Can Leaky Gut Cause Anxiety?

Do you have leaky gut? A lot of people turn to asking this question when they begin having seemingly “weird” symptoms for which they have no explanation. And actually, that makes sense, as leaky gut can explain some pretty mysterious health issues. It can also contribute to mood issues, including anxiety.

If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, it may be worth looking into leaky gut – it could be impacting your mental health.


What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is also known as increased intestinal permeability. It means that the intestinal wall has become porous or permeable, allowing bacteria, waste, and undigested food particles to pass through into the blood stream.

But how does this happen? Some foods – especially the very processed, refined, inflammatory foods, irritate the intestinal wall. When this irritation goes on for long enough, the lining of the intestine becomes spongy and penetrable.

This same effect is seen with gut dysbiosis (when the gut microbiome goes out of balance – not enough good or more bad than good bacteria is present). Interestingly, some studies have even linked gluten to intestinal permeability – however it is important to note that these were not human studies, and these results were never replicated in human trials.


What are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut?

Increased intestinal permeability can present with all sorts of symptoms including:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
  • Fatigue (in some cases extreme)
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Lack of attention, brain fog

How can you Heal a Leaky Gut?

If you suspect that you have a leaky gut, it’s worth investing the time into fixing. Here are some tips to help you get that leaky gut patched up.

Say Farewell to Refined, Processed Foods!

Highly refined, processed foods are really tough on your digestion. Our bodies don’t recognize this type of food, due to how much it’s been altered from it’s natural form. On top of that, they are usually high in sugar, which promotes the growth of bad bacteria. This type of food also typically lacks in fibre, which can promote constipation. Normally these foods are okay in moderation, but if you have leaky gut I recommend steering totally clear until you’re feeling better – at least 8 weeks.

Increase Collagen Intake

Collagen is actually a protein – a very efficient amino-acid builder. Collagen is found in your eyes, bones, skin, organs, and inside your digestive tract. It builds and maintains a healthy gut barrier!

Naturally protein-rich foods are higher in collagen. Bone broth is another great source. Nuts, seeds, beans, and soy are all high in the top 3 amino acids that make up the collagen protein. If you’re plant-based, pair them together to ensure you’re getting enough so that your body can make it’s own collagen.

Eat More Probiotic-rich Foods

Probiotics are healthy bacteria, and this bacteria is essential to a healthy gut! A healthy microbiome (balance of bacteria in the gut) is essential not just for the intestinal wall itself, but it also influences metabolism, immune function, mood, nutrient absorption, and more.

Although the underlying mechanisms are still being uncovered, scientists know that if you want to have a healthy, strong gut lining, healthy bacteria is key. An easy way to add more healthy bacteria to the gut is eating probiotic foods. Examples are things like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, miso, fermented vegetables, and sourdough.


Aside from the foods you can use to heal your gut, there is another tool you want to keep in mind as well: consistency. It’s important to stay consistent with your gut-healthy habits – if you waffle and waiver, it may prolong the healing process!

Leaky gut can’t cause anxiety, but it can be a contributing factor. Just remember: having a healthy gut has been shown to promote better mental health – whether you have intestinal permeability or not. You don’t have to wait until leaky gut becomes an issue – you can also be proactive. Limit refined foods, up your collagen intake, and enjoy probiotic rich foods regularly for a strong, healthy gut.


3 Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine

Have you ever just woken up one morning and thought:

Where did my gusto go? My get out of bed and go? Why do I feel so unmotivated?

A lack of dopamine could be the culprit!

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, reward, and motivation. Yep, it sure makes you feel good.

And when you don’t have enough of it, lack of dopamine symptoms can range from annoying to serious including:

  • lack of motivation
  • mood issues
  • addiction issues
  • fatigue
  • depression


So what causes a dopamine deficiency? Drugs, including caffeine, can have a negative effect. So can alcohol, sugar, stress, and low stomach acid.

Given that many of us are over-caffeinated, totally stressed, and consuming quite a bit of sugar, it’s not hard to believe that this could be a deficiency so many of us are dealing with it.

Now for the fun part: here’s what you can do about it.

1. Supplement with l-tyrosine. Tyrosine is a precursor to the dopamine neurotransmitter. Think of it as an important building block. Supplementing with this may help your body produce more dopamine! Of course, check with your doctor first if you are on any medication.

2. Get moving! Increased exercise can also increase dopamine levels. This is because your body is smart, and wants to let you know that exercise is good. Take a walk, hit up a fitness class, or check in at the nearest gym!

3. Relax. I know this one is easier said than done, but you’re adrenal glands are responsible for making dopamine. If your adrenals are fatigued, it may get in the way of dopamine production. I suggest a bath, a good nights rest, and an adaptogenic smoothie.

Use these tips to help you boost your dopamine naturally!


If you love health and wellness like I do, lets connect!

Find me on Instagram 

Watch me on YouTube


Make it Happen Monday

If you are new here, welcome! If you are back for yet another Make it Happen Monday, then hello again.

If you don’t know already, you will quickly find what I’m all about: spreading love, light, positivity, and ending the stigma against mental health.

When this song was shared with me the other day, my heart melted. It’s really cool to see an artist put out a song that shines a light on mental health. It gives me hope, and I know I’m not the only one.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

In an interview, Logic said he was inspired to write the song after some of his fans told him that his music saved their life. He thought to himself how that was possible, that he had done so without intention. And then he wondered what would happen if he did make that his intention – to make music that could save people.

Anyways, it’s a feel good song – and I think it’s a perfect way to start the week.


If you are struggling today know this: you are worth it.

Happy Monday!


Anti-Drug? Nope – I’m ON drugs. 

Getting into the holistic health industry is nothing short of fascinating, and on a personal level this journey has changed my life. The learning curve has been more of a steep hill, but I’ve managed it. I’ve made changes not just in food, but also in my routine , and this has given me a new way of living life.

But I still eat junk food – only much less often. I still forget to take care of myself sometimes. I still drink way too much coffee. I call this balance.

And by living in balance, I acknowledge that I’m human. Holistic health isn’t about perfection, and it’s definitely not about judgement. It’s about wholism. Holistic health practitioners do just that- they take the whole person into account. I’ve taken that approach and I’ve used it on myself because it’s what I believe in.

During my journey, I came to the realization that although diet and lifestyle was helping me so incredibly much in terms of my anxiety, it left very little room for slip-ups. What I call “slip-ups” would be things like not getting enough sleep, or eating fast food, or missing a work out. If I did, I risked the chance of being sent into an anxiety tailspin. Getting lots of sleep, eating healthy, and working out helped me tremendously, but they helped me the best when I never missed a beat. But what about the whole “being human” thing?

I decided that I couldn’t live so regimented. Yes, there are many ways to deal with anxiety without drugs. The question is, was that a life that I was capable of leading? I needed to find out what my other options were. So in addition to my ongoing wellness routine (regular baths, family time, exercise, eating well, doing activities I enjoy) I decided to add on one more thing: DRUGS. 

I’ve been on an anti-depressant for anxiety for the last couple of months. Withholding this information was not meant to mislead anyone, actually, it was because I didn’t want to share my personal experience until I actually had some personal experience to share. And now I can say, this particular prescription is really working for me.

If this makes you uncomfortable, I want to ask you this: are holistic health and pharmaceuticals really against one another, or is it a false dichotomy? For me, these drugs are a part of my holistic health routine. They aren’t opposite of my wellness routine, they are a part of it. As much as living a healthier lifestyle has helped my anxiety, I wanted to really look at every aspect of my life and make sure I was doing what’s best for me.

So many people think I’m anti-drug. SO many. Guys – there are drugs out there that literally save lives. I know this. I appreciate this. Drugs help people. I’m not anti-drug.

I’m anti-quick fix. I’m anti-the-over-prescription of meds. I’m anti-bandaid approach.

For me, being on anti-depressants isn’t a quick fix. I’ve decided to do this for myself after a lot of careful consideration. It’s not a band-aid. It’s as simple as the idea that my body doesn’t make enough serotonin – so I’m doing what I need to do for the betterment of my health. I haven’t regretted it even for one second.


Admittedly, sometimes I make posts on social media regarding the benefits of food as medicinal – ones that may have seemed contradictory, like this:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I can see where the confusion comes in. I have to say, I am not irresponsible enough to ever encourage anyone to stop taking their medication and replace it with food. The point I often try to make is that drugs are not more important than food.

Can’t they both be important?

Wellness isn’t taking a pill – it’s so much more. And the fact is, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that could attain better health and no longer need to be on medication. But they don’t know that. Type two diabetes, for example, is not a life sentence – with adequate support and a change in lifestyle it can be reversed. Or what about acid re-flux? If you get to the root of the problem, you may no longer find that you need to take antacids before every meal anymore. When I post those photos, that’s the conversation I’m trying to start.

I fight for food education because food is the forgotten soldier. A healthy diet may help balance body systems too. A healthy diet supports longevity. A healthy diet is another tool in your pocket that you could have, and I want you to know how to use it. That is why I make posts like the ones pictured above – I hope to get people talking, and questioning.

Yes I’m on medication, but I don’t believe I would experience the same benefits from it if I didn’t live a healthy lifestyle. They work together, with one another, to help me live the best possible life.

When I started this blog, I thought holistic health meant that I had to commit to a ‘natural’ way of living and healing only. Now I know that whole foods is just a category under the umbrella of holistic health.

Thanks for reading!

Continue reading “Anti-Drug? Nope – I’m ON drugs. “

Why are you Depressed? 

Like many other things in mental health, depression is multifaceted – there are many signs, symptoms, explanations, and origins behind depression. It cannot be explained simply. It can’t be encompassed simply, and it shouldn’t be treated simply.

So why are you depressed? A lot of the stigma that still has a stronghold on mental health reiterates the narrative that people who struggle with depression are just “mentally weak”. Another common misconception is that it only affects the “have-nots” of society, that is, those of lower economic status. (because what could people with money possibly be sad about?)

What’s interesting is that as a society we still haven’t full acknowledged and absorbed just how prevalent depression is. It’s simply not talked about. Well, let’s put a little dent in that today shall we, and talk about it.

So, what is it? Are depressed people weak? Ungrateful? Poor? Messed up? Under difficult circumstances? Negative? Let’s unravel it a little.

There is no one factor that has been indicated in “causing” depression, in fact, there are several things that could be linked between you and your depression.

For example:

  • Food intolerances or allergies
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Traumatizing experiences/ Grief/ Difficult life circumstances
  • Neurotransmitter malfunctions
  • Hormones

Any single factor or combination thereof could be contributing to your depression. I realize this is a small, albiet generalized list – but the point I’m trying to drive home is that there are any number of reasons why you might be depressed.  

This is why I have such an issue with the fact that we treat depression in such a blanketed way: by suggesting antidepressants to treat depression – for everyone. First and foremost: did you know studies have never definitively found a link between serotonin and depression? Yet SSRI’s , which increase serotonin in the body, are the most often prescribed antidepressant.

So, in essence, people with depression are encouraged to take a drug that has not actually been scientifically supported to work. Some studies do say that SSRI’s do show small improvements in some people; other studies chalk that up to a placebo affect.

I know some people personally who take SSRI’s for depression, and they really feel that these drugs work for them. I can’t argue with another person’s experience. And without definitive answers, it is plausible that these drugs could very well improve symptoms for some. I am not anti-drug , I’m just pro-whatever works. What I worry about treating depression with such a “one-size-fits-all” approach is that people might ignore the other factors that could be contributing.

For example, did you know that depression is a symptom of low testosterone in men? Or that hypothyroidism can look like depression? Or that low dopamine correlates with a decrease in motivation, which is a symptom of depression? Or that untreated food allergies and sensitivities can lead to chronic inflammation, leading to fatigue and a host of other symptoms, all of which could contribute to depression? Or that magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression?

Some depression is also circumstantial, you can be optimally healthy and still struggle with depression (you can also be rich and depressed – myth busted). 

So why are you depressed? If you’re not sure, I encourage you to dig deeper. Emotionally and physically. Get whatever test you need to get done. Get in tune with your body. Talk to your doctor, spiritual adviser, your chiropractor, and figure out what’s getting you. And as always, advocate for yourself.

Lord knows – I’m not saying it’s easy. Having had my own mental health struggles for over ten years, I know it takes a lot of work – sometimes years – to get to a good place. All I want for you is to channel that energy into productive ways of figuring it out – when you’re feeling up to it.

Any comments or questions? Please leave them down below, I would be interested to hear about your experience with depression!


Continue reading “Why are you Depressed? “

Anxiety made me Successful

I know you think that the title is a far stretch, but trust me, once you read this post you will be a believer.

I’m stubborn in my ways and always have been. I attribute this to my early anxiety, which manifested itself mainly in my need to control things.

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you: I like to be in control. And of course, I hate being told what to do. Beware: If you pressure me into doing something, I might do the opposite just to spite you. Rest assured: you’ll never tell me what to do again! (cackles evily)

Joking aside, I know that a need for control certainly has its down sides. But let me tell you what it’s done for me.

It’s made me a master of having a plan. It’s made me obsessed with doing what I set out to. It’s kept me driven. Once I’ve set my mind to something, my stubborn ass just won’t let it happen any other way. One day, I set my mind to the idea that I was going to help people. And since that day, I just haven’t been able to let it go.

I believe (or at least I like to believe) that successful people must have a certain obsessive sort of stubbornness to “make it happen” – you have to be determined on a level that others have just never experienced before. You’ve gotta make a deal with yourself that you won’t have it any other way. That’s what I did – and to deny what I promised myself I would do would not only rob me of my integrity but threatens to take away one thing I’ve held dear to my heart for years (It’s my dream… mine!!!). 

My battle with anxiety has also blessed me with an incredible resilience. I can fall down and get back up faster than you can say CUPCAKES.

I fumble and fall, and then I get back up. I make it look effortless, like a choreographed dance I’ve practiced over and over again.


Anxiety made me stubborn, determined, resilient, and last but certainly not least anxiety has also helped me develop a really ridiculous self-deprecating sort of humour, which helps me get through the tough times. Of course, it started off more as a general feeling of utter worthlessness, but now I am able to laugh at it. Laugh in its face. And keep on going.

Just the other night I looked at Matthew and asked “isn’t it fun how every morning I wake up and we never know what kind of mood I’m going to be in? Such a thrill right?” . I face some of the worst shit and I can still laugh about it which is basically akin to any superpower I’ve ever heard of.

Thanks to my anxiety, I am successful every day. I’ve been given  fulfillment in pursuing my purpose, and putting in the work it takes to get there.

Life is more perception than anything else, isn’t it? Is anxiety hard, difficult – scary – gut wrenching? Hell yes.

But it’s also character building. And beautiful. Often downright ridiculous. And sometimes, outright hilarious.


Thanks for reading Strong Babes!

Follow me on Instagram

Watch me on Youtube 

Anxiety: What an Adventure

The other day my boyfriend sent me a text, which read

“Do you want to go to the gym later? I’ll wait for you” 

Bless his heart for being so considerate. It had already been a morning of classes, and I was on my way to work, so he would have been waiting awhile. Unsure, I responded “let me think about it for ten minutes”.

In that moment, I wanted to say yes. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t commit! Just because I wanted to go in the moment that he asked doesn’t necessarily mean that I would be just as ready hours from then.

Anxiety is straight up annoying sometimes for that very reason: because having anxiety means that your emotions, and the way you see the world, can change on a whim. I felt good in that moment, but how was I going to feel six hours from then?

Was I going to eat well, take care of myself, and feel well enough to go? Or could something possibly go wrong? What if he waited for me and close to the end of the day I felt I couldn’t handle it?

Anxiety is an adventure like that; you never know where it will take you. And I can’t make decisions based on how I feel at any given time, but instead I have to play the game of predicting how I’ll feel later.

This is why I can be so flaky sometimes. I make plans with the best of intentions, but then when the plans I’ve made finally come around, I’m not feeling the same. Normal Jen makes plans, Anxiety Jen bails on them.

Not to say that I am not capable of keeping plans, because I am. As long as I eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t take on too many tasks… but that is so much easier said than done!

That night, I didn’t end up going. I predicted that after such a long day of not stopping, I would be too tired. I was right. Hey – I must be getting good at this!


I wonder if “is able to guess in what state of mind I will be in later based on certain variables” looks good on a resume…
Thanks for reading!


Broiled Blood Orange with Coconut Cream and Black Tahini

I have to say, I feel pretty lucky that my S.O. has been willing to embark with me on this nutrition adventure over the last year. Most of the changes I’ve made, he’s more than willingly gone along with.

We drink more, good quality water. We’ve eliminated dairy, and upped our whole foods. We eat at home 95% of the time, and we barely ever buy prepackaged foods anymore. It sounds like a lot, but it’s been a slow progression.

But we both agree, our next adventure: quitting sugar.

For anyone who has even ever thought about trying this, I’m sure you realized: it’s in everything. Your salad dressing. Your pasta sauce. Your crackers. Everything. 

Not only is sugar highly addictive, but it’s also is hard on your liver. It’s a contributing factor to heart disease, and is also indicated as a risk factor for cancer. It’s just got to go. 

So how about trying this snack on for size? It’s sugar free, but it covers all the bases: it’s slightly sweet, citrus-ey,  salty, and creamy.

Ready for the recipe?


  • Two – three blood oranges, sliced
  • 1 can of coconut milk (or cream)
  • 1/4 tsp of vanilla

Well, first things first: put one can of coconut milk (or coconut cream) in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

You are welcome to use store bought tahini, but this black tahini is oh-so-good, if you are willing to give it a try. 

Black Tahini: 

  • 1 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • A pinch (or two) Himalayan salt


Toast sesame seeds in a pan on medium heat – you’ll have to watch these closely and really use your nose, as it is difficult to see them toasting due to their colour. This should take less than five minutes. Once you are done, transfer them to a food processor and mix on high for about two minutes. It should become paste-like in texture. Put the processor on low and slowly add olive oil and sesame oil – I used 1 tbsp of each to get my desired consistency, but feel free to use your discretion. Add a pinch (or two) of Himalayan salt as well.

Take your coconut milk or coconut cream out of the fridge. If you used the milk, scoop out and separate the solid cream into a bowl. If you used the cream, you are good to go. Add about 1/4 a tsp of vanilla extract and whisk until whipped and soft peaks begin to form.

Turn your oven onto high broil. Put sliced blood oranges on a pan on top of some parchment paper, and put in the oven for 1.5-2 minutes. These will broil up quickly – don’t forget about them!

Then take them out of the oven and let them cool for a couple of minutes (3-5). Then, go ahead and add your desired amount of black tahini and coconut cream – and don’t worry, you’ll have tons of leftovers of each.

If you used canned coconut milk, please – don’t throw out the remaining liquid! Throw it in a smoothie, a soup – get creative! Just don’t waste all that goodness!

Is it art or is it food? I would ask: can’t it be both? Either way, it’s a beautiful snack to share with someone who is already sweet enough.

ps…. I ate it all by myself.

Sorry Matthew! I’ll make more sugar free treats in the weeks to come, I will!


If you aren’t already, give me a follow, I post cool recipes like this on the regular.

Thanks for stopping by you guys!

February Update


As we near the end of this month, I realize that I have been avoiding writing this post.

Why? Because I still struggle with facing the truth, and the truth is that I still struggle sometimes. My life is so perfectly imperfect, and to update you all in a genuine way means to be honest. But in a moment where I felt like I didn’t want to be vulnerable, I reminded myself that it is exactly this which brings us together.

