Avocado, Spinach & Date Smoothie

This creamy and delicious treat is packed with omegas, niacin, zinc, protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese and healthy fats that will keep you satisfied for hours. The Coconut, flax and chia all have anti-inflammatory properties that keep your body in balance and leave you feeling cleansed and nourished.


2 Cups Coconut Water

1 Cup Spinach

4 dates (pitted)

½ large or 1 small Avocado

½ tsp Flax seeds

½ tsp Chia seeds

Crushed ice as desired

All ingredients can be mixed together in a high powered blender.  If a Vitamix or other high powered blender is unavailable, make sure to grind the seeds and finely chop the dates prior to mixing.

Breathe Into Your Digestion

I sat on my meditation cushion and could not stop thinking:  What am I going to eat for lunch today?  What do I need to buy at the grocery store?  Oh no, I forgot to call back the school.  I never did pick up that dry cleaning. Meditation can not possibly be a beneficial exercise, I am not getting anything out of this.

I always thought it was a positive trait to be a thinker, but now I’m beginning to doubt it – I can’t turn it off.

I told my yoga teacher about my inability to stop thinking.  This is not working for me- surely there is something else I can do to get the same benefits one gets when meditating.

Just come back to the breath, she told me.

Everyone has thoughts, even the most committed practitioners.  Do not judge yourself or think that you are “bad” at meditating because your mind wanders and you begin to think about things – random things – things that might even make you anxious.

The key in that moment is to notice the thought, see it float by, then return to focus on the breath.

When you concentrate on the breath, and return to focus on it once your thoughts are adrift, you are training your brain to focus on one thing.  You are channeling your mind to go inward even during moments of distraction from the outside world.  This takes much practice.   Monks have been at it for centuries.  Even the most committed yogis practice returning to the breath.  We all have thoughts.  We all wander.

When we live in our mind, in the past or the future, we might hold onto pain or regret.  We might live in fear – which inevitably affects our physical body.  Focusing on the breath and living in the moment is how we begin to let go – let go of our tension and let go of whatever negativity might be occupying our thoughts.  This is how we truly release the stress that can affect our physical body.  When our body is stressed, our digestion suffers.  We suffer.

By focusing on the breath we can learn to return to the most basic moments in everyday life.  The next time you are in a stressful situation or you feel discomfort in your body, take a moment to sit.  In your home, in your car, in a café.  Stop and inhale deeply, expanding first in your belly, then the ribs and then the chest.  Then on an exhale in the opposite direction.  If you do this for several breaths and focus on what you are doing, a calm will return to you.  Breathe into your digestive system and notice how it feels.  Just as in meditation, it might feel odd at first.  You might not see any immediate changes.  But keep trying, a little every day.  You will eventually feel a shift.  You will feel more connected to your body and you will have the skill to calm your body and your mind in any given moment. You will be alive in the present moment – not living in your mind – able to help your body get the calm that it needs.

On Meditation, Loneliness and Inflammation

Talk amongst yourselves . . .

A recent study confirmed the long held belief in yoga and in healing circles that meditation decreases illness, inflammation and depression.  One thing however that this new study suggests is that people who meditate are also less lonely- further decreasing inflammation and depression, leaving practitioners of meditation in overall better health.

Loneliness is one of those human emotions that all people experience but few discuss.  Talking about it can make us seem needy or depressed, and could possibly make us more lonely by alienating us from other people.  That said, we all have moments when we feel alone, unheard or situated in a place where we cannot relate to anyone else.

For many years I struggled with colitis in silence- I never shared any real details of the disease with anyone for I feared others wouldn’t understand my plight or would find it boring.  Sometimes, I just didn’t want to bring myself down by talking about it.  Now, I realize that my avoidance may have been one of the things that kept me sick for so long.

Many people are finally speaking out about Colitis and Crohns Disease and those suffering are finding community through the internet and other channels.  Hopefully this will eradicate the notion that people suffering from Colitis or Crohns have to go it alone.  Because now we know, this could be one of the important factors preventing us from healing ourselves.

Say What? There’s Dairy in my Indian Food?

