Perk Up With Spring

Do you feel stale from months of indoor captivity and inactivity? Does each day seem like a prolonged copy of dreary yesterday?

You can’t control the weather but you can influence how you feel about it. Shed your winter ennui by inviting spring now.

Seek clarity on what matters most in your daily choices and you’ll restore your vitality quickly.

Simply de-cluttering or organizing little things can help you focus on the big things.

Working on what you can do something about gives you a sense of accomplishment. It also gives you the chance to assess and be grateful for what you have.

Refresh, rekindle and appreciate 

  • Clear your pantry and fridge: get rid of the processed foods, sugary foods, salty snacks.  Toss expired condiments, cereals, spices.
  • Revisit your supplement cupboard.  Toss what is expired, take what is left to your Naturopathic Doctor to get you on a regime that is tailor-made for you.
  • make an appointment with a: health professional (your naturopathic doctor!), spiritual counsellor/ coach, massage therapist, fitness trainer, leg waxer, hair dresser, financial advisor..  decide what areas of your life need a make-over and call in the support!
  • vacuum: your vehicle, behind the fridge, under the couch
  • clean out your: garage, basement, linen closet, filing cabinet, hard drive, iCloud storage space
  • register for a class or read a book in an area of your life that you are seeking motivation and inspiration
  • revamp your wardrobe: donate what doesn’t flatter you in fit, style or colour
  • mend what is broken, refurbish, recover, re- arrange, recycle
  • weed out your address book, re-examine relationships, forgive, restart
  • re-read your book collection, revisit childhood dreams, honour an old promise
  • re-evaluate your priorities, reaffirm your purpose, renew your vows, clarify your intentions and refine your dreams

Ginger Root

In other cultures, and eras, around the world, people used food as medicine. In our North American culture and the society in which we live, we live on the opposite end of the spectrum, and instead of eating foods with medicinal qualities, we eat foods of convenience, that are processed and packaged, nutrient-depleted, and often chemical/ preservative/ and sugar-laden. One could argue, I would! that these would be best not even considered foods! And rather than promote health, they negate health.

I love experimenting with different superfoods and herbs and spices in my cooking, and doing what I can to return my way of living and eating to one where I am getting health benefits from what I am consuming. For my article this month, I decided to profile a super food that I have been thoroughly enjoying consuming, in multiple different forms: ginger root!

Originally from China, ginger has been in use for ages. It is known as a spice and an herb for its culinary, nutritional and health properties. Ginger looks like a knobby fibrous root with smooth light brown skin. Its flesh is white when you peel it – although it tends to turn pink when marinated (which is served with sushi). The plant itself grows up to four feet tall and has a bamboo-like appearance. It blooms aromatic yellow or green flowers with purple streaks.
Ginger is a yummy seasoning in sweets, including cakes, cookies, breads and beverages. Its slightly hot, citrus-like flavour makes any dish taste special, particularly in sauces, marinades and soups. Ginger is very low in cholesterol and sodium. It’s a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium, and a very good source of manganese.

Ginger supports healthy digestion, stimulates gastric juices, and helps treat abdominal bloating, vomiting and diarrhea. Ginger also enhances natural resistance for colds and flu. Ginger mixed with honey is an efficient expectorant, giving relief from cough, cold, sore throat and runny nose. Ginger is also recognized for reducing inflammation in joint diseases, such as arthritis and rheumatism.

You’ll find ginger in the form of capsules, tea, powder, oil and even dried (and candied), depending on intended usage. When buying it fresh, look for ginger root with the least number of knots and/or branching. It should be kept in a cool, dry place, usually at 6 to 7 C. It may be refrigerated in plastic wrap for a couple of weeks or frozen for up to three months.

I am including some of my favourite recipes that incorporate this medicinal root.

Moon Milk
In Ayurveda (one of the oldest systems of natural healing in the world), warm milk is a common remedy for sleeplessness. This recipe features nutmeg (a natural sleep aid) and ashwagandha (an adaptogen that helps your body deal with stress) to shepherd you to dreamland.

• 1 cup whole milk or unsweetened nut milk (such as hemp, almond, or cashew)
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
• ¼ teaspoon ground ashwagandha (or another adaptogen, like shatavari or astralagus)
• 2 pinches of ground cardamom
• Pinch of ground ginger (optional)
• Pinch of ground nutmeg
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil or ghee
• 1 teaspoon honey, preferably raw

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in cinnamon, turmeric, ashwagandha, cardamom, ginger, if using, and nutmeg; season with pepper. Whisk vigorously to incorporate any clumps. Add coconut oil, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until warmed through, 5–10 minutes (the longer you go, the stronger the medicine). Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in honey (you want to avoid cooking honey or you’ll destroy its healing goodness). Pour into a mug, drink warm, and get ready for bed.

Thai-Style Chicken Soup

• 1 tsp oil
• 1-2 fresh chilies, seeded and chopped
• 2 garlic cloves crushed
• 1 large leek, finely sliced
• 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
• 1 3/4 cups coconut milk
• 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
• 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
• 1 lemongrass stalk, split
• 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
• 1 tsp sugar
• 4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
• 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
• 3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Add the chilies and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the leek and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Stir in the stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken, fish sauce, lemongrass, ginger, sugar, and lime leaves, if using.
Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove the lemongrass and stir in the cilantro prior to serving.

Omega-Fatty Acids and Your Health

Here’s the scoop: eating good fats is essential for your overall health and well-being?

Why?  Because every single cell of our body is made up of what is called a “phospholipid bilayer”!

And what, you might be asking, is a “phospholipid bilayer?… and why do I care?”

Well a phospholipid bilayer is, simply put, two rows of essential fatty acids whereby the individual fatty acids are joined together by bonds between carbon atoms, and each row is connected to the other row by the hydrophobic ends of each of the fatty acid chains.

Phew, that’s a mouthful.. but here is why you should care!

The fats that we consume incorporate themselves into the membranes of, that’s right, every single cell in our body.  So, we truly are “what we eat” when it comes to the fats we consume.

Saturated fats are fatty acid chains that have no double bonds, and are therefore quite rigid.  These are found in animal fats, red meat, dairy, etc.  And not to say these foods shouldn’t be consumed! They do have their own benefits, however if we consume them as our main source of fatty acids then our cells correspondingly become more rigid, so the movement nutrients and waste products in and out of the cells, and other cell signalling pathways are impaired, the membranes that harden leave tissues such as arteries more susceptible to damage, increased pressure (hypertension), etc.  Our skin becomes less pliable, smooth, and youthful looking. Our joints and muscles gets creakier as a result of less fluid membranes.

Here is where omega-3 fatty acids, the “good fats”, comes into play.

 

Anytime you hear the term “omega” fatty acid, an unsaturated fatty acid is being referred to.  Permit me to continue to indulge my nutritional biochemistry geek!  Unsaturated fats have double bonds in them. Not every carbon is attached to a hydrogen atom.  This makes them “kinky”.. more fluid.  A “monounsaturated fatty acid” like Omega-9, from olive oil, has one such “kink” in it.  A “polyunsaturated fatty acid” like Omega-3, from flax oil, has multiple double bonds in it, therefore is even kinkier.. aka more fluid in nature.

