Alcohol and Health: Benefits and Risks

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

“Alcohol use can be a slippery slope. Moderate drinking suggests some health benefits. But heavy drinking can have serious consequences.”   –Mayo Clinic Newsletter–

Wine, beer and “drink” are part of the fabric  and social structure of our global world:  a big part of celebrations such as weddings, congratulatory events of all sorts, and sometimes called “a social lubricant.”  There is a light-heartedness portrayed in the camaraderie of  sharing ‘a drink’.  We may also experience great beauty and well-being, in walking through vineyards filled with sweet-scented grapes.  Even holy texts refer to wine:  its uses and its meanings.

Alcohol is here to stay.  However, it is wise to know both benefits and risks, and possible ‘dark sides’,  such as serious addiction.   Like so many things in life–genetics,  body type, personality traits, and psychological make-up–all have a role in how alcohol effects each person.    For one person,  1 glass of wine may be the perfect addition to a delicious meal,  or the solution to being a better dancer!  To someone else, it could mean the beginning of a drinking spree and the practice of dangerous behaviors with serious consequences.

In this BLOG article, we begin with the history of alcohol.  Medical, nutrition, health and disease aspects will be covered.  Pros/Benefits and Cons/Risks will be reviewed.   Tips to Consider are at the conclusion.

HISTORY:  Alcoholic beverages have been part of humanity since all of recorded history and likely before that.   We can imagine ancient people noticing that certain drinks and foods brought pleasant mind-altering effects!  Gradually, humanity learned to create fermented items on purpose.  Alcoholic beverages became part of world-wide cultures:  for celebrating, socializing,  and for rituals–including religious ones.

Most authorities agree that planned fermentation first existed very early in the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.  There is a general consensus that beer was the first freely available alcohol. (Rudgely, 1994)

“While no one knows exactly when beverage alcohol was first used, it was presumably the result of a fortuitous accident that occurred at least tens of thousands of years ago. However, the discovery of late Stone Age beer jugs has established the fact that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (cir. 10,000 B.C.)”   (see SIRC-References)

Wine became the primary alcoholic beverage in much of Europe from first century AD on.  Distilled spirits in Europe appear to have come much later, with significant production not taking place in Europe until the twelfth century.

***FERMENTATION definition:  The production of an alcoholic beverage requires only the presence of a very simple organic process – by which sugar is transformed by the action of yeast to produce ethyl alcohol. Sugars, in forms of glucose, fructose, maltose and lactose are obtained from honey, fruits, sprouting grains and even milk.  (SIRC reference)

ALCOHOLs include chemical substances whose names end in –’ol’.    

Ethanol, (ethyl alcohol, “etoh”)  This is less toxic than others, and the form we drink.  Other forms include: methanol (wood alcohol) which is highly TOXIC if imbibed) and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).

–Sugar alcohols are used to sweeten foods. These are safe and NOT intoxicants–but in some people–can cause gas, abdominal discomfort, loose stools, nausea, and  general gastrointestinal distress. 

Common sugar alcohols include mannitol and sorbitol.   They are often used in “diet candy”, “protein bars,”  protein powders, and some sugar-free chewing gums.  Xylitol is also a sweetener used in chewing gum.   Erythritol is sometimes combined with Stevia to use as a sugar substitute.

Sugar alcohols have about 1/2 the calories of regular sugars and are known for NOT raising blood sugars appreciably.  Thus they are good for diabetics (but still may cause gastrointestinal distress.)

TODAY’s ALCOHOLIC DRINKS:  include wines, beer, malt beverages, spiked lemonades and teas, liqueurs, mead (made from honey), and  hard liquors like vodka, whiskey, Scotch, rum,  gin, tequila, as well as  “mixed drinks.”    Some are quite high in calories.


  • 1 drink contains ~½ oz. (.6 oz.) or ~ 14 grams of pure alcohol, OR 1.2 Tablespoons pure alcohol.   (NIH (USA) standards for 1 drink)

Equivalents for this amount include:

  • 12 oz beer    (~150 calories;  100 calories if Lite beer)
  • 5 oz wine     (120-125 calories)
  • 10 oz wine cooler  (170-195 calories)
  • 1.5 oz (1 shot) hard liquor (1 jigger)  (~110 calories)

Calories:  14 grams of alcohol  x 7 calories per gram of alcohol = 98 calories from 14 grams of alcohol; plus whatever other calorie sources are present. Wine and beer have carbohydrates as well, so the total calorie count is ~120 or 125 calories  for a 5 oz glass wine,   and ~150 calories for 12 oz regular beer. Hard liquors do not contain sugar calories–all calories are from alcohol. Mixed drinks are a combination of alcohol, sugar, sometimes fruit juices, sugary sodas (colas or ginger ale) milk, and creams–and can be quite HIGH in CALORIES!

Alcohol Content of Common Beverages:

The alcohol percentage in common alcoholic beverages is:  5% most beers, 13-15% in winesMalt beverages (including fruity flavors)–5-10% ethanol. Whiskey, vodka, rum and brandy are ~50% alcohol.  (50% alcohol = 100 Proof).

METABOLIC break-down time of alcohol: The average time it takes the body to process, metabolize, and rid itself of the alcohol for 1 standard drink is approximately 1 hour. Additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized.  High blood alcohol concentrations can last for several hours.  Weight, height, age, health and medical issues also are factors.***  (Brown University Health Services.)


Women  have a lower tolerance than menWHY?

  1. Men have more lean tissue and a greater blood volume in which to dilute a given amount of alcohol.   In women, the same amount of alcohol becomes more concentrated.
  2. Women also have lower levels of  the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) which breaks down alcohol in their stomachs, so they absorb more alcohol per drink than men do,  of the same weight.
  • Asian or Native Americans have a lower tolerance than Caucasians.
  • Black men tend to have a lower alcoholism rate than white men; but have higher medical consequences when alcohol is an issue
  • There is a higher rate of alcoholism in North America than in Europe

MORE FACTS about ALCOHOL:  (textbook NUTRITION: Concepts and Controversies by Sizer and Whitney)

  • Americans: ~6-10% of total calories are from alcohol. 
  • Moderate drinkers suffer far fewer issues (as well as some benefits) compared to  heavy drinkers.
  • 1/3 of US college students have consumed alcohol in BINGE patterns. (90% deny this).
  • 30% of all binge drinkers are 18-25 yrs old, largely white men.
  • Small amounts of alcohol may offer possible benefits, such as relaxation and cardiovascular benefits; but we have to weigh the pros and cons. (more coming on this)
  • Alcohol can promote weight gain. Alcohol provides 7 calories/gram. (carbohydrates: 4 calories/gram; proteins: 4 calories/gm; fats: 9 calories/gm.).   Not only does alcohol provide extra calories; but it may also interfere with normal metabolic processes and displace healthier food items in the diet.  Extra alcohol calories seem to promote fat deposition in the abdominal area.  “Belly fat”  or “central obesity”, also called  “bad fat,” is associated with increased rate of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Alcohol is a psychoactive, mood-altering drug.  It can produce ‘euphoria’—(when taken in small amounts)
  • It is a DEPRESSANT to the nervous system, even though many consider it a social stimulant or relaxant.   Alcohol may help people put issues “on the back burner,” but in the end,  it is a depressant.
  • It is a TOXIN–an “intoxicant” in excess. The liver must clear it—and can only clear so much at a time. Brain, heart,  and other organs are affected.
  • Too much alcohol DEHYDRATES the tissues.
  • Excess chronic alcohol intake is associated with malnutrition and loss of vital minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc and Vitamins A, C and B vitamins B12,  folic acid, thiamine, and niacin.  Chronic alcoholics can develop severe diseases of malnutrition such as scurvy (total lack of Vitamin C), night blindness, pellagra (niacin deficiency),  and Protein-Calorie Malnutrition (PCM) starvation syndrome.  Intestinal linings in alcoholics are often inflamed, making proper absorption of nutrients difficult.

       ***Alcohol abuse disrupts every tissue’s metabolism of nutrients.***

  • Alcohol denatures cell’s protein structures inside the cell (once its inside the cell, it can kill the cell).
  • Some alcohols kill microbial cells—so, is useful as disinfectants, antiseptics


  • Categories of drinking alcohol range from: abstainers to light-moderate (or social) to heavy chronic drinkers and/or bingers.
  • Mild to Moderate drinking MAY be associated with the following benefits: anti-atherogenic (anti-plaque formation in the arteries), improved cholesterol profiles, improved clotting function, improved insulin sensitivity, lower stroke risk, and lower dementia development and progression rate.
  • Heavy chronic drinking is often associated withhypertension, increased hemorrhagic stroke, certain cancers and numerous medical problems, faster cognitive and memory decline, numerous psychosocial issues, accidents,  and risky behaviors.


MODERATE drinkers tend to live longer than those who either totally abstain OR those who drink heavily (study findings may vary.)

***Longevity benefits are likely associated with cardiovascular effects and relaxation.***

  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports: lowest death rate from all causes occurs at level of 1-2  drinks per day.
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks/day for women,  2-4 for men)* was found to reduce risk of mortality significantly according to meta-analysis of 34 studies of alcohol and total mortality among 1,015,835 men and women around the world.

*The US Food and Drug Administration’s Rule of Thumb for safe drinking:  up to 1 drink/day women, up to 2/day men.*

  • In moderation, modest alcohol intake (FDA’s guidelines) reduces inhibitions, eases social interactions, and produces feelings of euphoria.   Enough to elevate one’s mood without incurring long-term health damage.
  •  EXCESS alcohol impedes social interaction, goes past euphoria,  can lead to dangerous behaviors, and create health problems.

***ALL social drinking: including both alcoholic and NON-alcoholic drinks– may ease social unease to some extent by setting a different tone and opening up a conversation.  For example, this could happen with a cup of coffee or tea (for some folks)–not just alcohol.  Having social connections is a predictive factor in longevity.***

“Moderate drinking” seems to provide more benefits for the MIDDLE AGE group, over age 35,  re: lower risks heart attacks, stroke, dementia, diabetes and osteoporosis.   There are increased risks of death for young folks (in their 20’s), even for “light drinkers”–compared to the middle age group.  The elderly also cannot handle alcohol as well–due to high intake of medications, as well as aging liver and organs not working as well.

Problem Drinkers and Alcoholism (Addiction)

“Problem drinkers” include those who drink alcohol daily or chronically (in unsafe amounts), and/or they may be “bingers.”   They may engage in irrational and dangerous behaviors when drinking too much, including:  out-of-control driving, violence, arguments, relationship issues, and risky sexual behaviors, They are more likely to suffer psychological issues such as depression and low self-esteem, physical illness, and malnutrition. For some, it is simply too difficult to “drink in moderation”.   Physical, mental, emotional, and psychological addiction to alcohol is an issue.

Binge Drinking Definition:  at least 4 drinks in a row for women, 5 or more drinks in a row for men. Typically occurs in young adults, like college students.   Some have 8-10 drinks in a row. VERY Dangerous.   Some drinks have caffeine added as well!  Not good! Caffeine does NOT  “X-out” the alcohol.  It still takes the same amount of time for alcohol to get out of one’s system.

***PROGRESS:   Binging and heavy alcohol use rates in persons aged 12-20 years fell from 19.3% to 15.3% and 6.2% to 4.3%, respectively, between 2002 and 2012..***

NOTE:  With heavy drinking, the body can’t keep up metabolizing alcohol at the average break-down rate of 1 drink  per 1 hour.   Alcohol can still be in the system well into “the day after”–especially when large quantities consumed.   Drinking too many,  too quickly can result in DEATH, if a person passes out with too much in the system.  (Alcohol’s effects continue to accelerate after a person has gone to sleep. Death is due to anesthetization in deepest brain centers that control breathing and heartbeat.  A person usually passes out before reaching a lethal dose—fortunately.)

***Alcohol and Accidents:  Alcohol is involved in  ~20 % all boating accidents, 23 % all suicides; 39 % traffic fatalities; 40% residential fire fatalities; 47% homicides; 65% all domestic violence incidents.***

ALCOHOL’s JOURNEY Through the Body:

  •  Alcohol Enters the Body through the mouth and travels down the esophagus.
  • Tiny alcohol molecules can go right through the stomach walls.
  • These molecules reach the brain within a minute.
  • Excess alcohol with no food in stomach–can trigger vomiting.
  • With food: more alcohol enters the small intestines and more is absorbed there.

***Food slows downs alcohol’s entry into the brain. With food in the stomach–a stomach enzyme destroys some of the alcohol. But whether food is there or not, it is still rapidly absorbed in the small intestine.***

***Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.*** (Brown University Health Services–hand-out on Alcohol Education)   

***~10% of alcohol is not metabolized:  5 % is released through the breath and 5 % goes out in the urine.     The Breathalyzer test is fairly accurate in figuring out the degree of intoxication.***

  • If a person drinks slowly enough, alcohol will be collected by the liver after absorption and processed without as much effect on other parts of the body.
  • If a person drinks more rapidly–some of the alcohol bypasses the liver and flows for a while through the rest of the body and the brain.
  • In the brain, alcohol depresses anti-diuretic hormone and so urination is increased.
  • With increased urination,  excess fluids and valuable minerals are lost in the urinemagnesium, potassium calcium and zinc–which are important for fluid balance and nerve and muscle coordination.
  • Alcohol also DEHYDRATES the tissues.

***Loss of body water leads to THIRST.  One SHOULD DRINK WATER as a RESPONSE to drinking alcohol,  and to the sensation of THIRST.  i.e. don’t just drink another alcoholic drink if one is thirsty!!***   

***RULE of THUMB: Consume 8 oz of water for each alcoholic drink. Drink the water in-between the drinks. Don’t save it up to drink all at once.”


