My Skin Care Routine: Count Down to the Wedding!

I'm excited to report that Chris and I are tying the knot here in Colorado this fall. The planning is still underway, but I have the dress! (Thanks Emma and Grace for curating beautiful gowns.) We have the venue and we have the reception spot! Now, it's time to make sure I look and feel my best. I am happy to report my skin has never looked better, even as I'm creeping towards the big 4-0. This is due to committing to a new skin care routine and continuing to eat as clean as possible. Also, as I've felt my stress levels rise for various reasons (new business- I became a consultant with Beautycounter in February, wedding planning, new house, new puppy...) I've actually decreased my exercise regimen. I've been taking more rest days as I'm learning to listen to my body more. I've decreased my crossfit workouts to 1-2x a week, added in Orange Theory 1 day a week, and take little Ginger on 2-3 walks a day. I've also increased self care with monthly massages, time spent outdoors in the sun doing nothing, and Sunday "spa day" when I make sure to use one of my Beautycounter masks. While I definitely miss the intensity of CF and that awesome feeling of getting stronger, I feel more balanced in general and honestly, happier. Bring on the BIG DAY!!!!!!!! I can't wait for our big party with friends and family. I've had many ask me about my skin care routine, so I thought I'd share. 

1. Diet- I've added in collagen 2-3 times a week. This has helped a ton. I use Vital Protein brand. I avoid dairy 90% of the time and this helps reduce breakouts. 

2. Nourishing Cream Cleanser daily- cleans gently and my skin never feels dry afterwards.

3. Brightening facial oil and mist daily. This has helped diminish my sun spots and other sun damaged areas.

4. Charcoal bar -helps to even out skin on my chest, back, and arms

5. Rejuvenating Eye Cream -this is amazing for puffy eyes -as needed when I look a bit rough- well, more like every day!

6. Nourishing day and night cream daily. I've never used a night cream before and now I wake up looking refreshed.

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7. Brightening mask -1x/week- anytime I want to look extra refreshed!

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8. Dew skin- moisturizer with SPF (daily)

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9. Water- lots and lots. We use the Berkey filter at home. 

Do you have questions about what to use? Do you have interest in joining the mission to get safer skin care into the hands of everyone? Please message me! I'm building a team of rockstars in Denver and beyond and would love to hear from anyone with the drive to change the world while earning a living!  karen@goprimalbykaren.com

I'm on a mission!

Did you know 1938 was the last year the federal government passed a law regulating cosmetics?

Why I care?

I live the Go Primal lifestyle, but I also want skin care products and cosmetics that really work. I went super crunchy for awhile relying only on coconut oil and essential oils. While they did work, they could also be a pain to travel with or make all the time. Plus, there just wasn't a mascara or eye liner that really worked for me. I also wanted a safer sunscreen that would go onto my skin clear.  This is when I found BEAUTYCOUNTER. I tried their sunscreen and loved it. From there I swapped out my mascara, eye-liner, night cream, and hair spray.  I had found the missing link in my Go Primal lifestyle! 

We deserve better! 

Over the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. The United States has only partially banned 30 to date.  We deserve better! BEAUTYCOUNTER is committed to a health and safety standard that goes well beyond what’s required by U.S. law: They've banned the use of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals through our "NEVER LIST”—all while ensuring the products perform and that they’re as indulgent as any other luxe shampoo, lipstick, or oil in the market.  Beyond having amazing products that truly work, BEAUTYCOUNTER is on a mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone. 

 

Check out one of my daily favorites! 

 

 

 

How to Shop

Swap out those questionable products today! SHOP HERE as a customer. Want to earn products points? Become a BAND OF BEAUTY member. Earn 15% product credit with every order. Receive free shipping on orders over $100. Be eligible for Special Offers throughout the year. You can join now for $29 when you add a one year membership to your cart. 

 

Join the mission!

I'm on a mission to spread the word about safer skin care. Do you want to get involved? BECOME A CONSULTANT on my team and let's help bring safer products into the homes of our friends, family, and all loved ones.  Become a consultant today and I'll be guiding you through creating a successful business.  

Join as a consultant and save 25% off your own orders and take advantage of the opportunity to earn some additional income by educating others about the skin care industry and how to make safer choices.

Some consultants earn a full time income, while others do it on the side to share their passions and supplement their regular income. It is very flexible and can be whatever you want it to be!

We are a direct retail company (not an MLM), we do not require that you spend a minimum amount on products every month. We have a low start-up fee of $85 (which you will earn right back!).

This is the right time to join BEAUTYCOUNTER! We are growing fast - we grew 350% last year! Most consultants are the first in their area and are able to build their business and spread the word quickly!

We offer tons of support on our team and we will coach you in how to educate others and run a successful business!

 

All content belongs to Go Primal by Karen. 
 

Stay Healthy This Winter!

Ever wonder why you tend to get sick this time of year? It's the worst when all you want to do is spend time with your family, but you're in bed feeling awful. There's no ONE reason, but more the compounding effect of many things.

1. Reduced exposure to Vitamin D. The days are shorter and without the sun, we don't get our daily dose of Vitamin D. This important vitamin assists in the production of immune peptides.

2. Dry air. Physical barriers like skin and mucus are our first defense against pathogens. Dry, cracked skin gives the bad guys a way in.

3. Stress. There's a lot going on this time of year. Whether it's completing a big work project by a looming deadline, worries over finances, or conflict with family, it all compromises our health. Chronic stress decreases our Natural Killer cells and their ability to kill the bad guys. It also decreases the beneficial gut bacteria and reduces stomach acid, which also kills bad guys.

4. Not enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation decreases white blood cells and lymphocyte count.

My Top recommendations to stay healthy this Winter:

  • Eat Sulfur-containing foods like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels for liver support (help with the detox pathways)
  • Make sure you're getting adequate protein to repair damaged cells
  • Supplement with zinc to support new immune cells
  • Get your Vitamin C! It helps lymph system clear debris (herbs are a great source especially rosemary, oregano, sage, and thyme. Diffuse oregano essential oil at first signs of sickness!)
  • Magnesium supports over 300 enzymatic reactions and most people are low in it
  • Don't eat sugar. It compromises your immune system.
  • Take probiotics. 80% of your immune system is in your gut. We need it to be healthy.
  • See your chiropractor. Getting adjusted boosts your immune system
  • Take saunas- sweat out toxins
  • Dry brush- helps get the lymph moving
  • And finally, my favorite: SAY NO. Put your health first and don't over extend yourself this holiday season.

Summer Coconut Nectarine Panna Cotta Recipe

Check out the latest recipe from Verona (aka my mom). She's the best cook I know! Panna cotta is a delicious custard-like dessert and it pairs amazingly well with juicy nectarines. Don't like nectarines? Substitute your favorite summer fruit!

Summer Coconut Nectarine Panna Cotta

Warm gently in small pan and blend until dissolved:

1/2 c coconut water 

package of grass fed gelatin (or 1 1/2 scoops Bulletproof Collagelatin) 

4 Tbsp grass-fed butter (optional) 

Put in blender:

2 cans coconut milk

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

4 drops doTerra lemon oil

4 Tbsp xylitol or fav sweetener (optional dash of maple syrup also)

Add coconut water mix and blend until well mixed.

Cover bottom of large casserole dish with chopped fresh nectarine and pour over the blended mix.

Toast and chop 1/4 c macadamia nuts. Sprinkle over the top.

Chill until set.

My Top 5 Essential Oils

I started using essential oils a little over year ago and began integrating them into my nutrition practice about 6 months after that. Once I felt and saw the difference using EOs in my life and did my own research, I felt confident in recommending them to my clients, friends, and family. I see essential oils as another tool for us to combat all of the stress in our lives and reduce our overall toxic-load. These ancient remedies work with the body instead of simply masking symptoms. Essential oils are now a part of my everyday routine and I'm loving it. I'll use them help support my immune system, occasionally elevate my mood, to create my own body care and cleaning products, and so much more. Here are my top 5 essential oils and how I use them.

1. Grounding Blend

This is a blend of different tree oils including spruce and Ho wood. I LOVE the smell and use it as my perfume mixed with sandalwood and lavender. I will also use it before any big presentation to help reduce my feeling of anxiety. The brand I use calls it Balance.

2. Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint is one of my favorite essential oils to diffuse as it is said to help increase mental clarity and is invigorating. I use it whenever I need a boost like before a workout. It is also a part of my anti-inflammatory mix I'll use for my shin splints.

I use it on my feet for nausea or upset stomach and on my neck for headaches. I also add peppermint and lavender to a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to help cool sunburns.

3. Lavender Essential Oil

I absolutely love the scent of lavender essential oil and diffuse it as an air freshener. It is said to help digestion, support skin health, stimulate hair growth, help mitigate the effects of stress and more.

I diffuse it at night to help promote better sleep. I’ll also mix it with coconut oil and rub on any bruises or abrasions. I sometimes add a drop of lavender and lemon to bug bites or burns to cool the sting and use it with peppermint to calm a headache or sunburn.

4. Oregano

This one is potent! While in school to become a nutrition consultant, we learned about the power of oregano. It is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic making it perfect to ward off numerous ills. It is important to note that Oregano is very potent and should always be diluted for topical use. In times of bad illness, I diffuse oregano in to the air.

5. Disinfectant Blend

It contains a mix of sweet orange essential oil, rosemary, clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus. The specific blend I use is called OnGuard and it is another reason I chose this particular brand of essential oils. It smells wonderful and is a natural disinfectant. My favorite uses are:

  • On the soles of the feet to support the immune system

  • When mopping floors (disinfects and smells great)

  • Diffused for an air freshener

  • In my toothpaste, to support a health mouth

How do you use your essential oils? Want to learn more? Contact me!

Note: Essential oils can be dangerous if used incorrectly. They should be used therapeutically, with purpose, and diluted as necessary.

 

Spring Happenings!

Dr. Chris and I have been out in the community this Spring helping people along their path to wellness. We love connecting with our community! We believe in the holistic approach to health meaning we look at all aspects of our lives to achieve wellness. That is why at our office at Advanced Spine Rehab Center, we offer chiropractic, nutrition, and massage therapies. Interacting in your community is also an important part of wellness. This past month, we were a part of the Denver Paleo Pop Up at Front Range Crossfit and 9 News Health Fair at the Convention Center. Our topic at the health fair was Stress. One of my favorite topics! Chronic stress has devastating effects on your body. Many people don't realize that stress can come from many different sources like food sensitivities, environmental toxins, and spinal misalignment. It's important to actively seek ways to reduce your stress wherever you can.

At the office, we hosted Clara from RevolutionaryLifestyle to discuss gut health and Dr. Missy Albrecht to show us how to mobilize our guts. Cutting edge information! We also got to chat with the lovely ladies of KO Alliance, an awesome group of women entrepreneurs in the health and fitness industry. 

It wouldn't be a Colorado spring without a huge snow storm followed by perfect hiking weather. I hope you're geared up for the warmer weather and ready to tackle all of your adventures. I know I am!

Paleo Pumpkin Curry Soup

I love this soup because it has a ton of flavor, you get to use seasonal veggies, it's easy to make, and you usually have the majority of the ingredients in your pantry. You can sub out the pumpkin for your favorite starchy veggie like butternut squash or acorn squash. 

Flesh from 1 sugar pie pumpkin( roasted and de-seeded)or 1 can of pumpkin purée
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup onion diced
1 Tbs curry powder
1 Tbs coconut oil
1 tsp sea salt
Unsalted chicken stock or bone broth as needed. 
Sauté onions in coconut oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until soft. Add in other ingredients. Combine with an immersion blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Add in broth if it's too thick for you.

Paleo Halloween Candy!?

Instead of relying solely on your will power this Halloween season, I recommend making yourself a refined sugar-free, nutrient dense (good fat), and antioxidant rich (raw cacao powder) treat for you and your household. I made these Mexican Chocolate Coconut Bites and they've been satisfying any sort of candy craving for me. You could change out the spices, skip the cayenne, add nuts, whatever floats your boat! If you have a fun pumpkin, ghost, or witch's hat silicone molds, that would make these even better. 

1/2 cup unrefined, virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup unrefined coconut butter
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (powder or extract)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
Melt coconut oil in sauce pan. Add coconut butter. Whisk to combine. Then whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour carefully into a silicone mold tray. Place in freezer for 1 hour. Pop out and eat right away. Keep in mind that these will melt fairly easily in a warm environment.


Paleo Pumpkin Smoothie- (AIP friendly without the nutmeg)

Paleo Pumpkin Smoothie (AIP-Friendly without the nutmeg)

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 Tbs pumpkin puree

1/2-1 whole ripe banana, sliced 

2 tsp cinnamon

1 dash of nutmeg (leave out for AIP)

1 dash of sea salt 

ice (enough to get your desired consistency)

Blend. Enjoy.

Are you a smoothie fan? Well, you don't have to stop just because the weather is getting cooler. Try this pumpkin smoothie to satisfy that sweet tooth. I love this smoothie because there are no added sweeteners, just the ripe banana. The pumpkin is a great Paleo carb source and super nutrient dense. Winter squashes contain a high amount of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. The coconut milk will keep you full and satisfied. Plus it's AIP- friendly (if you leave out the nutmeg) so there's no nuts, eggs, or nightshades. 

Easy Paleo Meatloaf

The summer is coming to a close and with slightly cooler temperatures here in Colorado, I found myself craving comfort food. That means Meatloaf Time! I love making a big meatloaf and having dinner ready to go for the next few nights. It's that whole batch cooking idea that I recommend. This meatloaf is perfect with cauliflower mashers. Steam the cauliflower until super tender and it is almost dry, then puree it with grass fed butter and sea salt until smooth. SOOO good! 

Here's the rundown:

1 lb grass fed ground beef

1 lb local, ground pork

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup diced onion

1 small Japanese sweet potato, shredded

1-2 pastured eggs, depending how big they are

2 tsp sea salt

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 cup tomato sauce, I like Lucini if I don't make my own (no sugar added)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients except tomato sauce in a bowl. Form into meatloaf shape on a lined sheet tray. Bake for 20 mins. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce. Place back in oven and bake another 40 minutes until done. Should be firm to the touch. Internal temp of 155. As it rests, it'll come up to 160. Slice and serve with more tomato sauce on top. 


Paleo Cinnamon Raisin "Scones"

These actually come out more like cookies, but the fresh lemon zest and their crumbly nature makes them reminiscent of real, gluten-y scones. Whatever you want to call them, they're a delicious treat. 

Ancient Art of Fermentation

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Last night I attended a fermentation workshop with Haiku Foods hosted by Among the Colors in the Taxi development here in Denver. With the large garage door slid open to the summer evening breeze, we sampled sprouted seed crackers, organic blackberries, three different kinds of kraut, and sipped on Riesling (which is what you pair with sauerkraut, who knew!?), kombucha, and ginger beer. 

I had met Hannah, from Haiku foods, at the Paleo Pop Up at Crossfit Verve a few weeks ago. Her warm demeanor and fascinating story of how she embraced real foods, especially fermented ones, to heal her gut and her lifelong struggles with asthma, allergies, rashes, and other ailments pulled me in. All of this backed up with seriously delicious krauts and sprouted crackers all made right here in Denver, I knew Haiku foods was legit and a company I wanted to support. We met again this week at Black Eye Coffee (along with KO Alliance--->> check her out, she's bringing together some seriously awesome companies, athletes, and entrepreneurs all in the name of making Colorado a healthier, more fit place) and I learned she was running a fermentation workshop. I immediately whipped out my checkbook and signed up! 

As a nutrition consultant, my clients look to me for practical recommendations they can incorporate into their diets. It's my mission to grow the Go Primal community by finding great companies and people who embrace the Real Food way of life and let you know about their products. It can feel like you are alone or some sort of hippie-weirdo when you first embark on the Go Primal lifestyle. But, there are many of us out there and more and more great companies that are making it easier for us by offering thoughtful, healthy products. 

You guys know that Health Begins In The Gut! (If you've taken my Advanced Class, we have a whole week all about digestion because it is so important.) As humans evolved, we grew right along with certain bacteria. These little guys aren't just along for the ride. They help keep our bodies balanced, fight off pathogens, and digest our food. This area of research (our micro biome) has exploded recently, beginning withe the Human Genome Project and I find it all so fascinating. Our bodies are actually more bacteria than human! If you look at the percentage of bacteria cells vs. human ones, it's 10 to 1. The bacteria living in and on us can weigh 3-5 lbs. That's amazing to me considering how small bacteria are! 

Traditional diets around the world include fermented foods. It's part of our evolution and history. In India, they ferment chutneys, yogurt, and cheese. Germans make sauerkraut. Koreans have kimchi. Obviously this was due to the need to preserve food, but now we know that these foods feed the good bacteria in our guts. In modern America, we really don't have any traditional fermented foods, so many of us don't get this daily dose of good bacteria. This can cause many problems because having a balanced gut flora supports the immune system and reduces inflammation in the body. For example, lactobacillus protects us by inhibiting pathogenic bacteria and is antimicrobial due to its pH balance.  

In the fermentation workshop, we made sauerkraut. It was so easy and fun! Hannah brought cabbage, carrots, and daikon along with different spices like turmeric, garlic, ginger, cumin, dill, and caraway. We massaged the sliced cabbage with sea salt to release the water, added the spices, then filled mason jars with the mixture and the liquid. Hannah told us to leave a bit of space at the top because the kraut will expand. I'll let it sit in my kitchen for 1-5 weeks and then I'll have delicious, probiotic, fermented cabbage to add to my daily routine! Yay! 

Hannah's Basic Recipe:

1 head organic cabbage- peel thick leaves off and core, then slice thinly

Add 1 Tbs high quality sea salt

Add any other spices you wish

Massage cabbage until juices are released

Fill a clean mason jar with the mixture, making sure to leave 1 inch at the top for expansion

Screw on top and let sit 1-5 weeks depending on time of year. (If any mold grows on the top, you can peel it off. It doesn't harm the kraut.)

Read more:

Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon

Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz

Gut and the Psychology Syndrome, McBride. 

How to Eat Meat: Getting the Most out of Your Protein Fix

I admit it. I'm fascinated by food.

I'm captivated by conversations about what to eat; I delve into fresh ideas and research on what our bodies require; I want to know how we grow and raise our daily quota of calories; and almost every day I personally select and prepare what I eat. This endeavor of finding, preparing, and eating food connects me with life - with plants, animals, and other humans, with water, soil, and microorganisms, air and sunlight - at its most fundamental, primal level.

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I'm not a vegetarian or vegan. My understanding is that a carrot, a chicken, and I all depend on the same natural recycling of elements that gives us each our moments in the sun. I want to participate in that process with respect and the knowledge that perhaps I'll be food for the carrots one day.

How do I respect the animals that become me after I eat them?   

  • I buy meat from animals raised in their natural habitat and not subjected to hormones and antibiotics. I favor organically fed meats, if possible.
  • I eat only what I need (a whole subject in itself) and try not to waste any meat (or other foods either). 
  • I cook at lower temperatures so the delicate proteins are not denatured or burnt (i.e., charred) by too high heat. I want to get the most value out of the meat I eat.

Paleo/Primal diets have a reputation for being very meat-centric, with lots of jokes about bacon and pictures of cavemen running around with spears. When you look closer, though, the point is that meat and fish that have lived naturally are (1) excellent nutrition for humans and (2) don't need to be the whole meal. Factory meat, made cheap and unhealthy through disgusting treatment of animals, is like a Trojan Horse of seeming benefit that delivers unseen enemies into our bodies, while polluting the environment unsustainably. 

Cooking Methods Matter

Even as I'm enjoying that strangely attractive flavor of burnt meat on the outside of my burger (mostly when I'm eating out), I know it's not good for me. Some of the problem is that the fat in the meat gets oxidized (turns rancid and toxic) and the other is that denatured proteins are harder to digest and may set off an inflammatory immune response. Instead of going for that blackened effect, grill at a lower temperature so the outside is just slightly browned and the inside no more than medium rare. Keep baking temperatures below 320 degrees, and forget about deep frying. That's the ultimate diss to whatever quality of meat you've hunted down and brought home for you and your family to feast on.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Books to Read

While I received a formal education in nutrition, much of what I now use in my practice and for my own health came from reading various books. These are the top 5 that really shaped my thoughts about health and nutrition. 

Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes

This book has so much information in it that I've read it over and over again, making copious notes. Taubes takes us through the scientific reasons we get fat along with revealing the bad nutritional science we've been following and why. 

Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

This book forever changed how I thought about our food system. 

Eat the Yolks, Liz Wolfe

Straight forward (and funny!) information all about Real Food and why it's the way to go. 

Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis and Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter

Dr. Perlmutter delves deep into why wheat is causing us so many health problems. 

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Wescheler

This book isn't about nutrition per say, but I highly recommend reading it and learning more about how your body works, your reproductive health and fertility. This book is helpful whether you want children or not. I wish I had read this years and years ago! 

Other great books to check out:

The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson

Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo

Dangerous Grains, Braly and Hoggan

Eat Fat, Lose Fat, Enid and Fallon

Deep Nutrition, Shanahan

Swimmin' with Your Boots On: 4 Ways to Find Energy Now

Kick off Those Boots

You are not a machine.

News? Not exactly, but sometimes we get caught in the quantitative world of numbers, measurement, targets, fueling up, getting better, performance, output, etc., that are analogs from the world of machines. Great fun, right, except that we're living beings with amazing self-renewing abilities that our mechanical tools can't fully mimic. We are able to kick off our boots and release the drag of inertia and entropy on our energy system. Instead of adding more food, caffeine, exercise, or even sleep, we can find immediate vitality by tapping inner resources available to us humans almost any time.

 

1. Smile

I hope that heading made you laugh, or at least smile. The physical act of smiling is a subset of the laughter-is-the-best-medicine school of self-help. When I smile, I almost always feel more relaxed and kinder to myself, and to others. The body responds with a cascade of good feelings. In your deepest moments of self-concern, give yourself the gift of a physical, there-on-your-face, smile. A fresh breeze of energy and hope will follow.

2. Power Nap

This is a very different animal than your hours logged in at night. There are all kinds of testimonies to the power nap and the science to go along with them. You owe it to yourself to learn this art form. By letting go of concern so completely that you drop into sleep, you allow inertia in the form of tension to dissipate from your system. It's an act of trust in life that repays you many times over. Whether you kick your boots off or not is up to you.

3. Meditation

I have a very simple definition of meditation: the act of letting everything be as it is. Or, the practice of having no problem. A big part of the mind's job is to search out and find solutions for problems. It doesn't relate to contentment because then it would be a nobody out of a job. No problem. Let it be out of a job, at least for a while. Talk about an energy saver. The best thing is that it takes no time at all to let everything be as it is and have no problem. It's like a power nap but you're wide awake and completely at ease.  A very interesting combination - at ease and awake - that is powerfully restorative.

4. Releasing Limiting Beliefs

I saved this for last because it can seem the hardest. Limiting beliefs are our biggest, most favorite boots. No way are we going to let them float off downstream, never to be seen again. Those boots are me. But unquestioned beliefs about our inadequacy, victimhood, separation, or superiority are major lockups of our energy. Unlike a machine though, we're not bound by our programming; we can change merely by being curious. We can ask, "Is that really true? What would it be like if I didn't believe that thought?" Set your energy free by these simple questions. (If you're interested, check out Byron Katie's work for more direction.)

 

 

 

When You're Hot, You're Hot: What's Up with Inflammation?

 

I'm often inspired to see life as a ongoing dance with the intricate systems Nature has designed to keep us running. A lot like a love relationship with its ups and downs, I'd say. The immune system, for example, hums quietly in the background, a dance so easy and natural I forget it's happening until suddenly the music changes, and a toothache or head cold complicates my daily rhythm. Just the immune system staying current with its job requirements. Though the symptoms may be unpleasant, like an argument with your honey, there's no real problem. In fact, acute, short-term inflammation (fever, swelling, pain) is a sign your immune system is healthy and ready to get you back out on the dance floor ASAP.

