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”

Simple Salad Dressing Tips

If you and I toured the grocery store together for a little education on label reading and what to avoid and what to include, one of our first stops would be the salad dressing aisles.

Why? Well, most salad dressings are LOADED with ingredients that will do much more damage to your health and well-being than good. ESPECIALLY those lovely labels that trick you with words like “light” and “reduced fat.”

Now, knowing that most veggies contain fat soluble vitamins, which means we NEED fat to absorb them, why in the world would we throw on a dressing that is reduced fat?

>>Pause here. If you are following ANY kind of eating plan that promotes light or reduced fat dressing, it’s time for a new plan!<<

Don’t get me started. One of reasons I hated salads for years is because they never filled me up for more than an hour (there are other reasons I go into here, but I won’t go there now).

When I load my salad up with the RIGHT kind of fat, I feel fuller longer. It’s better for my mental health and way tastier. Most bottled dressings contain canola oil, soybean oil, and/or a bunch of random artificial chemicals and sugar. For example, even the Newman’s Own Olive Oil Blend, which seems to be a pretty safe option, contains soybean and/or canola oil added to it!

My favorite brands for dressings with yummy brain fats are Primal Kitchen and Tessamae’s. I’ve heard Bragg vinaigrette is awesome, but I haven’t tried it yet.

It is much cheaper and nourishing to my body and brain to make my own dressing. I put the ingredients in a small mason jar, shake them up, and store it in the fridge. I don’t like soggy lettuce and a lot of dressing, so I may use less than some.

Keep your oil and vinegar to a 3:1 ratio, and get creative with spices! Here is my favorite combination.

Favorite Salad Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, red wine, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Dash of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, lemon juice, lime juice, get creative!

Combine in a mason jar and shake. Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to a week.

 

 

The Truth About FAT

Fat is getting a lot of attention these days. Which is pretty awesome, because does anyone remember Susan Powter and the days of “fat makes you fat?”

Those days are over.

In fact, we now know that our brains MUST have fat. Personally, I think it’s pretty interesting that we have experienced a rise in mental illness and other chronic illnesses following the “fear of fat” campaigns. Could there be a connection? Maybe.

But not all fats are created equally.

Processed, trans fats – the hydrogentated oils we find in all our Doritos and Twinkies and good old standard American packaged food – is extremely damaging to our mental health. These fats increase inflammation and modern day research on mental illness tells us that an increase of inflammatory cytokines in our bloodstream could very well be at the root of mental illness.

To keep inflammation levels in check, we MUST have a healthy balance of fat in our bodies. We NEED fat for vitamin absorption, brain health (our brains are made of fat), heart health, metabolic support, and to keep our hormones functioning as they’re supposed to.

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Olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has been proven to decrease inflammation similarly to ibuprofen!

Where to Find Healthy Fats

  • Avocados, olives, and coconuts are great sources of healthy fat, along with animal sources like ghee, grass fed butter, wild salmon, grass fed beef and omega-3 rich organic eggs (always, always eat the yolks).
  • Whole nuts and seeds, and their butters like almond butter or tahini
  • Look for the highest-quality organic oils when shopping. Stay away from genetically modified vegetable oils like corn, canola, safflower, and soybean.
  • Words to look for: organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and unrefined. Avoid expeller-pressed, refined, and solvent extracted.

How to Use Healthy Fats:

  • For cooking at high temperatures (stir frying and baking), try butter, ghee (clarified butter), or coconut oil
  • When sautéing foods, try organic extra virgin olive oil.
  • Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed are best used unheated in sauces or dressings.

I try to get a healthy fat in at every meal. It keeps me full and my brain clear. I start my day with fatty coffee – French pressed coffee, MCT oil, coconut milk or grass fed butter and sometimes I add in some collagen protein. I blend it altogether and it’s like my own homemade latte. I try not to use bottled salad dressings, and instead make my own. And my pantry is ALWAYS stocked with various raw nuts to snack on or to add to meals.

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?”

When Before and Afters Hurt

I’ve been having a difficult time with before and after pictures lately. I’m not sure if I feel comfortable with them. I’m not sure if they inspire or hurt. There have been many flooding my social media newsfeed lately and for lack of a better term, I’ve felt triggered.

Many of the women in the “before” pictures look beautiful. They have my “ideal” shape and size, so to see that they want to change that raises so many questions (some subconscious) in my mind. Why did they want to make a change? Was it just for the physical result? Did they have health issues to address? Are they happier in their bodies in the after picture? Would I be happier if I looked like them? So. Many. Questions.

I’ve posted many before and after pictures. That was how I started my health and wellness business, and that was what inspired so many of my friends to join me. What I never before considered is that in focusing on a picture only, I water down the true message of health and wellness. And there isn’t a one size approach to health. If there was, I wouldn’t be writing this.

I’m processing a lot right now, regarding body image, weight, and health at every size. I’m doing a lot of soul searching that, as a nutrition coach, is necessary for me in order to properly help others and reach people where they are.

So let’s talk about my holistic health journey for a second…

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See the girl on the left? She was pretty amazing. She just had her second baby, had just finished running a 5K, and was really loving life and her job as a teacher. There is nothing wrong with that!

Continue reading “When Before and Afters Hurt”

Spring Reset

Over the last couple of years, I have learned how transformative the power of food is for this “broken brain” of mine. Using food as fuel has benefited my mental stability in so many ways. Adding in specific anti-inflammatory foods is a game-changer…and I can’t keep this knowledge to myself.

My new 12 day coaching group starting April 8 will take you through the same “brain health boot camp” I went through not long ago.

This group will give you an arsenal of tools to improve mental clarity, help you pay attention to your hunger signals, decrease inflammation and benefit whole body health!

This coaching group will give you personalized attention for only a fraction of normal client costs. Bonus – you’ll receive coaching from two holistic health coaches in this group!

Contact me for more information.

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”

How Dirty Are Your Genes?

“Our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.”

Have you heard this before? We are not stuck with our genes. We can change the expression of our genes with every bite we take, step we take, thought we think. This is the concept of epigenetics.

I recently found out I have a copy of a gene mutation called MTHFR. Because I refer to this in many of my recipes as my motivation for eating the way I eat, I want to break it down in an easy, Cliffs notes kind of way. There are many websites out there that can explain it in depth (like this and this), but here are the basics:

An estimated 30-60% of the population has at least one copy of this gene. When you have MTHFR, your body cannot fully convert folic acid into methylfolate, the methylated form of folate, and some experts suggest that ANY folic acid consumed will block the absorption of folate – even that which you consume in whole foods. This is detrimental to our brain health, because neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine need methylfolate for production.

Common health concerns sometimes associated with MTHFR include:

  • ADHD, autism, mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar)
  • Autoimmune disease/thyroid disorders
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Recurrent miscarriages
  • Infertility
  • Hormonal issues, like PCOS
  • Blood clots, stroke, embolism
  • And many many more (it’s a rabbit hole)

Continue reading “How Dirty Are Your Genes?”

The BEST Egg Roll in a Bowl Recipe

Don’t let the name scare you away. I’ve never been a fan of egg rolls. But this dish – major fan. In fact, I’ve tried just about every variety out there on the interwebs, and this is my favorite. My kids love it. The adults love it. It’s a win.

(Just to be clear, my kids also like sushi and dislike pasta with red sauce. So take their feedback with a grain of pink Himalayan sea salt, okay?)

My FAVORITE things about this meal: it takes about 15 minutes to make (start to finish) clean up is simple, and it’s extremely filling and satisfying.

I don’t like to use pork too much because I don’t trust the sourcing/toxicity, so sometimes I’ll use grass fed beef and that’s good, too. The most flavorful meat to use in this is ground breakfast sausage. Again – toxin alert for you purists. But it’s soooooo delicious.

As far as cabbage goes, I prefer a head of green cabbage because it’s so cheap and cabbage is one of the “Clean 15,” so you don’t have to freak about buying unorganic. Pre-shredded bagged cabbage works too, but as long as you have a good knife, save your money!

I’ve used a blend of purple and green cabbage with shredded carrots, and that’s good too. You really can’t go wrong. You could add mushrooms or broccoli or any other vegetable you’re in the mood for.

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Continue reading “The BEST Egg Roll in a Bowl Recipe”

In Search Of My Goal Weight

“What do you want to change about your body?”

The question must have been standard for the personal trainer asking me, because he asked so nonchalantly, like it was just an everyday conversation topic.

For me, though, it gave me pause. I thought, and I thought, and I thought. A word kept floating in and out of my conscious mind, but I had a hard time grasping it.

“Nothing… nothing… nothing…” the word flickered in and out, like broken lights on an old restaurant sign.

But I couldn’t say it.

It would sound weird to say that out loud. I had signed up for a free consultation, and I thought maybe I’d learn how to properly lift weights. I wasn’t prepared to think about my body’s deficiencies.

But maybe that’s what these sessions are about, I thought. That’s the point of this meeting for most people, right? Maybe it would be stupid to say it out loud? Am I supposed to want to change something? Do I LOOK like I should change something? I mean, I’ve had 3 kids, but I kinda like my curves and my strong thick thighs (and for that matter, so does my husband). I practice yoga because I feel strong and solid, not insecure and unsafe in my body like I did for so many years. I run because I love to get my heart rate up. It cleanses my mind and soothes my soul. It’s a dopamine driver.

So I sat there. And I made up something about wanting toned arms (I’ve never particularly cared one way or other about my arms). He made me weigh and check my body fat. That only further intensified my thought that maybe there WAS something wrong that I should change, and that brief flicker of “NOTHING,” – the thought that there was nothing I wanted to change about my body -that was quickly popping out of my subconscious into real life… faded away and died out.

By the end of our conversation, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe I needed to change something about my body.

It seemed so innocent, so out of nowhere. Just one free consultation with a trainer. But after years of progress and learning to respect the body I’m in, it happened in an instant. I started believing the lie again.

The messages are everywhere. It’s easy to get caught up in it – the quest to look better. Thinner, more toned, younger. It’s easy to idolize it, to make that the goal. Your life will be better if you lose weight.

“When I reach my goal weight, I’ll…” fill in the blank. Have you ever thought that before?

At some point in the last few years I stopped dreaming about the mythical goal weight and started living in the present. I stopped working out and eating for a number and I started living for mental stability and freedom. I gained freedom from rules and guidelines that never make me feel good enough, and I won freedom to eat what fuels ME, not anyone else.

Today, if you asked me what I wanted to change about my body, I would grab onto that floating word with all my strength and not let it go.

NOTHING. I am so much more than a number. I am so much more than a size. I contribute so much more to life than a physical image.

If you are caught in the trap of believing that your life will begin when you reach your goal weight, it’s time to get a new perspective. For me, I didn’t need to change my body. But I needed to change my perspective. That is what brought me the most healing.

It is possible for you to find freedom. Contact me. Let’s work on true, sustainable health – from the inside out.

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