Gut health 101

Key points:

  • Good health starts in the gut;
  • You are what you eat AND ABSORB;
  • Looking for underlying causes for the rise in chronic health concerns – leads back to gut health, and the system that ultimately runs gut health: the nervous system;
  • What we are doing differently now vs. decades to centuries ago/ cross culturally wrt food practices/ lifestyle practices
  • Given the growing scientific evidence of the importance of the gut microbiome (the collection of micro-organisms and symbiotic bacteria that support our overall gut health), it becomes even more critical to be aware of the impact of our diet on digestive function and wellness.

Overview of digestion

  • Gut: mouth, throat, stomach, intestines: small and large (colon), rectum, anus
  • Accessory organs: liver, gallbladder, pancreas, appendix, omentum
  • Nervous system: brain, vagus nerve, enteric plexus, migrating motor complex
  • Microbiome: micro – tiny; biome – living… the tiny living creatures in our gut (bacteria, yeast/ fungi, viruses)
    • Nutrient absorption
    • Make enzymes, vitamins and amino acids
    • Produce short chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate, acetate) that keep gut lining healthy and enhance gut immunity
    • Activate flavonoids
  • Depleted by stress, diet high in processed foods/ refined carbs/ flour/ sugar/ low in fiber-rich plants, non-organic foods (pesticides, antibiotics), birth method (c-section), infant feeding, pharmaceuticals (namely antibiotics and antacids, but also others like meds for anxiety and depression), over-eating, lack of exercise, alcohol use and abuse (antiseptic)
  • Domino effect: low enzyme levels/ low acids à no killing of pathogens; set up residence, good guys killed off, putrefaction of foods vs/ healthy fermentation, toxins produced, “leakiness” of gut, irritation of gut lining, activation of immune system, overload of liver, toxic bile, recirculation of toxins, hormones, cholesterol; constipation, diarrhea


  • 4 Rs: remove (get rid of the “bad guys”: problematic foods, bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites, etc.), replace (put back in: enzymes), re-inoculate (get the good bacteria and beneficial yeast back in), repair (the gut lining using bone broth, amino acid powders, especially l-glutamine, fish oils)
  • Remove: Take natural anti-microbials if suspected “dysbiosis” (oil of oregano, garlic, pau d’arco, etc.)
  • Remove: Avoid flours (all flours, not just gluten) and sugar, reduce/ eliminate dairy and all other problem foods for you;
  • Remove: Ensure regular bowel movements – for constipation look at magnesium, hydration, probiotics/ for diarrhea look at psyllium, charcoal, bentonite;
  • Replace: Chew food well;
  • Replace: Take enzymes/ apple cider vinegar;
  • Replace: Activate vagus nerve: stress reduction/ gargle/ sing/ relax/ pray/ move/ meditate
  • Replace & Re-inoculate: Eat fermented foods
  • Re-inoculate: Take probiotics
  • Repair: Practice fasting (12 hours minimum)
  • Repair: Leave 4-5 hours between meals
  • Repair: Castor oil packs

Functional Foods for a Healthy Gut

Over the last few years there has been an increased interest in foods that do more than just provide basic nutrition. These foods are often referred to as functional foods; a term, first introduced in Japan in the 1980’s. Functional foods have sometimes been defined as “any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.”

Many, although not all, functional foods are whole foods which provide a rich source of fiber to the diet. As well as providing other health benefits, these foods can in turn support good gut health.


A few of many examples of Functional Foods

  • Fiber-rich foods (psyllium, chia, ground flax) – 1-2 Tbsp 2xd;
  • Bitters” (artichoke, arugula, dandelion (tea), lemons, grapefruit) as these get things squirting;
  • O Shown to reduce cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease, oats are also a good source of manganese;
  • Rich in lycopene, betacarotene, and vitamin C, studies indicate that tomatoes may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.  They have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and to support bone health (note: some people may be sensitive to tomatoes if they need to avoid nightshades);
  • These may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections while providing a rich source of antioxidants;
  • Studies show that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables is linked to a reduced risk for cancer;
  • Lacto-fermented foods. Those foods which have been made by allowing natural bacteria and yeast to feed on the sugars and starches in foods. This process creates enzymes, increases nutritional content, and adds beneficial probiotics to the foods.

Types of Fermented Foods

Found in many cultures around the world, fermented foods are a healthy way to support overall gut health.  Examples of different types of lacto-fermented foods include:

  • Traditionally fermented sauerkraut
  • A spicy fermented cabbage dish from Korea.
  • Soybeans that have been naturally fermented, found in a number of Asian cultures.
  • A fermented tea, origins unknown but it appears in many cultures.
  • Made from fermented milk, this is similar to yogurt but thinner and with more probiotic activity originating in the Caucasus mountains.



Adding these probiotic organisms to the digestive tract can improve digestive capacity. This is because they can improve the production of hydrochloric acid. Conversely when there is an excess of stomach acid, adding fermented foods can support and protect the intestinal lining.

Adding lacto-fermented foods also supports the release of digestive enzymes throughout the digestive system (stomach, pancreas, and gallbladder), these enzymes help to improve digestion, digestibility, and nutrient absorption from food.

Although lacto-ferments, are easy to make at home, they do require monitoring, temperature control, and an understanding of the fermentation process. Purchasing these, either at a grocery store or online, may be a simpler option, especially for those just getting starting with adding these types of foods to their diet.

Challenge: Add at least one new functional food to your daily diet – locally made fermented foods available for purchase. – locally made foods; also classes available to teach you how to ferment your own foods. – Great website that has for purchase items to get started on your own fermenting journey, as well as fantastic “how-to” guides, recipes and more (sourdough, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, vegetables, cheese and tempeh).

Inflammation – A Primer

We all know inflammation: it is the red and painful knee that swells up after we have tripped and fallen on it.  It is the sore, scratchy throat that arises when we are coming down with a cold; it is the sneezes, the drippy nose and itchy eyes that come about after exposure to a very dusty room or a pile of old fall leaves.

Acute inflammation happens when our body is exposed to a stressor, like a fall against hard concrete, a virus or a large amount of an allergenic substance.  It is a natural response of our body to attempt to deal with the stressor.  The response is the same in all cases, in Latin acute inflammation is known as “rubor”, “tumor”, “calor”, “dolor”: redness, swelling, heat & pain.

  • Our blood vessels dilate (prostaglandin signaling molecules encourage this) thus allowing blood to arrive at the site of injury (redness);
  • Within the blood that arrives at the site of injury are many particles: a significantly increased number of the white blood cells (lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, macrophages), platelets, antibodies, and chemical signaling molecules, aka cytokines, to name a few. These arrive at the site of injury and leech out into the tissues to begin their repair work (swelling);
  • This increased activity and blood and fluid flow cause increased warmth in the area (heat);
  • With all the fluid accumulating in the tissues the tissue integrity is distorted and many of the chemical signaling molecules (prostaglandins, pro-inflammatory cytokines (ILs, TNF), histamine, bradykinin and C-reactive protein to name a few) cause an irritation to the tissues (pain).

