ADD THE LUCK OF THE SHAMROCK TO YOUR MEALS

Okay, I’ll start by confessing that I’m not actually recommending you eat Shamrocks. But it just so happens that one of my very favourite foods looks like Shamrocks. I absolutely LOVE pea shoots, and if you look at the image, you’ll see they aren’t that different from a Shamrock. They are tender with a subtle sweetness to them that makes them a great addition to many dishes. This nutrient-dense, little shoot also happens to contain an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO), which help to break down histamines in your GI tract (a topic for another time). I like these so much that I eat them almost daily, so today I’d like to share some great ways to add these to your diet - just in time for a Shamrock St. Patrick’s Day meal.

There are a variety of growers in Calgary. These are from Shirley’s Greenhouse.

There are a variety of growers in Calgary. These are from Shirley’s Greenhouse.

I add these to all kinds of dishes, so let me share some of my favourites with you.

Smoothies
Since these are a bit sweet they make a great addition to any smoothie. In the summer I love these with fresh peaches or nectarines, and in the winter I buy frozen mango and add my pea shoots. The colour combination of the orange flesh from these fruits with the pea shoots is beautiful.

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As a Burger Base
There are a lot of great ways to eat a bunless burger, but my favourite is on a bed of pea shoots. I just lay a bunch down on a plate, drizzle a bit of olive oil over them, put my hamburger patty on top, and then add my favourite toppings.

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I also love doing the same thing with eggs as I do with the burger - instead of the burger, I lay two fried eggs on the bed of pea shoots! It’s a favourite breakfast of mine.

Simple Salad
It’s so easy to just add your favourite dressing to these delicate greens for a quick side-salad to any meal. Pea shoots are a great way to break the monotony of green salads.

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So use your imagination this St. Patrick’s Day to add a wee bit of luck from the Shamrock. You can find pea shoots at many of our local health food stores and farmers’ markets.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

A GUT-HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE ON THE NEW CANADA'S FOOD GUIDE

Last month the Government of Canada came out with a new Canada’s Food Guide that is radically different from the old one. This new guide was formed with a lot of public input, whereas previous versions were influenced heavily by industry input, which was evident in the strong focus on dairy, meat and grains. In this blog I’d like to summarize some of the good and bad in the new guide (in case you haven’t perused it yet), and give you some tips on how the guide can be easily modified for gut-health.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests filling half your plate with Vegetables and Fruit, 1/4 of your plate with protein from sources such as legumes, dairy and animal proteins, and 1/4 of your plate with whole grains. In addition, it suggests drinking water as your drink of choice. Check out the pie chart below for my Gut-Healthy version.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests filling half your plate with Vegetables and Fruit, 1/4 of your plate with protein from sources such as legumes, dairy and animal proteins, and 1/4 of your plate with whole grains. In addition, it suggests drinking water as your drink of choice. Check out the pie chart below for my Gut-Healthy version.

A SUMMARY OF CANADA’S FOOD GUIDE

Here are some of the great things about the new guide that you’ll want to include:
- choose healthy fats: healthy fats are incredibly important, but the Food Guide missed the mark with healthy fat recommendations (see below). Recommended fats that you can keep are olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds.
- water as your main drink
- limit processed foods
- be aware of food marketing
- mindful eating
- cook
- eat with others
For more information on these recommendations go to Canada’s Food Guide and click on Food Choices and Eating Habits.

Here are some of the NOT so great things - make sure to avoid these:
- breakfast recipes included with the guide are very carb/grain heavy. Eating the suggested breakfasts can set you up for blood sugar imbalances for the rest of the day.
- corn, canola, peanut, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils are listed as healthy fats, and saturated fats are still considered bad. Butter/ ghee and coconut oil, and saturated fats from pasture raised animals are fats that have many health benefits. Butter is a good source of butyrate, which is important for colon and brain health, and vitamin A (retinol), which supports repair of the gut lining and other epithelial tissues. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which rapidly convert to ketones in the body and provide energy. Ketones can benefit the brain, and improve biomarkers associated with heart disease (1).
- the grains and legumes recommended in the Food Guide can be okay for some individuals when they are prepared using traditional methods of preparation that include soaking and sprouting, but these foods are problematic for so many people, and in most cases they are not prepared using traditional cooking methods.

