Why Should We Actually Eat Organic?

Even though (thanks to my wonderful parents) I’ve been eating organic ever since I was a baby, I didn’t truly know what that meant until I became an adult.

I knew it was better for our bodies, but I didn’t really know why. I just assumed it was because the produce was higher quality…..

While many people argue that the term “organic” is a marketing scheme or little more than just a buzzword, the science tells us that’s just not the case.

The main case for eating organic is, of course, the pesticides & herbicides commonly used in conventional farming.

When a plant is sprayed with pesticides, that plant then becomes deadly to insects. This includes pollinators, such as bees, who play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystem.

Even more unfortunately, these pesticides don’t just stick to the plant they’re sprayed on….

Pesticide run-off contaminates clean water sources that precious (and even endangered) species of wildlife inhabit, cross barriers into neighboring organic farms, evaporate into the air and cause respiratory and digestive issues in sensitive individuals, decimates soil bacteria and quality for future farming and kills our already suffering population of honeybees.

Herbicides on the other hand, kill weeds and unwanted plant growth.

The most commonly used form of herbicide in the United States is called glyphosate.

What is glyphosate exactly?

“Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. It is a broad-spectrum herbicide, considered to be nearly nontoxic to humans (Williams et al.2000). However, a recent paper (Samsel & Seneff, 2013), argued that glyphosate may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic and the autism epidemic in the United States, as well as to several other diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, depression, and cancer. ” – This Study on the link between glyphosate and celiacs disease.

As a resident of Sonoma County in Northern California, I will say that during summer months when glyphosate use is most prevalent (as well as yard work such as lawn-mowing that disperses the molecules into our atmosphere) I have an increasing tendency towards digestive issues, brain-fog and headaches.

The same study cited above states that: “Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.”

I could cite hundreds of studies on the adverse effects glyphosate has on the body – and I will probably list a few more pretty soon.

So, glyphosate is designed to kill plants… but it’s still used in farming?

Yep! This is because in 1996, a company called Monsanto (also responsible for the pioneering of glyphosate as an herbicide) released its own breed of genetically engineered plants called “Roundup Ready Crops”. They started with soy beans, followed shortly by corn and cotton.

These seeds had their DNA altered so they could withstand glyphosate, while it killed the other surrounding unwanted plants.

Whether you’re pro-GMOs or not, the evidence is clear that there is a significant amount of seed contamination between Roundup Ready seeds and Non-Roundup Ready seeds.

For example, there have been multiple cases of Roundup Ready crops appearing randomly in the fields of non-GMO farms.

Regardless of opinion, I think most people would agree that the public should at least have a choice as to whether they’re consuming GMOs or not.

But this crop contamination isn’t the only way that glyphosate affects farming.

“This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.” – Microbiologist Robert Kremer for The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

Along with permanently altering the microbiome beneath the plant, glyphosate also alters the plants themselves.

What happens when the chemicals introduced into our ecosystem start to actually genetically alter the affected plants?

I don’t want to know.

Luckily, the Organic Certification is there for those of us who wish to avoid pesticides.

While buying organic can certainly limit one’s pesticide consumption, the line between conventional and organic is growing thinner and thinner.

This is especially true for certain mass-cultivated organic crops (I’ll be using grains as an example, but this issue is also prevalent in other agricultural sectors such as the grape and wine industry) where glyphosate has been found on the harvested plants.

And I’m not talking small amounts of residue.

According to Health Impact News, “… Tropical Traditions tested the USDA certified organic grains from suppliers they had been using, sourced mainly from western states such as Montana and Idaho. Sadly, the presence of glyphosate residue was found in organic wheat and other organic grains, including organic barley, oats, spelt, and einkorn. The range was from 0.03 to 0.06 mg/kg, just slightly lower than the conventional grains that were tested.”

Could this explain the sudden increase in individuals with “Gluten Intolerance”?

What I can say is, I’ve heard (time and time again) stories of how an individual with a gluten intolerance went on vacation to Italy, ate a bowl of wheat pasta or bread, and felt fine.

This might be because Italy, along with several other countries, has put strict regulations on the use of pesticides and herbicides in farming.

And for good reason.

When I found the following two graphs in an article written by two independent scientists (Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff) I was shocked to say the least.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but everything starts in the gut.

When we take an already extremely sensitive microbiome such as our gut, then add chemicals like glyphosate into the mix, we end up with digestive tragedy.

“Glyphosate, patented as an antimicrobial (Monsanto Technology LLC, 2010), has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria in animals, preferentially killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens.” – Samsel & Seneth.

Glyphosate wrecks healthy gut flora, permeates the intestinal barrier thus causing severe food allergies, and can cause liver disease at levels far under what the U.S. permits as “safe”.

A recent study where rats were exposed to low levels of glyphosate over a substantial period of time suggests that this toxic chemical has an ill effect on liver function – even in very small doses.

“… a 2-year study was conducted where rats were administered with a Roundup GBH via drinking water at a concentration of 0.1 ppb (0.05 μg/L glyphosate; daily intake 4 ng/kg bw/day), which is an admissible concentration within the European Union (0.1 μg/L) and USA (700 μg/L). The results showed that Roundup caused an increased incidence in signs of anatomical pathologies, as well as changes in urine and blood biochemical parameters suggestive of liver and kidney functional insufficiency.”

Ok, so clearly there’s some controversy around the safety of this toxic herbicide.

I want to end this article with some actionable tips for keeping pesticides and herbicides out of your body!

