The Biggest Issues in Children’s Health Today – an Interview with Dr. Alina Olteanu

img_8840I recently sat down to interview Dr. Alina Olteanu, integrative pediatrician and owner of Whole Child Pediatrics of North Texas. Dr. Olteanu played a major role in helping my youngest heal from chronic ear infections and restrictive airway disease (which I will share about in a later post).

I was thrilled to pick her brain about children’s health in the 21st century, and let me tell you – she is a wealth of knowledge! You can find the full audio recording in Google drive format here, or a YouTube link here.

Below is a transcription of the interview. All that is missing from the recording are a few comments I made here and there, but I encourage you to listen to the audio or YouTube link to hear the emotion and passion in both of our voices as we discuss these fascinating topics. She definitely speaks my language on all things gut health and brain health. I hope you enjoy what she has to say and please share with a friend!

What brought you to integrative medicine? Continue reading “The Biggest Issues in Children’s Health Today – an Interview with Dr. Alina Olteanu”

What’s the Deal with Sugar Cravings?

I feel like I have ultimate credibility when it comes to sugar cravings. I battled them for most of my life. There are many factors at play there: gut dysbiosis, adrenal fatigue, low dopamine, and nutrient deficiencies, but one of the biggest hurdles is that I had a HORRIBLE relationship with food.

I was a chronic dieter. There were good foods, there were bad foods, and somewhere in that system of thinking I associated good food and bad food with Good Erin and Bad Erin. My food issues became intertwined with my value as a human.

While one of the best things I have ever done is address my gut health and nutrient deficiencies, I also have received so much healing from normalizing sugar.

If I want something sweet, I have it. When I allow myself the freedom to have whatever I want, nothing off limits, the appeal of the forbidden goes down. In fact, I’m better able to take a few bites of something and tell if it’s worth eating. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

img_8341 Continue reading “What’s the Deal with Sugar Cravings?”

Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?

Now that I shared what leaky gut is and how it starts, I’m excited to share my top tips for nourishing your gut! If you’re already feeling nervous or annoyed that I’m going to share a long to-do list that will overwhelm you, scroll down to Tip #4, then come back up to the top and be encouraged! Learning to take care of your gut is such a rewarding process.

First things first – because I love all things food, my inclination is to start there. But that may be backwards.

See, if you don’t take care of external triggers, it doesn’t matter what food you eat.

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Tip #1: Manage Stress

We can’t avoid traffic, work deadlines, soccer practices, family conflicts, etc. But we CAN handle how we manage the stress they create.

The best thing I’ve done for my stress levels is learning to breathe. Guided breathwork has been so beneficial. There are various studies into why and how they assist the parasympathetic nervous system, but let’s focus on this – deep nostril breathing will decrease the stress center in your brain. It will instantly calm and soothe you. Just a few minutes of calm, steady breathing can be a game-changer for your stress levels.

One other thing that helps lighten my stress load when my mind is racing is taking a bath with Epsom salts. I am NOT a bath person, and I’ve never been a fan of just laying there, but an extra hot bath that leaves me alone with my mind and deep breathing practices is something I’ve come to depend on during stressful times.

I’m also a big fan of a gratitude journal, either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Reflect on what went well the previous day. Try to list 3-5 things. It’s hard to be stressed or fearful when you’re acknowledging the positive in your life. Being grateful changes your brain, the expression of your genes, and improves your gut health!

Tip #2: Eat Real Food!

…And eat it slowly. It’s no secret that processed food is damaging for us. But we all know that, and we just keep on keeping on with our gut issues. So while ideally, one would focus on cutting out the triggers, for some it is a much more realistic approach to crowd in the most fueling foods. Eating slowly and mindfully gives your digestive system time to digest and process the food. Taking breathers between bites and chewing slowly gives your enzymes a chance to do what they need to do and break down your food.

Vegetables contain prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. They detoxify our bodies and provide much needed vitamins for our brain health. They also help produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which is so important for mental health and has even been studied to be helpful in reducing symptoms of mania. Side note – butyrate is found in grass fed butter and ghee, so by cooking vegetables in either of those you’re increasing your fat-soluble vitamin content AND getting a double dose of brain goodness!

Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?”

Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?

Aside from epigenetics, one discovery that has completely changed the way I view my body’s healing ability is gut health. Learning how to take care of my gut transformed my mental health.

5 years ago, the term was a mystery to me. I thought probiotics were only necessary when taking an antibiotic. And it’s true – considering the fact that most of the food we eat contains antibiotics, probiotics are a necessity.

The reality is, the state of our gut bacteria determines much of our health and well-being, from our immune system to mental health to most chronic diseases plaguing people in the 21st century.

From a young age, I was on antibiotics, steroids, and various medications that disrupt gut bacteria. I suffered from intense sugar cravings and yeast infections, major signs that my gut needed balancing. The state of my gut health, those genetic predispositions I mentioned earlier, and witnessing a traumatic event at the age of 9 are what I believe led to my mental illness crisis in my teens and 20s. It’s alllll connected. Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?”

Muffins with Sneaky Veggies

When it comes to meals, I’m alllll about getting in as many veggies as I can. That’s why I love these muffins over any other kind I’ve made with my kids. They contain all kinds of prebiotic fiber from the vegetables, as well as flax and gluten free oats – so their good bacteria can flourish. They’re gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free. The recipe may seem lengthy and time-consuming at first, but now I just throw everything in the blender and the result is sooooo worth it!

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Since I started working on my bonus baby’s gut a year and a half ago, I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking and baking. We don’t use enriched flour anymore, due to the gluten and folic acid, we don’t have dairy in the house (other than Kerrygold butter, a great source of butyrate), we buy organic as much as possible, and we limit refined sugar and processed foods. They also take the BEST methylated multivitamin/probiotic chewable ever.

I have seen massive results in my 2 and a half year old’s health. He was well on the road to asthma at a year old, needing breathing treatments just about every month with a chronic runny nose. I’m happy to say that at the time I typed this, we have gone 3 months without a breathing treatment and he hasn’t had a runny nose in far longer…and the pollen count in Dallas is at a crazy high.

I’ve adapted this recipe and doubled it from the version I first saw here. The original calls for almond butter, but have you seen the price on organic almond butter??? I sub organic peanut butter, Costco brand, and it works great. For sweetener, I think organic maple syrup brings an added richness raw honey doesn’t have. I love raw honey for the health benefits, but again – you’re using a lot in this recipe and that stuff ain’t cheap.

Continue reading “Muffins with Sneaky Veggies”

Ancestor’s Stew

The blood of my ancestors is in this crock pot stew. Kidding. But seriously, I did some DNA testing a while back and found out I’m 50% British/Irish… so there is really nothing better for me than beef stew (other than whisky of course – kidding again)!

Stew is a comfort food for me. I spent many, many years hating beef, but I always loved the stew my grandma made. I think she would be pretty proud of this recipe I concocted, as I once told her I would never ever cook with raw meat (it totally disgusted me).

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I used beef bone broth as the base (because gut health), switched out extra potatoes for a turnip and some radishes, and added my favorite herbs – oregano, thyme, and ROSEMARY. Continue reading “Ancestor’s Stew”

Gut-Friendly Breakfast Cookies

My kids LOVE sugar and gluten. But their guts don’t. So I was thrilled when I first discovered this recipe for breakfast cookies that are free of sugar, gluten AND dairy (depending on the chocolate chips you use)! I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe, and I have to say, they’re pretty dang good!

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Start by mashing up bananas with a fork and then add the coconut oil and vanilla. From there, dump in the dry ingredients and mix it all around with a fork. I never even need to use a spoon, and hey – that’s one last thing to load in the dishwasher right? Check out this happy banana-masher I had today:

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Oats are a little controversial for some, as they can potentially contain gluten if they aren’t labeled “gluten free.” But there are many studies that link oats with the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is always something I’m a fan of! The walnuts in this cookie are a nice brain-boosting touch, and you could also add in dried fruit or even blueberries, another brain-boosting food.

The chocolate chips do add some sugar, but it’s minimal when you consider the typical breakfast food item for kids these days. It’s hard to find chocolate chips free of soy, gluten and dairy. I like the Enjoy Life brand or Lily’s because they contain stevia! Continue reading “Gut-Friendly Breakfast Cookies”

Why Diets Never Worked For Me

Diets. I hate the D word. They started in high school. I went on my first antidepressant my sophomore year and gained 30 pounds in under two years. It was devastating and embarrassing. I used food to cope with unhealthy emotions. Once I could drive, I hopped in my 1990 baby blue Chevy Caprice and hit up Sonic happy hour for cheddar peppers and slushes. I stocked up on sour watermelon candy at Target and late night Whataburger taquitos. I never felt full, but I loved the dopamine high the food would give me. I knew food had a pull on me I couldn’t escape.

So I tried South Beach, the Zone, and finally, Atkins. The latter helped me lose the “Zoloft weight” and gave me new confidence. But restriction made me bitter. I developed PTSD from salads. I made the act of eating a moral decision – there are good foods and bad foods. Fattening and non. Healthy or not. And I let the shame of indulgence give me value, just as I allowed my size or the number on the tag of my jeans give me value. Continue reading “Why Diets Never Worked For Me”

Living With a Stigma

little me

This little girl didn’t know that in 10 years she would wish for death. She loved her family, her new siblings, and Jesus, too. Much like the Tom Petty song, she was about to take a free fall – down the path of a broken brain.

She was a preacher’s daughter with a genetic disposition to mental illness. Add on to that various health issues like chronic ear infections, asthma, allergy shots, antibiotics and steroids… and a budding sugar addiction, due to poor gut health. She was all energy and filled with curiosity, wanting to know the how and why of everything. So one day, when the darkness closed in, she would questions why she couldn’t just pray it away.

Continue reading “Living With a Stigma”