November 2011

Love Your Gut~Tips For Digestive Health

digestion, healthy stomach, love your gutThe National Institute of Health reports that 70 million people, about a ¼ of us, suffer from digestive disorders; ranging from bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea and constipation, to name a few. And feeling discomfort isn’t the only consequence of an angry stomach: a growing legion of experts, alternative and mainstream practitioners alike, agree that there is a connection between what happens inside our gut and what goes on throughout the rest of our bodies.

Researcher shows the poor gut health is linked to the like of allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease and mood disorders; further confirming that a healthy gut leads to a healthier outlook on life. Our stomachs are a phenomenal indicator of what is occurring within; whether we experience gurgles or gas, stomach upsets typically signal a problem linked to bacteria, stress or even our favorite foods.

A healthy gut is cultivated from birth, when the digestive system immediately fills with trillions of bacteria; so much in fact, that digestive bacteria outnumber our body cells by 10 to 1. Sadly, many of us struggle to maintain a healthy balance of flora from an early age. With the typical North American diet being low in fiber and high in processed, sugary foods; it is no wonder why many of us have digestive systems that lack equilibrium. Even those among us who prioritize a clean lifestyle, can be doing much harm by overusing medications; certain antibiotics, anti inflammatory and acid blocking drugs can impeded normal digestive function.

You would be surprised to know that exposure to germs, in fact, strengthens a developed immune system and fills the gut with beneficial bacteria. Over use of antibiotics can be harmful to health because they destroy not only the bad bacteria in the body, but the good stuff too.

And for women who find themselves wound up on more than one occasion, take heed; there is a nervous system in our bowels that works independently of our brains and has been dubbed the second brain; so research is beginning to suggest that stress upsets our stomach and an upset gut is likely to cause depression as the brain is to cause IBS. One of the reasons anti-depressants that maintain serotonin levels incite GI problems because 95% of serotonin in the body is found within the gut. Bombarding the system with neurotransmitters can upset the GI tracts balance and trigger nausea, diarrhea and constipation.

Sometimes food that we refer to as healthy can be upset stomach catalysts. Bloating, cramping, gas, nausea and diarrhea can result in irritation from the following:

Dairy: Milk contains a sugar called lactose; and normally the body produces lactase in order to digest it. However, some people make less lactase as they age, leading to stomach upsets. Try low fat milk or other alternatives like almond milk to find relief.

Soy: Tofu, edamame, soy milk are obvious sources of soy; but soy is found in many cereals, broths and soups. So be sure to read the labels closely.

Fructose: Like lactose, many people lack the ability to digest fructose, a condition called fructose malabsorption. Eat less fruit, fruit juice, honey, sugar and high fructose corn syrup to find relief.

Gluten: Although one would think that Celiac disease is intolerance; it is in fact an auto immune disease. Celiac suffers should steer clear of wheat, barley, rye as they all contain gluten.

To keep our guts working at an optimal level, we should follow these rules to stay on track.

  • Eat Fresh

A few indulgences here or there will not affect too much change; but a daily junk food habit can cause harm. The majority of our diets should consist of natural and unrefined foods that can be easily broken down by our bodies.

  • Feed the Bacteria

Fiber filled foods act like fertilizer for bacteria within our stomachs; insoluble fiber like wheat, beans, bran and green leafy vegetables help move waste out of our bodies. Aim for 25 grams per day.

  • Keep It Moving

We should all have one bowel movement per day; and it should be banana shaped and float. This is a sign that things are working okay on the inside. For those struggling to “get moving”, try 2 tablespoons of flaxseed, or vitamin C powder to jump start the system.

  • Reboot

Adding a probiotic to our regimen can have dramatic effects on our intestinal flora but limiting harmful bacteria and growth of yeast. Look for products containing at least 10 billion CFUs; high levels of probiotics are found in fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

  • Say No To Colonics and Enemas

Although many celebrities report using colonics to detoxify; the best way to speed transit time is to consume plenty of fiber. Colonics can perforate the colon and introduce harmful bacteria.

  • Drink Up

Staying hydrated increases the chance of your stools being soft and easy to pass. An easy way to know that you are consuming enough water is to check the color of your urine; very light yellow means you are on track.

