This is one of my family's favorite soups. It's easy to make and every bite is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals that are soothing to the digestive system. It's the perfect soup to eat when recovering from an illness or surgery.
I serve it blended and creamy, not chunky. It's a meal in itself or a filling side dish.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 large organic butternut squash (Costco has pre-packaged cubes)
1 sweet onion
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
Handful of baby carrots, sliced or ribboned
1 box of organic chicken bone broth
1 can of organic full-fat coconut milk
1/8th teaspoon ground nutmeg
Sea salt and pepper
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Have all of your ingredients? Let's do this!
That's it! You've made a delicious, healthy soup that nourishes the Lungs, Kidneys, and Stomach! It keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 days in an airtight container.
Another tip: To make an easy one-pot dinner, add chunks of rotisserie chicken to the finished soup.
What is brain fog?
Brain fog is an inability think clearly. You may feel spacey, have problems focusing on a specific task or feel mentally scattered with your thoughts jumping all over the place. Brain fog can also cause forgetfulness, such as remembering someone’s name, what you ate for lunch yesterday, or where you left your keys.
How can Oriental Medicine help clear brain fog?
1. Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs improve sleep quality...
A lack of sleep at night opens the door wide-open to an invasion of brain fog. After a poor night of sleep, morning brain fog is almost a given. Acupuncture is proven clinically effective at treating insomnia, whether it’s an inability to fall asleep or difficulty staying asleep or restless sleep. There are specific Chinese Herbal formulas for treating the root cause of insomnia too.
2. Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs relax the sympathetic nervous system...
The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight-or-flight response triggered by stress or trauma. It opens the airways, increases heart rate, and pushes oxygenated blood to the muscles. Think of it as the switch that tells the body to wake up. Acupuncture flips the off-switch in the sympathetic nervous system and allows the parasympathetic nervous system to take over. The parasympathetic nervous symptom controls rest and digestion. By shifting the body’s energy to slow down and focus on recovery, the mind calms down enabling more concentration & focus.
There are dozens of acupuncture points that calm the body-mind-spirit all the way from the head to the toes. There is a special constellation of four points on the head called si shen cong that translates to four spirit wisdom. The points are so effective at boosting memory & cognition that candidates taking national board exams are no longer allowed to enter testing centers with needles in si shen cong because it provides an unfair mental advantage!
3. Eat foods that increase cognition...
One of the best foods to increase brain power are walnuts. When you look at a walnut, it actually looks like two halves of a brain! Adding walnuts to meals throughout the day can keep your brain nourished & focused. Add them to your breakfast on top of oatmeal, enjoy them as a side dish or snack, replace croutons with walnuts in your lunch salad, and incorporate them into dinner in a dish like honey-walnut shrimp stir fry (replace the toxic vegetable or canola oil with healthy coconut oil, please!).
Beans (black, navy & kidney beans) also bust brain fog! Try making a hearty bean soup with equal amounts of these three beans and season with a pinch of turmeric, dried thyme and fresh rosemary.
If you need a brain boost to-go, create a trail mix by combining walnuts, pine nuts, goji berries, pumpkin seeds & dried unsweetened blueberries. Yum!
If you’re lucky enough to have your local farm or market carry fresh quail eggs, eat 2-3 hardboiled quail eggs a day to improve memory and concentration.
4. Try natural alternatives to medications that cause brain fog...
Many modern drugs (over-the-counter and prescription) can cause brain fog, drowsiness & metal confusion.
Chinese herbs offer a safe and effective alternative to many modern medications. When prescribed by a trained herbalist, there are usually no unwanted side-effects. There are over 100 ancient Chinese herbal formulas, each containing anywhere from 2 to 20 individual herbs that work synergistically together. Taking the right combination of Chinese herbs can dissipate daily brain fog in a natural way and reduce dependence on caffeine.
Contact Michelle for help clearing out your brain fog!
Thanksgiving is less than a week away and my kitchen will soon be a hot spot for baking & cooking.
Every year without fail, someone in my family will ask me where I keep the granulated sugar. When I tell them we don't have any, a look of alarm will appear on their face:
"Whaaat?! How in the world can we make these cookies/muffins/pie/cinnamon rolls/biscuits without sugar?"
Before I answer, let's back up for a minute.
As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I've had years of masters-level education on dietary nutrition. In my clinic, I educate patients on how what they eat affects their body, both good and bad. Have you heard the Hippocrates quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"? It's 100% true and the fundamental basis for why you won't find these 3 foods in my kitchen:
I hope you take the opportunity to banish sugar, vegetable oil, and GMO corn from your kitchen this holiday season! It certainly leads to some interesting conversations!
