The Importance of Your Poop

Even though it feels a bit embarrassing to post about poop, there’s no denying that our bowel movements are extremely important. If you want to know what’s going on with your body and your health, then start by looking at your poop.

Let’s begin with the gut. The gut is the body’s second brain. In fact, it actually sends messages directly to our brain up top. It impacts mood, digestion, the immune system, and even how you think. While thought processes like writing or math are up to the big brain, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which runs down from our esophagus to our stomach, small intestine and anus, is comprised of 100’s of millions of neurotransmitters that affect mental state and contribute to certain diseases in the body (source: John Hopkins). This network of neurons is similar to those found in the brain and act as a complex circuitry allowing the gut to think independently, learn, remember, and even experience gut feelings. 80% of cells from the immune system are located in this digestive tract, so it makes sense that the colon can dictate your overall health.

Because of the impact your gut health has on mood and overall health, many gastrointestinal disorders like Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome stem from issues in the gut. When you poop, you eliminate toxins, and when you don’t poop those toxins build up and can contribute to disease and illness. Constipation can be caused by a disease, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or from something like stress or poor diet.

Are you pooping enough?

Your poop can tell you whether your body is properly absorbing the nutrients that you consume. Ideally, you should poop between 1-3 times every day, but no more than 5. If you’re pooping five or more times daily, this is likely diarrhea and can be dehydrating. Many people refer to having regular bowel function as being “regular,” but regular really means easily passing soft yet well-formed bowel movements anywhere between 1-3 times a day to 3 times a week (source: continence.org).

The type of poop you make is quite important. Thankfully, there is this handy dandy poop chart to help you identify your stool category according to research by the University of Bristol:

If your poop most closely resembles types 1-3, this indicates constipation. Types 3-4 are ideal; 5-7 indicate diarrhea.

What can you do to become a “regular” and healthy pooper?

If you’re not a category 3-4 pooper, then I have some tips for you!

If you really want to give your colon a good cleanse, try a colonic. Colonics cleanse your colon by flushing the large intestine out with warm water via the rectum in order to remove waste and exercise and hydrate the colon (source: SF Colonics). Some places that do colonics will even sell add-ons with the colonics, like coffee enemas or vitamin B implants.

Diet can play a huge role on gut health. Try adding more fiber to your diet since fiber gets waste to move through the intestines. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, and I highly recommend my Daily Green Smoothie for a powerful dose of fiber and vitamins needed to cleanse the body of toxins. I also suggest taking a daily probiotic and digestive enzymes. Probiotics can come in the form of food or supplements, but basically, probiotics are good bacteria that are essential to proper gut function and good health. Digestive enzymes will help you get the most from the nutrients in your food by breaking the food down into more digestible components. Even if you’re someone who eats well all the time, if you don’t have enough digestive enzymes you will not absorb all the good nutrition from your food (source: Whole9). Stress, low stomach acid, aging, and inflammation all are very common occurrences that can deplete levels of digestive enzymes.

Because of the direct link between the gut and colon, constipation or diarrhea can signal something stressful going on, whether it’s something emotional buried deep or something going on presently, like a big presentation at work (source: Harvard). To reduce stress, I can recommend a number of therapies which I’ve tried. These include health coaching, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, emotional freedom technique, or yoga. There are many ways to reduce stress on your own too, like breathing exercises, regular physical activity (but tailored to fit your body’s needs), essential oils, or a good ole’ warm bath.

I have worked with many women who suffer from chronic constipation. In fact, chronic constipation is a large, somewhat unspoken epidemic. I work with these clients to improve diet and lifestyle and to identify areas of stress or emotional trauma in their lives. If you’re someone suffering from gut problems, or if you would just like to improve your overall health, please set up a complimentary consultation with me so we can review your health history and discuss how health coaching can best help you.

I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

 

 

My Daily Green Smoothie Recipe

I’ve been a longtime fan of morning smoothies, but I’ve recently discovered a new smoothie that has instantly become my morning addiction. I drink it every day and enjoy the process of making it in the morning before my workouts. This green smoothie works wonders for the body and mind and is packed with nutrition. It has protein, fiber, important vitamins and everything you need to look and feel your best. After just a week of drinking it, I noticed improvements in my skin and energy levels. My digestion improved too, and I started having less unhealthy food cravings. 

Remember, everything in the body is connected. Your gut, colon, and brain all effect each other, so if you feed yourself nutritious foods your gut will be healthy, which also means a healthy colon and brain (aka, better digestion and prevention from illness). Please feed yourself good foods, like this smoothie, and your whole body will thank you!

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I like to switch it up slightly, but I typically add the following foods to my daily green smoothie: purified water, banana, green apple, green pear, celery, romaine, spinach, kale, lemon, chia seeds, hemp seeds and bee pollen.

Dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale and romaine, are a good source of protein, as are chia seeds, hemp seeds, and bee pollen. You could absolutely add in different greens or fruits, or even add fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. To make things easier with this smoothie, you can also make some extra and store it in a glass container in the freezer for later use. Otherwise, this smoothie will last covered in the fridge for two days.

The other thing I like about adding greens to my smoothie is that you get the most from your greens this way. Normally, aside from not eating enough vegetables during the week, most people don’t chew their food enough, which means they don’t absorb maximum nutrients. The nutrients in the vegetables are stored in the cell walls of the plant cell, so the blender will do a more efficient job of breaking these down. A Vitamix or powerful blender will really be best for making this smoothie smooth and creamy like it should be.

I encourage you to drink this smoothie and make it part of your morning routine!

Ingredients (makes 1-2 glasses)

– 1 1/2 cup cold, purified water

-1 banana

-1/2 green apple

-1/2 green pear

-1-2 celery stalks

-2 handfuls spinach

-1 handful romaine

-1 handful kale

-a squeeze of lemon

*optional: handful chia seeds, hemp seeds, bee pollen, or any other favorite superfood, herb, or protein powder

*For a smoothie with less sugar, remove the banana and pear, and just use the green apple.

Instructions

1- Pour water into the blender, followed by the spinach, romaine and kale. Blend until smooth.

2- Add the celery, pear and apple. Blend.

3- Add the banana and lemon. You can also throw in any optional seeds or foods, then do a final blend. Enjoy!

 

 

All Hail Kale

kale-heartProbably five years ago or so, I don’t believe I had ever heard of kale.  It seems like the green, leafy vegetable blew up to celebrity status overnight, suddenly becoming the most talked about superfood.  This vegetable has become one of my personal favorites and with any vegetable, if you know how to prepare it right, it can be delicious.

Buying vegetables, whether it’s kale or other green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, etc, is cost effective and leaves less of a carbon footprint.  While animal agriculture has many implications like land degradation and reduction of biodiversity, vegetables have a very low environmental impact and be grown in most climates.

Kale, because of it’s high nutrient value, is a good option to replace our society’s high meat consumption.  I’m not saying cut meat out entirely, but I think people can certainly add in more vegetables to crowd out large portions of meat.  Everybody’s body is different, but vegetables are an important part of our diet, and lots of us don’t get the correct amount of vegetable servings in our diet.  Here are some reasons kale is one of my favorite vegetables:skinny-bitch3

Anti- Inflammatory

Dark leafy greens are an important source in reducing inflammation in the body.  Vitamin A, selenium, and beta-cryptoxanthin are some of the few anti-inflammatory agents found in vegetables.

Fiber

Our ancestors had way more fiber in their diets than we do today.  Fruits and vegetables are a fantastic source of fiber, especially kale, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and avocado.  Fiber maintains bowel regularity and prevents the risk of health problems.

Iron 

Some people believe that it’s difficult to get healthy amounts of iron in our diet if a person doesn’t eat meat.  This simply isn’t true.  In actuality, some vegetables contain higher levels of iron than animals foods, especially vegetables like Swiss chard, soybeans, lentils, spinach, and turnip greens.

Calcium

Milk is believed by many to be the greatest source of calcium, however, vegetables have high calcium amounts that’ll keep our bodies strong.  That being said, don’t rely solely on vegetables as a source of calcium, because it’s harder for our bodies to absorb calcium from vegetables.  Kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and bok choy are some examples of vegetables containing lots of calcium.

Healthy Fats

As I’ve written about before, getting healthy fats in our diet is very important, and there is a distinction between good and bad fat.  Omega fatty acids are necessary to our diet.  Lots of people take fish oil capsules, but kale actually contains both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Back to Basics

Words to live by, literally…
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Today I wanted to take a look at the difference between our modern diet and the way we ate as hunter-gatherers.  Our modern diet looks nothing like what our ancestors ate.  Americans consume way more sugar, salt, unnatural flavors, and chemicals.  In fact, even if you handed your great-great grandmother a brightly packaged box of Oreos, she probably wouldn’t even know what to make of it, let alone it eat it.

Below is some information on how our diet has changed.  Most of us need to curb our sugar and salt intake and the consumption of processed foods.  To do this, add in lots of whole foods (like vegetables and fruits), which will crowd out the quantity of foods we shouldn’t be eating.

Hunter-Gatherer Diet:                                       Contemporary Diet:

Carbohydrates:
>100 species veggies & fruit                               < 10 species veggies & fruit
>100 grams of fiber daily                                    < 20 grams of fiber daily
>Roots, legumes, berries                                    Sugars, sweeteners, grains

Protein and Fat:
 Game meats –deer, bison                               Feedlot cattle & poultry
 High Protein/high cholesterol                           Half the % of protein/high cholesterol
 More omega-3 fatty acids                                More omega-6 fatty acids

Vitamins and Minerals:
 Much less sodium                                            Much more sodium
Much more potassium                                      Much less potassium
1.5-5 x levels of vitamins                                  Lost in processing & storage

2002 Fred Peshkow MD, FACC

Whole Grain Living

Americans have seemingly been conditioned to classify all carbohydrates as bad.  Certain diets, like the Atkins diet, have created a bad rep for carbs, but there needs to be some distinction.

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Whole grains, a type of carbohydrate, are actually essential to our diet and have been central to the diets of several cultures around the world since ancient times.  It’s typical in Japanese culture, for example, to eat a carb-heavy diet consisting of lots of rice. Yet, most Japanese people are very thin, so explain that Atkins!

Everyone’s body is different, however, so a high-carb diet may not work for everyone.  There are pros and cons to every diet, so here is what to expect from a high-carb diet:

Pros:

  • Fiber
  • Nutrients
  • Constant energy drip
  • Protein in grains
  • Whole foods
  • Lowers cholesterol

Cons:

  • Diet doesn’t work for everyone
  • Some people gain weight
  • Some people lose weight
  • Affects blood sugar levels
  • Indigestion
  • Gluten
  • Phytic Acid

There are so many whole grains to choose from, some which may sound unfamiliar.  I recommend experimenting with different whole grains to see what you like.  Make whole grains a part of your daily diet and aim for at least three servings a day.  Whole grains have many health benefits, but are linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

FYI- sugary cereals like Lucky Charms, although advertised as “magically delicious” and made with whole grains, does not count!  Those cereals, and similar products, are processed and full corn syrup, corn starch and sugar (bad carbs!) and don’t have the same healthful effects as unrefined grains.  The same goes with oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast dishes and can be very healthy, unless you’re eating the packaged instant oatmeal that’s filled with sugar.  Try steel-cut oats instead and top with fresh fruit.  Just remember,  the more processed something is, the less healthy it is.

*Note- When choosing whole grain foods, be weary of false advertising words like multigrain, 12-grain, stoneground, high fiber, enriched, wheat flour, whole wheat and whole grain (surprise!).  Look for 100% whole wheat instead.  “Bad” carbs generally consist of processed foods, like breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, fried foods, white bread (vs. 100% whole grain bread), etc.  “Good” carbs are those which are full of fiber, like vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains.

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Whole grains should be consumed daily.  Some unrefined grains you may not have heard of, but are now becoming more common in regular supermarkets.  Although some of the names of the following grains may sound unfamiliar, give them a shot and possibly try out some of the recipes I’ve provided.

  • Quinoa– mild, nutty, slightly bitter.  A gluten-free option that’s extremely versatile and can be used in salads, pilafs, stuffings for meat or vegetables, soups, stews, porridge and desserts. An ancient grain of South America full of protein and dietary fiber, quinoa has been linked to reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.  Rinse before cooking to remove the bitter coating around the grain.

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Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Cinnamon-Scented Breakfast Quinoa

  • Amaranth– herbaceous, grassy, sticky.  Gluten-free and is used in porridge, salads, soups and stews.  Originally grown by the ancient Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, and still cultivated in Mexico.

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Banana-Pecan Amaranth Porridge 

 Amaranth Fish Sticks

  • Buckwheat– Earthy, dark, slightly meaty.  Gluten-free and is used in risotto, salads, pilafs, soups and granola.  Use buckwheat flour for pancakes or other baked goods.  Found mainly in Russia and China.

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Porcini Mushroom and Kale Buckwheat Risotto 

Buckwheat Pancakes

  • Brown Rice– nutty, slightly sweet, chewy.  Gluten-free and used in salads, risottos, pilafs, stuffings, stir-fries and rice desserts.  There are now brown rice pastas being sold and I really like them.  A main dish in Asian culture.

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Brown Fried Rice

Stracciatella With Brown Rice

Chicken and Brown Rice

  • Millet– Buttery, corn-like.  Gluten-free and used in pilafs, salads, stuffings, porridge, soups, stews, desserts and to make polenta-like dishes.  A typical grain eaten in Africa and Europe.

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Millet Muffins

Roasted Chicken with Millet Stuffing

  • Oats– creamy, slightly sweets, toasty.  Made in granola, porridge, baked goods, and coatings (instead of bread crumbs).  A typical grain of Scotland.

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Homemade Granola

Maple Oatmeal Bread

  • Kamut– buttery, nutty.  Used in salads, pilafs and stuffings.  Flour is used for baked goods like bread and pasta.  This grain originated around Egypt and has more protein than common wheat.

Kamut

Kamut, Lentil, and Chickpea Soup

Falafel Burgers (with kamut flour)

  • Spelt– Nutty, slightly earthy, chewy.  Good with Mediterranean flavors like basil, olives, tomato, cheese and eggplant. Used in salads, pilafs, and stuffings for meat or vegetables.  Spelt flour is used in bread, pasta, baked goods, and desserts.

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Toasted Spelt Soup with Escarole and White Beans  

Whole Spelt Pumpkin Muffins

  • Farro (cracked)– nutty, mild, slightly chewy. Ideal with Italian flavors and used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, stews, soups and pasta.  This grain is believed to predate all other grains and originates with the people of the near East and Mediterranean.  It’s currently grown mainly in Italy. Farro is often soaked overnight to soften the grain and to reduce cook time.

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Farro Salad with Asparagus, Peas and Feta

Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad

Greens and Grains Scramble

  • Pearl Barley– nutty, slightly chewy.  Used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, soups, stews, and sweet desserts.

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Pearl Barley Casserole 

Beef and Barley Soup

Sources: LiveScience, ABCNews