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, December 27, 2013

Should I Test My Adrenal Glands?

More and more in the world of holistic nutrition and medicine we are hearing about the phenomena of adrenal fatigue. I’d like to offer some easy to understand and clarifying information about the function of our adrenal glands and how they might become fatigued, and why it’s probably a good idea to test them, particularly if you suffer from some common symptoms.

What are the adrenal glands?

Our two adrenal glands are located atop our kidneys. They are endocrine glands, responsible primarily for producing our hormones in response to stress. These hormones are namely cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and androgens. Our adrenals are made up of two parts, the inner medulla and outer cortex. The cortex is responsible for the production of our corticosteroids and androgens, while the medulla is responsible for adrenaline and noradrenaline.

How do the adrenal glands become fatigued?

In ideal circumstances, our adrenals are secreting appropriate amounts of stress hormones (particularly cortisol) at appropriate times. When we are relaxed they can relax, and when we need to react to an acute, stressful occurrence the adrenals can pump out more of the necessary stress hormones. Think: running from a tiger. The problem we encounter in our modern world is living in a more chronic state of stress, and perhaps not even realizing this is the case. Here is a list of some common stressors that can fatigue our adrenal glands over time:

  • ·      Anger
  • ·      Worry/Anxiety/Fear
  • ·      Working long hours, working a stressful job
  • ·      Relationship problems
  • ·      Too little or too much exercise
  • ·      Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies
  • ·      Gut pathogens like parasites or bacteria
  • ·      Traumatic life event, both physical and/or emotional (surgery or divorce)
  • ·      Sleep deprivation
  • ·      Chronic pain and/or inflammation

What are the Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?

There are many symptoms and they will vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common:

  • ·      Fatigue/weakness
  • ·      Feeling jittery or anxious/Irritability
  • ·      Depression
  • ·      Poor memory and Inability to concentrate
  • ·      Insomnia
  • ·      Inability to lose weight or weight gain
  • ·      Craving sugar
  • ·      Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • ·      Feeling excessively light headed upon standing
  • ·      Energy crashes throughout the day
  • ·      Dependency on caffeine or other substances
  • ·      Food allergies/sensitivities

How Can I Test my Adrenal Glands?

The good news is there is easy and affordable testing along with effective dietary and supplemental support available. Fortunately, we have access to great labs that test our cortisol levels throughout the day. This way, we can look not only at our overall cortisol output (too much or too little), but we can see our circadian rhythm. Are you feeling exhausted upon waking even after a full nights sleep, or maybe suffering from that extreme late afternoon crash that leaves you scrambling for the nearest candy bar or cup of coffee? This could be a sign that your cortisol levels are dysregulated.

For more information on adrenal testing along with individualized diet, lifestyle, and supplemental programs to get you feeling your best, contact me for a free introductory consultation!

Rachel Fiske, NC

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Could a GI Infection Be Causing Your Weight Gain?

When most of us think of having a GI (gastrointestinal) issue, we (naturally) connect it with digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea/constipation, heartburn, and other such common occurrences. While these symptoms can absolutely signify a GI infection, the most fascinating (and deceiving) part is that often we experience no glaring digestive symptoms, but instead are plagued with fatigue, weight gain, mood changes and/or hormonal imbalances. The scary part is, we would never think to link this to a GI infection, therefore never addressing the underlying problem!

First, lets take a quick look at what constitutes a GI Infection. We could be talking about a bacterial (like h. pylori), parasitic, or fungal (like candida) infections. While yeast (candida) is more commonly known, we often associate having a parasite with traveling to exotic places. This might be true, but parasites are also very easily contracted via pets or food and water right here at home. Unfortunately, testing with your MD often comes back clean even when you do, in fact, have a parasite, because they are typically only testing for certain, acute infections.

How do I know if I have a parasite?

Really, the only way to know for sure is to work with a practitioner for testing. There are some great labs out there that do very thorough and affordable GI screening. You can be clued into whether testing is right for you if you experience any of the following:

  • Chronic digestive symptoms as described above (heartburn, indigestion, IBS, bloating, gas, etc)
  • Mood disturbances (anxiety, depression, etc)
  • Constant sugar cravings
  • Unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight with diet and exercise
  • Increased food sensitivities/allergies
  • Female hormone imbalances (irregular periods, extreme PMS)
  • Fatigue
  • Achy Joints
How do parasites or other GI Infections relate to weight gain??

