Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?

Now that I shared what leaky gut is and how it starts, I’m excited to share my top tips for nourishing your gut! If you’re already feeling nervous or annoyed that I’m going to share a long to-do list that will overwhelm you, scroll down to Tip #4, then come back up to the top and be encouraged! Learning to take care of your gut is such a rewarding process.

First things first – because I love all things food, my inclination is to start there. But that may be backwards.

See, if you don’t take care of external triggers, it doesn’t matter what food you eat.

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Tip #1: Manage Stress

We can’t avoid traffic, work deadlines, soccer practices, family conflicts, etc. But we CAN handle how we manage the stress they create.

The best thing I’ve done for my stress levels is learning to breathe. Guided breathwork has been so beneficial. There are various studies into why and how they assist the parasympathetic nervous system, but let’s focus on this – deep nostril breathing will decrease the stress center in your brain. It will instantly calm and soothe you. Just a few minutes of calm, steady breathing can be a game-changer for your stress levels.

One other thing that helps lighten my stress load when my mind is racing is taking a bath with Epsom salts. I am NOT a bath person, and I’ve never been a fan of just laying there, but an extra hot bath that leaves me alone with my mind and deep breathing practices is something I’ve come to depend on during stressful times.

I’m also a big fan of a gratitude journal, either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Reflect on what went well the previous day. Try to list 3-5 things. It’s hard to be stressed or fearful when you’re acknowledging the positive in your life. Being grateful changes your brain, the expression of your genes, and improves your gut health!

Tip #2: Eat Real Food!

…And eat it slowly. It’s no secret that processed food is damaging for us. But we all know that, and we just keep on keeping on with our gut issues. So while ideally, one would focus on cutting out the triggers, for some it is a much more realistic approach to crowd in the most fueling foods. Eating slowly and mindfully gives your digestive system time to digest and process the food. Taking breathers between bites and chewing slowly gives your enzymes a chance to do what they need to do and break down your food.

Vegetables contain prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. They detoxify our bodies and provide much needed vitamins for our brain health. They also help produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which is so important for mental health and has even been studied to be helpful in reducing symptoms of mania. Side note – butyrate is found in grass fed butter and ghee, so by cooking vegetables in either of those you’re increasing your fat-soluble vitamin content AND getting a double dose of brain goodness!

Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?”

Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?

Aside from epigenetics, one discovery that has completely changed the way I view my body’s healing ability is gut health. Learning how to take care of my gut transformed my mental health.

5 years ago, the term was a mystery to me. I thought probiotics were only necessary when taking an antibiotic. And it’s true – considering the fact that most of the food we eat contains antibiotics, probiotics are a necessity.

The reality is, the state of our gut bacteria determines much of our health and well-being, from our immune system to mental health to most chronic diseases plaguing people in the 21st century.

From a young age, I was on antibiotics, steroids, and various medications that disrupt gut bacteria. I suffered from intense sugar cravings and yeast infections, major signs that my gut needed balancing. The state of my gut health, those genetic predispositions I mentioned earlier, and witnessing a traumatic event at the age of 9 are what I believe led to my mental illness crisis in my teens and 20s. It’s alllll connected. Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?”

How Dirty Are Your Genes?

“Our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.”

Have you heard this before? We are not stuck with our genes. We can change the expression of our genes with every bite we take, step we take, thought we think. This is the concept of epigenetics.

I recently found out I have a copy of a gene mutation called MTHFR. Because I refer to this in many of my recipes as my motivation for eating the way I eat, I want to break it down in an easy, Cliffs notes kind of way. There are many websites out there that can explain it in depth (like this and this), but here are the basics:

An estimated 30-60% of the population has at least one copy of this gene. When you have MTHFR, your body cannot fully convert folic acid into methylfolate, the methylated form of folate, and some experts suggest that ANY folic acid consumed will block the absorption of folate – even that which you consume in whole foods. This is detrimental to our brain health, because neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine need methylfolate for production.

Common health concerns sometimes associated with MTHFR include:

  • ADHD, autism, mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar)
  • Autoimmune disease/thyroid disorders
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Recurrent miscarriages
  • Infertility
  • Hormonal issues, like PCOS
  • Blood clots, stroke, embolism
  • And many many more (it’s a rabbit hole)

Continue reading “How Dirty Are Your Genes?”

In Search Of My Goal Weight

“What do you want to change about your body?”

The question must have been standard for the personal trainer asking me, because he asked so nonchalantly, like it was just an everyday conversation topic.

For me, though, it gave me pause. I thought, and I thought, and I thought. A word kept floating in and out of my conscious mind, but I had a hard time grasping it.

“Nothing… nothing… nothing…” the word flickered in and out, like broken lights on an old restaurant sign.

But I couldn’t say it.

It would sound weird to say that out loud. I had signed up for a free consultation, and I thought maybe I’d learn how to properly lift weights. I wasn’t prepared to think about my body’s deficiencies.

But maybe that’s what these sessions are about, I thought. That’s the point of this meeting for most people, right? Maybe it would be stupid to say it out loud? Am I supposed to want to change something? Do I LOOK like I should change something? I mean, I’ve had 3 kids, but I kinda like my curves and my strong thick thighs (and for that matter, so does my husband). I practice yoga because I feel strong and solid, not insecure and unsafe in my body like I did for so many years. I run because I love to get my heart rate up. It cleanses my mind and soothes my soul. It’s a dopamine driver.

So I sat there. And I made up something about wanting toned arms (I’ve never particularly cared one way or other about my arms). He made me weigh and check my body fat. That only further intensified my thought that maybe there WAS something wrong that I should change, and that brief flicker of “NOTHING,” – the thought that there was nothing I wanted to change about my body -that was quickly popping out of my subconscious into real life… faded away and died out.

By the end of our conversation, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe I needed to change something about my body.

It seemed so innocent, so out of nowhere. Just one free consultation with a trainer. But after years of progress and learning to respect the body I’m in, it happened in an instant. I started believing the lie again.

The messages are everywhere. It’s easy to get caught up in it – the quest to look better. Thinner, more toned, younger. It’s easy to idolize it, to make that the goal. Your life will be better if you lose weight.

“When I reach my goal weight, I’ll…” fill in the blank. Have you ever thought that before?

At some point in the last few years I stopped dreaming about the mythical goal weight and started living in the present. I stopped working out and eating for a number and I started living for mental stability and freedom. I gained freedom from rules and guidelines that never make me feel good enough, and I won freedom to eat what fuels ME, not anyone else.

Today, if you asked me what I wanted to change about my body, I would grab onto that floating word with all my strength and not let it go.

NOTHING. I am so much more than a number. I am so much more than a size. I contribute so much more to life than a physical image.

If you are caught in the trap of believing that your life will begin when you reach your goal weight, it’s time to get a new perspective. For me, I didn’t need to change my body. But I needed to change my perspective. That is what brought me the most healing.

It is possible for you to find freedom. Contact me. Let’s work on true, sustainable health – from the inside out.

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Your Diet Is Holding You Captive (And How to Break Free)

Do you resonate with the following scenario?

“Wow. I’m doing so good right now. I haven’t had sugar in like, 12 hours.”

“Crap, there’s a donut. Don’t look at it. Ignore the donut. You don’t need the donut. Think of  how BAD it is for you.”

Ignores donut. A few hours later…

“Oooh, I could really go for that Reese’s peanut butter cup sitting right there. It sounds soooo good.”

A few minutes later…

“Well, it’s only around ___ calories. If I have that, then I just won’t have the apple I was planning on having for a snack. Yeah, that works, I’ll do that.”

An hour later.

“I totally screwed up. I’m so weak. I hate that I can’t have willpower. Ugh, I’ll never look the way I want to look. Bathing suit season is only a few months away. I’m going to be the fat friend again. Guess I’ll go find that donut.”

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“Just one bite”

This was me, almost my entire life. Good foods, bad foods. Restriction, permission. Guilt, shame, pride. Negative self talk.

Dieting completely screwed up my ability to trust my body.

Dieting taught me to be legalistic and judgmental with myself.

Dieting taught me to punish myself with exercise.

Dieting taught me to obsess over numbers… the scale, the size, the label, the amount.

Dieting taught me to say no, even when my stomach was growling.

Do you relate? Continue reading “Your Diet Is Holding You Captive (And How to Break Free)”

Holiday Food Survival Guide

Thanksgiving is here! With that comes FOOD and for many of  us who have a sketchy relationship with food… anxiety. What to do when faced with all the carbs and sugar? Do I have to give up everything I love in order to stay the size that I am? Will I gain 5 pounds by looking at a piece of pie? Or for those of us who have received so much healing through nutrition – will I have a relapse in my illness if I mess up on one day?

We hear so many mixed messages this time of year regarding what food will cause what, what we need to avoid, what will pack on the pounds, etc. Don’t even get me started on the images that display the calorie counts for a typical plate of Thanksgiving food. It is so exhausting! I’m sick of rules and restrictions regarding my holidays. I don’t want diet mindset to destroy my joy. I want to live in FREEDOM.

So I’ve come up with some reminders and tips for surviving the holiday food explosion. I hope they will help you as they have helped me. Continue reading “Holiday Food Survival Guide”

Top Tips for Immune Support

Fall is here, winter is coming, and with both – all sorts of viruses. Hand sanitizer and a flu shot that is estimated to be less than 20% effective this year is not enough for me. Managing cold and flu season for my family requires the same 4 steps as managing my mental illness:

  • Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Movement
  • Relaxation

1. Nutrition – let’s start with sugar. Sugar is public enemy number one when it comes to illness. It will wreck your immune system. Studies have shown that at a blood sugar level of 120 (easily obtained by drinking a soda or juice or a latte or eating candy or a cookie), the white blood cells’ ability to absorb and destroy viruses and bacteria reduce by 75%. It takes 4-6 hours to get back to normal. Don’t forget that refined carbs like processed white flour spike blood sugar even more than sugar itself (like that burger or sandwich you had for lunch AFTER you had a muffin or toast for breakfast). Think about that when you’re figuring out what to do with your kid’s Halloween stash. Continue reading “Top Tips for Immune Support”