Thursday, October 19, 2017

Clean Eating Peanut Butter Oatmeal Recipe

I don’t know about you, but peanut butter is pretty close to heaven for me. If I’m in the right mood, nothing other than peanut butter will do. I mean, what’s not to love?

The funny party is, I don’t… Read more →



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Autoimmunity Factors: The Question of Th1 and Th2 Dominance

Background concept wordcloud illustration of autoimmune disease glowing lightWith autoimmune conditions, the most universally effective strategy you can employ is to reduce the inflammation response in the body. Eat Primal. Stop overtraining. Stop shortchanging sleep. Reduce stress. While going Primal slashes pro-inflammatory inputs and provides the body with ample anti-inflammatory influences, some folks benefit from—at least temporarily—taking it a few steps further with specific autoimmune protocols.

But what if you have been taking all these steps and your body is still not responding? Readers occasionally ask me about Th1 and Th2 dominance in relation to autoimmunity. What does it mean if you are T1 or T2 dominant? What nutrients respond best to both? Researchers are gaining a better understanding of cytokines and T helper cells and their role in immune responses. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Th1 and Th2 Dominance?

Generally speaking, autoimmune conditions play out through imbalances in the immune system. Frankly, the research out there regarding Th1 and Th2 dominance is fairly limited and a bit controversial, but I think it’s worth a conversation.

The terms Th1 and Th2 refer to two major populations of T-helper cells, which is a subset of lymphocytes that plays a key role in optimizing the immune system. The balance between Th1 and Th2 mediated immune response appears to play a significant role in immune system regulation. When the immune system is balanced, there is an equilibrium between Th1 and Th2 cells. However, with autoimmune conditions there are certain cytokines that become inflamed and can interfere with this delicate balance. Theory suggests that some folks have Th1 dominant immune conditions, while others have Th2 dominant immune conditions.

What Roles Do Th1 and Th2 Dominance Play in Autoimmunity?

T helper cells can differentiate into either Th1 or Th2 cells, depending on the type of pathogen that has triggered the immune response. Th1 cells are imperative for protection against intracellular viruses, bacteria and protozoa, whereas Th2 cells make interleukin required for IgE production and activation of mast cells and eosinophils important for eliminating extracellular parasites. Unusual Th1 responses have been associated with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, whereas Th2 responses are strongly implicated in atopy and allergic inflammation.

Th1-type cytokines tend to produce pro-inflammatory responses in an attempt to kill intracellular parasites and bacteria. The main Th1 cytokine is interferron gamma. Th1 Dominance is characterized by overstimulation of immune cells, and inflammation that stems from past infections, environmental conditions (diet playing a role here), and food sensitivities. Typically, Th1 dominant folks are said to struggle with brain fog, fatigue, and autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, celiac, crohns, PCOS, lupus, MS, and lyme. In other words, pretty much most inflammatory-type autoimmune conditions.

The Th2-type cytokines include interleukins 4, 5, and 13, which are associated with the promotion of IgE allergies and food allergies, lower inflammation (we’re not looking to snuff out all inflammation, which has a critical role in healthy functioning). It’s thought that these folks tend to produce antibodies to food. In excess, Th2 responses will counteract the Th1 actions. Therefore, the optimal scenario would be that a person would have a well balanced Th1 and Th2 response. Some conditions associated with Th2 dominance include lupus, dermatitis, allergies, asthma, IBS, and chemical sensitivities.

Some food for thought: Th1 and Th2 cells are each associated with specific immune responses based upon the cytokines they secrete. For some pathogens, the presence of Th1 cytokines (IFN-gamma and TNF-beta) are considered necessary. Conversely, for large extracellular parasites such as helminths, Th2-type cytokines are considered most necessary.

And another interesting tidbit of knowledge… A fetus can switch on an immune response in utero, early in pregnancy. Pregnancy is a Th2 situation, so babies tend to be born with Th2 immune responses. However, responses can be switched rapidly in the infant, under the influence of microbiological exposure or can be enhanced by early exposure to allergens. These researchers hypothesized that people who develop full blown allergies may have been born with a weaker Th1 response.

Inconsistencies in the Th1/Th2 Dominance Discussion

Human cytokine activity rarely falls exclusively into pro Th1 or Th2 patterns. Many autoimmune conditions that have been classified as Th1 or Th2 dominant fail to meet the set criteria. Th1 polarization can easily switch to Th2 dominance just through glutathione depletion. Mercury, for example, depletes glutathione, thus polarizing towards Th2 dominance. Th1/Th2 balance is also influenced by hormones and nutrients such as probiotics, selenium, zinc, plant sterols, and other hormones. Omega-3 fatty acids significantly help with a wide variety autoimmune conditions, yet have no specific effect on Th1 or Th2.

It sounds to me like a delicate dance exists between the T helper cells, and it isn’t black and white. I’m not a believer in the ability or wisdom of definitely categorizing an individual on this basis. However, there may be value in determining if an individual tends to show characteristics that lean towards either Th1 or Th2 dominance. Physicians can order a Th1/Th2 cytokine blood panel, which can help determine if you are dominant in one or the other.

What Foods, Supplements, and Lifestyle Changes Theoretically Stimulate Th1 and Th2?

A limited amount of research suggests that there are various supplements, foods, and lifestyle changes that can stimulate either Th1 or Th2—thus, in theory, balancing the two systems. I’m on the fence about some of this, but since most are recommendations I make anyway for healthy Primal living, I’d say they’re worth considering. Even if the experiment isn’t successful, you can at least know it’s safe. As always, don’t overdo—particularly with supplementation. Add slowly, and share your plans with your doctor—especially if you’re pregnant, nursing, or being treated for any health conditions.

According to the folks at Self-Hacked, strategies for inhibiting Th1 (if you are Th1 dominant) can include avoiding lectins, exercising without overtraining, and aligning your sleep patterns with circadian rhythm. (You’ll get no arguments from me here.) Likewise, suggestions also include taking vitamin A (retinol), D3, CBD oil, astaxanthin, fish oil, chromium, and choline. Spices that help inhibit Th1 include cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, mustard and black cumin seed. Food recommendations highlight fish and avocado. I can get on board with those.

Common recommendations to inhibit Th2 (if you are Th2 dominant) include sun exposure, probiotics, cold exposure, intense exercise, and oxytocin boosting through skin to skin contact. Bee products like royal jelly, honeycomb and raw honey, as well as B6, folate, B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, and iron are suggested, as are kiwi, cocoa, and coffee. (If you don’t respond well to caffeine, skip the coffee for sure.)

Medicinal mushrooms are also known to stimulate the immune system. Certain medicinal mushrooms like reishi and shiitake, and maitake can act as Th1 stimulators. Whereas, chaga and cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) may help balance the Th1/Th2 immune systems.

For any immune concerns, I believe we all benefit from grounding, play, stress reduction, sleep, and Primal nutrition. Although I’m not ready to discount inconsistencies or ignore the limited research on the question of Th1/Th2 balance, I also acknowledge it may speak to readers who are looking for answers where traditional Primal and autoimmune protocol methods haven’t panned out.

I’m curious what your thoughts are. Have you delved into the Th1/Th2 literature or employed the suggested strategies (those above or any others)? I’d love to hear your experiences, so please share. Have a great day, everybody.

 

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Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies {Gluten-Free and Amazing!}

If you’ve tried a million chocolate chip cookie recipes out there trying to find the best one, look no further. Not only do these blow other cookies out of the water, but they are made entirely without flour! It’s pretty amazing that you can make a crispy, chewy, tasty cookie without any flour, but you really can. 

One ingredient I try to limit from my diet is refined flour. Typical flour is milled discarding all the essential nutrients the original grain contained. The heat that is generated to crush the grain into flour destroys any vitamin or mineral normally found in the the grain, leaving a white powdery product devoid of any life. It’s essentially dead food. So they have to “enrich” it back by adding in synthetic vitamins and minerals.

The next part is even scarier because fresh milled flour usually isn’t acceptable for consumption because of the look, feel and smell of it. The FDA has approved over 60 chemicals for manufacturers to use to help these aesthetics and the shelf life of flour. Chlorine is used to bleach conventional flours to remove the smell and change the color. The flour is put into a gas chamber and treated with chlorine dioxide which leaches all the vitamin E out of the flour and leaves a chemical called dichlorostearic acid that remains in the flour. Additionally treating flour with chlorine can create more chemical byproducts that have been known to react to other proteins and cause nervous system damage in humans.

The good news is that refined flour is pretty easy to avoid if you know what to look for. If you see “wheat flour”, “enriched flour”, “bleached flour” on an ingredient list, this is refined flour – so stick it back on the shelf and look for alternatives. This standard applies to other flour-based foods like breads, crackers, rolls, bagels, and any commercially baked food. 

Watch out for flours in “gluten-free” cookies too…

When it comes to gluten-free cookies, they are often made with replacements for wheat flour, like rice flour or tapioca starch. Rice is known to contain 10 to 20 times more arsenic than other grains, as it tends to absorb more arsenic due to the way it’s grown. Arsenic is a powerful carcinogen that promotes the risk of several types of cancer. It’s also linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, problems in pregnancy and infant development. Tapioca flour can skyrocket your blood sugar (more than whole wheat does) and has zero nutrient value – just empty calories. I get that you don’t eat a cookie to be healthy, but I’m all for packing as much nutrition into all the foods I eat, even cookies! 

You’d never guess these cookies are flourless!

They have a texture and taste very similar to cookies made with regular flour. They won’t crumble all over the place like other gluten-free cookies you may have tried, and are rich with flavor. 

If you’ve got 10 minutes, you can make these cookies!

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and lining a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. This makes cleanup super easy!

Crack an egg into your favorite glass mixing bowl and give it a little whisk. Stir in the date sugar, molasses, real vanilla extract, and a touch of baking soda. Mix it all up well…

Measure out a cup of almond butter into the bowl and stir well to combine…

Fold in the organic chocolate chips (make sure they are gluten-free if you can’t eat gluten!)…

Using an ice-cream scoop, drop tablespoon-sized balls on the parchment-lined pan. You should get about 12 cookies out of this recipe. If the batter is somewhat loose, gently shape them into nice little circles…

Put the pan in the oven and check them at 10-12 minutes to see if they’re done. Bake for up to 15 minutes if you want a crispier cookie…

My cookies came out perfectly crispy around the edges and bit softer on the inside. They are amazing dipped in homemade coconut milk

Food Babe's Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Serves: Approx. 12 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 egg beaten
  • ½ cup date or coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unsulphured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix sugar, molasses, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add almond butter, and stir well to combine.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop 1 tablespoon size balls onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Cook for about 12-15 minutes (longer if you like crispy cookies).
  7. Place cookies on a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes.

Notes

**Please choose all organic ingredients if possible.**

3.4.3177

Kitchen essentials used in this recipe:

You might want to hide a few of these cookies away for yourself before letting anyone know you made them – they will be gone in a matter of minutes! If you know anyone who loves chocolate chip cookies, bake them up a batch. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll return the favor!   

Xo, 

Vani

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Wedding: The Reception

All of our photos were taken by Sarah Cramer Shields of Cramer Photo. Follow her online and on Instagram!

As cocktail hour wound down, it was time for the reception and dinner!

There were twin highchairs for the two baby Emersons who attended our wedding, one on each side of the family! They were the queens of the night.

Flowers

Our tables were dressed by our florist, Sandy Goodson of Verde Natural Florals.

I used my grandmother’s vintage pitcher collection for the floral arrangements, along with the wooden cheese boxes that my mom and grandmother passed down to me over the years.

The lanterns and burlap table runners were loaned to us by our friends Erin and Ben from their wedding!

I bought the pilar candles and filled votives on Amazon. The place cards matched our invites and were from Minted.

Each place also had a custom napkin I ordered from the Dot and Army Etsy store. (The same store that did the custom napkins for my sister’s wedding!) They spanned five different patterns in a similar color palate. They make such a great keepsake for us as well.

Thomas gave a short toast to kick off the dinner. As always, he made everyone laugh.

Dinner

Dinner started with a plated salad with arugula, ricotta, and pears.

The main course was served family style, which is my favorite type of food service! Everyone was seated and served together, yet there were options to choose from. We had shrimp and grits and maple pork tenderloin as our two entrees. Both came with sides – mushroom risotto and red grits, plus balsamic roasted vegetables and fingerling potatoes. We thought the food tasted delicious, and I loved the red grits!

After dinner came toasts from Thomas’s brother and Sarah. My sister decided to let Sarah do the talking and passed the torch on to her for the evening. Both of their toasts were heartfelt and so personal and had us all laughing through tears.

I’ll be back tomorrow for the final post of the week – cake + dancing!

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What I Ate Wednesday – Orangetheory Edition

Hi, guys!

A bunch of you said that you like seeing what I eat in a day (aka “Meals in Monday” or “What I Ate Wednesday), so I plan to keep this type of post alive on CNC. I’m always interested to see what other people eat before and after their workouts, so I thought I’d share how I fueled my Orangetheory workout yesterday. In general, I don’t change my eating habits around workouts all that much, but I do sometimes switch things up, depending on the workout and how I’m feeling. With that, here’s how I fueled and refueled my Orangetheory workout!

7:30 AM: Half of a Munk Pack Protein Cookie

If I work out at 8:30 or 9:00 AM (at KFIT or CrossFit), I typically eat a full breakfast a couple of hours before class. Yesterday, Quinn and I were running behind and OTF wasn’t until 11:15 AM, so I ate half of a cookie to hold off my hunger until I could eat breakfast. I picked a Munk Pack Protein Cookie because 1) it was easily accessible and 2) not made with weird ingredients like some protein cookies on the market. Each cookie is gluten free, NON-GMO, vegan, and doesn’t contain sugar alcohols (hallelujah!), trans fats, dairy, soy, or eggs (also hallelujah since my egg experiment is still going on). The nice people from Munk Pack sent me a few samples, and now I’m a huge fan. I obviously love the ingredients, but the taste is amazing. They’re so soft, chewy, and not too sweet, so they’re perfect for a quick grab-and-go snack or even dessert at the end of the night.

8:30 AM: Three shots of decaf espresso over ice with half & hHalf 

It’s work time at Starbucks, so I ordered my favorite “get sh*t done” drink.

10:00 AM: Chia-Flax Seed + Protein Overnight Oats with a scoop of Teddie Peanut Butter

I’m not starving, but I know I need to eat something before Orangetheory. Lately, I’m loving this overnight oats combination because it’s made with protein and healthy fats, which are good for balancing hormones and keeping me full for awhile. Plus, the oats (carbs) will give me some energy for my workout!

11:15 AM: Orangetheory workout 

1:00 PM: Shredded chicken with BBQ sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, and sauteed baby spinach

Thanks to some Sunday food prep, the ingredients for this meal were waiting for me in the fridge. All I had to do was put them on a plate and pop it in the microwave to heat up. Easy-peasy! I picked a combination of protein (chicken sausage) + sweet potatoes (carbs) to help my body recover from OTF. I’m not super strict about refueling my body right after a workout, but I try to eat (or drink) something within the hour. I often opt for a protein shake (SFH + Maple Water + decaf iced coffee + unsweetened almond milk) because it’s convenient, but if the timing of my workout coincides with a meal, I’ll pick that over a protein shake purely for the higher nutritional value.

4:00 PM: Half of a Munk Pack Protein Cookie

The other half was calling my name! 🙂 I mean, the package was already opened, so the cookie was just getting staler and staler, right? I probably should have picked something a bit more nutritious, but, hey, sometimes a cookie is exactly what you need!

6:00 PM: Chicken sausage with zucchini and parsnip fries

This was another throw-together meal, thanks to some food prep. I opted for high-protein and relatively low-carb and low-fat because I had plans to drink wine with friends later in the evening.

7:30 PM: Glass of wine + a few pieces of cheese 

A couple of my friends hosted an event at a local bar, so I stopped by to support them.

Questions of the Day

Do you change up your meals/snacks depending on your workouts?

What’s your favorite way to refuel after a workout?

P.S. Are you a Registered Dietitian, nutritionist, health coach, personal trainer, or gym owner? If so, Nutrition House Software might be just what you need to take your business to the next level! Check out our website for more info (and/or watch our recent webinars – links below) and to take advantage of our super low pre-sale rates! They’re only good until mid-November, so be sure to hop on it!

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