Archive for Holistic Medicine

Letting go of what doesn’t serve us: Inflammatory Foods

3 years ago this month, when I left the Department of Nutrition in UNC’s School of Public Health and School of Medicine, a brilliant new hire was bringing in millions of dollars for microbiome research.

7 years ago this month (December 2011), I began a transformative health journey to reverse candida overgrowth and strengthen my digestive and immune systems after years of battling food allergies, sickness, and IBS.

As the years have gone by, more friends and family members have come to me curious about healing their gut and replenishing the microbiome with the AIP and paleo diets for a variety of chronic issues, diseases, and syndromes. If you follow health and wellness writers and blogs, the same info is everywhere.  I think interest is increasing for a combination of reasons

1) My peer group is aging into more issues and syndromes like PCOS, Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos, fungal overgrowth, IBD/IBS, etc. and we have a higher standard for optimal health, both mental and physical

2) The  knowledge and understanding of the microbiome and the influence that our gut bacteria balance has over all of our body systems is starting to become more common knowledge and food therapy is also more common. Of course, you will still come across the occasional 70 year old OBGYN (like I did) who says verbatim, “There was one article written in the 1980’s about microbiome and asthma and it’s not substantiated.” (Really sir, when did you last use your downtime to read journals containing microbiome research- 35 years ago?) But overall, a quick look on PubMed will show you that attention to microbiome research and nutritional therapy is actually uncovering a lot of helpful solutions for all kinds of chronic and inflammatory diseases.

In fact, This article on Autoimmune and cardiovascular disease as they relate to microbiome was published just last week! Point being, if you are facing a syndrome, disease, or just general “unwellness” and your doctor doesn’t know anything about the microbiome research surrounding gut bacteria and its effects on inflammations and triggers on the immune system, you can either politely site what you’ve read on PubMed and ask that she read it too, or you can spend time to find someone who will help you dive into alternatives and support a journey that is more  fruitful to you than just treating your symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

A huge aspect of strengthening the microbiome is in probiotics and prebiotics. It’s common knowledge that a lifetime of frequent antibiotic use can do serious damage to the good bacteria we carry around in our guts from birth. This is why the SCD diet, which I began on, emphasizes homemade yogurt. Because I’m not a huge yogurt fan, I have include kombucha and pickled vegetables in my daily routine in order to keep probiotic consumption up. It is amazing how much better I feel with pre and probiotics, in addition to my doctor recommended VSL3 probiotic.

Some great prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria? cacao, apples, oats, chicory root, garlic, and dandelion greens.

Frankly said, the pre/probiotic routine is just not enough to combat putting certain foods into your body. I think everyone knows that fried foods and fake foods (highly processed/packaged foods with long lists of ingredients that aren’t based in real food) are corrosive to our gut health (and microbiome). For the most part, they make us feel not great, and so we don’t eat them often, and that feels like a “good enough” approach to nutrition. However, the most common nutritional healing and therapy advice you will come across when dealing with alternative healing, holistic doctors, functional medicine, and Chinese medicine is to GIVE UP SUGAR AND DAIRY, and often WHEAT. So in the rest of this post I’m going to be addressing:

  1. Why these 3 things are inflammatory to our systems and how that works
  2. What changes you can expect from elimination if you need to try it for health reasons
  3. Clarifying some incorrect notions of what eliminating these foods mean.
    – ie a gluten free diet is NOT necessarily an anti-inflammatory diet
    – most people can give up lactose and NOT dairy entirely, which means eating almost nil lactose containing foods like yogurt, butter, and aged cheese. This of course does not apply to the population of real dairy allergies.

1.

I mentioned on social media last week that my husband suffers from chronic kidney stones. He also has chronic eczema that he has been able to control  after giving up lactose. After visiting a biological medicine practitioner and acupuncturist, Matt was encouraged to give up the other two ghosts: wheat and sugar (in addition to receiving some herbs and treatment). So why is this specific nutritional therapy almost always the suggestion from professionals for everyone who is suffering from systemic syndromes and sickness?

The basic answer is simple: because all disease is linked to inflammation, from obesity and hormone disruption to cardiovascular and autoimmune disease. And food-based healing of inflammation leans heavily on giving up the hard-to-digest, short chain sugars (fructans, lactose) that appear in dairy, some grains and processed foods, and obviously in refined sugar, which is a favorite food of bacteria to feed on. Food-based healing is increasing in popularity since we have studied and determined the correlation between the Standard American Diet, inflammation, and increasing disease for 30 or more years now. Even if you don’t have an “allergy” or “intolerance” to any of these inflammatory foods, the truth is that ANY body must work harder in order to digest the short chain sugars, and if your body is fighting a syndrome, disease, imbalance, or inflammation (including obesity), then your body should not be feeding gut inflammation and working extra hard just to process these sugars.

2.

First of all, elimination and “letting go of what does not serve us”  is freeing and empowering. It does NOT have to feel like deprivation in any way. Other people will try to make you feel that way, but controlling your own health is invigorating and delicious! You’re not missing out on anything, you’re gaining better health, which is why I continue to create fun recipes without the above listed ingredients. I eat MORE and better now than I ever did before giving up lactose, sugar, legumes, and wheat. I struggled to maintain my weight on very low food intake as a teen and college student, and now I NEVER measure calories or quantities.

