Gut health, kids and food

Gut health and leaky gut in particular are hot topics.  There's a lot of research coming out that the health of our gut and balance of our gut bacteria is linked to everything from anxiety and depression, ADHD, allergies and inflammatory diseases to autoimmune diseases.  I'm focusing a lot lately on improving our gut health as a possible way to alleviate some of our health concerns.  I've figured out through trial and error that some foods don't agree with me and make me anxious, tired, irritable etc. As a dietitian and mother of 3 boys, one with anaphylactic food allergies and the other 2 with suspected food intolerances that affect their behavior, I have to consider what the food we eat does to us.
Leaky gut is a condition of increased permeability of the intestinal wall that allows toxins and other chemicals from our food into the blood that aren't supposed to leave the gut.  The resulting inflammation, imbalance of bacteria and malabsorption of nutrients in addition to these toxins getting into our blood and brains is a viscous cycle and can be related to so many mental issues and physical diseases.


I wanted to share the information and the remedies we're using to help control what we can.   We're certainly NOT perfect, but I'm really trying to make a significant and lasting change that will improve our quality of life, gut health and relationship with food.  The below suggestions are meant to work together.  And while I am a registered dietitian/integrative nutritionist, I'm not much of a science "writer" so I'll leave links throughout this post.  I hope this information might help you in some way, big or small.

Here are the signs that you may have a leaky gut:

Food intolerances
Food allergies
Mood disorders
Anxiety/depression
ADHD
Inflammatory conditions
Autoimmune disorders
GI disturbances
Fertility issues
Skin conditions
Inability to lose weight

And the possible causes of your leaky gut: 

*Poor diet: i.e. too much sugar, too many grains, overuse of vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, sunflower etc. and not enough omega-3) and excessive processed foods
*Food allergies or intolerances
*Stress
*Antibiotic use (current, recent or past)
*Over use of NSAIDS (advil, Aleve, etc)
*Over use of alcohol
*Low fermentable fiber diet

And here are my suggestions for how to heal a leaky gut:

1.  Identify the problem and eliminate it:
Consider your lifestyle and history.  If any of the above conditions and causes apply to you, it's likely you'll benefit from making a few changes, eliminating the offending cause and adding some remedies to your life that will benefit your gut and overall wellness.  For my kids, I know that diary causes issues with behavior and too much sugar doesn't benefit anyone so I try to cut those things out or at least minimize them.

2.  Evaluate and adjust your diet accordingly:  No matter what the cause of your leaky gut, I would suggest really looking at your diet.  Even our "healthy" diets sometimes aren't so much anymore especially if you have leaky gut.  One of the things that might surprise us is that even the "organic" snacks we're feeding our families are made with vegetable oils that aren't so bad in small, occasional doses,  but they've become so ubiquitous in our diets and are replacing other healthier, anti-inflammatory fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter and even lard.  Vegetable oils are produced through a lot of chemical processing, aren't innate to our diets and are generally PRO inflammatory causing our gut lining to be stressed and leak.  The same goes with too much processed foods which generally contain plenty of sugar and vegetable oils.  Grains can be hard on the gut (and especially a leaky gut) as components of the grains that are meant to stay in the gut can get into the blood stream where they cause an autoimmune and thus inflammatory response.  If  you're interested in really overhauling your diet to eliminate some of the conditions listed above, I would suggest looking into specific diets that eliminate the offending foods and focus on healing the gut and your symptoms.  Here are a few suggestions for diets to consider:

The GAPS diet,
The Autoimmune Protocol 
Whole 30
 If you're scared of these "rules" (and I don't blame you), I would suggest starting slowly which is what we're working on.  I'm doing all I can to cut out most grains (specifically wheat), vegetable oils and refined sugars from out diets and upping our intake of bone broth, collagen, gelatin, probiotics and prebiotics.  It's really just a clean up at home for now as things were getting a little out of control.  My two older sons go to school and birthday parties and I can't control what they eat all the time but I can control what I bring into our house. Check out Green and Plenty on Instagram for more recipe and snack ideas.



