Individual Cheeseless Margherita-Style Pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

This colorful vegetable pizza is quick to prepare and filled with flavor. Preheat conventional or toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while assembling. Begin with Naan or unleavened flat bread. This recipe would be vegan if not for the possible ingredients used in Naan. Our naan is local but contains “DATEM”, which is an acronym for bread conditioners often containing animal ingredients.
Coat the bread of choice with just enough tomato sauce so as not to become soggy. Pesto is an excellent alternative!

Sauce covered bread.

Sauce covered bread.

Heap a generous portion of sautéed vegetables on top. I often choose the same selection of easy to come by garden veggies because I like them. These veggies were previously prepared and seasoned with intention for future entrees, like this one.

Add thick tomato slices or small wedges. Heirloom varieties, like this Black Krim, are known for their meaty texture, therefore; withstand heat well. Heirloom varieties contain higher levels of effective lycopene antioxidants, demonstrating a reduction of blood platelet aggregation. Our tomatoes were not ripening in the cool summer nights so I brought them indoors to save them from both animals and the elements, but only after a hint of color first appeared. This is the formation of lycopene, which continues to develop from the inside out.

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Garnish with fresh basil to bring forth the flavor of these mouthwatering tomatoes.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Finally, grind black pepper overall to taste. We use a Turkish coffee grinder as our pepper mill, for a fine dusting of a tri-color blend.

Grind pepper blend to taste

Grind pepper blend to taste

Bake briefly at 400 degrees F directly on top oven rack for just a few minutes. The finished product will be hot all the way through and the bread becomes slightly crisp while remaining flexible. Try different sauces and toppings to suit your individual palate and needs, because it’s all YOURS.

Now that I have fed myself, I will go feed the tomatoes. They are still growing!

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Savory summer strawberry herb vinaigrette

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Salad dressing recipe best on bed of mixed greens, walnuts and fresh strawberry halves

This surprising, zesty dressing brightens salads and stimulates the senses.  A versatile dressing or marinade, mere modifications change from a tart version to a sweeter, savory sauce that can stand up to poultry, game and some fish.  This recipe was developed to satisfy recent cravings for homegrown ingredients plucked fresh from the garden.

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Recommended fresh ingredients

  • ½ C. rice bran oil
  • 1/3 C. apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar, or fresh key lime juice
  • 1 ½ -2 C. washed strawberries
  • 1Tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/8 C. fresh basil leaves (cinnamon basil works well)
  • 1/8 C. fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp. “Reunion Pink” peppercorns
  • Dash of “Penzey’s Baking Spice” or fresh ground cinnamon for depth.

Add all ingredients simultaneously and pulse or blend on high for 10-15 seconds

These fresh, whole foods and savory herbs offer antimicrobial properties and contain water soluble vitamins addressing several common conditions faced today.  Some may argue that an oil-free diet must be maintained when considering cardiovascular conditions.  Others proclaim fermented foods, like vinegars, are detrimental.  In moderation, this preparation is a condiment to enhance flavors, not intended as a meal.  Rice bran oil acts as a nutraceutical, featuring tocotrienols that share a similar tocopherol chemical structure belonging “…to the vitamin E family and are powerful natural antioxidants (Tomeo et al., 1995).”

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Strawberry blossoms

Strawberries are naturally abundant and refreshing during the late spring and summer months.   An effective antioxidant reducing blood pressure, strawberries are high in vitamin C and fortify blood due to iron content.  Strawberries (and apple cider vinegar) contain pectin that reduces painful arthritic inflammation by eliminating uric acid accumulation in joints, causing the painful crystallization of synovial fluid.  Strawberries are a naturally sweet and satisfying fibrous food source.  Allergic reactions to strawberries may be life threatening so take extreme caution.

What is it all about?

These past two calendar years have taken me on another journey with an added dimension, during which time I experienced exaggerated mood swings that proved to be equally challenging to those around me.  Someone close to me questioned my behavior and even got me thinking about bi-polar disorder and the many who have, or have not yet, been diagnosed.

