Love Your Guts

Can we just talk about the Microbiome for just a minute please? Chances are that you have heard of it but not quite sure what it is. It’s a subject that has just recently become on the forefront of health and wellness.  So what is it exactly? The Microbiome is a vast ecosystem of bacteria that lives on and in our bodies. From on the skin to in the mouth but most importantly in the intestines. There are about 100 trillion of these microbes living in our bodies. There are more bacteria in our bodies than there are human cells in our bodies. So essentially you are more bacteria than you are, well, YOU.

These little guys protect us from pathogens , help break down food, aids in digestion, increase energy levels and mood, synthesizes vitamins within the body, regulate body weight and MOST importantly boosts immunity. 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. The lack of healthy gut bacteria can lead to a slew of issues like asthma, diabetes, leaky gut, arthritis, fibromyalgia, eczema and psoriasis and several other auto-immune diseases.

We may not realize it but every day we are consuming things that are destroying our little friends. Among these things are sugar,  over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, alcohol, pesticides, chlorinated water, processed foods,  meat and dairy. Even stress and sleepless nights can effect your microbiome.

THE MOST important thing you can do for optimum health and longevity is to repair and restore your gut flora. Benefits of a healthy microbiome are:

  • improved immunity
  • improved mental health
  • boosts energy
  • supports a healthy weight
  • aids in digestion
  • reduces stress
  • regulates hormones
  • contributes to longevity
  • regulates cholesterol

So, how do we repair and restore? Obviously we need to cut back or eliminate the things I mentioned earlier that destroy. But we also need to add in foods with polyphenols such as colorful fruits and veggies. Foods high in fiber such as leafy greens. Eat prebiotic foods such as asparagus, garlic, onions and bananas. These foods contain undigestible fiber that we can’t digest but our gut bacteria can and thrives on. But the most important  thing in my opinion is probiotics in the form of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and my absolute favorite Kombucha. Kombucha is fermented black tea and I am obsessed with it. You really should try it. It comes in several different flavors. It really is the easiest way to get all those little guys back into our system. You just buy it from the store and drink it. Now I must warn you, it’s an acquired taste. The first time I tried it to say I didn’t like it is an understatement. But now I love it and I actually crave it because i know the wonders that is is doing for my body. So just try it and don’t give up on it. You will learn to love it. I promise! So grab a bottle and sit back and let these little magicians do their magic.

Ditch the Soda!!

This country is plagued with food related illnesses. More now than any other time in history. Things like cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and obesity. What do you think the #1 cause to obesity is? It’s SUGAR! This nation is addicted to sugar. Especially in the form of SODA! Each person takes in approximately 150 pounds of sugar each year. Children have a 60% increase in obesity with 1 can a day and women have a 80% chance of type 2 diabetes with just 1 can a day. Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine!! No wonder why! Sodas have no nutritional value. ZERO. And with each sip is a deficit in health. The staggering causes of damage to our bodies is so major it gets it’s very own paragraph. Please see below:

Soda destroys tooth enamel, causes osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, dehydration, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, high blood pressure, childhood diabetes, cancer, inflammation, changes in microbiome, leaky gut, raises triglycerides, acid forming to the blood, lowers good cholesterol, IBS, spikes blood sugar, lowers testosterone in men and infertility in women. I just want to note that diet soda is no better. So don’t go running out to the store for that as a replacement. With chemicals like aspartame, MSG, and artificial flavors, these drinks are a recipe for disaster. These chemicals have been linked to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain damage, learning disorders, tumor development, MS, behavioral problems and seizures.

A 20 ounce soda has over 100% of the RDA of sugar. 15 teaspoons of sugar!! Now I know we don’t want to drink water all the time, with every meal. Sometimes we need something more. Well I have the solution. It’s iced green tea! This stuff literally is the healthiest beverage on the planet. This drink isn’t just to satisfy a craving. It’s actually an investment in your health and it tastes so good. The health benefits to drinking sweet tea also gets it’s own paragraph. Please see below:

Loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols which reduce the formation of free radicals that cause aging and disease, improves brain function, burns fat, lowers the risk of cancer, prevents inflammation, fights viruses, lowers risk of heart disease, lowers bad cholesterol and is an anti-bacterial so its actually good for dental hygiene.

