My Best Friend's (African) Wedding

 Photo by Eileen Laubscher,  BrightGirl Photography .

Photo by Eileen Laubscher, BrightGirl Photography.

To give a bit of background, the my bestie, Anna, lived in Cape Town for a few years, a few years ago. That is when she met Awonke back in 2012. (Fun fact: I came to visit her and met him the month before they started dating! I'm very glad I did because I wouldn't have gotten another opportunity to meet him for at least another 3 years after that!) She moved back to the States in 2014 (right before my wedding!) and these two lovebirds have been doing long distance ever since. I won't go into specifics but it has not been an easy road for them. Through long distance, to immigration issues – it would have been so much easier for them to pull the plug on this relationship a long time ago. But they didn't, thankfully, because they love each other a whole lot.  This wedding was sublime, not just because of the setting or culture, but because it was the start of a new beginning for these two beautiful souls who deserve to be together, wherever they want to be, forever. 

The wedding took place in Durban, South Africa in April – and it was glorious. 

 My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing. 

My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing. 

Day 1: Bachelorette Party (and Bachelor Party)

I flew in and made it by 8pm after delays lasting for more than 8 hours! Woof. Not everyone was in yet, but we had a lovely evening drinking wine and catching up with some of my favorite humans. Just, ya know, in Africa. 

Simultaneously the bachelor party was going on, and I think it was a bit... more wild... than our evening. 


Day 2: Welcome... and other monkey business

This was the day mostly everyone arrived, so there were last minute details to finish. We distributed welcome bags to the hotel rooms of the guests. They were stacked with goodies, one of which was "biltong" a South African specialty, which is basically another form of beef jerky. The local monkeys knew that there were goodies inside- and I was "attacked." Dramatic. Basically, the monkey lunged at me so I would drop my goods. Luckily, a groomsman came to my aid and escorted me to my room. Because I kept the welcome bag... the MONKEYS FOLLOWED ME to my room! Here is a sentence I never thought I'd say or write – monkeys are sexist and harassers. It's true!! They leave men alone and harass women. Also side note: when I was in Cape Town in 2012 we were attacked by baboons... ask me about that story another time. :)

I also was able to go to the beach with the sistah's of the bride (and co-MOHs!). And that evening was the welcome party! It was amazing to meet so many wonderful people who love my friends just as much as I do. It's always fun to meet friends from different phases in life, but rarely do you have an opportunity to meet friends from another continent. "Good people beget good people,™" is my wedding mantra and this wedding did not disappoint. The party went on long into the night! I should've gone to bed early, but hey, lost track of time, begetting goodness. 

Day 3: It's happening! Wedding day!

Today was the day we had been waiting for, the actual wedding! It was a perfect day. I woke up to a spectacular sunrise (#jetlag). We drank bubbles alongside our dandelion root tea (#shedtip to cure bloat! and yes these two things probably cancelled each other out), got our hair did, and took photos. The ceremony was in a church on top of a hill, with a window wall behind the altar that overlooked the ocean. I was honored to do a reading and be one of the witnesses to their union. The priest was a character. And here is really where things began to get interesting. The groom's family sang the most beautiful songs every chance they could, (you can hear some post wedding in the video below). It was just the beginning. And just like that, these two were married!

(Please don't judge my video skills - I was just trying to capture some of the music and dancing of the day! I legit have no editing skills, feel free to fast forward!)

The cocktail hour looked out over the ocean with an abundance of incredible food. The reception was full of love, laughter, tears, and 10 speeches. No, not a typo, 10 speeches. But they were interspersed throughout the evening and flowed beautifully. There was spontaneous dancing mid-eating. More singing. Dance offs. It was perfect. 

Day 4: the Zulu Wedding

I don't think I've mentioned yet that the entire wedding experience did not feel like real life. It was incredible. And then, the Zulu festivities began. And then it really felt like a dream!

To be clear, I am no where close to being an expert on South Africa's history or culture, but I will try to illuminate on what I do know. There are many tribes (I believe I've read that there are more than 3000) in South Africa, but there are two main tribes that tend to dominate - the largest is Zulu, the second largest are the Xhosa. IsiZulu is South Africa's most widely spoken official language. The groom's father was Zulu and his mother was Xhosa, but it's a patriarchal culture so he is considered Zulu. Even for a lot of the South African's there, many had never been to a Zulu wedding, so it was a privilege to have been in attendance. 