The Slow Burn

But what if that vital, acute response turns into a chronic burn that never really returns to normal? The natural healing response becomes hyperactive and begins to tear down rather than heal. Pain becomes more the norm than the exception; chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions start to show up; we feel stressed; in a word, we "age." Chronic inflammation is like a simmering argument or constant, enervating noise. Not good; and often we reach for relief via drugs like ibuprofen et al. that can be real miracles for acute conditions but are bad medicine in the long run.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Alternative medicine and the real food movement want to address the primary causes of the slow burn, not just cover up symptoms. Researchers are learning more and more about the central role the gut plays in the immune system. What we eat directly effects the complex and delicate dance between "inside" and "outside," between what the innate intelligence of the immune system allows in and what it attacks as an outsider. What we eat is not just a source of calories and nutrients for us; it also feeds the trillions of microorganisms in the gut that are a vital aspect of that intelligence. (for more info on this fascinating topic see Brain Maker. by David Perlmutter and The Gut Balance Revolution by Gerard Mullin) 

Although we may try to eat well, the other part of the equation is how we source our food. Distortion of our outer ecosystem with pesticides, hormones, GMO's, depleted soils, and heavy metals puts our inner ecosystem on constant alert. We are evolutionarily interwoven with our air, water, food, soils, plants, and animals in one, living process that can't be separated. Primal living means caring about not only our own health but the health of our ecosystems too.

 

 

Fermented Foods Primer

How are these foods alike?

  • pickles
  • yogurt
  • bread
  • beer
  • kombucha
  • sauerkraut
  • miso

They were all turned into what they are by microorganisms - bacteria or yeast - and all are examples of one of the earliest forms of food preservation - fermentation. From Neolithic times, or even before, humans have used this natural process to make food and keep it edible without refrigeration. Today there's been a revival of interest in how fermented foods can help us stay healthy by replenishing and configuring the bacteria in our own guts.

From the day we're born we're in a constant dance with the microbial world, some of which serves us magnificently and some of which can harm us. With modern emphasis on pasteurization, refrigeration, hyper-cleanliness, and antibiotics, it's easy to forget that our bodies depend on a vast and complex array of microorganisms - what's now called our microbiome - to mediate digestion, immune reactions, vitamin production, and other vital functions. 

Ancestors and Allies

In his recent book, The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz calls these worker-organisms "our ancestors and allies." They're an intimate part of our body's economy and usually carry on their vital work without any conscious attention from us. But it's well known that a course of antibiotics, for example, can disturb the natural quiet functioning of our intestinal allies. In this case, we have the option of taking some "probiotics," capsules full of live bacteria, to try to restore the inner balance. Alternatively, we can get these same bacteria from unpasteurized fermented foods, i.e. those with live organisms. If this topic interests you, check out Perlmutter's new book, Brain Maker, for an in-depth look at the most recent science.

Start with Just a Little

I'm a real newbie with fermented foods and can't wait to learn more. When I first tried kombucha, I liked it and started drinking a bottle or two a day. I soon noticed that my gut felt different in a not-good, gassy kind of way. I didn't realize I was changing the status quo precipitously by consuming all that kombucha. You may not react the same way, but if you want to try adding in some daily ferments, start with just a little, and be sure to choose products that have been carefully handled to keep the "ancestors and allies" alive.  Here are some recipes I've been enjoying lately.

SALMON AVOCADO TAPA WITH FERMENTED MUSTARD

2-4 oz smoked wild salmon

1/2 - 1 ripe avocado, sliced

4 tsp MMColorado mustard with sauerkraut (available at Whole Foods)

Wrap sections of salmon around the avocado slices. Top with mustard. Enjoy for a light lunch or an afternoon snack. 

"REJUVENATOR" TRAVEL SALAD

3-4 oz cooked ground beef, shrimp, pulled pork, or similar (I'm thinking leftovers here)

2 T finely ground sauerkraut or favorite fermented vegetables (I used Vegi-Delite Zing Salad)

1/4 c shredded carrots

1/2 c shredded cabbage

cucumber chunks

1 T olive oil

1 T apple cider vinegar (optional, add if you like pretty tangy salads)

salt to taste

handful of fresh blueberries

Spread meat or shrimp in bottom of leakproof 3-c container. Cover with sauerkraut, then add shredded vegetables and cucumber to mostly fill box. Drizzle oil, vinegar, and salt evenly over salad. Add berries on top. Close, pack in travel bag, and enjoy later on the plane or at a roadside picnic area. Don't forget your fork and napkin. You'll feel so much more rejuvenated than with a lunch of road or airport food.