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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


On this New Years Eve day,  I find myself, almost 7 months since my departure from the United States, still here on this magical island in Nicaragua. Sipping coffee on the patio outside of my little casita, and feeling astounded and grateful for the many moments and events that have made my 2014. This morning, instead of trying to reflect and recap the mountains of change this past year has provided, I'll simply offer a look into where I find myself today...

It's a somewhat gray, windy morning. I'm alone here on the property, one neighbor on Christmas vacation, and another staying in the warmth of family at her mothers' house. It is so very quiet, just me and the horses chomping and the roosters crowing. Well, and lets not forget the 3 kittens running like madmen around my thing I can say for certain is that this year has made me a cat lady.

The pulse of the village is always beating. Kids playing baseball with sticks and rocks, moving aside for motorcycles and herds of cows. Men going to and from the campo, dirt covering their hands and faces and blue plastic backpacks full of pesticides on their backs, full or empty depending the time of day. Some are on horseback, and more have surely walked for a very long time in the blazing sun.

Women mill about outside of their homes of 1, 2 or 3 rooms with rusted tin roofs. They wash by hand, hunched over a pila, then cook huddled over a fire of lenya. On a special day like today, perhaps the fruit of their labor will be something special like tamales, or maybe the usual gallo pinto or plantains prepared in one of ten different ways. Naked children run around them as they work, and dust swirls in plumes around them all.

I don't know that I'll ever really feel a part of it all, and maybe that's okay. I feel more and more comfortable approaching those open doors, sitting on the old rickety plastic chairs, and chit-chatting about the weather and how thank-god-we-have-our-health. I receive constant lessons of gratitude, and daily reminders of simplicity.

And with these lessons and reminders in my mind and heart, I leave one year behind and move into another. Some questions have been answered but even more formed. This is life...the dust and the work and the smiles and the questions...the spectrum from sadness to happiness and every sentiment in between.

But as the chit-chat teaches, thank-god-for-our-health, this is all we really know for sure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nicaraguan Reflections and Recipes

I hope this article finds you lovely Madrona Wellness readers happy, healthy and enjoying the transition into fall. Here in Nicaragua we are in "winter," which means more rain and humidity, and I dream of crisp, cool days and winter squash and changing colors....

Admittedly, my nutrition blogging has fallen off the wayside since I arrived here on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua to begin my new position as Programs Director for Natural Doctors International. Its been a process of settling in and finding my footing, yet now that things are settling down a bit, I'd like to share with you some reflections on these past few months. While I know this is veering off my usual topics of health and nutrition, in the more holistic sense of health, our mental, emotional, and spiritual self is equally (if not sometimes more) important. And since I just can't resist, stay tuned below for a delicious twist on a typical Nicaraguan dish...vigoron!

Its hard to believe I've been here for only 3 months, as it all at once feels like just yesterday I boarded the plane, and also that I've lived here on this island forever. Despite the challenges (and there have certainly been challenges), I feel oddly comfortable and at home considering I am on a rural island in Nicaragua. I love the people, the culture, the language and the music. I love the way kids are able to play in the streets and grow up with a deep sense of community, and I love that people end half of their sentences with "si dios quiere" (god willing). Whether it may be a simple "god-willing-I'll-see-you-tomorrow," or "god-willing-my-family-will-eat-next-week," it is a culture of faith, spirituality, and accepting that we cannot control the future. This, I love.

The challenges? Being a single woman amidst a sea of families. Nicaraguans are known for their bluntness, and I get asked several times per week (at least), how old I am, and am then met with a gasp which is followed by "you are so old!!" While this was funny at first, it has come to accentuate the occasional loneliness that I had expected living here in a small village. The food is a challenge, we are so blessed in the US to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are not laden with pesticides, and meats that are not pumped full of hormones. That is not the case here. I am challenged daily by conducting life in my second language, living amongst profound poverty and the discomfort and guilt that brings up, and more...

But amidst those challenges, the work I am privileged enough to be doing here has exceeded my expectations. I have opportunities here for professional and personal growth that are simply astounding. These include organizing and co-facilitating our medical brigades where I get to translate for Naturopaths, Acupuncturists and other practitioners, so by shear osmosis am learning so much. I hear stories of patients' lives that have been so filled with pain I cannot even begin to imagine, yet they leave their houses at 3am in order to arrive at the clinic by 5:30 to get an appointment for later in the day, and I've never once heard a complaint about the wait...there is no sense of entitlement. Although it is a struggle due to lack of resources, I have been able to offer nutrition coaching to my patients, and am beginning this month to organize a nutrition class which I will present to groups around the island along with our resident Psychologist. 

Thank you for taking the time to read, and now for the fun part....check out this delicious twist on a typical Nicaraguan meal, vigoron. This dish is a lime cabbage salad over a bed of yucca. YUM!!

adapted from


2 lbs. yucca
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2-1 onion, thinly sliced
2-3 limes
1/2 tsp of salt (or to taste)
handful of cilantro
1 jalapeno papper, diced (or to taste)
**add your choice of protein, this is typically prepared with chicharron, or you can include any other type of thinly sliced or ground meat.


Peel yucca and cut into 3 inch pieces. Simmer in salted water until tender (should have texture like a potato). While yucca is cooking, combine all salad ingredients and mix. Traditionally, this dish is served on a banana leaf, yucca is the base and salad and meat on top. If banana leafs are hard to come by, a simple plate will do :)


Friday, July 25, 2014

Ometepe, Nicaragua and Healthcare

As most of you know, I have recently moved to the island of Ometepe in the south of Nicaragua, an island known for its' kind, warm, welcoming people, beautiful landscapes centered around 2 large and 1 active volcano, and also its' growing tourism. I feel grateful and excited to be settling in and building a life amidst all of this beauty.

I have come to work with a small but mighty nonprofit organization, Natural Doctors International (NDI).  As the Programs Director, I organize and facilitate throughout the year groups of natural medicine practitioners to come and serve in the organization's naturopathic clinic here on the island. The population of Ometepe has an acute lack of access to health care, and, over the last ten years, many have come to see NDI as their primary care clinic. All services are offered free of charge.

As a Holistic Nutritionist, I am thrilled to learn from our resident Naturopath and visiting doctors, and anxious to do more programming for the community centered around nutrition. Amongst the top complaints we see each and every day here in the clinic include gastritis and a myriad of digestive upset, kidney stones and infections, urinary tract infections, and overall pain (bone, joint, and muscle). While there are some very knowledgeable doctors working in the public clinics here on the island, the reality is they see upwards of 45 patients per day and very rarely connecting diet and lifestyle to any of the above mentioned symptoms and conditions.

The typical diet here is gallo pinto, which is simply beans and rice. Poverty is rampant, the typical Islander making perhaps $4/day. Sure, we can advise them to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, but often this is well over their daily food budget. This year has brought the worst drought the country has seen in many years, and the price of frijoles (beans) has quadrupled, leaving many families subsisting largely on rice. Diabetes is shockingly common, as well as high blood pressure. Sadly, the diet and lifestyle solutions that we much more readily have access to in the US to both treat and prevent such conditions are largely not feasible for those living in Nicaragua, the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.

So what do we do? What can we do? There is no easy solution, that is certain. Thus far, the only thing I can say for sure, is that each and every time I sit down here for a meal in my humble yet more than adequate casita, is that I am filled with a deep and profound gratitude for the food on my plate and the access to healthcare that allows me to live happily and free of disease at this moment in my life. I only hope I can help to bring just a tiny bit of that immense privilege and sense of security to the people here in Nicaragua. It feels, after all, like our duty.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mid-Afternoon Energy Crash

I think the number one complaint I hear year after year from my clients is the all-too familiar mid-afternoon crash. For many, it has become so familiar that we’ve simply accepted it as a normal way of going through our day. The good news is, it is absolutely not normal, there are reasons you are experiencing this energy dip and things you can do to fix it.

What this afternoon energy plummet usually signifies is a blood sugar dip (which was often preceded by a blood sugar spike). We’ve talked a lot in my previous articles about the importance of supporting our adrenals and blood sugar levels via food, supplementation, and exercise to achieve sustained and optimal energy, so lets review.

Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day begins in the morning. When we start the day with a high carbohydrate or no breakfast at all, we are setting ourselves up for a blood sugar rollercoaster that is hard to get off. Think, the SAD (standard American diet) includes a typical breakfast of cereal and milk, maybe some fruit. While there are some great vitamins and minerals in fruit, this breakfast is mostly carbohydrates. Out of the 3 macro-nutrients (protein, fat, carbs), carbs are the fastest burning (fats are slowest, then proteins). This means, we get a blood sugar spike from eating lots of carbs (particularly when we don’t eat them alongside fat and protein), and this is followed by a big dip is blood sugar levels, which we experience as low energy! The roller-coaster part comes in when, after we’ve set this unfortunate tone for the day, we continue to overeat carbs in order to recover our energy (sugar/carb cravings, anyone?), and the cycle repeats.

