The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It

We are in the middle of a mental illness epidemic. According to a report done by the CDC in June, 25% of people between the ages of 18-24 seriously have considered suicide since March. The percentage was 16% for adults 25-44. 31% of all age groups reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder, and over 40% experienced adverse or behavioral health symptoms. “The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%) (2).” See full report here.  

These numbers affect me on a very personal level.

I was diagnosed with PTSD at a young age, followed by depression, followed by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by the time I was 18. I was on many different medications to attempt to treat my mental disconnect, and while some of the worked, some did more harm than good. I understand what it is like to experience the deepest of lows and the highest of highs. I know what it feels like to have a brain that you can’t control, a mind that races and thoughts that spin around and threaten any kind of peace or stability.

One thing I have learned, in my last decade of mental stability, is that our mental health symptoms are always responses to an imbalance in our internal or external environment. External triggers could be grief, stress, or lifestyle disruption. Internal triggers could be something like blood sugar issues, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient deficiencies… or poor gut health. Learning about the gut/brain connection and addressing key areas in my physical health made a huge impact on my mental health.

Now, there is no one size fits all. What worked for me is not going to work exactly the same in someone else. But I do believe everyone can benefit from improving gut health.

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In a perfect world, the lining of the intestine allows entry to nutrients from our food to be absorbed and go where they’re needed. This lining is supposed to prevent toxins, bacterial overgrowth, and food products from exiting the gut lining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. When you have poor gut health, thanks to stress, toxins in the environment, overconsumption of sugar and processed foods, overuse of antibiotics or other common medications, and a whole lot of other triggers, the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, and endotoxins leak out. This is what the phrase “leaky gut” refers to. The inflammation that results leads to a myriad of health issues, but what is being studied a lot right now is the effect on the brain and mental health. Many psychiatrists are suggesting that poor gut health is at the root of many of our mental illnesses.

To further that point, it’s important to note that over 90% of our serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) is produced in the gut, and serotonin cannot be produced without the assistance of amino acids. So if what we eat impacts the way our neurotransmitters are produced, it stands to reason that what we eat impacts the way our brains receive neurotransmitters and find mental wealth.

There are many lifestyle interventions that are FREE, that can benefit our brain function as well as our gut. To break it down in the most simple form possible, here’s the acronym LIVE to help you get started and give you some practical ways to start taking nourishing your gut and brain together!

Continue reading “The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It”

Let’s Reset! A 14 Day Coaching Group to Enter Into Fall

Today is the first day of fall. The changing of seasons always feels special to me. But the shift from summer into fall is especially meaningful. The autumn season is associated with transformation and letting go of the old.

Because of this, I am partnering with my friend, fellow holistic health coach and master sports nutritionist and personal trainer, Melissa McGaughey, to bring an online 14 day coaching group for the low price of only $29 – and it starts Monday, September 28!

Melissa and I recently discussed a few of our favorite health tips on my podcast, sharing simple tools to creating healthy habits, and we thought what better way to implement some of our ideas than through a group coaching experience?!

This group is all about adding in real food, movement, and mindset, in order to nourish our bodies and minds as best as we can in this new season. The format will be through a closed Facebook group, which will encourage participation and accountability from participants and coaches. Sign up here!

Also included in the group:

  • Kick-off meeting through Zoom
  • Daily educational posts
  • Accountability from other participants along with the coaches
  • Recipes
  • Pantry/Grocery store list

Melissa and I both strive to empower women to become their own health advocates, and this is a great time to do it! For only $29 (which is just a teensy fraction of the cost of our private coaching sessions) you are getting the encouragement from two experts for a full two weeks!

Together, we can let go of old habits that are weighing us down and embrace this new season with a complete reset – body, mind, and spirit! Contact me for more information or sign up here and I will email you a confirmation.

Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food

“People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.

In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.

Key topics of our conversation include:

  • img_0728a.wDr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
  • How what we eat affects our brain
  • The origin of the gut/brain connection
  • The rise of mental health concerns
  • Food to avoid for mental well-being
  • Inflammatory foods
  • Orthorexia and food obsession
  • How to add more diversity in your diet
  • The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
  • So much more!

Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo

Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!

Easy Baked Cod

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Sometimes I play a game with myself to see how many veggies I can get into one dish. It’s a perfect game to play with this delicious and easy baked cod recipe. I got the original recipe from a friend, tweaked it a bit for my family’s tastes, and the result is melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness!

For more family-friendly recipes that kids actually like, check out the free recipe ebook I put together with integrative pediatrician Dr. Alina Olteanu!

Click here to get instant access!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp grass fed butter (room temperature)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped basil
  • 16 oz. cod (four 4 oz filets)
  • 2 lemons

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Make a paste of the fats, spices, herbs, and about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
  3. Coat each piece of fish with the butter/herb mixture.
  4. Top with remaining sliced lemon.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish is flaky and done. Serve with more lemon juice, if desired!

Serve with roasted vegetables or a salad! Be sure to spoon the melted seasonings and butter all over your plate! I added a touch of lemon-parsley quinoa and it was delicious.

Adjust the recipe according to how much cod you have or how many family members. With fish, I typically err on the side of more seasoning, but do what your tastebuds desire!

Stop Fearing Fat!

Have you been told to stay away from egg yolks? Are you trying a low fat diet to improve your cholesterol? Is cholesterol a good indicator of health or a risk factor for disease?

We go there in this episode!

“Cholesterol is so important that your body will manufacture it if you don’t eat enough of it.” – Steve Welch

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Steve is a NESTA certified Fitness Nutrition Coach and former publisher of the world renowned medical journal CHEST. His background in medical publishing provides him with insights into assessing medical and nutrition research, which he uses to educate others to improve their own health and fitness.

He is coauthor of the new book “The Ketogenic Key,” which is available in stores now.

In this episode we cover:

– Why we fear fat

– The history of low fat diets and why the data is skewed

– Why our bodies need fat to function

– The cholesterol conversation

– Carbohydrates, cholesterol, and inflammation

– How cutting extreme calories can backfire

– Individualizing the approach for YOU

This is such a fascinating interview that I hope you enjoy and learn from as much as I did!

Learn more about Steve at http://www.ketosteve.net or on Twitter at @ketosteve.

Homemade Bone Broth for Beginners

My latest obsession is something that has been around a long time. It’s not a supplement, a special drink, or an exotic superfood. It’s something my ancestors most likely consumed all the time, yet is sadly missing from the modern American diet.

Bone broth.

Specifically, beef bone broth made from grass fed beef marrow bones. You can use chicken bones as well (it’s super easy to use the bones of a rotisserie chicken), but beef is so nutrient dense, packed with healing amino acids and minerals, and the flavor is so hearty, that I prefer using beef.

The health benefits of bone broth have been documented over and over again and all it takes is a Google search to read about them. But here’s a short list: improved gut health, improved detoxification, skin and hair health, immune health, bone and joint health, reduced cellulite, improved food sensitivities, better digestion, improved metabolism, cellular health, antioxidant boost, the list goes on.

Now, the following is an imaginary Q and A session for my past self, back when I thought bone broth making was complicated. But don’t be like me and buy the carton kind that doesn’t taste as good. Start making this now! Continue reading “Homemade Bone Broth for Beginners”

Tips to Take Charge of Your Health During the Era of Covid

As an advocate for whole body healing, I really hoped this virus situation would open up new discussions on how to take care of our personal health.

Have I missed something?

We are NOT a healthy country. This should be opening our eyes, but it’s not.

The U.S. spends the most on health care compared to other developed countries BUT has lower life expectancy, highest infant mortality, highest suicide rates, and highest rates of chronic disease.

We’re masking the real issue. Yes, pun intended.

The actions I take for my health actually don’t impact your health. YOU have to advocate for yourself. And you are not powerless. There is so much hope!

Here are some of my favorite tips for taking personal responsibility for your health. I hope these are as helpful for you as they have been for me. Continue reading “Tips to Take Charge of Your Health During the Era of Covid”

Ketosis for Mental Health with Dr. Lori Shemek

Dr. Lori Shemek is an award-winning, bestselling author of How to Fight FATflammation, The Ketogenic Key, Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting, and Fire-Up Your Fat Burn. She is a leading health and weight loss expert who has been featured in countless publications and TV shows. She is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.”

In this episode, Dr. Shemek shares about her new book, The Ketogenic Key. She shares what the keto diet is, how ketosis benefits our mental health, benefits of intermittent fasting, how inflammation is a threat to our health and well-being, and practical ways to implement changes to your lifestyle.img_9384

Podcast is available on the show page or wherever you get your podcasts!

Key topics addressed:

  • The importance of the ketogenic diet and how it isn’t a fad
  • The deal with carbs and sugar
  • Creating metabolic flexibility
  • The difference between low carb and keto
  • Intermittent fasting, autophagy, and mitochondrial biogenesis
  • The raw broccoli test for hunger
  • Who should not practice intermittent fasting
  • Why women NEED protein as we age
  • The benefits of healthy fat
  • Types of inflammation and the effects
  • How to do keto in real life
  • What kind of alcohol is okay for keto

Her book, The Ketogenic Key, is a perfect guidebook for all things related to ketosis, and is a great way to learn how to enhance your brain and body health in an easy to understand way. It is available wherever you purchase books!

Chipotle Honey Greens Bowl

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a little “staycation” at a fancy boutique hotel in town. While we were lounging by the pool, living the good life, we enjoyed the most amazing greens bowl. It was a perfect light summer treat. We’re typically not “I’ll have a salad” people, especially not on vacation, but this one was a refreshing complement to a warm summer day in the sun. I decided as soon as I got home, I would come up with a “copycat” recipe.

I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time with raw kale and broccoli. They’re just not my favorite. Well let me tell you, with this recipe, you just may reconcile your relationship with them. Because the broccoli is chopped thinly and the kale is massaged in order to wilt and break down the bitterness, these two go perfectly together. Then you have the sweet and spicy mix of the dressing and it really is a solid summer lunch staple – or it’s a great side for a grilled chicken or steak dinner!

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*Please note – the dressing is a lot, more than you’ll need for the salad ingredients. That way you can double or triple your salad amount for a crowd, or use throughout the week as a dressing or meat marinade.

Ingredients:

Continue reading “Chipotle Honey Greens Bowl”

Re-Focus 2020: Summer Edition

Are you ready to gain a renewed perspective of health and body image?

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Re-FOCUS 2020 is back! In January, author Heather Creekmore and I launched our very first group in order to help women all over the world gain a fresh look at setting new year’s health goals. That group was so wildly successful, we decided to run it again in March, and NOW we are offering an exclusive summer edition!

Here’s what some former participants had to say:

With this group, you get an encouraging scripture verse each day, along with two posts related to the day’s theme. Heather tackles the spiritual/mindset aspect, and I take on the perspective of food and living a sustainable healthy lifestyle without fad dieting!

Both of us care so much about living a life of purpose and wholeness despite what lies we are led to believe about our bodies, so this group is packed with truth and encouragement, no matter where you are in your health journey.

If you are ready to dive in to true health, and you aren’t sure if you’re ready for my private coaching sessions, this is a great starting point!

This group will take place on Facebook in a private group from June 8-21. You have up until a month after the group launches to catch up on all the posts.

The price for this group is only $28! If you sign up by June 1st, the price drops to $22! This includes two packed weeks of content, interaction with me and Heather throughout the week, a live Q and A call, and access to the group for a month after joining. Sure, there are plenty of online coaching groups – but you won’t find many with TWO facilitators who will be interacting with you on the daily!

As a thank you for joining, you’ll receive for free my “Family Favorites” recipe booklet and Heather’s “Mountain Top Experience: Personal Body Image Retreat” (which normally retails for $5.99).

To sign up, click the link here for our participant questionnaire and payment link.