Staying balanced with a healthy diet, exercise and stress free living contributes to our digestive health; and the occasional flare up is pretty common- we are human and imperfect after all. But more than a few episodes could signal something beyond the occasional over indulgence. If your problems persist, even after making lifestyle changes, consult your health practitioner to assess the issues; and learn tools, tips and tricks to love your gut again!

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Curried Carrot Soup- Health In A Bowl

curry, carrot, soup

Since my days in chef whites, making soup has been my favorite kitchen activity. I love being able to layer flavors and achieve a complex, flavorful and affordable meal! And as the weather cools, my soup efforts kick into high gear. The reason soup is so fitting for the season is the same reason smoothies and fresh juices are perfect winter indulgence; soup, like smoothies and juices, are so nutrient dense when prepared with whole ingredients, helping to fend off sickness by boosting immunity.

This soup is a dream, delicious, easy to prepare with a healthful punch; the addition of coconut milk and lentils, beefs up the simple carrot soup, making it appropriate as a meal when paired with sturdy whole grain bread.

So why is this soup so good for you?

  • Coconut milk: Coconut milk helps in warding off colds and coughs by keeping the immune system healthy. It supplies vitamin C to the body which boosts the immunity; and with winter in full swing around these parts, immunity has become very important. And coconut milk can in fact help with weight loss. Despite it being high in saturated fat; the saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids the body quickly turns into energy instead of being stored as fat.
  • Curry: Not only does curry warm the body from the inside out; but curry spice has also been touted as a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and heart disease. And we are all educated about cancer, but heart disease robs women of their lives at an alarming rate- it isn’t just a man’s disease. And with Breast cancer month having passed and Movember drawing to close, it bears mentioning that Curry’s curcumin may help deactivate genes that can trigger the onset and spread of breast cancer and may be effective in slowing the progression of prostate and colorectal cancers.
  • Carrots: What’s not to love about carrots? Carrots contain mass amounts of beta-carotene, which serves as an antioxidant that helps the body to fight the cell damage occurring in the body with pollutants in the bloodstream and even oxygen. It also help slows down the aging of cells and various negative effect associated with aging. And speaking of anti aging, Carrot has strong cleansing properties that are effective in detoxifying the liver, so that the overall effects of acne that are caused by toxins from the blood are minimized. Carrot is also useful for treating uneven skin tones because of pigmentation. The vitamin A and other nutrients in carrots efficiently nourish the skin by preventing dry skin and other skin blemishes.

So you can see why this soup is so boss!


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Love Thy Self- Self Love Pep Talk!

self love, confidence, positive thinking

We all have those days when we feel blah. We look in the mirror and instead of seeing strong, beautiful women, we see all the things we dislike about ourselves; a roll here, a wrinkle there, you name it. I have those days on occasion; where I find myself being over critical of everything. I get into a mood, I lose all motivation to exercise or cook healthy meals; and the negative self talk kicks into high gear. Serving only to feed the bad energy.

It’s seems to be a part of the female existence; because we, as women, tend to be very hard on ourselves. Questing for the perfect body, an amazing career and strong relationships can be a heavy burden to bear and it can get to be a little much. And, although it is easy to blame society and the media, the responsibility falls on us to stand together in solidarity; and shout from the rooftops that WE ARE PERFECT JUST THE WAY WE ARE.

Could I stand to lose 10 pounds? Maybe. Would I like to make more money? Who wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that who I am, in this very moment, isn’t worthy of happiness. Self love is so often calibrated on factors that have nothing to do with true love; and it can be so easy to attempt to measure our merits on things that have no bearing on our worth as women, mothers, daughter, wives and human beings.

I wax poetic about stopping the clock, losing weight, eating healthy; and I do this, not for the sake of vanity, but because I believe that we are all worthy of the abundance that living a healthy life brings. And when we fill our heads with negative thoughts, they begin to permeate our minds and deceive us into thinking that we aren’t worthy of this abundance.

Appreciating where we are at this very moment is easier said than done, I struggle with it all the time; but when a mood hits, being in the now is what helps me climb out of the doldrums and get my groove back. Taking the time to exercise, eat healthy and take inventory of the wonderful things I continue to accomplish on a daily basis goes a long way to helping me appreciate my station in life and my body- rolls, wrinkles and all!

