Category Archives: Natural Medicine

The New Fab 5

In the Functional Nutrition analogy of the Fab 5, Karamo is totally probiotics, Antoni is SCFA, but who would Jonathan be??

While most of us think of Queer Eye when we hear of the Fab 5*, in functional medicine nutrition model this refers to a different group of fabulous:

1) Omega-3 fats

2) Fat soluble Vitamins (A,D,E,K)

3) Glutathione (a master antioxidant and major component of liver detox)

4) Probiotics

5) Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA)

These five tend to be sorely lacking in the modern body and are best influenced by dietary intakes. Fatty cold water fish, cultured foods, loads of vegetables (esp. crucifers for glutathione) and organ meats can have you covered here, and exercise can also increase probiotic diversity, SCFA production in the gut and raise glutathione levels (who knew??)
While supplements are extremely helpful for those who are extremely depleted or chronically ill, starting with the foundation of a healthy diet and exercise is the cheapest, most impactful way to get you there. Here’s how:

A) Include organ meats 1-3 times a week; pate, heart, gizzards, mixing liver in meatballs or burgers, and drinking bone broth are great ways to do this. Organ meats are a great source of fat soluble vitamins and trace minerals. I FINALLY found a pate recipe that I really enjoy (I detest liver) after years of looking in Mickey Trescott’s Nutrient Dense Kitchen. It has been a total game changer.

B) Get a combination of high intensity, high impact movement and more relaxing, low intensity movement weekly. Walk as much as you can (our ancestors easily did 8-10 miles daily) and aim for short, high intensity intervals of 30 minutes or less 2-4 times weekly to boost glutathione levels and promote healthy gut bacterial diversity.

C) Consume cold water fish 3 times a week or supplement with omega-3 fatty acids (including a GLA to ensure appropriate balance of fatty acids when supplementing). Omega 3 fats preserve brain and heart health and keep inflammation at bay.

D) Consume cultured/fermented veggies daily from a variety of sources to easily introduce billions of probiotics into your body. Start with 1 tablespoon and work your way up to 1/2 cup depending on your needs. Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kim chee, and many other options are out there! These foods promote healthy gut flora and crowd out opportunistic infections. Buyer Beware — if these foods are not refrigerated, they do not contain active, live cultures. They must be refrigerated to prevent exploding jars of ferments, so if you see a shelf stable kraut know it is a dead kraut.

E) Fat soluble vitamins are prolific in your cold water fish, organ meats as well as egg yolks. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Vitamin K is most abundant in green vegetables, so load those plates high! Check you levels of Vitamin D in both summer and winter so you can determine appropriate supplementation, if needed. These vitamins are crucial for immune health, bone health, cancer prevention and more.

F) Focus on vegetables! Population studies indicate that the healthiest people consume more vegetables, with 10 or more servings of produce daily demonstrating the greatest benefit. Vegetable fibers directly feed gut bacteria, and they in turn produce short chain fatty acids, which serve as fuel for the cells that line the gut wall. These cells directly impact immunity, gut health and brain health, but lack of integrity in the gut is associated with disease throughout the body, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and osteoporosis. 

A diet rich in fermented, raw and cooked vegetables, nutrient-dense organ meats and seafood, with appropriate levels of exercise can keep you strong, energized and vibrant for all the years of your life. Increased levels of environmental and social stressors coupled with decreasing nutrient density from poor soil and increasing carbon dioxide rates have loaded extra demands upon the body, requiring even more attention to nutrient density to maintain health than was needed just 20-30 years ago. 

That said, increasing demands upon our time and energy can make it even harder to accomplish this. Lack of familiarity with foods like organ meats, or poor experiences with vegetables growing up make it incredibly difficult to bring these foods back into regular fare, even when we know we should. My generation experienced a great deal of gym class trauma and soggy canned spinach that turned many of us away from the very things we needed to thrive. But now we are all adults, and it is up to each of us to overcome our history to serve our future. It took me five years to find a way to eat liver that I enjoy, so don’t give up! Where there is a will there is a way.(A special thank you to Dr. Eric Dorninger for introducing me to the power of the Fab 5!!)

Need help making the changes you want to? Book a Complimentary Discovery Call to see if Vibrance can support you!


Rubber Duckies and Mac & Cheese

These Have More than Color

My Facebook wall lit up last week with this piece from the Seattle Times, discussing the finding of phthalates in boxed macaroni and cheese. Phthalates are an industrial chemical used to soften plastics. Many of us grew up unwittingly consuming phthalates as we chewed on plastic teething rings and hot drank bath water in which our rubber duckies swam. Phthalates were banned from children’s products in the USA over a decade ago. Despite this ban, our children are still exposed – now from foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals, likely due to machinery in the food processing industry and the soft plastics that encase our beverages and, in teens and adults, the lids on our to-go lattes in the morning.

