Fudgey Banana Oat Squares

a.k.a Banana Brownies

I hesitated in calling these “brownies” as the brownie connoisseurs might disagree. These fudgey squares are similar to a brownie but with a slightly different texture as they are made with oats. I wanted to use up some freezer bananas and didn’t want to make a traditional banana bread with them so I came up with this! I love chocolate and always enjoy a brownie but wanted to come up with a recipe that I could use the bananas in AND make sure it was nice and chocolately. And so, Fudgey Banana Squares were born.

I really enjoy baking and I believe I inherited this from my mother whos is a trained baker. I grew up watching her bake and it definitely rubbed off. I love spending time in the kitchen creating new recipes for my husband and I. Our little one isn’t eating solids yet so these brownie-like squares are for just the two of us right now. 

The Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil OR avocado oil OR ghee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (can omit, tastes delicous still without it)
  • 1 cup gluten free quick oats
  • 1/4 tsp pink salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup raw racao powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper OR slightly grease with avocado oil.
  2. In a bowl, mash bananas. Add coconut sugar, maple syrup, eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend with hand mixer, whisk or in a Kitchen-Aid until smooth and uniform consistency (no big banana chunks).
  3. In a separate bowl combine oats, salt, baking powder and cacao powder. Whisk until blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until smooth and evenly combined.
  5. Spread into 9×9 baking dish and bake for 22-27 mins (average 25 mins)
  6. Yields up to 24 squares depending how large you cut them

ENJOY! 🙂

Fudgey Banana Oat Squares © Vibrancy Health Solutions 2020

Natural Ways to Support Your Immune System

So it seems everyone is trying to avoid getting sick by buying all the hand sanitizer (and toilet paper?). The problem with that is, effective hand washing with plain ol’ soap and water is actually MORE effective at removing surface bacteria than hand sanitizer. Using an all purpose castille soap such as Dr. Bronner’s will do the trick.

In addition to practicing proper hand washing, you need to support your immune system to be able to prevent yourself from getting sick. Whether it’s you or your children, someone in your household is likely sick during cold and flu season. How do we prevent getting sick? and if we do get sick, how can we manage the symptoms naturally? I have your answers.

Prevention is key. We want to support our immune system to be strong all year so we don’t catch a cold (or the flu or another virus). Our immune system lies within our gut. This means we can support our immune system from the inside by supporting our gut with probiotic supplements and fermented foods. Fermented foods include kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and brine fermented pickles (not ones soaked in vinegar and sugar). You might be most familiar with yogurt as a probiotic. While it’s true yogurt is fermented with good bacteria, ultimately there’s just not enough bacteria in the final product to support our gut. In fact:

“you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”

Caroline Farquhar, RHN http://www.renewlife.ca/blog/probiotics-yogurt/

In addition, many yogurts contain unnecessary added sugars and sugar actually reduces immune function. Now, most children may not appreciate the tang associated with naturally fermented foods. Good news is, there’s plenty of effective, safe children’s probiotics on the market. Genuine Health and Genestra make high quality supplements kids love.

There are also safe probiotic supplements for moms-to be. Genestra maternity pro is specifically for expectant mothers. For everyone else, I love this brand.

When taking a probiotic it’s important to have enough food for the probitoics so they can flourish. This “food” is referred to as prebiotics and consists of resistant starches (a.k.a fibre) from plant foods. This would include vegetables, legumes and high-fibre fruits (like berries). So you can already see how beneficial eating a variety of foods can be when it comes to your immune system.

Vitamins for Support

Another way to support your immune system is with Vitamin D. Research supports that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with reduced immune function. The very breif description is that vitamin D works with the cells of your immune system to strengthen it. The safe upper limit for vitamin D consumption is considered to be 4,000IU however, more is recommended to correct deficiency. A simple, inexpensive blood test can determine your vitamin D levels and you can work with your naturopath, RHN, or FMD to determine appropriate supplementation. I personally take 6000-8000 IU during cold and flu season and 3000-4000 during the summer months when I have more sun exposure. Here is the link to Health Canada’s recommendations for all ages. Unless otherwise discussed with your primary care provider, you can use these guidelines for babies and small children.

Vitamin C is another vitamin important for immune function because vitamin C helps create white blood cells which fight infection. You can take vitamin C in a supplement form but there are a variety of foods rich in vitamin C such as:

  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges
  • Sweet Potato

I would focus on whole food sources especially for children. If you do take a supplement, it’s important to point out that vitamin C is water soluble. This means you pee out the extra your body doesn’t need so it is considered safer for that reason. You can however take too much (just like anything else) and diarrhea is typically a symptom. I take 3000-4000mg of vitamin C (while I was pregnant and while breastfeeding) to support my immune system.

