CLASSICS STORY #005
As we highlight our Classics collection; thoughtfully designed to be our tried and tested styles and made purposefully for like-minded individuals that share an interest in the Rhythm lifestyle, we celebrate the creative community of individuals and friends that inspire and pioneer in different avenues and fields.
Athena Connell is a holistic nutritionist based in Brisbane with a passion for nutritional education. Her focus is on restoring the metabolism, gut function and hormones with the use of traditional nutrient dense foods that promote regeneration and resolve deficiencies. She works with her clients to help plan sustainable lifestyle changes that decrease physiological stress and improve wellbeing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do and what your approach as a GAP practitioner is?
I’m a Holistic Nutritionist with a great appreciation for deep nourishment and ‘food and lifestyle as medicine’ as an approach to health. I believe eating healthy is really quite simple and doesn’t need to be as overcomplicated as it has become now, we just need to set the right foundations in place. The people who had these foundations set right were our ancestors, they had so much wisdom when it came to the nutrients we needed for all phases of life. In my practice, I fuse modern research with this ancestral wisdom. GAP’s (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) is a great example of this, it utilises modern research and science but implements a traditional style of eating to repair modern diseases that (more commonly than not) stem from the gut.
When did you become passionate about nutrition and its connection to mental health and what do you love most about educating and empowering others in this space?
I became passionate about nutrition when I encountered my own health issues. I came from a vegetarian/vegan background and thought I was doing all the things necessary to be healthy but after a few years, I started to develop mental health issues that weren’t there before. No one was able to give me any answers, so I had to go looking for them myself. I got into Natural Medicine at a young age and worked with Herbs, Homeopathics and supplements but none relieved my symptoms enough. I then started to work with my own clients and noticed that the best results occurred after they switched from their modern diet to a more traditional one. This set in motion everything that I do today, I dived headfirst into studying the gut-brain axis and went on to become a GAP’s practitioner. I implemented GAP’s and traditional eating in my own life and slowly but surely the mental health issues all started to fade.
I’m passionate about educating others on the gut-brain connection as I see so many young people in the same boat as I was. In today’s world kids as young as 12 are being put on anti-depressants and their lives are permanently affected by mental health issues. I wholeheartedly believe that there’s another way to deal with this and it begins in the gut.
Why is gut health so important? And what are some of the health benefits that correlate to our mental health when we have a healthy gut?
Gut health is getting a little more attention lately, and for that, I’m so happy because the gut is at the centre of our health (especially mental health). The gut has been coined ‘the second brain’ because it’s known to do much more than just digest food. The gut is actually a mass of neural tissue (it’s technically known as the enteric nervous system) and the gut bacteria are responsible for producing important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA, all of which are related to mood. If there’s dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance), inflammation and other disturbances in the gut you’d best believe that this going to throw off those neurotransmitters and in turn affect our mental health and how we view the world around us.
If we could only do 3 things to improve our gut health today what would they be?
1. Cut out all heavily processed food.
2. Cut out all industrialised seed/vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, flaxseed etc.) this goes hand in hand with #1, I encourage people to read ALL food labels and take note of how much industrial oils are in everything packaged (there is a lot).
3. Incorporate animal fats into the diet like butter, ghee, tallow etc. (eat more as our great grandmothers did) as these fats are needed to produce healthy gut cells.
Why is Metabolic Health so important? What are some simple steps we can take to improve this?
The metabolism is every single process in the human body including detoxification, digestion, hormone regulation and repair… all of these things are what keeps us alive. If our bodily functions are sluggish or not working in general, then disease takes hold (que the pandemic of modern lifestyle disease). In a world that’s becoming more toxic, we need to ensure that we are becoming more resilient. Ensuring that the metabolism is functioning correctly as a whole is key to this resilience.
- Make sure you are eating enough of the right foods, the foods that our ancestors not only survived on; but thrived on are what is best for our physiology and metabolisms. Foods like organ meats, bone broths, butter, fish eggs; all the beautiful nutrient-dense foods we’re told to are not good for us.
1. Start taking your drinking water more seriously by filtering and re-mineralising.
2. Stop using chemicals in the home and on the body.
For someone interested in starting their journey with improving their gut health, what resources would
I would 100% urge anyone interested in eating a more traditional diet to look up The Weston A. Price Foundation. Dr Price studied thriving native cultures and their traditional eating habits from all over the world and found the people were free of modern diseases including tooth decay, heart disease, obesity and also found they were far happier. I also have free resources on my website athenaconnell.com that you can find if you’re new to all of this and want a simple breakdown of how you can start repairing your metabolism and gut. I also give a plethora of free information out on my Instagram page @athenaconnell where you can also interact with me and ask questions!
The carrot salad is my favourite whole food tool for hormone and gut flora balancing. The unique fibres in carrots paired with an acid like apple cider vinegar and an antimicrobial oil like coconut oil work like a broom in the gut. It binds to excess estrogen (from personal care chemicals, medications and other lifestyle toxins) and endotoxins (byproducts of bacterial imbalance in the gut) and safely eliminates them through the bowels. In order to get the best results from the carrot salad, it should be eaten every single day at around the same time.
The fibre in carrots (and any high-fibre vegetables, actually) acts like a natural vacuum cleaner in your gastrointestinal tract, picking up debris as it runs through your body.
It’s an immune-boosting health tonic that’s been used for decades to naturally protect against cold and flu and ease sinus congestion and reduce inflammation.
Slicing the carrots lengthways with a vegetable peeler is the best way to ensure the fibres remain intact (and it’s super quick), then we need to add acid of some sort like vinegar or lemon; I use homemade fire cider which is just apple cider vinegar infused with lemon, onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and rosemary. I find that this adds the best flavour and fire cider is also a great immune booster. Then you can top it with salt. This salad is so easy, cheap and quick to make; the fact that it’s such a powerful tool in the restoration of so many people’s gut, hormone and metabolic health seems too good to be true, but I promise it’s not!