Thursday, January 31, 2013

Final Day of the Cleanse!!

It is the final day of the cleanse for me and I realize that I posted no new recipes this year!  This is due to the fact that all of the meals that I have had on the cleanse have been a variation on a simple supper with either short grain brown rice, long grain brown rice, or mixed wild rice blend, as well as some type of legume (chickpeas, pinto beans, lima beans, black eyed peas, french lentils, red lentils), and stir fried/baked vegetables.  Sometimes I also included a tahini based sauce or just mixed a freshly squeezed lemon with the stir fry.  Even though this sounds pretty boring, it was even worse when I was in Germany in Sept 2010!  I literally ate the same meal every day (actually 2 times per day because I had leftovers every day for lunch - see above picture for an example!).  Generally it is not a good idea to eat the exact same food every day, but luckily for me, the foods I was eating were low allergenic/easy foods for my system, so I didn't have any concerns.  My meal consisted of wehani/red rice, french lentils, onions, garlic, carrots, and zucchini (all cooked in with the rice - I had limited cookware!!).  I dressed the rice bowl with raw cucumber and a lemon/almond butter mixture and sea salt.  I know it is hard to understand, but I did love the taste of this meal and looked forward to having it every day!  Having said that, I was definitely happy when I got home to my own kitchen and I did avoid french lentils for at least 1 month after my return!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NAC and Autism Spectrum Disorders

An article by Kaycie Rosen Grigel in the September 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses the potential support NAC can offer for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  The article is based on research that was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2012.  The research found that dosing NAC for 12 weeks lead to a significant improvement in irritability and repetitive behaviour.  An improvement was also found in social cognition and autism mannerisms.  The improvement that NAC offers is likely linked to NAC's ability to modulate glutamate activity/transport in the brain which impacts cognitive development, memory, learning and level of excitability/irritability.  As well, it is possible that children with ASD have impaired antioxidant status, so the improvement that NAC offers is also likely linked to its ability to increase antioxidant capacity. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Supplements to enhance H pylori treatment

An article by Donald Brown in the July 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses a number of supplements that can enhance and optimize H pylori treatment.  H pylori is a bacteria that is commonly found in the stomach and can contribute to the development of peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis).  The standard medical treatment for H pylori is the short term combination of 2 antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor.  There is research that has found taking vitamin C and vitamin E (both of which offer anti-oxidant/immune strengthening support) along with these H pylori medications improves the body's ability to clear H pylori infection.  There has also been research that has found that taking probiotics along with these H pylori medications improves the body's ability to manage these medications with less side effects.  There has also been research that has found taking NAC (which disrupts the protective film that H pylori creates to stabilize itself in the stomach) prior to integrating these H pylori medications also improves the body's ability to clear H pylori infection.  As well, research has also found that integrating cranberry juice (which prevents the adherence of H pylori to the stomach lining) both with and for 2 weeks post these H pylori medications also improves women's ability to clear H pylori infection.  Each of these sups are relatively easy to integrate for a short period of time and worth considering alongside H pylori medical treatment.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Timing of TSH Measurements

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is the standard blood test that is used to screen for thyroid concerns.  In Canada, the range for TSH is .2 - 4.0 with a low TSH reflecting hyperthyroid function and a high TSH reflecting hypothyroid function.  An article by Tina Kaczor in the December 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal reported on a study published in Endocrine Research in August 2012 that found a significant difference in TSH levels depending on the time of day the TSH was measured.  The study focused only on people with hypothyroid concerns (either autoimmune thyroiditis or primary hypothyroidism) and it found that both groups of people had lower (more balanced) TSH levels in the afternoon compared to the morning.  While it is encouraging to have a more balanced TSH, if one is monitoring their thyroid health or how they are responding to prescription thyroid medication, it is most important to gather readings that provide a full insight into how the thyroid is functioning at its most difficult/least balanced time of the day.  From this recent research, it is most importnat then to have the TSH measured in the morning.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekly Health Chart