Zinc is a mineral that also plays a role when it comes to immunity. Organ meats are an excellent source of zinc as are oysters. I’ll bet you’re not a huge fan of consuming these foods. Good news is, you can find it in other foods and zinc is available as a supplement. Things get delicate though, when it comes to supplementing with minerals as too much of one can inhibit the absorption of another. I wouldn’t take additional zinc (beyond what’s found in your multi vitamin or a lozenge) unless you’ve discussed this with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor. Additional food sources of zinc include:

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Fortified whole grains
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Eggs

Again, demonstrating the benefits of varied diet.

Stress and Immune Function

Did you know stress is a key factor in how strong our immune systems are? When our bodies are under stress, our immune system becomes weakened making us more susceptible to illness. The reason for this is cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones released when we are stressed. One of it’s functions is to temporarily supress the immune system. This means over time, chronic stress leads to reduced immune function. So, keeping our stress levels low is important for strong immunity. We can support our body’s response to stress with the use of adaptogens which are herbs that help balance our immune system by nourishing the adrenal glands (small glands that sit above our kidneys and produce stress hormones). Some of these herbs include Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng and Maca. While there are herbs that are considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are many herbs that are unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Discuss with a trained herbalist or naturopath prior to consumption. I would follow this for children as well. It’s naive to assume children don’t experience stress. We know they do. This product helps children with nervousness and anxiety.

A lack of sleep is also a stressor on the body and will weaken your immune system. It’s important to do what you can to get a good night’s rest. This might mean shutting off electronics an hour before bed and finding a different way to wind-down. A note for new moms: trying to get a good night’s rest is an outlandish request, I know. I have been there (and still am). Just sleep when you can and keep reading to find out what you can safely take if you do get sick.

Supporting with Food

In addition to the foods already listed with respect to vitamin C and zinc, you can help support your immune system with other foods you might already be eating. Garlic is an excellent anti-bacterial and great for immune health. Raw honey is full of enzymes and immune supporting compounds (though typically should not be given to children under 2 years).

Reducing the amount of sugar you are eating will benefit your immune system as well. I am referring to refined sugar such as cookies, pastries, pop and packaged foods not the natural sugars found in fruits. Refined sugar weakens the immune system so leaving it out of your diet is helpful. Reducing or eliminating the amount of alcohol you are consuming will also support your immune system. This is because just like sugar, alcohol dampens the immune system.

Natural Health Products to Reduce Symptoms

So what happens if we do get sick? Well, you can help manage the symptoms with the below natural health products. I have used all of these in the past so they are some of my favourites. There are products appropriate for adults, children and even pregnant and lactating women!

  • Echinacea (A. vogel) is a herb that’s long been used to fight infection. I love this brand because it works! It’s anti-bacterial and anti-viral. This brand is also safe for pregnancy and lactation and their research supports safety and efficacy for preventative use for 4 months. This means you can take it as a preventative but if you do get sick, you can take it to manage symptoms. Just follow the dose on the bottle.
  • Elderberry Syrup (Suro) is available for children and adults and is wonderful when it comes to reducing the symptoms of colds and flu. This one is not recommended if you’re pregnant and breastfeeding however.
  • Medicinal Mushrooms such as Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga and Reishi are incredible immune modulators which means they help boost the immune system (Purica, Four Sigmatic) They help fight off bacteria and viruses. These should not be consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding women or young children without first consulting a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor.
  • Oregano oil is an incredible force when it comes to fighting bacteria and viruses. (not for pregnancy or breastfeeding or kiddos) St. Francis Herb Farm offers an excellent oregano product. You can take this at the first sign of infection. A couple drops under the tongue is all you need. Word to the wise, it’s spicy! And quite potent.
  • Deep Immune by St. Francis Herb Farm is a fantastic product that can be used to keep the immune system strong all season. This is safe for adults and there’s a kiddos version. It is not safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I hope you found a little comfort in knowing you ARE in control of your immune system and there are other measures that can be taken to support the health of you and your family.

If you found this informative, please share so we can spread the word about natural immune support

#livevibrantly

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes. We do not yet know what cures/treats COVID-19. We do know we need to properly wash our hands and stay away from infected individuals to prevent the spread. If you believe you have the symptoms of COVID-19 do not hesitate to get yourself checked out.

Collagen Elixir

I love collagen. I’m a huge advocate for pregnant and postpartum women consuming collagen to help the growing body and baby and then for recovery. The great thing about collagen though, is it’s for everyone.

