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Ask Summer: The Seafood Question


“I’m worried about toxic contaminants, like radiation, mercury and PCBs, found in fish. Should I avoid eating fish all together?  What do you recommend?”



I love eating seafood!First off, I applaud you for working to avoid exposing your body to toxins! This is a key component of what I recommend to folks who are interested in doing the work needed to improve their health and energy levels.  However, I DO NOT recommend cutting seafood out of your diet to achieve this goal! Consuming healthy seafood from clean waters is actually a very wise dietary choice. It’s just a matter of making wise choices on the seafood you do consume.  I’ll give you some resources and pointers for picking the cleanest and most nourishing seafood options here.


Tip #1: Choose small, oily, deep-sea fish.

As usual, American culture has it backwards on which fish are the best food choices. Most cultures around the world prize the small, oily, deep-sea fish -- like mackerel, sardines, and anchovies -- that we have often been taught to disdain or use as bait! Because smaller fish are further down the food chain, they will have a much lower concentration of any contaminants than larger fish. And because these fish are fatty, they will have more of the healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids that us Americans don’t typically get enough of in our diets. Fish are one of the best sources of these important nutrients which is why I recommend including them in your diet.  An additional nutrient contained in these beneficial fish, selenium, is actually protective against the toxic effect of mercury in our bodies, giving seafood a built-in antidote to mercury contamination.  Since selenium is particularly deficient in the Pacific Northwestern United States where I live, including these small but nutrient dense fish in your diet is definitely part of a healthy diet.


Tip #2: Avoid farmed salmon!

While there are some sustainable seafood farming practices going on our there, they are few and far between, and when it comes to salmon, just say no to farmed fish!  The diet fed to farmed salmon raises their omega 6 content – that’s the fatty acid that most of us in the US get too much of already, and the whole point of eating seafood is to up our intake of omega 3, which we don’t get enough of, not to get more of the omega we’re already eating to excess (6)!  Additionally, salmon farms have been found to spread disease to wild fish, and release contaminants into the water that affect the wild fish as well.  There are also reports of higher levels of mercury and other toxins found in farmed salmon compared with their wild counterparts.  I wish it was unnecessary to have to mention the importance of avoiding any seafood (or any food!) that is genetically engineered (GE), but with farmed salmon, GE fish are a real possiblity that you will never find in the wild.  Always avoid consuming Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to increase your health and vitality, and this goes for fish as well. 


Tip #3: Know your source.

Not only do we want to consider the health of our bodies in choosing which seafood to consume, we want to consider the health of the ecosystems that support the fish we choose, so that we and future generations can continue to access healthy seafood for years to come. Make sure what you’re eating is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program. As is so often the case, what is best for our bodies is usually also what’s best for the earth and our precious oceans.

My favorite seafood source, Vital Choice Seafood, is certified by both MSC and Alaska RFM. You can visit their website to order seafood from them directly, and while you’re there, you’ll find a wealth of information on the health benefits of seafood consumption, seafood sustainability, healthy fisheries and more! Enjoy 10% off your first purchase with Vital Choice by using the code: VCAFINT during checkout. You can also come in to my office to purchase some of their canned seafood options right here in the Rogue Valley – but please call or email first, since these products are only available from me and NOT stocked on the shelves of Organic Elements Spa.

Here in Oregon, we also have a great resource for LOCAL sustainable seafood – by buying a share in the Port Orford Sustainable Seafood Community Supported Fishery (CSF).  Modeled after Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a share of POSS puts you in relationship with local, sustainable fishermen and puts their nourishing catch out of Port Orford on your table on a regular basis. Find out more about them by visiting their website HERE.

Finally, any time you’re purchasing seafood at a retail outlet or restaurant, be sure to ask if the seafood was wild caught or farmed sustainably, and if so, ask what certifying body has deemed the seafood sustainable. If you are eating out at a restaurant, I recommend asking a knowledgeable staff member about the source of their salmon.  If it's farmed salmon, let them know that you are not ordering it because you want to avoid fish that will detract instead of add to your health and that you would have ordered it if it was wild salmon.


