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?

 

white_rice

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!

 

Soup, Squash & Slow Cooker Season

Here are some of my faves!

Soups

Squash

At the time of this writing, the only winter squash that has been tested for FODMAPs is butternut squash. A 1/4 cup serving is considered low in FODMAPs. The following squashes have not yet been tested, so start with a small serving to assess your tolerance.

Slow Cooker

Do you need someone to make sure you eat more veggies? To get your health where it needs to be? You need a health coach! Click here and let’s talk!

Dr. Bolen Talks IBS

I hope you have been enjoying my video blogs. Unfortunately, I was unable to publish a new video this week due to technical difficulties (no shower = bad hair days!)

In place of something new, I thought you might enjoy the following video, in which I am interviewed by Sabrina Khan, of Fuel Yourself Fabulous TV. Sabrina is also a graduate of my Low-FODMAP Diet Training Program™. In this video, Sabrina picks my brain about all things IBS, including how to get through a bad IBS attack. Enjoy! (The video, not the attack!)

Are you ready to talk to me about your IBS? Let’s connect and get you started on the road to a happy belly and a happy life. Click here to get started!

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.

 

Get to Know Kohlrabi

kohlrabi

One of my recent picks for a previously unknown food was kohlrabi, a root vegetable. Let me tell you, it was a hit with the non-adventurous carnivores that I live with. I roasted the kohlrabi up with some chopped garlic and olive oil. My son described it as “a cross between a marshmallow and a potato.” Since neither marshmallows or potatoes have great nutrition, it’s kohlrabi for the win!

But the gift of the kohlrabi did not just end with it being a delicious, family-friendly side dish. I was also able to enjoy the greens. Their flavor is quite mild and so I added them to both my green juices and my green smoothies. These delicious, nutritious drinks keep my skin glowing, my nails growing and my head pain-free! Always great to have another variety of greens to add to my repertoire.

Why eat kohlrabi? Besides being delicious, the root and the greens offer you a whole host of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Remember the wider the variety of plant foods that you eat, the more nourishment you are giving to every cell of your body.

Because I am a digestive health guru, I was of course curious about whether kohlrabi has been found to be low-FODMAP. Several lists on the web say “yes”, but as far as I can tell, the ultimate authority, Monash University, has not yet tested kohlrabi. However, sometimes we need to guess. Since other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, are considered low in FODMAPs, there is a good possibility that kohlrabi would also be. However, every body is different, so give kohlrabi a try and see how it agrees with your system. I roasted mine with garlic because my family can tolerate garlic. If you want to keep the dish low-FODMAP you could use a garlic-infused oil. 

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When Local Trumps Organic

 

What To Do With Garlic Scapes

I must share a bit of a back story before I get into discussing why you should be interested in garlic scapes. Back in 2012  Hurricane Sandy destroyed my backyard. Many people lost their homes, so I couldn’t really complain. But, my beautiful, shady, tree-filled backyard was now a sunny wasteland. For a long time, it looked like an abandoned lot on the side of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

2014-04-18 18.12.23 (1)

Once my husband and sons finished chopping up our beloved oak tree for firewood, it was time to come to grips with my now-very-suburban-looking backyard. Fortunately, my friend Dylan, who owns a home organic gardening business, had just come back from Costa Rica with all sorts of ideas about creating an individual biosphere in regular backyards. He saw my yard as a blank canvas and the creative juices started flowing.

Dylan filled one side of the yard with berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. In the back of the yard, he planted two peach trees, two plum trees and a fig tree. He built boxes for potatoes, asparagus, squash and garlic. On one slope, he planted a bunch of pollinating flowers. I now have one of the world’s most interesting backyards.

One morning as I looked out, I said, “Do the garlic plants have flowers?” When I finally got back there to look, I saw these beautiful swan-like fronds. I thought, “Ooohh, these must be garlic scapes”, and immediately felt like a fool because I had just ordered some from my local Farmigo distributor. Newbie gardener mistake, as I was able to harvest about 50 of my own scapes. I cannot describe to you the giddy joy I experienced with this unexpected, gorgeous gift from my own backyard.

garlic scapes

What to do with garlic scapes? Apparently the best thing is to make pesto! I pulled up a recipe from my friend Kerry Michaels, who is my colleague at About.com:

Don’t tell Kerry, but I skipped the basil because I didn’t have any around! The pesto was super-easy to make and my freezer is now stocked. Scapes can also be sauteed or added to soups.

garlic scape pesto

Now for the best part. garlic scapes might just be low-FODMAP! I don’t think they have been tested by Monash, but the greens of scallions are low in FODMAPs and a quick Google search indicated that some FODMAP bloggers have been able to tolerate garlic scapes even if they cannot tolerate garlic. This means that you should be able to enjoy the garlicky taste that comes from the scapes without worrying that it will set off your IBS.

Why should you eat garlic scapes? Because they contain the same wonderful nutrients that you get from eating garlic – manganese, selenium and some key vitamins. Garlic consumption is thought to be good for your cardiovascular system and may help to protect you from cancer.

Where to get garlic scapes if you are not growing garlic in your backyard? They can be found in your local Farmer’s Market. Ask the farmers when they will be in season in your area.

 

Get Acquainted with Arugula

Baby arugula

Arugula – the first thing to pop out of my spring garden.

You learn something every day! I just learned that an alternative name for arugula is rocket salad, a name earned because it rockets out of the ground each spring. If you are not yet eating arugula on a frequent basis, I hope you will give this super-healthy green a try.

One of the main mantras I heard during my training at IIN was that most people would feel better if they simply drank more water and ate more greens. Follow this advice and eat arugula! It is a low-FODMAP green which means that you can enjoy the health benefits of arugula without having to worry about it setting off any unwanted digestive symptoms. Compared to most other salad greens, arugula has more antioxidants, phytonutrients, calcium, folate, magnesium, and vitamin E.

arugula salad

Fodmap-friendly arugula salad with cantaloupe and pecans.

Arugula does have a strong, peppery taste, which may come across a little bitter. You can tone down the bitterness of the arugula by pairing it in your salad with some fruit or avocado (small amount on the avocado to keep it low-FODMAP). I personally love to top my arugula salad with my balsamic vinaigrette dressing. (P.S. The above salad is of one of the recipes you will find in my  book, “The Everything® Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet.“)

Give arugula a try and let me know what you think! If you have a fave arugula recipe, I would love it if you shared it below.

 

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: