Why Gluten-Free Doesn't Always Mean Healthy

Being gluten-free is still a relatively new idea. Food companies and restaurants are now offering a wide array of gluten-free options for those who are opting out of gluten; either because of a food intolerance or because of preference. It’s popularity is continuing to rise and now you can browse grocery aisles and see countless items with a gluten-free label.

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But what is gluten anyways? It’s the proteins that are found in wheat, barley and rye. These gluten proteins are resistant to the enzymes that break down proteins in our digestive tract, which then causes irritation and disruption in the digestive tract, specifically the intestinal lining. The intestinal lining is made for nutrients to pass through because directly on the other side is our bloodstream, but when undigested proteins are passing through instead, this causes an immune response in our body. Our immune system flags these undigested proteins as foreign invaders and when we continue to eat gluten containing foods, this causes more disruption and inflammation in the body, potentially leading to autoimmune issues. When you have a sensitivity to gluten, your digestive system gets disrupted and can’t work properly which then creates pain, discomfort, and irregularity in your bowel movements. This can also create an issue with your body being able to properly digest other food, therefore making it hard for your body to get the nutrients it needs. Issues with gluten can also create breakouts on your skin, specifically on the jawline, chin, and neck.

Lately, a lot of people have found that they have issues with gluten and this could potentially be because these days, gluten tends to be highly processed and genetically modified. You can get allergy tested to see if gluten is an issue for you and you can also get tested for things like celiac disease to make sure you don’t have a more serious issue with gluten. You could also try an elimination diet and cut out gluten for 2 weeks to see how you feel.

There are countless gluten-free alternatives these days to crackers, cookies, breads, cakes, pastas, bagels, etc. Typically foods that are gluten-free have been deemed healthier, but that isn’t always the case. A lot of times these foods contain a lot of preservatives, additives, sugar, and fillers such as corn or soy, making these foods highly inflammatory. It’s really important when shopping for gluten-free products, whether out of necessity or preference, that we read food labels and make sure that the ingredient list isn’t a paragraph long. In an ideal world, products you buy should never have more than 5-10 ingredients and you should be able to pronounce and identify every ingredient on that list. There are a lot of products on the shelves that have every label such as organic, non-gmo, gluten-free, etc that we deem as “healthy” but if you take a look at the ingredient list, you will see added cane sugar, corn, soy, and other ingredients you aren’t able to pronounce. I highly recommend if you are buying processed foods (or anything that comes in a box) that you take a good look at the ingredient label.

I have been mostly gluten-free for about 6-7 years now. It’s a lot of trial and error with products that are good alternatives to some of my favorite foods like pizza and pasta. I’ve found some great ones and some not so great ones too. I’ve also learned how to cook gluten-free and have really enjoyed the process. I eat this way because it’s truly how I feel my best. When I let myself slip and eat something that isn’t gluten-free, I usually feel the physical effects with either a headache, sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, a rash on my arms, bloating, and/or anxiety.

Here are a few gluten-free products I use often that I really love:

Pizza:

This is my favorite Pizza dough mix from Simple Mills and I also love this

Pizza dough mix from Bob’s Red Mill

Crackers:

I love these sea salt crackers and these keto-friendly crackers

Pasta:

This is my favorite low-carb, high protein pasta and I also love this gluten-free pasta too

Cookies:

These Chocolate chip cookies are so good and I love these pecan cookies too

There are lots of other products on the market, but I find all of these to be some of the cleanest. All of the recipes on my blog are always gluten-free, so feel free to browse those for ideas on dinners, snacks, and desserts.

With love,

Ashley

The Power of Gratitude and Perspective

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This post is different than my usual topics, but I was on a walk the other day and it got me thinking. Some times I will go on walks through downtown Seattle by myself to reflect or clear my head. I always enjoy this time because it’s something that allows my mind to be free and go down whatever path it wants. I see so many different people on my walks that usually provoke a thought and my mind will just wander from there.

One particular day this week, while on a walk, I started thinking about perspective and how it helps me to be more grateful. Gratitude is something I have to work at sometimes and it honestly doesn’t always come easy to me. As I was walking around I was seeing people who were clearly living on the streets, whether by choice or by circumstance, I’m not sure. But it made me think about how small my problems actually are in the scheme of things and how good I truly have it. Other people’s misfortune doesn’t bring me relief in knowing that I have it better than they do, but it puts my life into perspective. It started to make me think about what a good life I have had and all the things my parents provided for my brothers and I growing up. I then started to think about how my parents upbringing was much different than mine, especially my dads.

My dad was the oldest of his siblings and started working at the age of 12. He was working at a restaurant at the time and some nights would work until 1 am and then have to get up early the next day for school. He has worked for every single thing he has ever had and is one of the most intelligent people I know. People love my dad. Not because he’s the most giving, kind hearted, or warm person (thats my mom) but because he’s real, he’s blunt, he’s absolutely hilarious, and he has integrity. You know there’s a lot of life lived by my dad and he has story upon story to back that up.

The reason for me bringing this up is that perspective is everything. We can choose to look at our lives with joy, gratitude, happiness, and love or we can choose to be the victim of our upbringings, our surroundings, or our current state. I like to think of the stories of the people who had all of the odds against them and still came out a winner because they chose to. They chose to put in the work, never give up, and enjoy the ride all while having a good attitude. I know it can be easier said than done, but we are all so much more capable and strong than we ever give ourselves credit for. I want to tell you that if you’re having a hard go of it or things don’t seem to happen as easily for you as they do for others, that you’re a diamond in the making and that you will be so proud of your goal once you’ve reached it. Keep striving, keep believing, and keep growing. Health is so much more than the food we eat (although that’s extremely important) but it’s also about the inner dialogue we’re having with ourselves and our perspective and view on life. We can be the victim or we can be the champion, it truly is up to you. I’m still learning this every day too.

So much love,

Ashley

How House Plants Can Boost Your Overall Health and Happiness

If you’re like me, then you LOVE lots of plants in your home. They add so much vibrance and character to your living space and create a zen feel too. One day I would absolutely love to have a patio with a green house attached as well as a big backyard garden, but right now I’m living in an apartment in the city and my lovely house plants will do. There is something about watching them grow and taking care of them that is so satisfying. I used to think that I couldn’t grow anything and that any plant I owned would die, but after starting off with a few low maintenance plants, I realized that I could in fact keep them alive and that I actually loved doing so.

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Did you know that house plants can actually make you happier? Nature is known to help reduce anxiety and depression and having plants in your home helps to mimic that. Plants also create happiness and are very rewarding because of the act of nurturing and caring for something and seeing it thrive.  

House plants also purify the air which is especially important if you live in a big city or an apartment building where there is lots of recycled air. They release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide,so they’re great for freshening the air, but also eliminating toxins.

It is also said that plants help to improve concentration, reduce stress and boosts your mood. Because of this, they are the perfect addition to your home or even your office or workspace.  

Nature makes us feel more connected and grounded, but it can be hard to feel that at times, especially if you live in a big city aka a concrete jungle. I recommend buying a few low maintenance plants like succulents, cacti, or monstera’s. These three are the plants I started with and once I was confident (and obsessed) with being able to take care of them, I branched out from there and started to invest in others that need a little more care.

Currently, I have 12 indoor plants, big and small, that I absolutely love and adore. They brighten up my space, add so much life, and bring so much happiness. There’s so much more to health and wellness than just the food we eat, it’s also about our environment and mindset. I love to include little things in my life that bring true happiness and boost my wellness. I hope you think about including plants in your living space and see just how rewarding they are. Xo

With love,

Ashley

10 Tips to Gently Detox Your Liver

Our bodies are made to detox naturally, but with so many environmental toxins and toxins from our food, beauty products, and cleaning products these days, sometimes we need to give our bodies some extra assistance. If I notice my skin getting congested, I feel bloated and sluggish, or if I feel extra tired, I know that I could probably use a little liver detox. This isn’t a cleanse or anything crazy restrictive, its just being more mindful of what you’re putting in your body and taking extra care. I especially like to pay extra attention to my liver if I’ve been traveling or if I’ve been eating out or drinking alcohol more than normal. Below are my top tips for detoxing your liver and giving it some extra love:

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Tips For Detoxing Your Liver:

1.     Avoid alcohol for 2-3 weeks. Yes even that one glass of wine.

2.     Avoid dairy. Dairy can be hard on the digestive system and therefore hard on the liver as well. It can cause inflammation in the body. Try cutting back on dairy or cut it out for a week or two.

3.     Drink warm lemon water in the morning. Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning alkalizes the body and provides a gentle detox for the liver.

4.     Avoid sugar for 2-3 weeks. We should be avoiding sugar anyways, but especially when trying to detox the liver and give it a rest. Sugar creates an acidic environment in our bodies and feeds the bad bacteria in our microbiome. Cutting out sugar for a couple weeks will help our livers detox.

5.     Eat organic apples a few times a week. Apples are great for purging the liver of toxins because of their pectins and malic acid. They are also anti-inflammatory and help protect against fatty liver disease.

6.     Avoid processed foods. Processed foods typically contain less healthy ingredients that cause inflammation and add to the toxic load within the body that the liver then has to filter.

7.     Add in lots of green vegetables. Green vegetables are very alkalizing for the body and will help assist the liver in detoxing.

8.     Take supplements such as zinc, B12, glutathione, and magnesium. These all help the support detoxification of the liver and overall function of the liver.

9.     Drink lots of water!! It’s always important to be drinking lots of water, but it’s especially important while your body is detoxing. This will help to flush out the toxins from your liver. Make sure the water you are drinking is either filtered or spring water.

10. Incorporate beets into your diet. Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains that help to detox the liver. You can eat beets raw or cooked or even juice them.

I hope you find these tips for detoxing your liver useful! These are things you can be incorporating on a monthly or weekly basis in order to keep your liver in tip top shape.

With love,

Ashley

When to Buy Organic vs. Conventional Produce

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I typically like to buy organic produce when it’s available, but it tends to be more expensive and it’s not always an option for certain items. I typically like to refer to the “Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen” list when it comes to produce. This list explains the produce that is the most contaminated with pesticides (that you should always buy organic to avoid toxins) as well as the produce that is okay to buy conventional because it is low in pesticide residue. This list will change from time to time, so in order to stay on top of it, I refer to the Environmental Working Guide’s website, commonly known as EWG, to get the latest news. You can find more in depth information on the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen here: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php.

Below is a look at the produce I always buy organic vs. the produce I’m okay with buying conventional:

Clean 15- this is the produce that is okay to buy conventional

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapple

  4. Frozen sweet peas

  5. Onions

  6. Papaya

  7. Eggplant

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbage

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupe

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honey dew melons

Dirty Dozen- this is the produce I always make sure to buy organic

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

Of course I like to stick to organic no matter what, but this guide is always helpful if organic isn’t available or if it’s a crazy price difference compared to conventional. Xo

With love,

Ashley

Health Benefits of Rebounding

Rebounding is something I heard about from my massage therapist a few years ago, but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it. I bought my mom a mini trampoline for rebounding last summer and then she one-upped me and bought me the cadillac of mini trampolines, found here. Keep in mind that I live in an apartment in downtown Seattle, so space is limited. Nonetheless, I have my mini trampoline in the corner of my bedroom (yes, its not the most aesthetically pleasing, but worth it imo) and I use it almost daily. There are sooo many health benefits to rebounding, especially if you do it consistently, and its kind of fun and enjoyable too. My massage therapist originally recommended it because I tend to get slight edema in my legs and have poor circulation, which are two things that rebounding significantly helps with.

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Before I go into detail about the health benefits from rebounding, let me first explain what it is. Rebounding is basically jumping on a mini trampoline for any amount of time you choose, but I recommend starting with 5-10 minutes daily and working your way up to 15-20 minutes daily. You can either keep your feet planted on the trampoline while jumping or you can jump high enough to where your feet leave the trampoline. The latter will yield more results, including toning your legs and body, but both are still beneficial. I usually set a timer, turn on music or a podcast, and get to jumping! I typically try to jump for at least 10 minutes a day and sometimes I even break that up into 2 bouts of 5 minutes each. Ideally, you would be jumping for closer to 20 minutes a day, but if you’re getting lots of walking in daily, among other workouts, then I say do what you can and anything is better than nothing at all.

Now, lets get to the best part which are the health benefits! I was shocked to learn about all the different health benefits of rebounding, but once I started incorporating this into my routine and started to notice changes, it all made sense to me. Here a list of some of the benefits you can experience from rebounding consistently:

  • Helps improve digestion

  • Boosts immunity

  • Improves circulation

  • Increases bone mass

  • Increases lymphatic drainage

  • Improves muscle tone

  • Supports the thyroid and adrenals

  • Increases endurance

  • Stimulates mitochondria which are responsible for cell energy

I hope you gained some inspiration to start rebounding! Here is a link for a mini trampoline that is budget friendly and will do just the trick to provide all the health benefits listed above. Happy rebounding! xo

With love,

Ashley

Clean Pantry and Fridge Essentials

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I love cooking at home and eating most of my meals from home. If you know me, you know that grocery shopping is one of my most favorite things. I usually like to go alone because I like to go down almost every aisle and search for cool new products/ingredients. But, I have my staples that are always stocked in my fridge and pantry. These are things I use almost daily or at least a few times a week. I hope this list inspires you to have certain items stocked up, making cooking at home much easier. xo

Pantry:

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Manuka Honey

  • Spices: himalayan sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, turmeric, garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, chili flakes

  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, hemp seeds

  • Grass-fed ghee

  • Almond and coconut flour for baking

  • Cacao powder

  • Cacao nibs

  • Liquid aminos

  • Quinoa

  • Gluten-free pastas: brown rice pasta and lentil pasta

  • Almond butter

  • Monkfruit sweetener

  • Gluten-free crackers

Fridge:

  • Lemons and limes

  • Green and/or Pink Lady Apples

  • Green vegetables; spinach, romaine lettuce, arugula, kale

  • Ginger and/or Turmeric

  • Herbs; cilantro, parsley, basil, mint

  • Fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi

  • Almond milk- homemade or a clean (no sugar or additives) store bought version

  • Bee pollen

  • Ground Flaxseed

  • Gluten-free tortillas

  • Coconut water kefir

  • Organic free-range eggs

  • Dairy free cheese

  • Hot sauce

  • Kalamata olives and pepperoncinis

  • Organic maple syrup

  • Hummus

  • Dark chocolate

Happy shopping and cooking!

With love,

Ashley

My Tried and True Supplement Recommendations

The number 1 question I get asked is “what are your favorite supplements?” and I believe it’s for good reason. There are SO MANY supplements on the market and it can get extremely confusing as to which one you should supplement with and which one of the million brands you should choose from. I have a few brands that I’m extremely loyal to because I trust them wholeheartedly since they insist on the highest standards for their products. I also want to be clear that I will never recommend products I haven’t personally used and loved- being genuine and honest is my number one priority for this blog along with sharing health and wellness tips, of course.

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I know there is a lot of back and forth between how much we should supplement our diet and this is strictly my opinion and what has worked for me. I strongly believe that these days we do need to supplement our diets even if we are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and this is because the soil that our produce is grown in these days is depleted of the vitamins and minerals that it used to be rich in. This is due to new agricultural methods which you can read more about here. I am a Certified Health Coach and hold my Bachelor’s in Nutrition but I am not a doctor, so I recommend consulting your health care practitioner before starting a new supplement regimen, especially if you take any medication. Below is a list of all the supplements I believe have lessened my anxiety, improved my energy, skin, gut health, the functions of my adrenals and thyroid, and have improved my overall health and wellness.

My Tried and True Supplements

Daily basis:

Probiotics - to populate the gut with beneficial bacteria. This one also acts a bit like a multivitamin and provides the prebiotics for the probiotics to feed off.

Cod Liver Oil - great for bone, tooth, and skin health. Also a good source of Vitamins A and D and supports the body’s immune system.

RESTORE for gut health - the most amazing thing I have found to restore gut health. If you have problems with digestion, you might have what’s called “leaky gut” where the tight junctures in your intestinal lining have separated and now food particles can get through which causes an immune response (aka food allergies) and inflammation in the body. This supplement is tasteless and helps to restore the integrity of the gut lining.

Daily Cleanse Vitamin - I love these vitamins. They help to detox the liver so that your skin can be fresh and clear. I also feel like they give me energy. I only take 1 capsule daily opposed to the recommended 2 and it works great for me.

Ashwagandha - this is one of the most beneficial herbs for balancing my hormones, aiding in stress and anxiety relief, and providing mood support.

Vitamin D - for immune support and to supplement in the winter months when we don’t get as much sun.

Weekly basis:

Digestive Enzymes - to help break down food to help our digestive system and absorb our nutrients better. Also great if you want to eat something your body doesn’t normally respond well to like gluten, dairy, or sugar.

Hawaiian Spirulina - for chlorophyll to help oxygenate the blood and provide vitamins and minerals. Helps to bind to heavy metals so that you body can get rid of them.

Beet Kvass - very detoxifying for the liver and helps to curb sugar cravings.

Bee Propolis Throat Spray - amazing for immune support or if you feel like you’re getting a sore throat. I always travel with this to fight off germs and bacteria I might pick up on the plane or in the airport.

Dulse - nourishing for the adrenals and thyroid because of the iodine content. It also provides lots of vitamins and minerals.

I hope this list helps you with supplement suggestions. Again, these are all supplements I personally use and love on a daily or weekly basis. If you have any questions about my supplements, I would love to help. You can shoot me an e-mail at: ashley@ashleycarlson.co .

With Love,

Ashley

Guest Blog: Brooke McGregor on Female Cycle Hormones

I am so excited to share today’s post with all of you brought to you by my friend and former co-worker, Brooke McGregor. Brooke and I met in sunny Scottsdale, AZ when we both worked at Kaleidoscope Juice, an amazing juice bar with multiple locations in the Valley. She is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to health and wellness and truly embodies everything she promotes. Not only is her approach to health based in science, but she takes a deeper, spiritual look at things as well. Today’s post is all about hormones and the female menstrual cycle. I, quite honestly, found this post to be SO insightful and something that every woman should read and be informed about. I love that Brooke was able to provide this useful information to my readers and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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We live in a world where the word period is only acceptable when used at the end of a sentence. Contrary to popular belief, the female cycle is freaking magic! We, as women, are so incredibly blessed to have our menstrual cycle in our toolkit, telling us what is going on with our bodies on a monthly basis. We also have the ability to create life, so that’s pretty damn cool too. The only problem with our periods is that we are never given the proper handbook to educate us on the magic behind our cycle.

 

It wasn’t until my first year of human biology in graduate school that I was exposed to the detailed hormone fluctuations of the female cycle. Excuse me, but that is INSANE! Why did it take me until my mid-twenties to know what was happening with my own body, and require the dialect of medical terminology to understand what the hell my professor was talking about? Even more disheartening, was that it was not laid out in an easy to comprehend format. It required several drawings of hormone charts, googling YouTube videos, and re-reading textbooks to understand something my body has been doing since I was 13. I was embarrassed to ask questions or express opinions about my cycle, because we had been taught periods are gross and not a conversational topic. But, when I started talking about it I realized females I came into contact with were craving knowledge to understand their body. So before I dive into hormones, let me just repeat myself, the female cycle is freaking magic!

 

To start, let’s talk about a few of the major hormones: Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone. Hormones are chemical messengers that pretty much tell your body what to do. So, the next time someone tells you that you are being hormonal, take it as a compliment because you’re telling them what you want. First, we have estrogen. There are three types of estrogen: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3). The ovaries primarily produce E1 and E2, while the placenta produces E3 during pregnancy. You NEED estrogen to grow the uterine lining during the first part of your cycle, otherwise known as the follicular phase. You also NEED estrogen for your bones. It slows the breakdown of bone, which our bodies naturally do to supply calcium when needed. When you have low estrogen your bones are at risk for low calcium levels and sex is painful because your uterine lining is thinning. So, ladies, check your estrogen levels because the last thing you need is osteoporosis or a weak sex life. Next is progesterone, which is also produced by the ovaries, but after ovulation. Progesterone tells you if your cycle is working normally. It also preps the uterus for a fertilized egg. No fertilized egg, aka no baby, the progesterone levels naturally decline and BOOM, a period. Finally, testosterone, a lipid made from cholesterol produced by the ovaries and adrenals. If low in women you can experience fatigue, weight gain, and fertility issues. It too, aids in the shedding of the uterine lining (your period), and promotes muscle development, regulating red blood cells, and increases sex drive.

 

Now, comes your cycle. Day 1 of your cycle is your period. Your hormones are at a baseline level. This allows the right and left parts of your brain to have the most communication ever during your cycle. Due to the decreased hormones your energy is low, which is why you feel tired. This is a good time for low-level workouts like yoga, and light Pilates, to compliment your body changes and gracefully work through any discomfort you may be having. However, since you are not pregnant your uterus must contract to shed the uterine lining. Prostaglandins are responsible for that contraction and those pesky menstrual cramps. If you are having horrible cramps, too many prostaglandins are being produced. That is not normal. The only time you want increasingly high prostaglandins is in labor for contractions to push out a baby. You do not need to reenact labor pains every month because someone once told you painful cramps are a normal part of the menstrual process. You could be suffering from nutrient deficiencies, fibroids, or hormonal imbalances. Do not settle for intense pain being a normal way of life. Get help to find the root of the problem. Suggestions during the menstrual phase are to recognize the decrease in hormones and know how to properly fuel your body. This means you need healthy fats and proteins as precursors to make all of the hormones required throughout the next phases of the cycle. Heavy menstruation causes a drop in hemoglobin. If this something you struggle with, chlorophyll has been luckily similarly structured to hemoglobin but with a binding affinity for magnesium instead of iron. Chlorophyll can be a wonderful addition during this time not only for its similarity to hemoglobin but it’s magnesium ion. Magnesium is a power house mineral aiding in creating new proteins, DNA repair, and muscle movement like the contraction and relaxation of the uterine lining (reducing cramps).

 

Next, your body is focusing on growing a follicle with follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) because a healthy female body wants to get pregnant. Even if you are not trying to get pregnant, understand that in order for you to feel GOOD you need healthy hormone levels. The body is increasing in estrogen during this time and you should feel GOOD. This is a great time for cardio and high-energy workouts your body was probably despising during your period. You also want to make sure your gut is in check to properly metabolizing all of the hormones coming into play for the next phases. This is a great time to incorporate fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi. You may want to focus on phytoestrogens (plant based compounds similar to estrogen) to aid in the desired increase in estrogen. Miso paste, miso soup, flax seeds, and hummus are all good choices. Focus on energy sustaining foods.

 

Now we get to ovulation. The follicle that was created in the follicular phase is now a little egg and released due to luteinizing hormone (LH). Your body will have a little rise of testosterone giving you better muscle recovery so lift weights, go to HIIT workouts, etc. You may also notice you’re a little chattier with increased desire for activity because your body wants to be social from hormonal stimulation. Cervical mucus is prominent during ovulation for the sole reason of fertilizing the egg, and you will be able to tell if you have cervical mucus. If you’re not trying to get pregnant DO NOT have sex during the ovulation window since sperm can survive up to 5 days in females cervical mucus.  You want to support blood flow to your ovaries during ovulation. Food items that promote vascularization (increasing blood flow) are things like leafy greens, citrus fruits, turmeric, garlic, beets, and fatty fish. I personally use this time in my cycle to consume a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables through organic cold press juice and smoothies to keep up with energy demand. The addition of fruits and vegetables will also aid in increasing your fiber intake, which enhances excretion of any excess hormones that are still lingering. This is vital if you suffer from PMS due to excess estrogen right before your period in the upcoming phase.

 

Finally, we are in the luteal phase where all of our hormones are present: Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone! During this phase you can keep up with strength training and more intense routines. Your workouts in the beginning will be elevated with your hormones and decrease the closer you get to your period. This is also a good time to get any necessary blood work done in order to determine your hormone levels. Estrogen is there keeping the uterine lining thick, and progesterone should exist to get the lining ready for egg placement if there is a fertilized embryo. However, of the three hormones present, the only one you want surging is progesterone. Progesterone is the happy, anti-anxiety hormone, but you need to ovulate in order for it to be produced. In simple terms no ovulation no progesterone, no pregnancies, and your mood is s**t. You need to make sure what you are eating is supporting the conversion of pregnenolone to progesterone. Pregnenolone is a cholesterol-based precursor for all sex hormones, and the conversion is essential to healthy progesterone levels. You still need estrogen, just a healthy balance of it to avoid PMS (poor mood and breast tenderness) and estrogen dominance.  Focusing on B vitamin rich foods like organic pasture raised eggs, legumes, dark leafy greens, algae, and whole grains is ideal. You will want to make sure mineral content is maintained to support your upcoming period as well. This includes magnesium (mentioned earlier), potassium, and calcium. Foods such as broccoli, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, winter squash, oranges, almonds, collards, celery, black beans, scallops, and whole grains are encouraged. The B vitamins and minerals will aid in starving off sugar cravings as well. Your progesterone along with all other hormones will decrease due to an absence in pregnancy after about a week and your period will begin.

 

The female body was made to ebb and flow, literally. Your period does not have to hold you prisoner. Instead, view it as an opportunity to understand what your body needs and optimally when, to feel as incredible as possible throughout the entire month!

 By Brooke McGregor

A little bit about Brooke:

Brooke McGregor has her undergraduate degree in Nutrition Dietetics with a certificate in Sustainability, emphasizing in sustainable agriculture. She is currently an MS Nutrition and Functional Medicine candidate while working as Kaleidoscope Juice’s Chief Operating Officer and partner in Phoenix Arizona. Her passions include intuitive and spiritual eating, environmental medicine, and female hormones. She also enjoys public policy nutrition from her time as a Nutrition Fellow in the United States Congress during reformation of the 2018 Farm Bill. Her spiritual based nutrition approach to whole body wellness was developed through her diploma in Angel Healing Therapy accreditation. Brooke’s objectives are to take science based nutrition modalities and combine them with spiritual and emotional body connections. The goal is to truly achieve optimal wellness, mind, body, and spirit.

You can follow Brooke on instagram over at bcmcgreg.