When our cells are made up of these types of fatty acids, there is free flow of nutrients into the cells, waste products out of the cells, due to the more pliable nature of the cell membranes, and the increased signalling that can happen as a result.

Now, it does get a little more complex.

Omega-6 fatty acids are also polyunsaturated, however what we have shown is that a primary omega-6 fatty acid “arachidonic acid” is actually pro-inflammatory, rather than anti-inflammatory like many of the other omega fatty acids, particularly the omega-3s (especially found in fish, but also in plant sources like flax and chia), and omega-9s (olive oil) are.

There is a specific type of omega-6 that is anti-inflammatory, GLA, found in borage oil, however most of the omega fatty acids we consume through a standard diet convert to the arachidonic types of fatty acids.  These include oils such as canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and grapeseed.  And “trans fats” are even worse, as with a trans-fat, scientists have taken an unsaturated (liquid at room temperature) omega-6 fatty acid like those found in canola oil, and added hydrogen bonds to it, to essential create an artificially saturated fat that is solid at room temperature (think margarine).  So now our cells are trying to incorporate “fake fats” into their membranes, and we have seen this to be an oxidative mess.

 

Anyway, that is enough scientific background, however it is what makes me excited about the incredible myriad of health benefits found in our natural world.  The bottom line is, we have to eat more good fats – which are basically your omega-3s, and omega-9s.

So.. where are they found? How much do we have to consume? And what exactly do they do for us?

 

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in all fish, most notably in smaller fattier fish, like sardines, mackerel, herring, and larger fish like salmon.  To get 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, one must eat about 3-4 oz of fish.

The daily recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of disease and maintenance of good health is a minimum of 1000 mg per day.* I am going to put an asterisks here as not all fish oil supplement are created equally, and I will speak to this in a bit.

When using omega-3s for therapeutic reasons (to reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, improve skin health, etc.) the dose increased to anywhere from 2000-5000 mg (2 to 3 grams) per day.

Which would be very difficult to do just eating fish.  Particularly since it is advisable to eat fish no more often than 2x/week due to the potential for heavy metal contamination.  Yes, this is our heartbreaking reality.

So the solution lies in fish oil supplements.

*However, here is where the asterisk comes in.  Fish oil supplement labels must be reviewed carefully.  Studies show we are looking for the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, NOT the total amount of fish oil!

Confused? Understandable. So within fish oil, there are two main essential fatty acids (EFAs): EPA and DHA.  So your supplement might contain 1000 mg of fish oil, but it may only be made up of 90 mg of EPA and 70 mg of DHA, like one popular (yet ineffective) brand of Salmon Oil is.  To get the full 1000 mg of EFAs (EPA+DHA) recommended, one would have to take 5 of these pills every day.  And that is just the baseline dose.  If you were treating high blood pressure, you might have to take upwards of 15 of these capsules per day!

Definitely talk to a trusted health care professional or knowledgeable sales person before purchasing the best deal you can find on fish oil.  It makes a huge difference!

 

We carry a great product called PEAK EPA which contain 700 mg of EPA and 350 mg of DHA in a single capsule.  Now there is an effective product!  That means one may only need 1 capsule per day for preventative reasons, and up to 4 capsules/ day therapeutically.

 

As a quick side note, omega-3 rich plant based oils (flax, chia) do not contain EPA and DHA directly, they contain something called ALA that are bodies can (albeit inefficiently) convert to the more active EPA and DHA.  Which is why I recommend using a mixture of fatty acids.  Supplementing with fish oil capsules, and consuming lots of flaxseed oil, ground flax seeds, and chia seeds, as other ways to beef up good fats in the diet.  For optimal health, about 5-10% of our total caloric intake should come from good fats.

 

Here is a list of the conditions that are a result of EFA deficiency:

  • Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis
  • Asthma, emphysema
  • IBS, Crohn’s/ Colitis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Auto-immune disease
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Fertility challenges
  • Memory problems, depression

 

Take away message: eat more good fat!!

Simplifying Health

A phrase I often find myself repeating to my clients, and myself, on a regular basis is: “It’s not easy, but it is simple”.  As the photo accompanying this article suggests, to live a healthy life really is simple.  It isn’t rocket science.  The elements required to achieve and maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit are actually quite straightforward (despite what we are often led to believe in our world that seems to like complicating things so much!):

  • Sunshine
  • Water
  • Rest
  • Air
  • Exercise, and
  • Diet

I would add to this one additional “doctor” and that is Healthy relationships (With Self and Others), though the details of this point will be beyond what is covered in this article… maybe next month!

 

Truly, if we would step away from the quest for finding labels for our issues, searching for fancy cures to what ails us, we would realize that the equation for health is really truly simple.

 

Health = Deposits > Withdrawals.

 

In order to be healthy, we need to ensure we are making more “deposits” into our “health bank account” than we are making “withdrawals” and the 6 + 1 “doctors” mentioned above are essential deposits we can make that go a long way in establishing optimal wellness.

 

I invite you to take a little inventory on your overall level of satisfaction with your health and vitality right now.  Consider your physical (energy, stamina, skin, weight, fitness level, digestion, sleep, etc.), emotional (mood), psychological (stress, thinking), and spiritual (inner peace) states of being.  Without any self-judgment, guilt, shame, or blame, get a sense of where your needle sits on this “satisfaction meter” with your health.

 

Now take a little inventory on how much time, energy and resources you invest in relationship to each of the above 6 ‘doctors’.

 

Sunshine.  Yes, it is winter in Saskatchewan and the weather can be a wee bit of a factor as to how much time we spend outside, and, no, we don’t have any control over how much sun or cloud the skies decide to gift us with on a daily basis, however do you do your best to ensure you are getting out into the sun as often as you can?  Do you bundle up and take walks on sunny days?  In the summer, do you make sure your skin is exposed to the sunlight, at least in the early morning and later afternoon hours, in order to activate sufficient levels of vitamin D?

If not, and if you are particularly sensitive to the sun, or lack thereof, do you take Vitamin D supplements, or high quality Cod Liver Oil on a daily basis?  We want to ensure we are getting at least 2500 to 5000 IU of Vitamin D every day in our winter months in our temperate climate.

There are also wonderful hacks for sunshine, such as the light therapy devices manufactured by companies such as Verilux.  These are easy to use on a daily basis, first thing in the morning: simply turn it on, angle it away from your direct line of vision, and sit, sip your tea, eat your breakfast, write in your journal, read the paper – whatever is part of you morning routine, while the full spectrum light of the lamp simulates the natural light of the outdoors and will help balance brain chemistry, making you feel more awake, alert, and focussed.  Studies show they also improve mood and sense of well-being.

Of course it is always preferrable to get outside and take advantage of God’s natural sunlamp!  And taking just 15-20 minutes as soon as possible in the morning after sunrise is a great, and healthy way to start the day.

