Categories
Food Healing Lifestyle

Supplements I Used While Healing My Gut

If you had read before in my other gut blog entries, I suffered from a lot of gut-related issues as a result of a health trauma my body faced. I wanted to share with you the supplements I used to help heal my gut. This is for educational purposes only and to give you all hope. Please speak to your health care professional. Information below on the products were taken from the websites of the products.

SBI Protect Powder from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Increases mucosal immunity through immunoglobulins G (IgG) and microbial balance
  • IgG = antibodies that are produced by plasma cells and act as part of the immune response to aid in the destruction of bacteria, infections, and viruses.
  • Supports inflammation and the gut barrier
  • Helps flush out toxins in the GI tract

GlutaClear from Metagenics

  • Helps boost the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant to help with oxidative stress
  • Supports liver detoxification

Ortho Biotic Powder from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Supports microflora balance which leads to micronutrient absorption and immune function
  • Gut dysbiosis and bad microbalance can occur whith medications, poor diet, and alcholol.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-14)/ Lactobacillus paracasei (Lpc-37)/ Bifidobacterium bifidum (Bb-02)/ Bifidobacterium lactis (BI-04)/ Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp-115)/ Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG)/ Saccharomyces boulardii

Glycogenics from Metagenics

  • B-complex to support metabolism

Digestzyme V from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Digestive enzymes to help absorb food
  • Maximizes nutrition absorption
  • Target enzyme support
  • Supports gastric acid

Magnesium Buffered Chelate from Designs for Health (2)

  • Highly absorbable
  • Reduces inflammation and calms nerves and muscles
  • Also in chocolate, spinach, almonds, broccoli, avocado and banana

L-glutamine from Klaire Labs (2)

  • This is an amino acid that helps create and synthesize protein.
  • Glutamine is produced in the muscles and distributed by the blood to the organs. It helps bring nitrogen and carbon to cells, and in order to heal and recover from wounds, you need this from the glutamine.
  • It is known to help with gut permeability and other gut-related issues like IBS and leaky gut.
  • People may experience a deficiency due to trauma, stress, or shock on the body.
  • Specifically, people who undergo chemotherapy become deficient in this.
  • Two types: Trans-Alanyl-Glutamine (absorbed better) or free form.
  • Take right before or after workouts, as it helps with muscle growth and recovery.
  • Also in bone broth, beef, broccoli rabe, fish, and turkey.

Categories
Healing Life Lifestyle Mindset

The Top 3 Things that Helped Me Heal

My Past Experiences

I always get asked the question on how, as a cancer survivor, I healed from my health experience: the surgeries, procedures, chemotherapy, and all of the other fun stuff that came along with the trauma of cancer. I talk about it a lot in Power to Persevere, but wanted to create this blog post as a three-year update. While healing is non-linear and a lifelong practice, taking baby steps each day can help you get to where you want to be.

Just a little background on Power to Persevere, I wrote this book in effort to inspire others going through challenging moments. I do still practice and believe in everything I wrote in the book, but I felt called to disclose more. I started officially writing the book one year out of treatment (age: 21). It was published when I was about two years out of treatment (age: 22). Now, I am three years out (age:23), and have tried even more healing modalities and tools. With a little more life experience, I am glad to say that I have more to bring to the table.

Now, before discovering these three new modalities I practice every week, I want to talk about past research. Between all of the advice I would ever read in magazines and websites, I kept reading the same things: keep a gratitude journal, exercise, and meditate. I was doing all of these things. Some worked more than others, but I did not feel complete. What if I did not want to keep a gratitude journal, or already was doing it and still did not feeling optimistic? What does exercise constitute as, and what if I cannot physically go on a run or lift weights like the suggestions say? What am I supposed to do when meditating and why can’t I calm my mind down? These were the questions that circulated my mind.

So, I was on my quest to find more ways to continue to heal.

Side Notes

My Source of Conformation

I have recently learned a lot more about the scientific and researched-based part of trauma in the book The Body Keeps the Score, and everything that I have practiced this specific year makes complete sense. Trigger warnings when reading this book. However, I would 100% read it whether you have been through a life crisis or notice that you have certain thought patterns, limiting beliefs (hinting at childhood trauma), uncontrolled outbursts, or chronic emotional dysregulations. This book was my source of confirmation that everything I had learned along the way was scientifically proven to work.

My Main Realization

Before I reveal my top three healing modalities, the main take away I have learned is to SLOW DOWN and DO NOT put a time stamp on the healing process! I cannot stress this enough. I learned this the hard way.

In order to heal from anything, you need to give your body the space and time to do so. You need to find ways to reduce your stress and bring yourself into a state of “rest and digest” and homeostasis. When you go through a traumatic experience, your autonomic nervous system goes on overdrive and your body goes into a state of fight or flight. The energy and emotions around the experience are stored in your nervous system, and until they are reprocessed, then they will be released.

