August Favourites

August Favourites

HEALTHY

Viridian Sports Electrolyte Fix

During and following my Clear Passage therapy I’ve been instructed to drink isotonic sports drinks to help with oedema and to replenish my electrolytes.  The only thing is that a lot of those sports drinks are full of sugar which I hated drinking because of the high sugar and they weren’t agreeing with me.  So I was delighted when I came across these electrolyte drops which I can add to my water instead.  The drops are going to last me ages so are way more cost effective than the sports drinks too!

Zoodles

I’ve always thought zoodles/courgetti etc were a great way of getting more veg into my diet and love how they add a bit of novelty to my lunches and dinners so I was excited to try out the Morphy Richards Spiralizer Express this month.

Normally I just use a julienne peeler, which means that the zoodling (I think I just made up a word there) options available to me are somewhat limited to carrots, parsnips and courgettes with my zoodles being all the one width and straight and only really as long as the vegetable (e.g. length of the carrot).  I was pretty content with this until I tried the Spiralizer Express which opened up a whole new world of much longer and more curly zoodles!   I could also spiralize a wider variety of fruits and veg including apples, butternut squash, beetroot and celeriac which wouldn’t have worked very well with my julienne peeler. The spiralizer has two options for width of zoodle – one thinner option (like spaghetti) and one thicker option (like linguini).  It’s very quick and easy enough to use and clean once I got the hang of things and it came with a small recipe book which has given me plenty of inspiration for future dinners.  I think my julienne peeler has been relegated to the back of the cutlery drawer!

 

HAPPY

Traveling always makes me very happy.  I love the excitement of heading to the airport knowing that I’m heading off on a bit of an adventure (or at least a break away from my everyday routine).  In early August I travelled to both Lisbon in Portugal and Kent in the UK.

Lisbon was hot and sunny, colourful and lively.  We made the most of our short weekend visit and headed to the breezy coastal towns of Cascais and Ericeira, both of which have very different vibes.  Cascais being a bigger, more glamourous town with big hotels and plenty of restaurants while Ericeira being a more relaxed fishing and surfing village with lots of white washed houses and narrow cobble streets.  I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Ericeira – a little beach side shack that served fish.  You picked the fish you wanted from their tank which was then grilled and served with lemon, salt and olive oil.  No fancy dressings or marinades or spices.  It was ridiculously fresh and tasty!  With a side of broccoli, it was a filling and satisfying lunch and the views from our table weren’t too shabby!

Then in Kent I got to visit so many English towns and villages – from medieval Sandwich and seaside town Whitstable to bustling Canterbury with its famous cathedral to Dover where I hiked the stunning white cliffs.   We got to eat al fresco a good bit that week which is always a novelty, my favourite place being a pub right on the beach with the cliffs of Dover as its background.

Travel is definitely good for the soul!

GLOW

While in Kent, I picked up Better You Magnesium Body Lotion.  I’m always keen to try different body creams and lotions and had been wanting to try one with magnesium for a while.  Soaking into the skin, the magnesium is supposed to soothe and relax.  I’m not sure if I noticed a huge difference on that end but I’m not too disappointed as not only does it contain magnesium oil but also shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil and vitamin E which are all fantastic moisturisers in my book.  I found it to be nourishing but not greasy like some body lotions I’ve tried before and it’s been great on my sensitive skin too.  One I’d buy again for sure.

My Experience With Clear Passage – Part 2

In this blog I’m going to talk about the therapy itself and what’s been happening since I finished the therapy two weeks ago.

THERAPY

I was pretty nervous ahead of my first session but once I met my therapist I felt so much more at ease as she was such a warm and welcoming person.  The 20 hours of therapy were broken down into 10 sessions – two hours every morning (9am – 11am) and two hours every afternoon (3pm – 5pm) except for Friday when the afternoon session was from 12.30pm – 2.30pm.  I was told to have a light breakfast and lunch as most of the work would be on my abdomen and was told it was vitally important to drink isotonic drinks to replenish electrolytes from therapy.

The first two hour session consisted of an overall body assessment.   I learnt so much about my body.  I had a lot of internal scarring on my lower right side (where my ileum was) which was to be expected, but I also had scarring on my left side and the top middle of my abdomen (just under my ribs).  She said that this scarring caused restriction and referred pain.  Seemingly both my uterus and bladder were being pulled over to my right side, my stomach and liver were stuck too high under my ribs and restrictions in my abdomen was causing my back and hip to overcompensate which then caused the aching in my legs.  My hips were out of alignment, my pelvic floor was pretty weak and I stood in a way that put pressure on my back and hips.

The rest of the sessions went about working on everything using techniques from a sort of myofascial release, cranio-sacral massage, physio and many others.  I was then shown a lot of exercises and techniques to use on myself at home.  I won’t lie, some sessions were uncomfortable but she always checked in on my as to my pain levels and would back off on pressure if things were getting painful.  She was surprised at how much I was able to take given that I had Crohn’s and was surprised that I didn’t flare during the treatment.

Seemingly on the third day it’s very normal to become bloated due to oedema and very tired.  I didn’t experience the bloating and while I was tired in the evening I was exhausted.  Some nights I slept better than others but I did notice I dreamt more which is to be expected.  I also noticed I felt a little teary (for not apparent reason) on a couple of the days.

Before every session I had to complete a form that tracked a myriad of possible symptoms which I thought was helpful for myself to become even more aware of changes in my body.

I was told to walk after every session so it was a great excuse to explore the area especially as it was sunny and warm.  We headed to loads of the local villages and seaside towns, went into Canterbury and even hiked the cliffs of Dover.  I was so happy that I felt good enough to get out and about as I was worried that I may just want to go to bed after every session.

I thought the week would drag and it would be awkward being with one therapist so intensely.  20 hours is a long time but it flew by and we chatted the whole time.  By the end I was both happy and sad it was over.  I loved the routine of my day, the therapist and the therapy itself (some parts more than others), however I felt my body was just about needing a break.

I had another overall body assessment on the last day and the therapist was very pleased with my progress.  She had expected a 50% improvement but in some places I was at 80% improvement.  My alignment was better, my pelvic floor stronger, my stomach and liver had moved down and my uterus and bladder were back over to nearer where they should be.  Instead of my organs being stuck I definitely could feel that everything was more fluid in their movement in my abdomen.

POST-THERAPY

It’s advised not to fly for at least 24 hours after your last session has finished on the Friday so we decided to stay an extra night and to go to Greenwich for the day on Saturday before our late-night flight giving me well over 24 hours before flying.  I had been feeling so well during the week that I think I was lured into a false sense of indestructability!  But on the Saturday I felt flu-y.  I was a little achy all over, my throat was starting to feel sore, I had a headache and I was feeling really knackered tired.  I just wanted to curl up on a couch and sleep.  Luckily it was a sunny day so we just took it slowly wandering around, sitting out in the sunshine and making sure I had lots to drink.

I felt a little better on the Sunday but during the following days I constantly felt like I was fighting off a cold the whole time and my energy was lower than normal.  I kept up with my home exercises though every day.

Then on the Thursday I got a ‘flare’ (an obstruction).  I had to head home from work and I still don’t know how I managed to get home without vomiting.  The pain was excruciating, I was in a cold sweat and I felt like my insides were going to explode.  I began wondering if I had done the right thing, if I just made things worse or if I had eaten something I shouldn’t have or had done the home exercises wrong.  I got in touch with both the therapist in the UK and the doctor in the US.

The therapist reminded me of all the things I should do in the event of an obstruction and reassured me I had done nothing wrong.  She checked in on me a few times that day and the following few days until I started feeling better.  The doctor in the US rang me on the Friday and we talked for about 40 minutes.  She explained that the oedema (water retention in the tissues) causes swelling so obstructions can happen after treatment as the body readjusts to not having such intense treatment every day and can happen until the swelling goes down and that it can take three months for that to happen.  She said she was surprised that it didn’t happen during the treatment itself.  In the meantime, I should stick to low residue and non-aggravating foods, drink plenty of liquids, replenish my electrolytes and make sure to do my home exercises every day.

I was impressed at the after-care and while it was really disappointing to get a flare especially so soon after treatment it was nice to have that support there.

Unfortunately over the following days the oedema bloating in my abdomen was getting a little worse and I was having the SIBO feeling of something just dying inside.  Then on the Monday night I had spasms all through the night.  I felt that the isotonic drinks may have been feeding the SIBO given the high sugar content and the fact that I don’t eat any sugar (other than from fruit I eat).  On Tuesday I mainly stuck with liquids and the spasms subsided.

I decided to do a Low Fodmap and SCD reset diet to quieten down the overgrowth and I sourced some electrolyte drops to use in water so I could ditch the sugary isotonic drinks.  After a couple of days I could really notice the difference.  The SIBO feeling went and even the oedema started to go down a little.

So it’s now been two weeks since I finished therapy. I had a follow up call with my therapist a couple of days ago and we talked about all that was going on in my body since the therapy with another call scheduled for the coming week.

