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Tips for Improving Gut Health with a Picky Eater

This entire blog was sparked when working to heal my middle son’s health issues by targeting his gut health. He is my canary in the coal mine. He is sensitive to many foods and environmental toxins. He has had a cold or virus almost every 3 weeks since August.

Something happened when Ezra turned 2. At his 2 year well-check his pediatrician said something along the lines of look out– you are entering the picky eating year. I was one of those moms who thought “that will never happen to me”– we eat a balanced diet, we only offer healthy foods and he loves his veggies.

Well… here we are, approaching year 3 and he has a very limited diet. Many times he refuses to eat rather than eating what we are serving. It is a control thing, not a palate thing. One day he loves asparagus and beans, the next day he will only eat bananas. It’s tricky.

It is “normal” for kids to catch 8-12 viruses the first year they are introduced to the public. My kid has caught them all. I do lots to help him fight them off, but how do I keep his gut in check when he won’t eat? It is a tough place to be when the nourishing foods you know will help are refused.

Something like 70-80 percent of our immune system is based in our gut. When our gut bacteria isn’t balanced correctly, our immune systems are compromised. Based solely on what my son *wants* to eat, I can see that his “bad bugs” want to be fed (fruit, crackers, etc) and no veggies. Even though fruit is “healthy” it still metabolizes as sugar. Nature’s candy, is how I like to think about it.

How do I help this kiddo out? How do I help support his healthy microbiome and immunity when what he will eat is limited?

  1. Prebiotic/Probiotic supplement. Taking a boost of prebiotics and probiotics support and balance out the microbiome. I have found a kids formula that tastes good and he enjoys taking. It is now part of our morning routine.
  2. Fiber supplement I choose one that contains fructooligosaccharides. Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that are low-calorie, non-digestible carbohydrates which aid in immunity, bone health and the growth and balance of important bacteria in the digestive track. Simply put, it is what the good gut bacteria like to “eat”. These are found naturally in foods like asparagus, onions, chicory, etc. Since getting him to eat veggies is an issue, I have found a shake that he enjoys and I give it as a treat. The thing I noticed was that after giving him these two supplements together for about a week he started eating a better variety of foods (veggies and meats, woo-hoo). I will also add spinach, a scoop of green powder, or avocado in the shake so it is disguised.
  3. Grazing Tray another way I get him to eat a better variety is make a grazing tray and put it on our table with our art station. I put cut up veggies, proteins (like nuts), olives, cheese, dips and other things he often refuses. He will snack without thinking as much when he’s engaged in an activity.
  4. Limit Snacks Ezra eats the majority of his calories in the early part of the day. He also really enjoys snacking. After lunch, I limit snacks so that he has a healthy appetite at dinner time. This still doesn’t always work if he’s already decided that he doesn’t want our dinner.
  5. Continually offer and plate our normal meals. I cook nutritionally dense foods. He WILL often refuse, or just drop the food on the floor. However, some days he will eat it all without an issue. I also keep the fruit and crackers out of sight and only offer what is reasonable in a day.
  6. Being part of the process sometimes entices him to eat. He enjoying helping me mix or cut (soft) things and serve them on colored dishes that he chooses is an incentive. I praise him for how good his cooking is and often he will put a few bites in his “mouf”. I also let him choose between two veggies or will turn meal prep into a color, phonics or counting game. He’s very into these things right now, so it holds his attention.

These are my tricks these days for dealing with my toddler. This too shall pass, although his health is always at the forefront of my mind. Especially since he is in this phase of being a germ incubator. Feel free to comment or contact me and I will share what supplements have been working for us if you’re dealing with the pickiness and sickness phase.

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Simplifying Dietary Changes

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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Hormonal Balance & Fertility Optimization

My journey into natural health began because I struggled with PCOS and was told at an early age that I would probably need help conceiving. I distinctly remember hearing that at 15 years old, and the only thing I knew I wanted for my adulthood was to be a mom. I did have trouble getting and staying pregnant, for awhile.

At a point in my adulthood journey I started reading about how diet, exercise, environmental toxins, and even emotions can wreak havoc on our hormones. In the United States, infertility is actually becoming quite an epidemic and has a very high price tag when undergoing medical intervention. I don’t know about you, but for me medical intervention did not feel right, I felt there was a “why” and a “how” right before my eyes. I just had to find it out for myself. I am glad I did, because I have found success and health, and have watched many other couples do the same.

It is possible to create an optimal environment for conception, restore both male and female fertility, or just age gracefully by taking a few simple steps to cleanse and nourish your body.


Managing our Chemical Load

Many variables have to be in aligment for proper hormone balance. The first thing I suggest doing is taking a look at your environment and assessing your toxic load. This is part of life that we do not have complete control over, however we can minimize the exposure in our homes.

Petrochemicals in our environment are often a huge culprit in hormone imbalance. They mimic estrogen, even in men, who do not naturally produce estrogen.  Estrogen dominance can create problems in females releasing eggs, or if eggs do release and fertilize, may have difficulty attaching to the uterine lining. Men can suffer from impotence, mood swings, and many other ailments.

So, assessing and cleaning out our homes and replacing with products that contain the least amount of chemicals possible is desirable. Toothpastes, shampoos, lotions, make-up, cleaning products, etc. all can be major hormone disruptors. Our skin is our largest organ, and will absorb anything and everything that we put on. Learning to read labels and being wary of words like “fragrance”, which actually means chemical cocktail!



Food as Medicine

Our diets are also cause for concern. In previous blogs, I have shared the most successful dietary protocol for my body. It is really important to realize that factory farmed meats, artificial flavors and colors, as well as foods that contain phytoestrogens (soy) can be damaging for our delicate hormonal balance. Sticking to a whole food diet, eating humanely farmed meats, removing grains and sugar typically do a world of good.

It is also nearly impossible to meet all of our nutritional requirements from diet alone. Even the “perfect” diet can spark some questions. What was the length of time the food traveled to get to your plate? How was it grown or processed? What do you clean your fruits and veggies with?

High quality, whole food nutritional supplements can help us meet our nutritional requirements. Whole food supplements of the highest quality are necessary so that our bodies can actually absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the supplement. Common supplements that you pick up at big box stores are from synthetic sources, so our body immediately works to eliminate them or can have a toxic response trying to process the vitamin.


Gut Health

In natural health, it is found that women who suffer from hormonal imbalance tend to have problems with their bowel and liver functions. When our bowels are stagnant, or the liver is not performing optimally, the toxins our body would prefer to release are sent directly to the sex organs. Cleansing is a way to “flush the pipes”, so to speak.

Following a gentle cleansing protocol can reset the system to prepare for a pregnancy. Following these steps typically take about 3-4 months for hormones to begin to regulate, however each individual is different depending on toxicity and gut/colon health. For gut cleansing, I prefer 4 specific types of supplements.

An herbal cleansing supplement is the first thing I use and recommend. This gets the digestive system moving. Even if you are “regular” it does not mean that you are actually actively releasing the excess hormones. A multi-complex digestive enzyme is also key. Most people do not have adequate enzyme activity in the gut to actually break down and assimilate all of the food that is consumed.

The supplement will replenish the digestive enzymes and help the body stay at an adequate level. A fiber supplement  is also helpful and will bind free estrogen in the system and allow it to pass. And a high-quality probiotic will feed the good bacteria and allow the microbiome and immune system to flourish.

Cleansing the gut allows the toxins to release from the body, and healing to occur. Following the dietary recommendations will speed up the healing process. I also like to use the collagen HA supplement I mentioned in a previous post, since it truly helps to close the seal on “leaky gut“, which so many of us with autoimmune conditions suffer from.

Love Your Liver

The liver controls many, many functions in our bodies. Saving and supporting your liver is also a key to hormonal health. The liver is the major filtering organ of the body. It is known that impaired liver enzymes are cause of recurrent miscarriages, and that most estrogen metabolism takes place in the liver. Once the colon has been cleansed, the liver can do a better job releasing and removing the toxins from our bodies.

A healthy body weight is important for a healthy liver, as is limiting chemical exposure. Dietary choices have been the key for my liver health. Removing sugars, grains and  getting most of my carbs from vegetables has been the best way to support my liver. Making these changes have helped me release inflammation, belly fat, and pain that I carried in the upper, right portion of my abdomen.

Moderate exercise is also very helpful. Just a 15 minute walk per day can keep the flow and release going in the area of the liver. If we are stagnant, our organs become stagnant. There are also some very nice supplements and essential oils that will support healthy liver function.


Stress and Exercise

Another hormone killer is chronic stress. The stress hormone cortisol is often referred to as the “death hormone”. Why? High cortisol levels changes our blood sugar levels, slow digestion, changes cardiac function, lowers immunity, increases inflammation, decreases thyroid, among many other things.

We have this hormone to protect us in times of danger, but chronic stress leaves us living in this state much of the time.  The autonomic nervous system controls our stress/relaxation response, and can be addressed and nourished in several ways.

Yoga and mindfulness exercises can work wonders in reducing chronic stress. Our breath is powerful in rewiring our stress response and something as simple as taking slow, rhythmic, deep breaths can massage our organs and reduce our cortisol levels.

Since this post is so wordy, I will save a few mindfulness exercises for a future post.

I am also aware that I have shared a lot of information in one post. I am always happy to elaborate or point you to more resources that may be best for you– so feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if this info sparks any questions.




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Mind over Mama-Brain

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I have to admit, I went quite a bit off the wagon with my health habits during the first few weeks of knowing I’m pregnant. Something clicked inside of me that wanted comfort, I did not want to cook, and I was emotional. Like I mentioned in my previous post– I had the “what the hell are we thinkings?” going on for several weeks. I am not a good pregnant person. I worry, I obsess, I become a ball of anxious stress. That is; until I get the all clear from the doctor that the pregnancy looks viable and is on track. As soon as we had our first ultrasound and I heard the heartbeat, my anxiety levels bottomed out.

Also, planning with my doctor to manage my risk of preeclampsia alleviated a lot of my stress. My doctor praised me for my diet and body changes over the course of this year, so I regained hope and had to revisit my relationship with the lectin-free diet. Why is the lectin-free diet such an important factor? My entire physiology changed after getting in a groove with my diet. Anxiety and postpartum depression ceased, I lost over 20 pounds, and the shape of my body changed. I have lost weight many times, but never actually lost the puffiness in my upper abdomen and actually been able to keep it off. My hormones regulated, I stopped having digestive issues, and my moods stabilized. As you can see, I received many benefits from these dietary changes.

I felt off the rails for a bit– eating what I wanted, eating emotionally, and feeling I deserved the junk because I was carrying a baby. My logical mind knows much better. I know that it is a slippery slope moving from something that obviously works very well (and probably a key factor as to why we conceived so easily) to something that was known to cause many issues! I had to readjust my mind and diligence to keep myself on the program. Being pregnant, working, raising 2 other children and being a wife is a lot of work. Healthy eating is also a lot of work, and a lot of money. However it is something that will prevent many problems down the road, so the investment of time and money is worth it.

To be successful with a plan I have to find my belief. I research, study, make plans, do a lot of trial and error. Once the parameters were established and I figured out the websites to visit, cookbooks to use, and where to buy the food I was set. We rotate a few of our favorites and occasionally try something new. When I think of something I am choosing to do for health and wellness, or habit changing I always put my kids first. What am I modeling for them? My choices are often reflected in their behavior and attitudes. We have proven time and time again that if my teen overeats sugar or carbs, his attitude is much worse. If I am choosing a fast food meal over a nourishing meal of protein and vegetables and allowing my toddler to have those tastes, his tastes will develop around what he is fed. And now I am the keeper and incubator of another wee one, and this baby’s well-being is also going to be determined by my choices.

When I take a step in the wrong direction, it just takes some strength of mind to dust myself off and get back on track. Remembering the pain of the past often makes it easier to face the discomfort of a green smoothie over Chick-Fil-A. The “pleasure” I receive from eating something that does not nourish my body is not worth the damage it does. I can take this lesson and apply it to many aspects of my life. How often am I reaching for something that feels pleasurable that ultimately does not line up with my goals? Am I talking to and about others in a constructive manner? Am I spending my money wisely? Am I working my business effectively? You get the idea. Keeping on track will make things feel much better in the long run.

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Reset and Rebound

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Last week was a week for the books. Our family has a rhythm, a routine, as I’m sure most families do. The spring time hustle has begun, so our “normal” rhythm is starting to adjust to longer daytime hours and spring activities. Last week, we barely had time to eat together as a family, so the mindfulness we were using at mealtimes was pushed aside for quick, throw together meals. Having this ability is a necessity when your days are full.

Revamping habits and taking hold of a new lifestyle requires discipline and adaptability. This goes for physical, mental, or emotional “weeding”. Since beginning the Plant Paradox, I have really become aware of my relationship with food. I have an anxiety with the thought of being without, or not knowing where my food will come from next. I also have a fear of boredom, or not liking my choices. After 6 weeks of following the lectin-free dietary suggestions, I realized my habits were starting to detour toward the familiar. Even though I was still following the “compliant” foods, my cravings were moving toward sweet, or “comfort” type meals. Heavy meats/protein meals, cheeses, and yogurt were what I would reach for, rather than the vegetables that should lead the show.

We gradually moved toward our old habits unconsciously, which is how most old habits resurface. In our family, we are working on changing our lifestyle, not just “dieting” to lose a few pounds. We are focusing on the insides of our bodies, not the outsides. Over the weekend, we realized how we were feeling and our habitual patterns. My husband and I decided to realign our bodies and our minds and jump-start our gut health by following a 3-day cleanse which helps feed the good guys, not the bad. Looking at our digestive health and our cravings point to the fact that our bad bacteria were asking to be “fed”, so we need to let that go and move toward feeding our bodies not our minds. When we feel stress or pressure from having busy days, that can lead to wanting convenience and comfort, which often is relational to food.

When cleansing, and following a strict plan you realize how little your body actually requires and how much time is often consumed by food. Whether it is thinking about it, planning for it, shopping for it, cooking it, cleaning it up, or going out to eat, and starting the cycle all over each day. It is also easier to see what emotions arise when the atmosphere changes around eating habits. I can use this metaphor around any type of “weeding” I am doing in my life. Good habits take work and repetition, even when it feels easier to “slip” for a day or two, old habits die-hard.