After chemotherapy, I wanted my old life back so badly. I had just been through a time period where I had lost control over my life and slowly started to see myself die. I remember right after treatment, about a month later, I would FORCE myself to go on runs (which I would barely even complete). The first vivid memory I had was when I was in Arizona in February. The weather was beautiful, and warm enough to run in. I put on my timer and started to jog. I could barely even run five minutes. My joints were aching and I was having trouble breathing. I started to become very down on myself and upset with my will. Mind you, I had just completed eight rounds of chemotherapy which equated to four toxic months of what my oncologist referenced as “baby atomic bombs.”

Why me? Why can others workout like this, but my body is failing me? I used to run track in high school and was extremely active in my early years of college. Running 5 miles at a time in less than an hour was no big deal for me. I would do this a couple of times a week. Also, I had some doctors who were not helping wither. They had told me that after treatment, I should just go back to my normal life. At 20 years old, this is all I wanted. I tried to, but kept falling a part and getting worse. I believe it was because I was not slowing down or allowing my body to heal.

The reprocessing occurred months down the line for me, personally as soon as I started to “look” the way I left my old self. That was in July 2020.. so about two and a half years out. I suffered from panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, and overall terrible symptoms of PTSD. They only started to slowly go away through these three healing tools:

No.1 – Practicing Bilateral Simulation and Tapping

Bilateral stimulation is a resource tapping mechanism to help reduce stress and regulate the nervous system. This somatic work helps tap, no pun intended, into the parasympathetic nervous system. I was able to practice how to rewire my nervous system through EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing). During this, I have practiced this tapping to help find safe places and resources to turn to that my body was already accompanied by in the past. What’s happening is that there is a bilateral alteration occurring in your body, between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Dr. van der Kolk talks further about this in The Body Keeps the Score. This is also known as EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique.

Essentially, with the tapping, we can access and break emotional circuits in the body. These are stored in the limbic system, a collection of structures in the brain that deals with memory and emotion. They help regulate the body’s nervous system’s reaction to stimuli. by tapping acupuncture points to register calmness.

I would practice butterfly tapping either on my shoulders or right below my collar bones. To do this, take your right hand and bring it to your left side, and your left hand and bring it to your right side. Then start tapping your body.

When I am doing this, I try to think about places or things that have made me feel safe and calm. I pinpoint any smells, sounds, colors, or emotions I feel. I focus on my breath and begin to release the tension in my body. I used the first thing that came to my mind. A cup of warm water and lemon is my physical item, and a specific beach in Bermuda is my safe place.

No.2 – Energy Healing Meditation + Visualization

I have practiced about every type of meditation, and was not moved and transformed until I started to learn about energy work. This is a holistic practice that energetically moves and shifts energy blocks in your body. I first became acquainted with this through reiki, universal life force energy.

In reiki, we focus on cleansing the seven energy systems in the bodies, known as the chakras. Essentially what happens is the practitioner practicing the reiki taps into universal energy from source and transfers it to the body to help it heal. I have gone through attunements and training myself, but before I became a student, I was a patient.

When I got treated with reiki for the first time, the practitioner read my energy through a body scan and picked up different points that needed assistance. Energy can stay stagnant in the body if it is not moved. Supposedly, if not moved, illness can occur. Every point in the body takes two to five minutes to cleanse. The person receiving the reiki also has to be winning to accept the healing in order for it to work.

When I received reiki for the first time, I was told that my heart had some major blocks. When the practitioner worked on my heart, I literally felt one sudden intense pulse, and a jolt of energy transfer throughout my body. A matter of fact, this was done virtually. That day I had to drink lots of water. That week I had intense dreams and flashbacks. This was all part of the healing process. Some people experience heat or tingling sensations as well.

When I practice energy healing meditations on myself, I visualize energy flowing through all of my body, from my head down to my feet. I pretend to see a white light transfer through my crown chakra (my scalp), and slowly paint it’s way down to my third eye, throat, heart, abdomen area, pelvis, my root chakra (my groin) and then down to my feet. I spend more time on places that I feel like need more love.

No.3 – Yin Yoga

In general, yoga offers nourishment to the body’s nervous system due to the breath (pranayama), poses (asanas), and spiritual connection. There is a musculoskeletal connection what helps release pain and discomfort, while building healthy facia, lengthening and strengthening your muscles, and supporting your tendons and ligaments.

Yin yoga in specific is a practice that specifically targets deep connective tissue in longer periods. It can be uncomfortable, but you start to focus your energy on your breath and visualize your body working for you. It helps lengthen connective tissue, bring circulation and flexibility to certain points in the body, and tap into the parasympathetic system. Yin yoga works like reiki in a way because it opens up blockages to make energy flow better.

When I practice yin yoga, I hold my poses for 2-3 minutes, or around 20 breaths. My exhalation is always twice as long as my inhales. I love asanas that focus on the spine, vagus nerve (which is responsible for igniting the parasympathetic nervous system), and third eye in specific. I start to feel my heart rate and breath slow down, as my muscles start to relax and lengthen.

