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Well, not quite growing yet. We’ve prepped tested our garden beds to get ready for this years growing season. We are now erecting a fence to keep the deer out. The last thing we want is to have a bunch of well fed deer after all our hard work.

We’ve tilled clay, added countless bags of clay breaker, soil conditioner, lime, our own food compost, cow manure, peat moss and outsourced organic compost. The beds are looking fluffy and healthy, and grew a nice cover crop over the winter. We’ve tilled again to get the cover crop mixed in, added in some biotone and other natural fertilizers after sending off soil samples a few weeks ago.

We are ready to roll once the weather allows. We’ll put in some greens and pole beans in next weekend and have the fence up are ready by the time the sprouts emerge. Here are a few pics of the progress. 

Once the veggies are growing and protected, we’ll work on getting some chickens to provide us with some fresh eggs!

Vegetarians are less healthy….


First let me say, without question, vegetables in general are good. I stand behind eating vegetables. I eat veggies; I encourage others to eat them… veggies for everyone! The purpose of this post is just to reiterate the idea that we all need to take the latest headlines (whether on TV, the newspaper, Social media and Blogs, even my own) with a grain of salt. 😉

The research paper I’m using as an example here concludes, “Adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.”

That’s a pretty definitive statement. Most would read this summary and scoff, roll their eyes and call BS.

The point is that you can find research that will support any belief you have. There is research out there supporting everything from veganism to paleo diets, and everything in between. Even the most widely agreed upon statement of “vegetables are good” can, and is, contradicted with science. And it’s not “bad” science with tiny samples sizes, or short-term studies. The result of this study was from a survey given to 15,474 people aged 15 or older. It shows that the people who ate less saturated fat, less animal protein and more vegetables were “less healthy” by many measures of health.

An easy question to pose about how the results may have come to this conclusion is the question of why someone decided to become a vegetarian. Many people move to vegetarianism due to having a condition or disease that they believe cutting out meat will help them address, so the data becomes less easy to interpret. The vegetarian diet may not have caused their condition, but the subjects are labeled as less healthy on as they are currently on a vegetarian diet. It’s also quite possible the “meatatarians” aren’t as health conscious, and aren’t as diligent about going to the doctor, so they haven’t been formally diagnosed with any chronic conditions. None of this is spelled out in the research so it’d be short sighted to say vegetarians are less healthy due to eating more vegetables and less meat.

Be skeptical. Don’t believe everything you read. Ask questions, form your own opinion and do your own experiments. Try different foods and see what makes you feel best. People always ask, “what’s the best diet?” and the answer really is different for everyone, but as a general guideline, the simplest advice I can give is eat real food.

Random updates

A couple of random updates. First, I ordered and just received a book called “The Thyroid Connection” by Amy Myers, MD. It’s all about the thyroid, how it affects the body and how to possibly fix it, or at least how to get help and find the appropriate medication to treat it. It’s very food centric though which is the big reason I got it. Having hypothyroid myself and having been on thyroid meds for nearly 10 yrs, I wanted to get back into studying the thyroid. My thyroid condition is a big reason why I got into nutrition in the first place. I have been super strict in the past about gluten free and done lots of blood tests to try and figure out the root cause of my thyroid condition, to no avail. I’ve done most of the extensive labs including TSH, T4, freeT4, T3, freeT3, rT3, and Thyroid antibodies, most of which aren’t done unless you beg/plead/convince your MD to do. I’m currently on Levothyroxine and live pretty normally. No real complaints other than crazy dry skin in the winter. My TSH is still a little higher than I’d like though and I think my skin could be better. I’m excited to learn some new things and understand the thyroid even better. I know it will also be useful when helping clients feel and be their best in the future too.

Second, our cover crop is coming in pretty well, but a little more sparely than expected. We got a pound of cover crop seed and thought it would be plenty, but seems like we should’ve gotten more. :-/ We are really trying to help condition the soil for Spring 2017 when we’d like to really get to planting some crops. We also got a couple pear trees in the ground! We’re hoping I dug the holes deep enough to allow the trees to not drown…. darn non draining VA clay, and all the excessive rain recently! img_6260 img_6251

Updated site


If you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. My website was pretty much broken. It was still up and live and accessible up until a few days ago, but I couldn’t post. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even get to the log-in page to edit/post/update.

So after a lot of work and copy and pasting I have a “new” site that I can update and post to again. It’s simpler, with less options to adapt the page to how I’d like it to look, but I can update it, which is the whole point. Moving forward…


I’m happy to say I was accepted into an internship. I am now a Dietetic Intern with Virginia State University. I finished my classes last winter and had a semester off and have now started my first rotation doing clinical work with a great group of Registered Dietitians at Regional Memorial Medical Center just north of Richmond city in VA. This is the first of many rotations and I will finish up in June 2016. I’ll try and keep you apprised of my progress throughout the year while posting (now that I’m able) new and hopefully interesting links, articles, recipes, and reviews.

Automimmune Genes

This is an interesting article about how old the genes are that play a role in Crohn’s and psoriasis.

“Both diseases are autoimmune disorders, and one can imagine that in a pathogen-rich environment, a highly active immune system may actually be a good thing even if it increases the chances of an auto-immune response.”
The question they don’t ask, and we’ll never know, is if these ancient ancestors suffered from the symptoms of these issues. Then you could ask the question, like in the book “The Epidemic of Absence”, would people who suffer from Crohn’s today, benefit from from being exposed to pathogens?

The New Yorker on Gluten

This is a really good read. A bit lengthy, but the writer interviewed a slew of people from different sides of the “gluten debate.” I had a couple thoughts while reading this which I’ll expand on here.

The author writes about a study where the scientists concluded that gluten was the cause of a small groups’ IBS. Gluten was introduced in a double blind study and the gluten eaters had more IBS than the gluten-free eaters. The conclusion was pretty easy to make since it was the only variable they were looking for.  A separate study removed gluten and FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols); things like onions, garlic, apples, etc. Gluten was then reintroduced to the FODMAP group and people didn’t have the IBS issues they started with, so the conclusion was made that it was the FODMAPs and not the gluten that caused the IBS issues.

I think removing gluten is easier than removing all the foods that fall into the FODMAP category. If people feel better removing one item, they may not bother trying to figure out the FODMAP rules, especially when different sources list different foods for FODMAPs. It’s possible the FODMAP diet helps fix the underlying problem and allows people to eat gluten without issue, but there isn’t much sciene to back that up definitively. Going gluten-free may just a placebo effect and people just believe they feel better because they are “gluten-free,” but I think the first study shows some people feel the effects of gluten even when they don’t know it’s there.  I do hope that people aren’t just substituting everything with a gluten-free version because gluten-free cake is still cake and full of all kinds of other junk.

The other thing I thought about was how FODMAPs effect gut bacteria. The point of being on a FODMAP diet is usually to reduce the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut. When someone’s bacteria ratio is out of order, eating FODMAP foods may increase the bad bacteria, causing gas, bloating and other IBS symptoms. It is a possibility that the people in the study experiencing IBS were not gluten intolerant but had a poor ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in the gut and the FODMAP test helped fix this balance, so when the gluten was reintroduced to the FODMAP study patients, their bacteria were in balance and they didn’t suffer any distress. If they were not gluten intolerant, fixing the bacteria solves the problem. Whereas the gluten free test, where gluten was the only variable, the gut bacteria ratio wasn’t remedied but still provided adequate relief when gluten was removed. The question becomes, is gluten the problem, or is our gut bacteria the problem? And if it is the gluten, is it dose dependent, and  the real problem is all the extra wheat gluten producers put in bread to make it airy and fluffy?

While I personally feel better when I leave gluten out of my diet, and I take a probiotic supplement and eat a fair amount of prebiotic foods, I do tend to think that the nations dramatic increase in “gluten-sensitivity” (celiac or otherwise) has a lot to do with the bacteria we are inadvertently promoting by eating lots of boxed, processed, pasteurized and sanitized foods. We have very different microbiomes inside us than our ancestors did.

If you don’t believe gluten is a problem, and you think your bacteria is just fine, I’d encourage you to think about making your own bread. The stuff used to clean and bleach flour in processed breads these days is provocative at best and detrimental at worst. How much benzolye peroxide is left in the bread you eat from the store is hard to figure out, but if you make your own bread at home, you know there’s none.

NUSI Re-Writing “Eat This, Not That” With a New Study

A study, to definitively show that it’s the kind and quality of calories and not necessarily the quantity that’s making America obese, is now underway! This will hopefully redefine what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating and why. All of our “common knowledge” about what’s healthy may be based on misinformed assumptions and jumping to conclusions.

“One key study could be the hammer that dislodges the loose brick in the prevailing paradigm.” Hopefully this is that study.


Another article my professor and I wrote together. Take a look to see how to make your own sports hydration drink, similar to the popular Gatorade ® or Powerade ®. Now that’s it’s hot and humid again, you need to hydrate properly and appropriately.


To drink or not to drink, that is the question ….


By Paula Inserra and Wesley Smith


You might be thinking the answer to this question is easy, but we’re not talking about a Richmond microbrew at happy hour on Friday night; we mean a tall bottle of water during a long run. We’re sure you’ve heard it said time and time again, “Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!” But did you know that this is a relatively recent recommendation? Up until around the 1950s runners wore cotton, short-shorts, tube socks and were actually told not to drink during a run.

Drinking water during a race was considered a sign of weakness. So, what changed? Research and the subsequent explosion of the sports drink industry.

Research showed that performance significantly decreased when individuals lost more than 2% of body weight during a run. This morphed into a recommendation to drink to prevent dehydration and 0% weight loss; that is, drink in the absence of thirst. You may have heard the newer adage, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”

So, if you’ll excuse the pun, athletes took this message and ran with it. Water bottles, sports drinks, hydration belts, Camelbacks® and water stops every two miles of a race. The sports drink industry loved the fact that sports scientists were promoting their product! The result? We’ve overdone it.

Today the major running-related health problem known to have potentially deadly consequences is overhydrating. Drinking too much results in Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia (EAH) or low blood levels of sodium.

When we sweat during a run, we lose both water and electrolytes (mainly sodium) but we replace only the water. This is true even if we exclusively drink full-strength sports drinks (which few of us do) because sports drinks are low in sodium.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that long-distance runners (marathoners and ultra-marathoners) should consume sodium at a concentration of 0.5-0.7g/liter. Most commercially available sports drinks contain 0.2-0.4g/liter.

Certain factors increase the risk of EAH. They include duration of exercise (4 hours or more of running at a slow pace); being female; having low body weight; excessive drinking (more than 1.5 liters of fluid per hour); pre-exercise overhydration; use of NSAIDS and extreme environmental temperatures.

It has been estimated that 2-10% of marathoners experience EAH. EAH has some physiological basis, mainly a result of the kidneys not excreting excess water during exercise, but most cases are thought to be a result of drinking excessively.

Low sodium in the blood can occur by drinking water or other low sodium beverages at a volume that exceeds sweat rate or by drinking the optimal amount, but not replacing the lost sodium. Both situations result in a dilution of sodium in the blood. Staying optimally hydrated is a balancing act. The goal is to prevent dehydration and excessive sodium loss while avoiding overhydration.

The good news is this is easier to do than it seems. While it is useful to know your sweat rate so you can replace the exact amount of water lost, drinking to thirst comes pretty close (less than 1.0 liter per hour).

Adding a little extra sodium to your favorite sports drink can also help. One-quarter to one-eighth teaspoon of table salt added to a liter of sports drink will bump up the sodium content to meet the ACSM recommendations. Of note is that one of those little packets of salt you might find in restaurants contains about 300mg, which is enough to supplement a liter or a 32-ounce bottle of sports drink.

Sports drinks contain interesting colorings and other additives that won’t help performance. Yellow 5, red 40, blue 1, acesulfame-K, modified food starch, acacia gum, glycerol esters of wood rosins, sucralose and brominated vegetable oil (BVO; an industrial flame retardant!).

Since we generally don’t expect to burst into flames on a run, we’d just as soon avoid ingesting flame retardants. Plus, it’s so easy to mix up a batch of your own sports drink. Try this tasty home-made version to optimize your hydration.


Basic Recipe

1 liter of water

3⁄4 tsp sea salt

1⁄4 cup organic sugar or honey

Pinch of salt substitute


Sample Add-In’s

Minced ginger

Crushed mint leaves

Orange, lemon or lime slices

Sliced cucumber


Paula Inserra, PhD, RD, is an associate professor at Virginia State University, where she heads the Didactic Program in Dietetics. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from the University of Arizona.


Wesley Smith, BS, is completing a post-baccalaureate certificate program in nutrition and dietetics at VSU.

Here’s a link to the Gdrive it’s hosted on, in case you want to pass it on, and I’ve attached a PDF copy. You can pick up a hard copy at local Richmond, VA running stores like Carytown Running , 3 Sports, or Finish Line for free.


Overhydration can be fatal- Miles and Minutes.