Should You Be On a Ketogenic Diet?

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Keto diets are all the rage these days and I've had so many people ask me what I think of keto, if should they be doing it, and if it will it help them lose fat, heal from chronic illness, achieve better brain health, etc.  So I'm finally sitting down to give you the skinny on this high fat protocol in hopes of shedding some light on the subject to help you decide if it's right for you.  Keep in mind, this article is not intended to guide you through following a ketogenic diet.  I simply want to present you with some facts and considerations to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing depending on your goals.

First of all let me say that there is no single perfect diet that EVERYONE should be on, regardless of what “the experts” might say.  The closest thing to that would be a whole or non-processed food diet where you eat real food that comes from the earth, not from a lab or factory.  But you probably knew that already.  

If you're not yet familiar with the ketogenic diet, it is a very high fat, low-moderate protein, extremely low-carbohydrate diet.  It has been used as an effective therapeutic diet for epilepsy since the 1920's, and more recently for cancer, Lyme disease and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and ALS.  When the body is deprived of glucose (which we get from carbohydrates), it is forced to burn fat for fuel instead which is why it can be effective for fat loss, mitochondrial function and brain/neurological health.

The most well-known diet that people associate with keto is the Atkins Diet, but this differs from a true ketogenic diet in that it includes high amounts of protein.  A proper, healthy ketogenic diet will not be high in protein since the body can convert protein into glucose more easily than it can convert fat, so even if you're eating really low-carb, too much protein can prevent you from getting into ketosis.  With that out of the way, let's dive into what you need to know before doing keto.

Do Your Research First

There is SO much misunderstanding and misinformation out there about keto and there are certain people who should absolutely not follow it, so it's important to understand what it's all about before you try it.

While many people may benefit from a ketogenic diet for several weeks or even a few months, I don't believe that people should be on a ketogenic diet long-term unless they first do genetic testing to understand how a high fat diet might affect them in light of their genetic predispositions.  This applies both for those wanting fat loss and those considering keto as a therapeutic diet, and stay with me here because I'm gonna get all science-y for a minute...

For example, in people who have one or two alleles (+/+ or +/-) of the the APOE4 gene, high saturated fat intake is associated with greater risk for Alzheimer's.  Since the ketogenic diet has actually been shown to be beneficial for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, it would be important for APOE4 individuals to limit saturated fats and eat mostly  unsaturated fats.  And while the keto diet has become the hot ticket for fat loss, there are some people with a gene variant who are more likely to actually gain weight if they eat a high fat diet.  There are yet other genetic variants that put people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes if they consume a high fat diet, so bottom line, if you're following or considering the ketogenic lifestyle, you may want to do some genetic testing.

I also recommend regularly checking in with your doctor and monitoring your thyroid and hormone levels since some people (usually women) will experience suboptimal thyroid levels and hormonal changes. If you have thyroid or adrenal issues,  a keto diet may not be the best idea for you.

Carbs Matter

Let's start with what it takes to actually get into ketosis and how to measure it.

Depending on your goals for doing a keto diet, your daily intake of net carbs (total grams of carbohydrate - grams of fiber = net carbs) will vary between about 20-60 grams.  Men can often go higher and still achieve ketosis, especially if they are active, but everyone is different and it takes some people longer to get into ketosis than others which is why it's important to measure your ketones regularly.  Total daily net carbs should be lower If you are using keto as a therapeutic diet, versus for fat loss, but again this varies according to the individual.

I was at recent event when a woman who was "trying the ketogenic diet" refused to taste a special cocktail because it had a few grams of sugar, when meanwhile she was snacking away on cheese crackers.  I think some people believe that just because something isn't sweet means that it doesn't contain sugar.  The fact is that foods made from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes are easily converted into glucose (yep, that's sugar) once we eat them, so it doesn't matter if you're avoiding actual sugar if you're still eating too many carbs.

Measuring Ketone Levels

I’m not going to sugar coat it; accurately measuring ketones is a giant pain in the ass and it’s expensive. Ketones are detected in the blood, breath and urine and testing methods vary greatly in cost and accuracy.  

Most people rely on urine strips which are the least expensive option but are notoriously inaccurate since ketones will appear in lower and lower levels in the urine the longer someone is in ketosis.  Urine strips often work well for the first 1-2 weeks, but after that they become less reliable and results can differ depending on how hydrated you are at the time of testing.  Testing ketones via blood is the most accurate, but it’s also painful and expensive.  Other methods test acetone in breath and include the Ketonix and LevlNow devices.  I had the chance to test the Levl for a couple months when I was following a keto protocol and I was impressed with it, but it requires a significant investment both initially and monthly.  

At this point in time, the Ketonix device may be the happy medium when it comes to price and accuracy, but I’m hopeful that the Levl will become less expensive in the near future.  They’re a great bunch of people and the accuracy of the device is the next best thing to blood testing, so if you don’t mind the price tag, this is a good way to go.

The beauty of measuring your ketones regularly is that you will learn how your food, exercise, and schedule affect your body’s ability to get into and stay in ketosis.  If you don’t measure you can end up being more or less strict than you need to be and you may not reap the benefits of the protocol.

Not all Fats are Created Equal

Probably the biggest and most detrimental mistake people make when on a keto diet is not being careful about the types of fat they’re eating.  If you’re eating a high fat diet you want to make sure that the fats you’re ingesting are high quality, anti-inflammatory fats, versus inflammatory, processed, or hydrogenated ones, as these will exacerbate the problems that a keto diet is supposed to reverse.

Good fat sources to eat include avocado, olives, coconut, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and fats & dairy products (if you tolerate dairy) from organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed animals.  Fats to avoid as much as possible include processed/refined industrial “vegetable oils” like canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn and peanuts oils, and fats from non-organic and factory-raised animals.

It’s also important to use the right cooking temperature for each type of oil to prevent oxidation for overheating which can turn an otherwise healthy oil into a trans-fat.

Don’t Skimp on Veggies

Another common mistake keto dieters make is not eating enough vegetables.  Getting plenty of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in veggies is crucial for good health, and as long as you’re eating non-starchy vegetables that are low in starches/sugars, you can eat quite a lot of them without going overboard on net carbs.  Some of the best bets are dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, and cucumbers.

Is Keto Right For You?

A ketogenic diet can be healing and life-changing for some and a disaster for others, so it’s important to listen to your gut instincts, talk to a trusted health practitioner, and do some research before diving in.  I’ve coached many clients to successfully navigate a keto protocol so if it’s something you’re considering, let’s talk more about it.  I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have to help you decide if it’s right for you.

As I've said in previous blog posts, I'm not one for bandwagons. In fact, if "everyone is doing it" I'm extra skeptical.  The first question that runs through my head is, does this have any merit or is it just the latest fad? Usually it's a combination of the two and the important thing to ask yourself when you’re intrigued by the newest, hottest thing is “Does this resonate with me as something that might be truly helpful or is it just a shiny new object?” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about figuring out the right approach for your body and your lifestyle, not what’s right for the current Hollywood “it girl”. 

Continually jumping on trend bandwagons will keep you in a cycle of dieting and prevent you from creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that enables you to get results AND enjoy life.  If you are looking for support and guidance in finding the right approach for you, I can help! Click here to schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let’s chat about what you want to achieve.

The Gut-Mood Connection: Preventing and Treating Depression with Food

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Awareness and dialogue around mental health, and depression in particular, is growing all the time. It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many gifted, wonderful people to suicide, but the silver lining is that we’re actually talking about this out loud. Finally. We’re realizing that while people’s lives may appear idyllic on the outside, they are often suffering silently on the inside. Now imagine the impact that depression has on those who are not wealthy or famous and who may not have access to help.

As someone who struggled with depression for over a decade, I know what it’s like to think of death in terms of relief and escape. I am thankful that I had access to therapy coupled with a strong faith and a single mom who taught me and showed me that there is always a way out, even if it’s painful and difficult. I’m grateful that I witnessed people in my family who turned to alcohol and drugs as a means of escape and anesthesia and learned by watching them that substance abuse only made things worse. I am one of the lucky ones.

Many people don’t have access to therapy or treatment and don’t have a strong support system or a relationship with a higher power to lean on in the dark times. And even for those who do have these things, sometimes the pain is just too strong to break free of and they succumb to the overwhelming feeling that there is no way out. Sometimes drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and sometimes they’re not.

Depression is a complex problem and it’s causes can be both numerous and mysterious. To say it is simply due to diet or can easily be fixed with nutrition would be silly and short-sighted. However, more and more studies are showing that the impact of diet and gut health in preventing and treating depression are profound, and for some, dietary changes can mean the difference between life and death. Changing my diet made a huge difference for me and it helped give me the strength (both emotional and physically) to break free of depression.

Only recently has the medical community started to recognize and understand the connection between food and mood, and the data is really exciting! According to this study, our gut microbiota is linked to anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, and a poor diet is a risk factor for these conditions. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome with a healthy diet of unprocessed foods and probiotic foods and/or supplementation is not only beneficial in preventing and treating depression, but can be as effective as anti-depressant medications.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods, sleep, and appetite and it also inhibits pain.  A lack of serotonin has long been blamed as the cause of depression, and this is often the case. However, we’re learning that the lack of serotonin can be a symptom of chronic inflammation and inadequate gut flora. We now know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and that the presence of enough beneficial bacteria is essential for proper serotonin production. So if we have a history of antibiotic use or were not exposed to enough bacteria in birth or childhood, we may not produce enough serotonin.

Another interesting factor is inflammation which is measure by testing C-reactive protein levels. In one studythat followed C-reactive protein levels in over 1000 women for several years, they discovered that the onset of depression was triggered by increased inflammation (higher C-reactive protein). A poor diet and inflammatory foods have been linked to increased C-reactive protein and mood disorders, so getting away from processed, high sugar foods is crucial.

The take home here is that by eating an anti-inflammatory diet and including probiotic foods or taking probiotic supplements, you can help prevent and/or decrease anxiety and depression. Do your best to eat whole foods including plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of clean animal protein (pasture-raised, organic, wild caught, etc.) and limit or avoid processed foods and high glycemic/high sugar foods. Adding in some fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi that contain live cultures and possibly taking a probiotic supplement is also important. These foods can be expensive and aren’t always accessible, but local food banks and non-profits such as Got GreenFoodJustice.org, and othersare working to make fresh, real food more accessible to low-income and marginalized communities.

If you need support is this area or want to learn more about the food-mood connection and what you can do to feel happier and healthier, I’m here to help. Don’t suffer in silence! If you’re struggling with depression, I understand what you’re going through and I’m living proof that you can be free of it. Click here to book a free Coffee Talk session and we can talk confidentially about your concerns. I won’t try to sell you on working with me unless ongoing support is what you’re looking for. 

 

References:

Brain Boosting Healthy Fats and Herbs

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Protecting Brain Health with Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as "essential" nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, I'm only going to highlight their importance to brain health here. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation, and scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.

When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia, and adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.

Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it's important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA - far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.

People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury, so look for wild caught fish which are smaller and lower on the food chain. Your holistic physician or nutrition coach can help you with dietary options and EFA supplements that best meet your needs.

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Hemp Seeds Nourish Brain Health

Although hemp seed comes from the same species of plant as marijuana, it does not contain psychoactive chemicals and it stands on its own regarding health benefits. Hemp is considered "brain-friendly" because it's rich in nutrients, especially omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids - a group of fats the body doesn't make on its own. A healthy ratio of these fatty acids (EFAs) is generally 2:1. Eating hemp seeds provides that balance, which is important for Westerners whose diets typically include more omega-6 fats. These EFAs, plus antioxidants found in hemp, help reduce inflammation, which plays a crucial role in overall health particularly for the heart and the brain.

The protein in hemp is another stand-out nutrient. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids the body cannot manufacture on its own and yet are necessary for many bodily functions. Both fat and protein are critical for brain development from conception through birth and beyond. As we age, we need these nutrients to feed the protective layers around nerve tissue. Researchers are actively examining the benefits of hemp seed for brain health and in relation to conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.

The light, nutty flavor of hemp seeds makes them an easy addition to anyone's diet. Enjoy them raw; blend to make hemp milk; mix into cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, and desserts; or add to soups and other recipes.

Hemp seeds are best bought shelled/hulled and are usually labeled as "hemp seed hearts." Store in the fridge or freezer for the longest preservation of flavor and nutrient content. You can also store hemp in a dry, cool area away from heat sources for up to one year.

Boosting Brain Resilience with Ginkgo & Bacopa

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One of the oldest living species of tree, Ginkgo Biloba's leaves and seeds have been used in botanical medicine for thousands of years. Touted as the "brain herb," Ginkgo has received extensive research attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the role they likely play in supporting healthy cognitive function and treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Two components in Ginkgo help support brain health: Flavonoids, the source of the plant's antioxidant qualities, and Terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow, flushing out free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells from further damage caused by Alzheimer's Disease or vascular dementia.

Numerous studies show Ginkgo has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. For some people, it may work as well as prescription medication for Alzheimer's, but Ginkgo hasn't been tested against all drugs used to treat the disease. Also, testing Ginkgo supplements with healthy young and older adults has not conclusively shown a significant change in cognitive function. It's likely the herb works differently in healthy people compared to people who have an impairment or illness.

Another herb worth noting is Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used for centuries to enhance learning, memory and attention span. Scientists have been investigating Bacopa for potential therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer's and age-related memory loss. Research suggests it may have a protective effect on brain cells by supporting optimal nerve conduction or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process.

Botanical medicines can interact with other drugs and medical conditions. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if either of these herbs are appropriate for you.

Broccoli: Superhero of Superfoods

Shaped like green mini-trees, broccoli is a real superhero. It is loaded with a powerhouse of nutrients beneficial for digestion, heart health, and the immune system. It's also high in fiber vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A and B6 and research shows that these nutrients, along with other compounds in broccoli, have anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.

Broccoli is packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. These amazing substances influence cancer-fighting activity within our bodies, such as stimulating the immune system, stopping substances we breathe or eat from becoming carcinogens, reducing inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely, and even slowing the growth rate of cancer cells.

Broccoli's secret weapon is actually two chemicals: sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C). These chemicals boost the body's ability to detoxify, help moderate estrogen levels, and have been shown to slow the progression of tumors. In fact, sulforaphane is the most powerful antioxodant know to man according to a study at Johns Hopkins University and broccoli sprouts are the best source.

It's easy to add broccoli to your diet because you can enjoy it raw, steamed, in stir-fry, soups, slaws, and even in a green smoothie. A serving is one cup; aim for two to three servings per week. But don't eat that broccoli raw! You're actually better off steaming it lightly before eating it since raw cruciferous veggies can have thyroid suppressive effects.  You'll also want to enjoy it with a little fat like organic extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed ghee to make sure that you get all those wonderful fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Tips for buying the best broccoli: Choose organic broccoli with uniformly colored florets (dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety) and with no yellowing. Store in a plastic bag, with no extra air trapped inside, in the fridge for up to a week

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1549603

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970919062654.htm   

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/Broccoli_SproutDerived_Extract_Protects_Against_Ultraviolet_Radiation

My Adventures In Candidaland - A Breakup Story

I'm nearing the 8-week mark of my sugar-free, starchy food-free, fruit-free, alcohol-free anti-candida diet. I was already gluten, dairy, soy and corn free so adding these additional restrictions was simultaneously easy and super hard. Yeah, I know that sounds confusing, but for those of you with dietary restrictions or food allergies, you know that once you get used to avoiding certain foods, you get used to the drill of label reading, cooking at home A LOT, and asking restaurant servers 16 questions before ordering when you do go out.

That's the easy part. The tough part was taking an already limited diet and whittling it down even more to the point where I'm eating only non-starchy vegetables (no fruit or sweet veg like beets, carrots, squash or roots), some organic, pasture-raised animal proteins, and a few types of nuts and seeds. Admittedly I'm a chocoholic so I've gotten creative with organic cacao in order to get my chocolate fix (see my Chocolate Pot De Crème recipe here). The first 10 days or so I had terrible sugar cravings but they did subside and are now long gone.

So why am I following this crazy, restricted diet protocol? Well, it all started on the day I was born. Yep, we have to go back that far, but you'll see why in a moment. I was a C-section baby, which meant that I was starting off my adventures on earth with two blows to my unformed immune system. First, I missed out on all the good bacteria in the birth canal that an infant should be exposed to. This bacteria populates the baby's skin and gut acting as its' first dose of probiotics. Second, since I was a C-section baby, both my mom and I were put on antibiotics, further compromising the good bacteria I did have and making me more prone to thrush and yeast infection. Thankfully my mom breast-fed me so I at least got colostrum, which is crucial for a healthy immune system and gut integrity.

Overall I was a healthy kid but I did get ear infections when I was little, all of which were treated with antibiotics. But no biggie, still a pretty healthy kid with a pretty healthy, unprocessed diet - thanks mom! When I hit my early teen years I started getting acne and, yes, you guessed it, more antibiotics. I think I took every antibiotic on the market to "help" my skin and when that didn't do the trick we turned to Accutane and after 2 courses of that my skin was significantly better, although still not acne-free. Little did I know at the time that my acne was due to a dairy intolerance and could have been remedied by a simple dietary change.

After high school I moved from sunny California to Seattle for college and went from eating mostly home cooked, unprocessed food to eating cafeteria food at school. I was a vegetarian at the time and had no clue how to be a healthy vegetarian, which meant I was eating mostly high starch, high sugar foods since those were the only vegetarian options available on campus. Now keep in mind that this was the early 90's when "high carb, low fat" was all the rage. I thought I was eating healthy but I was actually creating a massive systemic candida overgrowth and I began to feel generally cruddy. I was tired and depressed and by the end of freshman year I had gained nearly 30 pounds. I had such bad brain fog that I would study for hours but just couldn't retain the information. My grades suffered and my dream of getting into veterinary school slipped away before my eyes.

That summer I went home to California and managed to eat less and exercise my way back down to only 10 pounds heavier than I was when I arrived at school, but I still felt cruddy and I began feeling severely depressed. I though about food constantly and my cravings for sugar and starchy foods were out of control. I returned to school that Fall and almost immediately began gaining weight again. It was then that I began binge eating and purging, and suicidal thoughts became a regular part of my life. I was 19 years old.

About halfway through my second year at university it was clear that I didn't have the grades to get into vet school (which is more competitive than med school), and I was heartbroken. I quite literally did not know what to do with myself since all I had ever wanted to do was be a veterinarian. I was more depressed than ever and I often planned out how I could or would commit suicide. Thankfully my love for my mom and my faith saved me. I never acted on it because I knew that it would be devastating for my mom and I knew that God had a plan for my life that I couldn't just give up on. 

The bingeing and purging escalated to the point that I finally knew I needed help so I reluctantly reached out to my mom and told her what had been going on. Being the amazingly compassionate and giving person she is, she started doing some research and eventually found a nearby treatment center for eating disorders where I went through a couple years of pretty intense therapy. It wasn't a cure but it did get me out of the cycle of bingeing and purging and helped me to make peace with my body and create a healthier relationship with food.

I felt like I was beginning to recognize myself again and I knew it was time to refocus and find purpose and direction for my life. After being in such a rigid, scientific setting at university I wanted to do something more creative. I loved to cook and I thought that just maybe I could put my fascination (or obsession) with food to good use, so I decided to go to culinary arts school.

My culinary program was full at the time so I decided to start with their pastry program and move to culinary after finishing that. Long story short I was around bread and pastries all day every day and I was a poor student, so what did I end up eating every day? Yep, bread and pastries. Again, it was the 90's and high carb was supposed to be good for you. Ugh! If you know anything about candidiasis, or candida overgrowth (if you don't, check out this great article by Dr. Amy Myers), you know that eating high starch/sugar foods feed the yeast, creating a systemic problem that affects everything from gut health to brain function.

For those of us who have a history of antibiotic usage, we're more vulnerable because we no longer have sufficient amounts of the healthy bacteria and yeasts that keep the candida in check. My history of antibiotics and super high carb diet had created the perfect environment for the systemic candida overgrowth that would affect my life for the next 2 decades, baffling doctor after doctor with my constellation of mystery symptoms.

Fast forward several years and I had finally found a Naturopathic Doctor who understood what was happening in my body. I was eating a much better more balanced diet and had lost quite a bit of weight at this point so she helped me address my hypothyroid and nutritional deficiencies. She also put me on an anti-fungal drug but unfortunately didn't tell me that yeast will build a resistance to anti-fungal drugs and herbs if it is still being well fed. So while the treatment helped for a while, it didn't solve the problem or address my overall gut health.

As difficult as that part of my life was, it gave me a passion for natural healing and using food as medicine and it's what eventually led me to go back to nutrition school. I have since learned so much about the power of food in overcoming illness and I can share that knowledge to help others avoid or overcome similar challenges.

My health has come such a long way over the last few years and I am beyond blessed to have access to amazing doctors who deal with chronic illness all the time. I began feeling familiar symptoms again after the holidays so I decided enough was enough! It was time to break up with candida once and for all and to put my nutrition knowledge to work for me. So I am now undergoing anti-fungal treatment with the incomparable Dr. Giandomenico at Sophia Health Institute (where I work part-time as the Nutrition Counselor), and simultaneously following a strict anti-candida diet.

In the last couple of years I kept hoping that by eating clean, nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods and focusing on restoring my gut health, any residual candida issues would disappear. But I now understand that once candidiasis becomes chronic, it takes much more targeted and extreme measures to truly eradicate an overgrowth, especially one that's been around for years. But what is a few months of following a restricted diet in the grand scope of things? I'd rather do this for a few months than continue to struggle with my health for years to come.

At nearly 2 months into this protocol I have next to no brain fog, my energy has increased, I'm sleeping SO much better, and I don't have the vicious sugar cravings and constant bloated feeling anymore. I've had some rough days here and there which is normal due to the toxins released by the yeast as it dies off (read more about die off reactions here), but overall it has been a positive, necessary and long overdue change.

Even if you're not dealing with candidiasis you may benefit from saying goodbye to sugar for a while. I know it can seem overwhelming or even impossible to eliminate favorite foods from your diet like sugar, gluten and dairy, but you may not need to say goodbye to them forever. After a sufficient time of allowing the gut to heal on a therapeutic diet, most people are able to reintroduce certain foods in moderate amounts with no problem so it's not necessarily a death sentence for those foods. If you've been struggling with any chronic illness or condition, I encourage you to do some soul searching and ask yourself what do you want more? Do you want that tasty food that is only enjoyable for a short moment in time and may be destroying your health, or do you want a vibrant, healthy and functional body for a lifetime?

Are you ready to breakup with candida or another digestive issue? If so I'd love to support you. Click here to schedule a complimentary Coffee Talk session and let's talk about your journey to true wellness.

The Benefits of Bone Broth

Originally published on the Sophia Health Institute blog on July 10, 2015.

Bone broth has become quite a hot topic in the nutrition world as of late, but this incredibly nourishing and healing food is no Johnny-come-lately. People have been making broths for centuries as a rich source of nutrition and in order to use parts of an animal that would otherwise be inedible. By boiling bones, ligaments and other animal parts, the healing compounds in the food are released to create an easily digested source of protein and minerals. These compounds (collagen, amino acids and minerals) have the ability to transform your health, so why not reap their benefits with a delicious, versatile broth?

There are three types of traditional broths – broth, meat stock and bone broth. While these terms are often used interchangeably, and they are all made with similar methods, the ingredients used and the end product are quite different.

Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones and is simmered for a relatively short time – only 45 minutes to 2 hours. It is lighter in texture and flavor and is not as nutritionally dense as meat stock or bone broth.

Meat stock is prepared using pieces of meat containing joints such as a whole chicken, whole turkey or chicken thighs, or a lamb shank. Meat stock is cooked for about 1 ½ -3 hours for poultry and up to 6 hours for beef or lamb. It has a lighter flavor than bone broth but still offers similar health benefits while being easier to digest for some individuals. Meat stock is great as a base for stew and makes a hearty meal with the addition of vegetables.

Because bone broth contains high levels of the amino acid glutamine, it may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with severely compromised gut health. If this is the case, meat stock is a better option since it has a different amino acid profile than bone broth, mainly glycine and proline, which are more easily digested. Those with histamine intolerance may also have a reaction to longer-cooked broths.

Bone broth on the other hand is made with bones and joints with very little meat included. It is also cooked much longer (up to 24 hours for chicken or fish and 48 hours for beef or lamb), with the addition of an acid such as vinegar to extract the amino acids and minerals from the bones, joints and marrow.

Until about 1930 when pharmaceuticals began to take over, doctors prescribed bone broths for a wide range of ailments including upset stomach in adults, and colic and milk allergies in infants. The “conditional amino acids” in bone broth are considered nonessential but become essential when we are very ill or stressed and unable to produce them. This is one of the main reasons it is such a healing food.

The Amazing Benefits of bone broth:

  • Aids digestion and stimulates production of stomach acid, gastric juices and bile salts.
  • Rich in amino acids (proline, glycine, glutamine, arginine, hydroxyproline) and gelatin which can help heal leaky gut syndrome by “healing and sealing” the gut.
  • Supports detoxification of cells, the gut and the liver.
  • Can reduce food allergies and sensitivities.
  • Can help improve kidney function.
  • Promotes muscle sparing during rapid weight loss due to illness
  • Reduces inflammation in the respiratory system, and mitigates the side effects of colds, flu and upper respiratory infections.
  • Rich in gelatin, glucosamine and chondroitin, which relieve joint pain and promote healthy bones, joints, connective tissue, skin, hair and nails.
  • Increases collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.
  • Excellent source of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, silicon and potassium) necessary for bone and dental health – great news for us dairy-free folks!
  • Helps prevent and satisfy cravings.
  • Provides a wide variety of electrolytes to maintain proper hydration and fluid balance.
  • Ideally one should consume 1-2 cups per day, either right before or with your meals. Some people are intimidated by the idea of making their own bone broth, but it is actually quite easy to make using a simple slow cooker recipe.

For the best quality bone broth it is important to source bones from pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed and finished cows, lamb and venison, pastured chickens and wild caught fish. I recommend seeking out a butcher in your area who specializes in local, pastured meats or purchasing from a reputable source online such as US Wellness Meats. You can also check out EatWild’s Directory of Farms to find a resource in your area.

If you don’t want to make your own bone broth there are a few excellent options for purchasing it. Kettle and Fire make shelf stable, organic, grass-fed beef bone broth from pasture-raised cattle. The Brothery makes delicious organic chicken and organic grass-fed beef bone broth. Real Bone Broth also makes organic chicken, organic beef and wild-caught fish broths which are available online at Wise Choice Market and select retailers

There are a few store-bought bone broth options available now but sadly they don’t contain even a fraction of the nutrition and benefits that homemade broth does and they are extremely expensive in comparison to making your own. In addition they often contain flavorings or other ingredients such as MSG or high FODMAP vegetables that can be problematic for those with gut health issues.

In our modern day culture of quick fixes and treat-the-symptoms mindset in the mainstream medical community, it is more important than ever to remember that food can indeed be medicine. Preparing traditional foods is a wonderful way to reconnect with our food and heal our bodies in a delicious and fulfilling way.

References:

Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitroRennard BO, et al. 2011

Aglaée Jacob, M.S., R.D., Digestive Health with Real Food (Paleo Media Group, LLC, 2013)

Bone Broth, Broths and Stocks – by Nourished Kitchen

Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite by Dr. Josh Axe

Applying GAPS Principles for Better Health by Hilary Moshman, MPH and Victoria LaFont, NTP – Price Pottenger Journal Vol. 39 / No. 1, Spring 2015

The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett

Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin – by Dr. Kaayla Daniel June 18, 2003