As a member of Anna's "tribe," we waited patiently at a neighbors house down the road from the groom's parents, waiting for Awonke's tribe to come fetch her! They came singing and dancing down the road singing that Anna was their's! 

Really the best way to describe the day is by watching the compilation below. It includes a lot of singing and dancing. It ends with an impressive performance by the groom!

(Note: The groom's brother, Anelisa, was married a couple years ago, but they did not have a full Zulu celebration, so they celebrated his marriage at the same time. So there are co-grooms and co-brides in some of these photos.)

 The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

 Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right). 

Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right). 

 The father of the bride after receiving his blanket! 

The father of the bride after receiving his blanket! 

Earlier in the week, the family had slaughtered a goat and a cow in honor of the festivities. In Zulu culture it symbolizes to the ancestors that a celebration is beginning. What I think is wonderful is that they use every part of the animal. The hide of the goat will be made into a rug for the newlyweds. The meat was served at the reception. They passed around a feast of bread, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, goat and beef on platters a plenty. I unfortunately didn't get a picture(?!). Shocking I know, I think I was just too excited to eat it! 

The ceremony was long – about 4 1/2 hours - but as you you could see in the video, it was mesmerizing. A large portion of the time was dedicated to gift giving. From the groom's family to the brides and vice versa. The gift of choice were blankets. Everyone gave everyone blankets. I'm not sure what the symbolism was behind it, except for general hospitality - and if you ever come to visit you know there will be extra blankets! 

 In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish. 

In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish. 

 The moment! 

The moment! 

Many of the elders in the family gave the newlyweds advice. Ranging from conjugal rights to not looking at your husband's phone, the topics proved entertaining!

 The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

New Friends In Durban
 Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

 Love them so much! 

Love them so much! 

We ended the evening celebrating the groom's birthday. Can you imagine a better way to spend your birthday?! 

 We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

 Outfit change with a view! 

Outfit change with a view! 

 The only pic I have with both of them! 

The only pic I have with both of them! 

Bride Tribe

There is probably so much I missed, but I tried to do the celebrations justice. The weekend was so joyous and truly was a celebration of love!  I was honored to be involved. And I will end with this: 

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." - Maya Angelou

Cheers to the newlyweds and their happily ever after. - AHS 

5 Things I Wish I Had Done To Stay Healthy While Traveling Abroad

birds of paradise durban south africa

While London was a case study in what to do right, South Africa was a study in my failings. Learn from my mistakes. Study up if you have a honeymoon in your near future! 


1. Put vanity aside, and get yourself a face mask.

Yes, I'm talking about those SARS masks. Really, the first tip is don't be too embarrassed to wear a face mask to protect you from other people's germs when you have a lot of travel ahead of you. I wish I had brought one, the man next to me on the plane was clearly very sick, and I know I caught a flu/cold from him. I don't think any of you will actually do it- but seriously, it's worth the embarrassment. If nothing more just have one on hand, just in case you need saving from Mr. Sniffles in the middle seat.


2. Skip the booze on the plane.

 Night one. We got down on some wine. 

Night one. We got down on some wine. 

While I don’t normally drink on flights- this was a lot of travel. 2 full days of it (the trip doesn't normally take this long, but longer than usual layovers plus delays made it so). I don't take sleeping pills or melatonin (doesn't help me) on planes, and a bit of wine can help knock me out. While that may be okay in a normal vacation scenario -  I went straight into wedding "party mode" when I arrived: a bachelorette party, a welcome party, a traditional wedding, and a Zulu wedding all consecutive days. If I had skipped booze on the plane,  I would have been in better shape for all the parties ahead. Instead, I was dehydrated, and it left my immune system a lil bit weaker than usual (which as you learned earlier, was not the best). 


 Glass half full <3

Glass half full <3

3. Make hydration a priority  

I repeatedly struggled to drink enough water, especially throughout wedding festivities (and I probably needed it the most then!). I had debated on bringing a big ole water bottle with me, but decided against it because my carry on was already approaching 30 lbs. In retrospect, I would've brought the bottle and left some books at home! 