You’d think I’d have learned by now. One would assume that after eating dairy free for three years I would know to ask restaurants if there are any secret milky ingredients or definite no-nos in my dinner that are not mentioned on the menu. I assumed that because so many vegetarians and vegans I know eat Indian food, I could safely order an Indian dish or two and not worry about it. I also assumed, incorrectly, that since Indian food follows Ayurveda, translated as the “traditional medicine" of India and known as the sister science of yoga, it would be dairy free. Enter ghee, clarified butter made from cow’s milk. As I learned from Cooks Illustrated last month, ghee is from South Asia and is used in most Indian (as well as Bangladeshi, Nepali, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani) cuisine as a base for many dishes. Here is what you need to know about ghee: Ghee is composed almost entirely of saturated fat, which is the good fat that we all need. Ghee has a very high smoke point and doesn't burn easily during cooking. Because Ghee is composed of short chain fatty acids, it metabolized very readily by the body. Therefore, ghee might work for you if you are cutting out casein, the protein found in dairy. But, if you have an issue with lactose and you eat some ghee, you might as well chomp on butter. For me, lactose is the enemy. Cutting dairy out of my diet has been amazing for my wellbeing, but since I quit it, having even the smallest bit of lactose can send my body into a fit of rage. So, last night when I went to our local Indian restaurant to pick up dinner, I asked if they used ghee in any of the dishes we ordered. The woman told me that they do not use ghee, rather, they use vegetable oil. Ok, not as authentic, definitely not as healthy given the trans fats, certainly not Ayurvedic, but for me, better than ghee. When I explained to the restauranteur why I asked the question, that I did not eat dairy, she said, “oh. Well, our curries all have cream in them”. Whoa! Who knew that for so many years I was not eating simple ghee, but cream- the creme de la crème of intestinal irritants?!? I wondered how many times I’ve eaten dairy inadvertently and why I was unable to detect it. I suppose I always chalked it up to my body’s natural cycle of having good days and bad days and contributed pain and other symptoms to factors that I could not isolate. Now, I know better. Even the most health conscious among us can get into trouble when we make assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions . . .So now I just ask. I got my meal made sans cream. It was delicious.

Soothing Vegan & Gluten Free Butternut Squash Soup

As the weather begins to chill, try keeping your body warm with some comforting soup. I love Butternut squash for its delicious flavor, brilliant color and wonderful health benefits. This recipe is simple to make and soothing for the body with its healing and delicious spices.* You will want: Butternut Squash - 2 medium or 1 large 2 medium-large sweet yellow or white onion 2 large or 3 medium cloves of garlic 4 sage leaves 3 thyme sprigs 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon coriander 1/2 teaspoon cardamom 16 oz vegetable broth (more or less depending on how thick you like your soup) 1/2 cup- 1 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon sea salt cracked black pepper to taste

Put the whole squash in the oven at 425 to roast, about 40 minutes, until tender. It is finished when your fork can easily slide into the squash and the skin will be well done. While the squash is roasting, chop and saute onions in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Cook until translucent or even burnt, depending on your taste. Add garlic, crushing it first to maximize its flavor. Peel skin off the squash, remove the seeds and add to onion and garlic mixture. Add vegetable broth and remaining ingredients. Cover and let simmer on low for 10-30 minutes, adding more broth if needed. Puree with hand held device or mix in blender and serve!

*Try not to be overwhelmed when you see the amount of spice I've added to this dish. You can add more or less of each ingredient, take out what you don't like or add your own that I didn't suggest. Each time I make this soup I try different flavors depending on my mood, what my body is craving and what I have on hand!

How to boost your smoothie to get the most bang per sip

One of the easiest and most delicious ways to use spices and supplements is to add them to a morning smoothie. I often add some or all of these to my kids’ drinks and they don’t even realize this is their most nutritional meal of the day! Here are some basic ingredients that you can find in the bulk or supplement section of your local health food store or Whole Foods that will give you real health benefits with very little effort: 1) Cinnamon – just adding ½ - 1 tsp of this ancient spice can reduce inflammation stopping arthritic aches, headaches and migraines, keep candida at bay, have antioxidant effects, fight bacteria, boost cognitive function and memory and help lower blood sugar and cholesterol. WOW, who knew, cinnamon!

2) Cardamom – even as little as ¼ tsp will be enough to get the benefits of this aromatic spice. Cardamom helps with inflammation and digestion, it helps with congestion, serves as a detoxifier of your kidneys and liver and even helps with asthma, allergies, PMS and halitosis! The flavor can be quite strong for some people, but it blends nicely with berries and cinnamon.

3) Coconut- adding a little shredded coconut (or chunks of fresh coconut) can help with so many things! Coconut has been a wonder food for many cultures and has been used for millennium in traditional and now in modern medicine. Among the many benefits of coconut are improved digestion and absorption of other vitamins, nutrients, minerals and amino acids while preventing candida, viruses and bacteria that cause infection.

4) Cacao – either as a raw powder or in nib form (great for added texture), cocao acts as an antioxidant that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow, all while elevating our mood (as chocolate usually does!)

5) Probiotics – just adding ½ tsp (or one capsule) of a multi-flora probiotic can help the gut flora by restoring good bacteria that we often wipe out over years of antibiotic use. This good flora is vital in proper digestion and in reducing and preventing inflammation.

6) Micro greens or spirulina – We’ve all been told to eat our green vegetables as it is the best source of vitamins and nutrients as any food on earth. By tossing anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of microgreens or spirulina (plant based protein) into a smoothie, we can get the benefits of leafy greens as we start our day!

Identifying Stress

STRESS! That ubiquitous word. The root of all disease. “Are you stressed?” The word takes your shoulders up to your ears as soon as you hear it. Even the sound of the word is harsh. When I hear that word I think, I’ve got to DO something about this stress, I must get rid of it. Putting that kind of stress on yourself to get rid of stress can be, well, stressful. Want to lower the risk of cancer? Don’t stress. Want to get rid of your headaches? Reduce stress. Want to stop having gastrointestinal woes? Manage your stress. Want to fall asleep, insomniac? I would, if I could stop stressing long enough about how I’m stressing which is causing my insomnia.

When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 14 I was told that I had to reduce stress. So, what did that mean to me back then- um, don’t bother going through adolescence? Don’t bother going to high school or trying to get into college? Clearly, I was not able to slow down life at that point, did not completely understand that the doctors were actually telling me to manage my stress and even if I had understood the advice, I was not self aware enough to change my stressful circumstances.

So many diseases supposedly are caused by this fiend, this stress, that causes problems in the gut, inflammation, headaches, backaches, muscle aches and insomnia. But what is it really? In the case of insomnia, thinking about not being able to fall asleep most definitely makes it harder to do so. But in the cases of other disease, is it really all in our head?

Much of this blog will look at the role that mindfulness plays in our physical state. Indeed, themindfulgut was born out of the idea that our mind and our gut are deeply connected and interdependent, so much so that we can often heal our bodies just by calming our minds. Even the most conventional gastroenterologist will tell you that the stress you have in your mind will most certainly contribute to your GI troubles.

Yet there is another kind of stress that is more tangible- it is the physical stress that we put on our body, that may or may not have born out of stress but has transformed into an actual physical problem. This often happens without our knowledge. This is not to say that our mind cannot help our bodies change, simply that there might be physical obstacles that might be hindering our mind’s ability to change our body. Indeed, all the yoga in the world might not be able to cure all of one’s physical ailments.

What I found was that the times in my life where my colitis flared, it wasn’t in my worst emotional states- it was when I put stress on my body physically. In college, I flared after I abused my body by binge drinking. In law school, I got sick from eating greasy and fatty food late at night while studying. Then the worst of it came during both of my pregnancies and the subsequent years spent nursing when my colitis and psoriasis flared out of control. The great physical stress of pregnancy and the depletion of nutrients from nursing are a huge stressor on the body- and one not mentioned in the What to Expect books.

Physical stress can stem from, among other things, an excess of stored toxins in the body, muscle tightness or tissue blockages left unattended over the course of many years. Often times, detoxing our bodies by eliminating known stressors such as gluten, dairy and animal fats helps to rid the body of accumulated toxins. Other ways to remove physical stress and obstacles are Massage, Myofascial Release and craniosacral therapy. By being mindful and paying attention to what physical obstacles we might have, and what irritants are harmful, we can start to understand what is aggravating our system. Once we address our physical obstacles and work out whatever these blockages are, we will see the deep benefits of relaxing and calming the mind. We can then go deeper, enabling us to function and heal more efficiently.