5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Diagnosed With Celiac Disease

Today is my five-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I look back on that day and think about how relieved I was to finally have an answer of why I was not feeling great and why I had the symptoms that I did. I left that doctor’s office and immediately started researching everything I could about Celiac Disease. However, now that I’m 5 years into my diagnosis, I’m going to write about 5 things I wish I was told when I was first diagnosed. This was a hard list to make, as there are hundreds of topics I wish I knew about, but that’s the simplest part of life, we need to take it one step at a time. All of the answers will come with experience and time. There is more to the disease than just going gluten-free. Celiac disease, for those who do not know, is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine, and gluten is its trigger.

First off, go gluten-free, right this second, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease and DO NOT look back. I hate to tell you, but this is a life-long disease that will never go away, I’m just going to be straight with you. There is no cure for celiac disease as of yet, other than following a strict 100% gluten-free diet. I have met some people who “cheat” on their gluten-free diet even though they have been diagnosed with celiac disease. This is a hard no, just one crumb can cause an autoimmune reaction in your body and have you not feeling your best again. So just avoid the stuff as much as you physically can in your own home and out to eat.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease I was told by the doctor to “just follow a gluten-free diet.” And even though he was technically correct with this statement, over the years I have learned there I so much more to healing your gut from celiac disease than ‘just going gluten-free.’ Here are 5 things I wish I was also told when I was first diagnosed.

  1. Give Yourself Time To Heal

    This is my first point for you because I did not realize just how long it takes the gut to heal from something like the damages of celiac disease. Depending on how long you have had symptoms and how long it took you to get diagnosed, there is damage in your gut that needs time to heal. Your doctor may have you do a TTG test every 3 or 6 months to see where your progress is, but do not get discouraged if it’s taking a bit longer than you thought to get your TTG levels to fully drop to a normal level. Typically it takes anywhere from 6-18 months to heal, however, if you have had the symptoms longer or had a high TTG test result (such as, greater than 300), it can take up to 5 years to get your TTG levels to fully drop. For example, when I was first diagnosed my TTG blood result was greater than 300. Now 5 years later my TTG result is now 17.5, and continues to drop with a diligent lifestyle. Nothing happens over night, so try to be patient and kind with yourself as sometimes there are things in life that we have no control over.
  2. Be Wary Of Cross-Contamination

    If you have on-going symptoms, cross contamination of gluten may be the cuplrit. I had no idea this was even a possibility when I was first diagnosed. This is an important point to make because as I have mentioned, it just takes one crumb to cause you symptoms and that one crumb can be hidden in the most sneaky places. I have written a whole blog post on cross contamination and celiac disease which you can find here, however here is the quick version of it.

    It is not just the act of eating wheat, barley, rye or oats that can cause your TTG levels to rise and cause you symptoms, but you can also get small contaminations of gluten that may not rise your TTG levels but can definitely still cause your on-going symptoms. Gluten can be hidden in ingredients, products, and kitchen equipment just to name a few. Now before I continue, this is not a fear mongering point, more one just to make you aware.

    Be sure to go through your kitchen equipment and replace what could have come into contact with gluten before your diagnosis. Equipment such as chopping boards, toasters, rolling pin and wooden spoons, pasta strainers, sifter, old plastic utensils, waffle irons, teflon pans that are heavily stratched, baking sheets, loaf pans and muffin tins are all objects that can conceal gluten in them. Even looking into your condements to be sure there is no ‘double dipping’ of a utensil from a slice of gluten bread into that condiment jar as it can leave behind gluten crumbs. Finally, products like toothpaste, lipchap, mouthwash, and dental floss should also be looked into.

    Getting little micro contamnations consistently can cause your symptoms to stick around and keep your TTG levels raised. So being sure you are reading food labels correctly and replacing what you need to in your home along with asking all of the right questions when you are out to eat can help you prevent getting glutened. This actally brings me to my next point…
  3. Start Working With The Right Healthcare Providers Right Away

    I cannot emphasis this point enough! Over the years I have worked with a list of different healthcare providers and there are two of which I would suggest to see.

    A Gastroenterologist

    I wish the doctor I saw at the walk in told me to go and see a gastroenterologist right away. I was not sent to see a gastroenterologist when I was first diagnosed as I was told it would take up to 2 years for me to even get in with one (that’s here in Canada). So I was not referred to one until I was given the wrong sandwich bread at a restaurant a year after my diagnosis and my now family doctor started the referral process to get me in with a specialist. When I did get in to see her a year later, she saw my first test results and said I should have seen her at that point, and not 2 years later. I’m also suggesting to see a gastroenterologist right away as the blood test alone is not the ‘solid’ diagnosis of celiac disease; you need to get a gastroscopy and biopsy completed to know for sure if you are 100% celiac. The reason for this is the blood test that can be a false positive or vice versa, and the only way to know for sure is testing your small intestine directly. Your specialist can also take a look at your test results and decide if any further testing needs to be done.

    A Dietician

    The second professional I highly suggest working with right away is a dietician. But not just any dietician, one that specializes in celiac disease. I started working with one that specializes in celiac disease because the first dietician I worked with did not, and she taught me the basics but did not continue to work with me to help me with my on-going symptoms. I am now working with a dietician that does specialize in celiac disease and it has made a world of a difference, so much so that I wish I had started to work with her sooner. They will be able to work with you and let you know if you are eating the correct foods, meal portion sizes, meal spacing, how to eat balanced meals, teach you how to read food labels correctly, and so much more. I personally have had on-going symptoms even with following a gluten free diet for the last 5 years, but she has taught me information I’m not sure I would have figured out without her help and guidance. And I’m happy to say I have less symptoms than I did when I first started working with her.
    This is not a promotion or plug in anyway, but if you’d like to work with the same dietician I am, she can be found here. She also has celiac disease and can relate with what you are going through.
  4. Continue To Live Your Life Without Fear And Speak Up For Yourself – Some tips on how to do this

    This doesn’t seem like a big one for most, and it didn’t seem like one for myself, but it’s a important part of the healing process. When you are first diagnosed it can be daunting to know that you have to avoid gluten for your physical and mental health, but it can be hard to avoid it when it is a main ingredient in a lot of products and foods. However, if you follow a few simple lifestyle changes, it will be smooth sailing. Here are a few examples:

    – Read labels of foods before you buy them and eat them to be sure they do not contain gluten
    – Ask the right questions when you are out to eat or at a friends place. Do not be afraid to speak up for yourself, this is afterall your health and you are the one who will suffer the consequences, so please do not feel embarassed to tell people what needs to be done to keep you safe. This is personally one I’m still working on myself but with time it will become easier and more natural.
    – Prepare for road trips and always carry a snack on you. This is something I learned the hard way, I’ve hit hangry Lauren way too many times but this can all be stopped by preparing ahead and being sure you always leave your home with a snack. Having bars, fruit or veg, nut and seed mixes, etc on you can be life changning when you cannot find somewhere safe to eat. This can also decrease the anxiety placed on yourself when you are hungry.
    – Along with the last point, travel your little heart out! Do not be afraid to travel, there are so many places you can go to eat safely now, and if there is not, bring snacks and prepare for the trip. You can also travel with health cards that are typed out in the language of the country that you are going to explaining your condition and what needs to be done to keep you safe. Go see the world!

    Just know that if you are doing your best and continuing to educate yourself, you’re already way ahead. I know it can be scary with a new condition, but take it from me, it’s livable and it can become your new adventure in life!
  5. The Mind-Gut Connection

    Okay last but certainly not least, the mind-gut connection. There is more and more research coming out showing how closely the mind and gut work together. Celiac disease does not just effect the gut, it affects every system in the body due to the fact that it damages our main organ that absorbes the nutrients from the food we eat, the small intestine. Therefore, it won’t just cause symptoms physically but also mentally. When the gut is damaged, it will cause a domino-effect throughout the rest of the body. All the same, if the brain is damaged it can do the same thing.

    The following is from the book, The Mind-Gut Connection: “We know today that 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is actually contained in specialized cells in the gut, and these serotonin-containing cells are influenced by what we eat, by chemicals released from certain species of gut microbes, and by signals that the brain sends to them, informing them about our emotional state.” Essentially, if our gut is unhappy, so will our brain be and vice versa.

    The reason I am bringing this point into view is due to my own struggles in this department over the last 5 years. I did not realize until 6 months ago just how anxious I was about my gut and just how much it was affecting my over all physical and mental state. If you are anxious, nervous, fatigued, or scared, your gut will act up. But if you make this chronic, over time more and more symptoms can occur. Those symptoms are very similar to a celiac eating gluten, in whichcase you may be thinking you are eating gluten when your stomach is upset but sometimes it might be due to your menal state causing those symptoms. Breathwork and meditation has been a saving grace for me, and thankfully in this day and age there are a lot of videos, tutorials, apps, books and people out there that can help you get started.

