Alumni Spotlight with Leah Jorgensen

Leah Jorgensen

We love to catch up with our alumni and hear about all of the great things they are doing. Recently Lauren had the chance to chat with fellow WNP alumna, Leah Jorgensen. Read on to find out what’s new with Leah! 

What have you been up to since you completed the Nutrition Program last September?

As soon as we graduated, I dove into the winery for my fourth harvest for my wine business.  I worked full-time, 7 days a week for nearly three months to process 15 tons of grapes.  Then, in November, I was approached by a friend who is an LMT and Shamanic healer to share her office space at Ethereal Wellness Boutique in NE Portland.  So, I launched and registered my new business, Strong as Oak Holistic Nutrition, and started building the concept for my practice and my “mindful eating workshops”.  I then began a very home-grown video series on holistic nutrition, covering topics like weight loss, seed cycling for hormone balance, fertility and nutrition, yoga and nutrition, and have invited friends in the wellness community to be guests on my little series.  It’s a lot of fun!


What parallels, connections and/or opportunities do you see between the wine industry and nutrition? How has your education in Wholistic Nutrition influenced your wine making process? Have you been able to fuse both of your passions?

Wine is intrinsically connected with food, both philosophically and physiologically.  There are interesting ways in which I bridge my work in the wine industry and in nutrition.

First, I consider wine to be a food.  It is a special part of a meal, with spiritual, cultural, aesthetic, gastronomic, and health appeal and benefits.  Western medicine has conducted many studies on the benefits of consuming wine, in moderation.  Not only are there antioxidant benefits to wine consumption, that are directly linked to disease prevention, such as heart attack and stroke, but there are also studies showing lifestyle benefits of moderate wine consumption, where moderate drinkers haven been show to not only outlive, but reduce disease, compared to non-drinkers and excessive-drinkers.  Also, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, alcohol is an excellent conduit for channeling specific energetics of food and herbs to the bloodstream.  I have been dappling in making my own Chinese Medicinal Wines at home, and for my practice, and I’m thinking about launching a small label of these healing wines, or elixirs, that can be added to juices, cocktails, or sipped on their own.

As a winemaker who manages fermentations, I pay close attention to the nutrition available to my yeast population to ensure a healthy, steady, and complete fermentation.  I take juice samples to lab to determine levels of yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) prior to the start of fermentation.  YAN is the combination of Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN), ammonia (NH3) and ammonium (NH4+) that is available for the Saccharomyces cervisiae yeast to use during fermentation.  It’s a nutrient.  The fruit I work with is from Southern Oregon, and the YANs are always dangerously low.  It could have something to do with the soils or the climate, but it is related to how much nitrogen the vine is able to take up, and what’s available for help the yeasts metabolism of sugars in the juice.  Because my YANs are always low, I supplement the juice by adding DAP, or, diammonium phosphate, which is a nitrogen additive.  I also add a mix of “superfood” and “trace microesssentials” to supplement the yeasts.  It’s my job to ensure the yeasts are healthy enough to complete fermentation.  Supplementation has been an excellent vehicle for managing healthy, complete fermentations.  This prevents the genesis of off-odors and other flaws derived from suboptimal fermentations, or competition with other microbes, often spoilage bacteria like pedioccocus.  I see myself as a holistic nutritionist for wine yeasts!

Leah Jorgensen: Strong as Oak Nutrition

…And now you’ve started a Wholistic Nutrition practice – seeing clients and teaching classes! Tell us about your practice and your approach to nutrition.

I’m really interested in the psychology of eating – how we eat, when we eat, why we eat, etc.  The Wellspring School introduced me to Marc David, and his book, Nourishing Wisdom, had such an emotional impact on me.  Enough so, that when I am able, I’m going to enroll in his program in the Psychology of Eating.

I began to see mindful eating as the crux of any nutrition issue – whether it’s weight loss, eating while pregnant, digestive disease (Celiac, Crones, Colitis, etc.), diabetes, and so on – nourishment from food starts with the practice of mindful eating – being present and aware, non-judgmental, open and expansive.  I’ve been doing my own personal research on the topic and have outlined a 2-hour workshop that serves as an excellent introduction to working with me on a client basis.  The content works!  People make real connections on how and why they should change – it’s not just because their doctor or spouse told them so!

So, I offer one-on-one client consultation.  My full list of services is available on the Ethereal Wellness Boutique website..

What piece of advice would you have for other recent or soon-to-be graduates contemplating starting a practice of their own?

Go back to what drew you to enroll at The Wellspring School.  What draws you to nutrition?  Why holistic nutrition versus getting a Masters Degree in Dietetics and getting your RD?  Is it your interest in food politics?  Is it your distrust of Western medicine?  Is it because of your love of whole foods and cooking?  Do you have Celiac disease and want more information to help others like you?  Go inward to figure out how exactly you can use your unique gifts and calling to help others.  Then, map out your plan.  Be creative.  Literally create the blue print for the kind of practice you’d like to go to, yourself.  See what happens.  There are lots of great resources out there to help you get started.  I’m planning to join the Holistic Chamber PDX for networking.

Awesome, Leah! Best of luck to you and definitely keep in touch! 

If you are curious about the Wholistic Nutrition Program (WNP) at The Wellspring School, check out WNP Student clinic on Sunday, May 17th. It’s a great way to meet soon-to-graduate students and get some nutritional recommendations. Clinic is donation based.

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