Tending your Garden of Health

I love the metaphor of comparing your health to a garden.  Your health is exactly like a garden; you have to sow the seeds, tend to them lovingly, water and weed your garden, and nurture the soil. When something happens to weaken or diminish the garden (ie: a hail storm, frost, drought, etc.), you have to work extra hard to nurture it back to abundance.  Your physical health is no different.

 Imagine you have a beautiful, healthy tree that you love.   One day, in the middle of summer, you notice the bark is starting to peel away from the trunk and the leaves are turning brown and falling off.  Immediately, you call an expert who specializes in the health of trees.  After examining the tree, the expert recommends painting the trunk brown, painting the remaining leaves green, and stapling additional fake leaves onto the branches to fill it out, giving an appearance of health.  Do we not agree that is a ridiculous and preposterous approach?   If you want a healthy tree you can’t just cover up the problem; we need to dig deeper into the soil and look at the root system to understand why this tree is failing.  And yet, with our own health, we seem to be quite willing to paint the trunk and staple on green leaves in an attempt to “look healthy” without digging deeper to understand the underlying root cause of our unwellness.

 Our traditional approach to health and wellness treats symptoms (ie: painting leaves), but does not address root causes.  In our current medical system we have even gone beyond just painting the leaves and we have started cutting off whole branches and replacing them with artificial ones. Sometimes we don’t even replace them at all but just hope that the tree can somehow mend itself despite the missing parts.  Can this approach really produce a healthy tree or a healthy body? 

 In our bodies, the root system is our gut – otherwise known as the digestive tract.  Before chronic illness, there is inflammation, and before inflammation there is gut dysfunction.  The truth is, most illnesses today, (including conditions that are being diagnosed in epidemic proportions) can be traced back to an injured, irritated, and unhealthy gut. Over 2000 years ago Hippocrates said: “all disease begins in the gut.”  This still holds true today, but sadly, nobody seems interested in building health from the inside out – we all want to paint our leaves. 

 Signs of an unhealthy gut include:

·         Acid reflux

·         Excess phlegm and mucous

·         Gas/bloating

·         Skin disorders

·         Recurring infections

·         Frequents colds/flu

·         Allergies

·         Mood swings

·         Bad breath

·         Yeast infections

·         Fatigue

·         Aches and pains

·         Premature aging

·         Loose stools or constipation


These symptoms can often lead to more chronic and serious conditions.  In our traditional medical approach, however, they are often attributed to the unavoidable wear and tear of daily life.  They are not recognized as signs of an unhealthy gut or as the underlying cause of illness.  The good news is that all of these symptoms can be reversed and resolved through some loving attention to the roots and soil of your garden.

The gut (made up of several organs) is referred to as your “second brain” and it performs a myriad of essential functions that affect every single cell in the body, from the marrow in your bones to the hair and skin on the surface.  This is why gut dysfunction can manifest in the unlikeliest of body parts.  For example, when you notice a rash on your skin you will likely address it with a topical treatment instead of recognizing it as a sign of gut dysfunction.  We are all walking around with damaged guts and, to varying degrees, suffering from the consequences.  But, when we repair the gut, major and minor symptoms start to diminish and we can discover the meaning of true health. 

Repairing the gut starts with your choice of food (essentially the fertilizer for your garden).  The body requires WHOLE foods; live and good quality foods; foods that are as close to nature as possible.  Refined, processed, packaged, and fast food does not nourish our garden and will ultimately contribute to poor gut function.   Increasing your fiber intake is a boon to gut health; think fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and whole grains. Another boost for our inner garden is probiotics; these are found in fermented foods like kimchi, raw sauerkraut, water kefir, miso and plain organic yogurt.   Good intestinal flora is a key contributor to detoxification and keeping our “roots” healthy. 

Good hydration is another must for a healthy gut;  2 litres/day of clean water away from meals will enhance digestion and support elimination.  Stress management and relaxation are also critical for optimal digestion; eating mindfully, meditation, and deep breathing are the equivalent of lovingly weeding and watering your inner garden.  Regular baths in Epsom salts will aid relaxation, promote detoxification, and support gut health.  Avoiding alcohol, rancid oils, trans & hydrogenated fats, preservatives, additives, and artificial sweeteners will also help nurture your roots and make your gut happy.  And, finally, as simple as it sounds, good chewing is critical to your overall digestive health.  Digestion starts in the mouth and good chewing stimulates a cascade of events that are critical to proper digestion, absorption, elimination, and optimal gut function. 

So, remember to tend to your inner digestive garden with love and nurture, and it will reward you with vitality and health!  

How to achieve what you truly want

Happy 2016!!  I can’t think of a better topic for the first newsletter of the year than how to create the life you really want.  The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and think about what you want as you move forward.  Often times we make resolutions about what we want to achieve in the course of the year, how we want to lose weight, be a better parent, take control of our health,  work on being less stressed, manage our money better, etc. But, in fact, we don’t have to wait for a New Year to incorporate change in to our lives.  Every moment, of every day, is a new beginning.  We CAN create a joyous, wonderful and fulfilling life any time we choose!  You already have all the tools within you – it’s your thoughts and beliefs.  

Recently I discovered the work of Louise Hay and it has been transformational.  Her message is simple but extremely powerful.  Today I wanted to share some of her philosophy so that you can learn new tools to help change your life for the better.

Louise’s first point of philosophy is “What we give out we get back”.   This not only applies to our behavior but also to our thoughts and beliefs.  If we spend our lives judging and criticizing then we will also be judged and criticized.  If we love and accept ourselves and others unconditionally then we will attract people into our lives that will give us the same unconditional love and acceptance.  It’s the law of attraction:  like attracts like.  YOUR LIFE IS A MIRROR – if you have something in your life you are not happy with then look inside to see what is going on within you to attract this situation in to your life. 
Louise’s second point is “What we believe about ourselves and life becomes true for us”.   It’s so important to look at what we believe and discover any negative thoughts and beliefs that might be keeping us stuck in dysfunctional behaviors and patterns.  Often what we believe is established by the time we are 5 years old and is often learned from our parents!  Our thoughts about love, men, women, sex, health, prosperity, happiness, aging, work, success, God, etc., are all established at a very young age.  Surely not all of the beliefs we learned as a child are still relevant in our lives today?   Mental housekeeping is critical to our health and wellness – cleaning out those old limiting beliefs can help us be more prosperous and successful.
Louise’s third point of philosophy is “Our thoughts are creative”.  Thoughts are like a drop of water; they accumulate over time.  As we continue to think the same thoughts repeatedly, over time, they grow and become more powerful.  A drop becomes a puddle, a puddle becomes a pond, a pond becomes an ocean, etc.  If the thoughts are positive we can FLOAT on a sea of happiness; if they are negative we can drown in an ocean of negativity.
This also has links to our physical health – we know through the study of epigenetics that negative thoughts (repeatedly, over time) can alter our DNA!   If our thoughts and beliefs are powerful enough to alter our DNA then we cannot underestimate their importance in our overall health and wellness.
Deepak Chopra said we have upwards of 90,000 thoughts/day and over 75,000 of those thoughts are the same as we had yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.  So……………..if we want something different in our lives we MUST change our thoughts.  Much of our self talk is negative but Louise believes we can retrain our thinking through positive affirmations and transform our lives!!   

An affirmation is really anything you say or think.  The vast majority of what we normally say and think is negative and does not create good experiences for us.  We have to retrain our thinking and speaking into positive patterns if we want to truly change our lives.  An affirmation is a beginning point on the path to change.  Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation.  All of our self-talk, our internal dialogue, is a stream of affirmations. You’re using affirmations every moment whether you know it or not. You’re affirming and creating your life experiences with every word and thought.

How do we reprogram our conscious mind to create a better outcome in our lives?  You have to make a conscious effort to change your thinking and your words and practice this throughout the day.  Practice makes perfect. 

Some examples of positive affirmations are:

  • “I give out love and joy and find them wherever I turn”.
  • “I believe I am wonderful and life is a joy”.
  • “I approve of myself and I easily choose thoughts that nourish me!”
  • “I choose love, joy, peace and happiness”.
  • “I release negative thoughts and beliefs that keep me stuck in dysfunctional behaviors and patterns”.

When you first say an affirmation it may not seem true, sincere or genuine.  That’s because you are changing a thought that you have had for as long as you can remember but, as I said before, practice makes perfect.  If you keep saying it, the affirmation will become more sincere and more natural.   Affirmations are like planting seeds; first they germinate, then they sprout and then they poke their little heads up out of the ground.   It takes time for them to go from a seed to a full grown plant.  Be patient. Continue with your affirmations and life will start to change for the better. 

So, start thinking happy thoughts throughout the day, it’s that simple.  When you catch yourself being negative – stop it.  The way you choose to think, right now, is a choice. You may not realize it because you’ve thought this way for so long, but it really is a choice.

Right now . . . today . . . this moment . . . you can choose to change your thinking.  Your life won’t turn around overnight, but if you’re consistent and make the choice on a daily basis to think thoughts that make you feel good, you’ll definitely make positive changes in every area of your life!

How to Support Immune Function Naturally

For some reason the onset of fall triggers a bunch of propaganda about the “cold and flu” season.  While there does appear to be a higher incidence of colds and flu during cooler temperatures you do not have to succumb.  A healthy immune system will support you year round regardless of your exposure to infectious agents.  If you are one of those people who get sick, at any time of year, it is likely your immune system is not functioning optimally.  As I have said before, the body is not made for sickness; it is made for robust health year round.  If you give the body what it needs it will respond by giving you optimal performance!
About 80% of our immune function is housed in our digestive tract; so a strong and fortified immune system is the result of good gut health.  Ensuring good gut health is pretty simple; focus on a live, natural, good quality whole foods diet.  Avoid processed, refined and chemically laden food.  Ensure you get 40-50 grams of fiber/day, avoid sugar (1 tsp of sugar will suppress your immune system for up to 6 hours), drink 2L of filtered water/day and chew your food well.  Other tips to keep your immune system strong include, getting enough sleep and exercise, managing your stress and practicing good hand washing.

Remember, exposure to a cold virus does not automatically mean you’ll catch a cold. If your immune system is operating at its peak, your body will be able to fend off the virus without ever getting sick.

There are many foods that deserve extra attention when we are talking about supporting good immune function:

Fermented foods will help replace good gut bacteria which, in turn, strengthens our immune function.  Foods like water kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, miso are recommended.   Look for RAW and UNPASTEURIZED forms of these foods asthe pasteurization process kills all the good bacteria.   

Apple Cider Vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It may also help boost your immune function by raising alkalinity in your body.  You could consider using 1 tsp/day in your water.  Chlorophyll is another health boosting alternative; liquid chlorophyll is detoxifying, alkalizing and heals gut mucousa.  Adding 1 tsp/day to your water will definitely support immune function. 

Dark leafy greens (preferably organic) such as kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard contain powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, all of which help protect against infections. Eating them raw is the best way to ensure the best nutrient density. Juicing is an excellent way to get more greens into your diet.

Garlic is a potent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agent.  Garlic also stimulates glutathione production in the body (glutathione is a potent anti-oxidant and important liver detoxifier).   Ideally consume it raw, and crush it just before eating.  Just when you are starting to feel under the weather is a perfect time to crush a clove or two (mix with a little scoop of raw honey if you must) and swallow it down. 

Vitamin C is the king of nutrients when we look at supporting the body against infection.  A healthy body requires 500 mg of Vitamin C per hour to function; a body under attack from a virus will use up to 1000 mg/hour.  So, increase your intake of Vitamin C rich foods during the “cold/flu” season.  Kiwis have the highest amounts of vitamin C than any other food.  Other foods high in vitamin C include: citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, papaya, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

If you do start to feel sick there are several things you can do to fortify your body naturally and fend off the invader.  
STOP eating – you want to divert all the body’s resources to fighting the infectious agent vs. working on digestion.  Opt instead for easily digestible concentrated nutrients found in green juices and bone broths.  You also want to get lots of rest – your body needs to focus on mounting an immune response so you don’t want to use up your energy stores exercising, going to work, running errands, etc.  Lie down and sleep if you can.

In addition to the above steps, at the first sign of illness, you can also boost your immune function by taking a supplement or extract.  The following are some of my favorites:

Zinc supports immune function by increasing T cell production (this is part of your immune system).  Zinc has also been found to greatly reduce the severity of symptoms.   Zinc comes in pill form but also in lozenges for the kids in your life.

Echinacea (with goldenseal) stimulates our natural killer cells and activates an immune substance called “complement” which helps decrease inflammation.  Echinacea should only be taken for up to 15 days at a time.

Andrographis is a potent anti-oxidant.  It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.  It supports immune, liver and respiratory health.  An excellent supplement to keep in your arsenal.

Vitamin C in supplement form is needed if you start to feel sick.  Vitamin C immobilizes microbes, neutralizes microbial toxins, increases immune cell activity and it acts as a natural anti-histamine in the body.  I like 1000mg./hour up to bowel tolerance. 

Probiotics is one of the MOST essential components of our immune system.  Without good gut flora we are vulnerable to all infectious illnesses.  Probiotics are anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, they inhibit pathogens and bacteria, they manufacture B vitamins (another important nutrient for our immune system), they break down toxins in the body and they prevent/decrease inflammation.  A SUPER supplement!

Remember, illness/sickness is a symptom of a malfunctioning immune system.  If you find yourself struggling with colds/flu this season you need to look at building up your immune system.  I am entering in to my 7th year free of colds/flu and you can do the same!  The body is an amazing machine that will protect you from infectious agents if you give it what it needs to function optimally.