Those are the first 5 tips that I would give anyone who has just been diagnosed with celiac disease. All in all, know that you are a rockstar and this is an amazing opportunity for a lifestyle change that will better suit you. There are many positives to being celiac which I wrote about, and now there are so many amazing communities to be a part of as well. Know that you are never alone and there is always help out there.

As I have mentioned there is so much more that I would love to share with you, as I truly believe that experience is knowledge and knowledge is power. Stay tuned for more helpful tips coming in the near future on this blog and more!

Much love coming your way,

LEW oxox

If you are interested in reading my story here are some blog posts I wrote about my journey with celiac disease:

Part 1: The beginning of a positive lifestyle change

Part 2: The first year after diagnosis

Part 3: My first accidental exposure to gluten that lead to a gastroscopy

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What Movements To Do When You Are Sick

We all know when we are sick, regardless of whether it is respiratory or stomach, all we want to do is lay on the couch and sleep. Granted, the first few days, that is exactly what you should probably be doing. But what if I told you moving your body gently for a few minutes a day may be more beneficial.

Doing gentle movements to open up your chest if you have a respiratory cold and movements to get your bowels moving if you have the stomach flu can be exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m not talking movements to get you sweating, just easy movements to relax your nervous system and help your immune system fight whatever bug it is that you have.

Don’t feel the need to do all of these exercises, pick 1-3 of them if you aren’t feeling your best. Or if you are more at the end of your cold or flu and you have the energy, feel free to try them all out. The world is your oyster!

Diaphragmic Breathing

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This is probably the most important exercise to do when you are sick or not, as it helps to level out your nervous system and gets one of your main organs, your lungs, working at their top productivity, among all of your other organs as well. This is due to the vagus nerve that runs right through the diaphragm muscle and innervates with all of your organs.

Directions: Lay on your back and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath in and see what your baseline breath is, see what hand moves first and what hand moves the most. If you are all stomach or all chest, we need to correct the way you breathe. The proper diaphragmic breath is having your stomach (the diaphragm) be the first movement in your breath, and as you continue to inhale, a small movement will happen second in your chest. Then you exhale from the chest into your stomach and repeat. This can be a challenging movement to perfect, so starting to practice this laying on your back with your knees bent is recommended. Be patient as this will come around and become easier the more you practice it. Really try to expand through your whole ribcage, the back, sides and into the front.

If you are an imaginary person, think as if you have a balloon in your stomach and you are inflating it from your stomach into your chest then slowly letting the air out of that balloon as you exhale. The movement will happen first in the stomach then as that “balloon” expands the movement will be second in the chest.

Thoracic rotations on the floor

Why do this exercise when you are sick: If you have the energy to roll out a yoga mat this one is for you. The thoracic spine is the section of your back that is just under your neck and right above your lower back. It is where your ribcage connects with the spine. If you have restricted movement in your t-spine, this can also restrict movement in your ribcage which will, in turn, restrict the space your lungs need to inhale and exhale. Therefore, getting more mobility into your t-spine will help with lung expansion, and this can help with getting out any of that phlegm that might be sitting in your lungs.

Directions: Lay on one side and bend your knees to a 90-degree position towards your chest. Now place your head on a pillow and extend both of your arms out in front of you with your hands together, like you are making the head of a crocodile. You are going to take a deep breath in as you extend your top arm further out, and as you exhale you will be pulling that top arm back across your body like you are pulling a bow and arrow back. The goal is to rotate through your back and get your top shoulder to touch the ground without over-extending through your shoulder. As you breathe in again you will bring your arm back over your body to your opposite hand where you started and repeat. Be sure to do this on both sides.

Lumbar rotations:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: If you have stomach sickness, it’s important to help your body heal by getting your bowels moving. You can do this by drinking a lot of clear fluids like water, but you can also do this with gentle movements like walking or certain stretching and mobility movements. By dropping your legs side to side you are gently massaging your bowels, lower back and hips. This in turn can help to get your bowels moving and your stomach flu out of your body.

Directions: Laying on your back with both of your knees bent and feet rested on the ground, slowly start to drop both of your knees to one side, back up and to the other side. This exercise is also known as ‘windshield wipers.’ You only want to drop your knees as far as is comfortable but where you may also get a nice stretch as well.