Vibrancy Health Solutions Collagen Elixir

Collagen is so great for your skin, digestive system, joints, hair and more. This makes it beneficial for athletes, anyone looking for younger skin, anyone looking to help their body age gracefully, someone with joint concerns and more. When I was pregnant, I made a warm collagen drink every morning. I used this to replace the morning coffee I chose to stop drinking.

Collagen helped my growing baby bump. It also helped support my growing tissues expand and stretch, gracefully.

Postpartum, collagen helped my body recover.

The Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups non dairy milk
  • 2 scoops collagen powder
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp butter ghee
  • pinch of sea salt

Add everything except milk directly into a mug or blender. Heat or steam the milk and pour into mug or blender. If using a mug, whisk until dissolved or frothy. If using a blender, pulse just until blended and frothy.

Enjoy!

Supplements During Pregnancy

Congratulations! You’re pregnant (or thinking about becoming pregnant). There’s so much whirling through your mind right now and one topic is likley supplements.

If this little one is a surprise, you might not already be taking a prenatal. That’s definitely a key supplement you want to start right away. Ideally, if you are planning for a baby, start a prenatal 3-6 months prior to the actual date you want to conceive. This will just help nutritionally support your body as you ovulate. The prenatal I chose to take is this one here.

Prenatal

A prenatal should have just about everything your body needs to support a pregnancy. You want to ensure there is iron, B12 and folate. Ideally it will also have trace minerals like iodine and other minerals like calcium and magnesium. It’s also beneficial to take a whole food based prenatal vitamin. This helps enhance absorption of what’s in the vitamin and whole food brands do not have any artificial colours, flavours or additives.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important vitamin to take during pregnancy for many reasons. Vitamin C is an antixodiant and it helps support your immune system. When you become pregnant, your immune system is weakened slightly and Vitamin C will help support it. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production. As you know, your body rapidly changes during pregnancy. Your blood volume doubles and your skin stretches. Vitamin C will help keep the walls of your arteries, veins and capillaries strong and keep your skin stretching gracefully. I chose to supplement with 2,000 – 4,000 mg of Viatmin C daily on top of a nutritious diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for your developing baby’s bone health and teeth. It is also an important vitamin when it comes to immune function. Most people in the northern hemisphere are Vitamin D deficient. This is largely due to not getting enough sun (our body can make Vitamin D when exposed to UV rays), covering up in the colder months and sunscreen. I chose to supplement with 4,000 – 5,000 IU daily. This is becuase the current recommendations are low based upon the safety and efficacy of higher doses of Vitamin D. Always check with your primary care practitioner and do what feels most comfortable to you.

Vitamin B12

I was taking additional B12 prior to getting pregnant. In fact, I had been taking it for years. The reason I chose to take additional B12 (even prior to pregnancy) is that I was following a plant based diet. Most B12 found in food, is found in animal foods so diets that are plant based are typically lower in B12. B12 is also needed to maintain high iron levels. It was recommended to me by my nauropath and was a supplement I continued to take.

Omega 3’s (from Fish Oil)

Omega 3’s are important for moisture retention in your skin which also helps with the stretching. In addition they are an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement that also have research to support aiding the developing brain and eyes of the fetus. I am using this brand.

Probiotic

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food, produce neurotransmitters and vitamins and protect our immune system. They help reduce gas and bloating, keep yeast counts in our gut in check and reduce inflammation. Your immune system lies within your gut so this will also help support your immune system and keep you regular which is important when those pregnancy hormones have your bowels getting backed up.

Collagen

Collagen is an essential addition to a pregnant woman’s routine. Specifically, powdered collagen from a marine or bovine source. It’s beneficial for your growing uterus and skin espeically if you’re over 25 as around this time, our body’s production of collagen starts to decline by 1% per year. Collagen is an important protein that supports the skins elasticity and structure. It also helps keep your skin looking plump and youthful. Aura™ Nutrition has a wonderful marine collagen. It’s sourced from Canadian waters and is made from wild caught, deep water Atlantic white fish. Mixes easily into a coffee, an elixir or your smoothie. (It’s linked above to browse and shop) .

Collagen will help support the natural elasticity of the skin through the production of elastin, helping it to stretch. This also important for your growing blood vessels. Collagen is an excellent source of the amino acid glycine. Glycine is also found in gelatin and slow cooked meats (pulled pork, bone broth, chicken soup) due to the breakdown of the animals connective tissue. According to Registered Dietitian and prenatal nutrition educator, Lily Nichols , “the demand for glycine during pregnancy may already exceed the capacity for it’s synthesis, making it conditionally indispensable”.