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Stress cofactors
Microsoft clip art

Addressing those uncomfortable perimenopausal symptoms successfully with indole-3-carbinol, most notably elevates energy level.  With all the added energy, my overall strength and mood improved allowing me to really enjoy participating in life for the first time I could remember during my adulthood. Certainly this reflection of energy is contrary to my consistent tendency to retreat.  This got me thinking back throughout my life of living with Crohn’s disease.  Crohn’s is a chronic inflammation triggering the immune system to respond to perceived infection.  When our bodies are constantly fighting infection from whatever source, our energy is drained; in constant pain and/or discomfort and often febrile, causing us to feel irritable and impatient.  Compound these factors with concurring hormonal imbalances brought upon by menopause, PMS, puberty and a host of other biochemical changes we experience as human beings.  A vicious cycle of stress inducing illness not only results from such insults to our systems, but contributes to somewhat erratic behavior as well.

“Neurotransmitter activity is intimately connected with hormonal activity, so any disruption can induce depression in the long term.” 

The endocrine system produces hormones that drive the biofeedback system in the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary axis. Adaptogenic herbs upregulate hormones reducing stress related effects of cortisol.  Essential conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to bioavailable T3 (triiodothyronine) can be accomplished with fat soluble vitamins, B12 and necessary minerals.

“…discovery of its antiviral effect on Borna disease virus (BDV), which is hypothesized to be an etiopathogenetic factor in subtypes of affective disorders.”

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Indole-3-carbinol I3C molecular model
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Whole grains and foods containing vitamin B complex, particularly B12, Mg, and Zn help reduce anxiety.  Tryptophan in bananas affects neurotransmitters like serotonin.  Dark chocolate, without added milk byproducts and sugar, reduces the release of cortisol hormones responsible for potentiating stress and altered moods.

Why are we so quick to judge?  The first inclination both physiologically and psychologically is “fight or flight”.  Whether it is conscious or subconscious, we fear contagion.  We witness something different, askew; and we question what we recognize as being out of the ordinary.  When our hormonal imbalance impacts our outward behavior(s), we are among the last to recognize it ourselves.  I can remember my Grandmothers being the first to make excuses on our behalf as children when being scolded for acting out, they would say: “Maybe they’re coming down with something”.  Wise words we should borrow to express our compassion for others during this day and age of dis-ease.

Botanical witch hazel extraction – traditional complexion renewal

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Botanical Witch Hazel Extraction
‘Biochemical Alchemy’ label

The witch hazel plant has quite a pedigree, offering healing properties as one of a number of its multiple uses.  I have been a fan of witch hazel for decades, housed in my medicine cabinet as a staple, and as a foundation for other preparations such as this “Botanical Complexion Topical”. 

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Dried florals and botanicals from my garden

Maintaining a growing garden leaves me susceptible to insect bites and nettle stings.  I also prefer glove-free gardening and often stick myself on rose thorns, subjecting my skin to oxalates emitted from tomato’s protective glandular trichomes in addition to other prickers and brambles.  Goddess only knows what microscopic goodies get under my finger nails and may be transmitted transdermally.  The bright afternoon sun aids in the synthesis of Vitamin D3 and feels so good on my face, but irritates the Rosacea condition I have also been treating for 20 years. Providentially, witch hazel aids all these conditions. 

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“Botanical Complexion Topical”

This latest incarnation of my botanical toner is suggestive of The Mountain Rose Blog‘s recent recipe.  I extracted a select combination of plant parts I have grown, dried, collected and prefer for fragrance and pH rebalancing.  Most of my food and preparations are intuitive blends I have practiced repeatedly over the years.  This forgiving process welcomes you to invent your own.

  1. Gather your chosen ingredients.  The current batch contains varietals of the following:
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    Measured herbal ingredients

Handful of rose petals

2 Tbsp. Rosemary

1 Tbsp. Comfrey Leaf

1 Tsp. Peppermint leaf

20 or so Lavender Wands

Small Sage bundle

1-2 Dried Persimmon slices

1-2 tsp. Lemon Thyme

1 tsp. Basil

6 gtt. (drops) Orange Extract if no fresh orange oil is available and…

86% double distilled Witch Hazel

*Overall amounts depend upon container size.

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Dried contents

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Liquid infusion in process

Put all ingredients into a glass jar.  Fill with witch hazel ensuring herbs are immersed, allowing room for expansion.  Add liquid extracts.  Seal with a tight lid and put in a temperate location out of direct light for a minimum of a fortnight.  Gently tilt jar daily mixing contents, returning to its undisturbed location.

