My work focuses on mental health, gut health, and metabolic health. You already know from reading this newsletter that each one of these influences the others. Not surprisingly, there are lots of nutritional and integrative interventions that can support healing these systems. I address one of them in this newsletter thanks to a reader’s question: fasting.
You can’t swing a short stick without hitting a podcast or news article about fasting. The data is pretty compelling - but is it right for everyone? I dig into pros and cons, and also provide viewpoints on fasting that often get left out.
“I would love to know more about fasting. It is promoted strongly by some of my favorite podcast sources, and I appreciate the idea of more "metabolic rest" especially for menopausal women, but I find fasting to be stressful, headache inducing, and maybe not worth the benefits.”
Fasting is one of the darlings of the nutrition world.
The evidence promises health improvements across the body via a very straightforward, free-to-use route: simply don’t eat periodically for an extended period of time. The research literature supports this intervention.
Certain models of intentional fasting have demonstrated routinely improved: blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, use of fat for energy, weight management, mitochondrial health/energy production, brain health, and mood; and a decrease in inflammation, cancer cell proliferation, oxidative stress, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness.
So much to like, right?
I would be remiss in not pointing out that some form of fasting is an ancient ritual in each of the world’s five major religions. Those who participate report a remarkable feeling of lightness and being closer to their higher power. Often this is a water fast, limited food over a day(s), or a dawn to dusk fast, as in Ramadan, and typically it is in combination with prayer and other religious practices.
How is fasting done?
Just so you are in on the lingo, in the medical and nutrition worlds “fasting” means a period of time of not eating. “Fed” or “feeding” indicates times of consuming food and the post-consumption metabolism of it. So in research, they distinguish between a “fasted state” and a “fed state” for a subject. A “feeding window” indicates how many hours a day are designated as available for food consumption.
At the American Nutrition Association summit in October, I heard a compelling presentation by Sebastian Brandhorst, PhD of the Longevity Institute on the role of fasting in healthy aging. Spoiler alert: fasting supports longevity. He defined the primary forms of intentional fasting this way:
Time Restricted Feeding
A TRF feeding window can be as narrow as 4 hours to as long as 12. TRF follows circadian light/dark rhythms - eating during the day and not overnight. The last meal is no later than early in the evening, and the next meal is taken sometime after waking the next day. This provides the body time to focus on tending to itself: sweeping out metabolic trash, repairing, rejuvenating, and building, which is what it does during the quiet hours of night and sleep.
A second longevity expert, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, whose life work researches healthy aging using food and lifestyle, points out that the benefits of TRF can be reached with a mere 12 hour stretch of not eating between dinner and breakfast. Finish dinner at 7:00pm, and eat again as early as 7:00am. Voilá! You have done time restricted feeding.
Some choose TRF daily, and others insert limited feeding windows a few times a week. It’s a flexible method that can be individualized. Dr. Brandhorst described that there are many benefits to TRF. One is that humans are social, and social factors influence when we eat. TRF days and timing can be chosen by the individual and so can be socially adapted. A key point is that TRF does not restrict calories. The health benefits echo the ones described in my first paragraph, with the bonus elements of an improved quality of life, higher energy, more restful sleep, and lower hunger at bedtime. In short, TRF enhances both lifespan and healthspan.
What could go wrong?
Going to my reader’s question, TRF, especially with a longer fasting window, can be a trigger for those who have low blood sugar or suffer from migraines. Those who suffer from chronic stress, including the stress and energetic drain of poor sleep, also may feel worse trying TRF. During these times, the body requires more support nutritionally and regular energy inputs. Remember that lengthy periods of fasting or highly calorie restrictive diets can deplete nutrients, even with refeeding. Too short a feeding window can prevent consuming the amount of food/nutrients (both macro- and micronutrients) that our bodies need. If you are already consuming the minimal amount of calories your body needs to function well (a form of mild CR), adding TRF may tip into damaging instead of health promoting.
TRF can undermine our health if we don’t start with a foundational food plan that is nutritionally rich. A body that already experiences nutritional deficits will suffer rather than improve, especially as a fasting window is widened. On top of that, most who feel deprived on a fast (especially CR) are more likely to react with a binge - either because their body is desperate for easy energy or because they feel psychologically isolated from the pleasure of food - or both. Pregnant and nursing people should not participate in TRF - or any fasting - due to the need for regular energy and nutrient intake.
If you want to try TRF, choose the least limited fasting window of 12 hours and see how it goes. Widen the fasting window gradually (or don’t!) to find your own sweet spot. Remember that TRF does not need to be daily or even weekly, and you don’t need to choose it at all.
What else should I know about fasting?
There’s one concern I always have about any program that restricts food in any form: could it trigger health issues, a disordered relationship with food, or an eating disorder?
The fewest health benefits and the biggest risk comes from extreme calorie restriction (CR). Dr. Brandhorst explained that it does not provide lasting benefits for weight loss or cardiovascular disease. In fact, he rather dryly pointed out that starving animals live longer - unless it’s overdone and they die.
Too many commercial weight loss diets involve a form of CR fasting that ultimately results in muscle wasting and nutrient depletions. They are unsustainable and eventually fail those who try them, often triggering new health problems, disordered eating, body distrust, and eating disorders. I suspect this topic is of interest to many, so I will happily explore it more deeply in another newsletter.
From my viewpoint, any fasting program has the opportunity to lure the participant into ever more extreme versions of itself, especially with promises of weight loss or the new shiny object - living long past 100. This is a significant disordered eating/eating disorder risk factor especially for tweens, young adults, and - surprise! - middle aged women.
Well managed Time Restricted Feeding can be an incredible way to shape our health for the better.
A key point of any eating plan is tuning in to how it makes your body feel. If it’s not working, become aware of what’s not right for you so that you can make choices that help you feel most well.
I recently attended the American Nutrition Association’s annual summit, where the theme this year was Healthy Aging and Longevity. You’ll recall that I mentioned in my first newsletter that most Americans experience an average of 16 years of reduced quality of life because of poor health before they die. Whew! That’s a long time to feel lousy or not be able to participate fully in your life.
The issue is not necessarily, “I want to live a long time,” but “I want to be vibrant and active until my body says it’s time to go.” Sure, both would be great! Even so, thanks to cellular pre-programming, we can’t know for sure how old we will get, though with our modern medical interventions humans are living more into the “oldest old” category (and just a reminder of the average of 16 years of reduced QOL).
Where is this programming? It’s in our built-in roadmap: DNA. The kicker is that our DNA behavior is not set in stone. We can influence our health outcomes by knowing about our genes. As soon as DNA is exposed to experience - and that first exposure happens in utero - the results of DNA expression can be altered. With that alteration comes a cascade of changes in health.
So without further ado, let’s talk about genes through my nutritionist lens!
Here are a few cool things to know about genes:
Our genes are natively designed to interact with nutrients in our food in a particular way.
But no two humans are exactly alike. Some people have gene variants that may cause them to need more of a nutrient in order for their bodies to benefit from it (but not always!). Two examples are folate and vitamin D.
Some people have a different genetic interaction with a certain nutrient than the general population, and so giving more of it to them to support their health could backfire. Vitamin A (especially for smokers) and vitamin E (for people who have a stronger response to it, leading to higher all-cause mortality) offer intriguing insights into this.
What we eat, our experiences, and the lifestyle choices we make (e.g. sleep, movement, mindfulness, stress resilience, toxin exposure) can actually “open up” or “shut down” gene expression.
This process is called epigenetics. Genes are set for what they produce, but epigenetics alters how they produce. For example, thanks to environmental inputs, genes that speed up cell division could be more “open” at the same time that genes that fight cancer are more “closed.” This makes that person more likely to develop cancer. Fortunately, the reverse is also true!
A highly studied aspect of epigenetics is methylation. Methyl groups are tiny one carbon molecules with three hydrogen atoms attached, written like this: CH3. They have a metabolic role supporting critical biochemical processes, like clearing out old estrogen, making mood chemicals called neurotransmitters, and repairing broken DNA strands (and, gosh, so much more).
Epigenetic action is a huge role for methyl groups. They attach to genes to inform how they express themselves. For example, every cell contains exactly the same DNA, and they need to define themselves so we have the right cells in the right spots. Methyl groups shut down genes that aren’t right for a cell, so a liver cell is a liver cell, not an eye cell.
Too much methylation (hypermethylation) can be a contributor to some diseases, like breast and ovarian cancer. Too little methylation (hypomethylation) can be a contributor to ADHD, autism, hypertension, thyroid disease, and more.
So, how do you know what to do?
We can’t control a lot of methylation - it’s built in to make our cells work right. However, a bunch of it is influenced by our choices and behavior - epigenetics. For example, certain foods support methylation so that it’s reliably, consistently health promoting - all those methyl groups landing just where they should. Behaviors like routinely not getting enough sleep, overconsuming alcohol, or chronic stress put methyl groups where we don’t want them.
The key takeaway is that too much or not enough methylation, or methylation of the wrong genes, can do a number on our health. Our food, experiences, and lifestyle choices influence the methylation of genes and cause epigenetic changes in gene expression.
Risk vs Outcome
As I mentioned, a lot of people think their genes are their health destiny. That view takes intricate, nuanced, and complex processes and boils them down to an either-or statement. I have great news! Your genes are not necessarily your health destiny!
Our genetic makeup developed over millennia and is even being shaped now. An example is the lactase gene that allows people to digest the lactose from dairy. Most people’s lactase genes are automatically turned off (methylated) when nursing ends, but some people can digest dairy just fine. Genes like this have variants - meaning they were altered permanently in some people due to environmental circumstances. We don’t always know why genes act as they do, but there are some super smart people working on that!
A key point is that genes interact with the environment, and that interaction can end up making them more or less active. So when we hear that someone has a gene variant that is associated with a disease, that does not automatically mean that the person will get that disease. What it means is that there is an increased risk of developing that disease. However, the actual outcome may be perfectly lovely health.
Knowing about our risk factors and degree of risk allows us to know where we might want to place added attention. Since our external inputs can change our gene expression, knowing about our genetic risk factors allows us to figure out where we want to change our environment.
How can we find out about how our genes interact with our environment?
I offer a test by 3x4 Genetics that is designed for exactly this purpose. It’s not like 23&Me or Ancestry. It specifically tests genes that mesh with food, specific nutrients, exercise, metabolism, sleep, inflammation, detoxification, and more. This means that having this information gives you actionable information to help you stay well long into old age. Will you benefit from more folate to prevent cardiovascular disease? What about zinc and B6 to stabilize your mood? Click here for a list of FAQs, including those about privacy and genetic testing.
You can order your test on your own, but the best interpretation of the report and what choices to make to improve your health is best done with a 3x4 practitioner - and that’s me! I have access to more details and nuances when the report comes to me through my practitioner portal. Importantly, this report is like all other testing: it should not be taken in isolation from your medical and social history, signs and symptoms, food and lifestyle choices, and other lab work.
I also want to emphasize that learning about your genetics isn’t necessary to begin healing right now. It’s just one more tool in the toolbox.
How cool is it that our genes are not our destiny?
Tip of the Month
You know I’m a fan of microbes - but they really have to be the right ones! There are the “good” gut healing microbes in foods like yogurt and kombucha. There are the happy bugs in our guts that help us digest our food and underpin our positive, even mood. And then there are the nasty ones that make us sick, giving us digestive problems and infections.
Kitchen sponges and scrub brushes host that last kind. They get wet and dipped in all kinds of yuck. Then they sit around on a dish or in the sink until the next time you use them. All that time, pathogens (bugs that make us sick) land and grow on them. This is especially true when you clean items that held raw animal protein, like chicken, beef, or fish.
Hot tip! Every time you run the dishwasher, put your sponge and your scrub brush on the top rack. Dishwasher water is hot enough to kill the bad bugs, and the surfactant in the soap lifts them away. If you don’t have time for the dishwasher, toss your sponge in the microwave for 20 seconds. It won’t be deodorized (pew!), but it will be disinfected.
I’ve been receiving some questions from readers, and in this newsletter I’m highlighting supplements. Not all supplements are created equal, and not every supplement is right for every “body.”
A reader wrote to me:
“Why are plant based supplements better than drug store or carefully groomed sources of supplements?”
Supplements are a super useful tool in my work. Typically I use them therapeutically for a defined length of time to support healing in conjunction with food choices and lifestyle practices. Once my client has met their health goals, we remove them and maintain only the few that I determine will support the client long term. I always encourage my clients to return for a ‘tune up’! Supplements are not magic bullets - not another way of creating a ‘pill for an ill.’ It’s important to understand them so you’re taking the right ones for you.
The short answer about “plant based” supplements is that they aren’t necessarily better. It’s rare - maybe impossible - to find a vitamin supplement that is truly 100% food (or plant) based. Many or most of them have added commercially produced synthetic vitamins (minerals can’t be synthetic). If a supplement makes health claims based on being manufactured from whole foods to justify their higher price, read the label. In fact, always read the label to know what you’re actually consuming. Synthetic vitamins are standard. The only one I know for sure can be deeply problematic is synthetic folic acid (and it’s everywhere) - read my July ‘23 newsletter. Also, the “whole food” claim may be due to additional ingredients rather than the main focus of the product.
Beware of any supplemental “whole food” product that makes broad health claims - consider the price, the seller (is it an MLM?), and (again) read the label. Are there added synthetic nutrients? Does it seem too good to be true? Is a full list of product ingredients hard to find? What about their supposedly great research? I have tracked down touted research for MLM products only to find smoke and mirrors.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!
I’m sure you’ve noticed that many supplements (including greens/reds powders, all-in-one protein powders, and multivitamin-mineral products) have additional elements, such as herbs or spices (e.g. turmeric/curcumin, cinnamon). The reverse is true, too - an herb- or protein-based supplement might have additional vitamins and minerals.
There can be problems with this approach, such as:
Where Can I Get Good Advice on What’s Right for Me?
Many times the consumer and medical professionals wing it based on a shallow understanding. For example, very few people understand that calcium supplements intended for bone health can actually worsen heart disease by causing calcium to be deposited in soft tissue. Bone building requires several synergistic nutrients as well as particular physical stressors to make bones stronger, not just calcium. Another one is iron sulfate for anemia - constipation central and low absorption! There’s a better option. Mistakes with supplements happen all the time.
A few days ago my own mom’s eye doctor recommended an AREDS multivitamin-mineral to help prevent the progression of macular degeneration. He didn’t ask and so didn’t know that she was already taking a potent multivitamin. The double dosing could have been dangerous for her. He also didn’t compare it to her medication, and the high dose of vitamin E and other antioxidants may be contraindicated with some of her medication. I was so glad that she checked it with me first!
Avoiding this type of confusion is where a Certified Nutrition Specialist can make all the difference. A CNS knows:
Here’s Your Most Important Take Away
The most important thing to remember is that supplements that are right for one person may be useless or even flat wrong for another.
Supplemental nutrients or herbs can have powerful effects on health status. They can make all the difference to improving one person’s health and create terrible unintended health consequences for someone else.
And I love a good doctor, but most of them simply don’t have appropriate nutrition training to make worthwhile supplement and food recommendations. It’s just not their area of expertise.
In spite of the ready availability of supplements in stores and online, I 100% recommend that everyone seek the guidance of a clinical nutritionist.
Do You Have Questions About Your Supplements?
As I said, supplements can be really confusing, and not every healthcare practitioner knows how to recommend them. I offer a free 15-20 minute consultation where you can ask me any questions about the supplements you are taking!
All over the internet we see influencers talking about how we’re ‘supposed’ to eat. Sometimes they are even right (follow me on social media! 😃). This month I wanted to provide a little order and clarity out of the tangle of information we find out there. I talk about protein and give some guidance about how to make good choices for yourself. The idea is to give you a simple why and how, so enjoy my bullet points.
Let me know what you think!
- In Wellness, Mary Virginia
What's On My Mind
What is protein?
Proteins are made of amino acids (AA) that bond together to make a long strand, like beads on a necklace. The strand folds in and over itself (think of a balled up string) in a unique 3D structure to make a protein.
There are 20 amino acids total: 9 “essential” AAs must be eaten in food. The rest are “non-essential,” meaning they exist in the body. Some of those can be provided as supplemental nutrients if needed during injury or illness.
What happens when you eat protein in food?
What do proteins in the body do?
Where can I eat protein in food?
How much protein should I eat?
It’s highly individual based on your body and your life and health circumstances. I can calculate the amount that should work for you - let’s talk!
As a general rule, without any other information, we nutrition professionals calculate about 0.8 grams of protein per kg of adult body weight. That amount varies by life stage, lifestyle, and health status. Times of growth (children, pregnancy) or repair (injury, illness, older age) require more, but, again, it varies by individual.
No one wants to do math before eating, Mary Virginia.
Boy, do I hear that. The good news is that including the right amount of protein for a generally healthy body is pretty easy.
Too many details. Just tell me why to do this:
Ok, here is why:
Tip of the Month
Serving Size vs Portion Size
There is often a big misconception about serving sizes as listed on packaged foods, websites, and recipes. Many people think this is the amount they are “supposed” to eat. Serving size is not the same as portion size. Let’s clear this up once and for all!
This is why serving sizes are not rules. They are designed to help us understand whether we are getting enough or more than our body needs of whichever nutrients of interest.
Only portion sizes meet our hunger and satiety levels and fulfill our pleasure in food.
Most people think their brains, immune system, hormones, and thought patterns are separate. It turns out that they blend into a cohesive communications network that actually runs the body as a single interwoven unit.
I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this month’s topics! Please leave a comment, and let me know if there’s anything specific you want me to cover in an upcoming newsletter.
- In Wellness,
What's On My Mind
Science loves a big, complicated word. Check this one out: psychoendoneuroimmunology (aka PENI - so much easier!). Break it apart, and you can begin to see that it’s the study of the interactions between the body’s major communications systems:
Psycho - cognition, perception, mood
Endo - hormones
Neuro - nervous systems
Immuno - immune system
Logy - “the study of …”
The brain is typically thought of as the mastermind and the body as the brawn. However, PENI systems weave together the processes of the brain and the body. Think of a triangle:
They are in unceasing conversation, each one constantly influencing the others.
We are in a new world of science! PENI research intertwines solid biological systems with the realm of thoughts, consciousness, spirit, and philosophy. According to a 2004 National Institutes of Health article, “PENI incorporates ideas, belief systems, hopes, and desires as well as biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy.”
PENI research is really important to my work as a nutritionist. Nutrients and lifestyle practices provide necessary information to these four realms of bodily communication and function:
You can now see the loop of biochemistry/physiology affecting our mood and mood and behaviors shifting our biochemistry – and back around again. Food and lifestyle practices are critical to this mix. A downward spiral can lead to poor digestion, poor nutrient absorption, and disrupted elimination; blood sugar and other metabolic imbalances; thyroid dysfunction; mood disorders; and other health issues.
The good news is that an upward spiral supports healing and health. My intake assessment with clients is very thorough so that I can connect the dots between P, E, N, and I. This allows me to create individualized nutritional and lifestyle recommendations to help restore biochemical balance and overall ‘bodymind’ resilience.
What I'm Reading
Geek out with me! This is so cool…
I have been learning about the evolution and findings of PENI research in Candace Pert, PhD’s brilliant book, Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (read a concise review of it in the September 1998 Smithsonian magazine).
Dr. Pert’s fascinating work uncovered naturally occurring, mood-altering peptides (chains of bonded amino acids) and demonstrated how they bind to receptors on the surface of cells. Here’s the extra cool part: These mood-regulating receptors are found clumped together at key points all across the body, far flung from the ones in the brain scientists originally thought were the only ones. This quote from Dr. Pert captured it for me (emphasis is hers): “...what we experience as an emotion or a feeling is also a mechanism for activating a particular neuronal circuit - simultaneously throughout the brain and body - which generates a behavior involving the whole creature.”
Among other findings, Dr. Pert discovered that learning and memory creation/storage is actively facilitated by sensation - sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch - and by the emotion triggered by these sensations (remember, emotions are created by peptides binding to specific receptors on cell walls). Astonishingly, memories are stored in those clumped receptors across the body, not just in the brain. These neuronal communications are triggers for how our bodies function as well as for how we feel. “...[P]eptides serve to weave the body’s organs and systems into a single web that reacts to both internal and external environmental changes with complex, subtly orchestrated responses.”
Dr. Pert gives an example of a peptide - called angiotensin - that helps regulate fluid balance in the body. Depending on where it attaches in the body - say, the kidneys or the lungs, it might inspire us to drink more water or eliminate more water via our breath as mist. She tells us, too, that insulin is produced in the brain, not just the pancreas, which really makes you think about the role of sugars in our well-being. What do you suppose that might mean for what we call “cravings”? Are they really cravings, or requests from the body for particular nutrients or actions? What can we do to interpret and act on them so we can feel good? This is the work my clients and I do.
It’s no wonder that Dr. Pert is considered the mother of PENI research! It leads to a huge cascade of implications for identifying and treating infectious and lifestyle diseases!
Tip of the Month
Have you ever had to think something over, and said, “Let me chew on that”?
Here's a cool little factoid about chewing:
Your teeth have roots into your gums, and attached to the roots are nerves. The nerves connect to your brain so that the brain and the teeth can communicate data (e.g. whether it’s the different textures of crunchy or smooth peanut butter, or perhaps you come across a pit in your supposedly pitted cherry, or taste a piece of chicken that’s not fully cooked ).
Thanks to that data sharing and the brain processes required to work on them, chewing stimulates cognition (clearer thinking), stronger brain processing skills, better memory, etc.
So chew your food thoroughly to improve your ability to think and remember!
What I'm Reading
I really enjoyed reading Dr. Kara Fitzgerald’s book, Younger You: Reduce Your Bio Age and Live Longer, Better. Dr. Fitzgerald’s premise is that Americans live longer now, but with an average of 16 years of reduced quality of life due to illness. That’s a long time to feel bad and be on a stack of medications! Her research shows how specific foods and behaviors that support healthy gene expression will slow down cellular aging and make our cells healthier (“younger”). Those healthier cells are what allow us to avoid many diseases associated with aging, from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and all types of dementia. As a mental health nutritionist, I can tell you that eating the recommended yummy foods and adopting the very accessible behaviors also improve and stabilize mood, focus, memory, and cognition.
Dr. Fitzgerald breaks down the importance of certain teensy molecules, called methyl groups. One of the methyl groups’ many jobs is to attach to genes and turn them off or on. The process is called methylation. Methyl groups are supposed to attach to certain genes and other molecules, and when they do it right they can reduce the likelihood of disease. When there are too many of them or they attach to the wrong spots, they can increase disease risk.
This part really caught my attention. Dr. Fitzgerald points to a lot of research that shows increased cancer risk (especially colon cancer) from long term folate (or folic acid) supplementation, even at low doses (400 mcg). In this case, the folate supplement is bringing in too many methyl groups, and they are attaching in the wrong places.
Folate (aka vitamin B9) exists naturally in leafy green vegetables, beans & legumes, eggs, and other foods. Once we eat them, methyl groups hitch a ride on folate as they begin a hot-potato-like transfer from molecule to molecule, supporting important processes inside cells - like gene expression. Naturally occurring folate from food assures the methylation process works like it’s supposed to, and we become healthier. It’s when folate/folic acid is given in supplements over a long time that the research shows increased disease risk.
In my work with clients, I have seen many doctors prescribe long term high doses of L-methylfolate. That’s a supplement that already has methyl groups attached to the folate. They prescribe it to treat depression, especially if there is an MTHFR gene variation (IYKYK). Frankly, this really worries me. I certainly recommend supplements with folate or methylfolate as part of medical nutrition therapy when there is a clear need for it. However, the research shows that we can improve nutrient and methylation status more effectively for the long haul using food and lifestyle choices.
Our health depends on it.
Food for Thought...
Earth, soil, sunlight, rain - right there in your very cells.
You’ve always heard, “you are what you eat!” Well, it’s more true than you even know. Our food quite literally becomes the building blocks of our very cells and the tools that make our bodies run. The body is a web of actions; every action has an impact on dozens of others. So here’s where it all begins, and what makes our food choices so compelling to me:
We can ward off disease when we eat colorful plants
The plants and animals we eat grow out of sunshine, soil, and rain. Literally, sunlight interacts with chemicals in plants to create the color they become - the full spectrum of light: red strawberries, orange oranges, yellow squash, green broccoli, blueberries, and purple eggplants. It’s even true for brown rice and nuts/seeds, white cauliflower, all the beans and legumes, and even the plants we use to make oils, like olive trees. They soak up rain as it saturates the soil that holds them. They carry nutrients from the soil into their stems, leaves, and fruit. The plants fight off bugs, bacteria, and viruses by producing their own immune chemicals, made possible by what they get from the sun, rain, and soil. Our immune systems become stronger when we eat what makes them stay healthy.
When we eat living foods, we nourish and protect our living bodies
Even wilder, we consume teensy microorganisms along with these foods, and they make a home inside us. The collection of tiny life forms is called a “microbiome,” and what lives in our microbiome is highly defined by what we eat. Surprisingly, most of these bugs want to keep us healthy! A healthy home is a happy home! Plant-based foods rich in fiber (which feed good bacteria) and probiotic bacteria (health-promoting bacteria found in fermented foods, like kombucha and sauerkraut) support the living microbiome gardens throughout our bodies, especially in our guts. Healthy microbiomes make for healthy digestion, immune systems, organs, mood, brain, and so much more.
Food as source
Our food’s source of life is soil, sun, and rain, and our wellspring of life is our food. What we consume to a large extent dictates how our bodies function. How our bodies function dictates the state of our mental and physical health. Our food choices can make us well, all because of the earth, soil, sunlight, rain - right there in your very cells.
Tip of the Month
I’ve been thinking about one of my earliest clients, Jason. Trying to swallow pills usually made him choke, and he hated them. Did you know that 40% of Americans have trouble swallowing pills? I used to teach people how to float a supplement pill down the throat on water, but today’s tip is so much easier and better! So, Jason S, this is for you!
How to Swallow a Pill
Place the pill on your tongue and fill your mouth about ⅔-¾ with water.
Turn your head toward your shoulder as far as will go comfortably (either direction).
Swallow the water and the pill.
I am Mary Virginia Coffman (I go by “Mary Virginia”), a clinical nutritionist who focuses on mental health, digestive health, metabolic health, and nervous system regulation. My unique combination of clinical interventions, education, and coaching will help you feel well in body, mind, and spirit.