I am excited for the fresh, first of the season, crop of local Oregon strawberries. I think they make a fantastic combination with freshly made kefir (I make mine from goat milk), a touch of cardamon and local honey!
Yes, that is all there is in my smoothie. I tend to keep them at three ingredients or less and this one is four already (because cardamon – yum!)
And one more thing I usually do with my smoothies: I try my best to not “over-blend” them in order to keep the antioxidants and other nutrients as intact as possible.
Especially kefir – full of B vitamins, vitamin K and precious probiotics – those bugs don’t love to blended at high speed for a long time. So, for this particular smoothie, I only put a spoon of kefir to blend with strawberries, honey and cardamom first. Then, after blending, I gently poured the rest of the kefir in and just gave a shake in my hand. It was mixed perfectly and delicious.
“Julia, prevention does not sell in America,” the mighty health coach/ guru, whose advice I was seeking, told me. It was a few years ago and, frankly, crushing to hear. I did not want to believe it.
Now, fast forward a few years and quite a few mistakes later, I have to admit that you were one hundred per cent correct, Sean. Prevention does NOT sell in America…
But you know what? Realizing that you were correct almost made me stop doing the very things that fed my soul…the very things that made get into this, to begin with.
No, prevention does not sell per se but, what if you are not trying to sell all the time?
What if it is really important to you to be able to speak from your heart and not give a flying ribbon about whether or not what you are talking about is going to make you money in that moment? What if knowing that you are truly serving people out there is enough?
And do we have to put labels on everything? What does “prevention” even mean? In America, or anywhere else, for that matter? How do you know what you might be “preventing” if you actaully never progress to the state of dis-ease?
“All disease begins in the gut,” said Hippocrates. So, what might happen for you if you took very simple steps to optimize your digestion before your body got dis-ease elsewhere?
Another favorite quote of mine, by the way, is by Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, author of “The Dirt Cure.” She said: “ The gut is the soil where the brain grows.” I feel like that saying summarizes pretty succinctly why I feel like hanging out in the “gut-brain axis” space so much and why I have chosen to devote my health coaching career to it.
And this finally brings me back to my upcoming talks at my beloved Portland Classical Chinese Garden. They are called “Gut-Brain Connection: Simple Steps to Better Digestion” and they start this week. The first one is this Thursday, April 4th, please click this link for the complete schedule. While I designed these talks as a four-part series, if you are able to just make one, go for it (I do my best to review what folks might have missed before each one). And something else you might want to know: these are the talks I almost gave up on and actually took a break from for a few years…Until I was suddenly approached by an elderly lady at a local charity auction. She looked at me and said: “Wait! Aren’t you the nutritionist who used to be giving talks at the Portland Chinese Garden? My friend and I, we got SO MUCH out of them…” My jaw nearly hit the floor as I thanked the kind woman, nearly fighting back tears.
You are free to call the upcoming talks whatever you want. Call it “Julia’s Swan Song” if you must (more on that some other time). Just come. The price of garden admission gets you in and the money goes to Lan Su Chinese Garden, a non-for-profit organization whose mission I admire.
Drop by my talks and catch yourself a mindful break in this urban oasis. Stay for as long as you want, check out the tea house (it is superb), take a garden tour and soak it all in. You are more than worth and, I promise, you will not regret these small self-care steps. As for my talks, you will come out of each talk with three (not 10 or 20, just 3) actionable steps to take home with you to optimize your digestion and up-level your energy. Whatever we choose to call it (Peace, Sean:-)), we can all use some of it these days.
I feel full of hope for this year and I hope you do too!
And, I know that soon (if not already), your inbox will be overflowing with emails inviting you to join this or that challenge, and this or that cleanse, accordingly…
Does it seem like, even though this is a brand new year, you are supposed to be starting it exactly the same way as you did any previous year? Does it make sense? The answer is highly subjective. It depends, of course. It depends on what you actually did this time around last year and it really depends on how you are:-).
But what if you started this year full of hope and curiosity about who YOU truly are and what makes you YOU?
