Category Archives: Healthy Living

Health & the Dead Guy In the Envelope

envelopeGot your attention, didn’t I? Well I just wrapped up my Six Day Back to School Challenge in my Freedom From IBS Facebook Group. I was blown away by the efforts of those who participated and their openness to trying whatever it takes to feel better.

The upshot to all this made me come up with the wacky connection between health and a game I used to listen to on morning radio, “Dead Guy in the Envelope.” In this game, the DJs would pick a male celebrity who had passed away and award a prize to the caller who correctly ID-ed the dead guy. Each caller was allowed to ask one question and then make their guess. The game was much harder than you would think because the human brain seems to be programmed to come up with ONLY ONE solution to a problem. So, if the answer to the question asked was a “no,” callers would be stumped to come up with an alternative to their original guess.

What does this have to do with health? I think there is the temptation to do the same thing – to think that there is only one solution – the right doctor, the right medication, the right diet, the right supplement. But when we are talking about something as complex as IBS, best results are achieved when multiple things are tried all at once.

And that is what everyone did who participated (or lurked!) in my challenge. And that is the beauty of holistic health. And that is the beauty of working with a health coach. Someone to prompt you to think of, and attempt, multiple solutions to your health problem. And to make sure that you don’t just try things for a short while, but that they become what you do all the time, without even having to think about it. To make it fun, easy and do-able.

And to make sure it is a long time before you find yourself in any kind of envelope…

xoxo
–Barbara

P.S. No worries if you missed the challenge! Just head right over to the group, click on the Photos tab at the top, then the Videos tab. Lots of great content from me – and lots of great inspiration from people who are just like you, trying to uplevel their health and find their way out of the IBS maze.

The Abundance Mindset & Your Health

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I want to fill you in on some thoughts I had about the law of attraction and your IBS. Yes, that law of attraction – that woo woo, wacky idea that was in the book, The Secret...

Whether or not you buy into all that spiritual juju stuff, there is a very helpful take-away regarding the difference between an abundance mindset and a scarcity mindset. In the first, you look for and focus on the gifts and opportunities that you are presented with, while a scarcity mindset is one in which you think there is only so much of things to go around.

How does this relate to health? Modern medicine, which I can say many wonderful things about, by its very nature of diagnosis and treatment protocols, is consistent with a scarcity mindset. Diagnoses become letters of the law, you are doomed to have health issues as you get older – do you see the picture?

An abundance mindset when it comes to your health implies that their is always room for expansion, for improvement, for healing! One of the key elements of an abundance mindset is that it requires that you be open to whatever chances and opportunities come your way.

Now let me put such an opportunity right in your path: My Heal Your Belly Boot Camp: 8 Weeks to a Better-Behaved Belly. This opportunity is right for you if:

  • Bathroom trips are either terrifyingly urgent or happen maddeningly infrequently
  • It feels nearly impossible to commit to anything, let alone anything fun
  • You feel like life is passing you by
  • You have no idea what you should be eating
  • You feel like you have tried everything, but you are still struggling with awful, embarrassing symptoms
  • You haven’t been satisfied with the help you have received from your doctor

Want to learn more? Click here!

Should You Be Worried About Osteopenia?

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Bone health is not my area of expertise, but I just learned something about osteopenia that is so shocking that I feel compelled to share it.

I just had my first bone density test and my joke ahead of time was that if I didn’t pass, everything I know to be true is a lie. So you can imagine my surprise when they diagnosed me with osteopenia! I was shocked – how can this be when I am the poster child for how to live to prevent osteoporosis?

As you can see by what I grow in my garden, I eat like a giraffe – lots of leafy greens. I also eat a wide variety of calcium-containing foods. I do both of the recommended osteoporosis-preventing types of exercise – weight-bearing (walking or hiking every day) and resistance (practice yoga four days a week). So how on earth did my test results land me in the yellow bar of the test results? Not green for normal or red for osteoporosis, but right smack dab in the osteopenia category.

The answer is disturbing – not in terms of my risk for osteoporosis – but in terms of companies that are profiting from fear. The reason behind my test results is that the test is comparing me to the average 30-year-old woman – and that the slight thinning in my bones measured by the test is normal!

Here is where it gets disturbing. (You can click here for one of my sources for this information.) It turns out that scientists have a good sense of the type of bone changes that lead to increased risk of fracture – and this is when a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made. However, a group of scientists felt the need to come up with a term to describe the thinning of bone as a person ages. They dubbed this “osteopenia” but did not intend for it to be seen as a disease state – and certainly not one that required treatment.

However, drug companies like to sell drugs. It turns out that a major osteoporosis medication was not meeting sales expectations. Capitalizing on the scientist’s “osteopenia” label, this company prompted the development of lower-cost bone density screening machines – making them appealing for doctors to install in their offices. These machines produce that nifty little green/yellow/red chart that makes a dot in the yellow area look so alarming. And these alarming results are a great way to sell more medication. So, the system is a win for the machine manufacturers, the drug makers, and the average physician who can now bill for the screening as well as any follow-up visits if a person started taking osteoporosis medication. The loser in this scenario is people like you and me who are being treated for something that may be nothing more than normal aging.

The nurse at my doctor’s office sent me home with the recommendation to start taking calcium supplements (2400 mg per day) and instructions for how to use a resistance band. She said I might hear from my doctor if he also wanted me to start taking an osteoporosis medication (no call yet!)

Here is the bottom line – osteoporosis is a bad thing. It puts you at risks for fractures, which can lead to other health problems and even premature death. (And if you have IBS, you might be at greater risk for osteoporosis – click here to read more about that!) Therefore it is important to eat calcium-rich foods, to make sure that your vitamin D levels are adequate, to eat a clean diet, and to do both weight-bearing and resistance exercises.

So, although I am no longer concerned about my osteopenia diagnosis, I am not going to turn a blind eye to any risk for osteoporosis and I will keep doing all of my healthy things. What I am not going to do is to take a calcium supplement, as there are concerns about calcium supplementation increasing one’s risk for osteoporosis. I will go back next year to be re-screened. I want to see how my bones look compared to themselves – not as compared to a 30-year-old woman.

Please remember that I am not a medical doctor. You need to have an open discussion with your doctor about your own personal risk factors. The information I have just provided you is intended to prompt you to do your own research so that you can make an educated decision for yourself – as opposed to be unnecessarily treated due to a self-serving nifty little color-coded chart.

UPDATE: My primary care physician has now informed me that the recommendations for osteoporosis screening put out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have changed. In the absence of risk factors, screening should not occur until a woman is 65 years old. If my gynecologist had known this, I wouldn’t have been screened at all – and would have been spared from unnecessary testing and anxiety.

The Bottom Line?!?!

Get educated and work with your doctor on an approach that is safe and conservative, not one that is profitable for unscrupulous companies.

 

Eating Clean: A Long and Winding Road

eatingcleanHave you heard the term “eating clean”? It means to eat foods as Mother Nature intended them to be – free of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, additives, preservatives – all of the not-so-wonderful wonders of the modern age. Although this sounds great in theory – and certainly optimal for our health – it is not always so easy to achieve and most definitely rarely happens overnight.

I was listening to a lecture given by Joshua Rosenthal, the Founder of IIN, the nutrition school I am attending, and was struck by a point that he made – that learning to eat in a way that encourages health and healing is a process. This got me to thinking about my own road to eating clean and how I am constantly making tweaks that bring my nutrition up to a new level. And, I recognize that sometimes I hit potholes (holidays, birthdays and that once a year hot dog!)

I also am keenly aware that for people with digestive issues, such as IBS, the road to eating clean can be a perilous one. Sometimes eating fruits and vegetables makes you feel worse, therefore it seems safer to avoid them. This is one of the reasons that I am so grateful for the FODMAPs researchers. They have provided people with a list of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are less likely to cause distress, helping IBSers to eat these nutritious foods with more confidence.

My coaching mentor, Jeanette Walker, offers a helpful approach for steering on the road to eating clean – that of the notion of “bad, better, best.” This simple driving direction can be so useful as you evaluate the things that you typically eat. Can you take something that would be on the bad list – overly processed, filled with ingredients that you would have to be a scientist to know what they truly are – and find a substitute that is a little cleaner? Can you find a recipe and make it yourself so that you can ensure that you are using ingredients that your great-grandmother would easily recognize?

I am on the road to eating clean, but still have many waypoints to get to. A big area for me is in terms of finding (and affording) beef, chicken and pork for my carnivorous house mates that come from animals that have been raised humanely.

So, my fellow “happy health nuts” get on the road to clean eating! Read those labels, buy organic when practical, and cook your own foods!

Related Reading:

 

Rice Cooker: A Health Nut’s Best Friend

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Do you know what a rice cooker is? It’s like a slow cooker for rice – in other words – it does the cooking for you!!! Once you have one, you will wonder how you ever survived without one. You can significantly up your nutrition game with this simple appliance as it takes away all of the difficulty of cooking whole grains.

As a creature of habit, I make out my grocery list once a week by coming up with menus for each night’s dinner. Brown rice as a side dish required scheduling – I could only cook it on a day when I knew that I could hang around the kitchen. As I like to walk the dog in the late afternoon after work, this was a big problem. I can’t say how many times the rice would come out a little funky because I had to turn off the flame when a child needed to be picked up somewhere.

Now that I have treated myself to a rice cooker, brown rice is a no-brainer. I just measure, rinse, add water, set the timer, and I am a free woman! And, rice actually tastes like it does when you get it from the Chinese restaurant – light and fluffy as opposed to the mushy stuff I usually ended up with no matter what I tried.

With a rice cooker, you will feel like you have your own servant. One night recently, I made a chicken recipe in the slow cooker and had the rice cooker cooking the brown rice. Dinner was truly cooking itself!

The rice cooker cooks more than just rice. The other morning I realized that someone had eaten the last of the leftover brown rice I had been planning on taking for my lunch. I quick popped some quinoa in the rice cooker before my shower. By the time I was ready to leave for work, I not only had quinoa for my lunch, but now I had leftover quinoa for breakfast for the rest of the week! The rice cooker has also played a big role in my new-found love of amaranth porridge – I no longer have to stand and stir until the porridge is cooked through.

So, I highly recommend that you add a rice cooker to that birthday list that already has an immersion blender on it. The right tools go a long way toward helping you to be a happy health nut!

Here is a link to Amazon’s collection:

 

What Having Pets Can Teach Us About Our Health

Whether you have a pet or not, watch as I discuss the importance of an optimal habitat for optimal health.

The guidelines are simple:

  1. Eat the foods that are right for your body.
  2. Move your body.
  3. Do things that nourish your soul.

Making these a regular habit in today’s world is a little more challenging. But a growing number of people are doing it. Let’s make you one of them!

 

What On Earth Are Essential Oils?

 

essential oils in a boxFirst off, I feel compelled to start this discussion by saying that I am loving the fact that essential oils have come into my life. They are just a perfect fit for where my head is at regarding my own health and well-being.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I was not always a “health nut.” But now that I have learned that I can live a life filled with energy – and absent of pain – all through some nourishing, natural self-care, there is no going back.

Essential oils are the “essence,” if you will, of “nourishing, natural self-care.” They are, at it’s simplest, liquids distilled from plants. They are considered to therefore contain all of the protective, health-enhancing qualities of plants, in concentrated, potent amounts.  When we use essential oils, we are theoretically benefiting from these protective plant compounds.

How to Use Essential Oils?

Essential oils can be used:

  • Through topical application (e.g. applied to the skin).
  • Taken internally (typically in capsule form).
  • Diffused through the air.
  • Added to cleaning products.

Most of the time for topical or internal use, essential oils should be diluted through the use of something called a “carrier oil”, such as olive oil or fractionated coconut oil, to minimize the chance of an adverse reaction.

What I Love Them For:

Essential Oils as Gifts

As a health coach, what to bring as a hostess gift became quite a challenge. I could no longer feel good about bringing a dessert, or my classic “pastries for tomorrow’s breakfast.”  Luckily, essential oils have come into my life! What party host doesn’t like receiving:

  • Body scrub, made with brown sugar and aromatic oils.
  • Bath salts, made with Epsom salts and aromatic oils.
  • Roller ball made with an oil chosen with love and an awareness of the special needs of the host or hostess.

Essential Oils as Remedies

Essential oilers have a saying, “There’s an oil for that!” Essential oils offer you a “feel good about” alternative to manufactured over-the-counter products. I personally love the notion that using an essential oil means that I am giving my body plant-based ingredients – something that my body understands!

I am not yet at the point where I will say that essential oils can replace all medications, (see, “What Role Does Medication Play in Holistic Health?”), but for minor maladies, it is lovely to reach for an oil rather than hop in the car and head to the drugstore.

I am still playing around with the oils, but so far my favorite uses has been:

  • Lavender in an Epsom salt bath for sore muscles.
  • Peppermint in a roller ball for minor tension headaches.
  • Peppermint, lemon and lavender in a roller ball for those September allergies.
  • Grounding blend has been amazing in decreasing my passenger anxiety.
  • Soothing blend for symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
  • Protective blend to head off head colds.
  • Repellent blend to protect myself and my dog from ticks when walking in the woods.

Essential Oils Just for Me!

You may have noticed that I am a busy bee. I tend to multiple work obligations and have “sandwich generation” responsibilities. Essential oils are a way to get me to take moments in my busy day to “tune in” to just what my body needs. Starting each day by setting up my diffuser begs me to consider the question, “What do I need today? Do I need soothing, energizing or immune system support?” After a good workout, essential oils remind me how good it feels to soak in a hot bath. On the rare occasions that I am unable to sleep, I now have the option to reach for an oil, rather than just toss and turn.

Sounds good, right?

Interested? You can get more information by clicking below:

You can shop directly, or find information about becoming a Wellness Advocate, which is a way to save money even if you have no interest in selling any products. Do not be put off by the prices – because you only use a few drops at a time, each bottle lasts a LONG time!  A good way to start is with an introductory kit of lavender, lemon and peppermint. Any questions, let me know!

 

 

 

Brown or White Rice – Which Is Healthier?

 

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Have you noticed that the only thing that is definitive in nutrition is that nothing is definitive? In other words, we are often told that something is good for us, then it turns out to be bad for us. Or we are told that something is bad for us and then we are told that it is good for us.

The most glaring example of this would be all of the warnings about eating fats. “Fats make you fat” resulted in a boom of high carbohydrate foods and sky-rocketing obesity and diabetes rates. (If this is news to you, see “Are You Making These Nutrition Mistakes?”)

Today, let’s talk about rice. This simple dietary staple is a great example of nutritional science total confusion. As you read on, you will see what I mean…

Brown Rice

You have probably heard that brown rice is healthier than white rice because it is a “whole grain.” This means that its outer hull is intact – where most of the grain’s nutrition resides – fiber, vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is often recommended due to the fact that it has a low glycemic index, meaning that it does not cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. This has led to some evidence that eating brown rice can lower your risk for diabetes.

Sounds good, right? However, there is a whole other health risk to consider – arsenic. All rice contains arsenic, but brown rice contains significantly higher levels than white rice. Processed foods made with brown rice, such as brown rice crackers, also contain increased levels of arsenic. And arsenic is as bad as it sounds – it increases our cancer risk, along with other health problems.

White Rice

When you add arsenic into the equation, white rice does look like the healthier choice. White rice also poses the advantage of being easily digested. Without the bran, white rice can be less irritating to a sensitive gut.

The downside to white rice though is does offer the potential for raising blood sugar levels and causing insulin spikes. Foods that do this are associated with weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

How to Make Sense of It All

Here is the bottom line – whether you choose to eat white rice or brown, you are at least eating real, whole food. In other words, they are a better choice than deep-fried French fries!

Some recommendations:

1. If you choose to eat white rice, make sure that you pair it with some healthy fats and protein. This will help to slow down the rise in blood sugar levels.

2. Whichever rice you choose, you can lower the arsenic levels by thoroughly rinsing the rice before cooking. Another tip for lowering arsenic levels is to cook the rice with lots of extra water, which you will drain off before eating.

3. Skip the rice altogether. (A recommendation you will hear from the Paleo and other grain-free people.) Cauliflower rice makes a very nice substitute as long as you are not reactive to the FODMAP mannitol. It is super easy – just grate the cauliflower or chop it in a food processor until it is the consistency of rice. Heat up a little olive oil in a flat pan and saute the “rice” for approximately five minutes.

What Do I Do?

Bearing in mind that every body is different, I have learned to eat all my rice-favorite meals without the rice. The only exception is if I am out socially and my food options are limited – in other words, when there are not a lot of gluten-free items to be had.  I can tolerate cauliflower, so in the cooler months I will enjoy cauliflower rice. What does my husband do? He runs to the Chinese restaurant and picks himself up some rice!

 

How Not to Be Like Everyone Else

Let’s face it. The average American is not the picture of health.

emergency roomI recently had the fortune/misfortune to be in the Emergency Room of one of the world’s most prestigious heart hospitals with my elderly father.  Although I am very grateful that we have access to such amazing medical care, I was very disheartened by what I saw that day. What made my heart sink was that there was not such a big difference between the looks of the patients lying sick in their beds and their visitors. The visitors looked bloated and overweight, there skin was dull or broken out, and their bodies were hunched over and moved stiffly. In other words, it was only a matter of time before they were the ones lying in the beds hooked up to the machines.