You can prepare this drink 2 different ways. As a single serving or if you have a family you can make a boatload and keep it in the refrigerator at all times for easy access. I know teenagers and younger kids that prefer this  iced tea over soda any day.

Iced Green Tea Beverage:

Single serving:

2 cups filtered or spring water

2 teabags of green tea of choice. Decaffeinated. Always.

1 Tbsp Agave syrup

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan,  remove from heat add teabags and let steep for 15 minutes. Add about a Tablespoon of agave, stir well and serve over ice with a lime wedge.

Family sized

14 cups of spring or filtered water

14 teabags of green tea of choice. Decaffeinated. Always.

8  Tbsp of agave nectar (about 1/2 cup but you can add more or less to taste)

Add 14 cups of water to stockpot and bring to a boil, remove from heat and add teabags. I use a clip to hold the teabags on the edge of the pot. Let steep for 15-20 minutes or longer. Remove teabags and add agave.You can adjust agave to personal taste. Stir. Put in refrigerator and let chill. This will fit into a gallon sized pitcher. And as always, serve with a lime wedge.

I don’t know why almost everything I make is served with a lime wedge but it is what it is.

Now please don’t freak out about the Agave nectar. It’s a great alternative to sugar. It has a very low glycemic index so you wont have a spike in blood sugar. It’s sweeter than sugar so you need less and it’s not an artificial sweetener. It comes from a plant. It also is not addictive and doesn’t have all the side effects as sugar. Give it a try!! It’s time to ditch the soda and start to live a healthier SUGAR FREE life.

Tip: The higher quality of green tea, the better. I really like Bigalow brand. Also, I am not a fan of stimulants so i never us caffeinated teas. I personally don’t handle them well. I also believe this isn’t a good idea to offer to children.

What lies beneath

I started this blog because it was my hope to inspire others to live a life of total health and well-being. Because of this I have to mention what I think is THE SOURCE of total well-being. Meditation. It dates back thousands of years. Most all religions have some form or another of meditation. So why should you do it? It just makes you better. It enables you to deal with things that arise in life much better. Best selling author and Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says it best: “Meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on”. It also provides countless benefits:

Mental: reduces anxiety, stress and depression, improves creativity, increases happiness, improves mental clarity and concentration and sharpens the mind.

Physical: decreases blood pressure, increases heart health, slows aging, improves immune system, increases energy, decreases inflammation and encourages a healthy lifestyle.

There are literally hundreds of other benefits but I think you get my drift.

I hear people say over and over again that is too hard or they could never sit still for that long or their minds can never slow down. Honestly these types of people could probably benefit the most. Meditation can be intimidating but its actually quite easy when you have an open mind about it and you can’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it right away. Most people have what we call “monkey minds”. You know, the kind of people that can’t shut their minds off and I know we all have that voice inside our heads that just wont shut up. We want to quiet all that noise so you are receptive to the important things. Now don’t expect something profound to happen when your meditating. It’s not what happens WHILE  you meditate, it’s what happens BECAUSE you meditate.

It is seriously so easy. You just have to sit down, in a chair or on the floor, in a crossed legged position. Set a timer or download the Insight Timer app on your phone. Close your eyes. You can start small at 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes. You can just sit quietly or you can focus on your breaths. The inhale and the exhale. You can imagine you are at a beach hearing the ocean waves. When you first start to meditate that little annoying voice will start to have conversations with itself in your mind or you will start to plan your dinner grocery list. According to Pema Chodron in her book “When things fall apart” you just quietly say to yourself “thinking” without judgement and frustration but with compassion and focus inward again. You will have to do this several times but don’t give up. Its gets easier and easier and you’ll get better and better at it. Try to do this every day.

To most people meditation can be physically and mentally difficult. The boredom. The restlessness. The hurting back and sore knees. Meditation shows us how to be with ourselves through any kind of experience. Anyone who has ever studied yoga knows about the eight limb path of Ashtanga yoga. The third limb is the Asana (the postures), the seventh is Dhyana (meditation) and the eighth limb is Samadhi (bliss). What I am getting at is that the asanas (putting ourselves in very uncomfortable positions and situations) is actually preparing us for that long meditative seat so that we can eventually, hopefully reach pure bliss and enlightenment. I mean, isn’t that what we are here for? Isn’t that what we all want?

