Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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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.

 

Spring Mediterranean Salad

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The Mediterranean Diet features beneficial fats, fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals which help keep us healthy. Many studies suggest that the Mediterranean way of eating can improve heart health. Plus it’s easy to follow at any meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Salads deserve a special celebration this month because they are an excellent vehicle for getting in our greens, veggies, healthy fats and protein sources. They don’t have to be boring either! To help create variety, consider choosing a different protein to add in for your salads (i.e. chickpeas, salmon, hardboiled eggs, steak strips, nuts & seeds). Another idea is to choose a cuisine to inspire you. If you like Greek food, make a Greek salad; or try a Mexican, Italian, or French one.

By getting in a salad on a regular basis, you will be getting more nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve digestion, help with weight maintenance, and boost immunity! Here’s an template for a Mediterranean Salad; feel free to add items to make it your own!

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Serves 1-2 people
Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients

Salad
2-4 cups of salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 sliced cucumber
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 avocado, sliced or 1/4 cup hummus

Dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Rinse salad mix and place in medium-sized bowl; add other salad ingredients. To make the dressing, add ingredients into a bottle and shake well before pouring over the salad. Store in the fridge to keep fresh. Enjoy the fresh, juiciness of this salad!

In the Client Spotlight!

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“Working with you was the first time I have ever worked with a nutritionist and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now having done so I can confidently say I’m very happy I did!

As a result of our work together I changed daily food choices in my lifestyle including but not limited to: ditching sugary creamer, consuming less coffee, drinking more water, adding in kale to my daily egg breakfast routine (which I love), lowering my overall weight average by 5 pounds (my husband lost about 10lbs), incorporating more veggies in my meals, and most importantly getting my digestion back on track. I’m proud to say I’m “regular.” 🙂 I also no longer weigh myself after ‘eating bad’ and punish myself by skipping meals. I give myself grace and let my body get back into balance.

Adrienne, you are a wealth of health knowledge! I loved listening to your ideas on how to achieve my overall best level of health—both body and mind, internal and external. I also really enjoyed the ways you help break down my calls to action after each meeting. Additionally, you are full of grace and never made me feel bad if I didn’t stick with something we agreed to. Another benefit is that I look at food and my body in a healthier way. I also think more about ways to improve my mental health on a daily basis by doing things that bring me joy and help my brain breathe.

I’m also happy I did this program as I recently found out I am pregnant with our second child! I feel like it will be easier to cut out coffee now as well as deal with the hormones and cravings for things like nachos and sweets. I know I’ll be eating healthier as a whole.

The most important thing I tell others that you will learn so much about food, your body, and yourself and you’ll be so thankful you did!”

– Christine Y., London, Ohio


You know what ‘sparks joy’ for us? Well this client was not only a lovely, bubbly person to work with but her enthusiasm and gratitude for all she had accomplished reminded us of why we do this work. It is a great honor to guide her, and all clients, from a place where they feel stuck, hurt and in pain, or feeling like something is ‘off’ to where they feel light, whole, confident, and vibrant! Our long-standing mission in life is to help others heal and reach their potential. Thank you for allowing us to work our magic :).

Stay tuned, more client spotlights to come!

Your Body: Whispers or Screams?

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Source: Pixabay

You push back from the computer and yawn, eyes falling upon a clock which reminds you of the many hours left until you can leave work. You notice your bladder is full, shoulders are tense, and stomach is rumbling. Then you detect the hint of a headache starting on your right temple.

In today’s unceasingly racing world, our bodies often fall to the bottom of our priorities list, stuck behind a mountainous back-log of seemingly insurmountable tiny, and big, to-dos. Its little signals are often drowned out by the noise of our work deadlines and chores. Yet, these little symptoms are the body’s attempt to communicate with you. Like a baby, its little whimpers can become melt-downs if its needs – to eat, sleep, play, and eliminate (or the clean-up thereafter) – are ignored. As adults, what starts as a slight, pulsing tension headache can grow into a full-blown migraine.

How do you develop a satisfying relationship with anyone? You start by listening. The same goes for developing a genuine connection with your body.

