Balanced Living: Eating and Living Well in the Lowcountry
Guest Blog by Alexandra Beckemeyer, MSc Holistic Nutritionist at Allume Wellness
Winding down the road to Kiawah River, the slow drive invites rolled down windows and wide-eyed glances to the left and right, eyes sipping in the golden reflection on the marsh water, the stillness of the low tide contrasted with the exposed thrusting oyster clusters and the inviting shade of the giant oaks that flank the entrance. The breeze carries the harmonies of the joyful song-birds, a fitting welcome. Naturally, you drink in a deep breath and your whole body begins to buzz at the same peaceful frequency of the surrounding beauty. Kiawah River’s astounding wildlife and plants reflect the vibrant ecosystem that lives inside us. This inner world is known as the gut microbiome, a thriving ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract. Just as the health of the Kiawah River ecosystem depends on the balance of thriving flora and fauna, our own health depends on cultivating a flourishing internal environment for the community of over 100 trillion cells.
When you are in balance with your microbiome and these microbial species are in harmony with one another, fantastic fruits are born: a robust immune system, regular digestion, proper nutrient absorption, vitamin production, clearer thinking and increased energy, to name a few. Gut bacteria also produce neurochemicals that regulate your mood and produce 90% of the body’s serotonin, the “happy hormone”. A balanced diet and lifestyle play a huge role in maintaining the health of this system.
Hippocrates, one of the forefathers of medicine, is credited with the adage, “All disease begins in the gut.” Modern science is beginning to confirm this claim, showing how constant affronts of daily living like what you eat, stress levels, environmental toxins and medications can throw our guts off-balance. The body does an incredible job of making up for imbalances in the short-term, but long-term, these imbalances can lead to systemic inflammation, allergies and disease.
Life at Kiawah River supports the body in its balancing act, providing access to wholesome food, fresh air and beautiful community. It feels easy to not only create more harmony within your microbiome, but in your life.
What are five ways that you can nurture this vibrant inner community of yours?
1. Eat your bacteria
Enjoying fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and anything else pickled regularly supports your microbiome and keeps your gut lining in tip-top shape. If you don’t do dairy, try coconut yogurt. If these are not a part of your normal diet, I suggest starting with a few spoonfuls of yogurt before your first meal, or adding it to your oatmeal or a smoothie! Aim for yogurts that are plain and without added sugars or sweeteners. Instead, sweeten it yourself with a dollop of Kiawah River honey from the fields.
2. Choose a variety of fresh, seasonal produce
Your microbiome thrives on the prebiotic fibers in fruits and veggies. At Kiawah River, you are surrounded by fertile, sustainably managed farmland that provides an array of seasonally cultivated fruits and vegetables. Varied options are pleasing to the palate but also encourage the development of diverse microbial species, which supports a strong microbiome. Selecting whole foods that are local and organic or biodynamically produced increases the nutrient density of your food and limits exposure to gut-lining disruptors like glyphosate, a chemical in weed-killer and insecticides. Organic foods from healthy soil also imbue gut-restoring minerals like magnesium and silica.
In addition to locally grown produce, seafood freshly caught by Lowcountry fishermen can also support a healthy gut. Oysters, for one, pack a nutritious punch with the highest zinc levels of any food, a mineral necessary for proper healing of the gut lining and fertility. Enjoy one of the Kiawah River neighborhood oyster roasts, knowing you are nourishing your body as you crack open the warm shells with your friends and family.
As a resident, you can sign up for Kiawah River Farm’s Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program and receive local seafood and freshly picked seasonal produce straight to your door. This subscription delivers from the harvests of Kiawah River’s community farmers, making it one step easier to cook fresh meals and confidently cultivate your inner garden.
Above all, make sure to take the time to enjoy your food – be present, savor it, make it with love, and share it with others.
3. Stress reduction
Stress, a natural part of the human experience, has been shown to increase gut lining permeability and disturb the microbial balance. An imbalanced microbiome can lead to inflammation and detrimental effects in the brain, leading to depressive feelings and foggy thinking. Support your body during times of stress with simple techniques that bring you back to the present moment. Spending time outdoors, soaking in the sunshine, and breathing the fresh sea air at Kiawah River’s trails, parks or sea islands can bring your body back to baseline. The sunshine promotes your body’s vitamin D production, a miracle immune-regulator and mood-modulator. Deep-breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system and create a sense of presence and calm. Changing your environment and moving your body gets your thoughts and oxygen flowing, reducing the stress hormones that can disturb microbial balance and function. Finally, stopping to be grateful for the beauty that surrounds you helps put stressors into perspective and engenders feelings of calm.
It’s no surprise that our microbes flourish when we are hydrated. Hydration is a key pillar of health, as it moistens the gastrointestinal tract, keeps its contents mobile and flushes toxins out of our system. Quality water isn’t the only key to hydration, however. It’s just as much about the minerals like sodium and potassium. One of the best ways to get properly hydrated is through eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially cucumbers, oranges, grapefruits and celery.
Springwater, with its innate mineral balance, is another beautiful way to hydrate. You can even collect your own at the Healing Springs of Blackwell, SC! Start your mornings with a cup of warm water and a slice of organic lemon – feel the immediate replenishing benefits of hydration. Hydration enables your body to restore itself naturally, cleansing the digestive system and providing a more hospitable environment for your microbes.
Did you know that your circle of friends can make an impact on your microbes? Studies show that those who live together tend to have a more similar microbiome pattern than those who do not. Others have found that obesity, moods, and habits like smoking are contagious. Surrounding yourself with others who live a healthy lifestyle is sure to have a positive impact on your microbes and your overall well being.
Interestingly, being in community influences not only your inner microbial world, but your longevity. The correlation between personal well-being and environment is illustrated through the study of Blue Zones, which are regions around the world that boast the longest-living, healthiest and happiest humans. Extensive research of these life-extending communities from Okinawa, Japan, to Sardinia, Italy, revealed that one-third of the nine commonalities revolved around a sense of belonging, having a tribe and prioritizing loved ones. Having a support system that encourages a healthy way of life makes living in alignment a joy rather than a chore!
Blue Zones are a powerful tool for understanding the effect of your environment. Similar to a Blue Zone, Kiawah River cultivates its community by fostering a shared appreciation for the sea islands lifestyle and connecting intentionally through gatherings and celebrations within its expansive neighborhood. From bonfires to kayak excursions, families and neighbors have access to an abundant green space and 20 miles of shoreline that promote a holistic lifestyle. Activities like these combined with healthy food and an active lifestyle can shape the inner microbiome, leaving a profoundly positive impact on the community’s overall wellness.
Living life in balance supports not only your general well being but that of your microbiome – take care of it, and it will take care of you! From farm-fresh produce to Lowcountry walks to community oyster roasts, cultivate a vibrant life by integrating these nutritional and lifestyle elements into your daily routine. Embrace the journey: be mindful of the food you eat, the company you keep and the secret power of your inner microbiome.
Meet Wellness Expert, Alexandra Beckemeyer, MSc
Alexandra Beckemeyer is a Holistic Nutritionist at Allume Wellness, offering nutrition and lifestyle coaching services to clients in Charleston and virtually. She creates individualized eating and lifestyle plans for long-lasting optimum wellness, and empowers her clients to move through life with confidence, joy and ease.
Alexandra draws from her Masters training in Human Nutrition & Functional Medicine from the University of Western States, as well as her background in premedical sciences at University of Southern California and undergraduate medical genetics research and writing at Duke University.
In addition to working with clients one-on-one, she enjoys speaking to groups and leading nutrition and cooking workshops on topics such as How to Eat for a Healthy Gut, The Art of Joyful Eating, and Simple, Scrumptious Recipes to Nourish The Dynamically Balanced Life.
“My curiosity about the human body and its ability to heal has also led me to explore various traditional healing systems, including the thermal spas in France, traditional Balinese medicine, and Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. A unifying theme in all these age-old healing systems is the role of nourishing foods, and as such I seek to teach others to use food as a way to prevent illness and help their bodies function optimally.”
Alexandra also incorporates the human component, drawing on individuality and encouraging wholeness in every sense. Eating and living well isn’t just a plan with boxes to check, it’s a way of life.
“When we are living in alignment with our truest selves, from the food we eat to the thoughts we think, we are vibrant, glowing, and alight.”
To connect with Alexandra, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.