SIBO – Could it Be the Cause of Your Gut Distress?

Do you have the following  symptoms?

  • Bloating/abdominal distention
  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Stomach pain/ reflux
  • Fatigue/ weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Joint pain
  • Nutrient deficiencies (Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, anemia)
  • Acne, rosacea, rashes
  • Bone loss

Millions of Americans suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms.  The diagnosis of GERD, gastroparesis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s, and celiac disease continues to grow each year. In my practice, we seek to get to the root of what may be driving these illnesses. (Sometimes gut issues can often show up in other ways such as rashes, anxiety, joint pain, weight loss, and more). Food, environment, genetics, medication use, stress, and lack of sleep can be part of the problem. However, it is important to determine the state of the digestive tract to know how to provide the best intervention. You could be eating the “perfect” diet but if your gut and body are out of balance, it will not heal until this imbalance is corrected.

Recently, research has revealed there is a digestive disorder that is much more prevalent than previously believed, and it is suspected to be the possible cause of many gut symptoms…especially IBS (1). According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology 30-85% of IBS may be related to SIBO, and researchers suggest physicians give consideration of excluding SIBO before giving a definitive diagnosis of IBS. (2)

What is SIBO & What Causes it?

SIBO stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth” and is a condition in which there is an excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine. SIBO is associated with a number of conditions including: motility disorders of the intestine (IBS, gastroparesis), dysfunction of intestinal nerves/muscles (related to food poisoning), autoimmune diseases, blind loop syndrome, untreated celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and more.  The symptoms listed above are typical in those that suffer with SIBO. Do any of these sound like you?

Normally the muscles in the stomach and the small intestine move food through the intestine in a synchronized fashion.  These series of contractions are called peristalsis.  The migrating motor complex (MMC), a small intestine cleaning wave, occurs only when food is not present, about every 90-120 minutes or when fasting.  If the intestinal motility is altered, such as in IBS, the MMC waves occur less frequently.  These movements help clear bacteria out of the small intestines, so when the action is distrupted…bacteria and food may remain in the small bowel leading to overgrowth of microbes.

There are a number of underlying conditions believed to be associated with SIBO such as systemic disorders (diabetes, hypothyroidism, immune dysfunction); motility disorders (IBS, gastroparesis); celiac and Crohn’s disease; gastroenteritis from food poisoning; surgical alterations of GI tract; or prior bowel obstruction with scaring.  Also the use of medications, especially proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), stress, hormonal imbalance, age, and diet can be a factor in why someone may develop SIBO.

Low stomach acid production is one of the main contributing factors to SIBO that I see in my practice.  This is because stomach acid is protective and helps kill any pathogen or bacteria that enters the upper GI region.  Stomach acid is necessary for optimal digestion, especially protein.  Too many people have been on long-term use of acid suppressors such as omeprozole, prevacid, protonix, etc….that will be a risk factor for SIBO and for optimal gut function.

How to Test for SIBO?

Accuracy of current test methods remain limited, as there is a lack of standardization of the normal bowel flora.  However, the best testing we have currently is using a lactulose or glucose breath test.  The bacteria in the gut will produce either hydrogen or methane gas, and this is why the breath test is the best tool used to diagnose SIBO.  There is a third gas that these bacteria can emit and that is called hydrogen sulfide. Consequently, those individuals that present with this gas will have inaccurate or negative testing results (soon there will be testing to detect his gas).

Treatment for SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is most often treated with antibiotics.  Both prescription drugs, such as Xifaxin, or antimicrobial herbs may be used to treat the bacterial overgrowth.  Treatment regimens will vary depending on the type of SIBO- hydrogen or methane gas predominant.  Elemental diets are another option for treating SIBO.  In my practice working with SIBO clients on a weekly basis, it is important to tailor an intervention that is best for each individual case.  This will involve key foods, supplements, probiotics, and lifestyle interventions to help kill the bad bugs and repopulate the good bacteria.

SIBO can be very challenging to treat and often individuals may experience a reoccurrence.   That is why is it important to identify the underlying cause and any factors that increase the risk of developing it again such as poor gut motility, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune dysfunction, stress, medications, and eating habits.

Can Diet Alone Treat SIBO?

No, there is no evidenced based diet therapy for SIBO treatment or prevention.  Diet alone cannot reverse SIBO… you must work with your MD or provider to find the best treatment plan for you.  However, what you eat is an essential part of the intervention plan to help eradicate SIBO. Often diets like the FODMAP diet or SCD (Specific Carbohdyrate Diet), or GAPS may be used.    When working with SIBO clients, I tailor the intervention specific to each situation. It is important to also realize that just taking the medication is often not enough to clear the bad bugs…and a comprehensive approach and intervention is key to long-term success!

If you think you may have SIBO, talk to your GI doctor to be tested!  It is important to get to the root cause of your symptoms and not suffer.  My practice also offers testing for SIBO if your doctor does not currently make this available to you.   Remember, when treating SIBO it takes a comprehensive approach and often a team to help support you in your healing process.  It is important to give your body time to repair and heal while fighting the bacterial overgrowth and to nourish it well after.

I have worked with many client’s who suffered and are now FREE from SIBO, check out some of the “success stories“.   I would love to help you heal from within and find a PEACEFUL Gut!

 

7 Attainable NEW YEAR’s Goals That Will Improve Your Health…Mind, Body, and Spirit!

January is almost over…. how are you doing with your New Year’s goals?  I personally stopped setting “resolutions” years ago and now focus on specific goals for each area of my life and/or set a specific word or mantra to help me focus on what I wish to achieve.

New Year’s resolutions/goals don’t need to happen on New Year’s Day, they can happen any day! When you take control of your health and your life, you feel empowered. Choose to feel empowered any day and don’t let the calendar dictate when you establish them… let it be on your time and in your style.

Here are 7 “fast” strategies that you can begin to incorporate into your life to help balance mind, body, and spirit.  The best thing…you can start them any day of the year.  Consider choosing 1-3 that are most important to help you get closer to your Wellness Vision for a spectacular 2018!

  1. Fill your Plate with 75% Non-Starchy Veggies. Yes, this means those with LOTS of color and ideally at least 3 different colors at one time to provide an array of nutrients. Unfortunately, carbs get a bad rap. Carrots and ice cream both fall into the carbs category, but we all know one is healthy and the other isn’t. Ideally, about 75 percent of your carb intake should come from mostly non-starchy veggies with a little addition of fruit. So decide to add as much COLOR and VARIETY as possible this year.  (Both are the “spice of life” :))
  2. Go All-Out with 7 Minutes of Intense Exercise. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at the very top end of your capacity for 45 – 60 seconds, then recovering for 3 minutes by walking or a slow jog, then returning to very high intensity for another 45 – 60 seconds. Don’t let the short time fool you! You’ll see significant fitness gains very quickly. You can do it walking, running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, or even swimming. Just focus on getting your intensity up to a 8 or 9 on a 1-to-10 scale during the intense intervals, and then allowing your system to recover as much as possible during the rest cycles. Be prepares to work up a sweat!
  3. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom! Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. (This is a hormone that can also impact your gut!) Consider an hour before bed…turn off your phone, all electronics, and find a relaxation technique (such as a hot bath, reading a book, meditation, etc.) that helps you drift into deep sleep.
  4. Spend 2-Minutes Meditating – Morning and Evening. What a great way to begin and end your day. The effects of chronic high cortisol and other stress hormones on our brains deplete brain power and leave us tired and often overweight. You don’t need 30 minutes of meditation or an hour-long yoga class to lower stress hormones. A 2-minute breathing practice, yoga, or meditation exercise can do wonders for your mind and body.   Here’s a breathing exercise called “Take 5” you can do several times each day. Sit on a chair, or propped up on pillows in your bed, or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Close your eyes and your mouth. Breath in slowly through your nose to the count of five. Hold to the count of five and then slowly breathe out to the count of five.
  5. Cultivate a Healthy Community. Friend power, not willpower, is the key to success with your health goals. When you shift focus and prioritize your friends, family, and coworkers, you deepen your connection with them and feel more fulfilled. Sometimes those connections might feel uncomfortable, but they’re worth it. Social media has its place, but most of us spend far more time there than we do interacting in real life, which new research shows it impacts our health and happiness. Instead, be sure to spend an intentional 5 minutes a day connecting with a loved one.
  6. Use a Gratitude Journal. There is great research that gratitude can transform your life by helping to develop greater positivity and happiness. A little reflection on your life and what you are most grateful for each day can help set your day (and perspective) up for success.  One of my favorite little finds this year that I have been using is the 5-Minute Gratitude Journal.  I love that it asks the questions and you journal your reflections both in the morning and the evening…all in 5 minutes tops!
  7. Capture Your “Mantra or Word” for the Year. What is it that you want to improve, achieve, give back, and/or strive toward in the New Year…how can you put that into one word to help you refocus and connect with your priorities for the year? Spend some time reflecting on what is most important to you. For example: “Balance”, “Authenticity”, “Fitness”, “Family” – could help you stay grounded and focused.   

Incorporate these fast, effective strategies and watch your life improve!

  Your resolutions and goals can happen any day.

Get started today  🙂

Could Hypochlorydria be at the Root of Your Digestive Problem?

Does this sound like you?

  • You get the dreaded belly bloat with cramps, pain, and feel like food is sitting in your gut after eating.
  • After eating a healthy normal sized meal you feel exhausted,  hungry, or anxious.
  • You have peeling nails, low iron or B12 levels, acne, or chronic fatigue.
  • Soon after eating you have heartburn or belch repeatedly.

If so, you may be experiencing hypochlorhydria (or low stomach acid).

  This very common condition is widely misunderstood. Hypochlorydria, (Hypo =  low; chlorydria = hydrochloric acid (or HCl)), refers to low stomach acid production. The stomach is highly acidic – with an optimal pH of 1.5-3 – which would burn you to touch it.  This acid is essential to activate a little enzyme called pepsin that begins to break down food.  Without an acidic environment it becomes difficult to  begin the process of digesting protein, thus impacting effective absorption of key nutrients from food.

Why Acid Is Important

Acid in the gut is the body’s first line of defense to kill any bacteria, virus, or harmful substance that enters the body through the mouth!  The secretion of HCL is an essential part of the digestive process and protects the body from all the many pathogens that we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Perhaps you are thinking…. what about all the people (perhaps including you) that take antacids and proton-pump inhibitors (acid blockers)?  It seems as if the general public all suffer from heartburn or reflux these days…and the media overrun by advertisements suggesting we need these pills for relief of our symptoms.

It may be hard to believe, but it is all too common that those with “ heartburn like symptoms” are actually experiencing LOW stomach acid… not too much!  I see this in my practice on a regular basis.  Originally antacids and PPI’s (proton-pump inhibitors) were only prescribed for short term use if a patient was found to have a stomach ulcer or gastritis.  Next to statin (cholesterol lowering drugs) anacids are the the most over – prescribed medication in our country.

How to Test?

Testing for stomach acid is done through something called a Heidelberg test which is rarely done, but a great option to determine the balance of acid essential for your gut.

 Keep In Mind:   If you have ANY kind of digestive dysfunction, it is important to rule out hypochlorhydria.  And if you are taking PPI’s or antacids, consider discussing with your MD about weaning down on the dose and eventually eliminate them unless you have gastritis or an ulcer.  This could hold you back from healing your gut and absorbing key nutrients and could be one of the root causes behind many digestive issues such as chronic GERD/reflux, IBS, SIBO, parasites, food sensitivities, and more.

 10 Signs that You May Have Hypochlorydria:

  1. You feel like you are unable to digest meat and/or have lost your taste for it. Most often I find that clients who are hypochlorhydric don’t enjoy meat or protein sources since they can’t digest it well!  With a little HCL support, they regain the ability to digest protein
  2. Your fingernails chip, peel, or break easily.  If you’re fingernails chip, peel, or break easily, it’s typically a clear sign of deficiencies in protein, minerals, and often also essential fatty acids. By now you’re well aware that deficiencies in protein and minerals are often due, in part, to low stomach acid production.
  3. You have anemia that doesn’t respond to iron supplementation.  Iron deficient anemia is so often a gut issue since it is typically an absorption issue.  This is a very specific example of a mineral deficiency that is exacerbated by low stomach acid. Sufficient HCL is needed for iron absorption and iron regulation. This may help you understand why it is so critical to have optimal digestion in order to absorb nutrients from food and supplements.
  4. You eat (or ate) a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Vegetarians eat very little animal protein; vegans eat none. Therefore, the body slows down production of HCL accordingly and is one of the core reasons that a vegetarian diet can be challenging for digestion.  Vegans are often challenged to absorb minerals from their food, properly triggering the production of pancreatic enzymes.  In addition, the secretion of HCL triggers release of intrinsic factor, essential to the absorption of vitamin B12.
  5. You experience belching or gas about an hour after a meal.  One of stomach acid’s important roles is to trigger the opening of the pyloric valve, the little valve that connects the stomach to the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). That little valve is very smart, and it knows not to open until the contents of the stomach are at the proper state of digestion. This includes a sufficiently acidic stomach environment. If the pyloric valve is waiting for a level of stomach acidity that isn’t achievable due to low acid production, the contents of the stomach start to ferment. Fermentation creates gas. Whether it goes up or down depends on your constitution, but it will be released one way or the other.
  6. You get heartburn.  Contrary to popular opinion, acid reflux isn’t always too much stomach acid…it may be just in the wrong place. Your esophagus has a pH of about 7, which is very neutral. Your stomach a pH of 1.5-3, very acidic.  The stomach secretes mucous to protect its lining but the esophagus has no such protective coating. If you’re not secreting enough acid, the pyloric valve doesn’t open, and the contents of your stomach start to ferment.  The gas it creates can build up and cause belching which may open the esophageal valve – the valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach – to allow the gas to travel up. Sometimes, along with the gas, a little bit of stomach juices may also come up into the esophagus. The delicate lining of the esophagus is not equipped to handle such acidity…and you experience “heartburn”.
  7. You have really bad breath even though you brush your teeth.  Ruling out poor dental hygiene, it makes perfect sense that bad breathwould be the result of digestive dysfunction. If you’re not digesting the food in your stomach properly, it’s going to create toxic byproducts, which can quickly overload our body’s detoxification abilities. Let’s face it, we live in a very toxic world and our detoxification functions are significantly overworked. Our liver has enough to do without dealing with the by-products of a poor digestive system. Have bad breath even with excellent oral hygiene?… hypochlorhydria may be the root of the problem.  (Check out my 10-day detox program – great to do 1-2x/year to support the liver and gut!)
  8. You’re not hungry for breakfast.  I see this scenario often!  Do you find yourself eating a really large dinner, late in the evening, and then don’t feel hungry for breakfast? You may not be hungry because it’s likely dinner is still processing and digesting upon waking in the morning due to low acid.
  9. You get sleepy after meals.  Becoming sleepy after meals can mean a number of things: blood sugar dysregulation, poor sleep, improper macronutrient balance, or inadequate digestion. It takes a lot of energy to digest, so if digestion is not optimal it will put more responsibility on other body systems.  Feeling energized after eating is normal if good digestion is occurring.
  10.  You have undigested food in your stools.  HCL triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes that help to finish the breakdown of food once it gets into the small intestine. If not enough enzymes are secreted, you won’t finish breaking down your food and will see undigested food in your stool.