4. Make time to meditate

As mentioned before, when I landed I went straight into wedding chaos. My first morning I had a bit of time, but instead of waking and doing my morning meditation, I let curiosity and excitement get the better of me and I went to go explore. Regrets, friends, regrets. That was the last opportunity I had for meditation for the next 3 days. Late nights, early mornings, and lots of parties prevented me from keeping up with my routine. While skipping these things are okay while on vacation- I missed out on good self care that would've served me well! I didn't let the habit lapse the whole trip though – after the wedding events ended I got back into my routine! :) 

 At the top of Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town... perhaps not the safest meditation spot.&nbsp;

At the top of Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town... perhaps not the safest meditation spot. 

5. Bring a pharmacy

I'm an experienced traveler, and I thought I was prepared, but I really was not. I had all my supplements with me, but no medicine. While I took special probiotics to prevent traveler's diarrhea, they didn't really work. I'm not exactly sure why, but regardless, I wish I had brought some Imodium in my kit. I also had menstrual cramps- Aleve, please. I had a fever (yes, I couldn't catch a break) - Ibuprofen was necessary. My sickness evolved into a cold/cough from h*ll - so I definitely needed some cold meds and throat lozenges. 

A lot of these goods were available at the local chemist, but I was not staying close to town for the first part of the trip. However, I was saved because I had friends who, unlike me, brought pharmacies with them. So moral of the story is to plan for the worst case scenario. The only thing worse than getting sick on vacation is not having meds to make you feel better. 

Side note: I'm a bit hippy dippy and when I'm at home. I try to not take medicine unless I really need it. I like to hydrate, rest, and let nature take it's course. However, in the case of vacation in far away places, this is the time to hop right off that high horse and take some meds. Your time away is short, and you want to savor these memories, not recalling how terrible you felt!

I hope these tips were helpful and you learned from my mistakes! What's the biggest travel fail you've ever experienced? Leave me a note in the comments below or on Insta! - AHS


Looking for more travel tips? Check out the posts below! 




Mini Guide to London

I love London: good eats, sweat, and all the culture – what's not to love?! After my trip there last month I decided to share some of my best finds (and TBH it's really what others recommended to me first). Just to be clear, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but just some highlights that I wanted to share. All of the places listed are linked (mostly in title).  I hope this round up helps you have a "well" (like wellness? get it?) rounded visit! (Side note: I wrote this mostly in the most oppressive layover at Heathrow ever. Seems fitting no?!)

Shoreditch Specific

Ace Hotel London birthday champagne and brownie surprise

Shoreditch is in East London, and is known to be an eclectic and diverse neighborhood. Incredible street art. Amazing coffeeshops. It felt like the perfect place to be. 

We stayed at the Ace Hotel, and could not speak more highly of the experience. It's a very cool place. Live music almost every night, awesome lobby designed for getting work done. Minimalist and hip, it felt very in tune with the East London neighborhood it resides in. Besides that, the hotel found out it was my birthday and sent champagne and brownies - they know a way to a girl's heart. 

East London Juice Co

Attached to the Ace Hotel, this is a completely women-owned and operated juice and crystal shop. My own Mecca. The ladies who work here are super knowledgable about their adaptogens AND crystals. I loved chatting with them. It's also externally attached to the Ace, so very convenient if you are staying there or in the neighborhood. 

 Chocolate Adaptogen Mylkshake

Chocolate Adaptogen Mylkshake

 East London Juice Co. menu and crystals

East London Juice Co. menu and crystals

Hoi Polloi

This is one of the restaurants inside of the Ace. I worked from here a couple days, great ambiance. On Sunday, my husband and I did their afternoon tea. There was live jazz that really set the tone. It was amazing. If nothing else, go for the perfect buttery scones. #treatyoself

 GF, Vegan Avo Toast at Redemption.&nbsp;

GF, Vegan Avo Toast at Redemption. 


This spot is LEGIT. Vegan. Gluten free. AVOCADO THAT GOES ON FOR DAYS. I sat there by myself and ATE ALL OF THAT TOAST. ALL. OF. IT. A good spot to eat and read a book (I did!).  All of the good vibes. 


I had 3 independent friends recommend this place and it did not disappoint. Seriously, the best Indian food ever. Taste bud explosions on repeat. Everything was fabulous. My photos didn't do it justice (thus not featured). Click the link (title) to see the Bombay aesthetic. 


Peruvian tapas. Yep you heard that right. Another restaurant that makes your taste buds go BOOM. There wasn't one thing we tried that was mediocre. It's a small place, but packed with charm. 

 Triyoga - they also have juices and wifi! Another great spot to post up to get some work done post flow!&nbsp;

Triyoga - they also have juices and wifi! Another great spot to post up to get some work done post flow! 


If you were watching my instagram stories, you learned that I may or may not have died during the Level 2 yoga class I took at Triyoga. It was a very challenging class. It seemed like everyone in the class was a regular, but they were very welcoming. Especially when I requested to be close to the wall once I learned there would be a lot of inversion work. The studio was pristine. They also do massages and pilates! So much to love! 

Spitalfields Market

The Spitalfield Markets are a cool indoor/outdoor year round market. From jewelry, to plants, to baby clothing, you can find it all there! Oh and not to mention some incredible smelling food vendors- we unforch did not have an opportunity to try them though! 

We went on a Sunday, but they are open 7 days a week. I believe the vendors vary. 

Brick Lane Vintage Markets

Brick Lane Vintage Markets Eats

Just a quick walk from the Spitalfields Market are the Brick Lane Markets (only on Sundays). Amazing vintage finds, handmade unique items, and MORE FOOD! (again that I didn't eat - I wasn't prepared!!) I didn't get any worthy pics of the vintage section because it was crazy crowded. But if you are into unique vintage finds, it's def worth checking out. 

Also of note, apparently up the road from there is a Sunday flower market. We really wanted to go, but we just got a little too cold. I hear its awesome if you are visiting in better weather. 



Around Town (Not Shoreditch)


Victoria & Albert Museum

As you can see from the photo below, it's worth a stop just to eat at the cafe. Some truly incredible exhibits, and just gorgeously curated. 

Victoria and Albert Museum V&A Museum Cafe

British Museum

Can you say Egypt? I would come back to this museum alone just for their Ancient Egyptian collection. I took the picture below, and right behind me was the ACTUAL Rosetta Stone. I almost missed it. This place is a must see if you are at all interested in history.  

British Museum Egypt Exhibit


Other key attractions

St. Paul's -  Westminster Abbey's less popular sister. This place is STUNNING! If you aren't going to services it does cost to tour, but totally worth it. Also, trivia fact, Princess Diana and Charles tied the knot here (instead of the Abbey) because it could hold more guests! It's one of the 2 places the royal family can get married. 

St. Paul's Cathedral London


Food and Drink

Coppa Club Igloos

We are full on in spring mode now, so not sure how long the igloos will be around, but they were an amazing place for Saturday "brunch" when we were in town. The food was great- I mean can you see that pizza?! And the view of the Thames and Tower Bridge was even better. 

Coppa Club Igloos London Rose
Coppa Club Pizza with Egg

Duck and Waffle

Speaking of views, Duck and Waffle has some of the best views in the city. And they had duck and waffle, which basically is an elevated chicken and waffles. It was to die for. My pics are dark didn't do it justice, so I didn't provide them. But it is definitely a perfect spot for a boujie night out. 

Other notable mentions: 

  • Hyde Park
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Walk around the neighborhoods of Notting Hill, Covent Gardens, and Marylebone
  • Natural History Museum 
  • The Tate and Tate Modern
  • All things Harry Potter (Platform 9 3/4, Studio tour, Cursed Child, etc)

Cheers, mates! -AHS

Cheery Cherry Chia Bowl

cherry chia seed bowl pumpkin seed coconuts cocoa nibs

Hi friends! I owe you guys a recipe, and I just couldn't wait to share this one with you! I called it the "cheery" cherry chia bowl because it brought so much cheer to my morning routine. No joke. If you love cherry, you will love this. The frozen cherries melt into the concoction and their juices bring an awesome flavor. It is a perfect weekday breakfast! Let me know if you try it! Xx, AHS

Cheery cherry chia bowl

cherry chia seed pudding


  • 1/3 cup chia seeds 
  • 1 ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
  • 1/4 cup vanilla plant based protein powder
  • 7 frozen cherries 
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • your fave toppings (I used cocoa nibs, pumpkin seeds, and unsweetened coconut shreds)


Combine the first 5 ingredients as listed in container of your choice. Stir the protein to eliminate any powder bubbles. With a spoon, try to eliminate any clusters of chia seeds that won't let liquid in. Let sit overnight. Mix in the morning and add your favorite toppings. Enjoy! 

What happened when I quit coffee for 45 days

The Why

 The ultimate irony, writing about giving up coffee whilst drinking this beaut of a latte.

The ultimate irony, writing about giving up coffee whilst drinking this beaut of a latte.

First, let me be 100% clear- I am not anti-coffee. In fact, by the end of this post you will realize I am in love with coffee. Actually, almost all of this post, written over the course of several days, was written under the influence of coffee. 

So why did I quit it? Well, it all started when a friend got confused and thought I was giving up coffee for lent. I had a bit of a severe reaction. It went something like, "H*ll no, I'm never giving up coffee!" And in my head I began the process of rationalizing all of the reasons I did not need to give up coffee: 

  • "But I only have a couple cups a day."
  • "I'm not addicted! Why give it up?"
  • "It's actually healthy in the amount that I drink it! I need the anti-oxidants." 
  • "It will affect my productivity – it's not good for business."

Somewhere around "I'm not addicted," I realized it was something I needed to do. I was too emotionally invested in coffee. 


    The Experience

    To replace coffee I alternated between drinking matcha and black tea. The deets:

    • I used Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen*. Sometimes I made a Bulletproof version, adding Brain Octane Oil and unsweetened almond milk. But most of the time I just added a bit of raw honey to eliminate the bitterness. If you want more information on collagen, I wrote a post about it a few months ago. 
    • I used a variety of brands of black tea depending of where I was. I mostly drank English Breakfast. Sometimes Earl Grey. Sometimes Chai. Always with unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Never any added sugar. 
     To be fair had to show my strong and worthy subs! Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen above

    To be fair had to show my strong and worthy subs! Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen above

     In London, mostly stuck with English Breakfast, for breakfast. :)&nbsp;

    In London, mostly stuck with English Breakfast, for breakfast. :) 

    I did enjoy the flavor and taste of both options. They were warming, and gave me a dose of caffeine to start my day. It definitely helped with the morning ritual component for sure. 

    Despite having good substitutes on hand, the first day was rough. Physically, I did not have as much energy as usual. Mentally, it was challenging. It was harder getting up in the morning without my morning cuppa to look forward to. 

    After the first day, I didn't notice a difference in my energy levels. This is probably because I was still getting my caffeine, just in lower doses. My body adjusted quickly to the lower amount of caffeine. I also think it's possible that I was not physically addicted to the caffeine, but emotionally. 

    Caffeine Average Per 8oz Serving

    Note: these can vary significantly depending on brew style, length, etc. I took the averages. Also, most people consume more than 8oz. My everyday brew before this experience was drip coffee. I alternated between Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen and Black Tea during this 45 day period.

    What I did notice was that I truly felt like a less happy person. FOR ALMOST THE ENTIRE TIME. It was very noticeable. I didn't quite have the "joie de vivre" that I typically experience in my day to day life. Apparently, I source great amounts of joy from my coffee in the morning. You would think that having a warm cup of tea in the morning would replace the ritual, but for me, it wasn't enough. I proceeded with my life. I did my work. I continued with my social commitments, but I found I did it all without any pep in my step. It was fine, but I missed my upbeat self. 

    This led me to do some research- is there actually a correlation between coffee and mood? Well, some studies say yes! The findings of one study show an association between coffee and mood — researchers know that caffeine works by binding to receptors for brain chemicals associated with mood. This particular study even determined that 2-4 cups of coffee a day lowered risk in women for depression. A good summary article is here if you would like more information.  Bottom line: I was not imagining a decrease in my mood, cuz science. 