A GUT-HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE

It’s pretty easy to fit a Gut-Healthy model into Canada’s Food Guide. I’ve kept the same basic framework of dividing your plate into 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4, but have switched the contents up a little bit. I’ve included some images of my recent meals, so have a look!
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rutabaga and cabbage, or colourful veggies such as beets, carrots, asparagus and squashes.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with animal protein that includes pasture-raised meats, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild fatty fish. Meat stocks and bone broths would fit into this category as an important part of a gut-healthy diet.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with gut-healthy carbohydrates. These will vary depending on what protocol you are on. Fruit fits into this category, and tubors such as sweet potatoes and yams are good if you are on an autoimmune or paleo protocol. If you are on an SCD or GAPS diet, then tubors aren’t normally a part of these protocols, but you may be able to tolerate them cooked and cooled (like a cold potato salad). If you have IBS or SIBO, then tubors are out for now. Honey is well tolerated by most people, and fits into this category.
- Add healthy fat to all your meals. Olive oil drizzled over salads or into soups and stews is great. Cooking vegetables in coconut oil or fat rendered from a pastured animal is yummy, and healthy too!

Remember that this is a framework to start from. We all have different needs, and you have to listen to your body. If you are thriving on a ketogenic diet, then filling 1/4 of your plate with carbs doesn’t work. If you are struggling with hormonal issues or hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, then you may need a few more carbs. If you have SIBO, then initially you won’t have any carbs, and will then slowly build the amount up as you undergo treatment with a qualified practitioner.

FOR KIDS!: These recommendations are for adults! Children often need higher amounts of protein and carbohydrates, so you can add more fruit, tubors or animal proteins. If you have a picky eater, then don’t worry about specific quantities - just stick with gut-healthy foods.

A Gut-Healthy version of the Food Guide changes the sections to Vegetables (1/2 plate), Carbohydrates that include tubors (sweet potatoes, yams etc.) and Fruit (1/4 plate), and Animal Proteins (1/4 plate). The Whole Grain section from Canada’s guide has been changed to Carbohydrates, with fruit and tubors being removed from the Canada’s Vegetable section and put into their own category. Proteins are limited to animal varieties. Water should still be your drink of choice, but I’ve included adding Healthy Fats to your meals.

A Gut-Healthy version of the Food Guide changes the sections to Vegetables (1/2 plate), Carbohydrates that include tubors (sweet potatoes, yams etc.) and Fruit (1/4 plate), and Animal Proteins (1/4 plate). The Whole Grain section from Canada’s guide has been changed to Carbohydrates, with fruit and tubors being removed from the Canada’s Vegetable section and put into their own category. Proteins are limited to animal varieties. Water should still be your drink of choice, but I’ve included adding Healthy Fats to your meals.

Here’s an example of an AIP or Paleo meal. 1/2 plate filled with Red Cabbage-Carrot-Pea Shoot salad with olive oil, 1/4 plate with a piece of pasture-raised, traditionally cured ham, and a 1/4 plate with a mix of sweet potato and yams roasted in bacon fat.

Here’s an example of an AIP or Paleo meal. 1/2 plate filled with Red Cabbage-Carrot-Pea Shoot salad with olive oil, 1/4 plate with a piece of pasture-raised, traditionally cured ham, and a 1/4 plate with a mix of sweet potato and yams roasted in bacon fat.

This meal is GAPS and SCD compliant. I have some Sunworks sausage, a Tomato and Basil salad with olive oil, a piece of broccoli, and a bowl of cauliflower soup. Not many carbs here.

This meal is GAPS and SCD compliant. I have some Sunworks sausage, a Tomato and Basil salad with olive oil, a piece of broccoli, and a bowl of cauliflower soup. Not many carbs here.

