6 Proven Ways to Build Resilience To Stress

This past year and a half has been a doozy. And more than ever before, I’m seeing the huge impact stress is having on my clients’ health. Today I want to discuss with you what stress is, its effect on our health, and how you can work to lower your stress levels, all in the name of mental and physical health. 

Are You Like Lauren?

This client, let’s call her Lauren, may reflect the way your life operates. You may be on autopilot, not really noticing the mental, emotional, chemical and physical stressors you’re introducing to your life on a minute-by-minute basis. So let’s take a look.

Lauren is a working mom of 3 kids in elementary and middle school. She starts her day dragging herself out of bed after hitting snooze three times, making the kids as balanced a breakfast as she can manage, and getting them packed for school and out the door on time. 

Her mind is racing with anxious thoughts: What is my number one priority at work today?; How will I get everything done on my to-do list?; Shoot, I didn’t plan dinner; I hope today isn’t the day there’s a COVID positive case announced at school. And so on.

Then she’s rushing to attend her 9 am meeting, coffee in hand (having skipped breakfast), feeling the beginnings of an upset stomach. Her day is packed with meetings and responding to emails. She has a few minutes to grab a bagel for lunch, then fuels on coffee and sugary snacks in the afternoon to prevent herself from falling asleep in yet another Zoom meeting. 

She ends her day starving, on edge, and tired, and opens her fridge to cobble together something for dinner (because who has time for meal planning?). Then it’s off to kids’ activity drop-offs. When the kids are finally in bed, she starts a load of wash (need clean masks for tomorrow!). Then she takes an hour to herself scrolling instagram while watching something escapist on Netflix with her partner, before finally dragging herself to bed. She wakes up in the middle of the night and has trouble getting back to sleep, with the alarm waking her the next morning far before she feels ready. 

Lauren is exhausted, anxious, experiences digestive discomfort, and has trouble staying asleep at night. She’s in survival mode, and it’s deeply affecting her health and happiness.

Does this sound like you? 

Many of us are experiencing some version of this go-go-go lifestyle, with mental and emotional stressors, along with physical stress like overtraining or under-sleeping, or chemical stress like a poor diet. And stress directly and indirectly affects our health. But the true effect of stress feels a bit abstract, so let’s look at a few specific ways stress actually affects our health.

  1. When we are stressed out, we are in “fight or flight” mode. Our bodies release stress hormones to give us a better chance of survival in the short term, say when running from a bear. Non-essential functions such as digestion, reproduction, collagen formation, and bone mineralization become inhibited. So when we are under chronic lower-level stress day-in and day-out, these functions crucial for robust long-term health start to break down, leading to unwanted symptoms.
  1. Stress causes leaky gut. It’s well-documented that stress increases intestinal permeability (widening gaps in the intestinal lining). This allows pathogens, toxins, and undigested food particles to pass into our bloodstream, triggering our immune system. This leads to inflammation that can be felt all over the body, including headaches/migraines, skin rashes or acne, joint pain, mood disorders, digestive discomfort, hormonal imbalance, and so much more. Leaky gut also leads to food sensitivities. When food particles that are not digested well enough to be absorbed properly by the body are allowed into the bloodstream, our immune system mounts an attack. After repeat exposure, our immune system tags these foods as the “enemy”, releasing chemicals to protect us, and giving us these unwanted symptoms.
  1. Stress leads to poor blood sugar regulation. When we are constantly stressed, our body is putting out stress hormones, like norepinephrine and cortisol, which increases our blood sugar. Increased blood sugar means more blood sugar crashes and spikes. This leads to energy slumps, sugar cravings, and middle-of-the-night wake-ups. Over time, this will affect our metabolic health, contributing to insulin resistance and heart disease.

And of course stress has indirect effects. When we are stressed, we don’t take the time to sit down and eat slowly in a rested state, which severely impacts digestion and absorption of nutrients. And we certainly aren’t prioritizing the foundations for good health; we aren’t planning out our food, making time for mindfulness or exercise, or getting enough sleep.

So, what can we do?

It’s best to address stress slowly, and start with the lowest hanging fruit, lest we get more stressed about needing to reduce our stress! 

Really, we have two options. We can either:

  1. Remove the stressors. Of course this isn’t always possible, but I encourage my clients to take a look at what is causing them the most stress and see if there’s anything they can do to get help with at least one of these items. Can they remove it from their list, even temporarily? Can they get outside help with it? 
  1. Increase our resilience to stress. Once you’ve gotten your stressor list down to the stressors you simply can’t eliminate or reduce, we focus here. Choose one or two of these to start increasing your resilience to stress today:
    • Move: a short walk after a meal (or anytime) can help reduce cortisol levels
    • Laugh: get together (safely) with friends, watch a comedy special. Don’t forget to have fun! Laughter and smiling increases the release of dopamine, which has numerous positive effects on our mood, sleep, and digestion.
    • Spend time in nature: Go for a walk in your local park, or get out for a hike. 
    • Meditate: Use an app like Calm or Headspace to practice meditation for at least a few minutes a day to get started. The science shows the effect of meditation on stress-management is considerable, so it’s really worth the effort.
    • Targeted supplementation, such as adaptogens. This comes with a caveat! Adaptogens are only useful when used in conjunction with other lifestyle measures and with testing to see which ones are right for you.
    • Prioritize bedtime: resist the urge to scroll on your device or binge-watch Netflix, and get in bed a little earlier; your health depends on it!

I’d love to hear from you; do you think stress is impacting your health? Reducing your stress is a key part of the healing process, but often we have gotten ourselves to a place where the impact has been so huge that we need to layer in other diet, lifestyle, deeper testing, and targeted supplementation to get you thriving again. 


This month at A Balanced Table, 3 spots have just opened up for new clients. In my program, I design a protocol specifically tailored to your symptoms, based on functional lab testing. You have full access to me, as well as sessions with our in-house health and nutrition coach, Annie-Rose (who can walk you through your stressors and help you mitigate them!). If you’re ready to invest in your health and finally feel better, I’d love to help. Fill out this short application to work with me here, and if we’re a good fit, we can set up a 15 minute appointment to talk about your specific concerns and how we may work together. If you’re excited about this idea, don’t wait! These spots will fill up quickly.

My Mold Story

For most of my time as a functional nutritionist, I completely resisted learning about mold illness and mycotoxins. My continuing education journey has taken me to a lot of places, but that was one I just wasn’t interested in visiting. “These people are SO sick,” I thought. It couldn’t possibly be something that I could help people heal from, I believed. And then the universe laughed, everything changed, and mold became the focus of my life.

Like many of us, I initially came to this field of work to try to help conquer my own health concerns. Around 2006, while still living the Standard American life, I started experiencing constant nausea. After medical testing proved fruitless, a Naturopathic Doctor identified various food sensitivities, and some gut pathogens. I took dairy and other reactive foods out of my diet. The nausea abated (but I sure missed ice cream!), and then it returned about 5 years later, in 2011, along with persistent heartburn and episodes of painful esophageal spasms. This continued for 4 years, with multiple practitioners having no success at relieving the symptoms or identifying the root cause. During that time, I graduated both NTA and all the RWS levels, and tried to put to work what I knew. Extensive gut healing protocols and attempts at introducing HCl didn’t work, despite successfully eradicating h pylori, and I always noted undigested food in my stool.  In 2015, I identified anti-parietal and anti-intrinsic factor antibodies both elevated, indicating an autoimmune attack on my stomach cells. 

At this same time, I began noticing constant swollen glands, fatigue, stabbing ear pain, poor memory and brain fog. When my nausea was very severe, it was often accompanied with vertigo: literally, “bed spins,” as if I had been drinking heavily. Most nights, I had to sleep propped up almost vertically, to keep the heartburn, nausea, and esophageal spasms under control. I also found that I was startling awake at night, which was accompanied with a rush of nausea and vertigo each time. My symptoms were always worse the week of my menstrual cycle, and would also increase with a cold or any similar immune challenge, and in times of high stress. Lastly, the skin on my face would often start peeling, with no explanation as to why.

