4 Roots of Optimum Wellness

There are four essential parts to being healthy: Diet, Exercise, Sleep & Attitude.

Vitae Elixxir Healing Herbs

A proprietary combination of ten disease-fighting herbs used for more than 40 years and helping thousands of people with serious health issues.

Books by Author & Health Coach Chris Pedersen

In a world of adventure and imagination, kids’ books in print and digital that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

6 Tips to Lose Weight

Don’t count calories—take a serious look at the food you want to eat, then ask, ”Is this something that will give my body good health?”

Friday, June 26, 2015

DIY: Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

DIY Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
Last Christmas our son gave us a package of Madagascar Vanilla Beans he got at Costco. Since I used the last drop of homemade vanilla extract a friend gave us, I thought I'd better make more with the beans our son got us.
DIY Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
This was the easiest thing I've made. We had everything on hand to make the extract:

  • Re-used bottle from vanilla a friend gave us
  • Vanilla beans from our son
  • Vodka from friends who moved out of the country—they gifted us all their liquor
Vodka is the liquor of choice because it has no flavor. But some like to use bourbon, brandy or rum, feeling that it enhances the flavor of the brewing vanilla.

Vanilla Extract
DIY Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
8 oz glass bottle with stopper
7 vanilla beans (package contains about 30)
1 C Vodka, 70 proof/35% alcohol (bourbon, brandy or rum can also be used)

1. Slice the beans lenght-wise and drop into the bottle.
2. Pour the cup of vodka (or liquor of choice) into the bottle making sure the beans are fully submerged.
3. Secure the top tightly and place out of direct sunlight at room temperature.
4. Store for 8 weeks giving it a hearty shake once or twice a week.

Easy peasy lemon squeezie! At the end of 8 weeks you have luscious and delicious vanilla that you made yourself.

What have you done for a DIY home project? Feel free to share your latest with us in the comments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday

Here's a Wisdom Wednesday nugget that should be shared everywhere. How This Family Doctor Lost 75 Pounds Easily Without Portion Control.

This story is very powerful. Not so much because Dr. Lawenda has done a total lifestyle change to get healthy and then dropped 75 pounds in the process. The power comes in the fact that he is a doctor. A doctor practicing conventional medicine until he had his eyes opened through his own life experience. He went from using medicines, procedures and surgeries to recommending his patients adopt a plant-based lifestyle.
"Never once did I imagine that something as simple as changing what I ate, instead of how much I ate, could change my life in such profound ways." Steve Lawenda, MD
Read his story and then share it with your doctor. We are living in a time when we just might begin to make a difference in disease.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kevin Benkowski—Prostate Cancer Survivor Revisited

Kevin Benkowski Prostate Cancer Survivor
The interview with Kevin last month brought questions about what supplements he included in his protocol to address the prostate cancer. Needing to compose the list for himself to take to his doctors, he happily obliged.

But first, "What's going on in the photo?" you ask. During the Integrated Health Conference—Cure to Cancer Summit, Kevin, like myself, was interviewed by Ty Bollinger (shown in the photo with Kevin) for the next edition of the Quest for the Cures... Continues. Ty wanted Kevin to tell his amazing story how he healed his prostate cancer with diet, supplements and lifestyle changes in just three months!

Here is the extensive list of Kevin's supplements, which he continues to take. Please note this is not a recommendation for what to take. Every person should do their own research as Kevin has done. The list is for educational use only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cancer Free! Are You Sure?Kevin also recommended the book Cancer Free! Are You Sure? by Jenny Hrbacek. This book is unlike any other cancer book. It covers the latest tests available, which are far more effective at detecting cancer than conventional diagnosis methods like mammograms, biopsies or PET scans. Read all about the book on the Cancer Free! Are you Sure? website.

If you have more questions for Kevin, he invites you to contact him at the following address: kb[at]intraderma[dot]net.

Thank you, Kevin, for being an advocate for change in how cancer is treated and healed.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interview with Anna Parr—Breast Cancer Survivor

Interview with Anna Parr Breast Cancer Survivor
Here's another wonderful seeker of optimum health I had the pleasure of meeting at the Integrated Health Conference—Cure to Cancer Summit this past March. Like many, Anna dealt with cancer using diet and alternative treatments. Anna's story began before her own as she came along side her sister who had breast cancer and took the conventional treatment route. When Anna found herself with the same diagnosis, she chose differently.

I met Anna in a workshop. She sat next to me typing notes on her laptop. Like most at the conference, we were taking in as much as we could. But it was a bit like drinking from a fire hose—lots of information to digest.

Anna told me she was a chemical engineer, which explained her ferocious note-taking. But she really wanted to do what I do—coach people through the process of healing their cancer with good nutrition and targeted therapies. She really endeared herself to me when she whipped out her reworked schedule (not a small task to accomplish) showing all the talks and workshops by time of day, rather than location. She found their program very confusing and made it right. Yep—my kind a gal!

I know you'll find Anna's story very compelling... and thorough.

How did you learn you had cancer?
Believe it or not I had a clear mammogram only a year and a half before my diagnosis (Oct 2011). In April 2013, my husband discovered a lump in my right breast and alerted me that I should get it checked out. At first I thought that it may have been normal breast tissue that I just could never feel before because I had been losing weight.

I had just returned from Colorado Springs the week before with my sister who was battling breast cancer that had spread to her bones. I was caring for her at the time and was under a tremendous amount of stress. I had a breast exam (4/18/2013) followed by a mammogram and ultrasound (4/19/2013). There was a 1 cm tumor clear as day and three tiny suspicious specks. Since I had just learned the week before how to do a juice fast and cleansing for treating cancer the healthy way, I immediately started my detox. I did not wait for a biopsy before starting the healing journey. I was glad I did too because 10 days into my detox is when I had the biopsy (5/1/2013).

As I'm sure you are aware puncturing a tumor multiple times gives cancer cells a means of escape to spread further. I wanted my body to be stronger and less cancer-friendly before I did such a procedure. Only 10 days into my detox they could not find the suspicious specs that appeared on my first mammogram so they could not biopsy that area. That alone was comforting knowing what I was doing was already moving in the right direction. They did biopsy the 1 centimeter tumor and determined that it was breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma. I got those results Friday May 3, 2013.

What did you think and do following your diagnosis?
I was one of the fortunate few that was already aware of what cancer actually is before being diagnosed myself. My sister already walked the road of conventional medicine which did not do anything at all to heal her condition. Although she had chemo and a double mastectomy, her cancer spread quickly to her bones within the year after her surgery. It was clear to me that conventional medicine did not have the answer.

Fortunately we got connected with a group in Colorado Springs called HealthQuarters who were well aware of things that ARE effective—things that boost your immune system rather than demolish it. I consider myself very fortunate that God saw fit to show me that cancer is NOT some mysterious illness that strikes people at random with no identifiable causes. Because of all of the health tips I was learning, I myself was already planning on making incremental changes to the way I eat and other lifestyle changes. But when I received a cancer diagnosis, the incremental plan turned into the immediate and extreme plan.

I am a mother of three lovely girls and have every intention of being around for their future. I was not going to wait to cut out sugar. I was not going to wait to eat more vegetables and juice and detox and make relationship changes and sleep better and breathe deeply and all those wonderful things. I will admit that although I knew those things were effective, I was still a little afraid because of the stigma that cancer carries along with it. But it just didn't make sense to me that God would teach me all about these wonderful and carefully orchestrated healing mechanisms that are already in place in my body only for them to fail me.

Did you follow any conventional doctor prescribed treatments, if so what were they?
Being what I call "immune system power enlightened," I had a little bit of fun with my doctors. I knew that what I was doing with my detox and my deep breathing and my gratitude journal and my forgiveness journal WAS in fact fighting cancer... Probably more than anything conventional medicine had to offer. But I did still see medical oncologists to hear what they would have to say about my case. Sadly, they all said the same thing.

First of all, they were all nervous that I wasn't rushing to the operating room or the poison center for killing cancer (and good cells). It’s not what they’re used to. They’re used to telling the patient what he/she is going to do – not asking them what they have decided. It was very much like an assembly line – just follow along and don’t ask questions. I could tell that my doctors were NOT used to meeting someone who did not automatically fall in line with what THEY thought I should be doing right away. But I was taking my time because I knew that I was already fighting cancer.