If you suspect you have hypochlorydria,  minor tweaks are often all that’s needed to boost HCL levels naturally. For others, more targeted support is required. You should only supplement HCL under the supervision of a health practitioner, and should never do so if you have an ulcer, gastritis, or take prescription antacids.

Action steps you can take at home:

  • Drink a small glass of room temperature water with ½- 1 Tbsp raw organic apple cider vinegar before meals. This stimulates the digestive process and encourages your stomach to secrete stomach acid. (note: if doing this produces a burning sensation in your gut, stop…this is not for you.)
  • Try taking Swedish Bitters before meals, just like your great grandma did. This works along the same lines as the apple cider vinegar – the bitter taste stimulates the digestive process.
  • Eat sitting down, slowly, in a relaxed state. Digestion involves your parasympathetic nervous system connected to your gut, meaning that it only happens when you’re in a relaxed state. If you’re under stress, your digestion is compromised. Digestion actually begins in our brains!
  • Give yourself some time to digest and take a light walk, don’t rush right into the next activity. It’s no coincidence that many cultures (with the exception of the US) enjoy relaxation after a meal. You don’t need a whole afternoon siesta, but a nice 10-15-minute stroll after lunch would be a nice gift to your gut.
  • Eat your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This gives your body time to digest before lying down.

It is important to remember that each of us are unique.  It is all too easy to pin our symptoms on just one thing…like low stomach acid or a food sensitivity.  Often it may be more complex, and that is why I am here to help you address hypochlorhydria in a way that is best for you …or partner with you to get to the ‘root cause’ of your struggle so you can thrive in life  🙂 . 

Gut Dysbiosis – What It Is and What You Can Do About It!

The words, gut microbiome and dysbiosis, are practically household terms as research and information about the gut grows.  Just the other day I overheard two women in a local coffee shop discussing tips on how to “get their gut balanced”.  Despite increasing information there is also much confusion and oversimplification…the gut is complex!  To help you stay well-informed let’s define – gut dysbiosis – and how it may apply to you.

Within your gastrointestinal tract lies trillions of microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses, even parasites.  This unique collection of microbes is known as your microflora…or your “inner garden”.  As with most gardens, the climate, temperature, and soil all impact its well-being.  The garden can easily shift out of balance compromising the health of the crop…not to mention becoming overrun with weeds if not well cared for.  You can think of this as dysbiosis…an imbalance and/or an overgrowth of the weeds or “bad stuff”.

Three Ways Dysbiosis Can Impact Your Gut

  1. The most basic imbalance is too many unhealthy microbes in the gut. An overabundance of “bad” inflammatory bacteria, too much yeast (such as candida albicans), or an unwelcomed virus or parasite lead to dysbiosis. To treat this type of dysbiosis, medications, broad-spectrum anti-microbial herbs, lifestyle and dietary changes such as including fiber-rich foods, probiotics, and supplements are very effective. The key is identifying and appropriately correcting the imbalance with the correct intervention!
  2. Poor diversity or not enough microbes can be the culprit. It may not be as common as an overgrowth but lack of or under-abundance of bacteria…even the good…can be problematic! An under-abundance may indicate that the lining of the gut where the microflora lives may be compromised and needs repair. Improvement may be achieved with appropriate probiotics, prebiotics, gut lining supportive supplements (like glutamine), and healthy bacteria-friendly foods.
  3. Your bacteria settle in the wrong place. Microbes live all along the lining of your gastrointestinal tract…from mouth to anus. It is important they live and thrive where they belong… which is primarily in the large intestines (or colon).  When they begin to overpopulate and take up residence in places where they don’t belong, such as the mouth or small intestines, that is when they begin to create problems. One of the most common disturbances is SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).  SIBO occurs when the gastrointestinal microbiome has shifted and the growing and thriving bacteria migrate from the colon to the small intestines. Antibiotics, herbs, diet, lifestyle changes, and even ensuring optimal thyroid and hormonal balance are important for correcting this imbalance…and avoiding reoccurrence.

How does dysbiosis happen?

There are many different reasons why we harbor the microbes we do…and often, your “story” related to your life and health history can be valuable in understanding how or why the gut has been impacted. Birth history, childhood, food choices, antibiotics, medications (prescription and over the counter), life circumstances, stress, environmental toxins, and food poisoning…all can impact our microbiome.

Could YOU have dysbiosis?

Digestive struggle of any kind suggests an imbalance or dysbiosis of the microbes in the gut. If you have stomach upset after eating, indigestion, GERD (reflux), heartburn, slow digestion, or bloating, it is important to address dysbiosis.  If you have bowel problems, like excessive gas, lower belly pains, constipation, or diarrhea – then dysbiosis is the prime suspect.

Dysbiosis can be the “root cause” of seemingly unrelated disorders

I work with gut dysbiosis daily in my practice.  Many of my clients are surprised when I suggest dybiosis as a possible underlying cause when they are not complaining of problems they associate with their gut.   As research grows, it is obvious how much the gut is involved with overall health and its influence on our body systems and disease process.   Dysbiosis may be silent gut-wise, while still causing trouble in other areas of your body.  That is why universally I am typically recommending a probiotic that fits the client’s unique needs as we begin to work on diet and lifestyle habits to promote a diverse, healthy, and a PEACEFUL gut.

Here are a few examples that could be linked to dysbiosis:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Autoimmune disease/disorder.
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Neurological and psychiatric disease
  • Eczema, weight loss, and chronic fatigue
  • Weight loss resistance

Basically, any inflammatory process can be traced back to the gut.  To get to the root cause quickly, additional testing is often needed and valuable:  Stool, breath, and urine testing – all of which can provide a snapshot of your personal microbiome. Results and information from testing offer a better “road map” on how to effectively address the dysbiosis with a highly personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan.

What to do if you suspect you have dysbiosis:

  • Talk to your doctor for a referral to a good gastroenterologist who is willing to work with you.  Also find a nutrition expert who is knowledgeable in gut health to partner with.
  • If you suspect SIBO…ask to be tested by your MD with a specific 3 hr. lactulose breath test.  (Did you know that it is estimated that 60-80% of IBS suffers have SIBO!) 
  • Take the FREE JBS Gut Assessment to see how healthy YOUR gut is.
  • Check out my 6-month Gut Restoration Program  which utilizing specific advanced testing to help get to the root cause by providing a roadmap toward restoring the gut to good health. A blood test is used to evaluate the gut barrier and stool culture to determine potential pathogens and balance of microbiome.  In addition, a highly specialized, tailored, and progressive approach is taken which involves evidenced based protocols and guidelines as well as regular visits to keep you on track toward optimal health.

