Recipe: ‘Nacho’ Average Nachos

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These nachos don’t follow the bell curve to the top. Oh no, they are at the tail end in the small, exceptional A+ pool. What makes them more amazing than ‘average’ nachos?

They are, perhaps surprisingly, dairy-free. They are also a good source of fiber, thanks to those black beans, AND they utilize cilantro, rather than more salt, to create a tasty and craveable meal. Ready to give it a try?

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Servings: that’s up to you, it fills an entire sheet pan 😀

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission

Ingredients

1/2 bag of organic tortilla chips

1 cup black beans, canned

1/2 cup of salsa

1/2 bag of Violife shredded cheddar

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp jalapeño, diced (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread tortilla chips on baking pan and top with black beans and non-dairy cheese. Place in oven and bake until heated through and cheese has started to melt, about 6-7 minutes. Serve immediately with toppings of salsa, cilantro and other desired toppings such as diced jalapeño. Enjoy!

Client Spotlight: Morgan Metcalf

Early in our work together

“I wanted to tell you that I spoke to a dietitian within my network plan and it was night and day. You are incredibly knowledgeable and professional. You have so much to offer to your clients. You can tell that you are very passionate about what you do : )”

Later in our sessions

“I have confidence in what foods I can eat that are nutritious, feel good for my body, and reduce bloating.

 I feel like I can be totally honest with you and that you believe in me that I can continue to make progress. No matter how many falls I have. I feel like you understand humanness and our imperfectness while still encouraging progress. And that helps me feel confident that I can get back to the place of eating healthy and feeling well.

How have I benefited from our work together? This answer changes on a daily basis because I change from day to day. I think overall acceptance, with the mindset of knowing I can achieve goals when I’m motivated and ready. 

I really enjoyed working with you. You are a kind, knowledgeable, and empathetic person. You really are a good person and someone that I am grateful for having in my life.” – Morgan Metcalf, client


It’s clients like Morgan that reinforce the importance of how we help people transform their lives. A boot-camp-style, intimidating, aggressive energy might help *some* people create change, but we find that the approach that works long-term is one of grace and guidelines, not strict rules or commands.

Through our work together, Morgan’s digestive issues have mostly gone by the wayside, except for when an offending food is ingested. The food sensitivity test showed her a number of rather surprising results and she has implemented the protocol we designed for her unique body.

We are really proud of Morgan and are excited to hear how she does into the future!

Discover the Digestive ‘Galaxy’ 🌌

There is a whole world within us. Not only are we complex human beings in the way we think, feel, and interact – we contain a universe (of sorts) in our intestines. That’s right, the human microbiome contains an estimated 100 trillion microbes – most of which live in our gut (our largest organ, the skin, also contains a microbiome).

The microbiome influences our energy balance and metabolism (e.g. risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes), gut permeability (and whether one develops “leaky gut” syndrome and/or food sensitivities), immunity, and inflammation.

What influences the microbiome? Our diet, genetics, antibiotics, and probiotic foods being some of the most important aspects.

What to learn all about your digestive ‘galaxy’ and the common issues along the journey? Let’s start at the top and work our way down:

Day 2 and Day 3 are on the same YouTube channel. This is like a mini college course – Digestion 101 so feel free to take notes as you learn all about your digestive tract and ways to improve it #nerdoutwithme

BONUS: for additional information, support, and community – consider joining our Go with your Gut Facebook group

When Food is Foe 😈

It certainly is a frustration and a struggle when you suspect that the food you’ve been eating is somehow contributing to the trouble you’re having with your gut, brain, muscles and joints, or skin.

A short list of common symptoms related to food-induced inflammation can range from heartburn and stomach pain to bloating and diarrhea. It could manifest as headaches or migraines, loss of focus, anxiety and/or depression. The symptoms could show in your achy points or in your skin as rashes or breakouts.

Your Personalized Diet

Everyone needs to eat according to their own needs, preferences, and lifestyle. A diet that works for a celebrity, your best friend, and even your cousin may not be what creates health for YOU.

Truly personalized nutrition doesn’t just take into account your height and weight, age, ancestry, activity level, or food preferences and lifestyle, it also means finding out which foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body.

Gut Permeability aka “Leaky Gut”

Having a “leaky gut” was a condition once unbelieved but is now well-documented in scientific literature. When there’s a compromise or breach of the cells lining the gut, there is a potential for all sorts of maladies, including poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, and many symptoms throughout the body.

Inflammation: the Good AND Bad

Just like stress, inflammation isn’t all bad. When you get a cut, the area of the trauma will start to swell and redden as the immune and circulatory system rush to the scene to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and start laying new skin structures. The problem is when stress, or in this case, inflammation becomes chronic. This situation can ignite a host of disorders including arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental issues.

How do you heal the painful symptoms associated with stepping on a nail? Sure, you could try covering it up, wrapping the area with pillowy gauze and taking aspirin, but you haven’t removed the root cause. So the first step to true, actual healing is to have the nail removed.

How might diet-induced inflammation show up for you? We’re all different so while soybean might cause one person a headache or migraine, for another it could cause joint pain or heartburn. Same with gluten, blueberries, or even green peppers.

Just because a food or diet is labeled as anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean it’s acting that way for you. In fact, surprisingly enough, we’ve had two clients in the past year for whom tumeric, a known anti-inflammatory, was actually INFLAMING them. One of the clients had been taking it everyday (!) in attempts to quell her joint pain.

The Multiple Problems with Elimination Diets

One of the keys in reducing diet-induced inflammation in the body is first identifying the foods that are causing the ‘fire’ in the body. Why not start with an elimination diet to try to improve migraines, autoimmune conditions or gut health? Why not try eliminating the most common allergens (e.g. wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) or trying FODMAPs? While a particular food may relate to certain symptoms, it’s not necessarily the best course of action to subject clients to an elimination diet because they are difficult to sustain , are often inconclusive (do you have a mirgraine or heartburn because of the gluten or because you’ve been under stress or because of barometric pressure change in the weather?) and they don’t usually give the full relief clients need and desire.

1. They could miss a genetic component important for you to know and to share with your family. A good example of this would be a person who eliminates gluten from their diet and feels better. Unless they were tested for celiac disease, they wouldn’t know how stringently they might need to follow the gluten-free diet. Their relatives might also be unaware of how their expression of ‘silent celiac’ disease could be infertility, skin rashes, mouth sores, osteoporosis, and even lymphoma. 

2. Extra stress is another problem of elimination diets. They are frustrating and mentally demanding (trying to figure out a symptom’s cause might feel like a scene from A Beautiful Mind or this It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme), time-consuming and perhaps most importantly – they are not as successful as testing. The reason for this is that as you eliminate or add in foods, you may not do so slowly or completely enough AND since the immune system is in a heightened state of alert still responding to the foods you haven’t eliminated, you’re likely not going to feel 100% or even 80% better. Instead of spending 6 or more months removing foods from your diet – not feeling sure that you’re even getting better, or not getting a 100% resolution- you may want to consider another process. With our protocol, we guide clients through step-by-step, starting with 10 days of their ‘safe’ foods and then systematically expanding their diet in a way that allows us to determine other food reactions and intolerances.

3. Elimination diets don’t necessarily ‘put out the fire.’ Because our genetics and environment can play a role and impact our abilities to deal with inflammation, you can’t just avoid foods that cause you problems. Our body’s response to stress plays a role too. The great part of knowing your food – and food chemical – sensitivities is that they give a wider, more accurate picture …when it comes to discovering that molds, yeast,  FD&C Blue #2, or benzoic acid are also causing issues, perhaps in your household environment or products. Once we remove the ‘known offenders’ in your diet (including supplements and hygiene products), the immune system starts to calm down and then we can safely start food reintroduction and see more clearly what causes your problematic symptoms. Otherwise, with elimination diets, you’re mainly just guessing about the foods, supplements, and hygiene/household products you’re using and whether or not they are ‘safe’ for you.

Supplements aren’t the Answer

“Can’t I just take extra probiotics, collagen, turmeric, or fiber to help my gut?” You could play the guessing game and potentially waste time and money in trying to find the perfect supplement (or twenty). Here’s the problem: you’ll likely not see a great benefit from them if you’re still eating foods that irritate your gut’s lining and that cause inflammation in the body. As mentioned before, you could be reactive to turmeric and therefore adding that supplement could be your personal kryptonite.  