A fifth hallmark sign of inflammation that occurs as a result of the above processes is loss of function.  The swelling and pain limit our ability to function and we lose mobility in order for us not to perpetuate the injury.  This is meant to be a rapid and temporary process whereby whatever caused the initial injury is removed (we don’t keep falling/ our body successfully fights the virus/ we get ourselves away from the dusty environment/ etc.), our body can cease its inflammatory response and it can clear away the debris of cellular material that resulted from the repair efforts.

Think of having to tend to something in your home – maybe a leaking tap.  You must bring with you the tools, sealants, perhaps new pipes or valves necessary to fix the leak in the pipe.  In the process, your “repair site” (in this example, perhaps the space around your bathroom sink, where you are tending to the leak) gets messy as you fix what needs attention.  Tools are brought out, set out, used, set back down, etc.  Once you are done with the repair process, everything needs to be put away: back in the tool kit and set back neatly on your utility room shelf, for the next time they are needed.

If we left these useful tools around or didn’t quite fix the leak so kept the tools at the ready, things would be left congested and dangerous.

The site needs to be cleaned up, and so it is with the body.

Chronic inflammation results when we are continually exposed to a stressor to the body and the inflammatory response is perpetuated, and/ or when the body’s capacity to clear away the debris is overwhelmed.  In this case the swelling, pain, redness and heat generally diminish somewhat, in varying degrees depending on the person and the type of inflammation, but these symptoms do not completely resolve.  The loss of function continues and the affected tissues are no longer able to do their jobs.

This is why we are understanding, in the medical world, that all diseases can be linked back to chronic inflammation: from diabetes, cancer, arthritic diseases, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune illness, hormonal dysfunctions all the way to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Whatever tissue is being damaged (pancreas/ insulin receptors to brain cells) loses its function due to ongoing inflammation.

Perhaps you haven’t been diagnosed with one of these conditions – this doesn’t mean inflammation is not at work in your body.  Because disease exists on a spectrum with health, if you are any where outside of the optimal health spectrum for you, you likely have inflammation going on: blood sugar imbalances, frequent infections, allergies, low energy, memory issues, joint/ muscle ache, to name just a few, are all inflammatory conditions.

So what causes chronic inflammation?

This is a loaded question and many things result in the persistent tissue damage that is inflammation.  I often like to think of the “total load” theory in that our body can handle a few insults but the higher the number of insults to the system to less of an ability it will have to mount an appropriate response.  So, this might be due to a chronic infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal/ yeast/ mold), exposure to detrimental environmental factors (unhealthy air, pollutants, perfumes, molds, solvents, dust, high amounts of pollens/ grasses, etc.).

A significant cause of ongoing chronic inflammation is our diet.  Many of the foods we eat in our modern-day diet stimulate inflammation in the gut wall.  This causes a decrease in integrity of the gut wall which allows many of the pro-inflammatory molecules and allergens to pass through into the blood stream and create more issues.

Another significant cause of ongoing inflammation is poor circulation that is resultant from lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, not engaging in activities (exercise, saunas, getting hot!) that allow us to sweat, avoid exposure to temperature extremes.  The latter point may seem odd but when we are constantly moving from one temperature-controlled environment to another and not having the opportunity to get hot or to get cold and allow our own bodies to thermo-regulate, a process that requires a circulatory system response they lose this ability – use it or lose it!

What can we do about it?

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is key.  You will read many different versions of anti-inflammatory diets if you search for them.  The bottom line is the need to avoid processed foods, sugars, soda pop, refined carbohydrates and minimize non-organic foods (especially meats), alcohol and caffeine.  Refined carbohydrates include breads, muffins, pastas, cookies especially those made from gluten-containing flours (like wheat).  Commercial dairy products promote inflammation and need to be avoided as do hydrogenated fats and processed oils (corn, canola, palm, soy).  Processed meats and artificial sweeteners also need to be eliminated.

And to consume lots of omega-3 fatty acid rich foods like good quality fish, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, olives, unrefined flax oil, raw walnuts, almonds and raw seeds like hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower.  These help to mitigate the inflammatory response.  Eating high fiber foods like vegetables and whole grains (quinoa, rice, oats) decreases many of the chemical messenger molecules that promote inflammation.  It is also important to ensure that the gut microbiome stays healthy so that means taking probiotics (“good” bacteria), eating prebiotic rich foods (fiber!) and avoiding those foods that feed pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria and yeast and other harmful microorganisms.

Healthy Foods:

  • Foods in their fresh, raw, natural state. Locally grown, organic and non-GMO where possible.
  • Foods without labels! Produce, whole grains*, eggs, nuts, seeds, good quality meat products.
  • *Gluten-free whole grains in moderation: rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat.
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Wild caught or sustainably farmed seafood; free-run poultry, grass-fed, naturally raised beef and wild game.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olives, avocado and fish; cold or expresser pressed oils.
  • Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, basil.
  • Enzyme rich foods like bromelain from pineapple, papain from pineapple.
  • Sulfur rich foods like onions, garlic, chives, shallots.

Foods to avoid:

  • All wheat, barley, rye and gluten containing grains.
  • Commercial dairy milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • All forms of sugar and refined flour (including products made with refined gluten-free flours).
  • Processed luncheon meats.
  • Hydrogenated fats, margarine, processed vegetable oils (corn, canola, palm, soy).
  • All fast food, processed food, GMO food.
  • Soft drinks, sodas, alcohol**, caffeine**.
  • Artificial sweeteners, aspartame, saccharin.

**minimal alcohol (maximum of 5 oz. of wine, preferably red, daily) and caffeine (equivalent to less than 250ml of coffee or black tea per day)

There is some debate about consuming nightshade family vegetables when treating inflammation.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes all fall into this category.  They contain large amounts of alkaloids that can be irritating to joint tissues in some people.  Being your own detective to determine if these foods impact you is of utmost importance.  In those with significant inflammatory conditions it may be necessary to eliminate eggs, legumes, and grains, in addition to those foods already listed.

Ensuring the cause of the inflammation has been treated is essential – often chronic inflammation needs to be treated with anti-microbial herbs like berberine containing herbs (Goldenseal, Oregon Grape) or high potency garlic or oregano oil should also be considered.  Individualized treatment would create your specific protocol.

You may want to consider supplementation with anti-inflammatory supplements.  Turmeric/ Curcumin packs great anti-inflammatory punch, as do potent anti-inflammatory/ antioxidant combinations like green tea extract and grapeseed, two of my favorites.  Fish oils supplements and the mineral magnesium both provide significant benefit.