  1. Strain extraction initially through a sieve.
  2. Allow contents to settle then re-strain through an unbleached coffee filter or fine cotton cloth.
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    Initial straining

  3. Transfer to a glass spritzer bottle or keep stored in sealed jar, applying to skin with a glass eyedropper, so as not to contaminate contents.  Keeps well and yields enough to be shared.  This fruity, refreshing toner regenerates dermal elasticity and stimulates the senses while promoting healing on a cellular level. 

    * The human body is in a constant state of flux so bear in mind that as individuals, we each have unique responses to products at different times.  Use with care.

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    Infused claret product

More gleanings from the garden

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Pansies at Dawn

I was intimidated, rather downright pressured into growing my patio garden again.  Work and other commitments have kept me from my much needed therapy.  The elder women in the neighborhood were having yet another garage sale.  This always attracts the attention of other neighbors who make themselves known with dog introductions and re-introductions, gesturing where they live.  Nobody even recognizes me when taken out of the context of my garden.  “Oh, you’re the one with all of the beautiful flowers” they ascertain.

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Snapdragons

I listened to the Ladies’ accolades with joy and pride.  The polite introductions rally into conversations, quickly becoming a chorus of collective scolding I haven’t heard since childhood. “The best boat is your friend’s boat “applies here.  I nodded in shame from across the street apologizing for my “Morticia Addams” style collection of dusty ceramic pots and barren window boxes.  They prattled on, eventually acknowledging the time and effort I spend expressing my passion in a manner that delivers a similar sense of satisfaction.

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Portulaca Inclined Window Boxes

The afternoon sun succumbs to a cooler, more tolerable time to dig in the dirt.  I let the days pass and had a responsibility to the folks who have shared in the sheer delight of all the life and beauty a garden brings.  I put everything aside and set out to discover a new nursery nearby able to supply my needs.  I’m like a kid in a candy store, well, in my case a bakery, high from the sugar rush of colors I equate with the floral festooned frosted Hough Bakery cakes commemorating every special occasion.

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Pink and Purple Portulaca

Armed with my arsenal of healing herbs and fragrant flowers, my affect immediately changes.  My husband breathes a sigh of relief as I flit about the patio performing my ritualistic dance.  “You’re in your habitat” he confirms.  This is my necessary prescription – Ga (gardening) is my element.

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Rosemary on Guard at Gate

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Sage Wisdom

Each year I am faced with the same considerations depending upon which plants return, what I may need to replace, what offers privacy and how much food I can grow.  Our garden is a balance of containers and ground, annuals and perennials, herbs and flowers, trees and shrubs.  I have successfully germinated from seed and nursed trees, planted, transplanted, shared and purchased.  Like our neighborhood, our patio reflects a similar cross section of variety and local “color”, adding dimension during the past decade.

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Lavender Rhododendron

My modest garden literally transforms into a living tapestry I sometimes entertain the notion of replicating on the concrete pad beneath.  The plants are a conversation piece, an excuse to say hello and exchange for helpful tips. The stage is being set for growth where we cultivate friendships and kinships.  Acquaintances and seasons alike mature, yielding the abundance of the first harvest signaling the traditional sharing of recipes and preparation of “boomerang foods”.  The dishes given return filled with cherished, home crafted meals that nourish our hearts.

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Pink Lipstick Sweetheart Rose

My friend recently forwarded an inquiry she had made to the National Wildlife Federation regarding a “backyard habitat”.  Registering your backyard as a wildlife habitat promotes generations of plants and species indigenous to the specified area.  My parents registered their yard after accepting stewardship of a few acres of wooded ravine and apple trees of nearly 40 years.  We live near the old homestead and have nurtured a wildlife community of our own.  We have repeatedly attracted humming birds and hummingbird bumblebee moths.  Not sure if it is due to the frequency of our themed purple patio or our proximity to a nuclear power plant – which also emits a frequency of its glowing own.  In all seriousness, we don’t live close.  I still react to an image that sticks in my mind of a two inch wasp I once saw in that area.

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Hovering Purple Petunias

All of these thoughts and activities circulate the blood and stimulate the senses with a therapeutic effect.  The individual botanical notes calm our nerves whilst awakening our spirit.  We participate in life’s never-ending cycle to be one with the world.

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Perpetual Purple Verbena

The beloved Hibiscus tree is still hibernating.  The Oleander now stands in its stead.  I am hoping it sets an example for the Hibiscus from its garage window view.  We are ALL keeping our fingers crossed.

Hibiscus in Full Bloom

Hibiscus in Full Bloom

“Alsace-Mediterraneo” infused Veggie Quiche

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Full moon pie

It has been many moons since I have baked a quiche.  Not ever having been especially fond of cooking, quiches were easy, satisfying and the food du jour, soon becoming a staple in our early home together.  I actually phoned my now very-grown-daughter for tips preparing and baking quiche so as to ensure a successful outcome.   Recently logging onto the “Penzey’s Spice” Facebook group page inspired me with a photo of an asparagus quiche wafting across my screen.  I have been on a serious asparagus bender lately and wanting to take full advantage of this remarkable spring cleansing food, I am rejuvenated by modifying this quiche recipe.

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Artisanal recipes

Yes, I am promoting and consuming the creamy-cheesy-vegetable richness of this decadent delight with Crohn’s disease!  Whaaaaaa?  I know, right?  Well, there is a disclaimer.  When something is worth it, there is usually a disclaimer.  First and foremost: everything in moderation.  As I mentioned at the top of this manuscript, It has been many moons, precisely however many moons there are in a quarter of a century.

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Fresh basil

HOLY BASIL BATMAN the smell is absolutely intoxicating.  I can taste the air in anticipation of this practically illegal prescription.  The scent of the smoked Gouda melding with the tri-pepper blend and Herbes de Provence are enough to make me trip.  This is no flashback, my friend, this is a newly discovered way of eating what I want while being nutritionally beneficial AND taste beyond belief!  Now that I have tantalized your taste buds, I will share the culinary chemistry, outlining each wholesome ingredient working in concert with one another.

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“Proper food combining”

Proper food combining:  the theory behind this practice is what allows me to consume a multitude of foods while maintaining a healthful lifestyle with Crohn’s.   Quiche is mostly about all protein (meats) cheese and eggs. This is a crustless quiche recipe, therefore; the proteins are not neutralized by starches and breads creating an indigestible bolus that prohibits efficient absorption.

Quality matters:  The quality of all ingredients is essential to ensure freshness and patency.  Pasture raised eggs are the most wholesome and nutrient rich, making them more bioavailable.  Like eggs, dairy from local farms is not only fresh, but animal friendly, meaning the animal byproducts are NOT subjected to synthesized hormones and antibiotics that are dumped into the environment and ultimately consumed by everyone, clearly proving “less is more”.   Grass-fed organic cows produce milk that is unparalleled to anything most of us have ever experienced since WWII.  We still get a little wonky with respect to pasteurization in the U.S., however; if you are fortunate enough to know of those with Gentlemen (& Gentlewomen) farms, you may be privileged to enzyme intact foods which do not interfere with the digestive process.  For the rest of us who have compromised GI systems and conditions resulting from impaired digestion, there are digestive enzymes.  Never leave home without.

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Regional grated smoky cheeses

Breaking it down:  The cheese I chose is a sweet, smoked Gouda, melting like butter and broadening flavors with a familiar yet meatless smoky appeal.  Much of the lactic acid is removed during the curd washing process contributing to the characteristic mellow, sweetness.   Traditional cheeses like Lorraine, Emmenthaler, and Gruyere are of a similar quality and part of the globe from where quiche Lorraine originates.  Quiche consisted of meat, cream and egg, ironically featuring local cheeses following WWII.  This recipe is “Alsacienne” because it contains onions.  Onions have remarkable antimicrobial effects and grow readily.  Onions are a preferable vegetable to nightshades containing solanine, which interfere with enzymatic action causing inflammation.  While making French onion soup, I learned caramelizing  diced onion first enhances sweetness.  The heat breaks down the plant cellulose, softening both texture and flavor.  Onions are also a potent contrast to the powerful and pleasant chlorophyll filled asparagus.  This lively spring vegetable spearheads the season with its diuretic cleansing properties.  Lightly steamed prior to baking, asparagus continues to soften in the oven, allowing it to retain its nutritive value.  So far we have the necessary elements that make good food enjoyable; quality, consistency, texture and flavor.

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“Kitchen crusader” homegrown Herbes de Provence

Savory and herbs and everything nice:  There is a lot of leeway when preparing quiche.  I consume vegetables most so I prefer accompanying savory herbs.  This Alsacienne quiche lends itself to the savory “Herbes de Provence” blend, indigenous to the suggested area.  I grow and dry my own varieties of oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram, dill and tarragon, using fresh when abundant and dried from the season before.  I speak of these “kitchen crusader” herbs often having historical and geographical significance from my heritage and for my health!  Whether I enhance or substitute my own, I keep a bulk quantity of the incomparably fresh Penzey’s Herbes de Provence on hand.  Another must-have Penzey’s blend is “California Seasoned Pepper”.  This colorful pepper and herb combination brighten all vegetables as well as the pallet.

