Does this neurotransmitter make my butt look fat?

The brain-body connection is a powerful two-way street. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by our brain that send specific messages that influence our brain and/or our body. Think of them as emails. We send them out and hope that they make it through cyberspace to where they need to go…and that the person we send them to opens our message, reads it and understands it. There are many opportunities for error. The email might not get read, the other person may misunderstand it…one thing’s for sure, if the email isn’t sent in the first place, there’s no way you’re getting a reply.

Apply this analogy to neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, three chemicals that exert great influence over our impulse control, mood, appetite, cravings, anxiety, motivation, focus, pleasure and ability to emotionally manage stress. If these neurotransmitters don’t get “emailed”, their message to calm down, stop eating, and exercise good judgment in regards to food portion size isn’t going to be delivered. This is a classic case of how best intentions can be overridden by brain chemistry. The Catch-22 is that eating high-quality foods, getting regular exercise and sleep are integral components to production and function of these neurotransmitters and proper production and function of these neurotransmitters depends on them in return! Without enough rest, nutritious food and movement, our neurotransmitter production is impaired.

Amino acids are building blocks of  both protein and neurotransmitters. Certain amino acids, 5-HTP and L-tyrosine, are directly converted into serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitter pathways respectively (GABA and DLPA are important for balancing excitatory/inhibitory stimulation in the brain as well as dopamine and norepinephrine balancing). Unlike hormone pathways that can split off and convert into many possible hormones, the conversion of amino acids into the neurotransmitter pathways is quick and straightforward. You will know within 1-2 hours of taking the amino acids if you are on the right track.

You are a good candidate for amino acids if you are chronically sleep deprived, have mood swings, are protein deficient (via impaired digestion or eat poor quality sources of protein that don’t meat your nutritional demands for higher metabolism of certain amino acids), feel out of control with food choices and portion control, crave sweets, suffer from low energy or lethargy, are easily stressed or quick to anger, or a number of other symptoms. Take this free neurotransmitter questionnaire (scroll to bottom) to get an idea of whether or not you might benefit from amino acid therapy.

Listen to this podcast with Dr. Kalish to learn more about the recent research discoveries made on monitoring neurotransmitters (here’s a sneak peak). It truly is a breakthrough that can help a lot of people balance their brain chemistry to lead happier lives. Dr. Kalish also delves into amino acid dosing and how effective this type of neurotransmitter therapy is…especially when combined with a nutrition program that optimizes the building blocks needed to sustain health.

Contact me if you have questions or comments.

A pain free body through The Egoscue Method®

Named after the creator, Pete EgoscueThe Egoscue Method® is a posture and movement type of body therapy directed at restoring range of motion and function. Egoscue is considered to be “the world leader in non-medical pain relief”.

The Egoscue Method® started in 1978 in San Diego and currently has over 25 clinics worldwide and millions of followers. One of the primary goals of any certified Egoscue Postural Alignment Specialist (PAS) is client education. By inviting clients to take responsibility for their healing process, client accountability and follow-through with their menu (list of Egoscue exercises or “e-Cises”) increases dramatically.

How does it work?

Clients can meet with certified specialists at a clinic or privately for a health history, posture assessment and photos. From there, the PAS designs a menu to restore function. Generally, the menu given to the client is done daily at first. Once the pain has subsided, a new menu may be given to further improve function and strength of the body as a unit.

It is the breakdown of proper functioning of our joints and muscles that lead to pain via muscle compensation, limitation of flexibility, and muscular imbalance. Unexplained pain (pain without an obvious injury) is incredibly common. It’s so common that we forget that it isn’t normal to be in pain: pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Rather than listening to this signal, we may write pain off as “my bum knee” or explain to others how “this shoulder’s always been weaker than the other” without realizing that we are ignoring critical body language that we are losing function.

Static back, a very effective e-Cise for reducing pain in many areas of the body, especially back pain.