I’ve always had “problem” skin. Red, painful cystic pustule acne plagued me until my late 20s. After years of anti-acne face washes, toners, topical antibiotics and astringent creams, I had it under control enough to hide my problem areas with just a little concealer.
When I was in my early 30’s, my acne changed from cystic to a plethora of small red papules on my forehead, cheeks, and chin. My dermatologist prescribed retinols and steroidal creams to reduce the inflammation. They worked a little, but my skin was still red, irritated, and bumpy. The texture of it made me very self-conscious as there’s no way to hide bumps with everyday makeup!
At the same time, in my early 30’s, I started waking up in the middle of the night like clockwork. It was always 1am when severe abdominal cramps roused me from sleep. Dripping with sweat, I would sit in the bathroom not pooping or passing gas, but just breathing and waiting for the pain to pass. The cramping would usually stop within 20 minutes.
After a few weeks, I made an appointment with my primary care physician. She ordered a CT scan of my pelvis, which revealed nothing. She recommended taking an osmotic laxative once a day to ensure the cramping wasn’t caused by constipation (full disclosure: it wasn't).
Flash forward another two years, and I was in my first year of graduate school for Chinese Medicine. I was receiving almost daily acupuncture treatments from my teachers and classmates. My chief complaint was chronic acne.
One of my teachers observed out loud in class that the redness and papules on my face provided a visual map of the Stomach meridian. That’s when a light bulb went on in my brain that illuminated everything… food was the cause of it!
I quickly purchased a copy of Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet and devoured it in one day. The next day, I purged all processed foods and gluten from our family’s kitchen and started the Paleo lifestyle. As Robb recommended, I ate Paleo for 30 days. A few amazing things happened:
If you’ve read this far, then it’s time to acknowledge the biggest mistake I made about my health...
My biggest mistake was not listening to my body, when it was very clearly telling what was wrong!
If I had listened, I would have saved myself years of unnecessary pain, sleepless nights, worry, stress, and embarrassment about my appearance. And money. I would have saved a LOT of money by not trying every acne treatment program I could find.
My so-called healthy vegetarian diet was making me sick. Really sick. I had completely ignored all of my body’s warning signs. Even worse, I hadn’t realized the root of the problem… gluten-intolerance. I had eaten gluten all of my life, so why was there suddenly a problem now?
But the truth was, there were signs all along, I just chose to ignore them or call them something else.
Like mistaking a face rash for acne.
Side note: If I eat gluten now (always by accident), I'll wake up in the middle of the night with those terrible abdominal cramps and wear a face rash for 3-5 days.
The biggest takeaway from my story is that the human body is smart. Smarter than we typically give it credit for. If something is wrong, physically or emotionally, it’s going to show up as what Western medicine calls a sign or symptom.
Be observant because the longer a sign or symptom is ignored, the louder(!) your body will demand your attention.
So, is your body trying to tell you something? Sometimes we all need an outside perspective to uncover the truth, the root of our health problems. Let’s work together to get to the root of solving your health mysteries.
My family eats organic food whenever it’s available and affordable... it’s not affordable or available, we find a healthy alternative.
These are the top 3 reasons why my family eats organic fruits & veggies:
1.Conventionally-produced produce is laden with synthetic pesticides (not to mention other dangerous stuff like synthetic herbicides and genetic modifications)
What is a pesticide and what does it do? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines pesticides as “chemicals used in agriculture to protect crops against insects, fungi, weeds and other pests” and claims pesticides “may induce adverse health effects including cancer, effects on reproduction, immune or nervous systems.”
Who wants to eat pesticides? Not me! Not my family!
Even more frightening are recent reports from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) about the prevalence of pesticide residue on produce. This was posted on WebMD:
“The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data found that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of conventionally-grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues. The USDA found a total of 178 different pesticides and pesticide residues on the more than 35,000 produce samples tested. The pesticides remained on fruits and vegetables after washing and, in some cases, peeling. More than 98% of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide. A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.”
20 different pesticides on one sample of conventional fruit? That’s 20 reasons why I only buy organic strawberries.
2.I don’t want to risk my family’s health (short-term and long-term)
According to the WHO, “Pesticides can be classified as carcinogenic (can cause cancer), neurotoxic (can cause damage to the brain), or teratogenic (can cause damage to a fetus).”
Cancer-causing, brain damage-inducing, and dangerous to the health of the unborn… the evidence is clear, pesticides and humans don’t mix at any stage of life. Period.
But, if you need more convincing…
In his book AntiCancer, author David Servan-Schreiber summarized a clinical study where over 20 children had their urine tested after eating conventional fruits/vegetables for several days. Their urine samples showed evidence of pesticides. After eating organic foods for several days, their urine samples were clear of pesticides. When they started eating conventional produce again, their urine revealed the return of pesticides.
If you're eating conventional produce and collecting pesticides in your body, this study shows that making the switch to organic has measurable results.
3. Some of my favorite fruits and veggies are only safe enough for my family when they’re organic
According to the EWG, in 2017 these conventional fruits/vegetables had the most pesticide residue: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes.
For more details, check out: EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce http://bit.ly/2r4imSQ
Given this scientific evidence, I’m not willing to jeopardize my family’s health by buying conventional produce at the supermarket to save a few dollars or complete a recipe.
Do you choose organic for yourself and your family?
If you're interested in making an easy investment to your family's health, consider trying Sunbasket! They offer up to 3 meals a week designated as organic, gluten-free, paleo, and/or dairy-free, delivered to your door, and ready to eat in less than an hour. No grocery shopping required! Last night's dinner was wild salmon with sumac spiced orange and jicama salad. Now doesn't that sound good?
Try it out here and get $35 off your first order!
 World Health Organization. Retrieved in June 2017 from http://www.who.int/features/qa/87/en/
 Web MD. Retrieved in June 2017 from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20170309/ewg-dirty-dozen-pesticides
 World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/qa/87/en/
 Lu, C., K. Toepel, R. Irish, et al., “Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides,” Environmental Health Perspectives 114, no. 2 (2006): 260-263. Also see www.anticancerbook.com
 Environmental Working Group. Retrieved in June 2017 from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php
When I started studying Chinese Medicine, I realized that not only is it important what I put into my body, it’s also important how I put it into my body.
Water is the ultimate example of this lesson, since it can consumed hot, warm, room temperature, cold, or frozen.
Here are 3 reasons why I don’t put ice in my water:
1. Cold is the Stomach’s enemy
The Stomach is warm and has an abundance of fluids. It receives and breaks down food, turning it into Gu Qi (aka Food Qi). We can’t survive without Gu Qi, so for optimal performance, it’s best to give the Stomach the right temperature of liquid and food (room temperature, warm or hot).
2. Cold impairs digestion
Cold or frozen water inhibits the Stomach’s production of Gu Qi, simply because it cools the Stomach down too much. If you add ice to very cold water, the water can actually cool enough to transform into more ice. Now, I’m not suggesting that ice-cold water crystallizes anything in your digestive track. But, think about it… if you continually drink ice-cold liquids, your Stomach has to work harder to stay warm. Working harder will create an imbalance elsewhere in your body, most likely the Large Intestine.
An imbalance of Stomach qi may manifest as difficulty digesting foods with symptoms such as stomach cramps, hiccups, abdominal pain before bowel movements, or loose stools. Or it could manifest as food retention (aka a food baby) as the burrito you ate for lunch hangs around much longer than you wish. You might notice your pants feeling too tight from abdominal bloating. Or you could feel tired and mentally fatigued. These are all symptoms of qi imbalance.
3. Cold reduces fertility
For women: In Chinese Medicine, the Yang partner of the Stomach is the Uterus (including the ovaries). The Uterus is the most fertile when it’s warm. Therefore, cooling down the Stomach leads to cooling of the Uterus, which reduces fertility. Symptoms of a cold Uterus include painful menstrual cramps or an irregular menstrual cycle (too short, too long, or varied).
For men: Too much cold in the abdomen can impair fertility by disrupting production of quality sperm in the testes. Too much heat is not good for the testicles either. In fact, the testes are just like Goldilocks… the most healthy when they are at just the right temperature, which happens to be a few degrees cooler than body temperature.
Now that you know the effects of ice water on the body, keep in mind that other cold foods such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, and iced-smoothies have the same effect.
To keep your Stomach warm and active, drinking warm liquids (hot water with lemon) 30 minutes before a meal is a great idea. Try it for a few days and see how you (and your Stomach) feel.
Life happens and sometimes it’s hard to resist that perfect ice cream or glass of ice water on a hot summer day. If you indulge in any ice-cold beverages or foods, do so sparingly and drink a warm liquid afterwards to keep your Stomach from feeling the freeze.
Craving a delicious and healthy holiday treat? These no-cook power bars are packed full of Chinese herbs that strengthen the Kidneys, Liver, Spleen, and Heart. Download the recipe and enjoy!
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM practices Oriental & Chinese Medicine in Hawaii and Texas.