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Gut Health Series Part Two: 7 Detoxifying Yoga Poses to Boost Digestion

Have you ever been two days into your dream vacation or work trip and your GI tract suddenly turns against you? Trust me when I say it’s not bad timing…it’s travel that is to blame. Why? Well, stomach issues tend to happen when we are out of our routine, which unfortunately means that trip you’ve been planning all year, will likely be a target for an intestinal temper tantrum.

With gut health on everyone’s minds these days, most of you know the importance of eating foods with naturally occurring pre and probiotics, taking supplements and delish drinkable concoctions, but did you know that yoga can actually improve digestive issues day to day and actually help keep GI issues at bay during your travels? This practice of movement and breathing helps relax the gut and  is deeply detoxifying – a key factor for improving digestion. Gentle poses and twisting postures can help increase the oxygen to the tummy, aid with bloating, enhance digestion and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins.

7 Detoxifying Yoga Poses to Boost Digestion - So Sasha

7 Detoxifying Yoga Poses to Boost Digestion - So Sasha

What I’m Wearing: Strappy Sports Bra in Dark Mauve // Mesh Legging in Purple & Grey courtesy of Joe Fresh

Part one of my gut health series (linked here if you missed it) shares a lot about my own personal experience with tummy troubles, how I developed severe GI issues and most importantly how I overcame them (it’s a must read if you feel like you may be suffering from the same thing), but I’m still learning new things every single day to help me improve my health. On a recent trip to Florida to attend the annual Gut Health Summit with Activia Danone, I actually got to experience first hand the benefits of starting the day with an awakening yoga flow. Some quality time spent with Camilla Lee, a Vancouver based yoga expert and Activia’s personal yoga instructor on the trip, I discovered some simple yet effective poses during our sunrise yoga sessions that can be done alone or before your favourite flow to combat digestive issues.

From a seated position, make your way to tabletop. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Inhale as you draw your belly button to the floor. Look up to the ceiling, and exhale.

Then draw your belly button to spine, tuck in your tailbone, and chin to throat. Repeat 5-10 times. Breathing deeply in these poses will massage your organs as you alternately

From downward facing dog pose, step your right foot between your hands. Inhale and raise your arms above your head. Add a gentle backbend. Exhale and bring your hands down to heart centre and bring the left elbow over the right knee for a gentle twist. Hold here for several breaths. Then exhale and release, step your feet together, and come into a forward fold. Come back to Downward Dog and switch sides. This pose places gentle pressure on your liver and kidneys, encouraging detoxification.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Come to your back and bend your knees, bringing them above your feet. Make sure you can graze your heels with your fingertips. On an inhalation, push through your feet to raise your hips. To add a shoulder opener, clasp your hands and press your forearms into the mat. This pose puts gentle pressure on the kidneys and adrenals to give the body a natural burst of energy and function at its highest potential. Now that you have cleansed and cleared space in the body, mind, and heart, open up to what you want to cultivate there. This is a great pose for post-detox intention setting. Hold for several deep breaths, then exhale to release your hands and lower your hips.

Supine Twist

Extend your legs out in front of you and then hug your right knee into your chest. With your right hand on your right knee, roll your hips and knee to the right, resting your knee on the ground if possible. Hold here for several deep breaths before switching sides. Reclined twists put gentle pressure on intestinal flow to maximize elimination.

Gut Health Series Part One – How I Developed Leaky Gut

I have been wanting to write about this topic for a long ass time. I have touched on leaky gut syndrome from time to time on a surface level over the years, but have never really been able to do a deep dive into just how bad my gut issues were and the FULL impact it had on my overall health. There are two main reasons why I haven’t opened up fully until now. 1) I was fucking embarrassed to be honest, at how bad it had gotten and 2) If it was connected to a sponsored post, I would usually be asked to remove or tone down some of my symptom explanations because some brands felt they were too raw and descriptive *shoulder shrug*. So alas here we are, years later, with a healthier gut, but still a work in progress. Sooooo what exactly is leaky gut? Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability” is a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing any undigested food particles, toxic waste products, and bacteria to literally leak into the gut lining and flood the blood stream. Yup, it really is as gross as it sounds guys! The body then treats these as foreign substances entering the blood. This can cause an autoimmune response in the body including sudden inflammatory and allergic reactions such as migraines, irritable bowel/digestion issues, eczema, chronic fatigue, several food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

But let’s start at the beginning shall we. Here’s the thing about the gut, the microflora that lives in there is highly specific to each individual and typically stays in harmonious balance. That being said, there can be periods of time within someone’s life where that balance is disturbed by things like environmental factors, chronic stress, drug treatment or toxin overload (worst offenders being antibiotics, asprin, NSAIDS, excessive drug and alcohol consumption ), and the biggest culprit; a poor diet. With my lifestyle back then, I was ticking off most of the boxes with a corporate career that required extensive travel around the country, barely any sleep, entertaining clients late at night and partying hard with friends on the weekend. It took a toll and over the course of a couple years of this lifestyle it eventually caught up to me. And let’s remember, my body was already at a deficit, having been diagnosed with a very rare kidney disease while I was attending Howard University in Washington, DC eight years earlier. In the beginning, these symptoms were subtle and were ignored for almost two years. At the time, they could have easily been mistaken for other things. The vaginal infections, strong sugar and refined carb cravings, and the acne that appeared on my face the day after consuming foods that contained those things. The bloating and gas that took over my stomach immediately after eating. Mood swings and insane irritability. Seasonal allergies that just randomly popped up one day out of nowhere along with itchy ears – SO WEIRD. An increase in migraines and a nagging stiff neck. They were all the early textbook signs of candida overgrowth that eventually resulted in in leaky gut syndrome. How?

Well, even though I found the symptoms to be worsening, I continued to ignore them and be in denial. Truthfully, had I known then what I know now, it would never have gotten as bad as it did. I started to get concerned though when I noticed some real issues with my vagina. UGH. I swear to God, chronic vagina issues are every woman’s nightmare. I had never suffered from yeast infections or UTI’s growing up during my teenage years, but they started to appear out of nowhere. Over-the-counter meds took care of the first four or five infections that popped up and I also found in the early stages if my period came during a yeast infection, once the bleeding stopped, the itchiness and discharge disappeared along with it. I was given strong meds and antibiotics to try and tackle the yeast infections, but my body ended up becoming resistant to them and the infections just worsened. Anyone who has had their share of yeast infections know that antibiotics just wipe out all the good gut bacteria we need and can cause rebound infections. My vagina eventually was permanently left swollen to the point that the vulva was permanently spread apart. The candida/yeast overgrowth was so bad, I could barely walk. Then rectal irritations also became a thing. I remember the itching and burning being unbearable, I would just cry uncontrollably for hours at a time in despair. Frustrating because I didn’t know the root cause nor could I find a cure. I kept most of the gory symptoms to myself because they were so embarrassing. It is awful knowing there is something terribly wrong with your body and zero clue as to what’s going on. The physical symptoms eventually created psychological ones. I developed bad anxiety. My heart would literally race at night thinking of all the things that could be wrong with me that the doctors hadn’t yet discovered. I was convinced my time left on this earth was going to be short and it was clear that if this continued, my relationship with my fiancé would fall apart, there would be no wedding and no babies in my future. So, helloooo depression. It was like a domino effect of symptoms and I was falling deeper and deeper into a hole.

Those years are still a bit of a blur, so I couldn’t tell you exactly when, but shit just f*cking hit the fan. The chronic symptoms I had developed got even worse. I would get super sick on date nights before the meal was even over with insane bloating and fatigue that would set in before the cheque would arrive. When things were at it’s worse; migraines, vaginal irritation, and skin rashes would appear immediately after eating or drinking alcohol. I was so fatigued there was no amount of sleep that would make me feel rested. I could barely move. Soon, the migraines that would last for days, went on for weeks at a time. My neck pain legit was diagnosed as myofacial pain syndrome and there was zero mobility, making it difficult to even drive. You’re probably wondering why a physician had not diagnosed what the hell was going on. At the end of day, most general practicing physicians know very little about leaky gut syndrome and candida overgrowth. In fact, they know very little about a lot of things, but that’s a whole other story. They also are not in the game of “Let’s find the root cause of your issues” because let’s face it, they are taught to tackle illness with writing prescriptions for pharma meds. My G.P. had tested me for Lupus several times, celiac disease, MRI’s, HIV, anemia, thyroid disorders, mononucleosis, Lyme disease, nerve damage tests for the joint and nerve issues.  You name it, we tested it and it all came back inconclusive. Finding no answers from the tests was actually worse than being told they discovered something seriously wrong because at least if we found out what it was, we could do something about it. With no concrete answers, I was then being told I was becoming a bit of a hypochondriac and things along the lines of, “You know Sasha, you just need to get more sleep and reduce your stress levels. Or perhaps a career change.” I finally started to keep a diary. I withdrew myself from all my social circles and spoke to nobody. My diary allowed me to vent, dream and document shit. This is when I discovered that a lot of my symptoms were tied to what I was eating. That’s when I knew there was something bigger going on.

By this point, my kidney ailment and fibromyalgia had me basically bedridden, so there was not much for me to do but read and research on my laptop. This is how I first self-diagnosed my candida overgrowth and leaky gut issues. From what I had learned, I armed myself with the knowledge I needed to rehabilitate myself and find alternative practitioners that were down to help me get my life back in a safe and effective way. It took my body a long time to get to that state, so it took almost two years to properly recover, but I am happy to say that those dark days are far behind me. I still have to keep a watchful eye on my diet and stress levels and there are several things I do daily to help keep a healthy balance of gut flora. I promise to share more about this later on in the series, but based on all your DM’s and comments when I was in Miami with Activia for the Gut Health 2019 summit, there seems to be a lot of interest in the topic and I wanted to give some more background as to why I am so passionate about it. I also wanted to share my my truth in hopes that it may help some of you. Have you been struggling with similar symptoms that have gone undiagnosed?

HERE ARE 10 SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE LEAKY GUT SYNDROME

  1. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
  2. Nutritional deficiencies
  3. Poor immune system
  4. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
  5. Excessive fatigue
  6. Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
  7. Cravings for sugar or carbs
  8. Arthritis or joint pain
  9. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
  10. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn’s

My first suggestion would be to start a daily food journal or diary and keep track of everything you intake for at least two weeks. Make notes on your body’s reaction after consumption – physical pain, irritations, fatigue or mood changes.  Seek out assistance for a qualified N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor) and bring along your journal to your initial assessment appointment. A good N.D. will suggest a series of tests that will help confirm a diagnosis and point you in the right treatment direction. The tests are super helpful because they will help identify specific sensitivities and will reveal the types of toxins or deficiencies that are contributing to your symptoms. Here’s a list of ones you should suggest they perform:

  • Zonulin or Lactulose Tests
  • IgG Food Intolerance Test
  • Stools Tests
  • Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Tests
  • Lactulose Mannitol Test

The answer to the question you’re probably asking yourself right now, “But how long does it take to recover from leaky gut?” Well, it differs from person to person and typically depends on the severity. Most sufferers of candida overgrowth and early signs of leaky gut can be healed in 1-2 months with a serious plan, but a case as bad as mine took nearly 12 months to fully heal. There’s a process, that I like to refer to as the 4 R’s that can help heal a leaky gut…

  1. REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut.
  2. REPLACE these with healing foods as you follow an anti-inflammatory leaky gut diet.
  3. REPAIR the gut with specific leaky gut supplements like butyric acid.
  4. REBALANCE your microbiome with probiotics (beneficial bacteria). This is key because bacteria in your gut are a major component of the intestinal barrier. They help promote resistance to the colonization of harmful or pathogenic bacteria species by competing for nutrients. Gut microbiota also regulate the digestion and absorption of nutrients and help supply epithelial cells with energy.

In part two of my Gut Health Truth series, I will dish on the foods you should eat and the specific ones you should stay away from if you’re dealing with leaky gut issues. Even if you’re not, following this specific food protocol can be very helpful to anyone that is suffering from undiagnosed chronic pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, and skin issues so stay tuned!

Why It’s So Cool To Sweat at Dew Sweat House

Something new has popped onto Toronto’s wellness scene and dare I say, it just may be the best thing since sliced bread, or celery juice, if you’re a millennial 😉  Newly opened Dew Sweat House, an minimally designed infrared sauna spa in the city’s east end, is the first of it’s kind in Canada. Co-owned by Sue Kuruvilla, whom I’ve known for so many years I can no longer keep count, and her long time friend Julliane Smola, opened this spot with hopes of introducing the amazing benefits of sweat detoxification north of the border. Sue’s first sweat house experience last year in LA was so life changing, it became the catalyst for the duo’s new venture.

Dew Sweat House - So Sasha

Dew Sweat House - So Sasha

Dew Sweat House

I’ve been a devout fan of infrared saunas for the last decade. It played a big part of my road to recovery and helped me tremendously with the detoxifying process of my pain meds, insomnia, skin issues and most importantly the joint and muscle pain I had caused by Fibromyalgia. But you don’t need to be suffering from a chronic illness to reap the benefits of sessions at Dew Sweat House.

HOW IT WORKS

Each session is 55 minutes. When I arrived, I switched into a sweat-friendly outfit that I was told to bring along with me – sweatpants, long sleeve tee and socks. These items helped absorb the sweat and prevented me from reabsorbing anything back into my skin. As I settled into my bed underneath the infrared blanket, Sue adjusted the blanket temperature setting for me, which can go up to 80 degrees celsius, as I decided what I was going to watch on Netflix. I love me some hot yoga. Actually, I love me some hot anything, so I was able to start at a slightly higher setting than a newbie. But if this whole sweating thing is new to you, they will be sure to ease you into to process at the starting level if you prefer. Fun fact for those who are interested in how much you will really sweat during your session…you can expect two to three times the amount than you would in a conventional sauna.

Here’s the deal, you can walk in to this experience thinking you just want to just zone out, meditate or sleep. You may be there with a friend and you want to gossip or you can choose to catch up on an episode of Dirty John on Netflix. Any of those are all good and fine but without sounding too pessimistic, the meditation route will be the most challenging. If you make it 40 minutes long of deep meditation or sleep, you may find it difficult during the last 10-15 minutes of your session. This is when shit get’s real. This is when the heat really ramps up. I actually decided to x nay Netflix and my noise cancelling headphones, preferring to catch up with Sue instead and chat about life and business and found the time flew by. However, just like she predicted, with 12 minutes left on the clock, I was desperately looking around for the bottle of lemon water she set out for me and happily welcomed a cold towel infused with lavender.

WHAT TO EXPECT POST SWEAT

First of all, you’re going to be a sweaty mess but I kinda loved it and it’s proof you know shit was working. I don’t think I’ve ever been that sweaty in clothes before. You’re going to want to get out of those wet clothes ASAP and into something dry. Heads up, they don’t actually have showers on the premises but they also suggest you wait 45 minutes to an hour before showering anyways. I brought a little plastic bag to house my dirty clothes for the commute home. The Dew team really encourages guests to hang around and chill after their session. I certainly did to enjoy a cup of Pluck tea and a plateful of oranges. I swear they were CaraCara oranges and the sweetest ones I’ve ever had. This is kind of set up so you can take your time and allow your body temp to return back to normal before heading out the door.

Dew Sweat House - Sue Kuervilla

Photography by Bettina Bogar

You will definitely feel amazing right after your session, but you know what…you’ll realize most of the benefits later that night when you go to bed. I guarantee you, it will be the most restful and deep sleep you’ve had in ages. Dew does a body good and every time you sweat, you will do a bit of good too. By sweating at Dew, you’re helping the team donate free sessions to folks that have recently gone through cancer treatment.

Are you ready to “Dew” this? For more information, pricing and to book online, hit up www.dewsweathouse.com

The Truth About Vitamin D & Sun Safety

Brought to you by Jamieson and TheCo 

I have said this many times in the past on my blog but we tend to take supplements and vitamins very seriously in our household. So much so, we moved into our current place because the kitchen had enough pantry space to accommodate all our pills and powders. One of these days I will have to do a pantry tour on my IG stories and take you through what I take on a daily basis. But for right now I just want to chat a bit about one essential vitamin that is too often overlooked, especially during this time of the year. 

Jamieson Essentials - Vitamin D

Jamieson Essentials - Vitamin D - So Sasha

Jamieson Essentials - Vitamin D
Photography by Jess Baumung

Are you Vitamin D deficient? If you’re not taking Vitamin D supplements year round, chances are you’re deficient. We often hear advice from healthcare providers that we should take Vitamin D during the long and dark winter months because of our very limited exposure to the sun. Many of us oblige during that time, without even knowing why it’s vital for our health, but most Canadians tend to assume that once summer hits, we obtain enough natural Vitamin D from the good ‘ole sunshine. NOT. TRUE. What’s even more alarming, although our body produces Vitamin D naturally through the sun, this can only happen when your body isn’t protected by sunscreen…a fact that is not known to many. I mean, I literally just recently discovered this myself. So I know you’re probably wondering, “are you suggesting that we don’t wear sunscreen?” Absolutely not! I do not leave my house without SPF 50 and I make sure that Maxie has on infant safe sunscreen to protect her delicate skin because we LOVE the outdoors. We both also take Vitamin D every single day for our immune system and bone health and taking 1,000 IU’s can help prevent deficiency. This is why Jamieson Vitamins has made Vitamin D a part of their Jamieson Essentials line-up of four natural health products designed to help you get the key nutrients necessary for overall good health; Probiotics, Multivitamin, Omega-3 and of course Vitamin D. 

