From Here to Eternity…

From Here to Eternity…

I will always be a vegan. Now that I know, what I know. I have seen the remarkable effects physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it has been.  In my early 40’s I was carrying around an autoimmune diagnosis, 40 pounds of extra weight, I was depressed and tired.   Now, not quite 4 years later, my doctor still marvels at my annual blood-work. He is amazed that I am at my recommended body weight and not taking any medications.  Amazed because the Mayo clinic estimates 7 out of 10 of us adults are taking some form of a prescription drug, with many of us taking 3 or more meds…and 75% of us are overweight and 40% of us are obese.   Being sick and overweight has become the new norm.  Therefore it’s not surprising that the US is ranked dead last in the “healthy’ category against 10 other wealthy countries in the world.   How is that possible? 

Well, imagine you are sitting at a table and you keep banging your leg against the chair so long and so hard that it becomes bruised and quite painful.  Finally, someone comes along and says, “Hey, I’ve got a medication that will soothe your pain and another medication that can fix those nasty bruises.”  So you take the pills, and sure enough, the pain goes away and your skin looks better, so you think you’re healed.   But you’re still banging your leg on the chair, and now because the real problem has never been addressed, your original issue has become catastrophic.  Yet nobody ever tells you, “Hey stop banging your leg on the table.” Doctors are taught to prescribe medications for a certain set of symptoms. They are not required to recommend nutritional interventions and, in fact, nutrition is not even a requirement in most medical schools. With the AMA only allowing doctors 15 minutes to spend per patient, it’s not long enough to talk about diet anyway, it’s just long enough to write a script.  Because the truth is there is no money to be made if we are all well, only if we are sick.     

Heart disease and diabetes are directly correlated to an excessive amount of animal protein consumption and are rarely related to genetics. But a good many people believe they are simply victims of their genes, doomed to a life of middle-age weight gain, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  And we are seeing a rise in colon cancer rates for the first time in people in their 20’s, a disease not normally seen until our 50’s. A recent study by the Pentagon revealed that 71% of young men between the ages of 17-24 (over 24 million) are ineligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit. And I am sadder, yet, that we are rearing a generation of kids who are not predicted to live as long as their parents…all because of our food choices.

Truth is, four years ago, I never gave much thought to the likes of a cow, a chicken, or a pig.  I only knew that they would eventually become food bought in a store.   I never made a connection that those packs of chicken and ground beef were once living breathing animals. I didn’t know that they were purposely hidden away on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), because if we actually saw what was happening to them we would be disgusted and appalled.  I felt better buying cage-free eggs.  Though more expensive, I figured cage-free was better because these chickens were allowed to run around in the sun.    What I didn’t know was that baby chicks have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck other chicks in their cramped living quarters.  And that cage-free really just means that tens of thousands of chickens are crammed in warehouses instead of cages, and where there is only 1 foot of space per chicken on average. Many of them sustain painful lesions and suffer from ammonia blisters due to sitting on unsanitary floors.  A sad life indeed. 

I also didn’t know that dairy cows were forced to stand in inches of their own excrement while getting milked 10 months out of a year until they are eventually turned into ground beef.  I didn’t know that most E-coli outbreaks in lettuce and kale stemmed from a CAFO’s waste lagoon, or pools of poop, that pollute our fields, rivers, and streams.  And worse, some of these CAFO’s can make the individuals living by them very, very sick.  Don’t even get me started on Duplin County, North Carolina. 

I have also learned that it takes a lot of money and resources for us to eat these animals.  I didn’t know that lobbyists fought to have our tax dollars subsidize the meat and dairy industry.  I didn’t know that it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water just to grow just 1 pound of meat.  I didn’t know that 800 million people could be fed with just the grain that livestock eat alone.  And that much of that grain is produced here in the Midwest.  It’s why they call Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas the corn-belt because we grow corn for livestock.  In fact, more than 90 million acres of grain is planted here just to feed livestock feed alone.  It is also an area where cancer rates are on the rise and the levels of pesticide use are skyrocketing.   

But that’s not the only thing…about 24% (some argue it’s more like 50%) of all global greenhouse gases come from our support of commercial agriculture. These warming gases are caused by things like livestock methane gas production, and deforestation, or the clear-cutting of trees in order to make room for more livestock.  You’ve probably heard that the Amazon Jungle in South America in on fire.  That is because they are a developing nation that is looking at places like the U.S. (land of the rich and plentiful) as an example. So now they are cutting down trees in record numbers because they have discovered the economic value in cattle production; those companies who own the factory farms are the fuel for the fire.  And those who have long associated eating meat with affluence and prestige inadvertently fan their flames.    

Plant-Based eating has never been shown to cause disease. In fact, it has actually been shown in some cases to halt and even reverse many diseases. It is a way of eating that supports our bodies ability to do its job naturally, without drug intervention. It is better for the animals and better for the planet. I am hopeful the tide is turning and more and more people are waking up, so to speak. I remain mindful that a few years ago, I didn’t know any of this either.  And I am joyful at the prospect that others may follow their own journey because of myself, or countless others like me, that have inspired them to do so.  Being a vegan is one of the greatest gifts this life has given me. 

Maybe I’m Just Crazy?

kamut_grains.jpg.838x0_q80Did you know that less than 1% of the population meets the diagnostic criteria to be labeled as a Celiac? But what about those individuals who don’t make the cut, yet still have most, if not all of the same symptoms? Well, for many years, doctors commonly referred patients who claimed to be having Celiac/gluten-like sensitivities to psychiatrists. It’s true. They were believed to be, and were often told they had an underlying mental illness. My mother became a perfect case study for me in my early 30’s, when I too began having health concerns. After suffering from many (and I mean many) recurrent chronic health issues, my mom finally went to see a gastroenterologist. It was to be her last stop in a long line of medical offices. But not for the reasons you’d think.

After listening to her litany of symptoms, the doctor looked at her and said, “I know you think you’re allergic to gluten. But you are not a Celiac, because people with Celiac’s Disease are skinny. However, I think you might benefit from seeing a Psychiatrist.” Nice. Even after she explained how much better she felt after staying away from gluten, the doctor still dismissed her as a hypochondriac, (as most of them had). Opting not to take it personally, she stayed away from gluten. And guess what? Most of her symptoms went away. Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat and many other grains such as barley and rye, and is only one of 27 different potential wheat allergens.

So what if it was a case of mistaken identity? What if the culprit wasn’t gluten, but it was actually the wheat itself? An English study in 1980 found that women suffering from chronic diarrhea were cured by a gluten free diet, yet none of those women had evidence of Celiac disease, a gastrointestinal autoimmune disorder. The notorious protein gluten is one potential allergen, but there are more than two-dozen others in the wheat plant itself that have either been implicated in allergic reactions, or have been identified as potential causes of allergic reactions.

When you have a true wheat allergy, you suffer near-immediate or slightly delayed (by no more than a few hours) symptoms following a meal that includes wheat products. Symptoms are often seen as respiratory in nature (stuffy nose, wheezing). However, people with wheat allergies and Celiac’s do suffer from many of the same things:

Celiac’s

  • Pain in the abdomen or joints
  • Burning in the chest
  • Belching, diarrhea, fat in stool, indigestion, nausea,vomiting, or flatulence
  • Bone loss, fatigue, or malnutrition
  • Delayed puberty, or slow growth
  • Cramping, lactose intolerance, itchy rash,hives, or weight loss

Wheat Allergy

  • Swelling, itching, or irritation of the mouth or throat
  • Hives,itchy rash, or swelling of the skin
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cramping, nausea, or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

 

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”

When my Grandma Francine died at 72 of cardiovascular disease (CVD) I was devastated. Like a second mom to me, she was one of my closest confidants, my comfort, and I loved her (and still do) like crazy.  My husband and I had just gotten married, and we were still processing the loss of his grandfather who had died of liver cancer the month before. Bedridden and unable to attend my wedding, her health had been failing for a few years. Several strokes had stripped her of a job she enjoyed, and the ability to drive a car.  In fact, the last time she drove she suffered a mini stroke and ended up parked in front of a random strip mall.  The only thing she could remember was the sound of horns honking and cars coming toward her.  By the grace of God, no one was injured.  Eventually, she was rendered speechless and robbed her of most prized possession, her mind.  So much so, she didn’t even realize she was playing in her own excrement when my aunt was driving her home from a doctor’s visit.  It’s like the old saying, “Once an adult, and twice a child.”

Her father had also died young, but from a massive heart attack.  He was 59 years old, a mere 13 years older than I am now.  My grandmother was heartbroken and sad, for many, many years after his death.  So what is the take away from all this?  Heart disease runs in my family, and takes away people who are dearly loved, far too early. Furthermore, it begs the question, since my grandma and great-grandpa died from cardiovascular disease, does that mean my children and grandchildren will lose me the same way?

“Your Bad Habits Are As Inherited As Your Bad Genes.”

The other day I was listening to Dr. Neal Barnard, MD on a podcast.  A very articulate and tremendously intelligent man, Dr. Barnard is a trailblazer in the areas of preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.  In the segment, Rich Roll (one of the best interviewers, ever…) and Dr. Barnard were talking about something called epigenetics.  “Epi”-whaaa?  Yep.  Epigenetics.  Here is a quick analogy that might help understand epigenetics. “Think of the human life span as a very long movie. The cells would be the actors and actresses, essential units that make up the movie. DNA, in turn, would be the script —the DNA sequence would be the words of the script, and certain blocks of these words that instruct key actions or events to take place would be the genes(1)

We all have two types of genes.  Some genes are “Dictator” genes.  “You, Stephanie will have blonde hair and blue eyes.”  These genes give you orders and you can’t argue with them. But then there are the other guys, the “Committee” genes.  They make suggestions and if you don’t like them, you can refuse.  “Hey Steph, how about some clogged arteries?”  Nah, I think I’ll pass.  There are certain circumstances in life that can cause genes to either be “silenced” or “expressed” over time.  They can be turned off (becoming dormant) or turned on (becoming active).  What you eat, where you live, who you interact with, when you sleep, how you exercise, even aging – all of these can eventually cause chemical modifications around the genes that will turn those genes on or off over time. (2)

Still with me?

So this made me wonder if there was a relationship between epigenetics and cardiovascular disease.  Is CVD really a familial death sentence?  In his book “How Not To Die,” Dr. Michael Greger explains,  “For most of our leading killers (heart disease being number one), non-genetic factors like diet can account for 80-90% of cases.”   Migration studies and twin studies show us this is not just a case of bad genes.  When a person moves from a place where there is a high incidence of heart disease to a place where heart disease is virtually non-existent, their rates of disease decrease. Conversely, when a person moves from a place where there is a low incidence of disease, their risk raises when they move to a place where there are higher incidents of disease.   In a twin study funded by the American Heart Association, 500 twin pairs were examined for CVD.  Some were non-identical (only share 50% of the same genes) and some were identical twins (they share the exact same genes).  The results of the identical twins showed that one twin can die early of a heart attack, and the other can live a long, healthy life with clean arteries depending on what they ate and how they lived.”

So even if I have the genetic predisposition to heart disease, it doesn’t mean that I have to die from it.

Whew.

“Your genes are the gun, but it’s your lifestyle that pulls the trigger.”

Bad habits also run in families.  Families that grow up together and eat together, end up “inheriting” bad eating habits from mom and dad.  That is what explains why entire families are obese; suffer from CVD, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.  Overeating, consuming foods high in fat and cholesterol, eating fast food for breakfast and dinner, and a sedentary lifestyle are all significant factors that lead to early death from Cardiovascular Disease.

Worse, the more behavioral risk factors people have—smoking and eating a high-fat diet and not exercising, for instance—the less likely they are to be interested in information about living healthier. (3)

So what do we do about it?

DIET:

Without question, diet is the single most important component of preventing, halting, and in many cases even reversing the effects of cardiovascular disease.  A high fiber diet made up of mostly whole, plant-based foods, similar to those diets followed by Asian and African populations (areas where heart disease is virtually non-existent) has been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol and dissolve plaque build-up in the arteries without the use of medications or surgery.   In fact, diet is so powerful that Dr. Barnard equates eating a plant-based diet as the nutritional equivalent to quitting smoking.   So does this mean a vegan or vegetarian diet?  According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD, by striving to eat at least 90% of your calories from the unrefined plant foods that comprise the base of the pyramid each day, you construct a health-promoting, disease-preventing diet. But what about the remaining 10%?  While I love the idea of every person eating a 100% whole food plant-based diet, I know it’s not a realistic option for everyone.

In a large scale study of the longest living people in the world, National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner examined five places in the world – dubbed “Blue Zones” – areas where people live the longest, and are healthiest.  The data showed the need to LIMIT MEAT.  “Think of meat as a celebratory food,” Buettner said.  “Portions should be no larger than a deck of cards, once or twice a week.  Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon and sausages.”  FISH IS FINE.  Enjoy fish up to three times weekly.  Wild-caught salmon or smaller fish like sardines, trout, snapper, cod, and anchovies are okay choices.  Limit portion sizes to 3 ounces (about the size of the palm of your hand.)” Although, you need to know there are other serious issues with fish, such as sustainability, and the health dangers of mercury consumption.

Quick Side Note: Epigenetics and Cancer.

Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues took biopsies from men with prostate cancer before and after three months of intensive lifestyle changes, including a diet rich in whole plant-based foods.  Without any chemo or radiation a positive change was noted in 500 different genes.  The expression of disease –preventing genes were boosted and those that promoted the cancer were suppressed. (4)

YOGA:

Performing a variety of yoga postures gently stretches and exercises muscles.  This helps them become more sensitive to insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar. Deep breathing can help lower blood pressure.  Mind-calming meditation, another key part of yoga, quiets the nervous system and eases stress.  All of these improvements may help prevent heart disease, and can definitely help people with cardiovascular problems. (5)

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY:

It can be as simple as taking a walk.  While walking 60 minutes per week can reduce your overall mortality by 3%, walking 300 minutes a week, or 40 minutes a day, can reduce your mortality rate by 14%!  So in this case, more really is better.  And physical activity doesn’t mean just going to the gym.  It can mean anything from cycling and playing Frisbee, to practicing yoga.

BE HAPPY:

In a 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25 to 74 for 20 years, researchers found that emotional vitality—a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance—appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  The protective effect was distinct and measurable, even when taking into account such wholesome behaviors as not smoking and regular exercise.   Optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half. (6)

**It has also been shown that being good at “self-regulation,” i.e. bouncing back from stressful challenges and knowing that things will eventually look up again; and choosing healthy behaviors can be a major factor in reducing heart disease.  The idea is that you are avoiding risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol to excess, and regular overeating.

How do you start a Plant-based diet?

How do I begin to make a change to a plant-based diet? What behaviors do I need to improve in order to stick with it? I am starting from scratch, and enjoy sugars, carbohydrates and meats. It is going to be a major life change for me, but I have arthritis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (the latter two conditions are controlled with medications). The arthritis in my hands is painful and anti-inflammatory medications are not helping.

Think evolution rather than revolution.  Introduce one new, plant-based recipe per month, and in a year you have great ideas for eating for two weeks.  Identify one or two types of breakfast you can eat on most days.  I recommend a smoothie.  It’s a great way to get at least 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables in one meal.  Replace all of the simple carbohydrates, breads and pastas with 100 percent whole grain product.  Add beans to your salads and eat more vegetables.

Any change requires some effort.  If you want a different result, i.e.  Better health, you have to be willing to introduce changes that may be uncomfortable at first.  Our taste buds do not like change.  So, essentially you have to educate your taste buds and do this with a mindfulness and a sense of purpose when you are changing your diet.  If you stay long enough, one month or two off of addictive sugars and fats (and salt as well), you will stop craving those altogether.  Just take the first step in your mind that you want to change to a plant-based diet if you have a sense that such changes will benefit you.

The Ties that Bind

“My friend and I were passing some elephants, when my friend suddenly stopped. She was confused as to how these massive creatures were held only by a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds, but for some reason, they did not. She saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.” –The Elephant and the Rope

As a health coach I often find many of my clients are “held back” by self-limiting beliefs. They either cling to beliefs that no longer serve them, or they still adhere to falsehoods they learned in childhood.   For example, while exploring why a severely obese client of mine over eats, he revealed that as a child, he was expected to eat everything on his plate even after he was full.  As he got older, and serving sizes got larger he continued to eat until his plate was empty.   By the way, did you know the average restaurant meal is now more than four times larger than it was in 1950’s?