 

Water.  What about water?  what is your relationship like with water?  how much do you drink?  Studies show that drinking half your body weight, in ounces, is the ideal minimum amount of water to ingest on a daily basis.  This can include water from herbal teas, water added to make smoothies, or soups, just so long as you aren’t counting your caffeinated water, or water that contains sugar or artificial sweeteners (like juices, sports drinks, pop, etc.).

Beyond hydration, how about water exposure?  Showers and baths are cleansing and relaxing, particularly if you up their therapeutic value by adding epsom salts or essential oils to baths, or use contrast (alternating hot and cold) water therapy in the shower.  Swimming, plunging in cold pools, walking barefoot in the snow, or in the water along the shore at the beach in the summer, all have therapeutic benefits, including decreasing stress hormone exposure, increasing circulation, and building immune function.

 

Rest.  Critical to our overall health, and few of us get enough of it.  This is high quality sleep, 7 to 9 hours per night, as well as ‘down time’ during the day to sit down, nap, read a book, take a break.  How often do we keep going until we drop?  for most of us, all too often.  And it isn’t sustainable.  Just because we used to be able to function off of 5-6 hours of sleep per night in our youth, doesn’t mean it was healthy back then.  Essentially we likely just depleted our “sleep bank accounts” leaving us even more worn out and in need of good quality rest today.  Setting up a sleep schedule and staying accountable to it is essential for proper repair of the body.  Our bodies love rhythm and routine, and honouring their circadian rhythms, so going to bed at roughly the same time every night, and waking around the same time every morning is ideal.  Because of the time the organs need to repair overnight, it has been said that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are worth two hours of sleep after midnight.  So an ideal sleep schedule might see you getting ready for bed around 9 or 9:30 pm, unwinding with a bath, some meditation or prayer, reading a book that is soul-filling, and not too stimulating, cuddling with a loved one, and aiming for a 10 pm shut eye.  Then waking somewhere between 6 and 7 am the next morning.  This is simple, however not always easy, as the demands of life can make this challenging.  It is important to prioritize self-care, particularly rest, as without it, it becomes very difficult to meet the demands of life.

Sleep aids such as chamomile tea, magnesium supplements before bed, lavender essential oil, are all useful places to start in order to relax the nervous system, and make your rest time more restorative.

 

Air.  This goes hand in hand with Sunshine, and relates to true Nature Cure.  Getting outside in nature, breathing fresh air, communing with the birds, trees, plants, even snow!, are all valuable ways to restore health and vitality.  It really is that simple!  Think about how little time you might spend outdoors during your “regular life”.  Perhaps “too busy” going from bed, to car, to office, to activities, to home, to clean, to bed.  No wonder we feel disconnected, tired, worn out, achy, and depressed.  Contrast this to heading out on vacation: sipping your morning coffee or tea on a deck, hiking, swimming, biking, lying on a beach, strolling through the trees.  How amazing do you feel being immersed in the natural world?  How often do you make a point to get at least 30-60 minutes of fresh air every day when in your usual routine?

Have you contemplated how much better you might feel if you took the time to get outside?  park further from your destination in order to get more outdoor steps in.  Better yet, plan to walk (yes, even in the winter!), or bike as transportation.  Spend your lunch breaks outside.  Walk around the block with your family after dinner.  Every effort we make to get out adds deposits to that health bank account.

The other element of air is breathwork itself. Breathing.  The book Breath by James Nestor is an enlightening read that talks of all the incredible benefits of breathing.  We take breathing for granted as something we do, without realizing how therapeutically beneficial proper breathing is.  There are many different types and styles of breathwork, and they can be used to do anything from calm the body, promote sleep, lower blood pressure, open the sinuses, and much more.  A very simple breathing exercise I love is called the Box Breath.  Essentially you breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts and hold for 4 counts… making a “box” with your breath.  Repeat this 10 or more times, or set a timer for 3-5 minutes and practice this daily.  Pull the exercise out at a stoplight.  Notice how much more relaxed you will feel, clear headed, calm, yet energized.  It really is a miracle cure for so many things, and we take it with us wherever we are.

 

Exercise.  Do you exercise every day?  if not, consider making a point of creating a regular routine of some form of exercise.  Lack of exercise leads to fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary (circulatory: heart, veins, arteries, lungs) weakness (= shortness of breath, difficulties with energy, temperature regulation, etc.), insomnia, and inflammation.  Our bodies were designed to move, and daily endurance exercise, even simple walks is a great starting place, regular weight lifting/ body weight routines (2-3 times per week), and stretching/ yoga are instrumental for achieving optimal health.  It is impossible to be healthy, strong, and have the metabolic fitness we need especially as we age, without regular daily physical activity.

 

Diet/ nutrition.  Also key to a healthy life.  And, again, not rocket science.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains like quinoa, oats, and rice, good quality proteins like organic tofu, eggs, chicken, fish, free range meat, wild game, legumes, and raw nuts, seeds and oils (walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil, avocadoes, olives and olive oil) should be the bedrock of our diet.

Eat only these foods and you will thrive.

Where our bodies start to break down and become inflamed is when we consume dairy products (non-organic, milk, ice cream, excessive amounts of cheese, yogurt sweetened with sugars and artificial sweeteners), wheat products (breads, buns, cookies, bagels, wheat pasta), sugar, artificial sweeteners, and over indulged in caffeine, alcohol, chocolate.  I had the reminder myself not all that long ago.  As someone who eats very clean the vast majority of the time (yes, I like my daily coffee, and occasional wine!), a few weeks ago I got very busy and started to consume more cheese than I usually eat.  Generally I don’t eat much cheese, however I really do love it and when I am busy it can feel like an easy “go-to”.  I don’t have to eat much of it, I feel full and satisfied.

However I started to have a chunk here and there on an almost daily basis, and before long my knees started aching, as though I had some form of inflammatory arthritis.  Which I knew I did not, as this is not a condition that develops in a short period of time.

A quick inventory of my recent food habits and I knew that cheese was the culprit.  I eliminated it, and within a week, my knees were back to normal and I was limber as always, lunging and squatting at the gym without difficulty again.

 

All of these little indiscretions add up, and before we know it, we can be feeling less than our optimally well, vital selves.  So before looking for any miracle cures, in the form of supplements, medications, or any other fancy solutions – commit yourself to one month of focussing on supporting yourself in the aforementioned simple, yet very effective six categories:

  1. Sunshine
  2. Water
  3. Rest
  4. Air
  5. Exercise
  6. Diet

 

Simple, right?  the difficulty lies in the execution, and we might find we need to lighten our loads, take obligations off of our plates, say some “nos” to others, in order to say some “yeses” to ourselves.  The thing is, if we don’t.. we don’t have the energy or vitality for ANYONE, so it is worth it to invest in ourselves first and foremost in these essential, foundational, long term ways.

 

We can’t shortcut around these foundations.  There really is no way to get away without supporting these fundamental aspects to what we need to live a healthy life.  As we get older, our bodies hold us to a higher and higher standard of ensuring that these key principles are enacted in our lives, and when they aren’t our bodies let us know.