I wasn’t expecting so many after effects but it shows me that I actually got something done.  I think if I didn’t feel any different I’d probably wonder if they did anything.  While it’s frustrating and disappointing to have the flares, once I know that they can be expected and know the things I can do to reduce the chances of them happening and what to do if they do happen I feel a little more in control.

Finally I’m really impressed with the after-care and follow-up.  I didn’t expect so much and feel like I’m definitely not left to go it alone which is reassuring.

So I guess it’s just a matter of waiting for the oedema to go down to really see what improvements have been made…. Let’s see what I’m like in three months time!!!

My Experience With Clear Passage – Part 1

Clear Passage Experience

In my previous blog post I talked about why I went to a Clear Passage clinic for my Crohn’s disease.  In this post and the next I thought I’d talk about my experience of dealing with the clinic, the therapy itself and how I’ve been getting on post therapy.  It’s pretty long which is why I’ve decided to do it in two parts.

PRE-THERAPY

After sending on an initial email requesting more information a representative in their head office in Florida rang me and we chatted for about 45 minutes.  She gave me an overview of the therapy, the locations it could be done, the cost etc.  She was a pleasure to talk to so I got a good first impression.  She knew I had more questions especially relating to my personal situation with Crohn’s scarring etc. so she said that all potential patients have a consultation with their Doctor and also with one of the founders Belinda Wurn.

She then scheduled a call for their doctor to ring me to go into my health in more detail.  Before this call I had to get bloods done and send over the results (along with the last couple of bloods I got done) and any MRI reports I had from the last few years.

My fiancée was a little sceptical about the treatment (especially given the cost) so I said to him to sit in on the call and we would see if they were the real deal.  The call lasted about an hour and they went through everything.  She was great at describing things that the MRI scan showed that my own consultant never told me.  Based on my bloods she also told me I needed to really up my protein to help bring up my albumin and help with gut repair.  She recommended I take b12 drops to help with my fatigue, to drink LOTS of water and to take a multi-vitamin.  She gave me the helpful tip of taking liquid or children’s chewable supplements to increase the chances of absorption.  She went into the details of how Clear Passage therapy could help with my internal scarring and answered any question myself and my fiancée had about the treatment.  By the end of the call I was more confident in the therapy and my fiancée was totally on board.

The next phone call was with Belinda Wurn who told us about her experience and the history of Clear Passage.  She also answered any questions we had.  Again the call lasted about an hour and we never felt rushed or that any question was too insignificant.  I came away from the call feeling like she really wanted to help people.

Never one to make decisions quickly, I chatted with my Crohn’s consultant who wasn’t convinced (she thought it was an ‘expensive experiment’) but said she’d prescribe the necessary antibiotics I’d have to take.  I also discussed the therapy with a Nutritional Therapist I know who had surgery for Crohn’s and a family friend who is a GP and has had Crohn’s for many years.  Both thought if the therapy could help me avoid surgery then it was worth trying.

I then felt I had nothing to lose (other than some money).  If I did the therapy and it worked well that would be absolutely amazing.  And if it didn’t work, well then I could go into surgery knowing that I had tried the alternatives.

Booking the treatment was the next step.  I decided on the Canterbury location as it was a short flight from Dublin and I was told it was a lovely part of the UK.  I paid a deposit to secure the treatment and then paid the outstanding balance a week before the treatment started.  I had to send in bloods again a week ahead of the treatment starting and three days before the treatment I had to start a course of Rifaximin antibiotics.  I believe this was to help with counteracting SIBO during the treatment.

Once I reached Canterbury I knew I had made the right decision on location.  It was the quintessential English countryside.  Lots of little villages with Tudor-style houses, thatch cottages and English pubs and little coffee shops.

The location of the therapist was about a 15-20 minute drive outside Canterbury.  We rented a little cottage less than a five minute drive from the clinic.  The clinic itself was on a farm and was surrounded by fields and you had to drive up a very narrow road to get to it.  It was so peaceful you would be hard pushed not to relax but I was a little nervous about what the week held for me.

Read Part 2.

Health Update: Why I Attended A Clear Passage Clinic for my Crohn’s Disease

Why I attended a Clear Passage clinic for Crohn's Disease

I rarely go into too much detail on the blog about my current state of health but a lot has happened this year so thought it was worth a post or two.

I’ve suffered with my stomach since I was in my teens.  Told that it was ‘probably just IBS’ I put up with the bloating, spasms and vomiting for about 20 years until I finally got diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in November 2011.

Since then I’ve been taking a light medication (Imuran 25mg a day) and have drastically changed my diet and lifestyle to help with the management of the disease.

I’ve been tinkering with my diet since my diagnosis, firstly going off gluten and dairy and most foods that showed up on an intolerance test I did (out of 200 foods tested, I was intolerant to 80).  That got me so far.  Then I came across the paleo diet and did a Whole 30 (no grains, legumes, dairy, gluten, alcohol, refined oils, refined sugar).  That gave me a little improvement but it was when I went AIP (paleo without eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds) that I got the greatest result.  And for a few months I was doing really well until I started to get bloating again every day along with a feeling that something was festering inside.

I asked to be referred for a test to see if I had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as I had been researching what could be happening to me and sure enough the test was positive.  I was put on an antibiotic and sent on my way.  But the trouble with SIBO is that if the root cause of the overgrowth isn’t addressed, it can keep coming back.  To help prevent it rearing its ugly head again I had learnt from the research that a Low Fodmap diet combined with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet can prove useful so I started doing those diets combined with AIP.  This has helped me manage the SIBO and Crohn’s over the last year or so but it’s very restrictive and it makes it extremely difficult to eat out or travel.

This year I noticed that despite my best efforts with diet and lifestyle I started to get the old spasms again with a greater frequency that the last few years.  While I know what to do when I get the spasms (don’t eat, just drink liquids etc), they are very unpleasant and there’s always a chance of perforation which can be fatal.  I’m lucky as I’ve never been admitted into hospital but my consultant thinks that’s more to do with my high pain threshold and stoicism rather than my disease not being that bad.  I guess I’ve just been managing for so long that I just keep managing.

My consultant thought it was time to get another MRI scan done earlier this year and it showed that the scar tissue in my small intestines had gotten narrower.  While there’s a lot of things that Crohn’s patients can experience, it seems my ‘thing’ is strictures (narrowing of the intestines) which can lead to bowel obstructions which was the cause of my spasms and vomiting.  Strictures are also probably the cause of my SIBO.  Food can’t get through the intestine (or takes longer) due to the narrowing and therefore can start to ferment in a place in the gut it’s not supposed to (hence the overgrowth of bacteria there).

I get routine bloods done every couple of months and have been showing this year that certain nutrients are pretty low – in particular iron and albumin.  I also have low hormones and amenorrhoea which I saw an endocrinologist about who believed it was due to a low BMI.  While my BMI is low it’s not under what it should be.  I believe it is more a case of the scar tissue not allowing nutrients be absorbed resulting in the low nutrients and low hormones etc which then have the knock-on effect of fatigue, achy, tired legs and the amenorrhoea.

I was referred to a surgeon earlier this year who wanted to take out over 30cm of my ileum including the ileocecal valve and then do stricture-plasty (slice my intestines open and stitch them up again in a different way to give them a little stretch) in about five other places.  He told me I’d be off work and not allowed to drive for about two months.

Whaaaaaaat????  This sounded really serious.  I think for the first time since my diagnosis it really dawned on me how serious this disease can be.  I always thought I was a mild case and that eventually it would go away once I got the diet and lifestyle stuff figured out.  But even though I had been doing everything ‘right’, the scar tissue had gotten worse.

What I was most concerned about was the removal of the ileocecal valve.  It’s a valve between the small and large intestine that makes sure there’s no back flow from the large intestine into the small amongst other things.  This can lead to SIBO (there’s nothing to keep bacteria out of the small intestine) and chronic diarrhoea.  When I asked about these ‘side effects’ of surgery I was told there would be a medication I could take that would help me to manage it.   As I don’t even like taking the Imuran every day the thoughts of adding another med didn’t thrill me.

Surely there had to be a more natural way of healing internal scar tissue that wouldn’t involve slicing me up?  There are ways of healing scar tissue on the outside of the body, why not the inside too?  Maybe some supplements I could take or some exercises I could do?

I guess I’m lucky as I had time to research my options.   A lot of people have to have emergency surgery as it’s a case of life or death.  But every time I had a spasm I would worry that this would be the one that would have me on the operating table.

While researching I came across Clear Passage and the Wurn Technique®, – a non-surgical, drug-free treatment which is a unique hands-on physio/physical therapy modality, developed over 20 years by Belinda Wurn, PT, and Larry Wurn, LMT.

From their website I learnt that adhesions are powerful bonds that the body produces to help injured tissues heal. Once healing has occurred, adhesions remain in the body, often binding tissues that were previously free to move naturally. When this happens, pain and dysfunction are the natural result.  There is a wide-variety of adhesion-related conditions including female infertility, endometriosis, hormonal conditions, post-surgical pain, and bowel obstructions.

Bowel obstructions?  This had me really interested now.  I had to learn more.

While doing more research on Clear Passage I came across a podcast with Dr Allison Siebecker (siboinfo.com) about SIBO and how the Wurn Technique was being endorsed as a possible way of helping if the root cause was bowel obstructions.

So Clear Passage could help deal with small bowel obstructions and help the root cause of my SIBO without surgery.  If they could help with the scar tissue, maybe I’d be able to absorb more nutrients again.  It sounded exactly what I had been hoping to find but was it too good to be true?  I found out that although Clear Passage are based in the US, they do have two locations in the UK which would be a short flight from Ireland.

Feeling quite hopeful (but still a little sceptical) I got in touch with them to see if they could indeed help me!   In my next blog post, I’ll talk about my experience with Clear Passage.

July Favourites

Here’s what’s been making me healthy, happy and glow in July!

Healthy

HEALTHY

Nobo Ice-Cream

It’s the middle of summer (for Ireland that means a lot of rain!) but we did manage to get some scorching hot days in July.  On those days it’s nearly rude not to have ice-cream.  I love the healthy, dairy-free, refined sugar free, Irish brand Nobo.  They’ve got a great range of flavours from creamy Vanilla to fruity Mango and Passionfruit, zesty lemon to decadent Salted Caramel to name a few of my favourites.  They’re made with a base of coconut milk and avocado and honey with no nasties!

 

Moringa Powder

I’ve to try to up my protein intake as my blood-work shows that I am low (it can happen with Crohn’s).  One way I’ve been trying to sneakily add in some protein is by adding moringa powder to my morning green smoothie.  Moringa is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids and contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and E along with calcium, potassium and protein.  I’ve been using Aduna Moringa powder which comes in a variety of sizes and I’ve also seen that they’ve a Raw Energy Bar too which I’ll have to try.

 

HAPPY

This month I’m loving the long evenings of summer, the milder weather, the abundance of produce at the farmers market and being a tourist in my own city and country.  I don’t know why but I do way more daytrips during the summer and I can see why tourists come to Ireland.  It’s a beautiful country.

 

GLOW

It’s the time of year when more skin is on show and as I don’t really tan naturally I love applying some fake tan.  My two favourites this month are Tan Organic and Lavera Self Tanning Lotion.

What I like about Tan Organic is that you can see the liquid go on so it’s easy to make sure there are no patches, it develops over a few hours into a very natural colour and it’s an Irish product.  However, it can be a little messy (dirty clothes) and you need to wash it off.  The Lavera Self Tanning Lotion on the other hand is just like a body lotion that you work into your skin and it develops over a few hours.  It develops to a lovely colour, you don’t have to wash it off, it doesn’t stain clothes and it actually smells nice.  It doesn’t go on as a colour straight away so you need to be mindful of making sure everywhere is covered.  I’d recommend a tanning mitt for applying Tan Organic and washing your hands very well after applying the Lavera lotion to avoid tan hands!

 

Have you tried Nobo ice-cream or moringa powder?  I’d love to hear recommendations for a nice natural fake tan.

Get Happy! Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

A new study from Australia which will be published in the August issue of American Journal of Public Health claims that eating more fruit and vegetables may actually make you happier.

Researchers found that people who switched from eating almost no fruit and vegetables in their daily diets to eating eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction over the two years of the study equivalent to what an unemployed person feels after finding a job.  The relationship between higher levels of life satisfaction and increased fruit and vegetable intake persisted even after the researchers accounted for changes in the people’s income or other life circumstances.

So not only is there a health benefit for eating more fruit and vegetables, now there’s a psychological and well-being payoff too!

We’ve all heard the ‘get-your-five-a-day’ guideline, but how can we sneak a few more fruits and vegetables in throughout the day to bring it up to the eight-a-day sweet spot?

Here are just some suggestions broken down by meals and snacks!

Breakfast:

I have clients who eat a bowl of cereal or a couple of slices of toast for breakfast (hello beige) so there is plenty of opportunity to have a more vibrant colourful breakfast and get extra fruits and vegetables at this meal.

  • Have a salad – this citrus, fennel and avocado salad from flavorthemoments.com looks delicious and is breakfast-worthy
  • Sweet Potato / Butternut squash hash – this sweet potato hash recipe has the added bonus of having kale too. It can easily be made AIP-friendly (leave out paprika) or SCD-friendly (sub butternut squash for the sweet potato).
  • If you can tolerate eggs it’s very easy to throw some veggies in as you are making your scramble like spinach, onion, butternut squash etc. Having it with a side of avocado and berries will boost your fruit intake.
  • Smoothies and smoothie bowls are a tasty way of packing in a good amount of fruit and vegetables. Check out my Green Smoothie and Acai Smoothie Bowl recipes

Acai berry smoothie bowl

Lunch:

Sandwiches aren’t a great way of getting veggies.  A lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato doesn’t even make one of the eight portions.

  • Opt for lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches
  • Veggie soup (can be cold or hot)
  • Leftovers – this is what I do a lot of the time. I cook once in the evening and make enough veggies to do me for breakfast and / or lunch the next day

citrus-fennel-and-avocado-salad1-flavorthemoments.com_ Photo:  flavorthemoments.com

Dinner:

Instead of ‘meat and two veg’ why not raise the bar and have three or four veg?  There are some easy ways of doing this:

  • Swap out spaghetti for courgette / zoodles
  • Swap out rice for cauliflower rice
  • Try a cauliflower base instead of a normal pizza base
  • If you are making mince or meatballs sneak some extra veggies in with the meat

Snacks:

  • Cruditees with pate
  • Try kale or brussel sprout crisps
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Sliced apple and nut butter

I’d love to hear any tips on how to get more fruit and veggies into your day!!

How Touch Can Lead to a Greater Healthy Happy Glow

How Touch Can Lead to a Greater Healthy Happy Glow

In a bid to avoid surgery to deal with strictures (narrowing of intestine) due scarring from Crohn’s disease inflammation I am going to travel to the UK in a few weeks to undergo physical therapy which is supposed to break down the scar tissue.  I’ll blog about my experience and why I chose to try this non-conventional treatment in a future blog.

Needless to say, in the past few weeks the healing power of touch has naturally been top of mind.

Decades of research has shown that human touch is essential for babies to develop and thrive. But it’s been discovered in recent years that it’s just as vital for adults as it is for babies.  And it’s so much more than just a way to “feel better” as it can actually help the healing process and there are many ways it can help get a healthy, happy, glow.

Healthy

Physical contact can:

  • Increase the number of white blood cells therefore increase immunity
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce headaches

Massage can detoxify the body by boosting the lymphatic system while many hospitals offer massage therapy to ease the pain of patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and several other painful diseases.

Happy

Physical contact can:

  • Lower stress hormones
  • Increase happy and feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine as well as endorphins which can improve mood
  • Decrease anxiety

Glow

Facial massages are a great way to get a glow as they:

  • Prevent wrinkles by relaxing muscles and getting rid of any built up tension. Massage combined with a hydrating moisturiser can help minimize lines and dryness.
  • Increase circulation and encourage blood and oxygen flow to the face.
  • Increase collagen production (from increased oxygen) which gives a healthy and natural glow to the complexion.

Ways of getting more physical contact:

  • Greet friends and family with hugs and/or kisses.
  • Snuggle with your children or partner.
  • Offer to give a friend or loved one a back massage – then switch.
  • Get your hair washed in a hair salon.
  • Go for a therapeutic massage – e.g. back and shoulders or head.
  • Go for a reflexology treatment.
  • Try cranio-sacral massage.
  • Get a manicure and pedicure that includes a hand/foot massage.

Recipe: Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt

coconut yogurt

I’ve always loved yogurt so when I had to go dairy free a few years ago I really missed it (and ice-cream!).  So when I discovered dairy free (and vegan) coconut yogurt I fell in love hard and fast.  I love it with fresh berries or adding it as a topping to green smoothie bowls or even as a layer for fruit smoothie parfaits.  Great for breakfast, snacks or dessert.
Recipe dairy free yogurtPhotos from Instagram @ahealthyhappyglow

As I got a yogurt maker for Christmas I decided that it was about time that I tried making it for myself and to my surprise it was much easier than expected.  I’ve now got it down to a fine art and it doesn’t take much prep work at all.    I have the Severin yogurt maker which has seven jars so the recipe below will make seven jars worth of yogurt.

How To Make Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of coconut milk (I like Aroy-D as it has two ingredients – coconut and water – no emulsifiers)
  • 2-4 probiotic capsules
  • 4 – 7 sheets of gelatin (4 will make thick and 7 will make really thick – nearly jelly like)

Equipment

  • Yogurt maker and glass jars with lids
  • Bowl with water to put the gelatin sheets in
  • Medium saucepan
  • Whisk