Tip #4: Use your resources.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has many handy pocket guides -- and even a smart phone app! -- to help us make good seafood choices. For best results, stick with the options in the “Best Choices” column of their guides, and avoid the rest. There are different guides for different regions of the US, and you can find them online HERE, or if you are in the Rogue Valley, you can come in to my office and pick up a paper guide for our region.  Again, it’s always best to call 541.326.8952 or send an email to let us know you’re coming, so I can make sure to have exactly what you’re looking for waiting for you when you arrive. In fact, you can consider me one of your primary resources for info on seafood that will sustain your body while honoring the ocean’s bounty. Come in for an appointment to talk more about incorporating healthy seafood and other traditional, nutrient-dense foods into your diet. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Ask Summer: The Shampoo Question

Your Question: "Do you have a specific shampoo you recommend? And does it really matter what shampoo I use? How can my shampoo make that much difference in my health? And does the shampoo you recommend really work?  Will my hair feel and look clean?"

My Answer: The short answer is YES, it does matter what shampoo and body care products you use. Reducing the toxic load on your body is an important part of getting healthy and staying well.  This cornerstone of health is best supported by your food choices and additionally by other lifestyle choices including which personal care products you use.  I've shared much over the years about toxins that can enter your body through the foods you eat (read: GMOs, pesticide residues, pharmaceutical/antibiotic residues, added hormones, fake food ingredients like artificial dyes, etc.). The simple way to avoid ingesting these toxins is by selecting organic foods or foods raised 'better than organic' to put on your plate. 

Body care products that contain toxic chemicals or allergens can absorb through your skin and effect your overall health.  Since your skin is your largest organ, there is a lot of surface area for exposure.  This is magnified in a hot shower that enlarges the pores of your skin, increasing absorption even more.  This can be a big deal for folks, especially those who are already struggling with chronic health issues.  Making sure you tip the scale in your favor, the simplest way to avoid uptake of triggering toxins in your personal care products is to make sure you are using toxin free products.  Since I love to make it easy for my clients to utilize truly non-toxic products to keep their hair clean and healthy, I stock Organic Excellence Shampoo and Conditioner in my office.

In the early years of my practice, I’d have folks come to me after a few sessions who had really been working to make changes in their eating habits, and had seen improvements, but were still having lingering symptoms of toxicity, allergies or sensitivities. At first, I was stumped, but then I started digging deeper, and I’d often find that these folks were still using conventional body care products containing toxic chemicals: GMO soy and corn ingredients, and even gluten. So, while they had benefited from removing these items from their foods, they couldn’t truly get better while continuing to absorb them through their skin. Switching to a gluten free, soy free, corn free, GMO free, chemical free shampoo and conditioner (as well as other body care products) allowed them to truly be free of the symptoms these toxic ingredients caused in their bodies. But boy, was it hard to find anything commercially available that folks could use without complaint! Most products available even at the co-op had some of the ingredients that would set off my patient’s sensitivities. Another issue I had experienced and heard about from clients as well was that when a 'clean' product was found, it wasn't that effective at actually cleaning the hair without striping it or leaving it unappealingly greasy.  So, I searched and researched options until I found Organic Excellence brand of hair care products.

Organic Excellence discloses all the ingredients they use (see image for shampoo ingredients) – and what they don’t use (CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST), which is arguably even more important. You can be assured that these products are used safely by people with multiple chemical sensitivities, as well as severe reactions to gluten, soy and corn. I use their products myself, and I like the light lather (no synthetic lathering agents!) and minty tingle.  They keep my hair soft and shiny, and can even refresh an irritated scalp.  I even get compliments on how healthy and shiny my hair looks, which is always a treat.  

Like my practice, Organic Excellence is a woman-owned small business that you can feel good about supporting. Even those of you who aren’t feeling ill effects using conventional body products, consider the toxin load you’re asking your body to process and give those systems of detoxification a break by minimizing your exposure to the petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances and even antifreeze and formaldehyde (yikes!) found in many shampoos and conditioners on your supermarket shelves.

If you’re ready to try something more nourishing for your hair, use the contact form on this website, email me at, or call 541.326.8952 and let me know that you’d like to come in and pick up some Organic Excellence shampoo and/or conditioner. This product is NOT stocked in the Organic Elements Spa Boutique, so you’ll have to contact me directly (as described) to purchase some. If you aren't local to my office in the Rogue Valley, visit the Organic Excellence website to purchase these products. By using THIS LINK (CLICK HERE) to get to their shopping page, you'll help me get a comission for connecting you with these fabulous products. Check out my Healthy Resources page for even more ways to keep toxins out of your home and out of your body!

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Ask Summer: The Slow Cooker Question

Your Question: “I’d like to pick your brain about slow cookers.  I've been looking online at alternatives, clay, non-electric, stainless steel, etc.  I wondered if you use something like this and if so, what would you recommend?”


My Answer: This is a great question, and one that comes up often with my patients.  When you’re a busy person wanting to make nourishing food choices, a slow cooker can transform home cooking from an impossible dream to a daily reality.  While we don’t necessarily think of a hot meal as our first go-to in the summer months, using your slow cooker will certainly generate less additional heat in your home than turning on the stove or oven to prepare a cooked meal, making it a kitchen must-have all year round.  Below, I’ll discuss three recommended slow cookers, their pros and cons, and direct you to websites where you can purchase them yourself (Hint: Click the image and/or brand name to purchase online).  Of course all of the options I recommend are free from lead or other contaminants, which is one of the most common concerns of savvy shoppers.  


What are your favorite recipes to make in your slow cooker?  Let me know in the comments below.


Pros: Functions as a slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker and yogurt maker.  Programmable, including cooking timer up to 5 hours, delayed start and “Keep Warm” setting. Food cooks in an unglazed natural clay pot like those that have been in use in traditional cooking across the world for thousands of years, preserving flavor with no toxic coatings that can leach into food. Certified “lead-free” with zero lead detected in testing of the clay performed by independent laboratories.


Cons: Largest size available is only about 1 gallon. Some people report food sticking to the sides of the pot more often than with other slow cookers. Cooking pot is breakable. Higher price-point for size than other options.  


Bottom line: If you don’t need a big cooker, VitaClay provides the most traditional cooking option for your food, plus modern bells and whistles to make cooking easier. 


More links to purchase: 


Instant Pot

Pros: Comes with many pre-programed cooking functions, including slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and even a pressure cooker (a great method for speedy meal prep that preserves the nutrients in the food you cook!), with saute/browning and yogurt making settings available on higher-end models. Has cooking timer, delayed start and keep warm settings. There is even a model that can be controlled from your smart phone with a free app! Multiple sizes available up to two gallons. Food-grade stainless steel cooking pot is non-reactive and has no coating, so only the stainless steal will touch the food. Beloved by many Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter Leaders.

Cons: More expensive than other slow cookers.
Bottom line: If you can make the investment in one of these machines, you’ll get a state-of-the-art product that offers the most versatility of the three products I’m recommending. 
More links to purchase:  
  • Click HERE to visit the Instant Pot online store, where you have the option of purchasing a 5, 6 or 8 quart Insta Pot, including the 6 quart bluetooth enabled Insta Pot which you can program right from your smart phone with the Insta Pot app. 

Hamilton Beach

Pros: Lowest price point. Basic models (with high, low and off settings only) and programmable options available, including an option with a thermometer probe that can cook to desired temperature. Multiple size options up to 2 gallons (2 gallon sizes are not programmable).  

Cons: Cooking pot is made of earthenware coated with porcelain enamel, and while the company states that their products do not contain “measurable amounts” of lead as verified by testing and certification procedures approved by the FDA, we can’t be certain of the ingredients in the enamel, or that crocks are entirely non-leeching (though another blogger really dug into this question HERE, and her results were reassuring).
Bottom line: I know lots of folks who love these slow cookers, and Hamilton-Beach offers many affordable ways to begin your slow-cooking journey. However, I would encourage you to choose one of the other two options above if you are able. 
More links to purchase:
What will you put in your slow cooker?  Let me know in the comments below.


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Recommended Reading: The Power of Habit

Over years of working with clients and looking at my own life, I've come to see that habits are at the core of why we do what we do.  From the food choices we make, to the amount of movement we get in our lives, and even the thoughts that we have, all of it comes down to habits that serve us or habits that sabotage us. Reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg was incredibly helpful in allowing me to recognize the often invisible patterns that can keep me (us!) stuck in a place of dysfunction.  

In his book, Duhigg lays out the three components of a habit: the cue, which prompts your brain to run a particular habit program; the routine, which is the physical, mental or emotional pattern that the cue triggers; and the reward, the thing that happens as a result of the routine that makes you want to do it again. By paying attention to your daily activities, you can begin to identify the cues, routines and rewards that shape the habits you play out in your own life. Armed with this information and tuning into your inner awareness, you can consciously choose to transform the routine that the cue triggers, shifting an unhealthy pattern into one that supports your highest good. You can also use what you learn about these three components of a habit to create powerful new habits that contribute to your well-being.  

For example, I've shared my own plan for healthy hydration here on the blog. I've made this a habit, with the cue of being in my kitchen in the morning, the routine of preparing my day's drinks all at once, and the reward of feeling a greater sense of well-being, with fewer headaches, improved bowel regularity, and increased mental altertness as a result of being well-hydrated. I've also made it a habit to have my own acupuncture treatments at a particular day and time each month, by scheduling those sessions regularly with my own acupuncturist. Now when I'm scheduling appointments for the coming quarter (the cue), I make sure my acupuncture appointment is booked for the first Thursday of every month (the routine). I anticipate the upcoming treatment and make sure to get to my appointment on that day.  Afterwards, I feel the improvement in my physical and mental functioning (the reward), and look forward to going back again the following month.  I used to do this with my weekly acupuncture treatments when I was recovering from multiple health challenges.  If you'd like to create your own monthly or weekly self-care routine with me, call 541.326.8952 and we can schedule appointments out as far into the future as you'd like, to allow the habit to take root.

If you feel inspired to read this book so you can use even more of its wisdom in your daily life, click on the image above or the LINK HERE to get your own copy. If you're like me and find it easier to incorporate audiobooks into your life (I have cultivated a habit of listening to an audiobook every time I commute!), use THIS LINK to get the audiobook version. I'd love to hear in the comments below what habits you would like to create for yourself, or what habits you'd like to transform. 


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Stay Hydrated, Be Healthy

Here in the Rogue Valley, things are starting to heat up as we move in to summer, and now is the time to make a plan for staying hydrated in the months ahead.  Taking in enough fluid cleans out our internal systems as a robust blood supply flows throughout the hydrated body, removing toxins and getting essential nutrients where they need to go.  Good hydration can help us avoid or reduce headaches, poor digestion, joint pain, muscle soreness, constipation, and a host of skin complaints from the unattractive to the uncomfortable, as the skin attempts to let out the toxins that don't get flushed out properly when we’re dehydrated. In fact, I could probably fill up the rest of this post just listing all the benefits of staying hydrated!  Most of us know we need to get enough to drink, but many of us struggle to make good hydration a part of our daily routine.  To that end, I want to introduce you to a simple yet powerful daily practice that has helped me boost my own intake of refreshing and replenishing fluids.

This picture shows a tray of beverages I’ve prepared for myself first thing in the morning.  Once this is done, I have everything I need to keep hydrated throughout the day, including the visual reminder of these enticing beverages just waiting to be sipped!  If I’m heading out for a day in the office or another excursion, all these lovely drinks get poured into jars and closed tightly and placed in a portable cooler to come with me on my daily travels.  As with so many things in health and life, this preparation and up-front investment of time pays off many times over. I feel better when I’m sipping my drinks throughout the day, and I never have to resort to a less nourishing beverage choice in a moment of extreme thirst while I’m out and about.  Give it a try for yourself and see how much better you feel!  Some ideas for what you can use to fill your mugs and cups:

Pure Water (with additions):  Fresh spring water, free from chlorine and other chemicals is best. If you are using water purified through reverse osmosis (RO), remember that additional minerals need to be added back, as minerals are filtered out along with the toxins in the reverse osmosis process. I’ve encountered folks who tell me that they don’t like water, and I encourage them to add something to the plain water to make it more appealing to them: a spritz of lemon, a few ounces of juice or kombucha, even a pinch of sea salt can make water more appealing to some while adding trace minerals – try it!  On my beverage table, in the glass on the upper left at about 10 o’clock, I have a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon (use Meyer lemons for the most sweet and deliciously lemony taste) and a pinch of sea salt, which is how I typically start my day.  The fresh lemon juice is a detoxifier, and the warm water helps to start the day with a healthy bowel movement.  Many folks underestimate how potent fresh lemon juice can be in their body. Start with less lemon juice initially if you're feeling weak or are on your menstrual cycle, for example, as the power of this seemingly innocent addition of lemon juice can actually be quite detoxifying.  Add some whey to this drink, and you’ll get a simplified version of the quick sports drink described on page 595 of Nourishing Traditions, a great option for those who will be out working and sweating under the summer sun.  Notice that I prefer a smaller glass of more potent lemon water which I consume pretty fast with a straw before rinsing my mouth with plain water directly after.  This is to prevent the erosion of the enamel coating on my teeth.  In the glass mug in the picture, I have two ounces of kombucha (fermented tea) mixed with my water, which I find entices me more than if I chose plain water alone. 

Bone Broth: In a place of honor at 12 o’clock is my mug of homemade bone broth.  You can read more about this superfood (superdrink?!) HERE on my blog, where you can learn how to make it yourself, or buy it from Rogue Valley’s own Bare Bones Broth HERE.  Bone broth is both nourishing and hydrating, and I miss it when I don't include it! Sometimes my bone broth is simply incorporated into the foods I eat throughout the day instead of seperately in a broth.  I often add a scoop of deliciously nourishing fat to my mug (ghee or butter are my favorites, though coconut oil is preferred by many), particularly if I need an extra brain or energy boost, like when I'm spending my day helping back to back patients or will be doing physical labor on the farm.  Some patients refer to this as bone broth tea and though there's no actual tea in it, I appreciate the name said with affection for this healing mug of broth.  I especially encourage you to try incorporating this new bone broth tea habit if you struggle with any digestive issues.  Think 'balm on a wound' for soothing inflammed mucosal tissue in your gut.  Other great additions include quality sea salt (to taste) to increase mineralization and organic tumeric powder to reduce inflammation. 

Probiotic Fermented Beverages:  This can be a great alternative for those who like the fizz of soda but want to make a better choice than adding all that sugar to their bodies. There are now many brands of kombucha (fermented tea) available in a variety of flavors, so keep trying even if you don’t like the first one (or 5!) you taste.  Kevita brand probiotic drinks also offer a variety of fizzy, flavorful options. I prefer the Lemon Ginger flavor, as it does not contain stevia and to me tastes more delicious than some of their other flavors.  Stevia is an herb that provides a sweet flavor to drinks and foods, but some folks' taste buds (mine included) register it as bitter, sickeningly sweet, and/or simply unappealing.  You can also take the plunge and start fermenting your own beverages at home, as I have taught my patients and class participants. 

Herbal Infusions:  The blue mug at 3 o’clock in the picture contains an herbal tea – which doesn’t really have any black or green tea leaves in it, thus the term “infusion” rather than “tea.” An actual cup of black or green tea can have its place in your routine, but remember that caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee and many sodas will actually act as a diuretic, causing you to urinate out more fluid than you take in, definitely NOT contributing to good hydration.  Thus, a caffeine-free herbal infusion is a great choice.  There are so many options to choose from and I love to get the medicinal benefit of healing herbs with my daily cup of tea.  In the morning, I might make a tulsi tea for adrenal support in times of high stress, or some pau de arco brew if I’m feeling a microbial imbalance.  In the evening, choose a lavender and chamomile brew to help you relax and get ready for sleep at least an hour and a half before bed, so it doesn’t keep you up at night evacuating your bladder in the bathroom.  Experiment with herbs that taste good and that can provide you with some benefits beyond flavor and hydration.  If you are buying bagged teas from the store, beware!  Many have flavoring added that often times contains soy, so make sure to read the labels and ensure that you’re getting just the good herbs. Once you discover what you prefer and benefit from most, purchasing in bulk may be a good money saving option.

Coffee Alternatives:  The little cup of brown liquid on the left of the picture is Dandy Blend.  You can read more about the benefits of Dandy Blend HERE, and find some tasty options for how to make it HERE.  As I’ve mentioned, coffee is NOT the right choice for good hydration, and because it is hard on the liver, it won’t provide the same detoxifying effects as other more nourishing fluids. 

Smoothies:  A meal and a drink all in one!  

Diluted Fruit and Vegetable Juices:  There are many benefits we can get from eating whole fruits and vegetables that we do not get when we juice them. Juice can be a part of a healthy day’s worth of beverages, however, if it is freshly made from local, organic, low sugar produce, with just enough sweetness from fruits or sweet vegetables (carrot, beet) for palatability. 

Finally, a note about temperature:  I recommend that folks drink their beverages warm or at room temperature.  On hot days, icy beverages may sound good, but the body has extra work to do to bring cold liquids up to a temperature that the body can then digest. It is best to reduce the amount of work the body has to do, especially for people who have sensitive stomachs, poor digestion, or who experience bloating, stomach cramps, or other uncomfortable gut symptoms.  In Florida growing up, I drank sweetened iced beverages all the time (sweet tea and sodas - ugh!), and am now convinced that these habits were a major contributor to the irritable bowel syndrome and gut challenges I developed and spent so many years recovering from. These habits contributed to the feelings of heaviness and fatigue and congestion in the abdomen, caused by what we refer to in Chinese medicine as “spleen qi (energy) deficiency" and "spleen qi (energy) stagnation,” that can affect the whole body. 

Support your body by drinking room-temperature beverages with no caffeine and minimal sugars throughout the day to stay happy, healthy and hydrated! Please leave a comment about hydrating beverges you enjoy.

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