Blood tests in 2016 identified a reactivated Epstein Barr viral infection. I implemented the AIP diet, which eliminated my memory and brain fog symptoms, but had no other effect after 6 months. I tried a liver detox protocol, which led to chills, diarrhea, headache, and increased vertigo, and was quickly discontinued. In late 2018, I found an expert functional MD who took me on as a patient, and everything changed. 

This doctor knew what I now know, and see all the time with my clients: we were missing something. I now had: a chronic virus, autoimmunity, neurological symptoms, bottomed out hormones, digestion that didn’t function, and the list went on from there, with no answers as to WHY. When you’ve done all the right things, run all the right tests, addressed all the issues, taken the pills, changed your food, handled your stress, and you’re still really sick, you’ve not found the root cause. For so many people, including me, that root cause is mold.

When my doctor suggested mold testing, I thought she had to be wrong. I have lived in the same home for 20 years, in a hot sunny part of California. My husband, an electrician, had crawled all over our house/attic/basement and definitively said there was no mold or water damage. And, in 2017, I had run an ERMI mold test of my home that showed no high levels and was considered “normal.” 

Yet, my urinary mycotoxin test came back with high levels of a few different mycotoxins, the poisons that molds emit. Very specific blood panels (for markers I had never even heard of!) showed extreme inflammation and immune activation that occurs as a result from mold exposure. Specific genetic testing showed that I have a genetic makeup that only a very small percentage of people have, that renders them highly susceptible to mold toxins. I was diagnosed with CIRS–Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome–as a result of exposure to mold toxins. Having an answer, as anyone who has had a mysterious chronic illness knows, was an enormous relief. Finally, there was an explanation for how I felt! Not to mention, there was something to DO. 

And boy, did we do it.

A highly trained mold inspector who works exclusively with CIRS patients found mold throughout my HVAC system, and under my roof. We got rid of 75% of what we owned, due to contamination from mycotoxins that can’t be cleaned off of porous surfaces. We moved to a rental house for 8 months. And we gutted our house, taking it down to the studs, and replacing absolutely everything. We blew through our savings, and the stress was beyond anything I could have imagined. I undertook a very complex and hefty mold detox protocol, that still continues in an edited version. Upon moving out of our house, I was almost immediately 75% better. Healing from CIRS is a slow process, but I am doing the work, and it has been an amazing journey for me and my health.

Given my status as a lifelong student and overachiever, it was no surprise to anyone that I quickly learned everything I possibly could about CIRS and mold toxicity. The very topic I had long avoided became the focus of my education and has now become the passion of my client work. It’s estimated that 50% of homes and 80% of public buildings (churches, hospitals) have water damage, which means they have mold. And 25% of people are genetically susceptible to being made sick by mold toxins (a much smaller percentage are extremely susceptible, like me). Do the math, and you quickly realize that mold toxicity illness is absolutely rampant. It’s been called “the next Lyme disease,” in terms of its hidden health burden. 

The silver lining to all of this has been my ability to now help others who have been sickened by mold. The processes, testing, steps to healing, and supports I use, all based on the latest research and thinking in the field, have come together into an effective system that is changing lives. 

When I stop to identify the big WHY–why did this happen? why me?–I realize it was so that I can use what I’ve learned to help others heal. There are so few practitioners out there doing this work, and so many people who need it. 

(Originally written as a guest blog post for Restorative Wellness Solutions)

Welcome Annie-Rose to A Balanced Table!

I’m so thrilled to announce the addition of Annie-Rose Licht, NTP and RWP, to the A Balanced Table team!

Annie-Rose couldn’t be more excited to join Ellen at A Balanced Table as the Assistant Nutritionist, where she will use her nutrition and coaching expertise to give you additional support in your health journey. Annie-Rose is passionate about working with clients to create sustainable change, specifically nutrition and lifestyle modifications that you can maintain for life!

She will be working with many of you to answer day-to-day questions, guiding you through habit change, and being a source of consistent encouragement. Some of the things you might work on with Annie-Rose:

  • Troubleshooting food substitutions (i.e. how do I replace flour tortillas?!)
  • Menu planning, recipes, and quick meal ideas
  • Habit change around food, movement, stress relief, and sleep
  • Cheerleading and emotional support – we celebrate your big and tiny wins!
  • Answering questions about your protocol, whether it’s food or supplement related
  • Coordinating logistics, such as scheduling appointments, and ordering and answering questions about testing

A little about Annie-Rose: Annie-Rose graduated from the Nutritional Therapy Association and has continued on to become certified in both Gastrointestinal Healing and Optimizing Hormones through Restorative Wellness Solutions. 

She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children, ages 3 and 6. When she’s not meeting with her wonderful clients or doing nutrition research, she can be found cooking up simple, delicious nutrient-dense meals, reading, exploring nature, chasing around her energetic kids, or attempting to grow an organic garden.

Please join me in welcoming Annie-Rose! She can be reached at annierose@abalancedtable.net , and is available to all ABT clients for health, nutrition, and habit coaching. Make an appointment with Annie-Rose here.

A Few of My Favorite Things

There’s no doubt that I’m all about real food. Most of the modern healthcare situation we’re facing can be pretty directly traced back to the introduction of packaged, processed, chemical-laden, high sugar food-like substances. I like to say, Real food doesn’t have ingredients; real food IS ingredients. I believe everyone should be eating a diet based on nourishing, whole foods–the types of things your great-grandmother would recognize.

Now, having said all of that, I’m also a realist. Some real foods are off-limits to people due to food sensitivities. Most of us aren’t going to make our own yogurt (although I have, and it’s really easy!). And there are some things that frankly, we tend to miss when we move away from the Standard American Diet (aka SAD). So when I discover some healthy, tasty alternatives, I’m always pretty stoked. I thought I’d share some of my favorites here with you.

Mud WTR: Tasty coffee substitutes are something I’m often asked about. While I adore coffee, it does a number on my digestion, so I rarely indulge. For many people dealing with cortisol and adrenal issues, the caffeine in coffee is also no bueno. Mud WTR is a fantastic substitute. Imagine if chai tea and hot cocoa had a baby! All organic, it contains cacao, Masala chai, turmeric, adaptogenic mushrooms, and cinnamon. A cup has 1/7th the caffeine of a cup of coffee, due to the black tea powder. While it can be a bit hard to blend in (they send you a USB-powered frother when you order!), a spoonful of this mixed with Forager’s cashew coconut milk is one of my favorite morning treats. Mud WTR is only available by direct order from the company.

Nutpods: When I do have my tiny cup of occasional coffee, you can be sure there’s some Nutpods in it. These entirely sweetener-free creamers are made from coconut cream and almonds, plus a gum or two, and that always-mysterious “natural flavors.” Nope, we don’t know what that means, but the company says that they come from plants. These creamers have the richness of half and half, without the dairy. The cinnamon swirl is my absolute favorite. And when the special limited edition “eggnog” comes out each Fall, I buy cases of it.

Seven Sundays: My favorite food used to be cereal. Nothing made me happier than a big bowl of cereal, skim milk, and a banana. Particularly right before bed. Now that I know better, I do better! So, after many years without cereal (reminder: giant bowl of refined grain that spikes your blood sugar, causes inflammation, and leads to sugar crashes and hormonal effects), I was over the moon to discover Seven Sundays cereal. This Certified B Corp is supporting organic family farms and efforts to end hunger, while figuring out how to make cereal by upcycling sunflower protein leftover from other food products. (Read their fascinating story here.) Their cereals are free of sugars, flavors, gluten, and grains. Best of all, they’re crunchy and delicious and totally scratch that cereal itch. I like to toss a handful into the next product on my list….