 

5 Amazing Benefits to Dry Brushing for Skin

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I absolutely love when I learn health + wellness tips from other people; especially when that person is my mom. She introduced me to dry brushing 9 years ago and I immediately had to know what it was all about. I’m really into researching health and wellness topics and of course had to watch a few YouTube videos in order to understand just what dry brushing was all about. I was still living in Alaska at the time and stopped by one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall natural food stores called “Anna’s Health Foods” to pick up a brush, like this one. I’ve been dry brushing ever since; although, sometimes I am much more consistent and better about doing it than others. Here are 5 reasons why you should go pick yourself up a body brush and start dry brushing on a weekly basis:

Reduces Cellulite:

Dry brushing your skin a few times a week can help to reduce cellulite. It tones and firms the skin in areas where cellulite tends to be more prominent; on the backs of thighs and butt. The appearance of cellulite is simply toxins that have accumulated in your bodies fat cells and haven’t been eliminated. Dry brushing helps to release these toxins into the bloodstream so that your body is able to get rid of the toxic waste.

Increases Blood Circulation:

Of course brushing your skin will bring blood to the surface, therefore increasing blood circulation. This is especially good for those of us who have bad circulation. Good blood flow/circulation is important for overall health and wellbeing and is especially important to bring oxygen and nutrients to every part of the body. Plus, good blood circulation will give your skin good color and will promote that healthy, natural glow.

Exfoliating and Helps to Remove Dead Skin:

Dry brushing is very exfoliating for the skin. I think it’s common for most of us to tend to take really good care of our faces and to forget about the skin on the rest of our body. I love to dry brush before I take a shower so that I can wash off any dead skin and then moisturize like crazy after! My skin always feels so much more smooth and soft when I am consistently dry brushing. I’ve also noticed that I don’t get as many ingrown hairs or bumps from shaving my legs when I dry brush on a regular basis.

Improves lymphatic drainage:

This part goes back to increasing circulation in the body. When blood is flowing, it gets the lymphatic system draining as well. Lymph is the fluid that carries white blood cells and flows through the lymphatic system. Lymph also contains lymphocytes which are the cells that attack bacteria in the blood. When this fluid is able to move around and circulate properly, our bodies are better able to detox and defend themselves from bacteria/viruses.

Now, you might be wondering how you dry brush in the first place. First, you need to buy a brush like this one to get you started. After you have a good brush, the process is very quick and simple. I always start at my feet and make my way up my body. Start by using small, medium pressure, short strokes and always brush towards your heart. I brush the bottoms of my feet a couple times and then the tops of my feet; again, making sure you are moving towards the heart. Next use small strokes up the fronts and backs of your legs and make your way up to your stomach and back. You can do a circular, clock wise motion on your stomach and back. Of course your back is going to be a little bit harder to reach unless your brush has a long handle on it, so you can do small, short strokes instead of a circular motion if you need to. Make sure to brush your armpits in a circular, clock wise motion as well and then do small strokes from you hands, all the way up your arms until you reach your shoulders. I always finish by doing small strokes from my shoulders and neck down towards my heart.

Make sure to drink plenty of water after dry brushing because it is stirring up toxins in your body and you want to make sure your body has enough fluids to help detox and flush out the toxins. I find that dry brushing gives me energy so I recommend doing it in the morning or mid day instead of at night just so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. You don’t have to shower right after, but it’s a practice that I always do, followed by this coconut oil moisturizer that I absolutely love. The whole process makes me feel so refreshed and glowy. I hope you try it too!

With love,

Ashley

The Power of Fermented Foods

If you haven’t heard by now, I am all about that gut health. I believe it is the foundation of a healthy mind and body and is one of the most important things you can focus on when it comes to your overall health and wellness. Your digestive system (commonly referred to as the “gut”) is where all your food is digested and assimilated and if it’s not working properly, you wont be able to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and you might experience other uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms. We each have a “microbiome” in our digestive tract and its full of good and bad bacteria. It’s important to feed the good bacteria in our guts in order crowd out the bad bacteria. Fermented foods/drinks are one of the best ways to feed the good bacteria in order to promote your gut health.

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Fermented (or cultured) foods contain probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria our guts need. This good/healthy bacteria helps to improve digestion, boost immunity, detoxify your body, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, and improve the overall microbiome of the gut. Often times, different fermented foods/drinks contain enzymes that are necessary to properly break down food in our digestive system in addition to the beneficial bacteria they provide. Some of my favorite fermented foods/drinks are sauerkraut, kombucha, beet kvass, and coconut water kefir.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes to eliminate pathogens and help break down your food. It also contains Vitamins K and C which both help to support, create, and maintain healthy bones in the body. Sauerkraut contains antioxidants and reduces inflammation by crowding out harmful bacteria and pathogens. This is my favorite sauerkraut brand and I love to eat it with eggs, on salads, with stirfrys, or even just have a spoonful by itself sometimes.

Kombucha

I don’t particularly believe that kombucha is the #1 way to get probiotics into our system; the main reason is because in order for the “mother” of the kombucha to grow and thrive, it needs to be fed some type of sugar either from cane sugar or honey. Sometimes these beverages can have upwards of 20-25 grams of sugar for one 16oz bottle. With this being said, I still love the taste of kombucha and do believe that it provides beneficial probiotics and enzymes. I always try to find a flavor and brand that has a smaller sugar content like GT’s cranberry and gingerade flavors.

Beet Kvass

I have been drinking this on a regular basis for the past two months and absolutely LOVE IT. It has a fermented, but pleasant taste and is super easy to drink a couple ounces of daily. It’s amazing to help detox your liver, reduce sugar cravings, improve your digestion, supports mental clarity, and repopulates the microbiome with good bacteria. This is the brand of Beet Kvass I always buy and highly recommend it!

Coconut Water Kefir

Although I love the 3 options I mentioned above, this is by far MY FAVORITE. I love coconut water kefir so much. It tastes more like a mild kombucha and has a bit of a tangy yogurt taste as well, but I absolutely love it. Coconut Kefir is so beneficial for breaking down the food in our digestive systems, providing good bacteria to our microbiome, and supplying our bodies with many nutrients such as amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins K and B. I used to make my own using this kefir starter, but I got a bit lazy and started to buy coconut water kefir from GT’s instead. Making your own is quite a bit cheaper, so if this is something you’re interested in, I recommend you going that route. Buy the kefir starter here and follow the simple instructions. It’s so easy and so good for your digestive system.

Overall, I think it is so beneficial to add in fermented foods to your daily routine. Your gut will thank you! You’ll notice less bloating, better digestion, clearer skin, and improved cognition. If you ever have extra questions regarding this topic or still don’t know how to get started, feel free to reach out to me! I would love to help. Xo

With love,

Ashley

What's healthier: Juices or Smoothies?

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A question that I’ve been asked a lot over the years is which one is better for you; drinking juices or smoothies? My answer is they both are, but for different reasons. I incorporate both of them into my diet and definitely believe they both boost your overall health and wellness.

The Difference between Juices and Smoothies:

The main different between the two is that one has more macronutrients than the other. Macronutrients are nutrients that are needed in large amounts in the body; fats, proteins, fiber, water, antioxidants and carbohydrates. Smoothies have more macronutrients than juices because the ingredients are blended instead of ran through a juicer. This ensures all the macronutrients are still in tact. Since the process of juicing strips away most of the macronutrients; you aren’t getting much protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. You are still getting water and antioxidants, but without the other macronutrients, the juice gets absorbed into your bloodstream at a rapid rate because there isn’t a lot of substance to slow down the absorption process and there isn’t anything your body needs to digest and breakdown. On the other hand, smoothies take a little longer to digest because they (usually) have fats, proteins, fiber, and/or carbohydrates. This means that smoothies will keep you fuller, longer.

Keep in Mind…

There are a few things I like to keep in mind when making juices and smoothies. For juices, I always make sure that the bulk of what I’m juicing is a green vegetable. This can be anything from spinach and kale to cucumbers and broccoli. You want to make sure most of your produce is low in sugar because the juice gets absorbed into your bloodstream very quickly, and you don’t want to get a big hit of sugar straight to your bloodstream. If you decide to include fruit into your juices, that’s okay, but try to keep it to a minimum and use fruits such as green apples, lemons, and limes which are all lower in sugar. If you want to use an orange, pear, grapefruit, pineapple, or another fruit higher in sugar, try juicing half the fruit instead of the whole thing.

When making smoothies, I try to limit my sugar from fruit and/or sweeteners as well. All of my smoothies have a banana, berries, or some other type of fruit. I will add dates or honey from time to time as well, depending on what type of smoothie I’m making. I think adding these things is absolutely okay to do, you just need to be mindful of the amount you are adding. I typically only add a tsp of honey, 1-2 dates, or half a banana to sweeten my smoothies a little bit. The nice thing about smoothies is that since they are blended, they still contain all their healthy fats, fiber, and protein from the ingredients you add so the sugar from fruit and any other sweeteners you add doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream as fast as it does with juices.

Overall…

Like I mentioned before, I love enjoying both juices and smoothies. If you’re looking for something that has more substance, then smoothies are the way to go because they will keep you fuller, longer. If you are just looking for a major vitamin and mineral boost, then juices are great for that while being extremely hydrating. Smoothies are appropriate as a meal, such as breakfast, if they have an adequate amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. Juices, on the other hand, are better to incorporate in addition to your regular meals.