Phthhhh, you may say. Why should I be concerned about the mac and cheese I had as a kid? Why should I be concerned about my kids’ occasional mac and cheese treat?

Phthalates act as endocrine disruptors in the body, which means they interfere with normal hormone functioning in humans and animals. In the case of Phthalates, research shows that they bind to steroid nuclear receptors and steroid binding proteins. This can then inhibit a message to the cell’s nucleus to do any number of things a hormone would signal a nucleus to do (think fundamental actions at the DNA level that will impact cell growth, differentiation, and changes in gene expression) or prevent a hormone from sending a message to other areas of the body.
Estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, estradiol (all are sex hormones), aldosterone (blood pressure), and cortisol all utilize steroid receptors. If phthalates bind to the receptor then these hormones cannot bind to the cell to send a message the body needs to receive.

What does this look like in real life? Phthalates are believed to disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children. It may also disrupt cortisol and progesterone balance by binding to Corticosteroid-binding Globulin (CBG). One study shows that parents with higher levels of phthalate metabolites in urine who have difficulty conceiving appear more likely to give birth to low-weight infants (via IVF).

This article from Slate suggests an occasional box of mac and cheese isn’t going to kill anyone. And while that is true, this argument completely fails to acknowledge that exposure is coming from multiple sources – some of which we cannot easily control. Because phthalates soften plastic, they are used in thousands of products, such as:

  • building materials
  • household furnishings
  • clothing (especially plastic rain coats)
  • cosmetics and personal care products (nail polish, soap, shampoo, hair spray)
  • pharmaceuticals
  • nutritional supplements
  • herbal remedies
  • medical devices
  • dentures
  • children’s toys (especially imported from outside the USA)
  • glow sticks
  • modelling clay
  • food packaging
  • automobiles
  • lubricants
  • waxes
  • cleaning materials
  • insecticides

We consume phthlates via direct ingestion, inhalation, intravenous injection and skin absorption. Products containing phthalates result in exposure through direct contact and use (like hair spray), indirectly through leaching into other products (the mac and cheese), or general environmental contamination (when your neighbor sprays for insects).

At the end of the day, whether or not we buy boxed mac and cheese is one exposure we can easily eliminate. Considering phthalate levels were up to 4 times higher among all boxed mac and cheese (even organic) when compared to a block of cheddar cheese, this becomes an actionable step to reduce exposure. Stopping my organic boxed mac and cheese habit and AquaNet addiction is easier than getting my neighborhood and city to stop using insecticides in public spaces and more realistic than refusing to use vehicles for transportation. Those with dentures or medical devices can reduce additional exposure by these means as well and use dietary changes to help their body process and eliminate existing exposure.

While we may not be aware of all the chemical exposures our bodies have to work around we can change our diet and lifestyle to reduce exposure and make sure our body has the best chance to detoxify what it comes in contact with. Beyond reducing exposure to environmental pollutants and processed foods, consuming a diet rich in vegetables (especially greens and cruciferous veggies) can ensure your body has the necessary components for efficient detoxification. This is especially important if you or your family have a history of infertility, hormone imbalances, or cancer, or if you or a family member suffers from autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes and there is no family history of such illness. Our genetics outline a future if we take the past of least resistance, yet lifestyle and environment determine whether or not we succumb to genetic predisposition. If you have an illness that is unheard of in your family history it may mean that you’ve been exposed to something unique your parents and grandparents have not which triggered genes to promote disease. Much can be done to reduce damage and in some case, put such illnesses into remission and your food choices ALWAYS have an impact on the outcome of your diagnosis, regardless of disease. If you’d like to learn how diet can affect your health or disease management, schedule a complimentary call with VIBRANCE to discuss how you can take control of your health.


Sources and More Info:

An excellent post discussing phthalates and the mac and cheese study in more depth: (

Messerlian, C., Braun, J. M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Williams, P. L., Ford, J. B., Mustieles, V., … & Hauser, R. (2017). Paternal and maternal urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and birth weight of singletons conceived by subfertile couples. Environment International107, 55-64.

Sheikh, I. A., & Beg, M. A. (2017). Endocrine disruption: In silico interactions between phthalate plasticizers and corticosteroid binding globulin. Journal of Applied Toxicology.

Schettler, T. E. D. (2006). Human exposure to phthalates via consumer products. International journal of andrology29(1), 134-139.

Nontoxic Household Cleaning Products (DIY)

clean all the things

Spring is here! There are loads of people who utilize spring as a time to ‘reset’ and shake off the winter sludge with a dietary detox or cleanse. Spring cleaning season is also here, and you may be finally seeing the extent that the dust has accumulated on the blinds now that the sun is shining. While seasonal detoxes can be a great mental reset, if toxins are a concern it is of primary importance not to cleanse your diet for X days, but to first minimize exposure to harmful chemicals every day. I encourage you to go through your cupboards and garage this spring and get rid of harmful pesticides, herbicides, and heavy-duty cleaners which have warning labels on them. While you can pick up some non-toxic cleaners at the store, some of these still contain questionable ingredients and all of them are far more expensive than the DIY recipes I have here that work just as well. Give these a try and let me know what you think!

DIY everyday cleaner – I have a couple bottles of this in the house in various places. Some essential oils have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties; these are the ones I like to use in this cleaner.

  • 1 cup white vinegar (If your countertops are made from marble, granite, or stone, use rubbing alcohol or cheap vodka instead of vinegar (its acidity can harm these surfaces).
  • 1 cup distilled water
  •  10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils (lemon, tea tree, orange, pine, and clove all have great antibacterial action). Alternatively, add the peel from 1-2 citrus fruits instead!

Mix all in a spray bottle and use when needed.

Use Lemon and Salt to Clean Wooden Cutting Boards & Surfaces

All Natural Kitchen Cleaning Hacks Photo via The Kitchn

Clean butcher blocks and wooden cutting boards with lemon and salt! Sprinkle the wooden surface with coarse salt and then scour it well using a lemon that has been cut in half. Squeeze it slightly as you scrub to release the lemon juice. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, scrape it off and then give it a final rinse with a clean, wet sponge.

Clean Your Baking Sheets with Baking Soda & Vinegar

All Natural Kitchen Cleaning Hacks Baking SheetPhoto via Bon Appetit

Any baking sheet that gets used often will end up with black, caked-on residue. I used to think I needed a pressure washer to get it looking new again, but not quite! An easier solution is to mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup baking soda. Put the baking sheet in a plugged sink, and cover it with the baking soda and water, letting it sit for 30 minutes to an hour before scrubbing that black tar off with a scouring pad.

Shower Cleaner – 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 5-10 drops of lemon, pine, or lavender essential oils. Spray on tile and let sit for several minutes before wiping away.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner Kristin Marr at Live Simply has a great toilet bowl cleaner that utilizes baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. The baking soda adds a little bit of grit and the peroxide disinfects *and* reacts with the making soda to foam up the bowl a bit. Take her advice and keep the two separated until they are to be used. Here’s the recipe:

    • citrus-379376_640cup water distilled or boiled water for long-term use
    • 1/2 cup baking soda
    • 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap
    • 15-30 drops lavender essential oil or grapefruit, tea tree, lemon, orange, or whatever you like!
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
    1. Using a small funnel, add the liquid ingredients: water and castile soap to a squirt container or bottle. Then, add the baking soda. Shake to combine the ingredients, except the hydrogen peroxide.
    2. Place the top on the bottle (make sure the squirt top is closed!). Shake the bottle vigorously until the ingredients are combined.

To Use: Squirt the interior sides of the toilet bowl with cleaner. Spray hydrogen peroxide over the cleaner. Allow both to rest for 5-15 minutes, then scrub the toilet bowl with a cleaner brush. Store the cleaner (sans peroxide) at room temperature and vigorously shake before using. Separation of the ingredients is normal. You may wish to store the peroxide in a spray bottle next to the bowl cleaner. Alternatively, it can be omitted, but it will then not have as strong as a disinfectant effect. Read more here.

Mildew killer – spray vinegar directly onto the affected area. Let sit for 30 min, then rinse away with warm water, scrubbing if needed.

DIY Window Cleaner – This is originally from Crunchy Betty, but nabbed from

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar spray-316524_1280
  • 1/4 cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (the cornstarch reduces streaking)
  • 2 cups water
  • 8-10 drops essential oil of choice (optional)

To use: Combine everything in a spray bottle and shake well to mix. Spray onto glass surface and wipe clean with newspaper.

For more recipes I strongly recommend the book Clean House, Clean Planet! It’s a timeless publication that covers all areas of the home. If you want something a little more current that includes such 21st century items as foaming hand soap and dishwasher pellets, check out The Organically Clean Home: 150 Everyday Organic Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself–The Natural, Chemical-Free Way

These cleaners will leave your home smelling fresh and your surfaces shining! In my next post I’ll share some other tips to keep toxin exposure low inside your home.