By tuning into your body at regular, short intervals during the day, you can prevent a lot of the strain and stress placed upon it. Just stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Another tip is to look in the mirror and pretend to be your own parent or health-care provider as you check-in with yourself. Do you have dark circles under your eyes? Stomachache or bloating? Brittle hair? Ridged fingernails? Is constipation or diarrhea an issue?

If you notice dark under-eye circles, can you make a connection to fatigue and being under stress? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this can show a deficiency of kidney Qi (energy that flows through the acupuncture meridians. When Qi is strong and moves smoothly through the meridians, our health is said to be good).  Prioritizing sleep, exercising for stress reduction, good nutrition and even acupuncture can help re-balance the body here. Also consider that the dark circles can signal anemia and may require a visit to your doctor for a blood test.

Perhaps your hairdresser has mentioned it, or you notice on your own that your hair has gotten drier and more brittle recently. The simplest explanation could be a reaction to your hair care products; however, it could also be a signal of low thyroid function (which slows down metabolism and can lead to depression, PMS, anxiety and depression, constipation, and migraines). In TCM, this is often associated with our very yang (active, masculine) culture and not enough yin (passive, feminine) energy. To address the hair issue, you may want to have your doctor check your thyroid function or eating more ‘yin’-nourishing foods such as apples, broccoli, celery, cucumber, spinach, sweet potatoes, and healthy fats.

Peeling or ridged fingernails can be caused to low mineral absorption relating to a deficiency of stomach (hydrochloric) acid. When we are under stress, for example, our body is prepped to run from danger or fight; the body’s priority is to increase our heart rate and breathing (and release glucose from the liver into the bloodstream for energy) while it shunts energy away from digestion (imagine the body yelling, “No time to digest now! We have to run from a tiger!”). Low hormone levels during menopause can also relate to ridged fingernails. Consider getting evaluated for stomach acid production and, for menopause, remember to support your adrenal glands (they play an important role in boosting estrogen levels).

Constipation a constant companion? If you’re not having a bowel movement everyday, there could be a lot of factors to look into. A simple reason for this issue could be dehydration or not enough fiber in the diet; even supplement and medication side-effects can cause constipation. For women, hormonal changes can cause slow transit of the gastro-intestinal tract a few days before menstruation starts.

Diarrhea can signal abnormal intestinal flora or yeast (especially if you were recently on antibiotics) and can also signal a food sensitivity or allergy. Let’s not forget stress and anxiety, which can also manifest as diarrhea. If you’ve had a round of antibiotics recently, consider taking a probiotic supplement (including acidolphilus, lactobacillus, and bifidobacterium) to help re-establish the ‘good guys’ in your gut. To help identify a food sensitivity or allergy, reach out to a registered dietitian to help you make an effective food elimination plan. Common triggers can include dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, and shellfish; however, other foods and even food chemicals can also be at play. This is where a food sensitivity test and certified LEAP therapist can help pinpoint the foods contributing to the increased transit time of your gut. To help reduce stress levels, consider joining a yoga class, prayer/meditation, listening to music, getting a massage, or spending some time alone to unwind.

Next time you get a minute at work or stop by a mirror, do a quick check-up on yourself, beyond lipstick application or ensuring hands are clean. By addressing health issues and symptoms while they are mild and quiet, you can help avoid the more intense, painful symptoms later on.

Read more: Quiz! Body Mindfulness & Straight Poop on Stool

 

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

Could it be your Thyroid?

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An estimated 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid disorders; roughly half go undiagnosed. Women are mainly affected. About half of those diagnosed have Hashimoto’s, an auto-immune condition.

Basic Thyroid Information

The thyroid, from the Greek word thyreos meaning “shield” is a small gland in front part of the neck just above the voice box.

Just because it’s tiny and weighs less than an ounce, does not mean it can’t pack a punch. This little gland is a force to be reckoned with as it can influence your other organs (and vice versa) and your overall health. The thyroid releases hormones that regulate metabolism help control the function of many of your body’s organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, reproductive system and skin.

What might amaze you is the variety of connections this little networking gland has with seemingly every part of the body. Do you have digestive issues, hair falling out, fatigue, constipation, or struggle to lose weight? Guess what, your thyroid might be the culprit.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism’s symptoms are often subtle and non-specific (mimicing symptoms associated with other conditions). Sometimes they are attributed to the aging process.

Those with milder forms of hypothyroidism may not have any signs or symptom, but they generally become more obvious as the condition deteriorates.  A slower metabolism, or inability to lose weight, is often a first complaint. Here are more:

Fatigue
Depression
Weight gain
Intolerance to Cold
Excessive sleepiness
Constipation

Dry, coarse or brittle hair
Muscle cramps
Increased cholesterol levels
Decreased mental focus and concentration
Joint or muscle aches/pain
Swelling of the legs

Morning headaches
Poor circulation
Cold hands and feet
Increased susceptibility to colds and illness
Slow wound healing
Facial swelling (edema)

Hair falls out easily
Chronic digestive issues
Excessive sleep required to function properly
Loss of outer 1/3 of eyebrows
Dry skin
Weakness

A Typical Presentation

Here’s a fairly typical example of what can happen with a client who has thyroid issues: (typically female) she will present during our initial consultation with quite a few symptoms of hypothyroidism but says “my doctor says my TSH is in the normal range.” That’s where we have take a pause and educate about how one problem with only testing TSH is that it is not telling the whole story of thyroid health. The second problem is that the lab range (often based off of sick people) for what is considered ‘normal’ is quite large; the functional range is much smaller. You may benefit from further testing, especially to rule out Hashimoto’s.

One Client’s Case

A 32-year-old female who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease has had gastro-intestinal issues for years. When ‘gluten-ed’, she suffers immobilizing joint pain making it nearly impossible to get out of bed. She works part-time and ‘muscles-through’ when feeling ill.

Her sleep is erratic, she hasn’t had a menstrual cycle in years, and she has debilitating fatigue at some times and tons of energy other times.

Guess what she was diagnosed with?

Based on her health history and symptoms, we suspected Hashimoto’s. Her doctor ran some lab tests and that’s what they found.

The client’s doctor has her on medication and she, with our work together, she is currently diligently avoiding aggravating foods as well as using addressing dietary deficiencies and lifestyle changes to ameliorate her immune system dysfunction.

Get educated on your thyroid and join about a dozen other smarties coming to tonight’s class.

Already have plans? Consider getting in touch with an Integrative & Functional Dietitian who examine your symptoms and, if necessary, suggest further testing. We will also help support you in dietary and lifestyle changes to support not only your thyroid but your overall health.

The Person behind the Professional – My Healing Story

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A short jaunt over to the “about” tab will give you some of my professional story- the multiple degrees and certifications from such renowned institutions as The Ohio State University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and more. However, client curiosity around why I chose this satisfying profession has led me to share more about the person behind the professional.

“You’re so lucky to be thin and healthy, you can eat whatever you want!”

This phrase has been said to me at various points in my life. I wanted to believe it was true because then I’d only have to stay thin in order to be healthy, right?

Early Life through Adolescence 

Let’s begin at the beginning. As an infant and small child, I had gastro-intestinal issues and was on repeated rounds of antibiotics for both active infections and as a prophylactic measure for something the doctors told my parents I should ‘grow out of’. That never happened. I was painfully poked and prodded, given barium and multiple x-rays, and underwent extensive testing. At age 5, I had major surgery to correct part of my urinary system and we all hoped my problems would be over.

…But they weren’t. Over the years I would intermittently get to live the life I loved – full of energy, activity, and vitality. Other days and weeks, even months, I would go to bed one night and wake up in pain, feverish, and unable to leave the house. If it was a weekend, that was the worst, because it meant me having to wait days to see the doctor while being in acute pain. Sometimes I think about how much of my life I’ve spent curled up on the couch, overloading myself with fluids and prescription medications, and wondering if I’d ever truly be well and free of what felt like a health curse.