What if, instead of embarking on yet another “everybody-does-it-now-New-Year-self-punishment-ritual” you spent the time learning about what foods nourish YOU versus which ones deplete YOU?
Let’s say your friend Jill is over the moon with the daily celery juice craze and, while you have tried it, you honestly cannot stand celery juice.
Does it mean: 1) you are a “celery juice failure;” or 2) there is something about that daily celery juice intake that actually does not work for you, and, thankfully, your body is still strong enough to tell you?
What if you took a look at your life to figure out how to add in more of that gives you energy and minimize what takes your energy away? And what if , while doing that, you discovered that less might be more for YOU (whether it is less of specific food or less exercise, and it really depends on the type)?
What if you finally decided to take care of yourself and nourish your body to let it support you the way it wants to? That is what functional nutrition and lifestyle approach is about and that is what I practice with my clients. Usually, no cleanses are involved. I am not saying cleanses are bad. It is simply that I find that most of us need to nourish and replenish more than we need to purge and cleanse away. And, yet, it depends on each person and their physiology, of course.
And you know what would be a fun thing to do to start off the year? Book a Free Consultation to chat in more details about how we can work together. That is where I cover in great detail how we might go about figuring out what feeds you. There are no strings attached. We get to hang out and chat over tea.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have zero visibility. A human cannot land this plane under these conditions. So we are going to let the plane land itself as it knows how to do it better than a human. Please use the restrooms and fasten your seat belts once back into your seats. In 10 minutes, the captain is handing the flight controls over to the automatic flight system. We are going to remain in this mode for the last 40 minutes of our flight. The captain is asking you to turn off your electronic devices. He asks that you honor his request to prevent any possible interference with the automatic flight control system.”
This is what I heard flying back to Portland with my family two weeks ago. It sounded kind of disturbing but there was not anything to do, really (getting off the plane was no longer an option:-)). All passengers sat quietly, some exchanging nervous glances.
In the end, we had a peaceful and smooth landing. The plane descending on autopilot among the dense fob was eerily quiet.
The last 40 minutes of that flight were a very interesting introspective time for me. Somehow, I expected my brain to go into the “I just want to land safely. This is my wake up call to be doing things differently from now on. I am going to do XYZ (insert your own version of this). Please, Dear Universe, just help this plane land safely. I promise I will not let you down.”
Instead, I found myself quite peaceful. No, I was not really crazy about spending the last 40 minutes of the plane in the “autopilot” mode, including landing. And, of course, I wanted everyone to land safely.
I felt peaceful about the things I have been able to accomplish. I felt like I had been a pretty decent human being overall, both on a personal and professional level. I felt no big regrets and no need to “do things differently.” Of course, there are lots of things I still want to get done while on this planet but there was no desperation and no need for “a fresh new start.”
And that is when I realized that I did not need a New Year resolution. I mean, I did sign up for a new course of study in Bioindivideal Nutrition and Therapeutic Diets later that day (more on that later) but that action was not predicated on our successful landing, it was just something I had planned on doing once home from our trip and back to a reliable WI-fi connection.
Last Sunday morning my daughter and I went to the Powell’s book store (luckily, just a few blocks from our house). We had a wonderful time reading books and chatting over cappuccinos. I thought that we were really fortunate to be able to do this. Fortunate, on so many different levels. I want to do more of that in the next year. In general, more of simple things that bring me joy. I also realize that the more I focus on simple small things that bring me joy, the more energy I have for doing bigger things that might mean a lot to others. I do not think this has be a “resolution” per se, just something to do more of. What do you think?
What are some simple things that can bring you more joy in 2019?
A couple of days ago, I was having lunch with a friend of mine. Who happens to be an amazing colon hydrotheapist here in town. We were chatting about life and business over some delicious food (we are lucky to have some incredible, true farm-to-table, restaurants around here). It sounded like my friend’s business was undergoing some changes and she commented on being grateful to be able to fully address them right now. Because, apparently, business is fairy slow at the moment. Still consistent (because she really is amazing at what she does) but slow, by comparison to other times. Like, compared to after January 1st, when everyone you know will jump on the “cleanse bandwagon” again. Replete with those c-c-c-cold (and oh, so unpalatably sweet tasting to me) green juices/ smoothies. In the middle of January, naturally (when it might be snowing outside and nothing growing in nature for what is going into that smoothie/ juice).