 

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the vitamin options so your best bet if you’re not taking any at all right now is to start with Jamieson Essentials to make sure you have the basics covered and you can also consult your healthcare provider for advice on additional supplements. With the official start of summer right around the corner, make sure you sun safely with a combination of Vitamin D and sunscreen. To learn more, head to jamiesonvitamins.com 

This post is in partnership with Jamieson Vitamins for monetary compensation and/or product however all opinions are my own.

 

The Truth About Postpartum Feminine Health

I have gone over thirty years knowing exactly how my body operates. It’s been a machine that has pretty much operated like clockwork. Until I got pregnant. Then shit hit the fan and my body became unpredictable overnight with one change and after another. Most unpleasant, if I can speak candidly. Post baby; things are still somewhat strange and unpredictable. Nine months later I still feel like I am renting out this shell I call for a body. Very few women speak about what they go through physically and emotionally postpartum, so I try to address the issues I experience here because I sure as hell know I am not the only one experiencing these things. Especially when it comes to issues relating to intimate health.

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic - So Sasha

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic - So Sasha

So the term intimate health sounds pretty vague if you ask me, so I am just going to avoid acting coy and get right to the point. The area “down there” or what I like to fondly refer to as the va-jay-jay, is an area that probably sees the most change in women postpartum and it all stems from the vagina’s pH level. Otherwise known as it’s acidity level. Yeast and bacteria play a major part in determining vagina health. Our bodies have limited resources so only so much bacteria and yeast can co-exist at any given time, sometimes causing them to compete. Ideally, for things to be running smoothly in that area the optimal vaginal pH should be anywhere around 3.5-4.5. This would indicate the perfect amount of good bacteria and no overgrowth of the bad kind, that can cause some irritation, odour or even infection. But there are so many factors that can affect this range and cause an elevated vaginal pH level like; pregnancy, intercourse, menstruation and even the use of tampons. Wipes, feminine washes and cleansers are probably the worst culprit because they usually mask the issue instead of treating or preventing them.

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic - So Sasha

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic - So Sasha

I personally noticed some changes after I started getting my period five months after having Maxwell and also noticed  some mild symptoms after intercourse. I wouldn’t quite call it a yeast infection because there was no discharge but I  definitely something a bit off down there, so that was the catalyst behind starting to do some research on the issue and figuring out how I was going to address it. I prefer to use natural remedies when possible and only turn to pharmaceutical medications when absolutely necessary. About a month and a half ago I started to test my vaginal pH with Hydrion test strips and decided it was time for me to find a solution address the mild va-jay-jay issues I was having. RepHresh Pro-B is a probiotic supplement made specifically for women. Just one capsule a day helps create healthy flora to balance unwanted yeast and bacteria. What makes it super effective is the two strains of beneficial bacterial it contains, called Lactobacillus, that helps keeps all the bad bacteria in check. And the best part, because it’s taken orally, it’s super convenient to use and doesn’t require refrigeration like most other probiotics. It can be taken at any point during the day but I like to stay in a routine with my supplements and prefer to take mine first thing in the morning before I start my day.

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic is available now. I grab mine from my neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart for $37.99 but it can also be found at Wal-Mart and other retailers nationwide. Visit www.rephresh.ca to learn more about how you can keep your intimate health on point.

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic
Photos by Nicole Lewis Photography

This post was created in partnership with RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic and Church & Dwight, however all views and opinions are my own.

The Latest Wellness App That Will Keep You Motivated in 2018!

I think most of us have good intentions when it comes to sticking to our health and fitness goals. That being said, we’re all human so it is not uncommon to get sidetracked along the way. And let’s be honest, staying motivated during the cold winter months can really be a difficult task. I’m personally finding it extremely difficult getting back into shape post baby, not to mention humbling. There’s been countless times I’ve wanted to bail on my early morning workouts so I have been relying heavily on wearable technology and apps to help me stay accountable because this has NOT been a walk in the park.
Carrot Rewards App + So Sasha

Carrot Rewards

You guys have heard me shamelessly express my love for loyalty programs over the years. I decorated Maxie’s entire nursery with items from retailers on Aeroplan’s eStore just so I could earn extra miles to go towards our first family vacay.  Well, a few weeks ago I discovered on a brilliant app called Carrot Rewards available on both Apple and Android. I’ve been using it every day since as a way to help encourage me to make healthier choices and better all-round lifestyle choices, while earning points and miles towards my favourite loyalty programs. Intrigued? Thought you’d would be. Here’s how it works…

Carrot Rewards App - So Sasha

The app is designed to help educate and reward Canadians for making better, healthier choices for themselves, for their families and for the planet. By being active and doing quizzes to learn about healthy living and wellness, Carrot users earn points from their favourite loyalty programs including Aeroplan® Miles, More Rewards® Points, SCENE®Points, Petro- Points, and Drop points and I’m told there are more loyalty reward partners to be added over the next few months.

Honestly, the app’s subtle way of getting users to increase and track their daily steps, become more physically active and make better food choices makes it one of my top fitness trends of 2018. I’ve been personally earning extra Aeroplan miles by opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator and choosing to walk to do some of my errands instead of driving around the city. The app was named Canadian App of the Year in Mobile Syrup’s 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards, and I can see why. With the app’s compatibility with my Apple watch, the steps from my workouts and runs are also accounted for and there are so many chances to earn bonus rewards when I scroll through the app by sharing my own meal prep recipes, taking quizzes on nutrition or inviting friends to join Carrot Rewards.

The “Tip of the Day” also serves as a gentle reminder for things most people may overlook

Many  Canadians fall short on Vitamin D in the winter. Turn to your diet to up your levels. Try salmon, mushrooms, eggs and fortified products like milk, soy and tofu.”

Carrot Rewards App - So Sasha

Carrot Rewards App - So Sasha
Photos by Jess Baumung

For more information, visit Carrot Rewards on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and follow along via #CarrotRewards, #WellnessRewarded and #WalkLearnEarn. Download the app for free on your Apple or Smartphone.

Carrot Rewards - So Sasha

 This post has been sponsored by Carrot Rewards, however all views and opinions are my own!

The Power of Protein and How It Can Fuel Your Day

Protein is something we are all aware needs to exist in our diets. Most of us think of meat, poultry, fish, eggs or tofu. If working out is apart of your lifestyle or you’re an athlete, you may have protein powder or bars as part of your daily routine as well. But you guys, how many of you use milk and milk products as a form of protein in your diet? I am going to guess not many think of them immediately as a protein go-to but rather think of them as a complement like milk for cereal for example or cheese on…well let’s just say cheese on any and everything because it makes everything taste better.

But before I talk about why milk and milk products are great sources of protein, let me first start with what protein is exactly and why it’s important. No matter what your dietary preferences are, protein is an essential macronutrient we all need to help maintain our overall health. Protein contributes to developing antibodies to boost out immune system. For those of you working hard in the gym these days – getting a jump on your 2018 fitness goals, we need protein to help build  and repair our muscles. Especially after a hardcore workout or training.

The Power of Protein - Dairy Farmers of Canada

The Power of Protein - Dairy Farmers of Canada

Now here’s the deal with how to best optimize your protein intake. A good rule of thumb is to distribute your protein evenly over your meals, so 30 grams during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, referred to as the 30-30-30 Rule. Utilizing milk products as an extra source of protein is often overlooked but I have made a conscious effort to integrate it into my day because the high quality proteins found in them help satisfy my hunger throughout my busy days.  With an increase in frequency and intensity with my workouts now that my body is a much better place post baby, I find that adding more protein from milk, yogurt bowls and even cheese into my diet gives me the strength and stamina I need to make it through the day with work, workouts and Maxwell.

The Power of Protein - Dairy Farmers of Canada

I am not sure if any of you out there track your intake of protein but to help you get an idea of the amount of protein you can expect to see from consuming milk products in your day-to-day life here’s some numbers to help put things into perspective for you:

  • A glass of milk (250 ml) contains 8 grams of protein
  • 3/4 cup of greek yogurt (175 ml) contains 17 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup of cottage cheese (125 ml) contains 15 grams of protein
  • 50 grams of cheddar cheese (1 1/2 Oz) contains 12 grams of protein

Yogurt bowls are an easy way to start incorporating more milk products into your diet. I love added fresh fruit, chia and hemp seeds to mine for a bit of sweetness and crunch. It’s shocking how filling this snack really is. And whenever I need a bit of inspiration on new ways to add milk proteins to my existing meals, I check out DairyGoodness.ca for some recipe inspo. Below you will find the recipe details to a Bean and Barley salad that I discovered recently on the website. I made some slight modifications to it just for taste (removed the olives and used TK peppers) so it still packs all the same nutritional goodness.

The Power of Protein - Dairy Farmers of Canada

The Power of Protein - Dairy Farmers of Canada

Ingredients

1/2 of pearl barley and couscous

1 can (540 ml) of black, red, white or lima beans (no salt added)

1 cup (250 ml) of cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced in half

1 cup (250 ml) of bell pepper, your choice, diced

1/2 cup (125 ml) of red onion, diced

1/4 cup (60 ml) of fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup (60 ml) of fresh parsley

1 tbsp of dried oregano

3 1/2 Oz (100 grams) of Canadian Feta Cheese, coarsely crumbled

Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Preparation

In a saucepan, bring 6 cups (1.5 L) of water to a boil and cook barley for approximately 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, cool under cold water, then drain again.

In a large bowl, mix barley, beans, and vegetables.

In another bowl, whisk reserved oil with lemon juice. Add herbs, Feta and pepper and pour over salad. Mix well and serve.

This post has been sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada however all views and opinions are my own

6 Steps For Easing Back Into A Fitness Routine Post Birth

I guess you can say I had delusions of grandeur when I was pregnant about what my postnatal exercise routine would look like. I had actually assumed that soon as I got my six week clearance from the doctor to begin working out again, I would hit the ground running (literally) and back to my regularly scheduled HIIT workouts. Reality hit me pretty hard after giving birth and I’ve realized it will take some considerable time to ease back into the workouts I once enjoyed and to get back to feeling like my old self. But that didn’t mean I was going to stop moving. I soon figured out that finding alternative ways to stay active (like walking and hiking in Toronto’s High Park and in Hamilton’s beautiful conservation trails) meant that I would have more energy to tackle my crazy days with work and baby. The endorphin release would do wonders for my postpartum blues and most importantly it would help with the transition once it’s time that I can get back to more strenuous workouts.

And just because my ways of staying active are a little bit different these days, things have changed when it’s comes to my antiperspirant. Carrying around this little lady everywhere I go and postnatal hormone induced sweating, I need extra sweat protection these days more than ever. Degree Black + White Dry Spray Antiperspirant is what keeps me feeling fresh while keeping my clothes clear of those nasty white marks most deodorants leave behind. Engineered with Motionsense technology, it releases extra body odour protection the more you move and is formulated to provide 48 hour protection – music to any new mom’s ears.

If you’re a first time mom like me or expecting, it is important to be realistic and patient during this time until your body is 100% ready to take on the impact of regular exercise. Trust me, this is something that I still struggle with from time to time but Réjean does a great job of reminding me on the days I get frustrated. Remember, it takes about 40 weeks to prepare your body to give birth and it can take almost the same amount of time to return to your pre-pregnancy physical self.

Degree Black + White Dry Spray Antiperspirant
Photos by Jess Baumung

Here’s 6 Steps For Easing Back into a Fitness Routine After Birth

  1. Start Back Slowly. As a general rule, it’s best to not return to exercise until your bleeding has stopped and you have gotten the green light from your treating physician. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you can set yourself back – trust me! But that doesn’t mean you should be on house arrest by any means. A walk is a great start to getting back to your old routine in a slow and healthy way.
  2. Pay Attention To Your Pelvic Floor. This is something I heard over and over again while I was pregnant and I am actually going to see a specialist this week about mine. If you’re pelvic floor is weak, doing crunches, Pilates or any other abdominal work can put too much pressure down there, drastically slowing down your healing or leading to organ prolapse.
  3. Think Outside The “Studio Workout” Box. You don’t necessarily need to hit up for favourite cross training or boxing class to get back into a fitness routine. I’ve discovered that outdoor walks are a great place to start and the bonus – the little ones usually love the fresh air and scenery. Don’t discount walking like I did in the beginning. Especially when it’s in trails with varying elevations, it can be a great cardio workout with your baby in a carrier.
  4. Loose and Wobbly Joints. Be careful of those wiggly, wobbly joints. Thanks to the hormone called Relaxin, a woman’s joints and ligaments loosen during pregnancy and childbirth and can stay in our body for up to six months. I am currently struggling with severe tendinitis in both of my wrists due to lifting the baby repeatedly with loose joints.
  5. Stay Hydrated. Once you start ramping up your activity post baby, it’s important to stay hydrated especially if you’re breastfeeding.
  6. Stay Fresh and White Mark Free. Make sure you have an antiperspirant like Degree Black + White Dry Spray to keep you dry and smelling fresh throughout the day.

This post was sponsored by Degree Canada but all opinions are my own

Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Journey to France

May was a very busy but special month. After celebrating my last childless birthday on the 5th, I jetted across the pond to France for a week to get immersed in the world of Yves Rocher, a brand I have fallen quite fond of over the last year or so. I have been a long time fan of French skincare because seriously they seem to know a thing or two about good quality but I guess you can say my level of interest in this particular brand was extra high the moment I realized the amazing botanical science behind their products.

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Paris bound to Yves Rocher Headquarters. Luggage c/o Rimowa Toronto

The key Yves Rocher skincare necessities waiting for me at Hotel Adele & Jules to help my dehydrated skin bounce back after the long flight

My journey with Yves Rocher began quite differently than a lot of other brand experiences I have had to date and I mean that in the most refreshing way. Sure, our initial meeting last summer consisted of some brand education and why I would be a good fit as a partner, however there was absolutely no hard sell. I was simply encouraged to take my time getting to know their products, specifically their best sellers, over the course of a few months and that “We would go from there…”  Well to me, this meant one thing – Yves Rocher was so confident in their brand, that they knew I would be on board once they gave me the chance to get properly acquainted with their products. And they were 100% right! Offering extensive product lines across all skincare and beauty categories, I took my time initialling honing in on facial and body care and the results have been amazing because I am experiencing my best skin yet. But this you may have already known if you read my post on my Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Routine in April.

A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT YVES ROCHER

So there are several things that makes Yves Rocher very different than its competitors, which has made them immensely successful in France and throughout Europe since their launch 50 years ago. A pioneer in natural skincare and beauty, Mr. Yves Rocher founded the company with the belief that nature will be their guide in producing its products, which are made from plants and approximately 250 natural ingredients locally harvested. To this day, it has been the key to their success.

To have discovered the properties of plants is not our greatest achievement but to have made them available to all women is our greatest pride. As the only brand in the beauty industry to have chosen to control all the aspects of our activity, we are able to reduce our impact on the environment at every stage in the life cycle of our products”   – Yves Rocher

If you can imagine back in 1967, the idea of a man launching a skincare and beauty brand without the use of any chemicals, targeted to women and marketed using his name, sounded ludicrous and nobody believed it would work. However, Rocher did not let this stop him. In fact, it motivated him and pushed him and pushed him to get the wheels in motion.

The only way to ensure Yves Rocher’s vision was executed properly meant that from the very beginning he insisted on controlling every step of the production cycle to guarantee safety and quality, providing his clients with products free of chemicals, colorants, and parabens.

EXPERIENCING THE BRAND LIVE IN PARIS

My press trip to France began with a tour of the Yves Rocher Headquarters in Paris to see how the products are made in their state-of-the-art laboratories and to get a deep dive in the company’s rich and rooted history.

Yves Rocher France

Housed in one of the most modern buildings I saw in a city so full of rich and old architecture, there were several labs dispersed on one large floor responsible for each of the brand’s categories; skincare, cosmetics, body care, hair care, bath & shower and fragrances. It was refreshing to see it is run predominantly by young women. Somewhere within the building’s labyrinth was a small room dedicated the the brand’s olfactory family and fragrances. Bottles upon bottles of fragrance notes meticulously displayed in beautiful glass bottles and sleek refrigerators that housed samples of each scent the brand has made categorized per year. While learning about Yves Rocher’s past and present was vital, I was very intrigued to learn more about the direction of the where the brand is heading. As the originator of botanical beauty, how do they stay ahead of the curve in an industry where so many brands are vying for a piece of the “natural and organic beauty” pie, so to speak?

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Yves Rocher France Headquarters Olfactory (Fragrances) Room
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Christine Dalfault-Sara, Yves Rocher Communications Director (Directrice Communication)

I chatted extensively with Christine Delfaut, the brand’s Communications Director, to learn more about the brand’s exciting upcoming product releases for the rest of 2017/2018. While most of the innovations that were shared are still under embargo so I can’t share (sorry guys!) however Christine did allow me to take home their newly formulated, long lasting, ultra matte red lipstick to test out which won’t be coming out until much later in 2017. Having had issues finding the perfect “red” for years, I can say my hunt is now officially over. Without any of the harsh chemicals that usually dry out my lips, this deep red at first goes on with a slight satin finish but after a few seconds it becomes definitively matte and lasts all day.

Yves Rocher France

They have also just launched a range of concentrated shower gels that lasts for 40 showers (shown above front and center) in Mango & Coriander, Olive Petitgrain, and Bourbon Vanilla which is my personal fave. With 4x’s the amount of product, 50% less plastic and greenhouse gases than in their 400ml bottles these heavenly smelling shower gels cost only $8 – not to mention, no parabens or preservatives and with 97% of the ingredients having a natural origin. With every bottle purchased, the Yves Rocher Foundation plants one tree in the community. Just in time for summer, a newly formulated Solaire Peau Parfaite sunscreen without harmful chemicals, The Chic & Bohemian Collection with a cornflower based body wash, eau de toilette and perfumed hair mist that smells heavenly and more.

LOW COST, HIGH QUALITY: HOW DO THEY DO IT?

English (CAN) quality products usually come with a hefty price tag. Sure, at a certain price point you can expect to see brands use aesthetically beautiful packaging, usually employing the help of actresses and celebrity spokespeople to sell their products which can be found perfectly curated in department store kiosks and shop-in-shops. All these bells and whistles that go into the marketing of competitors products come with a high cost, which is ultimately absorbed by the end consumer – YOU!

Yves Rocher’s competitively priced product ranges are only possible because their products aren’t sold in luxury and contemporary department stores but rather in their own stand-alone retail shops and of course online, allowing them to offer prices significantly lower than other brands. However this could be the reason why the brand awareness isn’t as high in North America as it is in Europe. I am fascinated by this idea, so a visit to Yves Rocher’s concept store on Boulevard Haussmann was a no brainer.

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CONCEPT STORE VISIT

Nestled in what appeared to be a bustling and busy district, is a three-storey temple of beauty, where you can receive skin diagnosis at the ground level Botanical Beauty Bar, shop the brand’s extensive beauty line and range of honey, jams and sweet treats, indulge in cold pressed juices developed exclusively for Yves Rocher in their in-house juice bar, or receive personalized face and body treatments in one of the seven private cabins within the Beauty Spa.

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One of the private cabin’s inside the Yves Rocher concept store’s Beauty Spa

Being inside the Boul Haussmann location made me immediately calm and gave me a sense that I was amongst nature thanks to the green and ecological decor botanical concept walls created by Botanist and inventor Patrick Blanc. I promise you, the photos don’t do it any justice, its beauty is much more spectacular in person. I took my time going through the multi-floor flagship, with extra time spent checking out the products not yet available in Canada and cruising the beautifully merchandised fragrance section on the second floor where I was taken on an olfactory journey through the important notes that make up the company’s best selling fragrances – mine currently being the sensual and refined freshness of their  Neroli Eau de Parfum.  

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Yves Rocher Olfactory Wall of Fame. The brand works with some of the best in today’s fragrance industry to help create their signature scents

VISIT TO LA GACILLY

But my trip wouldn’t be complete without taking a trip to La Gacilly, in France’s Bretagne (pronounced Brittany for us Anglo folks) region which is happens to be the birth place of both Mr. Yves Rocher and his namesake heritage brand. A beautiful and quaint village just a three hour train ride from the Paris city centre made up of cobblestone streets, small stone houses, local boutiques and La Grée des Landes, the Yves Rocher Eco-Hotel Spa and Hotel that you may remember seeing on my Instagram and IG stories.

Centrally located in the town, is the childhood home of Rocher, fondly referred to as No. 2 Rue St.-Vincent, where in his early twenties, he turned the home’s attic into a make-shift manufacturing facility for their very first plant based product. A visionary of sorts and a man with thinking far beyond his years, Yves Rocher was the first to introduce the “mail-to-order” concept as a way to sell his products to customers all over France.

Monsieur Yves Rocher’s childhood home where the brand first launched

Below are some shots we captured from inside Rocher’s first home where he used the attic to produce his first product and also acted as the office where he fulfilled his mail-orders from customers…

As he watched the company grow exponentially, he began to conjure up the idea for La Grée des Landes, a truly Eco-friendly establishment built without causing any harm to the environment that feeds guests using only locally sourced products and ingredients from their land. Essentially creating a gastronomy experience of multi-course meals prepared by Gilles Le Gallès, Chef at the hotel’s restaurant, that would legit blow your mind. There was no doubting the freshness and quality of our meals. As we enjoyed breakfast in the mornings, we often saw the kitchen staff in the garden pulling out herbs and vegetables that were going to be used in the preparation of our lunch and dinner later that day. Not once did we look at a menu. Chef prearranged each meal based on what is in season and would make a good compliment to the ingredients grown on the grounds of the property.

Chef Gilles Le Gallès at La Grée des Landes

While many hotel properties believe integrating the word “spa” into their property name means they understand the concept of wellness, most really don’t have the faintest clue as to what that actually entails. Whereas this little slice of heaven, which made sure to include all four elements of nature to ensure a harmonious balance on their grounds, anticipates guests needs before they can even think of it and offers activities and services to help you find your optimal mental and physical wellness with yoga/meditation classes, hiking, underwater workouts (AQUATraining & AQUACycling) plus restorative and relaxation services offered in the hotel’s spa.

I have always used a variety of products from different brands on my skin and to be honest, I will probably continue doing so but Yves Rocher products currently make up the majority of my skincare regimen right now. Taking care of my skin has become a huge priority in my thirties and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements since I have started using Yves Rocher products. I fell in love with the new “Pure Calmille” line while in France and was lucky enough to bring it back home with me prior to its launch in Canada (available here in September 2017!).  After pre-cleaning with wipes, I have been using the Pure Calmille Cleansing Gel mixed with the Scrub to Mix Gommage exfoliant, the Pure Calmille 2 in 1 Cleanser & Toner and the Pure Calmille Moisturizing Cream. For body care, I have become OBSESSED with the Monoï de Tahiti products that literally smell like tropical paradise in a bottle – using the Lagoon Body Wash, Dry Body Oil and finishing off with the Eau des Vahinés Eau de Toilette.

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Overall my trip to France has a success! I got a chance to really get to know the brand and even got to indulge in spa treatments using Yves Rocher professional products. The best part is that all the products I was introduced to are safe during pregnancy. With affordable price points and products for all different ages and skin types, Yves Rocher has successfully made their brand accessible to everyone.

To shop or learn more, visit YvesRocher.com

How To Choose The Right Prenatal Vitamin During Your Pregnancy

When it comes to pregnancy, there are a lot of misconceptions especially in the early stages. There are so many thoughts, ideologies and just sheer nonsense made available to us online, it’s become difficult to decipher what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s considered necessary and what is not during pregnancy. Well, there’s one thing most know for sure, prenatal vitamins are crucial  in helping ensure both mama and baby get the necessary nutrients during this important time of development while they also help to avoid birth defects and potential pregnancy complications. However, many don’t realize the importance of making sure they are implementing a prenatal vitamin option at least six months prior to conception and that not all options on the market are created equal. Both facts, I honestly didn’t discover until after my miscarriage last fall.

At my core, I will admit I am a bit of a granola grinder and naturalist. Part of me hangs on to the idea that if we eat good food, we will be healthy and pass on that health to our growing baby. It’s a very simple idea and one I love but I understand that even eating well balanced meals doesn’t necessarily mean I am getting everything I can use. Not to mention, most foods we eat today, even when made from scratch, can contain genetically modified ingredients, colorants, antibiotics, etc. However, gone are the days of my grandmother’s generation, who were able to get all the required nutrients from the local grown foods on the small Caribbean island she came from, so I’ve come to think of prenatal vitamins as a personal trainer to help mama’s and their babies be the strongest and healthiest they can be.

I’ve used various prenatal vitamins in the past ranging from fancy physician prescribed options to over the counter drug store brands. I guess you can say paranoia crept in when I became pregnant again so quickly after the miscarriage. This time around I wanted to really ensure that both myself and this baby were getting all the required minerals and vitamins for a healthy pregnancy. I obsessed over the labels on the bottles, naturally, then did as much research on the one’s that seemed the most popular.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and try a little investigative testing on four prenatal vitamins I had purchased over the past several months. Nothing too scientific and something any of you can easily do at home. I simply put each of the vitamins in a glass of vinegar and let sit for an hour or so, mixing with a spoon periodically. Knowing, if it breaks down in the vinegar, I could be sure that it will do the same in my stomach allowing my body to easily absorb the contents. If not, I wouldn’t be digesting it properly and could potentially mean there’s a few vitamins just floating around in my stomach doing absolutely nothing. My test yielded some results that were very surprising, and hard to stomach (no pun intended), leaving  Forté Elements Prenatal+ as the only option that completely dissolved in my vinegar solution. So it should come as no surprise that this is the brand I’ve been using ever since. Also, after chatting with my midwife and naturopath, I am taking additional Folic Acid (1mg) and Magnesium at bedtime (300mg), the former to ensure I am getting the maximum amount and the latter to help me with sleep at night. The cool thing about the human body when it comes to supplements is that it knows when it’s received the right amount of nutrients. Anything over and above that is flushed out of your system.

If you’ve been pregnant before, pregnant now or have friends that have filled you in regarding the horrible and often times debilitating nausea symptoms associated with pregnancy, you may be wondering if prenatal vitamins can contribute to this undesirable side effect. Truth be told, 80% of women experience morning sickness and nausea, especially during their first trimester. I had the WORST time for the first 4 1/2 months and seriously didn’t think I was going to make it out the first tri alive and still feel queasy from time to time if not doing anything to help regulate it. When this level of nausea hits you, you will likely stop at nothing to find a solution that works in settling your tummy so you can live somewhat of a humanized life LOL! I tried EVERYTHING and often sought out advice from my followers on IG stories. It’s still unclear as to why these symptoms exist; doctors claim it was to do with the HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels and can sometimes be aggravated by prenatal vitamins. The latter is likely because your body may not be used to the extra nutrients, like iron, and will need sufficient time to adjust. When I switched over to Forté Prental+ I discovered that they also made an anti-nausea supplement and in my desperation, I had to get my hands on it right away. Forté Anti-Nausea contains a specialized blend of vitamin B6, ginger, peppermint and clove that helps ease the struggle fest caused by pregnancy nausea. I’ve been using it religiously for the last month or so and I can confidently say, paired with regular exercise, I think I have finally found the right combination to keep these symptoms at bay.

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Photo by Bettina Bogar

I know that there are endless options on the market for prenatal supplement care but this brand is a pioneer in the development of condition-specfic combinations of vitamins, minerals and essential trace elements, Forté Elements has completely defined a new category of mediceuticalss based on evidence based research. Not a term your probably used to hearing, mediceuticals are nutrient supplements using combos of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients for things like pregnancy and the postpartum period, that unlike nutraceuticals, are subject to very strict guidelines for quality/safety and are supported by evidence based research. Meaning, you can be assured that Forté Elements Prenatal+ and other pregnancy supplements contain the appropriate amounts of the nutrients pre-pregnant and pregnant women need to help support their growing babies.

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Forte Elements actually has a wide array of nutritional supplements outside of their prenatal category covering joint care, pre and post operative, trauma care, in addition to nerve, brain, bone health. To discover and learn more, head to ForteElements.com.

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