 

So turn towards your body today, gift it with a beautiful combination of this nurturance, and you will be amazed at how much better you feel.

Holiday Menu 2023

From our homes to yours, we would like to share our favourite recipes as you prepare for your holiday feast.  

From all of us, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and many blessings in 2024!

With love, Allison, Brittany, Julie and Michelle.

Life Affirming Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip

Shared by Dr. Julie Zepp, ND

“I always like to create new traditions for my family and friends when we come together during the holiday season.  Which includes making some “out of the box” contributions to my festive gatherings.  This year a favorite contribution to my potlucks was this Life Affirming Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip, from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows cookbook, a staple in my kitchen.

This was a big hit, and everyone was suitably impressed when I told them it was protein dense, filled with healthy essential fatty acids, vegan, gluten-free and very healthy!

I served it with the options of corn taco chips, rice crackers, and Mary’s gluten-free crackers.”

 1 cup (250 mL) raw cashews (best soaked for minimum two hours) in warm water
1 cup (250 mL) peeled/chopped carrots
6 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup chunky salsa or marinara sauce
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
4 handfuls of chopped spinach
1/3 cup crushed corn chips or GF crackers for topping
1-2 green onion for garnish
Chips or crackers for dipping.

 

  1. Place the cashews in a bowl, add water and cover for 2
    hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Lightly grease a
    casserole dish or 2-quart cast iron pan. Place carrots in a small sauce pan and add water to
    simmer for 5 minutes until tender. I added some garlic powder, salt, and pepper for flavour.
  3. In blender, combine soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, carrots, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt, chili powder, onion powder, and 2/3 cup water or coconut milk and blend until silky smooth. You may need to add more water if too thick. Pour into a large bowl.
  4. Stir salsa, onion, spinach, and jalapeno into the cheese sauce until fully combined. Pour into baking dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle corn chips or breadcrumbs on top.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, uncovered, watching closely toward the end of the cooking time to make sure the corn chip topping doesn’t burn. Garnish with sliced green onion and serve once cooled.
  6. You can store this dish for about 3-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.  IF there is any left 🙂  Happy eating!!

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

Shared by Dr. Julie Zepp, ND

 4 cups Brussels sprouts, uncooked

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

⅓ cup dried cranberries

⅓ cup grated pecorino cheese, optional

⅓ cup chopped chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

  1. Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts using a mandolin if you have one.
  2. Place them into a medium bowl and toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, pine nuts, cranberries, pecorino cheese, chives, and pinches of salt and pepper.
  3. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Finish with an additional drizzle of olive oil if you like.

 

Roast Chicken

Shared by Dr. Brittnay Wolfe, ND

 

1 x 3.5 lb chicken
2 medium onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
1 lemon
1 bunch of mixed fresh herbs, such as, thyme, rosemary, parsley.

 

  1. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it, to let it come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475°F
  3. Wash and roughly chop the vegetables – there’s no need to peel them. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled.
  4. Pile all the veg, garlic and herbs into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with oil.
  5. Drizzle the chicken with oil and season well with sea salt and black pepper, then rub all over the bird.
  6. Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife. Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs.
  7. Place the tray in the oven, then turn the heat down immediately to 400°F and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes.
  8. If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
  9. Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them from burning.
  10. When the chicken is cooked, take the tray out of the oven, and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tin foil and a tea towel and leave aside while you make your gravy.
  11. To carve your chicken, remove any string and take off the wings (break them up and add to your gravy, along with the veg trivet, for mega flavour). Carefully cut down between the leg and the breast. Cut through the joint and pull the leg off.
    Repeat on the other side, then cut each leg between the thigh and the drumstick so you end up with four portions of dark meat. Place these on a serving platter.

You should now have a clear space to carve the rest of your chicken. Angle the knife along the breastbone and carve one side off, then the other.
When you get down to the fussy bits, just use your fingers to pull all the meat off and turn the chicken over to get all the tasty, juicy bits from underneath. You should be left with a stripped carcass, and a platter full of lovely meat that you can serve with your piping hot gravy and some delicious roast veg.

Cinnamon apple scones

Shared by Dr. Michelle Sthamann, ND

2 tbsp Ground Flax Seed

3/4 cup Water
2 cups All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

1 tbsp Baking Powder

1/4 cup Coconut Sugar

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/3 cup Coconut Oil (room temperature)

1 Apple (medium, diced)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the ground flax with water. Set aside to thicken.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Mix well, then add in coconut oil and mash with a fork until it is broken up and distributed evenly. Add flax mixture and diced apple. Stir well until combined.
  4. Transfer the dough onto your parchment lined baking sheet. Use your hands to form a round shape, about 1 inch in height. Then use a large wet knife to cut it into 6 or 8 even wedges.
  5. Sprinkle the top with a bit of coconut sugar and cinnamon and bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and enjoy immediately.

 

 

Hot Mulled Cider

Shared by Dr. Allison Ziegler, ND

6 cups organic apple cider

2 large organic orange slices

4 to 5 slices fresh ginger

5 cinnamon sticks

2 tsp whole cloves

 

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer, covered, over low to medium-low heat for about 1 hour.
  2. Strain out spices by pouring contents through a fine mesh strainer into another pot.
  3. You can keep the pot on the stove on warm if you would like to serve it over an extended period of time.

Probiotics, prebiotics, mood, energy, nutrition.. a little bit of everything!

We have all heard it: “You are what you eat!”, and the ongoing research is backing up what our predecessors have always known, and confirming this adage in surprising ways.

 

Though it may not be all that surprising anymore, as the wealth of mainstream nutritional information we have access to today, compared with 20 years ago when I started my practice, is vast.  In 2005 when I first set up my practice as a Naturopathic Doctor, I was only the 3rd in the city, the 13th in the province.

Most of my patients would look at me cross-eyed when I suggested a “probiotic” supplement, and their mouths would drop open if I went on to mention the importance of increasing fermented foods in the diet.  At the time, most people knew of “sauerkraut” and that was about it, and its reputation was tarnished, as children many of us of eastern European ancestry would have been force-fed this sour/ bitter & very smelly food by our well-meaning grandmother.

 

Today, we have ready access to all types of fermented foods and beverages, from the aforementioned “Kraut” – not readily available in delicious flavours from turmeric-pineapple, to dill pickle!  And probiotics are commonly listed on someone’s daily supplement regime, right beside Vitamins C and D.

That being said, there may be some of you reading this that aren’t aware of what a probiotic is, and since gut-brain health is the subject of this article, I had best explain!

 

A probiotic is a supplement or food that is high in beneficial bacteria.  Our gastrointestinal systems (GITs), right from our mouth to our anus, are lined with specialized bacteria, almost 6 pounds worth in our entire system!, that help us to digest food, they make vitamins for us (like Vitamin K and many of the B vitamins), they help boost our gut-related immune system, and thus help us fight infection, they metabolize fibre and create short chain fatty acids that are great for energy, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping the lining of the gut healthy.  They also synthesize certain neurotransmitters – those chemicals that are also made in the brain – that are responsible for our mood, motivation, memory and sense of calm.