Coconut Cult: Oh, Coconut Cult. You evil, evil geniuses. A couple of years ago, my dear friend Lara starting raving to me about this coconut yogurt that tasted exactly like chocolate mousse. She said it was unlike anything she’d ever had, and although expensive, worth every penny. At that time, it wasn’t widely sold in stores. So I spent like EIGHTY DOLLARS to get a few 16 oz jars shipped to me on ice from southern California. (Crazy, but hey, tax deduction, business research.) Let me just publicly say, Lara, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. This stuff is unbelievable. All organic, made of coconut cream meat and water, cacao, and coconut nectar (which does add a small amount of sugar). I seriously have no idea how they do it. The best part is, it has SO MANY probiotic bacteria in it, that you really can’t eat more than a couple of tablespoons without suffering some major GI distress. So, a little goes a long way. And the best BEST part is, it’s now sold at Whole Foods! So yeah, it’s $9 for an 8 oz jar. Don’t even hesitate, chocolate lovers. Go buy this immediately.

Siete cookies: Anybody who’s shopped the grain-free world in the last couple of years is familiar with Siete foods. Their tortillas and chips are pretty much staples for many of us. So when they recently introduced cookies, I was excited. I’ve tried the Mexican shortbread and Mexican chocolate, and they’re both fantastic. Made of a grain-free flour blend, avocado oil, spices, and a bit of coconut sugar, they are a great clean option for a little treat, with each cookie having about 1 g of sugar.

Except for the Mud WTR, these products are all available at Whole Foods in northern California. Let me know which ones you try!

Mold and Your Hormones

It was such a pleasure to join Christine Garvin on her Hormonally Speaking podcast recently, to talk about mold and hormones. We chatted all about this insidious scourge, how you get it, what it does to you and your hormones, and what can be done about it. As a mold survivor, this topic is near and dear to my heart. If mold is of interest for you, I hope you’ll watch this interview.

https://christinegarvin.com/mold-wreck-havoc/

Those are Some Beautiful Genes You’ve Got There

Genetic testing has become very popular of late, with lots of direct-to-consumer tests like 23 and Me popping up. These tests sequence a portion of your genome, and then give you information about a variety of things you might be more likely to experience as a result of your genes. These tests are sort of a “genetics lite” version of the type of in-depth testing medical professionals do to look for disease risk.

The biggest issue around any sort of genetic testing has to do with one giant question: Just because I have this gene, does it mean I definitely have or will develop disease X?  This fear leads many people to avoid genetic testing, as they’re afraid the results will condemn their future. Basically, they wonder, are my genes my destiny?

The answer here is a resounding NO. Genes and genetic expression are complicated, but the easiest way to think about genes is like a light switch, that can be turned on or off. Genes are constantly turning on and off, or “expressing,” and just because you have a specific genetic presentation does not in any way mean that you are going to definitively develop the disease or effect that gene can cause when it is switched on.

There’s a fabulous saying about this: Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.

The field of genetics research is advancing by leaps and bounds daily, and there’s much we still don’t know. But there are a couple of hundred genes that we know enough about now to be able to say what environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to turning those genes on and off. Essentially, we can now tell you what you need to do to keep your potentially harmful genes in check; that is, how to not pull the trigger.

I’m now using a genetic test in my practice called 3 x 4, and I’m finding the information it gives incredibly valuable for my clients. This simple cheek swab test is able to give us insight into what you as an individual need to do to live longer, healthier, and better. Who doesn’t want that?!

Have you ever wanted to know…

How do I live a healthier and longer life?

How do I improve my physical and mental performance?

What is the most effective way for me to lose weight?

Why do I keep getting sick?

3×4 analyzes your genes across functional pathways, providing information about your genetic tendencies in 25 core areas, including cellular health, diet and energy, cardiovascular health, nutrients, and overall body health. It allows us to more easily explain your body’s health story, and guides us to making lifestyle and dietary choices to help ensure lifelong health. Rather than dealing with downstream symptoms, we can look a deep cellular level and feel empowered to prevent or delay disease. Importantly, 3 x 4 only reports on the genes that research has shown we actually have the power to affect with our lifestyle choices.

Some of the fascinating things I learned about my own genetic story:

  • I have a significant genetic potential for blood sugar dysregulation, as my glucose and insulin handling genes are somewhat compromised. This makes sense, as there is a lot of adult onset diabetes in my family. Luckily, my annual bloodwork shows my glucose handling is excellent, and my diet and lifestyle support this.
  • I’m genetically prone to elevated cholesterol, making a diet rich in fiber and healthy unsaturated fats key. Check!
  • Genetically, my bone turnover might be impacted, which means lots of minerals, vitamins D and K, and weight-bearing exercise are important. These are all part of my daily life.
  • My genes influence my appetite and satiety in such a way that I may need a higher amount of food than other people, in order to feel full. This may explain why I can throw down heaping plates of food easily!
  • I’m genetically likely to have trouble absorbing and using vitamin B12, making a focus on that vitamin important in food and supplements.

If you’re interested in learning what your genes can tell us, and how you can live your healthiest life for the long haul, reach out and let’s chat about running this test for you!

http://3x4genetics.io

Sweat, Smile, and Shine in 2021

One of the (few) good things to come out of 2020 has been the amazing online fitness community I found, VFit Studio. I’ve always loved group fitness classes (especially when I’m not the one teaching them!), and lockdown in March meant I needed to find something to replace my usual workouts. VFit is a terrific group of talented trainers who offer around 100 live Zoom classes each week: everything from yoga and Pilates and barre to sculpt and tabata and Zumba. Because they’ve been doing this for years, they’ve got the online fitness thing nailed, and are a real community of people all over the globe who come together to sweat, smile, and shine. VFit is also a woman-owned small business. These workouts have kept me sane through 2020, and have packed on some muscle, to boot!

VFit is offering a free 2 week unlimited class pass through January 15, with no obligations or hidden fees. If your 2021 plans include a regular fitness regimen with a group of super fun people, I encourage you to check them out. Maybe I’ll see you on the yoga mat! http://thevfitstudio.com/sweatsmileshine/

Standard Process now available on Fullscript!

If products from Standard Process or MediHerb are part of your healing regimen of supports, you’ll be excited to know they have joined Fullscript and are now available by recommendation through my dispensary. As always, I offer a discount off of retail pricing, and shipping is free for all orders over $50. If you need me to add a recommendation so you can order your favorites, just reach out and let me know. Why not kick off 2021 with the fabulous 21 day Purification Program from Standard Process? You can create a Fullscript account for ordering products here: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/elovelace

Discount On My Favorite Bars

I get asked a lot about bars — the kind you eat, not where you drink.

Mostly, I’m not a fan. The vast majority of bars are high in sugar, low in nutrition. And they replace an opportunity to eat some real food. That said, I understand sometimes they’re the only thing you may have time to scarf. (Which is also a problem, to be discussed another time!)

I have this one day, every two weeks, where my schedule doesn’t allow for lunch. So as I jump in the car, I grab an OHi bar. I really like these bars because they are chock-full of healthy fats from nuts and coconut, they are almost totally organic (a few of the nuts they use aren’t, mostly because that would make them cost-prohibitive), and the small amount of sweetener they use is low glycemic coconut nectar. Low glycemic means it doesn’t cause quick blood sugar swings, so it’s tolerated much better than simple forms of sugar or even honey or maple syrup. All those healthy fats mean lots of long-burning energy; I find these bars keep me satisfied for a few hours, which I’ve never found with any other bar. They’re also completely delicious!

OHi bars are cold-pressed, and are meant to be stored cold–so they’re not a great option to throw in your bag for hours. But if you’re looking for a good quick snack bar to give you some actual energy (as opposed to just crashing you quickly, like a Kind bar will), you might give them a try.

They sent me this 20% off code to share with you. I love all the flavors, so I always get the Variety box. If you try them, let me know what you think! http://ohisuperfoodbar.refr.cc/ellenl

Limited Time Discounts on Lab Testing

If you’ve been toying with the idea of doing some lab testing, or need to re-check some previous labs, this is a great time to do it. Some of the labs I work with are offering nice discounts for a limited time only, which I am happy to pass on to my clients.

Food sensitivity tests are $199 through May 15 (down from $350, a HUGE savings). This is a blood test that checks 170 foods and chemicals.

Salivary hormone testing (adrenals, male hormones, menopausal hormones, cycling female hormones) is 20% off through June 15.

Contact me to learn more.