    Reincorporating Coffee

    My First Cup... A Cheat Day

     Isn't she a beaut? This was my bday latte. #bliss

    Isn't she a beaut? This was my bday latte. #bliss

    My birthday is always during lent, so I always grant myself dispensation from lenten resolutions on that day. I was staying in a lovely hotel in London, with a fabulous cafe. Every day I smelled the delicious scent of roasted beans, and on the morning of my birthday I was able to enjoy my very own almond milk latte. It was sheer perfection. The coffee was sublime. Have you ever heard of the "point of diminishing return"? It basically is a concept that says after the first bite or sip of something, generally speaking, enjoyment of whatever it is goes down dramatically. I can tell you with 100% confidence that every sip of that latte brought me LIFE. I loved every second of it. But I kept it to one cup for the day and that was perfect. 

    Any side effects? I definitely had a bit of a caffeine high. But no jitters, or tenseness. No anxiety. No stomach troubles. I knew I had a strong constitution for coffee, but I did think I would experience some adverse reaction after being off it for so long (this was day 34). I was pumped there wasn't! 

    Day 45

    I went back on coffee at Easter (Holy Saturday when lent is over actually), and it was in the midst of chaos. I was helping my mom prepare for 30 guests, AND we were cooking (love my large Italian clan!). I ended up drinking A LOT of coffee. I'm not even sure how many cups because we kept pouring into unfinished cups.  I fully admit this was not the best idea after being off it for so long. 

    I could definitely feel the effects. I was tense, a bit on edge, and had a stomach ache. I 100% overdid it. It was good reality check for me. While coffee is wonderful in moderation – that doesn't mean to drink bottomless cups.  After the first day of overdoing it, I have tried to go back to my one cup in the morning, sometimes venturing for a second. I haven't experienced the negative side effects since.  

    Another noticeable difference in myself is that my palate has become more discerning. While before this experiment I was coffee "snobbish," I used to be able to get away with buying a big tub of beans at Trader Joe's. Right now, it is not doing it for me. I'm really into a more robust roast like Intelligentsia or Dark Matter.

    My mood has returned to it's normal sunny disposition. :) For the record, it's fine to not feel happy all of the time, but my normal self is set on default to "upbeat". While I have learned this is definitely partially induced by my coffee consumption, I didn't care for the "new normal" I was experiencing.

    I clearly have not broken my emotional attachment to those lovely beans, but I do know I can exist in a life without coffee. :)


    An unbiased bit of education

    While this post is about my own personal experience, I want to make sure that y'all know about all the awesome benefits coffee can bring, and the drawbacks. There are quite a few reasons to drink coffee, and quite a few reasons not to. Every person is different and can process coffee and caffeine differently. While I often sound like a coffee spokesperson, I really want you to do what feels right for your body. Have a read below to decide if you want caffeine as a part of your routine – and as always, listen to your body! 

    Caffeine Health Benefits coffee elimination
    Caffeine Health Hindrances coffee
    caffeine benefits and negative side effects references

    My Key Takeaways

     I'm happy to be reunited with my first true love. &lt;3

    I'm happy to be reunited with my first true love. <3

    I know relying on any substance for happiness is not healthy. While 45 days without coffee did not seem to break my emotional tie with it, I do know that the world will not end if I ever decide we need some time apart. While I won't be giving up coffee permanently, I will definitely try to change things up every once in a while. I've learned my lesson, 2 cups a day is my limit! And I will definitely will keep my matcha and black tea in the rotation!

    Do you drink coffee? Have you ever tried giving it up? I would love to hear if you had a similar experience. Leave a comment below or tell me on the 'gram! 

    Bottoms Up! 


      *Vital Proteins provided the Matcha Collagen. If you purchase through the links in the post, I will earn a commission at no cost to you. But to be clear, this post was not paid for by Vital Proteins and my opinions are all my own. 

      Gut Health 200

      Time to LEVEL UP friends! 

      Part two on our gut health journey will walk through: 

      • how to tackle leaky gut and digestive issues
      • how to pick a probiotic supplement

      I hope you find part two informative and useful! 

      Leaky Gut Syndrome

      Y'all ready for some more education? 

      Have you ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? It's more common than you think. If you have more than one food sensitivity you more than likely have leaky gut.

      The cells that line the intestine are supposed to be connected tightly together. Leaky gut occurs when the "glue" that keeps them together has been destroyed and spaces open up between the cells. Toxins, microbes and even pieces of food can get into the body - no bueno. This can create many problems in the body, and can even cause auto-immune diseases. 

       Image courtesy of Dr. Axe.&nbsp;

      Image courtesy of Dr. Axe. 

      According to Dr. Leo Galland, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine these are some of the top symptoms you could be experiencing if you have a leaky gut:

      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

      So what do you do if you suspect you have leaky gut? Well first, we get down to what could be offending foods in your diet. We tackle this with (step 1:) an elimination diet.* 

      For 3 weeks eliminate the following foods from your diet: gluten (and any grains that could be cross-contaminated by gluten), dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. Some advise to also eliminate shellfish and peanuts.  After the three weeks reintroduce one category at a time (every 4 days) to observe your body's response. Eat the food several times a day for 2-3 days and observe. If you have a reaction right away, you do not need to keep eating it. 

      Step 2: If you identify trigger foods- keep them out of your diet for 6 months. The body is remarkable and can remember! Give it time to forget and most likely you will be able to add those bad boys back into your diet eventually.**

      Step 3: Add in foods to heal the intestinal lining! Hello, probiotic beauties! See last week's post for a for an in-depth look at probiotic rich foods. More below as well. In addition to probiotics and prebiotics, coconut oil, ghee, and foods rich in glutamine (animal proteins, beans, spinach, cabbage, parsley, etc) are great for this step as well. 

      Step 4: Bask in your healed, glorious body! 

      Add a probiotic supplement

      vitamins and probiotics

      Let's talk about adding a probiotic supplement into your life. Eating probiotic rich foods is not the easiest so unless you plan on making it a priority – supplementing is your best bet! Additionally, if you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above - you can target specific issues by what imbalance you are trying to recover from.  I won't go too depth here, but this article breaks it down by symptom. 

      Buying a probiotic is notoriously difficult because there are so many out there, and its hard to be informed about every option out there. Here is what you should look for: 

      What to look for in a probiotic supplement

      Identify the best bacteria strains

      You want to make sure you are getting diverse strains of bacteria- because we are all about well rounded gut flora! There is some debate on if "more is better", but some advise for CFUs” (colony forming units) in the billions. Instead focus on a variety of strains. A good brand will list them out. Some of the best strains to keep an eye out for are below:

      B. longum

      • Benefits: maintaining the integrity of the gut wall, decreasing stress, memory improvement, helping relieve constipation

      B. bifidum

      • Benefits: improves digestion of dairy foods, breaks down carbs, fat, and protein into smaller components so the body can use them more efficiently, boosts immune response, reduction in IBS symptoms and ulcerative colitis

      L. acidophilus 

      • Benefits: supports a healthy balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria, immune function, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, supports nutrient absorption, improves digestion of dairy foods


      An expiration date

      An expiration date ensures that you are getting live strains of bacteria. Probiotics are not going to do you any good if the strains are dead. Without an expiration date listed, there is no way to tell if you are buying living strains or if they are already dead! Probiotics are not cheap, so don't skip this advice! 


      Smart packaging

      Moisture and heat can kill off microbes so it is important to make sure that the packaging will protect them!  You should store supplements in a cool, dark place but refrigeration is best. Some brands have developed amazing delivery systems that are shelf stable, but to be safe, opt for the fridge. 

      Guys, this post was longer than anticipated, so I decided this is now a 3 part series! Our last section will tackle ways to get whole food probiotic and prebiotics into your normal routine! I hope you have enjoyed the series so far. Please leave me a comment here or on instagram if you have learned something new! Cheers! AHS

      *As a reminder, I am not a doctor. I only play one on TV. Please consult with a healthcare provider when you undergo lifestyle changes.

      ** This is for food sensitivities. If you suspect you may have celiac disease or other autoimmune diseases, please consult a healthcare provider.