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Buffalo Burger in a Napa Wrap

buffalo burger

Burgers have always been a favorite of mine.  Buffalo is a lean protein that works as a great alternative to beef.  Swapping out the bun for a leafy green wrap means there is more space for vitalizing veggies that can help give you an energy surge.  Dark leafy greens work as the ideal wrap and have the added benefit of nutrients like Vitamin A and folate.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound ground buffalo or bison meat

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoons coconut or safflower oil

4 large Napa cabbage leaves

1 large tomato, thinly sliced

8 pickles (optional)

4 tablespoons organic, sugar free ketchup or flavored mayo

1 head broccoli, cut into 4 large florets

Directions:

Prepare the burgers. Mix the meat with the salt and form into 4 patties. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add the oil and the burgers and cook 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally until the burgers are medium-rare. Wrap each burger in a cabbage leaf and top with the pickles, ketchup, or mayo.

While the burgers are cooking. Fill a large stockpot with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high. Add the broccoli and steam 4 to 5 minutes until fork tender.  Once cooked and plated, drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Serve immediately with burgers.

Nutritional Stats Per Serving (1 burger with 1 tablespoon mayo, 1 cup broccoli ): 327 calories, 28 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugars, 15 g fat (7 g saturated), 65 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 354 mg sodium.

How to do a digital detox and keep your day job

digital detoxDo you ever question your dependency on digital devices?

I’ll bet if you’re over 30 (aka: born unplugged), work at a computer all day, or have children you probably have.

Perhaps you’ve caught yourself sneaking away during meals for a quick peak at your favorite social media channel…

…or noticed how your mood changes after time spent reading news feeds…

…or maybe it was that time you caught yourself texting or tweeting during a much-needed date night.

Whatever may have lead you to suspect a problem, know you are not alone here, not by a long shot.

It’s estimated the average American adult spends over 10 hours a day glued to a screen, children: 7 hours.

And because society has normalized it, it’s hard to know if you really have a problem…or are just acting like everyone else.

I’ve caught myself falling into this trap, too. And it took an off-the-grid camping trip for me to realize how much kinder and more pleasant life was without my digital-sugar-fix.

If you suspect you could spend a little (or a lot…ahem) less time on digital devices and a lot more quality time on the things (and people) that feed your soul, then this post is for you.

Let’s dive in and learn how to be “in” the digital world…but not “of” it.

Science says…too much screen time can be physically, mentally, and emotionally crippling

Since digital media is in its infancy the science on its health effects are still stacking up.

However, the studies that have surfaced paint a sobering picture of how screens are slowly degrading our entire well-being.

Let’s start with the physical effects…

When you’re sitting at a computer all day, especially slumped over a laptop, your body is in a structurally compromised position.

Think about it. Your head is down, your arms are up, your back is curved, and your legs are probably crossed at the ankles.

This slumped over posture puts repetitive stress on your digestive system, musculoskeletal system, your breathing, and even your mood and productivity (our sense of assertiveness and self-esteem are intimately tied to our posture and body language).

When you look down at your phone, you strain your neck and spine which has led to a new epidemic called “text neck”. A painful and entirely preventative condition!

Then there’s your precious vision to consider, which becomes strained from reading small text and staring at a bright screens and small text all day.

The Mental Effects: How Digital Devices are Making us…Dumb

Sorry for the crass title, but I couldn’t think of a better way to describe what excess screen time does to our brains.

For example, most digital devices cause us to multitask. We jump from blogging, to emailing, to posting updates without a care in the world.

However, science has proven that multitasking makes us LESS effective (yes moms, it’s true!) and weakens our ability to focus and complete on task at a time. This CNN video by Sanjay Gupta does a great job explaining how this works.

Another example comes to us from this study, that proved reading on digital devices is reprogramming the way we think, causing us to focus on more concrete facts rather than abstract interpretation of the story. Creepy.

These are just two examples of many on how excess screen time weakens our cognitive function and overall smarts.

The Emotional Effects of Digital Devices

So if screens have the potential to weaken our focus and reasoning, what the heck are they doing to our emotional intelligence?

The science on this doesn’t look good folks, and it’s especially concerning for children.

Mindcraft, for example, has been shown to have a similar effect on a child’s brain as highly addictive drugs.

And though this news is troubling, if we’re honest we can see how our children’s behavior changes when they’re glued to these games.

Then there’s the widely reported studies like this, on how screen time is negatively affecting children’s social skills and ability to read emotions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends withholding media time for children under 2, and limiting it to 1-2 hours in older children.

Based on this growing body of research, I would suggest we can do a LOT better than that for our kids.

For adults, the troubling emotional effects are often tied back to social media.

As reported by Today, over 50% of Moms experience a new condition known as “Pinterest Stress”, overuse of sites like Twitter being linked to narcissistic tendencies, to say nothing of how social media tends to degrade our meaningful connections and communication with each other.

I’m not saying it’s all bad. Some studies have proven balanced social media use to be beneficial in some respects.

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and enjoy then for keeping up with friends, sharing helpful information, and cataloguing ideas.

But, based on the research and my own self-awareness I limit my use.

Daily Digital Detox Tips

My advice on digital detoxing is the same as my advice on nutritional detoxing.

Though a crash detox will help increase awareness and benefit you in the short-run, it’s the everyday detox habits (just like healthy eating) that ensures long-term results.

Here are a few tips on how to incorporate digital detoxing into your daily life

  • Get an alarm clock. An old-school alarm clock.  This takes away the temptation to waste time scrolling before bed or first thing in the morning. Plus, you don’t want the EMFs from your cell phone right next to your head at night.
  • Uninstall non-essential apps and social media. If we’re honest we’ll realize that no one really needs a Facebook app on their phone.
  • Take a weekly digital day off. Plan your day around screen-free activities and only use your phone for calls and texting.
  • Alert family and friends. If you’re worried about not being online all the time, just tell everyone you’re cutting back and ask them to call or email you if anything’s urgent.
  • Watch your computer-posture. A chiropractor friend of mine tells his patients to set up a mindful work station. Get a monitor or put your laptop at eye level, make sure you’re typing at a comfortable level and if you need a wireless keyboard and mouse, get them. A standing desk is also a great option and allows for greater range of motion (just make sure you then take sitting breaks).
  • Take regular screen breaks. Most of us do sit at computers all day long, so be sure to step away every 30-60 minutes for 5 minutes or so. Do some paperwork, return a call, stretch, take a short walk, or get a cup of tea. The practice not only provides digital-stress relief, but helps increase your productivity.
  • Finally, if you must use a digital device at night, wear blue-blocker glasses. This will help counteract the stimulating blue light which contributes to insomnia.

At this time, no one really knows how much digital time is “safe”. And, just like food, digital devices will impact different people in different ways.

But given what you know now, you are fully empowered to take the steps needed to be “in” the digital world without being “of” it.

For further reading on the subject, I highly recommend the books: “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder“,  and “The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World“.

Happy detoxing!

Dr. Alex

Orange Beef Lettuce Wraps

ORANGE BEEF LETTUCE WRAPS

 

Take-out Chinese will be a thing of the past once you taste this better-for-you homemade orange beef. If you happen to have leftover cooked beef just stir it in when you add the orange segments to save cooking time.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 3 carrots, peeled, sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium, gluten free tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • ¼ cup store bought kimchee
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, broken into 12 leaves

Sticky Orange Beef Wraps

Directions:

Using a serrated knife, cut the orange peel away.  Section each of the oranges over a large bowl to catch any of the juices.  Set the juice and the segments aside.

Place half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the broccoli, carrots, celery, and ginger, tossing well. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables soften.  Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining coconut oil and steak, cooking 2 to 3 minutes, until it starts to brown but is still pink in the center.

Return the vegetables to the skillet, along with the honey, tamari, flax, and orange juice from the orange segments. Toss well until the beef is no longer translucent.  Turn the heat off and stir in the orange sections.  Serve immediately with the kimchee in the lettuce cups.

Nutritional Stats Per Serving (2 cups): 386 calories, 28 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 15 g sugars, 20 g fat (11 g saturated), 74 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 530 mg sodium.

How to Live to be 100: The Artful Science of Longevity

LONGEVITY

This summer I came across a life-changing article by one of the world’s longest-serving physicians and educators, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara.

