Friday, February 10, 2017


This is a very long overdue post. Like many of you, I get side tracked by life events and work and putting out fires that take up more time than I really want to spend. Yes, Life Happens. I'm feeling compelled to write again now if only to try to make sense of the world since it feels like everything has changed at a fundamental level somewhere down deep. There was a deep dull thud somewhere that reverberated up and broke my day-to-day focus. Something deep in the human psyche has shifted. This shift has been in the works for decades, maybe even centuries, but the pressure built enough to finally erupt. Like a tectonic shift or a volcanic eruption, the landscape is forever changed.

This is both ominous and exciting. There are as many people waking up to understanding the interconnectedness of all things as there are people who would prefer to fight this awakening figuratively and literally. We can see this energy come to the fore through our recent US elections and the marches that have followed. We can see this with Brexit and with ISIS. We can see this in small ways and large. For every bully that now feels supported in their ignorance, there is a newly minted Good Samaritan lending a hand to someone in need for the first time. For every group of hired thugs sent to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, there are groups of good-hearted people coming together to face opposition with love. For every politician wishing to create division and exploit fear, there are community leaders focused on creating ways to bridge gaps and create communication and community.

It is difficult to find one's footing in the world as it is because it is not like the world as it was, and it never will be again. We can't use the old instruction manual. We have to create a new one. This applies to global relations as well as intimate familial ones. We have to find new ways to be together, new ways to communicate, new ways to expand our thoughts to include the world at large even as we work to build healthy interpersonal relationships using new tools.

I am both terrified and elated at the same time. We need disruption to grow. Sometimes we need pain to know joy, and sickness to appreciate health. I can't tell you how many times I have heard clients tell me things like "getting cancer saved my life". With crisis comes opportunity. We have a choice each day to face the world through the lens of fear or curiosity. Taking steps towards exploring the unknown either in the macro of interstellar space, or the micro of our inner cellular and emotional depths, takes courage yes, but the drive must come from curiosity and wonder and not fear if we are not only looking for a good outcome but also a way to embrace the journey itself.

Join me?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rethinking Holiday Eating

Some traditions are worth re-thinking. Remember that our ideas of “traditional foods” are not really that old: somehow I don’t think the Pilgrims used marshmallow topping on their sweet potatoes or made cherry Jello molds with canned pears in high fructose corn syrup. When you think about it, holiday feasting is really about our emotional connections with family and friends, much more so than about food. Still, now is a time to celebrate and spoil yourself and each other with the Best you can provide. With that in mind, I encourage you to shop for, prepare and consume the best Quality foods available in your budget. This isn’t a time to focus on quantity. No one needs 2 weeks worth of leftover water-injected, deep fried turkey (which decomposes into histamine-heavy time bombs the longer it sits in your fridge).

Find the freshest produce and whole foods you can and build your menus with these as the focus.

Splurge on meats that were fed and raised as close to the way they would naturally grow, eating what they would naturally eat, and free from genetically modified feeds and hormones.

Instead of high glycemic starchy dishes, emphasize multi-colored rainbows of veggies and fruits the liven up the plate and the palate. Skip the mashed potatoes in favor of roasted cauliflower with balsalmic reduction. Trade up from the marshmallow topped sticky sweet potato mess to a basket of backed sweet potato "fries" tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Add pomegranate seeds and sheep feta to your green salad. Get creative! I challenge you to find one new vegetable dish to add to your feast.

For desserts, instead of choosing store-bought pies made with high fructose corn syrup, consider making a fruit crumble or tossing frozen berries with whole coconut milk and topping with shavings of the deepest, darkest, most decadent chocolate you can find.

And remember, you’ll feel much better if you stick to a single serving of everything. You can always go back for seconds 3 hours later -- AFTER a walk with your guests...

Get Decadent. Get Moving. Get REAL.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You a Mutant? Probably...

We are mutant life forms, continually morphing into new versions of ourselves as we strive to find biochemical balance and a genetic advantage. I’m not talking about genetically modified organisms or GMOs which are tampered with in the laboratory to have foreign DNA from completely different species implanted in their own DNA. I’m talking about naturally occurring mismatches, duplication or omission of nucleic acids that make up the rungs of our DNA ladder in each cell. Every single one of us is a mutant. Some of these mutations happened as mistakes along the way but some are thought to have been in direct response to the environment or exposures that gave that human group a survival advantage.

One mutation with regards to food that many of us are familiar with is lactose tolerance. Yes, tolerance. The “normal” non-mutated gene that codes for the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose (the sugar in milk) is supposed to shut off by the time we’re about 6 years old. We are actually supposed to be lactose intolerant after that because we should have stopped breast feeding by then. But in the northern tribes of Europe about 10,000 years ago a mutation developed that left the gene turned on and therefore allowed these people to continue to consume dairy products into adulthood. This is why the vast majority of people with genetic roots in Europe are not lactose intolerant, but a large portion of the populations of Asia and Africa are unable to consume lactose as adults. This genetic mutation gave the northern tribes a big survival advantage. So, if you can enjoy cheese and ice cream, you are definitely a mutant.

As the technology develops faster and faster enabling us to look deeper into our genetic structure, we are able to trace mutations and track how they effect our ability to utilize foods and nutrients. The twisted ladder shape of the double helix that contains the precise recipe for you is carefully protected inside each of your cells. Each of the rungs of the DNA ladder are made up of base pairs from 4 possible nucleotides: T, A, C or G. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is when a single base nucleotide differs between paired chromosomes in a human, or between members of the same biological species. This SNP (or allele) can be passed along to children from their parents because each child receives half their DNA from each parent. If a child inherits a single allele they are said to be heterozygous for that gene. If a child inherits a copy from each parent they are then homozygous for that allele. In some cases these swaps completely inactivate that portion of the gene. In other cases the activity of the gene can be altered so that the enzymes it encodes are sped up or slowed down.

One of the most well-known discoveries in the last few decades has been the MTHFR gene mutations, most notably the “C677T” SNP. This notation refers to the location on the map of the MTHFR gene. So the C677T mutation is located at the 677th “rung” of the ladder where a nucleotide that should have been coded a C was replaced with a T. If you inherit a single MTHFR C677T, it is possible that the activity of a key enzyme for protecting your long-term health is compromised by about 40%. If you are homozygous for this SNP, this key system can be 70% impaired in it’s ability to maintain and protect your health. The MTHFR gene is one of a team that helps the body create, utilize and distribute methyl groups which are essential for the proper functioning of your immune system, neurotransmitters, gut health, cardiovascular health, and so much more. The really exciting thing is that now that we know what to look for, we also know how to bypass this potential long term health issue with simple nutrients. If you are working with a medical team that utilizes some key genetic testing, you can even discover your sensitivity to certain medications and can get a better sense of which ones will work best for your genome.

Nutrigenomics is the study of how our genes interact with nutrients, foods, medications and other substances. We are unraveling the mystery of our personal recipes and we are finding that we really have a lot of control over our health every day by exposing our genes to foods, nutrients, toxins, medications and other substances we ingest. Everyday we communicate with our environment by eating and drinking and breathing. Everyday we can choose health. As we learn more about inherited SNPs, we can become even more specific in how to create and maintain health as it is spelled out in our personal recipes.

For a really good discussion of genetic testing as it stands today, take some time to watch this NOVA segment. There are a number of companies that offer decoding of segments of your genome, but it's still too costly and cumbersome to decode all 30,000+ genes that make up the complete recipe for you. If you decide to use one of these services, I highly recommend working with someone who can help you understand the results. It is crucial to keep in mind that genes are like playing cards in a big card game. Just because you got dealt certain cards doesn't mean they will ever get played, they're just part of the hand you got dealt. How you choose to live your life will effect the tendencies for some of those cards to be played, but we don't know all the variables that cause a particular gene to be expressed or not. It is a vast web of interactions that in a way I hope we never really figure out completely.

Get Curious. Get Informed. Get REAL.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Good Gut Bugs

When you really look closely, we are really only just the transport mechanism for water and bacteria. Seriously. The only time we are 100% human cells and DNA is when we are in utero. As soon as we make our way down the birth canal we start to accumulate foreign critters who take up residence in and on our bodies for the rest of our lives, and beyond. Kids are supposed to play in the dirt and taste their world. This is how the gut gets populated with a healthy balance of good bugs to battle the bad ones. New studies have shown that it's actually really beneficial for parents to "clean" off a dropped binky by sucking on it and then popping back into the baby's mouth. This helps transfer some of the parent's good bugs to the child.

If you count up the numbers of cells with “not self” DNA and compare that number to the number of cells that contain actual self DNA you’ll be astounded to discover that we are outnumbered by nearly a factor of ten. We are actually only about 10% human compared to 90% microbial. Now this is NOT a treatise on how to go out and eradicate the 90% “non-human” part of us! Quite the contrary. I want to expand your thinking to include these hitch-hikers as part of what it means to be a healthy human.

Just like a healthy forest, biodiversity is the key. We have seen clearly what happens when we clear-cut a forest and then come back to plant a mono-culture of a single tree species in neat rows ready to harvest at a later date. This mono-culture system hobbles along, never very healthy, always in danger of being over run by a single disease or single pest outbreak, and always in danger of a devastating fire. By contrast, a healthy dynamic, bio-diverse forest is resilient and capable of fending off pests, disease and complete annihilation by fire exactly because it has a wide range of inhabitants that all help maintain the system in their large and small ways.

Western lifestyles, food supplies, medications, toxins and recent obsession with antibacterial soaps has essentially performed a massive clear-cutting of our internal environment. We SHOULD play host to trillions of various microorganisms in as delicate a balance as the exterior environment with similar predator/prey relationships, similar herbivore/omnivore players, and similar toxin removal/recycling systems. When we mess with these internal environments as we have our external ones, we find similar problems of mono-culture and systems out of balance. We need a healthy balance of microbes to help us process foods, maintain a healthy pH (of skin, teeth, mucus membranes, and GI tract), detoxify certain substances, make certain nutrients bioavailable that we can’t liberate from foods, and keep our insides and outsides free from dangerous invaders. Without this symbiosis we become more vulnerable to disease, nutrient deficiency, and toxic overload.

Interestingly enough, these critters that we carry around actually exert a certain amount of mind control over their human hosts. This happens in both balanced and imbalanced systems. That sugar craving you might be having is very possibly the whispers of a virulent bacteria or fungus that thrives on sugar and has patched into the body’s communication systems to tell the brain to find more sugary foods! Because the gut has more neurotransmitter receptor sites than the brain does, our hitch-hikers have direct access to systemic communication.

When the gut flora is out of balance you can experience a panoply of symptoms including anxiety, depression, addictive behavior, ADD/ADHD, IBS/IBD, Crohn’s disease, arthritis flares, food allergies, migraines, and much more. If you have ever been treated with antibiotics and you eat a standard American diet full of easy sugar and low dose antibiotics, it is highly likely that your gut microbes need to be attended to in order to reclaim and maintain your health. Consider a stool test to determine what populations you harbor and work with a qualified healthcare professional to restore a happy belly environment. It’s not as simple as eating yogurt or taking L. acidophilus capsules.

Get populated! Get balanced! Get REAL.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Do Supplements Kill?

Politics and marketing campaigns aside, the short answer is: anything can kill you if you consume enough of it, including water. If you’ve heard me speak about this issue you’ve heard me talk about a “window of benefit” that is dose dependent for anything we ingest. Everything we consume creates reactions inside us that are both beneficial and detrimental. Health is created when the benefits consistently outweigh the problems, and healthy cell and system function is supported.

Take a look at water for example. There is a huge window of benefit for water consumption and a significant problem if none is ingested. You have to get to a point where you overwhelm the capacity of the kidneys before you can cause death be essentially internal drowning.

Alcohol, on the other hand, has a very small window of benefit and there is no detriment to abstention. Consuming about one serving of alcohol per day confers some benefit to the cardiovascular system and contributes to stress reduction, but more than this and you end up rapidly pushing into the problem area where the damage caused by this toxin escalates beyond the benefits gained.

Everything we take in essentially is either food, medicine or poison depending on dose. For a bit of morbid humor, check out this website where you can find out how much of certain popular foods and drinks will be the death of you. I discovered it would take 51.87 Starbucks Mocha Grandes in rapid succession for me to be pushing up daisies.

I often hear clients say things like “it’s natural, so I took 6 instead of 2”. This can be a HUGE mistake. Keep in mind that nearly all our medications were at least originally derived from herbs and other compounds found in the natural world. The heart medication digitalis, for example, is derived from the plant that bears it’s name. Digitalis, or Foxglove, can be deadly: in sufficient quantities it will stop the heart.

Two supplements that have been in the news lately for being supposedly "deadly" are vitamin E and calcium. It is important to understand a few things about what gets reported and why. First, most of these studies are conducted by what’s called “meta analysis” which means researchers went back into the results of older studies to see if they could find any other interesting results or patterns. These are not studies that were done specifically on the nutrient in question. The calcium study has another issue as well which is that participants "self reported" their calcium intake. Often self reporting is extremely inaccurate (just try remembering what you had for dinner every day this week).

Another problem is a fundamental scientific process mistake:often results that show association between elements infer causation. Still further issues are the lack of ability to remove enough variables to make the results meaningful such as what dose that was taken (especially if self-reported), the type or quality of the supplement source, if it was combined with other nutrients or not, medication interaction, food intake, activity level or type, current state of participants' health, or anything about the toxic loads these people were carrying. It is next to impossible to isolate the effects of a single nutrient in these "studies".

In the case of the meta-analysis "study" of vitamin E there was no consideration of type or isolate. Vitamin E is actually a family of similar compounds with a wide range of actions. There are now believed to be 12 different types. Most supplements only include one: d-alpha tocopherol. Most of the studies that were done specifically on “vitamin E” actually were done using dl-alpha tocopherol (notice there is an “l” after the “d”) which is a laboratory created version of this single constituent of the vitamin E family. If we have learned anything in nutrition in general it is that the natural world doesn’t do well when it is out of balance. Hyper-loading of a single form of vitamin E (and a synthetic version on top of that) throws the internal environment out of balance and pushes us out of the window of benefit for this substance.

Another thing to keep in mind is the comparison of death rates by cause before you get super uptight and worried about supplements. There are thousands and thousands of more deaths caused by adverse medication reactions or medication mistakes than any herb or supplement use. The number of deaths in the US that can be attributed to medical mistakes is estimated at over 200,000 per year, and that doesn’t include medication overdoses. In 2008, the number of deaths due to prescription pain killers alone was over 41,000 which exceeded the 38,000 deaths due to car accidents. The record for the year with the highest number of deaths attributed to supplements is 2005. The total number that year? 230.

One more thing to remember is you often get what you pay for with supplements. The cheapest brands use the cheapest base materials. Yes, there may be “x” amount of milligrams of a nutrient in that tablet, but it may be in a form the body can’t even recognize or use so all you end up doing is adding to your detoxification load and possibly compromising the function of vital organs. That said, just because a supplement is pricey, doesn't mean it's good or that you need it.

Although supplements can help correct medication induced nutrient deficiencies, they can also can interact with medications in dangerous ways. It is extremely important that you work with someone who really knows about nutrients and reads up regularly on the latest research so you know what the results actually mean for you and your health, especially if you are taking any pharmaceuticals. Too many people self-prescribe natural substances in toxic doses from inferior materials and end up causing more problems than they solve. For another good perspective please visit this article published on the well respected medical news feed Medscape. Get Educated. Get Safe. Get Real.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reader Question: "What is the relationship between gluten and thyroid issues?"

It is estimated that about 90% of thyroid issues are actually autoimmune disorders with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis topping the list of occurrence. There is strong evidence that both Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s are linked to gluten intolerance. Why? Because the wheat gluten protein gliadin is so close in structure to the proteins of the thyroid gland that they are mistaken for one another. Gliadin gets into the bloodstream often due to injury to the gut mucosa. This then allows intact proteins to bypass the normal route of absorption which requires them to be broken down to basic amino acids or simple peptides. When this breach occurs, the gliadin protein is essentially still labeled as such and is mistaken as a bad guy by the immune system. Unfortunately, the thyroid gland is often tagged as well and becomes an innocent target for destruction by the immune system.

It is for this reason it is imperative that you avoid gluten if you already know you have Hashimoto’s or Graves disease. Each time you ingest gluten, you activate another assault on the thyroid which can last as long as six months every time you eat it! There is no way to eat gluten-containing foods safely in this case. It’s not about being gluten-free “most of the time”. You have to swear off it completely to avoid the destruction of your thyroid gland.

How does the gut mucosa get injured to the point of failure? There are many possible answers to this but other key players aside from the highly irritating glidain protein, are the non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that so many of us take. I had one client who called ibuprofen “vitamin I” because he took it daily until we discovered that it was the likely cause of his leaky-gut syndrome and “sudden” onset of multiple food allergies. NSAIDs include ibuprofen and medications with ibuprofen in them like Motrin, super-aspirins like Naproxen, and even those seemingly harmless 81mg “baby aspirin”. Even a single dose of baby aspirin causes bleeding in the gastro-intestinal tract. When taken long-term, NSAIDs can cause huge amounts of silent damage to the gut. Having just said this, it is really important that you don't stop any NSAID therapy prescribed by your healthcare practitioner. Please work with them if you choose to make any changes. There are things that can be done to mitigate the negative effects of NSAIDs if you must be on them long term. If you have put yourself on a regimen of daily baby aspirin, please tell your healthcare provider and have them help you titrate yourself off of them if need be. Going "cold turkey" can be dangerous.