Since the fall of 2012, I have been making myself a weekly health chart.  The left column of my chart contains the health supportive steps that I want to work on and the rest of the following columns each contain one day of the week.  For each health supportive step, I have an individual goal listed and if I match the goal for the day of the week, I put a check mark on my chart in that day's column.  The chart has helped me integrate new steps into my daily routine including daily coconut oil, avocado (when I can find them - which has been pretty steady since Sept), and seaweeds as well as a nightly stress release/grounding routine of sun salutations (wrong time of the day, I know, but it works for me) and deep breathing.  Outside of the holiday season and travel, I have been able to stick to my goals and it is so satisfying to see a chart full of check marks at the end of the week!!  As a perpetual night-owl and non-outdoorsy person, the steps that have been the hardest for me are getting a full night of sleep and going for regular walks, but the cleanse has helped me to be more consistent with both of these.  A health chart is easy to make, can be individualized to each person, and provides us with a great framework to support our overall health.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Morning smoothie

During the cleanse, my morning smoothie has consisted of 1 granny smith apple, 1 inch cucumber, 1 cup rainbow or red chard, 1 cup water, 2 tbsp hemp seeds, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp coconut oil.  This morning though I had left over avocado (that I forgot to have for supper the night before!), so I added it to my smoothie.  I didn't pick up on much of a taste change, but it definitely made the smoothie much creamier.  It was a fun change of pace!

My favourite volunteer position ever!!

Even though this post does not directly relate to cleanse friendly recipes or wholistic health, it does cover an activity that is a crucial part of my self care routine.  As a way to support and strengthen my overall health, I have long enjoyed the grounding and fulfilling activity of volunteering.  I have volunteered in a variety of different places over the years, from the Grey Nuns hospital gift shop (my first volunteer position) to the Saving Animals From Euthanasia (SAFE) team adoption center which is where I currently have been volunteering for the past 2 years.  Working with the cats (all of whom have either been rescued from Alberta pounds or from the streets - the above picture is of beautiful Lucy one of the current SAFE team cats) at the adoption center is my favorite volunteer position ever - I look forward to spending time with them every week.  I think it is important for all of us to build activities into our lives that help us change our regular pace of life and give us an insight into the goodness that surrounds us.  The SAFE team cats provide me with this opportunity every week.  In addition to being a great organization to volunteer with, SAFE team is also an excellent place to adopt forever family member cats from.  If you are interested in learning more about SAFE team, check out their website  As well, SAFE team will be holding their main fundraising event, Comedy for Claws comedy night and silent auction, on April 23 2013.  If you would like to purchase tickets or donate an item to the silent auction, please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Additional cleanse foods and yeast/candida imbalance

In addition to the standard foods that are removed during a cleanse, if a person has yeast/candida imbalance concerns/symptoms, they can also consider removing a number of additional foods including:  all fermented foods (which can include yeast and yeast containing baked goods, alcohol, malt and malt containing foods, vinegar and vinegar containing/pickled foods, and mushrooms), all sweeteners (both refined and unrefined), dried fruit, and fruit juice.  For some people, they may also find support for their overall health in removing all fruit, all processed grain based foods (including pasta, muffins, cereal, crackers), higher carbohydrate vegetables (including peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash), all nuts, and all legumes.  Each of the above listed foods has the potential to further encourage yeast/candida imbalance in the body and can help support a person in feeling better and moving more towards balance when they are removed from the diet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Additional cleanse foods and reflux/heartburn

If a person experiences reflux/heartburn, generally removing caffeine (including chocolate) and alcohol during a cleanse will offer some support for their symptoms.  Additional foods that can also be taken out during a cleanse to further support a reduction in reflux/heartburn include:  spicy food, high fat/fried food, citrus fruit (especially oranges/orange juice, grapefruit/grapefruit juice), tomatoes, and mint (including mint tea).  Aiming to eat smaller meals more often and aiming to avoid eating after 6 PM will also reduce the frequency and severity of reflux/heartburn for many people.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Omega Institute

The above pictures were taken at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  Omega is an educational retreat that offers workshops on body, mind, and spirit wellness.  I attended a weekend workshop taught by Pema Chodron in May 2010.  My travel journey to Omega involved an all night plane ride to Toronto, an early morning flight to New York city, a cab ride to Penn station, a train ride to Rhinebeck, and a shuttle to Omega - I was very relieved when I arrived!  Omega is in a tranquil setting, surrounded by trees and filled with many beautiful gardens.  There are no outdoor lights, so it is very peaceful and magical at night.  Pema Chodron also requested that the workshop attendees remain silent until Saturday at noon (the workshop started on Fri evening), so this further contributed to the peacefulness of the setting.  One of the many helpful teachings that Pema Chodron shared during the workshop was for us to work with whatever our source of distraction or stress is and to utilize it as a platform upon which to build our mindfulness practice.  I love this shift in perspective that she shared - I think it is often the case that we look at our source of stress as something that we need to overcome or something that only holds us back, but her teachings encouraged us to instead look at our stress as a holding space where we can rest our awareness and then begin to build further mindfulness/grounding/balance from. I find this a very empowering approach and one that provides us with a great opportunity to continue to build and strengthen our overall health.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Organic frozen fruit

After what feels like years of not being able to find a reliable source of certified organic frozen fruit, I was very pleased to recently see a new line of Earthbound Farms certified organic frozen fruit.  Yay!  There are a number of different types of fruit to choose from, including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cherries.  So far, I have seen this frozen fruit at Planet Organic and Blushlane in Edmonton, but I suspect it will be widely available in other natural food stores and big grocery stores soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Important info about birth control

In the May 2012 Issue of Natural Medicine Journal, the article 'Primary Risks of Oral Contraceptives and HRT' by Gina Cushman outlines a number of concerns that are linked with oral contraceptive (OC)/birth control usage (including birth control in the pill, patch, and injection form).  OC usage depletes magnesium, zinc, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C levels in the body.  OC causes an increase in blood coagulation/clotting and can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.  Although OC usage may reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancer, it is linked to an increased risk of breast, cervical, liver, and skin cancer.  OC usage is also linked to an increased risk of chronic inflammatory immune disorders (including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and crohn's).  OC usage is also linked to an increased incidence of gum disease/inflammation.   Even though OC usage is the most common form of contraception, there is also the option of working with fertility awareness/charting which can provide an accurate insight into fertility and can function as an effective form of contraception.  For more info on fertility awareness, and

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Important info about beta carotene and breast cancer survivors

The Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study published a report in the Sept 2011 edition of the journal Cancer.  The study found that women who were survivors of early-stage breast cancer that consistently took supplemental vitamin c and vitamin e (6-7 days per week) had a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence and lower risk of all cause mortality.   Whereas women who were survivors of early-stage breast cancer that took supplemental carotenoids had an almost 2 fold increased risk of all cause mortality.  The primary supplemental carotenoid is beta carotene so, with this information, it is important for women who are breast cancer survivors to ensure they are not taking supplemental beta carotene, including in their multivitamin.  There has been no link found between eating a diet rich in beta carotene (from yellow/green/red/orange vegetables and fruits) and an increased risk of death or cancer recurrence.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Foods and thyroid health

The above photo was taken in Sedona, Arizona where I attended a conference on thyroid (and endocrine) health in October of 2007.  If we have concerns around thyroid health, there are a number of different food choices that we can consider.  There are a number of foods that are considered goitregenic foods which basically means they make it difficult for the thyroid to function in a balanced way.  The most common goitregenic foods include:  gluten (gluten is especially difficult on the thyroid if a person has auto immune mediated thyroid concerns such as hashimoto's thyroiditis), soy (fermented soy products have lower goitregenic activity), raw brassica vegetables (cooking brassica vegetables reduces their goitregenic activity), spinach, sweet potatoes, radishes, pears, peaches, strawberries, peanuts, pine nuts, millet.  Reducing our intake of these goitregenic foods can support overall thyroid health.  To further support thyroid health, we can also consider integrating seaweeds (which are rich in iodine and support healthy thyroid function) into our daily diet.  To me, the most user friendly seaweeds are dulse, kelp, and nori.  The seaweeds can be eaten on their own or mixed into soups/stews/beans/rice.  Increasing our intake of anti-inflammatory saturated fat rich foods, such as coconut oil and avocados, also offers great support for overall thyroid health.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Additional foods to consider on a cleanse

If we experience joint pain, we may also want to consider removing foods from the nightshade family during a cleanse.  The nightshade family foods contain alkaloids that can contribute to joint inflammation.  Removing them during a cleanse provides an opportunity to gain an insight into whether the joint pain improves when they are removed from the diet. The major nightshades in our diet include tomatoes (of which we had a bumper crop this summer - see above picture for some of my garden harvest!), potatoes, peppers (including both bell and hot peppers), and eggplant.  Paprika and cayenne are also nightshades.   Most people don't have a problem removing eggplant from their diet (because they already don't eat it!), but removing the other nightshades can feel much more difficult.  Both sweet potatoes and yams are not nightshades and do not tend to contribute to joint inflammation, so they can be a replacement for potatoes.  Peppers and tomatoes are much harder to replace, but all other vegetables (squash, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, green beans etc) are still fine on a nightshade free cleanse.  Even though the nightshades are hard to let go of during a cleanse, many people do find they feel less pain when they do not eat the nightshades, so it is an experiment worth considering.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Special guests at a simple supper!

So far, my cleanse suppers have been pretty simple and easy.  Tonight was similar with a few special guest ingredients.  My green leaf lettuce, carrot, and cucumber salad was jazzed up with an avocado, shredded golden beet, and a mixture of hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts (see top picture).  The avocado and seeds/nuts added a healthy fat source, the seeds/nuts added a healthy protein source, and the beets added extra liver friendly cleansing support.  My main dish was long grain brown rice, a stir fry with onions, garlic, crimini mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, cauliflower, purple kale, a red lentil sauce (seasoned with 1 clove garlic, 1 green onion, 1/4 tsp each cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, pinch each sea salt and cayenne), and brussel sprouts (see bottom picture).  The red lentil sauce added protein and flavour to the dish and the brussel sprouts added additional liver friendly cleansing support.  This supper was easy to make and was ready to eat in 45 minutes.  It was a filling and warming meal on a Sunday night.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Additional book suggestions

This picture of these beautiful red poppies was also taken at Cascade Gardens in Banff.  The deep and vibrant red of these poppies made them a stunning sight.

A fun and easy to read book that offers basic nutritional information on some of the foods that are either removed or focused on during a cleanse is called Crazy Sexy Diet and it is by Kris Carr.  She has also recently written a cookbook with Chad Sarno called Crazy Sexy Kitchen that contains dairy free, egg free, and refined sugar free recipes as well as recipes that are clearly marked as gluten or soy free.  Some of the recipes are a bit too complicated for me, but there are some other recipes that also provide extra cleanse friendly meal and snack ideas.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Goldenrod is a wonderful strengthening herb for both the upper respiratory tract and the urinary tract.  It grows easily in both Canada and Europe. The top and bottom pictures were taken of Goldenseal in Germany in Sept 2010.  The middle picture was taken of Goldenrod at the Cascade Gardens in Banff in Sept 2012.  It was amazing to see the difference in the height and the volume of this plant between these 2 different places at essentially the same time of the year!

I also wanted to share the name of another book that contains lots of cleanse friendly recipes.  It is called Raw Food Cleanse and it is by Penni Shelton.  It has lots of great suggestions for smoothies, salads, and soups that are primarily dairy/refined sugar/gluten/soy free.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!!

With the start of a new year, it is also the start of another cleanse for me!  I am especially looking forward to eating healthy and easy on the body food over the next month.  Tonight for supper, I had a variation on the yellow split pea soup from the Jan 2, 2011 post (minus the lemon and thyme and plus 1 yam, cubed, 1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp coriander) - it was yummy and a good way to start off the new year.  Rather than re-posting the recipe, I thought I would share the name of a great cleanse friendly cookbook that I picked up in 2012.  It is called let them eat vegan and it is by Dreena Burton.  All of the recipes are egg, dairy, and refined sugar free and many of the recipes are gluten (or just wheat) and soy free and are clearly marked as such.  If you are looking for additional ideas for meals or snacks to make on a cleanse, this is book is a great resource to draw from!