If you’re thinking about food-therapy, don’t be scared of depravation! You will not feel deprived or miss these ingredients after 2 weeks. After 3 weeks, you will begin to feel better and notice differences in your health. After 4-6 weeks, you will not look back! A part of my success is replacing eliminated foods with alternatives that aren’t inflammatory, like almond and coconut flour in breads and cakes, and maple syrup and honey to sweeten appropriate foods. Anecdotally, I’ve seen and talked to people who have noticed less joint pain, fewer skin problems, more comfortable digestion, increased energy, and better hormone function after 3-4 weeks. Personally, I had markers for IBD and PCOS that I reversed in my follow up integrative medicine appointments after a couple of years on a paleo/ AIP/ SCD diet.

3.

I am not “gluten-free” and “gluten-free” diets are not necessarily anti-inflammatory. I mark my recipes as #glutenfree because by definition, they are, and people with Celiac’s can enjoy anything I make because I never, ever eat wheat, and I want to reach a wide audience, including some of Matt’s family who face Celiac’s. HOWEVER, many gluten-free foods and breads contain starches, gums, refined sugars, and other unnecessary, inflammatory ingredients. Eating a homemade, whole food, bread loaf containing gluten (if you do not have Celiac’s Disease or gluten sensitivity) would be much healthier than eating something packaged, processed, and labeled as “gluten-free.” You can think of it like a Venn Diagram. Paleo, AIP, keto, and SCD are always gluten-free and anti-inflammatory, but gluten-free is not always paleo or anti-inflammatory.

At the beginning of my journey, I eliminated all dairy. I recommend this to anyone who is facing inflammation manifested in digestive or skin issues. However, as indicated in elimination diets, I slowly added back in certain forms of dairy and found that my digestion only suffered when I ate dairy containing significant lactose. I found this to be consistent with many of the people within the the AIP community and paleo community. SCD, created by a doctor for IBD and AID, includes many cheeses.  Aged cheese like brie, cheddar, and gouda, organic butter, and yogurt, all have trace amounts of lactose (like 0.0001 %) and giving up lactose rather than entirely giving up dairy is much easier! High lactose foods are milk, cream, and fresh cheeses like mozzarella.

Finally, and possibly most importantly,  I just want to add that nothing is black and white, all or nothing, 0 or 100. Matt is anxious about giving up these foods, but I tell him, it’s not like he can never taste them again! I ate processed gluten-free stuff when I was pregnant, and yes, I have gluten-free pizza and cupcakes on rare (often celebratory) occasions. There is no guilt or issue in this. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite or nullify the work I do daily and the healing food i put into my body daily. You can also be thankful for the medical help you get from hospitals IN ADDITION TO the added benefits of functional and holistic medicine. It is all good. And all there to help you. And I regret that my friends in the medical field may feel that seeking alternative help for your health is a rejection of western medicine. It’s not.

People will ALWAYS take issue with your choices, whether we’re still talking about food and medicine or anything else!  People who have not done the research will not always be supportive if you choose to go on an alternative food-based health journey. I have found that food and diet is really personal to people, but your health is the most personal thing on earth to you, and you alone are responsible for cultivating it. No one understands your journey, and no one can possibly understand what you’ve been through or how much information you have synthesized to achieve optimal health nutritionally.

I have also found that it is sometimes the people who are closest to us, who have known us the longest, and who have witnessed our incredible health and body improvements first hand, who are the most negative and least supportive. That has to be their issue and not yours. If people see you thrive and choose not to celebrate it, they’re not your people. And maybe later in their life when they are facing a health issue that can’t 100% be solved by their doctor, they will come to you for help!

I hope to start work on my NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) certification next year, and let me tell you, I will be here for ANYONE with open arms! The greatest thing I have learned on this journey is that it is All. About. Community. I have learned so much from cooking with my friend Lesley who started cooking SCD around a decade ago! And every single week I look forward to the Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe, and updates from Danielle Walker’s kitchen.

Finally, we know there is a genetic component to this stuff: Celiac’s, IBD, Hashimoto’s, cardiovascular disease, etc. and because I write this blog and save all my recipes, if any of my children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren, etc. face any of the issues that Matt and I have faced, then they will have a spiritual and physical guide for nutritional healing. And that is the absolute best thing I could give to them. Part of who I am is that I love the pursuit of knowledge, and I can’t get enough of it. I hope to continue to seek degrees and certifications in the areas I love. But an even bigger part of who I am is sharing that knowledge. And If I help one person then it’s really all worth it!

 

Fall Turmeric Cocktail

I fall into that category of people who love being healthy, but are not willing to give up alcohol all together. I will admit that I drink a lot less now that we have a baby, and I feel a LOT better,and that’s no coincidence, BUT this post is about a delicious fall cocktail I want to share with you! And I totally believe in moderation in all things!

I love fall spices. I believe in grating fresh nutmeg into everything. I also love cinnamon, ginger, and ground clove to a fault. I put it on our apple sauce in the morning! This cocktail gives you the warmth and spice of all of those flavors, with a dash of acidity to lighten it, and all the health benefits of the root, turmeric.

I try to throw turmeric in whenever I can because it helps so much with inflammation, which we all battle, and digestion, which is great for me. It’s easy to add turmeric because it doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor and it adds that gorgeous goldenrod color!

If you don’t drink alcohol, but you want to enjoy these spices, it would be easy to leave it out and replace it with more juice or seltzer. As far as swap outs for the rest, I think having a fresh orange is important, and to me, the bitters really round out that “Fall” cocktail feel. I think tequila or gin would work just as well as vodka, and triple sec is optional. Oh, and I think citrus or cinnamon vodka would be amazing!

Recipe is below! Let me know what you think if you try it!

Fall Turmeric Cocktail

To a cocktail shaker add:

  • Juice of one Orange (fresh is best!)
  • 1 tsp Orange zest
  • 1 splash lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp each: ginger and turmeric
  • 3 oz (2 shots) vodka (flavored would be great if you have it!)
  • 1.5 oz (1 shot) triple sec, cointreau, or citrus liqueur
  • Bitters to taste (most people like 5 drops or so, I like a LOT because I love bitter)
  • ice
  1. Shake until ice is broken up
  2. Pour into glass and add seltzer water as desired and a sprig of rosemary or orange peel to garnish
  3. ENJOY! Kick your feet up by the fire, and relax! You deserve it 🙂

 

The REAL Deal Cookies & Breast Cancer Awareness

halloween real deal chocolate chip cookiesI’m so excited that I’ll be attending Danielle Walker’s tour for the Eat What You Love cookbook, the 4th of her Paleo cookbook series. It’s her first time in Raleigh, NC! If you’re going, send me a message or comment below. I would love to meet up at the event or beforehand!

Though I take a simpler approach to my recipes, and I have enjoyed following MANY other paleo and primal influencers over these years, Danielle’s Against All Grain cookbook was my earliest inspiration and my ultimate savior for gut and autoimmune health. I am forever grateful to her for taking this journey and inspiring so many others along the way — she truly has the reigning aesthetic in primal lifestyle! I Love Danielle, her precious family, and I can’t wait to meet her! She is, without a doubt, the real deal.

To celebrate my ticket purchase (but really to keep myself away from the tempting Halloween candy we have), I made Danielle’s Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies— the nut/grain/gluten/sugar/dairy free version! I added the sugar-free chocolate Halloween sprinkles…Matt and I both love sprinkles 🙂

Find the recipe here.  Buy tickets to join me in January here.

With the month coming to a close, and All Souls’ Day approaching next week, I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this disease is still robbing us of women and mothers in their prime. One of my college roommates fought cancer and introduced me to earlier.org which encourages early screenings, and is a great place to get (re)involved with this worthy cause. Personally, breast cancer has stolen two of the women I admired most in my life in the last year. Both of these women were incredibly supportive of my journey to better health through nutrition and natural healing, and I have them to thank for getting me started on this road 4 years ago.

Maria taught me so much about being a Doula. She shared literature, stories, and experiences that, in just 3 meetings for tea/coffee, transformed me forever as a Doula and human being. We had so many common interests, and talked for hours. She was the most spiritually connected person I have ever met. And when she found out I was pregnant, she messaged me about all the things she could pass on to me as I entered motherhood, both physical gifts and spiritual ones. She left behind a son and small daughter 2 weeks after Alba was born.

My Mom’s best friend Janice encouraged me, attended my essential oils seminars, and even held one at her house in support of me. She was brilliant and vibrant, the type of person who lit the room. She gave me the cheese dome in this picture and I keep it out always (and try to keep it filled!) so that I get to remember her every day. Specifically, I want to embody her joie de vivre, and her unwillingness to deny any of the delicious and beautiful things that life has to share with us. We have to be willing to take it in like she was. We only get one chance. Take the trip, buy the art, eat the fucking cookies.

I hope to pass on a piece of each of these women to our daughter.

mary oliver quote

 

 

 

Superfood;Superwoman

Image result for pumpkin pie smoothie

Admittedly, the “superfood” craze is a little silly, but it still blows my mind that adding a little tablespoon of chia seeds to my morning smoothie can afford me enough protein and fiber to really keep me full through my strenuous workouts.

My newest smoothie addition is…

Maca, a root grown high in the Peruvian mountains, used by ancient Incas to increase both fertility and virility. Today, holistics prescribe Maca root powder for chronic fatigue syndrome, fertility issues, hormone imbalance, and low libido. It’s important to start off using Maca in very small doses since it IS a potent superfood. The really great thing about increasing energy and vitality via Maca is that it does not tax the adrenals the way that caffeine does. Your energy is much more slow burning and long lasting. This is great news for the large percentage of the population suffering with adrenal fatigue, which correlates with hormone imbalance in women and causes a lot of stress on our systems.

I’ve instagrammed my use of collagen and chlorophyll in fruit smoothies. To make my smoothies more “Seasonal” this fall, I use Maca in combination with 8 oz. of almond milk, 1 banana, 1/2 a cup of pumpkin puree, a slice of ginger root, a few drops of vanilla extract and 1 tbsp. of cinnamon to create a delicious pumpkin pie smoothie. I’m really looking forward to sharing more details with you about the direct effect of Maca on my quality of life!

Prevention is the Cure

Shell mandala

What you put into your body (food & drink), what your inner monologue is, and what your stress management techniques are determine your well-being. You can prevent many forms of sickness and disease if you change the negative parts of your routine and just commit to:

1) Creating a healthy microbiome through good nutrition and exercise, which means cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and processed/packaged foods.

2) Loving yourself and creating an inner monologue that lifts you up

3) Making your common stresses manageable and avoiding unnecessary stress.

I have tried to narrow the focus of my blog to sharing healthy, homemade, whole food, paleo recipes, but the other aspects of prevention and optimal health are so intertwined with diet and nutrition that I feel compelled to emphasize the importance of nurturing your spirit in tandem with nurturing your gut!

If you are in a negative spiral, remember that “Your thoughts are not facts and your past is not your potential” – Kris Carr

the 5 pillars of prevention

  1. What you’re eating
  2. What you’re drinking
  3. What you’re thinking
  4. How you’re resting
  5. How you’re renewing

I began my health journey with a lot of help from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy You and Crazy Sexy Diet. I recommend her books and her current FREE online Wellness program!

Crazy Sexy You Energy Video

Easy Bone Broth Recipe to Make Right Now

Supporting your gut health is INTEGRAL to having energy and vitality. Some of us naturally enjoy a more diverse Microbiome than others, but the truth is that everyone should nourish their gut regularly. Recently, I wrote about the importance of probiotics and digestive enzymes in my own healing experience, but these things become expensive! Bone broth is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to nourish your gut lining and reduce inflammation- so why aren’t you doing it yet?

Do you buy bone in meat? Why not? It’s cheaper and has more flavor.

Do you discard the bones? Why? Would you throw away a multi-vitamin or a cup of superfood like chia seeds?

The marrow inside the bones of animals is dense with nutrients and minerals that we can’t find in any other source. Bone marrow, and thus bone broth, contains collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline, which reduce inflammation of all kinds– not solely gut inflammation. In short, our grandmother’s chicken soup cured our colds with more than just love and savory deliciousness.

If you take small, easy, cheap steps toward good health, then you’ll become addicted to the positive results. Remember, Hippocrates, father of medicine, told us: All disease begins in the gut. 

Easy Bone Broth Recipe

If you start buying (antibiotic-free, organic) bone in meat, then simply gather all your bones into a pot as soon as you are done.

Add filtered water to cover the bones X 2 (twice as much as you need to cover bones)

Add 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar to draw the marrow out of the bones

Season your broth with salt, pepper, one bay leaf, turmeric, sage, tarragon, or anything you might have in your spice drawer!

If you have carrots and celery, you can add those, but it’s not necessary– this is supposed to be convenient for you!

Bring to a boil and then let simmer for AT LEAST 4 HOURS to draw out nutrients.

what to do with extra bone broth

  • drizzle on dog or cat food for healthier pets
  • use as a base for homemade stews, or sauces– I’m making homemade enchilada sauce with it tonight!
  • freeze in an ice cube tray for later sauces or cups of broth

Probiotics, My #1 Health Tip

isle of skye elopement

I got married last month! Isle of Skye, Scotland Loraine Ross Photography

I’ve had a lot of time off to think about what I want to deliver to my readers. Foremost, I want to help people who share my struggles with intestinal discomfort, energy, and food allergies that effect their ability to live life to the fullest! I’ve been traveling a bunch over the last month, and as traveling often does, it has given me clarity. Probiotics clarity!

Friends ask me for help with their own digestive and general health issues, and I really stress the clean diet. I always will. If you live actively and eat REAL food, then whatever body you have is the one meant for you and it’s perfect! My overall wellness is truthfully better because of removing common allergens from my diet (sugar, lactose, wheat, soy, legumes, other carbs). This has changed my life more than anything else, including cardio, weight- training, and supplements.

Probiotics

However, if you are eating well and still struggling, you’re not alone. This happens to me over time and I think it’s important to share that sometimes our microbiome is so unbalanced with bad bacteria that diet alone will not replenish enough good bacteria. This happens for many reasons: overuse of antibiotics, birth via cesarean, contracting C-Diff or another disease that wipes out your good gut bacteria, or just generally having an unhealthy diet. In order to fully recover, I take a 30 Billion CFU probiotic with 15 strains of good bacteria. Trust me, yogurt is not enough, and if you’re buying yogurt and not making your own, then it might be making the situation worse (sugar/chemical thickeners).

Good Probiotics are not in corner drug stores. They ONLY come in glass bottles because plastic’s chemicals bleed in shipment. They have to withstand your stomach acid and should be stored in the refrigerator. They are expensive, but paying for your health today means saving money on sickness tomorrow! I don’t want this to turn into an advertisement for any one type, but I have a couple I will recommend if you reach out.

Fermented foods

In addition to probiotics, I eat one serving of fermented vegetables a day. You can also drink kefir. You guys know I love my veggies though, so I always have home-pickled onions, carrots, sauerkraut, and cauliflower on hand. These are super versatile as you’ll see in my instagram posts! I also drink 2 tablespoons of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar in my water every morning (with a touch of wild orange or lemon). THIS is how I beat gut issues. I hope it’s helpful and transparent enough to help you or your friend succeed with me!

Ask me about my probiotics and check out my post on my new Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and review of NomNomPaleo’s Cauliflower mashed potatoes tomorrow!

Doula Life: 3 postpartum foods for healing and lactation

The sole baby girl I was expecting this spring/summer birth season was born early this morning! I still can’t get over how perfect little Beatrice is and how strong her Mama was throughout.

A Galactagogue (great word!!!) is a food, herb, or supplement that aids breast milk supply. Prior to leaving for the hospital, I had prepared the following foods for my client to promote healing for her and baby, to promote lactation, and to intensify her nutrient stores. These could be some great meals for new moms out there, doulas, or just shiny, healthy people looking for whole food, nutrient dense recipes!

Slow baked salmon, kale and quinoa with lemon, fennel, and dill seasoning

In a sheet pan, I slow roasted (275 F) 2 large salmon planks on a bed of spinach, kale and pre-cooked quinoa, covered in lemon and fennel slices, seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh dill.

Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are filled with vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and are non-dairy sources of calcium.
Salmon is full of a special kind of fat called DHA that promotes brain growth in infants (and is found in breast milk and formula). The more DHA you eat, the more you will have in your breast milk, and it is also thought to reduce stress and postpartum depression. Quinoa and whole grains provide folic acid important in breastfeeding as well.

Chickpea and Spinach Soup (If on AIP , replace chickpeas with cauliflower)

In a blender or food processor I combine 2 cups of cooked chickpeas, 1 bag of cooked spinach, 1 pan roasted yellow onion and 3 cloves of garlic, and 4 cups of bone broth (chicken stock). I intensify the healing power of my broth my adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to draw out the marrow goodness, and I season it with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. After that is blended well to smooth, I stir in 1 can of coconut milk.

Soup in general helps to increase milk production as it heals. Warm foods also enliven your Qi (or life force), according to Eastern tradition, and thus promote lactation and healing. Bone broth is always good for everyone after surgeries, and I love bringing it as a “get well” gift, so it is even more relevant if you have had a C-section or episiotomy.

Blueberry Oat Muffins

This recipe is coming in my next blog post! Oats, though, provide a new Mom the necessary folic acid and iron (if the tummy can take them) and blueberries are well known antioxidants and provide an energy boost when needed!

Now I’m off to get some sleep!

 

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions are good on just about everything. I love the brightness and acidity that they add to any dish, but Ive been using them lately on salads, burgers, tacos, steaks, and anything that is rich and can benefit from that “bite” of the vinegar. Eating fermented veggies is a cheap and healthy way to balance your gut flora and get probiotics into the microbiome. Also, I normally can’t quite handle raw onions on my sensitive stomach, so pickling them gets that oniony flavor I love back into my recipes and diet.

What you need: a few minutes and….

  • A mason jar or air tight jar and lid
  • 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs. salt
  • 3 tbs. maple syrup or honey
  • 1 large red onion
  1. Slice your Red onion EXTRA THIN by using a sharp knife or mandolin
  2. Combine remaining ingredients into your jar and shake until sweetener is dissolved
  3. Add onions and let sit for at least 30 minutes. These get better the longer they marinate!
  4. ENJOY on Everything!!

Also great for a Antipasto Platter for a party….

IMG_3418

Fertility, Rites, and The Blood Moon

My friend Erin has a simple and great response when I asked her why I am so drawn both to the Catholic faith and druid/pagan folklore: “Um, because you’re Irish!”

So today is the convergence of all those things because I had my first rite of welcome at Mass and I’m performing a fertility ritual under the full blood moon tonight. If you haven’t read about the tetrad of blood moons that have occurred over the last two years…well, most likely you have. The Full Moon is absolutely linked to fertility of the earth, as I mention in my moonstruation post.

Tonight, my ritual is for all my friends who have entrusted me with their desire to become pregnant (you better hire me as your doula!) but it’s also in honor of anyone else out there who has great faith and great desire for the same thing.

Traditional items for your (outdoor) altar: white candle, rose quartz, and something that represents your desired child (a flower, doll, poem, anything!)
Then you just get as many female friends as possible to gather or send you positive energy from afar to concentrate and meditate on the fertility power of the moon goddess and wish all good things for you. This ritual is so positive and full of blessings that it will leave you feeling absolutely wonderful, regardless of how well it actually works for fertility! It is a way for us to bond, rather than compete, as women, and that is the very best part!

Celebrate the Autumnal equinox

Cairn T at Loughcrew Neolithic Tomb complex. The door through which the rising sun shines on the equinox is partially hidden by the stone circle in the foreground. Photographed by a friend of mine.

Today is one of my favorite days of the year– the autumnal equinox. Today the length of the day and night are exactly the same, and Oktoberfest and other Harvest celebrations are underway. My soul feels deeply connected to harvest celebrations and winter preparations. Perhaps that’s why I was so drawn to the Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland when I was in graduate school. Some of you know about the Newgrange passage tomb that is aligned with the Summer and Winter solstices, but not everyone knows that this is part of a larger complex of monuments and other passage tombs that belonged to the same people–built thousands of years before the pyramids. Other megaliths and monuments at the Boyne Valley Site seem to be aligned with lunar phases, in compliment to Newgrange. A similar megalith complex exists in Loughcrew, a site I visited with my favorite professor. It is less famous, but Cairn T has an equally magnificent illumination on sunrise on the equinoxes. I love to tell people about these magical an monolithic calendars, and watch their eyes light up in wonder that people were capable of such wisdom, foresight, and incredibly sophisticated intelligence and technology so early on. Neolithic people were pretty amazing; launching themselves into a movement from hunting/gathering to sustainable agriculture and using this new intelligence and sociological development to highlight their profound relationship with the earth: the sun, first and foremost, but also the moon, and the seasons. How can we reconnect to the earth in such a profound way? What could we ever create that could inspire wonder and amazement in 5000 years? Happy Autumn My Friends!

Bison Chili with Avocado

bison chili with avocado

You can read all about my passion for bison chili and reasons that it is better for you in burger or chili form than ground beef in my article on Mind Body Green.

Acorn squash isn’t quite in season yet, so I used the last of my summer squash and zucchini for this recent addition to the foods I’m freezing for my Whole 30 Challenge starting next week!

Additional ingredients? Aromatics: celery/carrots sauteed in ghee go into any chili I make, and I threw in some of the gorgeous hot and sweet peppers I got from my CSA.

Chili is all about generous seasoning, so I do healthy shakes of my garlic salt, cayenne, turmeric for health, and chili pepper. Most people like onions in their chili but they often cause bloat and are hard on digestion (FYI)

Finally, you have to mix in a large can of organic tomatoes, such as this from Trader Joe’s, 1 can of black beans, and a can of your broth of choice (beef, chicken, vegetable) I just do whatever I have on hand, which happened to be beef this time.

I like to garnish my Chili with several avocado slices and/or jalapenos! What do you guys think?

 

Getting More Fiber on your Ancestral Diet

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Dietary Fiber is incredibly important to  balanced health and macros and a healed gut. SO many popular sources of fiber are in cereals and whole grains, though, which my body seriously can’t handle. As I’m becoming more and more aware of macros, I found that I needed some more fiber in my diet, as MANY people do. you see fiber helps with all aspects of the digestive system and regularity.  Fiber helps control blood sugar levels, which is great for PCOS, diabetes, and weight management. t can also lower cholesterol and regulate bowel movements. These are the ways that I am packing more fiber into my diet without relying on “whole grains.” I’ve numbered my suggestions chronologically, with the most fiber per oz first! I hope you find this useful if you need help getting more fiber on your ancestral diet!

  1. Chia Seeds- This superfood is at it again, packing more than 5 grams per tablespoon! I incorporate chias into my diet by adding 2-3 tablespoons to my yogurt or smoothie in the morning. They also go wonderful with desserts like chocolate pudding or a fruit parfait.
  2. Flaxseed- I eat flaxseed in it’s ground or powdered form as apposed to its seed form because the fine powder makes it more versatile for use in my cooking. at 3.8 grams per tablespoon, this can be added when baking (one tablespoon dissolved in water replaces on egg), in your smoothies, or sprinkled into sauces easily.
  3. Lentils- Just discovering whether or not I can eat these, since not everything in the lentil family sits well with me, but since they pack 15 grams of fiber per cup, I’m trying them out in a new recipe coming to the blog soon!
  4. Blackbeans– Have as much fiber as lentils! (15 grams a cup). I miss nachos something fierce, so one of my favorite
  5. Avocados– yum! I sprinkle salt and cayenne on mine (sometimes with a spot of homemade mayo) at 6.7 grams of fiber for 1/2 of an avocado, we know why it’s a superfood!
  6. Barley– because I’m Irish. and it’s a grain I can eat….and I think this is so because Barley grains are like Oat grains in that they are more of a “bran.” 6 grams of fiber/ cup
  7. Oats- Hotly debated as appropriate for AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) diets, I do use oats sparingly in baking, when I need some fiber….though I can not down them on their own, personally. 4 grams of fiber a cup!

 

30 Day Clean Eating Challenge- Starts September 10th!

Maybe some of you have a nutrition cycle like me: You do really well all week long with few indulgences. You make your balanced lunches, and dream up nutritious dinners like zoodles with homemade pesto or buffalo chicken lettuce cups with homemade dressing. You eat vegetarian for most meals, vegan even, and lots of fish and lean protein to fill you up after workouts. THEN the weekend comes along… One indulgence becomes EVERY MEAL, drinking alcohol leaves you feeling too lazy for morning workouts, and everyone is eating out and using food to socialize, right?

Usually for me, Sunday ends in a necessary liquid fast after this type of weekend and I start my week off feeling less than great, and back on my clean eating train. That’s why I’m challenging myself to a 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge or WHOLE 30. This type of whole food cleanse is so good for your body (unlike the water-cayenne pepper-lemon juice kind) and is REALISTIC to maintain over a lifetime. I could honestly not imagine going back to sugar or wheat after my first 30 days without it and there is a distinct possibility that you could find a similar culprit for your headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, anxiety, and be free of it after October 10th. What a fabulous way to start out the Fall Season? With all your clothes too big and a new palate for healthy, seasonal food.

I only have success with this type of thing when I have accountability partners! That’s why I am participating in my 30 Day Whole food Challenge via my friends over at Supersisterfitness.com  The program includes meal plans, supplements, nutritious cleanse day drinks and a built-in support system, so that you really can’t fail. Comment below or Send me an email if you want details on how you can participate!

Here are some rules to guide our 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge

  • NO Processed foods– meaning nothing pre-packaged or not REAL
  • NO SUGAR- this includes added sugar! (I’m looking at you, Greek Yogurt)
  • NO Alcohol (ok, one glass of red wine a week if you must)
  • NO refined carbohydrates (which should already be clear from #1) but I’ll say it again: don’t eat  white rice, corn, or wheat
  • DO YOUR BEST to eat organic, antibiotic- free meat. Local is best. Know that the animal that is feeding you had a normal animal life.
  • LIMIT Dairy. I do not have milk, cream, or any milk by-product because these foods are inflammatory for me. I DO have low-lactose cheeses, dark chocolate, and make my own yogurt. Find a balance and do what works for you!
  • NO Soda or beverages other than water. Only green tea or “bulletproof”  coffee…more on that later

If you follow the rules above, I KNOW you will be feeling better in 72 hours or less. Take your Summer challenge to the next level with this me this month and start Fall off on the right foot!
30 Day Clean Eating Challenge

7 Signs that your Hormones aren’t Balanced

  1. Fatigue
    Constant bouts of being either wired or stressed is related to adrenal fatigue and spiking cortisol levels. I have felt the fatigue from imbalanced hormones and it’s intense–feels illness related, leaving you tired after a great night’s sleep
  2. Mood Swings and Irritability
    Comes from imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. Everyone’s going to be cranky sometimes! But if you rage with consistency, this may be why.
  3. Skin changes
    Especially cystic acne, which happens around the chin and on the forehead. Zits happen, but shouldn’t be happening much past puberty. If you can’t correlate it to a new skincare regime or food in your diet, then it could be hormonal
  4. Hot flashes/night sweats
    This is big time for me. I sleep on top of the covers and our AC bill is through the roof! This is from changing levels of progesterone.
  5. Changes in bowel regularity
    Your liver processes hormones and food toxins, so if it is overloaded or not functioning properly then you will also get bowel effects with hormone imbalance
  6. Low libido
    You can thank estrogen levels for this, (and decreasing testosterone). Some of these symptoms are also those of depression though, so best to get a hormonal blood test first to rule it out.
  7. Inability to lose weight
    The ultimate enemy of hormonal imbalance. Raised levels of estrogen and cortisol make losing weight harder than normal. You can persevere though!

Do any of these 7 signs that your hormones aren’t balanced resonate with you? Last week, I wrote about my Pre-PCOS, and then realized that my tips would not be useful if someone did not know their hormones were out of whack. As a woman in your 20’s or 30’s, especially if you are thinking of conceiving, this is something to have checked via bloodwork. There are so many ways to attack hormone imbalance that I’ve discussed in other posts, including changing diet, increasing exercise, laying off the booze, acupuncture and herbal therapy, and essential oils!

One of the main reasons I diffuse essential oils is to remove the hormone interrupting free-radicals and environmental factors that effect my hormone balance like plastics, household cleaners, and make up products.

7 signs that your hormones aren't balanced

Balancing your Yin and Yang

Prior to my experience with acupuncture, I thought of yin and yang as complimentary opposites; like the white and black puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly to form a whole or the below Moon and Sun imagery, necessary to the others completion. Come to find out, it’s much more complicated than that, but balancing your Yin and Yang is what we’re all striving for in optimum health!Balancing your Yin and Yang

I saw an MD acupuncturist and Eastern Medicine Practitioner from China after my lower back sprain and immediately felt better. When we talked about my other concerns and quirks, she immediately pointed out that I have more yin than yang, and for the past week I’ve been thinking about what exactly that means for me. I’ve always loved the cold, so as soon as I grew up, struck out for cold and lovely rainy destinations: Boston and Dublin. There is something just so poetic and “at home” to me about gray skies and crisp weather. I love sad music too, and one of my favorite activities has always been listening to a bluesy chanteuse on my headphones while dodging rain-puddles after a solo outing to a bookstore, museum, or restaurant. This one was on repeat in 2011.

To become more yang: exercise; play competitive sports; wear bright colors; socialize; eat more cooked foods, root vegetables, grains, and fish; make to-do lists and structure the day.

To become less yin, reduce: consumption of ice cream, cold foods, raw fruit, and salads; regular use of alcohol; spending time sitting around; spending time watching television; spending time alone; exposure to a damp, cold climate; feeling powerless to change circumstances; blaming other people; waiting for someone else sort everything out.

So yes, I have more Yin than Yang, naturally. That’s easy to see. Thank you Chinese Medicine, but duh. So the question is, how to I strike a balance if I don’t want to? How do I add Yang and detract Yin when I hate hot sunny days, I’m exhausted by frequent human interaction, and…well, my alcohol consumption is definitely “regular” by definition? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) in my relationship with Matt, I think I have sought my Yang and been fulfilled. One of these days he is going to drag me to some tropical vacation and not short after, we will probably live out our days in a beach town. He forces me to “Yang” with people and at social outings more than I might otherwise, AND he makes me laugh a lot. 2) I just have to go back to my fierce WILL to get better and be as healthy as possible and that is all within me. I am the one who forces the 6 am workouts (and sometimes go for a 2nd at 6 pm) to build muscle and activate my Yang. I’m also the one making the conscious choice to save alcohol for weekends and celebrations….where it belongs. It’s not my life elixir or the buddy I need to hold my hand through bad weeknight TV choices.

How do you strike a balance between your Yin and Yang? Or if you are out of balance, and feeling the health side-effects like me, which way do you lean?

My Local Farmer’s Market: Transplanting Traditions

I am so incredibly proud to be a part of My local farmer’s market: Transplanting Traditions and the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. Sustainability and Food insecurity are two of the biggest issues in nutrition today. Triangle Land conservancy and Transplanting Traditions are doing an honorable job of addressing those problems, while also providing immigrants with delicious crops native to their homeland and introducing  happy patrons like me to different produce traditions 🙂 Enjoy this great video!

Moonstruation: Why we should be in tune with the earth’s cycles to benefit our own

Moonstruation: Why we should be in tune with the earth's cycles to benefit our own

Have you ever look up at the moon and felt connected to it? OR felt like it connected you with someone else or everyone else? Maybe there’s something to that feeling. A majority of menstruating women with regular cycles report menses during the NEW moon and ovulation during the FULL moon. Thus many women, like me, refer to the monthly cycle as a “moon cycle.” {there’s a nice new name for it if you were looking for one!}
Women were once all in tune with the moon this way. Archaeological and historical evidence shows us that before modern diets shifted to processed foods, and even before hormonal imbalances abounded because of toxins in our environment,  women all over the world actually cycled together. From this, we have the wonderful stories of the “Red Tent” and matriarchal lineage passed through the stories of mothers, sisters, and Doulas. As women, it is most natural for us to flow with the new moon so that we are most fertile during the full moon. This is the way of the earth’s fertility and how crops grow, and at one time we were in tune with it.

Some Reasons you might want to get in tune with your Moonstruation:

– You experience frequently missed or irregular periods
– You suffer with PCOS
– You are experiencing fertility issues
– Other hormonal problems

If you want to get back to your truest moon cycle, I recommend a whole foods diet, 8+ hours of sleep a night, and rising naturally with the sun in the morning. If you can’t quite manage that, make sure your workout routine (even if it’s just walking) gets you tired enough so that you fall asleep when your head hits the pillow. It’s extremely important to cut out artificial light from your bedroom and sleep cycle, including phones and televisions. They should not enter your bedroom. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol, which is hard to process through your liver along with your hormones, and finally, most importantly, meditate once a day. Honestly, I’ve noticed that simply being more aware of the moon and its phases draws me closer to my essential moon goddessness. Get in touch with your inner femininity on the full and new moon by scheduling  some “me” time with the help of  this calendar!

 

Combating PCOS Naturally: healthier body, balanced hormones

PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) effects roughly 22% of the population, and is a growing epidemic. Hormone imbalance, processed foods, and stress are products of our modern world that contribute to the increased number of women battling PCOS. Combating PCOS naturally is the safest and most effective path to a healthier body and hormonal balance. I was diagnosed with pre-PCOS this year, at 29. This is after 3 years of eating no gluten, and 2 years of no sugar, wheat, or  lactose with limited processed foods. I absolutely think my lifestyle has kept the intensity of my personal experience with PCOS to a minimum, but there is still an uphill battle to be won and it is about more than just diet!

PCOS causes hormonal imbalances that can lead to acne, weight gain & trouble losing weight, hair loss,  fertility problems, insulin resistance, and depression. So Yeah, all that SUCKS! However, MANY studies have been published showing the effectiveness of exercise in combating PCOS. In fact,  this study shows that it is EVEN more important than diet. Further, lifting weights specifically helps women with PCOS because insulin resistance is addressed through BODY COMPOSITION (think more muscle than fat) and not by mere weight loss (whoops to the previous 28 years of my life). If you have PCOS or suspect you might, start by exercising 30-60 minutes every day. According to latest studies, if you have PCOS and as a result of years of insulin resistance, need to lose weight in order to feel healthy, then you should exercise 90 minutes a day. Go on a 40 minute walk with your dog or your best friend! Do a 25 minute yoga stretch on You Tube, lift light weights and stretch in front of your favorite nightly TV programs, or go to a local swim or aerobics class. The bottom line is that you MUST prioritize physical activity when it comes to PCOS. Lift! Lift! LIFT! But before you do, Stretch, Stretch, Stretch! Haha. You will not get bulky if you lift 3 days a week, I promise.

Now let me tell you a fun story! I started going to acupuncture after a bout with Vertigo last year. It was my first experience in which modern medicine was baffled by my symptoms, and I turned to some great resources provided by my Internal Care doctors at UNC. In Acupuncture and Yoga, and many other Eastern doctrines, we learn about our Qi (chee), the life-force that flows through our bodies. My Acupuncturist, Andrew, told me that my Qi was in stasis, thus my lymph was in stasis (dizzy vertigo) and  my blood was also in stasis (irregular periods). So it’s the dead of winter, and Andrew tells me to exercise as much as possible, lifting weights daily in order to feel better and combat stasis. Oh and he says to never EVER touch wheat again (Ok, I get it!). 2 months later, I was diagnosed with pre-PCOS via blood work for my thyroid by my beloved Western Doctor, Louise, and told me to be conscious of this developing and the possibility of developing symptoms. BUT Andrew already knew that was coming, you see? Through my energy and Qi, he knew my blood was in stasis, and he knew my body wanted to be stronger, not just leaner, in order to function properly. Eastern and Western Medicine are such beautiful compliments to each other in this way. I also REALLY recommend acupuncture for everyone out there trying to get a handle on their health. I have some great resources for anyone in the triangle area. Today,  I’m actually going to a “real” doctor at UNC Healthcare who practices acupuncture as a supplement to her primary care services 🙂

As you guys know, I’m still on that journey and some days it is really tough. I pulled my lower back working out with weights last week and now I’ve been set back for my strength and flexibility yoga goals for this month. And then there’s the body stuff. I don’t get to eat the things other people get to eat. I don’t get to indulge or skip daily workouts…and all that hard work may never really show to other people because I’m fighting against insulin resistance and abdominal bloat. I will probably never be a size 2, but there is a a greater reward at the end of the road! And trust me, the feeling of improving your health through natural means and using drugs only when necessary is an empowering feeling. I can’t wait for my next 21st day blood tests this fall! My cycle is back in sync with the new/full moons, which is a sign of fertility and I’m increasing my muscle to fat body composition ration every day. Little by little. Step by step.

Also read this great PCOS resource at my favorite blog, MIND BODY GREEN

Combating PCOS Naturally

 

Anti-Inflammatory Detox Smoothie

Hey you guys, bad news. I sprained my lower back working out this week. It has been so tough to be off my feet, healing, and doing simple exercises to rebuild strength. I’ve been using both Arnica and ibuprofen for pain, in addition to some essential oils. I decided to (what the heck!) also throw in some anti-inflammatory nutrition so I’ve been drinking the following smoothie to combat my tummy inflammation AND my back inflammation!

1 mug full of green tea (preferably macha, but any will do) as your liquid base
1 handfulls of blueberries
2 handfulls of kale
1 inch of ginger root
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 TB flaxseed
1 TB Turmeric
optional 1 cup ice, which I like because I like super frozen smoothies!

Blend and feel better! OR just reduce your natural inflammation and ward off disease!