 

The key is.. the bacteria in our systems do all of these things, provided they are the right kinds of bacteria, and in the correct ratios.

 

Due to diets high in sugar, alcohol, processed foods, low in dietary fibre (the kind we get from vegetables, legumes, ground flax/ hemp/ chia and other medicinal seeds), the use of medications (particularly antibiotics, psychotropic medications, steroids, and immunosuppressants), high stress levels, and sedentary lives, our gut microbial population shifts.  And rather than be comprised of the types of bacteria that do all these wonderful things I listed above, these “good guys” are replaced by bacteria, and yeast, that secrete toxins that lead to local inflammation, and disrupt the lining of the gut.  They don’t digest our food, but rather they ferment it.  So like yeast acting on flour and sugar in your bread recipe, when we eat higher starch foods, they ferment in our guts resulting in gas, bloating, and a swollen abdomen.

Over time the gut lining breaks down (and it is important to note that this happens, even in the event we have no digestive symptoms!), allowing undigested food particles, inflammatory molecules, and microbes (bacteria, yeast, viral particles, and their toxins and genetic material) into the bloodstream, creating further inflammation within the body.  This leads to everything from joint pain, muscle aches, memory loss, low energy and fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, to depression.. and many, many more symptoms.

 

And the thing is, the more imbalance we have in our guts, the more gut imbalance will continue to exist, as they help determine what we crave.  Because they want to stay alive, we have a hard time staying away from sugar, chips, pop, alcohol, etc.  They are putting in their orders for their survival.  Meanwhile, we are producing fewer of the chemicals needed for mood, motivation and focus. And we are producing more stress hormones, as cortisol is used by the body to attempt to fight inflammation.  Because of this, we essentially might WANT to change, somewhere deep down inside, however we have great difficulty changing, because we have no energy or motivation with which to do so.

In other words, we are caught in a vicious cycle.

It doesn’t help that the demands of life don’t often give us the time to stop, and make the changes that are needed to get into a constructive cycle.

 

Much like being an alcoholic that needs to go through a detoxification process when they quit drinking, and are essentially debilitated for several days as their systems get used to being deprived of alcohol, often this sort of “break” from our lives is what we need to get ourselves out of the negative loop, and into a constructive loop.

The thing is, it is worth it!  And a constructive loop will sustain itself, just as much as a destructive one, as we begin to learn that while initially eating healthfully, taking supplements, moving our bodies, having healthy boundaries, giving up self-sabotaging strategies, disguised as soothing strategies – aka coping mechanisms, and instead turning towards nurturing strategies.  Think choosing a bubble bath over ice cream and you will have the idea.

 

What we seek to do as Naturopathic Doctors is to provide you the tools to break the vicious cycle, and create a constructive one – and doing so in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. We will often use testing methods, such a stool analysis, salivary or urinary hormone assays, urinary neurotransmitter measurements, heavy metal burden assessment, food sensitivity testing, just to name a few, in order to determine where the best place to start to get you back on track with your health!

 

We then look to put together a treatment plan specific to each individual, which means working with the person directly in front of us to determine how to break the cycle.  I work with people who aren’t ready to make food changes, but they are willing to do therapy, and energy work to support their nervous systems.  Then, feeling better, they are ready to embark on the nutritional changes also very much required for optimal health.

 

For others, they might be ready for a cleanse, and dedicated to changing their nutrition, to change their gut flora, to start craving the healthy foods, and as such balance the rest of the internal chemistry like mood and motivation.

 

And sometimes, supplements is where someone wants to begin in order to create the positive cycle.

 

It doesn’t matter where we start, just so long as we start, and if we want to make health sustainable, addressing all three aspect of the cycle: 1) coaching/ counseling/ therapy/ energy work; 2) nutrition, and 3) supplementation are fundamental.  Each feeds in to the next and before you know it you are in the groove, feeling energized, inspired, motivated and free to move.

 

Here are a few things you can do TODAY to get yourself on track for a thriving life:

  1. Ditch sugar (including natural sugars from honey, and maple syrup, and highly sweet/ starchy foods like dried fruit, bananas, melons, potatoes, pasta, bread, baked goods of any sort – to make sure the sugar-loving taste buds are reset), processed foods, alcohol, red meat for at least 3 weeks.
  2. Drink lots of water every day.  Half your body weight in ounces!  And make about 500 mL of it contain some sort of healthy electrolyte mix.  NOT a commercial preparation that glows in the dark, but rather an unsweetened or naturally sweetened with stevia, powder with the basics: sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
  3. Eat at least 4 cups of veggies every day: raw, and lightly steamed.  Add them to soups, stir fries, blend into smoothies, or eat them on their own, dipped in hummus or a bean dip.  Just get ‘em in!
  4. Eat at least 1/3 cup of fibre rich legumes each day, in the form of hummus, chickpeas, lentils, or another favourite bean.  They are one of the best sources of prebiotic fibre, and help to mop up toxins.
  5. Keep your starches limited to those that come from root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, non-gluten whole grains (quinoa, rice, wild rice, buckwheat).  Again, these are great for feeding the types of bacteria we WANT inhabiting our digestive systems.
  6. Eat 2 Tbsp ground flax per day, and another 2 Tbsp of another type of seed, like hemp or chia.
  7. Drizzle healthy oils from good fats like olive, avocado, flax and coconut onto your food.  And eat the food sources of those oils too!
  8. Heap several forkfuls of fermented foods onto your plate.
  9. EXERCISE and BREATHE!!!
  10. Book an appointment with an ND!  We will get you the testing, protocol, and accountability you might need to optimize your health and life

Getting Away, to Get Inside

About 10 years ago, on a late Friday afternoon, after a long day of work, and a long week of life as a working mom with two small (at the time 5 and 2), I wearily drove myself out to Lumsden to attend a my first in-person overnight retreat, at a beautiful retreat space in the Qu’Appelle Valley.

It was all I could do to not burst into tears as I checked in with the assistant who was helping run the retreat, assign rooms and hand out keys.

With a choked voice, barely holding back my fragility, I asked him if it would be ok if I skipped the first session, hoping to get some extra time all alone in my room.  I knew I could not interact with anyone in those first few hours, I was just so depleted from life.  And if I did, I would either be snappy and irritated, phony and forcing myself to be upbeat and cheery, or just a blubbering mess.

I stumbled over the threshold of my simple and humble room, collapsed onto the small twin bed, felt grateful for the unadorned nature of this basic room.  Desk, chair, bed, beside table and table lamp.  A shelf and a few hooks for clothing.  A stand for a suitcase.  An adjoining small private bathroom.  Nothing but the basics.  And everything I needed.

 

You see, I was so exhausted from working so hard.  Trying to please everyone: my at the time husband, my kids, my friends, my patients, my staff, my community.  I thought I engaged in self-care, I exercised every day.  It really was the only way I maintained my mood and sanity through all the busyness, I am sure.  And I am grateful and proud that I had this strategy.  I also ate well, for the most part.  Nourishing smoothies and salads.  But not always enough.