Categories
Lifestyle

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Introduction

Does eating bread or pasta make you feel tired, bloated, or brain fogged? You might have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I as experiencing all of these symptoms as a result to gluten.

What is gluten?

I talk about gluten and my experience on my podcast, but will share with you all some valuable information as well. Gluten is a protein that helps “glue” the grain together and is the elastic for bread to help it mold together without crumbling. It has gliadin in it which is the main component that helps bread rise when baking.

Some grains that have gluten are wheat, barley, rye, farro, semolina, and spelt. Oats may have them too if they are cross contaminated. Soy sauce even has wheat it inside from the starch. You can be exposed to gluten even by cross contamination like using the same spoon to stir your gluten-free pasta and wheat flour pasta.

Gluten is not unhealthy, but the media makes it seem as if it is. It can act as a prebiotic to feed good bacteria in our bodies. The reason why it is probably deemed to be unhealthy is because it is inflammatory, and if you have a sensitivity to it, then you are more likely to become inflamed and develop other issues.

Types of Sensitivities

When it comes down to a sensitivity, there are two types. You may either have celiac disease which occurs when gluten triggers the body to attack itself and damage the small intestine (the area where the most of your nutrients are absorbed). When this becomes inflamed, then your body will not be able to absorb other nutrients correctly. If left untreated it can actually lead to different types of cancers, artery diseases, diabetes, MS, and other serious conditions. Some other conditions associated with it are anemia, fatigue and thyroid issues.

And the second type is non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I discovered I have one with a Wheat Zoomer Test that was done by my functional nutritionist. It basically tested if I had any gut permeabilities, sensitivities, or antibodies to gluten. Some signs and symptoms are fatigue, joint pain, IBS, anxiety or depression, brain fog, weight fluctuations, acne and skin rashes, malabsorption.

In both cases, the villi, which is the area of food absorption, becomes inflamed.

Some ways you can recover from this are by eliminating gluten, drinking bone broth, digestive enzymes, and glutathione support. Even activated charcoal helps binds to the toxins and takes them out of the body. Magnesium can sooth the digestive track.

You also have to be careful if you’re actually not gluten-sensitive, then there are some risks. You lack fiber and some key nutrients like vitamin B, zinc, iron, calcium, and folic acid. Also a lot of the gluten-free alternatives are unhealthier because there are more fillers and emulsifiers in them that can be irritating to the gut. There might be excess sugar, which can cause weight gain, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, different gums, highly processed vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.

Some “fillers” and binders for gluten-free alternatives are psyllium husk which is a soluble fiber what absorbs water easily. I also like using ground flax seeds and chia seeds. These three form a mucilaginous gel when mixed and settled with water. Xanthan gum which is also a binder that undergoes a fermentation process (this helps thicken the breads) and guar gum which is from beans (this also helps provide elasticity and binding properties). Eggs are also good, but I do not use them because I have a sensitivity to them as well. 

Conclusion

Make sure you get tested to see if you have markers for a NCGS. You can also do the elimination diet and eliminate all gluten-containing foods from your diet for a month then report back and journal how you feel.

I post more yummy recipes and meals on my Instagram, so be sure to follow along!

Disclaimer: I am not a dietician or doctor. This research was all based off of primary from my experience and secondary information from research.

Categories
Life Lifestyle

Three Year Hair Growth Journey and Hacks

Struggling with hair growth? I used to as well, especially after my cancer experience. When I was 19 years old I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer that attacks the lymphatic system (aka immune system) in the body. I was just a few weeks shy of turning 20, and this is the last thing that I wanted to hear as a young lady. After learning that I was going to lose my hair from treatment, I panicked because my hair identified me (as it typically does with a lot of women). I was always known as the girl with the most beautiful curls, and now there was no guarantee that my hair would ever be the same. It was an important part of me, and my stomach turned at the thought of watching it all fall out. I wanted to list a timeline of everything up until this day (it has been almost three years since I have been cancer free). FYI, I NEVER anticipated to write a blog post about this when I was undergoing treatment, let alone talk about it. I tried my best to find photos to show.

About a week before my surgery:

September 25, 2017 – I cut off a majority of my hair to donate.

September 26, 2017 – I had my first chemotherapy treatment. I was anticipating to wake up the next day without all of my hair.

October 10, 2017 – I was scheduled for my second treatment. This is when my hair started to slowly fall out. It started when I would touch it, then it progressed and got so bad that there was constantly a trail left on my pillowcase and clothes. I did not wash my hair for a week and tried to always wear a cap because I had a fear that it would all melt or blow off. Yes, a little irrational, but if you actually saw what I was going through or heard of stories you would probably also think the same.

October 17, 2017 – I shaved off all of my hair. I could not take it any longer. I was going to meet my friend for lunch, but insisted that we stopped at a local barber to get all of my hair shaved off. “How much is a buzz cut? I need to get one.” Do not let these smiles fool you, I cried a lot that night.

A week later I had my next treatment, and then my hair continued to fall out even with my stubbles. At this point, it was actually hurting my head. My roots were inflamed and sensitive and anytime anything touched my scalp, I would get an instant headache. I was starting to bald more on the top of my scalp. And yes, I owned it when I was outside. I did not really care what others thought at this point. I just did whatever made me comfortable. Note: I never purchased a wig.

I got two other buzzcuts after my initial one during treatment. My final one was in December right around Christmas. After my sixth treatment, I was almost completely bald, and my brows and lashes started to also fall our rapidly. I tried to use castor oil to stop the process, but the chemotherapy was too toxic to banter off.

January 3, 2018 – Treatment ended.

One week later, and nothing happened.

February 2, 2018 – my hair slowly started to fill in. Old hair that did not fall out from chemotherapy grew slightly longer. Throughout the while process, the tips of my hair had very different texture and grooves. My scalp started to hurt again once the hair started to grow back in.

March 1, 2018 – I was still experiencing baldness, but my scalp was starting to fill in more.

March 31/ April 18, 2018 – My hair was thin, but still filling in.

May 6, 2018 – Starting to fill in more! Got my first hair cut post treatment. It was just to shape my hair.

June 9, 2018 – Getting a little longer.

June 24, 2018 – getting curly!

August 25, 2018 – More curls.

November 11, 2018 – CRAZY poof!

December 26, 2018 – Longer!

January 5, 2019 – Happy New Year + 1 Year out!

I got my second real haircut in March 2019, about a year after my shaping trim.

Here are some photos for the remaining of the year of 2019/ two years post chemotherapy:

Now for three years at 2020, from most recent to the past.

What I learned:

This will not last forever! I thought that my hair would never grow back. After treatment, like the week after, I would try everything to help my hair grow back. Even biotin. Nothing was working because it was not my hair’s time yet. Actually, I take that back. I would massage castor oil on my scalp, but this would only help the fray thin hair just get longer. It was not fixing the issue of the chemotherapy-induced alopecia.

What I saw actually help my hair grow faster:

The main thing was a balanced diet. I have to say, as soon as I started to incorporate meat into my diet on a regular basis, my hair started to rapidly grow. This is a staple because there are certain nutrients, like ferritin, in the protein of the meat that aid growth and repair of the new hair follicles. Ferritin is stored iron that helps the hair growth.

Additionally, the iron found in meat has more heme to it (as opposed to 100% non-heme in plants). Heme iron is more easily absorbable by the body than non-heme, and our human bodies absorb heme better. It is important to take note that dark meats have more heme in them. According to my research, clams have the highest. I in fact ate a lot of chicken liver and beef to help. A pro tip: eat vitamin c rich foods to help with the absorption of iron. I had to actually start taking an iron supplement to help with my deficiencies. This is the one my nutritionist put me on.

Okay! Back to hair business.

Something else that I noticed that helped was collagen peptides.

Conclusion:

GIVE IT TIME AND BE PATIENT!

If you are eating a balanced diet and doing everything right, then all you have to do is wait. Your hair will grow back. It might not grow back the way that you want it to, but just remember how far you have come.

Connect with me on Instagram!

Categories
Lifestyle

Modeling in NYC Without an Agent

Always believe in the unbelievable, because what you dream of and what is meant for you will happen. You just have to trust and believe.

I wanted to write this blog post for those who have been asking me how I have gotten involved in several photoshoots these past couple of years. Anytime I make a post about it on my Instagram, I always have somebody ask me how it happened. The truth is, it just happens. I truly believe that these all manifested in my personal life as an effect of me tuning into my dreams, facing my fears, and becoming vulnerable.

The beginning of my modeling experiences actually started as a baby and child. I was signed with Wilhelmina Models, was a fit model for Tommy Hilfiger, and was in some prints and on a toy box. Cute, right? This was WAY before any of these new modeling experiences have occurred, and there was definitely a 15 yer gap of me not doing anything in this world.

I started up again out of coincidence in the beginning 2018. At this time, I had just finished chemotherapy, but was still relevant in my community at my school, Marist College. (I eventually ended up transferring to Fordham University to be closer to home, but that is beside this story.) I was still selling jewelry at a boutique on my campus, and was still in touch with some friends. There was a new initiative on campus that I was nominated for called For the Record.

I was selected as one of the top 50 inspiring students on campus. The team at Marist Circle wanted to interview and photograph me. The thought of a photoshoot made me cringe. I was FRESH out of chemotherapy and did not look myself AT ALL. My hair was about an inch long on my head, not even. I gave the team at Marist an old photo of me that I took a week before my surgery to use, but hesitated on actually getting headshots like all of the other students. I was not sure I wanted anyone to remember me like this. I knew that this photo was going to be on the internet forever and I was scared to have to explain to people why my hair was short. I prayed on it and committed to visiting campus for a short weekend to see friends and get my photos taken despite my insecurities.

This then led to an independent NYC photographer reaching out to me on Instagram to shoot with her. At this time, I was still super insecure about my appearance because my hair was now a poof ball and my scars were very bold. Despite the hesitation, I decided to do it for fun because why not?

I was then asked to be part of Luna Peak Foundation’s book Beyond Remission. I talk about the whole entire experience in Power to Persevere, but in brief it is a collection of photos and insight from cancer thrivers and survivors. Now, I know I always talk about this experience. I do not like to always revolve my conversations around and talk about my health, but it is relevant. This season of my life was truly a reset; it changed everything.

These three experiences combined must have created more traction. I had made a sneak peek post about this initiative on my instagram, which led to more. In the spring of 2019, I was then asked by someone on Sachin and Babi‘s team if I was interested in doing a photoshoot for their Mother’s Day campaign. (Peep my hair slowly starting to grow!)

After this, another independent photographer asked me to shoot with them that summer. I was even invited to shoot with Fadil Berisha after meeting him for a shoot I attended with my friend Lexie Duval. Then in the fall of 2019, another independent up-and-coming NYC photographer, Brian Edsall, asked me to shoot with him for his portfolio.

In the fall of 2019, Sophie Beren, someone I had met at a conference, had reached out and asked if I could be featured in their opening video launch for her new platform she was creating called The Conversationalist. It was going to be difficult for me to make it because I had travel plans to visit old friends at Marist for Alumni Weekend, but I knew that I could make some magic happen. I signed up for one of the lat shooting times. I was so camera shy. I was never filmed before. It was actually such a nerve racking experience. I think it reflected in the recording, but I was told that it went great. Another experience down in the books!

Fast forward to 2020, Larissa May from #HalfTheStory reached out to me, asking if I wanted to be part of their #DitigalResolution campaign. Why not? I met Larissa at Fordham University’s Accepted Student’s Day Orientation as she was a guest speaker, and after I reached out to her to feature her in my book. She became a friend, and of course I would help her out!

Then the pandemic hit and I had to move out of the city for a while. At this time, I was struggling to finish all of my class projects and final exams to graduate. I had the opportunity to sign with a top nationally and internationally recognized modeling agencies, but because of the circumstances with the world, I decided to not proceed. I felt in my heart that it was not the right move at that time, but that this was not the end. There was still something out there for me.

That summer I received an email from a producer named Josh Sondock. He heard my story and wanted to chat. He was casting for a commercial with Next Gen HQ for their new initiative, the Momentum Magazine. I went on an interview with him, talked about my past experiences, and a few weeks later I was asked to be one of the three entrepreneurs to be filmed. This was an ultimate life-changing experience. I had never been on a film set before, nor did I know how much went into filming for that one perfect shot. This process for my part took about seven hours for not even 50 seconds of clips.

Fast forward to October 20th, I received a DM on Instagram from an account called @careandwear about another opportunity. I looked into them more and immediately fell in love.

Hey Alexa! We are a healthwear brand that makes accessible clothing for people with cancer and chronic illness. We’re launching a new product in collaboration with luxury designer Oscar de la Renta and we want to feature people who have or are currently going through treatment with a Chest Port. The photoshoot will be held at the ODLR office in Midtown on October 26th. Would you be interested in participating? If so, let us know as soon as possible so we can send you more details! 🙂

Everything was confirmed just the day before the shoot. The spontaneity around this was one that I never experienced before. I was able to move around some of my plans for that day to attend the shoot. I felt like the cards and cosmos were aligning because just three years prior, right before I had my cancer diagnosis, I helped backstage at Oscar de la Renta for fashion week at their HQ.

Around the same time, I was then invited to do another shoot with Brian at Egg Studios in Brooklyn, and a few other companies have reached out to me to shoot for their products for Instagram posts. Ultimately, one project led to another, and because I kept saying “YES” and putting myself out there, I was able to learn for my experience and build a little portfolio. Now for my advice…

If I could give advice to anyone out there these are my top 5 tips:

  1. Listen to your heart’s desire, find an outlet to express yourself on, and put yourself out there.
  2. Become a leader in your space by building a community.
  3. Say YES even though it might be scary.
  4. Post about it to show credibility.
  5. Trust the process.

A sudden dream occurred out of the blue on God’s timing. As I continued to pray on my path and question if everything that I had worked hard to achieve with Power to Persevere and all of my cancer-related work for the community and the wellness space. I am not sure what God/ the universe has in store for me next, but I am excited to see!

Remember, the right people will come into your life according to divine timing’s planning; you will meet one person who will change the course of your life. Be friendly and act from the heart.

Ciao,

Alexa

Connect with me on Instagram!

Categories
Lifestyle

Purified Water Trial!

Ciao amici! I wanted to share with you this new brand who reached out to me to try their purification system. They are called ZeroWater, and launched their own 5-stage filtration system.

Honestly, ever since my cancer journey, I have been very particular about what I fuel my body with. I immediately purchased a Berkey water system (which is out of this world), and always opt to water that has a been filtered because there is so much gunk in our water today.

Purified water systems:

  • Remover chlorine which can cause more acid and dry you out.
  • Removes lead which is toxic to the organs.
  • Filter out harmful chemicals from old pipes and microorganisms (#5 )
  • Save money from bottle water – which is also not healthy because of the chemicals in the cheaper plastic (does anyone else actually taste the plastic?) Also, on this note, this is why I do usually use my Berkey becasue the water is stored in Stainless Steel. The best option is honestly getting a reverse osmosis system.

In specific, the ZeroWater® has 5 instead of the standard 2-stage filtration. I gave it a try and it did work different from a Brita (one that I used to use in college). The water in the Brita immediately poured through the filter as if there was not even one there. This one took some time to filter through, but was not as slow as my Berkey.

Also, on their website, ZeroWater claims that they are “System Tested and Certified by NSF International against NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for reduction of chlorine taste and odor and against NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for reduction of lead, chromium (Hexavalent) and mercury.” Big thumbs up!

In my opinion, ZeroWater was easy to assemble. You literally just screw on the filter to a plastic piece, and then secure the lid. I like this one for students dorming versus the Brita.

ZeroWater and Brita are also roughly around the same price.

*ZeroWater: $32 for the dispenser + 1 filter and $30 for 2 filters

*Brita: $45 for the dispenser + 1 filter and $17 for 1 filter.

*Berkey: $278 for the dispenser + 2 filters and $120 for the filter.

* These are all different ounce measurements.

I would love to hear what you use as a water purification/ filteration system!

  1. I’ve been hearing about ikigai a lot but haven’t really taken the time to study it. Thankfully, I stumbled across…

Categories
Lifestyle

HEALING-INSPIRED HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Because I am an advocate for balance and self-care, I have created a unique holiday gift guide with affordable products I find useful to help promote a state of ease and calm.

  1. The Body Keeps the Score – a book to help inform trauma healing from the brain, mind, and body connection
  2. Electric Tea Kettle – a quick fix to your tea
  3. Tulsi Tea – a tea to help calm the sympathetic nervous system due to it’s adaptogenic qualities
  4. Weighted Blanket – studies say this helps promote a sense of safety
  5. Jade Eye Mask – cooling and reduces puffiness and eyestrain

I would love to connect and hear your top products you use to help keep you calm!

Categories
Lifestyle

HOW I CURED MY UTI NATURALLY

I recently had two back-to -back UTIs. (TMI? NOT!!!) I wanted to write this post to share with you what I did to cure my UTI, naturally. I was on antibiotics before for a “quick-fix,” but when it came back for the second time, I did not want to rely on medication. I took a risk and experimented with cranberry!

For 10 days, I took these two supplements.

4 capsules 3x day – Nature’s Way

3 sprays 3x day – Liddell Laboratories

By day 7 I was feeling better, but I continued for three more days to make sure I was in the clear. No doctor suggested this to me; I did this completely based on my own research and intuition.

Categories
Food Life Lifestyle

Elimination and Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Ciao amici, I wanted to do a gut-healing part two post on more in-depth food lists. If you want to read my gut-story post, please click here.

Okay! So let’s talk elimination and detox. I worked with Nikki Yelton, RD, a holistic nutritionist focused in auto-immune disease. She helped me discover what foods fuel and hinder my gut and evidently life. Nutrition is not one-size fits all! We are all bio-individually made – different genetics and ethnic roots. Because of this, we need to understand what works FOR OUR body. I also want to mention that I do not “diet,” the known term that means eliminate and hate. Diet means lifestyle, or creating a meal plan specific to your needs.

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

It is a meal plan to eliminate all inflammatory foods to which then you will gradually introduce in moderation to see how your body reacts.

Through working with my nutritionist, I had to eliminate:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Red meat
  • High-histamine foods- sardines, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, whole olives, mushrooms, spinach, dried fruit, raspberries, mustard
  • Nightshades – tomato, eggplant, peppers
  • Lectins – beans, peanuts, white and red potatoes (sweet potatoes were allowed!)
  • Sweeteners – processed sugars, honey, stevia, syrup, etc.
  • Fermented foods and beverages – kimchi, vinegar, alcohol, kombucha
  • Grains – oats, rice, amaranth, barley, etc.
  • Packaged goods, canned meats and fish, cold cuts

What to eat:

  • Proteins:
    • Fish (shrimp, salmon, scallops, all white fish), lamb, chicken, turkey, veal (all free-range/ grass-fed, wild caught, and organic)
  • Carbs:
    • steamed/ roasted/ grilled/ raw veggies
    • Sweet potato
    • Low-glycemic fruits (berries)
  • Fats:
    • EVOO, coconut/ avocado oil, ghee, MCT

* This meal plan is not vegan!

CLICK HERE FOR COMPREHENSIVE LIST I USED

Dirty Dozen *avoid if not organic – spinach, strawberries /[all berries], kale, apples, nectarines, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes

Clean 15 *low amount of pesticides and can eat if not organic – avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, kiwi, honeydew, cabbage, muchroom, broccoli, papaya, onion, eggplant, asparagus, cauliflower, cantaloupes, sweet peas

TIME + LENGTH

I made sure to eat my first meal within an hour after waking, and had food until 8pm. Ideally fasted for 12 hours.

Breakfast: morning smoothie with NUZEST protein powder

Lunch+dinner: meat/fish, potato, veggie, fat

Snack: protein powder

I did followed the above diet for 21 days.

Comprehensive guide from Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine here.

Other resources: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php

Categories
Lifestyle

MY GUT + HEALTH HEALING STORY

THE PAST

One year, before and after… Intense chronic bloat and discomfort fixed.

I have always been a very healthy person. I recently discovered that the reason for this might have been influenced by my mother. Laying on my square play-mat as an infant, I would watch  her from the corner of my eyes insert a VSH into the TV and complete a Zumba, weight training, or kickboxing class in the living room. I clearly do not remember this, but my mother recently revealed this to me. It was then that I was conditioned to know that movement was vital. Throughout my youth, I engaged in ballet, modern and jazz  dance, gymnastics, soccer, softball, basketball, cycling, and track. I was introduced to Pilates on YouTube in high school and yoga through the girls who I lived with my freshman year in college. This is when I really started to connect to my body on a different level.

In addition to movement, my mother influenced me to fuel my body with vitalizing and  nourishing, whole foods. From meat and milk to fruit and vegetables, I only ate organic. The atypical food boxes and snacks my peers would eat during lunch were never allowed in my home. The only sweets we ate were biscotti from Italian bakeries and vanilla ice cream. On occasion we would drink Italian sodas as a treat when we would visit my nonni. I was even one of the only kids who had a lunchbox full of wholesome food. Lunch consisted of loads of lettuce, tomatoes, and turkey breast in between two slices of 9-grain bread, peanuts or almonds, and an apple – balanced, clean, and healthy.  Sometimes I would eat nachos from the cafeteria and never tell my mama.

Overall, My mother was my light and inspiration, a role model that helped form habits and structure, take health seriously, and learn to fuel and nurture my body.

Happy 5th Birthday!

THE CRISIS

I did not start to take my health seriously until MY CRISIS. It was a sudden cancer diagnosis at the age of 19, and chemotherapy for four long months at the age of 20. I lost complete control over my body, and  was on the bridge of death from the toxic treatment. The most difficult thing to process was that I had to undergo this treatment even though I could not see the disease. This took my body out of equilibrium.

One of my treatments.

Between losing  my physical  health and having difficulty to cope with everything mentally at my young age, I felt like there was no way out. I was in so much pain that I did not think I would be able to heal from this trauma.  In the early months after treatment, everything I did to try to “fix” myself did not work. I kept comparing my journey to others which did not fuel me at all.

I was overwhelmed and hopeless even though my doctors said I should not worry.

Everything and anything I tried to do would hurt me more. My gut was so messed up. The trauma my body was in put everything out of proportion and created an unhealthy population of digestive enzymes in my body.

I spent over a year trying to heal myself, and even went to specific health care practitioners to help get my body back. Nothing was working.

I told myself I would, and I believed I could.

It was honestly not until about two years after my initial diagnosis where I took it into my own hands and went through a body transformation through a reset. I was guided to do this by my holistic nutritionist, Nikki Yelton, RD, who taliored her practice to autoimmune gut health. She carefully and meticuously created protocols and plans for me, ranging from my fuel, to my sleep and movement. Follow her @nikkiyeltonrd on Instagram!

I stopped listening to the mainstream media saying “if you are not going hardcore and pushing yourself, then you are not trying hard” and encouraging others to engage in extrem diet trends. I spent time with my unique individual body and self and learned what made me feel good with the help of my holistic healthcare provider.

BALANCE through A RESET was the START OF A NEW CHAPTER.

Two years later . . .

Among all of my eastern and western-focused doctors and other health care professionals, I finally learned how BALANCE my body. My healing journey truly started with food and fixing my gut.

The way I kickstarted my body into healing, restructuring, and molding into its best self was by fixing my gut. My process began with extensive blood work and an elimination diet to ‘reset’ my body and discover my food intolerances. The more I continued to eat foods that hurt my gut, the more inflamed I got, and the less I was able to heal. 

Meal prepping with friends.

MY PERSONAL OUTCOME

I was difficient in vitamins because my gut was not able to absorb them correctly. I needed to include different vitamins and minerals that I was deficient in according to my blood tests. Read below.

I had a test which tested my gut permeability. This concluded that I in fact did have leaky gut. I had to supplement with an intense gut-sealing powder for two months.

I had a test done to see my sensitivity to gluten which I have a NCGS – Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. I also discovered that I was grain sensitive as well. I needed to avoid everything and anything gluten-contaminated. (I still practice this. However, sometimes I eat gluten-containing foods. i .e. I cannot resist my nonna’s specialties…In my own personal experience, in the beginning months of eating it when I eliminated it, I would feel extremely fatigued, nauseous, and itchy. Now, I do not feel those symptoms as much.)