The table is set with a ‘d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation’, the gastronomical backdrop behind this quiche.  Now I will serve this scrumptious recipe:

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“Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

“Crust-Free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

v  ½ lb. prepared fresh organic asparagus

v  1 small diced Spanish onion or equivalent in-season sweet Vidalia

v  5 beaten pasture raised eggs

v  8 oz. shredded smoked Gouda or 4 oz. of 2 cheeses each.

v  1/2 C. farm fresh milk & cream

v  1 Tbsp. Mediterranean sea salt capers

v  1Tbsp. Herbes de Provence

v  1 tsp. “Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper” or tri-colored peppercorn blend

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Quiche ingredients

Bring eggs and measured dairy products to room temperature to ensure a puffy omelette-like consistency upon baking.  Gently steam asparagus spears.  Caramelize onion, if desired.  Beat eggs thoroughly, blending grated cheese(s) into the sunny mix.

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“Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne” process

Sprinkle in the herbs and spices of choice.  Line the bottom of a coated quiche dish or large pie plate with vegetables, dotting with the capers.  Pour the silky mixture over the prepared vegetable plate then bake in a preheated 375F oven for 35-40 minutes.

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Quiche is almost ready

Quiche is ready when your senses are imbued by the creamy custard and the surface bubbles with a soft, bronze coating.

I opted for the deep dish pie plate since the eggs rise in a souffle-like fashion.  I also add a dash of fresh ground nutmeg mace, suggesting a subtle sweetness and because it has become my traditional trademark!  Whatever you decide, make it your own and enjoy the process, the product and the gratification.

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Serving “Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

Inside burnout

Depression is an emotional manifestation from “burnout”, but what do we know about the physiological origins?  Let’s take a closer look at cause of burnout from inside…

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Burnout

Here’s what we know… Psychological resistance or failure to accept a task or idea can contribute to physiological burnout. How we feel emotionally manifests what we feel physiologically.  Prolonged biological stress reduces energy overtaxing adrenals while impairing blood pressure & hormone regulation, compromising immune function causing associated disorders involving chronic pain.

Let’s take a closer look… Pathophysiology examines the biosynthesis between the sympathetic-adrenergic-medullary (SAM) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.   ‘Applied Nutritional Science reports’ Dr. Richard L. Shames’ findings:  Over time, hypercortisolemia initiates catabolism leaving us vulnerable to inflammation, asthma, allergies and autoimmune related diseases.

What micronutrients & herbs can do… Micronutrients and herbs have a synergistic effect on our biochemistry promoting the HPA axis for enhanced immune function, vitality and overall well-being.  Vitamin B6 pantothenic acid, a precursor to coenzyme A, potentiates BP and hormone regulation involved in adrenal hormone production.  Additional nutritional support from the bioavailable form of coenzyme Q10 ubiquinol, promotes healthy cellular ATP production (energy powerhouses of the cell) ; “Delivering both essential & accessory nutrients that help provide resistance to oxidative stress and support mitochondrial energy production via oxidative phosphorylation.” 

Adaptogenic herbal formulas mitigate negative physical fatigue brought on by prolonged stress.  Indigenous herbs across Asia have been known for centuries to modulate these systems.  Holy basil, Panax ginseng and the fungus cordyceps reduce anxiety inducing hormones while achieving a restorative level of function.  Ashwagandha, bacopa, and rhodiola rosea increase energy and promote endurance, eliminating fatigue.  Combined with other stress reduction methods, these adaptogenic herbs normalize the physiology by balancing various immunomodulatory activities.

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Restorative herbs

Foods that can restore…Iodine rich algaes like bladderwrack, sea kelp and spirulina in concert with prohormones vitamins A & D, support thyroid synthesis.  Foods high in selenium and zinc minerals further “preserve thyroid integrity.” Coconut oil, wild salmon and pasture raised eggs supplement the body with necessary omega 3 fats with generous sprinklings of Celtic sea salt providing the necessary nutrients to offset “Stress-Induced Dysfunction” we refer to as BURNOUT.