The Nourishing Health » Whole, nourishing, plant-based health and nutrition

In my post on how to promote a strong immune system I discussed how our bodies either receive and thrive from what we put in them or wrestle against the ill effects of trying to handle substances they weren’t intended for.

If you’ve been following any type of health news lately you’ve likely heard of the microbiome and how important it is to nearly every aspect of our health, but you may be wondering

“what in the world is a microbiome?!”

That’s what I’m hear to discuss today and I couldn’t be more excited!  :) Learning about the human microbiome may actually be one of my favorite things (total geek, I know).  :) Today will be a very basic overview of this complex topic, but trust me there’s more to come!

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The microbiome refers to all the organisms that live in or on your body.  These organisms are bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and helminths (worms, found in some of us).  Humans have approximately a hundred trillion microbes, which include thousands of different species, and we have more than a billion bacteria in just one drop of fluid from our colon alone! [1]

This may sound scary since we typically think of these organisms as being harmful, which is true for certain types or in certain quantities, especially with a suppressed immune system, but the reality is that these guys are our friends and bring us enormous benefits!  They are involved in every aspect of our health including our digestive wellness, likelihood of being obese, our risk of developing cancer or diabetes, and even our mental health.  Lita Proctor, a scientist at the National Human Genome Institute and director of the Human Microbiome Project, says “much of the scientific literature for decades and decades has been completely focused on pathogens, and that has also framed our point of view about microbes.  But it has become clear that the vast majority of microbes we come in contact with on a daily basis are not pathogenic.  They are either benign and couldn’t care less that there is a human nearby or they actually provide a benefit.” [2]  (So take a deep breath and drop the hand sanitizer 😉 )

Each of our microbiome’s are unique and develop over our lifetime revealing various aspects of our lifestyles.  Science has revealed that our microbial mix is so unique from person to person that it is actually a more accurate identifier than our own DNA [1].

Influences on the micrbiome include:

  • our parents health
  • how you were born – C-section or vaginal delivery.  Babies delivered by C-section miss their first inoculation with healthy bacteria from their mothers vagina.
  • whether you were breastfed or formula fed as an infant
  • your diet
  • exposure to chemicals and toxins
  • personal hygiene – you may be surprised that being a bit dirtier is actually better for you!
  • past infections, including antibiotic use
  • stress levels – stress has a dramatic effect on our microbiome
  • whether you live in a rural or urban area

Research on the human microbiome is revealing fascinating insights into why disease among our society continues to increase in the midst of advancing medical technology.  Our increasingly sanitized society with increased consumption of processed foods and antibiotic use has shown a direct correlation to decreased microbial diversity.

Hinderances to a healthy microbiome:

  • antibiotics – they kill off germs as well as the microbiome, which is your first line of defense against disease.
  • chlorinated drinking water
  • pesticides – including on food we eat and in products we use such as skin care and home cleaning products.
  • industrial agriculture
  • sanitation
  • alcohol
  • stress
  • high-fat, high-sugar Western diet

I hope this overview gives you points to begin considering.  I’ll be back next week with specific recommendations for how to cultivate a healthier microbiome, including what I’ve implemented into my own life!

For further reading, check out these books & blog posts:

[1]  Chutkan, M.D., Robynne.  The Microbiome Solution:  A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.  New York, NY: Avery, 2015.

[2]  Morgan, Kendall K.  Genome.  Change Your Microbiome, Change Yourself.  Retrieved from http://genomemag.com/change-your-microbiome-change-yourself/#.VsOFSMeofzI

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You know you have a great sister when you open your inbox to find an email with a mouthwatering recipe that says “I just created this and thought you might like it”….yes, yes, I would!:)

Both my sister and mom have a knack for “accidentally” creating healthy, delicious and creative dishes.  I guess that gene wasn’t passed down to me, so today you’re able to enjoy my sister’s creative abilities. 😉

These bars are more reminiscent of a cake, being light and moist with an oh-so-good sweet glaze.  You can purchase buckwheat flour at a specialty grocery store or quickly make it yourself by grinding raw buckwheat groats (not kasha) into a fine flour in a food processor.  I take this route and store several cups of this nutrient-rich flour in a mason jar in order for future recipes to come together more quickly.

Buckwheat is actually not wheat but rather a fruit seed making it suitable for those sensitive to gluten.  It is also packed with protein with 16 grams per 1 cup of flour and is also a great source or fiber and calcium.

If you’ve never tried coconut butter its simply coconut flakes blended in a food processor until smooth like a butter – just like making peanut butter!  If you’re interested in making it yourself The Kitchn has a great tutorial or you can purchase it at your specialty grocery store as well.

BARS

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup + 2 TBSP unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP blackstrap molasses
  • 2 TBSP milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl
3. Add wet ingredients and mix well
4. Pour into an 8 x 8 parchment paper lined glass pan
5. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the bars are beginning to crack on top and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean (but don’t let them get dry, they are best moist!)
6. Let cool while making the glaze

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GLAZE

  • 3 TBSP coconut butter
  • 1/2 TBSP honey
  • 2-3 TBSP milk of choice
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon

1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat on low
2. Stir often, heating and blending until it makes a completely smooth glaze. Add more milk if too thick.
3. Using a fork, poke random holes all over the top of the bars. Pour the glaze evenly over the bars and smooth with spatula.

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Now get ready to dive into these delicious and nourishing treats!

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the supplement aisle in a haze?  Fifteen minutes later you’re still frozen with that same dazed and confused look on your face?  If so, you’re certainly not alone.  I would consider myself reasonably knowledgeable on selecting appropriate supplementation and yet I’m often fighting to look past marketing ploys or to recall the details of supplement quality from the recesses of my mind.  It’s tough!

If we’re serious about our health and strive to make good food choices we certainly can’t overlook the powerful effect that everything we put in our mouths has on the outcomes in our body.  When discussing proper supplementation with my clients I emphasize the importance of obtaining vital vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the foods we eat in order for them to be fully absorbed and utilized.  When considering supplementation I encourage individuals to consider 3 questions:

  1. Am I taking this for a known reason?  (For example: Vitamin B12 deficiency)
  2. Am I able to obtain this nutrient from food?  (For example:  Vitamin B12 cannot be sufficiently obtained from food in those eating a strictly vegan diet.)
  3. Am I taking it for a known period of time or is it needed indefinitely?  (For example: I will take Vitamin B12 for 3 months while I strive to obtain more through dietary sources and have my blood work checked again at that time.  Or, I follow a vegan diet and therefore will obtain this essential vitamin from a high-quality supplement.)

After answering these questions it is appropriate to move forward with considering supplementation based on your responses.

So what now?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, comes to the rescue in her newly released book Fortify Your Life:  Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.  Dr. Low Dog shares her expertise in a clear and accessible manner laying a foundational understanding for selecting supplements with a personalized approach since each person’s needs are different.

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By reading this book you will learn:

  • the basics about the foundational supplements: vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, choline, and a few others
  • the most important ideas for understanding supplements & how they work (including how to read those confusing labels!)
  • about the most important supplements & how to make sense of the various forms you’ll find in your health foods store
  • about nutraceuticals (what are they anyway?!) & how they interact with the biochemistry of your body
  • the supplements you should consider based upon you lifestyle, age, gender, & whether you have certain health conditions
  • how to make sense of the research & health reporting (that means being informed & knowledgable about your health!)

While Dr. Low Dog aids us in navigating and discovering the supplements that are right for each individual, she approaches wellness holistically: “Whatever the condition of your health, whatever your lifestyle choices are, be aware that supplements should always be seen as just that, a supplement for good health practices, not a substitute for them.” She continues with this helpful reminder, “You can’t live on highly processed foods, never exercise, or allow your anxiety and emotional stress to spin out of control, and then expect supplements to be the magic fix for the health problems you will surely develop from a lifetime of poor choices and poor health management.”  I greatly appreciate her balanced approach of emphasizing diet and lifestyle choices while knowing there is indeed an appropriate place for supplementation.

If you want to take greater ownership of your health and be well-equipped in making decisions regarding what will best serve you and your family long-term, Fortify Your Life is an essential component of knowing how to navigate not only supplement aisle but many of your health questions as well.

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I hope the new year has been off to a good start for you!  I know many of us make goals for the next 12 months in a variety of categories including our health and the way we eat.  If this first month has already been a struggle for you, don’t be discouraged!  Change and progress take time and simply because you had a rough few days or week (or haven’t even made an attempt yet!) doesn’t mean that all is lost.  Simply start fresh tomorrow and enjoy the journey.

What easier way to enjoy the journey than with these fabulous and nourishing recipes to get you on your way?!:)

My husband had a blast ringing in the New Year with friends, which I greeted 2016 from my cozy bed due to first trimester “morning” sickness.  The plus side of going to bed at 8pm is that you can sneak downstairs early and surprise your hubby with Easy Vegan and Gluten-free Pancakes with pipping hot coffee.  :)

A big pot of New Year’s Smoky BBQ Chili was shared with friends on January 2nd.  I love this recipe so much that my husband and I made it just a few days later to enjoy as a quick lunch throughout the week.  The first time I made it using dried beans, but was in a hurry the second time around so used 2 cans of black beans and 1 can of pinto beans and reduced the vegetable broth to 4 cups total.  It was perfect both ways!

These Stellar Quinoa Burgers (pictured below) were a recipe from my friend, Erica, who never disappoints with her recommendations!  The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of oil, which I omitted and they were perfectly delicious.  These burgers were hearty, fun to make, and delicious tossed on a salad later in the week.

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North Carolina finally started to feel like winter late this month, so Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup was a delicious way to cozy up.

And we can never forget about dessert!  Quinoa Pudding from Gabi at Honest Fare was a hearty and creamy take on rice pudding.  I used coconut milk and decreased the maple syrup, using on 1 tablespoon maple syrup.  This would also be a a delicious breakfast or afternoon snack!

Have you cooked or created a great recipe recently that you’d like me to share?  I love trying new recipes, so please send your favorite plant-powered to Stacy@thenourishinghealth.com for a chance to be featured in the months to come!

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