Waking up in Norway with a cold plunge in the icy fjord, followed by a delicious breakfast of salmon on dark bread and berries with yogurt while plotting the long days mountain adventure was a dream for this food and mountain loving girl.
I love travel when the food and activities of the day help you feel your best.
Norway is top for me in this department.
The green forests, snowy peaks, sod roofs, icy fjords, clean air, charming and colorful houses, and delicious foods all helped Norway win my heart.
Some of the food there is not my favorite (brown cheese anyone?) but there are so many foods that not only taste delicious but also work with my body. Think wild mushrooms, brightly colored berries, wild salmon, an assortment of nuts and seeds, warm soups and yummy stews, and dark delicious bread.
This place is heaven. Here are a few shots from our trip there in June about 6 years ago now that I am still savoring and trying to relive with my Viking Sauce……….
Anderson’s Viking Sauce
I use this delicious sauce to flavor yogurt, or in soda water to make a delicious berry drink, or even on a spoon as an immune boosting tonic. Give it a try! It is rich, complex, and soothes the body and the soul.
What you will need
Elderberries- 2/3 cup dried (or 1.5 cup fresh)
Assorted berries- 1 cup
4-5 cups of water
1-2 cinnamon sticks, broken up
1 inch of ginger, grated or sliced thin
2 cups of raw local honey
Bring water, berries, ginger and cinnamon to a slow boil in a pot on the stove. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and leave to cook for about 1 hour until it reduces down.
Turn off stove and allow to cool a bit
Strain mixture into a big bowl (I use a muslin bag)
Combine with honey and mix
Store in a glass container in the fridge and use on everything! My favorite way to use it is on plain full fat yogurt with nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts and sunflower seeds and berries. But a sparkling soda water with a splash is utterly delish too. YUM
I would love to hear about one of your favorite vacation places and the food that can bring you right back!
Janel Ferrin Anderson NC FNLP DNM
Janel helps people use food and lifestyle to optimize how they feel and function. She specializes in gut health, hormones, resilience, and mountains. She is a lover of the wild and physiology of the body.
A balanced, rich, and robust microbiome is one of the major drivers of short term and long term health.
If I could only recommend one area for people to focus to ensure better overall health it would be on protecting and enhancing their microbiome. This is a core Foundation of Health.
Sometimes it feels overwhelming to even discuss the microbiome due to the fact that your microbiome is connected to every body system and cell in your body.
Your acute problem might be hormone imbalance, headaches, stubborn weight gain, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, fatigue, immune issues, skin rashes, boating, etc……………but the root cause could be in your gut.
I have found that no matter what you are trying to heal or repair or rebalance, addressing the microbiome will help everything function better.
I will share 1 important function of the microbiome each week with 1 step you can take to optimize it.
But before we go there……… The basics- your microbiome is a unique ecosystem made of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other single cell animals. We have far more microbes than we have human cells and they cover all the various parts of our body including our gut, skin, mouth, and lungs. These microbes dictate how we feel and how we function and how we age. The science around this is exploding right now as we learn about their important role in aging, energy, disease, autoimmunity, chronic symptoms, weight gain, hormone health, immune health, chronic inflammation and more.
NOTE- If one of these tips does not feel right, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It is usually NOT the new habit but instead the state of your gut. You may need to restore a dysfunction or a microbial imbalance before you can use these ideal tips. Easing into one at a time is always best.
Let’s dig in! 1 week at a time.
#1- A Boundary
Week #1- Your microbiome is your major guardian, protecting you from what enters your body.
According to Dr. Kiran Krishnan- Microbiologist at Microbiome Labs, Our gut is where we are most exposed to the outside world. This is why most of our immune system resides here.
Our digestive tract is actually considered OUTSIDE THE BODY. The guards that protect what is allowed to come into the body are the MICROBES in our MICROBIOME (and the mucus layer they directly impact). If there is an imbalance in your microbiome, there is not proper protection. (1)
“If your microbiome is robust and diverse there is amazing protection and improvement in our health and wellness in the short term and long term” says Dr. Krishnan. (2)
We want to absorb nutrients from our food but keep out harmful substances such as mold, viral toxins, bacterial toxins, environmental toxins, undigested foods, etc.
When this barrier function is not working (aka leaky gut), we can absorb these substances and the result is chronic inflammation. And the thing is, this chronic inflammation goes above and beyond digestive issues. In this case we might see symptoms like- brain fog, achy joints, headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and more inflammatory symptoms and disease progression associated with again.
A leaky gut, which is the root of so many chronic issues, starts with an imbalance in the microbiome, the guards are down and the mucosal barrier is disrupted. And again, digestive issues are not even present in these situations yet, the gut is the root of the problem.
I have heard this roughly likened to a castle wall (the thin layer of the gut wall) being guarded from invaders by soldiers standing guard (the microbes in your gut). When the guards are few in number, or are made of disruptive characters, invaders can easily get in and the wall is destroyed. The guards are VITAL.
One of the most harmful things that can move across the boundary from the gut into the body and cause problems in this situation are Endotoxins, or toxins made in the body. These include LPS or lipopolysaccharides that are made from gram negative bacteria. They belong in the gut but NOT in the bloodstream. When they enter the body through a leaky gut from an imbalanced microbiome it becomes a highly toxic compound that acts as a root cause for hundreds of chronic illnesses says Dr. Krishnan. And again, these are NOT digestive issues. (2)
Week #1 Tip- One way you can protect the health of your microbiome is to EAT A WIDE VARIETY OF FOODS, including all of the colors at every meal. Diversity is KEY as the different microbes eat different foods (think a variety of veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans). Try new foods each week
Each of the different microbes in our gut feed off different foods. This is why a diverse diet is key to long term health above and beyond nutrient wise. Even if you eat a salad every day, change it up, get new veggies, add different nuts, seeds, fruits, fresh herbs, spices, healthy oils, clean proteins, etc. Download my rainbow food tool here to help.
REMEMBER- if eating a diverse diet does NOT feel right, get CURIOUS around what might be going on in your gut and your microbiome. You may need to rebalance your microbes first. (See my video here on HEAL vs IDEAL)
#2- POSTBIOTICS communicate with other parts of your body
Week #2- POSTBIOTICS ARE FUNDAMENTAL FOR OVERALL HEALTH.
The friendly microbes in your gut feed off prebiotics and the result of this process are compounds called postbiotics. These postbiotics are one important way the microbiome communicates directly with the immune system, the brain, the skin, our hormonal system, and every other cell in the body. This is huge and we are learning more about this everyday as research in this area is growing fast.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are a type of postbiotic. The one SCFA we hear a lot about is Butyrate. Butyrate is a POSTBIOTIC that is made when bacteria in the gut feed off certain fibers. You have to have the good bacteria and you have to feed them the right foods to get these postbiotics that we need for optimal health.
Butyrate makes us more sensitive to insulin, it helps us to use fat for fuel, it feeds helpful microbes so they can grow, it talks to the immune system, and it is the main fuel for the gut wall so the gut can repair itself and provide a healthy boundary.
Other postbiotics impact our neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, tryptophan and influences our mood in this way. Others impact the brain through the vagus nerve and there is a lot of research happening in that area now. Other postbiotics include B vitamins, vitamin K, amino acids, and antimicrobials that keep harmful microbes from growing (4).
There is growing evidence that certain postbiotics positively impact allergies, eczema, colic, defense against viruses, weight loss, joint pain, eye issues, heart disease, constipation, diarrhea and other IBS and IBD symptoms and may even have anti tumor properties (5,6).
We are continuing to learn a ton about postbiotics and how they important they are for our health and homeostasis. Make sure you have a healthy and diverse microbiome, that you are feeding those microbes well, and that you have the right environment for healthy microbes to grow- and boom, your body will make these essential postbiotics for you. More on how to do all that coming!
Week #2 Tip- Tending to your microbiome is a bit like farming, you need to seed properly, feed them properly, and provide the right environment for the good microbes to grow. When it comes to seeding the right microbes it is important to either eat fermented foods daily, such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, yogurt, or fermented veggies or take a researched and proven effective probiotic regularly (don’t waste your money with so many that do not have proved impacts). I recommend people take specific probiotics a few months each year. Click here to see my favorites and basic protocol for microbiome support.
Hello and welcome! I am Janel and I am obsessed with the science around how the human body functions and what impacts it. I help people use food and lifestyle to feel their best and to support short term and long term health. There is always a way to optimize how our unique body functions. Get curious with me. Learn more about me here and learn about working with me here
Gas and bloating are signs that something is off digestively.
I find it most helpful to address and reverse WHY gas and bloating might be happening, but there are of course ways to reduce symptoms while working to reverse the root cause.
What are some root causes of gas and bloating?
Insufficient digestive secretions such as enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile.
Bacteria that belong in the large intestine that have migrated and are living in the small intestine and fermenting certain sugars
A bacterial or fungal overgrowth
Problems with motility (peristalsis or your migrating motor complex)
Eating too fast or swallowing air
There are a lot of ways to improve symptoms. Three things that can help while you explore and reverse WHY you might be experiencing gas and bloating are to try
eating more cooked vegetables instead of raw ones,
pureeing foods more,
using carminative tea.
Cooking and pureeing veggies makes them easier to break down digestively. Some people need to avoid certain veggies until the imbalance is corrected but cooking and pureeing works for many, depending on the cause.
When your body talks (aka signs and symptoms) it is telling you something, not working against you. Get curious!
A few things to notice and record if you experience gas and bloating are- When do the symptoms occur during the day? What makes them worse? What makes them better? When did they start? Are there certain foods that you can’t eat? How long after you eat do they occur? First thing in the morning? For women, are they cyclical? Do your symptoms occur with other symptoms? What does your poop look like? Any undigested food there? Are you eating when you are stressed?
Gut tests are also a great way to look into digestive health, gut inflammation, digestion secretions like bile, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, immune activation, microbes and more.
There are all sorts of fun details to dig into.
There is a lot you can do to bring balance back to your gut. And since gut imbalances can lead to all sorts of other problems, again, it is best to resolve what is driving them instead of just covering them up or living with them. I have seen people’s life change when they improve their gut.
I get fired up about the idea of Total Load or Total Body Burden. This is a big concept that gets overlook when we are looking for 1 cause for our health issues or 1 magic bullet to solve our problems.
I see a lot of people getting stuck looking for this 1 thing driving their problems. I also see medical providers dismissing things because it does not directly cause one specific problem. People often forget the impact of the accumulation of things over time. Welcome Total Load.
This is a foundational theory in functional and holistic nutrition and it helps us to see how food and lifestyle can shift the terrain in the body towards greater health in a powerful way.
The theory of Total Load is an important and empowering one to consider if you want to both improve chronic symptoms or how you feel now AND if you are hoping to prevent future health issues from surfacing as you age. It helps us see how working on many little things can have a big impact on our health even if we can’t find 1 cause for things.
The basics go like this-
We all have a metaphorical bucket. Various things fill our bucket over time. When we are physiologically healthy or resilient our body can usually keep up with this burden. But when our bucket overflows from either 1. too much coming in or 2. from not moving things out or 3. a small bucket, we can become overwhelmed and we might experience signs, symptoms or illnesses.
This bucket concept can be used to think about our EMOTIONS, our IMMUNE HEALTH, TOXINS/DETOX, DIGESTION, and much more.