Well, o.k., maybe not everyone you know. I mean, if you know me, you will likely see me putting a generous heap of fresh cilantro on top of my nitrate and sugar-free bacon as I do often. Or, perhaps, I am baking my bacon on top of a generous heap of cabbage as I do often as well. But, no, other than lemon or lime for my warm morning water in the morning, I am not juicing in January (in fact, my beloved Omega Juicer is cleaned and lovingly put away to rest until Spring).
I am also likely not waiting until January for a colonic. I get colonics seasonally yet completely uncoordinated with any cleanse (which I do not do at all, but more on that some other time:-)). Colonics are simply a “maintenance” item for me. I like living my life as if I were on a cleanse without actually being on one. I don’t like sugar (be in straight up sugar, kombucha or so called “healthy” fiber devoid green juice all by itself) and my brain loves good fat. While I happily poop a few times each day (yes, I did just say that), I like colonics for clearing out “the junk you cannot see,” especially after being exposed to toxins when traveling, etc. Incidentally, did you know: anywhere under one daily bowel movement defines constipation? Some food for thought, isn’t it:-)?
My colon hydrotherapist friend has another cool friend who happens to be a shaman. Yes, apparently, I have cool friends who, in turn, have cool friends:-). So she shared some recent words of wisdom from her shaman friend with me. That’s when I learned that November is really supposed to be about the energy of “giving.” Not necessarily in the “Thanksgiving way” as the energy of giving is more of a global source, not restricted to any country celebrating any particular holiday. This made a lot of sense to me as I have been feeling an urge to give a lot lately. In various ways in various places that resonate with me and my energy.
I am in the middle of scheduling free “Simple Steps to Better Digestion” lectures at the Portland Chinese Garden again (stay tuned for specific dates in April 2019). I am also talking to a social services agency to donate my time talking about nutrition and lifestyle practices to support brain health for the seniors. I love donating to food drives (bone broth is my favorite food item to donate at this time of the year). I love spending more time with my kids and volunteering at their schools. I love being able to do all of the things that fill my heart this time of the year. I do not think I need a cleanse, come January 1st. I will have plenty of energy to keep on doing more good things.
What about you?
I hope you get to focus on giving what feels good and being with those who fill your heart. Stay safe and kind to yourself this holiday season. Do not forget to take care of yourself and your body so that you continue to be available to help and be with those who need you. They may not have the time to wait for you going through that cleanse, after all… And it might be more enjoyable (and easier, in my opinion) to simply honor yourself every day of the year, not just for a short period of time after the 1st of the year. Doesn’t that sound liberating? I hope so.
You have my permission to be awesome to yourself. Starting today.
I like living my life as if I were on a cleanse without actually being on one…
Yes it is real and it is becoming more common these days. What it is? It is an autoimmune condition where the antibodies released in response to gluten consumption start attacking your brain (the cerebellum part, to be specific). There is no “cure” other than a complete gluten elimination. If gluten consumption continues in a gluten ataxia sufferer, the damage to the brain can become irreversible.
And you know what else is really interesting about gluten ataxia? People who suffer from it experience no gut symptoms. “Only” the neurological ones. Yes, you read this correctly. And it is as bad as it sounds.
So should you worry about gluten ataxia? Well, no, because worry would not get you very far.
Should you stop eating gluten? Yes, you should. Wait, WHAT? You mean, without even testing??? Well, good luck with testing as an accurate test is very hard to obtain in this case. And how would you feel waiting for a test to confirm that gluten may be “eating” your brain… Would you wait to find out? I chose not to.
Which brings me to resurrecting an article I wrote nearly two and a half years ago. Because when you still believe in something you said a while ago, that is a good thing.
Without further adieu, here is an article from my old blog on which it appeared in June of 2016.
