What is inflammation and why should you care?

Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection. It is the body’s way of signaling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. Acute inflammatory processes are what cause a sprained ankle to swell (and ultimately heal), and what allows you to recover from a bacterial infection in a cut.
However, if inflammation goes on for too long or occurs in places where it is not needed, it can become problematic. Chronic inflammation means that your immune system is always in overdrive, which can lead to autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The most-commonly accepted model of heart disease is now based in inflammation, according to the American Heart Association. When inflammatory cells stay too long in blood vessels, they promote the buildup of plaque. The body perceives this plaque as a foreign substance that doesn’t belong, so it tries to wall off the plaque from the blood flowing inside the arteries. If the plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, it forms a clot that blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, triggering a heart attack or stroke.
Cancer is another disease linked with chronic inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to some forms of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
It is often said that inflammation is at the root of ALL chronic disease. And not only does it affect the body, it takes a toll on the brain.
Research was recently published in the journal Neurology that shows a new connection between chronic inflammation and cognitive decline–meaning, those who live with chronic inflammation have worse memory and thinking skills.  The study followed 12,000 adults of an average age of 57 for 20 years, measuring their cognitive skills at the beginning of the study, in the middle, and at the end. Researchers also measured inflammation markers in the blood. Those with high levels of inflammation showed an 8 to 12 percent decline in cognitive skills over time, with memory skills taking the worst hit.
How do you know if you’re inflamed? Some of the common signs include:
  • skin issues like eczema or psoriasis
  • puffiness and unwanted weight, especially in the midsection
  • gum disease
  • joint pain or arthritis
  • chronic headaches
  • chronic digestive upset
  • recurrent urinary tract infections
  • enlarged prostate
  • feeling tired, anxious, depressed
Of course, these symptoms can be present for a variety of reasons, so testing inflammatory markers on a comprehensive blood panel is my preferred way to root out inflammation. Markers like C-reactive protein, cholesterol, uric acid, liver enzymes, homocysteine, vitamin D, ferritin, and glucose/A1C/insulin can tell me a lot about what the immune system is doing, and help us identify areas for improvement. I recommend everyone have a blood panel at least once a year, twice if you are actively managing some chronic health issues.
The best ways to fight inflammation include food: dark leafy greens, healthy fats, and spices like turmeric and ginger are all helpful. Proper hydration is critical. Stay away from sugar, refined white grains, gluten, and highly-processed vegetable oils (like those used in restaurants). Addressing stress via mindful yoga or meditation, incorporating appropriate movement daily (overexercising can be highly inflammatory), and ensuring quality sleep are all important areas to address.
One of my favorite inflammation-busting supplements is fish oil. Not all fish oil is created equal, as quality and sourcing makes a world of difference here. But the proper fish oil, given in the proper doses, can make a world of difference for those dealing with inflammation. In particular, I find it really helps people with joint pain quickly and noticeably.
Interested in getting a look at your inflammatory blood markers? Contact me to discuss how we can get you tested!
Think fish oil could help you, but worried about “fishy burps”? Reach out and let’s talk about some great products that might be right for you! You can also sign up for a free Fullscript account at the link below, and get access to my catalog of favorite products at less-than-retail prices (with free shipping over $50!).

Purchase products through our Fullscript virtual dispensary.

Wine Lovers: Rejoice! (you’re gonna want to read this one)

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As my clients know all too well, I’m pretty down on wine drinking. The reality is, a glass of wine is just a big old glass of sugar. And almost every single client comes to me in a huge state of off-kilter blood sugar regulation. When you’re riding that blood sugar roller-coaster, with spikes and crashes all day long due to a diet full of refined carbs and sugars, the last thing you need to is to sit down and drink a glass (or 3!) of fermented grape sugars. Sleep issues, hormone issues, inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, gut dysbiosis…..the list of things that blood sugar dysregulation leads to is long and painful.

And let’s be real: no one likes it when I tell them this. No. One.

People love their wine. Most people love it too much, and, I think, use it as a crutch to try to de-stress from their hectic lives. (Pro tip: meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and walks in the sunshine are all WAY better choices for stress management!) So, I’ve always thought to myself, when blood sugar regulation is restored, most people can likely go back to having A GLASS of wine and handle it ok. (More than that, not something I recommend, for anyone.)

But that’s just not what I see happen in practice. Nor what happens to me.

I love bubbly. Champagne has always been my drink of choice. But a few years ago, as I wrestled with gut and hormone and autoimmune issues, I realized I just didn’t handle it well. I was always a 1-glass drinker anyway–I’m a real lightweight!–but I started realizing that, within a few sips of that one glass, my head hurt and I felt nasty. And this is what my clients find happens to them, as well. They do the hard work. They move to a diet of whole nourishing foods. They get their blood sugar swings under control. Their inflammation and brain fog gets so much better. And then they try to have a glass of wine, and they just feel horrid. We’re not talking Two Buck Chuck here–this happens with even the highest-end wines and champagnes.

So, for my clients who want to feel their best, and for me, wine and bubbly are basically off the table.

Then, earlier this month, something pretty huge happened.

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I went to a functional wellness industry retreat weekend, where the wine was being provided by Dry Farm Wines. And my world was rocked, both by what I learned and what I drank.

Dry Farm Wines isn’t a grower, but rather a buyer of the highest quality natural wines in the world. They are the world’s only health-conscious and lab tested Natural Wine Club.

Dry Farm Wines curates high quality Natural Wines from small, organic family farms around the world. This is real wine (not like commercial shelf wines), grown with respect for Nature, sustainability, and human health.

What I learned is that the wine we’ve all been drinking is full of additives, chemicals, GMOs, and added sugars. And this is why it makes us feel like garbage. Turns out, there’s a better way. A side-effect-free way to enjoy wine!

Dry Farm Wines is fanatical about health. They lab test every wine to ensure they meet their strict standards of purity. (In fact, there isn’t a single US-produced organic wine that meets their standards!) That means these wines are quantifiably clean, free of negative side effects, and friendly to every diet, including Paleo, Low-Carb, and Ketogenic.

Every bottle is…

Sugar-Free (< 1g/L)
Low Sulfites (< 75ppm)
Low Alcohol (< 12.5%)
Dry-Farmed (No Irrigation)
Organically or Biodynamically Grown
Hand harvested
Fermented with Wild Native Yeast
Made in Small Productions
Low Carb-Friendly
Mouth-Wateringly Delicious

Let’s talk about just a few of these important points!

Additives:  In the United States, wine producers can use 76 different additives in wine, without disclosing any of them on the bottle. Commercial wine producers use additives for consistency – they’re making millions of bottles, and they want them all to look and taste the same. That means adding defoaming agents, artificial coloring (virtually every red wine under $20 has the colorant “mega purple”), extra sugar, high fructose corn syrup, ammonia (part of the reason low-quality wine makes you nauseous the next morning), and genetically modified bacteria and yeasts. There is literally nothing in Dry Farm Wines bottles besides grapes and the wild yeasts that live on them!

Sugar:  Most commercial wines are bottled before they fully ferment to speed up production and maximize profits. Some producers also add sugar or high fructose corn syrup to their wine. DFW wines ferment at their natural pace, which allows yeasts and bacteria to convert the natural sugar into alcohol, and the alcohol into other compounds. They lab-test their wines to make sure they have statistically insignificant amounts of sugar and carbs (<1g/L for each). That means DFW wines can be enjoyed on a Paleo or Keto diet.  Sugar is also a main culprit in hangovers. Testing for it is part of what makes DFW wines hangover-free.

Low alcohol:  Commercial winemaking favors higher-alcohol wines. Average alcohol content in wine is currently sitting around 14% ABV. DFW wines are, at most, 12.5% ABV, and many are lower.  Alcohol drowns out the finer notes in wine. Studies find casual drinkers enjoy low-alcohol wine more. A glass of wine a day may also help you live longer: in nearly all Blue Zones – parts of the world where people live longest – moderate alcohol consumption is part of the culture. But any more than a drink or two (of any wine) and alcohol becomes a toxin.

Biodynamic, organic, sustainable farms:  Glyphosate, aka Roundup, has been found in almost every US wine tested, even organic ones, because our soil is so contaminated. Not so on a European Natural wine farm. Biodynamic farms are wild organic ecosystems. The farmers who make DFW wines balance grapevines with trees, flowers, herbs, vegetables, chickens, sheep, and so on. The biodiversity strengthens soil bacteria, leading to healthier, polyphenol-rich wines with thoughtful complexity of flavor. All the wines come from sustainable winemakers whose practices return nutrients and bacteria to the soil.

Fermented:  Natural wine is a living product, which means it’s rich with precious bacteria and compounds that enhance your microbiome. Probiotic bacteria are present in natural, unfiltered wine. These bacteria protect your gut from pathogens, decrease inflammation, and have other similar probiotic benefits as fermented foods like kimchi. Commercially-made wines have sulfites added to them to kill the GMO yeast, so the wine is dead by the time it reaches you.

Taste: So by now you’re thinking, OK great Ellen, but how do they TASTE?  Flipping fantastic.  I had glasses of sparking Spanish Cava and Italian pink Prosecco that were both delightful. I tasted a French red that made me want to curl up inside the glass. Natural wine crafted according to DFW health criteria tastes clean and fresh. Without heavy additives and artificial flavoring, the wine goes down smoothly.

And best of all? No headache. No weird feelings. No puffiness. Nothing. Nada. I slept great (because, no sugar!) and woke up the next morning feeling 100% normal (because, no chemicals or garbage!)  I’m not going to become a nightly wine drinker, but what a joy to be able to have a glass on a special occasion or with friends (because if you invite me over, you know what I’m bringing!).

I’m really excited to have partnered with Dry Farm Wines to bring healthy Natural wine to my clients, readers, and friends. Click here to grab a bottle for just ONE PENNY, with any wine club order. They have a 100% happiness guarantee, so you really have nothing to lose. If they ever send you a bottle you don’t like, let them know, and they’ll send you something else for free. You can cancel anytime. You can choose how often you get shipments. Basically, these are the nicest guys in the world, and they want you to be happy and fall in love with Natural wine.

As for the final word on wine, from this nutritionist?  We need to think of alcohol as a recreational treat. If you drink wine, I suggest you drink Dry Farms Wine, and limit consumption to one 5-ounce glass, up to three times a week.

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Detox Cleanses: Important or Silliness?

It’s unfortunate that detox cleanses have been broadly painted as a hoax. Detoxification, also known as detoxication in the scientific literature, is the biological process undertaken by the liver, our body’s filter. Fat-soluble compounds–things like pesticides and heavy metals–enter our bodies daily from the food we eat and air we breathe. Plus, our bodies make many undesirable compounds through the cellular processes that make up normal life. All of these things have to be processed to be able to be removed from the body.
The reality is, most people have some compromises to the efficiency and efficacy of their detoxification processes. Methylation, sulfation, and the other processes known as Phase II detoxification (Phase II detoxification = turning harmful compounds into harmless ones, ready to be excreted) rely deeply on the body having adequate levels of co-factor nutrients, things like B and C vitamins. Adequate levels of certain amino acids are also necessary. Today’s food supply does not contain sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals, due to the systematic depletion of our soils that has occurred. Not to mention, most standard American diets don’t meet the necessary intakes on vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, up to 40% of people have some form of an inborn genetic mutation to the MTHFR gene. This gene is directly responsible for the methylation process that is critical to the detoxification cycle. Mutations means that we are much less efficient at carrying out this form of detox. Finally, our toxic burden of chemicals is at the highest level seen in history. It’s estimated the average woman has 160 chemicals on her body before she walks out the door in the morning, with an estimated 80% of what goes on the skin ending up in the bloodstream. We are living in a toxic soup, and our livers are fighting hard to keep up.
For all of these reasons–inadequate nutrient levels, genetic mutations, and our heavy toxic burdens–giving the detox process a boost a couple of times a year with a well-planned liver detox cleanse can be a great thing. For clients with skin issues, mood issues, fatigue, and hormonal issues such as heavy PMS, a 21 day liver cleanse is an important part of our rebalancing protocol.

How to Bring Your Nutritionist to Tears

I recently received this testimonial from a client, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. Honestly, I get so emotional every time I read it, I haven’t been able to process it very well! But I finally decided to just share it here. I am so blessed to be able to do this work and make a difference in clients’ lives, and I am so thankful that people like Lori trust me to be a part of their healing process.

When I initially started working with Ellen in May 2014, my secret goal was to lose weight.  We spoke at great lengths about how weight loss should not be a goal.  Choose better health, higher stamina, fewer energy dips during the day – but do not choose weight loss as a goal. 

I already had gastric bypass in 2004 – which means I completely scrambled my insides – just to lose weight.  I lost 165 pounds back then but about 75 of those pounds had crept back on over the years.  We all tell ourselves we are having surgery to be healthier, but many of us don’t change our diet; we just eat less of whatever horrible foods we were eating before.  I have spent my entire life feeling like the extra weight was my problem.  Every other time I’ve had to speak with a nutritionist, they spent a ton of time telling me what not to do.  And when someone tells me not to do something, I want to do it more.  Ellen has given me the information and tools to make my own decisions. 

Not one single doctor or nutritionist has ever gotten to the root of my actual problem:  I was eating low quality foods and most likely not digesting them properly.  As Ellen has told me, I was on the Standard American Diet.  I wouldn’t have known what a healthy meal looked like if it hit me in the face.  Initially, I did the minimum with Ellen.  Yes, I made diet changes (I cut a lot of sugar from my diet).  I started making most of my food at home.  I chose higher quality supplements.  I lost some weight, which I was not so secretly happy about.  But more importantly, thanks to the proper nutrition, I felt more fantastic than I ever had.  I even started to become at peace with my still-naturally large body. 

Then in September of 2015, a new goal was thrown into my lap.  My liver panels shot up and I realized I had to get a little more serious about my health.  Ellen gave me a comprehensive plan to help heal my liver and aid in digestion (as the weight loss surgery had made me unable to properly digest most of my foods, which means I was losing out on important nutrients).  In addition to continuing to eat good foods and only do exercise I actually enjoy, I decided to stop taking my birth control pill.  I had been on the pill for 25 years, so my body never had the chance to learn how to function properly in the hormone department.  I also decided to stop taking an immunosuppressant shot for my psoriasis, which could have been adding to my liver problems. 

In January 2016, I found out that my liver panels are back down to near normal levels – something I have not seen in many years.  In the process, I even lost ten pounds over the holidays.  Again, it was not a goal, but it was a natural result of changing the foods and taking my supplements.  I do not ever count calories (or beat myself up if I eat something that is not so great for me).  I also feel like eating the proper foods helps me feel in control of my life in general.  I have spent many years being a compulsive overeater, which can lead to disordered thinking in other areas of my life.  I don’t want to say that my disordered thoughts and eating have been cured, but I will say that I have had many more calm days by following Ellen’s advice.  I have faced a few tough challenges in the last year, all of which would have normally touched off a binge.  I have not felt like binging through any of those times.  That’s a huge win for me.  Ellen has quite literally saved my life, and I will always appreciate her for that. 

Tricks or Treats?

Every year around this time, there’s a pretty vigorous debate among my colleagues as to what to do for Halloween “treats.” We spend 364 days a year educating people about the evils of sugar, working to balance blood sugar dysregulation, fighting insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome/diabetes, combating inflammation, and healing digestive and hormonal systems. So, how can we in good conscience give children–who are the fastest-growing obese sub-population in the country–CANDY, one day a year?

Some say, It’s one day a year, lighten up. Others say, There’s no point in fighting, they’re just going to get tons of candy everywhere else. Still others insist, The way to promote change is to lead by example.

Personally, I choose to do a bit of both. I do hand out candy. But I also have alternative treats for kids who might want something else, or who have allergies or special dietary needs. Glow in the dark bracelets are always popular. I don’t love handing out candy, but I do make a point to buy candy that isn’t full of artificial colors and flavors and chemicals.

If you’re having a party, there are tons of great ideas for spooky-yet-healthy Halloween treats online. I really like this roundup of recipes. Also, check out these adorable goodies!


However you decide to balance healthy eating with Halloween fun this year, here’s one way I would definitely recommend NOT going about it!


Happy Halloween!