Be sure to also get plenty of exercise/ movement to enhance circulation and promote lymphatic drainage.  Sweating, saunas, hot/ cold (contrast) showers, meditation, laughter, play, rest, sleep, and time spent outside in nature are also important remedies for inflammation.    Be kind to yourself and give yourself the gift of incorporating a few of these healthy habits each day!

Delicious Detox

Early this February I started another nutrition class.  I love offering classes as a way of delivering information to multiple individuals at once, creating a container of accountability, support and inspiration, and providing an opportunity to actually put into practice what we might be learning, regardless of what area of life we might be learning about.

I am famous for saying “information is not transformation” and what I mean by that is that there reaches a point at which we cannot continue to simply gather information, we must put it into action in order to create transformation.  Group work is really helpful in this regard.  As it is with human nature, we are much more likely to remain accountable and to succeed in our goals if we have others to check in with and lean on.

When I lead cleanse classes, like this “Delicious Detox” course I am currently engaged in, I start off with differentiating between Intentions, Goals and Action Steps.  All are incredibly important parts in the world of creating successful change, no matter what area of our life we are looking to overhaul.  We often focus mainly on goals, and believe that if we have our goals clear then we should be able to follow through and make them manifest.  While well-intentioned, this is rarely what leads to successful outcomes, which is why I spend time focussed on two other essential elements of the change creation process:  Intentions and Action Steps.

Intentions create the blueprint for how you want to feel.  Intentions are an energetic creation that are essential for ensuring we move, at a deep cellular and internal biochemical level, towards what we want to achieve.  You should be able to FEEL intentions in your body, as you Imagine and Visualize what it is you want.

Goals are the tangible measurable ways in which we commit to making manifest our intentions.  If our intention is to be more energized and feel lighter and healthier, some of the goals we might have could be to eat cleaner, sleep more, lose weight, etc.

To ensure our goals are being met we require action steps.  For example if our goal is to eat cleaner, we might commit to the action steps of:

  • eliminating sugar;
  • drinking 2 L. of water per day;
  • ensuring we have at least 3 cups of veggies each day, etc.

Action steps are the building blocks that ensure our goals can be met.  They are measurable and can be used for tracking our commitment.

Contemplate what your intentions/ goals and action steps might be for your own health.  Then every morning and every evening when you wake, and as many times during the day as you think to, close your eyes and feel what it would feel like to have your intention be your reality.  Go into as much sensory details as possible (feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling) as you do this somatic visualization.

Read your goals after setting your intentions, ensuring they still feel aligned.

Create a daily checklist of the action steps you have committed to.  I like to use a chart whereby the vertical first column lists the various action steps that you desire to take, and the rest of the vertical columns serve as check boxes for the action steps, each column representing a new day.  You can see a sample of one here and download it for your use.

If implementing such a plan is of interest to you, we do sell the Delicious Detox resource book at the clinic and it includes a 2-week meal plan, shopping lists and recipes to make your journey smooth-sailing.

And if you are interested in a future similar offering, stay tuned to my website for event postings.

In the meantime, best of luck in manifesting your deepest desires for health and healing!

Recipes to Get You Back on Track

It is more likely than not that you allowed yourself to indulge this holiday season!  And good for you, there is no such thing as ‘perfection’ and food and drink are often a part of our traditions at this time of year.  So don’t beat yourself up, just commit to some healthier choices in the days and weeks to come.  Long lasting nutritional changes start with small steps.

Included in this blog post are a few recipes to help get you started.

The Apple Cider Vinegar Mocktail will curb your cravings for sugary and salty foods, stimulate your digestive function, including both activating your digestive enzymes and also promoting healthy bile flow to drain your liver and gall bladder.  Taken after meals, studies have shown ACV will help balance blood sugar levels, and stimulate healthy metabolism.  ACV is truly a miraculous super food.  Purchase a good quality brand like Bragg’s, and be sure it contains a healthy amount of the “mother”: the floaty stuff.  This way you know the product is still “live” and active.  Avoid the “sterile” brands like Heinz that will more likely irritate than assist your digestive functioning.  If you like, omit the maple syrup, add lemon or use flat water vs. sparkling.

The Detox Salad contains a  number of different cruciferous vegetables.  The cruciferous vegetables are all part of the Brassica family of veggies and include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, arugula, kohlrabi, turnips, mustard greens, collard greens and kale.  This powerful family of foods contains some of the most nutritious foods that exist on the planet.  They contain plenty of fiber, act as a “prebiotic” source of fuel for good bacteria, are filled with Folate, a B vitamin good for building healthy blood and supporting the nervous system, and Vitamin K which helps blood clotting and bone health.  They also contain something called Indole-3-Carbinol and D-I-M, constituents that activate liver detoxification, especially of hormones and xenoestrogens from the environment.

The Salmon Cakes are high in Vitamin D and Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are all critical for healthy brain function and mood, building strong bones, reducing inflammation in the body, and creating a robust immunity

I really like the Cleansing Broccoli Lentil Soup for getting myself back on track after a time period of indulgence.  This is a tasty and satisfying fiber-rich soup to nourish the body and soul.

Using just these four recipes you could build yourself a simple little three day cleanse.

Give yourself a nice 12 to 16 hour overnight fasting window before you consume your first solid food of the day, with at least a 3 hour window before bed of no solid food, and minimal drink – other than some sips of water or a small amount of herbal tea.

So if you normally go to bed at 10, ensure your last food/ beverage is consumed by 7 pm.

Then spare yourself of food until at least 7 am the next day.  Better yet, aim to bump your first meal to 9 or 10 am.  This allows your body to detoxify, digest and repair over night and well into the morning.

Feel free to start your day with a glass of the ACV beverage upon waking, to complete the digest/ detox/ repair process that was happening over night.  This can be consumed within your fasting window.  You may want to make this one with warm flat water, a small amount of honey or maple syrup (or none at all), and a tablespoon of ACV.

Consume a serving of this at least three times during the day, for a total of 3 to 6 Tbsp of ACV spread through the day.

Make yourself a batch of the soup, and have a bowl for lunch for each of the three days of your mini-cleanse.

And for dinner have a salmon burger with some salad.

It may seem dull, however it is only for three days and the less complex, the better the compliance, in my experience.

If you are hungry outside of these meals, consume fresh fruit and vegetables.  Maybe some apple and almond butter, or hummus and chopped veggies.  Keep it light, and always be sure to ask yourself if you are actually hungry before you eat.  Often we eat because of loneliness, boredom, anxiety, sadness, frustration, etc. vs. true hunger.

if this is the case for you, ask yourself: what do I need more than food in this moment?  so if you are feeling sad.. perhaps the answer to this question is: “a good cry”.  In which case, take yourself to a cozy corner of your home and let yourself feel your tears and sadness.  If it is “bored”, ask yourself what might serve better, and see what answer arises “Go for a walk”, “Call a good friend”, “pick up your journal and start writing”.

