After Hours 4.27.23
Discussion 22: Integrative Health and Sustainability with Alandra Chavarria
Meet Alandra Chavarria, health and wellness coach with a passion for holistic wellness and owner of coaching business, A Bit of Thyme. Alandra initially went to school for art, specializing in photography, and worked as an art director and stylist. However, after suffering health issues of her own, she knew she wanted wellness to be her life’s work. Now certified in holistic nutrition and wellness, Alandra blends art and beauty into her coaching practice and every day life. From sharing her story on social media to working 1:1 with clients, she continues to bring healing, connection, and empowerment to the people in her community. Sit down with us as we discuss what a sustainable lifestyle means to Alandra and chat about nutrition and integrative health.
What inspired you to get into Integrative Nutrition? Did you have a lightbulb moment?
When I was 22, I fell deathly ill. I'd suffered from chronic illness and gut health issues for nearly a decade, but at 22, my health took a drastic shift. I had debilitating brain fog, dizziness, nausea, bloody stools, weight loss, constricted breathing, chronic pain, and the inability to eat anything without it feeling like poison in my body. Next thing I knew, I was in a wheelchair and on bed rest. As terrified as I was, I knew naturopathic medicine was the healing path for me, after being ignored by our corporate health system for so many years. So I dedicated myself to naturopathic, integrative healing protocols which included herbal antimicrobials, feeding tube formula, IV infusions, and lifestyle and nutrition shifts. My healing protocols were not easy, nor were they linear. Toward the end of my Elemental Diet protocol (feeding tube formula), I began reintroducing broths and pureed food, but my body couldn't keep anything down. This was the moment I deeply believed I was dying. In an effort to make peace with the fact that my body was deteriorating, I cried to my partner at the time, telling him this was it for me and it would be best if he moved on. But in between words, I felt this warmth around my body, an energy that said to me, "This isn't it. This is for you." From that moment on, Integrative Nutrition and wellness became my focus and passion. And my lightbulb moment was simultaneously my spiritual awakening.
What exactly does "holistic health" mean?
Holistic is defined as "the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by a reference to the whole." In reference to health and medicine, this means we look at the person as a whole, taking into account every part of their lifestyle -- mental and emotional health, nutrition, exercise and movement, relationships, home life, career, self-care & joy, finances, creativity, etc. This is a preventative and long-term approach, rather than a reactive, band-aid solution to symptoms of an illness.
Why is it important to also take into consideration the mental/emotional state when considering your nutrition?
Our mental/emotional state directly impacts the function of our gut (via the vagus nerve) and vice versa. This is why people get "nervous poops," nausea, or loss of appetite when anxious, stressed, sad, or fearful. From an Eastern Medicine perspective, this is true for all organs in the body - there is always an energetic and emotional component. In integrative nutrition, we call this "science and spirit."
From a medicinal perspective, considering the energetic and emotional state of a person while working on their nutrition plan or healing protocol is especially important because certain ingredients and herbal supplements will support specific mental/emotional conditions. For example, Ashwaganda and L Theanine are great for a client who may feel stressed or anxious, while Lion's Mane will help with depression and mental clarity/brain fog.
But most importantly -- 95% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, so the only way to support this is by taking care of ourselves both mentally and physically. And while a diversity of nutrient-dense and colorful plant foods increase our serotonin production and support our brain chemistry, processed foods on the other hand do the exact opposite by creating stress responses in the body, impacting our gut health, immune system response, and mental/emotional state.
Begin your day by activating your vagus nerve via deep belly breathing, humming, singing, and/or meditating.
Hydration - I know this isn't the most unique, exciting, or glamorous answer, but we really are a dehydrated population. If you're suffering from gut stuff, I highly suggest hydrating with lemon water first thing in the morning, to aid in stomach acid production and pH balance. Ginger, green, dandelion root, turmeric, and peppermint teas are great for supporting the gut as well.
I'm going to throw a 4th one in here that is often overlooked, but crucial to our health.
