Are you in a rut with your smoothie recipes?

Our brains love NEW experiences. Including new experiences to our tastebuds! I don’t know about you, but I tend to find a yummy smoothie recipe and then stick with it a long time…and then it starts to get boring! I was shopping at Whole Foods recently when they were sampling new products. Good day to go!

One of the samples was Harmless Harvest’s raw coconut  water with added fair-trade coffee. Now I am not even a coffee drinker, but this was delicious! And low in caffeine too, which for me, is a good thing.

How to make the most of my new coffee coconut water. A new smoothie recipe! And yes, it was a pleasurable experience to my tastebuds! Your brain will love it!

Chocolate Coffee Smoothie with Cashew Butter:

4 to 6 oz oz Harmless Harvest raw coconut water (the version with added fair trade coffee)
1/2 frozen banana
1 heaping tablespoon cashew butter
1 tsp Bullet Proof Brain Octane oil (optional for extra brain support)
1/2 scoop Pure Paleo Chocolate Protein
If you desire a colder smoothie, add a couple ice cubes

Blend and enjoy! YUM!

Top Five Ways to Avoid the Dreaded Cold/Flu During the Holiday Season!

Getting sick during the holidays is such a bummer! One of my primary goals this holiday season is to stay healthy and fit! Here are my top five strategies to stay healthy. I hope they serve you well! And please share with your family and friends!


1. Keep hydrated with water, herbal teas, and vegetable juices. This is so important! I carry around my stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere. I have increased my water intake over the last few weeks to about 3 1/2 liters per day and I also drink about 1/2 liter of herbal tea daily. Which equals about 4 liters of hydrating liquids daily.

2. Do you have an end of year annual with your primary care physician? Get your Vitamin D levels checked! In fact, now is the perfect time to get your Vitamin D levels checked. The days are short and our exposure to sun light is minimized. Knowing your typical vitamin D levels during this time of year can help you to assess how much Vitamin D to supplement during the winter time. Although there are differing opinions about what range constitutes an optimal Vitamin D level, most physicians and researchers agree that anything below 30 is low! And optimal Vitamin D levels are essential to a healthy immune system!

3. Sip on chicken bone broth daily for the next several weeks. If you are too busy to make bone broth, you can purchase at many Whole Foods stores. Here are some local San Francisco Bay area resources too.Three Stone Hearth, Mama Tong Soup. Want to make your own broth but don’t know how? Check out this book: Bone Broth Miracle I sip on 4 to 6 ounces of bone broth with my breakfast in the morning during this time of the year. You can also enjoy it at lunch or dinner time. Think of it as an immune booster supplement!

4. Although it is easy to let exercise go during this busy time of the year, keep moving! If you cannot make it to your normal exercise classes, then try to do more of your errands by foot or bicycle! In fact, being outdoors (even though it’s chilly) helps to decease stress…and we all know that stress contributes to getting sick! When I don’t have time to make it to an exercise class, I put on my jacket, go outside, and make my phone calls while walking!

5. And lastly, but NOT least, get as much sleep as you can! It is really easy to short yourself on sleep when you have end of year projects to wrap up, holiday events to attend, and shopping to finish. However, your immune system reboots while you are sleeping. In fact, your whole body reboots while you are asleep! And this time of the year, it is just natural to sleep more! After all, we only have about 9 to 10 hours of day light!

And what do you do if you still feel that cold coming on? The worst is when you wake up with an itchy throat in the morning. Oh no…not a good sign! No worries, time for a bit of Silvercillin Spray magic!  Six sprays to the back of the throat 3x per day and most of the time you can knock out the virus! And even if you do not completely knock it out, it will decrease the severity of your sore throat and cold! Silvercillin Spray is an essential in my medicine cabinet this time of year!

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!


Beth’s Bounce Back Smoothie

It’s the holidays, and you went a little overboard last night. Had one too many of those sugary cocktails and ate way too many appetizers. And today you feel bloated, tired, and sluggish. You know that you need some help, something to get you back on track. Time for Beth’s Bounce Back Smoothie! Rehydrate, replenish those minerals and B vitamins depleted by excess alcohol, and support your liver detoxification pathways!


