Microbiome…What Did You Say?

The first time I heard the term microbiome during my training to become a Certified Health Coach I looked it up to see what it meant. Here is what Wikipedia has to say: A microbiome is “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. The term comes from a Nobel Prize recipient, Joshua Lederberg (5/25/1925-2/2/2008), an American molecular biologist who among other things discovered that bacteria can mate and exchange genes. Pretty cool stuff huh!

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https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/4199

The term I use as a Health Coach is “gut flora” which sounds just a little less scientific. The truth is our digestive system is important for us to understand if we wish to remain healthy. It often is not the first place we think to look when we’re not feeling well but it is the system that processes and absorbs nutrients so if it’s off we are not getting our nutritional needs met.

Microbiome comes up a lot in the work I do with people in my health coaching practice seeking to improve their health. What I have learned and pass along is that we can be healthy but if out gut flora is not balanced we run the risk of compromised immune or nervous systems and this can also create and imbalance in our hormones resulting in mood and in some cases more serious mental health issues. Let’s take a look at the digestive system to gain a little insight into what it does to keep us healthy.

 

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We actually start digesting food the minute we come into contact with it. In fact smelling food starts our salivary glands working even before the food enters our mouth. When we take the time to chew our food (chewing until food becomes fairly liquid is best) it enters the next leg of the journey pre-digested helping the process along. The food then travels to our stomach where it mixes with acids before going onto our small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed and then to our large intestine where water is absorbed. The health of our gut flora is most critical at this point as the villi in the small intestine absorb our nutrients. If the villi have been damaged by too much unhealthy fats, chemicals and sugars they are unable to gather nutrients from the food we eat.

 

Our liver works to process the toxins that travel with our foods. Some of these toxins are excess sugars and fats, pesticides, heavy metals and other foreign substances.

 

digestive system

My mother was always saying “chew your food” while my father would say “where’s the fire slow down”. As a rather hyper kid mealtime was one more thing that got in the way of being outside running around which helped me manage all that energy. I was fortunate to have had an abundance of fresh real foods available to me as a kid growing up in northern California, pre Silicon Valley Santa Clara County. There were small farms and ranches all around me so fresh produce, nuts and fruit was available at farm stands and in the grocery stores year round. We ate wild meats most often such as venison, wild fowl and fish so the possibility of hormones or antibiotics that are so commonly in meats we find in the store now was not there.

I grew up in a generation where healthier food options were the norm. I can remember when McDonalds opened in Gilroy and fast food became available. Children since the 1970s have increasingly been exposed to more fast foods, processed foods, chemicals and GMOs in their food supply. Food production standards claim to be higher but they are not taking into account the fact that so much of what most people eat is not live food. The most important thing I can teach the people who come to me seeking improved health is to eat real, fresh food free from chemicals and GMOs. Skip the processed, fast foods and beverages that provide nearly zero nutritional value and wreck havoc on our digestive systems.

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It’s in our control to begin to eat healthier and to treat our bodies well. If we assume our body will withstand the unhealthy foods and drinks we consume without adverse effects over time we will find ourselves with health issues at some point.

Visit a local farm or farmer’s market this week and find some real food.

Be Well

http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Summer’s Bounty

It is the first day of summer which means that our gardens will start to swell with yummy fresh vegetables soon. I love tending gardens even when they get away from me and start growing plants that were not invited. I tend to be one of those gardeners that likes the organic nature of how things grow so neat rows really don’t matter to me. Some of my neighbors might wish I was less of a cottage type gardener but they are kind and marvel at how much produce I can pull out of my tiny little patch of ground.

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 My garden looks more like this one…

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Than it does like this,,, though I truly appreciate all forms of gardening and love browsing catalogs and online to see what creative ideas are out there. I value each individual plant and try to understand it’s purpose even if it is considered a weed. Prior to cultivation many of these so called weeds were staple foods in tribal peoples diets so I think it wise to consider and honor them. This honoring of “weeds” is not an excuse for not keeping my garden weed free…I gave up on that many years ago and still have great fresh vegetables each year.

So the snow peas in my wild little garden are setting flowers now and the baby kale is so tender you can eat it right off the plant…no preparation. I will try to plant my second harvest of snow peas again today since the resident chipmunks decided they liked the pea seeds this year and neatly removed all of them promptly after I planted them.

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I’ll also get the zucchini plants under my form of control (move them off the grass I plan to mow) and then mow the wild lawn before getting into the canoe for a leisurely paddle on the lake with friends. There will soon be more zucchini than can be eaten so hello friends and neighbors welcome to zucchini harvest!

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I guess what I’m trying to say here is that gardens are not meant to be perfect or orderly. Life is not, so why try to create that order in our gardens. Seek the beauty in each plant no matter how seemingly unimportant it appears to be. This coming from someone who knows. Get outside and play on this first day of summer!

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“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere: the dew is never all dried at once: a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round Earth rolls.”         John Muir

Blessed Be

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http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/events

 

 

 

From Farmer’s Market to Cancer Crusaders

I had a wonderfully busy day yesterday, starting with the Downtown Pittsfield Farmer’s Market Health Fair. This is the second year for the market. It has become such a cool Saturday morning destination and yesterday was no exception. It is incredible to watch the parking lot transform from asphalt to a bustling open air market in a matter of minutes…it’s kind of magical.

ImageEarly morning at the market.

At one point while setting up my booth I had this realization that there are literally thousands of these farmers markets in towns and cities across the US springing up and truly taking hold…it was a very good thought to have! I was there to offer information about my health coaching programs @ Kira’s Kitchen, http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/ and offer some tasty sweets that are actually healthy.

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I was so pleased to see that the wonderful organizers of the market are connecting health care and good food by joining farmers and growers with various adjunctive health and main stream health care organizations including Berkshire Medical Center’s mobile PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner. I was between Berkshire Nautilus Health Club, http://www.berkshirenautilus.com/ and New Life Chiropractic, http://www.dr-schagen.com/ which made perfect sense to me. After all, people need good quality nutrition to partake in what Berkshire Nautilus offers and they can certainly benefit from someone guiding them through an anti inflammation diet when faced with pain that a chiropractor is helping them manage.

I left the Farmer’s market at 1pm and drove north to Bennington Vermont to join friends at the Southwestern Vermont Cancer Center Community Crusaders event to raise money for the cancer center in Bennington. 

Imagehttp://www.benningtonbanner.com/localnews/ci_25861487/saturday-cancer-event-dedicated-gail-harwood

I was struck by the celebratory feel of this event as I wandered around looking for my friends booth. There were people dancing and music playing. Children were running around having a great time. I have lost several people I love dearly to cancer so my mindset driving to Bennington was not that I was going to a party. By the time I found my friends booth my mindset had shifted to a more relaxed state and the sun had broke through the clouds as if to say “it’s all good.” We set out the healthy sweets I’d brought next to the beautiful cupcakes that were part of the fund raising for the event.

The conversations that took place surrounding both the cupcakes and the treats I brought were very enlightening for me. I met a mom whose child has a brain tumor. She was seeking healthier snack options for him so he doesn’t feel left out of the fun. He sampled each of the treats I brought and we talked about how hard it is for parents to find the time to make healthy snacks. I offered her some recipes and made a mental note about reaching out to parents of children who have cancer.

At the end of the event there was a lovely candle light vigil and honoring of the survivors and those lost to cancer. I took a moment to remember the people I love who are living with cancer, and to honor those who were not able to survive it. I found myself feeling a bit indignant as I got in my car to drive home. How is it that the rates of cancer continue to rise even with the amazing health care system available to us in the United States.

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I think this topic will be continued next blog as it requires additional research and the sun is out today calling me to mow my lawn. Remember to eat healthy, take time to relax and let go of stress and spend time with the people you love. It truly matters in your overall good health!

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First you need only look:

Notice and honor the radiance of everything about you…

Play in this universe.

Tend all these shinning things around you:

The smallest plant, the creatures and objects in your care.

Be gentle and nurture. Listen…

As we experience and accept all that we really are…

We grow in care.                      Anne Hillman

Blessed Be

 

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed.

Board Certified Holistic Health Coach

413-464-1462

Kiraskitchen5@gmail.com

Website: http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Blog:      www.kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

 

Now you can follow me on Twitter: kiraskitchen5 or Facebook as well.

 

 

 

Didn’t Your Parents Tell You Not To Waste Food?

As you probably know by now I am a foodie. I love everything about food. I love thinking about it, growing it, teaching others about it, preparing it and definitely eating it. food is powerful in every way. We are emotionally and physically connected to food and we all know we can’t live without it. So I write this blog post today with reverence for and passion about food.

I have always known that there is a certain amount of waste that goes along with the food chain from farm to table, but did you know that one third of the food produced globally is wasted. In North America it is closer to half the food we grow that is wasted. In some cases it is to keep the cost of the product at what is considered fair market value. A phenomenal amount of food does not even make it onto grocery store shelves because it doesn’t meet the standards for sale. Up to 90% of food waste is due to expiration dates.

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http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/food-waste-in-america-a-weeks-worth-of-produce-for-free/

So where does all this wasted food go you might ask? With all the people in our world who have no food, who are literally starving to death, we in North American alone, throw away nearly half of the food we grow. How does that make any sense? 

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Now imagine if we all decided that the food that was not initially perfect so would not be purchased could be given to a local food pantry. Imagine that all expired food stuff was quickly offered to people who can’t afford to buy it. Some markets have policies to do just that. At some Trader Joes you can find the expired food stuff at a greatly reduced rate in fact up to 75% off retail price. In addition, the Ex President of Trader Joes has created The Daily Table Project which essentially takes expired food stuff and makes low cost grab and go meals that can compete with fast food chain prices for people living in urban food deserts such as Dorchester, MA. Now that is good use of what would otherwise be wasted.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=222082247&m=224715908.

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There are many documentaries about our food supply and the little known secrets about the politics of food, but the one I find most disturbing currently is “Just Eat It A Food Waste Story.”  Catch the trailer @ http://foodwastemovie.com/ or follow the film makers on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Justeatitmovie. The film is making the film festival run so is not yet available for popular viewing. This film reveals just how much food is wasted in North America by following a couple who are vowing to eat only salvaged food stuff. What their experience uncovers will shock and I hope inspire you to do something about the waste!

To learn more about the politics of food I recommend reading one of the many books written by Marion Nestle, the most relevant to this topic being “Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She is a Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. You can also follow her blog @ http://www.foodpolitics.com/.
My children just bought me a membership in a new local all organic CSA, https://www.facebook.com/bradleyfarmma for my birthday. It is the best gift I have ever received! I can see where the food is grown and I know the people tending the farm. I will share what I can’t eat with family and friends and should any of it go bad I will compost it to use in my gardens. This is my small contribution to reduce food waste and my carbon footprint on the planet. What will you do to spread the abundance that exists all around us with those who are not a fortunate as we are?

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“Change like healing takes time.” Veronica Roth

Blessed Be

 

 

Time to Garden

I am inspired with the warming weather and the Flower Moon we had this week. Driving home on Wednesday night that beautiful moon was just beginning to peak over the Green Mountains in Bennington Vermont and it was breathtaking. This is a borrowed photo as my iphone couldn’t do the moon justice. It now truly feels like spring is here and so we can begin to plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

flower moon

http://shewhodreams.weebly.com/uploads/6/8/3/0/6830014/5473872.jpg?419

To inspire me even more this week I found this beauty growing in the window at the Vermont Arts Exchange http://www.vtartxchange.org/. Being a native Californian, I am accustomed to seeing fresh produce year round in some form. But to find a fully ripe tomato in Vermont in mid May is such a gift. After all we had snow on the ground less than a month ago!

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I’m telling you the truth, right in Vermont, right now mid May there are these lovely tomatoes ready to eat! Planted in large buckets along the back wall of the multiuse art room at the Arts Exchange are growing 10 foot high tomato plants like these. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow since February.

tomato plants

So now I have to find my organic seeds and plants at various farmer’s markets and gardening shops. I like High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ they have come through for me in past years and are fairly local in Wolcott, Vermont. So far I’ve planted my first round of snow peas which is my favorite to grow (and eat). I also plan to grow green beans, kale, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My garden is small but it manages to produce a good amount of produce each year. This is an example of one of my recent harvests.

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So with all the fresh produce to look forward to I am searching for new recipes to add to my website. I made this one last night and it was delightful.

6 cups baby spring greens

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted walnuts

1 shallot minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ olive oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Well I’m heading outside to see what kind of gardening I can get done before the three days of rain arrive.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the Earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton author of The Forgotten Garden.

Blessed Be

 

 

Peace and the Present Moment

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

Dalai Lama

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What do you want to do right now? Will it bring you closer to your authentic self? Will it bring joy to you and others? Have you put off doing it because of the pressure of living each day, lack of money, fear of rejection? If it is good… do it!

I have spent much energy on postponing things for a better time. That no longer serves me or the people I love. Today I make a commitment to follow my heart song and to take the risks I must to accomplish my purpose on this Earth. I invite you to join me. If we all decide to be the best people we can be then there will be no need for conflict, war and acts of terror. We will simply refuse to acknowledge those who would act in harmful ways.

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Today I plan to spend time with family and friends to share my heart and welcome their love. I will garden, my garden beckons and even after an afternoon of raking, transplanting and weeding there is much to be done. I will walk my dogs and enjoy their joyful romping, the air and sunshine. I will cook and eat  healthy, delicious food. Live is good!

 

The recipe du jour”

Pan Fried Polenta with Kuzu Mushroom Gravy – A favorite lunch at Kushi Institute

Ingredients:

 1 cup yellow corn grits

3 cups spring or well water

Pinch sea salt

Toasted sesame oil

 Directions:

 Place 3 cups water in pot with a pinch of sea salt, cover and bring to a boil.

 Add corn grits stirring constantly to prevent grits from lumping and bring to boil again.