Instructions

  • Sterilize the jars by filling them with boiling water.
  • Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan: Whisk until the milk is smooth and uniform.
  • Place the gelatin sheets in the bowl and cover with water. Leave for 5 – 10 minutes (or whatever is recommended on the packet).
  • Heat the coconut milk over a medium heat until the coconut milk starts to simmer.
  • When the gelatin is ready, add it to the hot coconut milk and continue cooking the milk on low, whisking occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat and cool the milk until it’s just warm to the touch (a little warmer than room temperature).
  • Add the probiotics: Twist open the probiotic capsule and pour the powdery contents over the milk (discard the capsule’s casing). Whisk to combine. Alternatively, whisk in 4 tablespoons of the coconut yogurt.
  • Empty the jars (the water will have cooled down by now).
  • Pour the coconut milk into the jars and screw on the lids.
  • Place into the yogurt maker and turn on.
  • I usually leave it for 24 hours without disturbing.
  • After 24 hours place the jars in the fridge and chill for a few hours.
  • The yogurt will become thicker as it chills. After this stage, you might find that the mixture has separated with a translucent layer at the bottom. Stir to recombine.
  • Keep the coconut yogurt in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.

Notes:

  • 4 tablespoons of store-bought coconut yogurt (like CoYo) can be used instead of the probiotic tablets as a starter. CoYo is AIP compliant but it is not SCD compliant (due to the tapioca starch).
  • Agar agar flakes or tapioca starch can be used instead of gelatin but neither are SCD compliant and agar agar isn’t AIP compliant.
  • I like to leave a few tablespoons of my first batch of yogurt and add it when making the second batch along with the probiotic tablets / store bought yogurt. I find my yogurt gets better and better the more batches I do when I do this.

June Favourites

June Favourites

I love looking at other people’s monthly favourites so thought I’d start a monthly series of my own under the headings healthy, happy and glow.  Here we go:

June Favourites

Healthy

Irish strawberries

There’s nothing like an Irish strawberry – sweet and juicy with the most amazing smell!  It’s one of my smells of summer that transports me back to my childhood when one of my favourite outings was to the local strawberry patch to pick our own strawberries!  They’re at their peak at the moment so are pretty amazing.  I love having them with blueberries for breakfast, in salads (with chicken, rocket and avocado) or on their own as a snack or dessert.  They are especially good with my next favourite:

Home-made coconut yogurt

I was given a yogurt maker for Christmas and now feel that I’ve totally found my groove for coconut yogurt making.  It’s extremely easy to make (three ingredients – coconut milk, probiotic and gelatin) and I’ve perfected it to my taste (thick, creamy and tart).  It’s a super way to get more of those good probiotics into my day too!   Can’t. Get.  Enough!

Happy

Travel

I was still on vacation at the beginning of June.  I went on a road trip from Las Vegas through Death Valley, up to Yosemite and across to Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and LA before driving back to Vegas.  It was a lot of driving but it was amazing to go from desert heat, scorched earth and sand dunes one day to snowy peaks and crystal clear lakes the next.  There’s definitely something about connecting with and appreciating natural beauty that feeds the soul.  Being out of my day-to-day routine was restorative and discovering new places, sights, smells, sounds and tastes was inspiring.  It also helped to get a dose of sunshine!!  Travel definitely makes me happy.

Happier With Gretchen Rubin

I’ve been listening to this podcast since it started over a year ago but I still get nuggets of wisdom in each episode for simple ways of cultivating more happiness in my live.  Gretchen presents the podcast with her sister Elizabeth and I love their friendship and dynamic as they are quite different.  I’ve learnt that I’m a ‘Questioner’ so I’ll do things, but only if they make sense and I’ll often be crippled with analysis paralysis as I seek more and more information (me to a T).

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

Some songs just get you ‘happy’ and this is one is my current favourite.   Regardless of my mood, if I hear this song it just gets me in a great mood and makes me want to stop what I’m doing and dance!

Glow

Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil

I’m slowly but surely changing my cosmetics and toiletries to non-toxic versions where I can.  Our bodies have to deal with so many unavoidable toxins in our environment on a day to day basis I feel it’s important to make more natural choices and reduce my toxic load where I can.  Having said that, I still want my products to work and give me good results.   This month I’m really loving my oil cleanser from Josie Maran as it ticks all my boxes – it works brilliantly, feels so luxurious and is formulated without parabens, sulfates and phthalates.

So that’s a little of what I’m loving this month.  What about you?  What’s been making you happy this month?

Staying Healthy in Vegas

I’m recently back from a vacation in the U.S. (a week in Vegas followed by a road trip through Death Valley and Yosemite to Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and LA and finally back to Vegas).

While I’m following a combination of different diets for my Crohn’s disease (Autoimmune Paleo / Specific Carbohydrate Diet / Low FODMAP) which I’ll go into a little more in an upcoming post, I felt that being so restrictive on my vacation probably wouldn’t work.  I’d either end up not eating or I’d be so stressed that it would be counter-productive.  So while I said I’d relax my regime a little, I would try to stick to my diet as best I could knowing what I could probably get away with and what I couldn’t (e.g. gluten and dairy).  I was a little concerned about how I’d manage a week in Sin City but I was pleasantly surprised.

As we were staying in Vegas for a week before heading on the road trip we made sure to book accommodation that had a kitchen.  We stayed in the Signature at the MGM which was perfect.  There was a fridge/freezer, cooker, microwave, dishwasher etc.  It was a little strange that the kitchen wasn’t stocked with anything and we had to request cutlery, utensils, cookware, crockery etc.  I’ve also stayed in other places where they supply cleaning products and some kitchen basics which we didn’t get here but these were minor things.  On the whole it was fantastic.

I like having a kitchen as it means that I can at minimum make my own breakfast every morning.  And if we weren’t out and about I could also make my own lunches too.

The options for buying groceries on The Strip aren’t great.  There’s a big Walgreens that does stock food but that’s more food-to-go like sandwiches and sushi but they do have salads and fruit which was handy.  I found a great Wholefoods Market just south of The Strip in the Town Square shopping centre near the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  I used to get the SDX bus http://www.rtcsnv.com/ridethestrip/routes.html from outside The Exalibur which took less than 10 minutes.

Wholefoods was a great place to pick up fresh produce (mainly salads and fruit), green juices and smoothies, bacon and deli meat (I really liked the Applegate Farms meats), kombucha for some fermented goodness and I also found some yummy coconut milk ice-cream that I loved (not AIP but had the least amount of crappy ingredients of the ice-cream options and I gotta have ice-cream on holidays!).  They also had a great variety of sushi and sashimi which we got one evening (3).

I was really impressed with the variety and quality of food options in Vegas.  Here are some of the highlights and places that I thought really catered to my intolerances:

Las Vegas

The Buffet at the MGM (2)

Vegas hotels are known for their buffets.  The one at the MGM was pretty impressive.  There was a huge amount of variety.  Lots of salad options (plenty without dressing), cooked veggies and meat and fish.  I opted for leafy greens and cucumber with olive oil, steamed green beans and broccoli and oven roasted carrots with roast beef and chicken.  The buffets are all-you-can-eat so can be pretty good value for money.  Go hungry!!!

Maggiano’s Little Italy (5)

I knew this chain from Orlando last year and remembered that they were really accommodating to my requests.  They made up a delicious grilled salmon salad for me which was really tasty.

RA Sushi (6)

RA Sushi was perfect after doing a little shopping in the Fashion Show Mall.  The sashimi platter was so good.  Great variety of fish and value for money.  It was part of a bento box which included rice and miso soup but I got them to hold both of those.  They gave me plenty of ginger which I loved!  Can never have too much ginger.

Chipotle

I came across Chipotle in the Miracle Mile Mall in Planet Hollywood.  While it’s definitely not AIP, it’s a good SCD or Paleo option.  I just had chicken, greens and guac which was so tasty.  Not something I’d be able for every day but it was worth trying.

Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr (4)

Gordon Ramsay has a few restaurants in Vegas but we love burgers and were hankering after one so had to try this out.  It’s in the Planet Hollywood casino and I was surprised at how relaxed and casual the place was.  I was able to mix and match items from the menu so had a burger with avocado, salad, grilled pineapple, olives etc.  There was also an option for sweet potato fries which I passed on (good for a paleo / AIP option but not good for SCD / Low FODMAP).  The burger was tasty for sure and it was well worth trying but I’ve had nicer burgers elsewhere.

Top of the World at the Stratosphere

The views of The Strip from this restaurant were amazing!  The restaurant revolves but it does so very slowly so you hardly notice you’re moving.  I didn’t have very high expectations for the food (thought it was all about the view) so I was thrilled that my wagu steak and roasted rainbow carrots were absolutely delicious.  One of those ‘when in Vegas…’ experiences!

Pressed Juicery (1)

I found a Pressed Juicery in the Aria hotel which I was delighted to find as I was able to pick up a few green juices and some healthy snacks.  I particularly liked their packets of baked banana’s which is one of my favourite sweet treats at home.

Exercise

While our hotel had a gym I didn’t use it.  For the most part I walked everywhere on The Strip and easily racked up 27,000 steps a day.  I got to realise that although places seemed close on a map they were in fact pretty far apart.  Even walking from our hotel into the main MGM complex took about 20 minutes.  The hotels are huge!!!  So my advice is to wear flats and leave the heels for when you are cabbing it (from car to bar!).

Had I been staying in the MGM on a Sunday I would have availed of their free yoga class they do every Sunday morning.  Next time!!!