  • Eat Organic – This is the most obvious but also the most accessible way to avoid pesticides ending up on your plate. While organic doesn’t necessarily guarantee zero pesticides, it’s a much safer bet than buying conventional.
  • Find Pesticide-Tested Products – More and more companies are waking up to the threat that pesticide use imposes on organic farming. Many organic companies are now actually testing their products for glyphosate residue. This is especially important to look for when buying grains and alcohol, where cross-contamination is most prevalent.
  • Buy Your Pasta From Italy – This is a great option for those buying on a budget. Since wheat grown in Italy is likely to have far less glyphosate than wheat grown in the U.S.A., buying even conventional pasta that’s imported from Italy could be safer than buying pasta that’s made in America. (This applies to wine, olive oil and tomato sauce too!)
  • Keep Up With the Dirty Dozen – Every year, a list is released with the top twelve fruits and vegetables that are grown using the most pesticides. Respectively there’s also a clean fifteen list with the top fifteen fruits and vegetables that are less likely to be grown with high quantities of pesticides. This is a super helpful tool for those buying on a budget. (I would love to write a separate post about buying organic on a budget soon!)
  • Buy Locally – While produce grown in areas where pesticide use is particularly high, buying locally is still always a good idea. Here in Sonoma County, we’re actually living in a glyphosate “Red Zone”, meaning there’s an extremely high amount of glyphosate use in our area. However, small, local organic farmers are likely to care immensely about how their crops are grown. Furthermore, locally grown produce is fresher and higher in nutrients, so the benefits outweigh the negatives – in my opinion.
  • Grow Your Own – This is probably the most effective way to avoid pesticides. When you have complete control over your plants, how they’re grown and even what type of soil is used, there is little room for cross-contamination. Plus, it forces you to eat seasonally and generally tends to be a lot cheaper than shopping at the farmer’s market.
  • Take Supplements – While this is certainly an investment, I believe that your health is well worth it. Supplements such as Restore, Spirulina and Chlorella are all wonderfully supportive to our microbiome and help to keep the ill effects of pesticides at bay.

So there you have it! There are tons of great ways to keep pesticides off your plate.

Bottom line, there’s plenty of evidence out there supporting the idea that pesticides are wildly detrimental to the health of our bodies… and the planet.

Hopefully, we will get this toxic chemical out of our food system with strict regulations and widespread education!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

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How to Successfully Follow a Raw Vegan Diet

So, this is a topic that I am very passionate about.

I hear it time and time again:

“I tried the raw vegan diet, but it just wasn’t for me.”

While the raw diet may seem wildly restrictive, to me it actually makes eating healthy a whole lot easier.

As long as it falls under the “raw vegan” category, I can probably eat it without worrying about feeling sick!

Even with cooked vegan food, there is a wide array of foods that I intentionally avoid due to sensitivities or preferences, whether it’s wheat, soy, canola oil or legumes.

With raw food, seldom do I pick up a drink, snack or even pre-made meal, read the ingredients and find somethin’ sketchy.

As someone with a very sensitive digestive system and body in general, the raw food diet makes enjoying and not worrying about food a dream.

While I’ve never believed that there is one diet for everyone, I do think that many people follow the raw food diet incorrectly, resulting in a negative experience.

The first thing I notice about those who follow raw food diets and end up switching back to eating meat and dairy is their limited, obsessive food restriction.

To be a bit more specific, I’m talking about those who hop on the “fruitarian”, “bazillion bananas a day”, “mango mono-meal” bandwagon.

The only exception to my observations on this are those who live in warm, tropical climates where fresh fruit grows in abundance.

I’ve always believed that we should try to eat according to our location, climate and time of year (for the most part).

So if you’re living in, say, Colorado or Northern California, maybe the high-fruit diet isn’t exactly the best plan of action.

But, if you’re living in Hawaii or Costa Rica, plucking fresh mangoes off a tree makes perfect sense.

Not only does this have a lot to do with the quality and freshness of the produce you’re consuming, but also with how our minds and bodies react to different climates, temperatures and weather patterns.

For example, when it’s sunny and warm out, I automatically eat less, crave fresher foods like salads and juices, and enjoy fruit more often.

But, when it’s cold and rainy, I crave warm soups, hot drinks and heavier comfort foods.

When eating a raw diet that consists primarily (or strictly) of fruit, there is an alarming nutrient deficit that occurs over time, particularly those found in healthy fats.

An article published in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences states that:

“Triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids—the scientific term for fats the body can’t make on its own—store energy, insulate us and protect our vital organs. They act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs. They also start chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of basic metabolism. The cycle of making, breaking, storing and mobilizing fats is at the core of how humans and all animals regulate their energy.”

While fruits do contain a wide variety of nutrients and fiber, they simply do not contain everything we need to thrive on a raw vegan diet – and fat is one of those things!

This brings me to my number one recommendation to those wanting to try the raw vegan diet:

Consume plenty of healthy fats!

There are tons of amazing raw sources of healthy fats including coconut oil and coconut meat, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

The human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat. It needs fat to function properly!

Enjoy healthy fats with every meal, and make sure to keep them varied.

An article published in the Harvard School of Public Health States that:

“The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.”

So add the second half of that avocado to your meal!

Add an extra dollop of cashew cheese to your raw vegan pizza!

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on that salad!

In my opinion, healthy fats play an essential role in maintaining any diet.

While healthy fats are a great addition to the raw vegan lifestyle, there are some foods that will hinder your success.

This brings me to my next tip:

Beware of sugars!

It’s so easy to consume large quantities of sugar when following a raw diet.

When it comes to raw food, some of the easiest things to find are these amazing, beautiful raw desserts… some of which are far more tasty than their cooked, non-vegan counterparts I may add!

When I first committed to a fully raw diet, I binged on desserts.

Whether I was making them myself or found them at health food stores and restaurants, I was consuming way too much sugar.

“It’s raw, so it’s fine!” I thought to myself.

While this is partially true, and raw desserts are generally way healthier than traditional desserts, they’re best eaten in moderation.

Sugar, no matter where it’s coming from, is still sugar.

It feeds candida, perpetuates sugar addiction, and can cause all sorts of health issues from brain fog to obesity when over-consumed.

When following a raw diet, try to stick to whole fruits when sugar cravings creep up…. And even then, it’s best to ask yourself if you really need it, or if it’s possible you’re craving something else.

Start off slow.

When I made the switch to raw foods, I had already been vegan for years.

In my opinion, drastic, cold-turkey changes can often be stressful and/or traumatic to the mind and body.

If I’ve been eating hamburgers and ice cream my whole life, changing them out for salads and green juices could mean more than just a new diet.

While we often don’t like to admit it, we have deep-rooted emotional attachments to the foods we eat – and generally, they’re the same foods we loved growing up.

Food is comforting… certain foods even trigger chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy, sleepy or calm.

While raw food can be totally delicious and satisfy these cravings, it’s still a huge leap from traditional, cooked comfort food.

If you’re considering the raw vegan diet and are not yet vegan or vegetarian, I would strongly recommend making a transition to veganism first.

If you’re already plant-based and/or eating clean foods, maybe start by preparing one raw meal a day.

Then, increase it to two.

This will help to keep stress levels under control, and give you plenty of freedom to experiment with recipes and plan meals.

Switching to the raw diet overnight can be a little intimidating, especially when you haven’t found your go-to meal recipes yet, but you have to feed your body enough nutrients for an entire day.

Letting yourself not have to worry about preparing at least one meal a day can give you plenty of time to research, test and find which recipes you truly love.

Then, when you do make the switch to 100% raw foods, you’ll be well prepared with tons of recipes to get you through the week.

Making and eating raw food can be super fun, especially if you like to experiment in the kitchen. Trying to make raw vegan recipes that look and taste identical to traditional cooked favorites is a blast!

Get your nutrients down!

There is an intimidating list of nutrients that we need to function properly as human beings.

When you first start your raw vegan diet, it’s imperative to make sure you’re reaching your nutrient goals.

It’s generally pretty easy to reach macronutrient goals on a raw diet (these are the “umbrella” nutrients such as fat and protein), but micronutrients require a bit more attention.

The good news is, raw plant foods are loaded with bio-available nutrients, as well as the enzymes and fiber necessary for our body to properly absorb them.

When food is cooked, many of those enzymes and nutrients are killed or lost in the heating process.

The not-so-good news is that it can be a little bit of a pain in the butt to track your intake of these nutrients.

My favorite way to do this is with an app called Cronometer.

While I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by this app at all, it’s extremely useful – especially when first starting any new diet.

It’s easy to use (you just log the foods you eat into the app) and they have a vast database of foods already available.

You will learn very quickly whether or not you’re getting the nutrients you need, and things get pretty simple from there.

For example, by using Cronometer for just four days I learned that I rarely hit my daily recommended intake of selenium.

Luckily, this was such an easy fix!

I added brazil nuts into my diet, and… bam! the problem was solved.

Even just one missing nutrient can cause a diet to be unsuccessful… even if there’s an easy way to get it!

My top nutrient deficiencies to look out for on a raw diet are:

Vitamin B-12: Vegan B-12 spray such as this one

Iron: Leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, blackstrap molasses

Selenium: Brazil nuts

Choline: Collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, sunflower seeds

Protein (complete amino acid profile): Spirulina, leafy greens, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Warm is good… especially during the winter!

I have a lot more difficulties with following a raw diet when it’s cold outside.

Generally, it’s easy for me to eat 100% raw during the spring and summer, but come fall I start to want to incorporate some cooked foods.

Root vegetables, veggie broths, cooked carbs like quinoa and plentiful hot almond milk matcha lattes are hard for me to stay away from.

While I do sometimes enjoy adding cooked veggies to the mix when the rain rolls around, there are periods of time when I still want to eat fully raw, whether it’s for a winter detox or just because.

This is when the dehydrator becomes my best friend.

When the rain is pouring down and all I want to do is curl up with a big bowl of pasta, warm zucchini noodles and raw “neatballs” straight out of the dehydrator works wonders!

Hot teas, miso broth and warm blended raw soups are all winter favorites of mine as well.

Another great winter addition to any raw diet is spice!

Spicy foods can help increase fire in the body, keeping you warm and helping to maintain digestive efficiency.

Adding lots of healthy fats to your diet is also a great way to stay satisfied all winter long!

Overall, it is possible to eat… and stay…. raw vegan!

By following the rules above, I have had zero problems maintaining a raw vegan diet.

I have more energy, my digestion works better and my skin clears up within weeks of transitioning to only raw foods!

I’ll write a separate post soon on the science of raw food soon, and why it can be a great tool for those who are trying to heal themselves.

Are you raw vegan?

Have you tried the raw vegan diet?

Let me know!!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

How I Healed my Clinical Depression Naturally

Ever since I was 12 years old, I’ve struggled with my mental health.

Growing up with explosive anger around me for a significant part of my early childhood, I learned at a young age to internalize my emotions.

I would hold anger in different areas of my body, never letting out a single peep. This was, in my opinion, what lead to my depression later on.

I’ll write a separate post on the whole story soon, because there are a lot of details that I feel could be helpful to some, especially to parents of teenagers and young people going through similar situations as I did… or just for anyone who’s curious!

This post is going to be mainly about how I dealt with my depression, and what I would and wouldn’t recommend from my journey to healing.

I want to start off my saying that I’m by no means cured.

I still struggle with my mental health on a weekly basis. Healing is a process, not a final destination!

However, my clinical depression no longer weighs me down, and it’s safe for me to say that I no longer consider myself a depressed person.

It became apparent that I had some sort of emotional imbalance while I was in high school. I had just switched from mainstream high school to a smaller, partially homeschool program where the students had all known each other for years.

After I turned about 15, my desire for social interaction had been steadily declining until I was only seeing friends when I was at school.

So, when I switched to a much less structured situation where I didn’t know anyone, I completely isolated myself from other people.

I had hours upon hours of free time to myself, with no real passions or goals.

My mental health quickly spiraled downhill.

I spent most of my time binge-watching movies and TV shows. (I just wrote a post all about my Netflix addiction, which you can read here if you’d like. In it, I delve a bit more into the psychology of watching TV and how it affected me personally.)

My parents instantly became very concerned.

Unsure of what to do, and knowing I have a family history of clinical depression, they quickly sent me to my doctor.

After explaining my symptoms, she nodded:

“Yep, sounds like depression. Do you want to look at the options for medication?”

My parents and I were head-set on getting me the help I needed through natural means, so we made the decision to see a naturopathic doctor.

She asked me some questions, gave me some advice (such as to “exercise more”) and told me to take a turmeric supplement.

I left feeling… disheartened.

It felt like no one on Earth had ever experienced what I was going through, and no one had a single clue how to help me – not even doctors.

I’d been given some advice that any average Joe could provide, and thrown two different pills after less than thirty minutes of reviewing my symptoms.

My dad took me to the store, and bought me a bottle of turmeric capsules.

Long story short, I didn’t notice any significant improvements. I still felt like I was carrying a hundred pound weight on my shoulders.

When I started my first post-school job, I started interacting with others, and had less time to wallow and lay in my dark room alone.

This brings me to remedy #1 that helped me overcome my depression:

Vitamin D

Not once in my journey through meeting with health care professionals did I hear mention of nutrient, vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

When I was depressed, I hardly ever saw the sun.

If I didn’t have to set foot outside, I wouldn’t.

About a week after I started exposing my skin to the summer sun on the way to work and on my lunch breaks, I noticed an improvement in my motivation, and just getting out the door in the morning became easier for me.

I wasn’t aware of this back then, but looking back now, the times when I remember being most content were summers when I would spend my days laying in the warm sun.

For this reason, I still cope with seasonal depression – I tend to become more susceptible to emotional imbalances during the winter months when it’s cold and rainy.

Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

Over three million cases of vitamin D deficiency in the US are recorded annually, and this obviously doesn’t count the amount of people who aren’t tested.

The most amazing thing about vitamin D is that it’s free! Your body produces vitamin D on its own when exposed to sunlight, which means that all you really need to do is lay in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes.

There are also some great vitamin D supplements out there – I use this one.

This is especially helpful during the winter months or when I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is one of the most researched factors in treating depression.

One study states: “We review the findings in major depression of … low vitamin B12 status. Both low folate and low vitamin B12 status have been found in studies of depressive patients, and an association between depression and low levels of the two vitamins is found in studies of the general population.”

If I could accredit one supplement to the improvement of my overall mental health, it would definitely be B-12.

B-12 is especially important for vegetarians, vegans and those who don’t consume a large amount of animal products.

While it’s relatively easy to find a B-12 supplement, many of them aren’t high quality and your body won’t actually absorb what it needs.

I highly recommend investing in a high quality B-12 spray, such as this one or this one.

Magnesium

This one is especially helpful if you suffer from stress and anxiety.

I have an entire blog post on magnesium that you can read here, but I definitely needed to add it to this post as well.

Magnesium has helped me so much with my mental health, and my ability to calm down when I’m seriously stressed out.

An article published in the US National Library of Medicine states that “An impoverished Mg (magnesium) diet is associated with depression in humans”, and “Low serum and cerebrospinal fluid Mg levels have also been associated with depressive symptomology and suicidality”.

Yoga

While I was less than motivated to go for a walk or a run – let alone go to the gym – rolling out my yoga mat and practicing some gentle stretching was always doable.

I would pull up a short yoga video on YouTube and practice along.

There has never been a time when I didn’t feel at least a little bit better after twenty minutes of yoga.

There have been a significant amount of individuals who claim to have overcome serious mental disorders through yoga and meditation, and Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”

Not only is moving your body and getting blood circulating immensely supportive of overall brain health and function, but the calming, meditative aspects of yoga can really help to soothe the mind.

Diet

This was the most important part of my healing.

It was when I changed my diet and eating habits that I noticed the most radical changes in my mood.

Diet is acknowledged by the medical community to play a huge role in mental health… there’s even a field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry!

Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet as an example) was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.”

To me, the line between an unhealthy diet and depressive disorders is clear….

When I felt emotionally the worst, I was eating mainly foods lacking in living energy such as processed vegan meat alternatives, processed non-dairy milks, sugary products, noodles – loads of noodles – and soy-based products.

When I started eating primarily raw leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and I incorporated supplements like spirulina and the aforementioned B-12 into my life, I noticed huge improvements.

I consumed nutrient-dense, high life-force foods like sprouts, green juices, chia puddings, green soups and smoothies.

I cut out all forms of processed sugars and grains, and replaced them with whole plant foods.

For the most part, I was following a high-raw diet with loads of healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.

This is the same diet I’m following currently, and I always notice big changes in my mind and body when I switch onto raw foods!

Meditation

While I wasn’t exactly sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed and focusing on my breath during the depths of my depression, I spent a lot of time working on my thought processes.

When my mind wanted to show me thoughts about how alone I was or how much of a loser I was, I actively trained myself to not take them seriously or see them as truth.

I tried my best to imagine what I wanted my life to look like, how I wanted to contribute to making the world a better place and how I could get there.

Focusing on a positive future helped me immensely when I was feeling down on my reality, and it drove me forward.

While it can be extremely difficult to gain control of your mind, it can be done.

Knowing what I know now about how beneficial meditation can be, I would highly recommend it to anyone, no matter their state of mind or situation.

This can be guided meditation, mindful breath practice, yoga or just simply sitting outside and listening to the birds chirping.

Almost any quiet, relaxing activity can be used as a vehicle to practice meditation.

Knitting, painting, stretching, going for a walk, taking a hot bath or shower or even making a cup of tea can all be meditative and calming to the mind. You don’t need to force yourself to sit quietly and try not to think… it’s not about that!

Whatever gets you into a quiet, calm and reflective state is a great place to start.

As always, please speak to your health care professional if you feel like you could be depressed. Reaching out to close friends and family can also be super helpful.

These are all things that I did to help me overcome my depression, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what everyone should do.

My inbox is always open, and I would be more than happy to listen or help in any way I can.

One mantra I’ve learned to tell myself during my darkest times is that I’m supposed to be here, going through whatever I’m going through right now.

I’ll share a quote that came to me when I needed it most:

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors or aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

My Breakup with Netflix

Watching Netflix on a laptop in bed

Actually, it was more like a divorce.

First, I questioned our relationship.

Then, we needed to talk.

Next, I needed space.

Eventually, we came back together, but it just wasn’t working for me anymore. I’d been happier and felt more fulfilled in our time apart.

I felt… different. Things had changed….

I had changed.

So, I said goodbye.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. It felt right.

This definitely wasn’t always the case, though. Just a couple of years ago, the idea of letting go my endless days and nights of Netflix binging would have made me go into a panic attack.

Growing up, particularly in high school, I never felt like I fully connected to my peers. When I switched to a small, partially homeschool program in 11th grade, I became even more isolated. Everyone had been going to school together since they were in kindergarten, and I was too depressed at the time to go out of my comfort zone and try to make friends.

I can definitely count on one hand the amount of times I had any social interaction in my final two years of high school.

I’ll write a post on this soon, because I think it’s an important topic to talk about.

Bottom line, I felt very alone.

I was seventeen years old with no aspirations or goals, and no one to talk to – aside from my parents, who are wonderful, spiritual people. However, sometimes you just feel that you can’t talk to them about some things when you’re young.

I had always loved any sort of media, from the time I was eight and received a Nintendo DS for Christmas.

My parents did their best to balance my time playing video games and watching television, but once I was older, I had infinitely more freedom with my time… leaving tons of space for any activity.

I quickly became severely addicted to Netflix and YouTube, as well as several other TV show-viewing platforms.

I would lay in my bed for hours at a time, often never setting foot outside for multiple days.

I would scribble through my homework just so I could get back to the newest season of Orange is the New Black, New Girl or American Horror Story.

As ridiculous as it may sound, the characters of these shows felt like my friends.

They were people I could relate to, and watching their social interactions momentarily satisfied my own loneliness… at least on a conscious level.

There was a certain point where I started noticing that I was becoming emotionally attached to these fictional characters. I would become depressed when a season was over, and obsessed over the show’s return.

I would re-watch old episodes – or entire seasons – multiple times for comfort.

I started questioning if this habit was helping me or hurting me.

After high school, I got a job cashiering at a local health food store.

This filled up a lot of my time, and forced me to interact with co-workers and customers, helping my emotional stability immensely.

I still watched a lot of Netflix – don’t get me wrong. But it was the beginning of the end.

A while later when I met my partner, I was absolutely shocked to the core when he told me he had never watched my favorite shows like The Office or Skins.

In fact, he had never seen any TV shows, save for two or three I’d never even heard of.

What was the point of living in a world without Michael Scott’s unapologetic ignorance or Jim & Pam’s adorable relationship progression?

I didn’t want to know.

He explained to me that he had never been a huge fan of TV, and that he felt it was a waste of time and mental focus. At first, I didn’t understand.

Come summertime, I started eating cleaner foods, more raw vegetables and less sugar. I started drinking more water.

I was steadily becoming a more stable, generally happier person.

Months went by, and I slowly started watching less and less Netflix.

I was getting outside more, absorbing sunlight, working on creative projects, learning. I was focusing my energy on things I loved.

There came a point where I couldn’t sit and watch anything without becoming restless.

The distance made me really start to think.

What was I gaining from these shows? Was I becoming a better human? Was I learning anything that would help me in the future? Was I developing a true sense of what people are really like?

Or was I flooding my brain with false interactions, negative stories, violent imagery and a structured, formulaic sense of the world?

I had shaken my depression, and I was working on things I was excited about. I didn’t feel like I even had time for Netflix anymore.

I sat down one night and tried to finish a series I had been watching… and something just wasn’t clicking. I saw the characters as actors and actresses, playing out an act that they had performed countless times to perfect.

I could see the entire team behind the scenes making sure every aspect of the production from lighting, to hair, to timing was impeccable.

It wasn’t filling a void for me anymore, because I had filled that void with art and learning and movement and spending time with people I loved and taking care of my mind and body.

I was truly happier without Netflix.

To this day, I haven’t watched a single TV series or Netflix show in over a year.

And it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If I really feel like zoning out and laughing for a while, I hop on YouTube… I enjoy the realness of it and how short most of the videos are.

I am in no way saying that I think Netflix is evil, stupid or even a waste of time. Sometimes we just need to relax and focus on something we enjoy for a while. Maybe after a long day at work, while we’re down for the count with a cold or flu, or, in my case, PMS-ing.

But, I truly believe it’s so important to limit time spent watching movies and TV shows, and put it towards any other (healthy) activity.

I feel this is especially true for those times when boredom strikes, and we feel we don’t have anything better to do than flip on a Netflix original.

“Well, I’ve gone to the gym today already….” Maybe some yoga will help clear your mind and stretch out your sore muscles!

“I already got all my work done for the day.” How about making a to-do list for yourself for tomorrow?

“I need something to watch while I eat.” I’m very guilty of this one. Studies have shown that watching TV while eating can cause sluggish digestion and overeating, and lowers metabolism.

While there are always “better” more productive things to do, sometimes you might just want to watch some TV.

And there’s nothing wrong with that!

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s just to stay aware.

Aware of the amount of time you spend watching movies or TV shows.

Aware of if this is something you really want to be doing right now, or if you’re just bored or stuck in a habit.

Aware of how a particular show is making you feel. Is it causing negative thoughts or emotions? Is it making you feel sick or scared?

If it is, maybe consider looking around for something a little more uplifting! Your state of mind is so important, and keeping positivity flowing through it is hard enough without the addition of fictional drama, violence or heartbreak.

One of the most profound turning points for me in my journey through my TV show addiction was when I started watching a very popular, yet very twisted & disturbing series on a TV show-viewing platform called Hulu.

It genuinely made me sick to my stomach, and the horrifying concepts and imagery stuck with me for days after I had watched it. I was hooked into the storyline, but at the same time, I found myself dread sitting through each episode.

After snapping myself out of my obsession with the show, I quit mid-series. I became confused and angry.

How was this show so popular!? It was so dark, depraved and depressing. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for any of the characters as far as I could tell, and the forces of evil cast a looming, nerve-racking overlay over the whole setting.

I started thinking back to all the scary movies I’d watched growing up, and how they lead to my current fears and perceptions.

Even now, I have flashbacks to disturbing scenes from horror movies I watched years and years ago.

Studies have shown that your subconscious mind has limited discretion between what’s real and what’s not.

When you watch someone getting brutally murdered on TV, some part of your brain thinks it’s really happening. The intensity of the scene can break through your conscious knowledge that what you’re watching is fake, and make your “primitive” or instinctual brain think you could be in danger.

After learning this, my views on television were further reaffirmed.

All in all, I don’t have anything against television shows per se.

But to me, I’ve had enough for a lifetime, and I’m ready to live the rest of my life Netflix-free.

What do you think about TV shows? I always love hearing different views and opinions, and this topic is totally fascinating to me!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Magnesium, the Miracle Mineral

Magnesium Salt

In all my years of stressing over one thing or another, nothing has helped me quite like magnesium – specifically, magnesium chloride.

When we’re stressed, our bodies dump magnesium through waste processes. This is one reason why it’s so important to include magnesium in your health routine, especially if you suffer from anxiety or stress frequently.

Magnesium is a very crucial mineral that most people are severely lacking in their diets. It’s extremely important for maintaining mental health and stability, aids immensely in the relaxation of joints and muscle tissue, and helps to prevent calcification in the body.

I often notice immediate relief from muscle cramping and joint pain when I apply magnesium chloride topically.

Magnesium regulates the “HPA Axis”, or the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, which in turn regulates our stress response.

“Supplementing Mg levels in mice has been demonstrated to reduce the expression of anxiety-related behavior” – Neil Bernard Boyle, Clare Lawton, and Louise Dye.

While many people see improvements in their stress response after using a bio-available source of magnesium, it’s also been shown to improve symptoms of depression.

The same article written by the individuals mentioned above – published in the US National Library of Medicine – states that “An impoverished Mg (magnesium) diet is associated with depression in humans”, and “Low serum and cerebrospinal fluid Mg levels have also been associated with depressive symptomology and suicidality”.

There are several different types of magnesium including magnesium sulfate and magnesium citrate, however there is some controversy on their bioavailability, as well as concerns that they may be dehydrating due to their hydrophilic properties.

Both of these types of magnesium are commonly used to relieve both stress and occasional constipation, and are generally more inexpensive than magnesium chloride.

My absolute favorite ways to use magnesium are in sprays and soaks.

There are several different brands of magnesium spray. Some tend to have a strange oily feeling that doesn’t go away, while others absorb right into the skin and leave very little residue on the skin’s surface. The brand I like to use is this one. I’m not at all sponsored by this company, it’s just much less oily than others I’ve tried.

When first starting to use magnesium spray, start off slowly to acclimate your body to its new magnesium levels. 10-15 sprays per day is a good place to start!

What I Use Magnesium For….

For sore muscles after hiking or working out, I will use 5-10 sprays of magnesium chloride solution on the area and massage it in. I tend to notice effects immediately with this method.

Magnesium spray is also wonderful for headache relief – I am a common headache-haver, and nothing works quite like magnesium spray. For headaches, I massage 4-6 sprays onto the back of my neck, shoulders, temples and hairline, and then repeat several times after the first coat has dried.

For menstrual cramps, I will rub 5-10 sprays on my abdomen, and then repeat multiple times after each coat dries. For those with minor menstrual pain, I could see magnesium working especially well.

For stress & anxiety, I will dissolve half a tub of magnesium chloride flakes into a bucket of very warm water and use as a foot soak for 15-25 minutes. This method works best for me as a mental relaxant, and is also a soothing, comforting experience all the way around.

I’ll usually add 3-4 drops of lavender or eucalyptus essential oil to the water to make it an even more relaxing experience!

If you have a bathtub, I highly recommend adding magnesium chloride flakes to a full bath. If you’re like me and don’t have a bathtub (we’ll get through this together) magnesium foot soaks work almost just as well.

For restful sleep, I will basically just apply magnesium chloride spray to my entire body, focusing on my abdominal area, calves, feet, neck and shoulders.

I also use magnesium chloride spray whenever I think about it, just for magnesium maintenance!

Make Your Own Magnesium Spray…

If you’d like a more economical option or just don’t feel like going out and searching for a pre-made solution, you can totally make your own magnesium spray!

Just dissolve magnesium chloride flakes in hot distilled water in a 1:1 ratio!

It’s that easy.

You can add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil if you like, as well.

The Bottom Line…

Overall, magnesium is one of my top go-to’s in uncomfortable situations, from stress to headaches. In my opinion, it’s a must-have wellness tool for everyone, especially those dealing with sleep issues, anxiety, depression or aches and pains.

If you want to do your own research on magnesium, here is the article I referenced towards the beginning of this post. It’s filled with more cool studies, information and science about this amazing mineral!

What are your experiences with magnesium? I want to know!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Aloe Vera, Nature’s Slimy Skin Serum

Ahh, aloe.

When I was little, I was obsessed with the slimy, antibacterial succulent. Any time I got any little scratch or cut, I would beg my mom to slice open a leaf of aloe vera so I could slather it all over the aforementioned injury.

I didn’t know much about aloe, or any of it’s magical healing properties, I just knew it was slimy, looked cool and left a cold, tingly feeling on my skin.

As I learned more about this amazing plant, my aloe admiration began to grow.

While I don’t particularly enjoy consuming aloe (it’s a textural thing, mostly) I absolutely love using it topically.

Back when I had a ton of Candida Albicans yeast overgrowth in my body, my face would frequently break out in horrible red rashes. Aloe vera helped to soothe and calm these breakouts, so I used it often.

Aloe vera has been used for centuries by ancient Chinese, Native American, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, and Egyptian civilizations. According to Lily of the Desert‘s website, Cleopatra used aloe vera on her skin regularly. I don’t know how to fact check this, but she’s said to have had glowing skin, so I completely believe it.

Aloe vera contains antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties, as well as antioxidant vitamins A and E.

A wonderful addition to any vegan or vegetarian diet, aloe contains amino acids, vitamin B-12 and even choline! Choline, which plays an important role in the metabolic process, as well as maintaining cell structure, is one of the more difficult nutrients to find on a vegan diet, and is usually ingested in things like eggs, meat and fish.

When it comes to healing properties, aloe is beneficial when taken internally as well as when used externally.

Aloe is a commonly used tool in the world of gut health, due to its gentle laxative effects and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to increase peristaltic activity in the intestines, resulting in improved bowel function. It’s also very lubricating, which soothes the gut and helps to maintain proper digestion. According to this study, aloe vera may also help to increase the good bacteria living in your gut.

Now onto the main reason I use aloe vera – its powerful skin healing properties!

When applied topically, aloe vera deeply moisturizes the skin, promotes collagen production, soothes inflammation, kills acne-causing bacteria and protects the skin from free radical damage; helping to slow down signs of aging.

Every time I apply aloe vera gel, I notice a difference in my skins overall appearance overnight.

It softens, plumps and moisturizes my skin while seriously diminishing redness. If I have any blemishes, they noticeably reduce in size as well.

I only use two types of aloe.

Bottled organic 100% aloe vera juice, and fresh, whole aloe vera leaves.

When it’s available at the health food store, I will usually opt for the fresh leaf because it has all it’s raw enzymes and nutrients intact. However, I still notice incredible benefits from using the juice as well.

If you’re using aloe juice, simply moisten a cotton pad with the juice and wipe it over your (freshly cleansed) face and neck. You can also pop a couple of aloe juice soaked cotton pads in the fridge and use them as soothing under-eye pads.

If you’re using the whole leaf, filet the leaf by slicing the green outer skin to reveal the magical goopy inner gel. I will usually just rub this into my skin, but you can also blend it to make a hydrating gel and use it that way.

It will form a protective, hydrating film over your skin. For this reason, I recommend using it in the evening before bed, so you can rinse off any remaining aloe when you wake up.

You can use the same aloe filet for another day or two – just scratch off the protective film it will form overnight. (Put any sliced pieces of aloe on a paper towel on a plate, as it can stain surfaces over time. I learned this the hard way!)

As far as consuming aloe vera, there are only two ways I’ve been able to get it down.

Method number one is to blend it into something. Overall, it has a very mild flavor, so it goes relatively unnoticed in smoothies and juices.

Method number two is chopping it up into teeny tiny pieces and dumping it into fresh coconut water. The aloe actually pairs nicely with the coconut water and makes for a refreshing beverage. I also kind of enjoy the little surprise bites of aloe with each sip.

While it’s definitely a little weird to eat, the benefits make it well worth the strange eating experience!

Overall, aloe vera is definitely on my list of the most magical plants of all time. It’s one of those things that I believe was gifted to us by nature, free to use, asking nothing in return but for us to show appreciation and love to ourselves.

If you want to read more about this fascinating plant on your own, I’ll link the source I used to write the science-y aspects of this blog post here.

If you are already a fan of aloe, let’s obsess over it together!

If you’re convinced and want to try it out, let me know if you have any questions or comments… I want to know what you think!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

How I Cope With “Ailment Anxiety”

This is a huge topic for me.

Ever since I was a wee seventh grader, I’ve had self-esteem and social anxiety issues.

Now, I know almost every human age twelve and older has – or still does – struggled with the topic of self-love at some point.

When I was younger, my anxieties and embarrassments generally stemmed from my outward appearance: acne, weight gain, facial features, hair color (teen angst has no boundaries), clothes, status etc.

Towards the end of my high school career, my self-esteem woes graduated to feeling uncertain about my personality, mental health, intelligence, and my ability to make connections with others.

I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since those days. I now choose to put my energy towards working creatively, taking care of my mind and body and helping others… though some sour thoughts definitely still creep up on me now and then.

The vast majority of my negative self talk now stems from my physical and emotional ailments. As ironic as it is, a lot of my stress and anxiety actually comes from… well… stress and anxiety!

For example, something will arise in my surroundings that will trigger a wave of anxiety in my body. Not only am I anxious about this thing that’s happening, but I’m also anxious about the fact that I’m anxious!

“What’s this doing to my adrenals?”

“Why can’t I get rid of these feelings?”

“Is this what’s causing my stomach issues?”

“If I can’t stop feeling stressed I’ll NEVER heal….”

These are all thoughts I often experience when I’m feeling any sort of emotion one might describe as “negative” or “painful”.

Aside from emotional ailments, my physical dis-eases also stress me the heck out on a consistent basis. If I have a stomach ache, I’ll start worrying about what I might have done to cause this discomfort, how I can get rid of it and why I was cursed with gut issues.

And what do you know? We’re back at square one, and the cycle continues.

Pain leads to stress, which leads to more stress, which leads to more pain, which leads to even more stress!

I call these my “ailment anxieties”.

I know more people than I could ever imagine also go through similar processes.

While I’m still cradled in the depths of my self-healing and self-loving journey, I’ve found a few helpful tools to cope with the physical and emotional insecurities I go through.

Hopefully they’ll help you too!

Self care is key.

One thing that can seriously help when you’re feeling down about the state of your mind and/or body is to pamper yourself. If you’re at home, put on some of your favorite positive music, brew yourself a hot cup of decaf tea or ask a loved one to make one for you, put on a soothing face mask and inhale some essential oils.

If food is a comfort factor for you (it most certainly is for me), you could even make a healthy version of your favorite treat. This could be a mug of hot cocoa, a home-made muffin (or two), a quick bowl of blender banana nice cream or my personal super easy favorite, a chunk of raw vegan chocolate. I will always recommend staying low-to-no added sugar with any recipe, especially if you struggle with anxiety, and ideally grain or at least gluten-free!

Feelin’ clean is a dream!

Sometimes I just feel uncomfortable in my body. This could be at the end of a rough day, after an attack of some sort of dis-ease related pain, or just when I’m feeling down about myself for some reason or another.

One guaranteed way to feel at least a little bit better is to get squeaky clean! For me, there’s nothing quite as lovely as the feeling of putting on some clean, comfy clothes after a cleansing shower or bath. I’ve never once stepped out of a hot, steamy, essential oil enhanced shower and said to myself, “I feel way worse now”.

Watch something that makes you laugh.

This may seem counter-productive or like an escape of sorts, but it works extremely well for me – especially when I’m really going through it. For example, I suffer from dysmenorrhea, or debilitating menstrual cramps, as well as PMS symptoms created by the devil himself. Watching some of my favorite YouTube comedians and laughing for a while really helps me to lift the blues.

While I try not to make this a habit, it’s a wonderful tool and I’m so grateful for it. If YouTube isn’t your thing, maybe reading an uplifting book, re-watching a favorite childhood movie or diving back into your favorite Netflix series might hit the spot.

Write down 10 (or more) things you love about yourself.

This tool is great regardless of if you’re feeling not-so-hot… or not! Reminding yourself why you’re awesome can help reset your subconscious mind to having positive feelings around you and your body. It was difficult for me at first… but after I found three things I loved – or even just liked – about myself, they started flowing easier. Just grab a pen and paper and write away! I like to include at least a couple of notes about my physical body and how much I appreciate that it’s working so hard to keep me alive, even though I may not be feeling my best at that moment.

Practice some gentle yoga or meditation.

Even just fifteen to thirty minutes of gentle yoga or meditation can really help remove one from ones anxieties and worries.

My favorite way to soothe my mind quickly is to lay flat on my bed, a yoga mat or couch, close my eyes, and count from one to a hundred. As I do so, I visualize that with every twenty seconds I count, one part of my body is just becoming empty space. I start from my feet and work up to my shoulders, all the way to the top of my head.

This really helps me calm down and relaxes my entire body. I usually notice a lot of tension release in the form of twitches and tingles when I practice this meditation!

Absorb some magnesium.

If you aren’t already familiar with magnesium, it’s a magical mineral that can seriously promote a sense of tranquility and well-being. It helps to calm the nervous system, release tension in the muscles and ease anxiety.

My favorite ways to use magnesium is in the form of topical magnesium chloride spray, as well as magnesium chloride bath flakes. If you feel like you need a particularly large dose of calm, add 1/3 to 1/2 a container of magnesium chloride flakes into a bath, or in a bucket to soak your feet. There are also magnesium drink mixes and capsules, but I find topical application works much quicker.

So there you have it!

Those are a few of the things that I practice to help me cope with my “ailment anxiety”.

If you have any questions or just need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna