Ashley

“I have watched Laura over fifteen years gather in the salubrious hints and helps which abound in deep Nature. She brings a grace-filled awareness along with a studious application of intelligent investigation to translate what Nature holds in store for us. Trust her – she is a beautiful ambassador for the energies which can help one stay healthy and happy. You will love opening to her healing arts.”

-Ashley Kent C., Patagonia, Argentina

Let’s Talk About Food

Preventable, non-communicable diseases account for more deaths worldwide today than all other diseases combined.” – New England Journal of Medicine

Let’s talk about food . . .

Historically, or since commercial food marketers, most of what we’ve been told about what to eat is not only confusing but sometimes deadly. For example, in the 80s the food boogeymen, we were told, were fats and cholesterols. Eggs and butter were out, non-fat yogurt and pretzels were in. Interestingly enough that low fat craze was followed by a historic increase in heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The “nutrition experts” of the time were so convincing with their motto of “eating fat makes you fat”, though, that people to this day feel guilty if they don’t buy skim milk and other low fat products. What some of us are learning, however, is that healthy fats are essential to the functioning of the all the cells of the body and to the brain and that what causes weight gain and fat retention are carbohydrates and sugars. (More about sugars and how, in excess, they change our bodies.)

 

Let’s talk about fats . . .

Fats have always played an essential role in human nutrition.  For example, fat is pivotal in regulating our immune systems. Also, the brain is 70% fat. And 50% of the membranes of all of our cells consist of cholesterol. Good fats, like omega-3s and monounsaturated fats, reduce inflammation. While modified hydrogenated (heated fats), so common in commercially prepared foods, dramatically increase inflammation. In addition, certain vitamins, notably A, D, and E, require fat to get absorbed properly, which is why dietary fat is necessary to transport these “fat soluble” vitamins. (Because these vitamins do not dissolve in water, they can only be absorbed from your small intestine in combination with fat. Deficiencies due to incomplete absorption of these vitally important nutrients are serious.)

If you follow the convention of the day, you know you are only suppose to get 20% of your calories from fats, and only 10% of that number from saturated fats. What the research shows is that is misguided advice. Synthetic trans fats are poisonous, but the fats found in foods such as raw nuts, seeds like flax seeds and chia, cold-water fish, olives, and avocados are healthy in much larger amounts. Our bodies actually require healthy forms of saturated fats like that found in coconut oil.

Let’s talk about saturated fats . . .

Saturated fats play an important role in most biochemical processes. They also contribute to the structure and function of your lungs, heart, bones, liver, and immune system. Lungs require fats to make surfactant, a lubricant that allows us to breathe. Heart muscle cells use saturated fats as food. And bone cells require saturated fats to assimilate calcium effectively. With the help of good saturated fats, your liver clears out fats and protects you from the adverse effects of toxins, including alcohol and compounds in medications. The white blood cells of your immune system owe their ability to recognize and destroy invading germs as well as fighting tumors to the fats found in butter and coconut oil. Even our endocrine systems rely on saturated fats to communicate the need to manufacture hormones, including insulin.

And what about cholesterol?

If you’ve had your cholesterol checked you’ve probably heard about HDL (high-density lipoprotein—the so-called good fats) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein—the so-called bad fats). Contrary to what you’ve been told these are not two different kinds of cholesterol. HDL and LDL reflect two different containers for cholesterols and fats, each of which serves an important and different role in the body. Other lipoproteins exist, but that is a subject for another blog . . .

Cholesterol offers a level of protection against free radical damage, forms the cellular membrane, keeps cell membranes permeable, and maintains cellular waterproofing so different chemical reactions can take place inside and outside the cell. We have even determined that the ability to grow new synapses in the brain depends on the availability of cholesterol, which latches cell membranes together so that signals can easily jump across the synapse. And it is also crucial to the myelin sheathing around neurons. A neuron that can’t transmit messages is cast aside like junk—the debris of which is one of the markers of brain disease.

The Cholesterol Myth

Most of us grew up being told that cholesterol was bad and that foods like red meat, butter, and eggs raise our cholesterol levels. This idea is so deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche that few people even question it. But is it really true? The diet-heart hypothesis—which holds that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol in our blood—originated with studies in both animals and humans more than half a century ago. However, more recent evidence doesn’t support it. (I should also note here that we have altered the chemistry and quality of our meat and dairy products through industrialization and feeding them corn and soy—there is both more fat in these products and the kind of fat is inferior.)

On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver. Much of the cholesterol that’s found in food can’t be absorbed by our bodies, and most of the cholesterol in our gut was first synthesized in body cells and ended up in the gut via the liver and gall bladder. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production; when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less.

This explains why well-designed cholesterol studies (where they feed volunteers 2-4 eggs a day and measure their cholesterol) show that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in about 75% of the population. The remaining 25% of the population are referred to as “hyper-responders”. In this group, dietary cholesterol does modestly increase both LDL and HDL, but it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease.

In other words, eating cholesterol isn’t going to give you a heart attack. You can ditch the egg-white omelets and start eating yolks again—if your body is not allergic or reactive to eggs, which you can test for. (A word on egg yolks: all of the 13 essential nutrients eggs contain are found in the yolk. Egg yolks are an especially good source of choline, a B-vitamin that plays important roles in everything from neurotransmitter production to detoxification to maintenance of healthy cells. Studies show that up to 90% of Americans don’t get enough choline, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems and nerve-muscle imbalances.)

Studies on low-carbohydrate diets (which tend to be higher in saturated fat) suggest that they not only don’t raise blood cholesterol, they have several beneficial impacts on cardiovascular disease risk markers. For example, an analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal, Obesity Review, found that low-carb diets neither increased nor decreased LDL cholesterol. However, they did find that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases is body weight as well as improvements in several cardio vascular risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin and c-reactive protein.

If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large analysis of studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. A Japanese study that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke (i.e. those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke!).

Lisette

“Laura is a highly experienced Naturopathic Wellness Coach who is unbelievably knowledgeable in the area of integrative and holistic nutrition-based wellness. I’m 47 and I started working with Laura 6 months ago for better nutritional support in my marathon training. Since then, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my energy level and weight maintaining ability despite physical challenges and injuries along the way. Laura takes a holistic approach to your wellness that often goes beyond the obvious nutritional recommendations, but even tackling obstacles that may be blocking you at the core level of your brain and helping you navigate past thinking patterns that aren’t serving your wellness goals. Beyond that she’s an amazingly warm, caring and compassionate person who is truly vested in your health, happiness and whole being. And because of her non-traditional approach, you’ll be surprised at what you learn not only about your body but also about yourself in working with her. So if you want to take your health and fitness plan to the next level and reach your optimal health goals, you couldn’t ask for a better coach than Laura!”

Jonas

“I have worked with Laura on and off for over 20 years. In that time she has had a consistent interest and devotion to all things health related. I have watched her commitment to learning the broad range of human health from the spiritual to the physical, eastern and western thought, blending and drawing on both as appropriate. She is deeply professional and available, with genuine care and concern for my wellbeing when offering advice on dietary, herbal, supplements, and lifestyle changes in order to help me optimize my health. Her advice and presence has helped me in times of physical unbalance. I will continue to call on Laura as an invaluable resource.”

– Jonas Berg, Blue Lake, CA

What We are Talking About When We Talk About Inflammation

Most of us probably have a general sense of what is meant by the term inflammation. It’s that redness and swelling that appears after an insect bite, or the soreness and swelling of an arthritic joint. Most people realize that when there has been some kind of trauma or stress in the body, our body’s natural response is to create swelling and redness, both of which are associated with pain and tenderness, hallmarks of the inflammatory process. Acute inflammation is a vital, defensive, and potentially life saving response. What you might not know about inflammation is that it’s also now known to be linked to many disorders and disease conditions.

There are two types of inflammation: Acute-inflammation and Para-inflammation. Acute inflammation as I mentioned is the type that is sudden and short term and happens in response to trauma and is an essential part of the healing process. Para-inflammation is chronic and degenerative and it is associated with almost every known disorder and disease condition, including type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and brain diseases.

Problems arise when inflammation gets out of control and becomes chronic. Inflammation is meant to be a first wave emergency stop gap, it’s not suppose to be active for months or years. But that is what is happening in millions of people. When inflammation goes on and on unchecked, there are a variety of chemicals that are produced that are toxic to our cells. This leads to a reduction of cellular function followed by cellular destruction.

“Unbridled inflammation is rampant in Western cultures, with leading scientific research showing that it is the fundamental  cause of the morbidity  and mortality associated with coronary heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, Alzheimer’s and virtually every other chronic disease.”       David Perlmutter, M.D.

Inflammation is sort of a hot topic right now. These days more and more doctors are realizing that coronary artery disease, a leading cause of heart attacks, may actually have more to do with inflammation than high cholesterol numbers. And while we all might be familiar with inflammation as it relates to things like asthma and arthritis, the past decade has produced an extensive body of research clearly pointing the finger of causality at inflammation when considering neurodegenerative conditions as well.

The key downstream effect of inflammation that is responsible for the damage is the activation of chemical pathways that increase free radical production. At the center of chronic inflammation, then, is oxidative stress—a biological type of “rusting.” This gradual corrosion happens on all tissues and is a normal part of life: it also occurs everywhere in nature, including when we turn calories (energy) from food and oxygen from the air into usable energy. But when we get too many free radicals causing too much oxidative stress, it can become deadly.

You’ve probably heard of “free radicals.” Free radicals are just molecules that have lost an electron. Normally, electrons are found in pairs, but forces such as pollution, perceptions of stress, chemicals, toxic dietary triggers, ultraviolet light, and ordinary cellular functions can “free” an electron from a molecule such that it goes off and tries to “steal” electrons from other molecules. This is the oxidative process itself, a chain of events that creates more and more free radicals. Because oxidized cells and tissues don’t function properly, oxidation can leave you vulnerable to a slew of health challenges. This helps to explain why people with high oxidative stress, reflected by high levels of inflammation, often have an extensive list of health challenges ranging from slow wound healing, low resistance to infection, joint pain, digestive disorders, anxiety, headaches, depression, and allergies.

As you might have guessed, reduced oxidation lowers inflammation. Antioxidants are important for this very reason. Nutrients such as A, C, and E donate electrons to free radicals, which interrupts the chain reaction. Anti-oxidant rich foods such as vegetables, nuts, and berries are, for this reason and many others, essential to our health.

Let’s Look at Inflammation and Autoimmunity:

In the U.S. alone we are facing an epidemic of allergic (60 million people), asthmatic (30 million people), and autoimmune disorders (24 million people). **There are about 350 million ppl in the U.S.** Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, celiac disease, thyroid disease, and the many other hard-to-classify syndromes in the 21st century.  These are all autoimmune conditions, and at their root they are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also called systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.

Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It is your internal army and has to clearly distinguish friend from foe—to know you from others. Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly fire. (Your body is fighting something—an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response—and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.)

This immune confusion results from what is referred to as molecular mimicry. Interestingly, autoimmune disorders occur almost exclusively in developed countries. People in poor nations without modern amenities like flush toilets and washing machines don’t get these diseases.  In fact, if you grew up on a farm with lots of animals, you are also less likely to have any of these inflammatory disorders. Playing in the dirt and being exposed to bugs and infections trains your immune system to recognize what is foreign and what is “you.”

In this country, autoimmune diseases, when taken all together, are a huge health burden. They are the eighth leading cause of death among women, shortening the average patient’s lifespan by eight years. The annual health care cost for autoimmune diseases is $120 billion a year representing nearly twice the economic health care burden of cancer (about $ 70 billion a year).

Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments available can make you feel worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, steroids, immune suppressants like methotrexate, and the new drugs like Remicade can lead to intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, ulcers, depression, psychosis, osteoporosis, muscle loss, and diabetes, not to mention overwhelming infection and cancer.  (When used selectively these drugs can help people get their lives back. But they are not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be the end of treatment, but a bridge to cool off inflammation while we treat the root cause of the disease.)

Luckily there are other cheaper, healthier ways to deal with autoimmune conditions. There are herbs and supplements that support healing and detoxification, anti-fungals for extreme yeast overgrowth, probiotics to regrow the flora and heal the gut, and clean, whole-food, allergen-free, anti-inflammatory diets.