I have since come up with a simple equation for health.

Health = Deposits > Withdrawals.

 

And it really is that simple.  We can regain, and sustain health provided we constantly have more deposits going into our health ‘account’ than we have withdrawals being made.  Our system can only handle so much.

 

For me I was making some really great deposits back then: movement, nature and nutrition.  They kept me going for sure.  However I wasn’t as good at getting the “soul care” time that I have since learned is also vital for my well-being.

 

The quiet times, the naps, meditation, breath work, collapsing into tears, asking for help, letting someone else take care of something! anything!…  taking off my super-heroine cape of “doing”, and being all things to everyone.

 

When I collapsed onto this small simple bed, in this small simple room, I vowed to do more collapsing in my life.  Setting it all down, so I wouldn’t be so exhausted from retreat to retreat (as I simultaneously vowed to do this again within the year!!  within an hour of being away from my life, I already felt a million times better!).

I vowed to refill my bucket more often, doing things that gave me great joy and were also nourishing.  Simple things, like a nap in the sun; resting with a cup of tea in the mid-afternoon; having a good cry on a good friend’s shoulder; more time in the bathtub.

I realized that so many of what I did I could argue did bring me joy: taking my kids to the park; doing crafts with them; sitting with patients; going for a run; hosting a workshop… which is incredible to live life doing things that one loved!

However I also needed to appreciate that all of these things TAKE energy, and were for others as much as they were for me (aside from the run).

I also needed to appreciate that not everything I did brought me joy all the time.

If my intentions were ‘off’ and I was coming from a place of martyrdom, vs. service, I would be more depleted, as I was likely falling into a people-pleasing, tending to others at my own expense sort of patterning.

These lines are all so fine, and it is not always easy to determine where we are leading from when we are taking action.  Hence another reason why my soul-time, particularly spent journaling, in meditation or in prayer is so helpful.

It helps me distinguish the subtle differences.

 

In any case, this retreat provided me with such an opportunity for clarity, renewal, connection, sleep, rest, insight, safety, and feeling heard/ held and loved.

I left feeling so restored, lighter, more connected to my Soul Self than I had felt for a long, long time.  And that was only two night away!

I missed my family, but in a different way, a less responsible and guilt-ridden way.. more in a simply missing them way.

I made some commitments to myself to maintain several of the practices I had connected with over the weekend, in order to fill my buckets on a daily and weekly basis.

 

And so it was, my journey to shifting the balance on my own deposits/ vs withdrawals, and it didn’t take long, a few years, of attending retreats as a participant, before I felt resourced enough to consider actually holding space and offering my own.

I knew the gift that all of the retreat leaders I had had the pleasure of connecting with had given me: comfort, safety, compassion, and the opportunity for renewal and awareness.

 

It became my honour and pleasure to hold space for others when I started leading my own retreats in 2015.  I have since hosted dozens of women on multiple occasions, and have been witness to some incredible transformation, in only days.  One woman truthfully, unbeknownst to me at the start of the retreat, had been actively making plans to end her life, as life all felt way too much for her, came on the retreat as it was paid for by someone else and guilt wouldn’t let her cancel – and thank God it didn’t – as by the end she was hopeful, reinspired, she had found her laughter again, her lightheartedness, her ability to connect with others and be held.

Stories like that are numerous, and are oxygen that fans my flames of wanting to create these opportunities that can save so many of us.

I know my first retreat did that for me, I was on a fast track to burnout before falling into that weekend.

 

As such, I remain committed to hosting regular retreats in convenient, close-to-home locations so they are affordable, and accessible, and women just like myself can take advantage of the restorative opportunities to be with like-minded and like-hearted individuals, finding themselves again.

 

If you are a healthcare professional, or someone working in a helping profession of any sort, you know what it is like to pour forth your energies onto others, and perhaps it is time to be on the receiving end of healing energies for an entire weekend!

 

If this resonates with you, do consider checking out my upcoming retreat:

https://discover.drchristinabjorndal.com/canmore-retreat-1

 

To be held in Canmore Alberta this October, from the 20 – 22nd.  Myself and three colleagues are hosting this event, the second annual such gathering, and we hope you can join us!

Gut health 101

Key points:

  • Good health starts in the gut;
  • You are what you eat AND ABSORB;
  • Looking for underlying causes for the rise in chronic health concerns – leads back to gut health, and the system that ultimately runs gut health: the nervous system;
  • What we are doing differently now vs. decades to centuries ago/ cross culturally wrt food practices/ lifestyle practices
  • Given the growing scientific evidence of the importance of the gut microbiome (the collection of micro-organisms and symbiotic bacteria that support our overall gut health), it becomes even more critical to be aware of the impact of our diet on digestive function and wellness.

Overview of digestion

  • Gut: mouth, throat, stomach, intestines: small and large (colon), rectum, anus
  • Accessory organs: liver, gallbladder, pancreas, appendix, omentum
  • Nervous system: brain, vagus nerve, enteric plexus, migrating motor complex
  • Microbiome: micro – tiny; biome – living… the tiny living creatures in our gut (bacteria, yeast/ fungi, viruses)
    • Nutrient absorption
    • Make enzymes, vitamins and amino acids
    • Produce short chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate, acetate) that keep gut lining healthy and enhance gut immunity
    • Activate flavonoids
  • Depleted by stress, diet high in processed foods/ refined carbs/ flour/ sugar/ low in fiber-rich plants, non-organic foods (pesticides, antibiotics), birth method (c-section), infant feeding, pharmaceuticals (namely antibiotics and antacids, but also others like meds for anxiety and depression), over-eating, lack of exercise, alcohol use and abuse (antiseptic)
  • Domino effect: low enzyme levels/ low acids à no killing of pathogens; set up residence, good guys killed off, putrefaction of foods vs/ healthy fermentation, toxins produced, “leakiness” of gut, irritation of gut lining, activation of immune system, overload of liver, toxic bile, recirculation of toxins, hormones, cholesterol; constipation, diarrhea

Strategies:

  • 4 Rs: remove (get rid of the “bad guys”: problematic foods, bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites, etc.), replace (put back in: enzymes), re-inoculate (get the good bacteria and beneficial yeast back in), repair (the gut lining using bone broth, amino acid powders, especially l-glutamine, fish oils)
  • Remove: Take natural anti-microbials if suspected “dysbiosis” (oil of oregano, garlic, pau d’arco, etc.)
  • Remove: Avoid flours (all flours, not just gluten) and sugar, reduce/ eliminate dairy and all other problem foods for you;
  • Remove: Ensure regular bowel movements – for constipation look at magnesium, hydration, probiotics/ for diarrhea look at psyllium, charcoal, bentonite;
  • Replace: Chew food well;
  • Replace: Take enzymes/ apple cider vinegar;
  • Replace: Activate vagus nerve: stress reduction/ gargle/ sing/ relax/ pray/ move/ meditate
  • Replace & Re-inoculate: Eat fermented foods
  • Re-inoculate: Take probiotics
  • Repair: Practice fasting (12 hours minimum)
  • Repair: Leave 4-5 hours between meals
  • Repair: Castor oil packs

Functional Foods for a Healthy Gut

Over the last few years there has been an increased interest in foods that do more than just provide basic nutrition. These foods are often referred to as functional foods; a term, first introduced in Japan in the 1980’s. Functional foods have sometimes been defined as “any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.”

Many, although not all, functional foods are whole foods which provide a rich source of fiber to the diet. As well as providing other health benefits, these foods can in turn support good gut health.

 

A few of many examples of Functional Foods

  • Fiber-rich foods (psyllium, chia, ground flax) – 1-2 Tbsp 2xd;
  • Bitters” (artichoke, arugula, dandelion (tea), lemons, grapefruit) as these get things squirting;
  • O Shown to reduce cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease, oats are also a good source of manganese;
  • Rich in lycopene, betacarotene, and vitamin C, studies indicate that tomatoes may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.  They have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and to support bone health (note: some people may be sensitive to tomatoes if they need to avoid nightshades);
  • These may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections while providing a rich source of antioxidants;
  • Studies show that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables is linked to a reduced risk for cancer;
  • Lacto-fermented foods. Those foods which have been made by allowing natural bacteria and yeast to feed on the sugars and starches in foods. This process creates enzymes, increases nutritional content, and adds beneficial probiotics to the foods.

Types of Fermented Foods

Found in many cultures around the world, fermented foods are a healthy way to support overall gut health.  Examples of different types of lacto-fermented foods include:

  • Traditionally fermented sauerkraut
  • A spicy fermented cabbage dish from Korea.
  • Soybeans that have been naturally fermented, found in a number of Asian cultures.
  • A fermented tea, origins unknown but it appears in many cultures.
  • Made from fermented milk, this is similar to yogurt but thinner and with more probiotic activity originating in the Caucasus mountains.

 

 

Adding these probiotic organisms to the digestive tract can improve digestive capacity. This is because they can improve the production of hydrochloric acid. Conversely when there is an excess of stomach acid, adding fermented foods can support and protect the intestinal lining.

Adding lacto-fermented foods also supports the release of digestive enzymes throughout the digestive system (stomach, pancreas, and gallbladder), these enzymes help to improve digestion, digestibility, and nutrient absorption from food.

Although lacto-ferments, are easy to make at home, they do require monitoring, temperature control, and an understanding of the fermentation process. Purchasing these, either at a grocery store or online, may be a simpler option, especially for those just getting starting with adding these types of foods to their diet.

Challenge: Add at least one new functional food to your daily diet

https://www.backtoyouroots.com/ – locally made fermented foods available for purchase.

http://www.kristenscultures.com/ – locally made foods; also classes available to teach you how to ferment your own foods.

www.culturesforhealth.com – Great website that has for purchase items to get started on your own fermenting journey, as well as fantastic “how-to” guides, recipes and more (sourdough, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, vegetables, cheese and tempeh).

Inflammation – A Primer

We all know inflammation: it is the red and painful knee that swells up after we have tripped and fallen on it.  It is the sore, scratchy throat that arises when we are coming down with a cold; it is the sneezes, the drippy nose and itchy eyes that come about after exposure to a very dusty room or a pile of old fall leaves.

Acute inflammation happens when our body is exposed to a stressor, like a fall against hard concrete, a virus or a large amount of an allergenic substance.  It is a natural response of our body to attempt to deal with the stressor.  The response is the same in all cases, in Latin acute inflammation is known as “rubor”, “tumor”, “calor”, “dolor”: redness, swelling, heat & pain.

  • Our blood vessels dilate (prostaglandin signaling molecules encourage this) thus allowing blood to arrive at the site of injury (redness);
  • Within the blood that arrives at the site of injury are many particles: a significantly increased number of the white blood cells (lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, macrophages), platelets, antibodies, and chemical signaling molecules, aka cytokines, to name a few. These arrive at the site of injury and leech out into the tissues to begin their repair work (swelling);
  • This increased activity and blood and fluid flow cause increased warmth in the area (heat);
  • With all the fluid accumulating in the tissues the tissue integrity is distorted and many of the chemical signaling molecules (prostaglandins, pro-inflammatory cytokines (ILs, TNF), histamine, bradykinin and C-reactive protein to name a few) cause an irritation to the tissues (pain).

A fifth hallmark sign of inflammation that occurs as a result of the above processes is loss of function.  The swelling and pain limit our ability to function and we lose mobility in order for us not to perpetuate the injury.  This is meant to be a rapid and temporary process whereby whatever caused the initial injury is removed (we don’t keep falling/ our body successfully fights the virus/ we get ourselves away from the dusty environment/ etc.), our body can cease its inflammatory response and it can clear away the debris of cellular material that resulted from the repair efforts.

Think of having to tend to something in your home – maybe a leaking tap.  You must bring with you the tools, sealants, perhaps new pipes or valves necessary to fix the leak in the pipe.  In the process, your “repair site” (in this example, perhaps the space around your bathroom sink, where you are tending to the leak) gets messy as you fix what needs attention.  Tools are brought out, set out, used, set back down, etc.  Once you are done with the repair process, everything needs to be put away: back in the tool kit and set back neatly on your utility room shelf, for the next time they are needed.

If we left these useful tools around or didn’t quite fix the leak so kept the tools at the ready, things would be left congested and dangerous.

The site needs to be cleaned up, and so it is with the body.

Chronic inflammation results when we are continually exposed to a stressor to the body and the inflammatory response is perpetuated, and/ or when the body’s capacity to clear away the debris is overwhelmed.  In this case the swelling, pain, redness and heat generally diminish somewhat, in varying degrees depending on the person and the type of inflammation, but these symptoms do not completely resolve.  The loss of function continues and the affected tissues are no longer able to do their jobs.

This is why we are understanding, in the medical world, that all diseases can be linked back to chronic inflammation: from diabetes, cancer, arthritic diseases, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune illness, hormonal dysfunctions all the way to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Whatever tissue is being damaged (pancreas/ insulin receptors to brain cells) loses its function due to ongoing inflammation.

Perhaps you haven’t been diagnosed with one of these conditions – this doesn’t mean inflammation is not at work in your body.  Because disease exists on a spectrum with health, if you are any where outside of the optimal health spectrum for you, you likely have inflammation going on: blood sugar imbalances, frequent infections, allergies, low energy, memory issues, joint/ muscle ache, to name just a few, are all inflammatory conditions.

So what causes chronic inflammation?

This is a loaded question and many things result in the persistent tissue damage that is inflammation.  I often like to think of the “total load” theory in that our body can handle a few insults but the higher the number of insults to the system to less of an ability it will have to mount an appropriate response.  So, this might be due to a chronic infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal/ yeast/ mold), exposure to detrimental environmental factors (unhealthy air, pollutants, perfumes, molds, solvents, dust, high amounts of pollens/ grasses, etc.).

A significant cause of ongoing chronic inflammation is our diet.  Many of the foods we eat in our modern-day diet stimulate inflammation in the gut wall.  This causes a decrease in integrity of the gut wall which allows many of the pro-inflammatory molecules and allergens to pass through into the blood stream and create more issues.

Another significant cause of ongoing inflammation is poor circulation that is resultant from lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, not engaging in activities (exercise, saunas, getting hot!) that allow us to sweat, avoid exposure to temperature extremes.  The latter point may seem odd but when we are constantly moving from one temperature-controlled environment to another and not having the opportunity to get hot or to get cold and allow our own bodies to thermo-regulate, a process that requires a circulatory system response they lose this ability – use it or lose it!

What can we do about it?

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is key.  You will read many different versions of anti-inflammatory diets if you search for them.  The bottom line is the need to avoid processed foods, sugars, soda pop, refined carbohydrates and minimize non-organic foods (especially meats), alcohol and caffeine.  Refined carbohydrates include breads, muffins, pastas, cookies especially those made from gluten-containing flours (like wheat).  Commercial dairy products promote inflammation and need to be avoided as do hydrogenated fats and processed oils (corn, canola, palm, soy).  Processed meats and artificial sweeteners also need to be eliminated.

And to consume lots of omega-3 fatty acid rich foods like good quality fish, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, olives, unrefined flax oil, raw walnuts, almonds and raw seeds like hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower.  These help to mitigate the inflammatory response.  Eating high fiber foods like vegetables and whole grains (quinoa, rice, oats) decreases many of the chemical messenger molecules that promote inflammation.  It is also important to ensure that the gut microbiome stays healthy so that means taking probiotics (“good” bacteria), eating prebiotic rich foods (fiber!) and avoiding those foods that feed pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria and yeast and other harmful microorganisms.

Healthy Foods:

  • Foods in their fresh, raw, natural state. Locally grown, organic and non-GMO where possible.
  • Foods without labels! Produce, whole grains*, eggs, nuts, seeds, good quality meat products.
  • *Gluten-free whole grains in moderation: rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat.
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Wild caught or sustainably farmed seafood; free-run poultry, grass-fed, naturally raised beef and wild game.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olives, avocado and fish; cold or expresser pressed oils.
  • Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, basil.
  • Enzyme rich foods like bromelain from pineapple, papain from pineapple.
  • Sulfur rich foods like onions, garlic, chives, shallots.

Foods to avoid:

  • All wheat, barley, rye and gluten containing grains.
  • Commercial dairy milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • All forms of sugar and refined flour (including products made with refined gluten-free flours).
  • Processed luncheon meats.
  • Hydrogenated fats, margarine, processed vegetable oils (corn, canola, palm, soy).
  • All fast food, processed food, GMO food.
  • Soft drinks, sodas, alcohol**, caffeine**.
  • Artificial sweeteners, aspartame, saccharin.

**minimal alcohol (maximum of 5 oz. of wine, preferably red, daily) and caffeine (equivalent to less than 250ml of coffee or black tea per day)

There is some debate about consuming nightshade family vegetables when treating inflammation.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes all fall into this category.  They contain large amounts of alkaloids that can be irritating to joint tissues in some people.  Being your own detective to determine if these foods impact you is of utmost importance.  In those with significant inflammatory conditions it may be necessary to eliminate eggs, legumes, and grains, in addition to those foods already listed.

Ensuring the cause of the inflammation has been treated is essential – often chronic inflammation needs to be treated with anti-microbial herbs like berberine containing herbs (Goldenseal, Oregon Grape) or high potency garlic or oregano oil should also be considered.  Individualized treatment would create your specific protocol.

You may want to consider supplementation with anti-inflammatory supplements.  Turmeric/ Curcumin packs great anti-inflammatory punch, as do potent anti-inflammatory/ antioxidant combinations like green tea extract and grapeseed, two of my favorites.  Fish oils supplements and the mineral magnesium both provide significant benefit.

Be sure to also get plenty of exercise/ movement to enhance circulation and promote lymphatic drainage.  Sweating, saunas, hot/ cold (contrast) showers, meditation, laughter, play, rest, sleep, and time spent outside in nature are also important remedies for inflammation.    Be kind to yourself and give yourself the gift of incorporating a few of these healthy habits each day!

Delicious Detox

Early this February I started another nutrition class.  I love offering classes as a way of delivering information to multiple individuals at once, creating a container of accountability, support and inspiration, and providing an opportunity to actually put into practice what we might be learning, regardless of what area of life we might be learning about.

I am famous for saying “information is not transformation” and what I mean by that is that there reaches a point at which we cannot continue to simply gather information, we must put it into action in order to create transformation.  Group work is really helpful in this regard.  As it is with human nature, we are much more likely to remain accountable and to succeed in our goals if we have others to check in with and lean on.

When I lead cleanse classes, like this “Delicious Detox” course I am currently engaged in, I start off with differentiating between Intentions, Goals and Action Steps.  All are incredibly important parts in the world of creating successful change, no matter what area of our life we are looking to overhaul.  We often focus mainly on goals, and believe that if we have our goals clear then we should be able to follow through and make them manifest.  While well-intentioned, this is rarely what leads to successful outcomes, which is why I spend time focussed on two other essential elements of the change creation process:  Intentions and Action Steps.

Intentions create the blueprint for how you want to feel.  Intentions are an energetic creation that are essential for ensuring we move, at a deep cellular and internal biochemical level, towards what we want to achieve.  You should be able to FEEL intentions in your body, as you Imagine and Visualize what it is you want.

Goals are the tangible measurable ways in which we commit to making manifest our intentions.  If our intention is to be more energized and feel lighter and healthier, some of the goals we might have could be to eat cleaner, sleep more, lose weight, etc.

To ensure our goals are being met we require action steps.  For example if our goal is to eat cleaner, we might commit to the action steps of:

  • eliminating sugar;
  • drinking 2 L. of water per day;
  • ensuring we have at least 3 cups of veggies each day, etc.

Action steps are the building blocks that ensure our goals can be met.  They are measurable and can be used for tracking our commitment.

Contemplate what your intentions/ goals and action steps might be for your own health.  Then every morning and every evening when you wake, and as many times during the day as you think to, close your eyes and feel what it would feel like to have your intention be your reality.  Go into as much sensory details as possible (feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling) as you do this somatic visualization.

Read your goals after setting your intentions, ensuring they still feel aligned.

Create a daily checklist of the action steps you have committed to.  I like to use a chart whereby the vertical first column lists the various action steps that you desire to take, and the rest of the vertical columns serve as check boxes for the action steps, each column representing a new day.  You can see a sample of one here and download it for your use.

If implementing such a plan is of interest to you, we do sell the Delicious Detox resource book at the clinic and it includes a 2-week meal plan, shopping lists and recipes to make your journey smooth-sailing.

And if you are interested in a future similar offering, stay tuned to my website for event postings.

In the meantime, best of luck in manifesting your deepest desires for health and healing!