Happy Fall! I love the beginning of the autumn months, with the chilly mornings and lovely warm afternoons. By September, I’m usually ready to put the grill aside in favor of some slow braised stews or comforting soups.
For many, the arrival of fall means just one thing…PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON!
Pumpkin spice seems to dominate everything nowadays…from lattes to candles to snack mixes (just walk into a Trader Joe’s in fall and take a gander at their pumpkin spice offerings!)
But the OG, the latte, is what we are here for! If you’ve been avoiding those Pumpkin Spice Lattes from your favorite barista…well, first of all, good for you! 👏👏👏
At 39g of sugar in just a Tall PSL, you are definitely doing yourself a favor! (That’s roughly 10 teaspoonsful of sugar in that little cup!)
Although the sugar gives the ol’ PSL a bad rap, the spices that make up the warming pumpkin spice blend are pretty darn good for us! Check out the benefits below!
Luckily, we can still keep a little spice in our life and avoid the sugar shock by recreating a healthier version of our favorite fall beverage at home. For my healthier PSL, I use maple syrup (which yes, is still sugar, but it is unrefined. This means it still contains other nutrients). It’s also really easy to adjust the quantity, so we can enjoy a little sweetness without the sugar crash.
I also use Cashew Butter (specifically, I use addJoi’s Cashew Base) which gives the creaminess. I have no affiliation with them, I just really like their products, as they have no additives! Many dairy free milk products contain thickeners or emulsifiers which irritate the gut, affect gut health by increasing intestinal permeability and/or contribute to an overgrowth of the intestinal bacteria. I encourage you to check addJoi out!
You can choose to sub in your favorite dairy free milk alternative, but may have to adjust the strength of the coffee to get the right mix, as the extra liquid will water down the latte a bit. If you enjoy a weaker cup, it might work great for you!
Are you like me and prefer your latte iced? I think my love of iced coffee comes from my pharmacist days where I would sip from the same cold cup of coffee all shift long! To make it frosty, simply blend and pour into a glass over ice!
It’s hard to believe summer is soon coming to an end. As much as I’ll hate to see the Pacific Northwest rain clouds replace the summer sunshine, I do love autumn. The colourful leaves, crisp air on morning walks, cozy sweaters and swapping out grilled foods for some comforting, slow cooked fare – all are great reasons to embrace the change of the season!
As the weather changes outside, it’s also a great time to check in with our internal environment and how we are feeling. Tuning into our bodies and the subtle messages they send us is something most of us need to work on. Our lifestyles and responsibilities keep us focused on, and prioritizing, pretty much everything but ourselves! We take our cars in for regular inspections (or, um, we should), so we should definitely be doing regular “mileage” inspections on the state of our well-being!
Check-in With Yourself
Take a few minutes during your day. Find someplace quiet and free of distractions. Drop out of your stressed, fight and flight state by taking several slow, deep belly breaths. Now – what are you noticing? Some questions you might ask yourself are:
How’s my energy level? Are you dragging yourself through the day, fuelled on caffeine and sugar? Do you need to snack to make it through to your next meal?
How am I sleeping? Are you getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep? Do you wake up during the night and can’t fall back asleep? Do you wake up tired or refreshed?
How’s my digestion? Symptoms like heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pains, stools that float or are light coloured, or undigested food in the stool are all warning lights that require some attention.
Am I nourished? Feeding ourselves regularly doesn’t necessarily mean we are nourishing ourselves. Relying on packaged and processed foods, hitting the drive thru on the reg and consuming foods high in sugar might fill the belly, but they aren’t fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs to work optimally.
What other things are showing up that aren’t “normal”? – Headaches? Joint Pain? Anxiety? Skin rashes? We often get so used to these type of symptoms that they become our status quo. They may be common, but they aren’t NORMAL. Symptoms are your body’s warning lights and it’s way of telling you something isn’t right!!
Now that you’ve run through your checklist, what have you discovered?
It could be you realize summer ice creams have become a daily occurrence or you completely Hulk out on anyone in your vicinity when you miss your between meal snack. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you slept through the night or perhaps the drive-thru guy knows you by name. You might realize your bathroom has become your second home or, you can’t pinpoint exactly what is wrong, but you know you just don’t feel your best. If any of these things hit home, it may be time for a RESTART®.
What is RESTART®?
The RESTART® program is a 5 week, online, group program that combines loads of nutritional education and a 3 week sugar detox. When you add in the element of group support, it’s a powerful (and fun!) combination.
Who should RESTART®?
Whether you have been dabbling in healthy eating for awhile or don’t know your kale from your kohlrabi, RESTART® is for you! It’s the perfect combination of education and action that teaches you, not only how food affects us, but lets you experience how powerful real food can be. RESTART® is great for individuals, couples or families. You can join with a friend to have an accountability buddy or make pals in class or the free Facebook group.
Since the classes are conducted via Zoom, you can join from the comfort of home, no matter where in the world you are located!
Maybe the question should be “Why NOT RESTART®”? Let’s face it, most of us need to do a better job of putting ourselves, and our health, first. Self-care isn’t selfish! To paraphrase a quote from Katie Reed, self care allows you to give the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you!
Everybody gets a little something different out of the RESTART® program. Below is a list of some of the benefits RESTART® participants have experienced.
Where and When is RESTART®?
I’m super excited to be offering THREE different class times this fall! All classes are conducted live on Zoom.
How can I register for RESTART®?
If you think you could use a RESTART®, you can register for class by clicking HERE.
If you have more questions about RESTART®, visit the RESTART® page on this website or send me a message HERE. I’d love to chat with you about it!
Oh! One last thing! If you don’t see a class time that fits your schedule,contact me. I’m happy schedule additional group classes (minimum of 4 participants) at a date and time that works for everyone!
What are you waiting for? Go on! Get (RE)STARTED!!
Chances are, if you’ve done any reading on health in the last decade, you’ve seen the term microbiome. But what exactly is it? Why are scientists and health professionals so enamoured by it? And why the heck should you care?
Your ‘Gut Garden’ aka Microbiome
Your microbiome is the community of micro-organisms that live in and on your body – in your mouth and nose, on your skin and the surface of your eyes and in your gastro-intestinal tract. There are trillions, yes, TRILLIONS of bacteria, fungi, viruses and even parasites co-existing with us everyday.
I like to think of the gut as a garden, with the bacteria that support our health being the flowers and the non-beneficial, or potentially detrimental, microbes being the weeds. Like any garden we want to feed and nurture the flowers, while keeping the weeds under control.
If the thought of bajillions of microbes existing in and on you gives you the heebie-jeebies, fear not. We NEED these little guys for so many things and, as long as everything is in balance (plenty of flowers and not too many weeds), it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Roles of the Microbiome
The microbiome, particularly the gut microbiome, is a hot topic for health research these days. Researchers have made many connections between a person’s overall health and the health of their gut garden and the consensus is that there are still many more discoveries to be made.
Our microbiome is an integral part of almost every single aspect of our health. Some of the roles it plays include:
Supports the immune system by keeping “bad” bacteria/pathogens in check (1)
Helps us digest and extract nutrients and energy from food (1)
Produces chemicals that improve the health of the cells of our intestinal lining (1) (2)
Produces vitamins, such as Vitamin K, thiamine, folate, biotin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid (3)
Acts as our second brain and affects our moods and motivation by producing chemicals that positively influence brain health, including serotonin and dopamine (4)
Signs that all may not be well in your garden
When we don’t have enough beneficial bacteria and/or have too many non beneficial microbes in our gut, it’s called dysbiosis. The signs and symptoms of an imbalanced gut, or dysbiosis, are wide ranging and, as you’ll see, there are many you would not automatically associate with the health of your gut garden.
What impacts the health of your gut garden?
So. Many. Things.
Frequent rounds of antibiotics growing up, dietary choices, not being breastfed as an infant, not properly breaking down our food, stress, chemicals and toxins in our food and personal care products….the list is long!
The good news is that, while there are some factors we have no control over, there are plenty of things we can do to nurture and support the health of our microbiome. Your gut garden is constantly changing depending on your environment, lifestyle and what you feed it.
How to tend to your garden
Just as there are many things that negatively impact the health of our microbiome, there are also lots of things we can do to support those health promoting microbes.
Eat Your Veggies/Feed the Good Guys – Vegetables are loaded with fibre. Us mere humans can’t digest these fibres, but the good bacteria in our guts love it! They consume these fibres and produce short chain fatty acids which, among other things, help build and maintain a strong gut lining. Getting a wide variety of fibre-ific veggies on your plate can also help bolster the diversity of your microbiome (more types of flowers growing in your garden).
Exercise – Physically active people have more robust and diverse microbiomes. This may be due in part to exercise’s ability to help us burn off some stress.
De-stress – Stress is a double edged sword when it comes to your gut health. Too much stress can negatively impact your microbiome and an unhealthy microbiome can impair your ability to manage stress and your mental health. Put self-care on your “To-Do’ list by incorporating more “me” time, whether that’s meditation, time in nature, exercising or just saying no to things more often.
Eat Fermented Foods – Naturally fermented foods are a great source of probiotics. The bacteria and yeast that cause the fermentation and make these foods so yummy also boost the population of the beneficial microbes in your gut. This means more flowers to crowd out the weeds! Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir are good sources. Just make sure they are raw and not pasteurized. The heat involved in pasteurization will kill the good microbes.
Don’t Overdo Antibiotics – Sometimes antibiotics are necessary but, as their name suggests, they kill bacteria, regardless of if it is beneficial or non-beneficial. Avoid antibiotics in hand sanitizers and other personal care products. Ensure the meat you buy is antibiotic-free. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need an antibiotic, work with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to both support your microbiome during and rebuild it after your course of antibiotics.
Cut out Sugar and Processed Foods – Not only do these foods contribute to inflammation in the intestines, they provide no usable food for our good bacteria and we want to feed these good guys!
Get Your Zzzz’s – Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Growing evidence is showing that not getting enough shut-eye may disrupt the microbiome (5) and increase your chances of developing inflammatory diseases. Good sleep hygiene, like avoiding screens 1 – 2 hours before bed, ensuring your room is dark, cool and quiet and not eating right before bed, can go a long way in ensuring you get your 40 winks.
Test Don’t Guess! – We can do a lot of things to support our microbiome, but to find out what’s actually going on in there, you need to test. Symptoms can suggest there is a gut imbalance, but testing is the only real way to know if there is an infection, not enough good guys to keep the bad guys in check or issues with properly breaking down our food. I use two tests in my practice, the GI Map stool test and the MRT food sensitivity test. Used together, we can determine what is contributing to the issues in the gut, lower the inflammation driving the symptoms, heal and seal that gut lining and restore the balance in your gut garden.
I’ll be talking more about these tests in future posts. Until then, if you are thinking your gut garden might be in need of some tending, reach out! I’d love to chat and explore your options for restoring balance and healing that gut!
Zhang, Y.J., Li, S., Gan, R., Zhou, T., Xu, D.p., & Li, H.B. (2015). Impacts of gut bacteria on human health and diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 16(4(, 7493-7519. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms1607493
Morowitz, M. J., Carlisle, E. M., & Already, J.c. (2011). Contributions of intestinal bacteria to nutrition and metabolism in the critically ill. The Surgical Clinics of North America, 91(4), 771-vii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.suc.2011.05.001
M Hasan Mohajeri, Giorgio La Fata, Robert E Steinert, Peter Weber, Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 76, Issue 7, July 2018, Pages 481–496, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy009
Smith, R. P., Easson, C., Lyle. S. M., Kapoor, R., Donnelly, C. P., Davidson, E.J., Parikh, E., Lopez, J.V., & Tartar, J.L. (2019). Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PIoS one, 14(10), e0222394. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222394
In her book Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride delves into the true cause of heart disease and many other degenerative diseases. By exploring the many processes our bodies use to heal and repair themselves, she shows us that the true culprits behind the modern-day heart disease epidemic are not, as we have so often been told, cholesterol and saturated fat. In fact, these wrongly vilified substances are vital parts of the body’s healing process. The true villain in this story is inflammation or, to be more precise, chronic inflammation resulting from our modern lifestyles. High stress, diets of processed and refined food, as well as toxins in our environment, home, on our bodies and in our foods, all lead to damage in our blood vessels.
Dr. Campbell-McBride devotes a section of the book to explaining how necessary cholesterol is to our health. She explains that, along with saturated fats, it has received the brunt of the blame for coronary artery disease simply because they are present in the plaques seen in atherosclerosis. Once one understands that cholesterol and saturated fat are essential in the formation of strong cellular walls and necessary in the repair of injured tissue, we begin to see how inflammation is at the core of the problem. The author explains that chronic, unrelenting inflammation means that the repair of the tissue must also be occurring constantly. This constant repair is what leads to accumulation of larger and larger plaques. The bigger the plaque becomes, the more unstable and liable to rupture it is. Another interesting fact the author relays regarding these plaques is that, of the fats contained in them, the majority is not the “evil” saturated fats most doctors blame. It is the unsaturated fats, like those found in the vegetable and cooking oils most used today, that are the predominant fats present in the core of atherosclerotic plaques.
The book doesn’t just describe how we come to develop heart disease but lays out ways that we can avoid it. Incorporating whole, organic, properly prepared foods into our diets and avoiding the processed foods and sugar which encourage inflammation either directly or by causing nutrient deficiencies that impair our inflammatory response. As the “Gut Health Girl”, I was glad to see a portion of the book dedicated to the importance of digestive health and the microbiome in supporting cardiovascular well-being. Hippocrates famously said that “All disease begins in the gut” and this includes cardiovascular disease! A healthy gut has beneficial bacteria that produce and release several vitamins crucial to protecting the cardiovascular system. When we are deficient in Vitamin K2, we see greater deposition of calcium in the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and more inflammation. Homocysteine, an amino acid that is very caustic to the lining of our blood vessels, is held at bay by adequate amounts of folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12. All of these are manufactured by our gut flora.
In reading through this book, I noticed how strongly Dr. Campbell-McBride’s writing correlates with what I discuss with my Nutritional Therapy clients. From the idea that the modern Western diet is at the core of most disease to how stress management, attitude and movement all play a role in supporting health, we are on the same mission to inform and empower people to optimize their health. I found the book enjoyable to read and thought the author explained some complex subjects in a way that is very easy to understand. I think many of you would appreciate both how approachable she has made the information and that she provides a nice selection of recipes as a starting point to eating healthier and preventing heart disease.
If you’d like to learn more about Nutritional Therapy and how it can support your body’s innate ability to heal, fill out the Contact Me form on my website!
There are two things that come to mind when I think of summertime, warm days and lovely, lovely sunshine!! I don’t think I truly appreciated the sun until I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where it can be a rare sighting for the majority of the year. Growing up on the Canadian Prairies, it may have been cold for months on end, but the sun shone most days of the year! So now that the days are getting longer and the sun is starting to finally peak out from behind the clouds, my thoughts turn to getting outside as much as possible and enjoying it until “The Big Wet” sets in again!
I’ve never been a sun worshipper. It became clear to me early on, as my friends all turned a sun kissed, golden brown and I went from pale to a painful, lobster red in record time, that sunbathing was not a hobby for me. I don’t remember a lot of talk about sunscreen growing up, although I’m sure we must have used it or I would have been a walking sunburn all summer long. Today, people are much more aware of the damage the sun’s rays can inflict and the use of sunscreen to protect us from these harmful effects is a regular part of most people’s warm weather routine.
When choosing a sunscreen, most people first look at the SPF or sun protection factor (probably followed closely by the all important “what does it smell like” factor). SPF is a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from the damaging UVB rays. For protection against both UVB rays and UVA rays, the product must be labelled Broad Spectrum. This ensures that the protection from UVA is on par with the UVB protection. Applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, for example, would allow you to stay out in the sun, without burning, 15 times longer than without sunscreen. This, of course, is in IDEAL situations.
In real life, this SPF factor is likely overestimating your protection. People either don’t apply enough sunscreen or don’t reapply it often enough (especially if swimming or sweating). We also tend to stay out in the sun much longer than we should, because we think “Hey, I’m good. I applied sunscreen this morning!” (Guilty as charged).
Because they are applied, often quite thickly, to a much larger body surface area than most other personal care products, the safety of the ingredients in the sunscreen we choose needs to be considered. (Really, we should be considering the safety of everything we apply to our skin!) The skin is the largest organ in our bodies and it can, and does, absorb ingredients and allow them to enter our bloodstream.
There are two types of filters used as protectants in sunscreen, chemical filters and mineral filters.
Chemical filters are the most commonly used and include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octinoxate and homosalate. These agents absorb into the skin, where they then absorb the UV light and convert it to heat, which is released from the body. Because they need to be absorbed, they need to be applied at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.
Health concerns surrounding these chemical filters are due to reports that they may mimic or disrupt hormones in our systems. They have also been shown to cause allergic reactions. Because some lotions also contain”penetration enhancers” many of these substances are well absorbed into the body. (1)
A recent study of four commercially available chemical sunscreens found that the amount absorbed into the bloodstream exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens (2). More research into the safety of these compounds is definitely warranted. In fact, the FDA has asked for more data on the safety of these chemicals before they will label them Generally Recommended as Safe. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “unsafe”, but there is not enough information to ensure they ARE safe.
Mineral filter sunscreens use either zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Both are considered safe agents (the only two filters labelled as Generally Recommended as Safe by the FDA) with little, if any, absorption through the skin. The minerals are often pulverized into nanoparticles to make the sunscreen more transparent and nicer to apply. Mineral filters work by physically blocking and reflecting the UV rays, like a mirror. They are effective immediately after application. Concerns associated with mineral sunscreens are mostly associated with aerosol sprays and lip formulations, as the nanoparticles can be inhaled (causing lung irritation) or ingested. These concerns would also apply to aerosol and lip products using chemical filters.
You can also make your own Natural Sun Lotion using the recipe below, provided to me by my friend and essential oils guru, Mary Jo. As it is homemade, you can’t be sure of the SPF provided, so reapply often and remove yourself from the sun at the first sign of pinkness! This lotion includes dōTERRA® Helichrysum Oil, which is super nourishing for the skin. Like with anything else you put on your skin or ingest, you want to be confidant in the purity of it. Many oils on the market are contaminated or full of synthetic chemicals. I highly recommend dōTERRA® oils, both for their superior quality and their responsible sourcing practices. If you want to learn more about dōTERRA® essential oils, or experience them for yourself, visit Mary Jo’s website! https://www.doterra.com/US/en/site/mjbader .
Ensuring adequate protection from the sun’s hot summer rays is important, but it is equally important that the products we choose to use aren’t harming us in a different way. Here are some tips for safer sun care so we can all make the most of the warm summer days.
2. Matta MK, Zusterzeel R, Pilli NR, et al. Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal UseConditions on Plasma Concentration ofSunscreen Active Ingredients: A RandomizedClinical Trial. JAMA. Published online May 06,2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.5586
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.