Had a lot of leftover steamed broccoli! Filled half my plate with broccoli and topped it with an Olive Bruschetta made from olives, capers, garlic and olive oil. The Salmon Patties contain salmon and yam, so are a source of animal protein and carbs.

Had a lot of leftover steamed broccoli! Filled half my plate with broccoli and topped it with an Olive Bruschetta made from olives, capers, garlic and olive oil. The Salmon Patties contain salmon and yam, so are a source of animal protein and carbs.

Here’s an example of ingredients for a Blueberry Avocado Smoothie that fit my Gut-Healthy criteria for the new Canada’s Food Guide. 1/2 the plate is filled with leafy greens and avocado (technically a fruit, but since it’s low carb, I include it in my Vegetable section), 1/4 plate with blueberries, and I’ve added a scoop of collagen powder for my protein. The avocado also provides the healthy fat, and makes this smoothie rich and creamy. I just blend the vegetables and fruit up with water, and then add the collagen at the end.

Here’s an example of ingredients for a Blueberry Avocado Smoothie that fit my Gut-Healthy criteria for the new Canada’s Food Guide. 1/2 the plate is filled with leafy greens and avocado (technically a fruit, but since it’s low carb, I include it in my Vegetable section), 1/4 plate with blueberries, and I’ve added a scoop of collagen powder for my protein. The avocado also provides the healthy fat, and makes this smoothie rich and creamy. I just blend the vegetables and fruit up with water, and then add the collagen at the end.

As you can see from some of my meals, I end up roughly following the guidelines, but am not a stickler about it. While many of my meals don’t contain carbs, I put honey in my tea everyday, so get some extra carbs there, and I like to indulge in homemade chocolate and coconut or almond flour muffins that are also sweetened with honey. In the summer I eat more fruit than I do in the winter, but in the winter I have more root vegetables, so my sources of carbs vary depending on the time of year.

Do you agree with my Gut-Healthy version of Canada’s Food Guide? Let me know if you find it helpful to think of your meals using the 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4 breakdown as a guideline.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

THINK YOU CAN'T DRINK MILK? THINK YOU CAN? CLEARING UP THE CASEIN CONFUSION

Milk is one of the most confusing foods out there. Some people say it’s unnatural to consume it, and that we shouldn’t consume it past infancy (breastmilk). Other people tout it as the best source of calcium. Many people have some sort of reaction to it, but don’t know if it’s from the lactose or is an allergy. Others think they are fine consuming milk, when in reality it is impacting their health.

It is complicated to figure this all out. So how do you know if you should be enjoying cheeses, yogurt, milk and ice cream?

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DAIRY

Before figuring out whether or not you should be consuming milk, and all those tasty things made from it, it’s worth taking a minute to understand a bit about it.

Brown Jersey cows produce A2 casein rich milk. A well tolerated milk for most people.

Brown Jersey cows produce A2 casein rich milk. A well tolerated milk for most people.

The milk that is most commonly consumed is cow’s milk. In North America, it typically comes from Holstein cows. These cows produce high volumes of milk, so are ideal for dairy farmers. The milk that comes from these cows is high in A1 casein. Casein is the protein found in milk, and it’s this protein that is often problematic for people with chronic health conditions. Lactose is the other substance in milk that can be problematic.

Some people who don’t tolerate cow’s milk do much better with goat, sheep, or buffalo milk. Camel milk is another option, which I sometimes get inquiries about, but so far I have not seen any local sources of camel’s milk. You can however, order it from Desert Farms and it’s pasture raised. Goat, sheep and buffalo milk sources are available locally, along with cheeses and yogurts made from them. All of these animals produce milk that is higher in A2 casein. Keep reading to find out some local sources of A2 casein milk!!!

