Holistic Health Coaching with Shannon

Holistic Health Coaching with Shannon To celebrate the launch my new Holistic Health Coaching practice and to give a warm hearted THANK YOU to the community that has supported me for over 22 years, I would like to invite you to a FREE, yes absolutely free, 45 minute Initial Consult for everyone who completes a Health History form on my website between April 1, 2018 until June 30, 2018. Read More

Integrative Nutrition

How to Take a Technology Detox

There are many benefits to using technology – traveling around the world, connecting with loved ones, learning in the classroom, and even saving lives in hospitals! However, like anything else, technology can be overused and even abused. Read More

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Three Spices to Add to Your Spice Rack

If you want to give your meals an upgrade, adding some new spices to your cooking repertoire can make a huge difference in transforming bland meals into flavorful, satisfying dishes. Read More

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What Happens to Your Body on the Ketogenic Diet

Thinking about going on the keto diet? You’re not alone! It’s quickly gaining popularity as a weight loss diet, but it has actually been used for years in the clinical sense to help alleviate symptoms of neurological conditions like epilepsy. Read More

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Unlock the Magical Healing Powers of Crystals

The power of crystals has been discovered. Today, more than ever, people are turning to crystals to aid them along their path to healing. Read More

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5 Foods That Are Surprisingly High In Fiber

When it comes to fiber, there are more ways to eat them than just chomping on some prunes. (Which also totally might not be your thing to begin with.) Read More

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5 Health Conditions That Affect Women More Than Men

We all know that women’s bodies are different from men, but to what extent do we truly understand how women can take unique preventative measures to live a long and healthy life? Read More


The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for digestive health, this is it! Yes, it's true. Your gut is considered your second brain. There is no denying it anymore.Wit h the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it's no wonder that what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.  

What exactly is the "gut-brain connection"?

  Well, it’s very complex, and we’re still learning lots about it. There seem to be multiple things working together.
  • The vagus nerve that links the stomach directly to the brain
  • The enteric nervous system (the second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain
  • massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut
  • huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body
  • interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes
I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe.  

Vagus nerve

This nerve runs directly from the gut to the brain and 90% of the transmission is from your gut up to your brain.    

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

  Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord? That's why it's referred to as the second brain. If you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty "smartly"...don't you think? These nerves speak to each other, and to other cells by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in our stomach:a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your stomach.  

The immune system of the gut

  Eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body. It makes sense that much of our defense system would be located there too. In fact, 75% of our immune system is in our stomachs. Did you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere? If they’re activated by something in the stomach, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body; including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.  

Gut microbesGut microbiome

  Your friendly neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your belly and they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation. More and more evidence is showing that changes in your microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.  

How do these all work together for brain health?

  The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don't know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more. One thing is becoming clear, a healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain. So, how do you feed your brain? Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone. Two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed the beneficial microbes and omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.  

Recipe (Gut food fibre, Brain food omega-3): Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats

Serves 2
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup oats (gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
  3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.
  Serve & enjoy! Tip: Your microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.  



Five Weight Loss Friendly Snacks You Will Love

The words weight loss and snacks often appear in the same sentence. That might also bring thoughts of tasteless, cardboard, and completely unsatisfying. Let me give you my best weight-loss friendly snacks that aren't just nutritious but also delicious! What’s my criteria you ask? They have to be nutrient-dense whole foods where a little goes a long way: foods that contain protein and/or fiber.  

1 - Nuts

It’s true - nuts contain calories and fat, but they are NOT fattening! Well, I’m not talking about the honey roasted ones, of course.  Those probably are fattening. Studies show that people who eat nuts tend to be healthier and leaner. By the way, nuts also contain protein and fiber, which means a small amount can go pretty far in terms of filling you up. Not to mention the vitamins and minerals you can get from nuts! Did you know that almonds have been shown to help with weight loss? At least 10% of the fat in them is not absorbed by the body, and almonds can also help to boost your metabolism! Tip: Put a handful of unsalted/unsweetened RAW nuts into a small container and throw it in your purse or bag.  

2 - Fresh Fruit

As with nuts, studies show that people who tend to eat more fruit, tend to be healthier. (I’m sure you’re not too surprised!) Yes, fresh fruit contains sugar, but whole fruits (I'm not talking juice or sweetened dried fruit) also contain a fair bit of water and fiber; not to mention their nutritional value with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And fresh fruit is low in calories. Fiber is something that not only helps to fill you up (known as the satiety factor) but also helps to slow the release of the fruit sugar into your bloodstream and reduce the notorious blood sugar spike. Win-win! Try a variety of fruit (apples, pears, berries, etc.) and pair that with a handful of nuts. Tip: Can't do fresh? Try Dried or frozen. Plus, they're already chopped for you.    

3 - Chia seeds

This is one of my personal favourites… Chia is not only high in fibre (I mean HIGH in fibre), but it also contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids (yes THOSE omega-3s!). As well as antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium. Can you see how awesome these tiny guys are? They also absorb a lot of liquid, so by soaking them for a few minutes, they make a thick pudding (that is delicious and fills you up). Tip: Put two tablespoons in a bowl with ½ cup of nut milk and wait a few minutes. Add in some berries, chopped fruit or nuts, and/or cinnamon and enjoy! Also you can check out this recipe for breakfast**insert chia, chocolate porridge recipe***  

4 - Boiled or poached eggs

EggsEggs are packed with nutrition and most of it is in the yolk. Egg yolk is high in lutein and vitamin A, both are important for eye function. They contain a lot of high-quality proteins and a good amount of vitamins and minerals. And recent research shows that the cholesterol in the yolks is NOT associated with high elevated cholesterol or heart disease risk. Yup, you read that right! Tip: Boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in your fridge for a super-quick (and nutritious) snack!  

5 - Vegetables

I don’t need to tell you how great these are for you, but just maybe I need to sell you on the delicious “snackability” of these nutrition powerhouses. Veggies contain fibre and water to help fill you up, and you don't need me to tell you about their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, right? You can easily open a bag of baby carrots and/or cherry tomatoes and give them a quick rinse (they’re already bite-sized). Tip: Use a bit of dip. Have you put almond butter on celery? How about trying my new hummus recipe below?  


  Go ahead and try one, or more, of these healthy snacks. Prepare them the night before if you need to. They will not be "tasteless," like "cardboard," or "completely unsatisfying." Trust me.  

Recipe (Vegetable Dip): Hummus

Hummus Makes about 2 cups
  • 1  can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 dash pepper
  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to thin it out, simply add more oil, so add it 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time and blend.
  2. Serve & enjoy!
Tip:  Use an avocado in place of the tahini.      References:


Is My Poop Normal?

Yes, I'm serious! (And don't you sometimes wonder anyway?) You already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health. You may get constipation or have diarrhea when you eat something that "doesn't agree with you," or when you're super-nervous about something.

And what about fiber and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop. What about the all-important gut microbes? If they're not happy, it'll probably show in your poop. Here’s a trivia question for you: Did you know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?  

Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997: see the chart here. The scale breaks down type of poop into seven different categories ranging from type 1, which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhea: poo-chart-2 1 - Separate hard lumps (very constipated). 2 - Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated). 3 - Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal) 4 - Smooth, soft sausage (normal). 5 - Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fiber). 6 - Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation). 7 - Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).  

Other “poop” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health. Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one or more than three can mean there is something going on. What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible. And the color? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine. But if you see an abnormal color, like red or even black, that you can't explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.  

What do you do when you have "imperfect" poo?

Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while, things aren't going to be perfect, and that's okay. If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that or haven’t had enough probiotic foods then try getting more of them; if you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or taking a warm bath. Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:
  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fiber in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there, your friendly gut microbes.
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.
These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop! Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don't suffer from poop issues for too long before seeking help.   Recipe (dairy-free probiotic): Super-Simple Coconut Milk Yogurtcoconut-yogurt Serves 6
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 probiotic capsules,
  1. Open the probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
  2. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot - you don’t want those probiotics to die).
  3. Store it in a warm place for 24-48 hours. If it's not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
  4. Add your favourite yogurt toppings, and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge.
Serve & enjoy! Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or probiotics. Also check out the Good Belly 12 Day Reboot Challenge  


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