If you wanted to advance this exercise, once you are in a double knee drop, you could put your bottom foot over your top knee and hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds between lumbar rotations to get a stretch into your lower back, glutes and into the side of your leg.

Child’s pose:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This stretches your lower back and hips. The pressure from your bowels can push on your lower back and pelvic muscles and vice versa. By stretching your lower back and hips, you are loosening the muscles and taking some pressure off of your bowels. In the matter of a head cold, if you have phlegm in your chest, as mentioned above, getting movement to your ribcage and t-spine can help to expand your lungs to push that phlegm out. Some of your lower back muscles attach to the ribcage, so loosening them up will get more movement to your ribcage, lower back, hips and t-spine (midback).

Directions: Sitting on both knees on your mat, you can have both of your knees closer together for more of a lower back stretch or have both of your knees out to the width of your mat for more of a hip stretch. Choose which one feels right for you at this exact moment in time. Once you have chosen your knee position, reach both of your arms out in front of you as far as you can and rest your chest and forehead onto the mat. Once again, make sure you are comfortable in whichever position suits you and hold this stretch for 10-20 seconds or longer if you prefer. You can also reach out to both sides as well to get a nice side stretch through your back and hips.

Walking

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This is a simple and effective way to get your heart pumping and bowels moving. Going for even a 20 min walk can do wonders for your body even outside of a cold or flu. Going for a walk will help to get your bowels moving and expel the bug from within if you have the stomach flu, and usually, we have head colds in the winter, so going for a walk in the cold air will help your body make your nose run and push out any phlegm that can be sitting in your nasal cavity. Only go for a walk for as long as you seem fit for that day, you have to listen to your body and not overexert yourself.

Reclining Spinal Twist:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This stretch loosens up your back, shoulders, hips, and the side of your legs. As mentioned before, loosening up the muscles around your pelvis and chest and mobilizing the bones can help to take pressure off of your lungs and bowels.

Directions: Laying on your back, bring your right knee up towards your chest then use your left arm on your right knee to twist that knee to the opposite side rotating through your lower back. Now place your right arm out and rotate your head towards the extended arm. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and switch sides.

Seated Spinal Twist:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This stretch loosens up your back, shoulders, hips, and the side of your legs. As mentioned before, loosening up the muscles around your pelvis and chest along with mobilizing the joints can help to take pressure off of your lungs and bowels.

Directions: Sitting on your mat with both of your legs extended out, bend your right knee and cross it over your left leg. Now place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee and twist through your back so your right hand is placed on the floor behind you. Breathe into this stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Bridge Pose:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This exercise opens up the front of your chest, hips and abdomen while strengthening your glutes, hamstrings and back. It will take pressure off of the front of your body, especially from all the time we usually spend laying on the couch or in our beds when we are feeling sick. This will help to open up your chest and abdomen and take pressure off your bowels and lungs.

Directions: Laying on your back bend both of your knees and place your feet as close to your butt as you comfortably can without strain. Engage your core by bringing your belly button in and up, squeeze your butt muscles together, and push through both of your heels to lift your pelvis off the ground to a comfortable height for your back. If you want to advance this you can also bind your hands under your back on the floor under your bridge. Hold for 10-15 seconds and slowly come down back to the mat one vertebrae at a time.

Legs Up The Wall:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: “The main benefit of viparita karani is that it puts back into circulation the bodily fluids stored in your legs,” Dr. Saper explains. “By inverting and holding that pose, it allows the return of blood flow and reduction of lower-leg swelling.” When we are sick our bodies are already working really hard to fight the bug you have caught. Why not help your body out and get your blood circulating just a bit better to get out with the old and in with the new blood. This pose has also been shown to help with de-stressing, which we all know how stressful it is mentally and physically on the body being sick. It also gives you an opportunity to work on that diaphragmic breathing we talked about at the beginning of this blog post – wink wink, nudge nudge ;).

Direction: Laying on your back close to a wall, put both of your feet on the wall and extend your legs so they are straight against the wall. Bring your butt as close to the wall where you have a comfortable stretch and you are not feeling any strain in your legs, hips or back. Close your eyes and work on the diaphragm breathing that was mentioned at the beginning of this post for 5 minutes or longer.

Seated Forward Bend:

Why do this exercise when you are sick: This stretch will loosen up your lower back, hips and hamstrings into your calves. As mentioned before, loosening up the muscles around the hips, lower back and chest can help open up your lungs and get your bowels moving.