It turns out that the type of casein in milk really matters. Most people who are having an allergic reaction or food sensitivity are reacting to A1 casein. Sometimes people with an allergy to cow’s milk are able to consume sources of A2 milk with no reaction (1), so this can be worth exploring.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I REACT TO MILK

If you have a milk allergy, you probably already know. If you are unsure, then ask your doctor for a referral for allergy testing. With an allergy, symptoms usually appear from 15 minutes to 1 hour after consumption. In its most extreme form, a dairy allergy can be anaphylactic, and individuals with this condition will usually carry an EpiPen for emergency situations. If you have a young child who continually has a runny nose, dark circles under their eyes, or red cheeks or ears, then a dairy allergy (or some other food) might be the culprit. Common symptoms of milk allergy include:
- swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or face
- nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing or itchy eyes
- skin reactions such as itchy skin, rashes or hives

If you have lactose intolerance, you may have figured it out on your own, but you can ask your family doctor to do a Lactose Tolerance test. With lactose intolerance you will typically have digestive symptoms that can include:
- bloating, abdominal pain, or flatulence
- diarrhea or painful poops

If you have a food sensitivity you may not even know it. It’s with food sensitivities that things get confusing, because you can have a sensitivity without any digestive symptoms, and with very broad ranging and obscure symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms can include:
- the same digestive symptoms as for lactose intolerance (but you might not have any of these)
- fatigue and/or headache
- brain fog
- muscle aches or joint pain that aren’t explained by exercise or injury
- anxiety or depression
- asthma, eczema… (the list goes on and on)

Dairy is one of the most common foods for people to have a food sensitivity to.

THE GOOD NEWS

If you know you have an allergy to cow’s milk, you may be able to consume other forms of milk. Ask your doctor to do testing for goat, sheep and buffalo milk allergies.

Water Buffalo yogurt is rich and creamy! YUM!

Water Buffalo yogurt is rich and creamy! YUM!

There is less lactose in buffalo, sheep, and especially in goat milk, compared to cow’s milk, so you may be able to consume these. If you decide to try these alternatives, then start with goat milk, and be mindful and listen to your own body. Yogurts and some cheeses will have reduced levels of lactose, since the lactose gets broken down in the making of both of these products. This reduction in lactose is why many people with a lactose intolerance can eat yogurt and some cheeses, but not milk or ice cream.

If you are experiencing unexplained symptoms then it is worth exploring a food sensitivity to milk. You can do this by taking all dairy out of your diet for 3-6 weeks, and then reintroducing it to see if it triggers any symptoms, or you can get a food sensitivity test done through a naturopathic doctor. If you find you have a sensitivity, then it is important to remove dairy, while you address the underlying factors of dysbiosis and leaky gut. Often dairy can be reintroduced after these factors have been addressed.

The fat content of Water Buffalo milk is double that of A1 casein Holstein cows. Cow’s milk has 3.25% fat.

The fat content of Water Buffalo milk is double that of A1 casein Holstein cows. Cow’s milk has 3.25% fat.

THE BEST NEWS!

There are a lot of A2 casein options, which most people tolerate well. You can walk into most grocery stores and find goat milk. Health food stores will also carry yogurt, kefir and cheeses made from goat milk. In Alberta we have a growing variety, but one of my favourite local goat cheese producers is Dancing Goats Farm. Sheep milk options are growing too, so keep your eyes peeled for those as well. Remember, these sources of milk are high in A2 casein, which tends to be less problematic for people. More recently buffalo and even A2 casein cow’s milk have arrived on the market. If you don’t like the flavour of goat or sheep milk, then this is exciting news! Rock Ridge Dairy raises pastured Jersey cows in Alberta, which produce milk high in A2 casein, and this milk also has a higher protein and calcium content. While these cows don’t produce as much milk, there are clear benefits from a health perspective. Another alternative available from BC is Water Buffalo yogurt from McClintock’s Farm. Buffalo milk has a much higher fat content (check out the label in the photo) than cow milk, making it a good choice for rich, creamy yogurt and cheeses.

SHOULD I CONSUME MILK?