Wild Rose Honey and Rose Scented Body Oil

Last week we went camping for the first time this year. Our Squish (who isn’t so little and Squishy anymore!) had a terrible camping experience last fall and we have been hesitant to go out again. Thankfully he had a GREAT time playing and sleeping in his outdoor “Ohm”.

While we were out we stumbled upon hundreds of wild rose that were blooming. An herbalist was picking rosebuds to dry and use in her skin care preparations. I decided to take a page out of her book and harvest some petals of my own, uncertain of what exactly I would do with them. I decided to use the bulk of my rose petals for a rose infused honey that I will drizzle on soft cheeses, rub on pork before broiling or grilling, and give away to friends and family this holiday season. With the remainder I had I made a rose infused oil for homemade chapstick or salves (or a moisturizer if I get lazy) and I had just enough left to dry for future use in an herbal tea blend!

Rose Infused Honey2016-07-10 10.36.04

32 oz. raw honey (preferably local to your area)*
1 sandwich baggie filled with wild rose petals and buds
Loosely fill jars with rose petals, gently crushing them in your fingers to release oils. Cover with honey, stirring to get the extra air out. Seal and let sit, turning occasionally, for a minimum of 4 days.

2016-07-10 10.35.30

Rose Body Oil

About 2 cups of rose petals
Pour the rose petals into the jar, mashing them gently to release oils.  Cover with apricot oil. Let sit in a cool, dark, place for 4 weeks (shaking occasionally) before straining for use in body care products or as a moisturizer.




*Commercial honey is pasteurized and filtered so fine that no pollen remains. Given that the FDA identifies honey as having pollen in it, can it even be called honey at that point? Sometimes it is also diluted with corn syrup, imported from China, and otherwise not the healing, healthy food you’ve read about. All enzymes and vitamins have been destroyed.

**Apricot oil is derived from the pit of apricots. It is a light oil that makes skin velvety soft. It’s great to apply upon dry, parched skin and won’t feel heavy or greasy when used topically, making it a favorite of massage therapists. It can also be used in hair as a hot oil treatment.


Learn more about commercial honey here:


Inflammation Can Make You Fat

Obesity is associated with chronic, low-level inflammation. In some cases it can be hard to determine if obesity or inflammation came first, as each condition feeds upon the other. For the purpose of this brief article I will exclusively discuss inflammation’s role in obesity promotion.

Inflammation can promote obesity through disrupting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. An effect that many cytokines have on the body over time is insulin resistance. Cytokines are a normal, natural response to inflammation in the body. They act as signalers to other cells to alter the immune response. TNF-α and IL-6 are cytokines that specifically promote insulin resistance in the body (Wellen & Hotamisligil, 2005). One study (Hotamisligil eta l., 1993) demonstrated that administration of recombinant TNF-α to cultured cells or to whole animals inhibits the action of insulin; this action is supported in a later study observing obese mice without TNF-receptors having better insulin sensitivity over their wild-type brethren (Uysal, 1997).
When the body is in a state of insulin resistance, additional inflammatory markers such as IL-1 can be increased, perpetuating inflammation and the cascade of cytokines system-wide. Untreated, chronically elevated insulin levels also make weight loss more difficult and drives cravings for foods which exacerbate weight gain, such as refined carbohydrates (Heller, 1994).

An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed whole grains and lean proteins. It focuses on these foods, thus crowding out foods which elevate insulin such as white sugar, white flour, corn syrup, and processed food products. By focusing on reducing inflammation rather than counting calories, some individuals can regain mobility, energy, and improve their overall health while they lose weight without focusing on common weight-loss tactics which have a high risk of failure.


Heller, R.F. (1994) Hyperinsulinemic obesity and carbohydrate addiction: the missing link is the carbohydrate frequency factor. Medical Hypotheses, 42(5):307-12.

Hotamisligil, GS, Shargill, NS, Spiegelman, BM. (1993) Adipose expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha: direct role in obesity-linked insulin resistance. Science, 259:87-91.

Uysal, KT, et al. (1997) Protection from obesity-induced insulin resistance in mice lacking TNF-alpha function. Nature, 389:610-614. 

Wellen, K.E., Hotamisligil, G.S. (2005) Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 115(5):1111-1119. doi:10.1172/JCI25102.

Global Warming is not the Biggest Environmental Threat

There’s a lot of talk going on about global warming again. Some of that is coming from it being the environmental topic that politicians fall back on every election cycle. But our president is also in his last year and struggling to complete his agenda of bringing the United States’ policy into greater integrity in this area, especially with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this month. 

So if I told you that global warming isn’t the biggest environmental threat to our demise, you might be surprised. We are all seeing the photos of receding glaciers and starving polar bears on our Facebook feeds and it is looking rather dire. However, we are also seeing radical increases in Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune disease, and cancers localized to neighborhoods and regions and there is no news blasts nor political discourse about how the environment is contributing to our health decline and death TODAY.
Right now – the pesticides being sprayed on our crops and the pollution created by cars and industry is killing our children, rendering us infertile, and creating epidemics of new diseases considered rare just 20-30 years ago. Some of the illnesses we have now were unknown then and our researchers and doctors don’t know what causes them or how to effectively alleviate suffering. Yet research is showing the origin of many of these ailments are stemming from pollution and toxins we are exposed to every single day. The amount and concentration of these pollutants is, in some cases, higher and more chaotic than before. New chemicals are being produced and put to market every year. Some argue that not enough testing is being done on single chemicals, let alone all of them mixed together.

Photo credit: Flickr user kris krüg (Creative Commons)

I’ve been doing a great deal of research into this in the last month and it has honestly scared the crap out of me. I am worried about the future of my son and his peers and ashamed of what I will have to tell him about how we have handled our world and what we have chosen to ignore. The door blew open for me in doing some reading about Parkinson’s and discovering this is a disease that science has determined to be environmentally derived. If you’ve lived in a rural area, near factories or farms, for a decade or more count yourself lucky if you don’t get Parkinson’s or another neurological disease.
Asthma, respiratory diseases, and cancers are strongly correlated with air pollution. In fact, emergency room visits reliably increase when air pressure changes keep ‘normal pollution’ from city living from dispersing with typical wind patterns.

Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, which contains glyphosate. Photograph: Studioshots/Alamy

The World Health Organization recently came out with a statement condemning glycosphate, a component of Round-Up (which is commonly used in both agricultural and residential weed killers) is a ‘probable carcinogen’. Round-up is the most popular and widely used herbicide in the world. Even if you are eating GMO free, your neighbor is probably spraying Round-Up in the yard and your city may be spraying it in parks, alongside highways, and in other public areas.

Perhaps it is safer to talk about global warming because it is a threat that is breathing down our neck, but not yet at emergency levels. It’s easier to discuss something that is in the near future, coming toward us, than something that we are surrounded by right now. Maybe it feels safer to discuss policy to save ‘future us’ than to stare in the mirror and address that the food we are eating, the water we are drinking, and the air we are breathing is killing us right now. Today. Regardless, to focus our environmental efforts to global warming is, I believe, doing the world’s population a serious disservice right now.

In my next post I will share with you what I am doing as the best form of damage control I know how to do right now. I am still learning and adapting to all this knowledge, but we are not without some control over our outcome, regardless of how little control we have over what is being used in our environment.

Romieu, I., Meneses, F., Sienra-Monge, J., Huerta, J., Velasco, S., White, M., Etzel, R., and Hemandez-Avila, M. (1995). Effects of Urban Air Pollutants on Emergency Visits for Childhood Asthma in Mexico City. American Journal of Epidemiology, 141(6): 546-553

Tanner C.M., Kamel F., Ross G.W., Hoppin J.A., Goldman S.M., Korell M., Marras C., Bhudhikanok G.S., Kasten M., Chade A.R., Comyns K., Richards M.B., Meng C., Priestley B., Fernandez H.H., Cambi F., Umbach D.M., Blair A., Sandler D.P., Langston J.W. (2011). Rotenone, paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease. Environmental Health Perspectives 119(6), 866-872.

Willis, A.W., Sterling, C., and Racette, B.A. (2009). Conjugal Parkinsonism and Parkinson Disease: A Case Series with Environmental Risk Factor Analysis. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 16(3), 163–166.

Guyton, K.Z. et al. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. The Lancet Oncology , Volume 16 , Issue 5 , 490 – 491

Elderberry Noms and Other Immune Boosters

September is back to school and the transition into autumn, which means a rash of sniffles shall soon be descending upon your home and workplace.

Elderberry is a daily tonic we use in our home to keep the little munchkin sniffle free. It’s also a great daily tonic for adults, and being of age we can entertain all sorts of fun uses for it (elderberry mimosa, anyone?).

Below is a recipe for an elderberry syrup I adapted from, a most excellent website if you wish to learn all things herbal in nature. I’ve used this syrup as a base in gummies, beverages, and even drizzled on pork and chicken.

