Something’s not right. Should I give up gluten?

 

Every once in a while, you get to the point in your life when something’s got to give. The sense of dissatisfaction spills over into your body, so you just don’t feel right, and those nagging little things start to get louder.

Life has a way of showing up in your body.

I’ve given up counting the number of women I come across who feel the stress of life in their digestive tracts.

  • Women whose IBS reflects the turmoil in their marriage or their job
  • who can’t eat when things get too intense
  • who develop allergies to everything from soup to nuts
  • who suddenly can’t digest the foods they’ve always eat
  • who start gaining weight without having changed a thing in their habits.

When life takes a big left turn, it’s only normal that you’re going to feel it where you’re most susceptible – digestive tract or other places.

When you’re in the muddy transition zone of moving from the life you knew into the vast unknown, your body is going to express its fear in the place it knows you’ll hear it.

When something desperately needs to change, your body will speak to you in a language that makes you pay attention.

Because you feel it in your body, the first place you’re going to look to fix things will be with your body.

Inevitably these women all ask me the same question: “Should I give up gluten?”

Possibly, though not necessarily.

 

Why gluten’s an all-around problem all of a sudden:

Without going into a long sermon about the overload of gluten (mostly highly-hybridized wheat) in our North American diets, understand that too much of anything difficult to digest will cause problems.

Being on the harder-to-digest end of the spectrum, gluten helps set the stage for inflammation anywhere in your body.

When there’s already inflammation specifically in the gut, there is limited access to the brush border enzymes that break down that gluten, amplifying the problem.

Meaning: If there’s any of inflammation in your body – anywhere in your body – gluten may do you more harm than good.

 

It’s not just the gluten:

I can almost bet that most of the gluten you eat comes in the form of refined wheat (or other grains), i.e. flour products. Even if your bread and pasta and muffins are made with whole grain flour…they’re still made with flour!!

As a matter of fact, even if you’re avoiding gluten, there are a heck of a lot of lovely substitutes that are also flour-based…because they’re aimed at replacing the stand-bys you’d rather not go without.

Think of it this way: remember when you were in kindergarten and you mixed flour and water to make a paste? Imagine how that paste would gum up your intestines, making the digestion of almost anything more difficult.

Meaning: Get your starch and sugars from whole grains (full stop!) and vegetables…not flour products.

 

The bigger picture:

Let me ask you this – regardless of whether you know the source of your stress and your belly aches:

What about your life are you not digesting?

What is it about your current life and the chaos you’ve been getting through that you can’t assimilate?

What are you having a hard time swallowing?

What makes you nauseous?

I can do this all day, but I think you get the point.

Here’s your invitation: Insert whatever symptom  you’re having (digestive or otherwise) into the metaphoric questions and notice what comes up.

Most likely you’ll find emotions that need expressing and beliefs that could use re-evaluating.

Meaning: Your digestion is a reflection of how you digest life.

I wrote a whole post elaborating on that idea here.

 

Chances are, even if staying away from gluten will ease your symptoms, the way your body is reacting – the way it’s speaking to you – will open the door to the places that really need your love and healing attention.

All you have to do is listen.

 

I’d love to hear what comes up for you when you ask yourself those questions. If it’s too personal for posting below, by all means, send me an email instead. When you share your story, you open the possibilities for others.

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Breakfast to Get You Out the Door (when you can barely get out of bed)

 

Don’t you hate it when health consultants and nutritionists tell you that all you need to charge your day is a good breakfast? Do you want to hit someone the next time you hear that the right balance of protein and vitamins will get you going in the morning? (ahem…guilty as charged)

Sometimes the well-intentioned advice hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that you can barely get out of bed in the first place. Given the fact that your life is in such a turmoil right now, the only thing that energizes you is the thought of pulling the covers over your head and staying there until next July.

The only motivation you have for not giving into the obligation are your hungry kids and a fear of getting fired.

Overwhelm is like that. You just don’t want to have to think or feel or do life because every time you try, it’s as if you’re about to drown in the immensity of it all.

So you go through the motions. You throw some cereal at the kids, maybe pour a coffee down your own throat with the last bit of banana bread from yesterday and get on with your day.

Sure this routine might keep you putting one foot in front of the other, but the truth of the matter is, it’s only going to keep you stuck in that vicious cycle of overwhelm.

Physiologically, all coffee does is put your body into stress response – something you don’t actually need help with right now. And if you don’t already feel derailed enough, a lack of food in the morning or something sweet will ensure the impact on your blood sugar will up the ante.

I know. I know. You’re not actually hungry and putting a half decent supper on the table is about all you can manage when it comes to cooking.

Even if you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, the one thing you can do for yourself is connect to your body. It’s for this very reason that your morning needs to start somewhere other than food.

Connecting to your body, as you do nothing more than breathe – listening to your body – is the one act of nourishment you can offer yourself before you even consider what else the day holds.

This is where practices, such as meditation, affirmations, or with receiving a ray of light into your heart, come in. When you start the day with even the tiniest reminder of who YOU are in the middle of the upheaval that is your life right now, you open the door to possibility for more.

You open yourself to the energy stores you forgot about, you open yourself to the early stages of renewed self-love, you open to what it takes to feed yourself adequately.

In those moments, there’s nothing to do but breathe, connect and listen.

One day, maybe you’ll realize you’re thirsty, so you start with a glass of water, maybe a squeeze of lemon.

One day, you might feel hungry, so you have a bite of last night’s chicken (or the banana bread).

One day, you may actually get the urge to boil a few eggs for everyone…

The thing I love so much about breakfast – other than the food part – is that it holds the forgiveness of a new day, a new leaf. No matter what happened yesterday, no matter what you ate or didn’t eat, breakfast is a chance to start again, to put a different foot to the fore, and maybe make a few strides towards better mindset and better health.

Trust that one day you’ll get yourself to the ideal of adequate protein, good fats and other nutrient-dense options in the morning. Likely sooner than you think when you start by nourishing your soul for now. (When you’re ready, you can get more details here.)

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention despite the whirlwind life can be. Your routine may not look like mine, and may evolve over time – the important part being that it’s an expression of who you are and what YOU need on a given day.

What gets you out the door each morning? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How to Nourish YOU for the Coming Year

 

I step out my front door after a heavy snowfall. The expanse of white blanketing my lawn is pristine – not a rabbit trail, nor a wind drift in sight – it’s pure, clean and full of possibility. I get a satisfying thrill to be the first one to make a mark. Today, it’s a footprint. Other times it’s an angel.

That’s exactly how I feel on the first of the year. As if by turning to a fresh page on the calendar, I’ve wiped everything clean and get to start again; I get to make my mark on the year in any way I desire.

I get to step forward as the person I want to become.

I get to feed and dress and entertain myself in a way that reflects the wants and needs of that “new” me.

I get to enjoy relationships with a whole new heart.

I get to share my reaffirmed values through work and service to others.

The possibilities are vast – all emanating from me.

All starting from that 1st step.

2017 is going to be a big year. I can feel it.

Am I feeling the excitement brewing as Canada turns 150, as Montreal turns 375, as most of my friends and I turn 50, my eldest son, 25?

Politically, we’ll see a whole new world – terrifying and thrilling in equal measure.

Maybe I’m tuned into the cosmic pull of numerology. 2+0+1+7=10, the culmination of one cycle and the start of the next; as well as (1+0=1) the very beginning. Maybe I’m feeling the onset of the Year of the Fire Rooster – vibrantly social and healthy.

Whatever influences and environment and waves push and pull against you through the coming year, at the centre is you. YOU are the only part over which you have control. YOU are the only tool you have for creating waves – through your own care & feeding, in how you interact with others, in how you vibrate in the world through work & community – your footprints.

Will they be made of carbon or snow? Of fairy dust or hard facts? The choice is yours.

It all starts with you.

Before you make that first step each day, though, be sure to start out knowing who you are in that moment. Connect with YOU first. Action comes next.

Huh?!? What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean?

It means that the best way to be yourself, to feel like yourself and stay nourished through your day, is to start each morning with a bit of ritual: a morning routine.

A morning routine ensures that you start your day nourished body, mind and soul.

A morning routine wipes the slate clean like that freshly fallen snow. Without necessarily getting rid of yesterday’s transgressions, it contains forgiveness for them, and hope for tomorrow’s wins.

A morning routine ensures that you have had time to yourself and for yourself, no matter what the rest of the day holds. It gives you the space to focus inward before engaging outward.

When life rips the rug out from under you, a morning routine maintains a constant, a beacon to which you can tether yourself to get safely to the other side.

A morning routine connects all parts of you into an integrated whole from which you can better make decisions about work, food, leisure… basically, how you want to spend your time, energy and money through the coming day.

The daily practice of a morning routine fosters discipline. Not the strict, whip-cracking type. Ritual establishes boundaries as a safe container for who you are, what you will & won’t do, what you will & won’t let in…or out…of your life.

A morning routine starts the conversation in which you can listen to your body – her needs, her hopes, her fears.

A morning routine gives you the space to connect with the Divine, a conversation with a greater power. This includes the petitions for what you need as well as listening for a response.

If there’s time for nothing else on a given day – the connection to self and spirit are the non-negotiable pieces to my morning, in the form of breathe.

Feeling my breathe move into my body’s centre, then settling into that space as it leaves.

That way, I start each day with a calm nervous system.

I start each day with a dose of oxytocin – bi-product of connection, which lowers cortisol levels, with its residual waves to improved blood sugar, immunity and libido.

I start the day, saying, “This is ME.”

I take each step from there.

Your morning routine will likely look different than mine. It will vary, depending on whether your day includes a marathon or a day of leisure, kids or just you, being at home or on the road. Your routine may alternate depending on the type of work you do, or where your values and priorities lie.

One thing that remains the same for each of us, whether you will be teaching kindergarten or spear-heading a corporate merger, starting out your day grounded into YOU will set you up for more energy, success and happiness at the end of it.

My morning routine has evolved over time and continues to evolve as my needs shift through the seasons and the circumstances of life. For the next four posts, through the months of quiet hibernation in winter, it’s the perfect time to share some aspects of my morning routine, not as specific rules, but as guidelines for possibility.

How you make your own routine is up to you.

Do you have a morning routine, or a non-negotiable bit to your day? We’d love to hear about it! When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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The Soul of Bone Broth

 

Have you noticed that you can’t turn around these days without tripping over someone extolling the virtues of bone broth?

Recipes, videos, blogs and expert interviews – guilty as charged. I have been suggesting bone broth to clients with everything from IBD to arthritis to breast cancer. Heck, it even makes a great body booster for my athletic sons.

What’s the deal? Is this truly a revolutionary superfood or just the flavour of the month, and why is it making such a huge comeback?

I’ve known that bone broth is the ideal supplement for nourishing, well, your bones. It’s one of Nature’s calcium supplements, along with the other minerals and protein your bones need. By steeping all the nutrients from one set of bones into liquid, they’re easily assimilated for yours.

Recent studies are proving that this very basic, traditional food is also loaded with glucosamine, condroitin and balanced electrolytes, including highly absorbable potassium. It’s being touted as the cure for leaky gut and dysbiosis. It calms inflammation and detoxifies your digestive tract. It nourishes you when you’re pregnant; it rejuvenates you when you’re ill.

My goodness, it really is a super food!

You might know me enough to realize that my trust in bone broth goes much deeper than those wonderful physical benefits.

Broth is at the basis of some pretty ancient traditions: show me a Jewish grandmother who doesn’t make chicken soup. What about congee, the Chinese equivalent? Soups cross every culture – phó, dal, wonton, Korean hot pot, Mexican avocado soup, minestrone,…

This isn’t coincidence. These practices developed from very basic human practices: ancient traditions that use every last piece of the animal they killed. Not the “yucky” parts we usually throw away, bones and cartilage and fat and organs are the gold! Think about it: your structure and your organs are the core part of you, the most essential, so it stands to reason that they should be storehouses for your most essential nutrients.

Maybe it was because of the fat scare in the 90s that turned us off these good bits. Maybe it was growing awareness of environmental toxicity that compelled us to chuck the skin and the liver. Then, we became overly concerned with building muscle, which somehow translated to a need to eat more muscle (lean meat). Slowly over the last few decades, our focus shifted from enjoying the whole animal, to only wanting boneless breasts and tenderloin.

The return to whole food seems radical, but it’s just a natural return of the pendulum after so many years feeding ourselves partial foods and non-foods. Some things obviously need peeling or gentle cooking, but the goal is to eat it as close to how it grows in Nature. All of it – the seeds, the pith, the leaves, the roots – not just the starch and the sugars.

It’s not just about the plants, either. Eating whole food also means eating an animal whole. Ok, you might not eat an entire cow at one meal, but a family of 4 or 6 through a year…sure!

Eating the whole animal means getting what you can out of the gristle, the gizzards and the bone, not just the “meat”.

There’s also the convenience of cooking lean, boneless meat. Nothing to trim or clean; just pop it on the grill or in the pan and (voila!) healthy fast food at home. We live fast, we eat fast, we want our meals to be ready fast. I can’t tell you how many women in my office tell me they don’t have time to make healthy meals.

At the risk of sounding like an annoying mother, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To have anything of quality – a house, a dress, shoes… or a healthy body, is not something that appears fully-formed overnight. It takes time and effort and persistence.

Your body regenerates completely every 7 years. Which means that it could take that amount of time to shift your health fully. There is no magic bullet – no herb, no superfood, no drug – that will cure you tomorrow.

You are in the driver’s seat of your own healing with the choices you make, the food you eat, the thoughts you think, the feelings you express and words you speak. All that you receive into your body and that you emit from your being form the dynamic creation of your health. It’s a wave, a pulse, an ever-shifting breath. It is eternal. It takes time. Wait…scratch that…it’s timeless.

When you feed your body with such “slow” food as bone broth, you are infusing the water, not only with nutrients, you are accessing the health and energy of the animal, of the plants he ate, of the plants you’ve added to the pot.

Having a crock-pot on the go for a day or two harks back to the kettle on the fire, the hearth of the family home, the core of the community. It’s the women around the fire-pit, tending, caring, nurturing. You’re heating the house and nourishing your family with nothing less than basic nutrition, I dare say, with love.

Nothing fancy or difficult about it, either. Same method your grandmother used (bones and veggies covered with water), with the simple addition of some vinegar to draw out the minerals and break down the protein. Let it simmer ever so gently for a good long time (3-4 hours for fish, 24 for poultry or up to 48 for beef).

If truly time is of concern to you, why not engage some of that community spirit to your benefit? Get a couple of friends to start bone broth sharing: everyone collects their organic bones in the freezer, then each month, one of you tends the fire. You can even make a party of everyone coming by with their jars for their share the wealth.

Perhaps my ideas are bit too far out in left field for you. Then, look at it this way: taking the time to make your own bone broth is a way of slowing down and taking a breath in the middle of your go-getter life. See it as an act of self-care, an act of self-love, to supply yourself and your family with the most exquisite nourishment you can offer.

There are countless recipes out there for how to make and use bone broth – what’s your favourite? When you share in the comments, you open possibilities for others.

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feature image: bouillon by esmée scholte via freeimages.com

How Your Emotions Change How You Eat

 

In the last post, I wrote about a simple approach to making your meals healthier. Simple. That word is so deceiving. It means “easily understood”; it does not always mean easy to carry out. A simple decision might be easy, such as “I’ll drink a glass of water as soon as I get up.” Deciding to give up sugar or choose whole foods over processed is simple, however, if it were easy, people would just buy different groceries and I’d be out of work.

I’ll go a step further and say that “simple” holds a certain amount of wisdom and potential for growth behind it. Giving your kid a new limit, like no TV on Tuesdays, is simple, though requires you to stretch some of your parenting muscles, and him to exercise his creativity. Letting him watch because you’re tired today is easy, but may not be the best thing for him…or you…in the long run.

When you first introduce the idea, there will be resistance (aka a temper tantrum or two) until the new routine becomes habit. He’ll bend over backwards to negotiate a trade (“I’ll stay off on Wednesday”) or to convince you that letting him watch TV “just this one Tuesday” will be ok. While it’s important to hold space for those possibilities to come up, it’s best to stand your ground. You know from experience that if you hold firm for 10 minutes, he’ll back off and end up having a blast rediscovering the Playmobil he hasn’t touched in months.

Similar scenarios will play out in your head after you give up, say, sugar or dairy. You’ll have inner (or outer!) tantrums about how it’s unfair that you can’t have ice cream when all your friends are eating it. You’ll negotiate extra kale or a longer workout tomorrow, or promise yourself this will be the last bowl of ice cream you’ll ever eat in your entire life.

Like a good parent, you need to give those outbursts room to release. Maybe not by kicking and screaming in the middle of a restaurant, but in your journal, talking to a friend, or by dancing it off in your living room.

Once the storm has passed, this is the opportunity to explore neglected nuggets that might have gone unnoticed for months or even years. I’m talking about emotions and memories that get stuffed under that need for ice cream.

“I’m afraid I’ll never enjoy my food again.”

“I don’t want to burden my friends with my health issues.”

“I’m sad that I can’t eat what I want.”

“I feel like I’m being punished…like my body’s betrayed me…like it’s all downhill from here…”

Ah, now here are the forgotten toys – the parts of you that you shove to the back of your emotional drawer.

In my yoga class last week, we focused on hip openers. The teacher prefaced the class by reminding us how, as part of the second chakra, home of how we connect and relate to the world around us, the hips are the drawers where we dump all the emotional stuff we don’t want to deal with. Like the trinkets and old clothes that clog up your dresser, stuffed emotions block the internal feng shui of your body – unexpressed emotions clog up the flow of energy and movement in your life. No wonder we women end up with tight or arthritic hips!

Your intestines, as well as your uterus and ovaries, also sit in that same area of the body. What does that say about the women who show up in my office? Women with IBS, constipation, bloating & gas, menstrual pain, fibroids, infertility. Seems the hips aren’t the only place that collect our emotional junk for storage.

Beyond the brain-gut connection, this bit of energetic anatomy clarifies how emotions and food are so tightly linked. Incidentally, the stomach, liver and pancreas lie in the 3rd chakra – the seat of your will and anger – another potential hotbed of emotional turmoil mixed in with your eating habits.

Just as cleaning out the dresser breathes new life into your wardrobe and your home, giving those old emotions space to move up and out opens up your body and life to similar movement.

Perhaps April is a synchronous time for me to be preparing to put my house up for sale. The urge to spring clean has helped motivate my efforts. As I declutter and clean and sort and donate, I have the time to get curious about the emotions that surface: about leaving this place, leaving this city and everyone I know. There are days when I have to stop the work and just be with the sadness, the fear and anxiety. There are days when I plow through another closet. And some when I avoid it all by eating every sweet and starchy thing I can find in the pantry.

There’s another good word: avoid. A-void, void-less. In stuffing my face with cheese bagels and apple pie, am I trying to re-clog the space I’ve so diligently created?

I’ve done a lot of writing, a lot of crying, talking, singing, dancing, and I’ve supported myself through the pain with flower essences and body work. Perhaps it’s time instead for me to sit in that open space and allow possibility to unfold. Here goes… feels like I’m bored in my room with no TV…until I start to notice the “toys” around me.

The void morphs into a sacred space, where waits my love of adventure, my excitement about setting up a new house (I already catch myself playing mental doll’s house with some of the places I’ve seen online.), a clean slate for my work and a whole city full of friends and clients I have yet to know.

Without really trying, my urge for sweets has subsided and I’m ready to nourish the new life I’m about to create.

This type of work isn’t easy…you may have to face some harsh realities about yourself, or wade through some pretty nasty sludge. It starts with the simple act of giving the shadows in the corner room to breathe. It starts with the simple gesture of being gentle with yourself no matter what surfaces.

It starts with listening to your body.

What have you discovered about yourself as you make a food shift, or other life transition? Or where do you get stuck every time you try? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.