If I follow your blog, or I’ve commented on it, or I’ve liked a post, it’s because I found something in you that resonated with me – something real. Your struggle, your passion, your energy – something spoke to me. This is meerly my chance to reciprocate, I suppose.

Earlier this month I turned 28. I know, for a fact, that this will be my best year yet. Why? Because I’m another year smarter, wiser, and I’m taking great care of myself.

But also: no one with anxiety likes to talk about getting older. Because getting older leads to death, and don’t you dare talk to someone with anxiety about death! Yes, it reminded me that I’m walking down a trail to the end. What a beauty and a blessing it is to be alive – I know it wouldn’t be all it’s meant to be if it didn’t end.

Yet I keep wondering, when that time comes – did I do enough? Did I accomplished all I set out to? Did I change the world in any positive way? I know this is mostly my anxiety talking.

Well you know what they say – if you live in the past you are depressed, and if you live in the future you are anxious. The best thing to do is live in the present!

On the bright side, my twin sister and I got to spend some quality time together for our birthday and that was awesome. We went for a bite at this place called Little Henry – it was amazing and they have so many gluten and dairy free options! Then we cruised around some shops and took some photos. And of course, coffee was necessary too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As far as my fitness is concerned, it has been a tough month for getting in the gym! I have been eating on a 95/5 ratio since January but progress has been slow. However, it has been steady. I’m sure if I had more time to dedicate to the gym I would see results sooner.

But hey, that’s life. And the gym will always be there. The abs will be out by summer! Mark my words.

That being said, I am still making it in at least 3x a week so I know I knooooowww *cue eye roll right? That’s quite sufficient for someone who also works and goes to school.

I’m learning not to punish myself when it comes to being perfect. I know it’s a topic I talk about a lot here, but hey – we can’t work through these things overnight. It would be nice though!

Isn’t she cute?

As February comes to an end, I know I have a lot to look forward to. I’m halfway done school and so pumped about it. I’ve started working on and researching for my book – eep! I’m working hard day in and day out to make sure that my dreams come true.


And when I have a bad day, week, or month, I always fall back on the fact that I am surrounded by such a great community of people on social media and WordPress to be there as witness to my ever evolving journey of self-improvement!

I appreciate each and every one of you!

Until next time Strong Babes!

Anxiety is NOT a Character Flaw

Hey #strongbabes – guess what? It’s almost 2017!

It’s only natural that this time of year would cause many of us to pause and reflect, as we venture forward into the New Year.

This post is for those of us who, despite trying this year, still feel like they aren’t good enough. This post is for those who have trouble seeing all they have accomplished this year, because their mind is clouded with self-doubt. This post is especially for those who struggled with mental illness this year and aren’t sure how to move forward.

I need to tell you something.

Mental illness might be a part of you, but it’s not all of you. And your anxiety, your depression, your eating disorder, your bipolar disorder – it’s a condition – not a character flaw.

There is nothing wrong with YOU as a person. If you could, for a moment, separate yourself from your diagnosis. Because it is simply a label for something you are going through.

I have anxiety. But I am not myself anxiety. I’m not even anxious every day, or all the time. It’s just something that comes over me occasionally, like a wave. And like many of you going through something similar, I help myself as best I can and wait for it to pass.

I’ve heard so many of my friends before say that they feel “defective” because of their mental illness. Like they weren’t born right; like they were a mistake. And I’d be lying to you now if I said I never felt that way, because I have.

“What’s wrong with me?” I’d ask. And then I would gently say to myself “nothing is wrong with you, you are just having a hard time”. It’s a place that took me a long time to get to. But I want to see you guys get there too.

And if you are there, don’t be afraid to give a hand up to someone else in need. The next time you hear someone beating themselves up for their mental illness, remind them that there is nothing wrong with them. Remind them that their mental illness is a condition, not a character flaw.

Remind them that they are perfect, perceived flaws and all, and just as they were always meant to be.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.