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  • Kick It Jamie
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Hawaii is, in my opinion, the best place to down a Mai Tai, but only drinking Mai Tais (and Lava Flows) in the Aloha State would be a missed opportunity. Hawaii has a burgeoning cocktail culture with award-winning bartenders and artisanal distillers creating a new, surprisingly sophisticated, wave of drinks.


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Produce seasons ebb and flow in familiar ways. Ramps at the farmers market hail winter’s end, and the first July tomato marks the advent of high summer. Even as home cooks have reacquainted themselves with produce seasons, cheese seasons remain mysterious.

Learning how cheeses change with the seasons is key to developing a deeper appreciation. Just as fruits and vegetables come into and fade out of season, the grasses, wildflowers, and legumes cows, sheep, and goats eat do the same. Their milk reflects this changing diet, giving cheese different (sometimes wildly so) flavors and textures as the year progresses.


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During my week of zero-packaging experimentation, I quickly realized that food shopping was not the only avenue for reducing waste; takeout food and the containers it came in were adding significantly to the pile of trash I generated each day. Of course the easiest (and probably healthiest) way to address that problem is by skipping takeout entirely and packing up leftovers from my nightly meals to tote to the office for lunch, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

But, I wondered, could I apply the BYOC (bring your own container) approach I was employing at the grocery store to the ready-made food I purchased as well? Somewhat to my surprise, the answer is yes … with a few caveats.


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Let’s get this out of the way upfront: I know calling a cookie recipe the “world’s easiest” sounds a bit ridiculous, but I can explain. The name started out innocently enough — one day, I created an easy-to-make almond cookie recipe. I adored this recipe. In my excitement, I’d say to friends, “You have to try these almond cookies; they’re, like, the world’s easiest cookies.” And well, the name stuck.


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In recent years, inventive vegan cuisine from around the world has helped shed an off-putting reputation restricted to ingredients like tofu and revolving around words such as bland. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in Tel Aviv, a city synonymous with both a hummus- and falafel-centric street food culture and an impressive global culinary scene.

Locals flock to Miss Kaplan, a pop-up concept that has morphed into a permanent restaurant, for carrot “sausages,” brushed with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, smoked for seven hours, and served on steamed Vietnamese buns. At Zakaim, a former butcher serves summer-perfect watermelon burgers. Even gelato gets the vegan treatment (from Italian expats, no less).


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The earthy, sweet flavor of fresh peas makes them one of the most exciting vegetables that spring has to offer. Unfortunately, peas have a reputation for being nothing more than a boring side dish, which is a shame. Here are three ways to give them the starring role they deserve.


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Woman with spring flu

You may have noticed that microbes have been a key focus of my blog lately. The microbiota is a rapidly growing field of research, and disruption of the microbiota, or “dysbiosis,” has been implicated in many chronic diseases (1). The ability to manipulate the microbiota using dietary and lifestyle interventions makes it a prime target for a functional approach to disease treatment.

Recently, I have written on the dangers of antibiotic use in children and also discussed the relationship between gut microbes and the thyroid. Here, I tackle the connection of gut, lung, and airway microbes to allergic diseases.

The hygiene hypothesis

As the microbiota has gained more attention in the media, you may have heard the term “hygiene hypothesis.” Originally proposed in the late 1980s to explain the decreased prevalence of chronic hay fever in larger families (2), the modern hygiene hypothesis has evolved to suggest that our insistence on cleanliness and lack of exposure to environmental microbes in the developed world deprives our bodies of immune stimulation, disrupting normal immune development and thus increasing the risk for allergic disease.

Several epidemiological studies have provided support for the hygiene hypothesis. People who own indoor pets have been shown to have lower incidence of allergic disease (3). Children who grow up on farms (4,5) or those that consume raw, unpasteurized milk (6) are also less likely to have allergies. On the other hand, early-life environmental influences that are known to disrupt the microbiota increase the risk for allergic disease. Antibiotic use (7), cesarean birth (8), and formula feeding (9) are all associated with increased susceptibility to asthma and allergies later in life.

Recent advancements in sequencing technology have allowed researchers to compare the gut microbiotas of allergic and nonallergic children. Children with allergies tended to have increased abundance of Staphylococcus, Clostridium, and Escherichia species, while numbers of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are significantly reduced (10,11) compared to healthy children.