An Unhealthy Obsession

Somewhere around ages 15 and 16, I developed disordered eating practices and patterns. As mentioned above, thinness was associated with health and I was also praised and envied by others for being ‘so tiny’. It was rewarding to be small & athletic- I was always the ‘flyer’ in gymnastics as the lightest person in 7th grade gym class but was still strong enough to do 18 pull-ups! As my body changed and I went from 89lbs at age 15 to over 100lbs at 16, I had problems adjusting and, like some others, developed a sense of body dysmorphia. Recruited to run track as a sprinter in high school, I felt the need to be light so I wouldn’t weigh myself down with extra poundage. Eating for athletic performance? I knew nothing about this. Lunch was a Twix bar from the vending machine and an apple; these were justified on vegetarian grounds at the time. My friends and boyfriend were worried about me and, to both my annoyance and twisted sense of pleasure, they gave extra attention to me and my meals. I felt I could better control the stress of school and life if I could just control my weight. Now I can recognize that part of this disordered eating had roots in food intolerances…the so-called healthy cereal, bread, and pasta gave me stomachaches. By eating less or barely at all, I felt better and had more energy. Buuuuut, I still had cravings…

I craved sugar and carbs like an addict. Baking cookies, eating ice cream, and having salty pretzels became a regular occurrence. During one particular day, I couldn’t find the sweet-enough item I was jonesing for so I took a spoon out of the drawer and went straight for the bag of brown sugar in the pantry. That feeling of desperation to get my sugar fix was reminiscent of an addict doing whatever it took to get alcohol, heroin, or meth. I realized this was a problem but felt powerless over my cravings and berated myself for not having enough willpower to stick to my ‘healthy diet’.

Forays into Health Education

As a teenager with aims to become a doctor and a passion for learning about health, I was already building a library of books on traditional and holistic healing theories. Nearly everyone has a go-to health-nut friend and I was that person people would come to about their acne, blood sugar levels, anxiety, depression, and even their parents’ issues. This challenge was enticing to me and I’d go home and look through my library for ideas on how to use nutrition, herbs, and alternative therapies before presenting my findings. I had great faith and quite a lot of scientific evidence that nutrition was a key part of the puzzle; it was just so overwhelming and hard to implement the knowledge. (This is later where behavior change and accountability with my health coaching would come in.)

The College Years & A Turning Point

When starting college, at a youthful time in life that is associated with being at the epitome of health and fitness, I wasn’t feeling it.

Besides the recurrent illness itself still playing into my college years, I also had acne breakouts, skin rashes, stomachaches, constipation, alternating periods of high energy and lethargy, anxiety, depression, hormone imbalances, and my increased weight had my BMI dangerously close to the ‘overweight’ category. For the first time in my life, instead of informing me that I was in the lower percentile for weight and height, I horrifically received a talk from my doctor about the need for ‘diet and exercise’. I threw my hands in the air with exasperation. What did that really mean anyway?

It became apparent to me during my sophomore year of college that I might have to withdraw from the university due to not being able to attend classes more than sporadically. I, the person who loved learning and had been a precocious teenager taking college classes, was about to give up. I put aside my studies in German and political science because I knew I didn’t have another option- I was desperate and compelled to learn more about why my body was so upset.

I did a lot of internet searching while still faithfully visiting my multiple doctors. Between and during fresh rounds of antibiotics, I was learning bits and pieces about gut health, sugar, probiotics, herbs, and medical ‘cures’. Eventually, I took a course in nutrition and had an epiphany. THIS is what I wanted to do with my life. Instead of doctoring with surgery and medications, I could utilize food in helping people heal! But first I had to heal myself and that required a lot more than what I already knew from years of my nutrition hobby. That year, I started my third undergraduate degree- this time in dietetics. I received another small miracle in late 2005 when I visited a website with a link to a nutrition school in Manhattan that offered to educate me on all the different dietary theories and to help me heal my own life so that I could help others heal theirs.

It amazed me that I, a lay-person and nutrition novice, through learning about the human body’s systems and the interactions of nutrition, could put pieces of the puzzle together that my urologist, general practitioner, and OB-GYN could not. It just made so much sense, I couldn’t ignore it.

I stopped relying on doctors to ‘fix me’ and started taking responsibility– for every morsel of food I put in my body, getting enough water, sleep, and exercise, as well as managing stress better. I acted as though my life depended on dietary diligence and application of lifestyle improvements, because it did.

The first time I was able to effectively mitigate a healing crisis with herbs, nutrition and fluids, I was astounded. Maybe I didn’t have an antibiotic deficiency at all – maybe I didn’t need to have my doctor’s phone number on speed-dial…..I scarcely dared to hope that perhaps, just MAYBE, my body wanted to get better and all I needed to really do was pay attention to it and supply it with the tools it needed in order to repair itself.

As I rose into the role of president of my own life, I knew I still needed a cabinet- a group of experts who would help me achieve a higher state of health. I hired acupuncturists & massage therapists and have consistently had a health coach who inspires me and keeps me accountable to my health goals. Having a health-minded partner and friends is huge in this area too. No (wo)man is an island.

Illness and Fear, with a Twinkle of Hope

Having a recurrent illness does a lot of things to you. One of these is creating fear that you’ll always have this condition, pain, and misery.

It did the same to me. Since I had suffered for this long, fear told me my life would probably always be like this. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to hold down a job without running through my sick days like crazy. I had fear that I couldn’t be in a great relationship or see my friends when I wanted to because I never knew when I could count on being well enough. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to travel without bottles of supplements and the possibility of needing to find a store to buy more, or even more dreaded, visiting a doctor.

But, at the same time, I knew health was possible because I had those short periods of true vitality and energy…. and that’s what I would strive for.

The Cost of Illness and Disease

My illness and health conditions cost me (and my parents until age 18) thousands of dollars in the form of co-pays, prescriptions, and expensive tests. It cost me money that I couldn’t earn due to being unable to show up to work as well as college tuition for classes I couldn’t attend.

But not all costs are associated with ones from the wallet. This illness was cheating me out of education and better grades, a sense of security, time with friends, and vitality….it OWNED me. And I was tired of being its sick, sad slave.

How Nutrition Changed Everything

Let’s talk about the diet I had growing up. First let me say that my parents are wonderful people who tried the best they knew how. My mom recounts how, even though she’s not a fan of vegetables, she would always get them in for her pregnancies. We grew up eating ‘healthy’ cereals such as Total, Kix, and Special K with skim milk. Junk cereals were relegated to the weekends along with coveted pancakes and bacon and eggs dishes. Our lunches were not the fruity snacks, white bread sandwiches, and sugary treat meals our school companions had – we had whole wheat bread sandwiches, a piece of fruit, juice or water, and 2-3 small cookies. Dinners might be a stir-fry, pot pies (with trans-fat *shudder*), microwaved meals, pasta, and usually some vegetables at every meal. Snacks were ice cream, pretzels, and occasionally candy such as Snickers or M&Ms. I drank milk, juice, and (not enough) water. When I became a vegetarian, my parents didn’t really know what to do with me. I didn’t either. I just knew meat was out of the question. So I was left with oh-so-many carbs in my very low protein and fat diet (this was the low-fat craze from the ’90s going on.)

I started healing as best as I could during my adolescence but it wasn’t until years later, particularly during my year of school in New York that I made myself and my healing more of a priority. I kept a food journal, had a a health coach who encouraged me and provided ideas and accountability, I did elimination diets/food sensitivity testing and found a few foods that were associated with my digestive issues, skin, and hormone issues. I realized the connection my brain/gut had was real and that my mood improved when I started giving myself better food. Genetic testing gave me an additional layer to my already-healthy-eating plan that has also lead to improved mood, digestion, eye-health, and hopefully decreased risk for diseases.

Food has become the foundation for a healthy life along with lifestyle factors and ‘primary food’ – the areas of life that feed our souls, not our stomachs- including having a meaningful life I love and share with others.

How my Life has Transformed

The tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on my education to learn about nutrition as well as self-care has been worth every single penny. I’m glad to continue to invest in myself through buying organic, healthy, anti-inflammatory and genetically-appropriate foods and supplements, to get massage and acupuncture, and….to take rejuvenating vacations. Compared to the dollars spent in co-pays, medication costs, expensive tests, and doctors visits, I now experience less pain, less negative side effects from medication, and waaaay more fun and pleasure.

Through applied, bio-individualized nutrition, the benefits to my health have been: clearer skin (no make-up!), drastically improved stomachaches and digestion, little/no cravings, much better mood and mental outlook, and an increasingly balanced life.

In terms of my illness, the changes I was making in my life started adding up. I could soon go a solid week without another infection, then I slowly reached my first month without a healing crisis. As of this writing, knock on wood, I have been free and clear of the former ‘health curse’ for over 3 years. 

There is a moment in our lives when most of us experience a great shift. Everything changes. For me, this came when I decided I would no longer be a prisoner to this illness and I was willing to do whatever it took to get better. That moment of commitment, as Goethe reminds us, is when the “entire universe conspires to assist you.” The results I’ve experienced as well as my healing team of health professionals and personal relationships are a testament to the veracity of this statement.

A Healthier Obsession

During the deepest and darkest times of my life and with my health condition, food became an obsession. When a person is sick, all they can think about is how they don’t want to be sick and how they can get better. For me, this manifested as anxiety around food (especially low-quality food in social situations) and disordered eating.

These days, quality food is not an obsession. Orthorexia is a real issue, but it’s not one I have. What I do have is a strong set of values and awareness around organic/non-GMO, whole and sustainably grown foods.

Epilogue

Health involves so much more than being thin. I think about what people have told me and how such a simplistic statement puts focus on the wrong areas of life.

Though I find it a bit traumatic to revisit this time in my life and reflect upon the pain and discomfort involved, I let gratitude for my healing overshadow it. I’m so thankful that I’ve healed my body and that this experience has enabled me to empathize with my clients as I empower them to also leave health issues, frequent doctors’ visits, lists of medications, pain, and unwanted weight behind so they can step into the life of vitality they deserve. We all deserve this.

#2 Problems Solved! Have the Perfect Poo

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If your bathroom visit has you feeling less-than-stellar, whether from incomplete bowel evacuation or runny rapid transit, you may wonder what’s going on with your gut. We will solve the mysteries of these #2 issues so that you can sit down and take action!

What’s your number?
If you’re looking at the stool chart feeling as through you run the gamut of each type, start to observe toilet clues and investigate reasons that may underlie issues of diarrhea and constipation. Like most changes, this starts with awareness. Track the number associated with the Bristol stool chart type that best matches your bowel movement.

Water makes all the difference. Diarrhea results when the intestine doesn’t have time to reabsorb all the water from the food waste before it exits. On the other hand, if too much water being reabsorbed, constipation occurs and results in hard, dry rabbit-poo-like stools.

When you can’t wait another second….diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea include:
Food allergies or sensitivities
Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance/Celiac disease, or malabsorption of fructose
Hyperthyroidism
Emotional stress
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Gastrointestinal infection

Sh*t happens….hopefully. Constipation involves the passing of hard, dry stools that resemble rabbit or deer excrement. Are you eating sugar, processed carbs, packaged foods? If so, you’re at higher risk for constipation. Or perhaps it’s one of these common issues:
Low fiber intake (or too much fiber and not enough water)
Food allergies (dairy and wheat can also lead to constipation issues for some)
Hypothyroidism & hormonal imbalance
Lack of physical activity
Dehydration
Issues with the nerves or muscles in the intestinal tract

Whoa! That stinks!
If you find that your flatulence clears a room or your BMs are so stinky they cause a plane to turn back, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. For the deadly gas (silence optional), the problem has its roots in sulfur compounds. One reason why flatulence can flatten the mood: bacteria adds sulfates to trapped air bubbles in the gut, creating smelly farts. Food can lead to foul smells particularly when one is consuming foods high in sulfur (think Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, and onion).

Smelly poo can have its origins from food as well. Those who eat a lot of animal protein tend to have stinkier BMs. A weak digestive system will contribute to foods not breaking down well and putrefying in the gut. Poor diet and stress often have key roles to play as can food sensitivities and inflammatory bowel disorders.

Have the Perfect Poo
Though seemingly as mythical as unicorns, some people claim to have the perfect poos. You can too! First, you have to know what you’re aiming for. On the Bristol stool chart, a perfect poo would ideally be a 4, with 3 and 5 being strong contenders. Let your competitive side show as you try some of these tips to improve your digestive wellness.

  • Get more fiber (think fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains)
  • Drink enough water! Some people like to jazz it up with some lemon and/or mint.
  • Address any underlying thyroid issues
  • Consider eliminating gluten and/or dairy from the diet (both are a common cause of diarrhea and constipation) or other foods on your sensitivity results
  • Fermented foods (i.e. kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut) may be beneficial as they can support the colonization of healthy bacteria in the gut. Consider a probiotic supplement.
  • Exercise!
  • Incorporate stress management techniques
  • Get enough sleep

It is important to give your body the tools it needs to be healthy. Every piece of food eaten is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. If it passes too quickly in the digestive tract, important nutrients are missed. If it takes too long, damage may occur in the colon (think diverticulitis as an example). Remember that there are plenty of neurotransmitters in your gut and the brain-gut connection is real. Your thoughts, anxiety, depression, stress, and mood impact your gut.  With all of the information and ideas presented, what step will you take to  achieve gastrointestinal balance? 

The Straight Poop on Stool

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Everybody poos. Are we getting awkward yet? Fantastic. Yes, we each have our own bathroom habits and the information your unique #2 supplies can help you, and your healthcare practitioner, explore gut issues and even food sensitivities.

What is poo made of? Though some females claim it’s all glitter and unicorn smiles, nope; it’s the pretty much the same as our male counterparts. Stool is about 75% water with the remainder being a combination of fiber, live and dead bacteria, body cells, and mucus. Yay! (Bowel) Moving on…

Often times, our BMs (bowel movements) have established themselves in a certain way for most of our lives and we’ve never stopped to examine them. Have you ever wondered what is “normal” in terms of consistency and frequency? 

Next time, before you ‘flush and dash’, take a look….what is the shape, texture, and color? Does it float or sink?  Each of these factors can give insight into hydration, food sensitivities, digestive issues and more.

Oprah has her microphone, plumbers have plungers, fortune tellers have crystal balls, and dietitians..well we have the Bristol Stool Chart! Behold this amazing tool that can help you categorize your BMs and problem-solve to make them into everything you’ve ever dreamed your digestion could produce.

Disclaimer:  these poos are not real. No poo was harmed in the creation of this blog.

bristol stool chart numbers

Poo Types
1: hard, rabbit-like pellets that are hard to expel
2: a contiguous piece but lumpy and still a bit hard
3: a smoother sausage-like poop with cracks
4: sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft
5: soft pieces, clearly separated
6: mushy stool, ragged edges, not well-defined
7: entirely liquid stool

I think mine was a ‘4’ – is that okay? Gold star for you, perfect pooper! In general, the goal is to stay within types 3-5.

Why is poo brown? When red blood cells break down, there’s a pigment called bilirubin which is made. The bacteria in the intestines transforms the combination of bilirubin, iron (from the red blood cells), and waste into a brown poo.

But what if my poo is red/yellow/green/tarry/mucus-y? Oh gosh, pull up a stool…er, chair…okay, bright red can be from a bleeding ulcer, hemorrhoids, or even eating beets. The first two are worth seeing a doctor about, the third is just a reminder of something you ate within the past few days and isn’t serious. Yellowish-green color can be caused by the green bile that combines with the waste products in the gut but move too quickly through the intestines to turn brown before making the exit. This color, which is typically involved in a malabsorption disorder (i.e. celiac disease), is associated with excess fat in the stool. The green color can also be caused by eating lots of leafy greens, food coloring, or iron supplements. Black tarry stools can indicate that there has been blood which, along its route in your intestines, dried up. This can signal internal bleeding and is worth a trip to the doctor.

Mucus can be clear or vary from white to yellow and looks a bit like jelly. Gawd, can this get any more gross? Yes, because even though mucus is normal to have in your gut to help move things along without much friction, sometimes this can get out-of-hand when there are ulcers or inflammation in the intestines. You may want to let your healthcare provider know if this is an issue for you.

How often should I go? Disturbingly enough, a pediatrician once asked a young dietitian-to-be how often she had a BM; the answer of “once every 3-4 days” was met with a response of “that’s normal, everyone is different.” Only later in her studies did the young one find that having 3-4 days worth of toxins in one’s gut is not normal nor healthy. This is why a dietitian worth her sea salt is going to ask you about not only what goes into your mouth, but what comes out the other end. Because we ❤ you and want you to feel amazing. To answer your question though – ‘normal’ will vary from 3x a week to 3x per day. Generally transit time from eating to expelling runs about 18-72 hours. 

Get a handle on what’s going on inside your guts by paying attention and talking with a healthcare professional about your digestive concerns.

Stay tuned! Our next topic will be problem-solving diarrhea and constipation as well as tips on how to have the perfect poo!