 Cover and reduce flame to medium low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

 Remove from flame and pour polenta into a pyrex baking dish.

 Allow the polenta to cool until it is firm to the touch. Cut into 3 x 3 inch squares.

 Add toasted sesame oil to a skillet add polenta squares and fry them until golden.

 Serve warm with Kuzu mushroom gravy.

 Kuzu Mushroom Gravy

 4 cups spring water

6 tsp. shoyu

1 tsp sesame oil

3 Shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, soaked and thinly sliced

¾ cup leeks, washed and thinly sliced

7 Tblsp parsley, scallion or chives finely chopped

5 tsp kuzu

 Directions:

 Heat oil in skillet and sauté leeks for 2-3 minutes.

 Add shiitake mushrooms and continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes.

 Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce flame to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.

 Reduce flame to very low and add diluted kuzu stirring it constantly until the sauce becomes thick. Add shoyu and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

 Turn off flame and add parsley or chives, serve over polenta.

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Benefits of Kudzu – Kuzu *

             Kudzu root is a very vigorous plant that was originally grown for its fast growing, soil erosion protective qualities in southern United States. It is seen as an invasive plant in the United States but in other parts of the world it has been highly valued for its medicinal benefits for centuries. Kuzu is a tonifying herb that has been used topically to relieve acute pain, stiff neck and shoulders. It is also taken to aid intestinal and digestive disorders, food allergies, headaches, fever, vertigo, diarrhea and hangovers. Kuzu assists in cleansing the intestinal villi thus aiding in better absorption of nutrients.

            Kuzu contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent daidzein. Daidzein helps to prevent cancer and its genistein helps counter leukemia. Research done recently confirms that regular use of Kuzu suppresses the desire for alcohol.

            Kuzu is used as a thickener in place of arrowroot and cornstarch. To use Kuzu put it into a small amount of water to liquefy then add to recipe as thickener.

 Benefits of Corn *

             Though it has become more difficult to find non GMO corn in the United States it is worth to search. Corn is a chi tonic that strengthens overall energy and supports the stomach, kidneys and large intestine. Corn can also be used to treat heart disease and loss of appetite.  It stimulates bile flow, prevents the formation of urinary stones, lowers blood sugar and is used to treat cases of difficult urination or edema.

            Corn is the only grain to contain vitamin A with yellow corn containing a higher level than white corn. Corn’s natural sweetness satisfies sugar cravings.

 Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms *

             Shiitake mushrooms support the spleen, stomach and liver functions and are a blood and chi tonic. They are restorative in that they detoxify the digestive system and related organs and help to rid the body of excess phlegm and mucus. Shiitake contain two potent substances with proven pharmacological effects as immune regulators and antiviral and antitumor agents; they also positively affect the cardiovascular system. Shiitake is used in eastern medicine to treat diseases involving depressed immune function inclusive of cancer, AIDS and flu. They are rich in vitamin D, B2 and B12 and are a good source of minerals when grown in a mineral rich medium.

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The seed of goodness is found in the soil of appreciation.”

Dalai Lama

 Peace and Brightest Blessings

 

           

On Living

Smile, breathe and go slowly

Thich Nhat Hanh

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As we venture out each day to do whatever it is that we do it is good to be grounded in some type of mindful practice. When we take the time to truly pay attention to our body and how we interact with the world, we can learn how to live richer, fuller lives. I start each day with a moment of gratitude. Waking in the morning reminds me that I am simply thankful for being here to greet another day and all the day will bring.

This weekend I completed basic training in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, http://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/. This is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro that has been documented to be very effective with symptoms related to trauma. In order to become an EMDR therapist you must experience it first hand and so today I find myself even more mindful than usual….and this is a very good thing!

I am mindful that in my personal business @ Kira’s Kitchen I have several programs about to begin and that means I have lots of work to do. There was a time that the knowledge of all that needed to get done would have sent me into a tailspin. Now I am able to just acknowledge the tasks, line them up and plug away until they are complete. Seems simple enough right? For each of us the answer is different and so we each get to decide for ourselves.

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I am also mindful that I love both my jobs as a Holistic Health Coach and as a Clinician. What a blessing that is in life to love the work we do! Now that hasn’t always been the case. At some point in my life I made a decision to live with purpose, to do things that feed my body and soul while offering something meaningful to the world around me. The difference now is that I can appreciate where that mantra has brought me and I can be grateful that I’m here.

And so I will keep this blog post short. I love the comments and feedback my followers share and enjoy the good work you are all doing as well. To be blessed with good work, good health and so many wonderful people in my life who I love and I believe love me (even on those truly impossible days) is a gift that keeps giving. It allows me to take on the world and be as courageous as I need to be.

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~ “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Be Well