional consultant I'm pretty confident that my diet is good, I exercise regularly, and while my life can be pretty stressful, I do have regular practices that I use to manage it.  

I changed my mind though when I realized I would lose access to that information.  I gave a huge sigh of relief when I found out that I don't have any of the known Parkinson's markers, but was surprised to find that I have the APOE 4 gene.  APOE 4 carriers are prone to high LDL cholesterol and Alzheimer's.  The reason the E4 variation is associated with higher risk for high LDL is because the Apolipoprotein E (the protein produced by the gene) binds with VLDL, which reduces the clearance of LDL from the blood, resulting in higher blood levels of LDL.  Ideally you want low LDL, so having a genetic variation that predisposes you to higher LDL increases your risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.  The connection between APOE 4 and Alzheimer's is not well understood at this time.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED

1. Known risk factors:
There are many known risk factors for Alzheimer's including family history, having the APOE 4 gene, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression, smoking and traumatic brain injury (Source).  
Besides the genetic marker, I have no other risk factors for Alzheimer's.  A good reason not to worry.

2.  A healthy gut microbiome:
Research into the area of the microbiota-gut-brain axis has exploded in recent years, and includes the effects of the microbiome on Alzheimer's (Source).  Since my area of specialization as a nutritional consultant is teaching people how to eat to support a healthy microbiome, I feel pretty confident that I'm addressing my microbiome.  I eat a Paleo, gut-healthy diet that includes animal proteins, lots of vegetables, some fruit, healthy fats like fats from grass-fed animals, coconut oil and olive oil, as well as some nuts and seeds, and fermented foods.  

3.  Occasional ketosis as prevention:
A 2008 study showed that glucose transport across the blood brain barrier is impaired in an Alzheimer's brain (Source).  When brain cells are deprived of glucose they need another fuel source, which can be obtained from ketone bodies.  There are different ways for the brain to get ketones.  One is to eat a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet (also known as a ketogenic diet), which will cause your body to shift from glucose metabolism to fat metabolism.  When you metabolize fat, you start producing ketones, which are a great fuel for brain cells.  The other way is to supplement with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which rapidly get metabolized into ketones. A double blind, placebo controlled study has shown that MCT supplementation improves memory in Alzheimer's patients (Source).  It's important to note that no dietary changes were made in the study, but that the changes happened with supplementation alone.

A ketogenic diet that is high in saturated fat could be problematic for someone like me who has the APOE 4 gene variation.  I never recommend a diet low in fats, but at the same time I don't necessarily want to eat a high fat diet if I can't metabolize fats well. I decided on a modified ketogenic diet with MCT supplementation.  Right now I'm eating a very low-carbohydrate diet, moderate protein, moderate fat with the addition of MCT oil supplementation daily.

My long-term plan is to go back to a Paleo, gut-healthy diet, with occasional periods of ketosis.  Some of those periods might look like the one I'm in right now that uses a modified ketogenic diet, but some of those periods might be a 3-4 day fast, which also induces ketosis.

Have you considered a preventative approach to your brain health?  Have you reversed symptoms of a neurological condition using diet?  What has worked for you? Or what hasn't?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey