What’s the Deal with Gluten?

So, what is the deal with gluten?  Is it the same as wheat?  Isn’t whole wheat good for you?  Do I HAVE to avoid it?  If I avoid it, what the heck do I eat??? Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat and related grains.  It helps breads rise and have a fluffy texture that we have all come to love.  Unfortunately, it is also highly inflammatory. Gluten is a bit of a buzz-word lately, but there’s a reason for that.     You’re right in that we have been eating grains for a long time relative to human history, but it’s more the amount of gluten in our SAD (Standard American Diet) and the processing of the food prior to consumption that is the problem than the actual food itself – the quality.   If you think about it, we eat gluten at almost every meal!  What’s for breakfast?  Cereal (gluten), pancakes (gluten), waffles (gluten), toast (gluten)…  Lunch?  Sandwiches (gluten in the bread), hamburgers (gluten in the bun)…  Snacks?  pretzels (gluten), crackers (gluten).  Dinner?  Pasta (gluten), tacos (gluten in the wheat tortillas), pizza (gluten crust), etc… It’s really just too much of something that is highly processed and difficult to digest.   Over time, eating foods that are not easy to digest will lead to allergies and sensitivities.  People can go for YEARS without having any noticeable problem digesting gluten-laden foods.  Over time, there will be some bodily changes that can happen due to gluten’s effect in our bodies.  These changes can include: build-up of “gunk” in our digestive system, including intestines and gall bladder weakening of the thyroid gland weight...

Wellness Care for Travelers

This time of year many of us are heading out of town. Vacation and travel make great excuses to not exercise and take care of our bodies, but I don’t buy it.  I’m not one for excuses.  It either is or it isn’t.  I don’t want excuses, I want results!  (*pounds desk for emphasis*) Here are some of the ways I like to maintain my wellness while traveling: 1.  Hotel room exercise plan:  you don’t need a fancy gym to get in a good workout.  Let me give you some examples of what I have done in the past inside my hotel room to stay fit: 5 sets of 25 pushups, 25 situps, and 25 squats Yoga for 30 minutes; youtube has a wide variety of video classes to choose from If you have your MP3 handy, have an impromptu dance party 2.  Take herbs just in case:  I always pack a few herbal essentials for, as the French say, “juste au cas:” Suan Zao Ren Tang or Gui Pi Tang for insomnia (some hotel rooms are just not that comfortable!) Herbal ABX in case of infection Mint tea can be used for:  constipation, upset stomach, or for boosting your immune system (you know how hard it is to get good food on the road!) 3.  Don’t use the old “oh, you’re on vacation!” excuse when eating: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels,” Eat only foods that are nourishing to your body; eat MORE vegetables.  Vegetables have the special designation of being the only food group that eating more of them will actually benefit your health.   Do...

Libido: Unlocking the Feminine Yin

The female libido is as complicated as women are known to be.  Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSSD) is estimated by the Mayo clinic to affect 40% of women at some point in their sexually-active lives. One of my teachers, one of the top acupuncturists and herbalists in the US, asked me once, “have you had much success in treating low libido in women?”   He asked because he had not had a lot of success in treating it with acupuncture and herbs. At that time, “no,” I had not either. Chinese medicine theory states that the Kidney regulates hormone balance and sexual organ functioning.  In my experience, strengthening the Kidney function usually fixes a male libido problem within a number of weeks; in women, we can treat hormone imbalance symptoms such as adrenal fatigue, menopausal syndrome, or infertility, but libido…not so much. Yet, I hear all the time from women of all ages about the lack of interest in sex. The root cause?  Aside from any obvious physiological problem, the cause is a disconnect to our pleasure center. This goes way deeper than you may think.  Other things related to the detachment of our pleasure:  over-eating, anxiety, depression, and anger. We are taught from a young age: Pleasure usually indicates you are doing something that is wrong, which leads to… Pleasure-induced guilt happens because… We should be taking care of other people first; only after everyone else is happy are we allowed to make ourselves happy. You may be thinking, “I don’t do that,” and if you don’t I applaud you!  Congratulations! You also could be thinking, “How do...

Natural Wellness and Pelvic Health

Looking after your pelvic health is probably not something that has been on the top of your priority list. Most women don’t think about pelvic health until there is a problem. However, prevention is always better than having to be treated for something, and if you have had children, you’re at risk for pelvic health problems.  Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a problem that will affect as many as half of all childbearing women. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is also very common in women who have given birth. Taking good care of yourself and your pelvic floor muscles can help you avoid these problems, or if you have already been diagnosed with SUI or POP, can help you find relief from troublesome symptoms. Exercise Exercise plays an important role in pelvic health, whether you are focused on preventing problems like stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse or treating their symptoms. These common pelvic floor disorders are caused by weakness in the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues, so building or maintaining strength in the pelvic muscles is essential. Pelvic floor exercise, especially Kegels, are very important, but they must be done correctly to be effective, so seeing a physical therapist or fitness instructor for guidance may be your best bet. Weight Management Extra weight, especially in the abdominal area, increases pressure on pelvic floor muscles, so maintaining a healthy body weight is important in preventing strain and damage to pelvic floor muscles. If you already have a pelvic floor problem, losing weight can reduce your symptoms. Health Issues Taking a holistic approach to pelvic health is a strategy...

Indulge Your Cravings to Suppress Your Hunger

I know you’re probably thinking, “My cravings are why I am NOT losing any weight!”  Right?  Hunger is not the enemy.   Hunger is a natural response to life.  It’s when the hunger feels out of control that it feels scary.  Or when you know you shouldn’t be hungry, but you do. Our bodies get these urges to wolf down an obscene amount of chocolate, ice cream, or wine and we think something’s wrong with us.  When we want seconds of fried rice we think we shouldn’t because everyone’s watching us.   Your cravings and hungers are simply your body’s super-intelligent way of communicating to you.  Think about it:  you crave something sweet.  You may crave something crunchy or just to chew on something.  Maybe something to quench your thirst.   Your body wants something sensuous, not-boring, fulfilling, and fun.   Sensation.   Something refreshing.   To be satisfied.    It’s just not necessarily in your mouth!  Your body, or animal, is trying to help you every day by giving you feeling and cravings.  These messages are NOT the enemy, but your body’s way of trying to help you meet your needs.  Your needs for pleasure, relaxation, fun, oxygen, relationships, sex, sleep, food and water, etc. First things first:  when you get a craving, stop for a minute and check in with your body.   Really focus on listening and not projecting thoughts.  Is she telling you that you’re hungry?  Is she just craving sensation of some type?  Take a few deep breaths and let her tell you.   If you’re genuinely hungry, eat.  You can even check in with...

How Taking a Vacation Can Help You LOSE Weight

Have you heard this one before?  “Go ahead, eat it; you’re on VACATION!” I believe we can ALWAYS eat what we want.  It’s really just a matter of figuring out what your body REALLY wants. Many of our favorite foods are just “food memories.”  We remember eating them and enjoying them. Once you get more used to eating with presence, not mindlessly munching, but really feeling how your body is feeling and responding to the nutrition (or lack thereof), your favorite foods may change. Last week I took a vacation with my family.  Actually, it was a family reunion.  One of my favorite foods to eat as a child were my grandmothers kolaches.  She was Czeck and was a great cook.  The pastry was buttery and soft with (canned) fruit filling. This past week, my aunts were making kolaches.  I thought I would try one.  Fresh out of the oven, still warm, I had a cherry kolache.  To my surprise, it tasted kind of bland.  Actually, I didn’t even like it.  Just to make sure, I tasted the apricot-flavored one too.  Yep, I definitely did not care for it.  It actually was not even a temptation for me at that point!  I got very little pleasure from eating them.  Try this:  on your vacation (or any time really), allow yourself to “taste-test” your “favorite” or “temptation” foods.  Do you REALLY love it?  At what point do you stop enjoying it?  When you taste it, really tune into what your body is saying.  Is it pleasurable?  Is it what your body wants? Take some deep breaths and take your time....
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