So what are you waiting for? Go do it! Go sit down.  After all aren’t you worth it. It’s an investment in you. Its free. All you need is your body and  a few minutes a day. Do this every day, forever.

Tip: The human body has over 75,000 Nadis ( energy channels). There may come a time when you are meditating and feel nauseous, light headed and just plain old sick. This is happening because your body may be receiving more energy than it can handle at that moment. Stop meditating and come back later or the next day. This may not happen at all but I just wanted to prepare you. Do not give up. Keep coming back to that seat. Day after day and reap the benefits.

Banana Turmeric Smoothie

Every morning I have a banana smoothie. It always consists of 5 bananas and water. Sometimes I’ll add dates, strawberries, mangoes or sometimes I’ll use homemade cashew milk. My absolute favorite is the banana and turmeric smoothie. By now we should all know that the banana is natures perfect food. Bananas are full of potassium (600mg) which is an essential mineral and electrolyte necessary for muscular function and digestion. Containing 3g of fiber this superfood contains vitamins A, E, K C, B6 and folic acid which is essential for red blood cell formation. Bananas also contain 27 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Please do not be afraid of carbs and fall prey to those unhealthy low carb diets. Carbohydrates are so important for proper brain function and fat metabolism. They are also a quick and long-term form of energy. Now, all carbs are not created equal. Don’t get the healthy complex carbs confused with the processed junk food carbs like bread and doughnuts. Bananas are very alkaline forming to the body which is a good thing. Scientists say that disease cannot reside in an alkaline body. You’ll need to make sure you always eat ripe fruits. Ripe fruits are alkaline forming and un-ripe fruits are acid forming. Ripe fruits are also easier to digest. Ripe bananas with brown spots are also sweeter with higher levels of anti-oxidants. Bananas are only 105 calories and 0 grams of fat per serving (1 banana).

Now let’s talk about turmeric. Turmeric is a root that comes from the curcumin longa plant. It has a thick skin on it that when removed reveals a beautiful vibrant orange color. The taste is a warm peppery flavor. Turmeric is best known as the base to make curry. Turmeric has been used as a form of self healing in Chinese medicine and  Indian Ayurveda for thousands of years. It is natures anti-inflammatory. Experts have compared it to Ibuprofen,  hydrocortisone and chemotherapy agents. It is known to destroy cancer cells as well as multi drug resistant cancers and protects against radiation induced damage. Turmeric also  protects against heavy metal toxicity and is even known to prevent and also reverse Alzheimer’s Disease. Used to treat IBS, Rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and childhood leukemia and also improves cardiovascular health, liver function and lowers cholesterol. I mean the list for benefits goes on and on and on. Use of Turmeric for treatment of illness and disease is not approved by the FDA nor will it probably ever be due to the fact that it grows freely on the earth and it threatens the pharmaceutical industry. It does, however, have a  6,000 year old track record for safe use in Ayurveda medicine.

Now for the recipe:

5 bananas ( you can use less if this seems too much)

2 cups filtered or spring water

1″piece of organic turmeric root

1/2 tsp cinnamon

a pinch or an 1/8 tsp fresh cracked black pepper (studies show that the piperine in black pepper increases absorbability)

Add all the ingredients into a high speed blender and pulse until smooth and then blend on high for a second.

Tip: store turmeric in the fridge wrapped loosely in a paper towel and put in an open zip-lock bag.

Watermelon Juice

We all know watermelon to be a summer time staple but have you ever tried drinking the juice? If you haven’t,  I am telling you, you are missing out. This delightful drink is so refreshing. Did you know that watermelon has more Lycopene than tomatoes? This antioxidant has been known to reduce the risks of heart disease. It also contains  the amino acid Citruline which can reduce blood pressure, improve circulation and aid in weight loss. Rich in electrolytes, like potassium, watermelon is very hydrating and since watermelon is 92% water it promotes intestinal elimination, detoxifies the body , cleanses the kidneys and helps relieve muscle soreness. Because it contains Beta Carotene, and where it gets it’s beautiful red color, it is also a natural anti-inflammatory. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B6 and the minerals magnesium and calcium. If you use the seeds you are also adding the benefits of iron, zinc and copper. Its is also very alkalizing to the body which we all know that the body does not want to be acidic but in a slightly alkaline state.  The health benefits of eating (or drinking) watermelon are as follows:

asthma

arthritis

bladder problems

cholesterol

constipation

heart disease

prostate cancer

acne

And the list just goes on and on and on.

Well i have the perfect way to get in all these nutrients without having to sit down and eat a whole watermelon. Drink it. This is THE most refreshing drink EVER!! All you need is 2 ingredients:

4 cups cut up watermelon

Juice of 1/2 lime

Simply put in a high speed blender and mix until smooth. It’s that easy.

This is a perfect beverage to take to the beach, a picnic or even bring to a BBQ.  Always keep a watermelon on hand and this is a great way to stay hydrated all summer long.

Laws of Attraction

We’ve all heard of vision boards. We all have probably even done one in elementary school.  A vision board is basically a collage of all the things you want to be, do or have in life. They’ve been around for generations but more recently came popular from the documentary The Secret. Unrealized goals are because you didn’t put enough positive thoughts and energy into the process. A vision board is a powerful visualization tool that activates The Universal Laws of Attraction.

The science behind vision boards is actually very fascinating. The Laws of Attraction are actually a direct result of the filtering system of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).  It’s located at the base of the human brain stem. It’s job is to sort incoming data and acts as a receiver of information it deems important. The brain is capable of handling up to 100 trillion bits of information at any given time. When you visualize you are emitting a powerful frequency into the universe.

Think about it as a radio that can only pick up one channel at a time. Your radio needs to be tuned in to a specific frequency to pick up the channel you want. Vision boards program the RAS to pay attention to the things that are important to you. So it’s time to start creating the life you want. Make a vision board and hang it somewhere that you will always see it and make it a point to look at it often. All you’ll need is:

Poster board

Glue stick

Assortment of magazines

First, go through all the magazines and just cut out the things that really speak to your soul. Next, glue photos on board starting from the middle. You may want to lay them out on the board first before glueing to make sure you have the layout you want. Finally, hang on the wall in a room that you are in often and look at your beautiful board as much as you can and start visualizing!!

“What we are tomorrow comes from our thoughts of yesterday and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is a creation of our mind” The Buddha

By the way, the picture is my very own personal vision board.

Swim Responsibly

Summer is upon us and millions of people will be headed  to the beach this holiday weekend. Now I know that we care about what chemicals go on us and our children and the harmful effects on our bodies, but when buying sunscreen do we take into consideration the effects these chemicals have on the environment?

Annually 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off our bodies and into our oceans. Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. The chemicals in most sunscreens on the market can awaken viruses in coral causing it to die. Also, the tiniest of the oceans inhabitants (phytoplankton) ingest these chemicals and in turn effecting those who eat the plankton. Below is a list of chemicals that we should avoid:

Oxybenzone

Butylparaben

Octinoxate

Methyllbenzylidene camphor

Additionally these chemicals are very harmful to people as well as the environment. Luckily there are some amazing companies that care about the oceans. Badger Sunscreen, Alba Botanicals and Hang Ten have great products on the market. You can also visit http://www.ewg.org (Environmental Working Group) and take a look at the safest sunscreens list. You can also make your own sunscreen at home. And Don’t forget your hat and umbrella!

Vegan Pad Thai

So I absolutely love Pad Thai. When I transitioned from a vegetarian to a vegan I thought I would probably  never be able to eat it again because of the fish sauce it contained. It’s easy to just omit the eggs. I searched the internet high and low and found a lot of sauce recipes that didn’t contain fish sauce but there were just so many of them and none of them were similar. I decided to make my own. My kitchen turned into a test kitchen and what I came up with is so delicious and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love this stuff and now Pad Thai is one of my Go-To meals. Although this obviously isn’t traditional Pad Thai sauce I think you will love it anyway. The recipe is as follows:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup brown sugar

3-4 drops sesame oil

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp tamarind paste

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp corn starch

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together with a wisk. Set aside. I like to keep mine in squeeze bottle and store in the refrigerator for easy access.

Boil 4 oz ( 1/2 package) of Annie Chun’s Pad Thai rice noodles for 8 minutes.

While your noodles are boiling put 2 cups shredded cabbage, 1 cup shredded carrots and 1/2 tsp garlic powder ( you can use fresh garlic but i prefer this) in about 1 Tbsp Olive oil or peanut oil. Cook on medium to high heat, stirring often, until tender and then add some bean sprouts at the last minute.