Since each part of the body influences another part, when one area, such as the ankle, starts to compensate, it affects every other area of the body. The lack of function in your ankle can literally lead to pain in your shoulder or neck! (To experience this, pretend that you have a sprained ankle and walk around for 5 minutes. Observe what starts to hurt and become tired. Now imagine what would hurt if you did this for 5 years!) This is what makes The Egoscue Method team so effective at helping clients find relief from chronic pain: by addressing proper function of the body as a whole, not just focusing on the area that hurts.

Among the 25 clinics worldwide, both San Jose and San Francisco have clinics. Alternatively, hopping on the Egoscue Method® bandwagon includes the option of meeting in a non-clinical setting with a certified PAS.

Living in pain isn’t the only option. To learn more, read a copy of Pain Free or any of Pete’s other books. Your journey to pain free living may be easier to achieve than you realize.

Portobello pizzas

Love pizza but don’t need the carbs? This pizza ROCKS. I was drooling all over myself as it cooked.

The carbs from pizza crust (even cornmeal or gluten-free alternatives) really increase my appetite and I find that I can easily overeat and still not be satisfied. That’s why I love this alternative so much.

Ingredients per person:

  • 1 Portobello
  • 1/2-1 Italian sausage cooked and sliced up
  • 2 T Muir Glen organic pizza sauce (or make your own with tomato sauce and your fave spices)
  • 1 T organic pesto sauce (or make your own)
  • Lots of mozzarella (preferably organic & you can just slice it up rather than shredding)
  • Sliced olives (I used kalamata)
  • Handful of spinach
  • 2 tsps olive oil (preferably organic, cold-pressed)

How to:

  1. Cook up that tasty Italian sausage on low-med heat. I love the grass-fed beef sausage from U.S. Wellness meats, but you can use pork (I can’t since I’m intolerant to pork. Boo hoo!). After cooking up the Italian sausage, keep the drippings in the pan and add a little olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Cut the stem off to the base of the mushroom.
  3. Lather on the pizza sauce & pesto. You can just use one or the other if you like, but I friggin’ love the taste of them mixed together.
  4. Layer spinach, mozzarella, olives & sausage slices.
  5. Cook on low-med heat in the pan with the drippings with the lid on until mushroom is fork tender.

That’s it! Super easy. You can also top your pizza with red chili flakes to spice it up. Parmesan cheese is really good too. Get creative! There are many tasty combinations to be tried. Here are a few variations:

  • Caramelized onions & goat cheese
  • Roasted pepper & chicken
  • Pesto, spinach and pine nuts
  • Tomato & basil
  • Pepperoni
  • Ham & pineapple
  • Ground beef, onion & bell peppers

These pizzas are so delicious and satisfying…and won’t send your blood sugar through the roof. Enjoy!


The secret to awesome health & fitness

I read something on Facebook this week called the 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy written by an insightful gal named Dana. This “feel good” list has served as a powerful bitch slap to me and the rest of us who have gotten sucked into the pity party that can accompany the day-to-day grind.

I consider myself to be a positive thinker. A huge part of my job is motivating and inspiring others to strive for great health. And I truly believe that over 80% of results aren’t from diet changes or exercising: results happen with an attitude absolutely focused on claiming good health. People who genuinely believe they deserve results do the work to obtain them.

A person with a winning attitude looks at the work ahead of them with both  joy and determination, not resentment and a lack of accountability. It is that difference which defines someone who will get great results from someone who will struggle with every meal, trip to the grocery store, holiday meal, and workout.

Read the 15 Things list. Pick one thing from that list that speaks to you, something you know deep down is holding you back from being healthy, happy, or both. For the next month, work on it every day.

I chose #6 “Give Up Complaining”. When I read that, it hit me that I have let my attitude shift into a realm shared by many where when someone asks how we are, we talk about what is wrong in our lives…”Oh man am I tired today…”…”I’m so busy with…”…”I never have time for…”

Even if all of these things are true, they don’t need to be the center of attention. Choosing different vocabulary to describe things (saying your life is “full” rather than “busy”) or saying things with a solution in mind rather than just to feel sorry for yourself or to have others feel sorry for you (i.e. I never have time for *blank*, but I could have time for *blank* if I do *blank*) leads to more authentic, interesting conversations. Let’s not sit around and talk about what is wrong, but some of the good things that are going on and how that can lead to something we want out of life.

This is my journey for the next month. So far, it is AWESOME and I am buzzing with energy and looking for the silver lining in daily living. Join me and enjoy the ride.

Thanks for voting for me!

Thanks so much to everyone who voted for me for best nutritionist in Santa Cruz! Happy to receive the bronze award and am going for the gold next year. 😉

I love what I do and am glad to give back to my community. I hope to see you at one of my free wellness classes in the near future!

And remember, use the Santa Cruz Organic Dining Guide for next time you eat out. 🙂


Chia seed health benefits

Chia seeds are a nutrient dense food from Mexico that has become a popular superfood.

Chia seeds pack quite a nutritional punch. However, as with all foods, each person must assess how a particular food benefits or hinders their energy, appetite and overall well-being before deciding if it should be part of their regular diet. Assuming no outwardly negative symptoms appear, chia seeds are full of health boosting goodies. Plus, they make a pretty good pet. 😉

Nutritional gems from chia

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids. With all of the omega-6 fatty acids from soy and corn entering our food supply, most Americans have unbalanced omega-6: omega-3 ratios. Omega-6 fats are more commonly associated with promoting inflammation in the body. While inflammation is a necessary part of health, it needs to be kept in balance by cholesterol, saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are higher in omega-3 fats than any other plant source. However, as with all plant-based sources of omega-3’s, your body converts a relatively small amount of these short-chain ALA fatty acids into the very healthy long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA. Animal sources such as salmon, tuna and algae are direct sources and therefore have a much more significant impact on raising the body’s levels. Still, it is nice to get a variety of dietary fats.
  2. Protein. Chia seeds have 19 amino acids and so provide a nice variety to supplement one’s diet. You would have to eat an enormous quantity of chia seeds to meet your daily allowance, but as a condiment, they sure pack a great amino acid array.
  3. Fiber. Chia seeds absorb 9 times their weight in water yet most of their fiber is insoluble. They are filling and tend to be absorbed more slowly and therefore promote a slow release of blood sugar (helpful for weight loss and those with blood sugar control issues).
  4. High in antioxidants. Chia seeds are higher in antioxidants than blueberries. It’s a good thing too because omega-3 fatty acids are very delicate and easily damaged, therefore, it is important that plenty of antioxidants are ingested to prevent a free radical cascade. Think of omega-3’s as a movie star surrounded by paparazzi. Without bodyguards (antioxidants), the “movie star” chia seed is going to get pummeled. Cholesterol is the most potent antioxidant. Foods high in cholesterol include animal-based foods (egg yolks, shrimp, butter, liver, and cheese).


Chia seeds, unlike flax seeds, can be digested without being ground. They gel in liquid and as mentioned, hold nine times their weight in water (so drink plenty of fluids before and after eating chia to avoid dehydration). Most brands sell the seeds intact. Chia seeds sold by Mila are sliced and are said to be more absorbable, so you may want to experiment to see what works better with your digestion.

There is some controversy about the anti-nutrients in chia seeds (and all nuts and seeds). Soaking overnight with a little sea salt is one way to reduce the anti-nutrient phytic acid, which can block the minerals supplied by the food.

Where to get chia seeds

Chia seeds are available at most health food stores. Reputable brands include Navitas Naturals, Bob’s Red Mill, Nutiva and Mila (available only through independent distributors).

How to eat chia seeds

Chia seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Mixed in salad dressing and sauces.
  2. Mixed in batter (i.e. pancake) or use to thicken homemade pudding.
  3. Sprinkle on yogurt or cottage cheese.
  4. Added to beverages. Hot cocoa with chia seeds is wonderful! My daughter and I enjoy it regularly.
  5. Add to nut butter and eat with celery.

Food brand recommendations

These are some of my favorite food brands and products (and though it would be awesome, I’m not getting paid by anyone to endorse them).

Grass Fed/Pasture Raised Meats and Eggs:

U.S. Wellness Meats, my favorite online resource for meat (best overall quality, selection & prices).

el Sachichero, local Santa Cruz butcher with tons of pastured meats, poultry, sausages, tallow, and more.

Pacific Pastures, delicious 100% grass-fed meat from Northern California.

TX Bar Organics (local Northern California organic beef, grass fed AND finished…Eco friendly shipping).

Grass Fed Traditions (Soy Free Eggs, Chickens, and Grass Fed Meat Options). (search your area for local suppliers).

Organic Pastures

Surfside Chickens, available through Real Food (Bay Area) CSA

Trader Joe’s wild red sockeye salmon

Bacon, Sausage & Deli Meats

US Wellness Meats

Niman Ranch

Applegate Farms

Beef Jerky

US Wellness Meats (Great jerky! Comes in regular, spicy and extra spicy. If I couldn’t travel with it, I don’t know what I’d do! Their Beef Snack Sticks are also yummy!!)

Steve’s Originals 

Sophia’s Survival Food

Raw Dairy

Claravale Farms, fabulous and local raw milk and cream in glass containers.

Organic Pastures, delicious raw milk, cream, butter and more.

Greenbank Farm, has awesome raw cheese.

Coconut Oil, Glass jar Tomato Products, Spices, etc.

Tropical Traditions, Great coconut oil! Also, if you look at the sidebar on the left and do some exploring you’ll find organic chocolate, coconut flakes, olives, tomato product , soy-free chickens and eggs, spices, lotions, soaps and much more! So nice that their tomato products as they all come in glass jars and I can avoid cans!!

Artisana, Local amazing coconut oil, coconut butter & walnut butter

Spectrum Organics, Good quality oils of all kinds

Penzeys Spices

Simply Organic

Coconut Milk

Native Forest (BPA-free cans)

Aroy-D (BPA-free carton)

Soy Sauce Replacement

Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos

Bragg Liquid Aminos (gluten free fermented soy)

Fish Sauce

Red Boat Fish Sauce (According to NomNom Paleo & Everyday Paleo, this stuff is the bomb! Great for adding some zip to your sautéed veggies, curries and stir frys.)

Kid’s Lunch Containers 

Planet Box

Lunch Bots 

Klean Kanteen Insulated Thermos

Community Shared Agriculture

Live Earth Farms (Join their CSA program for weekly yumminess)

Local Harvest (Where you can find a CSA near you and any farmer’s markets in your area!)

Nut Butter

Santa Cruz Organic. Love the “lightly roasted” option and they come in glass jars.


Grind your own!

Olive Oil

Bionaturae (Another one to add to the shopping cart thanks to Tropical Traditions)

Isern & Sons

Kasandrinos Imports


Navitas Naturals  OR Divine Organics raw chocolate powder~this is my staple for hot cocoa, chocolate whipped cream and homemade ice cream

Alter Eco, the Dark Blackout 85% is my fave!

Equal Exchange Chocolates, their 80% Panama Extra Dark is amazing! Plus they are organic and fairly traded. Bonus!

Divine, fair trade cocoa from Ghana, 85% dark is truly divine!

Endangered Species, Extreme Dark 88% deeelicious

Dolfin Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Noir 88% smooth and dark

Green & Blacks, 85% dark

Lindt, because you can get it almost anywhere & they offer plenty of high cocoa content options…and it is super tasty


SweetLeaf drops~English Toffee flavor is amazing, but I also use Vanilla Crème in many recipes.