Through my nutrition training and the gazillion books on nutrition that I have read, I now know that it doesn’t have to be like this. Human beings were meant to be strong, healthy, fit creatures. What is keeping us from that state is our Standard American Diet. All of our convenience foods are keeping our hospitals very busy.

I have been a sandwich generation person since my kids were babies. I have been by my parents’ sides and watched them deal with cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and dementia. It is my firm intention to not put my own kids through that. Hence all the green juices and green smoothies!

One thing I have been known to say is that, there are days in your life that you spend on the beach, and then there are days that you spend in hospitals. If you were to ask me what my passion is, deep down, what drives me to do the work that I do, I would have to say that my passion is to keep people out of hospitals! So that there are more days that you can be doing what you love as opposed to days where you are ill and in pain. I found my way into digestive health because I saw a need to help people who were understandably stressed out by IBS. Combining my  passion and my work brings me to a place where I want to help people who have digestive distress to find a way to live and to eat that not only clears up their digestive symptoms, but also keeps them away from the diseases of our modern day.

How does one do this? You need to stop eating like everyone else (which you are already doing if you have IBS!), and eat like your great-great-grandparents did. This means a diet filled with real, whole foods – light on the sugar, light on grains, and full of quality animal protein (if that’s your thing) and a wide variety of vegetables. This means that when you to parties and restaurants and supermarkets, the foods that you choose are going to be very different from those around you. And you need to be okay with that. To ‘fit out” as Joshua Rosenthal of IIN says. And to know that you are treating your body the way that it deserves to be treated and that you are perhaps inspiring those next to you to start to make healthier choices.

 

Is Juicing Right for You?

Joe Cross and Dr. Barbara Bolen

Joe Cross, Juicing Guru

Last week, I had one of the most amazing nights of my life! I was invited to a reception and preview of Joe Cross’ “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2”. Have you heard of Joe? He was the affable Aussie fellow who chronicled his 60 day juice fast in the documentary “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. Even if you cannot ever imagine yourself drinking a green juice, the stories in the film are highly compelling. It’s definitely an enjoyable movie to watch, better than most of what Hollywood pumps out for us.

The evening was a great experience. It started with a reception at Joe Cross’ gorgeous Reboot office in New York City. Who knew a cocktail party could be green and clean? They served a yummy pear with ginger drink and Joe’s famous “Mean Green” juice. The canapes were all vegetable-based and gluten-free. My son (who agreed to be my date for the night) and I were treated like celebrities by the Reboot staff. We got to meet Victoria Moran, author of “Living a Charmed Life: Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day, as well as other cool New York City people.

The highlight of the experience was a private meet-up with Joe himself. This is a guy (or bloke, as he would say), who not only turned his own auto-immune-compromised health around, but also has inspired thousands of people worldwide to do the same. I was given a few moments to pick his brain about a subject near and dear to me: “Does Juicing Help IBS?“.  Although Joe is no scientist, his explanation as to why juicing works, e.g. reducing inflammation, shunting energy away from the process of digestion, infusion of micronutrients, etc, made a lot of sense to me.

We were then whisked off to a theater to see a special showing of “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2.” Joe himself sat right behind us! The sequel has all of the charm of the first, but with a broader message about the need for all of us to prioritize our health and break away from our junk food way of living.

Is juicing right for you? I encourage you to watch the movie to decide for yourself. Remember, you don’t have to go on a juice fast in order to benefit from juicing. For myself, drinking green juices on a regular basis was the only thing I found in over 10 years that helped to significantly reduce my chronic migraine pain. I now walk around thinking, “huh, I’m not in pain.”  Much as I love green smoothies – they are simple, delicious and make my body feel awesome – I don’t get the same migraine pain relief from them as I do green juices. As Joe Cross says, “Blending does the chewing for you, juicing does the digesting for you.”

What about juicing for digestive problems? I think that juicing might be just the thing to break the Catch-22 of IBS. IBS makes you fear vegetables, but you need vegetables in order to heal your gut. The Reboot staff told me they get a ton of testimonials from people whose IBS cleared up following a “Reboot”. If you are interested, but hesitant, I would recommend starting out juicing fruits and vegetables that are low in FODMAPs.

The first “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” is available for live streaming on Netflix or for purchase on Amazon. The sequel can be pre-ordered as it will be available in November 2014.

 Want to learn more about juicing? Here are Joe Cross’ books – they both take the mystery out of juicing and provide lots of healthy recipes: