Do I Need a Calcium Supplement?

The short answer here is that you may not need one. Most of us get enough calcium in our diets but lack the needed cofactors to use and assimilate the calcium. 

Foods that are rich in calcium

  • Sardines

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Collard Greens

  • Spinach

  • Turnip Greens

  • Mustard Greens

  • Beet Greens

  • Natto (fermented soy)

  • Egg Yolks

  • Dark Meat Chicken.

You do not have to consume dairy products to get enough calcium but if you do, the best sources of dairy calcium are raw milk, yogurt and cheese (Jarlsberg in particular). 

Calcium makes up about 2% of your body weight contributing to bone structure as well as playing a role in controlling muscle and nerve function.  We definitely need calcium but you may not need to supplement with it as long as you are eating a well balanced diet. Too much calcium in the diet can deposit itself in places like blood vessels and as kidney stones in the kidneys. 

While calcium is essential for muscle contraction, magnesium serves as a calcium blocker. It is the calcium in too high amounts that creates a muscle cramp and magnesium that creates the relaxation. So it is important for these two to be in balance especially when it comes to your heart. 

It is not enough to try to replace these minerals that may be lacking in the diet. They need to be in balance and we need to be asking ourselves why there is an imbalance in the first place. 

Some things to look at to see whether or not your body is able to use the calcium in your diet are: 

How are your hormones functioning? Your parathyroid plays a very big role in maintaining blood calcium levels, thyroid hormone decreases blood calcium levels, adrenal hormones control sodium and potassium which have a relationship with calcium and sex hormones play a role in bone structure. Vitamin D works like a hormone in the body. We need it to increase the absorption through the digestive system. More on that later. 

Are you drinking enough water? Good hydration ensures that blood is fluid or thin and free flowing enough to efficiently transport calcium throughout the body. Having balanced electrolytes will help make sure calcium is transferred in and out of the cells. 

Are you getting enough other minerals in your diet? You should not only be looking at the amount of minerals you are getting in your diet (from food) but are they in balance with the amount of calcium you are getting. 

Are you digesting your fats or taking in quality fats?  Fatty acids are needed to transport calcium in to the cells and help increase calcium levels in the tissues. 

Is your digestion working properly? Calcium is only absorbed in an acidic environment and so it needs adequate stomach acid for the body to be able to use it. 

 There are two other factors that come in to play in regards to calcium and our ability to use it properly in the body. 

Vitamin K and Vitamin D. 

First let’s look at Vitamin K which has two forms. K1 and K2. This is a very simplified explanation of K1 and K2 as there are more forms of Vitamin K that play very specific roles in the body but for the purposes of this post I am keeping it simple for you all. If you want to learn about these vitamins in greater detail google Chris Masterjohn. He has made a career out of studying fat soluble vitamins. 

Vitamin K2 Health Benefits

It prevents calcium from going in to all the wrong places, as discussed above, like keeping it out of your kidneys where stones can form and the blood vessels where it can contribute or cause heart disease. It also helps get it in to your bones and teeth where your bones will get strong and your teeth will be able to fight off decay.

It helps you make insulin and helps to prevent insulin resistance. Remember this is when your cells turn the insulin carrying glucose away because they have had too much. In this way it helps to keep your blood sugar stable. It also helps you use energy properly making exercise a little easier and protects you from cancer.   

Vitamin K comes in different forms with K1 being the most well known for helping with blood clotting so you want to avoid supplementing with Vitamin K if you are on an anticoagulant. K1 is found mostly in plants and especially in leafy greens and K2 is found most often in animal products. This is a fat soluble vitamin so you might notice that the animal products it is found in are naturally higher in fat so you can use it. This is why I tell my clients and students to eat their veggies with a little bit of fat so they can actually use the vitamins in the plant. 

Vitamin D Health Benefits

This fat soluble vitamin plays a big role in your overall health by impacting around 3000 of your genes. It turns on or off the genes that prevent or make worse diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, MS, gum disease, IBS, colds and flu and many more. 

Much of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, especially those with darker skin and those living in the north. Most of us need about ten times what the Recommended Daily Allowance is (600 IU per day for RDA) and the very best way to get it is by getting sunlight daily or taking a high quality supplement. Be aware though that if you supplement you need to have your levels checked regularly by a doctor because you can take too much. 

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium and vitamin K2 sends the calcium to your bones, again, keeping it from depositing in the wrong places.  A build up of plaque in the arteries results from a damaged blood vessel having calcium deposited there so that you can remain alive. This is how heart disease begins. A build up of this kind of plaque can result in an eventual heart attack. Remember that sugar and processed foods are what cause the damage to the blood vessels in the first place.  Vitamin K and D work together to protect your blood vessels from this plaque formation. 

If you are taking calcium and vitamin D supplements but are deficient in K, you could be doing more harm than good than if you didn’t take a calcium supplement at all because that calcium is just one part of your overall bone and heart health. 

Bottom line:

  • You may not need a calcium supplement, you are probably getting enough from your diet.

  • You need good digestion.

  • You need to be well hydrated.

  • You need to do some weight bearing exercise like walking or lifting weights.

  • You need those good quality fats in your diet and you need to digest them.

  • You need to optimize your vitamin D intake (and get some sun) and check your blood levels regularly.

  • Get K2 from leafy greens, fermented veggies, or raw milk cheeses

  • Eat a wide and varied diet of real whole foods.

 

Tell me in the comments. Do you take a calcium supplement or a vitamin D supplement? Do you spend time outside getting some sunshine?

 

How isolated do you feel on the autoimmune protocol?

How lonely and isolated do you feel?

I have said it before and I will say it again. The autoimmune protocol is a challenge. I hate that it makes me feel so much better than a regular paleo diet. Believe me, that was way easier to manage than AIP. I have definitely decided though that it is worth the sacrifices I am making so that I can feel good again. I am struggling a bit with sleep this week and I’m sure some of that is residual effects from the “cheat” I had with the gluten free bun and the barbecue sauce on my burger a week and a half ago. We went out for dinner again this past Sunday for my son’s birthday. We went to a chain restaurant where chicken wings are the big offering. My son’s choice. I wasn’t going to make him choose something just so I could have some decent choices on the menu so the chicken wing joint was where the party was at. 