If NSAIDs cause all this damage, why don’t you feel anything? Because the pain receptors in the GI tract are really deep down in the tissue. It’s a good thing too! Believe me, you would not want to feel your stomach lining sloughing off every three days due to its exposure to all that hydrochloric acid! A lot of tissue damage can occur before we register any problem. By then, the leaking has usually been happening for a long time.

Leaky gut syndrome is essentially exactly what it sounds like. Material from the GI tract leaks into circulation and the surrounding tissues without being completely digested. When these food particles leak out of the gut, the immune system sees an invasion and counter-attacks. “Sudden” development of multiple food allergies is a key sign that the gut needs healing. Once the GI tract is sealed back up and healthy, most of those food allergies often disappear because those intact proteins are not making it through any longer.

We are complicated systems of systems. There is nothing we ingest, swallow or breathe in that has only a single effect whether that is food, medicine, air, water, or a toxin. Please don’t self-medicate with supplements or over-the-counter drugs without learning as much as you can about them and working with someone who can help you make the best choices for your health.

Get curious. Get informed. Get Real.

(also published in the

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Soy Conundrum: Part 2

As I said in my last post, this is a HUGE topic that would take volumes to adequately explore. Is soy a human food? My answer is a tentative maybe. Here are more reasons why...

Farming practices: Aside from the fact that nearly all soy grown in the US is now genetically modified, it is important to know that this modification allows soy to withstand heavy doses of herbicides. Unfortunately, because soy is a legume, it is very good at soaking up these toxins and incorporating them into the beans themselves. You can’t wash them off. (GMO issues will be discussed in another posting.) These toxic residues have many potential harmful effects on the human system including acting as endocrine disruptors, meaning they will mess around with your whole hormone system.

Phytoestrogenic properties: “Phyto” means plant, so phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances found in plants. They are present in many different plants including alfalfa sprouts, flaxseeds, clover, hops and thyme, but they are highest in legumes and soy contains the highest amount of them all. Studies have been inconclusive about if these phytoestrogens help menopausal symptoms or if they worsen hormone sensitive cancers. However, these compounds have been shown to have feminizing effects on infant boys and can accelerate sexual maturation in girls. In some cases soy has been implicated in the development of gynecomastia in adult men (the development of breast tissue) and a decrease in sperm production.

Autoimmune disease: More than 70 years worth of studies have connected soy consumption to thyroid disorders, especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is a type of autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism. (Interestingly enough, the exacerbation of Hashimoto’s has also been connected to gluten consumption.) If you suffer from hypothyroid and especially Hashimoto’s, you may find significant symptom relief by eliminating soy. This can seem like a daunting task because soy is everywhere.

Processed foods: Soy is in nearly 60% of all processed foods and basically 100% of fast foods. Soy and soy derivatives are the backbone of the food product industry. The durable nature of soy proteins and their low cost makes them ideal for highly processed foods. If you are trying to avoid soy, the best thing to do is to shop the perimeter of your market where all the REAL food is and cook it yourself. Instead of spending hours trying to read labels to find all the places soy is hidden, spend that time making your own foods.

Cardiovascular health: Soy has been promoted as beneficial for cardiac health. Most of these studies focus on specific constituents of soy called isoflavones. It is important to consider the whole package if soy is used as a food source. It is also important to look at the way some of these studies were put together. Benefits have been shown when conventionally raised animal products are replaced by soy as a protein source, but is the outcome due to soy or due to the reduction in damaged fats and proteins that come from conventional meats and dairy? Be sure to look carefully at studies, both pro and con.

Conclusion: Caution. Soy can be beneficial for humans in small amounts if fermented. Certain constituents may be beneficial for treatment of certain disease states. But the use of soy in its highly processed forms (TVP, soy protein isolate, etc) as the primary source of protein in the diet can be problematic, especially for children.

Get curious. Get informed. Get Real.

(also published on the