At age 104 Dr. Hinohara is somewhat of a legend in the medical field, and his article outlines what he believes to be his “secrets” to longevity.

Some of his advice makes a lot of sense, like keeping stress levels at bay and staying busy by serving others…while other bits of wisdom left me scratching my head…like eating cookies and milk for lunch!

But hey, it’s hard to argue with someone who’s still working 18 hours a day at age 104.

My own Grandmother whom I’ve written about before, lived to be 103 and many of her “secrets” mirrored Dr.  Hinohara’s.

Their stories inspired me to write today’s post: How to Live to be 100: The Artful Science of Longevity.

If you’ve ever wondered which practices have been scientifically proven to increase your chances of longevity, then these next 8 tips could change your life…

Longevity Tip #1: Stop stressing about stress

It’s true that most elderly centenarians lead fairly low-stress lives. However, it is highly likely they have experienced significant stress throughout their long lives. [Read more…]

Hair Color Alternatives That Actually Work (even on grays)

natural hair dyeNobody likes getting gray hair (I should know, I discovered my first few strands of gray last year).

Not only does it make you feel old, but it usually marks the beginning of a long, inconvenient, and controversial relationship with hair color.

Why the controversy?

Aside from finding the right color and hair stylist, whether you choose to color your hair at home or go to the salon every 4-6 weeks, you’re still exposing yourself to one of the most toxic beauty products left on the market.

Yes, hair color…the answer to our gray-hair-prayers is loaded with proven endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing, immune-suppressive ingredients.

Even the well-meaning “natural” brands still contain the toxic stuff.

Why? Because permanent hair color won’t take without a specific chemical cocktail that opens the hair shaft to receive and absorb the dyes.

Despite their best efforts, the hair industry hasn’t been able to deliver a truly natural, permanent hair color that also covers grays.

So what’s a hair-and-health conscious gal to do?

The good news is, the natural hair color industry is advancing, and you don’t have to go gray if you don’t want to.

In today’s post we’ll cover:

  • Why investing in hair color alternatives is so crucial to your health.
  • PLUS the latest effective, exciting, and truly natural hair color alternatives that really work.

[Read more…]

Your Back to School Natural Remedy Guide

back to school

I don’t know about you, but back to school time is always bittersweet for me.

On the one hand it’s a relief to get the kids (and their parents) back on a normal schedule, on the other hand it means the end of summer family fun and the beginning of the inevitable sniffling, sneezing and virus season.

The best way to keep your kids healthy is to provide them a strong foundation of whole foods nutrition, limited exposure to toxins and a to create a happy home atmosphere.

But, I can tell you as a doctor and a mother of two, even when you do all those things stresses come up and kids get sick.

Attention health-conscious-clean-eating parents: this is not a bad thing.

Catching the occasional virus or getting the nervous nellies at the start of a new school year gives their physical and emotional immune systems a chance to flex their muscles and get stronger.

Plus, many childhood health experts and visionaries believe that illnesses often parallel a significant shift in a child’s life, like reaching a developmental milestone or experiencing a growth spurt.

When these inevitable times of illness come up, our family turns to these safe and natural remedies to help support the body’s innate healing power.

Back to School Natural Remedy #1: Cinnamon

[Read more…]

3 Natural Fertility Remedies that Work

natural fertility

You were cautiously optimistic that it would be easy to get pregnant…

…but after months of trying…still no baby.

But WHY?

You’re young enough, healthy enough, and can’t understand why you have “fertility issues.”

It seems to be a modern-day burden all too many couples face, and conventional medicine has answers but…cannot explain WHY.

In my experience as a Functional Medicine Doctor, most fertility experts are quick to label couples “infertile” and recommend drastic measures, rather than ask WHY and dig deep to uncover causative factors.

The good news is, many “infertility issues” have very little to do with your fertility.

Rather, they are symptoms of common health deficiencies that can be quickly corrected through natural remedies, nutrition, and lifestyle changes.

It is my wish that through today’s post more couples will begin turning to integrative doctors as a FIRST fertility resort and medical procedures as a second.

Here are 3 safe and natural fertility remedies you can use to prepare for a healthy pregnancy:

Natural Fertility Remedy #1: Balance your blood sugar

This seems like such simple advice, but very few people understand the blood-sugar-hormone connection and how it can inhibit fertility.

When your blood sugar is out of whack—which happens if you’re not getting enough sleep, are too stressed, eating too much sugar and refined carbs, aren’t eating the right balance of nutrients, or aren’t eating enough period—it affects your insulin levels.

This, in turn, causes an imbalance in other hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Remember, insulin is a hormone and all hormones are interconnected.

So, what’s the best way to keep your blood sugar balanced and help increase fertility?

  • Eat small frequent meals every 2-4 hours
  • Have a little protein with every small meal, like nuts, seeds, eggs, legumes, or meat
  • Eat plenty of healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado oil, nut butters, pastured butter, hemp seeds, fish oil, etc.
  • Sleep 7.5-9 hours per night. If you don’t get enough sleep it affects the hormone, leptin, which is responsible for controlling your appetite and satiety
  • Replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners like stevia and limited amounts of raw honey, coconut sugar, and maple syrup
  • Cut back on refined carbs like white flour, white rice, pastas, etc.
  • Exercise 15-30 minutes a day
  • Cut out alcohol. It’s full of sugar, messes with your hormones, and has been linked to lower sperm quality in men
    • If you need a relaxing beverage, try Kombucha

Natural Fertility Remedy #2: Give Extra Love & Support to your Detoxification Pathways

Infertility is often a symptom of toxicity.

It’s your body’s way of saying: “Hey! We have to clean house before we host a new life in here.

You can work with a practitioner on a specific detoxification program, and/or support your detox pathways through nutrition and lifestyle changes.

  • Liver: Eat plenty of green vegetables and have a green drink every day.

Vegetables from the Brassica family, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, turnips, are particularly helpful for supporting Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification.

  • Kidneys: Proper hydration is key for healthy kidney function…but water quality matters as much as quantity.

For quality: choose either spring water or filtered water, and avoid water in plastic bottles—they’re loaded with endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

For quantity: aim to drink half your body’s weight in ounces or 8 glasses per day.

  • Lympathic System: Your lymphatic system is one of the most important, largest, and most overlooked detoxification pathway.

Think of it like a river running from your neck to your ankles, sweeping away toxins and unwanted debris from your vital organs and systems.

To keep your lymphatic system flowing you need to stimulate it. You can do this through exercise (rebounding, walking, running), body brushing with a dry brush, massage, and deep breathing exercises.

Pick two methods and practice them daily.

  • Gall Bladder: The best and most gentle way to cleanse your gall bladder is to drink fresh lemon tea 1-3 times per day.

Just squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a cup of hot water, drink it, and watch your skin, digestion, and elimination improve.

  • Colon: Your bowels should be moving 1-3 times per day and producing well-formed stool that is easy to pass with no overly offensive odor…if they’re not, you need to address that.

My favorite gentle remedies for colon health are probiotics, drinking enough water, exercise, green drinks, cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and a simple fiber supplement like psyllium, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.

  • Skin: Also known as your “third kidney”, the skin is your largest detox organ. Help it by dry brushing daily, sweating, and sticking to all-natural skin care products.

Natural Fertility Remedy #3: Optimize These Key Nutrients for Men and Women

Women still tend to shoulder the infertility burden…even though over 35% of fertility cases are a guy thing!

With that understanding, try working together as a couple to help optimize these key nutrients in your diets:

Key Nutrients for Healthy Fertility in Women:

  • Vitamin B12: Found in animal products like meats, fish, eggs, liver, etc.
  • Iron: The most absorbable iron comes from red meats like grassfed beef, bison, lamb, and liver (you can also take a desiccated liver supplement if you prefer)
  • Folate: Lentils, dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, pinto, garbanzo, navy, black and kidney beans
  • Vitamin D: Often supplementation is needed, so I recommend having your levels checked. Good food sources include: mushrooms, salmon, grass-fed beef liver (or supplement), pasture-raised eggs, sustainably caught, low-mercury canned tuna (I like Safe Catch® brand)
  • Magnesium: Crucial for maintaining over 500 biochemical processes. Since it’s tough to get enough from food, you can take a supplement or use a topical product safely. Food sources include leafy greens, legumes, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, dark chocolate, figs, black beans, and bananas
  • Vitamin A: In traditional cultures, women in their child-bearing years were encouraged to eat plenty of Vitamin A-rich foods like fatty fish, cod liver oil, paprika, dark leafy greens, and liver

Key Nutrients for Healthy Fertility in Men:

  • Zinc: oysters, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, meat, seafood, mushrooms and cereals
  • Vitamin C: strawberries, broccoli and kiwi fruit
  • Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit
  • Vitamin A: paprika, carrots, dark leafy greens, and liver
  • B vitamins: dark leafy greens, legumes, nutritional yeast, pomegranates, and lean meats

As you can see, nutrition is QUEEN (and King) when it comes to nourishing your fertility. And with good nutrition comes healthy detoxification pathways capable of supporting new life.

I encourage you to try these three steps I’ve outlined today, AND to consider working with an integrative practitioner to help you balance health markers and make individual suggestions.

Blessings, love, and strength be with you on your natural journey to parenthood.

Warmly,

-Dr. Alex

15 No-Brainer Ways to Get Enough Veggies

15 Ways To Get More VeggiesDo you struggle with getting enough vegetables into your family’s diet?

How about fruit? Everyone likes fruit, right?

Well…according to data collected by the CDC, the average American eats only 1.1 servings of fruit (including fruit juice) and 1.6 servings of vegetables (including fried potatoes) per day.

I have to admit, I was a little shocked. This is nowhere near the current government health recommendations of 5-7 servings per day.

Plus, many integrative health experts believe we need a lot more than that to optimize your health, support detoxification, and prevent chronic disease.

So…how Many Vegetables Do You REALLY Need per Day?

If you ask a traditional dietician or medical doctor, they’ll likely recommend 5-7 servings per day of fruits and vegetables.

They may even tell you to count fruit juices, canned fruits, and processed foods like French fries towards that number.

Now, if you sit down with a Functional Medicine doctor or holistic nutritionist, you will get an entirely different story…and one that could save your life. [Read more…]

What’s in Dr. Alex’s Pantry?

What's in my pantry

I get a LOT of questions from patients and readers about the types of foods and ingredients I use at home.

So today I’m throwing open my pantry doors (yikes!) and giving you a full list of the must-have staples we cook with at home.

As you read through, please know I believe everyone’s nutritional needs and food sensitivities are unique and I don’t expect everyone to eat, shop, and cook like we do.

The purpose of this post is to give you some starting points on how to stock your pantry with REAL foods that support optimal energy, immunity, digestive health, and longevity.

Also keep in mind…

  • We are working a family of four, with two small children…this makes convenience and high-quality nutrition a double priority.
  • That said, we aim to eat as many vegetables as possible and limit sweets, refined carbs, juices, dairy (because of sensitivities) and certain grains.
  • We buy organic/sustainably grown foods as much as possible to maximize nutrient uptake.
  • We shop at local farmer’s markets, natural foods stores, AND take advantage of Costco for great savings on bulk organic items…yes, Costco.
  • Even WE enjoy healthier treats on occasion.

Now that you know what motivates my pantry choices, let’s take a peak! [Read more…]

Chilled Beet Soup with Avocado

Beet Soup

Sweet beets, a feast for the eyes, are also body beautiful since they are high in folate – a heart and cancer protective compound.  If you prefer the taste of cooked beets, shop for pre-steamed beets in your local grocer or roast them if you like a richer roasted flavor.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 ½ pound raw beets, peeled, grated

1 quart home made chicken broth

¼ cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound cooked shrimp or chicken

2 avocados, diced

1/2 cup thinly sliced radish (optional)

¼ cup chopped herbs

 

Directions:

Place the beets, broth, onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper in a blender and process until smooth. Divide into four bowls and top each with a 4 to 5 shrimp or sliced chicken, 1/2 avocado, radish, and herbs.

Nutritional Stats Per Serving (2 cups): 385 calories, 34 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 14 g sugars, 17 g fat (7 g saturated), 92 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 407 mg sodium.