Glycine is needed for the synthesis of fetal DNA and collagen, among other functions. It’s particularly important…later in pregnancy when your baby is gaining weight rapidly. Your baby’s developing bones, connective tissues, organs, and skin need glycine

Lily Nichols, RDN, Real Food for Pregnancy Chp 3, pg 37

Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for over 300 reactions in our body. It helps relax our muscles which includes the muscle of our GI tract. This is helpful if you’re finding yourself contispated during your pregnancy. Magnesium will also help with those leg cramps you might be getting (especially towards the end of pregnancy) as well as keeping your blood pressure under control. If you find yourself getting headaches during pregnancy, magnesium will also help provide relief.

Liquid Calcium (for heartburn)

This was a supplement I used only when I had heartburn. Early in pregnancy that was a few times a week. I didn’t have much during the second trimester and then it came back a little bit in the end of the third trimester. I used this calcium here I like this brand becuase it uses a dose of calcium that is well absorbed in a form well tolerated by most people. It is also balanced with vitamin D and magnesium. This is a much better replacement than chewable heartburn tablets as it does not contain any artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners and preservatives.

These are the supplements I chose to take based upon my education and knowledge as well as research I did. As always. speak with your OB or midwife about any supplements you want to take during pregnancy.

Natural Ways to Protect Your Skin This Winter

While it feels like fall just started, the temperature is already dropping. It’s getting much colder and windier and this impacts our skin. While we don’t have much skin exposured during the colder months, the dry air negatively affects our skin. You might be noticing your skin is a little dry, maybe dull. Maybe the skin on your hands is already cracking? If you’ve been moisturizing your skin and it still isn’t coping with the cold temperatures, there is more you can do to ensure your skin stays healthy and soft.

Hydrate

While it’s important to be applying moisturizer to your skin, don’t forget about moisturizing from the inside-out. That might sound a little unusual to you but hear me out. By consuming healthy fats, we’re helping our skin from the inside out. Fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, omega 3s from fish, evening primrose oil and GLA oil are excellent oils for skin. They will help keep your skin hydrated, glowing, plump and clear. You can incorporate the food based fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, ghee, and coconut oil) into your diet via smoothies, salad dressings and meals. The supplemental fats (evening primrose and GLA) can be purchased at your local health food store and taken in the morning or before bed.

Water is also essential for beautiful skin. Keeping your body hydrated will keep your skin hydrated. If water is boring to you, try adding fruits and/or herbs like watermelon, lemon, strawberries, cucumber, ginger or mint to add a fresh twist.

Ditch Your Face Cream and Use an Oil

What you’re applying to your skin will also determine if it’s dry or not. Products with astringent properties typically dry out your skin* but can be very beneficial when combined with an oil. It may sound counter-intuitive to use an oil to moisturize your face (especially if you already have oily skin) but our skin naturally has an oily layer on it called sebum. This means our body naturally makes oils so it makes sense to use something we naturally produce. One cause of oily skin can actually be over-use of cleansers which dries your skin out, causing the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce more oil. If the sebaceous glands remain hydrated, the oil production should level out.

When you use an oil, you can use just a little for a light application or tailor it and use several pumps for a richer, thicker application. When we use an oil, we actually hydrate around our sebaceous glands which helps naturally adjust our skins pH and gives our skin a deeper hydration than a cream. Typically, creams sit topically on the skin and are not well absorbed.

Rosehip oil is excellent for collagen regeneration and is rich in vitamins A and C as well as fatty acids that help reduce inflammation

I moisturize my skin in both the morning and evening. In addition, after a shower, I take the opportunity to moisturize the rest of my body, not just my face. At night I especially love using an oil. My choices include the antioxidant-rich and anti-aging Argan oil which I’ll add 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil to once it’s in the palm of my hand or Blue Tansy Oil from Acure. I also love using rosehip oil which is a great oil for supporting the elasticity of your skin. When shopping for a skin oil, look for a cold-pressed, certified organic oil that is packaged in glass; ideally an amber or dark coloured glass. St. Francis Herb Farm and Skin Essence Organics make wonderful skin oils. Read my post here about how to select clean beauty products.

*there are several natural essential oils (lavender, rosemary, citrus) with astringent properties that can be every beneficial for your skin especially if combined with a hydrating oil

Supplement for a Healthy Glow

Supplements can also help make a difference. Collagen and antioxidants will keep your skin youthful and glowing. Collagen is really important if you’re over 25 as around this time, our body’s production of collagen starts to decline by 1% per year. Collagen is an important protein that supports the skins elasticity and structure. It also helps keep your skin looking plump and youthful. Aura™ Nutrition has a wonderful marine collagen. It’s sourced from Canadian waters and is made from wild caught, deep water Atlantic white fish. Mixes easily into a coffee, an elixir or your smoothie. (It’s linked above to browse and shop)

Aura™ also offers a delicious collagen creamer which combines collagen protein with MCT powder

In addition, probiotics can help support your skin health especially if acne is of a concern. Check out this post on probiotics to learn more. 

Take Care Long-Term

A final note I will make is about sunscreen. Sunscreen is necessary to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun and shouldn’t only be used in summer. Look for physical sunscreens with Zinc Oxide rather than chemical sunscreens as physical suncreens create a barrier on the skin and reflect the UV rays. Chemical suncreens on the other hand, absorb the rays in a chemical reaction and dissipate them as heat. The Environmental Working group has an exceptional list each year of the best natural and clean sunscreens. Here’s the link to see how clean your sunscreen really is. It also offers alternative choices for your family so only the safest products are going on your skin. Using suncreen will help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun which will also help your skin to continue to look healthy and youthful.

A Quick Summary

  • Hydrate by drinking water and consuming healthy fats
  • Swap your cream for an oil
  • Supplement with collagen for beautiful skin
  • Take long term care by using sunscreen

#livevibrantly

Don’t Force It…Natural Constipation Relief

Let’s face it, everybody poops…hopefully. Constipation is no joke as it’s actually a common problem for many of us. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it’s also not good for your health. In the Western Medicine model, constipation is less than 3 bowel movements a week. In the natural health/holistic model, if you’re not pooping a minimum of one good poop a day, you’re constipated. **Real Talk** A good poop would be defined as a well formed (not pellets, not watery) and wipes with little tissue and effort.

Elimination is important because that’s how we rid our body of toxins. When your bowels are stuck, or sluggish, you actually “re-tox” and reabsorb the toxins sitting in the stool you cannot eliminate. This includes excess hormones like estrogen (from birth control pills) or xenoestrogens (chemical compounds similar to estrogen typically found in our environment from plastics) and everything else that was filtered through your liver (like medications).

There are many different reasons for constipation. A few include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome C (c is for constipation)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Food intolerances
  • Lack of water and fibre (poor diet)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Some medications
  • Travel or changes to routine (another form of stress on the bowels)
  • Over use of laxatives

For many, a change in diet can help resolve constipation and should be the first step. This would include removing any potential allergenic and inflammatory foods from your diet such as:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Coffee*

*A special note on coffee. You might actually expereinece a bowel movement (BM) after having a coffee and may even rely on it to have a BM each morning but did you know a BM produced by coffee is a chemically induced bowel movement? It just stimulates the bowels to move rather than allowing them to move on their own. If you’re dehydrated, coffee can make your constipation worse since it’s a diuretic and further depletes water from the body. If you can’t give up the coffee, try Dandy Blend or Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee. Each are coffee alternatives with beneficial properties. Dandy Blend is made with dandelion and chicory and actually supports the liver. Four Sigmatic is a mushroom blend full of antioxidants. Both are caffiene free.

Adding more water and fibre to your diet will help relieve constipation. The natural movement of our intestines is called peristalsis. Drinking warm water in the morning naturally encourages peristalsis which pushes along the stool. You can add fresh ginger or lemon to the water if you don’t want it to be plain.

Chia Seeds are an excellent source of fibre for natural constipation relief

Fibre rich foods like vegetables (and fruits!) are a simple way to increase fibre intake and a much better option than the fibre supplements at your pharmacy. The below are excellent additions for fibre.

  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cauliflower (also supports the liver and detoxification)
  • Broccoli (also supports the liver and detoxification)
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Plums/prunes

If you’re concerned about the additional fibre causing further issues (especially if you’re not used to eating lots of fibre) you can consider a digestive enzyme. Cellulose is the indigestible fibre of plants so purchasing a digestive enzyme that contains cellulase will help. I love Enzymedica digestive enzymes. I’ve used them before with great results.

In addition to diet changes, there are natural supplements that help relieve constipation if things still aren’t moving.

  • Probiotics
  • Prebiotics (provided you know you don’t have an overgrowth of bad bacteria as this can actually fuel them)
  • Magnesium (bisgycinate or citrate if it’s really bad)
  • Salus Manna-Fig syrup (excellent for children due to it’s natural sweetness)
  • Cleanse More by Renew Life (personal experience says this is great while travelling)

There are also many supplements available at your pharmacy but those I would avoid and here’s why:

  • Restoralax: while this might be your over-the-counter go-to, it’s a petroleum derived product. Derived from ethylene glycol (which is also found in anti-freeze) it works to draw water into the colon to soften stool. The other thing that does this? Drinking more water (especially warm water) and magnesium.
  • Metamucil: I linked it above but this blog post sheds lights on why this is not a great choice
  • Senna: should be used with caution. You can find this at a natural health food store as a tincture, capsule or tea. Senna is a flowering plant in the legume family that works by stimulating peristalsis. One issue here is anything that stimulates, can become harmful over time. The bowels can become lazy and depend upon the stimulant to work. The other concern is when Senna is purchased as Senokot. Senokot has additives (no longer just the pure herb) and comes with a list of side effects that include vomitting and stomach pain.
  • Cascara: should be used with caution. Cascara is from the fruit of the coffee plant and acts as a stimulant the same way Senna (or coffee) would. The same information as Senna would apply here.
Exercise is a great way not only to relieve constipatin, but to bond as a family

Another way to help encourage your bowels to move is physical activity. Exercise is beneficial for so many reasons one of which, is naturally encouraging peristalsis. Another way to help encourage your bowels to move is the way you actually sit when you eliminate. Your knees need to be at navel level or higher to actually push the stool up, across and down the colon. Toilets don’t allow for this position so keeping a small stool in the bathroom to put your feet on can help**. You can also stack a few towels under your feet. It might sound weird but before we had modern plumbing, and taking a look at Indigenous populations, squatting is a very natural position for elimination. Using a stool or towels somewhat replicates this position while you are seated.

**if you’re experiencing constipation or forceful bowel movements

As always, this information is my opinion based on my knowledge. You should discuss your concerns with your primary care provider (Doctor, Naturopath, Functional Medicine Doctor etc).

#livevibrantly

Easy Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are rich in plant based omega 3’s, iron, magnesium, calicum, thiamin (B vitamin), manganese and a great source of fibre.

The fibre chia seeds contain is very gentle on the digestive tract and actually helps promote healing. This fibre is mucilaginous which helps soothe an inflamed digestive system the same way alo would soothe a burn. The other ingredients in this pudding are also beneficial for your health.

Collagen powder: amino acids in this powder help heal and repair body tissues including the digestive tract. It is also beneficial for hair, skin, nails and connective tissues. This is a great powdered collagen to add.

Cacao powder: raw, unprocessed cacaco is rich in magnesium and fibre as well as antioxidants.

The Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup whole chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups non dairy milk (I like using coconut or oat)
  • 1 tsp of real vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp collagen powder
  • For a chocolate version, add 1/4 cup raw cacao powder and an additional 1/4 cup of milk

You can top this pudding with berries, seeds, nuts, granola, coconut, hemp, more chia seeds, coconut cream, whatever you’d like! Makes a great option for breakfast or snacktime. It keeps for several days in the fridge.

This pudding also travels well so packing it for yourself or your child(ren’s) lunches is easy. Just make sure your container has a lid that seals well. Small mason jars work best for this as the lids screw on and there’s no risk of spilling. Bonus, they’re glass and you don’t have the nasty chemicals found in plastics.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies for breakfast? The reason these cookies are great for breakfast is that they are full of nutrient dense ingredients and free of refined sugars. They can be enjoyed as an afternoon or after day-care snack as they are great for kids too. Since they are also nut free, they are school safe.

As an adult, I’ve never really enjoyed very sweet things. This goes for cookies as well. I will always prefer an oatmeal-seedy-chunky cookie over something very sweet.

When I was making these cookies I wanted to keep them egg-free so that the recipe could be vegan. The cookies overall are very allergen friendly as they are:

  • Egg free
  • Gluten free
  • Nut free
  • Dairy free* (if strictly coconut oil is used)
  • Sesame free
  • Peanut free
  • Soy free

They remain soft and chewy after baking and will keep this texture once they are refrigerated. They can also be frozen and thawed out the day prior to eating.

Not the prettiest picture but this is what the dough will look like once everything is mixed

Some of the nutrient dense ingredients used in these cookies include:

Chia seeds: very good source of omega 3s, iron and fibre

Pumpkin seeds: source of magnesium, protein and other trace minerals

Oats: oats are a source of fibre called beta-glucans that can help support healthy cholesterol levels

Banana: rich in potassium, fibre and a source of vitamins and minerals. The banana also helps naturally sweeten the cookies while boosting the nutrition

OK, let’s make them!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds (also known as flaxmeal)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (ghee is lactose free but not vegan as it is derived from butter. You can use coconut oil in place of this to keep it dairy free)
  • 1/2 cup cococnut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten free oats (I used One Degree as they are rountinely free from glyphosate a.k.a roundup)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips (I use this brand so they remain dairy and refined sugar free)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Combine water and ground flax. Set aside for 5 minutes. This will create a flax egg. 
  • In a larger bowl mash the banana (using a fork is fine). Add the ghee (or coconut oil) coconut sugar and vanilla. Whisk together. Add in the flax egg. Whisk until combined.
  • Combine oats, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Stir. Add to wet ingredients. Fold everything together. Add in chocolate chips. Fold again just until combined.
  • Use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to scoop cookies. Alternatively you can use a small ice cream scoop or place 2 tbsp of dough at a time into your hands and manually form the cookies. Place on lined baking sheets and flatten slightly. 
  • Cookies will not expand or spread out so don’t worry too much if they are close together.
  • Bake 12 mins. Allow to cool on pans and refrigerate after they are cool. 
  • Yields 16-17 cookies. 
The cookies wil look very similar to this after baking as their shape will not change

  Â©Vibrancy Health Solutions, 2019

How YOU CAN reduce waste

There is a huge movement right now to reduce the amount of waste we produce. You might be familiar with the #zerowaste movement where people strive to live a completely waste free life. I respect and admire those who do live a zero waste life as it takes a lot of planning especially in the early stages. I think any efforts to curb waste production should be celebrated whether you swap plastic wrap for beeswax wrap or trade your plastic straw for a metal one, you are doing your part to help the planet and our future generations.

In the city I live, as of October 1st 2019, each household will be allowed just one bag of garbage. We can have unlimited compost and recyclable products but just one bag of household waste. To some, this might seem like an unattainable feat. “How will I ever reduce my household garbage to one bag”. I’m here to tell you it is possible. It needs to be approached in steps, to make it manageable. One easy swap that will save you plenty of plastic/packaged waste is composting. If you are throwing produce waste/scraps into your regular garbage, STOP NOW.

To reduce waste, start composting…

Compost bins are readily available from your municipality or a local hardware store. Compostable and paper liners are also available for these bins. Any and all food waste can be thrown into these bins. Vegetable peelings, onion skins, strawberry tops etc. What I do, which actually even reduces my compost waste is save those veggie scraps for soup broths. Saving carrot peelings, ceelry tops, garlic skin, onion skin and putting them into the freezer. I then use these frozen scraps to make soup broths with. I get a meal out of the otherwise scraps.

Another easy way to reduce plastic waste is to buy your dry goods from a bulk food store.

To reduce waste on pakcaged items, buy from bulk food stores.

Bulk Barn Canada offers a reusable jar program at all their locations across the country. Bring in clean jars (can be a leftover salsa jar or pickle jar) or cloth bags and have the cashier weigh them for you once you arrive. The weight of the jar will be deducted from the final weight of the filled jar. That’s it! Once they are weighed, you are free to shop, filling the jars with any dried goods you would normally purchase in a package and check out as usual.

  • Pasta
  • Cereal and granola
  • Beans and legumes
  • Rice and other grains
  • Spices
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Flours
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits
  • Popcorn
  • Baking needs
  • Chips
  • Chocolates
  • Candy
  • Etc, etc, etc

To reduce waste when storing foods, use plastic alternatives.

Another easy swap is using beeswax wrap (cloth) to cover foods instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. There are many varieties of beeswax wraps available. You can also find local producers of the product at your local farmers market or downtown shops. I have been using this brand and find it works excellent. I’ve used it to wrap cheese, watermelons, sandwiches, vegetables and bowls and plates of leftover food.

Silicone zip bags are another alternative to replace buying plastic bags to pack kids lunches. They are washable and reusable and available in multiple sizes. This is one option available. In addition you can also find reusable and non-plastic versions of the below.

  • Straws
  • Drink boxes
  • Water bottles
  • Coffee travel mugs
  • Produce bags (for grocery shopping)
  • Lunch containers
  • Lunch bags

Well.ca actually has a section called “Kids Litterless Lunch Products” for shopping back-to-school waste free.

To reduce waste when buying groceries, bring reuseable bags.

Shopping at a big-box grocery store might appear challenging if you’re trying to reduce waste but it’s amount small actions having a big impact. First, bring your re-usable shopping bags with you. It’s handy to always keep a couple in the trunk of your vehicle in case you find yourself forgetting or making an unexpected trip. The second is to purchase mesh produce bags to take your fruits and veggies home in. There is no reason the plastic bags at the grocery store need to be used. Those are typically single use plastic meaning the sole job is to get your produce from the store to your fridge and then it is thrown away. Plastic doesn’t break down I might add. I have just been leaving my produce loose and so far so good. It makes no difference to the cashier when the produce is weighed (unless you have a dozen of something; harder to wrangle). I usually keep a separate reusable bag for my fruits and veggies to they don’t get squished but each time I do that, saves me at LEAST 5 plastic bags.

So, you’re composting, have your dried goods from your trip to bulk barn, you have all your produce and now the trickier part, your meat and dairy. Shopping waste reduced versions of meat and dairy can be tricky but can be done if you’re willing to try. First, lots of milk comes in glass especially when you shop at a health food store. This glass can typically be returned for a deposit or you can keep it and reuse it yourself for storage. Otherwise, be sure to check if the carton is recycable. Some have plastic coatings that make them waste.

Cheeses and meats would need to be purchased from a delicatessen as they are typically not packaged. Yes, they wrap the products in plastic once you make your purchase but if you have a relationship with you local deli, they may let you use your own container to bring the food home in. Now, if you don’t, don’t worry. Most deli counters use a paper that can actually be composted. If it has been waxed or oiled, it can be composted. Yes, I know the above are not waste free but they are waste reduced and remember, it’s about making small steps to reduce your overall production of garbage.

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions people doing it imperfectly.

Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef

When you start actively reduicng your waste, you might notice you begin to eat healthier. The reason for this is just about all processed foods come in lots of plastic and excess packaging. When you reduce waste, you naturally begin to buy more whole foods to replace these (or buy wate-free versions from Bulk Barn).

A quick summary to reducing your waste…

Reduce food waste by:

  • composting
  • juicing (produce that might be on it’s way to the garbage in a day or two)
  • baking
  • making soups and broths
  • not making more than you need
  • not purchasing more than you will consume
  • using produce storage bags to keep produce fresher longer

Reduce plastic waste by:

  • using a reuseable waster bottle
  • using a bamboo toothbrush
  • using silicone storage bags
  • using glass storage containers
  • using glass or metal straws
  • buying dry goods from bulk food stores
  • avoding single use plastics

Reduce other waste by:

  • using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
  • use fabric cloth to remove makeup instead of wipes
  • continue rethinking your choices
  • refuse single use plastics
  • reuse everything you can
  • refurbish and repair everything you can before buying new
  • repurpose (fabrics, furniture etc)

Follow me on Instagram (@vibrancyhealthsolutions) and share how you reduce waste

#livevibrantly

Count your chemicals

I have noticed a particular “keto” snack food popping up on Instagram lately. Not in an ad, but rather my local stores are promoting the fact that they have brought this keto snack to their shelves. I will preface this by saying I live in Northern Ontario where it seems everyone is on some version of a “keto” diet. I hear others talking about their latest keto recipes quite often while I’m grocery shopping. My thoughts on keto are very similar to these. As with any new food product, keto or not, I always read the labels.

My earlier posts on food labels shed light on how important actually reading labels can be. We are presented with health-washed information on a regular basis and can easily fall prey to it. The producer of this keto snack does not claim keto on their packaging but does use the keto hashtag on all their Instagram posts. During my search it appears the stores that bring the product in are either keto focused or have a large keto customer base.

So what is this keto snack food? It contains 6-7g of fat, 0-1g of carbohydrate and 11g of protein per 20g serving and the company has listed on their website (verbatim) “we use the freshest ingredients with no preservatives” which I found interesting as the snack food is pork rinds. Yes, pork rinds. Pig skin, deep fried in lard and covered with salt and spices. Keto, sure. Nutritious, no.

While its true animal hides are rich in collagen, ones that have been deep fried are no longer beneficial to consuming. The fact that they are claiming not to use any preservatives really intrigued me so I read over their ingredient labels. They offer a variety of flavours and you better bet I found not only preservatives but flavour enhancers and artificial colours too.

Some of their “fresh” ingredients include:

  • Dextrose (sugar, likely from GMO corn)
  • Toasted soya flour
  • Maltodextrin (likely from GMO corn, can negatively impact gut bacteria)
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Torula yeast (another name for MSG)
  • FD&C Yellow #6
  • FD&C Red #40
  • Modified food starch
  • Sodium diacetate (controls mold and bacteria in foods a.k.a a preservative)
  • Mono sodium glutamate
  • Disodium inosinate (similar to MSG)
  • Disodium guanylate (simialr to MSG)
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable oil
  • Caramel colour E150 (not in the same category as food dyes but can cause stomach upset)

The crazy thing to me is, people are going wild over these. One look through the Instagrams of the producer and the stores that carry it and you’ll see tons of excited comments and emojis. Clearly, those interested in this product do not care about the lack of micro-nutrients and the artificial, processed ingredients. The simplest offering is a plain flavour which contains none of the above ingredients, just pork, lard and salt.

Now, I did come across one flavour (ketchup) that had a special note beside it informing consumers that as of April 2019, they removed the Red dye #40 from their seasoning to replace it with more natural ingredients (beet powder). There is mention of them chaning their formulas as time permits. I can only hope this is coming from a place of education on their part and if not, hopefully consumers pressured them to clean up their product. As consumers become more educated, producers will be forced to shift with the demands and change their products.

Remember, if something comes in a package, you have to read the labels to find out what you might actually be consuming. Count your chemicals.

#livevibrantly