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Gut Health 101: Nutrition Tips

Our gut health is impacted by every part of our daily lives, including diet, sleep, exercise, toxins, and more. However, the foods we eat are arguably the most influential factor.

Every aspect of life affects our gut health, just as the gut affects every other aspect of our health. It’s a two-way street. The health of our gut impacts everything from our skin to our immune system to our digestion.  While it’s essential to recognize the importance of a healthy gut, be wary of quick fixes, trendy products, and fad diets. As you know, the wellness world is full of these promising magic pills, that at best don’t deliver, and at worst, can be dangerous to your overall health.

At the end of the day, the best way to optimize your gut health is to get back to the basics. And let me tell you, the basics are very effective!

gut health 101: nutrition tips

Signs of an Impaired Gut

Is your gut health in tip top shape or could it use some help?  Let’s take inventory!  Here are some tell-tale signs of gut dysfunction:

  • Low energy
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Sugar cravings
  • Diabetes
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin issues
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep Issues
  • Brain Fog
  • Low immunity
  • Joint Pain

If you frequently experience any of the above symptoms, chances are your gut health could use a little (or a big) boost. So, how can you best support your gut? Nutrition is the best place to start! Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Elimination

  • Eliminate all gluten, processed grains, conventional dairy, refined sugars, packages foods, pesticides, and GMOs.
  • Eliminate all vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, grapesseed).
  • Be an ingredient pyscho (like me!) and avoid all gums, fillers, preservatives. A good rule of thumb: if you can’t eat an ingredient alone, skip it!

Step 2: Dive a Little Deeper

  • Reduce/eliminate all raw veggies, beans, and un-sprouted grains.
  • Watch your fiber . You might be consuming too much or too little.
  • Chill out on the nuts and seeds. These foods can cause inflammation, as they’re hard to digest, even when sprouted.
  • Chill out, in general. Meditate, take walks, spend time with people you love, get sufficient sleep, and exercise, but not too much.
  • If you’re still experiencing symptoms, try eliminating foods high in lectins, oxalates, FODMAPs and/or other anti-nutrients.

Step 3: Supplement

  • Take a probiotic – I love this one from Seed, which unlike most probiotics on the market, actually survives the acid in your stomach and makes it’s way into your gut intact.  My clients (and myself) have seen dramatic shifts from using this probiotic.
  • Drink bone broth!  Bone broth is rich in gelatin and healing to the digestive tract.

Some of these tips might feel extreme to you, but if your symptoms are truly that bad, these suggestions are hardly extreme. If you’re looking for additional support in making these changes, I would love to help. I offer a 90-day private coaching program to help you improve your digestion and effortlessly lose fat. This program can help you feel like yourself again!

gut health 101: nutrition tips

Here’s what one client had to say about her results:

“Holy crap has my perspective on food completely shifted. I initially went in my 3-month coaching program very impatient and wanting Amanda to tell me what to exactly eat, but this journey has been much more rewarding than that.

With biweekly talks, we were able to go very in depth about various defeating thoughts I have with food and even other aspects of my life that directly correlate to my emotional eating/disordered eating patterns. I no longer dread “healthy foods” or see it as an “all or nothing approach.” In fact, I am able to identify what foods make me feel worse in terms of energy, mood, digestion and what foods are better for me and that is something that is much more sustainable than solely focusing on numbers as I intended to do in the beginning. I also struggle with PMDD/irregular and painful periods, and I feel much more regulated and equipped to deal with my PMS. Also, it helped knowing that I was held accountable by her and having regular check-ins helped a ton, especially when you do face an inevitable challenge or setback.

I really think if you are wanting to make a real, lasting impactful change on your relationship with food, and are prepared to be vulnerable, you should seek out Amanda. I am sure we can all seek out well meaning advice from health professionals, but Amanda is someone who allowed me to be vulnerable and truly felt she understood my struggles and could sympathize with them. If this sounds kind of like therapy, it’s because it was in some respects and was definitely more than giving you a meal plan and telling you to “suck it up.” I am so excited about the new perspective and tools I have and am only beginning to see the real lasting changes I have made.”

Are you ready to get started? Read more about my services, here!

THE PERFECT WELLNESS GETAWAY

In March, I saw that Getaway House was opening an outpost in Big Bear – just a short drive from Los Angeles.  I excitedly reached out to them to partner up!  For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know I love a weekend getaway.  I used to have all of the excuses why I couldn’t take a night or two away.  I didn’t have the money.  I can’t afford to take the time off.  I have too much to do.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

 

Getaway House, Big Bear

 

I stopped the excuses and I started making weekend getaways (and even one-night staycations) a part of my regular routine.  Wellness isn’t just eating well and working out, it’s also taking care of yourself – mentally and emotionally.  For me, that looks like taking a night or two out of the city, to give myself some space to breath and think without dishes to be done or emails to be sent.  It always leaves me so relaxed and recharged, and I come back home inspired and more productive than ever.  Weekends away, albeit indirectly, always give me back way more than I spend.

When I booked my stay at Getaway House for November, I didn’t realize I would be knee-deep in school work and about to embark on a trip to Barcelona on top of my already hectic client schedule.  As this weekend approached, and my to-do list was getting longer by the second, I thought “I should reschedule.”  Why is it so easy for us to take care of everyone and everything else, but so hard to take care of ourselves?

 

Getaway House, Big Bear

 

As you would have guessed, I am so glad I went!  It was the most magical, most relaxing, and coziest weekend I’ve had in a very long time!  The moment I arrived at Getaway House, I felt a rush of relaxation roll over me.  Bye, bye cortisol!

The tiny cabins are nestled away in the woods of Big Bear – spread out enough to have peace and quiet, but close enough to feel safe!  Each cabin has 1-2 queen beds, a kitchenette, a bathroom with a shower, a heater, an AC unit, fresh linens, and bath products to use.  I had everything I needed.  There’s even an outdoor area with a grill and a fire pit for making s’mores!  Gluten-free and gut-friendly, of course!

I stopped at Sprouts on my way there and picked up some food for my stay.  There’s a couple of restaurants nearby, but I wanted to stay in and keep it extra cozy.  Here’s what I picked up:  pasture-raised eggs, 100% grass-fed meats, raw milk, mushroom coffee, sweet potatoes, sheep’s milk yogurt, and chocolate, of course!

 

Getaway House, Big Bear

 

According to my Oura Ring (and the way I felt when I woke up), I slept better there than I have all year.  Nature, fresh air, and the coziest bed and cabin will do that!  I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise every morning, and watched the sunset every evening from my bed.  I brought two books with me to read (why can’t I just chill?!), but I actually found myself enjoying the view and letting my mind wander most of the time.  Any place that can make me stop doing is magical, in my opinion!

I forced myself out of bed on Saturday afternoon to do some adventuring.  I explored some of the nearby stores and markets, and hiked one of the many trails in Big Bear.  There’s a cute lookout tower at the top of Keller Peak where you get an incredible view!  I highly recommend, if you can pry yourself out of the cabin.

 

Keller Peak, Big Bear

 

I seriously had the most incredible time.  It was the most relaxed I’ve been in as long as I can remember.  Weekend getaways, especially to somewhere as tranquil as Getaway House, are so necessary when you’re always go-go-go.  I don’t know about you, but stress has just become a part of my everyday life.  It’s the norm.  I always preach to my clients that stress can cause us to have gut issues and hold onto extra weight, so I do my best to follow my own advice.  Since I’ve been back, I’m trying to keep a piece of Getaway House with me, even if it’s just slowing down for a moment each day.

I’ll definitely be booking another weekend at Getaway House real soon!  They have outposts all over the US.  As of right now, you can escape from Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh + Cleveland, Portland, and Washington, DC.

Use the code AMANDAC for $25 off your stay!

ARE YOU POOPING THE RIGHT WAY?

Nothing to be ashamed about here.  We all do it!  Chances are, however, you’re not doing it the right way.  I’ve been using the Squatty Potty for a few years now, and I’m telling you it’s was a GAME CHANGER!  Sorry to be so excited about poop, but digestion really is my passion!

This viral video is pretty amazing and explains how the Squatty Potty works:

 

 

Do you ever notice when diaper-wearing toddlers poop, they squat down, butt to the ground?  Human are designed to squat!

Research shows that the squatting position is much more natural and can help avoid constipation, bloating, hemorrhoids, colon disease, and pelvic floor issues.

Here’s why.  When we sit, a kink is created in the colon, blocking the flow of waste and making it more difficult for feces to be released.  This can cause straining and just general uncomfortableness.  When you squat, the kink is removed, making elimination easier and more complete.  Sounds better to me!  The Squatty Potty helps mimic the squat position by elevating your knees.

 

Our modern toilets and improper elimination position can cause problems we weren’t even aware of, such as:

CONSTIPATION

I see so many clients who are constipated, and many of them don’t even know it.  If you’re not having a complete elimination at least once a day, sorry to break it to you, but you’re constipated!  Ideally you should be going more than once a day!  Having proper elimination begins with drinking enough water and eating a good amount of fiber, and it ends with the correct elimination position.  If you’re looking for a bit more support on digestion and gut health, let’s schedule a consultation!

HEMORRHOIDS

One of the causes of hemorrhoids is straining during elimination.  Don’t let this be you!

COLON DISEASE

Maintaining good colon health comes down to eliminately regularly and completely.  If there is buildup in the colon, it can lead to colon disease.  Not only that, but having old fecal matter in your intestines is definitely not going to leave you feeling very happy and energized.

URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS

Being in a squat position not only helps complete emptying from your colon, but it also helps complete emptying of your bladder!  This can help you avoid bladder infections.

 

MY EXPERIENCE

The reason I’m so passionate about gut health and digestion is because it is something I have struggled with for a long time.  Bloating, gas, and constipation were all a part of my daily life.   When I started using the Squatty Potty I noticed an immediate difference in my elimination.  I was way less bloated, and I felt great!

I used to use a box I’d set under my feet, which works fine, but I find the Squatty Potty to be way more comfortable and it even stores away nicely!  They have a range of styles and heights, so I’m sure you can find one that works for you.  I prefer the wood one, because it’s height is adjustable and it’s aesthetically pleasing.  I even have a portable one, that I take with me whenever I travel!  Honestly, now it feels unnatural NOT to use one.  It’s a great gift, too!  I’m getting everyone in my family one for the holidays this year.  Sorry, family.  But you’ll thank me later!

So, unless you’re going to redesign and install a new, more functional toilet, you need to get yourself a Squatty Potty.  I guarantee you will be so surprised at what a difference it makes!

 

Thoughts?  Have you tried the Squatty Potty?  Interested in trying in now?  Or was this too much poop talk for you?

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LET’S TALK ANXIETY (+ my personal story)

I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember.  As a kid, my anxiety presented itself as stomach aches and a general feeling of being unwell.  I distinctly remember telling my mother that I didn’t know what was wrong but sometimes I just wanted to cry.  This was different from depression, although they usually do go hand in hand.  It wasn’t a sad, hopeless, joyless feeling, but more of an uncomfortable, panicked, want-to-jump-out of my-skin feeling.  I didn’t know how to label it at the time, but looking back, I’m 110% sure it was anxiety.  And honestly, it’s no surprise.  I grew up in a home where my nervous system was on high alert around the clock.  My late father was an alcoholic and physically-abusive to my mother.  My anxiety served me well then.  It protected me.  It allowed me to react quickly in emergency situations.  My anxiety kept me safe.

 

In some ways, my anxiety still does serve me well.  I’m extremely empathetic, which makes me a great friend and a great listener.   My compassion and intuitiveness is also what makes me a great health coach and a personal trainer.  Being highly aware of what or how other people are feeling has benefitted me in life and in relationships.  I’m grateful for it.

 

On the other hand, my anxiety hinders me in more ways than one.  It keeps me isolated.  It turns a perfectly great day into a fear-ridden rollercoaster of emotion.  It makes me irritable.  It robs me of hours in the day I can never get back.  It’s led me to self-destructive behaviors, like binge eating, lashing out, shutting down, and disengaging from others and/or life.

 

In my health coaching practice, I see so many people who struggle with this, as well.  Many of them are well aware of it, while others are unconscious of it, until we work together and begin to dig a little deeper.  They spend countless hours shopping, watching television, or playing video games.  They neglect their physical bodies by not exercising, oversleeping, binge eating or eating unhealthy foods.  This can be as small as reaching for a piece of chocolate when uncomfortable feelings begin to emerge.  These self-destructive habits may provide short-term relief, but can be extremely detrimental in the long-term.  I also see so many, mostly women and mothers, who sacrifice too much of themselves for their families and friends.  Seemingly innocent, but this is just another way to mask having to deal with their own feelings and really, truly take care of themselves.

 

Here are a few practices that have helped me over the years, and I hope they can help you too.

 

AVOIDING STIMULATING FOODS

It always starts with food, doesn’t it?  Avoiding or limiting stimulating foods, like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed carbohydrates, and starchy foods, in general, has been game-changing for me.  Keeping my energy and blood sugar as stable as possible, is essential in keeping anxiety at bay.

 

HEALING THE GUT

Most of the foods above, are also not great for gut-health.  Did you know that 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut?  How crazy!  Makes sense as to why I’ve always struggled with digestive issues, and why I’m also so passionate about improving gut-health.  Adding in gut-healing foods like bone broth, collagen, l-glutamine, and fermented foods can help alleviate some of those anxiety symptoms.

 

STAYING HYDRATED

Dehydration can also induce anxiety, since it’s a subtle threat to survival, so it’s really important to drink a ton of water.  I drink about 3-4 liters of water a day, and more if it’s a warmer time of the year or if I’ve been extra active.  The more water I drink, the better I feel.

 

MOVING

I am 100% sure that if exercise didn’t play such a massive role in my life, I’d be on medication.  Now, you do what’s best for you, but I, personally, am going to skip all the harmful side-effects that come along with taking any medication and instead choose all the benefits of exercise.  Exercise is my natural and free anti-anxiety medication.  It helps to lower cortisol and increase endorphins, which are two things my brain and my body really need.  Fitting in some HIIT training, running, sprints, or anything that gets my heart rate up immediately changes my entire mood.  Even just getting out on a walk for a few minutes can be extremely beneficial.

 

FEELING FEELINGS

Instead of running away or distracting myself from the feeling with destructive behaviors, I sit with it.  I get curious about it.  What does it feel like?  Where do I feel it?  I focus on my breath.  My heart rate.  I check in with every part of my body, starting from my head all the way down to my toes, to become as present as I possibly can.  Sometimes I do this for 2 minutes and the feeling fades.  Other times, it takes over an hour.  Eventually the feeling does fade, and in the process, I’ve learned something about myself, about the feeling, about how to manage.  It’s not easy.  It can sometimes be so intense, it feels impossible to sit with.  Daily meditation also helps me to become aware of the thoughts and feelings that trigger the anxiety.   Just taking the time to slow down and breathe has been extremely helpful to me, as I tend to over schedule and stress out, which definitely does not help.

 

JOURNALING

This is always the last thing I want to do when anxiety strikes, but it’s also been a great tool in pinpointing where the anxiety is stemming from.  I will free write for a few minutes and then all of a sudden, BOOM, there it is.  Becoming aware of what issues or situations in your life are causing you anxiety can help you move forward to alleviate them.

 

CONNECTING

When I’m feeling anxious, it can feel like a arduous chore to get out of the house and interact with other humans, but I force myself to.  Connecting with others can decrease anxiety and increase feelings of happiness and calmness.  Even if you can’t be with someone, pick up the phone and call someone.  I have a list of people that I love and who I can call to lift my mood, make me laugh, and calm me down.

 

THERAPY

If we never express or process the emotions from our childhood or even our adulthood, those emotions continue to bubble up inside us, like a boiling pot of water.  If we put a lid on that pot, by not dealing with those feelings, eventually, that pot of water will explode.  Anxiety, depression, physical pain, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart attacks, digestive disorders, reproductive issues, among many other health conditions can all be, and are usually, the result of this.  I’ve been going to therapy on a regular basis for the last 10 years, when life is rough and also when life is great.  It’s an absolute necessity for me, and it’s been instrumental in helping me work through and process my emotions.  It’s also helped me become more self-aware and deal with the highs and lows of life and relationships.

 

SUPPLEMENTS

Making sure I’m getting all of the above in, plus a very healthy, diverse, and nutrient-rich diet is fundamental to alleviating my anxiety.  That being said, I do take a few supplements to give me a little extra boost in calming my nervous system down.

 

Do you struggle with anxiety?  Do you know a friend that does?  Feel free to forward them this blog post.  What do you do to help?  I can always use a few extra tips!