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The Beauty Of Sleep~ Foods For Insomnia


What we eat plays a significant role in how we sleep. Being sleep deprived for extended periods of time leads to lethargy, loss of concentration, irritability and premature aging; and that is just scratching the surface of the repercussions associated with not getting enough sleep. But for those who suffer from insomnia, there are alternatives to popping sleep aids, which have been shown to be habit forming.

Changing our diets can serve to ease symptoms of insomnia naturally; thereby reuniting us once again with the beloved Sandman!

  • Rediscover the Bedtime Snack

While it is inadvisable to eat a heavy meal before hitting the sheets, a small meal in the evening can offer some calming effects. The best bedtime snacks contain both carbohydrates and the amino acid tryptophan, which is a natural sleep aid. Foods that are abundant in tryptophan are dairy products, soy milk, legumes like chickpeas and lentil, nuts and seeds. The reason tryptophan should be consumed with carbohydrates, is because carbs make tryptophan more available to the brain; further explaining why a big bowl of pasta makes us feel drowsy. Fantastic bedtime snack options are a piece of whole grain bread with almond butter or a bowl of whole grain cereal with almond milk.

  • Cut the Caffeine

Caffeine is a well known stimulant and it comes by that title honestly, as it increases nervous system activity for hours; so avoiding all caffeine sources six to eight hours before you plan on going to bed is paramount in an attempt to conquer insomnia naturally. Coffee is the most common source of caffeine, however, other culprits are chocolate and energy drinks; but the little known caffeine culprits are guarana seeds, kola nuts and yerba mate. So be sure to check the labels of the foods you are eating if insomnia is an issue.

  • Get Hormonal

Melatonin is secreted by the body and it serves to regulate sleep patterns. It is available in supplement form; but before you reach for the bottle (the pill bottle) look to tart cherries, grapes and walnuts to provide it naturally. A glass of tart cherry juice and a handful of walnuts would make for a delicious bed time snack.

  • Mineral Makeover

Studies have shown that a marginal magnesium deficiency can excite the brain and impede relaxation at night. Anxiety reducing magnesium can be found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, black beans and almonds; having a meal with one or more of these ingredients serves to bring on the ZZZ’s when you are ready to hit the sheets.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the food we eat has the power to transform our lives; and for those who suffer from mild to moderate insomnia, small changes in diet can significant impact how and when they rest their heads!

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Get Healthy, Save Money

I often hear people say “it’s expensive to live healthily”; but I am here to say, those people are WRONG! Adopting a lifestyle that promotes wellness can and will serve to put cash back in our pockets; with healthcare costs mounting, it proves wise to make small changes to keep our money in our pockets.

Eating right and exercising prevents over 80% of diseases; including diabetes, stroke and cancer, which are preventable through dietary changes and exercise. Yes, fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than canned or processed option; but think of the healthcare savings. Medications and treatments are far more costly to our health AND our bottom line. To add more value to your life and wallet, include fruits and vegetables in every meal; and workout for 20 minutes three to four times a week; this is the simple equation to longevity and savings.

Kicking a smoking habit not only reduces health risks, and there are many; but it can put another $2000-$5000 a year back in financial coffer. Not to mention the savings on health care; and not just our own health care, but our children too; if a child develops asthma due to second smoke, or our partner gets the dreaded cancer and is unable to work, the cost to our families and bank accounts is HUGE. Bottom line the savings from quitting smoking are innumerable. So do it today. Quitting smoking is hard, I get that; but there are many free or low cost smoking cessation programs for people to take advantage- so there really is NO EXCUSE.

Don’t be afraid to ask your employer about health incentives; quite often companies have them in place, but no one takes advantage of them. Nearly 60% of large employers use financial incentives to help their employees get healthy. And if your employer doesn’t have incentives in place, talk to them about starting some! Stress to them the benefits of healthy and supported employees, such as better productivity and emotional investment in the company. It has been proven that employers, who empower their employees to be healthy and educated about being their best selves, build tribes of loyal workers.

Eating and living healthily SAVES money and in addition to saving money, it will add years to our lives. Taking the initiative with our health and asking for help when needed will pave the road to lifelong and effortless health.