We sat down with Danica and Lexi, cofounding sisters of The Gut Lab, in their Calgary kitchen, to talk about all things immune health. The women, who have blended their robust studies across herbalism, nutrition, graduate business programs and reiki, combining their love for movement, international travel and work too, are on a mission to educate, empower and inspire with their simple and nourishing superfood blends designed to elevate elixirs, smoothies, breakfasts, desserts, and all things in between – use only the highest quality organic, responsibility sourced powdered roots, herbs, fruits and healing mushrooms.
The month is August and summer is still in full swing. We’re all in the season of sunshine, fresh air, outdoor picnics, and smoothies– isn’t it the best?
Taking care of our health doesn’t just become important around fall and winter when we’re amping up our wellness routine, our focus on a tip top mind and body is (or at least we hope it is!) year round. We’d like to introduce to you some of our tried, tested, and true favourite ways to help keep you shining from the inside out, from the peak of summer, to the depths of winter and back again.
1. LIMIT THAT STRESS! | Okay- it’s a big one: stress has a MAJOR negative impact on our gut. Where does all dis-ease (and great health) stem from? That’s right, the gut. Excess cortisol, fatigued adrenals, dysbiosis, feeding the opportunistic bad bacteria, disrupting sleep, wreaking havoc on digestion, thinning the mucousal lining of our gut – all can be just the tip of the iceberg.
Apart from quitting your job and moving to the beach (all in all not a terrible idea after a shop at Swimco), splitting from those toxic relationships (highly recommend), and cutting down on time spent in rush hour – HAVE NO FEAR because we have some ideas.
ADAPTOGENS | They’re all the (ancient) rage. Haven’t heard of them? That’s totally okay, you’re about to. Adaptogens in essence allow our bodies to adapt to stress. No, they won’t take AWAY your external stress, but they will allow your body to cope with it better by regulating cortisol levels in the blood, and helping all of our systems get back in to harmony (homeostasis) which is where we naturally want to be. With the goings on of our every day lives, our bodies need some help in that department. Adaptogens help wherever you need support in your body, and in order to be classified as such they need to be shown to not create any harm when taken. The little kicker- they need to be taken consistently (smoothie, elixir, tea, soups etc) in order to work for you, so don’t expect to take it a heaping tablespoon once a week and think you’re invincible.
Many books have been written about adaptogens, and the scientific literature goes deep. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Some of our fave adaptogens include chaga mushroom, reishi mushroom, ashwagandha, shatavari, astragalus – oh the list goes on! Each with their own unique healing profile on top of that adaptogen status.
2. SLEEP | Ya, ya you’ve heard it before. Maybe you’re one that burns the midnight oil, or has sports practice late, or regularly go out with friends and are the cool cat throwing caution to the wind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing once in a while, but getting enough Z’s is more important than maybe you allow yourself to believe. “I can sleep when I’m dead” may be your motto, and if it is – that day may be sooner than you realize.
Getting a good nights rest impacts the health of our gut (I’m sensing a theme here, are you?), as does going to bed and waking up roughly at around the same time (look up circadian rhythm). When we sleep, we regenerate, we heal. Lack of sleep often leads us to making poorer food choices, presents with lack of clarity for things like driving, work, school, life in general. Do yourself a favour and log off all devices (better yet turn off the wifi in the whole house. For real – take a listen to our Episode 2 of The Supercharged Podcast for more on this – psst, we’ve linked it below), have a cup of chamomile tea or sunshine golden mylk before bed, create an evening routine for yourself – it can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, thinking or writing what was awesome about your day, washing your face and brushing your teeth.
Be intentional, and don’t take sleep for granted.
(If you’re a parent and reading this rolling your eyes because you’re still up in the night with your kiddos- have no fear, do what you can. When you DO get to close your eyes, sink fully into the presence of that moment so you can reap all the goodness you can. This too shall pass and there are other ways you can support your good health too!)
Episode 2 of The Supercharged Podcast
3. CUT IT OUT | Okay we’re ready to get kinda annoying here (deep breath) there are SO many things that attribute to a suppressed immune system – however, one of the biggest offenders we want to focus on here (brace yourself) is sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. It’s highly addicting, yet our society as a whole doesn’t look at it as an addiction (in fact we try to justify its presence in our day to day life or think we’re “treating” ourselves). In some studies we’ve read, eating refined sugar suppresses the immune system for up to 8 hours (sometimes longer). And the worst part – it’s hiding in EVERYTHING!
What can we do? Reach for the whole foods! Ditch the junk cereals, the store bought treats, the sugary yogurts parading as health foods, the boxed… everything. Fuel yourself and your family with REAL FOOD! There are so many recipes online that are refined sugar free and SO yummy- and no they’re not hippy, crunchy or radical. Want to enjoy a piece of cake at a celebration? Cool! Enjoy it fully and don’t feel guilty. Balance is key – but be honest with yourself.
4. SUPPLEMENTS | With the loss of minerals and nutrients in most of our foods these days because of poor soil and other factors, along with significantly shorter sunny days – we need to supplement. Not with everything, not all the time- but working with someone who can help you in this department is incredibly valuable. (If you’re in Calgary, we can help point you in the direction some amazing people!). That being said what do we recommend?*
To start, Vitamin D3/K2 drops for the whole family (this is so important for many functions in the body, including but certainly not limited to healthy bones and teeth!), Vitamin C (we use liposomal for optimal bioavailability), a great quality Cod Liver oil (or grass fed/finished liver capsules), a good quality probiotic (more on that next point), drink nutrient rich herbal teas like red raspberry leaf, nettle, and oat straw, and take in incredible antioxidant powerhouses such as CoQ10 and Liposomal Glutatione.
*please look in to each of these supplements for your own use, we’re just planting the seed – we hope you will help it grow!
Episode 7 of The Supercharged Podcast
5. GUT BACTERIA | After all, we love your guts! All of the above points actually have a big effect on your gut bacteria! Pretty cool hey? Did you know research now shows that any oral probiotics we take are transient? This means while they can positively influence the bacteria in our gut, they don’t actually seed the microbiome like once thought. Should we still be taking them? Yes absolutely, it just means we need to be taking them consistently to have the positive influence we’re looking for.
If you can tolerate ferments like lacto-fermented sauerkraut kimchi, pickles etc. even better. These can be used in a condiment style daily for your meals and mixed up to suit your palate! Don’t forget your dietary prebiotics to feed all those good bacteria too! Another beautiful way to support healthy gut bacteria and the overall health of your gut is by eating foods like REAL cacao/chocolate (fist pump!), as well as drinking bone broth or meat stock daily. Either in a mug (like you would a nourishing tea), in soups, sauces, or any other creative ways you can come up with – we have more on the benefits of broth on our website under ‘The Scoop on Bone Broth’ and we’re always happy to share our recipe if you’d like to make it yourself (just write us and ask!).
6. GET OUTSIDE | Being cooped up inside (with lots of people, and perhaps recirculating, forced air – yum) is hard on all of us, physically, mentally, emotionally- oh goodness does it take it’s toll. When you can (and make it a priority) go outside! Go for a walk, get coffee with a friend and stroll somewhere new, eat your lunch on the patio, go hiking, watch the sun go down. Make an excuse to breathe in that fresh air and get moving- do NOT underestimate the power of this simple idea to keep you healthy, it is ESSENTIAL.
Are you still with us? We hope so.
While reading through this can be a little daunting at first if these are new ideas to you, try taking 1 idea and incorporating it in to your daily routine and once you have a grasp on it, add another idea. Remember, these are tools to EMPOWER you, not meant to intimidate – so please try to view this as a fun way you can get and stay healthy with your friends or family.
Health IS wealth.
In good health + gratitude,
Dani + Lexi