Drain rice noodles and rinse. Squeeze out excess water. Push veggies over to one side of pan and put rice noodles in pan with veggies. Squeeze Pad Thai sauce over noodles ( about 1/3-1/4 cup depending on preference) and then mix all ingredients together and let sauce thicken for about a minute. Pour onto plate and sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve with a fresh lime wedge.

Now this just feeds me. If you are feeding 2-3 people just double the rice noodles, sauce and veggies.

I hope you like this as much as I do. I make this as least twice a week. And remember, it is so easy to make food choices that don’t take away the choices of another living being.

Daily Ayurvedic Rituals

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian philosophy known as The Science of Life. These teachings date back 5000 years and were originally written in Sanskrit. In these ancient texts are taught the science of self healing in the form of daily rituals.

Some of these healing techniques are not really realistic to the everyday person but there are some that are.  The 4 main ones that I like to include in my daily or weekly routine and their benefits are listed below:

Drinking warm lemon water:  Alkalizes the body, detoxifies, freshens breath, aids in digestion, improves immune system, fights cancer, clear skin, hydrates the lymphatic system and purifies blood.

Tip: Take daily with with a tablespoon of black strap molasses for your daily dose of calcium, iron, potassium, copper and magnesium. Drink every morning.

Oil Pulling: Whitens teeth, prevents bad breath, strengthens teeth and gums, detoxifies body, prevents cavities and gingivitis and boosts immune system.

Tip: Use extra virgin, cold pressed, organic coconut oil. Swish in mouth for no less than 20 minutes and spit in trash, it may clog drains. I usually do it in the shower and you forget your doing it.

Tongue Scraping: Removes toxins from tongue, eliminates bad breath, improves dental health, aids digestion and detoxifies body.

Tip: Invest in a U-shaped stainless steel tongue scraper. You can find them at he local health food store and they are about $7.

Dry Brushing: Improves circulation, exfoliates dead skin, releases fatty deposits under skin, increases muscle tone, eliminates toxins and increases lymphatic drainage.

Tip: Buy a dry brush that has a removable handle and gently buff in a circular motion towards the heart. Available at health food stores.

These are some easy routines you can slowly incorporate into your daily routine to improve your health and detoxify the body. Remember, It takes 21 days to form a habit and 100 days to make that habit automatic!

The Alkalizing Green Smoothie

So what is it with the smoothie craze these days? One reason is that smoothies allow you to get in a lot of plant nutrients in one meal in liquid form instead of trying to eat the same amount of foods at one sitting. Another reason is the convenience of them. Just whip one up in your high speed blender and go. I personally drink one for lunch almost every single day. This smoothie is highly alkalizing. The Western diet consists of eating a lot of acidic foods such as meat, dairy, refined sugars , alcohol and processed foods. Consuming acidic foods can lead to diseases like cancer,  osteoporosis and candida. The body does not want to be acidic. It wants to be in a slightly alkaline state. The idea is that disease cannot reside in an alkaline body. A way to convert the body into a more alkalized state is to eat alkalizing foods. I am creature of habit so I drink this same smoothie, day after day, and have for the past 5 years. This smoothie is sure to get your body where it wants to be.

Here is my recipe, and every single ingredient is alkalizing:

3-4 cups tightly packed fresh organic spinach

3 cups spring or filtered water

1/2 lemon (rind, juice, everything)

1″ piece of ginger

1 small cucumber

1 large apple

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.

This smoothie is definitely more of an earthy, fresh, crisp flavor but I love it. Other alkalizing foods are kale, celery, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries and grapes. Play around with these foods and come up with some more yummy combinations. Another combo I like that is sweeter is spinach and bananas. Reduce your intake of acidic foods and you’ll start to feel healthier, have more energy and get sick less.

Tips: Even if you have a high speed blender or not I find it easier if you blend the spinach and water first before adding the other ingredients. Also, having all different sizes of mason jars around is very convenient and you produce less waste because you reuse them over and over again. I am obsessed with  mason jars and use them all the time. Do yourself a favor and get some and while you are at it get some of those nifty plastic lids. I get mine at Target. I hope you enjoy the smoothie and your journey to a healthier you!!