It felt weird to experience firsthand how one-sided and limited conventional treatments really are. Part of me wanted to hear more than just surgery, radiation or chemo - but it didn't surprise me that's really all they have to offer to this day. I was very forthright with the doctors I saw about all of the supplements I was taking and my juice fasting and my deep breathing for oxygen intake and all those things including healthy relationships and emotional healing. The doctors that I saw were really able to do no more than say, "Well, it can't hurt."

I finally found a surgical oncologist who acknowledged the effectiveness of what I was doing more so with his attitude than with his words. He did not pressure me to rush into surgery or anything like that. I did not do chemo or radiation but I did eventually have a lumpectomy five months later. I did not believe that by delaying my surgery I delayed my healing because I believed strongly and still do that healing begins with repairing your immune system.

For me I believe that spiritual agony and emotional dysfunction were huge contributors to the breakdown of my immune system. So I focused a lot of my energy on those areas and it was hard work. I believe that more often than not emotional healing can be harder than cutting out sugar or eating more raw veggies. All the while the tumor in my breast went from hard like a marble too "mushy."
Interesting side-note... when my sister was doing chemo the year before and the tumor in her breast went from hard to "mushy," the doctors boldly proclaimed that it was a sure sign that "it's working"—the tumor is responding positively to the chemo treatments!! I was in the doctors office with my sister and heard them say that to her myself. There were no lab tests or anything like that done to prove the tumor was responding. It just got "mushy." You could clearly feel the difference in the tumor, which they proclaimed as a positive response to treatment. But when I was doing my detox and taking steps for emotional healing, the tumor in my breast got "mushy" too... the doctors were silent. They could not conclude anything at all about that because I was not undergoing any medical treatments. Hhhmmmm... 
Anyway, I was confident that my healing steps were working—but I still thought that removing a few billion cancer cells from my breast might help in the battle. So I finally had a lumpectomy later that year to remove that mushy and dying tumor (Sept 2013). My surgical oncologist was also recommending I take Tamoxifen because he said the side effects are less severe for premenopausal women. Considering the fact that it does—in some way—mess with your hormones, I saw no need to go that route because it seemed to work against the philosophy that every choice I make should STRENGTHEN my immune system—not compromise it. Cancer doesn't stand a chance against a fully functional immune system. 

I followed up with an MRI and later with an ultrasound because those are the only screening methods accepted by conventional medical care. At the Intergrative Health Conference in San Diego, I had thermography done on my torso which showed no abnormal patterns in my breast tissue (woohooo!!), but [thermography] is not currently prescribed by conventional doctors that I know of—especially in Chicago.

I know I am cancer free because I am still living a healthy lifestyle and because there is nothing forming in my breasts, but I am still searching for better cancer screening options that are currently not available with conventional medicine.

What alternative treatments did you incorporate into your healing journey? Did you visit a particular alternative or integrated health clinic for treatment? 
Finding an integrated health clinic in the Chicago area is extremely difficult. Prior to my diagnosis, I traveled to Colorado Springs with my sister to attend what's called a "lodge program" at HealthQuarters. The program they teach was the basis for the detox (juice fast) I did when I received my own diagnosis. It included deep breathing, gratitude and forgiveness journals, coffee enemas, juicing, and supplementation. I have a naturopathic doctor that tests me for weaknesses and recommends supplements as needed. I do not recommend figuring out supplements on your own.

The part of my "non-conventional" treatments that I believe made all the difference in my healing journey was the emotional healing. I received personal counsel on a regular basis from two close friends and mentors. They helped me through extremely difficult changes in relationships and self-realizations. Changing how you relate to the people you love—for the better—was the most difficult thing I had to do, especially when it's not well received by those you love. I encourage those who have received a cancer diagnosis to ALWAYS look at the impact emotional health has on your healing journey because it can make all the difference in the world. Neglecting emotional health can truly sabotage anyone's healing regimen.

Are there books or websites you found particularly helpful that you can list for us?
Oddly enough the first book I read is the one I still love the most and the first time I read it was before I even had a cancer diagnosis myself. It's called The Cancer Battle Plan by Anne Frahm. I like it because it's very straightforward, easy to remember and it lays out a great strategy for regaining your health.

Another book that helped me immediately after my diagnosis was the famous Beating Cancer With Nutrition by Patrick Quillan.

Today my favorite website help is www.TrulyHeal.com. They have a free online cancer guide that gives you a plethora of information on several different categories. Their free documentary is also very good. What I particularly appreciate is their emphasis on attitude, life outlook and emotional health as an integral part of the healing journey. This often gets missed in the search for the right diet, supplements and treatments.

Interview with Anna Parr Breast Cancer Survivor
Did your cancer heal? What do you attribute your healing to (diet, herbs, alternative therapies, attitude, exercise, sleep)?
Yes. Just as expected, by making the changes that I made, God's perfect design for healing (AKA my immune system) slowly repaired and began to work as it should. In general, I believe that everything you do to strengthen your body's healing mechanism contributes to your healing. Knowing that makes it difficult to discern what part made the biggest difference. However, I presume the most effective part of your healing would be reversing what you believe is making you sick the most.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, I recommend looking at your life and being honest about what could be making you sick. Ask yourself what area in your life is lacking the most attention and care? I think the patient knows more than the doctor what isn't right in their lives. It could be stress. It could be loneliness. You may be an emotionally healthy person who simply eats garbage!

The primary cause of cancer is not the same for everyone. For me, I believe the largest factor that caused a breakdown in my immune system was spiritual agony and emotional stress. I spent a year and a half not being able to trust God after my sister was diagnosed with cancer. It's a long story how, but God met me where I was and gave me a faith I never had before—go figure—on the day I had a troublesome mammogram. A spiritual burden was lifted from me that day and I was no longer in spiritual agony.

The spiritual unrest and chronic emotional stress due to unhealthy relationships were clear contributors to my illness. So I believe the emotional healing and God given faith were the primary contributors to my healing. I wasn't going to take any chances, so I was sure to do anything else I could to repair my broken down immune system that was clearly not strong enough to keep cancer at bay. To list a few:
  • Daily coffee enemas
  • LOTS of juicing
  • Cutting out sugar
  • Continued exercise
  • Breathing deeply (2-3 times per day)
  • Massage therapy
Looking back what would you do differently?
If I were to do it all over again I would try to be less anxious about doing EVERYTHING I learned all at once. I did feel a bit anxious about not having done IR saunas or hyperbaric chambers or not adding curcumin and other supplements, etc.

Looking back I recommend just breathing easy and having confidence that the diet and lifestyle changes you are making WILL work for the better. You can always add to your regimen in due time. I recently added acupuncture and IR sauna treatments—but that’s only after I got used to all the supplements and coffee enemas.

I also have plans to do colonics which I've never done before. Some day I'll increase my raw food intake with a dehydrator. But not yet. One thing at a time. I know now that I don't have to do it ALL right away.

Do you have thoughts on why you had cancer?
Yes. I believe that my body was already loaded with toxins because I had never done any kind of detoxing and anyone who lives in this country and eats the standard American diet (SAD) is loaded with toxins. I exercised regularly, but my diet was low in nutrients because most of what I ate was cooked foods and I definitely had more than my share of sugary sweets. That just laid the groundwork for a breakdown of my immune system.

I believe—for me—that the breakdown came as a result of chronic emotional stress and an inability to trust God as I described in my previous answers. Spiritual unrest (lack of peace) or unresolved emotional issues can shut down your immune system. I think that was definitely the case for me.

Are there things you continue to do? What are they?
Yes. Pretty much every change I made in life is permanent. The things I started to do to rebuild my health are the things I still do to keep my health
  • Exercise gratitude and forgiveness
  • Regular checks with naturopath for supplement schedule (I go to Trinity Holistic Health Center)
  • Acupuncture for stress reduction (Deerfield Community Acupuncture is my favorite)
  • Daily coffee enemas for detoxing
  • Juicing especially after a workout (green juice and carrot juice)
  • High intensity training (I LOVE working out to dance music with Dzika Fitness in Chicago)
  • Deep breathing
The things I started to do to rebuild my health are the things I still do to keep my health. ~ Anna Parr
What words of comfort or wisdom do you have for those facing a cancer diagnosis?
Your body has a perfectly designed healing mechanism that DOES work when you give it what it needs to function properly. If you have a cancer diagnosis, conventional medicine will treat you like you've been given a death sentence with X number of years to live and—only if you're lucky—you might beat the odds. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

The truth is, nothing fights cancer better than your own immune system. Cancer is an invitation (or mandate if you will) to change—and change for the better. Cancer is reversible if and only if you accept that invitation and make the changes your immune system needs to fight cancer and win. If you can overcome the common belief that cancer is random and untreatable apart from conventional medicine, then you CAN beat cancer.

I view cancer as a sign that the body has BEEN in need of help, but we just weren’t listening. It whispers, “I need better sleep,” “that meal didn’t go well,” “I need more nutrients,” “please stop overloading me with stress,”… in small ways, it’s telling us that we need to take better care of ourselves, but we’re usually not listening.

Cancer is when our body stops whispering and starts screaming, “Stop putting off better choices for your health. The time for change is NOW!” Many cancer survivors like myself view cancer as the best thing that ever happened to them because it ushered in long awaited healthy changes for the better—and now, we’re healthier than we’ve ever been in our lives. I am healthier now as a 39-year-old woman than I was as a 19-year-old girl!!

I urge you to reject the common view of cancer as a death sentence—instead, let cancer be a wake up call for better health.

Mmmmmm! Washed with the wise and refreshing words of someone who knows firsthand how it feels to be healed.

Thank you, Anna. I know readers have been truly blessed with what you've shared.

Are there any questions you might have for Anna?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Quinoa Chili Recipe

Quinoa Chili Recipe
Seems I'm on a quinoa kick lately. But then it's versatile, delicious and so good for you. My latest quinoa recipe is inspired by one I saw at the 1/2 Marathon my husband ran last month in Nashville. Of course I had to go with him and we did a lot of fun things.

We have friends who joined the exodus from California and moved to Nashville (Franklin actually) three years ago. They've had an open invitation to come stay, with a promise to show us around. We started out in Memphis with a visit to Graceland. Then on to Nashville for the 1/2 marathon, the Franklin countryside, the honky tonks of Broadway and the Ryman Auditorium. And let's not forget tea at the Frothy Monkey, touring Dave Ramsey's headquarters, seeing Brad Paisley up close and personal backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and a road trip to Lexington to see horse farms and historical bourbon distilleries. We had a blast!
Quinoa Chili Recipe
Back to the chili.

This is a simple recipe that you can pull together in a pinch. I did not have green peppers, but I had zucchini's so that's what I used. Be creative. Don't be afraid to experiment.

It's a little early for fresh corn so you'll be using frozen until summer. I always keep some in my freezer to throw into dishes I'm preparing.

A couple notes about the spices: sumac and chili powder. I've seen sumac in various recipes, but was never able to find any. Then I found some at Trader Joe's in a four-pack spice mix. Now I see why it's so liked. It's got a sweet and sour flavor on my taste buds. I hope you can find some. Let me know what you think.

As far as the chili powder, start with just 1/4 teaspoon, then taste. Chili can so easily overwhelm a recipe—so take care.

Quinoa Chili

from Chris Pedersen
Quinoa Chili Recipe
yield 6-8 servings

category Main Course
cuisine Vegan

1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper or zuchinni, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
2 ears corn or 1-10 oz pkg of orgainc frozen corn
1 C organic vegetable broth
1/2 C rinsed quinoa
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 15 oz cans of organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can of organic diced tomatoes
1/2 -1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp sumac
1 lime, optional

1. If using fresh corn, cut corn from the cob (about 1 1/2 C).
2. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in medium sauce pan. Add quinoa—stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer until water is absorbed (12-15 mintues).
3. While quinoa cooks, preheat large stock pot on medium-high then add olive oil and stir in peppers or zuchinni, corn and garlic. Cook while stiring 4-5 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in beans, tomatoes and seasoning. Add quinoa and stir. Cook for 20 minutes to heat through.
5. Stir in cilantro and serve with a wedge of lime (optional).

If your prefer a soupier chili, you can add a can of tomato sauce. The quinoa makes this chili a lighter version of chili—perfect for spring or summer. Plan on making this when you can get fresh corn.

Do you eat soups all year? What are your favorite soups for summer?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday

Onion skins are the most nutritious part of the onion. Yup! That's right! Add them to soup stocks to enrich the broth with flavors and nutrients. Strain the skins from the broth with the other ingredients you make the broth from. You can also put the skins in cheese cloth, netted bag or tea ball to enhance a soup. Now I'm saving the onion skins to boost my soups rather than throw them away.

Source: Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson