Welcome to Dianne Rishikof's healthy eating and nutrition blog. Check back frequently for weight loss tips, advice for healthy nutrition and therapeutic diet plans, delicious recipes and other cutting-edge functional medicine nutrition tips. If you would like to receive notifications via email when this blog is updated, simply enter your email address in the Blog Subscribe form to your right.
Tacos are a weekly meal in our house. At first I used any old “taco spice” envelope. Tasted good, and who knows what is in it. Then I looked at the ingredients and was horrified at all the sugar and chemicals. So I switched to a spice envelope from Whole foods. Still a little sugar but improvement nonetheless. Then one day I learned I am yeast sensitive. I can’t eat yeast, and that’s an ingredient in the envelope. So now I make my own. It is cheaper and healthier. Plus, it is kid approved, despite having no sugar.
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp corn starch
Brown 1.5 pounds of grass fed ground beef. Add the powder and 2 tablespoons of water and mix.
While I invest my attention and experience in every client, some of the stories that I hear from prospective clients can strike me deep in my heart. By the time some people reach out to me, they have endured frustrating and confusing symptoms with misdiagnoses and misdirected treatment efforts.
The following story affected me especially deeply. I share it now because I suspect that there are many others out there who may be facing similar struggles. To anyone out there who finds that this story resonates with your own, I say to you, things can get better. (shared with permission)
It started with an email from someone seeking my services: “I’m 17 and have a plethora of digestive issues and am in desperate need of a nutritionist who understands and actually believes in poor gut health. I have read your website and you seem like the PERFECT fit, I could really use your help to help put me out of my misery.” In all the emails that I receive from prospective clients, it is always striking how each one has a unique story to tell. What struck me about this one is that she was so young and so committed to getting the help that she desperately needs. I replied with my usual details (hours, rates, etc) and never heard back from her. That happens sometimes, as people just aren’t ready.
A couple of weeks went by, and I decided to follow up. I might not have, except she seemed so ready and like such an ideal client for my services. This time she did respond, thanking me for checking in. Then she told me why she had not responded the first time:
She said that she wished she could come see me, but her parents don’t believe in leaky gut. Since she was still a legal minor, they had legal authority over her medical care. So, until she turned 18, she would have to suffer. I replied that we didn’t have to use the term leaky gut.
She replied: “I was avoiding gluten and dairy and eating more veggies in order to try to heal my gut” (she had done some homework!). Unfortunately, her parents remained resistant to the concept of leaky gut and any attempts to treat it with dietary management. So, they took her to her pediatrician, who was equally appalled at this treatment plan. He referred her to the hospital, where she was “diagnosed with an eating disorder”. Her parents and the doctor were convinced that “leaky gut isn’t real”. Their response was to force her to eat gluten and dairy at every meal, even though these were the very foods that she told them were “inflaming [her] gut even more”.
In hearing her story, I was heartbroken. This smart and resourceful girl was stuck in a tragic dilemma. Not only would she be forced to suffer until she was 18; but, by that point, she would be so much further down the gut pathology road that it was pretty likely her gut would sustain some significant damage, damage that could be avoided or reduced by preventative treatment.
I replied that I was so sorry to hear about her dilemma, and I wished her the absolute best. I was tempted to send her all the published research articles I have on leaky gut. Instead I just told her that intestinal permeability (the proper term for leaky gut) is real. If she or her parents were to search that term on the National Institute of Health’s pub med website, 22,000 research articles would come up. I just left it at that. Was I defending against what felt like a professional criticism (by her parents and the doctor)? Or was I wisely planting a seed? Both.
Only a couple of hours later I received another email from her: “I believe I just made an impact on my parents. You gave me an idea with what you said about pub med. I took this idea and put all of my research into a document and presented this document to my parents (over 50 pages worth of research, I might add!). They were astonished by all of the science that backs this up, and they are now willing to have your support!! I am amazed and feel such a wave of relief.”
A story that began with heartbreak was transformed into triumph.
It is such a shame that many doctors aren’t interested in learning what’s new since medical school. Some doctors are so entrenched in conventional professional thinking that they dismiss any new treatment paradigms that do not fit within those conventions. Yet there are patients who are getting sicker and sicker, and conventional medicine is unable to help them. The lucky patients have the courage, the determination, or the resourcefulness to seek out alternative treatments. Those are the ones who find someone like me, and get well. But what about the rest? While that question saddens me, this story gives so much hope, because it shows how the research is out there. More and more professionals are learning about intestinal permeability, and that knowledge will eventually seep into the mainstream. This story proves that open-minded people who examine the research do actually change their opinions on leaky gut! So I will end by repeating my earlier point: to anyone out there who finds that this story resonates with your own, I say to you, things can get better.
For years conventional doctors told people that their chronic fatigue was all in their head. Finally two years ago an official diagnosis (with criteria) was created in the US. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is debilitating exhaustion, for no ‘apparent’ reason. The validation of this diagnosis is a huge step in the right direction, yet there is still no test or official treatment for CFS.
Those of us in the functional nutrition world have been successfully treating fatigue with diet and supplements. By targeting the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, we are able to boost a patient’s energy levels. Other treatments include improving the function of the gut and boosting the immune system, also by using diet and supplements. These approaches work wonders for most people with fatigue.
Now, new research is emerging that shows the people with CFS have a dysfunction in a certain cell receptor. There is a genetic alteration in the code for the TRPM3 receptor. This receptor facilitates the transfer of calcium through the cell wall. According to preliminary research, people with CFS have fewer functioning TRPM3 receptors preventing sufficient amounts of calcium from entering the cell causing depressed cell function. This discovery is in the early stages, and more research is needed, but this is a big relief to those who have been previously dismissed by conventional doctors and who are in desperate need of a new solution.
(This post is a little off this blog’s usually topic, but important for your health nonetheless. It was written by an outside contributor. I hope you find this post informative)
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects melanocytes—the cells of the skin that provide pigment. Usually triggered by ultraviolet light exposure, the genetic structure of the cells change and leading to cancer. Melanomas make up just 1% of all new cancers, but lead to the highest number of deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer every year and more than 10,000 people will die from the disease. It’s most common in older adults—the average age for diagnosis is 63—but it is not uncommon to see it in men and women age 30 and younger, which makes it one of the most common cancers for young adults.
Melanoma’s inborn traveling system
As with most cancers, the effectiveness of treatment depends on how early it is diagnosed. The longer a cancer has to grow and spread, the more difficult it is to treat depending on what other organs and tissues are involved. The spread of a cancer is called metastasis and for most cancer cells the process of invading surrounding cells and tissues takes time and great effort and time to spread throughout the body. However melanocytes—when they shift to a cancerous state—awaken a dormant process that allows them to travel much more efficiently than other cells and invade other areas of the body some types of cancer take years to reach.
Patients may be late to seek a diagnosis
It can be easy to overlook changes in your skin. Particularly in the places melanoma can form—like on the scalp, on the soles of the feet, between the toes, and yes, even under your fingernails. Men tend to delay medical care for skin changes more often than women do, but both groups may be likely to miss identifying early changes in their skin which raises the risk for advancement and metastasis before a diagnosis is made.
Know your risk and take measures for prevention
Everyone should understand their personal risk for the development of melanoma and take measures to prevent its development. Risk factors according to the American Cancer Society include:
Exposure to indoor or outdoor UV light
Fair skin, freckles, and light hair
Personal or Family history of melanoma
Weakened immune system
Researchers also say that in addition to these risk factors, some patients may also carry a genetic predisposition to the development of melanoma which can be identified with genetic testing. For those who may be at high risk for cancer, getting a liquid biopsy may help you learn more so that you and your healthcare team can better address health concerns on a more personalized level. Working with your healthcare team to make a plan that will help you monitor and prevent melanoma from developing is a very important step to treatment should it be required. Melanoma doesn’t have to sneak up on your body. Staying vigilant will help you be healthy for years to come. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your risks of Melanoma.
Magnesium is one of the most powerful minerals, responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Magnesium is a vital electrolyte, and among the biochemical reactions it regulates are protein synthesis, blood-glucose control, and blood pressure, insulin regulation, vitamin D metabolism, bone health, and detoxing. Magnesium also greatly affects heart function, digestion, and sleep.
But that’s all boring, right? What about the fact that Magnesium is a treatment for anxiety? insomnia? constipation? fatigue?
Just a few of the effects of Magnesium:
Magnesium slows nerve signals leading to a calming and relaxing feeling in the body and brain. This makes magnesium a wonderful natural treatment for those with anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD.
Magnesium is needed to make ATP. ATP is the energy molecule in the body (that we produce from calories, with the help of Magnesium).
Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the GI tract making it easier to go to the bathroom
Magnesium also draws water into the intestine, making it the most natural treatment for constipation
Your body needs magnesium to run the many detoxification pathways that your body uses to get rid of metals and free radicals (from normal metabolic processes, as well as pollutants in our environment)
Heavy metals compete with magnesium for entry into the brain cells and for absorption in the gut. If we have enough magnesium and vitamins/minerals, healthy metals such as aluminum won’t be absorbed as readily.
Studies show that Magnesium combats insomnia. People take it to promote getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Reflux and/or that full indigestion feeling
Magnesium relaxes the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This promotes stomach emptying, so food won’t sit like a rock in your stomach (which can lead to reflux).
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might be deficient in magnesium:
Muscles cramps or twitching
Sensitive to loud noises
Additionally, research shows magnesium deficiency is common in those with these conditions:
In the United States, magnesium deficiency is a serious concern. The reason is simple: many of us eat a diet that contains very little magnesium. The Western-American diet is filled with highly processed, refined foods, white flour, meat, and processed dairy. None of these foods contain magnesium. In addition magnesium is decreased with the intake of alcohol, salt, coffee, profuse sweating, chronic stress, chronic diarrhea, diuretics, antibiotics, and other drugs. It is no wonder everyone needs more magnesium!
Foods high in magnesium include: Wheat bran, wheat germ, brown rice, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, rye, soy beans, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, dark leafy greens, and garlic.
But it is often a good idea to supplement. Magnesium glycinate is the best form of magnesium to get past your gut and into your brain and muscles. But if constipation is your challenge, than magnesium citrate or oxide is best.
Glutamine is a nutrient that is involved in numerous biochemical processes that impact our immune system, muscles, digestion and other GI processes. Glutamine is an amino acid, a building block of protein, naturally found in food and in the body. Extreme exercise, infection, surgery, and trauma are all known to deplete our body’s glutamine stores, particularly in our muscle cells.
Glutamine is often used as a supplement for individuals with:
The small intestine is the primary organ of glutamine use. Glutamine feeds the cells of the GI lining. This uses about 20-30% of our glutamine. Individuals with a ‘stressed gut’ should consider glutamine supplementation, as it is an essential component for the maintenance of gut metabolism, and function especially during trauma or when the stability of the gut wall is compromised. The gut can be compromised as a result of the following:
Consuming Trigger foods (foods your are allergic, or sensitive to. Often gluten, dairy, or soy)
Excessive sugar intake
Overuse of antibiotics
…And these are just a few!
Glutamine supplementation is a support to the healing process and works to regenerate and repair the cells of the intestine. Because glutamine is the primary fuel for the cells of the intestine, high quality L-Glutamine can be absorbed directly into the cells- and the healing begins!
Glutamine and the rest of the body
Because our immune and intestinal cells rely on glutamine for energy, an individual who is deficient may experience fatigue as our cells become drained and functionality decreases. As cell function decreases, the inability to complete the necessary processes required to maintain optimal health causes our immune system to weaken, increasing the risk of infection and the common cold. This process is exacerbated during times of stress, trauma, chronic injury, or extreme exercise.
Glutamine is an essential component in the process of detoxing, as is helps to remove excess ammonia. It also plays a role in maintaining proper immune and brain function. Glutamine increases the production of Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the body and mind during stressful situations, permitting improved concentration and enhanced sleep.
Where to Find Glutamine in our Diet
Some of the best sources include:
Dark leafy greens
If you think supplemental glutamine may be something to consider, talk to your functional dietitian! Anyone with a compromised gut would benefit from glutamine supplementation. It comes in a powder form that can be added to smoothies, soups, or any drink. You can also click on supplements (above) and see my “heal your gut” powder-it is 100% glutamine.
Have you tried numerous diets and even when sticking to them with perfect discipline, still can’t seem to lose weight? Well, within the last few years, research has revealed a fundamental breakthrough that could be the key to weight loss…a healthy microbiome!
What is the Microbiome?
I have written about the microbiome many times (here, here,here). But let’s refresh our memories.
The microbiome is made up of trillions of non-human microbes that govern our gastrointestinal tract. The microbes are a combination of bacteria (both good and bad), yeast (both good and bad), and some viruses and other microbes. Bacteria make up the majority of the microbiota and we hope, ideally, that we have more good than bad bacteria.
The bacteria have many roles: digesting our food, controlling our appetite, metabolism, and immune system, as well as cuing our body to store fat. They can also affect our mood and how genes are expressed. The microbiome make up about 90% of all your cells, and they are not human. The microbiome is an entirely separate ecology that works in conjunction with the rest of our body’s processes. When the bacteria and organisms of our microbiome function at optimal levels, so do we. But when our microbiome is out of balance due to things like damaged intestinal walls, too much bad bacteria, not enough of the good bacteria, and stress, our microbiome suffers, and we will feel the effects. With lots of bad bacteria, our gut often craves sugar and can be responsible for: an individuals inability to lose weight, increased fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, headaches, acne, congestion, frequent colds and infections, joint pain, and muscle pain- many things you may not realized were linked to our gut! In fact, an unhealthy microbiome is linked to ALL illnesses and diseases.
When damaged, healing our microbiome and keeping it balanced is essential to our overall health. A healthy microbiome ensures we digest our food properly and get the vitamins and minerals we need.
Research shows our microbiome is tremendously dynamic and can change composition within 24 hours in response to stress, antibiotics, and illness, and can also change within weeks or days in response to diet, supplements, and exercise. The typical western-American diet is full of highly processed high fat and sugary foods which feed the bad bacteria and yeast. The microbiome and your weight
Some scientists have argued that the destruction of the microbiome is a huge factor behind the obesity epidemic. There was a study done on mice, where germ free mice were given gut bacteria from an obese person and the mice became obese. What are some of the ways this happens?
An unbalanced microbiome can negatively affect our immune system leading to inflammation. Inflammation is an immune system response that can lead to weight gain.
An unbalanced microbiome has lead to damage of the intestinal wall creating a problem called Leaky gut. Leaky gut is a condition where the tight junctions of your intestinal wall open allowing contents/food to leak through. This causes the immune system to attack foods that normally would be healthy, leading to even more inflammation. In addition to inflammation, the research shows leaky gut leads to: impaired glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, obesity, and contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmunity and carcinogenesis. (Study: The role of dysbacteriosis in obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
An unbalanced microbiome can disrupt our hormonal balance. As a result, the hormones that make you feel full or hungry are out of sync, making it hard for you to notice when you are full or have eaten enough. (Study: Gut microbes affect satiety-inducing signaling leading to weight gain)
Some bacteria species can extract MORE calories from the same foods, compared to other bacteria species. (Study: Bacteria causing weight gain are thought to induce the expression of genes related to lipid and carbohydrate metabolism thereby leading to greater energy harvest from the diet. )
Bacteria can influence the way your cells store and release fat. (study: Gut Microbiota interacts with the individual’s epithelial cells to indirectly control energy expenditure and storage.
All these things can cause the body to gain weight.
What to do
Fortunately there are things we can do to heal our guts back to health! In my practice I use the 5 R program which is more rigorous that what is described below but it is comprehensive and personalized. And it works! But what is described below is a good general plan for a lot of people.
Eliminate the processed, high fat, sugary foods in our diet. By eliminating the processed foods and sugar we stop feeding the bad bacterial in the gut.
Eat a lot of vegetables and fibers. These feed the good bacteria.
Be sure to eat healthy fats such as avocado, fish, olive oil and nuts. These are good for the gut but also keep up your metabolism while you ‘diet’.
Take a probiotic. (good bacteria in a concentrated pill form)
What is a good probiotic?
Can make it through stomach acid with the microbes still alive
Contains many (5-14) strains of bacteria
Has 25-225 billion CFUs
Some specific strains to look for:
Bifido bacteria (many good strains)
Getting a good probiotic at the store is difficult. I recommend Klaire Labs or Pure Encapsulations, both of which can only be bought through a health care practitioner. Feel free to use patient assess code “dianne” at emersonecologics.com to order whatever you need.
I love gazpacho. So does my husband and my son. But it is hard to find one that has the right amount of the right ingredients (and isn’t too spicy or too bland). I experimented a bunch and voila, here is the result. My 8 year old son will eat a bowl a day!
I also used tomato juice to make this as easy as possible on the chef.
2 1/2 cups of tomato juice
1 green pepper
1 english cucumber
a handful of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup red onion
2 tsp of garlic
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/8 cup + 1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces and put them into a bowl. Add the tomato juice. Add all the other ingredient. Stir and enjoy!
These ‘cookies’ have nuts, carrots and coconut…all healthful foods. If your kids like this, you can feel good about feeding it to them.
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup walnuts (crushed)
2 tablespoons cashew butter
2/3 cups oats
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon coconut flakes
Peel the carrots and put them in the food processor until they are processed into small flakes. Mix the carrots and all the other ingredients together in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then spoon out into golf ball shaped servings. No baking. Enjoy!
This recipe was inspired by a post on Super Healthy Kids. But I substituted several of their ingredients for others that I like better, rearranged the proportions, and I added coconut (yum).
Those of us with digestive issues know that sometimes you can’t find anything to eat that is appealing and also easy to digest. And if you do know of such a meal, it usually takes effort to make. There needs to be something that fits into all those three categories. Here’s my easy-on-the-gut, easy-to-prepare, yummy meal. Gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, low fat, low carb, processed-food-free, chicken soup.
To make it an EASY meal to prepare, we start with organic chicken broth, and go from there. (If you want, you can always make your own bone broth. You can find numerous recipes online)
16 ounces of organic chicken broth
1/4 cup of parsley
2 celery stalks
1/3 of an onion
1/2 cup of water
1/2 of a chicken breast (I use whole foods rotisserie chicken-another step made easier)
Put the chicken broth and water into a pot, and turn on stove on medium heat.
Chop the onion, parsley, carrots and celery and put them into the pot.
Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and put into the soup.