Taken together, these studies suggest that exposure to a diverse array of microbes early in life effectively “trains” our immune system, teaching it which substances in the environment are harmful (pathogenic microbes) and which are harmless (friendly microbes, dietary proteins, and many environmental allergens). We’ll see next that the mucosal environment in the gut and lungs is crucial to this “education” of the immune system.

Food allergies: all roads lead back to the gut

Food allergy has become an epidemic in our modern world. Whereas a food allergy was considered an anomaly just a few decades ago, today one in 13 children in the United States suffers from a life-threatening anaphylactic food allergy (12). And this figure does not include those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, or any other type of food intolerance. As the major site of dietary absorption and the home to 80 percent of your body’s immune cells, it makes sense that the gut is a key player in the pathology of food allergies.

Your gut is lined with millions of epithelial cells that are responsible for maintaining a barrier between your gut contents (the intestinal lumen) and your bloodstream. In a healthy gut, small nutrients are absorbed, but large dietary proteins are unable to cross this barrier and enter the bloodstream. However, when the intestinal barrier becomes compromised (i.e., “leaky gut” syndrome), these large dietary proteins are able to enter the blood, stimulate an immune response, and produce symptoms characteristic of various allergic diseases (13).

So how does this relate to microbes? Studies in mice have shown that disrupting the microbiota with antibiotics or a low-fiber diet is capable of causing this increased barrier permeability. On the other hand, certain strains of bacteria in the genus Clostridia are able to protect against intestinal permeability to food allergens (14). Researchers are looking into developing probiotics containing these strains as a potential treatment for food allergies.

Allergies of the airway: leaky lungs?

The incidence of allergic airway diseases has also risen dramatically in recent decades, with allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis now affecting around 20.3 million Americans and 50 million Americans, respectively (15,16). Many more people suffer from less severe allergies of the airway and sinuses. For quite a while, it was thought that the lungs were completely sterile (17). Only recently, with the development of culture-independent techniques, has a distinct community of microbes in the lungs been identified.

Interestingly, the epithelium of the gut is structurally very similar to the lung endothelium, and inflammation tends to happen in both areas in people with allergic airway diseases. While not many studies have assessed lung permeability, it seems plausible that the mechanisms that lead to leaky gut may also cause “leaky lungs.” Like in the gut, microbial communities likely have a major impact on the integrity of the lung tissue.

Unlike the gut, however, reduced diversity seems to be associated with better health. Asthmatics have been shown to have a greater diversity of microbes in their lungs compared to healthy individuals (18). They have increased levels of Proteobacteria and reduced levels of Bacteroides species compared to healthy controls (19). Though characterization of the bacteria, viruses, and archaea that make up the “lung microbiota” is still in its infancy, it represents an important frontier in the field of allergic airway diseases.

The histamine connection

Histamine is an extremely important compound in the body. It acts as a neurotransmitter and regulates production of stomach acid, blood vessel permeability, and contraction of skeletal muscle (20). It’s also a major component of the immune response and thus a key mediator in allergic reactions. While we all need a certain amount of histamine for proper physiological function, some people have a condition called histamine intolerance, in which they produce excess histamine and/or have a deficiency in diamine oxidase, the enzyme that breaks it down.

Many microbes that reside in the human gut are capable of producing histamine.  These microbes produce an enzyme called histidine decarboxylase, which converts the histidine present in various proteins into histamine. The more of these microbes you have, and the more histidine you consume, the higher the amount of histamine that can be produced in your gut. Histamine can be then be absorbed by epithelial cells and traffic to various sites of the body, exacerbating allergic symptoms (21).

Histidine decarboxylase-producing bacteria are also present in the guts of animals like fish. When a fish dies, its gut bacteria start to breakdown the histidine in its tissue proteins and produce histamine. This is why many people with histamine intolerance can only tolerate fish that is immediately processed and frozen.

Some have speculated that individuals with SIBO may have an overgrowth of histamine-producing bacteria, such as Lactobacilli, in their small intestine. Although Lactobacilli are an important genus of beneficial bacteria in the gut, they are also major producers of histamine and can cause problems when overrepresented in the small intestine. Restoring a healthy balance of gut flora is the best long-term solution to resolving a histamine issue.

7 steps you can take to improve allergy symptoms

So does this mean that I can throw away my EpiPen or inhaler? Not exactly. Severe allergic reactions are not something to mess with, and most people with anaphylaxis will always have some degree of sensitivity. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the severity of allergy symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

  1. Take probiotics or eat fermented foods
    Fermented foods and probiotics can help bring the microbiota and your immune system back into balance. If you are sensitive to histamine, try histamine-degrading strains such as Bifidobacteria infantis and Lactobacillus plantarum.
  2. Eat plenty of fermentable fiber
    Complex fibers like plantains, cassava, or sweet potatoes are fermented by gut bacteria, resulting in the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, acetate, and propionate that regulate the immune system. Butyrate has been shown to reduce intestinal permeability to dietary antigens in a mouse model of food allergy and induce regulatory T cells, which suppress immune responses. In mice, propionate has been shown to reduce allergic airway disease (22).
  3. Get tested for sensitivities and avoid inflammatory foods
    Continuing to eat foods you are sensitive to can cause low-grade inflammation and impair gut healing. Look into getting a Cyrex panel to identify sensitivities. For more information, check out my podcast episode on allergy testing. Consider keeping some activated charcoal on hand for those times that you accidentally eat something you are sensitive to. Many people find that it can provide quick and safe relief for food allergies.
  4. Try a low-histamine diet
    A low-histamine diet can often reduce the severity of allergy symptoms. Foods high in histamine include fermented foods, aged cheese, citrus fruits, fish, shellfish, avocados, spinach, cocoa, and leftover meat, to name a few. Consider taking quercetin (a natural antihistamine) or diamine oxidase (the enzyme responsible for breakdown of histamine) in supplement form, and use antihistamine herbs like thyme and holy basil in cooking. Check out my article on histamine intolerance for more information.
  5. Get tested/treated for SIBO or intestinal pathogens
    SIBO and parasites are both common, but often overlooked, causes of allergies. SIBO is also a common cause of histamine intolerance.
  6. Try local raw honey for seasonal allergies
    Raw honey contains both beneficial bacteria and trace amounts of pollen picked up by the bees from local plants. Consuming raw honey produced in your area can help to “educate” your immune system to tolerate these local pollens. A randomized controlled pilot trial published in 2011 showed that allergic patients who consumed birch pollen honey had 60 percent reduced allergy symptoms and twice as many asymptomatic days during birch pollen season (23).
  7. Take further steps to heal your gut

Many people find that just switching to a nutrient-dense diet can significantly improve allergy symptoms.

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts. Did you know that the microbiota was associated with allergies? Have your symptoms improved at all by healing your gut or reducing your histamine consumption? Let us know in the comments section!

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Why Weight Loss Doesn't Promise Happiness FinalThere are any number of amazing reasons to lose weight that will offer incredible benefits in the long- and short-term. You’ll be in better overall health. It’s very probable that you’ll live longer and have more vitality in those years—particularly if getting in shape was part of your weight loss strategy. You’ll enjoy more energy for the people and activities you love. You may have more or preferable clothing choices. You’ll have a better chance of kicking many prescription drugs to the curb (and save a little dough in doing so). To boot, you’re likely to experience less chronic pain and a better night’s sleep, etc., etc. All that said, let’s be clear on something: weight loss isn’t a guaranteed stimulus to your personal happiness. Here’s why.

It can seem like an affront to all we hope. “If I’m at a healthier weight, that means I’m healthier, which of course means I’ll be happy!” The media and commercial images tell us so. Every check-out kiosk is lined with celebrity tell-alls sharing the boon of weight loss to the happiness of said personalities and their families. Television and online commercials tell the same stories. A spokesperson loses weight and thereby has the life he/she always dreamed of.

I’ll be the first to admit that for some people it really does work this way—but there’s more to those situations than people think. Weight loss and the resulting health enhancements can top off the natural contentment and confidence some people for the most part already have. Alternatively, it becomes a catalyst for psychological work that matches the same vigor as their physical transformation.

For many people, however, neither of these is the case, and therein lies the disappointment.

A University College of London study followed nearly 2000 people who received instruction for improving health and managing weight. At end of 4 years, 71% remained the same weight, 15% had gained at least 5% body weight and 14% had lost at least 5% body weight. You’d imagine that the 14% group would be the happiest of the bunch, but not so. In fact, they were twice as likely to be depressed as those in the other groups. Even when the study team accounted for health conditions and key demographic and psychological (e.g. bereavement) variables, the weight loss group still fared the worst in terms of personal happiness and overall well-being.

It’s true that other research findings don’t necessarily concur, but they complexify the question. In one study, obese subjects who lost significant weight (again, more than 5% of body weight) reported better mood along with sleep. However, temporary improved mood doesn’t always correlate with overall happiness.

Another study brings to bear additional considerations. The National Weight Control Registry enrolls participants who have maintained a 30+lbs weight loss for at least a year and defines “clusters” of subjects based on personal history, employed strategies and common attitudes. An analysis project of 2,228 enrollees showed those in the cluster that struggled most with ongoing weight maintenance and used the most outside resources (e.g. commercial weight loss programs, health care providers) reported significant issues with stress management and demonstrated higher depression rates. (PDF)

This is, of course, no surprise, but it underscores the phenomenon of weight “cycling” and highlights the issue (as well as quality) of outer voices in a person’s weight loss experience versus inner motivation. Weight lost doesn’t always mean loss maintained—or a struggle eased. Nor does it suggest a sustainable psychological underpinning for healthy and happy living.

In fact, the opposite scenario might be the more consistently true. University of Adelaide researchers designed a four-week “positivity” pilot study that promoted self-esteem, gratitude and general happiness rather than weight loss. Despite the lack of focus on physical health, half of participants actually lost weight during the study, and three-quarters of those shed additional pounds during the three months following the program.

In my observation over decades of training and coaching people, genuine (long-term) health change—regardless of what it is but maybe especially if it involves the commitment of substantial weight loss—requires a solid foundation of self-efficacy and self-respect. If that’s lacking, no number of pounds lost will ever fill in that gap.

In fact, weight loss can impose unexpected challenges. We might feel more “on display” for public comment (regardless of how positive). We might feel exposed and saddened or perplexed as to why we’re somehow worth more attention or accolades now. We might feel like all of our expanded “worth” is suddenly tenuous and vulnerable.

Many people, particularly those who lose considerable weight relatively quickly, don’t know how to process the incongruity between the image they’ve had of themselves for so long and what they now see in the mirror. I’ve heard people call it an out-of body experience and even the reason for an almost deliberate weight regain.

The fact is, we all come to tell or believe stories about ourselves over time. Maybe it’s been over the course of our entire lifetime that we’ve seen ourselves one way, or maybe it’s something we’ve “settled into” over the last several years, but we come to a set point of physical appearance/activity level, social roles and personal perception. When one changes, we can get uncomfortable even if we and others believe our changes are for the better.

Likewise, other issues in our lives—whether it’s an unhealthy job situation or a floundering relationship or some other source of discontent or anxiety—won’t be fixed just because our outward appearance changes. Even the uptick in energy doesn’t automatically upgrade our outer circumstances.

Because the pounds only mean so much. Even in terms of health, fitness says more about mortality than weight does, and in terms of life happiness, our current weight (unless it’s debilitating us each day) is one of many inputs we process in a day.

Sure, we invest in our well-being every time we eat a good Primal meal or fit in a brisk walk over the lunch hour, but we do the same when we take 20 minutes to meditate in the morning, enjoy time with a good friend, or take in a gorgeous sunset.

There’s a reason I consider the Primal Blueprint an awesome approach for weight loss, but not a weight loss program per se. The Primal Blueprint is about living better, healthier and happier—right now whatever your weight today (or age, health condition, fitness level, etc.). It’s literally about cultivating the good life from all essential angles. The Primal mind doesn’t measure joy in pounds, but in experiences, connection, adventure, flow, self-actualization, creative endeavor and exploration, nourishment, and belonging.

It’s little surprise when we reset our lives toward these priorities and offer ourselves the sustenance that fuels us best that we find a source of energy and motivation to live well in our bodies and happier in ourselves.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Offer your comments on the weight loss-happiness connection/disconnect, and have a good end to your week.

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DIY Mama: 20 Small Luxuries for Mamas & Their Babies

There is something that makes sense about turning to wholesome, natural pantry ingredients for nourishing our bodies from the outside as well the inside. You might not have considered deodorant a recipe for your kitchen, instead of from the drugstore, but let me show you how even this body basic can come from your own home.


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A simple pan sauce can elevate even the most basic meals. Here, a creamy Alfredo-style sauce with Pecorino cheese makes a sublime meal of linguine, asparagus, and shrimp.

Besides playing the delicious green-ness of asparagus against the buttery notes in the shrimp and cream sauce, I love this dish for how quickly it comes together. The asparagus and shrimp are sautéed until tender and the creamy sauce is thrown together right in the pan while the pasta cooks. The linguine is ready just in time for the sauce to join it. A few chive blossoms to finish make for a gorgeous and delicious spring meal.


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