If you have an allergy, then consider getting tested for some of these other milks. A2 casein milks are sometimes easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance, so you might want to give some of these a try if that is an issue for you. If you know you have a sensitivity, then these varieties might also be worth a try. If you have any chronic health issues, and just don’t know if you are reacting to milk then food sensitivity testing or avoiding all dairy for 3-6 weeks with a reintroduction (while monitoring symptoms) are your two options.

The question of whether or not you should consume milk depends on what is going on in your body, and especially in your gut. It’s possible that you might never be able to eat dairy, but it’s also possible that with some work on your gut health you might be able to consume raw milk, or yogurt/kefir/cheeses that have live, active cultures. Unpasteurized dairy is the healthiest option, but can be difficult to get. If you have traditionally consumed dairy for calcium, then there are a lot of great options for calcium such as leafy greens, or soaked nuts and seeds, so if you are on a gut-healthy diet, you will be getting those sources.

Hopefully you aren’t as confused anymore about dairy, and have some different options to explore. Enjoying a goat cheese on a grain-free pizza crust, or topping a bowl of seasonal fruit with a dollop of Water Buffalo yogurt might allow you to enjoy foods you didn’t think you’d ever be eating again.

I love dairy, so was extremely excited to find Jersey milk and cream, and Water Buffalo yogurt at health food stores. I don’t eat it often, but it’s nice to have a healthier option. What are your favourite milky treats?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

TRAVELING THIS WINTER? What You Need To Know About Avoiding Traveler's Diarrhea

It’s cold outside (as I write this there is a nasty wind-chill outside). Do you have plans to travel to a warmer climate this winter? If you are then you need to check out this important guest post! In addition to the information posted below, I always suggest taking along the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii on your travels in case of diarrhea.

Traveler’s diarrhea (also known as food poisoning) can ruin an amazing trip. Besides ruining your trip and causing you to be ill in a foreign country, it has also been proven that around 10% of people who get severe food poisoning will go on to develop post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

IBS can dramatically reduce quality of life and cause numerous horrible digestive symptoms which is why it’s so important to avoid food poisoning when traveling.

Check out the infographic below which contains everything you need to know to avoid traveler’s diarrhea.

This infographic was created by SIBO Survivor, a resource that helps patients heal with SIBO and IBS.

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HEALTHY HOLIDAY GIFT CHOCOLATES: 3 EASY INGREDIENTS

I’m squeezing in one more blog article before the holiday season, in case you are like me, and love to give food as HOLIDAY GIFTS. Chocolate is always a holiday favourite, and it’s possible for it to be healthy too! So here is a recipe that is easy to make, that you can package up to give away, or that you can finish off a special meal with. You can feel great about gifting this healthy version!

I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

This recipe uses 3 ingredients: raw cacao paste, raw cocoa butter, and yacon syrup. Cacao paste is the least processed form of the cocoa bean next to the bean itself (which you can purchase as whole beans or cacao nibs). It is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, and is a good source of polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity (1). Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Yacon syrup is made from yacon root, which is a root vegetable grown in South America. The syrup’s sweetness is derived from fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut. We can’t digest these carbohydrates, so they stay in our gut and are used by our bacteria instead. Since we can’t digest FOS, there are no sugars that enter the blood stream, making this a possible option for people with diabetes (2). FOS would not be suitable for someone with IBS or SIBO as it can aggravate symptoms in individuals with these conditions. Caution should be used for anyone with digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping or abdominal pain. I’m including a variation for those who don’t tolerate FOS.

REASONS TO GIFT CHOCOLATE

If the taste of chocolate isn’t enough to tempt you, there are also numerous health benefits that can result from consuming chocolate, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, support for the immune system, cancer protection, and as already mentioned, there are antioxidant benefits (3).

Yacon chocolates.jpg

RECIPE

140g raw cacao paste
140g raw cocoa butter
1/2-2/3 cup yacon syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

DIRECTIONS

Place cacao paste and cocoa butter over a double boiler, and melt.  Once melted, remove the top section and mix in the syrup.  Spoon the liquid mixture into candy molds, and place into the refrigerator or freezer until hard.  It only takes about 10 minutes in the freezer.  Once it has solidified, remove pieces from the molds, and put them into a container, or gift bag.