Getting still and mindful, asking curious questions of ourselves has the potential to bring us great insight.  So have fun with this!

Good health starts with good nutrition and mindful awareness, and small changes and baby steps go a long way towards promoting health.

Holiday Menu

From our homes to yours, we would like to share our favourite recipes as you prepare for your holiday feast.  

From all of us, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and many blessings in 2023!

With love, Allison, Brittany, Garret, Julie and Michelle.

Vegan Mushroom Wellington with Rosemary and Pecans

I am all for a hearty Beef-Wellington Christmas meal, however after a few days of holiday eating and socializing I enjoy a flavourful vegan dish for dinner.  ~Garret Woynarski


1 box -2 sheets vegan puff pastry, thawed in the fridge overnight. (Use cold-not at room temp)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced, stems OK (except Shiitake stems)

1 large onion, diced

4–6 garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or sage, or thyme)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sherry wine, red wine or white wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (or feel free to sub hazelnuts or walnuts)

½ teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons truffle oil (optional)


-If you want to add cheese, add ½ – 1 cup grated pecorino, gruyere, goat cheese or cream cheese- or use a meltable vegan cheese- or make vegan ricotta!

-Egg wash – use nut milk, cream or melted coconut oil to brush on the pastry.  If you’re not worried about it being vegan, whisk an egg with a tablespoon of water.


  1. Make sure the puff pastry is thawed before you start – cold, but thawed. (Note if it is too warm, it may fall apart, if too cold, it will be too stiff to roll.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400F
  3. MAKE THE FILLING: Heat oil in an extra-large skillet or dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt and rosemary and sauté, stirring often, until mushrooms release all their liquid. Turn heat down to medium, and continue sautéing until all the liquid has evaporated, be patient, this will take a little time! Once the mushrooms are relatively dry in the pan, splash with wine and balsamic vinegar and again, sauté on medium heat until all the liquid has cooked off. This is important- you absolutely do not want a watery filling (it will turn into a mess!).  Add the toasted chopped pecans, pepper, truffle oil. Taste, adjust salt to your liking. At this point, you could fold in some cheese if you like.
  4. Let the filling cool 15-20 minutes (you could make the filling a day ahead and refrigerate).
  5. Fill 2 Puff Pastries:  Carefully unroll the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (if it seems stiff, let it thaw a few more minutes until pliable).  Place half the filling in a mound along the center (see photo) and working quickly, roll the pastry up, and over, seam side down. Fill and roll the second sheet.
  6. Brush with the egg or eggless wash.
  7. Score the pastry using a razor blade or sharp knife with your choice of design – cross-hatch, herringbone, leafy vine or just simple diagonal slits.
  8. Bake: Place the sheet pan on the middle rack in the oven for 35 minutes, checking at 20 mins, and rotating pan for even browning if necessary. Let the pastry bake until it is a really deep golden colour – to ensure it’s done and flaky all the way through. You may need to add 5 more minutes depending on your oven. Convection will help achieve a golden crust, (use it for the last 5-10 minutes).
  9. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with Rosemary Sprigs. It’s OK to serve at room temp, but warm is best.

Adapted from:

Wild Rice Pilaf

From Allison Ziegler’s kitchen


1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup diced celery

½ cup carrots

¾ cups diced onion

1 ½ cups wild rice blend

2 2/3 cups vegetable broth

1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley


  1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high and add olive oil.Add celery, onion, and carrot to the pan.  Sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir to combine.Allow the rice to toast until the oil is absorbed.
  3. Por in the broth and cover the pot.Bring the rice to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to low.  Allow the rice to simmer for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow the rice to set for 5-10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb any remaining liquid.
  5. Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with fresh herbs before serving.

Cranberry, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Salad

Julie Zepp’s pick


For the Salad:

4 cups baby mixed greens or spring mix, arugula, spinach (about 2.5 oz.)

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup candied pecans*

2 oz. soft goat cheese (chèvre)

For the Dressing:

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

black pepper to taste

*For the candied pecans:


2 cups pecans

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch sea salt


  1. Melt butter (3 tablespoons) in heavy bottomed skillet
  2. Add pecans (2 cups); stir to coat
  3. Add coconut sugar (1/3 cup), and cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon); stir to coat.
  4. Continue stirring until sugars caramelize- they should not be grainy anymore, and begin to darken in color (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. Spread nuts out on a parchment covered baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. If nuts are difficult to separate, you can break them apart after they’ve cooled for a bit.


  1. In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together until well emulsified.
  2. Add the baby greens (4 cups) and toss together well with tongs to coat in the dressing.
  3. Add the sliced red onion (1/4 cup), the dried cranberries (1/4 cup), and the candied nuts (1/4 cup) to the bowl on top of the greens. Use the tines of a fork to crumble the soft goat cheese (2 oz.) directly into the bowl.
  4. Toss everything gently together. Divide into two serving bowls or plates and serve.

Beverage: Beet Kvass

Brittany Wolfe’s Specialty

This unique and mineral-rich beverage is great for digestion. It equal parts salty, tangy, warming and satisfying.
Note that this is a fermented beverage so if you’re interested in adding it onto the menu, start prepping now! Due to the fermentation, it is also naturally high in probiotics giving you and yours a sweet little blast of gut health this holiday season.


2 cups beets, rinsed and roughly chopped

2 tbsp fresh ginger, roughly chopped

4 cups filtered water

2 tsp sea salt


  1. Sanitize your jar and lid with boiling water.
  2. Place beets, ginger, salt and water in the jar.
  3. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  4. Cover with an airtight lid and store in a dark place at room temperature.
  5. It should ferment for 4-15 days.
  6. Strain and store in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Healthy Sugar Cookies by Vani Hari

Michelle Sthamann’s holiday treat


2 cups blanched almond flour

¼ cup coconut oil melted (or grass-fed butter at room temp)

½ cup coconut palm sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all wet ingredients together and combine well
  3. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well
  4. Drop a tablespoon of dough on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet
  5. Bake cookies for 8-10 mins (until edges are golden brown)
  6. As cookies are cooling, sprinkle with a little coconut sugar after baking if desired
  7. Cool cookies for at least 5 mins before serving
  8. (Alternatively, if you are cutting out shapes, refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour and then roll out using a rolling pin and additional almond flour and bake the same way)

All Things Pumpkin

Pumpkin patches and gardens are overflowing with this winter squash as we move towards Thanksgiving and Halloween.  But did you know how nutritious this famous orange fruit is?  You can spot a nutritious food based on its colour.  Mother Earth distinguishes her most nutrient dense foods with bright colours.  Oranges, yellows, reds, purples and blues typically reveal foods high in antioxidants, the molecules that help repair damaged tissues, prevent disease, and restore health to our cells by reducing the oxidative stress created by poor diet, environmental pollutants, stress, aging, etc.  The longer wavelength colors (reds and oranges) on the infrared spectrum are well known for their high Vitamin A and pro-Vitamin A (aka Beta-carotene) content.  This vitamin is great for keeping mucous membranes (eyes, lungs, gastrointestinal tract) and skin healthy.  It is necessary for the maintenance of good IgA levels, the ‘first line of defense’ antibody responsible for keeping infections at bay, by fortifying these outer and inner barriers, making it important for immunity.  Vitamin A, along with lutein and zeaxanthin two other super nutrients in pumpkin, support eye sight and reduce predisposition to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Other important nutrients found in pumpkin include Vitamins C & E, folate, potassium and iron.

Pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of zinc, a mineral necessary for healthy immune function, and also great for prostate health and the maintenance of healthy testosterone levels.

It is a healthy source of carbohydrate, with a low calorie content, making it a wonderful addition to a balanced diet.  High in fiber, pumpkin will help regulate metabolism, weight and cholesterol levels and promote healthy regularity.

It is easy to add to recipes for baked goods, soups and smoothies.  You can purchased organic canned pumpkin, or better yet just wash and bake your pumpkin whole (in a tray with a little water on the bottom, at 350C for about an hour, until it is soft), then slice it, scoop out the seeds and strings, and the ‘meat’ will be easy to scrape from the skin and can be used immediately or frozen for later use.  Or chop, scoop the seeds and strings and then roast the ‘meat’ in the flesh and serve with a drizzle of olive or flax oil and sea salt.


10 Habits of Health

Spring is a fantastic time to take a pause and evaluate what old, unhelpful habits you might have slowly developed over the winter, and get clear on what new, life-giving habits you might want to develop.


Our brains are designed so that we cannot just stop doing something.  If we have been in the habit of doing something: drinking wine every night with supper, getting lost in Netflix after a long day, having dessert each evening, then we cannot just decide one day to stop doing it, and expect to be successful.  Maybe some people can, those with iron-will and incredible discipline, but I am not one of those people.  Plus, anytime I have been successful through these means, I am maybe successful for a few months, if I am lucky, but in those months, I am miserable, and every ounce of my effort is consumed trying not to walk down that habitual path.  So eventually, I get tired and worn down and give up, falling back into the comfort of the familiar habit.


What works best is for us to be able to turn to a new habit that directly replaces our old habit.  If we have something to distract our brains, and we do this repetitively in the place of doing the “old thing”, eventually we form a new neurological pathway, which becomes our brain’s version of the new habit.

Take a moment to determine what old habits you might want to do away with, and then perhaps peruse the list below to determine if one of these Habits of Health appeals to you and seems it could be a doable new habit for you.


What follows are 10 things that if we all did these things every day, we would feel amazing.  Trust me, I know!  I am living proof.  I want to emphasize that, yes, being healthy takes work.  It takes discipline, some sacrifice and effort.  That being said, when these practices come from a place of self-love and worthiness, that is to say, when we see these practices as gifts we are offering ourselves as means to achieve good energy, a balanced mood, a healthy body, then they feel much less onerous and much more joyful.

A powerful reframe for me, around terms such as “discipline” and “sacrifice”, as these can often also conjure up feelings of onerousness, is to think of the roots of these words: “discipline” from the Latin for disciple.  And to become a disciple unto one’s Self.  When we are dedicated to our own health and well-being, we can become our best selves and serve others: our family, friends, workplace and community from a place of fullness.  Serving ourselves, serves others.  And “sacrifice”, to make sacred.  We make our lives sacred as we gift ourselves healthy food, healthy rest, healthy movement, to name a few.

In any case, please read on for these 10 Habits and see what you can commit to incorporating today and every day.


  1. Optimize your digestive enzymes: sit down when you are eating, chew your food 10-20 bites per mouthful, set down your fork in between. You can also include 1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar in a little water before you eat and be sure to heap 2-4 Tbsp. of fermented foods onto your plate.
  2. Practice deep breathing. 10-15 mindful breaths 3x/d, a great breath practice is the “box” breath: inhaling for a count of 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4 and holding for 4 and repeating. This is incredibly effective for balancing the nervous system, optimizing brain chemistry, and downregulating stress hormones.
  3. Promote regular healthy elimination: add at a minimum of 2 Tbsp of fiber on top of your regular dietary intake daily and add 1-2 capsules of probiotics. I love ground flax seeds, aiming for 2-4 Tbsp. per day, along with 25-50 billion CFUs of good bacteria.
  4. Dry brush your skin before showers and baths. At the end of your shower or bath do 3 cycles of hot/ cold (warm/ cool) water to end, finishing with cold water.
  5. Focus on daily detoxification: Start your day with a mug of warm lemon water and drink 2-3 L of water and herbal teas daily.
  6. Emphasize rhythm in your life: Ensure you are going to bed at the same time every night (ideally between 9:30 and 10 PM) and waking around the same time every morning (ideally between 6 and 7:30 AM); and that your meals and snacks are consumed at roughly the same time each day, on a schedule of every 3.5 to 4 hours, with a minimum 12-hour overnight fast. The body loves rhythm!
  7. Make a commitment to eliminate sugar, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, non-organic meat, and non-organic dairy products from your diet. Work to clean out the chemical-based cleaning, cosmetic and lawn care products from your home (dispose of safely – never down the drain, and call poison control if uncertain).
  8. Take your recommended supplements daily, including your 1 Tbsp (heaping) of greens powder daily (to give you the nutrients found in 8-10 servings of vegetables.) Or commit to 4-6 cups leafy greens, or best yet, do both! Put either into a smoothie for a quick, easy, and nutritious morning meal. Protect and balance the nervous system and adrenal glands – 1 Tbsp of liquid Calcium: Magnesium or straight magnesium and 1 tsp of high-quality liquid fish oil daily.
  9. Exercise – At least 30 minutes per day – walking, stretching, weight training, swimming…anything goes! Find something you enjoy doing and stick with it.
  10. Work on your self-worth – surround yourself with positive energy, seek support, read books that enhance your self-belief, let go of beliefs that no longer serve you. #1) practice self compassion and GRATITUDE.


Please don’t get too overwhelmed by this list.  Pull one or two things from it to start with and incorporate them, the ones that feel doable and that you feel you could be successful at.  Once they become part of your daily habits and you can do them without much extra effort, pick another one or two.  This is truly the way we become proficient at living a healthy life.

If you would like to learn more about these habits, please listen to the interview I had with Sherry Lee earlier this winter.  My full series can be found at, and you will find the interview to the 10 Habits in the 7th Segment that aired January 25th, on physical health.

My Supplement Regime

I am often asked what I personally take for supplements, and what I give to my kiddos.  Sometimes people are surprised by my answers, for a number of reasons.

A main one is that many people still hold the belief that if one eats relatively well, they shouldn’t have to take any supplements.  And people believe me to be healthy and one of those people.  Which, well, I am!  I do consider myself healthy, largely because I take really good care of myself.

I practice self-love in the forms of daily prayer and meditation time.  I engage in daily physical activity from a place of self-kindness.  I try my very best to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, preferring to hit the 8 hour mark where I can, and making up the difference when I have the opportunity to have a bit of a sleep-in or a nap on a weekend, on vacation.  I eat well, smoothies every morning packed as filled with nutrient dense foods as possible, including several scoops of various “superfoods” as I will discuss in a bit.

Because I mostly practice intermittent fasting, which is leaving a 12-18 hour window between evening dinner and morning breakfast the following day, my smoothie is generally consumed mid-morning and due to the sheer volume of goodness I attempt to pack in there, it holds me well until dinner time.  Occasionally I might sneak in a mid-afternoon snack of some nuts or a homemade power bar or ball type of treat (I’ll include a recipe!).  Suppers are for sure several cups of mixed organic greens, some sort of protein (usually vegetarian-based or fish, but sometimes chicken and every once in awhile a good beef or bison burger), a few giant forkfuls of fermented foods (kimchi or sauerkraut), generous drizzles of flax oil, sometimes a little goat feta… you get the gist.  Healthy, right?!

That being said YES, I do supplement as well.  Main reason is that I love having the extra insurance that I am getting the right amounts of all the micronutrients on a daily basis.  I always take a good quality multivitamin that has extra B-vitamins and antioxidant support.  I take daily fish oils, in liquid form, adrenal support (as I am on the go, a lot, and have much on my plate, I like knowing that my nervous system and adrenals have some extra TLC to keep me healthy, energized and sane), liquid calcium:magnesium, Vitamin D+K, Reishi mushroom (because I love the medicinal mushrooms for all of their amazing properties: healthy immunity, hormones, hair, etc.).  I toss in iron and B12 periodically as I don’t eat a lot of meat, I give myself a few squirts of liquid liposomal Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin C, for mitochondrial and immune health.  And my smoothies… I mentioned those, right?

Filled with Greens First (greens powder), Nutribiotic brand fermented rice protein, Maca powder (more adrenal and hormonal support), several tablespoons of ground flax seeds (love ground flax!!), cacao nibs, astragalus powder, green tea powder, moringa leaf powder and mucuna powder when I can find it.

I use a base of frozen berries, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk or non-dairy chocolate milk and a chunk of banana to sweeten it a little, and dump in a scoop of each of the above goodies.

I love my mid-morning shakes!  They keep me full, satisfied, and energized throughout the day.  Because they have so many great nutrients in them, I don’t crave much and I just feel so ‘clean’.  It is of course important to be your own inner detective and find out what mixture of goodness agrees with you and your body, and of course any of our NDs can help you out and give you personalized suggestions at any point in time.

Maybe next blog I will do about Superfoods!! These are essentially nutrient dense foods that come in powdered forms that can be used to fortify what you are already eating and drinking, many of these concoctions I mentioned above as part of my smoothie extravaganza fall into the superfood category.

So, consider your investment in your supplement regime an investment in yourself!  And pop these little nuggets knowing you are in good company, and are engaging in quality self-care.  Of course, they are but condiments, and they need to rest on the “main course” of sleep/ rest, exercise, meditation/ prayer, laughter, outdoor time, food, community that make up health.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Each month my turn to write my blog post rolls around, and each month I often feel stumped for what I am going to write about.  This drives me crazy!!  As someone whose head is otherwise constantly spinning with thoughts and ideas and inspiration of various sorts, I am perplexed and annoyed when all of a sudden, I feel as though I am staring inside my own mind at a blank wall.

What I have learned, after years of practice, is not to get too caught up in the annoyance.  Not to resist the irritation, and yet not to let myself get riled up by it either.  In fact, what I have learned to do is to lean into it all and then to simply breathe, get curious, and see what arises.

So, you see, in this exact moment as I write this, I have a choice.  I can choose to: get frustrated about not knowing what to write about; worried that I am not going to make my deadline to get this to my colleague for posting; scared that inspiration will never strike me again; self-defeatist and start beating myself up that I have nothing to say and am a horrible communicator and I am best just to resign myself from the blog post rotation (can you relate to any of these wild thoughts??); or, I can lean in to the symphony of thoughts and feelings.

I can simply stop.  Breathe.  Notice the frustration, fear, panic, angst. But rather than resist it, I can metaphorically wrap my arms around it.  Acknowledge, love and accept it, and thus myself, for feeling what I feel.  Feel how tired it makes me feel.  How underneath the edge of anxiety I can feel some sadness, some tears springing to the surface.  I can feel a bit of vulnerability coming forth, honouring the small still voices of worry and fear, and if I can breathe and lean a little further in, I can start to relax.

Simultaneously noticing the voices of judgment that want to spring forth and tell me how ridiculous this is, how this ‘feeling’ thing will do nothing to getting me towards my goal of writing a blog post, how I need to stuff this all down and just get to work; attempting to pull me back out of this relaxation response I was beginning to fall into through my breath.  And so, with this next barrage of thoughts too, rather than follow them, I notice them, honour them, give them a voice, surround them with love and patience and those metaphorical hugs, and then feel that feeling settle back into my nervous system: the melting, surrendering into peacefulness, vulnerability.

Perhaps you can feel it yourself, too, this rollercoaster effect, just by reading these words, and can relate to similar rides you might take in your own life as a result of your own mind.  When the mindset of pressure, judgment and expectation dominates, it winds us up, creates a stress response and pulls us into a state of panic.  Until we remember the breath, and to lean into the uncomfortable feelings, resisting nothing, and engaging the mindset of calm, relaxation, acceptance, thereby creating a relaxation response and stirring the inner feeling of inspiration and possibility.

And up and down we go, with our bodies following our thoughts, until that time we retrain ourselves not to attach so strongly to the fear-based amygdala-activating thoughts, and we cultivate the habit of leaning in, being with, breathing and acceptance.  Like riding a bike, we can all learn to do it, and like riding a bike, it will take practice however our nervous systems can be trained over time, not to forget.

As I leaned into my own blank wall of a mind, allowed myself to acknowledge the impatience, frustration, fear, etc. that was there (as I described earlier), basically breathed and loved and hugged myself through this, then the words, as you are reading, started to flow.  And they flowed back to this concept on the Nervous System, one that I risk sounding like a broken record about, as it is my passion and the focus of my work, both for myself personally (as someone who has had a handful of nervous system/ mental health challenges over the years; acquiring labels from anxiety to depression to ocd/ disordered eating/ body image manifestation) and in my practice.  Because in fact, the nervous system really does trump everything.

The act of writing (or any other inspired process) takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain, the creative brain, which can really truly be best accessed when our bodies are in the parasympathetic nervous system response, aka the relaxation response.  This is the opposing system to the sympathetic nervous system response, aka the stress/ fight or flight response.  With this latter nervous system predominant our brains and bodies are concerned solely about survival: we subconsciously tense our muscles, increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and breath rate (shallow and short) and we start to sweat and perhaps even feel a little anxious as our bodies prepare to fight or to flee.  When we are not actually fighting an enemy or running away from danger, what happens is that we begin to fight ourselves and run away from the task at hand, or our goal, whatever that may be.

In my case, writing an article.  In yours it might be choosing a new more nutritious way of eating, cooking a healthy meal, deciding to implement a workout program, giving up a detrimental health habit (such as too much screen time, smoking, sugar, overwork, etc.), incorporating a supplement protocol, or even writing a blog article!!

Everything we do (other than ACTUALLY fighting or fleeing!) will be more effective if we can do it from a place whereby the PNS is dominant over the SNS.  We absolutely need both in activation, as the SNS is what actually allows us to get sh** done, however if we are constantly panicked and burnt out and anxious as our starting place, we really aren’t that effective.

This is because the choice to act from inspiration, rather than stress, is far more sustainable, and creates a positive, constructive, self-perpetuating cycle of success, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of stress, negative self-talk, punishing/ violent “motivation”, poor personal choices and destructive, addictive self-soothing but also self-sabotaging habits and patterns.  I am sure you know the latter all too well.

There are a multitude of ways to help your brain and body shift gears and learn this new state of being and fall into the health-promoting, constructive cycle.  I will include a few of my favorites here and as you read through them, see which ones may sound intriguing, curious and enticing to you.  Then try them!  Reach out as we have an incredible resource team here at Prairie Sky health who can help you:

  • Mindfulness practices, prayer and meditation
  • Journaling
  • Time spent alone and in nature
  • Movement: exercise, especially time spent outdoors in very beneficial
  • Supplements: GABA, l-theanine, lemon balm, passionflower, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, 5-HTP, lavender, hibiscus, etc.
  • Essential oils: frankincense, lavender, mint
  • Nutrition: 40:30:30 diet whereby 40% of your foods come from carbohydrates in the form of: whole grains (rice, quinoa, oats), starchy (sweet potatoes, plantains, beets, carrots, etc) and non-starchy (green leafy) veggies, fruits and berries; 30% of your foods come from proteins (eggs, chicken, fish, lentils, chickpeas, beans, wild game, naturally raised beef/ bison, raw nuts and seeds); 30% of your foods come from good quality fats (avocado, coconut, olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, raw nuts and seeds also fit into this category, etc.)
  • The “Mediterranean Diet” is one of my favorite diets for balancing the nervous system and feeding the adrenal glands.
  • Avoidance of high stress foods like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, breads, cakes, cookies, etc. is important as these are stressful on the body and perpetuate the fight or flight response.
  • Reiki, Body Talk, Acupuncture or other energetic healing practices
  • Physical practices like massage therapy, chiropractic or osteopathy

I have spoken on the various aspects of health and what one can do to support each crucial aspect in the radio series I did with Sherry Lee on CJTR earlier this winter.  I have also spoken to her on this subject specifically: “The Nervous System Trumps Everything”, and all of these episode links can be found on my website

If you would like to learn more and immerse yourself in learning this new language of health.  By all means, reach out any time for more information, to any of us at the clinic, and we would be honoured and overjoyed to work with you on your own health journey towards greater health, joy and peace.

Blessings, and thanks for reading!

The Power of Surrender

So interestingly enough last month when I set out to write my blog post article, which you can read here, about what you can do to support yourself should you happen to come down with COVID, little did I know that just shy of a week later I would test positive myself!

Seriously!  I had just finished saying to someone earlier that week that I thought I must have some sort of natural super-immunity because no one in my family had tested positive or come down with symptoms and truth-be-told, our lives were more or less unchanged since the early days of the pandemic, relatively speaking anyway.  Both my husband and I have jobs that take us outside of the home and myself as a Naturopathic Doctor who prefers in-person to telemedicine consultation, and he, as a chiropractor, quite obviously cannot do his work virtually.  We chose to send our kids to school as long as in-person learning was available.  We kept my parents in our bubble since March 2020.  I would meet with friends for long walks outside in order to maintain my community.  Once gyms opened up I resumed workouts outside of the home, following protocols and keeping responsible with hand-washing, masking and appropriate physical distancing.  I did have the first two vaccines back last spring, but opted not to get the booster. Truth be told hoping for the opportunity to gain some natural immunity.

Given the amount of potential exposure I had had, and the fact that my son’s classroom had about 6 cases since January 2022 alone, I was certain I, and my family, must have had the antibodies to COVID as none of us seemed to be affected.  Because I do work with people in-person in the clinic and in my workshops, I was also mindful to rapid test two to three times per week, just to be sure I wasn’t harbouring viral antigens that may cause disease in someone else.  For myself, I wasn’t concerned, I just really didn’t want to be a vector for someone else that perhaps felt differently than I.

In any case, it was a Friday morning and I woke up feeling a little off.  The test I had taken Wednesday morning was negative, however with the strange sleep I had had I decided to test again.  At first it appeared to be negative so I assumed I was fighting something, just not COVID, so after the 15 minutes I went to have a shower and begin my day getting ready for work.  The shower felt extra good on my extra weary muscles that were now starting to feel quite leaden.  Beyond what I would have expected, despite the strenuous exercise I am known to engage in.  I continued my morning prep, increasingly feeling feverish and weak.  No cough, no sore throat but definitely a headache starting.  I was just evaluating how I would proceed with my work day when I walked downstairs and glanced down at the test cassette I had not yet tossed.  I did a double-take.  A very faint pink line was visible beside the T!!  I was stunned.  I immediately took another test then went upstairs again to debrief with Dan, definitely walking very slowly and pulling myself up the banister as the leaden feeling continued to become more pronounced.  Sure enough this second test showed positive within the 15 min. window, indicating that the viral antigen load had increased in my system to the point that it was immediately picked up.  I messaged the clinic letting them know I couldn’t see anyone in person that day and asking them to rebook those that preferred not to consult with me virtually.  Thankfully a large number chose to rebook, as it turns out I was to feel pretty rotten that day!

The point of this blog wasn’t meant to be to give you a play-by-play with my foray with COVID, though I think that it does make for a bit of an interesting story!  Really what I wanted to get at was the importance of surrender in the healing process, based on my physiological knowledge but also my personal lived experience.

Thankfully, prior to my positive test, I did have going for me that I held no fear or anxiety about getting COVID.  It’s not that I don’t have a healthy respect for the virus, I absolutely do.  I have a friend whose mother tragically perished as a result of the infection and have numerous patients whom have lost family members to it’s virulence.  I also appreciate the potential for long-term effects after having had the illness.  I also feel extremely confident in how healthy I keep my body, and in saying that I am not also under the illusion that I may still not be susceptible to serious illness.  I have a congenital heart condition that could predispose me to a more serious complication, so again, even with my own health I am not flippant about risk.  I have studied the effects on fear on the immune system in great detail and know intimately how the stress response interferes with a robust immune response.  Being in “fight or flight” mode can create the internal physiological conditions to allow a virus to take over.  So I was already in a ‘winning’ position against this virus.

I also believe in the healing power of the body and I have learned over the almost five decades of my life how to tune into, listen to and honour my body and what it needs from me in order to assist it to heal (be it something physical like a bruised tailbone, dislocated shoulder, two vaginal births, multiple ankle sprains, etc. or something mental-emotional like anxiety or depression).  I was actually a bit excited about putting all of this into practice yet again, in the face of a new challenge.

The first day, that leaden feeling intensified and I don’t know I have ever felt the level of exhaustion I felt that day.  My head was so heavy that opening my eyes hurt.  Reading was not an option, so forget using this as a chance to get caught up on my book pile!  I had no interest in watching anything, the thought of the blinking glare of a screen did nothing to appeal to me.  Instead, lying on the couch, sweating it out, drifting in and out of sleep, fasting, sipping water and occasionally turning my attention towards an audio book for a few minutes at a time was EXACTLY what my body was calling for.

Rather than fight it, resist it, worry about it or ‘try’ to do anything about it, I just surrendered and allowed my body to do what it knew what it needed for healing.  To just not move.  To rest.  To sleep.  To sip.  To fast.  It was a beautiful time of giving myself fully over to the miraculous healing ability of the body.  Thankfully I would drift up and into some energy and brain power just in time for the few appointments that had chosen to connect with me virtually that day. Then, I would collapse back onto my couch in exhaustion and repair.  After a 12 hour sleep that night, I was starting to feel somewhat more energized.  Reading became interesting to me, at least for a few minutes at a time, and I could focus on my audiobooks for longer stretches.  We have the good fortune to have an infrared sauna in our home so I spent several hours in that on Saturday morning, followed by a contrast hot-cold shower, ending with cold.  I felt human enough to head off for my PCR test (yes, it was positive), then come back home to continue my job of healing.  I camped out in bed that afternoon, having had to cancel all of my commitments for the weekend I was able to participate in a friend’s online birthday gathering I would have otherwise missed, I had the chance to finish an online course I was working on.  My husband got a chance to be primary parent, and in charge of meals for the week, this was a lovely bonus. Thankfully my kids are old enough that they are pretty self-sufficient as well and didn’t require me the way they would have had they been infants or toddlers so my self-isolation in the house was only tough on us due to the fact we couldn’t hug and cuddle and read together like we like to do.

Sure, a little difficult, however I knew it would pass and resisting this reality would only make it harder!  So more surrendering, accepting things exactly as they were.  Not pushing away disappointment for what I had to miss, but leaning into the opportunity that was being given to me, knowing that if I were to fight, try to overdo it when my body clearly didn’t want me to, get caught up in worrying I would never get better, etc. then I really truly would prolong my illness.  As it was by bedtime Saturday I was feeling better, still had a long sleep, engaged in lots of self care Sunday with more sauna time, lots of broths and hydration and a return of my appetite and the desire to make myself a smoothie.  By Sunday suppertime I felt tiptop.  Like I had never been ill.  By Monday I felt better than I had before, I think in large part owing to the significant chance I had had to rest and let my immune system do its “upgrade” by mounting the fever and fighting the infection.  Much is purified and strengthened in the body as a result of a successful dance with an antigen, like a virus.

I absolutely know that each and every person that has had COVID experiences it much differently and that we truly have no idea how and why some people get more ill than others.  Is it weight? Activity level? Blood pressure? Blood sugar? Co-morbid health conditions? Nutrient status? Anxiety levels? Fear of illness? Level of exhaustion/ burn-out prior to infection?

It’s any and every, really.  If I were to speculate on how and why I had a positive experience with the virus I would say it boils down to my ability to surrender.  When we surrender (which does not mean resign!!), our bodies drop into the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “relaxation response”.  This is the opposite of the aforementioned sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response.  In the relaxation response our bodies are able to rest, digest, heal and reproduce (think healthy libido, hormone balance); all the thing we need to be able to do when we aren’t running away from danger.  Note that “heal” is part of the relaxation response.

To be really clear and make it incredibly simple, we do not heal when we are constantly in fight or flight mode.  It’s that simple.  And that’s not just about being busy.  That is also about RESISTING.  You have heard the expression “what you resist, persists”?  well this is not some woo-woo magical thing.  This is physiology.  When our brains are in resistance due to fear, anxiety, judgment, attachment (wanting/ not wanting), etc. our bodies are geared up for fight or flight.  When we are arguing with reality, thinking things should be different, worrying about what we have to do, what action we have to take, etc., well, we are in stress mode.

The opposite of this is surrender.  This is the ability to lean into reality.  As I said this is not passive resignation, not even close, instead we just give up resisting.

I didn’t passively resign myself into covid, I actively honoured the subtle things my body was requesting of me: no coffee, no screen, no book, yes water, yes broth, yes sleep.  I surrendered to my reality (the couch was my best friend) and took action as I was inspired to do so (the gentle nudge to go sauna when the time was right).  I have this little strategy I use and teach: the 5As.  Acknowledge, Accept, Alchemize, Ask and Act.

First we acknowledge what is going on for us: I’m tired, I’m sad, I’m sick, I’m emotional.  And then we accept it.  Even if we don’t like it, we accept it.  Because, really what is the point of resisting.  It is what it is! And resisting will just create the stress response to keep us stuck.  So, just accept.  Right then this acceptance, this turning towards ourselves and whatever might be going on with us creates the 3rd A: Alchemize.  Like being gifted with a big hug that you can just collapse into that seems to make everything better, the process of true acceptance is like that and it creates this alchemy within our body where we move out of fight or flight and into rest, digest, heal and reproduce.  Brilliant! Right?

Then.. this is where surrender and resignation are different.  In surrender, we turn to A #4 from a state of peace and relaxation, due of course to the alchemy we created, and we ask.  This may be we ask ourselves, our body, our inner wisdom or intuition, like I did.  Or it may be that we are guided to reach out and ask someone else for help: a trusted friend, spouse, parent, child, physician, healer, God, google, really anyone that we feel intuitively called to ask for help and support to get us through the challenge we are faced with.  This itself can be tough as we live in a staunchly (and pathologically) independent culture where we are so willing to help others but somehow feel it is unacceptable to ask for assistance ourselves.  Let’s just say it is high time to break this bad habit.  Because truly, though we are the only ones that can do our healing… we cannot do it alone.

Once we land on the next right most loving step in the course of action offered to us in the Ask step, well, then we take action when the time is right.

Acknowledge + Accept + Alchemize + Ask + Act = Surrender

By way of this simple equation, we have all the tools we need for vital health of mind, body and spirit.