Category Archives: Functional Medicine

What’s the Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetes?

In my last couple posts, we discussed ways to reduce sugar and why that is so important for your health. Today, let’s talk about some simple yet powerful strategies to reverse direction when sugar has led you down the path to prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.

First, I want you to know that these metabolic challenges can be reversed, even if you’re already taking diabetes medication. There are countless stories of people reversing entrenched cases of diabetes with diet and lifestyle improvements. It’s not even a long complicated process. It can be done in months, weeks, or even days. 

There are many books written by nutrition minded physicians who have had great success in reversing diabetes. Some recommend a low fat vegan diet (like Dr Barnard and Dr Fuhrman) while some go to the opposite end of the spectrum and recommend a more Paleo type approach, and everything in between. Although we love it when there’s one clear magic bullet, the great news is that there isn’t just one way to regain optimal blood sugar control. This means that we have flexibility in making the changes that resonate with us, that we can enjoy and sustain.

Although the general sentiment is that you have to dramatically reduce carbs, it turns out you can reverse diabetes with a high carb, low fat diet as well as a high fat, low carb diet. Although these approaches seem contradictory, what they have in common is the most important: 

They are not both high carb and high fat. This appears to be the most dangerous combination, and unfortunately is typical of the Standard American Diet. French fries, anybody?

They emphasize whole foods. It’s the processed, damaged, stripped, destroyed, chemicalized, fake, sugar drenched foods that are making us sick on all fronts, not just diabetes. In theory we all understand this. But we have trouble applying it because so much of the standard American diet is processed, including everyday items like pasta, bread, pizza, muffins, cereal, cookies, and cake, which are made with processed flour that is stripped of its nutrients, protein, fat, and fiber. Grains that are dismantled in this way are rapidly digested and spike blood sugar, which then spikes insulin, and metabolic mayhem ensues. Some people choose to avoid all grains when reversing diabetes or trying to lose weight, but actual whole grains like quinoa and brown or black rice can be part of a therapeutic diet. Fiber seems to be the key. Eat foods that naturally have ample fiber.

They eliminate sweeteners, even the “healthy” ones. Just like processed grains, sweeteners (most of them also highly processed) permeate our food system. Our palates and pancreases have become unknowingly habituated to them. This became very obvious to me personally when I noticed that green tea and strawberry jam seemed sad and boring when they didn’t have added sugar! You can use stevia for a period of time as you wean off sugar, but ultimately, it’s very helpful to eliminate that too, so your palate can start appreciating then natural sweetness in foods again.

Alcohol in moderation if at all. Alcohol rapidly raises blood sugar and contributes to fatty liver, one of the hallmarks of diabetic metabolic dysfunction. If an alcoholic drink is something you really enjoy, instead of carb loaded, sugary beverages, opt for vodka or tequila with soda water with a lime or splash of cranberry. Just have one if possible.

Move your body and use your muscles. Insulin resistance starts in the large skeletal muscles when they’re not being used for long periods of time. If you’re logging a lot of sedentary time working at a desk, watching TV, or driving, try to take some movement breaks. Get up regularly and run up and down the stairs, do some squats or pushups, or sun salutations. Moving throughout the day is key, not just one workout followed by hours of sloth. Keep those muscles active and taking in glucose!

CAUTION: If you are currently on hyperglycemic medication of any kind, let your doctor know before you start making these changes. Your need for medication can reduce dramatically within days, and we don’t want to risk hypoglycemic episodes.

If you just followed these basics, you’d make wonderful progress. You’d lose weight, have better blood markers, and feel more energetic. Next time, I’ll expand on these strategies a bit, including some helpful supplements.

Image credit: Jacob Postuma

Hold On To Your Pancreas!

Halloween is coming!   

I’ve always loved Halloween, but this year seeing the Halloween decorations actually filled me with dread*. Halloween is supposed to be pretend scary, but it does have a truly sinister side that harms people and causes a great deal of suffering.  

The real monster is the sugar. 

If it were just during Halloween, we would surely survive. However, our sugar problem is more like 24/7/365. Our taste buds have adapted and now we “need” a certain level of sweetness regularly to feel satisfied.  

Our taste buds aren’t the only thing that have adapted. Sugar affects every cell, organ, hormone, and tissue in our bodies. Here’s the short and not-so-sweet progression of what happens when we eat our body weight in sugar every year:  

  • First the pancreas obliges by churning out more insulin to get that sugar into the cells.
  • Once sugar intake is chronic, the pancreas gets in the habit of churning out high insulin all the time. 
  • Our cells get inflamed from all the sugar being forced into them by the insulin, and they don’t work as well as they should.
  • Insulin stays consistently high, which inhibits fat burning, and we become resistant to fat loss.
  • Eventually, we have way too much blood sugar regardless, and the liver starts packaging it into fats called triglycerides, which then deposit not only in fat cells, but also in the liver, the muscles, and even the pancreas. This is toxic, inflammatory visceral fat, which often takes the form of a beer gut.
  • Then our cells start resisting insulin, causing blood sugar to stay high, where it damages our blood vessels.
  • Plaques form in the blood vessels causing hardening of the arteries, blood pressure rises, and the eyes and kidneys show early signs of damage.
  • If you’re getting bummed out, just skip to the last bullet point.
  • Since we can’t get the sugar into the cells because they’re now resisting insulin, we don’t have the fuel to create cellular energy. On top of that, the high insulin shut off fat burning. So we have a plethora of fuel, but our cells can’t burn it. Sugar and fat end up where they don’t belong. We’re exhausted.
  • Our sex hormones even get whacked out on all the sugar. Men grow “moobs” and women grow facial hair. Libido is a thing of the past.
  • The immune system is suppressed and we get sick a lot.
  • Our risk of every health horror imaginable goes way up.
  • We gain weight. We feel tired and old.
  • We think this is just “getting old”, but it’s all accelerated by the SUGAR!
  • This process is reaching epic proportions in the US and around the world. More than half of the adult population has prediabetes or diabetes. Even scarier, Type 2 diabetes diagnoses in kids is skyrocketing. 
  • This scary story can have a happy ending. The great news is that it’s all reversible, even entrenched cases of diabetes. It’s in your power! So don’t worry. Instead, get motivated!

To summarize – if you’re tired, unable to lose weight, having health and hormone issues, aging fast… maybe it’s the sugar. I wish this were all “pretend scary” like the rest of Halloween, but hopefully it’s made you more aware of how insidious and far reaching our collective sugar addiction is.  

Click here for more “how-to’s” for kicking the sugar addiction. But in the meantime, notice how often you eat foods/drinks with added sweetener, don’t be tempted by the evil Halloween candy, and do our cleanse 🙂 which is very effective for reversing sugar addiction and the health effects of it! 

* I do realize that my transformation to a totally un-fun downer of a health nut is nearing completion. But it’s totally worth it if others get healthier and happier! 

Image credit Jee World

EEE, WNV, and Lyme! OH MY!

In our area, everyone is on high alert about mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Add this to on-going fears about the West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and the upcoming flu season, and many of us are in a legitimate tizzy, dousing ourselves with chemicals and avoiding the great outdoors. Which of course makes sense on some level, but you know what makes even more sense? Keeping our immune systems robust and balanced. 

Louis Pasteur, the father of germ theory, said on his death bed, “The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything!” By the terrain, he was referring to whether our inner tissues are hospitable to microbes or not. Is our immune system nourished and balanced or suppressed and depressed? 

Unfortunately, most of our Standard American Lifestyle is a direct assault on the immune system. With all this going on, it’s time to bring our A game. A strong immune system makes us less vulnerable to the ravaging effects of all of these pathogens, even the really scary ones. Here are some reminders that will help keep you healthy and strong no matter what microbes are lurking nearby.

Top 8 Actions for Robust Immunity

  1. Sleep well. Get regular, excellent quality sleep. Prioritize your sleep, aiming to go to bed around 10 PM and wake up with the sun, between 5 and 6 AM. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, try the heavy blanket! It’s super soothing and sleep inducing.
  2. Reduce stress. Yup, this again. When you’re stressed, your body de-prioritizes immunity because getting over a cold is way less important than escaping from a tiger. Deadlines, relationship stress, financial worries, etc might not feel like being chased by a tiger in your mind, but your body experiences it that way. There’s enough evidence about the negative impact of stress on our whole body. Now is the time to become aware of your stressors and do something about it. Yoga, meditation, exercise, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction are all effective strategies. Drinking beer and eating cake is not (although admittedly fun and tasty).
  3. Optimize immune nutrients. Your immune system relies heavily on vitamins A and D and zinc. Get out in the sun for D (or supplement with D3 drops). Eat your darkly colored veggies for beta carotene (which gets converted to A). Snack on pumpkin seeds for zinc (these are a great option because they’re sprouted, and therefore more digestible and nutritious).
  4. Reduce sugar as much as possible. A high sugar meal suppresses the immune system for hours… Just in time for your next obscenely decadent latte or snack. If you think about it, most Americans are immune suppressed all day long due to regular sugar spikes.
  5. Nourish your microbiome.We do this in three ways. First, consume probiotics (beneficial bacteria) daily whether through unpasteurized fermented foods like Real Pickles veggies, or a supplement. Second, feed those critters with lots of fiber from plant foods. A highly processed, low fiber diet starves them. That’s mean! Third, avoid the stuff that kills them – antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary), excessive alcohol, glyphosate (which conventional wheat is saturated with – get organic whenever possible), artificial sweeteners like sucralose, pesticides, and conventional meat and dairy (because they contain antibiotic residues and crowd out the fiber rich foods).
  6. Stay hydrated. Dehydrated mucous membranes are more vulnerable to microbes. Drink a couple glasses of water first thing in the morning (with fresh lemon juice as a vitamin C bonus!) and then sip water throughout the day.
  7. Exercise! You know it, but here’s a journal reference if you need one. Just do it.
  8. Be happy, positive, and loving! I know, that sounds woo woo. But research shows that a positive mindset, connection with loved ones, and physical touch all improve immunity. Go hug someone today!

Image credit iStockPhoto

Spring Colds & Allergies

Just as allergies are kicking in, it seems like everyone is getting colds too! Caring for your immune system will help reduce the severity of both colds and allergies.

Here’s my emergency protocol for getting over a cold quick:

  • Take a hot Epsom Salt bath. Soaking in the hot tub functions like a fever – it heats up your body causing the viruses to die off and may boost the immune system. The steam also helps to clear your sinuses. Baths are relaxing, and when you’re relaxed, your body can prioritize immune function. I always add the Epsom salts to the bath because it’s a great way to get more magnesium (which is good for just about everything) and sulfur (which gently supports your spring detoxification). If you’re congested, you might want to add a bit of eucalyptus essential oil as well.
  • Do a shot of water with a drop of oregano oil. This is quite potent, so don’t over do it or splash on your face. Do one drop per day until you feel better.
  • Tea to the rescue! Lemon balm and cats claw tea are antiviral. I usually multitask with both teabags in the same mug. Throat Coat is really nice for soothing your throat, and these herbs are soothing for the rest of your digestive system!
  • Your gut microbiome health is intimately tied to your health and immune system. So be sure to tenderly care for your microbial friends. Send them some more good guys with probiotic capsules, fermented foods, Fire Cider, Kombucha, and/or Gut Shots. Variety is fun and effective, so it’s great to have lots of options on hand. The benefits of a strong, balanced microbiome go way beyond colds and allergies.
  • Diet to the rescue! In addition to all your fermented fun enjoy hot soups like this one and anything with lots of onions and garlic. Avoid dairy (because it increases mucous) and sugar (because it suppresses the immune system). There are many delicious plant based yogurts, cheeses, and ice creams out there now, so you don’t have to be deprived at all.
  • Supplements to the rescue! My kids and I have been taking Juice Plus for almost 10 years, and we rarely get sick. When I feel something coming on, I double it up. Elderberry syrup is also very helpful once a cold sets in. If you get sick/allergic often, you may want to consider vitamin D, zinc, and possibly vitamin A for short periods of time. Your doctor may be willing to test your status of these immune nutrients. {Functional medicine tip: Red Blood Cell (RBC) nutrient tests are more accurate because they reflect longer term status.}
  • Daily use of a neti pot washes microbes and allergens from your sinuses, and also clears out accumulated mucous so you can breathe again.
  • And all that stuff your mom told you… good quality rest, staying hydrated, and stress reduction are all vital for your immune system. In its wisdom, your body will not prioritize healing from the flu when it thinks you’re being chased by a tiger! Go to bed by 10, sip water all day, and breathe and relax, and do yoga. Just do it.

Two more tips specifically for allergies:

  • A daily teaspoon of raw, local honey can help inform your immune system that pollen is not stranger danger.
  • Quercetin is a natural antihistamine with additional antioxidant benefits.

Bless you!

Image credit: Lisa Mair

Cleansing is the New Diet

Spring is when the body is primed and ready to clear out toxins, stagnation, sludge, excess weight, and inflammation, according to Ayurveda. Come spring, many of us are so ready for this. I know I am!

We can help that natural cleansing process along with a multifaceted cleanse. But it’s more common to turn to diets to spur along spring weight loss. There’s a big difference between diets and cleanses. Although diets can help you lose weight, they aren’t the best strategy, as research consistently shows. In a diet, the goal is to lose weight at any cost, usually through some variation of calorie deprivation and exercise intensification – the classic calories in vs calories out approach that relies on sheer willpower. Although calories do matter on one level, there are several other important factors that diets usually ignore – such as detoxification, oxidative stress, nutrient density, food sensitivities, stress, and how and why we eat. Aggressive weight loss without attention to these areas is not only an uphill battle, but likely to increase inflammation and initiate a vicious and frustrating weight loss cycle. Which, as we know, is very common.

If you want to lose winter padding, boost your natural spring cleansing power, and get healthier along the way, be sure your spring strategy more holistically addresses these concerns:

Detoxification. Whenever you lose weight, toxins are released from the fat cells, where they are commonly stored. If you don’t have abundant nutrient support (such as sulfur containing veggies, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, b vitamins, etc), toxins will not get excreted from the body. Instead, they get pulled out of the cells and recirculated through the body, where they cause more damage and make you feel terrible. Supporting detoxification along with any weight loss is vital. In its wisdom, the body may actually resist fat loss in an attempt to keep toxins in the fat cells where they do the least damage. Getting them out of the body in a safe effective way will help with successful long term weight maintenance, energy, and overall health.

Nourishment. This brings us to nutrient density. Whole, unprocessed plant foods offer tens of thousands of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which are your best friend for losing weight and cleansing toxins. Phytonutrients reduce inflammation and free radical damage, support detoxification, and help your body actually repair itself. The fiber keeps you regular, so that you can most efficiently excrete the toxins that made their way to the intestines. Constipation doesn’t feel good for many reasons, toxicity being one of them. You can lose weight eating highly processed diet wafers, bars, and shakes, but these don’t offer the array of healing nutrients that whole plant foods do. Do yourself a million favors by centering your diet on abundant fresh, colorful veggies.

Food sensitivities. Another hidden factor in stubborn weight is food sensitivities. When we regularly eat foods our bodies don’t like, we set up an inflammatory dynamic that causes all manner of annoyances like eczema, arthritis, psoriasis, fatigue, and – you guessed it – stubborn weight. Uncovering your food sensitivities is vital for overall health and thinner peace. At the top of the list are gluten and dairy. Try avoiding those for a few weeks and see what happens!

Stress. No discussion of weight loss would be complete without addressing stress. When you are stressed for sustained periods of time, your body is going to hang on to every calorie for dear life. Not only that, but stress often results in emotional eating. Furthermore, stress diverts energy away from digestive organs (because who needs to digest your meal, when you’re being chased by a tiger and about to become a meal?), so you don’t digest well. Maldigestion/malabsorption paves the way for nutrient deficiencies, which can suppress the thyroid, which slows your metabolism, and things just keep getting uglier. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, exercise, laughter, and mindful eating are all excellent ways to reduce stress.

Sustainability. The plan you use to achieve your desired wellness and weight should be something you can sustain long term and even enjoy. If not, you’re likely to revert pretty quickly to old habits. And that’s not good for the body or mood.

I hope it’s obvious that weight loss is much more complex than the simple calories in – calories out equation. And also that weight loss without concern for nutrient density will ultimately be damaging and keep you in the vicious weight loss cycle.

If you’ve been struggling with stubborn weight and feeling like you have no will power, please know that it is so much more than that. Processed food, toxins, stress, food sensitivities, and even our gut microbes strongly influence our cravings and stamina for making healthy changes.

This is why I included all of these vitally important areas in one comprehensive, life changing program called the Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse. It’s a gentle, supportive, 4-week, online program that optimizes your spring cleansing and detoxing. Your health will noticeably improve in several areas, and weight loss will be a natural by product. The spring cleanse begins April 14th. I hope you’ll join us! To learn more or join the cleanse, click here.

Image credit: Nicoleta Ionescu

Where our Goals Intersect

I hope you’re crushing those New Year’s Resolutions! Or moving towards your dreams in a way that makes you feel hopeful and happy. Progress, no matter how tentative, builds momentum and life force energy. There’s so much reward even in taking just one step forward.    

If you’re looking for a little activation energy to get started on your wellness plan, this is where our goals intersect.    

I LOVE helping people transform their health the natural and lasting way. I’ve dedicated decades of my life to learning how to do that through many disciplines, including traditional nutrition, holistic health coaching, functional medicine coaching, yoga, and yoga’s sister science Ayurveda. Then I poured the best combination of that knowledge and experience into The Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse.     

It is a cleanse, and so much more. In this 28-day program, you’ll cleanse out toxins, sugar addiction, and inflammation. You’ll also infuse yourself with deeply nourishing foods, habits, self care, and perspective shifts. You’ll learn experientially which foods serve your unique body and which ones don’t.   

All these gains will stick around, and propel you towards your goals even after the cleanse is done. This is not one of those one-dimensional, deprivation diets where you drop some pounds and gain it right back plus a few more. The goal of this program is multifaceted nourishment so your body heals, rejuvenates, and you reach your ideal weight almost as a side benefit.    

Additionally, you’ll cultivate fantastic energy, glowing skin, mental clarity, and profound wellness. You’ll learn a lot, get excited and inspired, discover great new things, and have expert support.     

The program follows a gentle, luxurious pace. Slow and steady wins the race! In the first seven days, we build a strong self care foundation before we make a single change to our diets. During the second week, we start to make a few dietary shifts towards whole, unprocessed food. The third week is the official full cleanse week, with plenty of delicious food and self care the whole time. Finally, the fourth week is when we test for food sensitivities. Often it’s those hidden sensitivities that cause pesky health issues like low energy, weight gain, brain fog, sinus and skin issues, digestive woes, etc. This is a major key to well-being that most people miss.

You’ll get a content rich, inspiring email every morning, a 200+ page eBook with everything you need to know about the cleanse plus lots of bonuses, 150+ delicious cleanse friendly recipes, a Quick Start Guide that cuts to the chase, a private Facebook group to chat with me and other cleansers, a few optional live events including 2 conference calls, a shopping trip, and celebration dinner (if you’re local).

If this sounds like the perfect program for you right now, let’s take that step forward together –  join the cleanse today! We can also stay connected on Facebook.

Image credit: Al1974ex

I bet you never heard THIS productivity secret!

There’s so much excellent wisdom about increasing productivity that you could get seriously behind in your work researching the many ways to be productive. The books, blog posts, and TED Talks are shiny objects that I cannot resist. However, despite all the time I’ve spent unlocking the secrets to my productivity, I can’t say any of of the techniques became my permanent M.O. I suspect I’m not alone in that.

I do however have a pretty awesome productivity secret of my own that my clients and I have discovered along the way. It’s a little different because it’s not about setting up systems, planning, or scheduling. It’s more about removing what is blocking your mental clarity, energy, and motivation. From your dinner plate.

It’s gluten.

Surprised? If I had a dime for every client that has been truly astounded at how much more mental clarity and energy they gained by removing gluten from their diet, I’d be able to make a long distance call from a payphone. If I could find one. Here’s what one client said after being gluten free for about a month, “I got done in one hour what used to take me all day. The mental fog is totally gone.” Other clients (myself included) noticed how much less we procrastinate. Getting things done doesn’t feel like such a slog. There is more ease and less resistance. So your work gets done more efficiently, and more effectively as well.

I can’t help thinking… if going gluten free can make that much of a difference in productivity for one person, imagine if a whole company did it? Whoa.

Millions of us suffer from what is called “non-Celiac gluten sensitivity”. That’s when the proteins in gluten don’t necessarily cause digestive distress, but they do make you physically fatigued, mentally lethargic, and struggling with motivation. There is a whole spectrum of other conditions that glutlen sensitivity can lead to as well, from annoying to debilitating.

If you’re suffering from low energy and mental fog, try removing gluten from your diet for a few weeks and see what happens. Odds are you’re going to start feeling a lot better and getting your work done like a boss. Without blood, sweat, or even coffee.

Going gluten free might seem daunting at first because gluten is omnipresent in our diets. But it’s really not that difficult once you learn a few tricks. Restaurants are getting on the bandwagon and offering more and more gluten free options.

