Why We Should Avoid Conventional Dairy

Milk -- it does a body good, right?  Welllllll...it depends.  

In order to be able to digest milk, the body needs to produce the enzyme lactase (we are all born with the ability to produce lactase, but lose the ability as we age).  In fact, up to 70% of us no longer produce lactase by the time we enter preschool.

All conventional milk products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) are pasteurized to kill off any harmful bacteria that may be present.  Pasteurization, however, in addition to killing the harmful bacteria, kills the lactase.  So if you're in the almost 3/4 of the population who doesn't produce your own lactase, pasteurized milk is not your friend (you may be able to tolerate raw milk, however, which is unpasteurized and still contains the lactase that is there by nature).  Pasteurization, sadly, also kills most of the nutrients and beneficial bacteria that are present in dairy in its raw state.  This leaves us with little more than (white) water.

“But the calcium!” you say.  Contrary to what the dairy industry would have us believe, milk is actually not a great source of calcium – especially when compared to vegetables, nuts and salmon – nor is it good for your bones.  Milk makes the body acidic, which actually reduces the amount of calcium that is absorbed by the body (an alkaline environment is known to be most conducive to calcium absorption).  The body will actually leach calcium OUT of your bones in an effort to regulate the acidic environment caused by consuming dairy.  Plus, calcium needs saturated fat to be absorbed, so milk won’t help you much if you’re eating a low-fat diet.

More noteworthy (or more gross) to me, though, is the following:

-   conventional dairy cows are bred to produce 3 to 4 times more milk than they did a century ago (which causes all sorts of disgusting side effects -- read about this here if you want). 

-  conventional dairy cows are typically fed a diet of soybean meal to make them produce more milk (you've all heard about the estrogenic effects of soy -- so have the conventional dairy farmers). 

-  cows have stomachs that only digest grass.  Their bodies don't know what to do with the soybean meal, so they get sick.  They are given antibiotics to prevent and deal with their sicknesses and those antibiotics get into the dairy products made with their milk -- and then into YOU.

-  conventional dairy cows are not given any room to move.  They are penned in all day, hooked up to milking machines, wallowing in their own filth.  They are never exposed to the sun, never given the chance to roam and eat grass.

I am certainly not opposed to dairy if you tolerate it, but all dairy is not created equal.  Organic, grass-fed dairy (like Organic Valley, which can be found in many supermarkets) -- or better yet, raw, unpasteurized dairy from a local farm or market, is a far superior and much more nutrient-dense choice.

Raw dairy products, unlike their conventional counterparts, contain the enzyme lactase, making them easier to digest.  In fact, some who think they are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate raw, unpasteurized dairy.  Raw dairy is unprocessed and, as such, contains all of the nutrients (like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and essential fatty acids) that are lost in the pasteurization process. 

Some people are freaked out by the idea of drinking unpasteurized milk, but dairy products are at the bottom of the list of foodborne illness outbreaks, according to a review of foodborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  Seafood, poultry, eggs and beef were the most “dangerous:”  And, per Chris Kresser, “there hasn’t been a single death attributed to raw fluid milk since the mid-1980s, in spite of the fact that almost 10 million people are now consuming it regularly.”

We in Connecticut are very lucky in that we live in one of the few states where the sale of raw milk is legal (don’t get me started on THAT ridiculousness).  Why not take advantage and try some?  It may take you a little while to get used to it if you’ve been drinking skim milk – I recommend doing it gradually, starting with ¼ raw with ¾ of your regular milk, then moving on to half of each, then ¾ raw and ¼ skim.  Take as long as you like to make the transition, knowing the health benefits will be worth it in the end!





5 Things You Can Do to Keep Yourself (& Your Family) Healthy This Winter

Let's face it -- we're all swamped.  None of us have time to take days off of work, either to rest our own weary bones or to take care of a sick child.  And maybe it was just in my house, but whenever my kids were sick, it was always either a holiday or the first day of a family vacation.  Very inconvenient.  But, fevers, aches and pains, runny noses and sore throats can all be kept to a minimum by taking a few, simple preventative measures.

1.  Catch your zzz's.  Most of us don't pay enough attention to our sleep.  Adequate sleep is crazy important.  If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, you are not getting enough sleep.  And lots of people need more than 7 hours.  My body prefers 9 hours per night, but I can get by with 8.  Any less than that for more than a day or two, and I can expect a cold.

2.  Take Vitamin D.  Studies show that most of us are deficient in this essential vitamin.  But this should never be the case as it is such an easy fix.  I'm not usually in favor of just popping a pill, but this is one of the times I make an exception -- during the cold, New England winter.  If you live in a warm climate, make it a priority to get 15-20 minutes of sunblock-free  time in the sun as often as you can.  If you live in the northeast like I do, you may need to supplement in the winter months.  I take the Vitamin D/K2 drops by Thorne (Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 should always be taken together, and Thorne has them already combined in the proper ratio) and shoot for about 5,000 iu per day.

3.  Limit the sugar.  We all know that sugar isn't great for us, but it's just so darn tasty (and ubiquitous).  The snag with sugar is, it weakens our immune system so that our bodies essentially have to fight it off.  I always tell my kids that our bodies can only fight one thing at a time -- if you've just eaten a pile of cookies when a flu germ comes a-knockin', your body will be too busy fighting the sugar to get rid of it.  And sugar comes in many forms.  Refined white carbohydrates are the first thing to come to mind -- and even non-"sweet" refined carbs (Goldfish crackers, pretzels, waffles, etc.) all turn right to sugar in our bodies.

4.  Wash up!  This is especially important for kids, who are surrounded by germs at school all day.  What do they do as soon as they get home?  Eat a snack.  With their (dirty) hands.  Try to get them in the habit of washing their hands the minute they walk in the door so that their hands are clean when they grab their snacks.  Adults, of course, should also wash their hands before they eat anything, especially during cold and flu season.  Just wash with plain old soap -- not antibacterial soap or Purell -- as anything anti-bacterial will also kill off any good bacteria that happens to be hanging out on us.  And that good bacteria is what helps us fight off the bad.

5.  Eat your greens!  Green, leafy vegetables contain tons of valuable micronutrients that our immune systems need to function properly.  Everyone knows greens are healthy, but if you think of them as cold-fighting agents, it might serve as a reminder to eat a bunch every day.  All fruits and vegetables are good for you, obviously, and eating a variety of them is ideal -- but greens do pack an antioxidant punch that's helpful in keeping the immune system strong.

If it's too late and you already have a cold, try the following recipe from Chris Kresser at chriskresser.com to shorten its duration (it's spicy but if you can get it down, your immune system will thank you!):

  • Juice (or grate on a fine setting) 1–2 pounds of ginger; place juice in a jar and refrigerate
  • Place 2–4 ounces of ginger juice in a mug with the juice of one-half lemon and a large tablespoon of honey (honey is also anti-viral). Add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 6 ounces of hot water. 
  • Drink 2–6 cups of this a day, sipping slowly throughout the day


How to NOT Gain Weight Over the Holidays

It’s that time of year again – it seems like everywhere we turn, there are holiday treats abounding:  parties with sprawling buffets, buckets of egg nog, platters of Christmas cookies, even “thank you” candy canes given out for your Salvation Army donation!
And while we may hear songs of this being the "most wonderful time of the year," for some, this isn't the case at all.  Anxiety about food choices and gaining those dreaded pounds over the holidays can be overwhelming and can ruin what should be a joyful season.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.  This year, why not tackle the holiday season with a food strategy that you feel comfortable and happy about?

Many of us who try to eat well may feel bombarded by temptation at this time of year.  We are typically able to control our food choices in our daily lives pretty easily – we only buy certain foods and many of us prepare almost all of our own meals.  But over the holidays, we eat out more and are often visiting family who may not share our opinions about (or limitations of) certain foods and that can be a tricky situation to navigate.  If this is the case for you, here are some tips:

1.  Get your rest.  Even one night of reduced sleep can cause us to have impaired insulin sensitivity, giving us increased cravings for sugary foods (1).  Getting a solid 8 hours will leave us functioning at our full potential and will help us to avoid making food choices we later regret.

2.  Don’t stop (or even reduce!) your stress-reduction technique.  When we get busy, this is often the first thing to go.  But keeping our bodies in a calm, relaxed state throughout the day can be the key to losing weight or rather, in the case of the holiday season, not gaining weight.  Our bodies hold on to extra pounds in times of stress (2) due to an inflammatory cascade caused by repeated stressful states.  And what are the holidays if not “repeated stressful states”?

  3.  Try not to overdo the sugar.  Yes, the 80/20 rule is golden, but, let’s face it, the holidays are a crazy time of year.  We often aren’t getting our usual of sleep (although, if we follow Tip #1, we are!), we have people sneezing on us in the office, we don’t have as much time to exercise – and sugar can be the difference between maintaining our weight (and health!) and not.  Am I saying to not eat anything sweet for the entire holiday season?  Certainly not.  But remember that sugar is yet another stressor on our bodies, so a day when you’re already swamped with work and have 4 errands to run before you get home may not be the day for those chocolate Santas (3).

4.  Pack healthy snacks.  We are often heading to the stores after work at this time of year and may be tempted to grab a quick “something” to tide us over until we get home.  Nip this bad habit in the bud by remembering to stash some better options (nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, grass-fed jerky) in your bag or car.  You’ll be so happy to see them later!

5.  Offer to host.  It’s definitely more work for you, but the benefit is that you can assign your guests certain dishes to bring that you know will fit in with your current dietary plan.  You can even send them recipes (“Would you be able to bring these almond flour cookies for dessert?  They’re amaaaaazing.”)!  Or if you know of certain dishes that your friends really like to have (think gluten or dairy-containing items), of course they can bring them –there will still be plenty of other options for you.  This way, you get to have a relaxed evening with your friends and don’t even have to consider it a “cheat night.”

6.  Always bring something.  You can’t host every party – sooner or later you’re going to have to venture into someone else’s kitchen.  The best way to be assured of having something nutritious to snack on is to bring it yourself.  Isn’t there something so appealing about a platter of cut-up veggies?  I’m much more likely to eat raw veggies if they’re cut up and laid out nicely on a tray than I am if they’re just sitting in the crisper.  I always volunteer to bring the veggie platter – it’s easy, and often people are very relieved to have a healthy option plopped in front of them amidst the sea of pigs-in-blankets.
 7.  Eat before you go.  The best way to resist those sugary treats is to arrive at the party FULL.  If you’ve had a beautiful, healthy dinner at home, it’s very easy to turn away from the sweets.

8.  Go with the 80/20 rule.  Even 90/10 if it makes you feel better.  The holiday season is 4-5 weeks long, tops.  If you eat well for 11 months of the year, you’re doing better than most, so cut yourself some slack.
The holidays can be stressful in many ways.  But worrying about gaining weight shouldn’t be one of them.  With a relaxed – yet sensible – eating plan, you can cut that food stress down to what it should be:  nothing.   And then you can sit back and enjoy “Miracle on 34th Street” knowing you’ve done all you can to ensure your health – and weight – this holiday season.

5 Dietary Changes You Can Make to Help Your Child Heal from a Concussion

 According to the CDC, about 250,000 children (aged 19 or younger) were treated in an ER for concussion in 2009 (1).  This number does not even count those children who did not go to the ER for their injuries.  An injury to a developing brain is an enormous concern and, with concussion rates rising every year, it is an issue that needs our attention. 

 Parents are typically told is to make sure their children rest their injured brains by refraining from TV and video games, avoiding bright light and, of course, staying out of sports until the symptoms subside.  But diet is not usually addressed.

It might sound like a stretch to say that diet can affect the brain, but recent research has shown a clear connection between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve (2).  In fact, the brain and the gut develop from the same lump of embryonic tissue in utero, and then divide and form the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord) and the Enteric Nervous System (which is in the lining of our GI tract) as the fetus develops (3). 

Here are 5 dietary changes you can make to help your child recover from a concussion:

1.    AVOID GLUTEN – Gluten causes inflammation in the body and can create little holes in the lining of the intestines, causing undesirable particles to leak into the bloodstream (4).  If your body is busy fighting THAT off, it will have precious fewer reserves available to heal the concussion.

2.    EAT YOUR OMEGA-3s – cold water, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the brain.  Shoot for 2-3 servings per week.  Or you can take extra-virgin cod liver oil as long as it’s from a trusted brand like NutraPro International.

3.    CUT OUT THE SEED OILS – this is in part to balance the omega-3 intake and part for the overall health benefits.  An improper balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is damaging to the brain so if you are increasing your omega-3 intake, you want to make sure not to overdo it on omega-6s at the same time.  The best way to do this is to cut out processed seed oils like sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, vegetable and canola (5).

4.    ADD A LITTLE TURMERIC – into soups and stews, in rice or on veggies.  Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb.

5.    TAKE A PROBIOTIC – if your gut is happy, your brain will be happy.  Prescript-Assist, which contains soil-based organisms, is well-tolerated by most people.

I would also like to put in a plug for sleep here, and lots of it.  Our bodies heal when we sleep and injured brains need even more TLC.  Most children don’t get enough sleep as it is, so if your child has a concussion, this must become a top priority!  OK, so that was sort of a 6th thing but I thought I could sneak it in since it wasn’t exactly diet-related.

I wish that dietary suggestions were given to parents of children with concussions and will work on making that happen!  In the meantime, I hope this helps your child recover!


(1)         http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html

(2)         https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201405/how-does-the-vagus-nerve-convey-gut-instincts-the-brain

(3)         http://www.connectwc.org/what-is-the-gut-brain-connection.html

(4)         http://authoritynutrition.com/6-shocking-reasons-why-gluten-is-bad/

(5)         http://chriskresser.com/how-much-omega-3-is-enough-that-depends-on-omega-6/


Sports Drinks May Be Hurting Your Child's Performance

I have been to many children’s sporting events over the years.  I think my children have played about 10 different sports between them – but the one thing that every one of their sports have in common is the ubiquity of sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, etc..

While I know that our kids work hard at these events, I think that there is a mistaken belief that a little bit of running around requires carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment.  The truth is, for the overwhelming majority of kids’ sporting events (especially those for kids in middle school and younger) plain water is all they really need. Advertisements lead us to believe that sports drinks are a beneficial, even necessary part of game day, but in reality, the average sports drink bottle contains 30+ grams of sugar, which is just about the same amount as a can of soda -- and has the same effect on the body, which is to create a huge spike in blood sugar, followed by an inevitable crash.  Water will most assuredly cover whatever liquids they sweat out and won’t send them on a blood sugar roller coaster ride which may last the rest of the day.  And as far as electrolytes go, the trivial amount that is lost in sweat is easily replaced with a well-balanced diet.

This belief in “replenishment” is so pervasive that I have even seen parents give their children sports drinks (and sometimes even candy) BEFORE their game to prep them for the upcoming workout.  But preemptive sugar-loading actually has a detrimental effect – as described earlier, it causes a temporary rise in blood sugar and then, about 30 minutes later, that same blood sugar will crash – and that crash will be right in the middle of the soccer game.  Blood sugar crashes can cause children to feel sluggish, light-headed, grouchy and even nauseous.  Some children are more sensitive to this blood sugar shift than others, but even those who are seemingly unaffected will still be perpetuating another distressing cycle:  teaching their bodies to rely on sugar for energy, rather than their own glycogen stores.

Before your child’s next game, discuss how your family has made the choice to switch to water.  Or start slow and say they can have one Gatorade per week, for the game of their choice (that can even be a little experiment -- see if you notice a difference in your child’s energy). 



Why Hire a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner®?

The health of the average American is in decline.  Diabetes, allergies and obesity are at all-time highs and are showing no sign of decreasing.  In fact, if we keep going at the rate we are now, 95% of Americans will be overweight in 20 years -- and 1 in 3 will have diabetes.  While I am in awe of doctors and all that they do, I think that Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners® (henceforth known as an FDN-P®s), like myself, have much to offer in helping to resolve this crisis as well.

The first issue is time.  Doctors are seriously pressed for it and have to sometimes keep their appointments to 15-minute time slots in order to see an adequate number of patients per day.  An FDN-P®, on the other hand, typically sees clients for hour-long appointments, during which time we can more easily get a sense of the client’s issues and how to best resolve them.  We have usually studied a client’s health history before the first meeting, so we can get more in-depth during our first visit as well.

Another point in FDN®’s favor is the ability to order lab work.  In this way, we can be more helpful than a nutritionist, RD or Health Coach who is unable to run tests on their clients (I am not knocking any of these professionals, by the way – I am a Health Coach myself – but simply stating a fact).  An FDN-P ®can order full hormone work-ups, tests to determine digestive capability and labs to look for underlying pathogens like yeast or unfriendly bacteria.  These tests alone can help to resolve any number of problems, but in addition, through the FDN® Medical Director Program, an FDN-P® can also order any other lab a client may need or want which can then be interpreted by an on-staff doctor (saving the client the trouble of having to find a doctor if he/she doesn’t already have one).

That brings me to another benefit of hiring an FDN-P® – ease!  If you don’t have a doctor that you see regularly, or don’t have too many options in your local area, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners® typically offer their services via phone or FaceTime in addition to in-person, so that you can be treated from the comfort of your own home – without any travel or waiting rooms to deal with.

The most beneficial aspect of using an FDN-P® is that we work to find the root cause of an illness.  Our goal is to find the underlying mechanisms that are causing the body to malfunction, and then support those mechanisms, and the entire body, until function is restored to all systems.  I think that patients are too often given a quick fix nowadays – something to make their symptoms go away – and investigative work to determine why they have symptoms in the first place is not often completed.

And finally there is the nutrition training, which doctors simply do not get much of (I have heard it said that, in all of those years of medical school, only about a day is spent on nutrition).  There can be no doubt that what we fuel our bodies with determines how well they function, much like how a car runs on gasoline – you couldn’t fill it with Pepsi and expect it to run perfectly, right? 

But FDN-P®s can work synergistically with medical professionals, also, which is where I think the magic happens.  We can supply further details into a patient’s case or support the patient after they leave the doctor’s office – with diet and nutrition advice, help with stress reduction, exercise ideas, smart supplementation and tips for improving sleep.  Our goal is full client care and support at all times (unlimited email support is often included at no extra charge).  Now, doesn’t that sound like someone who can help you with your health concerns?

To read more about me and FDN® in general, please visit my website, www.better-fed.com, or the FDN® main page at www.functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com.



Nutrition Statement

My basic philosophy is as follows:

1.  Eat real, whole foods from happy (grass-fed, pasture-raised) animals and clean soil -- these foods should make up at least 80% of your diet (more if you have a chronic illness).

2.  Clean up any underlying health issues or system imbalances.

3.  Learn and keep track of your Vitamin D level, your Total Cholesterol:HDL ratio, your Triglycerides and your blood sugar level.

4.  Move around as often as you can (by exercising, playing with your kids, gardening or even just NOT SITTING DOWN ALL DAY).

5.  Find ways to help deal with your stress (deep breathing, meditation, walking in nature, etc.)

6.  Sleep as much as your lifestyle allows.  If you have room in your schedule for 9 hours of sleep per night, get 9 hours of sleep per night.

7.  Have a (gluten-free) cocktail or two if you tolerate them.  

If we can get those 7 things pretty much nailed down (OK, 6 -- the cocktails are just fun, not necessary), I don't think the rest will matter nearly as much.  You don't have to be PERFECT, but everyone can be a little BetterFed.