I hope this post answers some questions on juices versus smoothies and be sure to keep your eyes out for more juice and smoothie recipes in the next couple months!

With love xo,

Ashley

My Favorite Night Time Rituals

Routine is great if it works for you. For me, it feels rigid and honestly, boring. Part of me wishes I was more of a routine person, but I’m just not. But, there are certain things I like to do every night, most nights, or a few nights a week that set me up for a good night of sleep. Every evening looks a little bit different for me, so I thought I would write a post about some of my favorite night time rituals.

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Epsom salt baths:

I usually take baths once a week, sometimes twice. They’re so relaxing, good for detoxing the body, and great for sore muscles. This is my favorite epsom salt brand.

Foam rolling and Stretching:

The foam rolling part might not be the most relaxing, but it’s so good for breaking up fascia in the body and alleviating sore muscles. It’s also good for reducing cellulite too. I do find stretching to be really relaxing and something that I love to do at night. I usually try to foam roll/stretch 3-4 evenings a week.

Face masks:

I love the feeling of washing my face at night and then putting on a face mask. I don’t do face masks every night because I do think there is such a thing as using too much product on your face. I try to do a mask 1-2 times a week, maybe 3 if I need extra exfoliation or hydration. My few of my favorite masks are Summer Fridays R+R (it smells like roses and is so good for exfoliating), Herbivore Botanicals Brighten (so good for getting glowy skin), and Acure Seriously Soothing Biocellulose Gel Mask (I was seriously shocked with how smooth, bright, and hydrated my face was after this mask).

Legs up the wall pose:

I like to do this a few times a week. You simply lay on the ground and put your legs straight up the wall for 10-15 minutes or whenever you feel like you’ve had enough. It’s so restorative for the adrenals and is really great for those who don’t have great circulation (like myself). It’s also really great for calming anxiety and getting your body out of the fight or flight and into rest and digest. I find it super calming for my mind and a chance for me to just “be” and breathe deeply.

Drinking tea:

This is something I do almost every night. It has become such a habit for me and something I look forward to. My favorite brands of tea are Traditional Medicinals, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Organic India Tulsi Tea. I drink a variety of different kinds; peppermint, dandelion root, red clover, nettle leaf, chamomile, ginger, lemon balm, and sweet rose are my usual go-to’s.

Reading:

I love reading before bed. It really helps me to wind down, relax, and get in the zone to go to sleep. One of my favorite book right now is The Seat of the Soul .

CBD oil:

This is something I started using more recently and I love it. A brand called RELEAFE, based in Bend, Oregon sent me a few of their products including their CBD chapstick and CBD oil. I’m obsessed. Not only is their CBD organic, but it doesn’t have any added chemicals or fillers AND they’re a small business created by really nice people. This oil helps to take any stress or edge off from the day and puts me in a calm state, ready to sleep for the night.

Journaling:

This is something I would like to do more of. If I have a lot on my mind, I like to put pen to paper and get it out. It’s such a good release for me and helps to calm down mental chatter. How many times have you gotten into bed and were ready to fall asleep, but then your mind starts to think about all the things you want to do but haven’t yet or all the mistakes you’ve ever made? I’ve been there. Journaling really helps me to get my thoughts out and “vent” so that I can relax and fall asleep. I love using ban.dō notebooks for my journaling.

On a typical night, I usually do a couple of these things to get me ready to go to sleep. I hope this gave you some good ideas for rituals you can incorporate into your nighttime routine. Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself to have some perfect night time routine; do what works for you and your schedule and what makes you feel like your best self. Xo

With love,

Ashley

6 Easy Ways to Drink More Water Everyday

Water. It’s one of the simplest things we can do to transform our health. It helps to flush out toxins, is responsible for many important functions in our bodies, and is absolutely vital for overall health. Yet, many of us are still not drinking enough. I remember doing a health consultation 4 years ago and my client mentioned that she only drank soda throughout the day. I sat there, trying to make sure my jaw didn’t drop to the ground, and just listened. In that moment I truly realized that we are all at different stages in our health and wellness and as a health coach you have to meet people where they’re at. And sometimes we need to go back to the basics and focus on the little things, that over time will have the greatest impact. I sat there thinking “my head would feel like a bunch of tiny men slamming a hammer if I didn’t make sure I drank water everyday”. But sometimes people don’t realize how bad they feel, until they start to feel good again. I’ve also had people ask how much water they should be drinking on a daily basis and if they don’t love drinking water, how they can jazz it up and make it a little more appealing. I simple tool to gauge how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis is take your weight, divide it by two, and drink that many ounces daily. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking roughly 100 ounces of water. This is, of course, just a suggestion, but I always thought it was silly that the recommended amount of water was 6-8 glasses a day when we all differ in size. Keep reading on if you want a few tips on how to incorporate more water into your daily routine.

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1. Keep a glass of water or full water bottle next to your bed. When you wake up, before anything else, chug the whole thing or as much as you can. This will ensure that right off the bat, you are getting at least 12 ounces of water into your system (or more depending on the size of your glass). Remember that our livers detox at night while were sleeping, usually between the hours of 1 and 3 am, so we should show our body some love by helping to flush out those toxins our livers worked so hard to expel.

2. Make warm lemon water or tea first thing in the morning. This is a great trick to add to the first tip, or just on its own. The warm lemon water is great for alkalizing the body and lemon is a gentle detoxifier for our livers. If you don’t have lemons on hand or don’t prefer warm lemon water, a nice organic tea is still a great way to hydrate.

3. Carry a water bottle with you at all times. Preferably a reusable water bottle in order to not produce lots of waste and to be more cost effective overtime. I recommend finding one that has a straw or adding in a reusable straw. I find that I drink SO much more water when drinking out a straw. When you carry a water bottle with you all day, you won’t ever have the excuse of not drinking enough water and it’s also a good reminder.

4. Infuse your water with fruits and/or vegetables, tea leaves, or essential oils. I have a post here on my tea infusion recipe that I love making. I also love to add fresh squeezed lemon to my water or sometimes I’ll add cucumber slices too. There are so many combinations to play with. If you’re looking for a quick addition, I love adding essential oils like wild orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, or grapefruit. Be careful which brand of essential oils you use because not all brands are created equal. My favorite brand is dōTERRA.

5. Eat fruits and vegetables that have a high water content. Produce such as cucumber, celery, watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, romaine, and strawberries all have a very high water content and will help your body to stay hydrated plus they have added fiber, vitamins, and minerals too!

6. Drink juices or include bone broth in your diet to help stay hydrated. If you’re incorporating juice, make sure it’s organic because there isn’t any protein, fiber, or fat to slow down the absorption process into your bloodstream meaning that if the produced juiced isn’t organic, you will get a quick hit of pesticides and chemicals into your bloodstream. Also, make sure you are opting for juices with a lower sugar content. I recommend cold pressed organic juices that are made with mostly vegetables. You can make your own at home too, that way you know exactly what’s in it! Besides incorporating high quality juice, including things like bone broth will help your body stay hydrated and get a mineral and collagen boost as well. Bone broth is also really beneficial for soothing and healing the gut.

Try implementing 1 or more of these tips this week and see how they help you to up your water intake. Remember that when you are hydrated, you have more energy, feel less tired and fatigued, you tend to be less hungry, you sleep better, and you feel better overall.

With love,

Ashley

This is 30

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I’ve been reflecting on my 20’s the past couple of days since I turned 30 last Friday. These past 10 years have included so much growth, happiness, sadness, frustration, love, feeling lost, feeling found. Feeling so low that I didn’t know if I would ever feel like “me” again. Feeling so aligned and happy I didn’t know it was possible. One thing has become so apparent through it all and that is that you can’t have the light without the dark. It is impossible to know true happiness, joy, love, excitement, etc without the opposite. We are all on a different path, learning life’s lessons and being confronted by our fears. I truly believe that people are placed in our lives to teach us a lesson, great or small. I also believe that it’s at this age where we truly realize what is important, who has our back, what we ultimately want out of life, and how we want to show up.

I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself this last decade. I was 21 when I had my first real panic attack. I lived in this anxiety ridden, fear state for almost 2 years straight. I didn’t know how I was going to pull myself out, but I knew I had to try. I was completely lost and felt like I would almost never find a way out. Very slowly, but surely I did. I see my anxiety as my greatest teacher now because these days I am so in tune with my body and the energy around me. I have always been a highly sensitive person, but after going through this I had a new outlook on life in general and saw my sensitivity as a tool instead of a hinderance. I am stronger than I ever would have been without this experience and I found my true passion of health and wellness through it all. After taking some time off of school because of the tough internal battle I was facing, I went back and finished my degree in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching from ASU and became certified as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I started healing my body from the inside out and addressing issues with my gut, adrenals, and thyroid. I know healing naturally from anxiety and panic attack disorders are possible because I did it and its my absolute passion to help others do the same.

I’m so grateful for the path I’ve been on. Sometimes I feel pressure to be more and do more but then I remember that everything happens for a reason and I’m exactly where I need to be. And these are just a few things I’ve learned along the way…

Vibes are real, they don’t lie.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

Actions speak louder than words, always.

Constantly seek knowledge and continue to evolve and better yourself.

Surround yourself with those who lift you up, make you a better person, care about your happiness, fill you with joy, and make you laugh.

Don’t take what others say or do so personally, it isn’t about you.

Be you, be kind, be authentic, be genuine.

Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay.

Listen more than you speak.

Have the difficult conversations.

Lean into your fears and go after the things you want.

Call your mom whenever times get tough because there isn’t anything that talking to your mom can’t fix (at least with my mom because she is an actual earth angel).

Call your grandparents and take the time to make sure they know they are important to you.

Quit caring so damn much about what people think of you (I’m still working on this one).

Create things that make you happy.

Pain and sadness are temporary, so feel the emotions, let it out, and let it go.

Forgive even when it’s hard because life is too short and harboring resentment doesn’t do you any good.

Let the people who are important to you know that.

Try new things and always make time for adventure.

It’s okay to like and have nice things, but remember those things do not define you or your worth.

Live by the values you want people to remember you by.

Do the things that “light you up” and do them often.

Have discipline and do the things you don’t necessarily want to but know you need to.

Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy, get lots of rest, exercise, meditate, and journal.

Mindset is everything. You cannot have a healthy body with a negative mind.

Ask questions about people and their lives. Take a genuine interest in them.

If you know a person’s true story, you wouldn’t dislike them.

There is power in being vulnerable. It’s scary as hell, but it’s healing for you and for others.

It doesn’t matter if someone calls you a weird hippie because you like to drink green smoothies, burn sage, and get excited about house plants and crystals.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

You don’t need to do what society says you should be doing. Your path is your own.

Don’t leave your laundry in the washer too long because you’ll end up having to rewash it.

If you don’t love something in the store, you aren’t going to love it more once you bring it home. So only buy items you truly love.

Connection and love is what the human experience is all about. Most everything else is just a bunch of fluff.

You can recreate yourself at any moment.

Age is just a number. Don’t let that stop you.

Take more risks and don’t be so afraid of failure.

Let go of people or things that are not serving you. Life is too short.

I would LOVE to hear about some things that you’ve learned in the last 10 years or even just 1 year of your life! Thank you for reading along and letting me share a piece of my heart with you.

With love,

Ashley

Detoxing Baths With Epsom Salts + Essential Oils

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Image from pinterest

Epsom salt baths? YES please. I love them. In my opinion, there’s nothing more relaxing, except maybe a massage or laying on the beach somewhere. But if those things aren’t an option, this is the next best thing. Besides the fact that they are deeply relaxing and give you that much need break and quality “me” time, they are really beneficial for your body and help with the detoxification process.

Epsom salts contain Magnesium, which aids in various bodily functions; one of them being the removal of toxins. Ridding the body of toxins will help to alleviate inflammation, pain, stiffness, fatigue, etc. Magnesium is also said to reduce stress and help with deeper sleep as well as helping to produce serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) and reducing the effects of adrenaline. Epsom salt baths can also help to relax muscles and improve the function of your nerves.

I try to take an Epsom Salt bath at least once a week and it’s something that I truly look forward to. I usually take one before bed because it helps me to relax and I love the feeling of getting into bed at night when I’m all clean and fresh. Now, if you just washed the sheets and have a freshly clean bed to get into also, that’s even better. I like to do my nightly routine before taking my bath; washing my face, brushing my teeth, taking my vitamins, etc. I then brew a cup of tea and sometimes even put on a face mask while my bath is running. I add about 2-3 cups of Epsom salts and pick out a couple of essential oils to add to my bath. I change it up to whatever I’m intuitively feeling at the moment; I really love ylang ylang, eucalyptus, and dōTERRA blends such as whisper or balance. Really anything that is grounding and smells nice is good in my book. Just remember, you only need a couple of drops because these oils are really, really potent.

I’ll then grab a book and/or my headphones and my cup of tea and soak for 20-30 minutes. I personally like to wear my noise cancelling headphones just so that I can completely tune out any noises in my apartment or the street below (I like in downtown Seattle and it can be pretty noisy) and really settle in and relax. Sometimes I’ll read or just listen to music. I enjoy this time so much- it’s one of my favorite wellness rituals. You can always light a candle too if you want those extra relaxing vibes! And if you want to step up your detox process before your bath, take a few minutes to dry brush first (I’ll do a post on dry brushing soon). After I’m done taking my bath, I will usually do “legs up the wall pose” for 5-10 minutes to calm my nervous system even more before getting into bed. I fall asleep like a baby when I do all of this before bed. If you try this, let me know! I would love to hear what you think.

With love,

Ashley

My Gut Healing Protocol

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I was back home in Alaska for the Thanksgiving Holiday and went to see a bodywork healer that both of my parents go to on a regular basis. Her name is Lorna and she is an absolute wealth of knowledge and so intuitive in her skill. You know when you meet those people and you just KNOW they are doing the exact work they are meant to do? Lorna is one of those people. I started telling her about the gut health issues I have had for years and the poor circulation I have always experienced. She immediately started giving me a healing protocol to follow that would help with the symptoms I had been experiencing. I was happy to be back in Alaska to see family and friends and enjoy Thanksgiving at home for the first time in 4 years, but I also couldn’t wait to get back to Seattle to implement the advice Lorna had given me.

I flew back the Monday after the Holiday and actually started my protocol that morning before I left. This meant no airport food, no airplane snacking, and no champagne or sparkling beverages on the plane. I don’t prefer the first option anyways, but I do like to eat and have a beverage or two while traveling. I was committed though and I found it interesting how I was much more willing to follow this protocol because she had told me to. It was basically drinking bone broth for 3-5 days, which is something I have recommended to people as a Health Coach in the past. It made me truly understand the importance of being a Health Coach and Nutritionist. People can read all the health and wellness information out there and maybe even know what they need to be doing, but sometimes it’s hard to implement unless you have a coach of some sort who acts as your accountability partner or authority telling you this is what you need to do in order to feel better and watch your symptoms disappear.

So I started my “cleanse” off by drinking 24 ounces of warm beef bone broth in the morning. Since I wasn’t able to go through security with broth, I knew I would have to wait until I was back in Seattle to have anything again. I have read that it’s good for your digestive system to fast while traveling anyways, so I figured it wasn’t the worst situation to be in. As soon as I landed back in Seattle, I dropped my bags off at my apartment and went down the street to Whole Foods to grab the last, yes the VERY LAST, bag of beef bone broth they had. I came home, sauteed some onion, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and cilantro and then added the broth and let everything simmer for about 30 minutes. I ended up finished the whole bag (24 ounces) of bone broth that night with the added vegetables.

The next 2 days I started my mornings with 12 ounces of warm lemon water (a half of a lemon juiced into 12 ounces of water), 16 ounces of pure celery juice (one whole bundle of organic celery juiced), and had about 36 ounces of bone broth throughout the day. The last 12 ounces of bone broth of the day would have added vegetables; celery, carrots, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and cilantro. I also ate a spoonful of papaya seeds with one teaspoon of honey every day. This helps to kill off any harmful bacteria and parasites in the digestive system. I had experienced two parasites this year; one after I spent 2 weeks in Bali and one after I spent about 9 days in Spain. I had been on a protocol to get rid of the parasite, but I figured since I was giving my digestive system a rest, it wouldn’t hurt to take extra measures to make sure the parasite was completely gone. I also ate the small papaya I got specifically for the seeds because they happen to be very easy on the digestive system and act as a natural digestive enzyme to help break down and assimilate your food.

I felt amazing on day 2 when I first woke up, but definitely felt the desire to have a real meal by the end of that day. My energy was great overall and I never felt faint, light headed, or dizzy. I told myself that while doing this, if I ever felt any of these things, then I would add in a regular meal. I had done a juice cleanse in the past and felt absolutely terrible while doing so. I was shaky, very light headed, fatigued, and really anxious. I absolutely love juicing, but I know doing a juice cleanse is not beneficial for my body. I think one of the reasons this bone broth healing protocol was better for me is because I was still giving my body substance (each 8 ounce cup of broth has 10g of protein) and was listening to the way I felt and went into the process knowing very well that if it wasn’t feeling right for my body, I would stop.

At night I would add in my homemade cashew mylk that consists of only cashews, filtered water, dates, and cinnamon. I mixed it with a superfood cacao mix called, Cacao Bliss, that my mom gave to me that has no added sugar and various other healing superfoods. This was my night cap and something that really helped me get through the 3 days.

I didn’t exercise while on this protocol because I wanted to give my body some rest and didn’t wan’t to overexert myself. I did make sure I walked a good amount and drank lots of water to help flush out any toxins that might have been stirred up. I also took an epsom salt bath on day 3 with essential oils to help restore minerals in my body as well as help my body to detox. Overall, the process felt very healing and like something my body really needed. I believe it gave my digestive system the break it needed and helped to increase circulation and decrease inflammation in my body. Another big thing I noticed was that when I did add in simple foods, I ate much more mindfully and wasn’t craving bread and salty foods like I normally do. After having an allergy test done 9 years ago and finding out I was gluten intolerant, I have mostly cut it out, but this past year I’ve let myself have it quite a bit more frequently than I used to. I know that gluten puts stress on my body, causes inflammation, upsets my digestive system, and taxes my adrenals and thyroid. I’m so thankful this break gave my body a much needed reset and gave me the ability to regain a better relationship with food once again.

If you have any questions about the cleanse I did, why I did it, and/or if it would be good for you , please feel free to reach out to me at ashley@ashleycarlson.co ! As always, I would love to hear from you.

With love,

Ashley

What I Eat in a Typical Day

There are days where I have pizza, burgers, or super delicious breakfast burritos and there are days where I drink green juice and smoothies and eat really big salads. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I genuinely want to. I typically eat plant based because thats how I feel my best. I have come to realize that I am a very, very sensitive person who needs to be careful about what she consumes, otherwise I really start to feel the effects. I used to eat whatever the heck I wanted and not feel the effects at all. Now I’m so in tune with my body that I can pinpoint almost exactly why something feels off. I also work with a Nutrition Response Testing Practitioner who is fantastic and fine tunes the things that I can’t on my own using healing herbs and supplements. I understand that some people may think my way of living is overboard, “too much”, or “too strict” and to those people all I have to say is you are entitled to your opinions, but I like my lifestyle. Some days I wish I could eat whatever I want still, but most days I really enjoy nourishing my body with healthy foods. This is what a typical day looks like for me.

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Morning

12-16 oz warm water with 1 lemon squeezed in.

I wait 15 minutes and then drink 16 oz of fresh celery juice. All you need for this is one bunch of celery, which makes roughly 16 oz. Drink that and then wait at least 30 minutes before consuming anything else.

Next up is my GREEN SMOOTHIE. Yes. These are my favorite. I can add so many healthy ingredients and still make them taste good. The recipe for my typical green smoothie is as follows:

1 cup of almond milk

3 cups of spinach

1 frozen banana

1 tsp spirulina

1/4 cup dulse

1 tbsp flax seed

1 tbsp cacao powder

2 dates

few sprinkles of cinnamon

1/2 tsp He Shou Wu

1/2 tsp Ashwagandha

hemp protein powder

I blend this baby up and top with cacao nibs and its SO GOOD.

Afternoon

Now is the time for my all time favorite ceasar salad. I got this recipe from Kaleidoscope Juice, an organic and amazing juice bar in Phoenix, AZ that I used to work at. I will post the recipe from them soon because it really is that delicious. I top it with chickpea croutons, watermelon radish for some spice and color, and cherry tomatoes. Love, love, LOVE this salad so much.

I will snack on fruit like apples, oranges, or berries or I will have some gluten free crackers with hummus. My favorite brands for gluten free crackers are Simple Mills or Mary’s Gone Crackers. I look at the ingredients when buying gluten free because a lot of brands will sneak in weird ingredients like corn starch, maltodextrin, “natural flavors”, or soy. I try to buy gluten free items with the least amount of ingredients and no corn or soy. The reason being is these two ingredients often tend to be GMO’s, especially in processed foods. I love the brand HOPE for my hummus. They have a black garlic one that is sooo good.

Some days I love to toast gluten free bread and make avocado toast. The recipe can be found under my blog in the recipe section.

That 3pm slump can get very real for me some days and thats why I love mixing in a green drink to give me lots of nutrients and an energy boost. The brand that I’m really loving right now is called “Smart Pressed Juice”. I drink the Organic Pressed Greens from them and I love it because it includes everything from Alfalfa and Barley Grass to Spirulina, Chlorella, and even Ashwagandha! It’s amazing and actually tastes pretty good too (I've had some green juice powders that taste like you’re actually eating hay). Their product is also non-gmo, organic, gluten free and contains enzymes and probiotics. I love it. One thing I will say is that I will NEVER ever ever rave or support a product I do not use love, and trust. It just does not sit right with me and I can’t do it. So if I’m ever talking about a product, it’s because I love it and actually use it. Every body is so different and is going to react to products differently, so you just have to find the products that work best for you.

Evening

Now that it’s fall I’m obsessed with making different kinds of soup. It’s easy to make, easy to sneak in lots of vegetables, filling, and comforting. Another plus is that there are usually left overs that I can save for the next day or freeze and heat up later on. I love making butternut squash soup (you can find it in the recipe section of my blog) now that its fall. This recipe has so many vegetables and is the perfect mixture of sweetness from the squash and savory from the other vegetables and spices. I love to top this one with red pepper flakes and truffle oil.

I have chocolate almost every single night. I just do. Usually just one or two pieces do the trick. I love Honey Mama’s cacao nectar bar because it’s sweetened with just honey, is made with only a few simple ingredients, and tastes so good. I also love Alter Eco’s salted caramel truffles. They are TO DIE FOR. I’m not joking. They aren’t quite as clean as Honey Mama’s and are sweetened with cane sugar, but they’re so worth it. They are organic and use fair trade ingredients, so in my opinion, they make up for it.

I also love to end my night with tea. I feel like it signals to my body that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. I love peppermint, dandelion root, lemon balm, ginger, or my own mixture of red raspberry leaf/red clover/stinging nettle tea. My favorite brands for tea are Traditional Medicinals or Organic India Tulsi Tea.

During the day I typically have between 60-80 oz of water on top of the lemon water, celery juice, tea, and any other beverages I consume throughout the day. I shoot for at least 90-120 ounces of liquids (mainly pure water) throughout the day.

I hope you enjoyed having a glance at what I typically eat in a day! Of course every day is going to vary a little bit depending on my schedule, how hungry I am, etc. I try my best to listen to my body and give it what it needs. Please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment if you have any questions. Xo

**I would like to mention that I consumed roughly 55-62 grams of protein this day (mainly from the spinach, hemp protein, chickpeas, and chicken bone broth from the butternut squash soup) for those wondering how people get enough protein from eating a plant based or mostly plant based diet.

Meditation: Do you or don't you?

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I started meditating 6 years ago. I didn’t know what I was doing, if I was doing it “right”, or if meditation really made a difference. I wasn’t consistent because I didn’t know enough about the subject and hadn’t found a technique that I enjoyed. It was always on my list of things “to-do” and was something I started and stopped more times than I can count. It’s always been on my list of goals and something I wanted to add to my daily routine. I’ve tried sitting in silence and just breathing, I’ve tried countless different apps, and I’ve even tried a technique where you repeat a sound in your mind for 20 minutes. No thanks. I had read countless articles, blogs, books, etc. on the power of meditation and all the benefits that come along with this practice. It is said that meditation reduces stress and anxiety, increases productivity, boosts confidence, and promotes happiness. I knew it was something I wanted to incorporate in my daily routine, I just hadn’t found my groove with it yet. Like I said before, I have tried countless meditation apps, but had yet to come across one that I really enjoyed. Awhile back, I heard about the meditation app, Headspace, and downloaded it. I had it on my phone for at least 6 months, maybe a year, and hadn’t even used it. One day I was cleaning up my phone, deleting old apps I no longer use, and organizing everything into folders. I came across the Headspace app and decided I should give it a try. They let you play around on the app and try out a meditation before signing up. The monthly fee is a bit higher than most, $12.99 a month, but they way I see it is that if its something that is going to positively affect my health and mind, then it’s worth it. So I paid the fee and have used the app for the past 30 days. I love it. It’s something I look forward to as the first thing I do each morning and I honestly feel that I can already feel the positive affects. I always end every meditation with a few positive affirmations, right now being “I am worthy, I am abundant, I am love, I am enough”. I truly feel this part of my morning routine puts me in a good mindset and sets me up for my day. Some days I meditate for 10 minutes and some days I do the full 20 minutes. It’s all about how I feel that day and I never pressure myself to do more than I feel like. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit and although I don’t necessarily believe that timeframe works for everything, I do think it did for this. At first it was a little difficult to adopt this habit and I felt myself wanting to skip a day or two, but I made myself sit still for 10-20 minutes anyways because I knew it was good for me in the long run. Sometimes you have to give yourself self love in the way of only doing what you want, but sometimes you have to give yourself “tough love” because you know it’s better for you in the end. I hope you try something new that you know will benefit your health because it’s always worth it. It is so important to look at health with a holistic view; the health of your mind, body, and spirit are all equally important. 

Nutrition Response Testing: What it is and why I believe in it so deeply

"Nutrition Response Testing is a non-invasive system of analyzing the body in order to determine the underlying causes of ill health. When these are corrected through safe, natural, nutritional means, the body can repair itself in order to attain and maintain more optimum health."

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“What Is Nutrition Response Testing?” Ulan Nutritional Systems Home Page, unsinc.info/nutrition-response-testing.html.

If you've been following my insta-stories the past week, you will see that I've been talking a lot about Nutrition Response Testing (which I will also refer to as NRT). This healing technique is something I believe in whole heartedly. I started going to a Chiropractor in Alaska 6 years ago, at the age of 23, after being in a battle with "mystery symptoms" and extreme anxiety for 2 years. This was the first time I had walked into a doctor's office and felt heard, understood, supported, and at ease. Having been to so many different specialists, doctors, and naturopaths at this point, it was such a relief to feel like I had finally found a space that didn't dismiss my "weird symptoms" or think that it was "all in my head". The Chiropractor I went to, Dr. Sternquist of Alaska Health Improvement Center, was not for chiropractic care (although I did end up using their chiropractic and massage therapy services as well). Instead it was for what is called "Nutrition Response Testing".  If you have never experienced or heard of this healing technique, then chances are it is going to sound very strange and possibly unbelievable to you. I get it. Upon first hearing of this technique, I was VERY skeptical but I was also so desperate to get to the bottom of why I felt so awful all the time and I was willing to try almost anything.

Up to this point (a few years ago) I had gotten a scope done on my stomach, heart monitor for two weeks, extensive thyroid testing, EKG's, multiple blood tests, and various doctor appointments that always left me with no real answers other than a written prescription to mask the symptoms. I never filled one of those dozens of written prescriptions I received because I knew deep down that that wasn't the way for me. This is not to put shame on anyone who takes prescription medication for any number of health reasons, as I do believe in some cases they are beneficial, but I just knew this wasn't the route for me and I didn't wan't to simply mask my symptoms. The only slight bit of relief I felt during this time period of 2 years was when I had an allergy panel done at my Naturopath's office who then told me I needed to stay away from gluten and dairy, among a few other foods. Once I cut way back on these foods, I started to notice a bit of a shift, but I still didn't feel well most of the time. 

This is where Nutrition Response Testing and the amazing, Dr. Sternquist, come in. Like I mentioned above, this was the very first time I felt like I was heard and had faith that this technique and team would help me get to the bottom of what was going on. To get started, I had to fill out a very lengthy questionnaire about all the symptoms I had been experiencing along with my health history.  This part of the process was really refreshing to me because there was a section that listed a wide range of symptoms (some unusual ones) and you had to score how often you experience them. It was so nice to actually see all of my symptoms listed on this page, like they were real and I wasn't the only one who experienced them. After this, I was hooked up to a small computer, with a strap wrapped around my chest, to check my "heart rate variability" which basically measured my physical fitness level. Some basic vitals were also taken at this time to measure things such as my blood pressure, which showed signs that I had adrenal issues. 

After the initial assessment is completed, it's time to get "muscle tested". This is the part where most people get skeptical because it's a completely different from of treatment than most have ever experienced. Again, I get it. But if you're willing to keep an open mind and an open heart, you might just find that this is the most personalized treatment you can get to heal your ailments. Since I'm not sure I can phrase what Nutrition Response Testing is as eloquently as I would like, I'll leave that part up to the professionals...

"The analysis is done through testing the body’s autonomic nervous system. Nutrition Response Testing analyzes different areas on the surface of the body that relate to the state of health and to the flow of energy in each and every organ and function of the body. This information is derived from the part of the nervous system whose job it is to regulate the functions of each and every organ. Interestingly, since the human anatomy has not changed significantly in thousands of years, the utilization of these organs / areas have become extremely useful in our practice because they are so accurate! Each area that gives a response represents a specific organ, tissue, or function, and indicates the effect that energy, or the lack of energy, is having on the body. By testing these organs / areas, we have a system of monitoring your body at each visit that has proven to be extremely accurate clinically, and that helps us identify exactly what the body needs and how well we are meeting that need. Instead of connecting electrodes to the areas being tested, as in an EKG, the Nutrition Response Testing practitioner contacts these areas with his/her own hand. With the other hand, he/she will test the muscle of your extended arm. If the organ/area being contacted is “active” the nervous system will respond by reducing energy to the extended arm, and the arm will weaken and drop. This drop signifies underlying stress or dysfunction, which can be affecting your health."

"Let’s say the liver or kidney areas are active. Then what? Our next step is to test specific, time-tested and proven, highest-possible quality nutritional formulas against those weak areas, to find which ones bring the organ/areas back to strength. Our decades of clinical experience tell us that when we have found the correct nutritional supplements, as indicated by this procedure, and have worked out a highly personalized nutritional supplement schedule, we have identified the most important first step in correcting the underlying deficiency or imbalance that caused the organ/area to be active in the first place. By following the program as precisely as possible, you are well on your way to restoring normal function and improving your health. It’s that simple! In medicine, the medical doctor makes a diagnosis and then uses drugs or surgery to attack or suppress the symptom, or to surgically remove the “offending” organ or malfunctioning part. In Nutrition Response Testing we use designed clinical nutrition to correct the cause of the problem, so that the body can regain the ability to correct itself."  Ulan Nutritional Systems Home Page, unsinc.info/nutrition-response-testing.html.

To sum it up, the practitioner is able to see where you have imbalances and/or invaders in your body and is able to give you the specific, nutritional, whole food supplements your body needs in order to best get rid of the invader and/or bring that area of your body back into equilibrium. When you first start out, you will be seeing the practitioner once every week or two, depending on the state of your health. After your body starts to heal, function, and balance out, your office visits will become less frequent and the number of whole food supplements you have to take will lessen. Before you roll your eyes, take a moment to think about how intelligent our bodies are. This idea of our bodies being so intuitive and intelligent never quite struck me until I experienced this type of healing technique. I also didn't believe in this technique until I started to see my symptoms dissipate, one by one. Of course this took time, a change in my lifestyle, patience, and a whole lot of self care, but it's truly the only thing that made me feel like myself again. Of course the extremely personalized protocol that this healing technique provides is amazing, but what I also loved is that this method is all about educating the importance of eating a healthy diet. Dr. Sternquist gave me handouts and pamphlets on nutrition, how our food system works, the toxins that are in our beauty and household cleaning items, foods to avoid, how to read food labels/nutrition facts, along with more extensive information about Nutrition Response Testing. I was hooked. I can honestly say this is what instilled a passion for health and wellness in me and what made me ultimately decide to get certified as a health coach and finish my Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition. 

It has been a little over 3 years since I moved away from Alaska (again) and since the last time I've had Nutrition Response Testing done on me. Ever since coming back from my trip to Bali in mid February this year, I felt the pull to see a practitioner for Nutrition Response Testing again. Upon returning from Bali, my digestion was awful, I felt fatigued all the time and my skin broke out like crazy. Quick little side note- I had NEVER experienced break outs in high school or in my early 20's. It wasn't until I turned 26, and (coincidentally?) stopped going to a NRT practitioner that I had my first bout of bad skin. I will talk about this in a blog post in the coming weeks, along with before and after photos, but let me just tell you that bad skin is tough to deal with and I have absolutely NO doubt that it starts from within. Anyways, I had a gut feeling that my thyroid was acting up and that maybe I had contracted a virus of some sort, so I decided it was best to see a practitioner to get to the root of everything. Sure enough, I had a virus, fungus, AND a parasite (EW)! My gall bladder was sluggish and so was my thyroid, along with my adrenal glands. My new practitioner in Seattle, Josie Steuart, was able to pinpoint exactly what was wrong and give me a protocol specialized for me in order to rid my body of its' ailments. I have since been to two appointments and am already starting to feel a shift. My energy is better, my skin has cleared up, I sleep better, and I just have a better sense of overall wellbeing. 

I started to incorporate a lot of Anthony William's (from @medicalmedium on instagram) recipes and protocols from his books "Medical Medium" and "Thyroid Healing" after I got back from Bali and noticed changes almost immediately. Anthony William's protocols and recipes, along with NRT are what I believe to be some of the best healing methods out there. I'm excited to take this time to tune in to my body, practice lots of self care, eat healing foods, exercise in ways that make me feel good, and take my health to the next level. I've also been doing more hot yoga and infrared saunas to help my body detox the virus and parasite I picked up. I will definitely do a post on infrared saunas soon because I believe they are so beneficial in detoxing your body. 

Considering I'm a certified health coach and hold my degree in Nutrition, it's not always easy to admit when I don't feel my best, but I know there is strength in being vulnerable and sharing my journey. I hope this posts find anyone who is needing to hear this type of information and if you are feeling unwell, I hope you take the time to seek out a professional and invest in your health. As always, if you have any questions on Nutrition Response Testing or anything I mentioned above (or just anything in general!) please send me an e-mail : ashley@ashleycarlson.co. If you are looking for a Nutrition Response Testing practitioner in your area, the best way to do so is through this link here. I've created a 5 week program that has over 50 of my healthy (and tasty!) recipes along with a topic of the week ranging from self-care to healthy digestion. You can grab the program here and use the code "NRT25" for 25% off! I will also post the websites for additional information on Nutrition Response Testing and for Anthony William, the medical medium, below. Sending you all so much love and healing vibes!

xo, Ashley

https://www.nourishandglow.co/p/nourish-glow-mind-body-and-soul

http://www.unsinc.info/index.html

https://www.medicalmedium.com/