1/2 cup Coconut water (Source of electrolytes, including magnesium!)
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 frozen banana (can use regular too)
1 scoop VegeCleanse Plus powder
1 tsp C+BioFizz
*May add more water for a thinner consistency smoothie

Drink slowly within 20 minutes after making. And be sure to drink at least 2 full glasses of water within one hour of consuming your smoothie.

The VegeCleanse Plus powder is a great source of vitamins and minerals to replenish your body! It also provides 18 grams of protein per serving to stabilize your blood sugar and help curb carbohydrate cravings. And it contains all those special nutrients and herbs to support your liver! After all, your liver needs some help today! In addition, it contains greens for antioxi-dant support and extra fiber to fill you up, bind toxins, and stabilize blood sugar.

C+BioFizz is one of my favorites! This effervescent orange flavored powder provides a whopping 2500 mg of Vitamin C per teaspoon and it tastes good!

Enjoy and Bounce Back!

Endocrine disruptor chemicals: conclusive evidence that they interfere with your hormones! Time to take action!

What is it going to take to get industry to remove harmful chemicals from products that we buy and agriculture to stop spraying detrimental pesticides on our produce? How much scientific evidence is enough??

According to the Executive Summary of the Endocrine Society’s 2nd Scientific Statement on Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals (EDCs), we have enough evidence that certain chemicals and pesticides interact with our endocrine and neuroendocrine systems…and not in a positive way!

What exactly is an EDC? An endocrine disruptor chemical is an external chemical or mix of chemicals that interferes with any aspect of hormone action. Your endocrine system is your body’s interface to the environment, and thus is very susceptible to EDCs. The developing fetus is especially vulnerable. Unfortunately, mixtures of very low dose EDCs can affect your endocrine system. So it is not just a situation of high exposure to one chemical. The EDCs that have the strongest association with endocrine related diseases are BPA, phthalates, POPs (persistent organic pollutants), and pesticides. ** See below to find out where these chemicals are found in your living environment.

So why is this important to you?

Thinking about starting a family? Or having trouble conceiving?
Has your physician asked you about environmental exposure to chemicals?
EDCs (especially BPA, POPs, and pesticides) affect female reproductive health. In my last blog, I wrote about why it is so important to cleanse before you try to get pregnant. Pre-pregnancy cleanse. According to the Executive Summary, EDCs impact ovarian development, structure, and function, leading to abnormal ovulation and and fertility in animals. Some EDCs adversely affect the uterus and vagina in both animals and humans. Disorders in women that are associated with EDCs include PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, preterm birth, and adverse birth outcomes. And in humans, epidemiological data support association between higher exposure to EDCs during development with decreased IQ and increased neurodevelopmental problems.

And men are not exempt! EDCs act as anti-androgens, (i.e. anti-testosterone) and also as xenoestrogens in men. Low testosterone and higher estrogen in a male is not good for fertility, as well as libido! Animal studies demonstrate clearly that EDCs disrupt the development of the male reproductive tract. And according to the review, semen quality in men is on the decline globally.

Having trouble with your thyroid gland? I have worked with a lot of clients with thyroid issues. Thyroid disruptors include PCBs, other POPS, phthalates, perchlorate, and BPA. Environmental chemicals need to be considered. And if you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, be in the know that epidemiological data show cognitive deficits in children exposed to thyroid disruptors prenatally.

Have you tried just about everything and are still unable to lose weight?
The Scientific Review also placed emphasis on all the new emerging research on EDCs and obesity, Type II Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, in animal studies, developmental exposures to EDCs disrupt energy balance leading to obesity. So the impact of EDCs on the fetus is predisposing an animal to obesity before it is even born! EDCs also alter insulin action leading to Type II Diabetes in animal studies. And there is increasing human evidence that EDCs are associated with obesity, Type II Diabetes, and CVD. In my RENEW class, we go into more detail how these EDCs affect your metabolism and even the size of your fat cells!

You may be more familiar with EDCs and their association with hormone related cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer. However, certain classes of EDCs, such as pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and BPA are now being associated with prostate cancer. If you have family history of any of these cancers, please consider the impact of EDCs and talk to your health care practitioner.

What can we do? Education is the first step. Please share this article with your family, friends, and colleagues. The more we are educated on this topic, the greater our voice to influence industry and environmental policy. And please join my RENEW class in January where you learn to reduce your exposure to common environmental toxins and eat foods/take nutrients that help you get these chemicals out of your body so that you can get your health back! RENEW Class Details

**BPA is used primarily to make plastics, and is largely found in plastic baby and water bottles, sports equipment, lining of most food cans, CDs and DVDs, medical and dental devices, and thermal receipts. Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers, to make plastic more flexible and durable. Phthalates are used in a variety of household applications such as shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation. In other words, they just don’t go away! Because of their persistence, POPs bioaccumulate with potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. POPs include pesticides, insecticides, PCBs, DDT (banned decades ago!), and dioxins, which are typically emitted from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, and hazardous waste, along with automobile emissions, coal, and wood.


Smelling Moldy?

I can smell mold a mile away. When I smell it, I run for the hills. Antique shops are the worst for me. I last about five minutes before I have to go outside. When I was in my early 30’s, I started to have night sweats. How could I be getting night sweats in my early 30’s? What was going on? Thankfully, one of my instructors alerted me to the fact that it could be something in the bedroom environment. At the time I was living in Santa Cruz, just a few blocks from the ocean. A lot of moisture in the air and one entire wall of the bedroom never got any light. I called a mold specialist to test for mold in my home. Sure enough, there was plenty of mold! Thankfully, not black mold! I left the house for a long weekend while the mold was cleaned up. Miraculously, my night sweats went away!!


Mold exposure is more common than we think. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions. Mold can spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth. Molds are commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and around metal framed windows. Leaky roofing can also lead to indoor growth of mold. Molds often persist after a one time flooding with improper remediation. You may move into a place and not even know that there was a flooding that took place or that the roof is leaky. It is always a good question to ask before you move into a new place!

What are common symptoms of mold exposure? Nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, and skin irritation are milder symptoms. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. The symptom list does not stop with upper respiratory issues. You see, mycotoxins are chemical toxins on the surface of the mold spore, which you unknowingly inhale or touch. These mycotoxins can be just as harmful as exposure to heavy metals and other chemicals. The symptom list is extensive, as these mycotoxins can make their way into just about any organ of the body. A short list of more common symptoms include debilitating fatigue, brain fog, memory issues, behavioral changes, and joint pain. Sadly, many people feel so ill and have no idea that mold is causing their distress!

There are various types of mold. The most common forms of mold are aspergillus, cladosporium, alternaria, and stachybotrys chartarum: the dreaded ‘Black Mold’. If black mold is present in your home, the best solution is to move and leave your belongings behind. All belongings will be contaminated. If you do not have black mold, you can have the mold professionally cleaned up.

Not sure if you have mold in your home? Call a licensed air testing company that is independent of a mold remediation company. Mold testing needs to be done outside and inside the home. Why? Because there will always be some mold inside the house, coming from the outside. The problem arises when the mold count inside is higher than the mold count outside. The issue with mold plates (which are often used to test for mold) is that the plates will always show some mold coming from the outside and they generally do not test for black mold.

If you find out that you do have mold and it can be cleaned up, take the following precautions to prevent it from coming back:

• Keep humidity levels as low as you can. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low.
• Be sure your home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans, especially in bathrooms! Avoid carpet in bathrooms and basements. Best to avoid it throughout your home!
• If you had water damage to your home, from one time flooding with improper remediation, then follow these steps:

Pull up the carpet and dry it out
Remove and replace the pad
Remove and replace the wall board
And of course, if you are sensitive, hire a professional to clean up the mold!

In Part II, I will be discussing how to test for mold inside your body and how to get it out of your body! Stay tuned!

The ups and downs of SIBO

My gut has been acting up again. I went for a very long symptom free period. But SIBO (Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth) is back and it is time for me to reassess my diet, supplements, do some testing, and get a handle on it again. SIBO is very common and unfortunately has a high rate of recurrence. SIBO occurs when there is an excess of bacteria in the upper small intestine. These bacteria ferment the carbs you eat into gas and the gas causes pressure and pain usually manifesting in abdominal pain and bloating. Other common symptoms are gas, constipation, diarrhea, and malabsorption. The symptom that haunts me the most is uncomfortable bloating, and I know I am not alone, as this seems to be one of the predominant complaints I hear from my own clients.