Directions: Sitting on your mat with both of your legs straight out in front of you, slowly start to bend forward to try and reach your toes but only go as far as you comfortably can and where you start to feel a comfortable stretch. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.

Cat/Camel: This exercise can be completed seated or on the ground on all fours.

Why do this exercise when you are sick: Just the same as with the thoracic rotation exercise, this will help to mobilize your thoracic spine. Just this time you are working on flexion and extension of the spine instead of rotation. Getting mobilization to your t-spine will help to get your ribcage moving as well which in turn will help your lungs to inhale and exhale easier to push the phlegm sitting in them out of your body.

Directions:

On the ground: position yourself on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you curve your spine down towards the ground and extend your head up and back. Exhale as you bring your belly button towards your spine, in and up, and arch your spine up towards the sky and tuck your head down. Move with your breath and transition between these two movements 5-10 times.

Seated: Just as above but now you are seated. Sitting in a chair or on the couch, place your hands on your thighs closer to your knees and inhale as you curve your spine forward and tilt your head back as you are looking up. Then as you exhale, arch your spine back and tuck your head towards your chest. Now transition between these two movements as you move through your natural breath.

At the end of the day, motion is lotion, even when you are not feeling your best, but always remember to listen to your body. If you need a rest day, take it. But these are just some suggestions of gentle movements that you can do while you are healing from a cold or the flu.

Here is the video showing how to do these exercises from my IG account:


Why Your Goal Setting Is Not Working For You

Every year without fail we make new year resolutions that we cannot keep. Then we feel like we have failed and it puts a damper on our mood for the year.

According to the University of Scranton (Michael Scott’s hometown), a whopping 92% of people who set new year’s eve resolutions do not actually achieve them. Are we surprised? Probably not. But why is it that we cannot meet the goals we set for ourselves every year?

Because we start off on the wrong foot and do not set our goals correctly.

You do not have a timeline. You’re not sure when it will happen.
Your goal is Vague. You’re not being specific enough with what you want to achieve.
Unwritten. You have not taken the time to write your goals out on paper. Yes, there is an actual study that proves this works.
Your goal is intimidating. We can all see the future we want but we don’t break the road to get there into smaller realistic steps.

How do we set goals that work? By transforming them from a dream, into a plan.

1) Follow the proven steps of SMART goals.
Specific: Make your goals specific and narrow for more effective planning.
Measurable: Provide a way to evaluate and keep track of the metrics or data targets that will prove you are making progress then re-evaluate when necessary.
– Attainable: Make sure you can reasonably accomplish your goal within a certain timeframe.
– Relevant:
Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.
– Time-Bound
: Set a realistic, ambitious end-date for task prioritization and motivation.

2) Write it out! A study at The Dominican University found a 42% average of people achieving their goals when they write them down on paper.

3) Put a reasonable timeline to it. Having a due date can give you a sense of urgency to get it done.

4) Break your goal down into baby steps. You must first learn how to walk before you can run. Breaking your goals down into smaller steps makes your goal more manageable.

Journal Prompts for 2022:
1) 3 things I achieved in 2021
2) My biggest lesson in 2021
3) What do I want more of in 2022?
4) 5 intentions for the year. “I will…”
5) Your word or words for 2022
6) Main Goals and Focus for 2022 psst…remember to be really specific here.
7) Purpose in 2022
8) By the end of 2022…

So grab yourself a pen and paper or write out your goals the twenty-first century way and get out your IPad and Apple Pencil and start making yourself goals you can achieve this year to make you that much closer to your end goal, whatever that might be :).

Infographics are found on my Instagram account here.


Tight Chest? Tingling And Numbness Into Your Arms and Hands? Try The Wall Angel Exercise.

With everyone sitting in a forward posture where your shoulders are rolled forward, the upper back is curved in a flexed position and you have a forward head posture, it is very common to have a tight upper back, chest and neck. Due to the chronic pressure you are placing on your skeleton sitting in a forward posture, a lot of strain is placed on the muscles of the upper back, chest and neck. This, in turn, can eventually develop into neurological symptoms like tingling and numbness in the arms and hands.

To avoid this from happening, you can give this simple exercise a try every day to open up your chest and correct your posture.

The Anatomy Basics

To keep things simple, but understandable, there is a line of nerves and other major stuctures like blood vessels that run under a few bones, along with a few neck and chest muscles. Therefore, when these muscles become tight from improper posture, an injury like a fracture to the clavicle, or with other musculoskeletal factors that can occur, those blood vessels and nerves can become compressed and cause symptoms into the head, neck, shoulder, arm and hand. This compression can occur in the neck, chest or even into the arm. This condition is called “Thoracic Outlet Symdrome,” as seen in the photo to the right.

How To Do The Exercise

This is a super simple exercise where you only need yourself and a wall.

  1. Stand with your back facing a wall – preferably a wall without pictures or shelves on it as you will be moving your arms up and down and you don’t want to bump into anything.
  2. Having your feet a few inches from the wall will be an easier position, whereas, standing with your feet up against the wall makes this exercise just a bit more challenging.
  3. Once you have your footing in place, be sure that your upper back and hips are leaning against the wall. Now place your arms at shoulder height with your elbows touching the wall. If your elbows cannot touch the wall, move your feet away from the wall slightly and try again. If you can now touch your elbows to the wall the next step is to externally rotate your shoulder by placing the back of your hands against the wall with your elbows at a 90 degree angle (as shown in the photo). If you are having trouble resting your hands against the wall, then you will be working at going into internal and external rotation of the shoulder for now until your arms can reach.
  4. Once you can have your elbows and hands rested against the wall you can move your arms up and extend them over your head all while keeping your elbows and hands against the wall. If you feel your hands or elbows lift, that is as far as you move your arm above your head, stop and go back down to the starting position and move through that range of motion adding a few inches each time you raise your arms up if you can.
  5. Do this 5-10 times and step away from the wall and feel how much more open your chest feels and how much taller you can stand. Magic.
  6. This exercise can be repeated multiple times a day.

Here is a video from my Instagram Account that you can reference for the full explanation of how to do this exercise correctly:


Neck And Upper Trap Pain? Try This Easy Ball Release

I think it is safe to say, we have all been there with ongoing neck pain that seems to never go away. Along with correcting muscle imbalances in your body, using a ball to release your upper trap and neck muscles can be beneficial and give you the neck relief you need.

An Anatomy Lesson:

First things first, what are the upper fibres of the trapezius? This is the muscle you can see connecting from the neck into the top of the shoulder. It generally becomes a problem when it becomes tight and starts to pull at its origin and insertion. This can cause tension headaches and pain in the shoulder as well.

The traps themselves actually have an upper, mid and lower fiber. For the sake of this blog post, I will be focusing today on just the upper fibers.

Origin: 1 inch behind the mastoid process, superior nuchal line, ligamentum nuchae, SP of C7, external occipital protuberance.
Insertion: Posterior boarder of the lateral 1/3 of the clavicle and the acromion process of the scapula.
Layman’s terms: It starts in the head and neck and ends in the same side shoulder.

How to release your neck with a ball:

This discomfort can be corrected with muscle imbalance corrections, by decreasing the body’s dependency on the upper trap engaging and strengthening the midback muscles instead. However, if you are looking for a way to massage this muscle yourself, this can be done easily with a ball and the corner of a wall!

  1. Grab a tennis ball or a lacrosse ball. A tennis ball is a lot softer and will not dig as deep, so it may be more comfortable for some. My personal favourite is using a lacrosse ball as I find it has better grip and can dig deeper into the tissue.
  2. Place the ball onto the top of your shoulder over the upper trap muscle.
  3. Step forward with one leg and lunge into the corner of a wall. DO NOT lean over with your back as this can put strain on your lower back.
  4. Comfortably push your body weight against the wall and roll the ball around until you find a tender spot, this is called a trigger point.
  5. You can hold onto that point and breathe it out until the pain goes from a 6-7/10 down to a 3-4/10 (1 being no pain and 10 being the worst you have ever felt). Or you can actively side bend your head away from the wall to give that muscle and active release.

If you have lower back pain, try this way of releasing instead:

  1. Just as above, place the ball on the top of your shoulder.
  2. Now you will lay on the ground and place yourself beside a corner of a wall, and have the ball between you and the wall.
  3. Apply your desired body weight pressure against the ball and breathe it out as mentioned above or side bend your head way from the wall.

What better way to explain it than in a video!

Here is a video from my Instagram account @lewslife_ for a video on how to do both of the trap ball releases (be sure to turn up the volume as I’m verbally describing what to do as well as showing how to do it):


How to Shovel the Snow without Hurting your Back

It’s that time of year again where the snow starts flying and we need to shovel it off of our driveways and sidewalks. The only difference for this year is we are not going to injure our backs while doing it!

Here are some tips on how to decrease the likelihood of injuring your back while shovelling the snow:

1) Bend through your hips and knees INSTEAD of bending through your back and keeping your knees and hips straight. This is a recipe for disaster even outside of shovelling snow.
2) Engage your core by contracting your belly button towards your spine and remembering to breathe. Hold this engagement throughout the whole movement.
3) Make sure to keep your shoulders back and down with a good chin tuck and keep your chest up rather than pointing towards the ground.
4) As you are in your deep squat, before picking the snow up from the ground, engage your glutes (squeeze your butt muscles together) then power up using your legs instead of your back.
5) Toss the snow to the side using your whole body NOT just your arms. Push through your legs and core to toss that snow off to the side.
6) Above all, have an active lifestyle where you work on your strength, mobility, flexibility and functional movements to prevent any future injuries. This can include a regular yoga or pilates practice, going to the gym, walking outside, hiking, or whichever movement floats your boat. Any movement is better than no movement.

Now go play in the snow ☃️❄️⛷️🏂🌨️

Here is a video from my Instagram account on how to do this properly:


How To Release Your Hamstrings With One Stretch | Step by Step Process

Technology these days has us sitting in front of a computer, tablet or phone all day, and it also has us sitting in transportation like a car, train, plane or all of the alike. The problem with this is most of the time we do not correct the muscle imbalances that can occur with sitting for too long in our day-to-day lives. There are many musculoskeletal structures that can be placed into an imbalance with chronic sitting, but for the sake of this write-up, we will be focusing on the hamstrings.

The hamstrings are located on the back of your legs just underneath your gluteal muscles. There are many different reasons why they can become tight but here is one technique you can try to decrease the tension in them.

This is a contract/relax technique that is also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). This is a technique you can use almost anywhere in your body to increase mobility in your muscles and joints and therefore increase your range of motion (ROM).

What you need:
a) A mat to lay on
b) Yoga strap, towel or rope

How to do the stretch:

  1. Bend down from a standing position to reach for your toes and test to see how far you can reach. Can you get to your thighs, shins, ankles, toes? Remember where you can reach as you will be testing this again after the contract/relax stretch.
  2. Lay comfortably on your back on your mat, and place the yoga strap around the middle arch of one foot.
  3. Now lay with both legs straight on the ground and use your arms to pull the leg you have wrapped with the band up so that your leg is straight in the air. Only pull it up high enough that you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your leg (you can feel this in the bottom and top of the back of your leg or one or the other). The other leg stays laying straight on the ground.
  4. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds. Breathe through the stretch, it should feel like it’s starting to relax near the end of the 10 seconds.
  5. Once the 10 seconds is over, now contract your leg into the rope as if you are pushing your leg to the ground without it moving, and hold this contraction for 5 seconds. You’re only pushing about 5 pounds of pressure into the rope – do not push as hard as you can into the rope. Just enough that you are getting the muscles contracting.
  6. Once the 5 second contraction is done, pull the rope and your leg closer to your body to another and new comfortable stretch. Now hold this new stretch for 10 seconds and follow it with another 5 second contraction.
  7. Repeat 4-5 times, then proceed to do the same stretch and process with your other leg.
  8. Stand back up and measure how far you can reach for your toes again to feel the difference in your range of motion.

Give this a try the next time your hamstrings are feeling tight!

Here is a video on how to do this from my Instagram account:


How To Reach Behind Your Back | Step By Step Process

With our world functioning within the advancement of technology, we are all typically sitting all day in a forward head posture and rolled-forward shoulders (In fact, I’m doing this as we speak). This in the long run will cause a lot of difficulties and will cause chronic pain and injuries. One of the first functional movements that go in the shoulders is being able to reach your other hand behind your back. If you cannot do this movement, it will make the functionality of your life a bit more difficult, such as reaching to be able to put on your bra or scratch that really itchy part of your back.

One fun trick to be able to give yourself mobility with internal rotation of your shoulder is to do something called contract/relax. This is a Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) technique and is super easy to use almost anywhere in your body to increase mobility in your muscles and joints and therefore increase your range of motion (ROM).

Follow the steps below to give this technique a try!

  1. Grab a towel or yoga strap and place it in one hand, then put that arm over your head and behind your back (like the picture shows below).
  2. Grab the end of the towel or strap with your other hand at hip height.
  3. Pull up with the hand above to cause the one below to come up and cause a stretch in the shoulder of the bottom hand. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.
  4. Once the 10 seconds is done, now you are going to pull down with the bottom hand but the top hand is going to resist the movement, causing an isometric contraction (contracting the muscles without moving the joints). Hold this contraction with your bottom hand for 5 seconds.
  5. Now repeat this process of contracting and relaxing between the two hands for 4-5 reps.
  6. Then let the rope or towel go and try reaching for your other hand again and experience the magic of science!
  7. Repeat and try this with your other shoulder.

Pretty cool eh?

You can use this concept almost anywhere in the body. Be sure to follow my Instagram account, Pinterest, or this blog for more fun tricks like this and more!

Here is a video of how I did this, the full video can also be found here.


Simplify Your Life

It seems the overall vibe right now is to be going 100 miles a minute to try and get all of our ambitious goals done. So we start with a fresh face and make a goal to write a book, start a YouTube channel and make an empire before the end of the week. Then we are usually beating ourselves up for not completing what we wanted by the end of the week and the self-doubt and the negative talk starts in our burnt-out brain. Trust me when I say, we have all been there.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It might be the overachieving personality that we have, or maybe we feel like we are running out of time. Whatever the reason, know that you are not alone as there are thousands of us doing this exact same process right now.

It seems like women’s brains try to do all of the things in this exact moment all at once, while men’s brains are usually a lot more relaxed when it comes to life tasks. Sometimes I wish I had the talent of simplifying everything and putting it all into neat little boxes in my brain like men do, but we will work with what we got! (If you have not seen Mark Gungor’s comedy skit on the difference between men and women’s brains, check it out for a great laugh).

So if you are like me and you have too much to do, too much to think about, or too much stuff, it’s time to simplify!

  1. Declutter: You want more joy in your life? Have less ‘things.’
  2. Disconnect: This does not have to be anything huge, even shutting your phone off for one hour a week can make an exceptional difference to your mental health. I personally always put my phone away from 7pm until 7am the next day. But if you are feeling like experimenting, unplug for a day a week or even one weekend a month. You will thank yourself.
  3. No multitasking: Try to concentrate and work on one thing at a time. Our brains are amazing machines, but once you start to make it concentrate on more than one thing, usually productivity goes down. So try setting a timer for 20 min and think about one task at hand in that 20 min, then move onto the next task.
  4. Cut back on commitments: As humans we cannot physically or mentally be in two places at once, if you can do this I would love to see it. Look at your daily schedule and re-evaluate your time commitments, then think about what you can let go of that day.
  5. Let the expectations go: There is no such thing as perfection. We usually put way too much on our plates where in any world, it could never get done in one day. So, make your to-do list shorter, and expect less of yourself so you are not so hard on yourself. This will actually allow you to be able to give more of yourself.
  6. Stop the frequent spending: By not buying more, you will have a better budget plan. If you have a better budget plan this will free up time, money and your emotional energy. Which will allow your energy to be used elsewhere!
  7. Delegate: Whether this be to yourself, a virtual assistant, coworkers, family or friends: delegate. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”…WRONG! Change that way of thinking, we cannot expect ourselves to get every little thing done in our lives by ourselves, especially as our schedule starts to become busier. Ask for help when it is needed, it will lower your blood pressure and make your day that much better.

Give these tips a try, and if you do, let me know in the comments or on Instagram.

Cheers,

LEW xoxo


Apple and Apricot Crumble | Gluten Free

This is a super simple crumble recipe that I paired with a pre-made gluten-free pie crust. However, if you do not have the pie crust to use, not a problem, this is just as good without the crust.

Ingredients:

For the Crumble:

1 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup melted vegan butter
2 flax eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts
2-3 TBS maple syrup

For the filling:

1 cup cut-up apricots
1 cup cut-up apples
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 TBS maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the filling into a pan. Heat the ingredients on medium-high heat until it starts to boil, let it boil for 5-8 min while watching the pan as the ingredients can burn if you do not consistently stir it. Then place the ingredients on low heat and let it simmer for 15 min.
  3. While the filling is simmering, place all of the crumble ingredients into a food processor and blend up until well combined.
  4. Let the filling cool down before you place it into the gluten free pie crust of your choice, I used Wholly Gluten Free’s pie crust.
  5. Once the filling has cooled down, pour it into the pie crust, then place the crumble on top being sure to cover the whole top of the pie.
  6. Place the pie into the preheated oven for 50-60 min, or until the crumble on top is golden brown.

Enjoy on its own or with a scoop of delicious ice cream!