Want a faster, better way to help your gut AND body heal?

Consider comprehensive food sensitivity testing. Why comprehensive? Because, for example, just looking at IgG levels doesn’t mean that the food is the problem necessarily; IgG can be elevated for a number of reasons. It’s more important to look at multiple markers of inflammation being released by a cell in response to a food – including cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, leukotrienes, interleukins and more.

If you’re tired of feeling “gross”, being so bloated you look 5 months pregnant, and have stomach pains that distract you from fully participating in the life you want to live, or have other ‘unexplained’ symptoms that could be related to the foods you eat regularly, consider a comprehensive program that includes your test results and implementing the proper protocol with expert guidance and support.

Food sensitivity testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to help clients finally improve life-long symptoms and get back to engaging in life more fully. Interested to see if the testing is a good option for you? Schedule your complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call and let’s get your healthy journey started!

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Recipe: “The Blood of Care Bears”

In the quest for unending youth and beauty, legend has it that Countess Elizabeth Báthory would bathe in the blood of her human servant girls (over 600 are said to be victims of this female serial killer).

What have we done to the cherished Care Bears of your childhood? Worry not – Cheer Bear, Bedtime Bear, Good Luck Bear, and Love-a-lot Bear have not been mammocked or torn asunder. Their plush limbs have not been forced through our juicer; however, the color you see may belie that.

Thus, we have named this drink “The Blood of Care Bears” (though, as you’ll see, we much prefer the youth- and energy-enhancing properties of food). Your quest to become an enchantress can begin with your shopping cart.

Sidenote: juicing fruits and vegetables leftover at the end of the week is one of our favorite strategies to help prevent food waste, which is a major problem here in the U.S.

Have fun with it!

Prep time: 10 minutes for rinsing produce, chopping (if necessary) and set-up of juicer

Servings: about 2, 16 oz glasses

Ingredients

4 small beets

1 heart celery

1 whole cucumber

1/2 bunch of parsley (optional)

4 carrots

1-2 pears (depends on level of sweetness you desire)

1″ ginger root (it has some kick!)

Instructions

Remove seeds from fruit. With juicer set up, follow manufacturer’s directions for inserting fruits and vegetables carefully. The order recommended is generally softer produce followed by harder produce (so ending with ginger and beets). Juice until your heart’s content or you run out of produce. Fresh juice is best consumed immediately after juicing, though it may last 24-48 hours in the fridge.

3 Ways to Regain Life Balance ⚖️

If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, pressed for time, and stressed, join the club! Only a minority of people report feeling peaceful, equanimous, and blissed out these days. The good news is that you can take a step in that direction and reap a bunch of benefits. Here’s how:

1. Identify what’s important to you, your mindset, and what throws you off balance. Once you identify your values and your non-negotiables, you can simplify and cast off the unimportant to-dos. Maybe rainbow-organizing your pantry and linen closets are a “nice to have” but family time is more of a priority right now. In terms of mindset – have you noticed how some people seem relaxed and carefree as they go about their duties while others seem rattled with the same amount of work? Leading a calmer and more peaceful life often has to do with our personal experiences, belief systems, and coping mechanisms…all of which influence our mindset and our thoughts. By changing those, we can change our behaviors and results.

Consider what throws you off-balance. Is it a last-minute request to participate in your child’s extracurricular activity? The pressure you put on yourself every year to balance not just work but with making each holiday or birthday ‘perfect’ for your family? Or does getting inadequate sleep cause you to feel easily rattled the rest of the day? There is a well-established link between our emotional state and our physical one. By adopting a more peaceful mindset, we can avoid chronic diseases and live longer.

2. Know the signs of an imbalanced life and burnout. Symptoms include headache, sleep disorders, anxiety, tense and stiff muscles, and digestive woes. The stress we’re under can contribute to poor immune function, focus and memory. It can also be detrimental to fertility and sex drive and even accelerate the aging process. Noticing these symptoms early in your life can help prevent you form sliding into burnout or into chronic disease states.

3. Add + subtract. We’re going to let our inner nerd out a bit as we reveal how much we loved stoichiometry and balancing equations in high school. Without complex chemistry and math, just imagine playing with weights on a scale – add another stressor to one side and notice how the beam shifts, especially if there aren’t enough restorative activities in the other scale pan. Here are some ideas to find your own balanced equation:

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Food Sensitivity Testing with MRT

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Most people – whether younger or older, ill or well – benefit from knowing which foods their bodies react negatively to.

Here’s the kicker: the food you think is healthy, may not be healthy for you.

If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, the focus is on prevention; since food is central to any wellness plan, to eat in a precise and personalized way is best.

Dealing with health challenges?

Maybe you’ve given up some of the ‘big 8’ offenders (e.g. wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs) but are still having some symptoms. Perhaps you’ve done (ineffective) skin testing or IgG food sensitivity testing. In either case, you know you need to drill down further and find out if your everyday “healthy” foods (e.g. blueberry, turkey, or tumeric) are actually inflaming you. This has been the case for many of our clients, some visual examples of food sensitivity testing results are below.

Conditions associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease
  • Heartburn / GERD
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD

Symptoms associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and acne
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Nasal and sinus congestion or post nasal drip
  • Food cravings
  • Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
  • Water retention and difficulty losing weight

Additionally, this is a test worth doing if you plan on having children (to help lower inflammation in the body and improve fertility) or if you have children who are ‘picky eaters’ (oftentimes, kids intuitively know that a certain food is ‘hurting’ them and they try to avoid it).

If you want to lose weight or improve performance, this test provides you with the foundation for your personal diet strategy and may provide the missing link necessary to achieve your goals.

What makes MRT different? How does it work?

Some of the other tests you may have done, such as a skin prick or a food sensitivity test ONLY measuring IgG levels, often lack the accuracy in determining actual food sensitivities you may have.

Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult; here’s why – the reactions can be delayed or dose-dependent. This means we may not immediately feel the effect of a food reaction; it may take many hours or days to appear. If it’s dose-dependent, we might feel okay with a little bit of the offending food, but stacking it gives us a reaction.

Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that shows how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring chemical mediators released from the cell. When released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. Fortunately, MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!

Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods that were showing up as inflammatory for clients, including: bananas, turkey, blueberries, coffee and more!

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Test results are only part of the equation. With your functional medicine dietitian-nutritionist, you’ll put into play the LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) protocol to help get you the results you desire. Curious about finding out the foods and food chemicals causing inflammation and symptoms in YOUR body? Contact us and see if MRT testing is right for you.

CNBC: Allergies & Gluten

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We recently had the pleasure of educating the public about the top food allergies as well as the difference between gluten intolerance or sensitivity and celiac disease in a segment this past weekend.

The segment aired on Saturday, October 26th on CNBC but you can watch them on the Advancements website and Vimeo. Learn more about this important topic with these additional questions and answers:

Q: How are food allergies and food sensitivities becoming a growing public health concern?

A: Food allergies and food sensitivities are becoming a growing public health concern because of how it affects us in healthcare expenditures, our communities, schools and even in our own homes if a family member or friend has food allergies and sensitivities.

Food allergies can cause anaphylactic shock and are a huge concern. The ‘big 8’ allergens in the U.S. are milk and eggs, fish and shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts, wheat and soy. In other countries, including the United Kingdom, they have even more common allergies including lupin, sulfites, and celery.

Q: How does gluten affect a person with celiac disease versus one with a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten?

A: In someone with celiac disease, eating gluten causes the body to attack and destroy the villi in the small intestine, causing nutrient deficiencies and gastrointestinal issues including diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and weight loss. Even skin rashes, lactose intolerance, infertility and bone loss can be symptoms.

For a person with gluten sensitivity, the symptoms can be similar to the ones present with celiac disease minus the damage to the villi of the small intestine.

Q: What are the benefits of a gluten-free diet to those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities?

A: Following a lifelong gluten-free diet is imperative and the only treatment (thus far), for those with celiac disease. The good news is that the villi of the small intestine can heal and one can absorb more nutrients, have a decrease or elimination of symptoms, and have a reduced risk for colon cancer.

The benefit of a gluten-free diet to those with gluten sensitivity can be a lessening or even elimination of symptoms including skin rashes, headaches and migraines, bloating, stomach pains, and fatigue.

Q: Who else can benefit from following a gluten-free diet?

A: Some people with autism, eczema, multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome report feeling better when eliminating gluten from their diets. It is possible that they could have a gluten sensitivity and this may help explain why their symptoms improve on a gluten-free diet.

Also, some people have gone on a gluten-free diet as a means for weight loss, but it is not necessary nor recommended.

 

Beware the Ides of Starch!

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Source: Pexels.com

In William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar is warned by a soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March.” During the middle of this month, we’d also like to warn about the ides of starch.

In the past decade, gluten has become somewhat of a buzzword, inspiring inquisitions and concerns from the public such as, “Do I have gluten-sensitivity? Is a gluten-free diet right for me?”

Let’s start with the basics; what is gluten? It is a general term for the storage protein in certain grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and more. Gluten may be rather innocuous in the bodies of most of the population; however, if ingested by those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there will be a rather antagonistic bodily reaction with uncomfortable symptoms to follow.

There is a difference between celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity. The former is a genetic, auto-immune disorder in which the body attacks itself and damages the small intestine when gluten in consumed (or in the case of Hashimoto’s, the thyroid). When people with celiac disease ingest a product containing gluten, their small intestines rebel and, within an hour or two, they may suffer sharp abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting. Those who are sensitive to gluten report a variety of symptoms (stomachaches, reflux, even poor memory) which are typically similar, but less severe symptoms than people with celiac disease.

When it comes to symptoms of celiac disease, there are some classic signs: weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, nutritional deficiencies, and short stature. The so called “silent” signs of celiac disease include constipation, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), weight gain, osteopenia, and anemia.

Although only about 1 in 5000 people are diagnosed with celiac disease , recent research indicates that as many as 1 in 133 people may actually have celiac disease. The average time period between experiencing symptoms and getting a diagnosis is 11 years. Most often, the determination of celiac disease is made from blood samples and a biopsy of the small intestine.

If you think you may have celiac disease, talk to your physician about getting the blood-work and endoscopy needed to confirm diagnosis. Alternatively, if you are seeking a less invasive way to determine how your body reacts to gluten, you could try an elimination diet and, upon re-introduction of the offending substance, document any undesired symptoms.

Treatment for celiac disease involves following the gluten-free diet for life. This may seem stringent, but the complications associated with non-compliance (i.e. infertility, osteoporosis/osteopenia, cancers of the bowel, lymphoma) are serious. Remember that following the treatment diet will also help reduce and possibly eliminate your symptoms.

People diagnosed with celiac must not eat products containing wheat, rye, barely, malt, bran (except corn bran), spelt, and kamut. Oats are problematic not because they inherently contain gluten (they do not) but because they may contain a small amount of other grains from milling sources.

Typical hidden sources of gluten include: medications or vitamin/mineral supplements, broth, cheese slices, beer, licorice candy, salad dressing, soy sauce, modified food starch, cake icing, lipstick, marinades, sauces, breakfast cereals, tortillas, chicken nuggets and hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein. Because of gluten’s ubiquity, it is best to employ a trained professional when determining the risk for cross-contamination at home, assessing foods in the grocery store to ensure they are gluten-free, and minimizing the exposure to gluten from other unsuspected sources.

Since flour and grain products are often used in cooking, it is important to ask how foods have been prepared, especially when dining out. Cross-contamination with gluten is another concern, both in restaurants and at home.

Talk with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your risk for celiac and consult with a registered dietitian to learn how to follow a gluten-free diet safely and nutriously. Remember, if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is of utmost importance in preserving your health and preventing lymphomas, colon cancer, or other malignancies.

Side-note: gliadin is a protein found within wheat gluten and is thought to be the real culprit; but because gluten is the term most people are familiar with, we’ve used it in the article to avoid confusion.

Article originally featured in UWeekly March 2nd, 2011