This concept also helps us to remember that each person is unique, that we are impacted by things differently, that all of our body systems are in fact connected, that everything we do makes an impact on how we feel and function, and that 1+1 does not always =2 when we are talking about things accumulating over time.
Let’s dig into what impacts our bucket size-
The first important thing to realize is that each of our buckets are a different size and drain at a different rate. So what determines this resilience or our body’s ability to handle this burden? The size of our bucket and how fast it drains depends on several things including-
Our genetics and what genes are expressing themselves (various SNPS impact how well we do or don’t detox and may need more support),
It depends on our nutrient reserves and how many phytonutrients and antioxidants we consume/digest/absorb,
It depends on how well we sleep and our circadian rhythm,
Lifestyle habits that support detoxification such as sweating, moving our body, not eating 24 hours a day, etc
Next, let’s consider what fills our bucket day to day and over time–
Singularly the things that fill our bucket might not cause a problem but over time they have the potential to accumulate, contribute to dysfunction, and overwhelm our body’s resources and ability to process them or heal. These substances that contribute to our body burden or total load include-
Toxins from the air we breath and water we drink
Chemicals on our food such as fertilizers, pesticides, etc
Heavy metals and EMFs
Chronic infections such as Lyme, Epstein Barr, etc
Mycotoxins from mold, bacterial overgrowth in our gut, yeast overgrowth such as candida
Endotoxins (toxins that come from inside our body such as LPS)
Chemicals from cleaning products, fire retardants, skin care products, furniture, flooring, etc
Problems with digestion/absorption and our microbiome
So again, we are built to be resilient, we have evolved to handle various stressors and our body is detoxing all day. However, we did not evolve to face the amount of stressors filling our bucket today. In addition, to compound the problem, our food supply is less nutrient dense today with our depleted soils and monocropping and our modern lifestyle habits often do not support resilience. I have heard this referred to as an evolutionary gap and we are in it.
But this is not all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite.
Often we can’t find one cause for our problems (although how great when we can!). But when we can’t find the one cause of our signs/symptoms or chronic disease or the one magic bullet to find relief doesn’t exist, there is still a lot we can do to impact how we feel and function. We might not always have the answer but we can improve our body’s resilience and ability to process the things coming at us.
If you have have frustrating chronic issues such as skin rashes, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, memory problems, chemical sensitivity, etc or if you want to optimize how you age, there is a lot you can do today with food and lifestyle to make an impact and improve your body’s resilience.
Start with improving how you drain your bucket, reduce what is filling your bucket, optimize digestion/microbiome, and give it time.
During the Nourishing Spring Cleanse and Liver Love we will be supporting our body’s and liver’s ability to ‘lighten the load’. It is no magic bullet but it is one way to make an impact and give your body a needed rest. We work on removing insults while adding nutrients and lifestyle to support our body’s detox ability.
During Foundations of Health we will be introducing all the most powerful lifestyle habits slowly over time to increase resilience as well as eating for health and optimizing digestion. This program was designed to build resilience no matter where you are at. We work on all the things that increase our ability to drain our bucket as well as reduce what is coming in.
Most people have ‘aha’ moments as they take this TOTAL LOAD concept forward into their lives. Does this resonate for you?
Here is one of my favorite recipes for a clean home cleaning product to replace a toxic one-
1-1/2 cups Water
1/2 cup White Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dish Soap
12 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil (optional)
What can you do to give your body a break and lighten the load?
I get fired up about the gap in healthcare and I’m not sure why we don’t address it more openly.
First off, there are a lot of magnificent doctors, nurses, and other medical workers out there doing important and hard work. I’m married to a brilliant doctor and my mom is a wonderful nurse.
There are a lot of people with chronic health issues today who are not getting the support they need around their health.
Both of those things can be true. (note, we will come back to that idea, it’s a big one)
These people who are struggling with chronic health issues need more.
More time to be seen, heard and understood.
More curiosity around what might be going on in their body.
More empathy around their story.
More focus on WHY symptoms are happening and what is driving them.
More support to make sustainable changes that impact health.
More attention and help tracking signs/symptoms over time.
More education around what is going on in their body.
More practitioners who know how to methodically use food and lifestyle changes to support each person’s unique physiology.
More practitioners who can refer them to others who can help support their health journey.
More support in addressing unique health issues and goals even if there isn’t a diagnosis, aka help functioning better.
More focus on preventative measures to move towards health and aging healthfully
Chronic health issues do not happen overnight. There is a progression and usually several factors at play. In many cases symptoms are not even the problem but instead information that something is going on in the body.
People come to me all the time with issues they have struggled with for years. These often include unresolved chronic headaches, bloating, memory problems, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, anxiety, pms, body aches and pains, weight gain, difficulty paying attention, brain fog, rashes, immune problems, memory issues, etc
I have heard time and time again how frustrating and hopeless this can feel. Often these people have seen doctors, maybe multiple doctors, and nothing seems to come up.
And honestly, I have heard doctors on the other end talking about how frustrating this population can be. And I get it. Our medical system is not designed for people with chronic issues. They are incredible when there is trauma, or surgery needed, when a life saving medication or therapy is required, etc.
But again, there is a growing population that needs more AND there is a lot that can be done to improve signs, symptoms, and disease process even if your doctor does not know about it. There is a ton of new research and clinical evidence showing that food, nutrients, herbs, gut health, chronic inflammation, and lifestyle changes have a huge impact on how your body functions and how disease progresses and how genetics express themselves. Chronic disease does NOT happen overnight but instead it is a slow progression.
I have decided to stop arguing over western medicine vs natural approaches and I am working instead to fill this gap the best I can.
There is so much work that needs to be done here.
There are people who do work slowly filling in this gap, who track history, timelines, story, who discuss physiology and how the body systems work together and are connected, who teach people how to listen to their body with a scientist’s mind, who are okay not knowing the answer right away but instead can sit in a place of curiosity while we investigate, who understand the nuances of how food and lifestyle impact each body uniquely, even impacting genetics and impacting how we age and who are happy working alongside physicians and any medical team.
I am thrilled to be part of that system to fill the gap.
I really feel like if we as health and wellness practitioners could acknowledge our own limitations as well as what our strengths are, we could truly serve people extraordinarily. Because as I said earlier, there are incredible doctors AND people with chronic issues who need more. Both can be true (thanks for that empowering phrase, sister Brittany).
Have you experienced this gap? As a practitioner or patient? I would love to hear about it and talk about it more openly.
Janel works and plays out of Truckee/Tahoe and is endlessly passionate about helping people understand their unique body better. Janel helps people use food, lifestyle, herbs, and nutrients to shift the terrain in their body towards greater health and function. She works one on one and in groups settings.
What we eat has a huge impact on how we function and our health but equally important is how we break down those foods and how we absorb those foods. The best foods in the world can only work their magic if we are able to access and use the nutrients.
We now know that our food is way more than just calories. The foods we eat are information for every cell in our body and are what our cells need to grow healthy tissues, fire our nervous system properly, fight viruses and bacteria, grow bones, think clearly, detox chemicals/meds/hormones/etc, make enzymes/hormones/neurotransmitters, and so much more.
But first we need to properly break down our foods and then absorb our foods effectively. So many of us are not doing this efficiently and while this can prevent us from using all the nutrients improperly digested food can also cause acute problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, inflammation, and more. No thank you.
No matter what health issue you are working on, starting with the gut from top to bottom will support any/all of the work you do. No matter what fancy protocol you are following, gut function is key.
Here are 5 simple ways to enhance digestion so you can fully use all the nutrients you are eating to support your health today and for decades. Try adding a new one each week and see how your feel.
1.Breath 3-5 times before you eat. Taking the time to breath calmly before you eat impacts digestion in a few magnificent ways. We cannot digest our food when we are stressed. We need the parasympathetic part of our nervous system (aka rest and digest side) to be activated in order to secrete stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile, which are all needed to break down our food and absorb the nutrients in them. The time it takes to stop, slow down and breath also allows us time to smell our food which also activates digestive secretions and blood flow to the gut so we can properly break down our food. So many of us are rushing around throwing food into our mouth and not setting up the environment for digestion. (I even do this when I am eating on the trail and especially if I am ever eating at work or on the run.). So for a week try breathing 3-5 times before you eat and see how you feel.
2. Chew, Chew, Chew. Chewing is one of the first steps involved with digestion. Digestion is a cascade of events that relies on the completion of the steps before it. When you chew your body is queued to make secretions needed for digestion/absorption. The longer you chew the longer your body has to get ready for digestion and in addition, the longer you chew the greater the surface area of your food so these digestive juices can easily act upon it, breaking it down more effectively and efficiently. Chewing alone can relieve gas, bloating and abdominal pain for many. “Eat your drink and drink your food” is a quote I love and one that helps me remember how important it is to chew our food until it is liquid and soft (plus ‘chewing’ our liquids like smoothies allows our body time to release those important digestive secretions that it won’t release if you guzzle down your smoothie or juice too fast). Try counting how many times you chew each bite today and then try chewing until your food feels like a liquid. Try chewing 30-50 times and see how it feels. If you tune into how that feels it can become a habit to chew your food like that regularly and in result improve how your body functions and feels. And guess what, you can do this if you are eating on the trail too!
3. Drink raw fermented apple cider vinegar in water 20-30 minutes before you eat a meal, similarly lemon water works for this. The low pH of apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach encourages your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which is essential to break down proteins and to absorb important energy nutrients like iron and B12. Stomach acid also helps kill pathogens that enter through the mouth. It’s a common misconception that heartburn and GERD are symptoms of too much stomach acid, but in reality, these are typically an indication of not having enough stomach acid (PMID: 27574495). We want our stomach to be very acidic, around a pH of 1–2. Start small but shoot eventually for 1-2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or 1/2 a lemon) in 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before you eat. If you feel a warming under your ribs on the left side that means you can scale back or eliminate this as you have sufficient stomach acid. Although this is a gentle practice, if you have inflammation due to GERD or any issues with stomach acid please work with your healthcare provider.
4. Try herbal bitters with your meals. Herbal bitters are a wonderful addition to support digestion as they stimulate gastric juices such as hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and bile to support the breakdown and absorption of food. I like spraying bitters in my mouth or before a meal but my kids like spraying them in their water. You can take them with your food or after. They definitely live up to their name (they are super bitter) but as you reintroduce this important flavor back into your life they will become more tolerable. Bitters also support fewer sugar cravings. There are many wonderful small batch herbal bitters that you can find at farmers markets or in your local health food stores but I love the ones from Herb Pharm which come in a spray bottle for easy use. I love encouraging people to use these during our spring cleanse where we focus on loading up on fresh seasonal foods and elixirs to support our liver and our body’s ability to detox.
5. Stimulate your vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is what controls your digestive juices and motility of your digestive system. We need it working properly in order to break down our foods and pass them through the system in a timely manner, we don’t want things moving too fast or too slowly (aka poop). We even rely on good vagal tone to keep the bacteria in our gut in the right places so they don’t cause problems elsewhere (aka bloating, burping, gas, etc). Low vagal tone has been implicated in everything from Parkinson’s, to bloating, constipation, Fibromyalgia, IBD, hormone problems and more. It is the biggest nerve in the body and communication goes both ways from your brain and gut and from your gut to your brain. If our gut is not happy it tells our brain and if our brain is stressed it impacts our gut. A few ways to easily tone your vagus nerve is to hum, sing, gargle, or chant every day. I try to hum every morning when I am filling up my lemon water and tea water. Deep breathing is another wonderful way to stimulate your vagus nerve. Monitoring your heart rate variability is a great way to tune into the health of your vagus nerve.
This is only a start but these 5 pack a big punch in supporting your body to digest and absorb the food you are eating better. In result YOU function better and address many annoying signs and symptoms.
The best foods in the world will not work and can even cause problems if you are not breaking them down effectively, absorbing them and moving things along in a timely manner. Plus, our digestive system is the gateway between the outside world and the inside world. It is directly connected to our immune system, our nervous system, and the health of every cell in our body. Poor digestion can be the cause of so many problems that don’t feel like they have anything to do with the digestive system (think headaches, fatigue, joint pain, hormone problems, insomnia and more).
This is one reason I love Functional Nutrition. We focus on the roots of health, the root cause of symptoms and HOW THE BODY IS FUNCTIONING, not just covering up symptoms. People often (and understandably) spend time chasing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, bloating, etc. Before you jump in on a fad diet or herb make sure your body is functioning. When you address the roots you can make an impact on the entire body. Using food and lifestyle to support the body to function its best is powerful way to optimize health no matter where you are in life or on the health spectrum or no matter what other medical therapy you are using. Starting with the basics- GUT HEALTH and DIGESTION– is one of the first steps for all of us.
Give these a try and let me know how it goes.
Join the SPRING CLEANSE and we will be adding all of these (along with loading up on nourishing foods to cleanse, detox, rejuvenate and release the heavy energy of winter).
Hope to see you soon.
Janel Ferrin Anderson. NC, FNLP, DNM
Janel is a board certified nutrition consultant, a certified functional nutrition practitioner and has her doctorate in Natural Medicine. Janel is obsessed with helping people understand their body better and helping them get to the root of what is causing health problems. Using food, lifestyle, herbs, supplements and testing she helps people shift the terrain towards health.
Did you know that your poop holds a lot of information about your health and how your body is functioning? It is an indicator of health in a lot of ways.
We are not taught enough about how important our poops are and we certainly don’t talk about it enough (unless you work with me of course;)).
Our poop quality, quantity, frequency, form, shape, smell, color and feel tall us a lot about our health. Our poops and the health of our colon relate to our mental health, our immune health, our energy, hormones (both sex hormones and thyroid hormones), and more.
Poop is one of the 3 most important places to focus on when dealing with any and all health issues or goals. Weather you are dealing with cancer, sleep problems, mental health issues, autoimmune problems, energy needs, body aches, skin issues, menopause, headaches, etc – your poop needs to be addressed.
Want to know what the other 2 areas to address are no matter what your health issues or goals are? Poop, Sleep, and Blood Sugar. More on those to come.
For now, check out the Bristol Stool Chart here to help you begin to understand your poops. That’s right, every time you poop have a look. Record it even. Start noticing what impacts it. We are shooting for type 4.
So what are we looking for exactly?
If there are any undigested food particles in it
How easy is it to wipe? Is it greasy? Sticky?
Does it feel like you fully evacuated it all?
How does it smell?
We want to poop every day, have it come out easily, with form, no undigested food particles, it should break off pretty easily, wipe easily, and feel like you got everything out. It should feel good and not take much time at all.
If you are NOT having these poops regularly, it is time to get curious and see what your body is telling you.
Here are a few things your poop might be telling you (this is not meant to treat or diagnose or substitute one on one medical care but instead is meant to educate. Consult your physician with any medical questions or concerns)-
Color- Bilirubin is made from the breakdown of red blood cells and flows with bile, from the liver, to the gallbladder, and into the small intestine to be eliminated with your poop. It is what colors your poop brown! If your poop is cream colored it might mean you have a liver/gallbladder issue. Yellow poop might mean you have absorption problems. Green is usually okay and often happens when people introduce a greens powder. Black might mean you have blood up high in your small intestine while red might mean you have bleeding lower down in your large intestine. Sometimes supplements color our poop too.
Texture– Consult your bristol stool chart. We are aiming for soft poop but with a solid form, might even be C shaped. If it is rock or pebble shaped you are probably constipated and need to work on softening it up with liquids and fiber. If your poop does not have a shape you have diarrhea and might need to investigate inflammation, poor digestion, food sensitivities, fake sugar consumption (or sugar alcohols), or more. If your poop is fluffy, with small soft pieces you may have a hard time digesting fats.
Smell– Does your poop smell? The bacteria in our large intestine and what we feed it creates and changes the way our poop smells.
Float– This might mean there is gas trapped in your poop. Are you gassy too? You might need support with digestive enzymes or rebalancing your gut microbiome.
Food- If there is undigested food in your stool it might mean that you need to chew more, need more digestive enzymes, or more stomach acid. Start by chewing more and breathing before you eat. Seriously! It’s magic. I love using digestive bitters as well as a gentle way to boost digestive juices. No matter what you are eating if you are not digesting at and absorbing it you cannot use those nutrients as precursors to your other body systems.
Oily, or messy wiping, or sticking together (not a clean break)- This might mean you are having a hard time digesting fats. Some people need to consider some liver/gall bladder support, bitters, enzymes, or ox bile. Do you have your gallbladder? Track when this happens and what you might be eating that relates.
Transit Time and Frequency- How often are you pooping? This is really important. We want to poop 1-2 times a day every single day. After our liver detoxes substances such as hormones, toxins, etc they are sent out with our bile to our poop. We want them leaving our body in a timely manner. If you are not pooping 1-2 times and have slow moving bowels you might want to look into how your thyroid is functioning, food sensitivities, your microbiome diversity, and your water intake. If you are rushing to the bathroom in an emergency and having watery poops that is also something to get curious around. Do you have anxiety? Food sensitivities? Maybe lacking proper digestive juices? Get curious and track what you are eating and when you are pooping.
So start being curious about your poop. Our gut health and our microbiome influence all of our body systems including our mental health, immune health, hormone health, how we age, and more. Perfecting your poops might be your ticket to feeling your best!
Janel is a board certified nutritionist, a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner, and has a doctorate in natural medicine. Janel helps people understand their body and supports them by using food and lifestyle to optimize health.
Who out there doesn’t want to be more resilient? I know I do. There is a lot we have control over and a lot we don’t have control over. Building resilience is one of the greatest things we can do for our health so we are better prepared for whatever is thrown at us.I would love to quickly share 5 of my favorite health promoting things with you as we move into the new year. And as always I would love to hear what your favorite new tools are for finding balanced health and RESILIENCE.
Simple Self Care- The more I learn about health and science the more I come back to how important the small boring daily habits are for longerm health (not the shiny expensive new tricks and hacks). These everyday self care things fill up our health account so we can draw on it later and put us in touch with our body/emotions/needs. Try focusing on simple self care this year instead of a fancy new year’s resolution. I really love this idea. What fills you up? What small things can add to your daily life? Pick one to start and do it. Some ideas include
3 minutes of mindful breathing every single morning. Inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 4. After, consider how you want to feel today and say no to anything you can that does not bring you closer to that feeling.
A glass of water, lemon water, or apple cider vinegar water upon waking up every single day.
Take a walk everyday at lunch every day, even just 10 minutes.
Take 1 minute before you eat to stop, breath, smell, see, and be grateful for your food. Then eat slowly and chew mindfully.
A daily 10 minute stretching routine.
Spend 2 minutes every night before bed considering what you were grateful for in your day, even the hardest ones
Prioritize sleep. Seriously. Every night try for 7-8 of rejuvenating sleep. If you are not getting it find support. Start by setting a non negotiable bed time. For me its 9-10pm.
Which ones do you do or sound like something you could add? I would love to hear. I would love to hear how you feel after a month or 2 or 12 of doing these small things. You can find me on instagram or send an email.
Cheers! or not….. I love that so many people take January as a time to refrain from drinking. What a great ritual. I did this last year and really saw some big changes especially with my night sweats! I can’t believe I used to have them (they have disappeared due to several hormone balancing efforts but this had a big impact). Two of my favorite cocktail replacements are having fresh ginger, soda water, and stevia or a glass of soda water with natural bitters (Herb Pharm makes some great ones that I spray right in). Both are so simple and so yummy.
Later last year I found Dry Farm Wines and am thrilled to find out that I can have a glass of wine every now again and don’t have headaches or wake up in the night. It had been a long time since I enjoyed red wine and I am so happy to be able to do this every once in a while now. The trick is Dry Farm Wines only supplies wines that have no sugar, are all organic, have lower alcohol, no toxic additives, no sulfites, use wild native yeasts, and are paleo and keto friendly. Crazy awesome. I am so happy to have found them for an occasional glass of wine. They offer 100% money back if you don’t like it AND you can get a free bottle of wine with your first order if you use this link (dryfarmwines.com/MountainRebalance).So an alcohol-free or headache/sugar/toxin-free cheers to you
It is official, I have found my favorite gluten test. Vibrant Wellness offers an extremely intelligent, specific and detailed test in regards to gluten with about 40 markers involved. This includes separate proteins, peptides, non gluten components, gut permeability, inflammation, genetics and more. It has been a game changer for really understanding if/how gluten is impacting each individual’s body. Their prices go up in 2 weeks so if you are interested in finding out what is true for you give a shout. They offer other similar, incredibly intelligent testing for other foods like eggs, dairy, grains, gut health, neuro etc.
Using a continuous blood sugar monitor has been one of my favorite new ways to tap into my body and connect some dots. It has been an incredible way to see how I am reacting to different foods, intermittent fasting, how I react to drinking alcohol, stress, exercise, coffee, what might be waking me up at night and tapping into how it feels when I have low blood sugar (sleepy and anxious for me!). Because dis-regulated blood sugar, along with dis-regulated stress, are 2 things that disrupt hormone balance this is a powerful way to optimize hormones through perimenopause and menopause (plus with estrogen changes our blood sugar sensitivity changes too!!). I did it for 4 weeks and will periodically check in again during the year, if needed. Since I do not have diabetes it was not something my doctor was interested in and I paid with cash for the sensor which was $65. As a nutritionist and hormone specialist I can attest that it is incredible and empowering information if done alongside someone who can help interpret the information in a relevant way.
Being someone who understands the world through systems I have always loved thinking into and digging deep into the intricacies of the Immune system and how our world impacts how it functions. Obviously, in our current state of affairs, this has only been magnified. I think I will write a love note this year for valentines day to the efforts of the immune system (did you read my love letter to my gut a few years back? Dorky fun there). There are a lot of wild claims out there about immune health. I have been continuously digging into the research and the physiology of it and have been careful not to make any big shiny claims. I will always be careful to assess the science without any other motivation. A few food/lifestyle things I am standing by is the importance of gut health (including digestive function and microbiome integrity) when it comes to supporting the immune system functioning optimally. I am standing by the importance of reducing chronic inflammation in the body to support the immune system functioning optimally. These both look different for everyone and some people need to do more work and digging to find what might be driving imbalances. I am standing behind eating foods that are loaded with nutrients that our immune system needs (think nuts, seeds, diverse colorful veggies, fruits, healthy fats, clean proteins). In times that a boost of immune nutrients is needed I am a fan of increasing those specific and researched nutrients for our family with supplements. This winter, in particular, we are including zinc, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, fish oil, probiotics, and bee propolis. You can check out some of my favorites here.
Wishing you all a year of resilience and love. Wildly, Janel
Please follow Mountain Rebalance on Instagram for recipes, research, hormone tidbits, digestion facts, endurance boosters, and other fun health related topics. I always appreciate referrals! Tell you family and friends about my offerings if you think they would benefit
Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP DNM NC
Janel is passionate about helping people learn about their body and supporting them to use food, lifestyle, and nutrients to help their body function optimally.
I love celebrating the season and the idea of giving but the pressure and hype of the winter holiday just doesn’t feel right to me.
So how can we take the good intention of giving, make it health promoting, slow things down, sprinkle on some cozy, and minimize the pressure?
First of all, feel free to make the holiday what you want it to be. What brings you joy? Do more of that. What brings you stress? Do less of that. You get to decide what you want your holiday to feel like.
Here are 14 unconventional but health promoting gifts that you can give yourself and others this holiday season to slow things down and bring back the warm and tender feelings of the winter holiday season.
Quiet. This is number one because I think it is the most important and wonderful gift you can give yourself this holiday. I know there is not a lot of extra time in the day, I am realistic with 4 kids and two working parents. But even just 4 minutes in the morning or anytime can be magic. Pick a time of day. Light a candle, take a bath, take 5 rounds of breath or do a body scan. Whatever way you choose, choose to add some moments of quiet in your day this holiday starting today. Do you hear that? Me neither. Ahhhhhh.
Tea. I really believe in the healing qualities of tea physically, emotionally and spiritually. Tea can bring so much to your life. Share a pot of tea with your family or friends or enjoy a cup by the fire by yourself. The nutrients in tea are wonderfully bioavailable or easy to absorb, and tea can bring ease and calm to a crazy day. Some favorites of mine to help relax include lemon balm, catnip, nettles, chamomile and motherwort.
Dark. Bring it in. The pace of the holiday can be loud, bright, and busy. I invite you to welcome in the dark where you can. The winter is meant to be darker and a time of turning more inward and restoring. Truth is we need dark to help our circadian rhythm which is responsible for so much including metabolism and sleep. Try leaning into the dark by using more candles this time of year, keep the mornings a bit darker and the evenings darker too. Try keeping off the overhead lights a bit and see how that feels. If you need to be on electronics at night get a blue light filter for your computer or glasses to block out the blue light. The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda is a great read about how important our circadian rhythm is.
Processing our stress is so important for overall health. This holiday explore a new way to process stress better. Try guided imagery, or meditation, or a body scan, tapping, or breath practice. There are classes, books, and apps to help. I love the simplicity of the Calm app, or the wonderful options at Sounds True but there are thousands of good ones out there including lovely community groups that meet regularly. Don’t overthink it, just try something.
Get outside. Take a walk outside every single day this month. Yes, that is a gift to yourself. Even just 10 minutes is good. Listen to the sounds, notice the trees, the birds, the air, the sun, the smell, the ground underfoot. Or, if you want to connect with a friend ask them to meet you for walk but only if it brings you joy and peace. However you do it, alone or with a loved one, bundle up and get out there.
Learn a new hobby. This can be so fun so think outside of the box. Maybe it is wood work, pottery, painting, parkour, dance, guitar, a new language, tai chi, etc. What have you always wanted to learn? Sign up! Buy yourself or loved ones some classes this holiday.
Bring some art into your life. Maybe you can check out a new art exhibit with a friend, or a concert, or visit local art studios, or get tickets to the theatre, or get a good coffee table book of pictures of people around the world, or pick up some colored pencils and paper and color or draw or paint.
Spend some time cooking this holiday. Either learn a new recipe, ask your friends or children to cook with you, or prepare some healing foods for yourself or loved ones. Ideas include sauerkraut, granola, juices, broths, elixirs, soups, energy balls, or sprouts. These foods make wonderful gifts too. Drop a juice off at a friends or package up some granola. Want support? Get yourself or a loved one a lifelong membership to the Healing Foods Club. Loads of videos, recipes, nutrient info and more. Check it out and use coupon HOLIDAYBLISS for 25% off this December.
Consider a charity to donate to and donate whatever you can, big or small. I like to think in terms of one local charity, one national charity and one international charity. What matters to you? Find a charity that makes a difference in that area and go for it. Ideas include women’s health, environmental issues, children, local shelters, protecting the wilderness, refugees.
Explore your gut. If you have a bit more money to spend this holiday on yourself it might be fun to do a functional test to see what the condition of your gut is like. Since our current and longterm health is rooted in our gut it is fun to see what microbes are there, how they might be impacting our hormones, how we are digesting food, the integrity of our gut wall, if we have gut inflammation, etc.
Clean products. The holiday is a great time to get yourself or loved ones some clean lotions or oils or soaps or scrubs, etc. The Environmental Working Group is a fabulous resource to find the cleanest products that will also support healthy hormone balance and cellular health in your body.
Journal. Again, it often seems like we don’t have time to journal but it can be an incredibly helpful and rewarding ritual to journal each day. You don’t need to overthink it. Just sit down for 5 minutes and write whatever comes to your mind. Cozy up by the fire if you can or just at the kitchen table works too. The more you do it the easier it will become. The first step is getting yourself a journal. Wrap it up for yourself or just jump right in. The winter months bring a quieter and more reflective energy than the summer months. The winter is the perfect time to start or reignite your journaling practice.
Be playful. So often as adults the holiday brings us stress and we forget to play. Play board games with loved ones, have snowball fights, go ice skating, make your own wreath, go sledding, make a snowman, have a bonfire outside and invite friends over to roast marshmallows, dress up and ski with your friends, etc. Whatever play looks like to you. Bring in some lighthearted joy this holiday.
Sleep. Sleep is critical for our health and is often under valued during the busy holiday. Gift yourself a bedtime this year and stick to it. Create a lovely ritual around your sleep. Add a relaxing bath of lavender and sea salts before bed or start a worry journey to release any worries from the day before you go to bed. Make sure your room is cool and dark to get the best sleep and leave your phone far away from your bed, better yet in another room. If you want a great book on sleep check out Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker.
Happy holidays. I hope you enjoy some quiet, dark, cozy, and meaningful times this holiday with your loved ones. Spend some time thinking about how you want this holiday to feel. Set an intention. I would love to hear how you do this. Please share with us here or on instagram at @mountainrebalance
Janel Ferrin Anderson. NC FNLP DNM. Lover of the mountains, the seasons, all things wild, and also helping people understand the physiology of their body and how food and lifestyle impact their health. Janel works one on one and in group settings both online and in person out of her Tahoe/Truckee office to help people optimize how their bodies function.
One of the most powerful ways to live a healthy and long life is to cook whole, real foods at home. It also happens to be delicious and low cost to boot. The sad thing, most of our kids are not learning to do this.
I am not going to lie and say it happens overnight nor is it a clean process, wink wink, but that day you come home from work to a hot and nourishing meal waiting for you will not disappoint, I promise.
There were some tears shed the first time I came home from work and carpools to my daughters home cooked meal waiting for me. Those tears in the moment were all about how much joy it brought me but really the magic is in knowing that she knows what makes a nutritious meal, knows how to make a grocery list, shop, and cook. The clean up? Well, when the kids cook at our house that usually falls on the rest of us. We certainly aren’t perfect.
Kids can start cooking as soon as they can stand and stir, gaining more independence as they get experience. By 3rd or 4th grade they can definitely start to get what makes a nutritious meal or snack (see below). In my experience, by middle school they can be planning meals, shopping, and cooking meals on their own. But moving slowly is important, and keeping it joyful. Whatever age they start is better than not starting. Jump in.
The first trick is teaching them what makes a healthy meal. This comes from day after day and year after year modeling with your own meals and asking them 1. What are you eating for protein? 2. What colorful veggies and fruit are you eating? and 3. What healthy fat have you included? The rest is just extras after these 3 parts. They will pick up on this and this is a gift upon itself to instill on them.
Another part involves giving them experience in the kitchen. There are times this has looked like world war 3 came through but it is worth it. First helping you with cooking/preparing dishes regularly. Then, letting them have at it. Let them start small, cooking or baking what they want but having the space and encouragement to keep at it, flop after flop, success after success, no matter. There can be a lot of joy here and also lessons about flexibility and having a plan B. Let them use the knives, the oven, the blender, whatever. You can be there guiding and supporting at the beginning.
Then there is making the grocery list and planning the meals. Let them help you pick meals for the week. Write them down and have them write out the grocery list as you dictate it at first, or have them make a list for the thing they are cooking. Showing them how to organize a grocery list into one column of pantry goods, one column of produce, and one column of fridge/freezer foods, or however you do it. Regardless, have them helping to write a list.
Another element is getting them comfortable at the market. Bring them along and have them pick things out, have their own list, push the cart, pick out produce, etc. Teach them to pay, bag, load the car, unload the bags and put them away. You can just make this normal.
Last but certainly not least is sitting around the table and enjoying the food. We are not going for perfect here. Whatever part of the meal they contribute is great. Show them gratitude for their efforts. Talk about what they enjoyed, what was hard, what they learned. And above all, eat up!
We have our kids pick a meal once a month, make the list, shop, and cook. At first there is a lot of hand holding and that is all good. Keep the kitchen joyful and playful. Flops and drops are okay. Then over time let the have more freedom and space to work on their own. Having 4 kids, this happened at different pace for each one. Some jumped right in and others need more support (emotionally and motivationally, 🥴). But it will happen and I truly believe it is the greatest gift we can them.
I grew up with the kitchen as the heartbeat of our house, as my mom says. We were always in there. We were never a sit-on-the-couch family but instead a stand or sit around the kitchen and someone was always cooking or baking something. It was fun, it was perhaps loud, but learning to touch, cook, and enjoy food was a central theme and seeped into our bones.
Today with phones and gaming, sports, binge watching- spending time together in the kitchen together offers a unique pace that can bring deep connection and joy. And lets not forget, health.
Below are my kids go to meals. We are currently compiling a packet for the Healing Foods Club with my kids favorite recipes to cook for dinner along with a kid friendly guide to how to build a meal. Check out the Healing Foods Club if you are interested in using your kitchen as a source of lifelong health.
Happy holidays, xo, Janel
Scarlett (middle school), her favorite meal to cook is herb baked chicken with onions and lemon, a greek salad with olives and cucumbers, and lemon garlic potatoes.
Levi (highschool), his favorite dinners to cook are pad thai and Japanese ramen bowls. We are working on filling in the veggies in these but they are scrumptious.
Gretal (4th grade) is more of a gourmet baker right now and helps me with side dishes for dinner. Her favorite thing to make is a gluten free strawberry cake roll (pictured and taken by her). It is currently my favorite dessert!! She is also mastering gluten free tiramisu. Yum. She also loves taking photos of the food and drinks she makes. I will find dozens of them on my phone😍
Clay (4th grade) is probably our least interested and least patient in the kitchen kiddo but he is working on it and can make a beautiful salad. He wants to master double stuffed potatoes. We are learning that if he can find a dish from a book he has read he is more interested. What do the Hobbits eat anyway?
Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP, NC, DNM
Janel is a Functional Nutritionist, a board certified holistic nutritionist, and a science based wellness educator out of Tahoe CA. Janel is obsessed with helping people understand how their unique body works and how nutrition and lifestyle impact their health. Janel specializes in gut health, hormone health and works with people who want to optimize how their body functions. Janel explores what might be driving signs and symptoms instead of just covering them up. She teaches several groups each year and also works one on one with clients. When not working, Janel can usually be found cooking, reading, or playing hard outside and enjoying the pace of the wild.