Vitamin D Insufficiency and Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop on the uterus and are the leading cause of hysterectomies in reproductive-age women. They often lead to long, heavy periods, back or pelvic pain, constipation, back pain or leg pain, and even difficulty with or incomplete urination. The incidence of fibroids is increasing among women of child-bearing age.  They can be painful and debilitating and surgery is a commonly recommended solution. However, a far-less invasive and less costly option can spare many women from surgery!  Multiple studies in vitro and in animals show the benefit of vitamin D supplementation to reduce fibroid growth and development. A human clinical trial demonstrated that in small fibroid tumors, bringing participants to lab norm status (ie, 30 ng/dl) caused a cessation of tumor growth, while those unwilling to be treated with vitamin D experienced a worsening of symptoms and increased tumor growth after 1 year. Ideal serum levels of Vitamin D are still up for debate, but suffice it to say, making sure you have enough Vitamin D may prevent a hysterectomy down the road if you have fibroids or a strong family history of them. An hour of sunlight a day is also associated with reduced risk of fibroid development, confirming a strong relationship between Vitamin D and fibroid tumors. (Sources here and here.)

Raw Vegan Paleo Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

I can’t believe I did not photograph this before bringing it to a birthday party tonight. I lay blame to Momma brain, combined with September heat and cramming two birthday parties into a single Saturday. Thankfully, the original recipe from which this was derived has a fantastic photo that can give you an idea of what to expect. The beauty of this dessert is not only that it is paleo, vegan, gluten, soy, dairy free AND delicious, but it’s also pretty to boot! You can feel confident bringing this dessert to a party and knowing that pretty much anyone who can eat nuts will thoroughly enjoy it. Goodness knows it’s near impossible to please both vegan AND paleo folks at a potluck. Bring this decadent ‘cheesecake’ and everyone will be your best friend!
(Heads up – this evening the entire thing was gone within the first two hours of the party – you may want to make two).

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

Serves 10

Crust

2 cups raw nuts
1 cup dates or raisins
pinch of salt

Lemon  Cheesecake Filling

3 cups raw cashews pieces
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
zest of all the lemons you juiced
pinch of salt

Blueberry Layer

2 cups organic blueberries (I used frozen)
1/4 cup of the lemon cheesecake mixture

To make the crust: process the nuts and dates/raisins in your food processor until the nuts have become crumbs and the mixture sticks together when you press it. Press into the bottom of a spring-form pan and put in the fridge.

To make the lemon cheesecake: blend all ingredients (except lemon zest) in a Vitamix or Blend-Tec until very smooth. Pour cheesecake mix into a bowl then add in the lemon zest with a spoon and stir until well combined. Reserve 1/4 cup of this mixture for the blueberry topping – pour the rest onto your crust, spread until evenly layered atop the crust and put it back in the freezer.

To make the blueberry layer: blend the blueberries and the 1/4 cup of cheesecake mixture in your food processor or blender until creamy but still with small pieces of blueberry for texture. Spread this over your cheesecake and keep in the freezer or fridge overnight. If you can wait a day – this is best after 2 days (and not frozen, of course) enjoy with fresh blueberries!

 

 

Spring Cleanses – are they right for you?

 

 

Every spring I get many requests for cleansing programs or kits. Cleansing is a fantastic way to mentally and physically discard the heaviness of winter and step into the new season refreshed and ready to go. It’s a great tool to bring awareness to all the things that have slipped into your diet since the new year and since it is usually a gentler diet than what we normally eat it can do wonders for keeping seasonal allergies and illnesses at bay. There are, however, times when cleansing, even gentle cleanses, are not a good idea. Before you invest in a detox kit or a program, review this checklist to make certain you will not do yourself a disadvantage by cleansing:

Reconsider cleansing if:

  • you are underweight
  • if your body has been weakened by disease, illness, or severe stress
  • if your job is very physically or psychologically demanding
  • if you are training heavily for a sports event or physique goal (6 hours a week or more)
  • You score higher than 150 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress scale
  • You’ve recently had a significant cleanse (in the last 3-6 months)

The above factors do not not mean you cannot cleanse, but they do indicate you should be cautious if doing so. Very gentle dietary changes which support healing can be implemented instead of juice fasts, limited diets, or strong herbal preparations. If you want to get a  jump start for spring in a more gentle, supportive way, try these options:

 

  1. Increase your water consumption to 2-3 Liters per day (apx. 1 oz. per pound of body weight)
  2. Go on a ‘sugar fast’ where you eliminate all sweeteners for 10-30 days.
  3. Have one meal a day be made exclusively of vegetables – stir-fries, vegetable stews, salads, and the like. See which way your body prefers to eat its veggies!
  4. Pull caffeine out of your diet for 30 days; taking 10 days to wean it out and 20 days to abstain completely. Observe how you feel.

 

If you want a more structured plan, you may enjoy VIBRANCE Nutrition’s spring detox diet. This 10 day detox plan was designed for the athletic population, so it is gentle, nourishing, and effective. It is a great option for those who are not limited by the above indicators (if you are beginning a training program you are fine, but if you are peaking in marathon or triathlon training this is not a  good time to cleanse). This is a food-based cleanse that has optional supplement support, but they are not needed to experience great results. This detox has been effectively used in my practice to discover food intolerance, get off coffee or sugar, improve digestion and sleep, and get deeply in touch with one’s body. Some people experience significant weight loss, others may experience none. It is not designed as a weight loss diet, so it is not appropriate for those seeking weight loss as a primary or exclusive outcome. Included are two 30 minute consultations to answer questions, discuss outcome and next steps, as well as email support while you are cleansing. If you are interested in exploring VIBRANCE’s Spring Detox Plan, email me at aimee@vibrance.dev to learn more!

 

 

On the Road Again….

I’m currently exploring beautiful North Carolina on my birthday week which will end in a conference with some of my mentors and peers in alternative health, wellness, and fitness. Until then however, it is me, a rental car, and winding back country roads. I was lucky enough to land in Asheville, which sports a Whole Foods. Armed with provisions, I know I have at least two days of healthy eating. On more than one occasion, though – usually at home, in traffic and ill-prepared – I find myself hungry and without a snack on hand. What to do in a pinch? Below are my top options for healthy choices on the fly:

1. Hit up the neighborhood grocery store: This is the number one place to get a wide variety of healthy options, and a must stop on any road trip. If possible, choose a natural foods store like Whole Foods or a local co-operative – these grocers are more mindful of quality ingredients and have a wider supply of fresh options. But even in rural areas, grocery stores can be a lifesaver. Most have a section with fresh deli (rotisserie chicken! Grilled fish!) and fresh produce and fruits. Greek Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are also good sources of protein – look for pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs near the deli and/or salad bar. Sushi, esp sashimi and nigiri and fresh salad rolls offer a fresh and flavorful alternative to the salad bar and are commonly found in urban grocers. Be wary of the mayo and tempura rolls, and balance out a rice-filled roll with sashimi to boost protein and satiety.
2. Chipotle: the burrito bowl is a great way to get fresh Mexican and keep it veggie-rich! Omit the rice, ask for extra veggies, and slather it in salsa and avocado you won’t miss the tortilla! If they do not have a burrito bowl, ask for a tostada minus the tortilla and with the same additions. Grilled chicken or fish will keep the fat content lower than beef. Omit the cheese and sour cream as well.
3. Subway: Available on nearly every lone stretch of highway across these United States, Subway offers a vegetable-rich option just about anywhere. A spinach salad with chicken, all the veggies, vinegar and lemon as dressing offers the most nutrient rich and healthiest option. Alternatively, choose one of the foot-longs with whole wheat bread and nix the mayo and creamy dressings. Choose vinegar and mustard instead. If you like it spicy, add peppocinis, jalepenos, brown AND regular mustard with the vinegar and enjoy a mild metabolic boost from this meal (you’ll be sweating!)
4. In & Out (or another burger joint): Get a hamburger loaded with mustard, ketchup, onion and extra veggies. Nix the bun totally or only eat half if you must. Avoid any special sauces, and add an extra patty to boost protein and satisfaction.

If you must — FAST FOOD RESTAURANT OPTIONS:

I’m generally not a fan of fast food restaurants. The quality of all ingredients is on the low end. However, skipping meals is a set-up for rebound eating later on in the evening. In some circumstances, all you have are golden arches. Here are some possibilities in such cases:
McDonalds Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken (with cilantro lime glaze and a Southwest vegetable/bean blend)
Arby’s Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich (without mayo, eat only half of the bun)
In-n-out Hamburger (order with EXTRA patty, onion, mustard, and catsup instead of spread, eat only half the bun)
Grilled Chicken Salads – nix the cheese and use as little dressing as possible – often loads of sugar and fat. Purists can go for straight up vinegar and lemon juice; mustard can add a nice zing as well.

Herbed Heirloom Tomato Salad with Red Kraut

Cultured foods are historically how we have gotten probiotics and maintained healthy digestive tracts. With the advent of pasteurization and the non-discriminating hyper-vigilance against all bacterium, supplements are the most common and reliable route to maintain healthy digestion. However, if you want to begin putting back in your diet (and want to know why) review my article on probiotics here and then give the tasty recipe below a try – this is a great way to use up the last of the garden tomatoes!

Recipe courtesy of Cinda Lou’s Kitchen Blues

 

1 large fresh red tomato
1 large yellow tomato
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/4 c. homemade or raw unpasteurized red sauerkraut
2 T. organic raw apple cider vinegar
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 T. dried (homegrown) oregano
1 tsp. stevia (optional)
sea salt and pepper, to taste

 Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces, combine vinegar and olive oil with garlic and herbs and toss.  Spoon over red kraut and mix gently.  Chill and serve with fresh sliced avocado.

Celebrate Summer – Without Gaining Weight!

There’s always a big push to lose weight for the summer, and then we engage in all sorts of activities which encourage weight to come back on — heavy BBQ’s, travel to new and exciting places, summer parties and celebrations all centered around lots and lots of food.

The unscheduled nature of summer interferes with routines which keep weight more easily managed, and often people notice a couple of extra pounds in preparation for the winter months.

Given that we don’t opt to hibernate, this extra weight isn’t necessary! Here are some of my top tips to avoid gaining weight when traveling and enjoying summer festivities:

1) Grill It! Use your grill for good, not evil. Instead of ribs and hot dogs, grill a variety of vegetables, chicken kabobs and use a cedar plank to grill fresh fish. Use exotic spice blends for flavor and BBQ sauce on the side to dip your chicken in if you are sensitive to sugars.

2) Bring a healthy dish to potlucks so you can ensure a healthy option is available. Others will appreciate it as well!

3) Crowd out caloric drinks with water: Summer slushies, cocktails, and blended coffee drinks can have as many calories as your main meal. Keep caloric drinks to a minimum, and when you do have one, have a tall glass of water (with lime for flavor) before and after you have your high-calorie beverage.

4) Plan you vacations to include healthy options and physical activity: If it’s very hot, exercise in the morning or evening – stroll the beach at sunset, play in water parks with the kids, hike in the shaded woods. Pack picnic lunches, utilize grocery stores for healthy snack options, and plan ahead whenever possible. I often research restaurants in locations I am visiting to get an idea of options available to me. For road trips, this post may be useful to you.

5) Keep tabs on yourself! Don’t turn a blind eye. If you are prone to overdoing it on vacation or during the summer, keep tabs on your size with a specific pair of pants or measuring tape. Some clients find it helpful to keep a food log in high-risk situations to keep them honest and accountable. Do what you need to without sacrificing the joys of the summer months!

Making Water Tasty

One of the most important things you can do for your health and vitality is drink water. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated; if your urine is not pale yellow you are not drinking enough! (the exception to this is for those taking a B complex or multivitamin)

One of the common complaints I hear is that water doens’t “taste good” or it is “boring”. Here are some innovative ways to refresh nature’s perfect beverage:

  • Add a squeeze of citrus: lemon, lime, or orange slices add color and zest (pun not intended) to an ordinary glass of water.
  • Add fresh cucumber slices to a glass or pitcher of water.
  • Go herbal by adding fresh basil or rosemary from the garden to a pitcher of water. I just learned this new trick and it is absolutely fantastic! Other ideas: lavender, oregano, mint and thyme!
  • Freeze washed grapes and use them as ice cube to keep water cool. A sweet snack at the bottom of your glass can be incentive to drink up!
  • Keep your water chilled longer by freezing a few glasses, or keeping your waterbottle in the freezer with 1/2 inch of water inside. Instant ice cube, long lasting chill!

Healthy Travels

healthy road tripI’ve spent a great deal of time in airports and other states and have become very familiar with finding food while traveling. Since my travels have mostly been via plane to metropolitan areas, it has been easy for me to pack what I need or find something reasonable in an airport.

Last month, a new challenge came my way — healthy eating while traveling via roadway, cross-country.

Continue reading “Healthy Travels”

VIBRANCE in the Post Intelligencer!

Last week, I was interviewed by Bob Condor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer about smoothies as a recovery fuel.

Smoothies are one of the best, easiest ways to receive optimal nutrition after a workout, or as a way to begin your day. Potent in antioxidants (the treasures within fruit), smoothies also act as a ocnvenient carrier for all sorts of supplemental nutrition that may be inconvenient to receive otherwise. You may add extra protein, flax oil, additional antioxidants, green powders (or greens themselves!), liquid calcium or multivitamin complexes, bee pollen, badditional fiber, and more! The possibilities for flavors are endless and they are great hits with the kids.

Please click here to read more in the Seattle PI:
Here’s to summer smoothies!

PS — I would also like to note there is a minor factual misprint in the article. It appears as though I may not have made it clear to the author that while there are many reasons why whey protein is preferable to rice protein in a recovery smoothie, digestibility is not one of them.