Madrona Nutrition and Fitness: Recipe and Nutrition Guide

Madrona Nutrition and Fitness:
Guide to Wellness through Holistic Diet
and Lifestyle

Rachel Fiske
Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Certified Personal Trainer

Friday, March 23, 2012

Heartburn is NOT a Tums Deficiency!!!

Heartburn is a common condition many have experienced, and unfortunately comes up (quite literally) all too often. Whether your symptoms are minor or major (and I will list symptoms more in detail momentarily) they are typically stemming from one root cause which is ironically and detrimentally the opposite of our commonly held conception that we have too much stomach acid. In actuality, heart burn and related symptoms are most commonly caused by too little stomach acid (Hydrochloric Acid, HCL for short), not too much! Allow me to explain...

HCL is a potent acid necessary for crucial functions like breaking down proteins into amino acids (a process called proteolysis), the assimilation of B vitamins, signaling the pancreas to release digestive enzymes, and killing off microscopic pathogens to prevent us from getting food poisoning. Our stomach environment is acidic, and should/needs to be that way in order to effectively carry out these tasks. Unless we have a gastric ulcer, the stomach is equipped with a mucosal lining meant for containing stomach acid, and we should not "feel" this natural and desirable state of acidity. So the question remains, what is happening when we do?? 

From the moment food enters our mouth and we start chewing it (which I hope you are all doing WELL, as this in and of itself can lead to the symptoms we are discussing), our digestive process is signaled to begin. Once chewed food enters the stomach, HCL and other digestive enzymes are waiting to begin breaking everything down and denaturing proteins, producing an end product called chyme (a delightful mixture of HCL and broken down food). Now, the problem lies in the situation where our stomach environment lacks the necessary acid to break down this food. When this happens, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Burning sensation (heart burn)
  • Frequent gas and belching after meals
  • Feeling that food is just "sitting" in our stomach/not being digested
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Frequent food poisoning, bacterial infections, parasites
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Constantly cracking fingernails
  • Receding gums (periodontisis)
  • Multiple food sensitivities (due to undigested proteins)

Fun!!! So again, why do these things occur? Well, lets be clear that heart burn is not a Tums deficiency! All too commonly, people use antacids to relieve their symptoms on a very regular basis, suppressing our already low HCL levels. HCL is responsible for signaling opening and closing of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve allowing food to pass from our esophagus to our stomach) and also the opening/closing of the pyloric sphincter (valve allowing chyme to pass from the stomach to the small intestines). When we do not have enough HCL to carry out these tasks, particularly controlling the lower esophageal sphincter, stomach acid is therefore able to pass into the esophagus, which is an alkaline (non-acidic) environment. We then feel that burning sensation, and try to calm it with antacids.


  • First of all, you can self-administer this simple and harmless at home test with beet juice to get an idea if you are low in HCL. See below for more details.
  • Use natural digestive aids like 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar in room temperature water OR 1-2 tbsp organic, fresh lemon juice in water 20 minutes before a meal. Another option is the use of digestive bitters.
  • High carbohydrate diets (particularly refined carbs like white flour, sugar, processed breads, pastries, grains) can worsen symptoms. Stick primarily to a whole foods diet of quality protein, lots of organic vegetables and fruits, and lots of high quality saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • Relax (all the time, but especially when you eat). When our nervous system is in its' sympathetic state (aka, fight or flight mode) we physically cannot digest foods. It is essential to be in a parasympathetic state, which does allow digestion to occur. Take 10 deep belly breaths before eating, and try your best to be sitting down, no distractions.
  • If the above doesn't work, consult a professional about supplementing for a time with HCL tablets, but not if you have or suspect having an ulcer.


This test is not 100% accurate, but can definitely give us an idea of our HCL levels. For a few consecutive days, drink about 4 ounces of fresh, pure, organic beet juice with a bit of protein. You may be able to find this at your local juice bar, or steam beets on your own, chop, and put in a blender with some water. Record what color your urine is over these days. If we have enough HCL, the red pigment (betalaine) of the beets should be neutralized and your urine will not appear pink or red. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Raw Avocado Chocolate Mousse

If you find yourself with a sweet tooth, or just want to seriously impress your friends at a dinner party and have them leave convinced that alternative, healthy desserts can be absolutely as delicious (if not more so) than processed sweets filled with refined sugar and grains, then I strongly suggest trying out this recipe!

This whole foods recipe takes only a few ingredients and a blender. The main ingredient is avocado, which is an incredibly versatile food! Lets take a look at some of the health benefits from one of my favorite website,

  • High in essential nutrients such as folate, vitamins K, C, B6 and B5, and potassium and fiber
  • Proven to improve hearth health, primarily because it contains oleic acid essential to the cardiovascular system.
  • Avocados contain many anti-inflammatory properties
  • Full of healthy monounsaturated fats
  • Promotes/supports blood sugar regulation
These are just a few of the many wonderful benefits of avocados, not to mention they are just delicious. Try out this great recipe for another way to incorporate this nutrient dense food into your diet!



1 avocado
1 banana
2 tbsp full fat coconut milk (or almond as a 2nd choice)
3-4 tbsp raw cocoa (or cacao) powder
1/2 tsp vanilla (more or less to taste)
cinnamon and sea salt to taste


Couldn't be easier! Cut open and scoop out the avocado. Throw everything into a blender (or use a hand blender), and mix until creamy. Taste and adjust spices if need be. I served mine with raw cacao nips sprinkled on top, I bet sprinkling a little bit of orange zest could be delicious, too. Be creative!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wellness and Loving Ourselves

"I celebrate myself, I sing myself," ~Walt Whitman

After reading the above quote, you may be asking yourself, "what does this have to do with nutrition?" I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance (and difficulties, at times) of truly respecting and loving ourselves, and the impact this has on our overall state of wellness. We can nourish our bodies with the best of foods, or physically sculpt them through exercise in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, but if we lack genuine love for ourselves (bodies, emotions, and minds), much of this hard work in other realms of life (nutrition and exercise, for example) is largely undermined. Now, this is not an excuse to eat a package of twinkies if you're having a bad day because it "doesn't matter" (if only it were that simple, right!?). Remember, life is all about balance. So, lets explore one key component to this balance (that I, right along with you, am ever-cultivating), self-love.

We've talked a lot about stress and its' impacts on our mental and physical well-being. Susan Albers, PsyD. in her book Eating Mindfully (see, it does tie into nutrition!), notes that "your mind is in a permanent state of 'go.' Thinking, dreaming, scheming, calculating, processing, contemplating are just a few examples...there is a lot of content or 'stuff' on your mind, but rarely do you slow down and observe what you do with it." For myself, I find that all too often, when my mind is scattered and constantly one step ahead of the present task, a large reason for this occurrence is because it is looking to fill some sort of void. Perhaps it is seeking to fill this void with food, external love or admiration from others, or material possessions. Of course no one can argue that all of those things are important, we all need food, love, and a certain amount of things in our lives. But it is not these things that should create our happiness and sense of worth, this is a state that must be achieved through genuine love and respect for ourselves. This is where emotional eating comes into play, which we'll discuss in a moment. Going back to Albers idea above, when our minds are so constantly on-the-go (and living in a big city makes this hard to avoid) it becomes much easier to focus on our to-do list, relationships with other people, and sometimes even easier to think about what's not going well (or how want it to go) instead of what is. 

Now lets take a quick look at how this relates to eating and health. Albers also makes the astute observation that:

"When you are stressed and emotionally in pain, your body's natural immunity decreases. If you are stressed out about your weight or your out-of-control eating, you may spend more of your time reacting to and dwelling on the painfulness of your problem rather than dealing with it directly. However, resisting all traces of suffering will further limit your ability to overcome stress...there is wisdom to be learned in suffering."

Again, while some of us may "treat" emotional pain (trying to fill a void) with food, others may take this same approach through seeking affirmation from others, accumulation of wealth, emotional detachment, or even obsessively controlling diet and exercise (which could manifest as an eating disorder on one end of the spectrum) I imagine we do this because it's much simpler to control these factors in our lives...wouldn't it be great if we could achieve ultimate joy, happiness and fulfillment by just exercising and eating right? Don't get me wrong, this (for many reasons both mental and physical) can help, but it is absolutely necessary to couple this with a cultivation of gratitude and love for ourselves.

Ok Rachel, this is vague and a little hippy-dippy (get over it, I'm from Portland, what do you expect?). And I by no means claim to be an expert in the field. As I said right off the bat, I am very much on my own path of cultivating these important skills. So what are some tools we can use??

  • Create a list of things you are grateful for.
  • Consider (and write down) all of the reasons you are amazing, including skills, talents, accomplishments, and mental, emotional, and physical qualities.
  • Reflect on your patterns of negative self talk, and ask yourself why you have these thoughts and where they are coming from. Don't judge yourself for having them, but simply observe. Realize that these thoughts are largely untrue.
  • Look at your relationships with others and ask yourself if they are mutually healthy and serving both parties. If not, consider why and what you can do to change them. Of course it's not always so simple, but perhaps some of these connections are being held onto only out of self-doubt.
  • Consider that, like meditation, cultivating self-love and compassion is a practice that we need to actively work on every day. The first step is recognizing on an intellectual level that some sort of void may exist, but the next (and harder) step is change.

These are just a few ideas that I thought of, and I'm sure you can think of many more! I challenge you (and myself) to really take some time to think about this stuff, as we cannot achieve optimal wellness without knowing we are awesome. As Mae West so eloquently states:

"I don't like myself, I'm crazy about myself!"