When we have any of the GI infections listed above (parasite, bacteria, fungal), damage has been (and is being) done to our gut lining. This means that we aren't able to digest and absorb the nutrients from our food, and this negatively affects our tissues and organs. This is why we may likely experience symptoms in other body systems that do not appear to be directly related to the gut. 

In terms of weight gain or inability to lose weight, we must remember the cortisol connection. When we have a chronic GI infection, this triggers inflammation and therefore sends the message to our body that we need more cortisol, a primary anti-inflammatory hormone. Cortisol is also a sort of fat storage hormone, so when we are over-producing it, our body holds onto weight (particularly around the mid section).

What can I do??

The best approach is to work with a practitioner that can guide you in cutting out inflammatory foods to locate any potential food sensitivities and quell inflammation, and test your gut for these types of infections. It is also a really good idea to test your cortisol levels. After seeing whats really going on in your labs, there are easy and effective herbal and supplemental programs to address the problem, alongside (always first and foremost) diet and lifestyle changes as necessary.

Feel free to contact me at to inquire about possible testing and how to not only lose the weight, but get back to feeling your best!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! Fall Apple Crisp Recipe!

~Hello lovely nutrition enthusiasts~

Happy Fall!!! I know I know, every year I gush about how much I miss this season and miss the vibrant colors and crisp air of Oregon, but I will say we've had some lovely fall-ish days here in San Francisco, as well. I'll take what I can get!

Just in the nick of time for Halloween when you were fretting over what to replace all of those processed sweets with, I thought I'd sent along a delicious recipe for a grain free apple crisp. Cook it up tonight, sip some tea and watch a scary movie. Or, venture out to the sweaty, crowded bars of SOMA.....that could be fun too. Rrrrrrright.

Life in Madrona Wellness land is just great. I've had the pleasure of helping more and more people on their path to discover super fun things like gut pathogens and infections, adrenal burnout, and female hormone imbalances. Hooray! But really, it is incredible to watch the recovery of these long standing dysfunctions and the world of difference it makes it our lives. As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from some common symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, depression, or digestive distress (these are just a few examples), contact me to see how we might be able to get you feeling well again!

Ok, now onto the dessert, thanks for bearing with me and I hope you enjoy this fall treat! 

adapted from

Ingredients for apple filling:
  1. 6 large organic apples, cored, peeled and cubed
  2. 1 tsp cinnamon
  3. 1 Tbsp honey

  4. Ingredients for crust and crisp topping:
  5. 1 cup almond flour
  6. 1 ½ cups crispy pecans
  7. 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
  8. 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  9. 1/4 cup honey
  10. 1 tsp 
  1. Instructions for crust and crisp topping:
  2. In a food processor, process the pecans until it is a pecan meal – not a nut butter – you want tiny pieces
  3. Add the almond flour and cinnamon and process together
  4. Add the honey and coconut oil and process until well mixed
  5. Add the shredded coconut and process until it is all combined

  6. Instructions for apple filling:

  7. In a large pan sauté the apples in some ghee, butter or coconut oil
  8. Cook until somewhat soft but still crispy (about 6 – 8 minutes)
  9. Add cinnamon and honey to taste when they are just cooked

  10. Putting it all together:

  11. Remove 3/4 of the crust batter and press into the pie plate, reserving the rest for the topping
  12. Bake the crust at 325 degrees F for 15 – 20 minutes until browned
  13. Remove from stove and let cool
  14. Cook the apples while the crust is cooking and remove apples with a slotted spoon
  15. Place the apples in in the crust
  16. Sprinkle the remaining batter over the cooked apples
  17. Bake at 325 degrees F for 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned
  18. Serve warm or cold with fresh whipped cream, coconut cream, yogurt, etc.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Response to NY Times Article: Breakfast or No Breakfast?

Last week while reading the news, I came across this New York Times article on the "breakfast myth." I'd encourage you to read it, but in summary, it discusses new studies/speculation coming out that the long held belief that eating breakfast promotes long term weight loss (or more successful weight management) is, in fact, a myth.

Interesting thought, and for a small percentage of the population, that may be true. However, I think they failed to consider some pretty important points.

In an ideal world, for a 100% healthy individual with totally regulated blood sugar and daily cortisol output, perfect gut health and hormonal balance, sure, skipping breakfast will likely not have an effect and is actually included in intermittent fasting routines of some wellness professionals such as Chris Kresser, L.Ac and functional medicine practitioner. However, the reality is that the majority of us do not fall into this category, and therefore may very likely feel ill effects of skipping breakfast and starting our day only with a cup of coffee. Also, the article failed to distinguish between different foods, which is an extremely important component to the breakfast debate.

So, what really constitutes a healthy breakfast?

The SAD (Standard American Diet) teaches us that beginning the day with a whole grain cereal makes a world of difference from your typical sugar cereal that most have come around to agree are not a great way to begin the day. However, even a bran or whole grain type of cereal, while it might be a touch better than the above mentioned choice, is still blasting the body with a carb-only breakfast and therefore not providing it with the essential nutrients (namely quality fats and proteins) that it needs to maintain stable blood sugar throughout the day (especially if we struggle with blood sugar ups/downs and other hormonal imbalances).

Again, if you are one of the lucky individuals who have top tier health and want to experiment with beginning your day sans breakfast, go for it! See how you feel. But, for the rest of us that may deal with that late afternoon energy crash, sugar cravings throughout the day, feeling really hungry only shortly after eating breakfast, and/or late night cravings...lets look at some good, quick, healthy breakfast options to support all of our body systems for the day to come:

  • 2 soft or hard boiled eggs with 1/2 an avocado sprinkled with sea salt/pepper.
  • Chicken or turkey sausage with a handful of spinach (or other greens), add some sauerkraut and avocado for healthy fat and probiotics.
  • Frittata. This is a great option to make ahead of time and eat throughout the week/on the go.
  • Dinner leftovers
  • Smoked salmon with tomato, cucumber, avocado
  • Coconut flour muffins
These are just a few ideas, but get creative! Begin trying to shift your idea of what "should be" breakfast, and think real, whole food. You will likely reap the benefits throughout the day to come.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do You Have Hidden Food Allergies/Sensitivities??

As adults, we generally assume that by this point in our lives we know which foods we can and cannot eat both due to taste and potential food reactions. However, this is often NOT the case!

Food allergies and sensitivities are really tricky. Why? Well, for various reasons, number one being often times the signs and symptoms that we are reacting to a foods are not experienced as the typical symptoms that would come with food reactions; aka, gastrointestinal (GI). We assume that the feelings we would get from eating foods we are sensitive too would be the obvious: gas, bloating, stomach upset, diarrhea, etc. What we DON'T think of are the myriad of other quite-common symptom such as...

  • Fatigue, energy dips/spikes
  • Moodiness/Depression/Anxiety
  • Brain fog/poor memory
  • Insomnia
  • Increased cravings, particularly to the very foods you are sensitive to.
  • Inflammation/pain/joint pain and stiffness
  • Eczema/Acne
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Weight gain or weight loss resistance

...just to name a few! Lets take a look at how food allergies and sensitivities develop and what is actually happening in the body.


First of all, lets distinguish between the two. Allergies are typically easier to detect as they involve the presence of IgE antibodies. These are the ones that will more commonly show up on food allergy tests. Food sensitivities are more commonly undiagnosed as they are related to IgG antibodies, and will often not show up in testing. That is why taking food allergy testing at face value can be risky, as false negatives are quite common.

Both can be present due to heredity, a week immune system and/or nutritional deficiencies, and the most common way food sensitivities and full blown allergies are developed over time is through a reaction to the protein in a given food. For example, the casein in dairy and the gluten in wheat. Interestingly, you may be surprised to know that being lactose intolerant has nothing to do with a reaction to the casein (protein part) of dairy, but here you are reacting to and unable to break down the carbohydrate portion of food because the body lacks the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose. This is why some people are fine with lactose free milk, because they are reacting to the lactose versus the casein. Two totally separate things!

We can react to any food; however, some of the most common include dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs, sugar, and peanuts. People who are extra sensitive to wheat also may experience reactions to all grains, both gluten and non gluten containing. 

What can happen over (typically) prolonged periods of time is the delicious sounding phenomenon of leaky gut syndrome. Yum. This is when a food (or potentially chemical and/or additive) irritant is entering the gut causing damage to the gut lining which is (ideally and if functioning properly) responsible for the filtration of nutrients into the blood stream, and therefore allowing undigested particles to pass through. When this happens, the body alerts the immune system to respond and launches an attack, which we then experience in the form of a food reaction. Again, this reaction can take the form of all of the symptoms mentioned above and many more...point being it is often NOT simply the easy to read GI discomfort you might assume!

It should be noted that while we will not discuss these other common contributors to leaky gut in this article, one may be experiencing impaired gut function also as a result of parasitic or bacterial infection, yeast overgrowth, chronic stress or nutrient deficiencies.


First, it is necessary to pinpoint your particular trigger foods. While you can definitely work with a healthcare professional to do some testing (again, keep in mind that many conventional doctors use lab companies that produce frequent false negatives, so seeking out a naturopath or other functional medicine practitioner is ideal), you can also undergo an elimination diet. This is the process of cutting out inflammatory foods that you may be reacting to for a certain amount of time (I suggest minimum 1 month, even better 2 months), and then reintroducing them one by one in a careful and specific manner that will give you the information you are looking for. Working with a professional can make this process much easier. Contact me directly if you are interested in my Elimination Diet/Sugar Detox Program, which comes with one on one guidance throughout the process.


Here are a few really interesting articles to check out for more info. As always, please contact me with any questions, and hope you are wrapping up a healthy and happy summer!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Curry Cauliflower Soup Recipe

Hello all!

While here in San Francisco we had a brief taste of summer last week, yesterday returned to the somewhat chilly and foggy days typical of "summer" here on the bay. But looking on the bright side, I was inspired to make this delicious soup recipe courtesy of that was absolutely delicious!! And, if you haven't checked out this blog, its a great one.

First, lets take a look at some of the nutrient benefits of the main ingredient used: cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that should be included regularly in your diet. Aside from the great nutrient profile (which we'll go over) it has a unique neutral sort of taste that can be made either savory or sweet. The cruciferous family of vegetables is essential for detoxification, cancer prevention, and preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. Other beneficial cruciferous veggies include broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. 

Cauliflower is very high in Vitamin C, which is essential for adrenal support (aka stress and blood sugar regulation, among other things) and healthy immune function. This super food is also high in Vitamin K which is crucial for bone and liver health, and certain B-Vitamins necessary for brain function and nerve cell development.

Bottom Line: If you don't already eat cauliflower regularly, you're missing out!!!

Now, on to the recipe....

Courtesty of


1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 can coconut milk (whole fat, organic from the can)
2 cups chicken (or other bone or veggie) broth, preferably homemade!
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1-2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
black pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp coconut oil, butter, or ghee


  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Add cauliflower drizzled with some coc. oil, butter or ghee to the oven for about 20 minutes to roast.
  • While the cauliflower roasts, using a soup pot sautee garlic in remaining cooking fat. Then, add onion and apples until fragrant.
  • Then, add coconut milk, broth, and spices. Simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat.
  • Now, using an immersion blender or food processor, blend everything (including cauliflower) until desired smoothness/consistency.
  • If you'd like, add meat. I added some cooked chicken and it was delicious!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Fat, Fatigued, Depressed, Craving Sugar???

Hello lovely readers!

Well after that subject line lets get right to time for pleasantries! 

As I've let you all know (and partially why the blog posts have been few and far between), I've recently started a fascinating mentorship program studying Functional Medicine. Although we've just begun we are already getting into some really juicy info that I want to try my best to share with you. Not just because I'm a huge  nerd and absolutely love talking about hormones and the gut, but because these are topics that profoundly effect each of us and/or our loved ones much more than we realize.

Did one or more of the symptoms mentioned in the heading of this email resonate with you? If you're one of the lucky ones to answer 'no,' do you have people in your lives that suffer from these ailments? Good and bad news here...the bad news is that these symptoms are shockingly common in this country and stem from a host of reasons including but not limited to physical, mental and emotional stress, toxicity from our foods, the environment, and heavy metals, bacterial and parasitic infections, and more. Fun stuff. The good news is that there are some fairly easy tests you can do do figure out whats going on, and a super effective combination of diet, lifestyle, and supplementation protocols that you can put in place to fix the problem.

While in this mentorship program, I have the unique opportunity to study under a leading doctor in the field of Functional Medicine and access his expertise and assistance in interpreting lab results. If you or anyone you know has been struggling with symptoms of weight management, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, sugar cravings, GI problems or female hormone imbalances, over the next several months I am offering very discounted consultation rates alongside top of the line lab testing.

You do not need to live in bay area, you can be located anywhere. Together, we talk a lot about important lifestyle and dietary changes to prevent and even treat illness and injury. This is your base, and the exciting world of functional medicine allows us to expand on this and really look at the science behind your symptoms, and then treat accordingly.

Please contact me directly for more information on what your specific program would entail, fees, and to get any questions answered you may have. I greatly look forward to continuing down the road of health and education together!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Happy Spring! I hope this transition to longer days brings with it a feeling of renewed energy, growth, and fresh starts.  

With all of this opportunity for change, I wanted to touch on a topic that I feel like has come up a lot recently for both myself and clients...that of STRESS! Not only the feeling of mentally and emotionally being under stress, but the physiological effects said stress has on the body that can lead to a myriad of all-too-common symptoms. Lets take a closer look at the main producers of our stress hormones...the adrenal glands.

Quick explanation: the adrenal glands are located by our kidneys and produce the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine. Under times of either more severe stress or cumulative consistent stress, we can go through a range of symptoms as we are asking too much of our adrenals. Phase 1 adrenal fatigue is when we are over-producing cortisol to keep up with our bodies added need for energy. This leaves us feeling "tired and wired," perhaps irritable, anxious, a running-on-fumes kind of feeling. Phase 2 is when our poor adrenal glands can't keep up anymore and are now under-producing, leaving us feeling more consistently fatigued, dragging, and drained post-exercise. What we DONT want to have happen is when we arrive at stage 3 or 4, which is burn out of the adrenal glands, as this is much harder to recover from.

Primary Components which can lead to Adrenal Fatigue:
  • lack of sleep
  • poor food choices
  • using food and drinks as stimulants when tired
  • staying up late even when fatigued
  • constantly driving yourself
  • trying to be perfect
  • lack of enjoyable and rejuvenating activities

Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:

  • difficulty getting up in the morning
  • continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
  • craving salty foods
  • lethargy
  • increased effort to do every day tasks
  • decreased sex drive
  • decreased ability to handle stress
  • increased time to recover from injury or illness
  • light headedness when standing up quickly
  • less enjoyment or happiness with life/mild depression
  • Increased PMS
  • less focus/less ability to concentrate
  • memory less accurate
  • afternoon low around 3 or 4pm, possibly feeling better after evening meal or in the evening/night time

What You Can Do Now:

  • Lifestyle: this is clearly the hardest! Strive to find as many opportunities as possible to decrease stress at home and at work. 
  • Deep breathing and/or daily meditation practice. Starting with even 5-10 minutes of deep belly breathing makes a huge difference!
  • Eat regularly, every 3-4 hours. It is important to maintain balanced blood sugar levels when supporting the adrenals. Strive for something with healthy protein and fat sources like hard boiled eggs, nuts/seeds, organic jerky, cut up veggies or fruit with almond butter.
  • Do NOT drink coffee on an empty stomach, and really try to cut back (or cut out) caffeine altogether. This is an enemy to the adrenal glands, as well as alcohol.
  • Eat BEFORE 10AM. You need to replenish your falling glycogen stores after the previous nights sleep. Even a small snack is better than nothing at all. Try to eat lunch around noon or just before, a nutritious snack between 2-3pm, and dinner no later than 6pm (ideally).
  • Avoid refined and processed foods as much as possible, as these are big stressors on the body. Stick to real, whole foods. If your great grandparents wouldn't recognize it as food, its probably not the best choice!

  • Tulsi tea in any flavor you'd like. You can buy these from the brand Organic India online or at Whole foods, or I'd imagine most other health food stores.Great adaptogenic herb to support the adrenals.
  • Gaia Herbs tincture of adrenal supporting herbs (one called either Stress Response or Adrenal Health), buy at whole foods or here at their website.
  • Melt 1 tbsp raw coldpressed coconut oil into your tulsi tea (or any other herbal tea), 1-2 times per day to help with blood sugar stabilization, also great for immune support.
  • Supplement with chelated magnesium, which can also be purchased at whole foods. Even better, take regular epsom salt baths.
  • Supplement with fermented cod liver oil, very important for omega 3's and adrenal health!! This is my favorite brand and can be ordered online here from Green Pastures.

Important Notes on Foods To Eat:

  • Try to combine a fat, protein, and carb w/every meal.
  • Eat LOTS of fresh, organic vegetables, especially bright colored ones (more antioxidants)
  • Use sea salt on your food
  • Have your starchy carbs come from things like sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and soaked whole grains.
  • Avoid fruit in the morning, especially if its by itself.
  • Get good quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, omega 3's from fish or fish oil, nuts/seeds, avocados, good quality meats.

**There is a lot more than can and sometimes needs to be done in addressing adrenal fatigue. If you feel like you or someone you know are experiencing this and would like more information, please contact me directly!

**References and resources: 

Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James Wilson
The Cortisol Connection by Shawn Talbott and William Kraemer