10 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure – Naturally!

November 28, 2017
Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

According to the new guidelines just released by the American Heart Association (AHA) this month, nearly half of all Americans are now living with high blood pressure.  So that means that people that were considered “borderline” at 130/80 – would now be diagnosed with high blood pressure (Hypertension). According to cardiologist Dr. Sinatra – healthy blood pressure levels should be under 120/80.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

The thing is, high blood pressure often will have no obvious symptoms. So the majority of people with high blood pressure – are unaware that they have it.  But high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” – because the first symptom can be deadly.    The best way to determine if your blood pressure is in a good place is to  have your blood pressure measured.  High blood pressure tends to run in families – so if you have close relatives that have had hypertension, you will especially want to monitor your blood pressure regularly – you might want to consider getting a home monitor.  

What are the dangers of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can double your risk of a heart attack and is a risk factor for stroke, dementia, kidney failure, & blindness. Learn more about risk factors of hypertension from the Mayo Clinic.

10 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure – Naturally

Please note: If you are taking any prescription medications, or under the care of a doctor for any reason – talk to your doctor about these suggestions before implementing them in case there are contraindications or interactions.  Your doctor may also wish to monitor you in case changes need to be made to your prescriptions. These tips are general in nature and may not be appropriate for everyone. Whenever making changes to your diet and lifestyle – it is recommended to do it gradually to allow your body to adjust. 

1. Sprinkle on some cinnamon.

Cinnamon is a very powerful tool when it comes to blood pressure and blood sugar – lowering both. Cinnamon has other benefits – including fighting bad bacteria in the gut, and revving up the metabolism.  According to a 2006 study conducted by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, just 1/2 of a teaspoon a day of cinnamon could be enough to help reduce blood pressure.  You can add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, add it to nut butter, sprinkle it on fruit, and add it to nuts before roasting, you can also add it to coffee.

2. Load up on plant based foods. (Especially vitamin C, potassium and magnesium-rich foods!)  

Did you know that the USDA recommends adults consume 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Yes, NINE!!  Sadly, on the Standard American Diet (SAD), most people are not getting even half that – with many people barely getting 1 serving a day.  Plant-based foods are rich in important nutrients and electrolytes that help to balance our blood pressure.  Potassium is particularly important for healthy blood pressure levels – so reach for avocados, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and prunes.

3. Get Your Omega 3s. 

Best known for their anti-inflammatory effects, omega 3 fatty acids also have blood thinning effects too, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Try to incorporate chia seeds, flax seeds, and fatty fish like wild salmon.  And consider sardines too – not only are they rich in omega 3s, they also are low in mercury, and are high in heart-healthy Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)!  I love making these Flax Raisin muffins – they are grain free, gluten free, low in sugar and high in omega 3 fatty acids- and they are delicious!  Also consider adding some flax or chia to your overnight oats, or making chia pudding.

4. Opt for dark chocolate for dessert.  

For a very long time – experts have pointed the finger at salt as the primary culprit for high blood pressure.  But now experts are saying another white substance may be more to blame – SUGAR. Blood sugar and blood pressure – are closely linked.  Post meal glucose spikes increases blood pressure and the risk for heart attack. So consider skipping dessert, or opting for a square of dark chocolate instead. But make sure to go for dark – the cacao content should be at least 60%. A Harvard study found that dark chocolate lowered blood pressure as well as the risk of heart attack and diabetes.  Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which helps to relax the blood vessels, and it also helps to improve blood flow to extremities.

5. Choose Olive  or Avocado oil.

A recent study showed that when participants used 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily, it lowered blood pressure, with 35% of the participants benefitting so much that they were able to stop their medications! It has also been linked to better brain health too.  Avocado oil is also a healthy oil associated with lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. The other benefit of avocado oil is that it has a high smoke point, so that is the one I recommend for cooking above 300 degrees.

6. Limit alcohol.  

The studies are clear about the link between heavy alcohol use and blood pressure – alcohol raises blood pressure. But what constitutes “heavy drinking” might surprise some – just 3 drinks for women is considered “heavy alcohol consumption.”  Cutting back on the alcohol may not just lower  your blood pressure – a new study found that heavy drinking can also raise the risk of several different cancers – the strongest link being with cancers of the head, neck and throat.  So sticking with no more than 1 drink a day for women, and 2 for men will lower your blood pressure and your cancer risk.

7. Take a daily stroll.

Getting some exercise each day – like taking a walk can help to lower blood pressure.  According to the Mayo clinic, “Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).” If you are concerned with your blood pressure levels or heart health – stick to gentle exercise and talk to your doctor before beginning any strenuous exercise program to be sure your heart is in good enough shape for it.

8. Manage stress levels.

High levels of stress can send your blood pressure soaring.  So trying to keep stress levels under control is important for managing healthy blood pressure.  If you get an elevated reading in your doctor’s office – make sure to check it again – sometimes people can be stressed out at the doctors office – causing their blood pressure to be higher.  Consider acupuncture, meditation, and/or yoga for lowering stress levels.

9. Get plenty of sleep

Getting a poor night’s sleep can do more than make you groggy – it can raise your blood pressure. A 2006 study published in the journal Hypertension found that people who slept 5 hours or less per night were 32% more likely to develop hypertension than those who slept 7–8 hours per night.  Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep – avoid caffeine after 1:00pm, turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime, take a warm bath to help calm the nervous system before bedtime, and take a magnesium supplement before bedtime can also help some settle down to a good night’s sleep.

10. Consider some supplements:

Gradually making the above nutritional and lifestyle changes might be enough to lower slightly elevated blood pressure.  Some people might also find that taking certain supplements could help to get blood pressure into a healthy range.  Again – talk to your prescribing doctor before adding any supplements if you are currently taking medication or speak to your healthcare provider if you are being treated for any condition.

  • Taurine. An amino acid rich in sulfur, taurine has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure. Similar to cinnamon, it also helps to lower blood glucose as well. Taurine may also help support the cells to hold magnesium and potassium, while excreting excess sodium – which means it acts in a similar way to diuretics, but without the stress on the kidneys.  Taurine may also help you lose weight, which is beneficial for blood pressure too.
  • CoQ10– according to Cardiologist Dr. Steven Sinatra, coQ10 is important for cellular health, claiming that “many of my patients who take a water-soluble form of CoQ10 have cut their use of blood pressure drugs in half, while maintaining healthy blood pressure.” He recommends 200-300 mg of CoQ10 for healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Omega 3 fish oils – studies show that omega 3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and thin the blood.  Taking 1 gram of fish oil may help to keep blood pressure levels in a healthy range according to Dr. Josh Axe.
  • Magnesium– shown to relax blood vessels, magnesium can lower blood pressure and is a very important mineral for heart health. Dr. Josh Axe recommends supplementing 500 mg. of magnesium daily for healthy blood pressure.
  • Chromium – Rat studies show that supplementing with chromium can help to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • Vitamin C – according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, and a study published in Nutrition Journal, supplementing with vitamin C may help to reduce blood pressure.

Suggested Books:

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Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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“Brain ON” Blue Milk (dairy & gluten free)

August 21, 2017
"Brain ON" Blue Milk

Brain ON Blue “Milk”

It’s Back to School time – which means kids need to switch from summer brain to their focused school brain.  This delicious dairy-free milk gets it’s amazing blue hue from a very special living superfood called blue green algae. Algae is a superfood that supports healthy brain function, mood, and energy.  Learn more about this amazing superfood: E3 Live or E3 Live Brain ON.


  • 3/4 cup of almond, coconut, pea protein or another alternative milk (I often recommend taking a break from cow’s milk/dairy if there are focus & attention or digestion issues)
  • 1 scoop or package of E3 Live or E3 Live Brain ON
  • 1-2 teaspoons of white* chia seeds (optional)
  • Splash of vanilla extract (I like to use alcohol free for smoothies)
  • Optional -add your favorite natural sweetener – like 1 tsp of raw honey, or a pinch of organic stevia.
  • pinch of Real Salt (brings out flavors and sweetness)
  • Optional – a couple of ice cubes.  Thickens and chills it.


  1. Put the milk and E3 Live into the Vitamix or shaker bottle – swirl around until combined well.
  2. Add the chia seeds and soak for a couple minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla, salt and sweetener, and blend to combine.
  4. Add the ice cubes if desired, blend well.  Serve & enjoy.

Other great additions – 1/2 scoop of vegan protein powder, cinnamon, frozen banana, blueberries, raw cacao, dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

*Chia seeds offer ALA omega 3s, fiber and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. I like to use the white chia seeds in kids smoothies – because they blend in invisible.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Natural Allergy Solutions

April 19, 2017
Natural Allergy Solutions

by Sara Vance, Nutritionist & Author of The Perfect Metabolism Plan

Are you gearing up for allergy season?

Just as the cold and flu season is winding down – allergy season is gearing up.  Due to a warmer than usual February and March, it is looking like Spring 2017 will unfortunately be a robust allergy season.

Most people think that if you have allergies, you are just ‘stuck with them’, so you may as well just stock up on the antihistamines and Advil.  I certainly used to believe it myself too…until I no longer needed them any more.  I went from being allergic to “everything” (my nickname was “The Bubble Girl”), to not suffering any more.

What if allergies weren’t something that we were stuck with – what if we could actually heal from allergies…

Heal the Root Cause

Most people look at allergies as symptoms that get treated with drugs. I’m here to help you think of allergies in a new way, so you overcome them by understanding their root causes.” says  The Allergy Solution author, Dr. Leo Galland. So rather than just popping antihistamines to deal with the symptoms for the rest of our lives – we should be looking for the root of the problem, and figuring out WHY we are reacting. But the issue with that approach, is that it can take a little time, experience, and investigative work.

According to Dr. Clifford Bassett in The New Allergy Solution – although “there may be no ‘cure’ for your allergy, in many cases it can be preventable.” He believes that “nearly all cases of allergies are treatable…with a program that includes diet, exercise, de-stressing, and overall health awareness (and proper medication).”  He says that “my patients want more than just to sneeze less, they want to garden again and partake in the activities that they love and that make life enjoyable.”

But before we get to the cause, let’s take a step back and cover the basics.

What exactly is an ‘allergy?

An allergic reaction happens when the immune system is exposed to and reacts to a trigger (the antigen or allergen), causing symptoms – inflammation, redness, swelling, rashes, nasal symptoms, etc.  Typically, an allergic reaction does not occur on the first exposure to the allergen – it happens on subsequent exposures. Dr. Leo Galland says that there can be a genetic component to allergies, but that the exponential rise in allergies is due largely to environmental factors  – such as increases in pollution, toxins, changes in seasonal temperatures and the like. He says there usually is an “antecedent” to the allergic reaction – exposure to a toxin, mold, pollen, an infection, nutrient deficiencies, microbiome depletion (as with antibiotic use), or stress.

An allergic reaction sets off the body’s inflammation response.  Allergy symptoms can be uncomfortable and annoying like the runny nose, itchy eyes with dark circles under them, and skin issues. But for some, allergies can also be very severe, and even be life-threatening – such as those that can lead to anaphylactic shock – such as peanut, shellfish, and bee sting allergies.

Chronic inflammation is at the heart of allergies, autoimmunity, and most other major diseases.  According to this article by Dr. Mercola, chronic inflammation affects every aspect of your health.

Why Do We Get Allergies? & Why Are They on the Rise?

That is the million dollar question. If you struggle with allergies – you are not alone, it is estimated that over 1 billion people suffer with allergies, with 50 billion of those people in the United States alone.  Today allergies affect 30% of adults, and up to 40% of kids – it is the most common health condition affecting kids today!  But just 50 years ago, allergies were relatively rare – affecting only about 1 in 30 people.  So why are so many people suffering from allergies today? We don’t know for sure why allergies are rising so fast – but these are some the potential theories:

  • The hygiene hypothesis is that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (such as the gut flora or probiotics), and even parasites increases susceptibility to allergies because the natural development of the immune system has been depressed. Allergies are only found in developing countries – in the simplest terms, we are just “too clean.”  According to a study of 14,000 kids in Bristol, England – frequent handwashing was associated with allergies.  And conversely, a German study found that kids raised on farms had fewer allergies.  The overuse of antibiotic medications as well as in foods, NSAIDs and other medications, processed foods, high sugar diets, high stress lifestyles, c-section deliveries, and the use of antibacterial soaps and gels – has depleted our bacteria – leaving us vulnerable to “attack.”  This depletion of our microbiome – the bacteria in our gut and all over our bodies – contains both good and bad bacteria that inform our immune system, and all of these antibiotics and antibacterials remove the good and the bad – leaving our immune system essentially “naked.”
  • Nutrient deficiencies – there is some evidence that nutrient deficiences are linked to allergies.  For example, according to Dr. Leo Galland, a sulfur allergy is often improved with supplementation with B12 and molybdenum. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to asthma.  Some key vitamin deficiencies associated with allergies are the B vitamins, molybendum, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, selenium.  Taking a high quality multi-vitamin could potentially help those suffering from allergies.
  • Environmental changes – from automobiles to chemical plants – there are an increasing number of chemical pollutants in our environment that we are being exposed to, this could be stimulating our immune system.  And scientists also hypothesize that an overall warming of the globe – is increasing the pollen counts and for longer seasons.
    • Hormone interrupters – there are many chemicals in our environment that impact our hormone balance – especially increasing estrogens, such as phthaltes.  Studies have linked phlatates to asthma, eczema and rhinitis.
  • Our food supply – there is evidence that the rise of allergies coincides with the introduction of genetically modified soy and corn and the increase in pesticide use.  GMO corn is heavily sprayed with glysophate – a pesticide – which also has powerful antimicrobial effects.  So eating lots of foods sprayed with pesticides could be degrading our microbiome – leaving our immune system vulnerable.
  • Immune system overstimulation – a very emotionally charged issue for both sides – but some experts theorize that the increase in the number and combinations of vaccines that are given to kids today could be linked to the increase in allergies.  Vaccines contain adjuvants – which are designed to stimulate the immune system to create an immune response to the vaccine.  Some vaccines may contain proteins – like egg and peanut proteins – so it is possible that use of those vaccines could be causing a sensitization to those proteins.  Vaccines also contain heavy metals like aluminum and thimerasol, which could potentially also be causing immune system overstimulation.  The number of vaccines on the CDC schedule has risen dramatically over the last few decades.  It makes sense that this could potentially be overstimulating the immune system. More research is needed in this area.

Are Allergies Just “The Tip of the Iceberg?”

Although seasonal allergies are often considered a singular condition, could those seasonal sniffles and sneezing be a sign of a deeper issue brewing?  Dr. Leo Galland, says allergies could be the underlying mechanism for a long list of other symptoms including chronic pain, migraines, depression, fatigue, weight gain, ADHD, and other conditions.  In The New Fat Flush Plan, Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, has a similar view as Dr. Galland, saying that allergy “symptoms include not only the typical runny nose, but also stomachaches, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, depression, or anxiety, and yes, weight gain.  Allergies and weight gain and allergies have a cyclical relationship. Allergies make fat cells larger, and fat cells in turn create a type of inflammation that intensifies allergic reactions.

According to Robyn O’Bryan, in her best selling book The Unhealthy Truth, allergies are just the “tip of the iceberg…they’re a warning sign from our kids’ immune systems that something is wrong with our food supply.  This toxic food supply has not only created an allergy epidemic, but is linked to other health problems such as asthma, autism, ADHD, and behvioral difficulties.”  Robyn O’Bryan, who became an advocate for improved food and environmental health systems after her child suffered a life-threatening food allergy – she views allergies as “canaries in the coal mine” and is demanding change in our food system.

Are Antihistamines Safe?

When I was a kid, I used to suffer from terrible seasonal allergies – Spring, Fall, as well as allergies to animals, dust mites, and other year round allergies. I remember that one of my Allergy Doctors called me “the Bubble Girl” when I was a kid – because I reacted to so many things, that short of living in a bubble – I was just going to have to deal with them. So I used to just pop antihistamines all the time. I thought nothing of it, but….are antihistamines safe?

According to a 2015 study – a strong link to developing dementia was found for certain antihistamines and other medications that fall into a class called anticholinergics. Find a list of anticholinergic medications here – the higher the score, the more risky the medication.  A score of 1 is a possible anticholinergic, a score of 2 or 3 is a definite anticholinergic – and according to a study published in Neurology, “each definite anticholinergic may increase the risk of cognitive impairment by 46% over 6 years.”

This class of drugs called anticholinergics act on a brain chemical called acetylcholine – which is a very important neurotransmitter for memory and recall. Acetylcholine declines with age anyway – so taking this class of drugs could hasten the decline. Acetylcholine is also important for muscle contraction and gastrointestinal motility – so long term use of these meds could potentially also be linked to constipation and other digestive disorders.

The trouble is, antihistamines like Benadryl can serve a very important role – they help to quickly turn off an immune reaction to an allergen when someone is experiencing an allergy attack – possibly even saving lives when someone is having a bad attack.  So it can be an important tool in the arsenal of someone with an allergy.  But just be aware that because it is considered a class 3 anticholinergic – using it habitually for several years could potentially raise the risk of developing dementia later in life (read:  Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk).

Natural Allergy Treatments:

There are a number of natural alternatives to conventional allergy medications.  If you suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms and want an alternative to an anticholinergic medication – consider trying essential oils, herbal, or homeopathic remedies:

  • Sabadil from Boiron – this homeopathic remedy works naturally with the body to temporarily relieve symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy throat and nose. It does not cause drowsiness or interact with other medications. Recommended for ages 2 and up.
  • Adult Sinus Support product from Redd Remedies, which addresses three aspects of allergic responses – the immune, respiratory, and digestive systems.  It contains vitamin C, quercetin, stinging nettles, NAC (for liver support), bromelian, citrus bioflavinoids, ivy and barberry.  Read how stinging nettle helps with allergy inflammation.
  • Essential oils are another option – like the DoTERRA blend called Breathe – which is a blend of Laurel Leaf, Eucalyptus Leaf, Peppermint Plant, Melaleuca Leaf, Lemon Peel, Cardamom Seed, Ravintsara Leaf, Ravensara Leaf essential oils. It can be diffused or used topically with a carrier oil. Learn more/contact me.
  • Immunotherapy “allergy shots”: although they take time and a commitment, and are not available for all antigens/allergens, allergy shots can gradually help to desenstize the immune system to an allergen. These treatments require an allergy test and need to be administered by a licenced allergy doctor.   Learn more.
  • NAET treatments – Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET), are a non-invasive, drug free, natural solution to alleviate allergies using a blend of selective energy balancing, testing and treatment procedures from acupuncture/acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological disciplines of medicine. Learn more here. Find a practitioner.

Remove “Triggers”

If allergies require a trigger – then removing as many of those triggers or antigens is important for reducing the reactions.  There are several things that are good to eliminate if you struggle with asthma and allergies. Not only can many of the following things trigger allergies – many of them are considered hormone interrupters too:

  • Products with chemicals and chemical based fragrances or parfum:
    • air fresheners (no, contrary to what you see on commercials – it is not normal to be able to cover up the smell of fish guts. We love to diffuse essential oils in our house to get rid of kitchen smells!)
    • fragranced personal care products like lotions and soaps & deodorants (guys – please axe the Axe!!)
    • candles  (ditch those scented candles girls – unless they are natural soy or beeswax candles scented with essential oils!)
    • dryer sheets and laundry detergent  (I can smell clothes washed in Tide 10 feet away)
    • household cleaners
    • skincare & personal care products
  • Pesticides, and foods that have pesticides added
  • Dust & dust mites
  • Down feather pillows, and animal dander
  • Mold – any area with a musty smell could have mold
  • Genetically modified foods and substances – the exponential rise in allergies runs in parallel to the introduction and increase in use of genetically modified foods.
  • Foods that cause inflammation (like foods made with damaged oils, excess sugar, gluten and dairy)

Some replacements for the above products:

  • Essential oil products – like household cleaners, soaps, and diffusers (a healthy way to eliminate odors in the house, and impart a nice scent in a room).
  • Chemical free cleaners and personal care products (it is better for the environment too)
  • non-GMO and organic foods

What do foods have to do with it?

When I was diagnosed with allergies – I was told that despite being allergic to pretty much everything, that at least fortunately – I had no food allergies.  I was very relieved to not have food allergies. But it was ironically decades later after I did a food elimination diet that my seasonal and environmental allergies finally resolved.  Finally decades  “just dealing” with the itchy eyes, runny nose, chronic sinus issues, chronic pain…it just went away, and never came back!

So why might a food elimination diet help with seasonal allergies you might be wondering?

The foundation of our immune system is in our digestive tract.  According to this article, “The crucial position of the gastrointestinal system is testified by the huge amount of immune cells that reside within it. Indeed, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system; moreover, about 80% of plasma cells [mainly immunoglobulin A (IgA)-bearing cells] reside in GALT. The gastrointestinal system plays a key role in the complex mechanisms of immunoregulation. The importance of immune modulation at the gastrointestinal level can be understood easily, considering that approximately 70% of the entire immune system is found in this site and that in the lamina propria there are about 80% of all plasma cells responsible for IgA antibody production ”

And with the overuse of antibiotics, aantibacterial soaps, GMOs and pesticide laden foods, high levels of stress, the use of prescription and non-prescription medications, and more – our digestive systems and microbiome are being assaulted day in and day out.  When the wall of our gut is what is called “leaky” then we are going to be more prone to inflammation and allergic responses.  So it is important to heal and seal the gut wall, so we become less reactive to the foods we eat and our environments.

When we are eating foods that are creating an inflammatory response in our body – that can cause the body to be more reactive to not only those offending foods – but also other potential allergens.  So one of the first things to try when trying to heal from the root cause is an elimination diet.  Dr. Galland calls it the “Three Day Power Wash.”  The goal of the power wash is to increase nutrient intake, and remove potential allergic triggers.  Almost any food can cause hidden allergies – but the most common food intolerances generally include the following (Dr. Galland’s “Power Wash” eliminates these foods and a few others):

  • Dairy
  • Gluten and gluten containing grains
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, peanuts
  • Shellfish, seafood
  • Yeast
  • Nighshades
  • Sugar, honey and fructose

The Liver – the General of the Army

The liver also plays a very important role in our immune system as well – in Chinese medicine, it is called “the general of the army” because the health of our liver dictates whether or not so many different biochemical processes are working well or not.  Ann Louise Gittleman says that bile, which is produced in the liver, is critical to a healthy immune response.  In this article she says that “There is already a 75% bile deficiency by the time allergies, arthritis, and inflammation in joints and muscles develop. By the time cancer or chronic illness is diagnosed, a whopping 90% deficit has already occurred.”   Produced in the liver, bile is stored in the gallbladder so it can be released as needed – generally when we consume a meal.  When the liver and gallbladder are not working optimally, there can be bile stagnation, this can lead to poor digestion, allergies, weight imbalances, and a number of health issues. The New Fat Flush Plan explains in detail how to improve bile flow, liver & digestive health – which affects our overall health.

Bye Bye “Bubble Girl”

Today, I am no longer the “Bubble Girl.” I haven’t been bothered by allergies or needed allergy medication in the past 6+ years. Some might say I finally just “grew out of them,” and in many cases – people can grow out of allergies later in life. I also did get years of immunotherapy (allergy shots), and that probably also helped lessen my allergies as well.  But I suffered from seasonal allergies even after finishing my immunotherapy, well into my adulthood – but after giving up gluten and eating a much less inflammatory diet (less sugars, more omega 3 fats, etc), I finally was able to stop needing antihistamines in the Fall and Springtime.

So although the traditional allergy testing didn’t identify any ‘food allergies‘ – I found through an elimination diet (as well as an ALCAT food intolerance test later) that certain foods were linked to chronic and systemic inflammation in my body – which very likely made me more reactive to my environment and was an antecedent or trigger for my “seasonal” allergens.

And as a bonus – by giving up gluten, I also got rid of my chronic aches and pains (and stopped popping Advil like it was candy too) – systemic inflammation is closely linked to pain.  I also found my mood stabilized as well – which makes sense, as depression and other mood imbalances are now thought to be inflammation in the brain (read more).

So I always ask people – would you be willing to give an elimination diet a try – for just 3 weeks?  How about just 3 days as Dr. Galland suggests for his Power Wash? I am surprised by how much resistance I get when I suggest an elimination diet.  The question you have to ask, is:  What do you have to lose?  I had a lot to lose – I lost my allergies, chronic pain, headaches, mood swings, and more.  You might even just lose those few extra stubborn pounds that have been hanging on.  An elimination diet does not always have to be forever. Sometimes even foods that were causing a reaction can be brought back into the diet after the digestive tract is healed, and nutrient deficiences are replenished.  Time will tell.  Usually foods that can be brought back into the diet are best done only on limited basis.  But often, people who feel better after removing an offending food – don’t want to reintroduce it anyway – because they would prefer to not go back to feeling like crap again.

Although not all allergies can be “cured” – many can be greatly lessened by some investigative work, and some diet & lifestyle shifts.

Learn more about food intolerances, elimination diets, digestive health, and more – in my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan – available on amazon.com.


  • The Allergy Solution
  • Allergy facts
  • Allergy statistics
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygiene_hypothesis
  • http://www.thedoctorwithin.com/allergies/vaccines-and-the-peanut-allergy-epidemic/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/
  • http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-anticholinergic-drugs-like-benadryl-linked-increased-dementia-risk-201501287667
  • http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2091745
  • http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/news/severe-depression-linked-inflammation-brain-288715


Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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15 Tips for Fixing Constipation (Without Miralax!)

March 29, 2017
15 Tips for Fixing Constipation

Occasional mild constipation can happen to anyone – often it is due to a stressful event, interruptions to your routine, or diet (maybe you were traveling, or you just went a little crazy with the cheese plate).  But generally, as long as you get back to you normal routine or diet, or the stress subsides – the constipation will resolve and you will be feeling normal in a day or so.  If you have ever had occasional constipation, you know the feeling – discomfort, bloating, feeling full, gassy and sluggish.  Now imagine what it would be like to feel that way most of the time. Chronic constipation is the #1 cause of kids’ belly pain, and a common reason to miss school and activities. In addition – being constipated can impede the body’s ability to detoxify. When constipation is ongoing or chronic, it generally is a signal that something is amiss somewhere in the digestion and elimination process – with the organs, the nerves, and anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.

In some cases, constipation can become a medical emergency. According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise, “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.” If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction.

What is constipation? Look before you flush!

Not everyone agrees on the definition of constipation – some experts say as long as you “go” 3 times a week, you are fine. But most natural & holistic health practitioners say anything less than 1 daily movement is constipation. You should look before you flush, because another way to identify constipation is by the quality of the stool – even if you are passing stool – if they are hard, little pebbles – it is considered constipation.  (see below Bristol stool chart).  Another consideration is when you are not completely emtpying the bowel – incomplete evacuations are another sign of constipation.  Also – if someone has to strain every time they go in order to pass the stool – this is another sign of constipation.  The ideal situation is to have at least one complete evacuation of the bowel daily with a type 3 or 4 bowel movement on the Bristol Stool chart – which is a smooth and easy to pass stool.  Some people may pass more than 1 daily.

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Underlying Causes of Constipation:

Chronic constipation can be caused by a long list of issues including:

  • picky eating
  • highly processed diets
  • undiagnosed food sensitivities (dairy tends to be a common culprit)
  • being sedentary, lack of exercise
  • low fiber consumption (or oddly enough, in some cases too much fiber consumption)
  • insufficient fluid intake, chronic dehydration
  • behavioral issues (like “withholding” or ignoring the urge to go)
  • changes in routine or diet (like travel, or overindulging in a constipating food like cheese)
  • developmental issues
  • nerve damage or nerve disorders
  • gut dysbiosis (overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the GI tract)
  • viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection in the gut
  • congestion in the liver, kidneys, or intestines
  • certain supplements can be constipating like calcium and iron.
  • Medications (some medications like opiods and antacids can cause constipation)
  • medical conditions (like thyroid disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, Hirschsprung’s disease, neurological disorders, untreated B12 deficiency, brain injury)
  • poorly managed stress
  • disease – if constipation is not resolved with diet and supplement changes, you should see a health practitioner to rule out more serious causes.

Miralax Concerns:

For constipation sufferers – the tasteless and odorless over the counter medication Miralax seemed to offer an easy solution to the problem – just stir it into a glass of water or juice, and drink it down – problem solved, right?  Not so fast…although doctors have been recommending it as a so-called “safe” solution for constipation in kids for years, prescribing Miralax is NOT FDA approved for use in children, so giving it to kids is an “off-label” use. And giving it to anyone for longer than a week is also off-label.  Miralax’s label – says that it is for use in people age 17 and over, and not for more than 7 days (without a doctor’s orders).

The research on the long-term safety of propylene glycol (PEG) use in kids is limited at best.  And there have been concerns regarding the safty of Miralax’s use in children for several years.  According to the NY Times, “the Empire State Consumer Project, a New York consumer group, sent a citizen petition to the F.D.A. on behalf of parents concerned about the increase in so-called adverse events related to PEG that health professionals and consumers have reported to the F.D.A. over the past decade.”  According to this NY Times article, tests conducted by the F.D.A. in 2008 on eight batches of Miralax,  found tiny amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) in all of the samples – which are ingredients in antifreeze. Despite being conducted in 2008, the results of the tests were not disclosed to the public.  The article also said that taking Miralax for long periods of time could lead to developing “acidic blood.”

Since the start of 2017, a growing number of parents have come forward complaining of a myriad of psychological, behavorial, and neurological symptoms that they have been linked to the active ingredient propylene glycol (PEG) found in Miralax and some other laxatives – these side effect include tics, stuttering, anger/aggression, depression, anxiety, memory issues, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and more.  There is a Facebook group called Parents Against Miralax that has grown from about 2,000 to over 18,000 members in just a few weeks time – join that group to read some of the testimonials of the negative consequences of giving Miralax to their children.

Many doctors are still recommending it as a ‘safe‘ option, while others are questioning the safety.  “Every pediatric GI physician, I would guarantee you, has told a family this is a safe product,” said Dr. Kent C. Williams, a gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Now, he worries, “it may not be true.” According to the NY Times, “Scrutiny for Laxatives as a Childhood Remedy.”

Many kids and families have been using Miralax without being told of the potential risks, and having never been offered any natural alternatives to try first. Now with the possible side effect concerns – a lot of parents are scrambling to find a safe & natural alternative to Miralax – that works.

The good news is there are lots of natural alternatives that are safe, effective, and offer lots of positive health benefits.

15 Tips for Fixing Constipation Naturally:

Note:  Do not expect constipation to resolve overnight – take your time and implement changes very slowly and gradually to allow the body to adjust.  Any major changes made to the diet or with supplements are best done on the weekend when the child is not rushing out of the house, and can be near a toilet in case they happen to get loose stools, and home relaxing in case there is any discomfort, gas, or bloating.  Kids under the age of 4, or with a medical conditions (such as kidney disease), or currently taking medications – should speak to their pediatrician or specialist before implementing any of the below suggestion.   The content of this article is not to be construed as medical advice. – all information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Contact your doctor or specialist with any questions about how this information pertains to you, your child.

1. Boost Hydration

Studies show that most kids are not replenishing enough fluids each day, making them chronically dehydrated. Without proper hydration, the stools can become hard and difficult to pass (Type 1 and 2 on the Bristol chart). Overtime this situation can become chronic constipation.  Just correcting hydration alone can potentially solve the constipation problem for certain kids!

  • Make sure kids are bringing water bottles to school, and that they are not coming back home full!
  • They should drink plenty of water and fluids spread out throughout the day. Try to not drink too much water with meals, it can dilute the digestive enzymes and work against digestion.
  • Avoiding sugary beverages is smart, as they can quickly lead to weight gain, cavities, and candida overgrowth (which can contribute to constipation).  If you do choose juice – drink only unsweetened juice and dilute it with half water.  Good juices for constipation are prune, pear, and freshly squeezed lemon.
  • Diets rich in plant-based foods are also very hydrating, and come paired with natural vitamins, minerals and fiber. Foods like melons, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, celery, and tomatoes, all contain a lot of water – which helps to lubricate and boost digestion.
  • Consider adding mineral drops and a small pinch of high quality Real Salt to 1-2 of your servings of water daily – this helps to boosts the magnesium, potassium, and trace mineral levels.  Optimal minerals are very important for preventing constipation.

2. Identify & Remove Constipating Foods / Food Sensitivities:

When constipation is chronic, going on an allergy elimination diet is a very good idea. Undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities can cause inflammation, digestive troubles, problems absorbing nutrients, and constipation. It is also important to discover a food sensitivity because they can lead to damage in the small intestine, and many other very serious health issues overtime. I generally recommend keeping a food journal for a few days before starting the elimination diet, during the elimination period, and after.  Download this Food Mood Journal for free.

Almost any intolerance to a food could cause constipation, two of the most common culprits are dairy and gluten:

  • Dairy – one of the most constipating foods can be cows milk products. Only about 40% of the population has the ability to properly digest dairy, that means for the majority of the population (60%), dairy will interfere with digestion. For some, it can cause loose stools, while in others it can cause constipation.  Cheese can be especially constipating. Removing dairy from the diet for a couple weeks can help to determine if that is the root of the problem. Substitute a non-dairy milk, and non-dairy cheese and see if the condition improves.  After about 3 weeks of avoiding the food, you can reintroduce some dairy to “challenge” it.  If there are symptoms (constipation, sneezing, etc) – continue to avoid for 2-3 more months.  Try the challenge again.  If there is a reaction – continue to avoid.  If there is no reaction – then you may begin to incorporate small amounts of dairy, but remove it again if there are issues.
  • Gluten – Most people think that people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance will suffer from diarrhea, which many do. But celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity can also lead to constipation. Some patients with celiac disease are mistakenly diagnosed initially with irritable bowel syndrome, which has similar symptoms.

Test – Don’t want to do an elimation diet, or would rather just test?  A food intolerance panel can be run to identify food intolerances as well – such as the ALCAT test.

Avoid highly processed foods: Cutting back on sugary and processed or “enriched” foods will not only benefit digestion – but it will benefit weight, energy, and overall health too. Processed foods lack enzymes, fiber and nutrients. Diets that are highly processed and sugary not only can lead to constipation, but can also lead to inflammation in the gut and an overgrowth of candida, which is a yeast.  Also – the more sweet foods a child eats, the less they will enjoy unsweetened foods like vegetables, so getting rid of the sugar for a little while helps to reset the taste buds and metabolism. High sugar consumption also raises our triglycerides, blood sugar, and increases our risk of many diseases.  Read: 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar to learn more.

3. Eat more constipation-relieving foods

Increasing foods that are hydrating and naturally rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals – like fruits and vegetables – will help to get the digestion moving better.  Some particularly good foods for constipation include: prunes and other dried fruits, pears, kiwis, blueberries, cooked beets, cooked sweet potatoes, cooked oatmeal, and (well hydrated) chia seeds.

4. Exercise

If you want to get “things” moving – get moving!!  Exercise is really important for overall health and digestion.  Kids have more reasons than ever to be sedentary – lots of screentime, homework, etc.  Kids who are not out being active can suffer from sluggish digestion. In addition to promoting regularity, exercise also benefits our mood, weight, energy, and sleep.  So turn off the screens and get moving!

5. Get Healthy Fats

Healthy fats help to lubricate the colon and keep things moving.  My favorite fat for constipation is coconut oil.  It is antiviral, antibacterial – so it will also help to improve the bacterial balance in the colon, and it also does not require bile salts for digstion – so those with a sluggish gallbladder will still be able to digest it well. It is also metabolism-boosting and easily converted into energy.  Any adult that has tried a Bulletproof coffee (which has 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil, plus 1-2 Tablespoons of grass fed butter in it) can attest to the fact that eating a lot of coconut oil and butter can make you “go!”   Other healthy fats that benefit digestion and metabolism include grass fed butter, flax oil (not for cooking), olive oil, and avocado oil.

Some ways to get coconut oil into the diet are – adding it to smoothies, stir into oatmeal, cook with it, and making these “coconut oil chocolates”:

  • Coconut oil chocolates:  just melt 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips with 1/4 cup coconut oil (optional – add 2-4 drops of peppermint essential oil) – stir together all ingredients and then pour into the silicon ice cube tray – and put in freezer.  Store in freezer so they do not melt.  This makes 1 batch of mini chocolates – I used the square one of these silicon ice cube tray molds.  If using a larger mold like this heart shaped one, then double the recipe.

6. Time.

It is important to make sure your child has enough time each morning to sit and relax on the potty before going off to school. Even if you have to wake them up earlier in the morning – make sure they have plenty of time after breakfast to sit on the potty. Morning is one of the most optimal times to have a bowel movement. Sometimes kids will “hold it” at school, traveling, or if they are out in public. Some teachers might restrict bathroom breaks, to limit disruptions to the school day. If your child suffers from urinary tract, constipation or digestive troubles; make sure to inform the teacher so he knows to not to restrict your child’s access to the bathroom. If the teacher does not agree, bring your issue to the principal, there is a disabilities act that prevents kids who have continence issues from being restricted from using the bathroom.

7. Squat.

The modern toilet is not designed to put our bodies into the ideal position for moving our bowels.  Raising the feet up onto a stool or a Squatty Potty can be very helpful in getting the anatomy in the right position to make a bowel movement.  Especially little kids whose feet don’t even reach the ground – they need a little support.  The Squatty Potty comes in two sizes, to fit the individual just right and get them into the right squatting position for optimal bowel movements.  It also stores neatly under the toilet when not in use.  If you don’t want to invest in a Squatty Potty – you could stack up some books, or use a little step stool – but once you do – you will see how great it is to get in the right position and you will want the Squatty Potty – because it can be washed clean, and fits perfectly next to the potty. As they say “try the stool for your stools!”

8. Boost magnesium

Too much calcium and not enough magnesium can lead to constipation (it also has been linked to increased risk of heart attack, due to calcifications of the arteries). As many as 70% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. This can result in constipation, headaches, sore muscles, nerve troubles, restless legs, nervousness, and even increased fractures. Taking magnesium before bedtime is helpful with constipation. For some kids, taking magnesium before school is also helpful – as magnesium is called “the calming mineral’ – so it can help them to be calm in school.

Seek out foods that are rich in magnesium – like dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. If you are craving chocolate, it could be your body telling you that you need magnesium, because cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate) is one of the highest known food sources for magnesium. Most people also will benefit from taking a magnesium supplements, such as Natural Calm (for ages 4 and up). Magnesium can also be absorbed via the skin by soaking in an epsom or Dead Sea salt bath – I particularly like this brand Dead Sea Warehouse‘s salt bath product – it is very high quality and affordable. Another option is using magnesium oils – which can be applied topically.

9. Get some C!

If your bowels are feeling sluggish, vitamin C supplements can be a wonderful way to get the bowels moving. Chewing one or two of these vitamin C gummies on an empty stomach in the morning, might just be what is needed to produce a bowel movement (BM). – they are 125 mg each.  For older kids, you might want to find a capsule, powder, or liquid vitamin C with 500 mg./serving.  Vitamin C (like magnesium) can be taken to bowel tolerance* (the amount needed to produce a BM).   If the stool is loose*, just take less vitamin C.  If the vitamin C bothers the tummy – look for a buffered brand, or take with food (it will have less of an effect of moving the bowels however if taken with food).  If tummy upset occurs from taking vitamin C, 1 glass of water with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in might help reduce the acidity of the vitamin C.  Learn more here: vitamin c for constipation.

* Taking too much magnesium or vitamin C can lead to diarrhea, so you want to gradually increase it over several days.  If diarrhea does occur – make sure to give your child an electrolyte replenisher and fluids – I like Scratch Labs electrolyte replenisher packets, or Nuun tablets.  Make sure to back off and take less magnesium and vitamin C if this does occur.

10. Increase Fiber – gradually please!! 

Most Americans do not get nearly the amount of fiber they need each day. There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water, creating a gel. Insoluble fiber passes through undigested, so it adds bulk.  Adding too much fiber (especially bulk) to the diet too quickly is not a good idea – it can cause discomfort, and can even make the constipation worse, especially if fluids are not increased along with the added fiber.  So make sure to drink extra liquids as well when increasing dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber because it needs to soak up water in order to work.

Adding in too much fiber, too fast, without enough fluids could not only cause discomfort, gas and bloating – it could even potentially cause a blockage – especially if there are already hard stools stuck in the colon.  If a stool has not been produced within the past day, before adding in fiber to the diet – consider using an enema or suppository to make sure the colon is clean first – this will make a blockage less likely to develop from the added fiber.  And remember to add the fiber in gradually to allow the digestive system to adjust.

Ideally before adding in any bulking fibers (insoluble fiber)… the bowels should have moved and be fairly cleaned out.  If all of the above steps have been implemented and the bowels have not been moved.  It is a good idea to do a thorough bowel “clean out.”  The catch is – often, doctors will prescribe Miralax for this.  But realize that there are many other ways to achieve a clean out without Miralax.  A glycerin or liquid pediatric suppository or an enema may be used at this point.  If a suppository or enema is chosen, it is important for everyone to remain calm and not to appear embarrassed – the child often will mirror our behavior and attitude, and if they are tense – it can make it more uncomfortable. Using a little coconut oil as lubrication can make it significantly more comfortable.  (Read: How to give a child an enema in 5 Steps).

Approximately how much fiber should my child get each day? It can vary from person to person – but a general guideline for kids ages 3-18 is to add the number 5 to your child’s age, and in general, that is the number of grams of fiber they need daily – so an average 11 year old, should have about 16 grams of fiber per day. A 6 year old needs about 11 grams. Recommednations for an average adult are to get about 25 grams each day.  But again – this can very from person to person.  Through experiementation – find what works for you and your child – and try to have a balance of soluble and insoluble fibers.  And remember that hydration and fiber go together!

Some good fiber sources:

  • Chia seeds – can be a miracle food for constipation. Chia seeds work very much like Miralax does – by drawing in water. Yet unlike Miralax, Chia is a superfood, and highly nutritious. Not only is chia a gentle and very effective fiber – it is also an excellent source of omega 3s and protein, minerals, and antioxidants. One of the most hydrophillic foods, chia seeds soak up about 15 times it’s own weight in water, which boosts hydration and provides lasting energy. Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of water or fluids, or they can draw water from within the body, which can be dehydrating.  IF chia seeds are not hydrated properly – there have been rare cases reported recently where they can be a choking hazard.  This is easily avoided by not using too much chia seeds at once, and properly hydrating them.
  • Flax seeds are another good source of nutritious fiber – and ground flax is a great replacement for flour. Try these delicious muffins made with ground flax (totally flourless) – click on the link below to get the recipe:
  • Oatmeal – a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber.
  • Fruits & veggies – So many common diseases and health problems could be helped simply by increasing our plant-based foods. Eating more whole fresh fruits and veggies will provide both fiber and enzymes – which boost digestion. More plant-based foods also lower your risk of most diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Although fruit is a nice alternative to a sweet dessert, preferably you want to eat fruit a half hour before, or two hours after a meal. The reason is that fruit is digested more quickly than proteins, complex carbs and fats, and so if you eat fruit right after a meal, it will want to pass through the system faster than the other foods, and ferment on top of them – creating reflux and other issues. If you think you can’t tolerate fruit, try eating it on an empty stomach and see if you are able to tolerate it better.
  • Fiber supplements – adding in a fiber supplement can be very useful.  I like Regular Girl, which is a prebiotic soluble fiber which is paired with probiotics, or Sunfiber – which does not contain the probiotics.  Both Regular Girl and Sunfiber are colorless and flavorless, just like Miralax. Some kids might prefer a fiber gummy.  Another good product is called Vibrant Flora Improved Bowel Support from Vibrant Health – which contains prebiotic fiber, probiotics, and a number of herbs and other nutrients to help condition and heal the digestive tract. It is not colorless and flavorless – but it has a nice orange flavor and dissolves well, so it is not gritty.   Note: Please follow the directions on the packaging of supplements, contact the manufacturer with questions. 

11. Balance the Gut Bacteria.

One of the main reasons for constipation is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.  If there is not enough good bacteria, and too much bad bacteria – this can lead to constipation and other issues.  Probiotics (healthy bacteria) boosts the good bacteria, which is very important for healthy digestion, a balanced weight, and a strong immune system. Fermented and cultured foods and drinks such as kefir and yogurts can provide natural probiotics, or you can add a probiotic supplement to the daily routine.  Prebiotics are also helpful – because they are food for the probiotics.  Prebiotics are found in certain fibrous foods and supplements.

There are instances when taking probiotics or prebiotics may not be a good idea – at least initially.  If someone has Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), that means that there is bacteria growing in the small intestine, this can lead to bloating and distention when carbohydrates are eaten.  If you suspect that your child may have SIBO (gas, bloating, pain after eating carbs), then you might want to seek out a SIBO specialist to have them evaluated and treated – they may or may not think probiotics are a good idea – just yet.  Once the SIBO is resolved, probiotics may or may not be appropriate for repopulating the gut to prevent further dysbiosis.  Some of the supplements mentioned above have probiotics and prebiotics.

Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.

12. Boost Digestive Enzymes!

The body naturally produces hydrochloric acid (HcL) and enzymes to digest foods, which are needed to break food down for absorption and digestion. If we are low on stomach acid or enzymes, food may not get properly broken down for digestion, so it will be harder to pass through the digestive tract, and also the body will absorb less of the nutrients. If you suffer from acid reflux, you might think that you need to reduce the acid in your stomach. But usually, it means you do not have enough acid or enzymes.

  • Raw fruits & vegetables contain natural enzymes, especially foods like papaya, pineapple.
  • Have a digestive tonic before meals – mix the juice from 1/4 of a fresh lemon and 1/2 tsp. of raw apple cider vinegar to 8 oz. of water. Add a 1/2 tsp. of honey or an 1/8 tsp of stevia to sweeten if you like.
  • Digestive Enzymes – are also available in supplement forms, and can help kids with digestive troubles, especially reflux.
  • High quality salt (sodium chloride) is very important for production of HcL. So I always recommend getting rid of the table salt, and replacing it with a mineral-rich Real Salt brand, pink Himalayan salt, or Celtic sea salt because it is broken down into hydrocholic acid, whereas table salt is not.

13. Stimulate the vagus nerve

Our gut and our brain are connected – so much so, that our gut is called “our second brain.”  So issues in the brain can cause gut issues, and vise versa.  Constipation can stem from issues with the brain that can impact gut motility.  When the migrating motor complex or the vagus nerve are not working optimally – this can lead to slow motility.  If that is the case, stimulating the vagus nerve can be a powerful step to help to get things Nervanamoving again.  Singing, vigorous gargling, gagging, and deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve.  Or you can use a device called Nervana – which stimualtes the vagus nerve through the ear.  In addition to improving motility, stimulating the vagus nerve can help with reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting a calm feeling and good sleep.  I also like a supplement called Brain ON from E3 Live for stimulating the vagus nerve and helping to resolve slow motility – it is a powerful superfood blue green algae that contains over 65 vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Brain On is a powerful way to support good brain & gut health.

14. Smoothies!

One of my favorite ways to sneak lots of good nutrition, fiber and hydration into a glass are smoothies. Especially good for picky eaters – smoothies are a great way to sneak in healthy ingredients!

Orange Dream Smoothie:

Makes one 8 oz. smoothie

  • 1/2 cup of water, or coconut water
  • 1/4 cup non dairy milk
  • 1 small orange (peel removed)
  • 1/2 scoop dairy free protein powder (I like Warrior Blend vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup frozen mangos or peaches
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white chia seeds
  • 2-3 baby carrots
  • Optional – you could add a probiotic powder for additional beneficial bacteria
  • Directions:  Put the liquid in the blender and add the chia seeds, let soak for a few minutes to soften. Then add the rest of the ingredients, blend well, and serve this delicious & nutritious smoothie that tastes like an orange creamsicle!

15.  Essential oils

Essential oils can be very helpful for dealing with the discomfort of constipation and helping resolve digestion issues.  I like a product called Digest Zen from doTERRA.  Peppermint essential oil is also very helpful when there is bloating or discomfort.  But please be aware that essential oils are very powerful – even one drop is powerful – so always be sure to keep them out of young children’s reach. When using topically, always use a carrier oil (coconut works wonderfully). You can put a tablespoon of coconut oil into a little container – and add a few drops of essential oil like Dgest Zen – and then rub that on the belly as needed. You could also order or make your own DigestZen rollerball that has the carrier oil in it.   Another topical remedy to consider is castor oil.  Just rub a little castor oil on the right side of the abdomen (this is the liver area) before bedtime.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

Realize that digestion issues may take a while to resolve, and it might be a good idea to slowly ease into the changes. If the constipation and digestion issues continue to persist, it might be prudent to schedule an appointment with a holistic or integrative practitioner to see if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed – such as an infection, parasites, SIBO, or another issue.

And just remember that if allowed to go on for a long time or get severe, constipation can become a medical emergency.  According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise,  “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.”  If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction.  Or in rare very severe cases – constipation that has gone on too long – could lead to sepsis, a very dangerous infection.  So it is important to not allow a child to go more than a a few days without eliminating – you may need to use an enema or a glycerin suppository to prevent a blockage if a child has gone more than a couple days without having a BM, and is getting very uncomfortable, is not eating well, and is not able to produce a stool on his/her own.  If this is happening – please seek medical attention right away/have your child evalated by a gastroenterologist or pediatrician.


* Please note: the content in this article is for children ages 4 and up, and without any kidney disorder. This content is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Persons experiencing problems or with questions about their health or medications, should consult their medical professional. Persons should carefully read the labels of all foods and supplements, and those who are taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions.  Linked articles are provided for further resources and information and should not be construed as medical advice.







Drug for Adults Is Popular as Children’s Remedy – Previous title for this article was: “Miralax – a popular cure but never approved for children”

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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What is “Skinny Starch?”

February 25, 2017
What is Skinny Starch?


Have you heard of resistant starch?  Resistant starch is sometimes called the “Skinny Starch” because it can improve digestion, stabilize insulin and blood sugar, provid longer lasting energy, improved digestion and gut bacteria – all of which could potentially mean flatter bellies and weight loss

Resistant Starch is a type of carbohydrate that “resists” digestion, meaning it passes through the stomach and the small intestine relatively unchanged.  When it reaches the colon, it serves as a prebiotic fiber. A pre-biotic is different than a pro-biotic. A pre-biotic feeds the probiotic (good) bacteria. So you want both – in order to keep the good bacteria (probiotics) in your colon happy – you need to regularly feed them (prebiotics).

Certain foods contain resistant starch naturally such as plant-based foods with a cellular structure that offers some resistance to digestion – like legumes, tiger nuts, and whole grains.  Certain kinds of starch are naturally resistant to digestion in their raw or unriped state – like green bananas, raw potatoes, and green plantains.  Some starches become resistant to digestion after they are cooked then cooled – such as potatoes, rice, or pasta. Note: if you reheat these foods they will lose some of the resistant starch, but will also retain some. There are also man made resistant starches, called “superstarch” – which is a food that has been modified/changed in order to be more resistant to digestion.

When resistant starch reaches the colon – it creates a short chain fatty acid chemical called butyrate – which changes the pH of the colon and has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve intestinal permeability, improve digestion, elimination and the metabolism. It also makes the colon a less hospitable environment for bad bacteria and even for colon cancers to develop. So regularly consuming resistant starch could potentially reduce our risk for colon cancer – the 4th most common type of cancer. (Read more)

Mark my words – resistant starch is pretty cool – I would even call it a “metabolism hack.”

But before you run out and start to load up on resistant starch – realize that like any fiber – especially a prebiotic one – you want to incorporate it slowly, or it could potentially cause digestive upset. So start with a teaspoon or less at first to see how you do first.

One of the best sources of resistant starch in my opinion comes from a small tuber called a tiger nut. You can eat the nuts whole, or use tiger nut flour. I buy Tiger Nut Flour from Organic Gemini. I add a Tablespoon of Tiger Nut flour to my smoothie every morning.

Another benefit of resistant starch is that it can also help some people sleep – so this Tiger Nut & Cashew Horchata drink I created could be a nice thing to have before bedtime.

I also like to make raw desserts with tiger nut flour – like this delicious Skinny Starch Raspberry Tart recipe.

To learn more about resistant starch and get a recipe book (recipes include Cookie Dough Balls and Skinny Thin Mints!), sign up for my online Course – All About Resistant Starch.

All About Resistant Starch


Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety & Stress

December 24, 2016
Holiday Stress?

If you struggle with anxiety and stress, you are not alone.  One of the most common complaints that I hear from clients – kids and adults alike – is feelings of anxiety.

We are all under so much pressure day in and day out, and running from one thing to the next – it is easy to feel like a hamster running on those hamster wheels all day long!!  And with to do lists a mile long, presents to buy, travel and parties, bills piling up…the stress & anxiety levels can definitely go up during the holidays.

Excess stress can lead to elevated blood pressure, and overtime it can also cause elevated cholesterol levels, weight gain, hormone imbalances, digestion issues, mood imbalances, blood sugar issues, and can even be a trigger for diseases. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed a 4.2 % increase in heart-related deaths between December 25th and January 7th, some of which could be attributed to elevated stress levels – read more.

But fortunately, there are several natural and healthy ways to deal with and reduce anxiety and stress all year long.

5 tips to reduce stress & anxiety:


1. Swap your morning cup of coffee for a cup of matcha tea (or take an L-Theanine supplement)

I love a good cup of Joe, but if you are trying to reduce your stress levels – that might not be the best way to start your day because it can amp you up too much and make you jittery and anxious.   You might be thinking – “But, Sara! I need my caffeine to get going in200 mg of zen the morning!”  The perfect solution is the switch your morning cup of coffee for a cup of matcha tea.  Matcha tea has just enough caffeine to give you a nice energy boost, without making you jittery. And the bonus – matcha tea also has a compound called L-Theanine – which is an amino acid that helps to promote a calm focused feeling. L-Theanine is such a powerful way to reduce anxiety and promote calm feelings, that it is sometimes called “Nature’s Xanax“.  It does this by enhancing the brain’s alpha waves – which creates a deep feeling of relaxation without any sedation or drowsiness.  L-theanine may also help to clear excess free glutamates from the brain, which may contribute to anxiety (free glutamates are found in processed foods, especially those which contain monosodium glutamate – so I always tell clients with anxious kids to skip the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Doritos – and any other foods which contain MSG)! If you want the benefit of the L-theanine without the caffeine – you can take an L-theanine supplement too – which is nice to do in the evening to calm down before bedtime.  L-Theanine does not contain caffeine, so you can take it any time of day.  Although it won’t make you feel sleepy, the calm feeling L-theanine provides, can enhance sleep at night.  A 2004 Australian study found L-Theanine to be more effective at inducing relaxation than Xanax!

I find that L-Theanine can even be an effective replacement a glass of wine for taking the ‘edge off’, it can also help to lower blood sugar, and ward off sugar cravings too.


2. Get some magnesium (the “calming mineral”).

Magnesium is a mineral, a very important mineral at that – it is responsible for over 350 biochemical processes in the body – from glucose regulation to ATP production, bone & heart health, hormones, and much more. Most people are already deficient in magnesium – and  stress only makes us more depleted. Magnesium is often called “the calming mineral, or the “chill pill” – so if we are deficient, it is no wonder we could be feeling anxious.  To increase your magnesium, you could eat more magnesium rich foods like nuts, seeds, Magnesium malateleafy greens, and….chocolate!!  But go for the dark chocolate, because it is raw cacao where the magnesium is found, and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.  You can also take a magnesium supplement – just know that not all types of magnesium are created equal – some are poorly absorbed, and some can have stool softening effects. So it is important to choose the right form of magnesium – I avoid the oxide form, which is poorly absorbed, and has a laxative effect.  I prefer these forms of magnesium: malate, glycinate, orotate, and citrate (citrate is highly bioavailable, but it can also cause loose stools, so start with a low dose like 150 mg).  Magensium can also be absorbed through the skin, so soaking in a bath with magnesium-rich epsom salts can boost your magnesium levels.  Or you can spray a magnesium oil on your skin too.   When I am under stress, I find that increasing my magnesium supplements can help me feel a lot calmer. This is the magnesium supplement that we take at our house: Designs for Health Magnesium Malate.


3. Try essential oils.

Believe it or not, essential oils can have a very powerful effect on our mood. I like to diffuse them, use them topically, and I even will put a couple drops of lavendar into my foot soak and onto my pillow for a calming effect at night. Interested in learning more about essential oils? Contact sara@rebalancelife.com


4. Balance your gut bacteria.

Whenever someone tells me they have anxiety – I ask how their digestion is, because believe it or not – many cases of anxiety begin in the gut. Our gut has actually been called our second brain! So addressing gut issues is a great tool for dealing with anxiety. One thingDigestive Defense I like to recommend is trying to add a high quality probiotic. I usually recommend a specific strain – called Bacilius coagulans – because it is it is a soil based probiotic – which means it helps to “seed” your gut with good bacteria and crowd out the bad. It is also generally very well tolerated and doesn’t tend to cause bloating. So that is my favorite strain, and it is not the most common one either. You can also eat fermented foods and drinks too – that will help to tip the balance of good bacteria back in your favor too. I have heard that just doing this has helped people reduce their anxiety levels.  This is the probiotic I take and recommend:  Pure Prescriptions’ Digestive Defense.


5. Stimulate your Vagus Nerve.

NervanaOur gut is connected to our brain via something called the Vagus Nerve. The vagus nerve plays a critical role in our parasympathetic nervous system – the side of our nervous system that is responsible for relaxation, rest, and recovery.  When the sympathetic nervous system is turned on all the time – we are stuck in a stress response – this can lead to anxiety, poorly controlled stress, and can cause our digestion and hormones to get out of balance.  When there are problems with the vagus nerve, it can lead to all kinds of issues – ranging from anxiety to focus, and even digestion issues like slow motility. When we have out of control stress levels for long periods of time, our vagus nerve can get weak.  In order to get it working again and doing its’ job to calm us down, we need to stimuate it. One way to stimulate the vagus nerve is by gargling – very vigorously several times a day.  Singing loudly can also stimulate the vagus nerve, and so can the gag reflex- although some people may not wish to gag repeatedly every day.  If those things don’t sound appealing to you – you might want to consider the Nervana device.  I recently found and started using this amazing device called Nervana – it looks like a music player – but really what it is doing is stimulating the vagus nerve. Kind of like a workout for the vagus nerve!! I have been using it twice a day, and I have found that my digestion and mood have definitely benefitted.


Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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This Deficiency Can be Deadly

October 14, 2016
Vitamin B12 containing foods

As someone gets older, they might fall more often, need a cane to walk, or get a little more forgetful. But what if in some cases – those things weren’t actually due to ‘old age’ – but a vitamin deficiency, that was treatable!

Vitamin B12 is important for energy, mood, memory, focus and metabolism of fats and amino acids. A deficiency can cause anemia, memory and focus issues, a sluggish metabolism, and nerve damage.  But in severe cases that are left to progress, vitamin B12 deficiency can even lead to death.

The thing about B12 deficiency – is it is often missed or misdiagnosed as other conditions like Parkinson’s, MS, or dementia. Because it often happens to the elderly, the symptoms can simply be attributed to ‘old age’. But B12 deficiency does not just affect the elderly population, it can even affect babies and young children, and it can mimic the symptoms of autism and ADHD.

Let me share a story – a couple years ago, a young girl mentioned to me that she was getting tingling and numbness in her arm. I asked her if she had seen a doctor about it. She told me yes, but that the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She said they eventually pulled her parents aside and told them that she was “making it up, or just saying it to get attention.”

I was stunned.

That is not something a child would make up!  Neurological symptoms should never be ignored or dismissed. I mentioned B12 deficiency to her mom, and guess what? They tested her and she was deficient. She is doing well now on B12 supplements. In fact, if she stops the supplements, the tingling and numbness comes back.

But what if she hadn’t gotten tested or supplements? The sad thing is, there are many people in a similar situation – who are being misdiagnosed or told it is “in their heads” every day.

A deficiency in B12 can cause neurological issues, fatigue, dementia, depression and other mental illnesses – even psychosis. It is linked to anemia, infertility, autistic symptoms, learning and motor delays, elevated homocysteine, clumsiness, frequent falls, and so much more. B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed as MS, Parkinsons, dementia, and more. If left untreated, severe B12 deficiencies can even lead to death.   It can take years before symptoms of a B12 deficiency show up.

Who is at Risk?

Because B12 is only available in animal products, vegans and people who eat very little animal proteins are one of the higher risk populations for deficiency. People with inadequate levels of stomach acid, digestive issues, or who have had gastric or intestinal surgery are also higher risk for deficiencies.   People who have genetic mutations which limit their bodies ability to convert B12 to the active form can be deficient, as well as those with autoimmune conditions like pernicious anemia.

The Form of B12 Matters.

If you are currently taking a B12 supplement in your multivitamin – go take a look and see what form it is. Is it cyanocobalamin? That is one of the most common and cheapest forms – so that is why many multivitamin companies use it. But conversion of B12 in the body is not a simple mechanism, and some people are not able to convert cyanocobalamin into the useable form (such as anyone with a genetic MTHFR mutation). So the optimal forms of B12 for absorption and bioavailability are methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, or hydroxycobalamin.

Curious if B12 deficiency could be affecting you or a loved one? Get tested*! You want to ask for a Serum B12 and a urinary MMA. Other tests to consider are homocysteine, serum iron, and ferritin. Find the complete list of tests to consider in the book Could it Be B12? Also, find more information and a complete list of symptoms on this site: B12Awareness.org.

Some people with digestion/ absorption problems, low stomach acid, or very low B12 levels – will benefit from B12 injections, a sublingual, or a liquid form of B12.

The B vitamins work together synergistically, so it is a good idea when supplementing to take a high quality multivitamin with the full B complex, or taking a B complex vitamin along with your multivitamin.

*Note: if you are already supplementing with B12, realize that your test results may not accurately reflect a deficiency. So if you are not supplementing and suspect a deficiency – try to get tested right away, before beginning to supplement.

Read more: Inexpensive Vitamin Treats ‘So Many Diseases’ It Threatens Big Pharma

Note: Tingling and numbness in extremities can also be a sign of diabetes, but it is important to rule out a B12 deficiency as well.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Is Stress Making You Gain Weight?

September 17, 2016
Businesswoman under stress working in the office

Are you eating right and exercising – yet gaining weight?


STRESS could be to blame.

We can be eating a perfectly healthy diet – and hitting the gym regularly, but if our stress levels are out of control, then our metabolism is not working optimally.

A little stress is a normal part of life, but so many of us are stuck on the proverbial “hamster wheels” today – we are just going and going and going. High stress levels are a recipe for metabolism melt down and can lead to weight gain, and in some cases weight loss.

When we are under stress all of the time, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on – that means that our body is stuck in the fight or flight state – so that means that our heart rate, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure is elevated, while, our digestion, elimination, immune system, and reproductive system all go dormant – “ain’t nobody got time for that when we are running from a sabre tooth tiger!”

Cortisol’s role.

A steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex, cortisol is often referred to as “the stress hormone,” because during times of stress, the body pumps out more cortisol.  During a normal day, our cortsiol should be slightly elevated in the morning, to give us that “get up and go”, and it should be low at bedtime to help us settle down to sleep.  But sometimes, when we are under a lot of stress, and fueling up all day with caffeine and carbs, our cortisol levels can get out of whack.   Feeling “tired but wired” at bedtime is a classic symptom of a messed up cortisol rhythm.  Or needing 3 cups of coffee to get the engine running each morning is another. Cortisol issues can also show up as weight storage in the midsection – because of the chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin it causes. Chronically elevated cortisol can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which means the body is not able to use carbs to energy, and it is storing carbs as more fat.

Over time, chronic stress can mess with our sleep, raise cholesterol levels, contribute to dehydration and blood pressure issues, and eventually it can cause our other hormones to get out of balance too – causing things like estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and adrenal fatigue.   Stress can be a trigger that sets serious diseases like heart disease and autoimmunity in motion too.

Genes loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” *

What do hamsters do when they are not running like mad on those wheels?  They are resting and recovering.  We need to take a cue from them and get off those wheels occasionally. So although it might seem impossible to get off the hamster wheel – we have to remember – that we have a choice.  There are a number of things that we can choose to do to reduce stress levels.

Lifestyle changes for getting control of stress:

  • Get the blood sugar under control – I recommend always getting healthy fat, protein, and/or fiber every time you eat – I call it the “Rule of Three,”  which helps to keep the blood sugar stable.  Having blood sugar out of control can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and stress cravings.
  • Eat more whole foods – processed foods lead to nutrient deficiencies and often contain glutamates which are excitatory to the brain. I find that a lot of kids with anxiety eat too many foods with MSG and other chemicals in them (get rid of the Flamin’ Hot stuff).  Free glutamates in the brain leads to anxiety, depression, focus and attention issues, and potentially can even lead to autistic-type behaviors.
  • Heal the gut – when our digestion is out of balance, we are not able absorb nutrients or properly detox chemicals – this can make us feel out of balance, and lead to mood and brain issues.  Our gut is considered our “second brain” – and so when there is chronic stress and anxiety – often there are digestion woes too.
  • Get Your ZZZs – high levels of stress can really mess up our sleep – big time.  If you have that feeling at night where you are tired, but too wired to sleep – your stress levels are too high – and you could even have adrenal fatigue.  Time to do prioritize your sleep by turning off electronics 1 hour before bedtime (no exceptions), and do some calming things before bedtime – like taking an epsom salt bath (rich in magnesium), meditation, or having a cup of calming tea – like golden milk tea.  There are also a number of supplements that can support sleep.
  • Exercise Smarter – If our stress hormone cortisol is high, and we hit the treadmill or do aerobics for an hour – that could seriously backfire.  Long bouts of cardio raise our stress hormone cortisol – which only makes our metabolism more sluggish, and causes us to store more fat in our midsection. The good news?  We can do much shorter, more effective workouts to get the metabolism working again – interval training, weight training, yoga, and walking are all good for the metabolism.
  • Learning to say ‘no’ – Overcommiting ourselves can cause stress levels to go through the roof.  So be careful what you commit to. If you are a people pleaser – instead of saying no, you could start out by saying “not now.”  If your boss is trying to load up your work, and dumps another project on your desk with “stat’ written across the top…ask which other responsibilities can be put on hold to make this a priority?  In the end, learning to say no (or not now) is better for your employer, because you will have less sick days, less backaches, and more focus and energy.

Supplements to Reduce Stress:

Many people can benefit from supplements** that can help us to reduce our stress hormones and activate our calming neurotransmitters so we can get those stress hormones back in a normal rhythm:

  • Amino acids are precursors to neurotransmitters – which are important brain chemicals that can affect mood, attention, anxiety, focus, and even pain..  When neurotransmittersscreen-shot-2016-09-17-at-2-32-39-pm are out of balance, we feel out of balance too.  Taking the right amino acids can be very useful for reducing stress, anxiety and balancing mood. Two of my favorites that are very well tolerated are L-theanine and GABA.
    • L-Theanine is naturally occuring in green tea (camellia sinensis). It has been shown to reduce anxiety while increasing mental alertness and acuity.  L-Theanine can help to clear out free glutamates from the brain – which can help to calm.
    • GABA is another calming amino acid that helps to calm the brain waves and promote relaxation.  I find that these amino acids can be useful in the evenings – as an alternative for a glass of wine to relieve stress.
    • Pure Tranquility Liquid contains GABA, L-Theanine, and glysine which also has a calming effect – it is a liquid, so it allows for dosing flexibility and is good for those that can’t swallow pills.
  • Adaptogens are herbs that do what their name suggests – they help the body adapt to stress, they also support the immune system, metabolism and energy.
    • Ashwaganda, which is also known as Indian Ginsing, is a very beneficial adaptogen – it supports healthy joints, and tissue, immune system, energy production, and benefits the thyroid as well.
    • Rhodiola is another wonderful option, and studies have found that it may help to moderate stress, reduce fatigue, support short-term memory and concentration, improve neurotransmitter levels, and support energy metabolism.
  • Magnesium is known as the calming mineral. Most people are deficient in magnesium, and high stress levels tends to further deplete magnesium levels, so you might want toNatural Calm consider upping your magnesium during stressful times too.  Avoid the oxide form, as it is poorly absorbed and have more of a laxative effects.  Good sources of magnesium include citrate, malate, and glycinate.  One product that a lot of people like to use is Natural Calm, which is a powder that is stirred into a glass of water.  It can often support a healthy sleep.  It can lead to loose stools if you take too much.  So start with a half a dose, and gradually work your way up. If it gives you loose stools, back off your dose.  Read: Magnesium & The Brain, The Original “Chill Pill”
  • B vitamins are important for creating neurotransmitters, and are also excreted during times of stress. So that is why it is often recommended that people supplement with high quality B vitamins, like B Supreme to better handle stress.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids. Chronic stress leads to systemic inflammation – which increases the risk for heart disease, mood imbalances, and many diseases including cancer.  New studies are revealing that depression and other mood disorders are actually inflammation in the brain.  Important brain food – omega 3 fats such as those found in fatty fish are important for lowering systemic and chronic inflammation.  This is important for our brain, mood, heart health, reducing chronic pain, and preventing many diseases including cancer.  You want to go for a high quality brand that is rich in both DHA and EPA, like Nordic Naturals’ Pro Omega D.

Chronic stress can be the “switch” that turns on disease and slows down our metabolism. In order to have a healthy metabolism & a healthy life – we need to prioritize getting our stress levels under control. Chapter 7 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan is dedicated to strategies for lowering stress and improving sleep.





* this quote is attributed to a number of people including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Diane Schwarzbein, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

** If you are currently taking prescription medications or under a doctor’s care, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements or herbs.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Sara’s Healthy Holiday Gift Picks (plus Giveaways)

December 12, 2015
Sara's Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas


Give the Gift of Health – 14 Gift Ideas!

Ho Ho Ho!!  It’s holiday time – which means celebrating and merriment and gift giving!

Do you have someone on your list that you really care about and want to get them the best gift ever?

What better gift is there than the gift of health?

I have rounded up some of my favorite healthy holiday gift ideas for 2015 to help you get your holiday shopping done!  And don’t worry if you missed out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – several of these companies are offering special holiday deals right now!

The best part of all?  I am doing a raffle – and giving away over $600 worth of healthy holiday gifts!!!

Note: raffle has ended. 

1: Annmarie Gianni Skincare

Give the gift of glowing & beautiful skin!!   For someone who deserves to be pampered!

Chapter 5 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan encourages people to reduce the amount of toxins in our lifestyle – because toxins can contribute to stubborn weight gain & higher disease risk. One sneaky way that chemicals are getting in – are through our skincare products.  So cleaning up our personal care products is important!

That is why I love Annmarie Gianni Skincare products – their products are organic and completely non-toxic, and smell great.  I have been using them for about a month, and every time I wash my face – I feel like I have been to a spa.  And what can I say about their coconut honey mask – it makes my skin feels as soft as baby’s bum.

Sara's Holiday Gift Picks Ann Marie GianniAnne Marie Gianni has gifts for all budgets!

  • The Annmarie Balance Gift Set -$160.00. This skin care gift set is great for all skin types and will help keep your skin in perfect balance! Includes an Aloe-Herb Facial Cleanser, Ayurvedic Facial Scrub, Neroli Toning Mist, Herbal Facial Oil for Normal and Combination Skin, & Purifying Mud Mask – which all work together to leave your skin fresh, moisturized, and glowing.
  • The Annmarie Travel Essentials – $24.95. This kit contains the Rosemary Peppermint Body Wash, Coconut Body Oil and Radiant Skin Silk Body Lotion – which all work together to leave your skin feeling refreshed and hydrated. Using these products in your daily routine is also an amazing aromatherapy experience.
  • Annmarie Gianni Sample Kits – these are great stocking stuffers!
    • Skincare sample kit: $10 each – Give Annmarie Gianni skincare a try – with sample kits. 
    • Sunscreen sample: $5 each – created for people who want to protect their skin from the sun’s rays without exposing themselves to harmful chemicals found in most commercial sunscreens.

ps. Don’t forget to order something for yourself!! 

2: Kraut Source Fermenting Gift Set

Sara's Picks 2015 - Kraut SourceGive the gift of healthy digestion, moods, and immunity.

Studies show that eating fermented foods can support a healthy gut – which is linked to many health benefits ranging from better digestion to weight balance, improved moods, better immunity – and more!

I love Kraut Source fermenting jars – because they are designed to keep the veggies under the brine which is important when making fermented foods. They also have a lot of really good recipes and videos on their site too!

  • The Kraut Source Holiday Gift Pack  $56.00 (usually $70.00), Includes a fermentation kit (one Kraut Source, one quart-size Mason jar, 4 oz pack Celtic Sea Salt, and a pack of organic spices, a handmade maple wood pounder, a jar opening gripper.

3: Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil

Give the gift of sparkling clean teeth, fresh breath and detoxification!  

Sara's Picks - Skinny & CoDid you know that studies show that coconut oil is an effective way to combat tooth decay?  Read this BBC article to learn more!  Oil pulling is also a great way to detoxify – and has a rich history in Ayurvedic cleansing traditions.   This uniquely formulated oil protects tooth enamel and dental fillings while it removes plaque, freshens breath, and whitens teeth, naturally.  Skinny & Co also offers high quality cold pressed alkaline coconut oil for cooking and eating, and wonderfully silky and decadent coconut based moisturizing skincare items too. 

  • The Skinny Coconut Oil Pulling Kit – $30.00.  Includes an 8.5 oz Skinny Oil Pulling Jar – infused with blue peppermint leaf oil & a proprietary blend of essential oils, SKINny Lip Balm, a 100% Natural Bamboo Spoon to reach every drop, plus a How-To Oil Pull Guide.
  • Other nice gift options include the Skinny Beauty Box ($90.00) & the Skinny Facial box ($58.00)

 4:  Four Sigma Foods Mushroom Coffee

Sara's Picks - Four SigmaGive the gift of über healthy coffee – superfood mushroom coffee!

The ‘fun guys’ at Four Sigma foods are bringing you the superfood powers of fungi (mushrooms) combined with coffee – to make a delicious superfood drink.  They are in convenient on-the-go packets, so you can take your superfoods on the road with you!!   Mushrooms are adaptogenic – meaning they adapt to meet our bodies needs to best support our health – such as reducing stress and boosting immunity.

  • Mushroom coffee with cordyceps – $15.  Mushrooms are adaptogenic – so they adapt to help reduce stress and boost immunity.  Cordyceps are known to support for the adrenal glands.   With half the caffeine, double the effects (40 milligrams of caffeine per dose), you have less acidity than regular coffee – no more stomach burn.
  • Reishi Tea – $35. For relaxation and deep sleep. Reishi mushroom is generally known as “the queen of mushrooms” due to its body-and-mind balancing properties. This ancient mushroom drink calms you down and ensures better sleep by naturally regulating the hormonal system and lowering cortisol levels. Contains 20 packets.

 5: Beaming

Sara's Gift Picks - Beaming

For the person on your list that wants to be beaming!! 

Walk into one of the 6 Beaming Superfood stores in Southern Cal – and you will instantly know that you are going to be taken care of with the highest quality clean juices, smoothies, superfood salads, soups and yummy muffins and snacks!  Everything they do is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants – and also super delish!   I love that their cleanses are not just juice cleanses, and they know the importance of healthy fat to manage hunger hormones and boost the metabolism.  So don’t worry about doing their cleanses – you will NOT be hungry.  Maybe someone one your gift list deserves a 1 day reset, or perhaps they are needing a 21 day reboot!

  • Beaming Gift card – holiday special – buy a $100 gift card for $80.
  • Beaming Superfood Smoothie Kit – $75.00.  Contains all of the ingredients needed for you to blend and experiment to your heart’s (and body’s) content – Superfood smoothie blend and superfood protein blend, as well as a smoothie ebook and  2 protein powder packets.
  • The mini purse pack essentials – $12.00 (great stocking stuffer).  Want to know the sign of a true foodie? They carry around their own high quality mineral-rich salt to season their foods – this purse pack of essentials contains 2 different kinds.  And if you want to avoid the blue, pink and white sweetener packets – you will have your low glycemic coconut sugar with you too! I just LOVE the Beaming purse pack of essentials! 
  • Beaming’s Signature Cleanse – Starts at $85.00.  A great way to detox from the holidays and let the body release some unwanted water retention and toxins – choose the one that suits your needs best – perfect for getting ready for New Years!

Sara's Gift picks Yoga Six6: Yoga Six

Give the gift of relaxation and rejuvenation!

Do you know someone that loves yoga, or has been wanting to give it a try? Or just needs to de-stress?
Give him/her the gift of relaxation, flexibility, strength and more !

The 6 in Yoga Six refers to the 6 results of a consistent yoga practice: Stronger, Leaner, Calmer, Clearer, Braver, Further. With 4 beautiful studios around the San Diego area – and more locations in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – Yoga Six is a great place to de-stress your life and support a healthy metabolism!  They offer hot yoga, flow deep stretch, boot camp, meditation, and much more!

  • Holiday Special – Purchase a $100 Gift Card and get 1 FREE Month of Unlimited Yoga to Give to a Friend!

 7: Mizu

Give the gift of (BPA free) hydration and protect the environment at the same time – with beautifully designed Mizu!

Sara's Picks MizuI encourage all my clients to stay hydrated throughout the day.  And one key way to do that – is to carry your water bottle around with you. But I don’t recommend drinking from plastic – because plastics can interfere with hormones and is terrible for the environment.  Plus – it is just way more expensive too!

Mizu makes reusable products to hold your drinks – which are designed to help reduce the over abundance of single-use plastics produced and discarded each year.  Hot or cold drinks – wine, coffee, and water – Mizu handles it all with ease and beauty!  Plus -their insulated bottles will keep your cold beverages cold for 24 hours!  This is a practical gift – that anyone can use!  

If you have shied away from reusable water bottles because you don’t like the taste – Mizu uses only the highest quality 18/8 food grade stainless steel (has 18% chromium and 8% nickel) – leaves no metal taste and is durable, easy-to-clean and corrosion resistant.

  • The Mizu Yoga Kit – $64.95 – For the yogi on your list. All new Mizu yoga gift set includes a multi-use G7 glass bottle (for hot and cold drinks), insulated camp cup (coffee and Moscow Mules), and the zen-inducing M8 “fade” bottle.
  • The Mizu Wine Kit – $64.95. For the wine connoisieur on your list. The insulated V8 (800ml) bottle can store an entire bottle of wine at the desired temperature for over 12 hours, and 2-set of stainless steel wine cups provide a stylish yet durable solution to wine drinking outside.

Sara's Holiday Picks - Ab Carver Pro8. The Ab Carver Pro

For the person that wants to rock some rock hard abs – and exercise smarter, not harder!!

I don’t know about you – but I am not a fan of abdominal crunches – and neither is trainer Ben Greenfield (who I interviewed for The Metabolism Summit – coming Feb 1). Check out what his Huffington Post article has to say about crunches (to summarize – they don’t work).

The hot new trend now is to exercise smarter – not harder.  So if you want to rock some rock hard abs in just a few minutes at a time – try out the Ab Carver Pro.  A bonus – it also works your arms and back at the same time!

  • The Ab Carver Pro: $39.99. The kinetic engine provides resistance as you roll it away and assistance on the way back up. This motion works all your abdominals as well as the muscles in your arms. The ultra-wide wheel and performance grips offer stability throughout the completion of your effective core workout.

Sara's Picks - Trigger Point GRID9. TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

Help the athlete in your life recover better! 

Also when I interviewed Ben Greenfield on The Metabolism Summit – he had just finished the Tough Mudder – which is 24 hours of extreme endurance exercise.  I asked him what he was doing to recover from that, and he told me that he spent an hour that morning on a foam roller – to help his muscles loosen up and recover!  The GRID foam roller is uniquely designed with a ‘Distrodensity” three dimensional surface which replicates the feeling of a massage therapist’s hands.

  • The TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller: $39.99.  – The GRID foam roller is for anybody who wants to move better. Use the GRID for a self-massage and roll through the tight muscles, knots and kinks that prevent feeling good and moving well.

10: Generation UCAN

Sara's Picks - UCANFor the endurance athlete that needs the ultimate fuel.

Have you heard of SuperStarch?  It is a complex carbohydrate (derived from non-GMO corn) that stabilizes blood sugar so you avoid crashing.  It helps you perform better while using fat for fuel. It was discovered to help a boy named Jonah, who had a rare disease, where he could not store carbohydrates – so he needed to eat every 2 hours to live.  With SuperStarch he can go 8 hours.  It is an all-natural, slow-releasing carbohydrate that provides steady energy and blood sugar levels.

Generation UCAN helps to sustain energy, without a crash – or inhibiting  fat-burning. Whether you’re running a marathon, climbing a mountain, competing on the field, or live an on-the-go lifestyle, UCAN is ideal for maintaining steady energy.  Try it as a pre-workout snack, a post-workout shake to optimize recovery, between meals to control cravings, or a meal replacement shake.

Use code: HealthyHoliday to save 15%! 

Sara's Holiday Gift Picks Perfect Metabolism11: The Perfect Metabolism Plan

What better gift could you give someone that the gift of a healthy metabolism?

Okay – yes, I wrote this book. So I probably am a little biased – but wrote it because I know so many people are struggling with their weight and health – and doing everything they have been told to do like counting calories, cutting fat, exercising more and eating less – and are frustrated because it is just not working. Believe me, I’ve been there too (I share a lot of my story in the book).

But the truth is – many of these approaches to weight loss simply don’t work, and they could even be making your metabolism AND YOUR OVERALL HEALTH worse!

One tip from the book that might help this holiday season with sugar cravings – and that is to put coconut oil in tea!

  • The Perfect Metabolism Plan by Sara Vance: $16.95 – Understand the 10 keys that you need to optimize to reboot and reset your metabolism – the real secret to achieving vibrant health!  It also has over 50 recipes and a plan to put it into action. 

12. Cocoa Parlor Dark Chocolate – $5.00/bar (great stocking stuffer)

Sara's Gift Picks - Cocoa ParlourDark chocolate to satisfy your sweetheart’s sweet tooth! 

One of the treats that I recommend to clients that are trying to break free from sugar addiction – without feeling deprived is dark chocolate.  It is good to have especially this time of year – because you can have a square of dark chocolate when you get tempted by the cookies and treats.  But don’t be fooled by beautiful packaging and expensive pricing.  Check out this article written by The Food Babe about how even the most expensive chocolates can be made with cheap GMO ingredients and use artificial flavorings!

So – scurry on past the expensive brands with the beautiful gold packaging and red bows – and grab some Cocoa Parlour instead – a great stocking stuffer!   Check out the ingredient list on a Cocoa Parlor bar – and you might be surprised to see just 3 ingredients for many of their bars!  Unlike many of the chocolate bars on the market – these are made with simplest ingredients – and do not put any soy lethicin into their bars.    They also sell raw chocolate bars – which is even better – because it is higher in antioxidants!

I have tried many different brands – and I have to tell you that Cocoa Parlour comes out on top for me.  My absolute favorite is their Popped Quinoa bar.  I also like their salted almond dark as well – salt, chocolate and almonds – the perfect combo.

Sara's Gift picks - KivaSun13. KivaSun Bison Jerky – $7.99/pack (great stocking stuffer)

High-quality protein-dense gluten-free snacking. 

Not all jerky is created equal – or gluten free.  Kiva bison jerky is gluten free, antibiotic free, contains no added hormones, is high in protein, contains no nitrates or nitrites, and tastes great.

  • Try the Hatch Chile or Original Flavor & taste the KivaSun difference!

14. The ReFuel Bar – $2.49/bar* (great stocking stuffer) 

Refuel BarStuff the stocking with some snack bars that aren’t too sweet. 

Are you frustrated with bars that are too sweet, or have ingredients that you are trying to avoid like soy, gluten, or dairy?  So was I – that is why I created the ReFuel bar!  Just the right hint of sweetness (6 grams – from dates), 8 grams of vegan protein (from pea and hemp), and 9 grams of fiber (from chia seeds and a prebiotic fiber – which is food for the probiotics – keeps your tummy bugs happy and fed).

  • Special Holiday Deal – Save 30% regular price of $29.95 on all ReFuel Bars!  Code HOLIDAY30 should come up automatically.  Expires Dec. 16th.  Order here.

The Giveaway – 4 Amazing Gift Sets!!

I am giving away over $600 worth of healthy holiday gift sets!!!  Enter to win below!! 

Would you like to be the lucky winner of one of these awesome gift sets?

The Home Spa Gift: Value $190 value

  • The Ann Marie Gianni Balance Gift Set -$160.00 value
  • The Skinny Coconut Oil Pulling Kit – $30.00 value

The Healthy Metabolism Home Chef Gift: $102 value

  • The Kraut Source Holiday Gift Pack: $70.00 value
  • The Perfect Metabolism Plan: $16.95 value
  • Four Sigma Foods Mushroom coffee with cordyceps – $15 value

The Work Out Smarter Not Harder Gift: $110 value

  • Generation UCAN multi-flavor sample pack with blender bottle: $29.75 value
  • Ab carver Pro: $39.99 value
  • Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller: $39.99 value

The Stylish Yogi Gift:  $210 value

  • 6 passes to a Yoga Six studio: $120 value
  • The Mizu Yoga Kit – $64.95 value
  • Beaming Superfood Smoothie Blend: $24.95 value

How to Enter: Please note that this raffle has now ended. 

  1. Give us your name, email, and shipping address below. (you will also be added to our newsletter –  you may opt out at any time).
  2. Head over and Like my Facebook page. – Sara Vance at Rebalance Life – and feel free to add your comments to the Healthy Holiday Gift post about which products you can’t wait to try (and feel free to say why).
  3. Wait to see who won the big prizes!!  The winner will be chosen by a drawing that will be held on Wednesday, December 16th at 8:00pm PT!  Remember: You must fill out the form below and also Friend Sara Vance ar Rebalance Life on FB to win! Gift sets will be shipped the next day to address listed on the winning entry forms.

Please note:  Includes shipping within the U.S.  If a winner outside the U.S. is chosen – shipping costs will need to be paid by the winner, or they may forfeit the prize.  All attempts will be made for gifts to arrive before Dec. 25th, but it is not guaranteed.  Must be 18 to enter. 

Don’t forget to sign up for The Metabolism Summit – coming Feb 1st!!

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Note: some of the above links are affiliate links – meaning Sara Vance will earn a small commission for referring you.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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New Guidelines for Preventing Heart Disease

July 8, 2015
Time Magazine - wrong about fats
Thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease doesn’t discriminate – it is the #1 cause of death in both women & men. In fact, since 1984, more women have died from heart disease than men (Read article in Forbes magazine).


Heart Disease’s Fast Track to #1:

Heart disease hasn’t always been the #1 killer.  In fact, if we look back a little over a hundred years ago – just before the turn of the 19th century – heart disease was virtually non-existant, occurring in a small % of the population.  But by 1921 – it had become the leading cause of death!
How could this have happened, so quickly? Researchers set out to find the answers – and one man by the name of Ancel Keys had a theory.  He believed it was due to consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol. He set out to prove his theory – and published his 7 Countries Study – which showed that for the people living in these 7 countries – there was a correlation between heart disease, and intake of cholesterol and saturated fats.


There were two problems with the 7 Countries Study:

  1. Keys had actually studied 22 countries – but he selected the 7 countries that fit his theory.  Several of the countries that he conveniently choose not to include in his results – actually disproved his theory!
  2. His research was based on correlation, not causation.  This is an important distinction.  Correlation means that there is an association – only.  It does not prove causation.  Kind of like umbrellas are correlated with rain, and band aids are correlated with cuts.   In fact, it could have been an entirely different food or environmental factor that was the real culprit behind the rise – more about that in a sec.


But despite these flaws, Key’s 7 Countries Studies started a nutritional revolution.  The American Heart Association told the public that cholesterol and saturated fats would raise our risk of heart disease, and later, the USDA published guidelines to limit them both from the diet.  And every year after that for many decades – Americans believed that low fat meant healthier and reduced risk of disease.


It is an interesting story. I write extensively about the history behind the “Low Fat Myth” in Chapter Two (“Fix Your Fats”) of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan. I also I highly recommend this fascinating must-watch documentary featuring a number of doctors and experts that discusses these “dietary villains” – The Heart of the Matter – this is part 1 (approx. 30 mins long).

 Heart of the Matter


Why is Heart Disease Still #1?

So if we have made so many advances in prevention and treatment of heart disease – why is it still the #1 cause of death?  In addition to heart disease, the incidence of diabetes has tripled since the 1980s (the height of the low fat era).   Plus, we are seeing an increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, and Alzheimers disease – which is now being referred to as “Type 3 diabetes” (because the plaques in the brain are so similar to the diabetic plaques). All of these diseases do share a common link, more about that later…
Fortunately – the way heart disease is being diagnosed, treated, and prevented is beginning to evolve.  There have been some pretty significant changes in the past few months:


1. Dietary Cholesterol Exonerated

The long-standing recommendation to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol has just recently been officially lifted from the nutritional guidelines.  This is huge, and has been a long time coming. Despite being told that there was good scientific evidence to back it up – the scientific studies actually did not show a causative link between dietary cholesterol and heart attack!  One study looked at 130,000 people and found that nearly 3/4 of patients hospitalized for heart attack had what was considered to be normal cholesterol numbers. In fact, research shows that in the elderly population (over age 81) – lower cholesterol levels actually raised the risk of mortality, and equated to lower memory scores.

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart DiseaseDr. Mark Houston, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Heart Disease says that “elevated cholesterol is not a sure sign of heart disease, any more than low levels are a sure sign of heart health.”  Dr. Houston says in his book that heart disease begins with endothelial damage or dysfunction, which progresses through 7 different pathways (inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmunity, dyslipidemia, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and obesity).  The good news?  Many of the above pathways can be affected by nutritional and lifestyle factors. I highly recommend Dr. Houston’s book if you want to understand how to get control of your heart health naturally.

2. Saturated Fats Not to Blame Either

Experts are also calling into the question the recommendations on saturated fats – because like cholesterol, there is a lack of scientific evidence linking saturated fats to heart disease.  But the push to remove the saturated fat limit is still being met with a lot of resistance, so it will likely not be changed in the official nutritional recommendations until the next time they are changed – which is in 5 years.  Don’t believe me about saturated fats not being bad for you?  Read this Time Magazine piece titled “We Were Wrong About Saturated Fats.” (Notice that is Ancel Keys on the left hand cover).

Time Magazine - wrong about fats

3. Trans fats banned. 

Another exciting development that happened recently – is the FDA finally took a stronger stand against trans fats.  Back in 2013, they removed the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) classification, because of the link between trans fats and coronary artery plaque formation.  And just last month they took it a big step further – they banned the use of trans fats in foods entirely.  This is great news, but since there is a 3 year grace period for compliance – we all need to be aware of all the places trans fats are hiding in the meantime.  Basically – the majority of trans fats in our diets come from “convenience foods.”

Trans fats are liquid fats that have been altered by partially hydrogenation, making them solid/more stable at room temperature.  Trans fats extend the shelf-life of a product, so that is why manufacturers love them.  An interesting historical note is that Crisco – which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – was brought to market in 1911.  Check out this Illustrated History of heart disease for other interesting facts and historical notes (from 1825-2015). 

Spotting Trans Fats –

Just because a label says “no trans fats” does not mean it doesn’t contain them.  That is a label loophole, and just means that there is less than half a gram of trans fats per serving.  Just know, if it says “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list – it has trans fats.

Trans fats are found in:

  • Coffee creamer packets – I call these little packets of trans fats. You are better off with a splash of real Foods with trans fatscream, or better yet – go black.
  • Margarine – I remember when I was a kid, all of sudden our butter got really yellow.  How ironic that we were actually told that these sticks of trans fats were actually healthier! Just get back to real butter (go for grass fed).
  • Refrigerator pie dough, biscuits and rolls – Yep, convenience foods.  From scratch made with plain real butter is better.
  • Processed & grocery store bakery items, donuts
  • Many fried/fast foods
  • Canned frosting
  • Some frozen confections
  • Many reduced fat items
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Frozen dinners 

Heart Health Connected to Our Gut?

There is a lot of really exciting research that has been happening about the human microbiome (the bacterial cells in and on our bodies).  With some new research linking  the heart to the microbiome in the gut. Check out these articles to learn more about the connection:

Could Autoimmune Disease be to Blame for Some?

There is emerging research to support a link between autoimmune diseases and heart disease.  It is well-known that there is a link between chronic/systemic inflammation and heart disease.  So it makes sense that having an autoimmune disease, which leads to chronic and systemic inflammation – could be one potential underlying cause/contributing factor for heart disease.  Because of this, it is a good idea for anyone with heart disease to be tested for celiac disease/gluten sensitivity (especially if there are other potential symptoms of autoimmunity – such as psoriosis, eczema, or other skin conditions/rashes, sun sensitivity, thyroid disease, chronic aches & pains/arthritis, stress fractures, slow wound healing, low white blood cell count, etc).

So back to the question – if cholesterol and saturated fats are not the culprits in heart disease, then what is?  

There is a lot of overwhelming evidence pointing to poorly controlled blood SUGAR.

Although not likely the whole picture – excess sugar increases inflammation, and is linked to increased risk of heart attack and death.  Chapter One of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan goes into detail about how sugar impacts our metabolism and health – and all the sneaky ways it is getting into our diet.

AHA Recommends Added Sugar Limits

Because of the link between sugar and heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to less than 9 tsp for men, and 6 tsp for women.  But with 75% of all packaged foods containing added sugars – this is not easy to do.  Sugar is sneaking into our diets all day long – even in seemingly healthy choices like cereals, yogurts, salad dressings, sauces, snack bars, etc.  You do not have to eat one cookie, one spoonful of ice cream, or one soda to get more added sugar than the recommended limit.  It is no wonder that the average American gets about 3 times more than the recommended amount every day (and I personally think that number is underestimated).

Skip the Sodas & Sweet Drinks

One of the fastest way to get too much sugar is by drinking it. One 12 oz. soda has about 10 tsp of sugar, and a 9 oz. frappuccino has about 8 tsp.  One medium FruiTea (organic green tea from Wendy’s) has 18 tsp!!  That drink alone is 3 times the amount a woman should have all day long!!  And before you run out to buy diet sodas – know that two or more diet sodas a day has been linked to a 30% increase for a heart attack (read this article to learn more).

Read these articles for more info:


One way to stay on top of our heart health is to get some tests run.  But which ones? Contrary to popular belief – just knowing your cholesterol levels is not enough – as more than half of all heart attacks happen in people who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels.

The Spectra Cell Cardio Metabolic test is a comprehensive test to help you assess your risk of metabolic syndrome.  Learn more about the test here  – or ask your family doctor or cardiologist to run these tests for you.

The Healthy Heart Summit – July 13th (it’s FREE)

There is an exciting opportunity to learn from over 30 of the top experts in the area of heart health next week!   The Healthy Heart Summit (begins on July 13 and it is free!!). Register here today, and attend each day for free.

Healthy Heart Summit

In addition to attending the Summit, I also highly recommend the following books:

  • What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Heart Disease.  – by Dr. Mark Houston, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Director of the Hypertension Institute and Vascular Biology, and Medical Director of the Division of Human Nutrition at St. Thomas Medical Group.  In this innovative and well-written book, Dr. Mark Houston helps readers discover the real causes of heart disease, and how to prevent and treat its debilitating effects via nutrition. He also discusses nutritional supplements, exercise, weight management, and lays to rest to various heart health myths based on numerous scientific studies and medical publications.
  • The Great Cholesterol Myth. By Dr. Steven Sinatra & Jonny Bowden.  This is a fascinating book that dispels some of the common myths of heart health, and many ways to support a healthy heart.  Dr. Steven Sinatra is a board-certified Cardiologist with 40 years of experience.


This article is not to be construed as medical advice.  I highly recommend that you discuss the information presented in this article and at the Healthy Heart Summit with your medical provider.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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