The two processes that most commonly predispose you to bacterial overgrowth in the upper small intestine are diminished gastric acid secretion (acid that your stomach produces when you eat) and small intestine dysmotility ((muscle contractions in your GI tract are not working properly). Gastric acid produced in your stomach suppresses the growth of ingested bacteria, thereby limiting bacterial counts in the upper small intestine. Diminished acid production (hypochlorhydria) becomes more prevalent as you age and also occurs when you take PPI’s (protein pump inhibitors). Normal GI motility involves a complex, tightly coordinated series of events designed to move material through the GI tract. SIBO can also be caused by gastric bypass surgery, structural abnormalities of the GI tract, IBS, and narcotic use.

Other risk factors and signs/symptoms for SIBO:

You have recently taken antibiotics or have a history of antibiotic use.
You feel worse when you take probiotics with prebiotics.
Eating more fiber causes constipation, even when you drink plenty of water.
Your lab work reveals low ferritin levels without any apparent other cause.
You have experienced gut infections (especially h Pylori).

Why has my SIBO come back? Well, I don’t know for sure. But these are my best guesses:

I got lazy with taking my enzyme supplement that contains Betaine HCl (hydrochloric acid). Betaine HCl supports stomach acid secretion, which in turn suppresses growth of unwanted bacteria in the upper small intestine.
I was taking thyroid support for awhile, which I discontinued due to side effects. The thyroid gland, being the master gland of metabolism, helps to support normal GI motility (muscular contractions in the GI tract).
Summer came and I started eating more fruits like cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Great food for the bacteria!

SIBO is complicated and normally many steps have to be taken to address it and prevent its recurrence. In fact, I highly recommend that you work with a qualified nutritionist or practitioner to test for SIBO and other factors that may be contributing to it and create a plan to address it. However, here are five simple steps that you can take now to start tackling SIBO if you know you have it or suspect that you do:

1. Let at least 4 hours go by in between your meals. When you are fasting, you typically get a gurgling sound in stomach. This is good. This means that cleaning up is taking place. It should happen every 90 minutes when the stomach is empty. This is referred to as a small bowel cleaning wave.

2. Make or purchase bone broth and drink liberally to help decrease inflammation and heal up the gut.

3. Take a digestive enzyme supplement that contains Betaine HCl with your meals.

4. Restrict the amount of fermentable carbs in your diet until your SIBO is resolved. Then you can add them back in. Foods high in FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) should be avoided. These include garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, and apricots.

5. Take a soil based probiotic supplement, which also acts as an antimicrobial to help kill off the unwanted bacteria.

NOTE: Work with a practitioner to test for other contributing factors to SIBO like a gut infection or hypothyroidism. There are also different types of SIBO, and your health care practitioner can help you put together a dietary and supplement plan that effectively addresses your type of SIBO.

If you think you have SIBO, please schedule a complementary strategy session with me to discuss! Complimentary Strategy Session

Walking and eating my way through Italy!

After a lot of talk, saving, and planning, my boyfriend and I finally made it to Italy. Italy (especially Tuscany) had been on my vision board for years. The plan was to visit some cities and towns on our own, and then join a group called Backroads for six days to hike around Cinque Terre (on the Italian Riviera) and the Chianti region of Tuscany.

I fell in love with Italy on our first day in Rome. The history, the language, the narrow cobblestone streets, the piazzas where everyone gathers, eating outside, and the FOOD. There were NO dietary restrictions for me on this trip. Of course, I had to eat pizza while in Italy at least a couple of times, indulge in several fresh pasta dishes, and savor gelato every evening (after all, it was really hot!) My green tea ritual in the morning became an espresso ritual, cured meat like prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cheese were a staple in my breakfast menu, and wine with dinner was a given. And wine sometimes accompanied lunch too! Although it was in the 90s (really hot for San Francisco people) and we were either walking the cities all day or hiking the backroads with elevation gain, I felt great and my new Italian diet really agreed with me.

Our meals by the sea in the region of Liguria were filled with fresh seafood like octopus, calamari, anchovies and mixed fish dishes with lots of grilled vegetables. Of course, there were always pasta options and pasta with pesto was very popular in this region. White wine was the color of choice and indeed the grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made white wines. And we got to hike through the actual vineyards! And of course, gelato for desert!


Heading inland to the Chianti region our meals shifted to “antipasto” of cured sliced meats and thin slices of lightly toasted bread spread with chicken liver pate, pasta with wild boar sauce, rabbit, Tuscan beef stew and the Bistecca Fiorentina (the largest
T bone steak I have ever seen!) and more vegetables. My favorite dish was the rabbit, with the Tuscan beef stew coming in a close second. Red wine was the color of choice here, and we fell in love with the Brunello di Montalcino. And of course we didn’t pass up the Chianti Classico!!

In the six months leading up to this trip, I met so many people that have been to Italy and who shared their stories with me. Of course, talk of Italy eventually includes Italian food and I found that these same questions often came up:

Why can people who are gluten sensitive in the US tolerate wheat products like pasta in Italy?

Why do people who have dairy intolerance in the US do just fine with gelato in Italy?
Why can a person drink wine in Italy and not get headaches but get terrible headaches here in the U.S. after a glass or two of wine?

And my own questions:

Why is their olive oil SO much better? We have lots of olive trees in this area of the country…

Why are their tomatoes so much tastier?

And where do you find a gelato in this area that tastes like Italian gelato? If you know the answer, please let me know!

Of course, there have been various explanations for all of these questions. I have heard folks claim that there is less gluten in Italian wheat products, less added sulfites in their wine, and less preservatives in the gelato. Well, all wines contain sulfites because they are a naturally occurring by product of fermentation. And European winemakers DO add sulfites to their wine, especially if it will not be consumed within a short amount of time (to prevent the wine from spoiling). They just don’t have to add the warning label that their wines contain sulfites!

Perhaps the answer is when you are vacationing you just digest better because you are less stressed and you take time to eat your meals and really enjoy them! And maybe when you drink wine in Italy you are drinking wine with big hearty meals over a longer period of time and then walking it all off afterwards. I prefer to leave it a mystery and enjoy the magic of it all when I return!! Maybe we can learn something from Italians when it comes to eating and enjoying our food!

P.S. Several folks in our Backroads hiking group had dietary restrictions (gluten free, red meat free, vegetarian) and were served plenty of fresh food alternatives that were delicious! And a large percentage of Italian restaurants now serve gluten free pasta.

Please join me on my Facebook page next week as I post my photos on eating my way through Italy!

Part II: Brain Boosters!

As I mentioned in Part I of this blog series on brain health, you certainly cannot separate the brain from the rest of your body! Adequate sleep, blood sugar control, exercise, eating nutrient dense foods, managing stress levels, and staying away from excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol all positively impact your brain health. And the health of your gut also plays a big role in your brain health! I emphasize this again because we often forget to start with the basics, which more often than not make a dramatic difference!

Assuming that you have the basics down, and are still looking for additional brain power, let’s start with your brain’s massive requirement for energy! Mitochondria are often called the powerhouses in our cells that generate energy. Unfortunately, mitochondria are very susceptible to oxidative stress caused by poor diet, lifestyle, and toxins of all types. This oxidative stress can cause inflammation, including neuro-inflammation, which produces an unstable environment in our brains.

How do we support mitochondrial metabolism so that our brain feels energized? The B vitamins are closely involved in overall brain health. In fact, low levels of Vitamin B1 can result in poor concentration and attention. B1 is essential for energy production in the brain. Deficiencies of Vitamins B5 and B6 may lead to poor memory and increased feelings of stress. It is well known that B12 deficiency leads to impaired mental function and even depression. Most of the B vitamins are found in vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts/seeds. B12 is found in liver, meat, fish, and dairy. Supplementing with a B vitamin complex can be extremely helpful, especially if you are under a lot of stress like studying for finals, completing a major work project, or making a major life transition.

The brain is partly composed of billions of nerve cells, known as neurons. Neurons allow the brain to communicate within itself and throughout the rest of the nervous system. Messages, called neurotransmitters, are passed back and forth. Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, which often must be derived directly from the diet. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in feelings of contentment, is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Adrenaline and dopamine, neurotransmitters that are involved in helping us feel motivated, are made from phenylalanine. Acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter, is very involved in memory and cognitive function. And guess what, B vitamins are very important in the process that converts amino acids to neurotransmitters. In fact, B6 is involved in the manufacture of all amino acid neurotransmitters! Vitamin C and Magnesium are also involved in helping amino acids convert to neurotransmitters. I personally take Magnesium and Vitamin C supplementation on a daily basis. It is important to note that magnesium and Vitamin C are easily depleted by stress!

And what about Omega 3 essential fatty acids? A large percent of the fat in our brain is made from the essential fatty acids. They are termed essential as they cannot be made within the body, so must be derived directly from the diet. Each fatty acid performs vital functions in the structuring of brain cells, ensuring that smooth communication is possible within the brain. DHA, one of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids, is an important component of neuronal cell membranes. DHA promotes optimal brain formation and function, vision and psychomotor development in infants. This is why it is a natural component of breast milk! DHA may also improve adult brain function, by improving brain ATP production and mental task performance. The Omega 3’s, including DHA, are found in higher amounts in fatty fish like salmon and halibut. If you are not a fish eater, consider a DHA supplement to give you a brain boost for a specific time period.

One of my favorite brain nutrients is Acetyl-L-Carnitine.  It is one of the most extensively researched brain nutrients with a proven ability to enhance mental energy. Specifically, acetyl-l-carnitine energizes the brain, increases levels of neurotransmitter chemicals needed for memory and focus, and repairs damage done to brain cells by stress and poor nutrition.If you are experiencing mental fatigue or short attention span, acetyl l-carnitine may be very helpful for you.

I referred to neuro-inflammation earlier in this post. Antioxidants are very important to combat inflammation. You can find antioxidants in large quantities in fruits and vegetables. Spices are also a good source of antioxidants. Curcumin is one of my favorites, found in the Indian spice turmeric. It has been shown to tame neuro inflammation, thus having a protective effect on the brain. Tumeric is a fun spice to experiment with in cooking your meals. You can also take it in supplemental form.

Here’s to optimal brain health!!


Boost Brain Power without Adderall

Several months ago, while driving to a meeting, I was listening to a NPR radio segment about college students and their off label use of the prescription drug Adderall, also known as Addy. This medication is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), on the premise that it may help to increase ability to pay attention, concentrate, and stop fidgeting.

Adderall is a combination of stimulants (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and is thought to work by restoring the balance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Dosage is based on the recipient’s medical condition and response to treatment.

According to, this medication may cause withdrawal reactions, especially if it has been used regularly for a long time or in high doses. Withdrawal symptoms include severe tiredness, sleep problems, and mental/mood changes such as depression. Adderall, in rare cases, may cause addiction. Symptoms while taking Adderall include loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, stomach upset/pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, fever, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. It can also raise your blood pressure. Not a pleasant list of side effects!

Adderall has been adopted as a cognitive enhancer at college campuses. Students who want to perform better, get better grades, and also have a social life during their college years can get Addy from their friends or buy it very easily on college campuses. The New Yorker published an article back in 2009 that reported that anywhere from 4.1 % to 25% of American undergraduates had taken prescription stimulants for off-label use.

And of course, stimulant drugs like Adderall have also made their way into competitive work environments where crazy long hours are encouraged. The pressure to use these off label stimulants is high in certain environments. What does one do to stay competitive without Addy? How do you support your brain without the use of prescription drugs?

I have a complete fascination with the brain and how it works. There are days when my brain feels like it is powering on all cylinders and days when it feels foggy. Since there is so much we can do to support our brain, this will be a two part article!

Before I even start with how to support the brain, it is important to note that the brain requires a HUGE amount of energy (as much as your muscles and much more than your heart). One of the top things you can do to support your brain is to get enough sleep. This may be six to seven hours for some people and eight to nine hours for others. Study after study shows improved memory and focus after a good night’s sleep. Although college students and people at very competitive work environments will argue that they cannot possibly get that much sleep due to their work load, one needs to look at how sleep might reduce the amount of hours needed to complete papers or a big project. If a person makes it a priority to get seven hours of sleep per night, they will most likely be more productive in the fewer hours that they are awake, make better decisions and prioritize more effectively, and make less mistakes. Ariana Huffington wrote about this in her book Thrive and studies have certainly demonstrated that people who work less hours are more productive in the hours that they do work. Having problems sleeping? Think about not drinking caffeine after 2:00 pm!

Stay hydrated with water. Even mild dehydration slows down your body’s metabolism, and this includes your brain! Even though it might be useful once in awhile to separate your brain from the rest of your body, it just isn’t going to happen!

Supply your body with the building blocks it needs to support the brain, such as animo acids from protein, slow release carbs to supply glucose, and good fats like the Omega 3 essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation. What does this look like in your diet? Make an attempt to get some protein in each meal; this will help regulate blood sugar levels so you don’t get that crash and burn feeling two hours after you eat. Make it easy and start your day with a quick protein smoothie (recipe below). Avoid the carbs that raise your blood sugar quickly (like bagels, pastries, and candy) and then cause a subsequent crash in your brain energy. Instead, get your carbs from whole fruits, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes or beets, or a higher protein grain like quinoa. (By the way, quinoa is botanically a seed).

Load up on antioxidant rich foods! Oxidative stress in the brain causes an unstable environment! Who wants that when trying to write a paper or meet a work deadline! In fact, I recently learned that oxidative stress and neuro inflammation = new definition of depression. While studying or working late hours, snack on blueberries, a couple squares of 70% or higher chocolate, or a big handful of almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Or blend up a quick protein smoothie with antioxidant rich berries and greens. Or how about a cup of decaffeinated black or green tea, also loaded with antioxidants? Just be sure not to add sugar!

I learned from Brendon Burchard to get up and move around every 45 to 60 minutes to keep focused and on task. Jump up and down, do a few push ups, whatever works for you. This really does make a difference!

In Part II, I will review specific nutrients that you can take to support your brain that you don’t have to buy on the black market!

To eat gluten or not?

For years I have debated whether or not I should completely eliminate wheat/gluten from my diet. I eat gluten free at home and mostly stay away from it when I go out to eat.  However, I am not so strict that I only go to certified gluten free restaurants.  And I don’t always check with the chef if the sauce used in a recipe is gluten free. And yes, I do partake in a few bites of desserts every once in awhile that are not gluten free!  Years ago I did testing that indicated that I was not genetically predisposed to get celiac disease.  I have also tested for blood, saliva and stool antibodies to gluten which resulted in very little reaction. But technology for testing gluten sensitivity has advanced dramatically within the last five years or so… so I began to doubt the sensitivity and accuracy of the results of my previous tests.

I finally broke down and shelled out a significant amount of cash to do the Cyrex Laboratory Array #3 test. To date, this test offers the most comprehensive analysis available for determining gluten sensitivity. It shows the reactions to several gliadins and other wheat proteins. This test has set new standards for assessing gluten sensitivity.

You see, wheat is made up of many proteins and peptides. In fact, it has been discovered that wheat is made up of more than 100 different components that can cause a reaction. Gliadin is a class of proteins present in wheat and several other cereals within the grass genus Triticum. Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. Most labs test for alpha gliadin, but not all the other gliadins! So you might not respond to alpha gliadin, but instead react to one or more of the other gluten proteins.  Make sense?

I was very eager to receive my test results once I did the blood draw. Test results finally came in: Twenty four markers tested and I did not react to one!  And I did expose myself to gluten in the month before the test several times so that I would not come back with false negatives. It should be noted that I have completely eliminated gluten in the past (I was really strict for 2 months) and did not notice any difference when I added gluten back into my diet. Maybe that was why my test results did not surprise me.  I received my test results right before the holidays. I had a free pass to enjoy all those glutinous holiday treats!  Or did I?

Although I must say that I did enjoy a few gluten containing holiday treats in December, I knew that I would go back to limiting gluten in my diet. Gluten is just difficult for the digestive system to break down. Its difficult-to-digest qualities are due to the high levels of disulfide bonds it contains. And my digestive system needs all the help it can get!

In addition, most foods containing gluten are processed and completely devoid of critical vitamins and minerals (unless they have been added back in). And add to that the “anti-nutrients” found in grains such as phytates, enzyme inhibitors, etc.

And to top it off, most gluten containing foods are going to be high in simple carbs!  I don’t know about you, but I need to watch my carbs to maintain my weight and regulate my blood sugar!  Avoiding gluten for the most part over the past years has done something else for me: it has lowered my intake of carbs and processed foods. Which is a good thing… even if my test results show that I can tolerate it!  🙂

Special Note: Even the most advanced testing can sometimes produce false negatives.  The best way to assess food sensitivities is to do an elimination diet.  When completely eliminating a food (like gluten containing foods for example) from your diet, it must be completely eliminated!  For example, if you go to a restaurant during your elimination phase, you need to make sure that the restaurant is not using the same pans to cook gluten containing foods and gluten free foods.  Cross reactivity occurs; and even tiny amounts of gluten will set off an immune system reaction!  If you are interested in learning more, please apply for a complementary strategy session.