3.  Add gelatin/collagen/bone broth to your diet: 
The amino acids in gelatin and collagen, in particular glycine and proline, are helpful in healing the gut wall (and also great for the skin, hair and nails).   Bone broth is the most nutrient dense source of gelatin as it also contains a variety of nutrients.  Here's how to make your own bone broth and more on the many benefits. You can make any soup, chili or casserole that calls for stock or broth with bone broth too.  PS, add a little vitamin C in the form of lemon juice to your broth to maximize the skin benefits. 

Collagen and Gelatin are available in powder form and are essentially the same thing with different chemical structures.  Collagen powder is tasteless and easily dissolves in hot or cold while gelatin powder is used to make things that gel.

HOW WE ADD GELATIN/COLLAGEN/BONE BROTH TO OUR DIET:
*Bone broth daily (even just a tablespoon or two for the kids if they aren't into a whole bowl).  I try to drink at least 8oz once or twice a day.  If you don't make your own, Bonafide Provisions broth is great and has lots of gelatin as evidenced by the jiggle.

*Collagen powder (I like Vital Proteins) daily or every other day.  I add 1/2 scoop to the boys morning smoothie.  My instagram feed features great kid-friendly smoothie and snack recipes you can easily add this powder to without them knowing.  Collagen will work in any smoothie or coffee etc.  Start with 1/4 scoop and work up.

*Gelatin powder is used to make jello like products.  I make these gelatin rich gummies once a week and they boys really like them.

4.  Add high quality probiotics: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and kimchi are easy to find at most grocery stores and are important for adding live beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to your daily diet.  It's also important to add a probiotic supplement if you have a leaky gut as it helps to repair your gut lining and is essential to restoring the right balance of bacteria in your gut.  Probiotics help with leaky gut as well as everything from improving digestion and mental health to reducing your risk of developing many chronic diseases.  You can read more in these links about what bacteria do for our guts and our health (specifically mental health).

HOW WE ADD PROBIOTICS TO OUR DIET:
Probiotic rich foods daily: Kombucha with snacks, sauerkraut with just about anything (for me, but not so much the kids), Bubbies pickles in lunches or pickle juice to drink every few days.  I'm also anxious to try the Farmhouse Culture gut shots and swear I'll eventually start making my own kombucha to save $$$$...

Probiotic Supplements daily:  There are so many probiotics on the market and it's hard to know which is right for you as everyone and every bottle is different.  I've done a lot of research and have settled (for now) on Prescript Assist probiotics.  These are soil based probiotics (found naturally in soil...see #6 below).  I take 1 Prescript Assist capsule before bed and add the contents of1/2 capsule into the morning smoothie that I split between the 3 boys.  I also give Leo, the allergy baby, Garden of Life Raw probiotics occasionally as probiotic diversity is thought to be best.

5. Add prebiotics: Compounds found in certain types of fibrous foods that can't be broken down by our guts are actually the food for good bacteria and allow them to grow and colonize the large intestine.  Some prebiotic rich foods are onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, avocados, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, under-ripe bananas, plantains and jicama are all good sources of prebiotics that are easy to work into our diets.


6. Get dirty: Most of us don't really garden anymore, but there are actually beneficial bacteria in the soil that could really help repair and restore our gut health.  Some of that dirt on your apple could benefit your health and that of your gut so at the very least, try shopping at your local farmer's market.  It's also important to stop using antibacterial gels, soaps and cleaning products all day everyday.  Some germs truly aren't so bad.

7.  Add vitamin D:  So many of us aren't getting enough vitamin D.  This vitamin, actually technically a hormone, is needed by the cells that repair the holes in the gut lining.  Research by Dr. Steven Gundry shows that patients with autoimmune diseases who aren't getting any better while practicing the above treatments all have very low levels of Vitamin D.  This article is a great read about how and why to get more vitamin D.

gut healing blueberry gelatin gummies

Gut health is a hot topic with leaky gut being linked to everything from severe autoimmune diseases to food allergies and even anxiety and depression.  As a mother of a child with severe food allergies and one with a suspected dairy intolerance that affects his behavior, I'm focusing on healing and strengthening our guts to help alleviate some of these issues.
 The amino acids in gelatin, glycine and proline, are particularly beneficial for healing the gut and also do wonders for hair, skin, nails and the immune system.  Homemade bone broth is a great way to get gelatin into our diets (I also really like Bonafide Provisions grass fed/pasture raised broths available in the freezer section at my Whole Foods), but my kids don't always want to eat broth or soup so alternative methods of delivery are required.  These gelatin gummies have been a huge hit and they're just fun!  The flavor possibilities are endless but I particularly like this blueberry lemon recipe as it uses real fruit, not juice and the boys love them.  
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup grass fed beef gelatin
 Combine the blueberries, lemon juice, water and zest in a blender until combined.  Pour the mixture into a sauce pan and add the honey, then the gelatin stirring with a whisk while heating the mixture on low for 5-10 minutes until everything is combined and is a thin liquid consistency.  Pour the mixture into molds (I use these silicone lego molds) or a glass baking dish and refrigerate for 30 min to 1 hour.  Cut into pieces/remove from the molds and enjoy!

New Fall Outerwear: Coat Check Chicago

Fall fashion is one of the few things that gets me excited about cold weather.  And living in Chicago, outerwear is an especially important part of one's wardrobe.  A great coat or jacket is often the only thing you need to look and feel put together regardless of what you're wearing underneath.  This is why I'm especially excited to introduce you to Coat Check, a Chicago designed and manufactured line of beautiful women's outerwear using quality fabrics and ethical manufacturing practices.



Coat Check was started in 2016 by instructor of Fashion Design at Columbia College, Parson's graduate and Chicago resident Liz Williams.  After a favorite coat she had purchased needed to be replaced but she couldn't find anything similar that she loved in her price point, Liz designed and made her own.  The start of Coat Check was finally inspired by a dream to have her own line, her students, and a woman who checked and admired Liz's handmade coat at a restaurant in Chicago leaving a note in the pocket saying she was an interested buyer.

All Coat Check garments are made in Chicago and have been designed with longevity in mind using time tested tailoring techniques and ethical manufacturing practices.  The new movement in fashion calls for quality not quantity and as a huge "style uniform" believer, I love the idea of pieces that will be in rotation for many Chicago falls and winters to come.  A well designed coat that will last elevates your wardrobe, makes you feel put-together and confident each time you put it on and just makes life simpler...especially when you live in Chicago.



I'm so excited for Liz and the promise that fall brings for her and her new line.  I'm also super inspired by her courage to just go for it!  So many of us have ideas and dreams, but it's the execution that's the hard part.  When I asked her about starting her own line/business and all the logistics and details that go into that, she said she read a lot of books which left her more frightened than prepared.  It was her sister who gave her the advice to "take one day at a time and get everything you need to get done that day so you can get what you need done the next day."  She said she's literally operating on a day to day basis which keeps her from getting too scared about what's coming next month or next year.

Below is a little Q&A with Liz that I found very inspirational and honest both as a mother and aspiring entrepreneur.  

What has been your favorite part of starting/having your own line?
My favorite aspect is definitely the creative one.  I really enjoy immersing myself in the process of design through sketching, draping, and pattern-making.  The collection went through a lengthy process of proto-typing and re-work.  I'm rarely happy with the first product and enjoy seeing the pieces evolve through a series of improvements to the original design.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect has been to find the right work/ life balance.  I have a part-time teaching job in the Fashion Department at Columbia College Chicago, I'm married, I'm raising two kids, and I have many strong friendships.  All of these aspects of my life require time, devotion, and attention.  It's really easy to pour myself into something but then I find the other areas start to suffer.  UnfortunatelyI think this is a problem that most modern women struggle with.  However, I think it's important that we still find time to care for ourselves... exercise, eat right, take care of own health, and simultaneously foster our own dreams and ambitions.   

Where do you find inspiration?
For Fall 2016 I was looking at a lot of vintage fashion photography, particularly that of Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.  I'm also inspired by interior spaces.  I love the current trends toward mid-century modern interiors that offer a clean color palette.   For next season I'm looking at the 1940's silhouette's and hunting jackets.  I'm trying to bring in more color and jackets that function in multiple ways.

Has manufacturing ethically been a challenge and do you see more ethical practices catching on and taking off?
Manufacturing in the US is not dead.  It is hard to find, but possible.  It concerns me greatly that we are shipping so many of our skills overseas.  My own department at Columbia College is starting to cut back on sewing classes since so much of that work is done in other countries.  It think it's huge mistake given the fact that garment construction is still done almost entirely by people, it' not automated or robotic.  I've noticed a lot of start-ups embracing US manufacturing.  And yes - I hope it takes off!
Liz and I also discussed how she went about marketing her coats and turned out to be a little luck and a lot of trial.  She was introduced to some editors at CS and NS magazines who ran pieces on her line which really helped.  She's also reached out to many Chicago boutiques to run trunk shows which helped her get her name out there, sell coats and some of the boutiques ended up placing orders.  Finally Liz suggested trying the markets for creatives like Dose and Renegade Craft Fair.  Even if you don't sell a ton, the exposure and people you meet are worth it.

Congrats, Liz!!
You can visit Liz and try on her designs at one of her Chicago area trunk shows and events including Felt Chicago in Logan Square on October 8th.   For more on what Liz is up to and what inspires her, follow her on Instagram at Coat Check Chicago.

parsley juice: recipe and health benefits


With unique health benefits including cancer fighting compounds, parsley juice just might be the next green juice hit.  While it's been a popular addition to juices containing mostly kale, celery, spinach etc, it actually makes a great star ingredient as it contains potent antioxidants and is a good source of vitamins C, A, Folate, K and Iron.  But possibly most intriguing is the action of the volatile oils contained in parsley leaves that have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies.  For this reason, parsley is known as a "chemoprotective food" as it neutralizes particular types of carcinogens, especially those found in cigarette smoke and those formed from grilling food.


Additionally parsley is easy to grow on your own (coming back year after year if properly maintained), relatively inexpensive to buy (a little bit goes a long way), and the italian flat leaf variety has an earthy taste that I find less bitter than kale but with equally beneficial health benefits.  FYI, parsley juice shouldn't be consumed while pregnant as it's a potent diuretic that some believe can induce labor.

Parsley Juice Recipe
makes 3 one cup servings:

2 cups packed flat leaf parsley (not as bitter as the curly variety)
1/2 large cucumber peeled
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup water
a few ice cubes
Blend (I use the Nutribullet) and enjoy!

affordable modern leather side chairs


I have a love for tan leather chairs and the fresh warmth they bring to an interior.  These sculptural leather side chairs will add a modern finishing touch to your interior without breaking the bank.  Here are 4 of my favorites...







hyaluronic acid rich foods and skin benefits

Hyaluronic acid, found abundantly in young skin,  supports skin cell renewal, builds collagen and allows skin to attract and retain water.  As we age, the levels of hyaluronic acid decrease causing our skin to lose elasticity, wrinkle and sag.  But there are certain foods that can help your body maintain and even replenish it's levels of hyaluronic acid (HA).  Recently, Olivia Munn posted her beauty secrets, including the hylarunic acid/skin/diet connection.  She claims her high HA diet has helped her skin look younger.  Since she looks AMAZING, I'll have what she's having!


Here's a few foods to add to your diet to help prevent and even reverse the evidence that we're not quite 26 anymore...

Bone broth:
When the bones, cartilage and ligaments of chicken, beef and other meats are slow cooked in water, the hyaluronic acid (and other valuable nutrients) is released.  Here's a link to making your own bone broth.  You can also buy bone broth and Kitchfix in Chicago makes great beef and chicken broths.  Organ meats are also high in HA.  Be careful to choose organic when eating organ meats as toxins can be found in the organs of non-organically raised animals.

Grapefruit:
Grapefruit is particularly high in naringenin, a natural compound that prohibits the effect of the enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid in the body.  Tomatoes and oranges are also high in naringenin.

Root vegetables and other magnesium rich foods:
The villagers of Yuzurihara, a small town 2 hours north of Tokyo eat a diet high in root vegetables and researches believe it may be the hyaluronic acid stimulating magnesium that's keeping them looking and feeling great well into their 90's (despite much of the population being lifetime smokers). Magnesium is needed to stimulate the synthesis of HA in the body.  Since many of us are deficient in Magnesium due to poor diets and poor quality soil, I would suggest Magnesium salt baths in addition to eating plenty of foods high in Magnesium (like sweet potatoes, green veggies, avocados, nuts, seeds, beans etc.).

Just some food for thought...

organic, healthy and gluten free meal delivery in Chicago

Busy schedules, picky eaters, dietary restrictions and good old-fashioned exhaustion shouldn't keep you from eating nourishing, real food.  These three Chicago food delivery services are bringing affordable meal delivery to you without a major commitment, but still with plenty of taste and real ingredients.  All of the ingredients used are listed making these ideal for anyone who's paleo, gluten-free or with any other allergies or food intolerances.  See, pizza isn't your only option...

Sprig
Sprig delivers lunch and dinner (two of today's lunch options pictured below) and the prices are very reasonable!  There are veg, gluten and dairy free options as well as add-ons from juice companies and even desserts available.  The food is great and super convenient.  We've even had it delivered to the park for an impromptu picnic!

Follow Sprig on Instagram and download the Sprig app for even more temptation...

Radish
Radish gives you 7 different options to choose from each night (dinner delivery starts at 5) and each is more of a side-serving size (and price).  I like this because we can satisfy different taste buds.  The food is delivered in about 20 minutes and the app is super easy to use.  Check out Radish on Instagram for more.


Kitchfix
After enjoying our second breakfast at Kitchfix this morning (the cashew yogurt and grass-fed beef bone broth), I can say it's delicious and inspiring!  I tried a few things but wanted it all!  Everything is gluten, dairy, corn and soy free making it great for paleo and allergy diets.  The veg options looked amazing too!  They also use local produce and grass fed and pasture raised animal protein.  You can stop into Kitchfix and pick up their pre-made items or have them delivered but for delivery, you have to order at least 1 day in advance.  Kitchfix on Instagram will inspire!

 This paleo (almond crust) pizza looks amazing!!


affordable wall art

Affordable and inspired wall art can easily be found online if you know where to look.  Here are my favorite sources to help you add a personalized and finishing touch to your home.

Minted
Minted is probably my favorite resource right now.  There's a great selection and it's a user-friendly shopping experience.




Kristi Kohut- A Chicago-based designer.  Read her guide to Chicago art galleries.





2.  Etsy
I could get lost on Etsy for hours, but I especially like that I'm "shopping small" so to speak.  There's beautiful things to be found on Etsy!






3.  Society 6
You can even make phone cases out of the art on Society 6.  There's plenty of choose from here.





4. Artfully walls
I love how Artfully walls puts the art into galleries so you can shop the gallery or see how your favorite piece would look in a group.  They also do a good job of dividing things into style and price.




Now that you have your art, here's a tutorial from The Everygirl on how to curate and hang a gallery art wall.  

Enjoy!
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