So, are you like the elephant?  Were you told to keep eating even after you were full?  Have you tried every diet in the world and still can’t lose weight? Maybe it’s time to dig deeper and find out what’s really holding you back.  What ways do you feel bound and powerless?  The great thing about our belief system is that we can change it. And change it immediately.  Like the mighty elephant, you hold the power, even if you don’t realize it. It’s time to break the rope and finally be free.

 

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Mixed Berry Acai Bowl

I love Smoothies.  Every day my husband and I have a fruit and a veggie bomb for breakfast.  But sometimes a girl wants some substance.  Enter the Acai Bowl.

The Acai berry is one of the most powerfully healthy berries on the plant. It stimulates the immune system, trace minerals, boosts energy levels, has anti-aging benefits, and improves mood, skin, and hair. This Acai bowl is loaded with antioxidants (help fight off free radical damage), it’s filled with Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, and B3. Protein, Omega 3’s, fiber, Iron, Vitamin A, Zinc, all 8 Essential Amino Acids, Copper, Biotin, Electrolytes, Anthocyanin’s and polyphenols, (anti-inflammatory).

Acai Bowl

(Makes 4 cups) Freeze then thaw, or refrigerate extra.

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 frozen peeled banana

1 package of frozen unsweetened Acai packet (I used Sambazon)

1-cup plant-based milk of choice

1 Tbsp Cacao powder (Wal-Mart carries in Gluten free section)

2 Tbsp Orgain Organic Vanilla Bean powder (Costco or Amazon)

Blend well. Should be smooth and creamy.

**Top with raw unsweetened coconut, cacao nibs, walnuts, blueberries, goji berries or any other yummy treats you have on hand.

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What Do You Have To Lose?

I hate the word diet.  Hate it.  Particularly when the word is used as a verb.  Diet as a verb implies restriction.  Its synonyms include words like starvation, famish and “to deny.” And like a child who is forbidden a cookie from the cookie jar,  we take a deep breath, push the image of our illicit desires to the back of our mind, and then fantasize about them, until we crack.   After all, we walked for an hour on the treadmill, and our Paleo, Whole 30, Weight Watchers or (insert other) regimine won’t be that affected, right? Wrong. It’s a vicious cycle replayed over and over again by the countless millions of folks who decide every Janaury to get serious about their health, who in the end are destined to fail.

When we think of food as something we can’t have, it defies our natural instincts.  We are hardwired for three basic needs: shelter, sex and food.  We need to be safe and protected, we need a mate, and we need to be fed.  Which is why nearly 95% of diets fail.  They fail because we are looking at things the wrong way.   In fact, according to a study by UCLA, “People on diets typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months. However, at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.” http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832   Why do they fail?  Because we are looking at food through the lenses of deprivation and denial.

But what happens when we look at diet as a noun, or drop the word diet and use the word, “lifestyle” instead?  Now,  words like nutrition, nourishment and sustenance begin to resonate.   These words imply satisfaction, health and happiness.  Knowing that you have control over what you eat is very powerful. And knowing that you can eat for the nourishment of your body and actually enjoy savory, satisfying meals, makes it even better!   While I am a huge advocate of a complete plant-based lifestyle, realistically, I know it’s not a lifestyle the majority of people are willing to adopt.  So I recommend taking a look at other cultures around the world. Look for recipes from countries who eat nutritious and delicious foods, and yet enjoy a long and disease free lifestyle.  “New data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reveal Japan has broken its own record for most centenarians by population for the 46th straight year!”     Japan, and various Mediterranean countries like France, Greece, and Italy, have some of the best foods and are rewarded with the longest life expectancies in the world.  Buy a veggie cookbook that shows you, from soup to nuts (all puns intended), how to cook vegetable based dishes.  I absolutely love the “Oh She Glows Everyday” cookbook by Angela Liddon.

Healthy Heart Food
Super food selection for a healthy diet

Bottom line, get back in the kitchen.  Stay away from McDonald’s and Stouffers.  I don’t need to explain why fast food is a bad idea. But you have to understand that processed “man-made” food is also the enemy. Yes, it’s inexpensive and convenient, but it contains added sugars, preservatives (many of them known carcinogens) and various other things I don’t know how to pronounce.  What’s the alternative?  Take a cooking class with a friend.  Many grocery stores have professional kitchens and offer everything from the basics to gourmet four course meals.   And did I mention they’re usually really fun?  (As I’m typing, a mail notification popped up on my Mac from a  local grocery store offering healthy cooking classes.)  Bust out the slow cooker and make a warm, soul satisfying soup during this Yin season (see note below), create a recipe board on Pinterest, maybe find a favorite blogger whom you would like to learn from.  There are countless blog sites with great recipes.  One of my favorite places to visit is “The Minimalist Baker” blog.  Dana creates yummy recipes with 10 ingredients or less, with  meals ready in 30 minutes or less.  Who doesn’t love that? There are many ways.  Just stop dieting.  Please.

Remember, a healthy, balanced diet includes all of the macro nutrients (fats, proteins and yes, carbohydrates).   Approximately 50-60% of your daily diet should come from complex carbs, things like whole grains, beans and legumes.  If you buy bread make sure it is “whole wheat” and not just wheat.  Just “wheat” has the bran and the germ (peeps, this is where you get your fiber) removed, leaving only the endosperm which is nothing more than starch.  Make only 5-10% of your diet from protein.  Excess protein is stored as fat.  Limit your animal protein to one meal a day.  Nope, you can’t have turkey sausage for breakfast, lean chicken for lunch and fish for dinner.  Too much protein, too much cholesterol and too much fat.  Animal proteins not only contain vast amounts of  cholesterol, fat and calories, they can also contain hormones, antibiotics, and deadly bacteria.   In other words, watch the documentary “Forks over Knives.”

And stop worrying so much about calories (yes, I said it), and add more vegetables and grains to your diet.  Vegetables are very nutritionally dense.  Veggies also keep you full, satisfied, and are full of amazing micronutrients that can prevent and in some cases help reverse heart disease, diabetes, cancer… And yes, they can help you lose weight. Did I mention they are also low in calories and fat?  Keep a giant bag of frozen stir fry veggies in your freezer.  Frozen vegetables are picked and frozen at their nutritional peak, allowing you to enjoy them even when they’re out of season.   They’re also a quick addition to any meal, or can be made to shine as a main dish. And yes Paleo people, whole grains and beans are complex carbohydrates loaded with necessary fiber, and they’re also a good source of healthy plant protein.

Each day, each week, work on making little tweaks to your daily diet until they become a habit. Then move on to making other small changes. In a few weeks you will begin to notice big changes.  Maybe your pants are getting a little big, maybe your joint pain is better.  Maybe you have more energy and feel like going to the gym.  Get creative and try new approaches each week; even the once-a-week cut back on meat is good for your health, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Meatless Monday’s are a great way to bring on the new week.  Studies have shown that if every American just went meatless one day a week, it’s would not only be good for the waistline, but we could save 1.4 billion animals from being factory farmed.  It is also the equivalent of taking 500,000 emission polluting cars off the road.  Yep, just one day a week.

If you’re attempting to change your lifestyle, the MOST important thing is to be kind and patient with yourself.  And as diets often do, they can perpetuate a negative body image, create negative self-talk, and more often than not, have no real long-term results.   Instead, think about changing your lifestyle. Change the way you talk to yourself and talk about food. Work to restore and rebalance yourself.  Maybe start your journey with a good 7-day detox.  I have one that I use and it’s listed in the “My Most Favorite Things” category on the menu bar.   In the end, we are given one body, and one life.  What an amazing gift.

 

Notes:  In Chinese culture, Yin and Yang follow the principle that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young (1).  Yin season, or fall and winter, bring about a time of introversion (I love to hibernate), nurturing and restoring ourselves, preparing for the Yang, or the vibrant outgoing spring and summer seasons.

 

Do You Mind?

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Have you heard the one about the “Boiling Frog?”  No?  Let me share.

“If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to scramble out. But, if you place the frog in room temperature water, and don’t scare him, he’ll stay put. If the pot stays on the stove and if you gradually turn up the heat, something very interesting happens. As the temperature rises, the frog will do nothing. In fact, he may show signs of enjoying himself. As the temperature gradually rises, the frog will become groggier and groggier.  Though there is nothing restraining him, the frog will sit there and boil. Why? Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared to sudden changes in the environment, not to slow and gradual changes.”

I like this anecdote.  Specifically, how it relates to the concept of mindfulness. Ignoring his instinctual cues and basking in the comfort of the warm water, the frog was oblivious to the dangers of the water temperature rising in his little hot tub, and he paid the ultimate price.   It made me realize that at one time, I too had been the frog in the pan. I was 35 pounds overweight, suffering from severe reflux and joint pain.  Thankfully, I was mindful of the temperature rising, and I jumped out before it was too late.  Sadly though, like our friend the frog, many people don’t.

Mindfulness has become my mantra lately. My journey into mindfulness began with my yoga practice.  Most of my life, I have struggled with staying focused.  I’m sure I have some degree of ADHD.  Yoga Asanas (poses & posture) require constant mindfulness to keep balanced, and I have discovered the beauty of living in the present (thank you, Dede) and staying focused.

An article in “The Secret Life of Asana”, Sandra Anderson said it best… “By awakening and reorganizing inner life, [Hatha] yoga gives us the experience of being independent of – and free from – the knots in our psyches. Repeated practice and conscious awareness stabilize this experience of freedom and make it an increasingly more influential part of our being. As a result, we gradually restructure how we live our lives, including what we eat, what we find pleasure in, and how we treat our children. This must be an active, ongoing process.   Otherwise, the deeply rutted road grabs the wheels, throwing us back to old and painful ways of being and the loneliness of alienation from our inner Self.”

Yoga isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness.  It can be practiced a thousand ways, many times a day.  I was at a party recently and was talking to a friend who was complaining about her weight. She had put on 48 pounds in the last few years and was feeling a little despondent.   The doctor wants to run some tests at the beginning of the year for fibromyalgia, lupus and IBS.  A self-proclaimed cheese addict, that evening I watched her eat almost an entire 3-quart cheese dip. BY HERSELF.  Laughing, talking and mindlessly eating, she consumed nearly 2400 calories and 187 grams of fat in less than an hour.  Sadly, the water is getting very warm for my friend.

We don’t just wake up one day 40 pounds heavier, or with heart disease, cancer or one of the countless autoimmune diseases.  Instead, we slowly and gradually make our way toward these things.   We eat heavily processed, sugar-laden, man-made foods that are calorically dense and nutritionally deficient. We are rearing an entire generation of kids on these foods, and because of it, they are not projected to live as long as their parents.  We abide by the notion that we have time to change our ways, yet we never do.  We trade long-term health and happiness for short-term instant gratification.  We’re doing this over and over, day after day.

By being mindful of what we put in our bodies, by trading short-term gratification for long-term health and happiness, we can have our cake and eat it too.   But we can’t eat the whole cake.  I try to live by the 80/20 rule (most of the time it’s the 99/1 rule, aside from having ADHD, I am also a little obsessive).  Most of the time I eat wonderfully healthy and delicious foods for nourishment.  But, sometimes I will eat really decadent and delicious foods to indulge.   And when I do, I’m very “mindful” of just how divine it is!

 

 

You Are What You Eat

Several days ago I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts by Naturopathic physician Dr. Stephen Cabral.  The topic of the day happened to be about all of the repellent things (like pus and bacterial cells) found in milk. The timing was fortuitous.  Since dairy was the “mother” of all inflammation for me, I figured I would give you a breakdown of what he said and draw the connection between dairy and chronic health issues.

By the way, if you’ve never listened to Dr. Cabral, I would recommend giving him 10 minutes of your time, at least once.  He’s a very smart guy.

I suppose there are ways to soften what I’m about to tell you, but I’m a firm believer in telling it like it is.  So if you don’t like where I’m going with this, or if you’re the squeamish kind, this may be a good jumping off point for you.

THE MOMMA AND HER BABY:

Before I get into Cabral’s podcast, I’ll give you a brief background on the Cow herself. On most modern U.S. Dairy farms when a Holstein (most dairy cows are of this variety) delivers a calf, her baby is allowed to stay with her for up to 14 days. Though the calf is usually removed within three days.  As the mother/calf bond intensifies over time, delayed separation can cause extreme stress on both cow and calf. (1) Because her milk is  for human consumption and not for her baby, the calf is either given a commercial formula, or milk that has been deemed unfit for human consumption.

All animals (humans included) bond with their babies, it is intrinsic to their survival. It is not uncommon to hear a momma cow bellow when her baby is taken from her. Noted psychiatrist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks, discussed a visit that he and Temple Grandin once made to a dairy farm: “When we arrived, we heard many cows bellowing, causing a very loud and unnerving sound.”  Temple commented, “They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,” and indeed, that was exactly the case. (2)

Female calves are reared to follow in their mother’s footsteps, but male calves are either put in small “veal” crates or they’re culled.  Most veal slaughter comes from dairy calves, (3) and culled is a benign way of saying they are not deemed useful and they’re killed.

veal crates

Dairy cows are milked even during their pregnancy.  In the United States, the typical dairy cow is milked for 10 months a year, which is only possible because she is impregnated by artificial insemination while still secreting milk from her previous pregnancy. This process increases the estrogen in their milk upwards of 60%.

Studies have shown that elevated estrogen rates are linked to early onset of puberty, and higher rates of hormone dependent IgF1 cancers like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer in men.  (4)

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT:

We’ve all heard the saying, “You Are What You Eat.” But guess what, You Are Also What You Eat “Eats”.  This information is directly from Dr. Cabral’s podcast.

  • USDA allows 1.5 million white blood cells per ml of milk sold (cows get mastitis infection from constantly having to produce milk.)
  • Cows are given antibiotics to combat the mastitis infection.
  • Now we have the cow’s foreign white blood cells (immune cells) in our body and our own immune system is stimulated to turn on. There is an average of 322 million cell counts of pus in one cup of milk.
  • Cows are given steroids, estrogen, rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones) to increase milk production so they grow larger to produce more meat. Dairy stock is often used for both milk and meat production.
  • Increase in Type 1 Diabetes and other autoimmune diseases like MS, due to the size of a cow’s protein (casein) molecule.  Our body’s immune system doesn’t recognize the cow’s proteins and it begins to fight them off thinking they are intruders.

Cows are ruminants and should be eating greens like grass, clover, alfalfa, etc. Instead, they are fed GMO corn, which they were never meant to eat. They feed them corn and soy because it is the cheapest form of “calories” on the planet. Often however, this results in the cows becoming sick. Their rates of liver infections, chronic acidosis, and E. coli production increase dramatically. As a matter of prevention, dairy farmers throw antibiotics directly into their cow feed.

Cows are given over 85 different drugs, but the regulating committee that tests the milk only requires testing of  four. Studies have shown that 38% of all milk is contaminated with residues of antibiotics and sulfa-based drugs. (5)

A 20 year longitudinal study of women who drank 3 glasses of milk per day, were shown to have twice the mortality rate as women who drank only one glass of milk per day. (6)

Dairy has been shown to increase acne, ear infections and constipation. (Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease are also linked to dairy consumption)  Dairy is also the number one allergen for infants and children in the world, (7) likely because of their immature immune system.

There are so many alternatives to cow’s milk.  You can get 50% more calcium in a nut-based or plant-based milk.  There are so many options available on the market today. “Ripple” milk at Target is my favorite, and the kids love Silk Original Soy milk.

Dr. Cabral recommends removing all dairy products from your diet for at least 21 days to see the positive health effects.   We removed dairy from our son’s diet and all signs of his hyperactivity disappeared.  My chronic inflammation resolved within 3 weeks and my cholesterol dropped 40 points in six months.

I don’t miss milk, but I sometimes miss cheese. Even though I can make a delectable chocolate cheesecake out of whipped nut cream, and a spicy cashew cheese “Rotel” dip that is out of this world… I’m not gonna lie, the smell of cheese pizza still gets me.  But I know what will happen to me if I eat it, and it’s not worth it. It’s not worth if for me, for my kids, and definitely not worth it for the cows.

Next time on “All Shook Up,” Healing the Gut

Milk Does Nobody Good

Before I get into this post, I’d like to clarify that food by itself is not something that is either “good” or “bad.” That’s subjective.  However, there are foods that are better for you than other foods.  That’s science. Though the title of this post might seem like a moral valuation, it’s simply used as a play on words from the dairy industry “Milk does a body good” campaign.  I will always include links to any information I’ve provided.  I want you to be able to trace the information back to its source and decide for yourself.  Ultimately, my goal with this blog is to inform… Nothing more.

It took a few weeks for the dust to settle after I got my IgG test results.  I stopped all dairy products and within three weeks, all of my sinus issues had resolved, and my reflux had vastly improved.  I began to wonder why milk, in particular, had caused such an inflammatory sh*t storm in my body. I vaguely remembered my mom telling me that as an infant I had a difficult time with my baby formula.  I also had horrible colic.  So I called her. She laughed and said. “Yes, you used to vomit baby formula out like a fire hose.”  It seems milk has always given me issues. As a teenager, it gave me severe stomach cramps, and ice cream, well we won’t talk about that. When Jason our son was a baby, he suffered from severe gastrointestinal issues once I quit nursing. We removed dairy and gave him hemp milk.  It tasted good, and he needed its high fat/protein content. Eventually we re-introduced cow milk, but when he got to Elementary school, we took him off of it once more, because he had symptoms of ADHD. (There is a large body of evidence linking ADHD and autism to the cow milk protein “casein”). Once he was free of dairy and gluten, all of his physical and behavioral symptoms disappeared.

Thinking about all of this, I felt like I was really on to something.  I sat down with a chopped salad and my homemade vegan ranch dressing, and Googled milk allergy. According to Google a cow milk allergy is “an abnormal immune system response to milk and milk products.” Aside from milk being one of the “Big 8” allergens, it is by most accounts the biggest allergen of them all.  Over the course of the next few weeks I spent hours and days, reading article after article about cow’s milk.  I realized something that gave me great pause: Did you know that humans are the only animals in nature who “voluntarily” drink the mother’s milk of another animal? Think about that for a minute… Yes, mother’s milk. We are the only animals that drink mother’s milk as an adult.

cow milking
Via bizaroo.com

When asked the question, “Are Humans The Only Animal To Drink Milk From Other Species?”  Oliver Craig, a specialist in bi-molecular archaeology from The University of York, replied that, “All juvenile animals can drink milk and that’s because they have the enzyme lactase to digest the milk sugars.  But the genome that makes the enzyme gets switched off when they get to a certain age, so as adults, they can’t drink it.”  They CAN’T drink it.  So was my response to cow’s milk really abnormal?

Dr. Michael Klaper, M.D., described milk as “The lactation secretions of a large bovine animal that just had a baby.” Yep. “Humans do not need baby cow growth food in any way.” He went on to say that the proteins, lipids, hormones, and the IgF growth factors in milk are meant to grow an 80-pound calf (birth weight) into a 600 pound cow (weaned weight @ 9 months.).  Milk is the primary source of nutrition for the infant mammal before they are able to digest other types of food.  Honestly, I had never thought about milk this way. Up until this point, all I knew about milk was that it was essential to drink a tall cold glass with my Toll House cookies, and my Cocoa Pebbles cereal turned it into chocolate milk!  Oh yeah, and it had a lot of calcium.

The problem with humans drinking cow’s milk begins with the actual milk proteins themselves. The two proteins contained in milk are casein and whey. Human milk contains these in a ratio of 40:60 respectively; while in cow’s milk the ratio of casein to whey proteins is 80:20.

THE PROTEIN

­The protein content of cow milk is double that of human breast milk. And guess what? Excess protein in the body causes amino acids to convert into glucose and is typically stored as fat. Growing calves need more protein to enable them to grow quickly. Human infants on the other hand need less protein and more fat as their energies are expended primarily in the development of the brain, spinal cord and nerves.”(1)  A baby cow doubles its birth weight every 40 days. Baby humans on the other hand double their birth weight every 180 days.  In the first year of life a baby cow grows 180 times faster than a baby human. The casein protein in cow’s milk is also double the casein protein in human milk. (2) Casein is also very difficult to digest.  It is a sticky protein, and a baby cow comes with a special enzyme in their stomachs called rennet, which is designed especially to break down casein.  Humans do not have rennet, so casein is very hard for us to digest.  (3)

Casein has been linked to a range of diseases and allergies, including  Diabetes (type 1) ADHD and Autism.  Only one study that I could find showed no causal relation between casein (and gluten) to autism, but kids with gastrointestinal issues were not included in the study.  Yet, (this is important) according to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are among the most common medical conditions associated with autism.

Okay, fine.  So cow milk proteins cause problems for some people.  If you’re not one of those people and you don’t drink milk in excess, no big deal, right?  Uh, not-so-fast.  Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his colleagues examined, in the most comprehensive study ever conducted on nutrition and disease, the relationship between nutrition and Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.  “Of those diseases studied in relation to nutrition, the consumption of animal-based food (especially cow’s milk) is associated with greater disease risk.”

And this, my friend is where things get weird, like really weird.  With food allergies, autoimmune diseases, obesity and cancer rates on the rise, I wondered what in the world was going on? I mean, we’ve been drinking milk for thousands of years, (13)  so why all of a sudden are we getting sick? I began watching documentaries about the food industry and modern day agribusiness. What I discovered made me sick, then angry, then scared.

Next on “All Shook Up,” Part 2: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Was Blind…But Now I See

It took about a week to get the results of my blood test.   My nutritionist’s office was kind enough to email me the results even though I wouldn’t meet with Dr. Olivia for a few more days. I wasn’t so much worried about the possibility of removing foods from my diet.  I was worried that I would have no allergies, and that I would be a slave to pain and pills for the rest of my life.

Before I go over my results, I want to give you the quick and dirty about the actual test itself. An “IgG” food sensitivity test, measures IgG4 immunoglobulin reactions. Bear with me here.  In the body, IgG antibodies attach themselves to food antigens and create an antibody-antigen complex. (Deep breath…) These “complexes” are normally removed by special cells in the body they call macrophages.  However, if there too many of these complexes, and the “reactive” foods are still being eaten, the macrophages can’t get rid of them fast enough.  The food antigen/antibody complexes accumulate and are deposited in our body tissues. Once they’re in our tissues, these complexes release inflammation causing chemicals, which play a role in numerous autoimmune diseases and conditions. (Think of diseases or conditions that end in “-itis.”) Such as:

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Colitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Migraines
  • Ear Infections
  • Eczema
  • Lupus
  • Urticaria
  • And many, many more….

This test is different from an IgE blood test you might get from allergists.  IgE skin or blood tests look for histamine reactions, (think mold, cats, pollen, and peanut allergies) which can be life threatening.

My particular IgG blood test examined my body’s inflammatory reaction to 95 different foods.  Each food tested, has a “Mean Antigen Score,” with a reference range of low, moderate and avoided levels.   As you can see Dairy and Eggs were the big ones. In fact, Dr. Olivia told me not to even look at a cow.  I was surprised to find that “wheat” wasn’t in the “avoid” category.  However, Dr. Olivia reminded me that I hadn’t eaten wheat in nearly a year. Otherwise, she said I would have likely tested higher than I did for dairy.   (Side note: I also tested, highly allergic to wheat on an IgE skin test.)

IgG Test
Page one of my IgG test results

The results were a lot to absorb.  The mean “avoid” score for dairy was 450 points.  I was in 2000’s. The funny thing is I never really ate much dairy, but I’m so allergic that it doesn’t take much.  There would be no more Gruyère or Montamoré, and no more scrambled eggs or Sunday morning frittatas.  Oh yeah, I am also allergic to Almonds, Pineapple, Quinoa (WTH?), and Kidney Beans.   Remember what I said about wanting a food allergy?  Well, I was lying to myself. Or at least that’s what I told myself in the beginning.  However, my reflux had gotten so bad, most nights I slept in my husband’s recliner just to get to sleep. I was taking two Prilosec a day and it was only getting worse.  I had developed what they called Acid Rebound, a vicious cycle between the acid blocker and the body (whose natural response to no acid, is to produce more acid). So I took a deep breath and marched forward.

I met with Dr. Olivia a few days later to go over the results.   She was amazing.  Her candor was appreciated and her prognosis was hopeful. Her feelings toward traditional medicine were very much the same as mine, however, she was much more compassionate toward their plight.  “Nutrition is only a requirement in less than 2% of U.S. Medical schools,” she said. “They just don’t know any better.”   She shared a personal story about a local cardiologist who called her office wanting to schedule a lunch date with her. She agreed and met him a week later. The cardiologist explained to her that he had 5 patients who were not only healing, but healing at a much faster pace than all of his other patients. It was enough of an anomaly for him to investigate. After tirelessly pouring over their medical files, he realized the common factor among these 5 patients was in fact, Dr. Olivia Joseph. He had confided that in his 10 years of medical training to become a cardiologist, he had only taken one course in nutrition, and that was an elective, not a requirement.  He asked her to speak to some of his colleagues about her treatment protocols.  She is now teaching continuing education courses for this group of heart doctors.

On my way out she hugged me and said, “Don’t be surprised if your doctors or allergists think you’re crazy for meeting with me,”  They don’t give a lot of credence to what we do.” She was right.  My allergist all but called her a quack.  Physicians in the US are only allowed to diagnose and prescribe based on what the American Medical Association, (AMA) the big pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies tell them they can.  (I will write an entire blog about that in the future.) Not only that, the average primary care doctor spends approximately 15 minutes with each patient, and guess what? Nutrition is not a part of the conversation.

I left her office and headed straight to Whole Foods. It had been a while, but I was back, back to the happy, hippie health food store of my youth.  I spent two hours wandering through the aisles.  I also spent the first year of Avery’s college fund. Nonetheless, I came home with a bounty of organic fruits and vegetables, a liquid iron supplement, and a bottle of Vitamin D 5000.  I also bought my first container of non-dairy milk.

Within 11 days, I had lost 9 lbs and my energy levels soared.  I learned that this was the amount of inflammation I was carrying around in my body tissue.   Within 4 months, I was down 24 pounds and all of my joint pain was gone. Within 6 months, the reflux was gone. People told me that I was glowing from the inside out.  I went from hiding behind Kevin in pictures, to standing in front of him. (((Tears)))    I also spent the next several months reading everything I could get my hands on about nutrition and chronic disease.  When I gave up those foods, I gained more than my health back.  I gained my life back.

disney
Me at 156 lbs

christmas
Me at 132 pounds

A person’s weight isn’t everything, but it is a good predictor of health.  When looking over my most recent blood work, my primary doctor said I had the blood of a healthy 18 year old. I will be 45 in 3 months.  I am currently down 32 pounds from one year ago. My BMI is and my blood pressure went from 125/78 to 116/58.  My bad cholesterol is down 50 points and my good cholesterol is up 40 points.   Still no joint pain or reflux (unless I drink too much alcohol).  I take a good whole food multi-vitamin plus Vitamin D every day.  I am no longer tired during the day and sleep like a baby at night. We have one body, and one life, and is up to us to do the best for both.

 

Next up on All Shook Up: “Milk Does No-Body Good.”