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About MSG

MSG, or free glutamate, is a neurotoxin made from the amino acid glutamine. The corrupted form has been linked to headaches, autism, mood and energy level disorders, hormonal imbalances, food sensitivities and allergies. The insidious thing about MSG is that it is being put into most of our processed foods and condiments under other names in order to make them taste better. Many people are finding that when they remove the majority of the free glutamate from their diet, food allergies and other symptoms disappear. I wanted you to have access to this list so that you can avoid MSG wherever possible.

http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources.html

And here is a ted talk by a bio chemist about MSG that is worth watching . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y32lME3LVI

 

What Can I do Right Now?

After 15 years of research, study, and patient care, if I had to blindly hand over the most important and most generally applicable tools for balanced health, without  knowing anything about the particulars of the person’s health situation, it would all boil down to the following list: “Top Six Tips for Better Health”.

If you don’t do anything else to improve your current condition, and you just follow these guidelines, things will get better. What is missing from this list, besides the individualized protocols and therapies and sometimes necessary weeks of healing through a disorder that took years to create, are the larger picture ingredients to good health; things like love and community, creativity and relaxation. There are many other worthwhile conversations to be had; about things like perception and gratitude . . . More about these topics to come.

 

Top Six Tips for Better Health:

1) Water: Drink half your weight in ounces of good clean water everyday. (Try to drink the lion’s share between meals and before 7:30pm so that it doesn’t affect digestion or your sleep.)

2) Movement: Move naturally. Create a life that has physical activity built into it—garden, walk, lift things, dance. Or, if you enjoy going to the gym or other facility, do some form of focused exercise, at something that gives you pleasure, for 30 minutes, 4x/week. And if you are wanting to lose weight, do some high intensity interval training with weights.

3) Sugars: Reduce your intake of dairy products and grain products by 50%, and cut your intake of processed carbs— cookies, cakes, crackers, pastas, and baked goods–by 90%  (**Stop eating white sugar or drinking regular or diet sodas and sweetened fruit juices entirely.)

4) Fats: Increase your intake of healthy fats—avocados, raw nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs (if not allergic/reactive), while eliminating hydrogenated and trans-fat consumption.

5) Plants: Make fresh, preferably organic, vegetables the main course of every meal and 80% of your diet.  Real fruits are good too, but limit intake if you are diabetic or trying to lose weight.

6) Toxins: Avoid all fake foods–artificial sweeteners, preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals used to make foods last longer on the shelf. These chemicals add to your stress-load and cause inflammation and contribute to chronic disease.

Jamie

“Things I appreciated about working with Laura were that she was very present and compassionate to my needs and issues both physical and emotional, she laid out a plan for me that was very clear and that I was able to accomplish and I felt like she was available by phone or email when I needed to ask a question or get support.

What I experienced as a result of working with Laura:

  • Change of eating habits is usually difficult to do but this was very doable and I quickly felt the positive results.
  • My digestive troubles subsided
  • Sleep improved
  • I lost weight
  • I wasn’t hungry
  • My ability to taste my food improved and I stopped craving sugar

I absolutely recommend Laura to anyone with health issues of any kind!”

– Jamie Cambron, Blue Lake , CA

Cristina

“I have recently embarked on a journey of better health with Laura and I can already feel the great benefits to my body, and mind, through this process. I completed almost 2 weeks of Laura’s anti-inflammatory cleanse, and the results were frankly mind-blowing. I was reticent at first, when my mind mostly viewed the process I was about to begin as a form of food deprivation. I also honestly didn’t quite believe what Laura was telling me, regarding weight gain and its relationship to inflammation, as she encouraged me to challenge everything I believed about calories, water retention, and especially fats.  From the first day of the anti-inflammatory cleanse, I felt anything but deprived. I ate without concern of calories, fats, or carbs. I had clear direction as to what to eat, with no guesswork, and immediately, my body felt cleaner. The 2 week process was eye opening. The weight loss far superseded any weight loss I’ve experienced in over 30 years of dieting – I’ve tried every diet fad to come out since I was 12. What mattered most, however, was not the weight loss itself, but the psychological effects of watching myself eat well, eat a lot, while debunking every myth I had learned to believe in regarding healthy foods and weight loss. Fats were no longer my enemy. Nor am I worried about portion control. I was dropping pounds every day, and learning which foods tended to cause inflammation in my body. I am learning how to incorporate these foods still but with more moderation, while focusing the bulk of my meals on the foods that are my body’s friends. I only did the cleanse for 2 weeks because of some travel that made it difficult to have more control over my food, but Laura provides so much support and guidance, that it was easy to maintain healthy habits no matter the situation. Today, I started a new “round” of the anti-inflammatory cleanse, in order to continue learning which foods are best for me and continue to improve my health, my energy level, and my overall relationship with food. I cannot recommend going through this process with Laura enough. I only wish I had discovered Laura many years ago, but as simple as it seems, thinking of food as nutrition and health, and not as my enemy, is a huge gift for which I will always be grateful to Laura.”

– Cristina Llop; San Francisco, CA

Joan

Joan, 64

Case: Diet / Food Allergies

The Issue

Looking to lose weight and live a long active life. She has a passion for food, for nature, books, art, and people. She makes friends easily because she is intelligent and curious. Lately Joan feels like she can’t keep her weight in check. She’s also having some heartburn that makes her feel panicky in the night. And no matter how healthy she makes her diet she can’t seem to get rid of the GERD. She has had recent blood work done and all her numbers are within normal. She has been struggling with chronic indigestion, fatigue, and concerns about brain, bone, and heart health as she heads into her 60s. Her career has taken her all over the world and the continuous travel has necessitated some poor eating habits. She has a good sense of her own body and an easy time coming up with descriptive words for her symptoms. She is willing to try almost anything and organized enough to follow through.

The Solution

She makes me her health advocate and we work together to solve problems in a creative and proactive way, seldom getting overwhelmed or discouraged. Her health starts to improve within the first few days, which makes room for getting down to deeper and deeper levels of healing and exploration. Within days of starting the program she is losing weight and learning new ways of approaching food. Within weeks she had lost 15 pounds and is able to take her new lifestyle with her traveling and visiting with friends.  After the third month Joan and I meet only twice a month just to keep track of her status and make slight adjustments and changes around seasonal shifts. At the end of our first year together I read her the letter she wrote at the beginning of the year chronicling all that she wanted to achieve around her health. She has managed to do every single one plus more. In the meantime she has referred me out to friends and family, many of which have become clients. Two years after our first meeting Joan lighter, healthier, more energetic, and feels like she has the map for a healthy abundant lifestyle that she can use for the rest of her life.*

* Case studies are based on actual people, however, names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Carol

“I started working with Laura almost by chance. In a moment of gastrointestinal discomfort, I mentioned the ongoing pain I felt in my stomach, often after meals, that 2 years of doctor visits, acupuncture, and herbs hadn’t cured. Laura asked me many questions regarding possible triggers, circumstances around the pain, and helped me monitor my body’s reactions to the foods I ate. She helped me become much more aware of the onset of symptoms, nutrition, and stress-related pain, which alone proved incredibly valuable and helped me significantly reduce the instances of discomfort. More substantially, though, she made a couple seemingly simple suggestions to try after the onset of pain. The immediate relief I obtained helped me identify what doctors, nurses, and other health providers had failed to see, that my stomach was producing too much acid. It seemed so simple but because no one had taken the time to really ask me questions, the easiest path but elusive to them all. Laura asked the right questions and was open minded enough to take all of the information in, even when it appeared contradictory. I am currently working with Laura to actually address my nutrition and balance in my gut in order to avoid the over-acidity. In the meantime, having the tools to eliminate the pain almost instantly when it flares up (and not having to resort to the many versions of antacids and gastrointestinal medications I ingested with little benefit) has improved the quality of my daily life tremendously. I would recommend Laura without hesitation to anyone interested in feeling better without having to resort to medications that only address, if at all, symptoms and not the root cause of any physical discomfort.”

– Carol Lobo, Sebastopol, CA