When can I eat gluten AGAIN?
This is a question my clients ask quite often. And and the answer is…”let me tell you a story. But, before I can tell you THAT story, I need to tell you THIS story..” I am kidding. While Dav Pilkey says exactly that in his “Captain Underpants” comic novels (which our whole family reads and laughs hysterically with:-)), I do not say this to my clients. But I will say it on this blog post. Because there is a point to it, so hang in with me…
The first story begins almost 6 years ago…Enter 2010. It is me, just 6 years younger. But I look quite a bit older than I do now.. Because I…just…don’t feel good. I keep “blaming” feeling lousy on various things simply because I really do not understand what is going on. I am overweight, pre-diabetic and very prone to panic attacks. Which is not good because my children are 6 and nearly 3 then.
This is the first time in my life I get diagnosed with an oddly painful and high fever inducing ear infection. For which I have to go on two rounds of antibiotics. In addition, I also have this weird looking, vividly cracking, skin around my eyes which I “blame” on eye moisturizers/ creams. So I keep changing those. To no avail. The skin around my eyes does not look good, no matter what I do.
I suddenly realize that the rash on my hands is getting really uncomfortable also (it itches and, if I scratch it without thinking about it, the skin starts bleeding easily). I am realizing the best way to keep the skin on my hands from getting infected is to apply heavy duty moisturizers and wear cotton gloves during the day…. In the middle of the summer. Which I am spending with my kids at the Oregon coast.
And one day we go to our favorite bakery for lunch only to discover that, in this tourism-driven small coastal town, the bakery is closed Monday through Wednesday. And it is Monday. So we have to have Plan B for lunch. No bread as we never ate “supermarket/ store bread” anyway, only sticking to hand made locally made breads. We were being “healthy” like that, you know… By Thursday, something very strange is happening. The skin around my eyes has healed completely and looks perfectly healthy. I am realizing that the skin on my hands is nearly all healed up too. No longer itchy and no longer bleeding. “What is going on in here?” I ponder, as we are about to order our lunches at the bakery. And, suddenly, a light bulb goes off in my brain. What if…
I decide to go wheat-free through the end of that week. I am figuring I can get back to eating some wheat on Sunday: it will be my son’s birthday and we are ordering delicious custom made cupcakes from our beloved local bakery to celebrate.
By that Sunday, I feel amazing. My brain is so sharp and clear, it is almost surreal. No panic attacks, I just feel calm and happy. Yet, instead of realizing what might be happening, I reach out for one of those cupcakes (I mean, WHAT, am I going to “miss out” on my kid’s 3d birthday???). The cupcake tastes delicious. I feel great! For the first 30 minutes. And, then, all of a sudden, I feel like my whole world is rapidly crashing down. I feel down. I mean, really down. Downright depressed. And I am having an awful migraine. And a panic attack. By the end of the day, the skin on my hands is back to itching and “oozing.” Not fun.
So, that was the fist story.
And the 2nd story is actually beginning now. Fast forward to 2016, shall we?
Let’s recap what had transpired for those past six years. After realizing gluten was making me sick, I got off it completely. For a few years, I never looked back. Because once you feel awesome, why would you, right? Right??? Well, maybe…
Let’s see what “awesome” meant for me. Nearly 40 lbs gone (I did not just “quit” gluten, I went Primal and so out went all grains), weird mood swings and panic attacks gone. No more migraines or PMS symptoms. Skin looking flawless and radiant. My dentist also being a bit puzzled as to why and how my advanced periodontal decease just kind of “went up and left.” I tried to talk to him about my diet change to explain but he just shrugged his shoulders…
And, then, I felt...invincible.Like nothing could hurt me anymore. I mean, I was so strong and flying high. “I must have healed my gut, “I thought. And then: “Wait, I can have gluten again!”
I mean, “only from time to time. ” Only when it was “worth it.” And “only when I have had enough sleep,” as I justified it to myself. And so I did. And what happened when I did have gluten, you might ask? Well, nothing super dramatic on the outside. My skin stayed looking very nice. But I felt like all happiness was “sucked out” of me (akin to a “Dementor’s kiss” in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter”) . I would feel down again, for no apparent reason. Like my life was worthless. As I would learn later, gluten was attacking my brain.And, trust me, this reads better than it actually felt….And, every time I had gluten, I would also wind up with a nasty cold two days later. Because my immune system would switch to trying to fight off that gluten exposure, no more being there on its normal daily job, protecting from bacteria and viruses.
The last time I had A LOT of gluten was when our family went on vacation to Spain. “European gluten really could not hurt me,” I justified it to myself.. The sun was shining brightly, and the food looked delicious: WHO can resist amazing looking local tapas? I wound up with a horrific respiratory tract infection by the end of the trip.
And you know what finally stopped my self-experimentation (or, shall we call it, “self-destruction”), with gluten? Enrolling in the Full Body Systems coursework and getting to study IGG sensitivity as part of the “Immune Intensive” coursework. THAT was when I finally got it. I understood what was “going on in there,” as my mentor, Andrea Nakayama, would like to say.
You see, IGG Sensitivity is a really fascinating thing. It is NOT what your allergist (if you have one) is usually interested in. Allergists look at IGE antibodies (those cause anaphylactic reactions, i.e., true allergies). But, when you are sensitive to a particular food and consume it or a regular basis, you do not react to it strongly. Instead, you are kind of living “in a fog.” Nothing is black or white, things are just kind of “grey” all the time. And, sometimes, they are so “grey,” you don’t really even notice how bright that blue sky over your head is. This is how it was for me. Which, when chasing after two little kids and being exhausted often, did not really strike me as such an oddity. I mean, as Moms, we are often “just tired,” right??? Or, we must “just be getting old,” right?? Right? Wrong!
The truly fascinating thing is that, sometimes. you can actually feel really good shortly after consuming a food you are sensitive to. You can feel happy and alert and even sound super funny and witty to your friends. And then you can feel really crappy afterwards. It is akin to a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” type of scenario. When “under the influence” of the food, you can feel energized, happy and gregarious. You come across as a fun person to hang out with. Yet, if you do notconsume it frequently, you start feeling tremendous withdrawal symptoms. Your can feel withdrawn and depressed. You may not even feel like hanging out with your friends… You NEED that food to get back to “normal.” Whatever “normal” means for you. Which frequently means achy joints, frequent colds, early onset of arthritis, debilitating headaches and PMS (nope, those are not part of a healthy menstrual cycle). And, yet, you get a “rush” when eating the food (hint: your cortisol is up and it is your immune system summoning up a fight). The tricky thing is to stay the course. Because if you eat the food you are sensitive to, after not having eaten it for a while, you will feel like you’ve been hit by a truck full of bricks.Why? Did you suddenly become “more sensitive” to it? Yes and no.
Your body is no longer accustomed to the regular “chronic” poison so it “speaks up loud and clear” when it encounters it. If your body had a voice, it would be screaming: “Are you NUTS? Don’t you know this is POISON for us???”
This is akin to a “snake venom” analogy I have heard before. Apparently, professional snake hunters purposefully inject themselves with small dosages of snake venom prior to the hunting season. They do not die from it, they are just “slightly sick” all the time. The result is that if they were to get bitten by a real snake, they do not die from the massive dose of venom. Their body is “used to it.” But If they do not inject themselves with the venom prior to that accidental real life exposure, they are very likely to die from it.
So, WHEN can I have gluten again? For me, this translates as: “when am I willing to feel like crap on a regular basis again, to the point of no longer remembering what if feels like to feel good?” When am I ready again to stop living my best and love what I do? When am I ready to not be fully present with my kids again? When am I ready to start catching everyone’s colds again?
You see, without gluten, I do not get sick. Ever. Yes, I know this sounds weird but it is true for me. Gluten is my only kryptonyte. Does it mean I am celiac? Nope, not at all! Did I ever test to find out? Nope, I didn’t need to. Besides, the only time you do not get a false negative on the celiac spectrum is when your intestinal villi are destroyed completely.Translation: until your small intestine is destroyed completely by gluten, you cannot get a “celiac” diagnosis. Even while gluten may be slowly killing off your thyroid, your heart or your brain, all along. Do NOT work you way up to that, my friends. SO not worth it!
Incidentally, a similar thing happens with most “gluten sensitivity” tests. Unless you ask your doctor to order a test through Cyrex Labs (currently, the only accurate gluten sensitivity testing lab), your “gluten sensitivity test result” is worthless, at best. And, at worst, it is damaging to your health to be told you “do not have a gluten problem” when you feel otherwise. NOT getting to the full gut destruction (a.k.a., complete small intestinal villus atrophy) is worth a lot. Because, when you stop in time, magic happens. Your body will perform that magic for you when you listen to it. That is when, just like in my case, you finally understand why reacting to gluten again is a “good” thing.
You can stop worrying about “having gluten again.” Because it is not worth it. EVER.
A smart and impressively successful business woman was sitting in my office telling me she needed to lose weight but did not know how to because she “has already tried everything.” She was already eating healthy and exercising plenty. She was not plagued by any disease (and had tested herself for hundreds of them).
Yet, she would periodically do a curious thing. She would make cookies (gluten-free, because she knew gluten was not healthy for her) and then eat the whole sheet of the cookies she had just made. In one sitting. Predictably, she would feel overstuffed and ill immediately afterwards.
She did not understand why she was doing that and wanted to know. “I feel like I am padding myself to protect myself” she kept saying. This woman had been to countless nutrition and mental health professionals, mainstream and alternative kind. I could not tell if the theory of “needing to pad herself” was from her own thinking or something some professional had convinced her of. In a way, it did not really matter because I had a very different hunch: I thought (and still do) that the actual reason for eating a whole sheet of freshly baked cookies was self loathing and self punishment. The fact that, in spite of how incredibly intelligent and successful this woman was (she was also very good looking, even with no make up and in the sweatpants/ shirt she came to see me in), deep inside, she did not believe she deserved anything she had worked so hard to achieve. She had a terrifically rough childhood. Part of her grown-up business success was due to her plea to never feel poor or hungry again. She had plenty of funds to take care of herself now and, yet, deep inside, she did not believe she was worthy of any of it. Hence, the need to eat the whole sheet of cookies to fully justify hating herself shortly after… My heart ached for her and it still does. Because she was one of the most inspiring women I had met with the least amount of self-esteem.
This “self-loathing junk food consumption” thing is nothing new. At all. And, while in the case of that particular individual, a healthier cookie is not the solution necessarily, it is one that could be used as a benign “crutch” if you will. Because you can make cookies with love towards yourself and actually enjoy eating them until you are satisfied without guilt. Enter my grain free collagen cookie. These delicious morsels are stock full of protein and healthy fat. And here is what else is “shocking” about them: your body (even if you do not trust it) will actually stop you before you have eaten too many. You will simply feel too full and satiated before you are physically uncomfortable. Healthy fat and protein have that effect on digestion and metabolism.
Just to prove my point, the last time I made them, I tried to eat the whole tray and I could not. Not even half, and not even close. It was not possible. These “cookies” are too much like a balanced starvation-free meal than a sugar cookie devoid of nutrition. Check them out. Make them. Have them with your morning coffee or make them into an afternoon snack. See how many you can eat in one sitting. Hint: not many. Extra bonus: these keep extremely well in or out of the fridge.
Maple syrup (dark, with minerals intact, please) -1/4 cup
Mix in the dry ingredients and wet ones separately, then combine (a simple whisk and then hands work just fine) to knead into moist dough. Shape and bake at 350 F for ~ 10 minutes (do not let them brown as you do not want to oxidize the nut flour).
Enjoy warm or cold. If you do manage to eat too many at once, your body will remind you not to do so again. Word.
Your body (even if you do not trust it) will actually stop you before you have eaten too many of these. You will feel too full and satiated before you are physically overfull. Healthy fat and protein have that effect on digestion and metabolism.