Take good care of your ‘Inner Garden’ so you can enjoy good health – the ultimate fruit of your labor!

Your Partner for a Peaceful Gut!  🙂

Julie

ps.  Want to take a deep dive to learn more about your gut?

Check out my recorded  Webinar: The Gut: The Gateway to Good Health

for Free until January 1st!

Is a Food Sensitivity Making You Miserable? Find out how one client reclaimed her health AND love for cooking!

Food Sensitivities

Do you struggle with gut issues, acne, psoriasis, brain fog, or migraines?

 Have you been told you have leaky gut or IBS?

Food sensitivity testing may be something you should consider!  Helping clients get to the ROOT cause of their symptoms and health struggle is my passion.  This is just one test that I often use to get to the core of the issue…literally!

As you may know, the gut is truly the “gateway to good health”.  This is because approximately 80% of the immune system is in the gut… which is the largest area of contact with the environment.  When the integrity of our gut begins to break down due to poor health, nutritional imbalances, stress, illness, etc., the lining of our gut can become compromised.  When this happens it may activate the inflammatory response in your body in response to certain foods.  The purpose of the testing is to show which foods and/or environmental triggers are creating a chronic inflammatory response.

Acute inflammation is critical and helpful short-term for the defense of infection or injury.  However, with a food sensitivity… the immune system perceives food in the same way it perceived something that is harmful which results in chronic inflammation. By unknowingly eating foods on a regular basis that your body is reacting to, you set off this immune response. The body is reeved up- ready for a fight!  It is chronically activated, never giving the body a break. When this occurs white blood cells can release harmful chemicals and generate damaging free radicals (inflammatory agents) as they encounter  foods and chemicals that they are perceiving as “foreign invaders”.

It is often impossible to determine what food is causing a reaction, since reactions that work on the innate immune system can be delayed for several hours, even as much as a few days.  For example, you may have bloating, irritability, rash, or fatigue in the afternoon but may be reacting to something you ate at breakfast or for dinner the night before!

Food Sensitivity vs. Allergy

An allergy is a reaction that triggers the release of antibodies that results in immediate symptom onset. A true food allergy causes an immune response that can affect multiple organs and in some cases be severe or even life threatening. For example, if you have a shellfish allergy, you will know immediately after you eat shellfish!  Food sensitivity symptoms are delayed and are typically limited to digestive problems, but they can lead to chronic inflammatory health issues as well.


What Company Is Best for Food Sensitivity Testing?

In my practice I use what I consider one of the most accurate and well respected tests available today.  The Alcat Test is provided by Cell Sciences Systems Limited, Corporation,  a licensed  and  FDA complaint laboratory. The Alcat Test is the only test of its kind to have been awarded 3 patents.

The Alcat Test is an immunobiological blood test to analyze the inflammatory response of white blood cells to foods and environmental factors.  The test uses pure whole food organic extracts and all test substances are manufactured in a strictly controlled production process.  The facility is a registered FDA medical device manufacturer and ISO 13485 certified.

Clinical assessments of the Alcat Test used to guide dietary modification have shown significant improvement in many common symptoms.  The efficacy of the Alcat Test has been documented in more than 30 studies implementing rigorous double blind and often placebo controlled study designs.

References found: www.cellsciencesystems.com and I included some study referenced below!


The Alcat Test is designed to assess sensitivities to over 450 food, chemical and environmental substances. These sensitivities are shown to be associated with both acute and chronic conditions.

Chronic activation of the immune system has been linked to:

  •       IBS/ Bloating / Ulcerative Colitis/ Constipation/ Crohn’s Disease
  •       Fatigue/ Brain Fog
  •       Weight Gain
  •       Migraine/Tension headaches
  •       Eczema/ Psoriasis
  •       Arthritis/Rheumatoid Arthritis
  •       Anxiety/Restlessness
  •       Cognitive Impairment
  •       Attention Deficit Disorders
  •       Fibromyalgia/Joint and Muscle Pain
  •       Allergies
  •       And more……

By identifying your particular list of “trigger” foods and avoiding them for 3-6 months can help heal the gut and reduce and/or elminate symptoms.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that ALL food sensitivities have to be avoided forever!  This is NOT the case, nor is this healthy in may cases.  The key is to rest the gut and calm the chronic inflammation response.   This test can provide clarity and freedom to help you know precisely which foods are friendly or unfriendly to your body.  Together we take steps to be creative and find delicious meals and snacks to enjoy… while avoiding these foods for a time.  At the same time we are always working on healing the gut in our efforts to help you reclaim your health and achieve optimal wellness!.


JUST A FEW STUDIES….

Investigators Berardi L, De Amici M, Castello C, Torre, Giunta, Legoratto, and Vignini studied 48 patients who participated in an elimination diet based on Alcat Test results. They found that the Alcat Test-based diet improved symptoms in 71% of patients. In particular, symptom improvements were most evident in patients with higher symptom scores, dietary changes and everyday conditions. Presented at 30th Congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Cellular Responses to Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Investigators Fell PJ, Soulsby S, and Brostoff J conducted a double blind, placebo controlled study on 20 patients which demonstrated that an Alcat Test based elimination diet dramatically improved symptoms of IBS and had a statistically significant correlation between an Alcat score and symptom provocation. Published in Journal of Nutritional Medicine, Volume 2, Number 2, 1991.

For MORE details on the ALCAT Testing – click HERE

Be sure to watch the Video and take a “Tour” through the Lab!


Inspiration…..meet Donna!

NO DOUBT…  it can be overwhelming when you find out you not only have more than one food allergy, but also food sensitivities and intolerances!  Such was the case for one of my clients.  Donna was one of those lovely southern women who always wore a beautiful smile, was ready with a hug, always looked put together, and just embraced LIFE.  However, sitting in my office many years ago, her world was flipped upside down.  Despite the cherry smile, tears took over as she admitted that she had a “love affair” with cooking and eating and felt her life would never be the same.  We worked through meal planning, how to modify recipes, and strategies for eating out.  I only saw Donna a couple times and I always wondered if she had found improvement and full recovery.  (Looking back, I certainly wish I could have delivered the expertise and the more individualized care that I now offer at my own practice!)

Guess what…. Donna reappeared in my life with a friendly phone call not long ago.   I immediately recognized the voice!  She had been looking for me (since I had gone into private practice after we met) and wanted to drop something off!  Well, I found out Donna not only reclaimed amazing health… but also reclaimed her LOVE AFFAIR with cooking…and wrote her own cookbook!  Four years of culinary creations in her kitchen and she released “LICIOUS” – Floribbean Recipes for those with Multiple Food Allergies that Just Love Delicious Food .

This is one women who when….

 “Life handed her Lemons ….so she made Lemon Quinoa!”  

(yes she did! – page 28 of her cookbook and it is delicious!)

For more about Donna, her story…and cook book.  Click HERE


 

Think Food Sensitivity and/or Environmental Testing may be Right for YOU?

Contact me today and let’s find out if this may help YOU get to the root of your health struggle!

Cheers to Your Health!

Julie

ps. I also offer many diverse testing options based on your unique situation and case.

A full listing will be available soon once the new website goes LIVE in July!  

 

Are You Taking Care Of Your Gut Microbiome?

The ‘gut microbiome’ is a hot topic of conversation these days.  But do you really know what it is and important steps you can take to care for it?   The health of your gut goes much deeper than merely popping a probiotic.   Let’s give you a little insight to take back to your circles of influence who are buzzing on the topic!

Did you know right now you are harboring within you an entire ecosystem?! There are literally trillions of bacteria in the digestive tract. They make up what is called the microflora, because under a microscope they look like little (micro) flowers (flora). We refer to it collectively as our microbiome which play an unbelievable role in synthesizing vitamins, producing natural antibiotics and degrading and eliminating toxins.  You are truly made up of MORE bacteria than human cells!

Recent science (that is ever evolving) has taught us that the microbiome also dictates aspects of who we are – our personalities, our susceptibility to certain diseases, our mood, and even the size of our waistband. Most people are oblivious to it, paying no attention to it at all….until it begins to let us know it is hurting!

It is not just the stomach, intestines, or colon that make up the microbiome.  It is the entire tube (GI tract) that runs through us which is 30 feet long has an opening on each end…the mouth to the anus. If we were to stretch this out it would equal the side of a telephone pole! The GI tract (or internal tube) maintains at 98.6 degrees and is a very moist environment, making it the perfect breeding ground for microbes – both good and bad bugs.

Outside, external influences often upset the balance…this unbalance is called dysbiosis. How we choose to control the external influences determines the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria.  It is up to us – we must care for them and understand what can influence them. It is crucial to good health and requires more than a probiotic…which can help or harm your unique microflora depending on the situation.

Factors That Affect the Microbiome:

Food we eat, medications, stress, anxiety, genetics, time spent outdoors, exposure to animals, toxin and chemical exposure, antibiotic use throughout our lives, how we were born — C-section or vaginally — whether we were breast-fed, how much we sleep, and more…impact the microbiome.

For most of us, our guts are a mess…whether we know it or not. An unbalanced gut doesn’t always show up in symptoms of the gut…it can influence development of other illnesses (check out the connection to thyroid), show up in symptoms of the skin, sinuses, weight issues, fatigue, and much more.  Our current culture has created a microbiome that looks very different from what nature intended for each of us. So how do we intentionally nourish our gut?

Increase These Foods to Support your Microbiome :

  1. Eat organic, non-GMO....when possible support and buy from your local organic farmers.   These foods are low in pesticides and have not been genetically modified which can alter your flora and damage your intestinal lining, causing leaky gut.
  2. Mindfully select a rainbow of colorful vegetables and some fruit every day. They will provide fermentable fibers that feed our healthy flora.   Aim for at least 1 or more cups with each meal and 3 or more colors per meal!
  3. Include coconut products like coconut oil, milk, yogurt and kefir. Coconut is filled with medium chain triglycerides which feed the cells lining our intestines and has yeast-killing properties.  New to coconut oil?  Coat your pan before cooking your eggs or check out my Cauliflower Sweet Potato Mash recipe!
  4. Incorporate Ghee, which is clarified butter…and dairy free. Ghee is filled with butyrate, a critically-important fatty acid for the care and feeding of cells in our colon.
  5. Include healthy anti-inflammatory oils and fats.  Such as fish, flax, avocado, grapeseed, and olive oil. Look for cold-first pressed organic non GMO oils.  For more on choosing quality oils see my blog post.  Also include raw nut butters like almond and cashew as well as raw nuts…see my blog on nuts.
  6. Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, or free-range organic animals when possible. This will limit the hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that we are expose our microbes to when eating animals raised in typical feed lots. Also, the meat from grass fed animals have higher quality, anti-inflammatory fats than corn fed animals.

Additional Considerations:

In addition to food, supplements may be needed to support the gut such as digestive enzymes, natural motility agents,  pre and probiotics, zinc carnosine, glutamine, magnesium, HCL and betaine…especially those with low stomach acid.  Each person is different and has unique and specific needs.  You should never start supplements without guidance from a qualified practitioner who can help you use food to work synergistically and ensure there is no contraindication with your medicine or health issues when taking supplements or herbals.

Testing may also be important to consider…whether it be traditional labs, stool cultures, food  and environmental sensitivity testing, to help determine root cause to an imbalanced microbiome and provide a roadmap for recovery!

It is Equally Important to Remove These Foods:

  1. Processed food high in sugar, white flour, baked goods, food dyes and preservatives. These foods and chemicals promote the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in our gut.  This includes fruit juices, dried fruit, and all added sugar or artificial sweeteners except stevia.
  2. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn (and for some eggs and peanuts). These foods are the most common triggers for reflux, constipation and abdominal discomfort, as well as other non-gut related symptoms.
  3. Foods high in histamines. Shellfish, processed or smoked meats and sausages, wine. Many people are affected by histamine intolerance caused by the body’s inability to break down histamine in the gut causing crazy allergy reactions. Reactions to histamines can look like allergic reactions, including nasal congestion as well as headaches, dizziness and digestive discomfort.

Since 70-80% of your immune system is in the gut, this makes taking care of the microbiome essential to good health.

Are you struggling with IBS, gastroparesis, GERD, SIBO, chronic constipation, skin issues, sinus troubles, autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Ulcerative Colitis?  Then it is time to take action to optimize your microbiome and immune function!

“Everyone has a doctor in him or her: we just have to help it in its work.  The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well” -Hippocrates

I would love to partner with you on your  journey to heal your gut and care for your microbiome!

Julie

 

Go NUTS- the BEST to choose and why!

Top nuts

Pop as a snack, toss in a salad, swirl into a smoothie, whip to make a cream sauce, or spread on a a cracker….whatever you do, go NUTS!  

Nuts are a trendy staple in most diets.  Clearly the message is out….nuts are good for us!  A frequent question among clients is…which are BEST?  Let me be clear, we are not talking about the nuts covered in chocolate, sugar, and salt, but instead raw or soaked :).  All nuts do have benefits due to fiber, magnesium, and healthy fats, however, some do have a little advantage.  Most of us should be mindful to enjoy a variety of nuts and seeds in order to capitalize on the health benefits and versatility.   If you haven’t joined the nut craze…it is time to go NUTS!  (ps. If you can’t tolerate whole nuts, ALL can be made into “nut butter”!) 

Top Nuts To Include For Ultimate Benefits!

Here is my basic ranking of nuts if I had to put them in order.  One thing to consider… avoid eating only one type of nut (like almonds), or you will miss out on the essential nutrients and balance the other nuts provide.  Branch out and explore a variety of options for your daily intake.  Let your creativity shine!

  1. Walnuts: In folk medicine, walnuts were thought to be the best brain food because of their distinctively brain-like appearance. They are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One of the few plant sources of omega 3’s to help keep our ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 stay in check.  Both 3’s and 6’s are important but we want more of the Omega 3’s!  Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, a very good source of manganese, copper, molybdenum, and the B vitamin biotin. Toss in oatmeal, roast them with a bit of sea salt and maple syrup.  If you don’t like the taste whirl into your smoothie. Check out my favorite nut mix below.
  2. Pistachios:   You may be surprised by pick #2. Aside from being a great source of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats…pistachios are excellent if you are prone to stress eating. Shelling them gives your hands something to do which can have a very soothing, calming effect on the mind—and the appetite! Also, you can enjoy the greatest amount of nuts per serving (about 49 nuts) with pistachios than any other nut.  Check out these amazingly fun and delicious pistachio recipes!
  3. Brazil nuts:  Often these are the unsung hero of the nut bowl since Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  This nut contains more selenium than any other food in a small amount. It is important for reproductive health, thyroid function, and has been shown to improve mood, and decrease anxiety. Brazil nuts are commonly eaten raw or blanched and are also high in protein, fiber, thiamine, copper and magnesium. Two a day is like a superfood supplement, but you can overdo it!  So let this nut complement the nut bowl, not overshadow it!  Keep in mind that the amount of selenium in Brazil nuts differs greatly depending where they are grown.
  4. Cashews: Particularly rich in copper and magnesium.  Copper plays a role in iron utilization in the body and magnesium is important for regulating muscle and nerve function, along with blood sugar control.  They are also super versatile and are able to be used as a cheese (for those that can’t tolerate dairy), cream sauce, milk, and so much more.  Cashews offer people trying to kick dairy a delicious alternative.  Think outside the box and check out this delicious Cashew Garlic and Herb Cheese!
  5. Almonds:  Most clients expect me to name this as the top nut since it seems we have gone almond crazed these days between almond butter, almond milk, almond creamer, almond flour, almond tea….do I need to go on?  Some of us may need a break from this nut.  However, it has wonderful qualities besides taste…almonds contain vitamin E which assists in achieving healthy, glowy skin, improves immune function, and protects the body from oxidative damage. Almonds also contain magnesium, calcium, and folate.  Like most nuts, they are also high in monounsaturated fat which reduces inflammation and lowers risk of heart disease. Try them raw or roasted, processed into a nut butter, pulsed into a flour, or rough chopped and tossed in a salad.
  6. Pecans: I find it interesting how few client eat pecans and perceive them as unhealthy.  Perhaps it it because we associate pecans with pie and ice-cream;)!  However, this nut contains about 19 different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants!  The monounsaturated fats in pecans may help improve your cholesterol profile, and they actually contain three times the flavonoids (a type of antioxidants) of almonds and 10 times that of walnuts! Toast and toss in a green salad or quinoa salad.  Check out these recipes for a twist on some of your favorites!

If you are stuck on only eating almonds or walnuts….GO NUTS and get out there and explore the vast world of nuts.  Be sure to chew well to get all the health benefits.  Nuts may be hard to digest and full of insoluble fiber…so if YOU don’t break them down yourself (chew, chew,chew) , they will go through you partially digested and you will not get the full benefit of nutrients to absorb!

Remember…it is not what you EAT but what you ABSORB!

Leave a comment and let me know YOUR best way to include nuts….

….share a recipe or best “nutty secret”.

Here is my favorite snack to get my anti-inflammatory, fiber and magnesium punch for the day!

Till next time!  Julie


Julie’s Favorite Snack Mix:

  •  Mix together 1/4 cup raw almonds, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 pumpkin seeds + 1/3 cup goji berries.  Mix together in bowl and toss into mini mason jars for a snack on the go!  

(Add in’s: raisins, dark chocolate chips, sesame seeds, cereal, or whatever you love)


 

Did You Know Your Thyroid Health Is Connected To Your Gut? 8 Tips To Optimize Your Thyroid

Image:Thyroid Nation

Ever wonder why everyone seems to be taking medicine for thyroid or gut related issues?

Over 20 million people in the United States have some form of a thyroid condition, and up to 60% are unaware that they have a condition. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.  The number of people suffering from thyroid disorders continues to rise each year.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), where the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, is one of the most common thyroid disorders. It may be characterized by weight gain, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, brain fog, depression, memory loss, intolerance, hoarse voice, fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, and wide range of other unpleasant symptoms.

The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then get carried to every tissue in the body.  Every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for the most basic aspects of our body’s function, impacting all major systems. They directly act on the brain, the GI tract, the cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gallbladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism, and body temperature regulation.  Optimal thyroid function is essential to good health.

I work with clients experiencing clinical and subclinical symptoms of hypothyroidism, but are told by their doctor that their thyroid function is fine based on one or two labs drawn each year.  Using a functional and integrative nutrition approach, I help clients get to the root cause of their health issues.  Often this involves looking deeper at their biochemistry and lab work to identify IF their thyroid function is contributing to their issues.


What you may not realize is the connection of  poor gut health to the health of your thyroid?

Specializing in gut related disorders, it is routine for me to work with clients who have chronic IBS, gastroparesis, leaky gut, celiac disease and Crohn’s who also have a thyroid condition.   Many years ago, I always wondered why this seemed to be the case.  Now the research is clear… gut bacteria plays a major role in regulating the thyroid.

Bacteria is necessary in converting the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active form of thyroid hormone, T3.  About 20% of T4 is converted to T3 in the GI tract…this requires an important enzyme called intestinal sulfatase. Guess where this enzyme comes from: yep you guessed it….healthy gut bacteria!

Intestinal dysbiosis, an imbalance between pathogenic (bad bacteria) and beneficial bacteria in the gut, significantly reduces the conversion to T3.  Also, low stomach acid is all too common in those over 50, individuals taking antacids (PPI’s), and is a very common condition in those who have gut issues.  Inflammation in the gut also reduces T3 by raising cortisol. Cortisol decreases active T3 levels while increasing levels of inactive T3.   Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, can be an underlying cause of autoimmune related thyroiditis (when the thyroid is attacking its own tissue).  Essentially, there is a breakdown in the gut barrier which exposes the bloodstream to harmful foreign molecules.  The immune system reacts an inflammatory response, and can eventually lead to a mistaken immune attack on the body’s tissues, like the thyroid gland.  This autoimmune condition is thought to be related to 80-90% of the cases of hypothyroidism, the most common of which is Hashimoto’s.

Often individuals with poor gut function may have thyroid symptoms but “normal lab results”.  Often because only a TSH and/or Total T4 lab value are checked (not that important T3!).   So what can YOU do to be proactive if you think you may have signs/sympotms of a failing thyroid?


Here are tests you want to make sure you have done to rule out any underlying thyroid condition:

  • Discuss with your doctor having a comprehensive thyroid panel done that includes: TSH, T3, T4, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. 

Toxins, infections and certain foods act as triggers, while other foods and some supplements can reduce autoimmunity. If detected in the early stages, there is much you can do to optimize the health of your thyroid.  However, it is important to know that each person is unique.  The thyroid is not always that straightforward, a personalized approach needs to be taken.  Here are some basics!

8 Basic Tips For a Healthy Thyroid:

  1. Heal the Gut & Cut Out Inflammatory Foods: This will look different for each person based on the situation. However, it is important to identify the cause of your gut related issue.  This involves identifying and removing inflammatory foods. Gluten (see below) and dairy are common…dairy especially if you are experiencing sinus like issues, migraines, post-nasal drip, and diarrhea.  Refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed artificial foods are also inflammatory!  Specific food sensitivities are common and testing may be necessary.  (Food Sensitivity Testing used at JBS).  Next it is essential to rebalance the gut with healthy bacteria,  restore the integrity of the lining of the gut, and feed it with food and supplements that will help the gut thrive.
  2. Eat protein: Although a vegan eating plan may work for some, it is not typically best for those who suffer from a thyroid condition.  This is because two essential nutrients are needed for thyroid function, zinc and selenium.  (A deficiency can prompt a thyroid condition).  These nutrients play a role in the important conversion from T4 to T3.  Low protein diets (or only plant based protein) often doesn’t provide enough.  Selenium and zinc can both be found in animal protein sources (fish, chicken, turkey, beef).  Brazil nuts are highest in selenium…some practitioners may recommend 2 Brazil nuts/day to meet the recommended dose.  (However, depending on the source of the nut, amounts can vary.)
  3. Don’t Overdo The Cruciferous Veggies: Avoid large amounts of cruciferous and brassica vegetables (cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas, broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy). Although healthy and full of nutrition and essential vitamins and minerals, they can be goitrogenic (form goiters in the thyroid) for some people when consumed in excessive amounts.  Steaming or cooking these foods briefly to reduce their goitrogenic effect is a good idea, instead of eating them raw. For those who enjoy juicing, be mindful about how many different cruciferous vegetables are in your juice. (Even Dr. Oz admitted he had to cut back on juicing after developing signs of hypothyroidism!)
  4. Avoid Gluten: Gluten-free really isn’t a fad. Gluten-containing foods can increase inflammation in the body and has been shown to have a connection with autoimmune disease.  It’s common that when people have one autoimmune condition like celiac disease, they are at risk for another autoimmune condition like Hashimotos. I have seen patients with elevated thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TBO) improve symptoms and actually feel much better after following a strict gluten-free diet. Be mindful not to overindulge in too many gluten-free processed products…go for naturally gluten free foods.
  5. Skip the Soy: Isoflavones found in soy may hinder thyroid function. Large amounts of soy products can aggravate hyperthyroidism and iodine deficiency in adults. This again is where some vegetarians may run into trouble if they replace meat with numerous soy products: soy milk, soy yogurt, and tofu. After a while everything is processed and can slowly negatively affect your thyroid if you already have a genetic predisposition. Also read food labels and be aware of how much soy may be lurking in your foods…such as mayo, condiments, snack foods, and more!
  6. Include Healthy Carbs: Carbs do get a bad rap, but some people may not be getting enough. To my paleo and ketogenic friends, you can actually worsen your thyroid function if you strictly limit your carbohydrates. Your body perceives you are in starvation mode and the thyroid is the first hormone that becomes jeopardized. Carbohydrates promote the release of insulin, and insulin is required for proper thyroid hormone metabolism. Excessively limiting carbs has its consequences on your thyroid.   Everything in moderation.  Consider complimenting meals with small amounts of carbs such a fruit, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, root vegetables, and brown rice.
  7. Remove Environmental Toxins: There are so many chemicals in products we use every day that are toxic to the thyroid and our bodies in general. Things that we assume are safe are not! Things like personal care items, cosmetics, cheap supplements, cleaning products, plug ins, air freshener, and detergents all contain toxins. (Check out 12 – ingredients to avoid).  Some people are more sensitive than others, but for those with thyroid issues… it is essential.  Personal care and cosmetic products contain endocrine disruptors like fragrance, parabens, petroleum distilattes, and more.  Also consider switching to safer cleaning products. (DIY HouseHold Cleaners)
  8. Focus on Stress Management:  This may be the most important step!  Stress impacts the thyroid in multiple ways, especially when cortisol levels rise or fall. It also reduces that conversion again of T4 and T3…and so much more as it works on other glands like the pituitary and the hypothalamus, critical to the thyroid function.  If stress is an issue consider taking mindful steps to reduce it.  Consider mindful breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, counseling, exercise, etc.  Make time in your life to foster healthy relationships that bring you joy and connection.

Lifestyle change is essential!  If you are planning to take steps to improve your thyroid, take it one step at at time.  For me, I started with food, then began to take inventory of my exposure and next took steps to eliminate toxins and exposure in my environment.  Remember, each person is unique and a personalized plan is needed.

If you think your thyroid may not be functioning optimally, or you have gut related struggles and display typical signs and symptoms….I would love to hear from you!  

Take steps TODAY to reclaim your health and achieve your wellness goals!

On the Journey together!  ~ Julie 😉

 

Valentine’s Day Indulgence That Benefits Your Heart & Mood!

Do you have a LOVE AFFAIR with chocolate….did you wake up this Valentine’s Day morning with IT on your mind…knowing TODAY is your day to indulge?  You are not alone…the world’s love affair with chocolate has grown over the years. Americans consume around 18 billion dollars worth of chocolate every year, with dark chocolate being the greatest trend due to its rich and intense alternative.  This has certainly peeked the creativity of culinary artists experimenting with new ways to include dark chocolate in almost any form of food.

So the real question…..are there really benefits of dark chocolate…and what type and how much?

REJOICE dark chocolate lovers…the answer is YES!  But only with awareness and mindfulness may you truly reap the health benefit.  It is important to consider the source, type, and how it is made since dark chocolate can be high in unhealthy fat, sugar, pesticides, preservatives, and food coloring/dyes.

Fortunately...savoring small amounts of quality (preferably organic) dark chocolate (~1.5-2oz)  that is minimally processed and contains 75-95% of cacao will deliver health benefits!

The Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

  1. Improve your MOOD:  The high amount of polyphenols found in chocolate are phytochemicals shown to improve depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.  A recent study showed that performance on cognitive test significally improved in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment if they consumed a cacao drink continuing high levels of flavonols for 8 weeks, compared to those who consumed a drink low in flavonols.  (Flavonols are a member of the polyphenol family found in natural plant food sources.)
  2. Acts like a probiotic in your GUT: Your healthy bacteria in your gut loves to eat chocolate too! Nutrients found in chocolate, such as the polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber are not easily digestible.  However, when good bacteria feeds on the fiber, compounds that are smaller, better absorbed,  and non-inflammatory are released.  This can impact the inflammation that occurs in cardiovascular tissue and why is is thought to help the heart.
  3. Can help your HEART health: The heart is really where it’s at when it comes to benefit.  Research shows that the flavoinds in chocolate can help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol.  Flavonoids can also significantly decrease systolic blood pressure in healthy older adults.  It may also help improve insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction, both of which have a positive effect on the heart.  A study published in JAMA found that those who ate chocolate twice a week who previously suffered a heart attack, compared to those who never ate chocolate, had a 66% lower risk of death from heart disease!  (Remember folks…moderation! Chocolate alone won’t save your heart!)
  4. May stimulate your BRAIN to help you be more alert and attentive:  Did you know that a good afternoon “pick me up” just may be the dark chocolate you are avoiding?  A square or two of dark chocolate (remember, the darker the better) can have a significant stimulatory effect on the brain, which can make you more alert and attentive.  Although researchers are not quite sure why, cocoa has this type of effect on the brain that researchers do know increases the occipital beta EEG readings, which corresponds directly with attention and alertness.  (See below Cacao vs. Cocoa.) One of my favorite afternoon pick-me ups: Mix of raw almond, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, and cocoa nips!

So we know the ganache and fruit filled truffles and organic dark chocolate bars peppered with candies and sweetened dried fruit is not your ticket to good health! But instead a good quality dark chocolate will literally have an impact from head to toe.

(Check out the AMAZING truffle recipe below full of benefit this Valentine’s Day and beyond!)  


CACAO VS. COCOA

What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?

In a nutshell, cacao is the purest form of chocolate we can consume (and the best). It’s derived from the Theobroma Cacao, which translates to “Food of the Gods.”  The cocoa bean is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products, including cacao nibs.  Every chocolate maker has a secret roasting formula of time and temperature to bring out a unique set of flavors from the bean. When the bean is cracked open and the papery husk is removed, the cacao nib comes into being.

Cacao contains more than 300 compounds, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium.  Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.

Cocoa powder is basically finely ground cacao nibs, making them another minimally processed alternative to dark chocolate bars. You can sprinkle cocoa powder on foods, add it to smoothies, or use it to make hot chocolate or brain-healthy dark chocolate snacks and desserts. Avoid cocoa powder that is labeled “Dutch” chocolate or lists alkali in its ingredients. The alkalization process destroys cocoa’s flavonoids — antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds that provide many of cocoa’s health benefits.

My 2 favorite brands for organic cacao nips and cocoa powder is Natives Naturals and Sunfoods Superfoods!


VALENTINE’S DAY TREAT (with Benefits)

Self-love starts with taking care of our body…even during the holiday season;). BUT make sure that food is still delicious and indulgent.  I have been looking for an inspirational treat to share with you to keep you eating healthy, but loving every minute of it.  Known as Canada’s Spice Queen, organic spice purveyor, and founder of Spice Sanctuary, Trusha Patel shared one amazing recipe (I am actually making it RIGHT NOW) and I wanted to share it with you!

High in protein from cashew butter and almond flour, sweetened with B6 and iron-rich blackstrap molasses (although I prefer using 100% maple syrup), covered in heart-healthy and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and infused with a super balanced spice blend traditionally used to make golden milk or a turmeric latte, these Golden Milk Dark Chocolate Truffles will definitely do the trick.

Turmeric is always a key ingredient in making Golden Milk and revered for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and liver cleansing properties and definitely a spice we should all be consuming more of. (We sure do in my 10-Day Detox program!).However, turmeric does need to be used in a specific way for it to be properly absorbed and utilized by the body. Use with black pepper (but not if you have an ulcer or gastritis) and a good fat such as coconut oil.  I love this recipe for Valentine’s Day since she has added both anti-inflammatory AND aphrodisiac spices into the recipe ….cardamom and ginger! …Oh my!

GOLDEN DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

(Recipe from Trusha Patel, founder of the Spice Sanctuary)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup cashew butter
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp. blackstrap molasses (or substitute maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional but makes the truffles sweeter)
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder*
  • pinch of black pepper*
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 40 grams good-quality organic dark chocolate, melted

Directions:

1. To make the truffle filling, mix cashew butter, almond flour, and molasses in a bowl using a fork or electric whisk.

2. In another bowl, combine the coconut oil and spices and mix well before adding into the cashew butter mixture and folding it in thoroughly.

3. Take a small spoonful into your hand and roll the mixture into a round ball, approximately half an inch in diameter, and place on baking parchment on a tray. Repeat until all the mixture has been rolled. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Melt the chocolate in a bowl. Using a spoon, dip the truffles into the melted chocolate before returning to the tray again. Repeat until all the truffles have been covered in chocolate. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes and serve.

The chocolates are best stored in the fridge in an airtight container and best eaten within a few days…which shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day & Heart Month!  

Cheers to Indulgent Healthful Bliss,

Julie xo

ps. drop me a line and share YOUR favorite dark chocolate recipe or treat!

Easy Tips to Reset Your Digestion

Are you still suffering from holiday or vacation remorse… with a little extra around the middle and lack of energy and motivation?  Since the start of the New Year, I have heard from clients beating themselves up over overindulging in 2016.  I am going to encourage you to look forward (not back!) and commit to making 2017 a year of good health and positivity.  Give yourself grace and space to make healthful change possible.  Consider setting aside the next week to get your digestive system (and health) back on track.

 Start now to fast track your way to meeting YOUR wellness goals in 2017!

Consider initiating all or several of these steps over the next week.
  1. Begin the day with a large glass of water with lemon:  Stock up on fresh lemons (or limes) and squeeze a generous amount into your 8-12oz. glass of water first thing when you wake.  For ultimate digestion and bowel movement add to warm water.  This will help stimulate your liver function and kick-start digestion.  In addition, it provides a dose of vitamin C and refreshment.
  2. Banish added sugar, alcohol, red meat, fast food, and bread: These are known causes of inflammation and gut distress.  Replace with whole unprocessed foods that you love and will love you back …choose foods that are not packaged and come from the Earth!
  3. Commit to cooking at home: Have you seriously thought about where your food comes from and who prepared it?  Hidden calories, food additives, oxidized oils are often hiding in food prepared by restaurants, deli’s, and fast food. Eating at home gives you control over quality ingredients, calories, and portion sizes. Cooking can also be a relaxing activity that you can enjoy with your loved ones. (I once knew a CEO of a major hospital who took time to prepare meals with family…making time to cook has to be a priority for it to happen!) 
  4. Take time for gratitude and meditation: Meditation is a gentle, effective way to cleanse your mind and body. Meditation can also help curb food cravings, put you in touch with how your body is feeling, and ground you in order to help develop new, healthier habits. Try meditating for 10 to 20 minutes each day. Need a fun and non-threatening introduction – try this app. 
  5. Replace coffee with herbal tea: Give the coffee and caffeine a rest and try some herbal teas. Sipping on teas that contain ginger and dandelion have the added benefit of supporting your digestion while flushing out toxins.  Two of my favorites from Traditional Medicines are the Ginger Aid and Roasted Dandelion.
  6. Do a mini fast overnight: Aim to finish dinner by 7 p.m….and eat breakfast around 7am; this will give you approximately 12 hours in between meals.  This can function as a miniature fast. Intermittent fasting can give an overworked digestive system a rest and can cleanse the liver, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation.
  7. Move at least 3-4x/week: Exercise helps stimulate digestion and mental clarity. You don’t have to start your new year cardio plan just yet; even light yoga or a brisk walk around the block will help revive your digestive system.
  8. Set aside time for self-care: Carve out time for YOU – you are important.  Take baths, read a novel, do restorative yoga, or treat yourself to a massage or acupuncture. Taking time to care for your body will help balance life and provide perspective.
  9. Consider digestive support: If you tend to have delayed gastric emptying (sluggish digestion) or low stomach acid, you may benefit from digestive enzymes or digestive support to help optimize breakdown and absorption of food.

What is holding you back from taking time to take care of your digestion and health?  YOU are important.  Don’t wait,  commit TODAY to following these tips for 1 week to reset your digestion!

Optimal digestive function is essential to good health; as well as achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and energy level.

Cheers! Julie 🙂


These steps and so much more… are part of my 10-Day guided Detox program designed to optimize your body’s natural process of detoxification.  This allows key organs such as your liver, kidneys, and gut to function at their best!

 (ps. If you missed the program that just kicked off this month….I will be offering it again in the Spring – come join us!)