I had to avoid snacking and made sure I ate 3 hours in between meals to help with my gut and promote regular bowels.

I had to increase my b-vitamins to help me with my energy, hormones, and metabolism.

I needed to increase my fats to improve my oleic acid which helps with inflammation reduction. It is a mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid.

I had to introduce Vitamin D and magnesium supplements.

I needed to work on my antioxidant intake and introduce CoQ10 and vitamin c. I also started to eat Brazil nuts for selenium and sunflower seeds for vitamin e.

I increased cinnamon powder to help regulate my blood sugar and only ate 2-3 servings of fruit a day.

*I was only on my supplements for a short amount of time until my levels stabilized.*

FOOD

I was encouraged to 4-5oz protein

2-3 servings of healthy fats

1-2 servings of starchy carbs

0-1 fruit serving

I avoided grains, beans, dairy

Every morning I had apple cider vinegar in water before my meals.

In addition to my IgG food sensitivities: gluten, eggs, dairy, turkey, salmon, apples, bananas, and a few more, I also personally eliminated:

  • high histamine foods- sardines, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, whole olives, mushrooms, spinach, dried fruit, raspberries, mustard
  • foods with nightshade – tomato, eggplant, peppers
  • foods with lectins – beans, peanuts, white and red potatoes (sweet potatoes were allowed!)
  • sweeteners – processed sugars, honey, stevia, syrup, etc.
  • fermented foods and beverages – kimchi, vinegar, alcohol, kombucha
  • grains – oats, rice
  • packaged goods and canned meats and fish

**MY HUNGER STARTED TO INCREASE THE MORE I ATE, AND MY BLOAT AND PUFFINESS STARTED TO GO DOWN!**

WHAT I USUALLY ATE: VEGGIES, FRUIT, NUTS, MEAT, FISH, SWEET POTATO [MORE TO COME ON THIS SOON!]

ACTIVITY

10,000 steps everyday.

Made sure I got quality sleep to replenish and rejuvenate my body and assist in repair. CALM MAGNESIUM helped with this. When you sleep your body is also in “rest or digest” mode and you are processing toxins and detoxifying them through excretion.

Chewed thoroughly and carefully so that the enzymes in saliva could help break down food for digestion purposes.

Added restorative exercise like yoga to help reduce stress.

YIN YOGA IS MY FAVE!!!!!

Meditated to renew my sense of clam and reduce negative emotional charges.

YOUTUBE IS A GOOD RESOURCE; I WILL BE CREATING SOME SOON XX

Used of essential oils on my temples, like lavender.

AFTER THE FIRST MONTH

GUYS, it was INSENSE. I had to make sure I prepared all of my meals before I went ANYWHERE. Essentially, meal prepping was the way to go. I even had to bring my own food out to restaurants. At the end of it, I felt major shifts in my body, watched my bloat decrease, and learned what my body could handle once I slowly started to ease my way off of the diet.

After the first month, I would slowly reintroduce all foods that were not on my IgG test (above). However, I made sure to not consume my IgG sensitivities since these were scientifically backed to cause me issues. I would document down everytime I felt ill from any foods as I slowly started to introduce them back into my diet and notice how they reacted with my body. After 6 months of my intense diet, I began to slowly introduce the sensitivity foods back in my diet and recorded how they reacted with me.

Eating out during the cleanse. Only menu
option: bacon and tea.

ONE YEAR LATER

Before: leaky gut, brain fog, depression, anxiety, sluggish, chronic bloating, SIBO, fatigue, stomach discomfort/ pain, puffy

After: bloat down, gut healed and repaired, mood stabilized, clear-headed

Overall, I have noticed that the foods that do consistently bother my gut are eggs, banana, avocado, mushrooms, and beans. I try to stay away from them, but will eat them on occassion if I am out at a resturant or if a recipe includes them. Eggs are my number one sensitivity, so I really and truly try to not eat them.

Also, on an activity level, I now resort to low-impact workouts like pilates and yoga. They balance my hormones and make me feel good. I also walk every single day. This is a non-negotiable.

THE CONCLUSION

PATIENCE!!!!!!!!!

I am one year out of healing and recovery, and finally started to see results about eight months into being consistent with cutting the foods out to heal my gut.

ALSO, BALANCE!!!!!!

Life should not be full of restrictions. It is a gift to be alive, and here on earth we are meant to explore, enjoy, and feel happy. In my opinion, do not completely restrict something unless it is actually harming you.

MY LESSONS LEARNED DOWNLOADABLE BELOW.

DISCLAIMER

I encourage you to look at my experience as inspiration for hope. Remember, this was specifically tailored toward MY body. Not everyone has the same background and outcome. Please speak to a healthcare professional.

Other resources:

Power to Persevere: Inspiring Stories to Help You Get Through Challenging Moments

MY INSTAGRAM