That mid-afternoon crash is commonly a result of either dipping and spiking due to the wrong kind of or no breakfast, high carbohydrate/sugary foods and snacks and lunch, OR big gaps of time where we’re not eating at all, causing blood sugar dips that, again, can be very hard to recover from.

Interestingly, there is a big connection between our primary adrenal stress hormone, cortisol, and insulin. Cortisol inhibits insulin production in an attempt to use glucose immediately instead of storing it. So, when our blood sugar levels are spiking high due to the reasons mentioned above, our adrenals have to work extra hard to meet the cortisol demand. This can lead to adrenal fatigue. If you’re experiencing frequent energy dips, testing your cortisol levels is incredibly beneficial.

I always tell my clients who experience energy dips and fatigue to start with breakfast! If you change nothing else, incorporating a breakfast within one hour of waking that includes good quality protein, fat, and (ideally) some veggies, can make a huge difference for the rest of the day. This could be eggs (with the yolk, pasture raised if possible) cooked in coconut oil or organic butter and some raw sauerkraut, a breakfast sausage with some raw or cooked greens, or one of my favorites is a slice of frittata or egg muffin that can be made over the weekend and eaten throughout the day. Try this for a few weeks and see the difference it makes!

As always, thanks for reading and please contact me if interested in working together to create a personalized diet and supplementation protocol and adrenal testing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

NY Style Pizza

Gluten free pizza has been popping up like crazy around San Francisco. Many popular pizza places around the city are now offering a gluten free option. For a once in awhile treat, this may not be so bad; however, for those of us suffering from IBS or other gut-related symptoms, a bread still centered around processed grains could cause some problems.

I've tried all sorts of "alternative" pizza crusts. And to be honest, most are horrible. I've tried almond flour crusts which are delicious but feel like you just ate 2,000 calories worth of nuts because, well, you did. I've experimented with cauliflower crusts which, while many paleo chefs swear can be the answer to all of your pizza cravings and woes, and its not that I don't believe them, but mine was no such thing. Coconut flour crusts were boring, cornmeal crusts were indeed delicious but corn is very hard to digest for many people and they usually use another flour as well. Ok, enough!

The point is, when I discovered this pizza crust recipe from zenbelly catering, I was thrilled. It is a crisp, thin crust pizza that is nice and light and easy to prepare. I'd also never really experimented with yeast before, so it was fun! I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as I do. And remember, you can always experiment with toppings: cheese or no cheese, a tomato or pesto sauce, whatever veggies or meat toppings you have on hand. ENJOY!

Notes / Tips:
✽ If you have a pizza stone, use it. If not, use the heaviest sheet pan you have.
✽ Warm the bowl you’ll be putting the yeast mixture in, as well as the measuring cup you’ll be measuring the water with. If it’s cold, the water will cool right away, and might not activate the yeast. Just run some hot water in it before using.
✽ This recipe involves high heat cooking, which might rub some people the wrong way, since there is olive oil and nut flour involved. This is one of those situations where I absolutely put taste and texture first. Good pizza is cooked at high temperatures, and that is part of what makes good pizza good.  You can use a different fat if you’d like.
✽ Results are best when the crust is cooked almost entirely before adding toppings, so I recommend having your toppings almost completely cooked before adding them in the last step.

NY Style Pizza Crust

1 tablespoon gluten-free yeast
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/4 cup warm water (should feel warm on the inside of your wrist, but not burn)
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup tapioca starch
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (or other melted fat if you’re opposed to heating olive oil)
1 tablespoon egg whites (less than one egg)
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
and of course your favorite toppings! 
  1. In the warmed bowl of your stand mixer (or alternately, the bowl you’ll be using with hand-held beaters), combine the yeast, honey, and warm water and whisk to combine. Let sit for a good 5 minutes. It will get foamy and active.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and egg white.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the almond flour, tapioca starch, and sea salt.
  4. Once the yeast is foamy, add the wet and dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium high for 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl once to make sure it’s all incorporated.
  5. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula again to gather the dough together. It will NOT look like the dough you remember, it is much wetter. Use the spatula to get it into as much of a ball as possible.
  6. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set in a warm (but not hot) place. Allow it to sit for 75-90 minutes. I know, it’s torture.
  7. After 75 minutes, check the dough to see if it’s risen. It won’t rise as dramatically as a conventional dough would, but it will have changed, and gotten aerated, and a bit larger. (see above pics). If this has happened, Turn your oven on to 500 and if using a pizza stone, place it in the oven to to heat up while the oven warms.
  8. Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and turn the dough out onto it. It will likely be a bit stuck to the bottom of the bowl, just scrape it out as best as you can.
  9. With oiled hands, gently flatten out the pizza dough into a 9-10″ circle. It will be aerated, so might want to leave empty spaces.
  10. Carefully transfer the parchment with the dough onto the pizza stone or sheet pan.
  11. Bake at 500 in the lower 1/3 of your oven for 6-8 minutes, or until it’s starting to brown at the edges.
  12. Add desired toppings and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Allow to cool for a minute before slicing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

April 13th Spring Detox Workshop!!

Overcoming Stress and Adrenal Fatigue with Revitalizing Diet, Lifestyle, and Yoga 

with Sonya Genel & Rachel Fiske 

Hour one of this workshop will be facilitated by Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner, Rachel Fiske of Madrona Wellness. Rachel will focus on educating the class on how stress impacts our adrenal glands, symptoms of adrenal fatigue, and how to heal our adrenals via diet, lifestyle, and supplementation when appropriate. Rachel will go into detail on the importance of managing blood sugar, macronutrient ratios, and key micronutrients for supporting the health of our adrenal glands and feeling consistently energized.

The second hour will be led by yoga teacher Sonya Genel, ERYT. This is the part of the workshop where we get up and move! Sonya will lead a detoxifying and invigorating sequence to help clear your physical and energetic body. You will also get practical tools for managing stress, detoxifying physically, and releasing negative patterns. You will learn safe and effective physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and self-massage. Leave feeling profoundly revitalized and empowered with the tools and knowledge you need to live radiantly!

WHEN: Sunday, April 13th from 2-4pm 

WHERE: Yoga Garden of San Francisco, lower haight on the corner of Divisadero and Page 

HOW TO SIGN UP: Simply CLICK HERE to register

Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Reasons to Ditch the Diet Soda

When I was in high school and early on in college, I had a serious diet coke addiction. Its zero calories, so how bad could it be, right? Fortunately, light has been slowly but surely shed on this myth and many of us have done away with diet soda (or, pop, as we say in Oregon!), but for those of us who still drink it or have friends/family who do, lets take a look at why we should run, fast, in the other direction...

  1.  It may actually HINDER your ability to lose weight! While the makers of diet soda obviously want us to think otherwise, it can actually hinder instead of help our weight loss efforts. The onslaught of chemicals and additives in diet drinks has been shown in several studies to promote obesity, likely due to disrupting our bodies hormonal balance. It also may initiate sugar cravings and overeating.
  2. Diet soda has been repeatedly connected to increased risk of heart attack and stroke: The irony is that Diet Coke is a big supporter of campaigns to promote heart health, when in reality studies have shown that drinking diet coke vastly (a recent study showed up to 42%) increases risk of heart attack and stroke (
  3. Heavily linked to cancer: This may be the most widely known risk, but some studies have shown that drinking 30 ounces or more daily of diet soda increases your risk of cancer more than smoking a pack of cigarettes! Yikes. (
  4. Increased risk of metabolic syndrome: Drinking diet soda puts you at a much higher risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This means high cholesterol and excess belly fat which can also lead to the above mentioned risk of heart attack. This was proven by a 2008 study at the University of Minnesota with over 10,000 participants.
  5. Kidney problems: Diet soda has been linked to dramatically decline kidney function. Our kidneys are the organs that reprocess and detoxify our blood, so.....pretty important.

Sadly, these are only a few of the dangerous effects of drinking diet soda, really this list could go on and on! And hey, if your main concern is looking good, diet soda really stains your teeth.

Sometimes detoxing from diet soda and finding alternatives can be hard, if you have questions or are interested in working with a nutrition professional to create an individualized dietary program, contact me at!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

5 Ways to Heal Leaky Gut

Leaky Gut Syndrome....sounds lovely, right? For more detailed information on what leaky gut actually is, see my past article for more information. But just a short review: leaky gut syndrome is more technically known as increased intestinal permeability. This means that, via various irritants (could be inflammatory foods/foods you are sensitive to, a bacterial or parasitic infection, yeast overgrowth, too high or low cortisol levels/adrenal fatigue, unregulated blood sugar), the microscopic villi of the walls of your intestinal lining have been damaged. In this case, their job of allowing the right nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream is compromised, and they are allowing undigested compounds and toxins to enter, sparking an immune attack from the body and giving us symptoms.

Needless to say, not a good situation!

So, what can I do about my leaky gut??? If you suspect you may suffer from leaky gut (and it is more common that you might think), first thing you can do is work with a practitioner to pinpoint any possible causes such as those mentioned above. If there is a yeast overgrowth or infection, unfortunately only changing your diet may not be enough. However, dietary changes are a key step as well as some safe herbs and supplements. Keep in mind that for severe cases of leaky gut, working with a knowledgeable practitioner to develop a personalized, therapeutic protocol for both diet and supplementation may be the best choice.

5 Steps You Can Take To Heal Your Leaky Gut:

1.  Undergo an elimination diet, cutting out irritating foods for one month and then slowly reintroducing one at a time to discover food sensitivities. I have a one month elimination diet program I sell for $50 and guides you through this process on your own, or you can research how to do it safely and effectively. The most common food allergens you'll want to eliminate include corn, soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, alcohol, sugar and (in most cases) all grains.

2.  Include healing foods in your diet. First and foremost, fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut or kimchi, kvass, or kefir (best to stick to vegetable sources, however). Eat these every day. Also great for healing the gut and allowing you to absorb nutrients is a homemade bone broth. See a recipe I've shared here.

3.  Take probiotics for about a month to reinoculate your gut with good bacteria. Depending on the level of damage this may not be enough, but could very well help with repair and assimilation of nutrients. I like Dr. Ohirras professional grade probiotics.

4.  Determine if you have a bacterial or parasitic infection or yeast overgrowth. Fortunately, there are some great labs that provide at home testing and working with a professional to create a supplementation protocol to kill these bugs will go a very long way in healing your leaky gut in the long term. Also important to test cortisol levels, as this hormone largely regulates our gut immunity via Secretory IgA.

5.  Supplementing with L Glutamine which is key to gut health and helps with sugar cravings. Another helpful supplement is DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), which can help immensely with strengthening the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines.

As always, please contact me with further question or if working with a professional for testing and individualized dietary and supplementation protocols could help you!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Could I Be Magnesium Deficient?

Now that we are well into January of 2014, the holiday craziness is beginning to feel like a distant memory and we are readjusting to normal life. In my last article, we talked again about how stress impacts our adrenal glands, potentially leading to adrenal fatigue. Now, lets take a look at a key nutrient that supports the body in times of stress, and where to get it. That key nutrient is (drum roll please)....MAGNESIUM!!

According to Dr. Normal Shealy, "Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency" and that, "magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient" ( 

Magnesium is a crucial mineral in the human body, carrying out over 300 different chemical reactions ( Over half of our magnesium is stored in the bone, making it very important for bone health and maintenance. Additionally, magnesium is interesting in that it both plays a vital part in the chemical reaction that gives us energy, while also supporting our nervous system and allowing us to relax. Magnesium is a cofactor to the enzymes needed to produce energy, and studies have pointed to low magnesium levels contributing to fatigue.

How Does Magnesium Relate to Managing Stress?

As mentioned above, magnesium places an important role in balancing the nervous system. All of our cells hold receptors which allow chemical messengers to enter and exit. One such brain cell receptor is called NMDA, and magnesium is a mineral that largely contributes to their function. With low magnesium levels, we can find ourselves depressed and anxious.

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Irritability and insomnia
  • Muscle spasms, particularly in the legs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle pain, tension and soreness
  • Chest tightness
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

Of course, if you are experiencing any sort of chest discomfort, pain, or abnormal heart rhythms you should see your doctor, but if all checks out, magnesium deficiency should be considered as a contributing factor.

Foods Highest in Magnesium (in order):

  • Dark leafy greens! Especially spinach, swiss chard and beet greens.
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Summer squash
  • Black and navy beans
  • Cashews
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Tempeh
  • Brown rice
Magnesium Supplementation

While we always need to start with a base of healthy foods, magnesium is one nutrient most of us could benefit from supplementing with. In times of stress, we go through out magnesium stores more quickly, and given that our modern world is unnaturally stressful, most of us are likely deficient to some extent. I really like the product from Pure Encapsulations, as its gentler on the system and is less likely to cause loose stools or diarrhea. Whenever supplementing with magnesium, if this happens simply back off the dosage.

Hopefully this information about magnesium has been helpful, and as always contact me with further questions! Magnesium-rich foods and supplementation can be a great booster to any adrenal or stress protocol. 

Happy New Year!