Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

The Wheat Series- Part 4: Wheat and Your Mind

In the other blog posts in this series (read Part 1, 2, and 3) , we have seen how wheat can affect our blood sugar, metabolism, and immune system. In this post I wanted to discuss something that was VERY surprising to me when I first learned about it, how much gluten can affect our minds.

I was a psychology major in college (before I went back to school to become a dietitian) and my interest in psychology and health remains (I even thought about doing a PhD in health  psychology). I have seen that many patients struggling with mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, etc), who also had issues with diet and weight. I would say that when I worked with the pre-gastric bypass population about 50% (or maybe even more ) of those patients struggled at some point with anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders. I always thought that the mental issue was affecting the diet (overeating, under eating, binges, sugar cravings, etc), and never really thought that maybe the diet was contributing to the mental illness. That is until I heard Nora Gedgaudas speak at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Nora’s talk discussed how blood sugar regulation is key regulating the endocrine and nervous system, controlling our hormones, emotions and behavior. Surges in blood sugar are destabilizing because of the effect it has on insulin, leptin, and other hormones, stimulating over-arousal and exacerbating anxiety-related issues. Remember the effect that wheat has on our blood sugar due to its high content of amylopectin?

But, its not just the blood sugar surges that contribute to the mood swings, depression, anxiety, etc, its the actual gluten itself. Gluten polypeptides have been found to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Once gluten is in the brain, it attaches to morphine receptors, the same as opiates. It has also been found that the drug naloxone (used to reverse the action of heroin and other opiates) blocks the binding of gluten to the brain’s morphine receptors. When naloxone was given to “normal” subjects (blocking the opiate effect of gluten), they consumed approximately 400 fewer calories from carbohydrate sources. Consumption of wheat can therefore lead to a mild feeling of euphoria and  when it is not consumed, people can experience withdrawal.

Nora, in her practice, has seen significant improvement in mental illnesses by using a gluten-free, Paleo diet approach in combination with therapy and biofeedback. If you are struggling with depression/anxiety or other mental issues, it may be worth a shot. For more information, there are several testimonials about anxiety, depression, and the Paleo diet on Robb Wolf’s site.

Paleo Day 9

Its been 9 days since I started the “strict” Paleo diet. Here’s what I learned so far:
1. Staying away from grains is not that hard. I just need to plan my meals/restaurant choices. If worst comes to worst there is always salad at most restaurants.
2. Staying away from cheese 100% is a completely different story. Most of the salads at work have some feta or other cheese on them. I had a little emotional issue on monday and felt like I “deserved” some expensive French cheese…I ate it with apples, improvement right? I am going to work harder on this part of it this week.
3. I am not seeing any “miraculous” results yet. My Raynaud’s is bad and my joints are a little achy. Maybe if I try harder on the cheese thing I might see a little improvement.
4. I have been doing great on the supplements. All it takes is a little planning to make sure I have the supplements I need. I don’t even notice the fish oil burps anymore!
5. My performance at Crossfit has really declined. This is the most frustrating part. Robb Wolf says that it should take 3 weeks to fully adapt. Right now I am about 1.5 weeks in…I guess I have another 1.5 weeks to really see improvement. It is frustrating now because I am exhausted during the workouts and am not used to it. Its really been a struggle.
6. I think I need to eat more protein. It is so easy for me to eat veggies and fruit. For the next week I am going to try to get rid of some of the fruit and increase the protein. I am going to get some recipes that include more protein so that I will get motivated to eat more.
7. I have lost about 2-3 lbs..weight kinda fluctuates. I think that is pretty good for me in 9 days.
8. My occasional digestive issues are gone. I do love that about eating more fiber.
9. I really don’t feel hungry. I don’t really want to munch at night. I feel satisfied after my meals.

I think I am going to continue what I have been doing with a few tweaks. There are always things one could do better and be stricter about. Hopefully in another week or so I will start seeing the results I am looking for…weight loss, less joint pain, improvement in Crossfit…for now I will just have to wait it out.

Autoimmune Disease Rant

I’m sorry, I try to be positive. I try to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems, but today I feel like just ranting a little…for one day. So, here goes…

As many readers know, I have an autoimmune condition that has not been given an official diagnosis. Currently they call it “mixed” or “undifferentiated” autoimmune disease. Basically, we are waiting for more symptoms, so that we can give it an “official” name. Lupus? Scleroderma? Who knows? “We” (doctors) are just waiting to see where else in your body this is going to pop up so we can put a label on it. After a bout with pleurisy about 2 years ago, I finally agreed to take the medication Plaquenil. Its an anti-malaria medication that is shown to decrease inflammation levels. The problem is that after the doctor tried to convince me the medication was “mild”, he then said, ”oh and you need a yearly eye exam to make sure you don’t go blind from it”. Really? So the side effect is blindness? Great. I was desperate at the time, so I took it. I have been on it for about 2 years now.

A little over a month ago, I stopped taking it.  I decided to do trial run to see if I could stay off the medication. I have been pretty good with my exercise, Paleo diet, stress management, etc so I felt like maybe I didn’t need it anymore. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get out of your system, so I have been feeling the same for the last few weeks. Until maybe the last 3-4 days. Today its my knee that is aching. Last night it was the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend it was my wrists. I am afraid that my illness is going to come back full-blown. I am afraid I am going to have to get back on my medications. Or medications that are worse than the Plaquenil.  I am afraid that this knee pain is going to go back to how it used to be where I didnt even want to stand-up to walk my patients to the door. I am afraid my lungs or kidneys will spontaneously fail. I want off the meds, but I am so afraid right now.

I went to see an alternative doctor yesterday that put me on an even sticter diet plan. No granis, no dairy, no alcohol. I already knew that that is what I needed to do. The problem is that I think 100% compliance is unrealistic. For example, I was not pefect with my diet over the weekend, I ate Mexican food on saturday and some crackers and cheese at an Oscar party on sunday. BUT, that is not even two full meals of cheating. All my other meals were Paleo meals.   I feel that is as compliant as I am going to get.  Sometimes I want some spaghetti or Mexican food. I can’t live on 100% paleo all the time, I have a real social life. I can’t constantly live in this place of deprivation, eating salads and meat only. Never enjoying a glass of wine, cheesecake, or a delicious Italian dinner. Feeling guilty over too much fruit. I desperately want to get better, but I desperately want a balance. I want to eat a good diet, be at a healthy weight, feel good about my health and my life, and enjoy foods that I like from time to time and not be so afraid. I don’t know where that balance is….

My boyfriend says, that if I really feel that way, I should get back on the medications. That way I don’t have to be 100% compliant all the time (although I probably still will eat mostly Paleo, just because its better for me) AND I won’t have any pain. I just don’t know if I want to take that risk of getting back on the meds. I also can’t live with this diet forever, always trying to be more and more compliant, and never feeling good enough.

So, thats my rant for today. I am tired of thinking about it all the time. I am tired of reading the blogs, feeling my diet doesn’t add up, feeling that my results are not good enough or dramatic enough. My body is struggling with inflammation. I don’t know definitively why. Some say diet, environmental toxins, genetics, stress. I think its all of those factors. Just a big combination of things making my body freak out and attack itself. The solution as I see it today are 2 things: take the meds that could have side effects; or follow a diet that makes me feel sad and deprived that I will never be able to be 100% compliant with.  What would you choose?

Healthy Holiday Gifts

I stole this idea from my e-friend (a friend I know over the internet but not in person- seem to have a lot of those) Kelly over at Paleo Infused Nutrition. She gave me the idea to do a little self-promotion and a promotion of my friends for the holiday season. So here goes!!

Book Recommendations

Looking for some reading material for the new year? Here are some e-books to check into by myself and some of my e-friends.

– Remember my best-seller called “How to actually lower your cholesterol?”, yes, the “best-seller” that sold all of 2 copies! Well, guess what??? Its still available! For purchase on the site. Check it out here.

– My wonderful e-friend Aglaee, Paleo Dietitian and world traveler, has not just
ONE but TWO e-books for sale. Since she travels so much she is an expert at eating Paleo during travel, so she wrote “Eating out and traveling on the Paleo diet” and her second e-book “21 myths about the Paleo diet debunked”.  You can get them both on her site here.

– Another e-friend who has given me a lot of free information about blogging over the last year, Tom Corson-Knowles has written an e-book on creating a business out of your blog. He has been very successful at creating his own business and living the life of his dreams. If you have a goal of being a pro blogger, start with his book.

– A REAL friend (who I know in person) Candace Morgan, RD has put together her family’s favorite healthy recipes. You can get your copy here.


– HUM Nutrition is offering special gift boxes this holiday season to get your friends and family off to a healthy start. I have packaged together some of our favorite products into bundles to help you reach your goals for ultimate health in the new year. Check out the “Skinny Box” if weight loss is your goal or the “Looking Fabulous Box” for glowing skin, strong nails, and shiny hair. They are also offering the “Ultimate Detox Box” for when you over-do it a little on the holiday cookies and the “Winter Boost Box” too keep you healthy all winter long!

– Looking to get your kids on the right track in the new year? Try the Smarty
Pants line of great gummy vitamins for kids (and grown-ups too!). They are one of the few kids vitamins that taste good, have omega-3s, and vitamin D! They are also a part of the Vitamin Angels network and donate a portion of their profits to help prevent vitamin deficiencies in needy children.

Cleanse Program

– I will be offering the “28 Days to Health” cleanse in the new year. January is a GREAT time to do a cleanse to get the year started off right. This is a gluten-free, dairy free, toxin free cleanse to maybe help you shed a few holiday pounds and make 2013 a great year for healthy eating! Keep posted on the date, but you don’t need to show up to the class to do the cleanse as all the materials are online. Contact me for more details!

Make it a healthy holiday and an amazing 2013!

The Wheat Series- Part 1

My time here in Brazil is allowing me to do some research into different topics I don’t really have time to look into in my regular life. I have been reading the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, which describes how the genetic modification of wheat has affected human health over the last 50 years. I have decided to write a series on wheat based on what I learn from the book, including some of my own research on the topic. Hopefully, you will get more educated on this topic as well.

Why is it necessary to even genetically modify wheat or any products in the first place? Why not just leave things the way mother nature created them? The main reason is to increase crop yields is to feed a growing world population (now estimated to be at 6.98 billion). About 1/6th of the world is hungry and suffering from malnutrition. That doesn’t even include those who are undernourished and not getting adequate vitamins or minerals needed to truly thrive. For those of us who generally have too much to eat, not having enough food seems like a crisis, and we need to solve it! We need to feed these people! Everyone should have a chance, right? It would be inhumane to not help these people! Don’t get me wrong, I have a bleeding heart myself. I donated money to Doctors without Borders because I learned on the evening news that 25,000 children had died recently in Africa, I bought towels for the victims of hurricane Katrina when Oprah asked me to. I get the desperation to fix human issues like world hunger.

So, scientists were put to work to figure out HOW to increase crop production,  so we could feed more people for less money. Of course part of the problem is about power and social inequality more than it is about lack of food, but that is a whole other post. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (IMWIC) located in Mexico, decided to start working on genetically modifying wheat to produce larger yields and make it more energy dense. Norman Borlaug, one of the primary scientists at the IMWIC, created a dwarf wheat plant (shorter than normal varieties) which could hold a larger seed, was disease resistant, and had a high yield. He won a Nobel Prize for this work and is called the father of the Green Revolution. He was able to help several countries, who were on the brink of famine, feed their population. This was an amazing feat! The dwarf wheat he created is now more than 99% of the wheat grown worldwide. This means all of us eat the wheat he created, people are being fed because of this genetically modified wheat. This is awesome right?  The issue is that none of this wheat was tested for safety….stay tuned.

Eating out to lower your cholesterol

It is best to eat food from home that you can prepare yourself, but life doesn’t always work out that way. The key to eating out and sticking with your meal plan is to be prepared. Most restaurants have menus online so you can check them out before you go. Salads are generally a good choice, just watch out for added croutons, tortilla strips, fried chicken, etc. A good salad should have at least 5 different vegetables and some protein. Use olive oil and vinegar instead of ranch or blue cheese as your dressing.

Here are Some Options When Eating Out:

  • Panera: Classic hand-tossed salad + chicken
  • Chipotle: burrito bowl or salad. No rice, no beans, add veggies of choice (salsa, fajita veggies, lettuce), double meat, guacamole.
  • California Fish Grill: grilled fish (no fries, rice, coleslaw or bread), add side salad
  • KFC: Chicken without breading, corn, green beans
  • In-and-out: Protein-style double-double.
  • Quiznos: Chicken Taco salad (no tortilla strips) or Classic Cobb Salad (no croutons)
  • Subway: Salad with all veggies, chicken, and avocado. Mexican food: Fajitas (any protein is ok), no tortillas, no rice, no beans, double vegetables.
  • Japanese food: Teppan yaki, eliminate the rice. Sashimi or hand rolls without rice. Soy sauce contains gluten (gluten free soy sauce is available at specialty grocery stores).
  • Italian food: Avoid pasta or rice. Choose grilled fish or chicken with a side of vegetables and lots of salad to start.

Some thoughts on a herniated disc….

The weekend of July 13th, I lost function of my right foot due to a severely herniated disk that is pressing up against the nerves behind my spinal cord. Here is

the MRI for your viewing pleasure, the circled area at the L5 vertebra is the disc that no longer lives in its home inside the spinal cord, but instead has decided to hang out with the nerves (white part) and put pressure on them.  There are several reasons why this happened to me, including Crossfit, sitting too much, driving too much, and basically ignoring back pain that I have had for well over a year. But, let’s not dwell in the past as we cannot change it. For the last 3 weeks, since I lost my foot, I have been devastated, afraid, ANGRY, resisting every moment of this whole process and complaining to anyone that will listen. I have had several other medical complications in addition to the foot drop and that has not added to my happiness or acceptance AT ALL.

This week, due to support from several friends and my “Power of Now” group, I decided to change that. Today in my “Power of Now” group, the question was asked “How do you know that this illness is exactly what you need?” and the answer was “Because you have it”. SIMPLE AS THAT. This foot drop is what I need for my spiritual, emotional, psychological growth because HERE IT IS, RIGHT NOW. All the stories I have been telling about it, about how I can’t walk or wear cute shoes, or do this or that, are just stories…and many are untrue. Today I am determined to ACCEPT this situation and identify why I am being faced with this current challenge, so here goes:

1. About a month before the foot issue, I had a bad attitude. I was upset with my current life situation and was constantly resisting what was. The foot has made me stop and realize, that maybe all the stuff that was making me angry, was really just ANOTHER story created by my mind. None of it was real and therefore the anger can no longer be there.

2. I was working too much, focusing on financial gain, instead of taking a step back and doing what I REALLY want to do (write). The doctors took me off work, so I was forced to stop. I was also angry about this at first and scared I wouldn’t have enough money or would lose respect from coworkers. Now, I realize that pushing myself did get me a few extra bucks, but it also may have cost me a piece of my health and well-being. Not worth it. And guess what, even though I took a few weeks off, I still have more than enough money! Another story created in my head.

3. Pre-foot drop I felt lonely. All the time. And the lonely feeling controlled my whole outlook on life. Even though my social situation hasn’t really changed that much, my friends are still my friends, I have realized that the loneliness was another story I was telling. During this time several friends have been texting, calling, taking me out for Shabu Shabu, and trying to make me feel better. Mark, who is always loving and kind, spent 5 hours with me in the ER on a Friday night. My sweet Manny-kins, came all the way to my house to massage my foot and watch “Celebrity Ghost Stories” with me. Terry, who always seems to teach me something, was able to see me through the bad foot, horrible rash, and accept me exactly as I am. A lonely or alone person does not have these loving friends in their life. I am a lucky, blessed girl to have so much love and support.

I am not going to sit here and say that I have accepted my gimpy foot 100%. But, what I can say, is that I am willing to do the work it will take to get better: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. I am willing to look deeply at my life and find the blessings and lessons hidden in this experience. I am unwilling to look at the foot as a limitation, but instead am going to choose to look at it as a blessing and a lesson. This gimpy foot is everything I need RIGHT NOW.

Healthy Lifestyle Day 5

I can safely say that the new eating plan is still going super well on day #5! I have lost about 1.5 pounds (even though the Livestrong widget says only 1 lb- its a little more than that I promise!). Some of the weight loss might be water, but I’ll take it! Generally, one can expect to lose 2-5 pounds of water on the first week of any weight loss diet. You might see slightly more weight loss if you are following a low carbohydrate program because since your body is using up its storage carbohydrates for energy, it is also getting rid of water at the same time.

So, last night Mr ZM and I had a delicious dinner I was super proud of! I picked up some pre-seasoned chicken at Fresh and Easy (only 360 calories for 1/2 the package), some small multicolored potatoes (160 calories for 1/2 package), and some green beans.

Mr. ZM was a little hesitant about green beans because he told me he hadn’t eaten them in over a decade (WHAT???). He also refuses to eat asparagus, but I will eventually prevail on that too! One step at a time, right? Anyway, we didn’t even finish all the chicken or the potatoes and were both pretty full. With a glass of wine each and an orange for desert, our whole meal was about 550 calories. At the end of the day, we both still had calories left over and were feeling pretty satisfied.

One extremely annoying thing, Mr ZM and I are about the same height and about the same weight….we have both been on the diet the same amount of time and eaten several meals together and he is about 1.5 pounds ahead of me in weight loss! I know men lose faster than women for several reasons, but it is so aggravating. This weekend we are going to go away to the mountains for a bit and I know we will have a few higher calorie dinners. I am going to try to set those off with some extra walking or exercise during the day. Lets see how it goes! Onward!

I have prevailed!

So, Mr ZM and I decided to get away for the weekend and spend it up in Idyllwild, a little mountain town about an hour from the OC where my parents have a cabin. We had gone there for New Year’s Eve and really enjoyed our time up there so we wanted to hang out a little bit more.

We headed up on Friday and spent all day Saturday walking around and then did some work at the local coffee shop, as I had an article to write. At about 4pm, we decided to start happy hour so we headed over to the Idyll-a-while Wine Shop for some wine tasting and conversation. Of course, we had to get a cheese plate as I rarely pass one up (I have been so good on my diet, I figured one would be ok this weekend).

The cheese plate had some veggies with it on the side, one of which was asparagus….and Mr ZM had said he would NEVER eat asparagus. Well, maybe people change because here is PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF of Mr. ZM munching on a spear of asparagus! I guess pigs do fly. And now back to reality and back to the re-commitment to health…but at least we can have asparagus now.

Genetically Modified Foods

In case you don’t live in California, Proposition 37, the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, did not pass in the last election. This was a surprise to many of us in the nutrition/health industry because we didn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to know if their food was genetically modified. Overall, there were two issues with the election. First, there was a big ad campaign on TV that talked about how all the grocery prices would go up. In this economy, no one wants to pay more for groceries! Second, it is unclear if people understand why it’s important to know if food is genetically modified. Here are some important points on genetically modified foods (GMOs):

  • There are over 40 plant varieties in the US that are genetically modified. The US produces 68% of the GMO crops in the world.
  • GMOs have been changed in a laboratory to have certain desirable traits such as resistance to pesticides, improved nutrition, or better appearance.
  • Mostly found in processed foods in the US, most whole fruits and vegetables are not genetically modified. 54% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.
  • GMOs may cause harm to other organisms and disrupt certain ecosystems. For example, pollen from GMO corn will kill a monarch caterpillar.
  • Plant genes can transfer from one plant to another. There is a fear that the GMO plants will transfer their pesticide-resistant genes to other plants, causing weeds to become resistant, leading to the formation of “super weeds” that cannot be controlled.
  • Increasing levels and severity of allergies to peanuts and other foods in children has been linked to GMO crops.
  • GMO crops have not been tested for long-term consumption and potential effects on human health.
  • GMOs are modified so that the plants are sterile and cannot reproduce. This forces farmers to purchase new seeds yearly.

Several countries have either completely banned GMOs or have labeling requirements so that consumers can make their own decisions. Although GMOs can help solve important world-wide problems, more research needs to be done on the potential long-term effect on human and environmental health.