Never underestimate the power of this

Truth: I had a ton of resistance leading up to this past weekend's retreat in the Catskills. Even though I was cooking for the retreat, my mind made up all these reasons why I didn't need to go and why I shouldn't go.

Over the last 5 years, I've co-hosted, supported, helped organize and participated in over a dozen retreats. Each time some sort of resistance comes up. I somehow make it through and each time I'm blown away by the transformative power of a weekend (or week) away.

This weekend was no different.

Yogis do sunset in the Catskills - stunning!

Yogis do sunset in the Catskills - stunning!

The focus of the weekend was around self care: we meditated on what in our lives needs to go, we journaled on the practices or habits we felt needed to come in and we had real, honest conversations about our challenges taking care of ourselves as adults in the modern world.

Our three days in the mountains felt like WAY longer - there was time for all the things (yoga, healthy food, hiking, down time, sleep!). I felt myself shed an energetic layer of "stuff" I wasn't even fully aware I was carrying around.

The space and time for reflection also allowed me to get even clearer on my next steps: what's important to me right now, where I want to focus my energy and what I need to let go of in order for my goals to come to fruition.

Our weekend escape house - look at that blue sky!

Our weekend escape house - look at that blue sky!

As I've shared before, sometimes I feel like I'm just learning how to be a grown up now. Sure my parents, family and school taught me a lot of the practical steps, but as I walk through this 3rd decade of my life, I'm surprised at the emotional, mental and spiritual lessons I'm learning.

And while many of those lessons are learned in the day to day, the actual acknowledgment, processing and integration of those lessons usually occurs when I'm able to remove myself from my regular routine, like when I'm on a retreat or vacation.

I've said this after other retreats, and I'll likely say it again: never underestimate the power of a weekend away.

Whether it's a week in Sedona with your parents (major lessons there my friends - read this post if you haven't already), escaping the city for a quiet weekend in the country or renting an AirBnB for a night away from your regular routine, removing yourself from the distractions of your every day life has tremendous transformative and restorative power.

weekend away.png

On the bus ride back from the Catskills I was inspired to flush out all the details for an early fall retreat at my family's house in Maine. This is something I've been dreaming about for a long time (ever since we renovated the house 3 years ago). Even though I had other work to do, even though I was a little car sick from the ride, my gut said to DO IT and so I did.

This retreat is coming together (I promise I will be sharing details soon - it will be Sept 26-30 if you want to mark the date on your calendar!!) and I know none of this would have happened if I hadn't had the time away to recharge my body and my spirit.

Wildflowers EVERYWHERE! So beautiful.

Wildflowers EVERYWHERE! So beautiful.

One of my coaching clients joined us on this retreat. Earlier this week we had a call to recap what came up and how she wants to take what she learned in the weekend and bring it into her life.

My coaching for her (and what I do myself) was this:

  1. Create a small amount of space in your everyday life to retreat - Create some space in your daily routine where you disconnect from all the things (work, computer, TV, cell phone, friends and family) and reconnect to YOU. This can look like a yoga or meditation practice, nightly journaling routine or other ritual. Ideally this happens every day.

  2. Plan for regular, bigger retreat times. Aim to have a longer "retreat" on your calendar each week or month. Sure this can be a long weekend in Maine with a teacher who inspires you (!!), or a staycation where you leave the kids with your SO or parents and check into a fancy hotel, or a spa day with your best friend. But it can also be as simple as an afternoon where you turn off your phone and shut down your computer and are present with what's going on around you.

The important thing with both of these "retreats" is that you're able to tune out some of the noise of life (a lot of which comes from our technology!) and tune into YOU. Bonus if you can be alone and/or be in nature, but that doesn't have to happen every time.

So today I encourage you to look at your calendar. Do you have a true getaway planned? And if not, can you make the time and space for one, even if it is local, or more of a digital detox than a true vacation?

My next retreat will be in Maine - will you join me?

My next retreat will be in Maine - will you join me?

There may be resistance that comes up (I don't have time! It's too expensive! My family needs me!). This is NORMAL and likely means you're on the right path to something that your soul needs for change and growth.

And then I want to hear from you - what's your retreat plan? Are you going to join me in Maine in September? Is there another trip or vacation in the books? How are you going to bring this idea of "retreating" into your every day life? Leave a comment below and let me know!

For this past weekend's retreat I had the pleasure of fueling the group with delicious, healthy food. I put together a recipe book with all the yummy things we made including Paleo Banana Pancakes, Lemon Dill Salmon, Tahini Fudge and MORE!

Click here to download the Self Care Retreat Recipe Book.

These recipes have saved me

First, thank you for all the sweet responses to last week's blog post on my gut health history - it's incredible how many of you have experienced similar symptoms and/or are going through similar healing protocols.

Next week I'll be diving into the strategies (food, supplements and lifestyle changes) I've tried in the past to help relieve my IBS (and then SIBO) symptoms. If you have specific questions, feel free to leave them as comments on the first blog post and I'll do my best to address them in this series!

But for this week I wanted to share a few delicious recipes that have been LIFE SAVERS for me the last couple of weeks as I've been deep in my own healing protocol. Below I've linked some of the recipes I've created to fit within my current SIBO-healing diet, as well as some external gut-healing recipes that I've found along the way.

If you're going through a similar healing protocol, hopefully these recipes will fit within your plan! And if you're not on any specific protocol, these recipes are wonderful, gut friendly options to work into your regular cooking (and baking) routine.

These recipes in particular have been on repeat for me:

Tahini Matcha Latte - When I heard I could have tahini (and matcha) on my protocol, I let out an audible sigh of relief. I blend up this energizing drink most mornings - the tahini gives it a distinct flavor that I actually prefer to my tried-and-true Superpowers Coconut Matcha Latte.

Chestnut Flour Banana Muffins - Chestnut flour is a new ingredient for me and OMG I LOVE IT! It's nutty and sweet, but doesn't feel as dense as an almond or other nut flour. Even my family approved of these muffins - they're that good! I'll be making them (and experimenting more with chestnut flour) even after this protocol is over.

Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies - In addition to Tahini Fudge (recipe coming soon!), these gummies have been my after meal "treats." Sweet, chewy and busting with strawberry flavor, they're perfect for these warmer summer months. The gummies are gut friendly thanks to gelatin, which helps heal the lining of your gut, fight inflammation and support healthy hair, nails and skin. You can easily swap in any berry for the strawberry rhubarb mixture - I've made these with blueberries, raspberries and cherries too!

And here are a few more gut-healing recipe ideas:

Like I've mentioned before, I'm focusing on what I CAN have during this restricted diet, instead of all the things I can't (or shouldn't) eat. And it's been fun trying new recipes and getting creative in the kitchen!

Whether you're on a specific protocol or not, I'd love to hear about your favorite gut-friendly recipe!

Leave a comment below and let us all know (and please include a link if the recipe can be found online!!)

Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies

Sweet, chewy and bursting with strawberry flavor, these gummies are a perfect treat for the warmer months. Unlike traditional gummy candies, which are mostly filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, food dyes and “natural flavors” (which, are usually not so natural), these gummies are actually gut healing thanks to the ingredient that helps them set: gelatin.

Maybe you’ve heard of collagen - it’s trending right now in the health world. Gelatin is similar to collagen - it’s actually made from it (and in case you didn’t know, both are made from animal parts including skin, bones and tissue, so if you’re vegan or vegetarian, these superfoods may not be for you).

The gelatinous quality of gelatin that makes it useful for gummies, desserts and more is also what makes it beneficial when we consume it. Gelatin is slower to digest, meaning it moves through the GI tract further and coats the small intestine, which helps heal the gut. It also contains protein and amino acids like glycine that strengthen the gut lining and therefore lower inflammation in the body.

Additionally, the sticky, glue-like quality of gelatin can support the formation of strong cartilage or connective tissues, which is why it and collagen are touted as beauty and youth superfoods (think younger, more supple skin and joints).

Especially if you’re dealing with gut issues like me, gelatin is an awesome food to work into your diet to support your healing efforts. And if you don’t have gut issues? Well I suggest trying out these gummies anyways because they’re mega delicious and FUN!

Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies - Emily Nachazel.JPG

Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stems removed and sliced

  • 3 stalks rhubarb, chopped

  • 2 tbsp full fat coconut milk (ideally one with no guar gum, like the one I’ve linked)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 1/4 cup gelatin (important to use a quality source of gelatin, I’ve linked the brand I mostly use!)

  • 2-3 tsp honey (optional, omit if you’re on any specific protocol like low FODMAP, SCD, etc)

Directions:

  1. Add strawberries and rhubarb to a small saucepan over medium heat. Let cook until everything has broken down (about 10-15 minutes). Let mix cool for a few minutes.

  2. Pour the fruit mixture into your high speed blender or food processor. Add in the coconut milk, vanilla and honey (if using) and blend until smooth.

  3. Let mixture cool for a few minutes, then add the gelatin to the blender and blend again until smooth. Immediately pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish and refrigerate until the mixture is set (30 - 45 minutes). Slice into squares or other fun shapes and enjoy immediately. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Have you USED gelatin before?

If so, what did you make? If not, are you open to trying this gut-healing superfood? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Tahini Matcha Latte

When I heard I could have tahini on my SIBO healing protocol, I let out an audible sign of relief.

I won’t go into the details of the protocol here but let’s just say it’s VERY specific. My list of “no” foods is much longer than my list of “yes” foods, and that no list includes some of my favorite healthy items like chocolate, sweet potatoes and nut butter.

But TAHINI is a yes so you better believe I’ve been getting creative with this sesame spread, starting with my morning matcha.

I think I actually prefer this version of matcha to my tried and true matcha latte (made creamy with coconut milk or coconut butter). The tahini adds a distinct flavor that I love!

Side note: The flavor and texture of tahini, like many nut and seed butters, differs greatly across brands. Here are a few of my favorites: Soom Foods, Trader Joe’s, 365 Brand and Seed + Mill.

Tahini Matcha Latte - Emily Nachazel.JPG

Tahini Matcha Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp tahini

  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 1 tsp matcha (my favorite brand is Matchaful)

  • 1 scoop collagen peptides

  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • Pinch sea salt

  • Optional: 1 pitted date or honey for sweetness (omit if you’re on a SIBO or low FODMAP plan)

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients with 1 1/2 - 2 cups hot (not boiled) water in your high speed blender until frothy! Enjoy!

My gut history (IBS, SIBO + more!) - Part I

It’s funny - my health and wellness journey began with my own gut issues, but over the last year or so I stopped sharing as much about digestive health, and focused more on general wellness, mindfulness and even have started coaching more around living a fulfilling life (ie career and life coaching).

It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking and teaching on gut health - I do! But I think on a subconscious level as my own symptoms started to come back and worsen, I began to become less confident in my ability to coach around something I clearly hadn’t figured out for myself.

Recently I started sharing more of my own journey (including the foods and healing modalities I’m trying along the way) and the response has been incredible. I get messages on Instagram every day from individuals saying how grateful they are for the recipes and tips I’ve been sharing, as well as words of encouragement.


Lesson for all my coaches READING THIS POST: You don’t have to have mastered, healed or fixed all of your own stuff before you can be of service to others.

The more I shared, the more questions came my way about my history and symptoms, what I’ve tried in the past, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I also had a lovely reader ask (via the community survey I sent out earlier this month!) that I put all my gut healing tips and recipes together in one place.

SO… I’m doing just that.

In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing all about my gut health history and journey thus far.

If there’s something you have a specific question on or would like to see covered in this series, please shoot me a message and I’ll do my best to address it here!

Today we’ll start with how it all began… when and how my digestive issues first came up, and the symptoms I’ve experienced along the way.

IBS SIBO history - Emily Nachazel.png

How it all started

I always say I’ve had digestive issues my entire adult life, which is true - I can pinpoint the day during my freshman year of college when my symptoms started. Some of you have heard the story, some of you haven’t so I will share it below but there are some other facts I want to bring into this post that may have a part to play in my digestive health history:

  • I was a super sensitive kid with picky taste. I was the one who always got her feelings hurt, who went home crying more often than the others. I also remember being a little picky about my food - not liking specific foods and eating my meals in a specific way (I didn’t want my food categories to touch and would eat one at a time).

  • In high school I contracted mono (yup, the kissing disease). This is also when I remember being more aware of my body and my weight. I had always been normal sized, not super skinny but average - then I lost a lot of weight running cross country as a freshman, and subsequently gained a bunch back when I was sidelined from sports because of mono.

  • High school (my sophomore year) is also when my friends and I started drinking alcohol. We drank anything we could get our hands on, often a combination of spirits siphoned from our parents’ liquor cabinets. This obviously continued into college where alcohol was WAY more available and a big part of undergrad life.

It was during my second semester of college that I had my first intense belly ache (which I’ve since coined l my “stomach attacks”). It had been a stressful semester, I was carrying a full course load and had joined a sorority, so I was partying more than usual. My motto was “work hard, play hard” - I definitely didn’t drink and go out as much as some of my friends, but still it was A LOT. I was also running and working out more. I had gained some weight my first semester (beer and unlimited ice cream at the cafeteria will do that to you) and wanted to lose it.

My mom was visiting and we went to the downtown mall for lunch (I went to college in Charlottesville and this was an outdoor mall with lots of cute shops and nice restaurants, a quick drive or bus ride off campus). We stopped into a deli and I ordered an egg salad sandwich - something a little strange for me as it’s nothing something I would usually get out (I was never a big fan of mayo). I ate it and then my mom dropped me back at my dorm to do a little work before we’d meet up again for dinner.

Back at my dorm I started to feel awful. I was having these intense pains in my stomach, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before - I curled up under my rainbow sheets on my XL twin bed and called my mom crying, not sure what was happening. It was so bad she almost took me to the hospital, but after a little time (and some Tums and Saltine crackers) the pain started to subside.

College = too much fun ;)

College = too much fun ;)

MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT GETTING HELP

I don’t remember having more of those intense belly aches throughout college, but I also chilled out a bit after freshman year. I do remember feeling like my stomach was sensitive, and I was particular about what I ate (healthy food, I cooked a lot even then!).

It wasn’t always easy for me to go to the bathroom (especially the more specific I got with my food and workout routine) and college is when I first experimented with using laxatives to help my body be more regular.

Fast forward to after graduation when I entered the “real world” as an auditor at a Big 4 Public Accounting Firm. I loved my job, but after my first year it became more and more stressful. Not necessarily because of the work, but because I was a high performer and I took on a lot, and didn’t always know how to ask for help when I was over committed.

I started running a LOT more consistently (ie every day). I got more and more healthy (and also more and more extreme) with my diet, eventually becoming vegetarian and then vegan. I swapped the laxatives for “more natural” fiber supplements.

But despite all I was doing for my body and for my health, I regularly felt bloated and constipated, and pretty soon my stomach attacks started coming back.

I finally decided to see a gastroenterologist at the urging of my mother. He did a routine examine and tested me for the major digestive distress culprits at the time: gluten and lactose intolerance, and I believe Celiac’s as well. Everything came out negative.

The gastroenterologist told me I had IBS (Irritable prescribed me anti-anxiety medication and sent me on my way.

I was 22 at the time. I didn’t think I was anxious (I was). I knew some people who were on anti-anxiety meds and I thought “That isn’t me.”

And it’s true - I’ve learned since then that my anxiety manifests more inwardly (literally IN my organs), versus the frenetic restlessness and lack of focus I saw in others. But at the time I refused to take the drugs and instead decided that I would get to the bottom of whatever was causing my pain on my own.

This interaction also left me with a bad taste in my mouth with Western medicine - it would be almost 10 years before I saw another doctor for my gut health symptoms again.

The more I had stomach issues, the healthier I tried to be. Yes I’m cutting the fat off chicken breasts here

The more I had stomach issues, the healthier I tried to be. Yes I’m cutting the fat off chicken breasts here

MY SYMPTOMS

Over the years, my symptoms have ranged, but here’s a summary of what I’ve experienced. I’m also defining some terms below so that you can start to asses if symptoms you’re experiencing are worth further exploration. For example, I’ve had clients that didn’t realize going to the bathroom only 1x every 3 days wasn’t normal until speaking with me, and after some shifts in their diet and routine they were able to have daily BMs (bowel movements!) and feel so much better.

  • Pain in abdominal area - As described above, these “stomach attacks” have been a recurring issue for me. Sometimes I’ll have them as often as every day, or every week, sometimes I’ll go weeks or months without having an issue. Usually it feels like sharp, pain on the left side of my abdomen, combined with a sour feeling in my insides and extreme bloating.

  • Bloating - Bloating is something I’ve dealt with regularly also. This is an interesting symptom to look at because it’s cause can be so many things from eating too quickly, to food intolerances to body image issues (yep, disordered body image can totally result in bloating, or thinking you’re bloated all the time). We’ll dive more into the why of bloating and specific tools to decrease bloat in another post, but for now I simply want to share that this is something I’ve experienced regularly for the last 10+ years. And it sucks because no matter what the rest of you feels like, when your belly is bloated you feel uncomfortable and unattractive.

  • Constipation - Constipation is defined as “a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels.” This can mean you go for days without a bowel movement, but you can also be constipated even if you’re pooping every day but you don’t feel like your bowels are fully emptying. Back in college and my earlier 20s, I experienced a lot of traditional constipation. I dealt with this by using laxatives, fiber supplements and drinking a lot of coffee, which helped in the short term but I believe this also contributed to my longer term issues. This is improved now, but there are still a lot of time where I go but it doesn’t feel complete.

  • Diarrhea - Diarrhea is loose, watery stools, and professionals will say you have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. I usually have a bout of loose stools before one of my stomach attacks.

  • Rashes - This has been the least frequent of my symptoms, but quite a few times I’ve broken out in strange, hives-like rashes on my back, neck and face. Often (but not always) the skin will reflect what’s going on inside our bodies so rashes, breakouts and acne can be a symptom of gut issues.

  • Chest and back pain - I’ve had my share of chest and back pain over the years, more recently it’s been mostly in my back on the lower left side. There are a few explanations for this pain: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), caused by stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus, can cause a burning sensation or a tightness under the sternum. In addition, gas occasionally produces intense pain that makes the entire abdomen feel full and tender. This pain can radiate to the back, causing back pain and bloating. Other GI issues can also cause muscle pain. This can happen after straining to have a bowel movement or repeatedly vomiting.

  • Weight loss, and weight gain - My weight has fluctuated quite a bit over the years. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been “normal” sized - not super skinny but not heavy by any means either. When I first started having digestive issues, I lost a lost of weight and got to a place where I was very, very thin. More recently I’ve gained quite a bit. Both sides of the scale don’t feel good, I’d love to be at a more balanced place with my physical weight and I know this will happen naturally when my gut is also balanced. Weight fluctuations can absolutely be linked to digestive issues for so many reasons - your appetite can increase or decrease depending on other symptoms. In addition, if your microbiome (the billions of bacteria that live in and on your body, especially in your digestive system) is out of whack, this can result in unhealthy weight gain and/or loss.

  • Anxiety, depression and disordered body image - Alright here’s where we go a little deeper, and where I share some things I haven’t shared very publicly before: over the years I’ve struggled with a disordered body image (especially with my belly), anxiety and depression. Our brains and our guts are intricately connected - there’s so much research being done proving that our guts are in fact our “second brains” and play a huge role in so much more than digestion. The state of our bellies impacts how we feel (energy and emotions) - we get butterflies in our stomach before going on stage or when chatting with someone we have a crush on, we know that sinking feeling in our bellies when we’re about to hear bad news, and it’s like our insides are tied in knots when we have a tough decision to make. On an energetic level, our guts are the center of our beings. It’s where our third chakra is located, and this is the chakra that connects to self confidence and our personal radiance (the third chakra is called manipura which translates to ‘bright jewel’). Sometimes physical digestive issues can be the result of emotional issues such as anxiety, depression and feeling meh in your body, and sometimes it’s the other way around. I’ll be sharing more about the energetic and emotional side of the gut and how I’m working to heal myself on that level, but for now I want you to know that these “symptoms” can in fact be linked back to the gut.

Note: I know you know this BUT I am NOT a doctor. On this blog I share my personal stories, and what has helped me and my clients over the years. If you think you have a serious condition - digestive, mental health, or otherwise - I encourage you to consult a trained professional. Please see my full disclaimer here.

Real life - me a few weeks ago, mega bloated before yoga.

Real life - me a few weeks ago, mega bloated before yoga.

WHAT TO DO

Whew! This post ended up being way longer than I expected, but I hope this provided you with some useful information about my history and symptoms.

Personally, it’s been helpful for me to hear others’ stories and symptoms as it 1) makes me feel less alone 2) dissipates some of the shame we feel around our bodies, especially with our bellies and bowel habits and 3) allows me to more clearly articulate what’s going on in my body. Like I shared about my client who wasn’t going to the bathroom, sometimes it takes hearing another’s story to realize what we’ve been experiencing is not normal, or there’s something we can do to improve our current situation.

In the next post in this series, I’ll be sharing more on what I’ve done over the years to manage my symptoms and get to the bottom of what’s going on with my gut.

Please feel free to message me your questions, or leave them below - as much as writing this series is to be therapeutic for me, I also want it to be interesting and useful for you!



Above all, whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re experiencing I want you to know you’re not alone and there IS HOPE. And even if there is no magic fix, no one diet or supplement that will wash away all of your digestive woes, you can and will feel better.

I believe in you. I believe in me. I believe in the power of our bodies and their desire to heal and function optimally. It may take time, and a lot of experimenting, but there is a better, brighter reality.