Candy molds can be found at Amazon or various stores such as Michael’s. The variety of shapes you can find is amazing! You can customize your chocolate shapes to fit the person you are gifting to. This recipe should fill 4 trays.

VARIATION

You can replace the syrup with honey. This version is just as tasty, but the honey doesn’t emulsify into the mixture as well as yacon syrup, so you’ll need to keep stirring the mixture as it goes into the molds, and the chocolates need to be kept refrigerated. I make this a lot, and love it, but for gift giving it’s nice not to have to refrigerate the chocolates.

Add the 3 ingredients to your shopping list, and put “chocolate making” on your list of things to do! If you don’t have candy molds, the easiest thing to do is order them online, or make a chocolate bark instead by adding your favourite nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and pouring the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat.

What’s your favourite way to use chocolate?

Happy, Healthy Eating and Gifting!
Best Wishes for the Holidays!
Tracey

THE MICROBIOME BREAKTHROUGH: Harness the Power of Your Gut Bacteria to Boost Your Mood and Heal Your Body

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Raphael Kellman, MD, is the founder of the Kellman Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine in New York City.  He is the author of Matrix Healing, Gut Reactions and The Microbiome Diet, and is considered to be a pioneer in the field of “Microbiome Medicine”.  So you can imagine just how excited I was when the publishers contacted me to ask if I would review his latest book entitled The Microbiome Breakthrough: Harness the Power of Your Gut Bacteria to Boost Your Mood and Heal Your Body.

In this book, Dr Kellman offers an approach that is backed by research to heal depression, anxiety, memory loss and brain disorders.  He does this by focusing on the “whole brain” – the gut, the microbiome, the thyroid and of course the brain.

He lays out a simple 4-week, 4-Step Program to help you gain back your health that includes meal plans and recipes.  He also guides you through working with your doctor, so you know what tests you should be asking your doctor for, to help you identify underlying factors that may have been overlooked in the past.

Anyone who knows me knows how excited I get when I start talking about the microbiome and gut health. The more excited I am, the faster I start talking, until I’m stumbling over my words, and no one can really catch what I’m saying.  So here are some of the ideas Dr Kellman discusses that really excited me (and have the potential to make me stumble over my words):

  • How to support your brain by viewing your body as an ecology where every aspect and system of your body affects the others and is interconnected

  • How you can change the way your genes affect you

  • The importance of your microbial genes

  • How your brain, gut and microbiome should be considered one system

  • Bacterial intelligence

  • How the microbiome talks to the brain

  • The vicious cycle between stress and the microbiome

These are some of my favorite topics!!!  It’s great to see that someone is putting them into a book in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.  One of the things I liked the best about this book was that Dr Kellman includes a section on specific strains of probiotics for specific symptoms, including gut symptoms, depression and anxiety, brain fog and cognitive decline.  Doing so allows you to take a very targeted approach in your probiotic supplementation.

I do have a couple of points of concern with this book.  Dr Kellman keeps gluten-free grains, and legumes in his protocol.  When the microbiome is imbalanced, keeping these in the diet may not be enough to shift microbial health for some individuals. Dr Kellman also discusses SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).  He outlines a dietary approach, but neglects support for the migrating motor complex, which is an important step in dealing with SIBO.

Who Should Buy This Book

Anyone suffering from a mood disorder

Anyone who wants a better understanding of their own mental health

Anyone who wants to learn some really cool information about the microbiome

With Christmas right around the corner, this is the perfect gift for someone who is suffering from a mood disorder, anyone working in the field of wellness, or people like me who just like to geek out about the gut.

Where to Get the Book

Amazon
Indigo

 Happy, Healthy Reading!
Tracey


 

 

TURN YOUR FAVOURITE TEA INTO A FAT BOMB

Heard of intermittent fasting?  It’s one of the latest dietary trends that has some good research to support it. There are some great benefits to intermittent fasting including balancing of blood sugars (1), decrease cardiovascular risk (2), and improved brain health (3)… and it can be an easier way to reap these benefits, than a more restricted diet such as ketogenic diet or calorie counting.  Turning your favorite teas into a Fat Bomb, can be a great way to support intermittent fasting.

The goal with intermittent fasting is to extend your nightly fast.  As you sleep your body uses up glucose stores in your body, and by the time you wake up your body is starting to metabolize fat stores.  Your body will use the fat on your body, and convert it to ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for your cells.  The goal is to keep using energy from your own fat cells, which is one of the reasons this approach is so great for weight loss.  By waking up, and continuing to fast (not eat), you encourage the continual burning of stored fat into ketones as a source of energy for your body.  As it happens, your brain cells really like ketones too, so even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting will do a great job of fueling your brain, and it’s a great way to support neurological health.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

One of the favorite drinks amongst intermittent fasters is Bulletproof coffee.  This drink was popularized by Dave Asprey, who has created the Bulletproof brand.  Many people refer to the blend of ingredients in this coffee as Bulletproof coffee, even if they aren’t using the Bulletproof brand.  The formula is pretty simple.  Good quality brewed coffee + MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil + grass-fed butter.  You put your hot coffee into a blender with the oil and butter, and blend on high speed to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy beverage.  This beverage is consumed in the morning as breakfast. The MCT oil rapidly converts to ketones in the liver, which supports the body’s continuation of using ketones to fuel your cells.  Typically people will try to fast for 14-16 hours (or longer), and not eat a meal until mid-morning, noon, or even later.  Bulletproof coffee can help sustain your energy until your first meal of the day. Typically intermittent fasting is done in conjunction with a low carb diet such as a Paleo or gut-healthy diet that removes grains and legumes.

But what if you are on a dietary protocol that doesn’t recommend coffee, such as an AIP diet, GAPS diet or other protocol focusing on gut health.  While coffee is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, it can be problematic for many people.  For a detailed look at the complexity of coffee’s affects on the body read Sarah Ballantyne’s recent blog article Coffee and Autoimmune Disease.  If you don’t know how coffee is impacting your health condition, it is always a good idea to remove it for a period of time.

The good news is that tea can be the perfect replacement, or if you are like me and dislike coffee, then tea can provide a morning beverage to support your intermittent fasting.

Tips Before Starting

You’ll need to make a strong tea. I recommend using 3 times the amount of tea you usually use, otherwise the flavour of the tea will get lost when you add your choice of fat.

If you are new to this type of drink, then make sure you start with a small amount of the fats, and slowly work your way up. If you get diarrhea, or start to experience stomach upset, then you have more fat than your system can handle. Use the amount that works for you. You may find that later you are able to tolerate greater amounts of fat, but you need to listen to what your body can handle now. Remember: start small and slowly build up (trust me on this!)

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, you may be able to use grass-fed ghee instead of butter, but you know your body best. If you know you react, then don’t use dairy fat.

Initially you may only be able to extend your fasting period for an hour or two, but as you slowly increase your fat intake, and your body gets used to using ketones as a fuel source, you’ll be able to go for longer periods of time without a solid meal.

You cannot add any kind of sugar, including honey to your drink. If you do, then your body will preferentially start using the glucose, and it won’t continue using ketones. If you need a bit of sweetness for your Tea Fat Bomb then try mixing in a bit of monk fruit.

3 Ways to Create Tasty Tea Fat Bombs

1.    Follow the same formula as a Bulletproof coffee.  Start by adding 1 teaspoon each of MCT oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee to your strong tea and remember to blend at high speed to emulsify those fats into a creamy drink. You can gradually build up the amount of oil and butter to 1 tablespoon each, but doing so too quickly can cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up the amount (I can’t emphasis this point enough!)

2.    Blend full-fat coconut milk or coconut oil into your tea.  Coconut milk and coconut oil are rich sources of MCTs.  Try a spoonful of coconut oil blended into your favorite tea, or try blending in some full-fat coconut milk.  If you like the milk, look for a brand that is carrageenan free (I like Natural Value, which is available at health food stores.)  As with the previous formula, slowly build up the fat content to avoid diarrhea. 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk is roughly the equivalent of 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil. Start small! You can also add the grass-fed butter or ghee to this if you want.

3.    If you tolerate dairy, and know you don’t have a food sensitivity toward it (word of caution – many people have a hidden sensitivity), then you can add heavy cream or whipping cream.  The nice thing about this option is that it doesn’t require blending, but the fats in dairy also won’t convert to ketones as easily as MCT oil, so you may not get the rapid energy that you need to support your fasting.

Best Teas

Black teas are good choices if you have troubles stopping caffeine consumption.  Since black teas are traditionally consumed with milk or cream, this can be a comforting, familiar beverage.  Try an Earl Gray, English Breakfast, or other traditional flavour. There is evidence that caffeine supports the production of ketones (4), so you might find black tea works well for you with intermittent fasting.

Chai teas are also excellent choices, and there are a wide variety of these teas.  Some include black tea, but there are herbal varieties as well for those trying to avoid caffeine.

Rooibos teas can also be great options depending on the flavours.  Try a plain rooibos, or something like a vanilla or Earl Grey rooibos.

If you love herbal teas, there are some great possibilities.  One of my favorite tea shops in Calgary is The Naked Leaf.  I love the Herbal Chai, and am excited to try creating a Fat Bomb with their new Powerhouse Tea, which has some medicinal mushrooms.

Have you tried turning your favourite hot drink into a Fat Bomb? Try this with your favourite tea, and let me know how it works out for you.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

 

THE GUT WELLNESS GUIDE The Power of Breath, Touch and Awareness to Reduce Stress, Aid Digestion, and Reclaim Whole-Body Health

Do you love reading a good book on gut-health?  Already bored?  Don’t be! I read a lot about gut-health, and quite frankly I was getting bored until I read The Gut Wellness Guide.  The Gut Wellness Guide offers a fresh perspective on pain, gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms, but it is also much more than that.  Allison Post and Stephen Cavaliere recognize the importance of your stress response to gut health, and utilize incredibly simple techniques that include breathing and touch to help you connect to the nervous system in your gut (your second brain).  The title suggests a gut focus, but the contents take you well beyond your gut to help you understand your whole body.   This book is a whole-body wellness guide.

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The Gut Wellness Guide takes you step-by-step through simple techniques that anyone can do.  There is a freedom to these techniques that goes beyond practices such as yoga, or massage.  You learn to use your own intuition and awareness to help you calm and soothe your nervous system’s stress response. In short, you learn how to break the gut-stress cycle that is part of so many chronic health problems.  The most amazing aspect of these techniques is how uncomplicated they are.  

One of the things I love most about this book is how it ties together many aspects of wellness in a way that is understandable and personal.  It helps tie together gut and microbial health to a wide variety of health problems.  The techniques it teaches bring together visceral manipulation, breathing, and a mindfulness of your own body that you can only gain through self-exploration. I’ve been using these techniques for a couple of weeks, and thoroughly enjoy how simple and soothing they are. I know stress is currently having a huge impact on my health, so am thankful to have something this simple that I can easily build into my day.

This book as an absolute must if you are already using diet and supplements to repair your gut health.  It is also a must if you want to gain more insight into your own body and manage stress. Maybe stress management is the missing piece to your recovery! Allison Post and Stephen Cavaliere have accomplished much with this book.  There is something to learn for everyone from gut-health novice to experienced practitioner, and they have managed to do this in an easy, enjoyable read.

Where to Get the Book

Amazon.ca has Kindle and paperback versions.

Indigo has paperback and Kobo e-read versions.

Happy, Healthy Reading!
Tracey

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 Chai 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 Chai 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