  • Next in the alcohol journey: Alcohol arrives in the brain.   People become more uninhibited.  Alcohol sedates inhibitory nerves—allowing excitatory nerves to take over. A TEMPORARY effect.
  • BRAIN CONSEQUENCES:    In even moderate drinking: some working brain tissue shrinks.  Addicts are more prone to brain hemorrhages, stroke,  and to toxins invading cells.  Free radicals are released in oxidation– causing INFLAMMATION.   Abstinence–with good Nutrition–may reverse some brain damage.  For long-term heavy drinkers:  recovery is not guaranteed.  Severe harm may occur in vision, memory, learning, reasoning speech, other brain functions.
  • Alcohol arrives in the Liver–via capillaries from the digestive system, which merge into veins which travel to the liver.

***The LIVER is the site of most of the body’s alcohol processing machinery.  The LIVER detoxes alcohol and other toxins before it gets to the brain and heart.  ALCOHOL is one of the body’s highest priorities for breakdown.  Toxic alcohol CANNOT be stored in body tissues without it first being converted to something safe.

REMINDER: The liver can process  only ~1/2 oz (~.6 oz, or “1 drink”) per hour–depending on body size, male/female, alcohol history, food intake, general health.  The liver’s maximum rate of alcohol clearance CANNOT be accelerated.  Only TIME restores sobriety. 

Coffee does NOT help (it just creates “a wide awake drunk”).   Walking doesn’t clear it because muscles cannot metabolize alcohol.  Aspirin, tranquilizers, drinking more alcohol breathing pure oxygen, exercising and/or drinking miracle cures are pretty much useless.

Yes, drinking more water may help to speed things along–re: re-hydrating the body’s tissues; but for sobriety, TIME is the cure. 

  • The liver’s enzyme: ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) removes hydrogen ions from alcohol to break it down.
  • ADH converts ~80% of the alcohol to acetaldehyde—the major breakdown product of alcohol.   (Other enzymes are involved, too).   Additional ADH works on the acetaldehyde to break it down into acetate and free radicals.  Acetate is used for energy or changed into FAT and stored. Free radicals increase oxidative stress: a condition linked with inflammation and the development of cancer, diabetes,  liver damage, and other organ damages

***The maximum amount of alcohol a person’s body can process is limited by the amounts of alcohol ADH in the liver. If too much alcohol arrives at once, the extra alcohol circulates again and again through the brain, liver, and other organs until enzymes are available to degrade it.***


  • The liver does its best to handle small-moderate amounts of alcohol being filtered through it (beyond the numerous other functions it serves).
  • Excessive amounts of alcohol put a special burden on the liver.
  • FATTY LIVER is more common in those who drink excessively.  The 1st stage of liver deterioration. (FATTY LIVER also can happen in cases of excess calories and obesity.)
  • FIBROSIS, the formation of scar tissue,  is 2nd stage deterioration.  Both fatty liver and fibrosis have possibilities of reversibility with good nutrition and abstinence.
  • CIRRHOSIS:  Stage 3 liver deterioration.  In cirrhosis, the liver cells harden, turn orange and die, losing its function forever.  It may take 10-20 years for cirrhosis to develop–the cumulative effects of frequent episodes of drinking.

Alcohol Breakdown in the Stomach

  • Stomach walls also produce ADH. Some alcohol is broken down in the stomach by ADH before reaching the bloodstream.

Hangovers, what are they?

  • A hangover is a mild form of drug withdrawal.   “The DTs” are hangovers in their worst form (e.g.,  in chronic alcoholics who go “cold turkey.”)  Hangovers depress mood, disrupt sleep, cause fatigue, increase anxiety, reduce cognitive ability, and reduce one’s ability to deal with stress.
  • Congeners:  are other ingredients in the drink besides alcohol—that account for some physiological reactions.  They affect taste and appetite AND contribute toxic hangover effects.
  • Dehydration of the Brain: Alcohol decreases water content of brain cells. When they RE-HYDRATE the next day to normal size–this swelling results in nerve pain. HEADACHES!
  • Formaldehyde and Methanol:  Formaldehyde arises from methanol, which is produced in tiny amounts in normal metabolic processes in the cells.   The same enzymes that break down ethanol (drinking alcohol) work on these.  But enzymes will work on ethanol first.   Formaldehyde also builds up until the body is done clearing alcohol; formaldehyde also contributes to hang-over.


  • Bladder, kidney, pancreas and prostate damage
  • Bone deterioration and osteoporosis
  • Brain damage, central nervous system (CNS) damage, stroke–Alcohol, acetaldehyde and free radicals adversely affect brain tissues.
  • Deterioration of testicles and adrenal glands
  • Diabetes (type 2)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased blood lipids (fats) such as triglycerides.  It also may increase the “good cholesterol” called HDL–but it is not recommended that one start drinking to achieve this effect.
  • Disease of the muscles of the heart;  bloated heart muscle possible
  • Feminization and sexual impotence in men
  • Impaired immune response
  • Increased ACID burden to the whole body–which sets the stage for many diseases.
  • Interferes with normal uric acid metabolism–thus promoting GOUT
  • Increases infertility, miscarriages,  birth defects such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (mental retardation, facial deformities, physical issues.)  May suppress male reproductive hormone testosterone–leading to decreases in muscle and bone tissue.
  • Impaired memory–Eventually, mental function remains impaired– even between drinking bouts.
  • Daily alcohol intake is a cancer-promoting substance for humans.  Even moderate drinking increases chances of developing cancers of throat, breast, colon, rectum, esophagus,  liver, mouth,  pancreas, prostate,  and stomach.  Once cancer has been detected–alcohol speeds up the process/progression.

NOTES:  Smoking + drinking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Acetaldehyde + free radicals (break-down products of alcohol) may contribute to cancer risk.  Urethane is a substance often found in alcoholic beverages–known to cause cancer in animals.

****Breast cancer and wine:  All colors of wine–red and white–when consumed in excess, can increase risk for breast cancer.***

***Beer: Alcohol may act together with other compounds formed during brewing to promote cancer formation.***

  • Balance issues
  • Skeletal muscle impairment
  • Increased risks of death from all causes
  • Major psychological depression, possibly caused by alcohol
  • Malnutrition
  • Nonviral hepatitis
  • Skin rashes and sores, poor complexion
  • Ulcers and Inflammation of the Stomach and Intestines

 SUMMARY: Who Should NEVER drink alcohol?  The following groups:

  • 1. Those who CANNOT restrict to moderate levels
  • 2. Anyone under legal drinking age; age can vary in different states, countries.
  • 3. Women who are pregnant,  or might be.  The fetus takes the same drink the mother takes in minutes.  High alcohol intakes during pregnancy are associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) , characterized by mental retardation, facial deformities, and physical alterations in the body.
  • 4. Breastfeeding: Use Caution.  Best to avoid.  But if choosing to have an alcoholic beverage: Leave 2+ hours after 1 alcoholic drink before next breast-feeding. Alcohol enters breast milk freely.  The peak level in milk is likely to occur ~1 hour after consumption.   Alcohol leaves the milk compartment as the mother’s blood alcohol levels drop.  Discard any breast milk that was pumped if too close to an alcoholic drink.  An alternative is to pump alcohol-free breast-milk ahead of consuming 1 alcoholic drink–and store appropriately.
  • 5. Medications that interact with alcohol (which are many).  Some include:  antihistamines, sedatives and tranquilizers, sleeping pills, opiates, many anti-diabetic and heart medications, aspirin and ibuprofen–which are gastric irritants (as is alcohol), and illegal drugs such as cocaine and hallucinogens.  Many common OTC cold and flu medications contain ingredients that may interact with alcohol.   Check with your pharmacist or MD regarding these concerns.  When in doubt simply AVOID alcohol if taking medications.    
  • 6. Some medical conditions (e.g:  liver disease, high blood lipids, pancreatitis)
  • 7. People who plan to drive, operate machinery, or participate in activities where attention and judgment are needed
  • 8. Individuals who just don’t tolerate it physically: e.g. “allergy, ”  gastric distress, or inability to break it down in the body.



  • Moderate drinkers: 1-2 drinks/day (1 for women; up to 2 for men)  may benefit the HEART and RELAXATION.  More than this:   INCREASES risk of cardiovascular disease.

“While research shows that having about seven alcoholic beverages per week lowers your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, abstaining all week only to guzzle five or six glasses in a single sitting negates any of alcohol’s potential health benefits.”   “Six Sneaky Signs You Drink Too Much” by Holly C. Corbett

  • Young people don’t benefit from any alcohol.  It raises risks of dying early: from accidents; and affects heart health in young women.
  • Optimum brain functioning may be affected for those who start drinking at age 14 or younger.  (Bret S. Stetka reference)
  • There are greater risks for breast cancer in younger women who drink alcohol regularly.
  • Some alcohol, like red wine (including other alcohols in some studies) may increase “good cholesterol” (HDL).  But advice is: don’t encourage someone to drink– “just to raise their HDLs.” 

Is WINE better for health than other forms of alcohol?

  • Red wine is believed to have some anti-oxidant effects due to the pigments in the purple grapes.  Positive News: Wine, especially red wine, contains phytochemicals: which may help reduce risk of heart disease or cancers of the colon or rectum. Purple grapes and purple grape juice–non-alcoholic–would

     also provide what red wine provides!    

  • Grape juice and red wine may also be higher in potassium–a heart healthy mineral.  Some white wines may be of benefit; but they are not thought to have as strong an effect as red wines.
  • Some experts say ANY form of alcohol (not just wine), in small amounts, may be of benefit  to the cardiovascular system–due to the RELAXATION effect on the body.
  • Positive news: Some studies show that moderate drinkers may suffer less age-related decline of mental function than abstainers or heavy drinkers.
  • Moderate use of alcohol MAY improve morale and stimulate social interaction and promote restful sleep in the elderly, in nursing homes.  Some nursing homes provide wine or beer (in monitored safe amounts)to individual patients, as well as in controlled social settings and celebrations.  It is thought that modest amounts of wine can provide greater self-esteem in these elderly patients who (if they choose it) drink moderate amounts.   There are reports that having monitored amounts of wine/alcohol available can improve patient and staff relations in nursing homes.  In SOME elderly: the positive effects of wine may actually help sleep and alleviate some chronic fatigue. (in others,  it may interfere deleteriously with medications and sleep patterns).
  • UNFAVORABLE news: Alcohol in large amounts may raise blood pressure.  Grape juice, red grapes, non-alcoholic wine would be a better choice.
  • More unfavorable news: Wine really delivers only a small amount of phytochemicals as compared to a healthy diet containing onions, all kinds of berries, green veggies.
  • Mixed news: Improved cognition among older people may be due to social, economic,  and educational advantages: –not the alcohol itself.

Does Alcohol Improve Appetite?

  • SOME sources say drinking alcohol reduces appetite due to rendering people unaware if they are hungry or not!!   However, many individuals we work with describe how they “eat too much” when they are drinking–and that they “could care less about following their diets!”  (i.e., they eat food items–and larger amounts–they might normally say NO to. )
  • For elderly people who can’t eat much: a small glass of wine 20 minutes before a meal MAY INCREASE appetite by relaxing the body and gastrointestinal tract. The same idea may be true for the undernourished,  and for people with severely depressed appetites.

CAUTION is always advised in suggesting alcohol intake in people who are otherwise non-drinkers.


  • Some practitioners, such as Mark Hyman, MD recommend no more than 3 alcoholic beverages per week. This frequency gives the liver a chance to recover!
  • If you or a family member feel they may have a drinking problem, or are relying on alcohol too much–seek professional help. Discuss drinking concerns with your health care provider,  and/or see a therapist who specializes in this field,  and/or consider going to meetings such as AA.  (SEE Websites under REFERENCES.)  OR: check out one of these assessment sites:

  • If alcohol has been a coping mechanism for stress: practice other ways to cope for the short and long-term.

***Increase your physical activity, practice relaxation modalities and breathing techniques, eat better in general, get plenty of sleep. ***

***Create some tasty healthy beverages and have good mineral waters available. ***

***ANY SERIOUS DETOX should be under an MD’s supervision.***

***Remember:  the social effects of CONNECTIVITY may be more important than alcohol!  i.e, Maybe a cup of tea or coffee,  or a glass of mineral water–could be the “social lubricant!”

The Final Word: If you drink, do so safely in moderation. If you are not a drinker, don’t begin!

***”The debate still simmers today, with a lively back-and-forth over whether alcohol is good for you or bad for you!” ***


To your good health!

Deb and Wendy

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!



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Time for “Spring Clean-Up?” Take Charge of Nutrition and Lifestyle Habits!

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

“All Light from the Sun–which is where all life comes from–is captured on a green leaf.  That’s what we’ve been feeding people for sixty years.”  —Dr. Brian Clement, holistic healer/teacher of food as medicine–

It has been a long, cold, snowy winter through much of  North America.   We have wondered if Spring would ever come!!!   But birds are singing loudly and making more appearances–so this is a hopeful sign!  

March is a good month to jump in with the new energies of Spring, and re-commit to one’s health and well-being.  The Christian holiday of Lent begins Wednesday March 5th.  This is a time when many of the observant take stock (for 40 days) of diet and “bad habits, ” and commit to change.  Spring itself begins officially at 12:57 PM  EDT on March 20, 2014.   

Spring provides a window of opportunity to “clean out our closets” literally, as well as CLEAR OUT the debris of old belief and emotional patterns that no longer serve us well.

In this BLOG we offer our BODY-MIND-SPIRIT CHECKLIST to help you review your current diet, fitness level, and overall well-being.   We suggest going through this list (without judgment!!) and see what lights up for you!   We cannot change everything all at once.  But what 1 or 2 areas might you like to address?



  • NUTRITION:  How am I eating?:   Regular meals?  Do I consume a variety of veggies, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (olive oil, avocado,vegetable oils), and proteins (proteins include: chicken, fish, turkey, fish, shellfish,  lean meats, dairy such as cheese, yogurt, milks; soy; nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters; legumes).

****Choose More WHOLE FOODS vs processed items.  If you don’t know where to start–begin by eating more veggies, all colors!   

***Try some ‘GREEN DRINKS’!  Put some spinach in the blender or food processor along with some berries, flaxseed and a little  water, juice,  unsweetened almond milk or coconut water!  BLEND!   If you want a more specific recipe: check out Katie Flores’ Basic Green Smoothie Recipe @


Liquid (1/2 – 1 cup): Use purified water, unsweetened nut milk, or coconut water.  You can always add more as needed to blend to your desired texture.

+The Greens (2-3 large handfuls): Newbies should start with something mild like spinach. Other greens are kale, collards, romaine, chard.  You can even add leafy herbs like cilantro, parsley, or mint

+The Fruit (about a cup): Berries are great antioxidants (anti-aging!). I really love the creamy texture of a smoothie so I add a 1/2 banana or 1/4 avocado. 

+Nuts or seeds (1 – 2 Tablespoons): Adding in flax seeds, flax oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raw almonds, or raw walnuts are full of good omega-3 fats, protein, and tons of other nutrients as well.

+Optional Add-Ins: For a little more sweetness, add 1 Tbsp. honey, or 2-3 dates.  Liquid stevia is great too if you’re trying to watch the extra sugar, just add 6-8 drops.

Method:   Add ingredients to a blender and blend until your desired consistency.

***If food sensitivities or allergies exist—modify your diet.***

  • LIMIT/AVOID SUGAR.   Table sugar, honey, syrups. US Dietary guidelines: no more than 6 teaspoons/day for women; no more than 9 teaspoons/day for men.  (More conservative recommendations: SIMPLY AVOID SUGAR!)
  • MAINTAIN a HEALTHY WEIGHT for your body type and genetics.
  • FLUIDS:  Do I drink enough fluids/water?  Recommended: 8-9 cups/day women; 12-13 cups/day men. (Less fluid is OK– if diet is high in veggies, fruits, soups, yogurt)  MORE fluids are needed during: pregnancy, breastfeeding;  exercising (losing fluids in sweat).

For some of your fluid intake, try drinking “Sassy Water!”  Sassy water is a more alkaline (vs acid-forming) beverage,  originally part of The Flat Belly Diet.  American diets tend to be too acid-forming (highly acidic diets are more disease-promoting).   Sassy Water can help change your body’s pH to be more alkaline vs acidic.   There are a variety of sassy water or flat belly water recipes.  The original recipe contains water, fresh ginger, cucumber, lemon and mint. For this recipe go to:


  • PHYSICAL ACTIVITY:  Ideally, we should be moving more every day!  Incorporate more walking into daily routines. Take stairs when possible.  Recommended: 150+ minutes of planned exercise each week.
  • ?  SUPPLEMENTS:   Check Vitamin D levels (lab tests).  Safe levels: 1000-2000 IUs Vitamin D/day. (If severe Vitamin D Deficiency: 50,000 IU PER WEEK—may be prescribed x 8-12 weeks by your MD.  Pregnancy:  Prenatal vitamins/minerals (Iron, folic acid, B12).  Iron: for menstruating womenChildren and Elderly who are poor eaters: Multivitamin/Minerals may be recommended. Osteoporosis:  Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D plus healthy diet (and exercises.)

***WE OFTEN KNOW HOW TO EAT BETTER  we just wish we were on track more often!  If you are looking for guidance or a program to help you get back on track, consider checking out 1 of the following books: 

  • Clean — Expanded Edition: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body Clean by Alejandro Junger, MD.   
  • Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole Foods Lifestyleby Diane Sanfilippo
  • The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.
  • For those with food sensitivities as well as weight issues–JJ Virgin’s The Virgin Diet 
  • Recently released:  Mark Hyman, MD’s The 10-Day Detox Diet:  Activate Your Body’s Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast

                            See additional references and websites at close of article.

  • DO I GET ENOUGH SLEEP?   ~7-8  hours/day is recommended for most people.  Chronic lack of sleep can promote chronic disease over time.
  • HABITS in NEED of IMPROVEMENT?:  Anything I want to work on? You can take small steps.   Besides cutting back (or OUT) on certain things: you can ask yourself?:   WHAT DO I WANT TO ADD to my life to improve my health?

The EMOTIONS  and Feelings

  • EMOTIONS and FEELINGS come and go like waves in the ocean.   They seem to have a life of their own. Some are very pleasant. Others—not so much. Some can seem to control us, and feel overwhelming. We often feel a physical body reaction along with emotional states (e.g., Pleasant ones: the heart feels open, we feel relaxed. Negative ones:  we feel “contracted,”  stomach tight, back hurts, hands shake). If we pay attention, we can sometimes notice what triggers our emotions and feelings. Sometimes:  There is no explanation!   

***NOTE: Some people look at FEELINGS as having a different tone than EMOTIONS.  A way to explain this is:  You may tune into your heart (and gut) to see how you really FEEL about someone or a situation.  For example, one might say:  “I am developping feelings about this person, or about this cause.”  We may be asked:  “How do you feel about this or that?”  With emotions–we may see them exploding “out of nowhere”–replaying and replaying like an old tape.   Sometimes emotions are “a cry” for us to look at an old pattern that wants a release.

***Emotions and feelings are part of being HUMAN and some “feel” better than others!!   But If “negative emotions” run us too much: decide to do something about it!***  We can learn to release unwanted emotions (vs over-reacting or feeling stuck).  “Emotions – How to Understand,    Identify Release Your Emotions”


  • Like emotions, THOUGHTS come and go like waves in the ocean.  We often notice a constant chatter in our heads. Humans have about 65,000 thoughts a day, 90% of which thoughts of yesterday, repeat today. That’s a lot of clutter and noise to navigate through!” Meditation teachers sometimes call it “monkey mind.”   Our “egos” often keep monkey mind going.
  • Our HIGHER MIND is a good servant for REASON, LEARNING, GROWTH.

NURTURE the HIGHER MIND– Pay less attention to “monkey mind thinking.”


  • Our SPIRITS or SOULS need regular nurturing and attention!  How to  better nurture our souls?   Our souls seek:  CREATIVITY, FUN, JOY, MUSIC, NATURE, BEAUTY, NEW ADVENTURES, ANIMALS/PETS, FEELING LOVED, OFFERING LOVE and CARING, some QUIET TIME.  Q:  Am I involved in enough of these activities on a regular basis?   Q:  Am I laughing enough lately!  Author Loretta LaRoche tells us to cultivate humor and laughter in daily life.   “Life is not a stress rehearsal!”     We can benefit by adding more soul-ful ness into our lives.

Take this Spring to get back on track with YOU!  What do you want/need more of?  What do you want/need less of?    The year 2014 in Chinese tradition is “The Year of the Green WOOD HORSE.”  The horse is strong, powerful, and likes to move!   Let’s ride on the energy of the Horse—to put our goals and intentions into action this Spring and beyond!

“The beautiful Spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”    —Harriet Ann Jacobs–

Happy Spring to all!

Deb and Wendy

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!


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‘Tis the Season to Breathe!!………….BE Stress-FREE through the Holidays!

          “The good news is you don’t have to let stress ruin your holidays!” 

                                                     -Sharyn Alden-

by Wendy Midgley, MED, RD, LDN, CDE  & Deb Brothers-Klezmer BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

The holiday season–starting with Thanksgiving through the New Year–is a time for gathering with family and friends for festivities, partying, love and connection, and special remembrances. 

It can also be a challenging season emotionally to many, especially for those experiencing losses.  It can be overwhelming in terms of “time demands” coming from numerous directions.   Fun and joyful activities are often paired with worry over finances and anxiety about family get-togethers.   A spectrum of intense emotions!

This season also includes lots of food (tasty but often not too healthy) as well as abundant alcohol. 

Heightened emotions and incredible time demands–together with too much rich food and alcohol–are ‘the perfect storm’ for “feeling totally stressed out.”

***We can choose to do the holidays, (and Life itself!)  differently this year!!NOT feeling totally stressed.  Rather:  We can feel calmer and create new positive experiences for ourselves and family.***

What actually is “Stress?”

Stress is often described as: HOW WE PERCEIVE an event or situation, and what kind of meaning we assign to something.   AND, how we react or respond to what we perceive.   YES, how we perceive events strongly influences how our bodies, minds, and emotions respond.  

The good news is:  we CAN learn to define, perceive, and act upon situations differently.  When we are in “stress mode”–we seem to attract more uncomfortable experiences.  When we are in an alert, but relaxed mode–we tend to go through Life with more ease.

How can we En-JOY this holiday season, yet emerge in 2014 in positive spirits and good health, VS feeling totally depleted and “in recovery mode?” 

  • The first step is making the INTENTION to have a more relaxing, lower stress level holiday season this year.  

***Intentions send a ripple effect out into the world, setting energy in motion to create a holiday season even better than you could even imagine.***

  • The second step requires re-thinking and IMAGINING what a successful holiday season feels like!   In other words:  “Feel into” and en-vision what a more relaxing holiday season could be like.  (It is possible!)

 QUESTION:  What are YOUR personal ideals of what the holidays are about?  Don’t attempt to live up to some unattainable cultural ideal (that you may not even want!).  What is really important to YOU?   Be more “neutral” regarding your expectations.

 ***SUGGESTION:  WRITE and REHEARSE a brief VISION STATEMENT with the INTENTION of what YOU want for this holiday season and busy time of year.*** 

  • The third step: is making new choices (saying a yes or a positive NO), TAKING NEW ACTIONS, and setting boundaries in new ways— so we do not feel overly bombarded by requests and demands.  

Taking such steps may feel uncomfortable at first, but the rewards are empowering and worth it!

 Which of the following recommendations are helpful to you?:

  • Make it a priority to get adequate sleep and rest: 7-9 hours per night. Don’t skimp on sleep!
  • Don’t overspend, over-eat, or over-imbibe alcohol and sugary drinks.

 ***If financially strapped—give “free” gifts of your time, or complete a task for someone who needs something done.***

  • When feeling challenged by multiple demands and events:

—Take a moment and CHOOSE what events you’ll attend (and for how long) and who or what you’ll say NO to…and not feel guilty.)  If you are surrounded by people at work or home—spend a few extra private minutes in the bathroom to review your choices for “next step”!  Write events and times on a calendar.

***Make an energy and emotional ‘budget’.***    Question: How much emotional energy do I have to spend on yet one more event!!! (and maybe an event filled with challenging people!)  “5 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress” by Kate Bartolotta

  • Nurture your Spiritual Self.  Do not neglect your soul!!   Spend a few minutes reading inspirational or holy writings, or spend a few minutes sitting in a sacred space—sacred to you.  What is sacred to you this time of year?
  • BREATHE!  Mindful Breathing has many benefits:  calmness, relaxation, better sleep, energization, mental clarity and greater well-being in general.

If you are ‘brand new’ to breath-work, start by simple observing your breathing: inhaling and exhaling.  Sit upright, but comfortably, in a chair.  Breathe deeply, allowing your lungs to fill,  noticing that your lower belly expands at the same time.  The act of breathing also engages the diaphragm, a strong sheet of muscle involved in full expansion of the lungs.    When you exhale,  do so at a longer count than your in-breath.   If you want a demonstration of proper “belly breathing”–just watch an infant doing this–as it is natural to them!  (very good article on proper breathing.)

For a more focussed breathing practice, try the 4-7-8 technique.   In this practice: we take 4 breaths in, hold the breath for a 7 count, and exhale to an 8 count (with a wooshing sound as you exhale).  A good demonstration of this is provided by Dr. Andrew Weil.   If the 4-7-8 count is too challenging, try 3-3-6 or 4-1-5 count.  Just make sure the exhalation count is longer than the inhale count.

Why should the exhale count be longer than the inhale count?  When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.”   (The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” nervous system.  The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in calming us down.)

  • Decide to eat healthily every day, as best you can. Choose 3 Meals of balanced carbohydrates and proteins. Include high fiber vegetables and some fruits.
  • Plan in goodies carefully. If you eat 3 balanced meals, as a priority, it will be easier to say No to excess sweets and rich snacks.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks to 3-5 per week…and not all at once!!!  Alcohol equivalents:  5 oz wine or 12 oz beer or 1.5 oz (1 shot) straight liquor (like gin, whiskey,  or rum or vodka) 
  • Stay well-hydrated:  6-8 glasses water per day, plus natural teas.  Most herbal teas are low in caffeine.

Bring water with you wherever you go and sip on it regularly.

 ***Don’t deprive yourself of sleep, love, social connections, human energy and oxygen—-with overdoing, overspending, and overeating.*** 

 ***Conserve your most vital asset: your (human) energy.***   (Deb’s         regular advice to her clients)

  • Take “time outs” no matter how “time-crunched” you feel.

–Slow down, honor where you are at, and who you are.

–Breathe: inhale, exhale, relax.

 ***PRIORITY!:  PLAN in SOME ALONE TIME for yourself, even if it is just 30 minutes of SOLITUDE or vegging out in your car (and not talking on cell phone!)  UNPLUG!!!  Power down. This is NOT a selfish thing to do.  It is an important self-nurturing step. ***

                        ***Pray, meditate, breathe and move daily.***  

  • Hang out with people who are loving, compassionate and upbeat.
  • Keep your sense of humor handy at all times!   

***We need to have a few good laughs each and every day!  Laughing changes our body chemistry by raising “feel good endorphins.”***

  • Be patient and kind to yourself. (and others!)
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal.  Write in it before you fall asleep. (or in the AM upon arising.)
  • Reach out and ask for help if you need it. 
  • Go outside for fresh air, take a walk.  Or get out some exercise DVDs or do some yoga at home.   Use a pedometer for a distraction,–or to start counting 10,000 Steps per Day.
  • If feeling totally overwhelmed with “I can’t cope” thoughts—remind yourself of times you’ve felt “in control” and when you’ve felt successful.  Those feelings of inner power are still there for you. 
  • For those of you are traveling: check out this BLOG.  Although traveling may not be stress-free, there are ways we can react less intensely to unexpected aspects of travel!!  “Tips for Stress-Free Family Holiday Travel”
  • Raise your oxytocin (the bonding hormone) by engaging in “a feel good activity”: e.g. holding a new puppy or kitty, love-making, getting or giving a massage, or spending time with a contented baby.
  • Do something creative.  Decorate if you like to, or don’t decorate if you don’t feel like it!!!   Seek beauty and enjoy “the arts”.  
  • Take the stance of being “MINDFULLY ALLOWING.”  This does not mean we ‘zone out’, do nothing , or be the door-mat.   Rather: we plan what we can and take good care of ourselves.  Then we ALLOW for what Life also contributes.  Go with the Flow when we can!
  • Have fun!

 Believe that you can have a different type of holiday season this year. 

 Take the steps you need in order to make it happen!   Enjoy and Relax!


We wish you PEACE,  LOVE, and JOY this Holiday Season and in the New Year,

 Deb and Wendy

 The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!



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Intestinal Health…….What Your Bowel Movements Can Tell You

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

                                              Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

“On a daily basis, the all-important gut makes sure we experience the sounds, smells, and rumbles of this key player in the quest for a lifetime of super health.”              –Steven G. Pratt, MD–

According to Dr. Pratt (Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine expert):  “Well before the end of the first decade of life, virtually every person has had multiple episodes of gastrointestinal “memorable events.”

  • The gastrointestinal tract–or “GI tract” or “the gut”–starts at the mouth and ends at the anus-where we release feces (waste products) in the form of bowel movements (BMs for short) via the process of defecation.

There are more descriptions, diagnoses, slang, jokes, and innuendos re:  this body area than we can count!!  Gas, bloat, belching, indigestion, constipation, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, irritable bowel, leaky gut, anal leakage, and many more!!  

STATISTICS:  ~60 to 70 million Americans are affected by some type of digestive disease or disorder. Billions are spent for numerous prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and remedies–for the above ailments.

In this BLOG we will focus on a sometimes sensitive aspect of the gastrointestinal tract, important to each of us:  the nature of “poops” (bowel movements) and proper elimination.  

***If we have healthy poops and elimination habits–we are more likely to experience better overall health, improved immunity, increased mental clarity, greater energy and well-being, and increased longevity.  Our gastrointestinal tract affects directly, or indirectly, all our organ systems.***

It is easier to understand “healthy bowel habits”, if we have a basic understanding of the GI tract. We will review as follows: 

  • Basic structures and functions
  • What is normal?  (re: gas(flatus),  bowel sounds, and bowel movements)
  • Factors that limit,  or negatively effect,  gastrointestinal functioning

We also provide TIPS:  To have a healthier and happier gastrointestinal tract, better overall health and increased longevity


Every part of the gastrointestinal tract plays an important role.

digestive system

In the MOUTH, we rely on GOOD TEETH and gums for chewing, SALIVA for mixing up the foods.

Chewed food travels down the ESOPHAGUS (“the food tube”) into the STOMACH to be mixed with acids and gastric juices, stirred, churned, and partially digested.  This mixture (called chyme) travels into the SMALL INTESTINE, where most nutrient absorption and assimilation occurs.  The Small Intestine has 3 sections:

  • DUODENUM  1st section. Enzymes from the pancreas, and bile from liver and gallbladder are released into the duodenum–to further prepare the digested food mixture for optimal nutritional assimilation.  Iron and calcium are absorbed here, as well as some other nutrients.

***Disease and dysfunction in the duodenum WILL promote inadequate   nutritional absorption in that site, as well as further along the intestinal tract.*** 

Those with celiac disease suffer an inflammation of the small intestine (particularly 1st section–DUODENUM)–due to inability to break down gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Resulting inflammation affects absorption of key nutrients, like iron.

  • JEJUNUM, middle section. The majority of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats) are absorbed here.  Exception:  Vitamin B12, absorbed in latter part of the ileum.
  • ILEUM, 3rd section, connects with LARGE INTESTINE.  In addition to absorbing Vitamin B12, it absorbs bile acid salts, fluids, electrolytes and some remaining nutritional components missed by the jejunum.  Article: “The Basics of Digestive Anatomy”


The large intestine has three sections, beginning at the ileocecal valve—where ileum and colon connect.  The three sections are: ascending colon, transverse colon and descending colon-which ends in the anus, the very last part of the rectum.

The colon’s main functions are to: 1. reabsorb fluids and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) 2. compact remaining chyme and undigested food particles, waste, and  break-down products into solid feces for elimination.  3.  absorb small amounts of nutrients such as Vitamin K—which are produced by bacteria in the colon.

NOTE: It takes ~3 days for food to pass from mouth to anus–on a “western diet.”   For vegetarians:  ~1.5 days.“Get the Scoop on Poop,” Berkeley Wellness newsletter, Oct. 2013)

 WHAT is NORMAL?:   Gas, Sounds, Bowel Movements and Composition

  • GAS (or flatus):

It is normal to produce gas, or flatus, during digestion.  If gas is particularly malodorous and/or uncontrollable–various causes include: poor eating habits, too much sugar, infections, stress (resulting in poor functioning), food allergies or sensitivities (and malabsorption), celiac disease (malabsorption) and/or  other gastrointestinal conditions and diseases (irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and diverticulitis)

FECAL ODOR results from gases produced by bacterial metabolism.  Certain foods like broccoli and cauliflower (cruciferous vegetables) can contribute a stronger odor.  “Absorption, Secretion and Formation of Feces in the Large intestine”


It is normal to hear sounds or some rumblings.  This means things are working!!  No sounds can indicate a serious blockage.  At times,  intestinal sounds are louder and more active than others–all part of “normal.”   With bouts of diarrhea, they are noisier.  During sleep and when taking certain medications or after anesthesia- they can be quieter, more infrequent.


 There is a wide spectrum of “normal”; each person has their own “normal”.  However–certain shapes, colors, and properties are considered MORE NORMAL.

***If your bowel movements move out of YOUR normal range–contact your MD or specialist.***


Water makes up ~75 percent of normal bowel movements. The rest is a            combination of fiber, bile from gall bladder, dead and live bacteria, other cells,  and mucus. Soluble fibers (in apples, oats) provide a gel-like substance that becomes part of your poop.  Insoluble fibers–from foods such as whole grains, corn, seeds, carrots–are more difficult to digest, and may emerge in the toilet bowl in very identifiable form.

Normal Frequency: Ranges 3 per day to 3 times per week.  Excessive may indicate diarrhea and malabsorption.   Less than 3 times per week:  constipation

AMOUNT of STOOL varies, especially as related to dietary habits. According to Dr. Anish Sheth, on his website  “the average American man excretes ~150 grams (5+ oz or 1/3 of a pound) of stool every day, or the  equivalent of 5 tons a year!”


Some descriptive words: Formed (vs liquidy), “texture like peanut butter”, solid, easy to pass. Size and shape of a sausage or having an “S or snake curve.”  Sinks to the bottom of toilet. 


Too Liquidy: Due to diarrhea, irritable bowel and/or stress, chronic infection/inflammation, food allergies/sensitivities,  malabsorption issues

Pebbles or small hard pieces, along with straining: The classic description for constipation, which features delayed transit time.  Too much water is reabsorbed  into the large intestine; hard, dry stool results.

Fat particles:  Malabsorption.  Fat in stool is also called steatorrhea.

Floating stools:  Excess gas from undigested foods; change in dietary             habits, infection, malabsorption from celiac disease or gluten issues, or other food sensitivities.

NOTE:  For more graphic detail and images re: bowel movements, check out the “Bristol Stool Chart” at:

This chart was developed by Heaton and Lewis at University of Bristol (UK), and first published in 1997 in Scandinavian J. of Gastroenterology.

Form of the stool depends on time it spends in the colon.

Type 1(constipation) has spent the longest,  and type 7, the least.  Types 1 and 2 are harder to pass and often require straining.  Types 6 and 7 can be too easy to pass – the need to pass them is urgent; accidents can happen.  Ideal stools are types 3 and 4, especially type 4, as they glide out more easily (and do not leave excessive stool on toilet paper.)

COLOR: Normal is: Chocolate Brown to Golden Brown

Normal color is due to intestinal bacteria breaking down bilirubin (bile component) into organic components: stercobilin and urobinin.

Stool color tends to be darker in constipation (due to lower fluid content).

Color of poop can vary considerably–depending on food choices, stress and illnesses.   Dr. Oz offers the following chart to help determine possible diseases causing certain colors in the stool.

However, some colors in the stool are due to benign causes such as irritable bowel syndrome and dysfunctional patterns, especially rapid transit time.  In such cases: orange, red, beet red or green foods may demonstrate their colors in the stool!  You may even see pieces of undigested food in the stool.

Black Stools: Iron supplements can cause a blackish color. Foods like blueberries, beets, black licorice can cause this color. Black colored stools can also indicate internal bleeding high up in the intestinal tract.

Red, maroon or orangy stools: from eating red or orangy foods,  or due to lack of bile acids (liver issues), too rapid a transit  time through the gut,  OR actual blood from hemorrhoids, or more serious issues such as anal fissures, colon polyps, colon cancer, diverticulitis bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease.

Green stools: from green colored foods, iron supplements, or too rapid a transit time through the gut of greenish foods.

Pale or clay-colored stools:  lack of bile salts; antacid medications,  barium from a barium swallow test,  other medications.

Yellow:  Giardia infections, Gilbert’s syndrome,  sticky yellow in fat malabsorption   “Normal Bowel Movements” by  Amber J. Tresca

***FOR a LIGHT-HEARTED VIEW on a SERIOUS SUBJECT–check out the poop classifications of Paul Chek, who is known for creating the illustrations:  “The Poopie Line-up” and  “The Poop Pageant”.   These graphics are another take on The Bristol Stool Chart, but done in a humorous way).   For “The Poopie Line-Up”, go to:   

 FACTORs that Effect GastroIntestinal Functioning

The GI tract is always trying to keep itself in balance and promote health.  However, if too many “onslaughts” are happening at once, it is more challenging.

Limiting (or negative) Factors

  • Poor limited diet, too much sugar and processed “junk food,”  not enough fiber or fluids; too much acid: for ex,  coffee, alcohol
  • Untreated celiac disease or gluten enteropathy (inflammation and disease)
  • Untreated food allergies,  food sensitivities, or Candida yeast
  • Untreated thyroid disease
  • Stress: lack of sleep, excessive traveling, lack of exercise, unresolved chronic issues
  • Genetic predisposition to constipation, diverticulosis, or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetes and slow gastric emptying time
  • Gastric surgeries requiring diet change to avoid “dumping syndrome”
  • Excessive antibiotics—leading to chronic gut imbalance
  • Over-reliance on medications such as Immodium for diarrhea or Antacids for indigestion.  (used ideally for emergencies—but not  ‘cures.”) 
  • Medications which can lead to either constipation or diarrhea

Medications that may promote loose stools or diarrhea:

Nearly all oral medications can affect the GI tract. Diarrhea is a common  side effect.    The following may cause diarrhea or loose stools.:

  • Laxatives (meant to promote fecal release). They draw water into the gut, and/or by cause intestinal muscles to contract (peristalsis).
  • Antacids that contain magnesium may cause diarrhea or make existing diarrhea worse.  (for example: Milk of Magnesia)
  • Antibiotics.   Our guts are normally filled with many different bacteria. Antibiotics (meant to destroy “bad bugs”) also destroy some healthy bacteria–resulting in an imbalance of gut bacteria.
  • Metformin for treatment of diabetes, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Some herbal teas which contain senna or other “natural” laxatives. (Some herbal teas are intended to promote GI movement, such as “Smooth Move” )
  • Vitamins, minerals, excess magnesium, herbals, or other nutritional supplements may also cause diarrhea.
  • Chemotherapy medicines used to treat cancer and Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Drugs used to treat heartburn and stomach ulcers–omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), iansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (AcipHex), pantoprazole (Protonix), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), and nizatidine (Axid)
  • Medications that suppress the immune system (such as mycophenolate)
  • NSAIDs for pain relief: such as ibuprofen and naproxen  (article: “Drug Induced Diarrhea”)

 Medications that may promote constipation include:

  • Narcotic pain medications such as codeine, Tylenol #3, oxydodone, Percocet,       hydormorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Antidepressants such as amitryptiline in Elavil, Endep;  imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Iron supplements
  • Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide
  • Blood  pressure lowering medications such as Lisinopril
  • Medications to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Calcium channel blocking drugs such as diltiazem (Cardizem) and nifedipine (Procardia)
  • Aluminum-containing antacids such as  aluminum hydroxide suspension  (Amphojel) and aluminum carbonate (Basaljel)

NOTE: Some antacid products contain BOTH magnesium and aluminum—to cancel out possible side effects of both constipation and diarrhea. These include  Gaviscon, Gelusil,  Maalox, Mylanta, Wingel.  They should be used as temporary fixes.  Some people are low in total body magnesium and could use extra magnesium; but it is not wise to consume excess aluminum–which can be toxic. Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 9/19/2012


  • Practice healthy lifestyle habits: nutrition, physical activivity, sleep, dental care, stress reduction.
  • Have proper medical exams:  rectal exams, colonoscopies as recommended
  •  Make adequate sleep a priority.  (7-9 hours/day).

***The normal sleep cycle produces hormones melatonin and prolactin, which have been found to improve the good bacteria in our intestines.   Good sleep can help normalize cortisol levels. (High cortisol levels–associated with abdominal obesity.)

  • Consume adequate fluids: 7-9 cups water per day.  Fluids are needed for normal stool formation.  They move things along in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing constipation.  Common saying: “Fluids flush our system”.

Consume a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet of whole, unprocessed foods: high in vegetables, some fresh fruits, variety of whole grains (no gluten,  if gluten-intolerant), lean animal proteins (grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free and hormone-free poultry, wild caught fish)  nuts, seeds, beans, healthy fats like avocado, olives, olive oil, fresh coconut.  

 —Avoid excess sugar and processed foods–high in chemicals, toxins, and preservatives.  Sugar can contribute to fermentation (gas resulting) and feed “the bad bugs”– which thus proliferate more quickly in your gut, creating imbalance and a host of problems.)

 —Avoid excess acid: e.g., excess alcohol, coffee (both regular and decaf), sodas-especially colas–high in phosphoric acid.

 —Avoid GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods whenever possible.  GMOs are highly used in corn, soy and wheat crops, some fruits and vegetables.

 Choose organic, locally grown-where possible.            

      ***EAT SLOWLY and MINDFULLY.  Chew your food!***

          ***Leave 2-3 hours between your last meal and bed-time.***

Consume adequate FIBER.   Adult women:  at least grams 25 gramsfiber/day. Adult men:  38+ grams/day. 

 ***Flax or chia seeds added to one’s diet, or mixed into a shake, may help  with    constipation.***

Consume a mix of SOLUBLE and INSOLUBLE FIBER foods. 

SOLUBLE FIBER dissolves in water to form a gel-like material.  Can help        lower blood cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels.  Found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium (from psyllium seeds).    

INSOLUBLE FIBER promotes movement of material through digestive system, increases stool bulk.  Can help constipation or with irregular stools.  Foods include:  whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans (legumes like black beans, chickpeas, white beans) and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.

NOTE: Many plant foods contain combinations of both soluble and insoluble fibers.  Best to eat a variety of plant-based foods on a regular basis.

See our October BLOG:   “Fiber and Nutrition for Fall!….Recipes Included!”

Fiber Content of Common Foods (Mayo Clinic chart)


  • 1 cup raspberries:                                                    8.0 grams
  • 1 medium apple with skin:                                     4.4
  • 1 medium banana:                                                   3.1
  • 1 cup sliced strawberry halves:                              3.0


  • 1 cup cooked brown rice                                          3.5
  • ¾ cup bran flakes                                                    5.3
  • ½ cup instant oats                                                   2.0
  • ½ cup corn                                                                2.0
  • 1 slice whole grain or rye bread                              1.9

Legumes, Nuts and Seeds

  • 1 cup cooked beans (like black beans)               15-16
  • 23 almonds                                                               3.5
  • ¼ cup sunflower seed kernels                               3.9


  • 1 cup broccoli                                                           5.1
  • 1 medium carrot                                                       1.
  • ½ cup green peas                                                    4.4

For more CompleteChart of High Fiber Foods, check out:

 Shopping for High Fiber Foods?  check out:  (Click on: The Ultimate High-Fiber Grocery List.)

Engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes per day.  Walking, hiking, running, bicycling, gardening, house-work, sports, dancing, gym (equipment, spinning and other exercise classes), yoga, Tai Chi and other mind/body practices.

***Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, or using elliptical machine–stimulates the colon to move faster and push contents (including gas) along!  Exercise can help alleviate bloat!   Resistance training helps tone abdominal muscles–which helps reduce gastric reflux and bloating.

  • NOTE:  Certain yoga postures stimulate intestines, helping with constipation.
  •  Practice Relaxation and De-Stress regularly.  Physical activity you enjoy, ‘getting lost ‘in an activity you love, meditation/prayer, walking in Nature; planned “time-outs.”,  music, favorite hobbies.
  • If you suspect you have a food sensitivity, food allergy, celiac disease or ‘leaky gut’: discuss this with your care provider.  Rule out illnesses or pathologies. If necessary, consult with a gastroenterologist. Consult with a nutritionist who specializes in gastrointestinal health–for an individualized plan—which may include an elimination diet.
  • Consider going GRAIN-FREE a couple weeks if having chronic intestinal issues with no known medical cause.   The Paleo diet provides gluten-free and grain-free menus (Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo: ), as does The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (by Elaine Gottschall ) and GAPS plan (by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride). Grain-free includes gluten-free, as well as no corn, oats, barley, spelt, rice, quinoa.  Individuals with inflammatory gastrointestinal issues may benefit with FEWER grains OF ALL KINDS in their diets. (i.e. not just gluten-free).
  • Consider giving Low FODMAPS DIET a chance for benign irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.  The belief is that some people handle certain vegetables, grains,  and fruit fibers better (or worse) than others. 

FODMAPS are carbohydrate components found in certain plants.  FODMAPS”  is short for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols.   FODMAPS include fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols.

The strict phase of AVOIDING high FODMAPS foods is  ~6-8 weeks. After that time–tolerable amounts are gradually brought back into the diet. (The healthy bacteria in the gut need SOME of these FODMAPS components for nourishment–to do their work in our intestines!!!) Consider consultation with a dietitian trained in this modality.

 NOTE:  A group of polyols that bothers MANY people are sugar alcohols, often used as a sugar substitute–particularly in items like “diet candy” and “protein and energy bars.”   Mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, and glycerol (glycerin) can be beneficial for blood sugar,  but may wreak havoc in the intestines!!!

For FODMAP FOODS ALLOWED and FOODs TO AVOID, see dietitian Kate Scarlatta’s CHECKLIST at:

Also helpful is Stanford University’s FODMAPS Lists  @   

Consider taking PROBIOTICs, if you have been on prolonged or repeated doses of antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill “bag bugs’, but eliminate some good bacteria as well.   The lost “good bacteria” need to be replaced.  Beneficial bacteria also need to be replaced if you have experienced acute or chronic diarrhea episodes from stress or infection.  (Antibiotics: ANTI-Life.  Pro-biotics  FOR LIFE)

***Some researchers are beginning to believe that MICROORGANISMS      (bacteria, fungi, viruses)  IN OUR GUT (intestines in particular) MAY ALSO BE KEY PLAYERS in HEALTH ISSUES such as OBESITY, DIABETES, SOME KINDS OF CANCERS, and some  AUTO-IMMUNE-MEDIATED DISEASES.***  For more on this subject, check out an excellent article: “The Microbiome: Meet the Trillions of Tiny Allies that Call your Body Home”  by Deborah Halber in Tufts Nutrition magazine,  9-2013

 NOTE: There is controversy re:  how effective probiotics are, although there is more agreement on their efficacy in  children’s diarrhea, “traveler’s diarrhea”, and as a treatment during and after prolonged antibiotic usage. (Contact your pediatrician prior to starting probiotics treatment for children or infants.)

Probiotics requiring refrigeration are believed to be more potent than those   that are shelf stable.  However, many folks report good results with shelf-stable, store-brand, less expensive products. 

IF TRAVELING: Purchase shelf-stable probiotics packaged in single, sealed       packets—to prevent moisture from getting into them.

 WHAT are MOST BENEFICIAL STRAINS of Probiotic Bacteria?

A major controversy regarding usefulness of probiotics is related to the fact  that some probiotics never make it past the acid and bile of the digestive process– to attach to the large intestine walls!

Two strains receiving strong scientific support are Bifidobacteria Infantis in the  product ALIGN and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG  (in CULTURELLE).  However,  both products contain only one strain of bacteria. Other experts believe we should seek brands that contain at least 4 strains—for the possibility of a variety of beneficial strains repopulating the intestines.   probiotic.html

 SUGGESTION: MEET with a specialist (MD, nutritionist, nurse, chiropractor, or naturopath who specialize in gastroenterology) for practical advice use of probiotics.  Practitioners with an expertise in Functional Medicine can be especially helpful in this regard.

 GENERAL Recommendations for taking probiotics:

  • 3-10 billion CFUs dosage/day for general health and prevention. 
  • 20-40+ billion CFUs/day for more severe intestinal health issues. 
  • Larger amounts, like 50-80+ CFUs/day are recommended for acute situations,  and to replace organisms lost in extended antibiotic treatments.  *CFU= Colony Forming Units
  • Choose a product with 4 or more bacteria strains–(refrigerated live cultures, unless traveling)

 If taking LARGE amounts: do so ONLY under a professional care provider’s direction.  Make sure there are no other gastrointestinal issues that need investigation.               

Note on Pre-biotics:

Prebiotics come from undigestible carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides.  The oligosaccharides remain in the digestive tract, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria. Sources include fruits, legumes, and whole grains.  Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOSs)   may be taken as a supplement or added to foods.

The thinking is: prebiotics will help nourish the probiotics and keep them viable.      “Why You Need Probiotics and the Prebiotics that Feed Them” by Shereen Jegtivig, updated     September 8, 2013

***Many experts recommend taking prebiotic/probiotic blends.  HOWEVER,  folks who have trouble with high FODMAPS foods may do better with simple probiotics.  Prebiotics may cause excess gas, bloat and discomfort.***


  • Some Over-the-Counter (OTC) products can be helpful for constipation.  Metamucil, Psyllium powder,  Benefiber, Dulcolax, and Miralax are examples. 



  • Consider body work, manual therapies, and/or Energy work to move stagnant energies in your body and create a healthy flow.  (website of Donna Eden, Energy    Healer/Teacher—endorsed by Christiane Northrup, MD)
  • Keep your sense of humor intact! 

                                                   SUMMARY Thoughts

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic gastrointestinal issues, know there are steps to take to feel better.   General lifestyle and diet modifications may do the trick.  Allow time to see positive improvements.  It can take a few weeks to really notice major changes; but we often notice signs or hints of improvement within the first week.

 All serious issues: such as an unusual acute episode, or chronic ones that don’t clear up—should be discussed with your MD or health care provider.

 DISCLAIMER:  The information on this BLOG site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider before altering your diet, changing exercise routines, starting any new treatments or making changes to an existing treatment. Do not stop medications OR start new products,  without discussing this with your professional care provider

Take all that is given whether wealth, love or language–nothing comes by mistake and with good digestion all can be turned to health.  –George Herbert–

To your gastrointestinal health and well being!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

 Deb and Wendy

 The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!



  • Campbell-McBride, Natasha, MD.  The GAPS Diet: Natural Digestive Healing (grain-free and gluten-free)
  • Galland, Leo, MD with Lafferty, Helen, MB, MRCPI.   Gastrointestinal Dysregulation: Connections to Chronic Disease  (A Functional Medicine Monograph; technical explanations of gastrointestinal functions)
  • Gates, Donna.  Body Ecology Diet  (healthy whole foods diet for healing gastrointestinal tract, attention to probiotics that occur in fermented foods)
  • Gottschall, Elaine.  Breaking the Vicious Cycle:  The Specific Carbohydrate Diet  (grain-free and gluten-free)
  • Miskovitz, Paul, MD and Marian Betancourt.  The Doctor’s Guide to Gastrointestinal Health: Preventing and Treating Acid Reflux, Ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diverticulitis, Celiac Disease, Pancreatitis, Cirrhosis, Hernias and More.
  • Mullin, Gerard E., MD and Swift, Kathie M, RD.  Your Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health (recipes included)
  • Prasad, Raman. Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet The Grain-Free, Lactose-Free, Sugar-Free Solution to IBD, Celiac Disease, Autism, Cystic Fibrosis, and Other Health Conditions (Paperback)
  • Richman, Josh and Sheth, Anish, MD.  What’s Your Poo Telling You?
  • Sanfilippo, Diane.  Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle  (grain-free, gluten-free,  and mostly dairy-free)
  • Sierpina, Victor, MD  The Healthy Gut Workbook: Whole Body Healing for Heartburn, Ulcers, Constipation, IBS, Diverticulosis and More
  • Virgin, JJ.   The Virgin Diet. (good book for elimination diet–gluten-free– and weight loss; recipes included)


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High Fiber and Nutrition for Fall!…….Recipes Included!

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE and Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

“The plentiful harvest can provide many opportunities to improve your diet.” –Roufia Payman—

Autumn is accompanied by new local fruits and vegetables– including numerous types of apples, grapes, onions, late cabbage and Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and a variety of squashes, such as butternut, acorn, hubbard, and others.

                                        fall-vegetables squash pumpkins        

Fall vegetables and fruits offer a variety of nutrients including Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids in pumpkin seeds, the glucosinolates (anti-cancer fighting) in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage.  All fruits and vegetables provide FIBER.  (Whole grains and legumes–beans and lentils–also supply fiber.)  

 FIBER is the indigestible portion of plants and grains.  It is important for gastrointestinal (GI) regulation.  FIBER literally helps move things along through the GI tract—to speed up elimination of fecal wastes or stool.  High fiber diets can help maintain a healthy weight and lower risk of diabetes and heart diseases (lower cholesterol levels). Fiber is essential for health.

***For more on the topic of FIBER and a HEALTHY FUNCTIONING GI tract: see our BLOG article next month:  “What Kind of Pooper Are You?”  @***


  • SOLUBLE FIBER dissolves in water to form a gel-like material.  Can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels.  Found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium (from psyllium seeds).       
  • INSOLUBLE FIBER promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk.  Can help those with constipation or irregular stools.  Foods high in insoluble fiber include:  whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans (legumes like black beans, chickpeas, white beans) and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.

 TOTAL FIBER recommended per day for adults:  

  Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

from the Institute of Medicine, 2012


Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Cranberries

8 servings

Nutrition Composition per serving:  Calories: ~100  Carbohydrates 16 grams,  Protein 2.6  grams, Fat 4 grams, Fiber 3.5 grams, Sodium 16  mg  (NOTE:  Sodium content is very low in this recipe–except for whatever you add to it. (½ teaspoon of table salt contains~ 1200 mg sodium; ½ teaspoon sea salt or coarse ground salt contains ~ 800-1100 mg sodium–depending on how coarse))


  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved
  • 1 medium butternut squash peeled & cut into 1/2 inch cubes (~1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 medium apple, cut into 1/2 pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (3/4-1 cup chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar,  or 1 tablespoon maple syrup (sugar or syrup optional)
  • kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Spread the Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cranberries, apple, & onions on a large rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl mix oil, vinegar, and curry powder together. Drizzle this over the vegetable mixture and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle brown sugar over the vegetables and place baking sheet in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, gently stir and continue to roast for 20-25 minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender and nicely browned.

Spicy Southwest Pumpkin Soup

8 servings

Nutrition Composition per serving:  Calories:  ~230  Carbohydrates  32 grams, Protein 10 grams,  Fat 8.6 grams,   Fiber 7.7 grams,  Sodium  451 mg***     ***NOTE:  This sodium amount (451 mg)  is based on using salt-free pumpkin, salt-free beans, low sodium Pacific brand broth (or home-made broth with no salt added–even better) and 1 teaspoon added salt to whole batch of soup.  The original recipe called for 1.5 teaspoons salt.  Try to use less salt whenever possible.  Do not salt soup at the table!!!


  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1.5 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1.5 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or less)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock  (Low Sodium Pacific Organic,  or home-made low sodium stock)
  • 29 oz. can pure pumpkin puree (or equivalent fresh cooked)
  • 15 oz. can white beans, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Honey or 2 Tbsp. maple syrup

For toasted Pepita (pumpkin seeds) Topping:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds;  cayenne and salt to taste 

(NOTE: ORIGINAL Recipe calls for 1 cup french fried onions (like French’s brand) along with pepitas, for topping.  However, it is healthier to add your own fresh chopped onions—toasted along with the Pepitas,  for topping.  French’s brand onions are NOT allowed on gluten-free diets.)


Place a large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute 3-5 minutes until soft. Stir in cumin, oregano and salt. Saute another 2 minutes.

 Add the stock, pumpkin puree and beans to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Then add the vinegar and honey and simmer another 3-5 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. (You can also use a regular blender, but be careful! Open the vent in the lid and place a towel over it to protect from hot splashing liquid.)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the pepitas (and onions if you are using them) out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a dash or two of cayenne pepper and a little salt. Toast for 3-4 minutes.  

Serve the soup warm, sprinkled with toasted pepitas (and onions).

                                                          Bon Appetit!!!

                                                 Vegetablel soup image      

ENJOY the smells, tastes, and healthy food combinations available to us this Fall!

In good health!

Deb and Wendy,

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!

REFERENCES for other healthy Recipes:


  • Amen, Tana, BSN, RN.  The Omni Diet (70% plant, 30% animal protein).  Recipes included.
  • Hyman, Mark MD.  The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. (for those with diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and for those wanting to eat in a preventive health fashion.)
  • Hyman, Mark MD.  The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook.  (also contains many recipes that are appropriate for those with food sensitivities.)
  • Maimonides.  Vegetarian Times Low-Fat and Fast (cookbook)
  • Moosewood Collective. Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant/Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (vegetarian)
  • Mullin, Gerard MD and Swift, Kathie M., RD.  The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health  (excellent book on GI tract; Recipes included)
  • Prevention Magazine editors.  Fiber Up Slim Down Cookbook: A 4 Week Plan to Cut Cravings and Lose Weight
  • Sanfilippo, Diane.  Practical Paleo:  A Customized Approach to Health and Whole Foods Lifestyle  (Creative recipes–animal protein and vegetable based; some recipes are high in saturated fats like bacon; but you can substitute with oil; or,  if using bacon—choose nitrate-free,  organic types.)
  • Virgin, JJ.   The Virgin Diet.  (Recipes included; many are appropriate for those with food sensitivities and food allergies.)

WEBSITES for Healthy Cooking

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Sore Today???…..Leads to Strong Bones Tomorrow!!!

                      “Life near the bone is the Sweetest.”   –Henry David Thoreau

 by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

Summer is complete!   The Jewish holidays have come and gone early.  Fall  “energy” is in full force.  We have seen a beautiful,  huge Harvest Moon!  The autumnal equinox—a powerful time of year with roughly equal amount of daylight and darkness –occurred September 22nd. 

During this season, it is wise to have positive diet and lifestyle habits in place— to ensure that we stay healthy during the coming Autumn and Winter.   Are we eating well?  Do our physical activity routines work for us?   How are our sleeping patterns?   Are we getting enough relaxation?  So many aspects of our lives to balance!

In this BLOG, we address the importance of bone healthfor our overall health:

  • Function and  purpose of our bones
  • Symbolism and meaning
  • What is osteopenia and osteoporosis?
  • How to maintain strong healthy bones  
  • How to strengthen weakened bones


All the bones in our body (206 total) comprise the skeleton.  The skeleton provides structure and a base for our muscles, tendons, sinews, and ligaments to attach.  Certain bone structures–like the pelvic area–provide protection and “a holder” for vital internal organs to work safely.   The skull bones protect our brain.

Bone marrow (inner part of bones) produces red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells.  Since these cells don’t live a long time, the marrow is continuously producing all 3 types of blood cells to keep us healthy.

Bones store minerals and salts.  

The skeleton makes it possible for us to walk around on planet Earth!  We would not survive without it!!!


There is something serious, deep, and mysterious about bones!  In Thoreau’s opening quote, he compares bones to a certain lifestyle.   This New England writer lived simply, close to nature, unencumbered with extra “things” and baggage.  He also stated:   

Do what you love. Know your own bone (what you are made of); gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still”.

Other Quotes: “I felt it (or knew it) in my bones.”  “He lived a ‘bare bones’ existence.”   “I was hurt (or betrayed) to the bone.”  “She was so thin, she looked like a bag of bones.”   “He has no backbone.”  “For authenticity, you need to get down to the bone.”   “The bones have a story to tell about a person.”  (as in the hit TV show ‘BONES’.  In the end, all that is left is the bones.)  “I was weary to the bone” (or “bone-tired.”)   “He doesn’t have a competitive bone in his body.”   “I was chilled to the bone.” 

On a lighter side, Reba McEntire states: To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.

 LOUISE HAY, author of the book:  YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE states:

***Bones and the skeleton relate not only to the structure of our bodies, but also to the structure of the Universe.***    

She believes that the bone marrow represents our deepest beliefs about the self, and how we support and care for ourselves.

            “I believe life is precious; I believe that to the marrow of my bones                                                    Richard Mourdock

Any concerns we have regarding our bones, Louise suggests we affirm:   “I am well structured and balanced.  Spirit is the structure of my life.  I am safe and loved and totally supported.”



Babies are born fully equipped to develop strong, healthy bones over a life-time (as long as they are a result of a healthy pregnancy)

 ***How we eat, how we live (positive/negative habits), and how we move          (or don’t move) contribute to the state of our bone health over the years.  If we  live and eat well early on, we are more likely to have stronger bones in later years.  Prevention is the best approach.***  

Our bones are capable of remodeling and producing new bone throughout our lives (breaking down old bone and replacing with new).  The adult skeleton is replaced approximately every ten years.  The young body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone.  As we grow older, however, we lose bone faster than we replace it.

Peak bone mass occurs typically in our late 20’s-up to age 30, and the thicker our bones are by ~age 30, the longer it will take to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Healthy bones are made up of dynamic living tissue: crystals of calcium salts in a protein matrix.  Healthy bone requires a wide range of nutrients and minerals—not just calcium—to maintain optimum states.  High-quality bone is strong and resilient, much like bamboo.  In contrast, osteoporotic bones are porous and brittle.  Bone supported by bisphosphonate medications  (like Fosamax) has more of a chalk structure—dense yes, but often very brittle.

As we age, bones naturally become thinner to some degree.  This is not necessarily a disease.  But when bones are too thin and brittle, we are more prone to fractures, falls, limited mobility, and earlier mortality.  We all know stories of how health can deteriorate rapidly in the elderly–if they fall and experience a hip fracture.  (An excellent article on bone health, from pre-birth through “old age.”)  by Susan E. Brown, PhD


  • Medications (prescribed and over-the-counter, or OTC), as well as some illegal drugs are additional influences.  Some medications known to contribute to negative bone health include: steroids such as cortisone and prednisone, steroidal inhalants for asthma, chemotherapy, and  radiation treatments as well

A medication list provided by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) includes (but not limited to):

  • Aluminum-containing antacids such as Gelusil, Maalox, Mylanta, Gaviscon
  • Antiseizure medicines (only some) such as Dilantin® or Phenobarbital
  • Aromatase inhibitors such as Arimidex®, Aromasin® and Femaral
  • Cyclosporine A and FK506 (Tacrolimus)
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) such as Lupron® and Zolade
  • Heparin
  • Lithium
  • Medroxyprogesterone acetate for contraception (Depo-Provera®)
  • Methotrexate
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium®, Prevacid® and Prilosec®
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Lexapro®, Prozac® and Zoloft®
  • Tamoxifen® (premenopausal use)
  • Thiazolidinediones such as Actos® and Avandia®
  • Thyroid hormones in excess   (“Medicines that May Cause Bone Loss”)

  • Smoking
  • An excessively acidic diet can contribute to bone loss.  (e.g., too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar, excess cola beverages high in phosphoric acid).
  • Lack of major and micro nutrientsCalcium–we are all familiar with. Vitamin K2 is getting more attention.  Adequate Vitamin D3 is important.  Micronutrients such as boron and strontium are needed.
  • Chronic stress and release of stress hormones such as cortisol
  • Lack of physical activity and normal weight bearing movements
  • Eating disorders or metabolic problems that interfere with proper assimilation and use of vitamins and minerals.
  • Hormonal changes, such as the estrogen drops of menopause
  • Insulin resistance, diabetes, and the inflammation of cardiovascular disease
  • A strong genetic component.   Certain ethnic groups such as American blacks are known for having stronger bones (and teeth) than other ethnic populations–e.g.: thin, fair-haired, blue-eyed women of northern European descent. (“Racial Differences in Bone Strength”,  Mark Hochberg, MD)

             –Women of SouthEast Asian ancestry are also at greater risk.  (from the Center for Menstrual Disorders and Reproductive Choice)

            –Men (of all ethnic groups) can also experience thinning bones and bone loss as well as women. Approximately one third of those affected by osteoporosis are males (about 2.8 million of them as of 2011).   But men tend to present several years later than women due to hormonal differences. 

            –Frame size. Men and women who have small, slim body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.  And with women: the hormonal changes of menopause increase the bone loss process further.

            –Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater            risk, especially if you also have a family history of hip fractures.

DEFINITIONS of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

  • Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones.”  It is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue (including  protein.) Hormonal changes, deficiency of minerals such as calcium, and/or low Vitamin D levels are typically involved.  Porous bones are subject to fracture and heal slowly.  The older we get, the greater the risk of osteoporosis.

 Osteoporosis is characterized by loss of calcium from bones, shifting them from their healthy hard state to a diseased state of softness. As osteoporosis develops, we are more likely to be developing atherosclerosis characterized by excessive influx of calcium into arterial walls, shifting them from their healthy flexible state to a diseased state of hardness.  “ 

 SYMPTOMS of Osteoporosis: No symptoms at first– but over time:  back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, loss of height, stooped posture, bone fractures that occur more easily than expected.

 “Each year, 1.5 million older Americans suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. Half of all women over 50, and a quarter of all men, will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture sometime in their remaining life. And the problem is increasing: the surgeon general estimates that by 2020, half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk for bone fractures from osteoporosis and bone loss”   (The Osteoporosis Myth:  Broken Bones from Falls are not Related to Osteoporosis)

  • When bones start to thin, it is called Osteopenia.  Beginning in middle age, existing bone cells are reabsorbed faster than new ones are made; minerals are lost and bone structure becomes less dense and weaker.     This condition refers to a bone mineral density (BMD) that is lower than normal peak BMD but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.   (BMD  is equal to the level of minerals in the bones and indicates how dense and strong they are).


Some individuals have naturally thin bones–that are strong.  We should not jump to the conclusion that all thin women, with smaller bones, have osteopenia.

Some folks with lower BMDs never develop osteoporosis….i.e.: Even though they may naturally have lower bone density, they may not experience a greater risk for fractures.

 SYMPTOMS of Osteopenia:  There are typically no symptoms as bone is gradually thinning.  However, the risk of breaking a bone increases over time, as bones become less dense.

 Although a diagnosis of osteopenia indicates a greater risk over the years  for developing osteoporosis; there are steps one can take to prevent this outcome.   (TIPS further ahead re: Diet, Exercise, Stress Reduction, possible Nutrition Supplements)

 Bone Density Test

The Bone Density Test provides a measurement of the density of a bone’s mineral content. This test can provide a baseline–to compare an individual’s bone density status over time.

“A bone density test uses X-rays (typically the DEXA scan, which uses dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are located in the spine, hip and forearm. “

Scores are given to assess level of bone density and whether one has normal bone mass,  osteopenia, or osteoporosis.  For more information on interpretation of numbers, go to:

***NOTE: Bone Density tests don’t always tell the whole picture regarding one’s bone health.   For alternative points of view: read Nan Fuchs, PhD’s CalciumHoax.pdf and check out her website: She states that only certain parts of the skeleton are assessed in the Bone Density Test, so the test gives only a partial assessment.  Areas that aren’t assessed may have different measurements.  Also, some people have an overall lower bone mineral density naturally–but their bones are still strong and they don’t get osteoporosis.***

 TREATMENTS for Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

FOR OSTEOPENIA:  Start by improving diet, exercise and lifestyle habits. Consider adding a few nutritional supplements.  (See Dr. Northrup’s List further down.)  You may never have a need for any types of medications–if you eat well, exercise, reduce stress, be pro-active, and PREVENT FALLS.

FOR OSTEOPOROSIS:  Improve diet, exercise safely,  and modify necessary lifestyle habits.   Nutritional supplements may be recommended.    All of these efforts may not prove adequate.   Medications may be considered.  PREVENT FALLS.


Bisphosphonates are the main category of medications for treatment of osteoporosis.  The oldest of these is Fosamax (adrenolate).  (Other medications include Boniva, Actinel, and Reclast.)  Fosamax works by slowing resorption—the breakdown phase of normal bone remodeling.  It does not promote  “new bone formation.”  Defenders of Fosamax say that this medication gives new bone formation a chance to catch up with the break-down phase.   Some patients on Fosamax benefit with increased bone density up to 10 years. 

“Over three years on Fosamax, you can expect a 6% to 8% increase in spinal bone density and a 4% to 6% increase in hip bone density,” says Michael Holick, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center. “And the bisphosphonates have been found to reduce spinal fracture by as much as 60% over three years, and hip fractures by as much as 50%.”

Common side effects of this medication are irritation of the esophagus and stomach ulcers.  (although many users report none of these side effects.)

 Some studies over the past few years have linked bisphosphonates to osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat). Findings are controversial (although I (Wendy) personally have a 94 year old aunt who developed significant jaw issues from taking this medication—and has stopped it!)  Perhaps these side effects are rare; but if you are one who developed it—then it is very serious!) 

One theory regarding the “danger” of these medications refers to the idea that the normal dynamic action of bone, normal blood flow in the bone, and normal bone nutrition is disrupted.  

Some recent reports link unusual fractures of the femur (thighbone) in long-term users of Fosamax.    Due to all the controversies, some women have decided to go ‘on holiday’  re: using this medication; maybe start it up again in the future


  • Recommendations by Christiane Northrup, MD–integrative, functional health practitioner


  • Magnesium, 400–1,000 mg
  • Calcium, 500–1200 mg   (you can also get 500 mg in foods and  make up the difference with 500-700 mg in supplements.)
  • Vitamin D3, 800-5000 IU)  Check your blood level of Vitamin D to make sure it is within 30-100 zone.   Most MDs prefer it to be at least 50-70)
  • Vitamin C, 1000–5000 mg
  • Boron, 2–9 mg
  • Zinc, 6-50 mg
  • Manganese, 1-15 mg
  • Copper, 1-2 mg
  • Vitamin K, 70–140 mcg
  • Beta carotene, 15 mg11

A more alternative supplement approach: Nan Fuchs, PhD (calcium researcher)

Nan Fuchs, PhD believes that a vital mineral for bone health is the mineral strontium.  She contends that we over-do it with calcium supplements and that the body can’t assimilate more than 500 mg Calcium from Calcium supplements per day.  In her research, calcium is only one aspect of bone health. Dr. Fuchs states thatexcess calcium supplementation can promote certain types of cardiovascular disease, kidney problems and some types of arthritis.”

She is not a big supporter of bisphosphonates, although she does support the use of the hormone calcitonin in some individuals.  In her Ultimate Bone Support formula, she recommends DAILY including:

  • 500 mg Strontium (stimulates bone-building and slows bone loss
  • 300 mg Hops Extract (saves healthy bone from being broken down)
  • 400 mg L-lysine (links collagen fibers for a sturdy foundation)
  • 800 IU Vitamin D3—decreases bone pain and fracture risk.
  • 40 mcg Vitamin K2:  increases bone density and calcium absorption
  • 2 mg Boron—Supports proper metabolism to slow bone loss
  • 4 mg Silicon—Promotes bone growth and builds cartilage
  • 10 mg Manganese—Promotes bone growth and builds cartilage
  • 2 mg copper—helps produce collagen and slow bone loss
  • 15 mg Zinc—Enhances bone formation and mineral uptake

(We would also add some Magnesium, as does Dr. Northrup.  A high percentage of North Americans are low in magnesium.)

If you are interested in Dr. Fuchs’ supplement program, or anyone else’s supplement program:     ***DISCUSS SUPPLEMENTS WITH YOUR MD and OTHER HEALTH PRACTITIONERS BEFORE YOU START TAKING THEM!!!***  (for further discussion on the micro-nutriets.)



  • Participate in exercises that involve forceful muscle contractions that occur in starts and stops—as in tennis or training with weights.     Bones respond to the tug or stress of gravity (positive stress).  Swimming and cycling (and traveling in Space!) do NOT provide this (unless one is walking in a pool or body of water.) However, swimming and cycling do provide cardiovascular benefits.
  • Walk regularly.  Jogging is even better. (if your heart and knees are up to it.)   In the famous Nurses’ Health Study:  “those who walked for at least 4 hours/week were 40% less likely to suffer hip fractures than those walking less.    Those who walked 8 hours/week were as unlikely to experience hip fractures as those on hormone replacement.”
  • Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon promotes the need to “bash our bones” through ‘dynamic impact’ exercises such as hopping, jumping rope, or walking rapidly uphill or upstairs.  (from NY TIMES 8-12-2013 article by Jane Brody:  “Start Early, Building Up Bones with a Little Bashing”)
  • And there’s always DANCING!


  • Posture, flexibility, balance and strength all affect bone health. If any of the above present an issue–hands-on techniques performed by highly trained clinicians can assess, diagnose, and treat the muscles, bones, joints, nerves and fascia.
  • Manual therapies may include myofascial release, soft-tissue mobilization and manipulation. These techniques should be specifically tailored to address individual impairments, restore physical function, and improve performance.
  • Another option recommended by Andrew Weil M.D., and Deb Brothers-Klezmer is Feldenkrais.  Feldenkrais is designed to improve movement patterns and build better bones. For further information go to or


  • Consume a diet high in vegetables and whole, unprocessed foods.  Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fresh fruits, lean animal proteins: fresh fish, grass-fed beef, beans, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like avocados. 
  • Avoid sugar and processed chemicals. 
  • Rotate the whole grains.  Try brown rice and quinoa, don’t just rely on wheat.
  • Eat a more alkaline diet vs acidic diet. Vegetables are alkaline-producing.  Coffee, alcohol, sugar and processed foods/chemicals are acid-forming. .Alkaline foods are more in alignment with overall health.  An overly acidic diet is associated with inflammation and disease.
  • Limit caffeine coffee to 1-2 cups/day (5-10 oz totalsmall cups!!!)
  • Alcohol:  no more than 1-2 drinks/day.  (1 drink = 1.5 oz hard liquor, 4-5 oz wine, 12 0z beer)

 Dr. Leon Root, orthopedic surgeon and author of the book BEAUTIFUL BONES WITHOUT HORMONES discusses how one can consume more calcium in the diet naturally—with careful choices. 

Try to get at least 500 mg Calcium per day naturally FROM FOODs.  It is quite do-able if careful choices are made. 

Possibly add 500-700 mg of calcium supplements to the 500 mg from foods. 

TOTAL = to 1000-1200 mg Calcium/day



  • Milk: 1 cup, ~290 to 300 mg
  • Yogurt: 1 cup, ~240 to 400 mg
  • Egg:  ~55 mg, in a medium-sized egg
  • Cottage Cheese: 1/2 cup,  ~80 to 100 mg
  • Ice Cream: 1/2 cup Ice cream and frozen milk desserts, ~80-100 mg
  • Powdered Fat-free Milk: 1 teaspoon,  ~50 mg
  • American Cheese: 1 oz, ~165 to 200 mg
  • Swiss Cheese: 1 oz slice ~270 mg  

GREENS and other Vegetables

  • Broccoli: 1 cup,  ~80 mg
  • Kale: 1/2 cup,  ~90 to 100 mg
  • Okra: 1/2 cup,  ~70 mg
  • Turnip Greens: 1/2 cup cooked, ~ 100 to 125 mg
  • Spinach: 1 cup cooked spinach, ~300 mg; 1 cup raw spinach, 30 mg
  • Alfalfa Sprouts: 1 cup raw Alfalfa sprouts, ~11 mg
  • 1 single boiled or raw artichoke,  ~5 mg
  • Asparagus: 1/2 cup boiled, ~ 21 mg 1 raw asparagus spear: ~ 3 mg calcium; 1/2 cup canned asparagus, ~18 mg of calcium.
  • Canned Bamboo Shoots: 1 cup,  ~11 mg.
  • Beets (Canned): 1 cup, ~44 mg
  • Carrot (Canned): 1 cup canned carrot juice, ~57 mg.  Raw carrots contain ~42 mg calcium in 1 cup.
  • Celery: 1 single cup raw celery, ~16 mg
  • Cauliflower: 1/2 cup boiled,  ~10 mg
  • Peeled Raw Cucumber: 1 cup peeled, raw cucumber,  ~17 mg
  • Eggplant: 1 cup of pickled eggplant,  ~34 mg
  • Garlic: 1 teaspoon of raw garlic, ~5 mg
  • Lettuce-butterhead: 1 cup of raw, shredded lettuce,  ~19 mg
  • Mushrooms: 1 cup canned mushrooms has ~14 mg
  • Mustard Greens: 1 cup of chopped, boiled mustard greens, ~104 mg
  • Onions: 1 cup chopped, raw onions, ~40 mg
  • Green chillies: 1 cup canned, ~50 mg
  • Tomatoes: 1 can of tomato paste (~6 oz) ~94 mg.  1 cup green, raw tomatoes has ~23 mg of calcium.  1 fresh medium tomato, ~12 mg
  • Green Beans: 1 cup boiled green beans, ~55 mg
  • Potatoes: 1 cup of raw or baked peeled potatoes ~26 mg


  • Apple:  1 cup unsweetened juice,  ~17 mg.  Raw apples with skin,  and without skin: ~8 mg and ~6 mg, respectively.
  • Avocados: 1 cup of avocado, ~18 mg.
  • Banana: 1 cup banana, ~8 mg. If bananas are dehydrated, ~22 mg/cup.
  • Grapes: 1 cup green grapes,  ~15 mg/cup. American purple grapes, ~13 mg/cup
  • Lemon: 1 cup canned or bottled lemon juice, ~27 mg
  • Orange: 1 large raw orange,  ~74 mg.
  • Pineapple: 1 cup canned, unsweetened, pineapple juice, ~33 mg.  1 cup canned pineapple, ~32
  • Cherries: 1 cup sour cherries, 26 mg; 1 cup frozen sour cherries ~20 mg calcium.  1 cup sweet frozen cherries, 31 mg
  • Cranberries: 1 cup of whole raw cranberries, 8 mg
  • Watermelon: 1 cup of diced, raw watermelon, 11mg
  • Strawberries: 1 cup, 25 to 35 mg in any form – canned, frozen, or raw
  • Pomegranates: 1 single raw pomegranate, ~5 mg
  • Apricots: 1 cup dried or dehydrated apricots, ~70 mg;   1 cup raw apricots ~20
  • Acai Berries: 260 mg per 100 gm* of acai berry powder (mix into liquids or shakes)
  • Mangosteen: 1 cup of mangosteen, ~24 mg
  • Goji Berries: 100 grams dried Goji Berries or wolf berries, ~ 65 mg
  • Blueberries: 1 cup of blueberries, canned or frozen, ~13 mg

* 100 grams = ~3.3 oz or just under 1/2 cup


  • Almonds: 12 whole ~ 37 mg
  • Sesame seeds: 1 Tablespoon, ~64 mg
  • Sesame Tahini spread; 1 Tablespoon:  ~64


  • Chicken Breast (roasted with skin): 100 grams, ~14 mg
  • Lamb: 100 grams roasted, ~20 mg
  • Pork: 100 gm of lean roasted, ~25 mg.
  • Turkey: 100 gm roasted turkey leg,  ~32 mg
  • Turkey Hot dog: 1 single turkey hot dog (45 grams), 66 mg
  • Sardines: 3 oz,  ~325 mg (high in FISH BONES)
  • Pollock: 100 grams cooked, ~76 mg
  • Perch: 100 grams cooked, ~100 mg
  • Herring: 100 gram  cooked,  ~75 mg
  • Ham: 100 grams sliced boiled, ~25


  • Soy bean: (Soy bean yogurt or tofu) ~150 mg in 4 oz of tofu.
  • Soymilk fortified with calcium:  1 cup, ~ 150-300 mg.
  • White Beans: 1 cup cooked  ~100 mg
  • Chickpeas: 1 cup, cooked ~ 80 mg
  • Ginger Root/Ginger: ~16 mg per 100 gm
  • Almond milk fortified with calcium: 1 cup,  ~360 mg
  • Orange juice fortified with calcium: 1 cup, ~280 mg



  • Engage in physical activity at least 5x for week: ideally for 30-40 minutes per session.
  • Do weight-bearing exercises: e.g.,walking, jogging, aerobics, team sports.  Walk upstairs carrying packages.  Find walks where there are hills to climb.  Incorporate hopping and skipping.   DANCE!   If you are in a pool, do some walking exercises at the end where your feet touch.  (Weight-bearing = forces the body to work against gravity.)
  • Get enough sleep:  7-8 hours per night.
  • Create a “bone safe” environment.   Remove slippery scatter rugs.   Make sure there are no electrical cords in the way to trip over.   Make your house a safe place to walk in!
  • Have night lights in or near your bedroom.  Or use flashlights, if you don’t want to turn on a light and wake others.
  • Wear supportive shoes.  (See FOOT article in our July BLOG:
  • Get regular eye exams and pay attention to depth perception while walking.
  • Take care of your teeth.  Get regular dental cleanings.  Brush and Floss 2xday.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Install hand-rails and bars in difficult to walk areas.


  • Excess stress hormones— like chronic production of excess cortisol— can lead to poor bone health. 
  • Find regular ways to relax—whether it be a regular meditation practice, or   just having fun doing something you love. 
  • Regular physical exercise also produces a state of relaxation to the body.


                       “Save Your Bones, Save Your Health.”   Leon Root, MD


We wish you strong bones that serve you well……into a healthy longevity!

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!

 Deb and Wendy




  • Root, Leon, MD (orthopedic surgeon).  Beautiful Bones Without Hormones
  • Nelson, Miriam.  Strong Women, Strong Bones.


  • Fuchs, Nan, PhD.   CalciumHoax.pdf  (discussion re: appropriate and inappropriate calcium supplementation; alternative supportive therapies for osteoporosis/osteopenia)


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Honoring our Sensitivity and Resistance…..Am I too sensitive?, What do I resist?

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE  & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

A highly sensitive nature comes with many perks – empathy, creativity, deep thinking, keen observation skills and the ability to feel passion like there is no tomorrow.”    -Sonal Pandey-

August has arrived too quickly, it seems.  Once again, we wonder:  Where has Summer gone? !!!   Parents are busy buying school supplies and Fall clothing for their children.  Sigh!

There is “something” about August as a “transition month”…..our minds are geared towards September busy-ness, school and studies, projects, and increased activity of all sorts.  We know  that everything will be “amped up” very soon!

Yet, there are many beach and hiking days left, if we choose to enjoy them. And for those of you with “Summer SAD” (summer seasonal affective disorder: i.e., extreme discomfort with heat, humidity, too much light)—relief is just around the corner.

For Deb and Wendy, there is a something special about spending a warm afternoon on the beach in August.  We find ourselves in a contemplative mode, pondering:  “What is next?”  We sift through our thoughts about ourselves and our lives.  Self-questioning, realizations and inner stirrings may arise.

 The coming of Fall on the horizon can feel like the arrival of “a new year.”   Indeed, in Jewish Tradition, it IS the time of the new year, Rosh Hashanah.   The “new year” is the perfect time to go deep within and take stock of ourselves.  ……Examine where we may fall short, what we want to address, let go of, add, change, or work on.    The September “new year” is a perfect time for “a personal upgrade” and for setting new intentions.

For this BLOG, our PURPOSE is to encourage a healthy introspection that leads to new ACTION Plans.  Our gateway into setting new intentions and creating a personal upgrade starts with a conversation on SENSITIVITY and RESISTANCEBoth are normal human states.  Both qualities have positive and negative emotional aspects; but there seems to be “a right balance” when we are “IN THE FLOW” in this dynamic.  

We can contemplate other polarities as well, such as “weak/strong” or “impulsive/ restrained” that may serve as gateways that lead to similar results!   But for this BLOG we focus on Sensitivity and Resistance.


Sensitivity =The quality or state of being receptive to sense impressions, to being easily hurt, being in  ‘a delicate state’, being highly susceptible and responsive; the capacity of an organism, or sense organ, to respond to stimulation.  (Excess sensitivity = HYPERSENSITIVITY—not a desirable state–as it’s difficult to take “right action” in such states. The word ‘sensitive’ is from Latin “sensus”, related to the senses.)

Positive Aspects of SensitivityAlerts us to danger.  Let’s us know how others are feeling–so we can respond and communicate better;  helps us know when someone is truthful or not.  Sensitivity can serve as an opening to greater intuition and deeper knowing in our lives.

Negative Aspects of Sensitivity:  Difficulty making decisions.  Health, relationship and financial issues.   Avoidance of life’s adventures and social connections–that may otherwise enhance our lives.  Living in states of ‘overwhelm‘ where nothing gets done.

Resistance = Opposition, a motion to counteract or defeat, the ability to withstand the force of something, the slowing down of a process happening. Not changing/Staying put.  Resistance can appear as NO ACTION.  But actually IT TAKES A LOT of ENERGY to RESIST.  Sometimes it is appropriate to resist or take a stand.  Other times, our resistance keeps us stuck, and life becomes stagnant and boring.  (Resist:  from Latin to stand or take a stand.)

Positive aspects of Resistance:  May help us avoid making ‘a bad decision’ that will take us down a ‘wrong path.’  Resistance strengthens certain aspects of character (like the ability to avoid the 2nd piece of cheesecake,  ‘bad drugs’ or other temptations.)  Resistance to frequent infections is a very positive health aspect.

Negative aspects of ResistanceStaying ‘stuck in a rut’ in general.  Limitation of (and avoidance of) expansive life experiences and opportunities. Often involves a degree of denial. Keeps us from healing old emotional wounds and letting go of unhealthy habits and behaviors and replacing them with new healthy ones.             

   ***What we resist, persists.  .i.e., Resistance keeps us right where we are.***

            ***What we embrace (accepting something ‘as is’) dissolves.***

***Another twist on RESISTANCE: Some folks are NOT RESISTANT ENOUGH regarding boundary choices with certain people, dysfunctional situations and choosing to use addictive substances.*** 

 In the health and medical worlds—the word sensitivity often relates to foods, pollen, allergies, level of pain or nerve reactivity, medications, or even a flu shot!  Or, we may use the word resistance to describe a medication not working, for example:  certain bacterial infections can be resistant to an antibiotic treatment.

In the larger life view, the words sensitivity and resistance relate to all levels of being in our lives: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Sensitivity and Resistance relate to how we welcome, or not welcome life, and all life’s aspects.  How we take action (or not act).  

It is very human to feel sensitive or deeply touched at the sight of a newborn baby or puppy. 

It is also very common to feel resistant to (or non-accepting of) stressful life challenges: particularly, losses of all kinds.  We may avoid or deny our emotional states. But the sooner we can move out of a resistant state, the more quickly life begins to flow again.

 What is the “RIGHT BALANCE” for each of us between these two words?           

***If you feel some thoughts stirring on this subject, let them arise.   We live in times of great and rapid change. It is normal and healthy to contemplate this subject.

***Sometimes we are not even aware we are feeling overly sensitive (or under-sensitive) or resistant (or not resistant enough.) We may be too used to practicing negative behaviors that cover up how we really feel.  These can include: excess food, alcohol, caffeine or drugs; excess spending, isolation/avoidance, and/or getting involved in unhealthy relationships.   All these practices keep us UNAWARE of how we really are feeling.***

***MAKE a COMMITMENT to BECOMING MORE AWARE—the first step towards making changes towards greater possibilities.***

We ask a series of QUESTIONS to get us more deeply into this CONTEMPLATION.   

Then—offer TIPS for addressing the AWARENESSES that are uncovered,  or present themselves.


  • Am I too sensitive to life’s challenges, and then unable to take action?
  • What things, people, substances, situations am I overly sensitive or reactive to?
  • Am I not sensitive ENOUGH to others and their needs?   
  • What do I resist?  People, situations? Losses? Uncomfortable changes of all kinds that are happening?
  •  Is my resistance to certain changes a good choice, and a safe course?  Or:
  •  Am I resisting a BIG CHANGE that would benefit me greatly—if I summon up the courage to face it head on?

 Make a List for yourself of each subject.

SENSITIVITY:  I notice that I am (very) sensitive to: _______________________________________________________________________


To start you off, here’s a few common ones:    Crowds, loud music, certain foods, fluorescent light bulbs, bad odors, angry people, traffic jams, extreme cold or heat,  barometric changes in the weather, criticism by the boss or a significant other, children fighting and screaming in the house on ‘a snow day’.

(OR, I am not sensitive enough to, for example:  my children’s or spouse’s needs, my own needs, issues in the community, environmental concerns.)

RESISTANCE:  I notice that I am (very) resistant to: ___________________________________________________________________


A few common ones:  Meeting new people/networking, public speaking (terror!), getting boring tasks done (procrastination), setting priorities (also procrastination), starting a healthy eating or exercise plan, difficult conversations that are necessary but highly emotional, doing holiday shopping,  balancing the checkbook, paying bills, ending a toxic relationship-even though it may be a good decision, learning new technology.

(OR, I am NOT RESISTANT enough when it comes to,  for example:  sugar, wine, pepperoni pizza, Facebook,  slot machines, recreational drugs, slot machines, ETC!)

*** WE often RESIST what we are SENSITIVE TO–order to avoid anticipated  anxiety, discomfort and pain.  This includes avoidance of, or resistance to:  certain people, places, recommended  lifestyle changes that may benefit us, and a variety of decision-making situations—because we feel too sensitive to cope.  But when we avoid and resist consistently, we stay stuck in resistance, and growth stops!***

***NOTE:  Human beings are PLEASURE-SEEKING, starting at birth. We are neurologically wired to seek pleasure.  We are PLEASURE-SEEKING 1st.   2nd: WE AVOID PAIN.   Our resistance is often related to avoiding pain or discomfort.  Sometimes this avoidance is helpful;  sometimes not a wise idea***

***When we create a healthy dynamic between the two states of sensitivity and resistance: we become MORE RESILIENT people: better copers and actualizers, who have more interesting, full lives.***


  1.  Decide you are going to examine (WITHOUT JUDGMENT) sensitivity and resistance issues that are often put on the back burner.
  2. Commit to being more AWARE, PRESENT, GRATEFUL, and MINDFUL in general.   CHOOSE these states.  

 A KEYThese “high vibe” states will raise our consciousness and quiet our minds long enough to help us discern subtleties in the sensitivity/resistance dynamic, and help us know when to take action, or when to stay put.

 ***QUESTION:  Is my sensitivity or resistance based on truth?  Or is it time to shift out of this state and make a change?***

3.  Practice Meditation, Relaxation and/or Calming exercises.  In practicing these exercises,  as well as Tip #2—we will find ourselves more skillfully navigating emotional states.  And some issues will simply fall away.

4.  Spend time in Nature or in a garden.  Walk around the neighborhood (with no headphones!)

5.  Practice mind-body exercises such as Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Karate, Yoga, or even a favorite work-out routine.

6.  Practice breath work as a daily relaxation practice.  And in times of stress.

7.  Develop your INTUITION (Mind body exercises, meditation can help.)  

8.  Tune in to your HEART and GUT.  Both these areas of the body are very sensitive (a positive aspect of SENSITIVITY!)  and can supply us with many wise messages.

9.  Listen to Music that you enjoy.  Research shows that listening to classical music such as Bach can change brain waves.  and help you see a troubling situation in a new light.

10. Stay GROUNDED through regular exercise and body movement activity of all kinds.

11. Clean out the house or your car when feeling emotionally overwhelmed by states of hyper-sensitivity, hyper-resistance.  Doing so can move  ‘stuck energy’.

12. Remain NON-JUDGMENTAL of “where you are at” in your emotional states.  ALLOW that you are experiencing discomfort–even if you don’t like it.  ALLOWANCE helps us see sensitive or resistant states from a NEUTRAL stance. NEUTRALITY is a great place to be when trying to make changes in our lives.

13. Make a new friend.  Set up a walk or coffee date, even if you feel shy or resistant.

14. Spend LESS time with people who drain you.

15. If you feel you really are “too sensitive”….. For example–to large, noisy crowds.  But you still want to attend a big event (or MUST attend a family function), try the following:

IMAGINE a large protective shield around your whole body.  It is invisible and nobody else knows it’s there but you.  You feel protected and strong, at the same time you actually find yourself able to engage in the group event.  Or IMAGINE invisible ANTENNAE all over you that allow you to stay in a zone of comfort and safety.  You can pick up the information you want or need, and ignore the rest.  

                ***YOU are the GATE-KEEPER to your Experiences.***

 NOTE: Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) comprise up to 20% of the population with 70% of them being introverts.  ~30% of HSPs are actually ‘sensitive extroverts.’  For more information and tips on this subject, check out books on highly sensitive people by Elaine Aron, PhD  in REFERENCES at end of BLOG.

16. Practice positive self-care: Follow a healthy whole foods-based diet, engage in positive sleep habits, and hydrate adequately.

17. Create a POSITIVE WORD BANK (WRITE a LIST) and APPLY THESE WORDS to YOU!!   POSITIVE words raise our vibration and bring calm.  They may include words such as: HOPE, INSPIRATION, POSITIVE, UPLIFTED, KINDNESS, PEACE, JOY, ACCEPTANCE, CALM, HARMONY, BALANCE, ALLOWANCE, CONTENTMENT, EASE, RELAX, TRUST, FORGIVING, LAUGHTER, HUMOR, LIGHT,  LOVING.   Or phrases such as   “Everything is OK.” You are loved.”

18. Make a conscious effort to let go of old patterns. Replace them with new ones of a higher order.  Request that the Universe recycle your “old stuff” and “old energy” towards a higher and greater good.

19. If you need medication to help manage anxiety, do not judge yourself (or others.) At the same time:  practice some of the suggestions listed in these TIPS.

20. FIND ONE SMALL AREA in your life for concentration.  

JOURNAL how you are feeling and what you notice. (NON-JUDGMENT).   

–Include a LIST of everything you like, love, or appreciate about yourself.

Ask yourself: 

  • WHAT area would I like to work on to change?
  • What SMALL STEP can I take to move forward in this area of my life?  
  • What do I need to do— so that SENSITIVITY/RESISTANCE issues don’t prevent me from taking action? 

This answer is different for everyone.   Answers may include: rounding up positive family and friends, joining a support group, going to the gym, taking up hiking or kayaking, signing up for a meditation class, working with a coach or a psychotherapist, or just planning in more quiet time.

            ***Dig deep within to see what would most benefit YOU.***

21.   Know that you are never alone.  Turn to your SOURCE, HIGHER POWER, or GOD, for sustenance.

 See Book:  HOW GOD CHANGES YOUR BRAIN by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman

22.  REMEMBER: You are already a perfect soul!   

 “Choose to make a ‘paradigm shift.’  Realize that emotions are here to help, they are here to contribute to life and that they are as important and useful as (our) intellect or physical body. Making this change in perspective gives (us) the motivation and desire to work through our emotional material and stay with emotions even when they get hard.”   -Dean Smith-

Here’s to a greater version of YOU this September and onward!

 The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!

Deb and Wendy



  • Are You Really Too Sensitive:  How to Develop and Understand Your Sensitivity and the Strength It Is by Marcy Calhoun
  • Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness,  Anger and Impulsiveness by Daniel Amen, MD
  • How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
  • The Highly Sensitive Child:  Helping Our Child Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron, PhD
  • The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, PhD
  • The Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide: Essential Skills for Living in an Overstimulating World (Step by Step Guide) by Ted Ziff, PhD and Elaine Aron, PhD
  • The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits  by Gregg Braden
  • Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
  • Your Inner Physician and You by John E. Upledger

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