Do yourself a favor by doing it the right way. Swap all that bread and pasta for nutrient dense whole grains like quinoa, brown or black rice, and other whole food starches like sweet potatoes, not highly processed gluten free white bread and pasta. We want you to get healthier too, not just more productive.

And now a word from our sponsor… In my cleanse, I can show you how to go gluten free (and test for other common food sensitivities), significantly upgrade your nutrition, and get you taking better care of yourself than ever before. When you do that, your vitality, mood, and productivity skyrockets!

Now back to work!

Image credit: Alper Kutay Erke

Can we talk about Weight Loss?

In the relentless pressure to be thin, many men and women turn to programs and products that promise rapid weight loss. Even though by now, we all know that the process will not be pleasant, it may not be healthy, and any weight loss will probably be temporary.

But this will be the LAST TIME, right?

After years and years, and millions of confirmations of this truth, maybe we should stop the pushing that boulder up the mountain over and over again (unless it’s part of our workout), and take a more permanent approach. To be effective, we need to get to the root cause of the weight issues, not just put a temporary Band Aid on it, like we so often do in our society.

When we have been struggling for so long, trying a million things, reading a million blogs and books, we can lose our ability to see clearly and start focusing on wacky things.

  • Maybe it’s not those red apples or bananas, but the late night choco-thon, as my friend Rona realized in one aha moment.
  • Possibly you don’t need to add yet another punishing workout to your schedule, but learn to relax more. Cortisol throws a huge monkey wrench in our weight loss efforts.
  • Perhaps more than WHAT you’re eating, WHY you’re eating is the real problem. Stress, procrastination, boredom? We need to learn better ways of dealing with those things.

Of course, most of us could stand to clean up our diets a bit – eat more veggies, drink more water, have less sugar, gluten, and simple carbs, chew better, eat in a more relaxed way, spend a few hours not eating between meals, detox, … etc. All of that makes a big difference, especially when addressed in conjunction with lifestyle choices.  That’s exactly what we do in our cleanse. We shine a light on all of these aspects, so they work synergistically to give you better, healthier, and more long term results than just starving yourself and doing P90X three times a day. Which, incidentally, can stress out your body and make it even harder to lose weight.

In the functional medicine world, we flip the usual viewpoint upside down. Instead of focusing solely on weight loss, we see weight loss as a natural side benefit of getting healthier. Maybe this is the year to get off that torturous, ineffective hamster wheel and focus on the best way to nourish, care for, and love ourselves, and find our ideal weight the real way. The more pleasant way. The permanent way. Try our cleanse this year… you’ll be so glad you did. Wishing you so much amazingness in 2019!

Image credit: All Fitness

Common Causes of Constipation

In our quest for health and vitality, we focus so much on the “input” that we forget the importance of the “output”. We can eat this, not eat that, take all these supplements, and stay hydrated, but if we’re not pooping regularly, we’re not going to achieve the wellness we are seeking.

Picture your fridge… you put all sorts of fresh veggies in the produce drawer. But if you don’t move them through there quickly enough, it’s all going to rot, make a mess and stink up the fridge, and you’re not going to benefit from all the nutrients the veggies contained.

Same with your digestive system… you eat all these luscious fruits and veggies, clean protein, fiber, healthy fats, etc. If you don’t digest them well and efficiently, they will in essence rot in your gut, and all the toxins and junk your body wanted to expel will get reabsorbed into your blood stream, causing a vicious cycle of toxicity and impaired function. There’s a reason you feel a little polluted when you’re constipated.

Health coaches will often ask their clients if they’re regular, and the client says oh yes, I go #2 regularly. Only later to find out that regular for that client meant once a week. No bueno! Some people have been irregular for so long they think it’s normal.

To be clear – regularity is a nice, easy, complete bowel movement every morning. There may be a sense of lightness, emptiness, and energy when you’re done. It’s okay and good to have another one later in the day too (which can happen if you’re really hydrated). Interestingly, how your poo looks can even reveal a lot about your health. Check out this handy, dandy doody chart!

If you’re not achieving nirvana on the throne, the top three common drivers of constipation include:

  1. Low magnesium status. Magnesium is important for muscle contraction and relaxation, both of which are vital for good bowel movements. Low magnesium is unfortunately becoming more and more common as our soils are depleted of nutrients. Different forms of magnesium are helpful for different issues. Magnesium citrate is especially good for constipation (and can cause loose stools when taken in excess of your needs).
  2. Low stomach acid. This is also very common (and in a bizarre twist of fate, can be the cause of acid reflux). One of the best ways to increase your stomach acid and improve digestion/elimination is to slow down, relax while you eat, and chew your food very well. If that doesn’t do the trick, try sipping apple cider vinegar during your meal or taking betaine HCl. (Best done under the guidance of an experienced health coach specializing in a functional medicine approach.)
  3. Dehydration. Almost no one drinks enough water. The best way to stay hydrated is to drink a couple large glasses of room temperature water upon waking. Then sip water every half hour throughout the day. Try not to drink a lot immediately before or right after meals, so that you don’t dilute your precious digestive juices.

If you fully implement these three strategies and still suffer, you may wish to schedule a consultation with Charlotte Ott, our resident constipation expert. She loves talking about poopin’!

Image credit: everydaynewinfo on flickr.com

How + Why to Avoid Gluten (most of the time)

Last week, we discussed some of the ways glyphosate (the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup) is undermining our health and how you can reduce glyphosate residues by switching to organic wheat. To take it one step further, wheat itself can be problematic for many people even without the glyphosate. One of the most significant ways is that gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, barley, farro, and spelt), increases intestinal permeability through increasing levels of zonulin.

Here’s how it happens:

  1. You eat gluten
  2. Intestinal zonulin levels go up
  3. Your intestines become more permeable (like a sieve)
  4. Larger food particles that haven’t been sufficiently digested get absorbed into the blood
  5. Your immune system attacks the food and anything else that kind of looks like the food, even sometimes the body itself
  6. You get more inflamed which can show up as joint pain, headaches, fatigue, digestive distress, skin disorders, mood issues, and worse

This folks, is the origin of allergies, food sensitivities, and even autoimmune conditions, and why Functional Medicine doctors believe that all disease begins in the gut.

In fact, there is a whole spectrum of gluten-related health issues documented in the medical research. A review in The New England Journal of Medicine listed fifty-five diseases that can be caused by eating gluten, covering the gamut from inflammatory bowel diseases, fatigue, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and mental health issues. Twenty million Americans suffer from a gluten-related health issue without even realizing it. They’re taking medications for their migraines, pain, anxiety, etc, but they’re just treating the symptom, not the root cause.

What to do?

If you don’t have Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten) or suffer from other severe symptoms from gluten, we have a totally do-able, moderate approach to this gluten problem. We are big believers in the 90-10 (or 80-20) approach, where what you do most of the time determines your health outcomes, with wiggle room for a few indulgences here and there. So occasionally we’ll have some wheat, whether in a nice crusty bread, homemade banana bread, or pasta dish when we’re eating out. But 90% of the time, we choose gluten free whole grains or no grains at all.

Some ideas include:

  • Protein-rich quinoa (to clear up any confusion, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”)
  • Brown or black rice (black rice is especially nutrient dense and known to enhance libido)
  • Gluten free, organic steel cut or rolled oats (sometimes oats are sprayed with glyphosate too, so definitely get organic)
  • Pastas made with whole food legumes like chickpea or edamame pasta (quite filling, dense, and high in protein)
  • Sweet potato, lentils, legumes, or other potatoes instead of a grain
  • Omit the starchy foods entirely (which is very helpful for weight loss and increasing energy for many people)

You can make ALL KINDS of delicious meals with these ideas (check out some of our recipes). You’ll not only be avoiding glyphosate and gluten, but you’ll be getting even more nutrients than if you were eating processed, refined white bread or pasta.

Avoid the gluten free sugar trap:

The gluten free aisle offers a huge selection of highly processed gluten free alternatives – breads, cookies, brownies, pastas, cereals, etc. These are fine for a very occasional indulgence, but are not healthy options, even though they don’t have gluten. Because they are so processed, they are kind of like eating pure sugar, with a high glycemic index, lots of calories, and barely any nutrients. This is one of the reasons people can gain weight when going gluten free.

Although bread is yummy, we were never supposed to eat it with reckless abandon at every meal. Switching over to whole food, gluten free alternatives most of the time can make you feel better in so many ways! And it’s not even that weird – and actually starts to feel pretty normal after a while.

 

Image credit: Veera Maattanen