SLEEP - Sleep is one of our greatest healers, no matter where you are on your health and wellness journey. Prioritize delicious, therapeutic, and deeply restful sleep.
What are your daily non-negotiables? What keeps you grounded and healthy every day?
- and a creative practice of some sort, whether it's cooking, styling, writing, or creating content
But now that I'm in New York, starting my day with a morning walk is a major non-negotiable - it's the first thing I do after my morning glass of water. It keeps me grounded, energized, grateful, and present.
For me, my mornings can really make or break how I feel. When I prioritize meditation, nourishment, hydration, sunlight, and movement first, I feel that I can make healthy, intuitive decisions throughout the day, fueling my creativity, social life, self-care, and joy.
Could you share some integrative nutrition resources with us?
First off, I would love to connect with you at my page on Instagram: @alandramichelle, but I also recommend @drmarkhyman, @nutritionschool, & @sakaralife.
What does the perfect balanced breakfast for you look like?
I love starting my morning with a giant plate of veggies, high-quality plant protein, and healthy fats. I usually like to opt for a tofu scramble (I get the most comments on this when I post about it, so recipe coming soon to my IG: @alandramichelle) along with a slice of buckwheat bread/gluten free tortillas or loaded avocado/hummus toast with a variety of veggies like leeks, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, and collard greens. But...if you ask my clients, they absolutely love when I suggest plant-based coconut yogurt bowls and parfaits, loaded with nuts, seeds, nut butters, clean granolas, fruits, and fun superfoods. Both will keep your blood sugar balanced, your gut microbes happy, and your body satiated for hours.
Can you share an example of what a session with you is like?
This is a great question, and so deeply personal and unique from client to client. I usually begin with a general health intake and then we dig into the deeper stuff as we continuously build trust in the client-practitioner relationship. I start each session off with a grounding exercise, creating safety in the body and our energetic exchange. From there, I let my client lead the session. Whatever comes up for them in the moment is usually what needs addressing because it is impacting the state of their health, on or off their plate. Sometimes sessions are highly focused on nutrition and getting to the root cause of my client's symptoms or diagnoses, while other sessions involve processing trauma, life events, or lifestyle shifts that need to be implemented. It really is an intuitive experience, designed to not only support but empower my clients.
Have you found anything at the shop recently that you have fallen in love with?
Yes!! I absolutely love my Kalia Necklace, West Cape Vintage Stone Boot, and the Jungmaven Olympic Jacket.
What does living a sustainable lifestyle mean to you? And what are some ways you implement sustainable practices daily?
To me, sustainability is doing what we can to love each other and our mama earth. She is a life force -- she breeds vitality, nourishment, and breath. And our everyday choices impact the way she gives and receives, which then impacts how we give and receive. Supporting regenerative farming, buying organic produce, growing your own garden, supporting community centers, honoring indigenous cultures, practicing conscious consumption, eliminating fast fashion, shopping secondhand, using eco-friendly products, reducing household toxins and single-use plastic, producing less food and overall waste, approaching people with kindness, participating in social justice, and supporting small sustainable businesses like Thread Spun, are all within my personal practice.
It's about remaining aware, staying intentional, and remembering that one, there are human beings impacted by each decision we make and we really can have a positive impact if we make the effort. And two, we are of this earth, we are one with her. If she thrives, we thrive. When we choose to approach sustainability and our lives in general from a compassionate, heart-centered space, it becomes second nature and nearly effortless. The impact simply falls into place. Again, this idea of staying true to our loving nature, as we were intended to exist on this planet, will always resonate and ring true.
Huge congrats on moving to New York! We are so excited to see what you bring to the community there. Where can we follow along your journey?
Thank you so much! You can follow me on Instagram for all things New York/health & wellness - @alandramichelle.
What are your top 5 favorite songs right now?
Right now, I'm loving anything by UMI, Austin Millz, Dijon, Kamal, Looney, and obviously Harry Styles.