Tag Archives: food

Eating for Skin Health

“You are what you eat”–one of our most familiar platitudes for trying to convince ourselves to put good things into our bodies. However, there is great truth to this statement and nowhere is this more obvious than on our skin. One of the basic premises of Naturopathic Medicine states that if the body has optimum nourishment and is free of obstacles, it will come to a state of ideal health. This is an easy way to think about eating for healthy skin. The basic rules of thumb are as follows:

Obstacles to Avoid:

Any allergens or foods to which you are sensitive. Dairy, gluten, and eggs are common “hidden” culprits that can contribute to skin breakouts. If you are unsure of if you have any sensitivities, blood testing can be helpful to find out.
Refined sugars tend to promote breakouts, as do alcoholic beverages
Fatty meats tend to be pro-inflammatory
Nutrients to Include:

Omega 3 fats such as fish and flax oils decrease inflammation and create healthy skin cell membranes. Eating whole fish and flax are great too!
Fiber from sources such as flax, apples, pears, and psyllium help to move toxins from the digestion and reduce inflammation in the body
Water helps to hydrate the skin and flushes toxins from the body
Bright orange fruits and vegetables are a good source of carotenes which convert to Vitamin A, which is important for making healthy cells
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which is also helpful for making healthy skin cells
Happy Eating!

Dr. Kaycie’s Top Ten Detoxifying Foods

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Strawberries are high in bioflavonoids that protect the cells of the liver. The whole plant can also be made into a medicine that is good for restoring digestive health.

Spring has finally arrived!  I don’t usually find myself waiting until the end of May to say this, but I think the snows are finally behind us, and the garden is planted.  Now that the weather has warmed somewhat, our bodies are also starting to warm and be ready for the exercise and outdoor activities of summer.  In addition to getting our bodies into ideal shape for the summer through exercise, we can also help to boost vitality through cleansing.  For more information on what spring cleaning and detoxification is, you can look at my article “What is Detoxification?” from last spring. There are many detoxification protocols out there, and finding the right one will depend on your constitution, health status, and commitment to the program.  However, an easy first step is to start incorporating detoxifying foods into each meal using the basic theory of detoxification: improve elimination of waste through optimizing the function of the digestive tract, urinary tract, skin and liver.  Here is a list of my top ten favorites:


10. Garlic

Garlic can help to reduce blood triglycerides and improve circulation and sweating to remove wastes via the skin. It also helps stimulate digestion.

9.  Apples

Apples are a great source of insoluble and soluble fibers.  The insoluble fiber helps to move waste through the digestive tract. When cooked, the pectins found in apples help to absorb excess cholesterol, delay absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, and bulk the stool.

8.  Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens, which are commercially available in many areas, act as a diuretic to help remove wastes through the urine.  The beauty of dandelion greens is that they also replace any minerals lost through the process of diuresis.

7.  Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are thought of as one of the least allergenic foods available.  Unless you have an intolerance to all carbohydrate, sweet potatoes are a good source of lower glycemic carbohyrates that help to soothe the digestive tract and decrease inflammation.

6.  Cilantro

Cilantro and its seed coriander are calming to the digestion and help to dispel gas.  Cilantro also helps to convert blood cholesterols into bile which can aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels.  Cilantro extracts have also been shown to remove mercury from a water solution, so there is speculation about whether cilantro could aid in mercury detoxification when consumed.

5.  Seaweed

Hijiki, Wakame, and Kombu (all types of seaweed) have all been shown to increase breakdown of fats in the body.  Seaweeds are also a good source of iodine, which is necessary for proper thyroid function.  These two actions together help to boost metabolism and removal of excess fats from the system.  Traditional Chinese Medicine also regards seaweed as a detoxifier which mobilizes heavy metals and turns them into inorganic salts that can easily be excreted through the urine.

4.  Lemon

Lemon and lemon juice are wonderfully bitter and sour.  Taken especially before meals, they help to start the digestive process early, which makes the digestive absorb nutrients and eliminate wastes more effectively.

3.  Kale

Kale and other members of the cabbage family contain indoles, which help the body metabolize and remove excess steroid hormones such as estrogen. Members of this family have also been found to repair damage to the liver.  Kale is also high in fiber and chlorophyll to increase energy and optimize digestion.

2.  Flax

Flaxseed is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which help to balance cholesterol and reduce inflammation.  Even more important for detoxification though is the high concentration of soluble fibers that help to trap excess fats and cholesterol, bulk the stool, and ensure effective elimination of waste via the digestive tract.

1.  Beets

There is extensive research supporting the protective and regenerative effect of beets on the cells of the liver.  This effect has even been seen with molasses derived from sugar beets.  The pigments in beets have also been shown to have a protective effect against the formation of cancer cells. Beets are also great for assisting with effective waste elimination through the bowels.

Healthy Snacking

I have been thinking about snacks quite a bit lately. From the days of my pregnancies where I seemed to need some food what seemed like hourly, to my current days of trying to find something yummy and healthy that a 2-year old and 9-month old will be excited to munch on, I am always on the lookout for something convenient, portable, low-sugar, high-nutrition, and relatively allergen-free. In the past, common wisdom said that snacking between meals was unhealthy and promoted weight gain. However, healthy snacks can help to balance blood sugar and mood and can promote restful sleep; it also helps the body to use your calories properly and not store them as fat. So, with this in mind, and a bit of inspiration from The Shoshoni Cookbook, I came up with this recipe for a “cookie” that gets the toddler as well as an adult thumbs-up:
Oatmeal Banana Raisin Cookies
Makes about 6 dozen–you can halve this recipe!
2 cups bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 eggs (can substitute 2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp warm water if egg sensitive or vegan)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup raisins
Optional: 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds, or chopped walnuts (for added healthy fats and protein)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix banana, oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey in a medium sized bowl. In another bowl, mix oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then mix in raisins and coconut, seeds, or nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet–they don’t spread much, so you can put them close together on the sheet. bake 14 minutes until lightly browned.

Living with Food Allergies and Sensitivities

As I spoke about in last week’s article Figuring out Food Allergies and Sensitivities, there are a few types of sensitivities to foods.  These can manifest in a variety of ways, including joint pain, eczema, asthma, sinus and digestive problems.  Although there are many factors that may contribute to these types of issues, foods can and often do play a role.  So once you have figured out the foods to which you are sensitive, what can you do about them?  In essence, we have two options: foods to which you will always have a sensitivity (true allergens) and food sensitivities that can be modified and improved over time.

True Allergens
For some food allergies, the only solution is avoidance. Often allergies to things like shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts tend to be persistent throughout life.  The reaction to these allergens tends to be fast, and can be severe, resulting in inflammation in the digestive tract, skin or lungs.  This can manifest as stomachaches, vomiting, rash or even anaphylaxis. In the case of celiac disease, the reaction isn’t always so immediate or severe but the need for complete lifelong avoidance is the same.

If this is the case for you, the good news is that there are so many healthy and delicious alternatives.  Compared to 10 years ago, there are so many readily available foods that are well marked and free of common allergens.  Frequenting the natural foods aisle of the grocery store or shopping at a “health food” store can often make this process a bit easier.  This is because there are often fewer “hidden” ingredients such as egg albumin, corn syrup, whey protein, or wheat starch in some of the more natural brands.  All food products are now required by law to state common allergens contained in them, which also can make things easier.  Check back in weeks to come for more specific advice on avoiding common allergens such as gluten and dairy.

Food Sensitivities
For some food reactions, it is possible to eliminate or at least decrease your sensitivity.  I often see people with sensitivities to proteins in wheat, dairy, soy, egg, and many less common allergens that can improve over time.  Especially in adults, new allergies may appear or old ones may become more severe after significant illness, stress, or hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause.  Improvement will often be seen using a few basic approaches to decreasing reactivity to foods:

Avoid reactive foods

The first step to healing is to completely remove any allergens or irritants (I usually start with 4-6 weeks).  Often, just doing this will decrease or eliminate reactivity.  When we give the body a break from the source of irritation, swelling and antibodies will decrease.  This will allow the areas of chronic irritation to heal and become less prone to inflammation when they are re-exposed to the allergen.

Heal the digestive tract

Did you know that approximately 80% of the immune cells in your body reside in the large intestine?  The digestive system is our body’s first direct contact with much of the outside world, so it makes sense that much of our defense against bacteria, viruses and other invaders including allergens is here.  If there is any chronic irritation or dysbiosis in the digestive tract, our ability to properly break down and absorb foods will be compromised.  This can lead to further reactivity once food particles enter the bloodstream.  If we can correct any imbalance in the flora (either infectious or from a lack of proper bacteria), eliminate swelling, and heal the cells that line the digestive tract this can decrease our overall sensitivity to foods.  Beyond just avoiding offending foods, we can also add appropriate probiotics and herbs to heal the digestive cells which can further improve your results.  If appropriate, we can also use antiiflammatory herbs and colostrum to decrease the overall tendency towards inflammation.

Improve the function of the liver
The liver is the body’s processing plant.  It looks at everything that comes into the bloodstream, decides whether the body needs it or not, and packages it appropriately to be used by the cells or excreted as waste.  If it is functioning relatively slowly, things that should become wastes or broken down further may continue circulating in the bloodstream, which can cause increased inflammation.  When we boost liver function by eating foods such as beets, leafy greens, and artichokes, we can process wastes more quickly and decrease the probability of inappropriately reacting to particles in the bloodstream.

Sunchokes, Immunity, and the mysterious Inulin

Sunchokes are a delicious member of the daisy family, which includes many of the superstars of the botanical world: dandelion, burdock, artichoke, arnica, echinacea, chicory, and elecampane to name a few. Something all of these plants have in common is that their roots contain a compound called inulin. Inulin is a polysaccharide that acts as a type of soluble fiber. Fibers do not get broken down by our normal digestive process in the small intestine, so it remains intact as it is either absorbed or sent to the large intestine.

When inulin arrives in the large intestine, it can function in a manner similar to other prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides. It serves as food to the healthy bacteria living in the digestive tract and thereby can help to grow and develop a healthy balance of flora. The large intestine is our largest immune organ: 70% of the immune tissue of the body resides here. Healthy flora help to protect this immune tissue, boost our natural defenses against infection, and prevent inappropriate inflammation in the digestive tract and throughout the body.

The problem with eating foods high in inulin is directly related to its benefits. When those happy bacteria consume it and grow, they create waste products in the form of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. This can cause gas, bloating and general discomfort in the belly for some people. Processed foods that contain isolated inulin (which also can be called chicory on a label) do seem to cause problems for many people, so check your labels. That said, many traditional diets have contained high levels of inulin-containing foods and it is well tolerated by many people. Whole foods, such as sunchokes, can cause fewer gassy issues for people so it may be worth the experiment to give your flora a healthy snack!

A Healthy Twist on an Old Favorite

Last week the Vibrant Health Alliance had our annual Holiday shindig. We always do these as a potluck and invariably we always have an amazing, beautiful meal made even better because we are all so excited to get to nourish each other. My husband was having a hankering for macaroni and cheese, but we have some folks who avoid dairy in the group so I decided to make an allergen-free, vegan version. This casserole resembles traditional mac and cheese only in that it’s as bright yellow and creamy as the processed cheese version, but the flavor is unique and delicious and the recipe is far simpler than traditional cheese sauce. WInter squash is high in fiber and carotenes which convert to vitamin A in the body, and the fats in coconut milk give a wonderful boost to the immune system.

Serves 8
Macaroni and Coconut Squash sauce (aka Macaroni No-Cheese)
2 lbs Winter Squash (I used kabocha, butternut would be great too)
1 lb Brown Rice penne or elbow noodles (I use Tinkyada brand)
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices gluten-free (or regular) bread
1 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half, lay cut side down in a baking dish, and pour 1/4 inch of water in the dish. Bake about 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While the squash is baking, boil pasta according to directions on the package. Drain. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and discard. Scoop flesh into a food processor and puree. Add garlic, tarragon, coconut milk, and salt and pepper and puree. Mix with noodles and place in a 9X11 baking dish. Place bread in a 300 degree oven for 25 minutes until it is dry and hard; process into crumbs in food processor. Add the oil to the crumbs and process until fully incorportated. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly.
Have a delicious, healthy holiday!

Eat Seasonally For Holiday Health

During the holidays we can have the tendency to fall into a routine of overindulgence that, come January, can leave us feeling overfull and unhealthy. This is a wonderful time to share delicious treats with friends and family, and the colder weather can inspire long, cozy hours in the kitchen. So how do we enjoy a season ofrich, delicious foods and still feel good come the new year?
This year, take some time to look beyond the standard recipes and focus on what is right in our backyard. There is an abundance of locally produced food that is fresh and coming out of the ground right now: apples, pears, beets, kale, butternut squash, and tender little fingerling potatoes are just a few of the wonderful foods that are local, organic, and available right now. When we cook to enhance and celebrate the wonderful flavors in these foods, we can do without some of the more refined, heavier foods that make our tummies swell and our bodies lethargic: baked apples and pears are delicious and require little sugar and no crust. Roasted sweet potatoes are intensely sweet and rich without the marshmallow topping, and sauteed kale or fresh, blanched green beans are fantastic topped with olive oil, lemon juice and toasted walnuts rather than a can of creamed soup that masks their natural deliciousness.

The recipe to the left is one example of a rich yet healthy side dish to add a new twist to your holiday table.

Have a delicious, healthy holiday!