It May Seem Obvious But...

Note: I forgot to post this yesterday! I got it all queued up last week because I knew I had an early morning flight on Monday morning, but then I never actually posted. Late night pizza with my awesome cousins Jack and Katie, plus a 5:30 am alarm are to blame... but anyway here's yesterday's info:

I am traveling today, so this will be brief but still important!

As I mentioned on Friday, I am reading two new books for school about kids and feeding and nutrition. In the book Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health, one section provides "Smart Strategies for Feeding Babies Four to Twelve Months Old." I won't share all 12, but there are two that really stand out. They seem obvious, yet so many of us fail to follow them.

The first is to avoid giving your infant foods that you don't want him to love when he's older. Seems pretty straightforward right? Logical - something every parent would think of. Yet over and over again, you see parents feeding their kids things like fast food, fruit snacks, candy, or soda. And although there are some crazy parents out there, I am confident that NO parent wishes poor eating habits upon their children when they get older. So, this is something to keep in mind - use it as your guide if you're ever at a loss over whether or not you should be feeding something to your child.

The second that stood out and seemed so obvious yet so difficult to live by is to be a food role model. If you stash candy in the top drawer and grab a piece every few hours, your child will start picking up on this habit at a very early age. If you obsess about your weight and what you eat, or are a really picky, finicky eater, your child may also start to become conscious of his or her weight at a young age or become very picky about what they eat. So, something else to keep in mind!

Kids & Adults: Different Diets

I am starting two new books for school – Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health, by Susan B. Roberts and Melvin B. Heyman, and Superimmunity for Kids, by Leo Galland. So, over the next week or so I may be sharing some of the information I learn. I know a lot of PWN readers have kids or plan on having kids, so hopefully you will find the information valuable.

I am just getting started, but one of the things I read this morning is something that I think is important to share. While it may seem obvious, many parents may forget that children have very different nutritional needs than adults. Many adults try to eat a diet that is very high in fiber, low in fats, and doesn’t include things like oils, butter or red meat. While this may be the proper diet for mom or dad, it is not the proper diet for a child. If your toddler or child is not getting enough fats, calories and other nutrients, they can develop developmental problems and even start to crave the foods their body needs. Kids should be eating full fat dairy products (if you decide to give them dairy and they do not have an allergy), and they have no business using things like fat-free salad dressings or avoiding butter.

Many times I have mentioned the importance of feeding your family ONE meal at night. Kids and parents can enjoy the same foods, with some adjustments as necessary (certain spices, for example, can be too strong for young kids). However, if the parents are on a restricted diet, they need to make sure their children are obtaining enough fats and calories from their meals.

According to Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health, there are 8 key nutrients that parents should focus on when it comes to giving their children the best start in life. These nutrients have the biggest impact on metabolic programming, which includes brain development, motor development and even personality. The 8 key nutrients are as follows:

  1. Fat
  2. Fiber
  3. Calories
  4. Iron
  5. Calcium
  6. Zinc
  7. Folate and other B-vitamins
  8. Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C and E

I would add water to this list as well. Kids drink so much sugary juice and not enough water, in my opinion. All of the above nutrients are abundant in fresh, whole foods. Therefore, a whole foods diet is just as important for your kids as it is for you! Don’t waste their appetites on junky prepackaged foods that may fill them up, but will only provide them with trace amounts of the above key nutrients. Start them out on the right track, and that way they will develop a palate for healthy, fresh foods. This will benefit them throughout their entire life! And if you’re trying to change some bad habits at a young age, that’s okay too – better to start now than just avoid it altogether. Make adjustments slowly and include them in the process to make it more fun.

Have a great weekend!


Leaky Gut: 6 Main Causes

Yesterday I wrote about leaky gut syndrome, and gave a brief overview of some of the symptoms associated with it and some of the more serious diseases that can occur as a result of leaky gut. Today, I’d like to give you the 6 main causes of leaky gut, as laid out in the book Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN.

Diet and Nutrition

I’ll start with diet, because I think it’s the most significant. Not only can poor food choices lead to leaky gut, but proper food choices can actually heal leaky gut. For this reason, leaky gut seems to have anything and everything to do with what we eat. Simply put, eating too many bad foods and not enough whole foods leads to an imbalance of bacteria in our intestinal tract. Processed foods are lower in fiber (even if they say they are high in fiber, such as Fiber One pop tarts, don’t be fooled – they are fortified and this type of fiber is not easily absorbed by our natural bodies), and low-fiber diets lead to increased transit time for food passing through our digestive tract. The longer food stays inside of us, the more opportunity it has to begin to spoil and rot, which causes further damage to our intestines. Processed foods also promote inflammation, which can seriously damage the digestive tract over time.

Chronic Stress

When we are stressed for long periods of time, our immunity is affected. Over time, our body begins to react to stressors by producing less and less of two things: sIgA (one of the first lines of immune defense) and DHEA (an anti-aging and anti-stress hormone). Therefore, chronic stress actually leads to an impaired ability to deal with stress and increased susceptibility to sickness and aging (yikes!). The other thing that our body does when we experience chronic stress is to slow down digestion by reducing blood flow to digestive organs. Again, when our digestion slows, food has more time to go bad inside of us and eat away at our healthy intestinal lining.


Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of bacteria within the digestive tract. When “bad” bacteria is allowed to overgrow (as a result of poor diet, antibiotics, steroid medications, birth control pills, or other factors), it breaks down the strong walls of our intestines and causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms. One good way to fight dysbiosis is to take a probiotic supplement daily.

Environmental Contaminants

Every day, we are exposed to many household and environmental chemicals that put stress on our immune systems. Sometimes environmental contaminants can deplete us of important minerals, and can lead to tissue breakdown or inflammation. The best way to deal with this is to limit exposure to environmental contaminants as much as possible. Obviously it is impossible to avoid them completely, but we can do things like use gentler cleaning products and beauty products.

Overconsumption of Alcohol

I’ve talked plenty about alcohol, but just a quick reminder that alcoholic drinks contain very few nutrients but take many nutrients to metabolize. Alcohol strains the liver and damages the intestinal tract.

Use of Medications

Certain medications can damage different parts of our digestive tract. Some damage the delicate intestinal lining, which then allows microbes, partially digested food, and toxins to enter the bloodstream. This leads to much of the discomfot associated with leaky gut syndrome, and eventually more serious diseases. Since sometimes we must take medications for whatever reason, it is even more critical that we focus on a healthy, whole-foods diet so we can counter some of the effects the meds have on our body.

I hope this increases your awareness of leaky gut and the many different factors that can go into digestive distress. Try to become more in tune with your body and pay attention to certain things that may trigger specific symptoms. It is probably impossible to eliminate all digestive issues, but the more we can focus on healthy diet, exercise, sleep, and happiness, the better we will feel and the more productive we will be.


Leaky Gut

“Leaky gut” is used to describe an array of digestive disorders and symptoms that are associated with increased intestinal permeability. I think it’s important for people to understand how to recognize the signs and symptoms of leaky gut, because the earlier these symptoms are dealt with, the less chance someone has of obtaining a more serious illness.

A healthy intestinal lining allows properly digested fats, proteins and starches to pass through, while keeping out bacteria, foreign substances, and large undigested molecules. In this way, we obtain the nutrients we need from our food but are protected from outside substances that could potentially make us sick.

However, when the intestinal lining becomes damaged, irritated or inflamed, larger particles and foreign substances are able to pass through. These things go directly into the bloodstream, and our white blood cells are alerted that foreign invaders have entered the blood. The white blood cells begin to battle these invaders, and in the process oxidants are produced. Oxidants can cause unwanted issues all over the body, from sore joints to cancer. This is why antioxidants are such an important part of our diet!

When these unwanted foreign invaders enter the bloodstream, we have leaky gut.

Some of the more common conditions associated with leaky gut include acne, autism, Celiac disease, childhood hyperactivity, Crohn’s disease, eczema, food allergies or sensitivities, hives, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms associated with leaky gut can include abdominal pain or cramping, asthma, chronic joint pain, confusion or poor memory, gas, constipation, indigestion, bloating, mood swings, anxiety, low immunity, fatigue, and skin rashes.

Tomorrow I will touch on the 6 main causes of leaky gut syndrome. It is a very common issue and people can experience leaky gut on a very minor level or it can be very serious. However, the only way to heal leaky gut for good is to use nutrition and lifestyle changes to restore the integrity of the digestive tract.


Alcohol and Your Stomach

As a nutritionist, people often ask me about their vices, looking for some sort of affirmation that it’s okay to drink 3 cups of coffee every morning or have ice cream after dinner each night. It’s actually a really interesting phenomenon: people find out I am a nutritionist, and the first thing they do is “confess” their bad habits with a guilty look.

Alcohol is one of those vices that is often brought up. A recent conversation at a wedding went something like this:

“Ann, what do you do?”

“I’m in school for nutrition.”

“Ohhhh! So what would a nutritionist say about the fact that this is my 7th beer and counting?”

Alcohol is one of those things that is really tough to ask someone to give up. For most people, having a drink is a very social thing, and can also be celebratory (toasting at a wedding) or part of a family ritual (cocktail hour with your grandparents). Usually, it’s not the occasional drink I am concerned about with a client. It’s the binge-drinking nights out when someone consumes 5 or more drinks, or the people that make drinking alcohol so casual that it becomes more of a habit than something they truly enjoy. But I guess my main goal with alcohol is to educate people on what exactly it does to the body and how it affects your internal balance, so that they can make more of an educated decision to either have or not have an extra drink.

We’ve gone into a lot of detail on digestion in class, including the function of each organ of the digestive system. The way alcohol travels through our digestive system is really interesting, and makes a lot of sense.

Alcohol absorption takes place in the stomach. The only other things that are absorbed through the stomach’s lining are water; electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium); aspirin and some other drugs; and some short-chain fatty acids such as coconut oil, butter, and breast milk (which allows the rest of a tiny baby’s digestive tract to continue to develop and prepare for digestion of other foods later on).

Cells found in the stomach’s mucosal lining secrete an enzyme called ADH that converts alcohol into something more easily processed by the body. ADH production tends to be lower in young females and in the elderly. This helps to explain why young females tend to experience symptoms of being intoxicated more easily than young males. They’re often referred to as “lightweights,” but really they are not producing as much of the enzyme that helps process alcohol! Females also have less body fluid than males of the same size, so their blood alcohol levels tend to go up more quickly when they are drinking.

Another important thing to understand is that ADH production is dependent on the presence of zinc. A person who is zinc-deficient will have a harder time processing their alcohol than someone who has plenty of zinc. I happen to think many of us are zinc-deficient, so this is important to note.

The other component to alcohol metabolism is the presence of fatty foods. Fatty foods in the stomach will actually slow the passage of alcohol into the intestine, which will slow the rise in someone’s blood alcohol levels and allow them to enjoy their drinks with clearer thoughts. Any type of fatty food qualifies – whether you’re eating fresh bread dipped in olive oil or a plate of greasy french fries.

I hope this helps you to understand more clearly what alcohol does inside of you. Remember, it’s not my intent to take anything away from anyone. I want you guys to enjoy eating and drinking! Rather, I want to educate you so you can make your own decisions based on the knowledge you have.


Cultured Foods

Right now for my Digestion & Detox class, we are reading a book called Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski. She talks about how an unhealthy digestive tract can actually be responsible for not only digestive disorders such as IBS, acid reflux and constipation, but also for other issues such as arthritis, migraines and even autoimmune diseases. It’s a really interesting and eye-opening book, and I recommend it for anyone who thinks they may have less-than-perfect digestion and is open to trying some new things.

Lipski spends some time talking about the importance of the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract. We each have about 4 pounds of bacteria in our GI tract, and it is important to keep it healthy and thriving and prevent the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that can lead to digestive distress. One of the ways to maintain this balance is by eating cultured foods.

Cultured foods are eaten all over the world and have a long history of being used to treat digestive disorders such as ulcers. These foods are rich in nutrients because they contain more beneficial bacteria. The bacteria make extra nutrients for their own benefit, but we benefit from the extra nutrients too! Cultured foods tend to be higher in vitamins A, B-complex, and K. They also are higher in natural probiotics, which keeps our GI tract healthy and aids in digestion. Finally, cultured foods provide many healthy enzymes.

Some examples of cultured foods include yogurt, tofu, miso, tamari, tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, and even wine. To give you an idea of how much higher in nutritional value they are, yogurt made from full-fat milk has anywhere from 5-30 times the amount of vitamin B12 than milk, and 50 times the amount of vitamin B3 than milk. Yogurt is an easy cultured food to incorporate into the diet, as it can be added to smoothies or eaten with any meal. Remember to go for the plain full-fat yogurt to get the most health benefits and the least amount of added sugars or flavors.

Also, keep in mind that many foods that would traditionally be considered “cultured” in certain countries are not necessarily cultured where we live. For example, soy sauce made in Japan uses several microbes such as yeast and L. acidophilus in the fermentation process, which can be very beneficial. But in the United States, most soy sauce is manufactured from inorganic acids that break down the soybeans, so it doesn’t have the same health benefits.