One thing that is super helpful when you are planning an outing such as this is to go online and look at the menu before you get there so you don’t have to worry. My standby at most restaurants is a burger with out a bun but reading the allergen list for this restaurant online showed soy in the burgers. I mostly avoid soy for the principle of it and not because it is something I should avoid. Most soy in the US is genetically modified and I try really hard not to support that industry. You do what you want. That is just my “thing”.  So a burger was out. The other option was the pulled pork with no sauce and no bun. So I brought my travel size olive oil bottle with and ordered the pulled pork and a side salad with no cheese and no croutons. I took the tomatoes off the salad and put olive oil on the lettuce. Then I topped it with the pulled pork. I probably had a spice or two that would not yet be allowed on AIP but I was willing to risk that. My meal was so so. The wings looked way better and while I am not a supporter of factory farming (your shopping dollars say quite a lot when you are purchasing your food) I would have rather had the wings. 

Everyone enjoyed the night out but if I were to be completely honest, I am not over feeling like I am stuck in this rabbit hole of not being able to enjoy food like I used to. Food was my life. I used it to comfort myself. I baked because it was therapeutic and I ate because it temporarily made me feel good. To me, baking and cooking for my family was a way to show I loved them. I enjoyed going out for dinner with friends. Food in some way or another is the foundation for so many social gatherings and I can no longer participate. We are invited to a birthday party in a couple of weeks and there will be nothing for me to eat. I will have to eat ahead of time or I will have to bring my own food. I don’t have a problem with that for the most part. I guess I feel a little envious that I can’t just be normal. If I am having a little pity party for myself I would even go so far as to say it just isn’t fair that I can’t live my life like everyone else. 

I made this choice to begin the autoimmune protocol. I knew in my gut it was the next step in my healing but there is still something missing. I just now have to decide if I want to spend thousands of dollars to figure out what is going on. My gut, again, will tell me that it is heavy metal toxicity. I grew up with a mouth full of mercury fillings and only recently had them removed and replaced with white BPA free fillings. I have been slowly and gently detoxing the mercury over the last year with a clean diet, high doses of vitamin C, regular infrared sauna and clay baths. 

Now, I guess I just have to be patient and wait. 

What if you are doing “all the right things” and still not getting or feeling better. What do you do then?  We have to take a look at the rest of our life and see what is going on. Our cells act the way we think. I often think negatively and my cells react to that. Have you ever forced a good mood on yourself by smiling even when you don’t feel like it? Try it once. You will feel uplifted. Your cells will also respond. Our minds are powerful things and we do have some control over how we feel. Fake it til you make it. 

What about your relationships? This is a big problem for me. I am alone a lot. I have kids to care for by myself a lot. My closest and dearest friend lives 4000 miles away. Needless to say, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together. It is difficult to call her up and meet for coffee. Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely but I often am both of these things and that has affected my health big time. When I am with people, I have more energy and I feel better. When I am teaching my nutrition classes like RESTART®, I usually come home with a little pep in my step. This is a big clue to me that I need to have more contact with the outside world. 

How about you? What has been your biggest struggle in your health journey, autoimmune protocol or not? Do you feel isolated having to restrict so many foods? What keeps you going?

I would love to hear from you. Leave your answers in the comments or shoot me an email. 

I am about nine weeks in. 

All the best to you, 

Stephanie

Week Six on the Autoimmune Protocol

 

Will I ever stay on the wagon?

I ate some popcorn. With butter. I paid for it too. Slower digestion and immediate almost cystic like acne on my neck. That was it in week six but I am starting to wonder if I am ever going to have a week where I don’t find myself eating something not allowed on the protocol. Gah! 

This diet is no joke. You know what though? I feel really good. My mind is clear, my mood is positive and I have been sleeping really well. The diet is working. I have not had my thyroid lab work done yet to see if my numbers have improved but my symptoms certainly have. I plan to continue on the autoimmune protocol for a few more weeks before the reintroduction of anything while hopefully sticking to the diet strictly. I won’t beat myself up over falling off the wagon though. I simply refuse to treat myself that way. This diet is hard enough as it is. 

I went to the library and checked out Mickey Trescott’s Autoimmune Paleo Book. If you have an autoimmune disease and don’t have this book. You need it! The recipes are for the most part very easy and Mickey has a way of explaining this diet that is comforting to me. That sounds weird but it is true. She is a marvel. She creates wonderful recipes and she puts it together so nicely for you in this book. I have a PDF copy of this book but enjoyed flipping through the pages. 

So it is a new year and a time when people set New Years Resolutions. I never stick to mine no matter what they are. Do you set resolutions?

This time of year you are inundated with weight loss adds every where you go. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that spends a lot of time capitalizing on your New Years Resolution to lose weight. If you have made a resolution to lose weight, stop right there. Don't focus on weight loss, focus on your health instead. Focusing on your health is really what we need to do anyway when we are faced with autoimmune disease. Our choice is to be in pain, or constantly fatigued or whatever your symptoms are or focus on our health. We can be offered bandaids in the form of pain relievers or steroids but those things only mask symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may need pain medication but by focusing on your health and what you are putting in to your body, you may need less of it. 

Dieting and being healthy are two different things. 

Let me explain. Dieting usually means restricting calories and forcing yourself to work your butt off at a gym. You may see some weight loss and you may feel good for awhile but what happens when life gets in the way? What happens when the diet is over after you have reached your goals? Do you go back to eating pizza on Friday nights and eating out every weekend? Does the weight creep back up and you start to feel terrible. You might even beat yourself up for falling off the wagon. Don't do that anymore. The autoimmune protocol is a diet but it is not dieting. It is helping you figure out which foods are causing you problems. It is the only reliable way to figure this out. 

Americans spend over $33 billion dollars each year on weight loss products and programs, yet obesity is on the rise and we are gaining weight faster than ever. 

Around 80% of American girls have been on a diet by the time they are 10 years old. What kind of message does that send? At any given time 45 million Americans are on some type of diet. 

When you focus on your health, you begin to look at things a little differently. When you nourish your body instead of just feeding it your body responds and if weight loss (fat loss really) is your goal, you start to see a difference in how your clothes fit, how much energy you have and even in the choices you make naturally as to what you will put in your body. 

How do you focus on your health instead of dieting?  A diet in the true sense of the word is what you feed your body not something you restrict. For permanent results you need to transform your food lifestyle. You just have to look at food differently. 

Making gradual changes to your eating habits is a sure way to ensure success. Some people can’t dive right in to something as strict as the autoimmune protocol especially if they have been eating the Standard American Diet. Start making changes in your foods by eliminating the worst offenders in your kitchen first like the sugary snacks, boxed meals, frozen dinners and soft drinks. Start reading food labels and ingredient lists. You will be amazed how much soy is in processed foods. Pay attention to the quality of your food. Where did it come from? Was it made in a factory? For autoimmune sufferers, food quality is really important but if you can’t afford to buy all organic, that is okay. Start with these changes and go from there. 

Eating "health" foods that you don't like or that taste terrible will mean you are less likely to continue to eat it. Nutrient dense whole foods are plentiful, you are bound to find something you like. I saw someone post something about how the only way to heal an autoimmune disease is by including organ meats and especially liver in to your diet. I am not all that thrilled about eating liver plain or mixed in to something else. I am not there yet. It may be impeding my healing and for now I am okay with that. Not going to feel guilty and not going to force myself to eat something that frankly gives me the gag reflex. 

Focus on eating whole foods and less processed foods. We have become accustomed to convenience foods. There is no doubt about that. Work on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the center. Whole foods are in the produce and meat departments for the most part, then the dairy department. The internet is full of recipes using whole foods rather than processed foods. You can make your own cream of mushroom soup for your hot dish rather than buy if from a can(read that label and see if it resembles the real ingredients of cream of mushroom soup which would be mushrooms, cream or whole milk, broth and spices). It only takes about ten minutes. 

When you learn to eat a whole foods diet rather than go on a diet, you are nourishing your body and your body will respond most positively. You will lose weight, you will sleep better and you will feel better too. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to be perfect all of the time. Having a healthy food lifestyle is about making sure the majority of your diet is nutrient dense. We all want to enjoy a treat here and there and you should be able to. Treats are just that. A treat. Dessert was not meant to be eaten after every meal as it was when I was growing up. 

Give yourself permission to enjoy your food (and your treats) and to let go of any guilt you may have with treating yourself. The stress from that is actually more harmful to your health than the treat itself. 

If you are just not ready to make a change to your diet here are a few things you can do to kick start 2016: 

    •    Drink enough water. Everyone generally needs half their body weight in ounces each day. Being low on water will mean you get tired easier, you will have difficulty regulating your body temperature, your joints may be stiff in the morning too. 

    •    Manage your stress levels. Meditation is a great way to manage stress. Think it isn't for you? I encourage you to read 10% Happier by ABC News anchor Dan Harris or listen to my podcast episode on meditation linked above. Support your adrenals by drinking less coffee and eating less sugar. You can learn how to do that in my RESTART® class which runs every five weeks locally here in Anoka, MN but can be done one on one by Skype or telephone. Regular acupuncture treatments can also help with stress. 

    •    Exercise. I hate exercising. Always have. I like to walk and I like yoga though and those are exercise enough for me. Remind yourself that exercise doesn't have to mean you kill yourself at the gym. Do something you enjoy. I once tried to be a runner for about a year. I hated every minute of it. You don't have to do something you don't like to do!

Throw your New Years Resolutions out the door and just start doing something you love! That will do more for your health than any restrictions you put on yourself anyway. 

Not sure where to start? Send me a note and let me know your conundrum. I will give you some tips! 

Happy New Year!

In good health, 

Stephanie

Instant Pot Beef Roast

This Instant Pot is so much better than a slow cooker. I have mentioned on my podcast how my family begs me not to use a slow cooker to cook anything. I think for me, it might be best to use it for bone broth and maybe to keep some things warm. The instant pot, however has made me 2 for 2 with cooking dinner for my family. 

Yesterday I pulled a roast out of the freezer with the intention of cooking it in the Instant Pot. It was still mostly frozen when I got to getting it ready to cook but was thawed enough that I could cut it in to 4 even sized pieces. 

I turned the Instant Pot on to Sauté and browned all four sides of all four pieces of meat. I removed the meat, then added some leftover turkey broth to deglaze the pan. I added the meat back to the broth and then used the Meat/Stew function to cook the meat for 25 minutes under pressure. The meat cooked for 25 minutes and then was on Warm for about 20 minutes because I forgot about it. I then added in about a pound of potatoes (not AIP, my family ate them) and some carrots from our garden. No seasoning at all was added because I forgot. You could certainly add spices of your choice at the beginning but we just salted (and peppered) after the fact. I set the Manual setting to 10 minutes and the carrots and potatoes were perfectly cooked. 

So, this was our dinner last night, served with steamed cauliflower and a side of roasted sweet potatoes for me. 

Beef Roast

  • 1 two to three pound beef roast (ideally thawed but frozen will work)
  • 1 pound of potatoes of your choice, cut in to 2-3 inch chunks
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut in to 2-3 inch chunks
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups broth of choice
  • Seasoning of choice such as salt and pepper, oregano, thyme and bay leaf
  • 1-2 T arrowroot mixed with cold water or broth

Cut the roast in to even sized chunks so it fits in to the bottom of the Instant Pot. Season roast and turn on the Sauté function. Sauté all sides of each piece of meat, set aside. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the broth and then add back the meat. 

Close the lid and turn on the Meat/Stew function adjusting the time to about 25-35 minutes depending if your meat is frozen or not. (mine was frozen and really did cook for about 45 minutes total not including the veggie cooking time). 

Release the pressure if you haven’t forgotten you started cooking something like I did and add the veggies. Set the cooker to Manual and adjust the time for 10 minutes. 

When your 10 minutes are up, you can release the steam and remove the meat and veggies from the pot. Set the cooker to Sauté again and mix the arrowroot with the cold water or broth. Whisk it in to the liquid in the pot to make a gravy and serve along side the roast and veggies. 

Enjoy! 

In Health, 

Stephanie

Healthy Eating 101

Last Tuesday was National Night Out (I think it is called something else now) and our neighborhood makes hamburgers and hot dogs for the event and everyone else brings a dish to share. We were discussing hamburgers and a seasoning someone brought that made the burgers tasty. I didn’t have any because I wasn’t sure it was gluten free but I was telling them about making burgers that were half chopped bacon so basically 50% burger and 50% bacon. They are really the most delicious hamburger. Someone said that was funny that someone so “healthy” would suggest eating a burger like that. Just goes to show that people are still soooo mislead by the media about what is healthy. I don’t eat burgers like that every week or even every month but they are a fun treat to have and all that saturated fat is sure good for the body. This has been discussed a couple of times on my website already.  

So what exactly is healthy eating?

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One survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed only about 9% of the people surveyed eat three or more servings of vegetables or two or more servings of fruit in a day. This was a recall study of foods eaten the previous day. Do you recall how many fruits and vegetables you ate yesterday?  Yesterday was a good day for me. I ate lots of veggies but that is not typical for me and I am a Nutritional Therapist so I KNOW what I should be eating. 

In the U.S. 46% of our food dollars are spent on foods (meals or snacks) eaten outside of our homes.  For my family I would say that percentage is more like 15%-20% at most so someone else has to make up for my share of not eating out. The number of convenience stores has more than doubled in the last ten years!  Americans drink a heck of a lot of soft drinks consuming their body weight in sweeteners! Yikes.  Americans also drink more soft drinks than water although I would guess this may be changing as we seem to be really getting wise to how terrible soft drinks are for us.

 Where in the world do you start to eat healthy?

You can get rid of chronic health issues, prevent further disease and make the quality of your life much better by making some pretty basic changes. Change is hard. People are resistant to it especially when it means giving up some of those comfort foods we have so grown to love.  The thing you cannot forget is that a diet of proper nutrients gives your body all the materials it needs to detoxify and heal or to maintain good health. If your body is broken down with chronic health problems it is because you are not giving your body the fuel it needs to run properly and it is broken. Sometimes the damage can be reversed, sometimes it can be slowed down and sometimes you can stop it in its tracks. It really just depends on how much damage is done. 

In any case, I guarantee you will feel better by making the following basic changes to your diet. 

 

Start drinking more water. 

Many people or other health professionals will tell you to drink eight 8oz glasses of water per day. The standard I follow is half your body weight in ounces per day. 

What if you don’t like water? 

You can read all about why water is so needed by your body here.  I have always loved water so I don’t have a good answer for you on how to make yourself like it.  You can try to start out with a sparkling mineral water like Perrier or San Pellegrino. LaCroix is a start too but it is not the same as the other two. Mineral waters have all the minerals your body needs including magnesium which most of us are deficient in. Your tap water can be a source of chemicals like fluorine, chlorine and other things like lead or plastics (depends on what kind of pipes you have). 

Eat lots of vegetables every day. Eat 1-2 servings of fruit.  

More than half your plate should be covered in veggies at every meal.  One of the best ways to lose weight is to eat a lot of vegetables. The fiber can help you feel full longer and will help get things moving. It can even help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check.  

Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate which is important for the methylation cycle in your detoxification system and also plays a role in producing the feel good hormone serotonin. 

You get lots of minerals from veggies too but they are best absorbed when you eat your veggies with some fat (butter on broccoli, asparagus roasted with olive oil, a simple salad with a homemade dressing of olive oil, mustard and salt and pepper). 

They help keep cancer at bay, increase your energy and help keep the toxins moving out of your body. 

Avoid the deep fried foods, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (Trans Fats). 

  • High levels of trans fats in your cells increases your chances of developing cancer, especially breast cancer. 
  • High levels of trans fats are associated with heart disease. 
  • Consuming trans fats increases pain and inflammation. They keep your body from creating its own natural anti-inflammatory substances. If you have chronic pain this is one thing you will want to avoid for sure. 
  • Trans fats get in your cells making it easier for a virus or bacteria to invade and keep your immune system struggling. 
  • It is thought they are linked to ADD, depression and fatigue. 

Stay away from refined sugar.

This is a tough one for a lot of us, myself included. Americans eat a lot of sugar every year. There are many different statistics on this but one study concluded that Americans consume around 170 pounds per year. That number was seven pounds per year in 1750 England. This stuff really wreaks havoc on your body. 

  • Eating it causes a loss of minerals, especially magnesium
  • Eating sugar makes your body’s need for vitamin C and the B vitamins that much greater. 
  • Makes emotional stress even worse. 
  • Feeds yeasts in your body causing an imbalance and makes cravings worse (those yeasts in your body will actually make you crave sugar- it is their fuel)
  • Have you ever been on the blood sugar roller coaster? Have the need for a pick me up in the afternoon? 
  • Sugar increases pain and inflammation

Limit or just don’t eat refined carbohydrates

Most of us get at least 50% of our calories from refined carbohydrates. These are all the grains that have been processed to nothing and made in to bread, cake, cookies, pasta etc. All you have left is the starch because all of the nutrients are gone. Have you ever eaten something you thought you were craving only to feel so unsatisfied afterwards and still looking for “that something” to fill you up. Well, if it isn’t an emotional need you are looking to feed it is your body looking for the minerals and vitamins that it is not getting.  These foods will fill you up but they will not nourish you and that is really what you need to function properly- nourishment. 

If you have Autoimmune disease of any kind you may be best served by avoiding all grains most especially wheat. If you must eat any grains it is best to consume them properly prepared which means soaked and sprouted. If you are going to take the time to do that you could benefit from their nutrients but you can get all the nutrients you need from other foods.

Keep the chemicals out of your diet and your life in general

There are around 80,000 chemicals approved by the FDA for use in anything from food to make-up and so on. We are inundated with toxins on a daily basis from our environment too. There is definitely no getting around that.  You do have control over what you eat and what you put on your body though so you can control a bit of how toxic your life is or has become. 

Your average American eats around ten pounds of chemicals in the form of food additives every year! 

Did you know that additives are tested in their singular form and not together. So no one really knows what a combo of these things in a food product does to your body.  Toxins and food additives are a huge burden on the liver. If you are consuming large amounts of sugar your liver is probably too busy to do anything about the chemicals in your body so they get deposited places (like the fat on your body) until your body can deal with them later. 

Mono and diglycerides are listed by the FDA as the kind of additives that cause cancer, birth defects and fertility issues. Granted you probably have to consume a huge amount for these types of problems to occur but many people eat a whole lot of processed foods every single day. If you are one of those people you are getting way more additives than you should. 

Brominated vegetable oil (an ingredient in some sodas like that yellow one depicting the droplets of water on the mountains) that keeps things mixed together. It causes kidney damage and is poisonous. It can make its home in your fat and nerve tissues. 

Red# 40 is thought to be carcinogenic. Many food colors added to foods have been implicated in other things like ADD or ADHD making them worse. Avoid all colors that are followed by a number. 

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. These are bad news for your brain and are thought to cause headaches, depression and anxiety. 

TBHQ was not easily approved but somehow it was. Five grams of this stuff can kill you yet it is used as a preservative in many foods so it can sit on the shelf for a really long time without spoiling. 

One could go on and on about a whole host of these types of food additives but you get the idea. Read the ingredients on what you buy or just stay away from processed food as much as possible. 

Eat your food slowly and chew it thoroughly

In American culture is seems to be the norm to wolf down your food as fast as possible so you can move on the next thing. Or maybe you are running from work to a kids activity and eating in the car. Whatever the reason, it will serve you best to take some time out of your day to sit down and eat your meal. Relax. Enjoy. Be grateful for the food and the nourishment it will provide you. Take a bite, put down your fork and chew it well. Really chew it, 20-30 times before swallowing. You will find you eat less and you will feel more satisfied. 

Don’t skip any meals either. Pack some snacks if you need to when you are out so you are not stuck with crappy food choices where you may end up. I usually plan for myself but sometimes my kids don’t want to eat what I have packed. We were on a road trip recently and stopped at a gas station (for gas but the kids were hungry because our dinner was small) and the guy ringing us up said he was really impressed with the choices my kids made. Okay, so it was gas station food but choosing a sandwich over a bag of chips was a good choice. The kids picked sandwiches, yogurt and cheese and Clif Bars. You will find in a pinch many stores are carrying something a little better than a overly processed snack cake or donuts that are stale. 

Changing your diet can be overwhelming. I would suggest you don’t go on a diet. Those things NEVER work. Eat real food. Even if you cannot afford organic food it is cheaper to eat real food. Not only is it cheaper but it is better for your body. Your body knows what to do with chicken but it may question what to do with all the ingredients in a chicken nugget. Be kind to yourself when making these changes. You have to start somewhere and baby steps are always good. Even if you slip up. Be forgiving of your slip and move on. You will be happier and healthier for it!

In health,

Stephanie

 

Five Benefits of Eating Locally for Your Body and the Earth

Eating locally is not a new concept but has gained popularity in the last five years or so. We used to eat locally- it is just how we used to do things. We ate at home, around the table, with our family. We ate what we grew in our garden and on our land. 

Today eating local and sustainable is becoming a movement of sorts.

  1. Eating from locally grown food sources often means food has more flavor and is more nutrient dense. Along with nutrients, flavor peaks at harvest. When food is ripened in the field it has more flavor and better texture. It also doesn’t have to be treated with preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Nutrient loss begins the moment food is harvested. Broccoli begins to lose its cancer fighting properties within 24 hours of being picked. Much of foods medicinal properties were lost when we stopped eating locally. When your produce is picked at peak ripeness vs. being picked early and shipped across the country, you benefit from getting your food sooner. 
  2. Eating locally means eating seasonally too. Doing this adds variety to your diet because you eat what is available.  Processed foods make up 70% of the average Americans Diet. The world has over 50,000 edible plants and 3 of those (corn, rice and wheat) make up 60% of the worlds consumption. Building a meal around foods just harvested connects us to the calendar and to each other We are reminded of simple things like fresh watermelon at the end of summer or slicing a fresh juicy tomato. 
  3. When you buy from local farmers you are supporting the local economy. Large scale farms only receive $.20 for every $1.00 you spend. Local farmers receive 100% of the value of their product which they can reinvest in the local economy.  It is often cheaper for you to purchase from your local farmer especially when you consider you are getting a more nutrient dense product. 
  4. You support a cleaner environment. By keeping farms in your community you support green space in the community. Commercial or factory farms use harsh chemicals that damage the microbiome of the soil and depletes nutrients that would otherwise go into your food.  For example, almost everyone is deficient in magnesium because most of the soil is deficient in it as well. Local farms often practice sustainability and care for the land they use so it remains healthy.  They often use little to no chemicals on their crops, they compost, have a smaller carbon footprint and use little to no packaging.  Scientific studies have proven the nutrient density of produce to be higher when grown on land using sustainable practices. Industrial or factory farming pollutes the air, our surface groundwater and the communities in which they reside. Factory farms also degrade the quality of the soil. Today, because of the way we farm the topsoil is only about 8 inches deep when it used to be around 18 inches deep. For every bushel of corn harvested we lose two bushels of topsoil.  Confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tons of waste per year which is 3 times the amount that humans generate. The anti-biotics given to factory farmed animals (factory farms are the number one consumer of anti biotics) enter the environment through the ground water and through the meat of the animals as well. The manure from the factory farms causes high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen to go in to the water supply, hurting aquatic life. 
  5. You promote a safer food supply. The average commute for produce in the grocery store is 1500 miles before it reaches your plate. Buying fresh from the store often means it is harvested before it is at its nutritional peak (meaning before it is ready). The more steps between you and your food source, the greater chance of some kind of contamination happening.  Buying from a local farmer means you get to know who is growing your food. You can ask them questions about their practices as well. Usually they are happy to talk with you. 

Local does not always equal sustainability. There is no regulation in using the term local. Dont’ be afraid to ask about the farms production practices. Most family farmers will gladly tell you what they do. Check out this website or this website for more information on eating locally.  We ate at a restaurant tonight that sources all of their food locally when possible. I had a strawberry salad with greens grown in the restaurants back yard and locally grown strawberries. What a treat! Tell me in the comments below what are your favorite locally grown foods?

In Health, 

Stephanie

 

What do GERD or Reflux Have to do With Not Making Enough Stomach Acid?

In my last post I talked about how people with thyroid problems have trouble extracting nutrients from their food.  Do you ever feel full when you wake up in the morning? Do you have GERD or reflux?  

Often times GERD and reflux are blamed for your body making too much stomach acid. The truth is that it is probably happening because you aren’t making enough. Same goes if you still feel full in the morning. It may be because you have not fully digested your dinner from the night before. 

There is no denying that stomach acid is the culprit in GERD and reflux (even heartburn) because even the smallest amount of stomach acid in the wrong place will cause damage.  You may even find relief from products that neutralize or stop production of stomach acid altogether. The problem probably isn’t stomach acid but the valve at the opening of the stomach (and at the end of the esophagus). The job of this valve is to allow food to enter the stomach and to open when you need to burp or vomit. That is it.  Often the problem with GERD and reflux can be that this valve is not working properly. 

If you are taking a drug to suppress or neutralize your stomach acid, you are then creating a cascade effect of issues all through your digestive system. Acid reducers are really just a band aid to the problem and don’t get at the root cause. Acid is in the stomach because it is supposed to be there. Your stomach is set up to be a great acid making machine. 

There are many reasons for your body to not make enough stomach acid. It is quite common in people with thyroid problems especially hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.  When you are deficient in stomach acid (Hydrochloric Acid or HCl) you simply don’t have the proper chemicals to break down your proteins in to amino acids or to break down your vitamins and minerals so they can be used throughout the body. 

If you don't have enough stomach acid to digest a meal you have eaten then your next meal will force that partially digested meal in to the upper part of your small intestines where the acidity of it is supposed to trigger pancreatic enzymes to be released to further the digestive process. This doesn’t happen because you didn’t have enough stomach acid which means you have undigested particles of food going through your intestines with the possibility of those particles being released in to the blood stream where your immune system will produce antibodies and launch an attack. This is when autoimmunity occurs. 

When you don’t have enough stomach acid, not only are you not extracting the nutrients from your food which include amino acids from proteins, minerals and vitamins like B12 and folate but you are causing inflammation in the gut. B12 is important for nerve activity and how well your brain functions.  

Having the right amount of stomach acid is one of the first lines of defense your body has against pathogens, bacteria and fungus. If those things, along with your food are not digested or broken down properly you can end up with and overgrowth of bacteria which causes inflammation. Those undigested proteins also cause inflammation in the gut increasing your body’s stress response. 

Not having enough stomach acid to digest what goes in can lead to a whole host of problems including but not limited to allergies, depression, skin issues, gallstones, certain autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis and aging more quickly.  It is possible if you have reflux that it is due to a food intolerance such as non celiac gluten sensitivity or even dairy- it is bio individual. You will have to do some experimenting to figure out what foods could be causing it. 

How do you know if you are making enough stomach acid?

If you have any of the conditions mentioned you most probably don’t make enough. One way to know is to take some Betaine HCl with a meal containing protein. You take a few bites of your meal, chew really well and then take a Betaine HCl. Take another bite or two of food and then take another Betaine HCl. You continue to do that until you feel a burning sensation. Once you feel the burning you know you have taken one too many so your dose would be less one. For example. If you feel the burn at 4 Betaine HCl then your dose for a meal would be three. 

If you need more than six Betaine I would take caution. You may want to keep your dose to no more than three or four and work on the following: 

  1. Sit down to eat your meal. 
  2. Take time to be grateful for your meal and anything else you wish.
  3. Chew each bite thoroughly (20-30 times). 
  4. Put your fork down between bites
  5. Drink water with lemon or a pinch of salt with your meal and don’t drink more than 4 ounces with your meal.
  6. Take digestive bitters about 15-20 minutes before your meal. Urban Moonshine is a good brand. 

Most of all, enjoy your food. It is there to provide you nourishment!

In Health, 

Stephanie

 

 

Five things you need to know when you have Hypothyroidism

Having hypothryoidism can lead to nutrient deficiencies.  When you are hypothyroid, your metabolism is slowed down. Your digestion is slowed down and so is nutrient extraction and absorption. This means your body can't get what it needs from the food you are eating. Having a hypothryroid can be frustrating but it doesn't have to take over your life. Below are some very important things to know about living with a hypothyroid and what you can do to live optimally, whatever that is for you. 

1. That cold weather (or even a breeze) that makes you feel really cold is due to less thyroid hormone getting where it needs to. This also means hormones can’t be processed properly and other things are affected, like how well a cut heals.

2. You probably don’t make enough stomach acid to digest your food properly which means you are not getting the nutrients needed to thrive. Don’t have much energy? Maybe you are not digesting your meals. This leads to a whole host of issues including intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Lack of stomach acid (HCl) also means proteins are not being digested along with iron, zinc and B12. One symptom of low stomach acid is HEARTBURN. Don’t feel like eating when you get up in the morning? Could be you have not digested your evening meal yet. 

3. You probably have stressed Adrenals. Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenals, located just above your kidneys, work overtime most of the time and end up leaving you dizzy when you stand up quickly, with lower than normal blood pressure or require the use of sunglasses when you go outside. They are just plain worn out. 

4. Your liver might not be working properly. If your liver can't do all the things it is supposed to, you may not be making enough bile or adequate bile to digest fats. Fats like the essential fatty acids in fish oils are important for managing inflammation in the body. 

5. You are more likely to have Celiac Disease than the average person and most assuredly, if not Celiac Disease, you are probably gluten intolerant. You are more likely to be unable to tolerate dairy products, eggs and soy as well. 

Here is what you can do about it.

1. Make sure you have found a doctor or naturopath who will test you for not only TSH but Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, TPO Antibodies and Thryoglobulin Antibodies. It is not only important that they test you for those but that they know how to interpret the results. 

2. Get food intolerance testing or use and elimination diet to figure out what foods are negatively affecting you. The best way to find out what foods are not working for you (causing inflammation) is to do an elimination diet.  If you have signed up for my newsletter you will be set with 4 weeks of meals and recipes to get you off to a good start in lowering inflammation and figuring out which foods are your kryptonite. 

3. Have your Vitamin D levels checked and monitored. 

4. Support your adrenals with things like a pinch of sea salt in your water, adrenal adaptogens (you really should be in the care of practitioner before taking any supplementation), and managing your blood sugar (like cutting out sugar completely for a time period to give your body systems a break). Another great way to support your adrenals is to manage your stress. 

5. Be checked for infections with a stool test or be tested to see if you have developed antibodies to any virus or parasite. 

6. Do a simple test with Hydrochloric Acid to see how much stomach acid you need to take with each meal. OR you can take digestive bitters, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before meals (although you might need more than that to get you started). 

7. You could be lacking in certain nutrients that are needed for your thyroid to function properly. According to Izabella Wentz, The thyroid pharmacist, it is very common for people to be deficient in Selenium, iron, vitamins A & E, B vitamins and a few others. You may require supplementation but again I would work with a practitioner before supplementing yourself. 

8. Have your Ferritin levels checked. You need ferritin to transport T3 to the cells. If you are losing your hair even with stable thyroid levels, it could be that you are low in ferritin. 

9. Take a high quality probiotic and eat fermented foods every day. If you have ever been on antibiotics you probably have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut and taking probiotics can help. Eating fermented foods is a much cheaper and fun way to get your probiotics in. Things like sauerkraut and homemade yogurt are great sources of fermented foods. 

It is very important, as I stated before that you don’t put yourself on a supplementation program but that you consult a health practitioner first. When you take the Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire through me we will be able to determine just where your body needs the most support.  The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. I do not diagnose or treat disease but help you find balance so your body can find balance too. Sometimes it is about meeting you where you are at. Baby steps.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I just sent another Breakfast Hash recipe only for my subscribers. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

 

Breakfast Hash Recipe

This whole cooking from scratch thing gets to be really old, really fast when you have to cook three meals a day for seven days a week in order to maintain your health (especially if you have an autoimmune disease).  I also have restrictions to my diet. No gluten. No dairy. No eggs. No grains. I will never be able to have gluten again and I should probably never eat dairy again as well. Dairy can be cross reactive with gluten meaning your body can’t tell the difference between the protein in dairy and gluten proteins. When you have thyroid problems, that can be a big deal. 

In an effort to ensure I eat enough and stay full until lunch, I make hash a lot. It is super easy when you have leftover veggies. It is easy even if you don’t. Hash can be made from anything. Any vegetables and any starch and any meats you have in the fridge. 

Today mine was made of purple sweet potatoes, fennel, onion, broccoli and parsley with a little bit of ham leftover from a dinner a few nights ago. I made a skillet full so I could have it for a snack later if there was any left over. Truthfully, I could have eaten the whole thing and probably should have but I had a meeting to go to so I didn’t have time. 

Fennel, Ham, Parsley, Broccoli, Onion, Purple Sweet Potato

Fennel, Ham, Parsley, Broccoli, Onion, Purple Sweet Potato

 

So here is the recipe for this specific hash. If you have not signed up for my newsletter yet you can get a good hash recipe in my 4 week gut healing program for free when you sign up. 

 

1 small onion, chopped

1 small stalk broccoli, chopped

1/2 a med bulb of fennel, chopped

1-1 1/2 purple sweet potato, cut in to half moons (also called Japanese purple sweet potato)

small handful of parsley, chopped

1 T lard, coconut oil or butter

 

 

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add fat of choice. Let melt in pan and then add sweet potato and fennel.

After the fat is hot in the skillet add the potatoes and fennel. 

After the fat is hot in the skillet add the potatoes and fennel. 

Season with salt and pepper if desired. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to med low. Let cook covered for about 10 minutes. This will soften the potatoes and fennel quicker. 

Cover the potatoes so they can soften quicker or cook through quicker. 

Cover the potatoes so they can soften quicker or cook through quicker. 


Remove lid and add broccoli and onions and increase heat to medium. Stir frequently and add more fat if you need to. 

 Once the onions and broccoli are almost done add the leftover ham and parsley and stir until heated through. 

I added the parsley after I took this photo. 

I added the parsley after I took this photo. 

Like I said earlier this is enough for one hungry person. 

When making hash you can think outside the box and use anything you have. I try to make extra veggies for dinner so I have lots left over to use in my hash. It helps to have them already cooked because it speeds up the process. You can use cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagus- anything. 

If you like eggs you can add an egg at the end so it just cooks in the hash and makes almost like a sauce for the whole thing. 

What do you like to eat for breakfast?

In Health, 

Stephanie

20 Ways to Tell Your Blood Sugar Needs Balancing

The regulation of our blood sugar is so important to our adrenal health. The two things really go hand in hand. If blood sugar regulation is not working well then you cannot achieve health. It is THAT important. Blood sugar dysregulation leads to oxidative stress. Basically what this means is that there is more free radical damage in our bodies because we don’t have enough anti oxidants to neutralize the free radicals created in our body. It also leads to something called glycation which is when proteins in your body become sugared over and can’t communicate with other cells in your body. Blood sugar dysregulation also messes with the energy output in your cells. Your cells create energy with glucose which is a form of sugar. Our body is continually monitoring the levels of glucose in our bloodstream to make sure it stays balanced. Having too much or too little triggers hormones to be released to keep the glucose levels normal.  We were designed to use unrefined carbohydrates as well as quality fats and proteins as our best sources of fuel. We are not designed to run on carbohydrates alone, especially refined and processed ones. 

 

So how do you know if you have some issues with blood sugar imbalance?

  1. You crave sweets
  2. You wake up soon after falling asleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep
  3. You have binge type eating patterns
  4. You have an appetite that won’t quit
  5. You get irritable, jittery or hangry
  6. You get headaches that temporarily feel better after eating
  7. You crave coffee or sugar in the afternoon
  8. You are sleepy in the afternoon
  9. You get shaky if you miss a meal or eat later than normal
  10. You have a family history of diabetes
  11. You are thirsty a lot
  12. You have to pee a lot
  13. You crave bread, pasta or other refined grains
  14. You have poor concentration
  15. You have night sweats
  16. You struggle to lose weight even though you are eating a low fat diet
  17. You are frequently tired
  18. You get a boost of energy from eating
  19. You have anxiety or panic attacks
  20. You have spikes and dips in your energy levels throughout the day

If any one of these describes you then you are most certainly assured to have some issues with your blood sugar and probably your adrenals too. You see, the main organs involved in your blood sugar regulation are the Pancreas, the Liver and the Adrenal Glands. They each have a very important role in blood sugar. If they are constantly busy managing your blood sugar because you ate too many cookies or a huge bowl of ice cream or a box of crackers at work then they can’t do all the other things they need to do in a day, in a moment to keep you alive. 

Refined sugar is a recent invention compared to how long man has been around. We only have one hormone that lowers blood sugar and that is insulin. It wasn’t supposed to have the job of lowering blood sugar but to bring glucose to the cells.  The hormones cortisol, epinephrine (or adrenaline) and glucagon are all there to raise our blood sugar when needed.  It used to be that is what we needed- to raise blood sugar so that our brain, nerves and red blood cells got the glucose they needed. Today, we overload our bodies with sugar at around 200 pounds per person per year. 

So why do we love it so much?

Well frankly, sugar makes us feel good. It literally raises your endorphins but it also crashes and makes you feel worse after a short time. This is called the blood sugar roller coaster. It is addictive. So addictive in fact that in one study, mice chose sugar over cocaine. 

Our taste buds love it but our bodies do not. It is really hard on your body to be managing your blood sugar day in and day out. Your pancreas releases the hormone insulin which is just supposed to transport glucose to your cells from your blood so that it can be used for energy. When you overwhelm your body with sugar the pancreas will eventually wear out which leads to things like insulin resistance and then type II diabetes. Your adrenal glands will be exhausted from having to deal with managing blood sugar on top of all the other stressors in your life such as your emotional stressors, not sleeping or your every day frustrating commute to work. It will also depress your immune system. Your liver can end up having a hard time converting stored glucose back in to glucose for energy and you can end up with a fatty liver. 

You can develop something called insulin resistance where your cells decide they have had enough of insulin knocking at their door to deliver them some glucose and they just don’t answer the door anymore. This is when your blood sugar levels will be higher on a blood test.  You could have insulin resistance if you are tired all the time, can’t lose weight, you have joint problems, are depressed, have thyroid or fertility issues. 

Insulin resistance has a huge impact on female hormone issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, irregular periods and PMS. 

Consuming large amounts of sugar can mean you are what we call a sugar burner. This means your body is able to burn sugar or glucose rather than fat for energy. This here is key to weight loss for many people and if you have weight gain due to hypothyroidsim or Hashimoto’s, converting from a sugar burner to a fat burner can be ultra helpful in dropping some of those pesky pounds. Other signs you are a sugar burner are: 

  •     you are less satisfied after eating
  •     you are hungry all the time
  •     you can’t use fat for energy
  •     you crave carbohydrates and you eat them 

Reducing the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis can turn this around and you can teach your body how to burn fat for energy.  All that extra sugar you have consumed in a day that your cells can’t use gets stored as fat. You can teach your body how to use it. 

Let’s talk more about how the adrenal glands and your adrenal health is affected by blood sugar imbalances. 

If you have Hashimoto’s you may not tolerate carbohydrates as well as other folks. Your blood sugar can rise quickly after eating carbs which can lead to too much insulin being released which can end up causing low blood sugar and make you feel anxious, nervous and tired. This also stresses your adrenal glands because cortisol is released when your adrenals are working overtime. Every time your blood sugar gets low epinephrine is released to help restore it to normal levels.  This can also mess with your immune system. 

Here are some general symptoms of low blood sugar: 

  •     brain fog
  •     blurred vision
  •     hard time sleeping
  •     heart palpitations
  •     fatigue
  •     dizziness
  •     headaches
  •     depression
  •     irritability
  •     cravings for sugar
  •     hunger

How do you avoid blood sugar imbalances?

Look at your diet. Look at your lifestyle. 

Do you eat a large amount of refined carbohydrates in the form of breads or cereals for breakfast? Do you skip breakfast? Do you eat things like pasta salad or a sandwich for lunch? Do you eat all the “good for you” yogurt you see in the grocery store? Have a look at the sugar content of your standard grocery store yogurt. It is pretty high. 

Are you running all the time with no time for rest and relaxation? 

 

Here are some generally good ideas for balancing your blood sugar:

  1. Have some protein at every meal (see this post for learning all about protein)
  2. When you first start to balance your blood sugar, eating more often is better- try having a snack between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just something small like a few nuts or a piece of cheese
  3. Don’t have any sugar before bed
  4. Keep your caffeine intake to a minimum (really would be a good idea to take it out of your diet while you balance your blood sugar)
  5. Don’t eat any grains or dairy 
  6. Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up
  7. Avoid all sweeteners including artificial ones (limit your fruits to 1 serving a day at most)
  8. Keep the carbs to a minimum eating only complex carbs
  9. Consume high quality healthy fats

You would want to do this for about two weeks and then slowly add back things like full fat dairy and continuing to limit grains if you tolerate them. If you have Hashimoto’s you will want eliminate gluten containing grains for good. Eventually you may be able to tolerate some other grains once in awhile. I would not recommend switching your glutenful products with gluten free ones. They will react the same in your body as far as blood sugar is concerned.  Staying low carb is not beneficial for everyone. I find I have much more energy when I consume more starchy carbs regularly like sweet potatoes and veggies. I feel my best when consuming a significant amount of veggies daily. If you feel exhausted after awhile of being low carb it is a sign you will do better with more complex carbs in your diet and that is okay. 

You can try this on your own or you can come to me for help. I have a special plan just to convert you from a sugar burner to a fat burner that helps keep your blood sugar balanced which will help in the recovery of your adrenals as well.  Send me an email and we can chat about it!

Thanks so much for reading. I sincerely appreciate your time. Please tell me in the comments what symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar you might have. I look forward to hearing from you. 

In health, 

Stephanie