  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
  • 1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup honey

First put 1/2 cup of dried elderberries into the small saucepan. Add the 5 cloves, cinnamon stick, 1 Tablespoon grated ginger, and 2 cups of water.
Cover and bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.
Turn down the heat, leave saucepan covered, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by 1/2. This usually takes 20-30 minutes.
Strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Squeeze the remaining juice out of the berries. Add 1 cup of honey to the strained juice and stir until dissolved.

Store the syrup in a closed jar in the refrigerator and use within 4-6 weeks.

Elderberry Soda2015-09-01 08.00.11

  • 2 tbsp. elderberry syrup
  • 6-8 oz. club soda

Pour syrup into a small glass and top with club soda. This is my go-to for stomach bugs!




Astragalus is one of my favorite adaptogens. I put it in all my winter stews and it is a ever-present ingredient in my bone broth. As with all adaptogens, it helps the body more effectively deal with existing stressors, be they mental or physical, thus protecting the immune system from being worn down by changes in schedules, sleep patterns, seasons, and responsibilities. Rich in antioxidants. it also protects cells from damage. It is mild in flavor and contributes no notable taste difference in broths and soups. I use slices of dried root in cooking, which is easy to remove before consumption. This bone broth recipe is the standard in our home.

Dragons’ Breath

Sometimes try as one might one cannot stave off a cold or flu. My go to when I feel it settling in is a spicy hot lemonade a client affectionately (or not) dubbed ‘Dragon’s Breath’. Dragon’s breath is potent stuff and is best shared, particularly if you share a bed with someone! This formula has antiviral and antibacterial properties from the ample ginger, garlic, and lemon used. Cayenne and hot water provide heat to the body, facilitating eradication of illness. Get the recipe and protocol here: Dragon’s Breath

Working with Ashwagandha

It seems every two years or so I get an itch to branch out in my education and learn something new. For the last year or so I’ve been wanting to dive more into herbal medicine and more fully understand their indications, properties, and uses in the home medicine cabinet. Starting a nine month herbalism course three weeks before I was due to deliver was a bad idea but now that my son is a little older and more self-entertaining I’m diving into a home study course that is highly experiential and self-directed. It’s perfect right now as my time is divided between clients, parenting, and keeping my relationship those I love (including myself!) strong and healthy.

Ashwagandha is one of the herbs I am getting to know this month. I have very little experience with it by itself, but it is popular in many adaptogenic cocktails aimed for those with adrenal fatigue or thyroid challenges. A nightshade, it grows in arid areas of India and also does well for those on US soil who have success growing it’s popular distant cousin, the tomato.

Ashwagandha is a great supplement for those who are chronically stressed and ‘wired but tired’ (4). Looking back, this would have been a powerful arsenal in my medicine cabinet during my final years in college! I recommend it for anxious, driven Type A folks who tend to overthink themselves into insomnia. It’s one of the most calming of the adaptogens and it’s collaborative effect on soothing depression and anxiety, boosting immunity and supporting natural energy levels through a balanced endocrine system make it a great winter tonic. (1,4) It also has been shown in studies to support all phases of cancer treatment and recovery by keeping the immune system and energy levels better supported. (1) If you think Ashwangadha may be helpful for you, consult with an herbal or holistic professional. It is available in tincture, capsule, or my personal favorite – a powder which can be made into yummies.

[Tweet “Forget pills! Eat your Ashwagandha with these recipes!!”]Here are several recipes I have collected from various places online:

Coconunny Ashwagandha

  •  2 TB of Ashwagandha powder
  • 1/3 cup of raw coconut butter
  • 1.5 to 2 Tbsp honey

Mix until well blended. It makes a paste that goes down very easily! (2)

Ashwagandha Smoothie


  • 1/2 tbsp. Carob Powder
  • 1 tsp. Ashwagandha Powder (Indian Ginseng)
  • 1/2 tsp. Maca Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Stevia Leaf Powder
  • Dash of Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 1 cup Hot Water (or cold, whichever you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup Nut Milk

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!! (3)


  • 1 tbsp. ashwagandha powder
  • 3 tbsp. dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sweetener (sucanant, coconut sugar, etc)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I prefer mexican true cassia cinnamon here)
  • pinch of cayenne, to taste.
  • 2 cups milk of choice*

Mix powders with sweetener, stirring to combine in a large mug. Heat milk in a small saucepan until steaming. With a small whisk, whisk the powder while slowly pouring the milk into the mug to prevent clumps. Enjoy with a roaring wood fire or cuddled up to your favorite creature (human or otherwise).

*I would recommend a dairyesque beverage with some fat in it (like coconut milk). Ashwagandha is best absorbed with the presence of fat, so it’s important to avoid skim milk, rice milk, and other very low fat non-dairy beverages unless adding additional fat to the recipe.

Ashwagandha Ghee

This is a traditional preparation. Like any flavored butter, you can spread it on toast, cook with it, or use it to season vegetables and meats.

  • 1 cup ashwagandha powder
  • 1 cup ghee
  • 1 cup honey

Create a stovetop water bath by placing a medium sized glass bowl inside a large pot with water extending halfway up the side of the bowl. Add ingredients to the glass bowl and heat water over medium heat, stirring to combine as solids melt. Heat for five minutes, being careful not let the mixture boil.

Remove from heat and cool, storing in a clean glass jar.



What the F*** is FODMAPS?


VIBRANCE Dietitian Kate Watson weighs in on a low FODMAPS diet – one of the most effective ways to treat IBS through diet..


Hey, Kate – What is this FODMAPs diet all about?

You may have seen this acronym “FODMAPs” recently if you’ve read anything about sensitive stomachs or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Information about this diet has been popping up in the news lately, as more is understood about it and as more people look for relief from chronic digestive issues.

Researchers at the Monash University in Australia first identified FODMAPs, certain carbohydrates that may be a big contributor to symptoms of IBS. They have found that a diet low in FODMAPs can bring tremendous relief to IBS sufferers, with up to 75% of patients showing marked improvement in symptoms. Before this research, dietary guidelines for people with IBS were general and often anecdotal. This is the first time any scientifically proven diet has been found as a treatment for IBS. This is very exciting because if you or someone you know lives with IBS, you understand how frustrating and downright debilitating it can be.

So what does FODMAPs mean?

The FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates which may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine. They are then fermented by bacteria in the gut to produce gas, leading to bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowel habits after ingestion. The acronym stands for (pay attention, you will be quizzed on this later): Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Here’s what each of those mean.

Fermentable means they produce gas. Oligosaccharides are Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides found in things like wheat, garlic, lentils, and onion. Disaccharides is lactose, found in many dairy products. Monosaccharides is fructose found in apples, pears, and honey. And Polyols are Sorbitol and Mannitol (or sugar alcohols) found in mushrooms, peaches, and artificially sweetened candies and gums.
These are just a few examples of FODMAPs but they are found in many common foods, as you can see!

Who is this diet for?

I don’t believe that a low FODMAPs diet is right for everyone with IBS or stomach sensitivities. If you have not tried any other dietary strategies to help manage your IBS before, it might not make sense to jump into a low FODMAPs diet first, since it is somewhat difficult to follow and is rather restrictive.

Sometimes making a simple change, such as increasing fiber, or identifying a food sensitivity can make all the difference. In addition, if you are under a great deal of stress and feel that adding dietary restrictions to your life will make you more stressed, it may not be the best time for you to try a low FODMAPs diet. On the other hand, if you feel you’ve tried everything already, and still haven’t been symptom free for any period of time, you might be a great candidate for this diet. Or if it feels like everything you eat makes you sick, this diet will help you identify your triggers. It is important to note that if you have not seen a doctor for your tummy issues, please do so, as changes in bowel habits or sudden development of GI problems can be a sign of something more serious than IBS.

So what exactly does following this diet entail?

What is important to know is that the low FODMAPs diet is meant to be temporary and to be followed strictly for a period of 6-8 weeks until symptoms have resolved. In general, the diet is wheat free and lactose free and certain fruits and vegetables are also restricted. It would be impossible to memorize all of the FODMAPs, so working with a dietitian, having food lists, and recipes on hand are essential. I installed an awesome FODMAPs app from Monash University on my Iphone, which I rely on a great deal. (Get the FODMAPs app Kate uses here: Low FODMAP Smartphone App)

You should know that a low-FODMAPs diet can be difficult to adhere to during food-centered social activities and eating at restaurants. However, with advance planning, you can find ways to integrate the diet into your social life. For example, checking a restaurant menu online before going there can give you a chance to plan what to order before you arrive.

After the 6-8 week time period, you can start a challenge phase, where FODMAPs are re-introduced one at a time over a period of days while symptoms are monitored and recorded. I highly recommend that you seek the guidance of a dietitian knowledgeable in FODMAPS to help support you throughout the diet and during the challenge phase. This is important to ensure that your diet is balanced and nutritious.

Though this diet may sound like a lot of work, often by the end of the first week, many people feel so much better than they have in months or years that they are highly motivated to stay on it! That was my experience—I felt it was worth the time and dedication to follow the diet because it allowed me to be symptom free for possibly the first time in my adult life!

If you would like to learn more about whether the low FODMAPs diet is right for you, or if you are ready to implement it now, please contact Vibrance for a consultation with me!

Let’s Talk About Bowels, Baby!

~ by Kate Watson

bowels baby

Now seriously, our digestive and bowel habits aren’t issues that we bring up too often in every day conversation. And I’m not suggesting you necessarily start doing that. But I’ve come to find that so many people, in particular women, live with ongoing digestive issues, which they tend to ignore or just accept as normal. If you’ve spent any time in a grocery store lately, you may have observed that there is a definite trend out in the marketplace promoting products to improve digestive health. I think that is both because there is an increased incidence in gastrointestinal problems as well as an increased awareness of the important relationship between our gut health and our overall health.

Did you know that healthy women fart an average of 7 times a day and men 14 times a day? Good to know, isn’t it?! I do believe it is important to know what is considered normal as well as what is normal for you. I myself lived for years unaware that it was not normal to have abdominal pain, bloating, and gas immediately after eating. By the end of most work days, I needed to change into stretch pants to accommodate my expanding, bloated belly! I had frequent diarrhea, accompanied by urgency, so I never traveled too far from a bathroom and always had my Immodium on hand. Sometimes, I think we gradually adapt to feeling bad and forget what feeling good is like! But eventually, things kept getting worse, and the impact on my daily life was severe enough that I went to see my doctor to find out what was wrong.

Enter my long and frustrating journey with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I ended up seeing various doctors throughout the years for it and had many medical procedures done to rule out any other serious illnesses, but the consensus was IBS. I was told it is not harmful, in that it wouldn’t cause any damage to my intestines the way something like Celiac disease would, and that was merely “inconvenient and annoying.” Most suggestions I received from doctors were trial and error- to find my food triggers, try medications, and to get my stress under control. I was finding out there is no single remedy that works for every individual with IBS. I tried everything I could over a period of years- I learned stress reduction techniques, used herbs, tried acupuncture, went to therapists, exercised, tried cutting out dairy, gluten, tried low fiber, high fiber, high carb, and low carb diets! But nothing made any significant or lasting improvement.

My symptoms would get better and worse seemingly with no rhyme or reason. I could find no link to any common food. A few years ago, a new GI doctor I started going to had the wisdom to test me for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which I tested positive for. The treatment for it was an antibiotic, which provided me with a great deal of relief, for a while. I had another episode of SIBO after the first time, but was not able to tolerate the medications the second time around.

I found myself often becoming discouraged and depressed about my GI issues because I felt that no matter what I ate, I was going to pay for it afterwards with stomach pain. I could find no long term or sustainable solution. I was disappointed in myself because I am a dietitian for crying out loud, and I felt I should be able to help myself! And I became a dietitian in large part because I believed food was meant to heal, so it was quite disheartening to feel that all food seemed to be causing me pain!

About a year ago, I had an episode of abdominal pain that put me on the floor writhing in pain. I went to the doctor, fearing it was something serious. He thought it may be an ulcer so I started on proton pump inhibitors. I knew that something had to change drastically for me at this point because I didn’twant to merely put a band-aid on the issue with more medication again but I wanted to find a lasting solution! In my desperation, I started researching again and came upon the low FODMAPS diet. I had no idea what in the world FODMAPs meant and it certainly wasn’t something we were taught in college. Turns out it stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disacccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols (hence the need for an acronym)! The FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed, which provides food for intestinal bacteria, leading to digestive discomforts. Too many FODMAPS in my diet very likely explained my episodes of SIBO and chronic abdominal pain. And so it made sense that a diet low in FODMAPs might help reverse the symptoms. According to all of the data I found, the low FODMAPs diet is the only scientifically proven diet to help relieve the symptoms of IBS, with almost 75% of patients showing improvement. That was the most promising information I’d ever heard for IBS sufferers and encouraging enough to make me want to try it!

I bought myself a great FODMAPs app for my Iphone, did a lot internet research for recipes and support, and completed a continuing education course on it to learn as much as I could. After just a week on the diet, my symptoms were drastically reduced and after a month on it, I felt like what a “normal” person must feel like. It seemed like nothing short of a miracle after nearly 15 years of stomach issues!

Although the low FODMAPs diet is not meant to be long term and is not exactly easy to follow, I learned a ton from it about what foods my body tolerates and I finally feel in control of my digestive health. I no longer need to be tethered to my toilet! I’m so excited that the discovery of FODMAPs offers real hope and I love empowering fellow IBS sufferers with this new and powerful tool!


To learn more about a low FODMAPS diet or to address your own digestive concerns, contact VIBRANCE at 206-227-1231 to schedule an initial consultation with Kate!