Guest Author

Seasonal Allergies Got You Down? Why Gut Health is Key!

Spring Allergies and Gut Health
Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels
It’s that time of year when the seasons are changing and spring is in the air...literally! There are things like pollen, grass, trees, and weeds that all contribute to seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are a common struggle for many. I, too, can relate because I also used to experience the frustrating effects of pollen! But now, I no longer have seasonal allergies AT ALL! You may be wondering, “how is this possible?”
I’ll start by saying that the elimination of my allergy symptoms did not come from taking a pill or any sort of medication. In fact, when I had bad allergies, I used to take Zyrtec D daily, yet I would still experience allergy symptoms! It was when I stopped taking the pills and started making lifestyle changes, like my diet, that I noticed the change. As a holistic nutritionist, I believe in taking a holistic approach to health and getting to the root of the problem versus just focusing on symptoms. I believe that allergies are simply a symptom of the body being out of balance.
Our immune system plays a key role in fighting off these allergy symptoms. About 70% of our immune system is housed in the gut, so if our gut is out of balance, so is our immune system, thus causing these symptoms from seasonal allergies. A lack of diversity in the gut microbiome is also associated with allergies. Incorporating pre and probiotic foods in your diet, along with taking probiotics, can help with this.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, I recommend eating a plant-focused diet. Plant foods will provide loads of nutrients to your body and will help tremendously with allergies. By eating more plants, you are helping support your immune function by creating a healthy environment that helps regulate your inflammatory response. This will help naturally fight off allergy symptoms. Below are some foods and supplements I suggest incorporating into your diet regularly to help boost your immune system. These will help reduce and can even eliminate those nasty seasonal allergy symptoms!
● Omega 3 rich foods: wild salmon, chia seeds, flax, hemp seeds, walnuts
● Antioxidant-rich foods: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries (try to pick organic berries as conventional berries tend to contain an unhealthy dose of pesticides)
● Vitamin D: Getting outside in the sun is great, but since most of us typically don’t get enough Vitamin D, incorporating a D3 supplement is also beneficial.
● Nutritional yeast: It’s been shown to boost the immune system and contains numerous nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, protein, zinc and more. It typically comes in flakes, granules, or powder-like form and can be added to anything. Pasta is my favorite food to add it to, but I also add it to eggs, salads, etc., really anything I want a cheesy flavor on. You can find this at most health food stores or online/Amazon.

● Local Honey/Bee Pollen: Eating local honey or bee pollen can help prevent allergies, this is because you are ingesting the local pollen so it helps your body acclimate to the environment, and over time you become less sensitive to the pollen.
● Spirulina: It is a blue-green algae that naturally detoxifies the body, supports immune function, and acts as a histamine blocker. You can add spirulina to your smoothies and can buy it at most health food stores or online/Amazon.
● Probiotics: These help to balance the gut microbiome with good bacteria. Daily stressors, both environmental and internal, as well as the use and abuse of antibiotics, disrupt the balance of bacteria in the digestive system. Check out SunBiotics probiotic supplements and probiotic almonds here. I suggest the cheesy almonds because they contain nutritional yeast too!

Remember spring IS in the air, so don’t let those pesky allergies get in your way! Take charge of your health and get on with celebrating this season of warmer weather and new growth!

About the Author

Jenna Johnson

Jenna Johnson is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and founder and creator of The Scrounge, a lifestyle brand that began with her love of food and ‘making more with less’ in her home kitchen. Through working with clients 1-on-1, social media content, virtual cooking classes, workshops, and events, Jenna is shifting people’s mindset of healthy cooking to an approachable style called “Scrounging” – using the food you already have at home to create a meal. Jenna is passionate about taking the complication out of cooking and eating healthy. She believes food is medicine and that nutrition and home cooking shouldn’t be stressful, but rather a fun and positive experience. Jenna’s “scrounging” style of cooking has expanded from kitchens of friends, family, and colleagues to hundreds of people around the world. She encourages everyone to get creative with what they have at home and not to be afraid of not having all of the ingredients listed in a recipe. Jenna’s passion for healthy cooking and helping others led her to pursue a career in nutrition. Now, as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist specializing in gut health, she focuses on helping women eliminate chronic stomach issues without medication. Jenna’s own experience with gut issues led her to help others with these same struggles. Jenna’s goal is to help others get their life back and live life to the fullest without the stress and anxiety of stomach pain.

Minimize Waste! The 7 Waste-Reducing Tips You Need to Try

7 Waste Reducing Tips You Need to Try

Photo by Benjamin Brunner on Unsplash

From reusable water bottles to bringing your own grocery bags, some zero waste tips are common practice. Those of you that have been making an effort to minimize waste for a while may be craving more creative solutions. In that case, these fresh waste-reducing tips are for you. New to minimizing waste? Don’t worry. These tips can work for everyone!

Plant Decor

The next time you are looking for décor to spruce up your home or for a low waste gift idea, go green with a plant. Plants reduce stress and purify the air, all while helping you minimize your waste output since they won’t go to the landfill like most decor eventually does. If you find you and your plant really aren’t vibing, they can be planted outside (climate zone dependent), regifted, sold, or composted as a last resort.

Say No

Sometimes saving the environment is as simple as saying “No, thank you.” And one easy way to do this is to skip the promotional items the next time they are offered to you. These items tend to get very little use, break easily, and inevitably end up in the landfill. If you already have a drawer overflowing with these types of items, see if you can find a place to donate them. Many community art programs are more than happy to receive extra pens, notepads, highlighters, erasers, etc.—even if they have some branding on them.

Homemade Snacks

When the mid-day munchies hit, you may find yourself reaching for a snack. However, many of these quick snacks come with more than an energy boost—they also have unnecessary wrapping. Luckily, you can easily avoid the wrappers by making your own snacks. As a bonus, homemade snacks like granola bars and cookies tend to be healthier than their store-bought counterparts. Try shopping for ingredients in bulk with your own refillable containers to reduce as much waste as possible. Buy things like nut butters in glass jars and reuse the jars for storing personal care items or office supplies. Have a snack recipe that calls for fruit? Check out the produce that is marked down because it is close to spoiling. You won’t have to wait for the fruit to ripen and you’ll save some money, all while helping to reduce food waste.

Food Scraps

Composting is an excellent way to reduce the waste you produce, but you may want to try reusing those food scraps before you reach for the compost bin. Reusing food scraps helps you get the most out of food before tossing it and can also be a great way to get kids interested in reducing waste. You may want to try orange peels dipped in dark chocolate. They pair great with apple tea brewed from boiling apple peels and cores. Want to do something with scraps beyond snacks? Use a banana peel to polish plant leaves or soak a few peels in water for a couple of days to make natural plant fertilizer.


If you find yourself needing a tool for a project or that pregnancy has you outgrowing your clothes, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a shopping trip. Instead, you may want to try renting these items. For example, many home hardware stores offer tool rentals by the day or hour, so you can skip the wasteful packaging and avoid buying something you will minimally use. Then there are several online clothing rental places that offer maternity clothes so you don’t have to buy a temporary wardrobe. Once the baby is born, you may want to continue the renting trend by subscribing to a toy lending library instead of buying new.

Speak Up

Sometimes you can minimize waste by making a simple request, so don’t be afraid to speak up. This may mean asking the cashier if a receipt needs to be printed, requesting a shipped order to have minimal packaging material, telling the waiter you don’t need a straw with your drink, etc. If you see that your favorite restaurant has a specific wasteful habit (ex. using plastic stir sticks), you may want to write an email offering a less wasteful solution (compostable wooden stir sticks). Just be sure to keep your tone friendly. Remember, the worst they can say is that they can’t make that change. On the other hand, your email may push them toward a less wasteful solution.

Party Supplies

An eco-friendly party can still be fun and memorable—perhaps even more so! The next time a birthday or wedding rolls around, skip any wasteful decor like balloons and streamers and take a less wasteful approach. This could look like making a centerpiece by decorating an existing plant you own with lights or foraging for greenery to put in a vase. Planning a meal? Skip the plastic cups and plates and go with real dishware. If you don’t have enough, see if you can borrow some from friends or rent some from a party supply store. Another option is to grab dishware and utensils at a secondhand store and re-donate them when the event is over.


Sometimes the best waste-reducing solutions are a bit offbeat, so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when looking to minimalize your impact. Reducing waste is a slow process, and we need every little bit of creativity to push us toward a less wasteful future.

Author Bio

Shannon Bergstrom is a LEED Green Associate, TRUE waste advisor. She currently works at RTS, a tech-driven waste and recycling management company, as a sustainability operations manager. Shannon consults with clients across industries on sustainable waste practices and writes for Zero Waste.

How to Be More Sustainable at Home this Holiday Season

How to Be More Sustainable at Home this Holiday Season

The days are getting shorter, the weather is cooling down here in Chicago, and the holiday season is officially right around the corner. 

While this may be the most wonderful time of the year, you’ve probably noticed that the environment tends to take a hit during the holiday season. In fact, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash—1 million extra tons of garbage per week—than any other time of year.

Does that mean you should be less celebratory? Of course not. There are ways you can celebrate while still cutting down on waste. To help you get started we asked some of the top sustainability experts for their best advice and they delivered. Here’s how to be more sustainable at home and reduce your environmental footprint this holiday season. 

Deck the halls sustainably 

Forgo buying any new decorations and trimmings that are non-biodegradable. These can include items such as synthetic ribbons, tinsel and foil wrappings, plastic ornaments, and artificial greenery. Use what you already have, and begin using more things that can go to the compost bin instead of the landfill. For example, use craft paper, cotton ribbon or hemp twine, burlap, and fresh foraged greens and berries (we love juniper, holly, or magnolia branches) to decorate your table, tree, and gifts. – Lady Farmer

Making use of what you have. If you need decorations, choose second-hand at your local thrift shops, online, or ask family and friends for any items they don’t use. Decorate the home with foraged plants from the garden or a forest walk, and compost them at home or through a local compost center. – Erin Rhoads, author of Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less.

Fill your home with rosemary plants. They offer a seasonal scent while being “air purifiers” by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. And, of course, use the herbs in plant-based, environmentally-friendly holiday cooking and beyond – think garlicky rosemary white bean soup, rosemary roasted root veggies, and cranberry-rosemary punch. – Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook

How to be More Sustainable at Home this Holiday Season

Go green with gifting

Purchase house plants or potted succulents for friends and family. These plant friends do double duty not only by bringing some of the natural world inside but they also remove pollutants from indoor air. My personal favorites are Boston Fern, Spider Plant, and Bamboo Palm. Remember, not all houseplants are pet-safe so be sure to double-check before you buy. – Green Willow Homestead

Give experiences instead of things. Unwanted gifts, plastic packaging, wrapping paper, and ribbons contribute an additional million tons of waste to our landfills each week during the holiday season. Most things eventually become trash, but memories last a lifetime. – Protea Zero Waste

Make your experience gift COVID-19 friendly. Since folks may have to spend the holidays away from their friends and family this year for health and safety purposes, we recommend they think outside the (gift) box by finding new ways to show their love. Experience gifts are a popular option for reducing your environmental footprint (because you’re buying less stuff) and can often be done within the safety of one’s own home (COVID-19-friendly). For example, send a hot-sauce making kit to your spice-loving sister, gift your mother a virtual bread-making class or sign your uncle up for a few months of a coffee of the month club. – Kale & Compass

Give a present that truly has meaning and will last. For example, something you made yourself or something that was made by a local artisan. Wrap your gift in reusable cloth, a tradition known in Japan as Furoshiki. The receiver can then use the gift wrapping again next time he or she gives a present to someone else. The circular economy at its best. – My Green Goodiebag

Do not buy useless stuff. Around the Holiday season, people tend to spend so much money on gifts and clothing. Overconsumption is horrible for our environment, as a lot of the items are made from plastic-derived materials and are used as single-use items. Do not buy a gift just for the sake of buying; if you aren’t sure what to get for someone, you can simply ask what they genuinely need or give them an experience gift (you can’t go wrong with those). – Almost Zero Waste

Give gifts from local community makers. Head to a craft fair, handmade market, vintage market, or any small shop and look for treasures as gifts. Try to find gifts that have minimal packaging, are sustainably made, eco-friendly, and/or practical for everyday use. Encourage sustainable living through gifting items that encourage low waste living. Handmade gifts are always special and you can package them very uniquely. – The Cool Hip Mom

Rethink holiday cards. One of my favorite simple ways to be more eco-friendly this holiday season is to send e-cards instead of mailing paper cards. Can you believe the USPS will plan to deliver over 15 billion pieces of mail this Holiday season? Almost 3 billion of those are holiday cards, which wastes enough paper to fill a 10-story tall football field. That is not only a lot of paper, it’s a lot of emissions added to our atmosphere. Rethink the way you send holiday cards by checking out some fun holiday e-cards here. – Kim Lewand Martin

Exchange local or homemade consumables. Create a new tradition by exchanging joy-inducing consumables such as local or homemade goods, beer, wine, etc., rather than gifts or gift cards. This not only supports local businesses and reduces environmental impacts, especially if you do not wrap these items and/or make them yourself, it also boosts holiday cheer while moving the focus away from material possessions. – Unconventional Sustainability

Re-gifting is not just for the white elephant holiday gift game. All of us own items that just no longer work in our home or our lifestyle. Instead of just donating it (which is the important step to take – don’t just toss it in the landfill), perhaps it would make a lovely holiday gift for someone you love. Bonus to include a story with it (how did you receive it and why) – sharing with the recipient why you thought of them and why you are passing it along to them. – Mrs. Green’s World

Be intentional with your holiday gifting. Skip expedited shipping, avoid Amazon, and instead give local consumables like wine, chocolate, or honey made in your community to your loved ones. Similarly, provide your family with a detailed list so you receive what you actually need or, if you don’t need anything, ask loved ones to make a donation to a charity of your choice in your name. – Mama Minimalist

Challenge yourself and give a homemade gift. Depending on the skills and time you have, you can knit cozy socks, bake delicious holiday treats, craft bouquets out of construction paper or old books, or make sweet hand-painted signs from recycled wood. Next, skip the wrapping paper and gift bag purchase and use stuff you already have at home: old newspapers, magazines, get creative, get your family and friends in on the fun, and remind them to recycle it all when you’re done. – Eco Roots

Use household items as gift wrapping this holiday season

Get creative with gift wrap alternatives. Magazines, newspapers, book pages, and tissue paper are great for small items. Use decorative boxes instead of gift bags or just use simple ribbon to tie items together. – Wonderfully Messy Mom

Embrace the Japanese art of Furoshiki, wrapping gifts in cloth instead of paper. Keep it simple with pillowcases, handkerchiefs, reusable bags, baby blankets, cut up old bedsheets, or T-shirts and for an added “wow” factor tie small pine boughs, pine cones, or holly to the gift with twine or ribbon. – Starting Sustainability

Use your yearly calendar as wrapping paper. My favorite way to be more eco-friendly during the holiday season is to re-use my monochrome Stendig Wall Art calendar as wrapping paper. 2020 will be the 4th year of this tradition, gifts are gorgeous and I get to re-use their beautiful paper one last time. I also love wrapping empty boxes in their calendar pages too, it really elevates my decor and is kid-friendly. – The Real Rebekah

How to Be More Sustainable at Home this Holiday Season

Utilize your kitchen to reduce your environmental footprint 

Make one more meal per week plant-based. Embrace root vegetables and beans & lentils to make at least one more meal per week plant-based. Because root vegetables keep well and have often been grown locally, they don’t have the impact of transport nor being greenhouse-grown. Beans and lentils are a great alternative to animal proteins — and replacing even one meat-based meal a week with a plant-based one has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. – The Apothecary

Opt for organic and sustainably sourced ingredients and foods. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without plenty of tasty comfort food shared with friends and loved ones. Have a healthy, delicious, and eco holiday season this year by loading up your shopping basket with organic and sustainably sourced ingredients and foods. It’s one of the best gifts you can give both your body and the Earth. – Windy City OrganicsRawGuru

Focus on a waste-free kitchen this holiday season. Use natural elements like fruit, pinecones, and greenery for table décor, and bring out the reusable plates, silverware, and napkins. Cook simple and delicious whole foods, have a plan for leftovers and scraps, then compost what’s left. Bonus points if you incorporate plant-based sides and entrees for an even more eco-friendly holiday feast. – No Waste Nutrition

Save your vegetable scraps. You can use them to make a savory, homemade broth for soups, sauces, and stuffing. Bits of onion, carrot, celery, leek, and garlic all work well, but also try mushrooms, tomatoes, and corn cobs. It's a great way to repurpose vegetable trimmings and reduce food waste, and you get a different (and delicious) flavor each time. - Wild Minimalist

Save leftovers. Let your imagination turn them into new fun dishes (or search on Pinterest). Give guests the leftovers in mason jars. If you’re serving a turkey, save the carcass of the turkey breast and use it as a base for making broth the next day, either on the stove or by using a slow cooker. – The Zero Waste Family

Reduce food waste. Every year, 40% of food in the US ends up in landfills. Reducing food waste is a great way to lower your environmental footprint, especially during the cooking-heavy holiday season. From making stock out of veggie scraps to turning fading fruit into jam and baked goods (gift idea, anyone?), small changes in the kitchen can make a big difference in keeping perfectly good fruits and veggies from getting tossed. – Hungry Harvest

Use pasta water to water your plants. You may be cooking up some pasta this holiday season. If so, the water you use to cook your pasta can be used to water your plants and flowers and will help you save water. After cooking the pasta, the water is full of starch which is rich in minerals and vitamins. Your plants will love it. Just make sure that the water is not salted, and has cooled down before. – Easy Eco Tips

Make simple eco-friendly changes around your home

Lower your thermostat and cozy up with a Christmas sweater. Lowering your thermostat by one degree is said to save about 3% on your energy bill (and carbon emissions). Pull out some cozy blankets to layer on the couch the next time you watch TV. – The Sustainable Stylist

Replace common household items with reusable alternatives. We love investing in refillable fountain pens, water bottles with personality, reusable coffee filters, cloth produce bags, glass straws, and elegant storage containers. These easy, sustainable changes are an opportunity to invest in items that last a lifetime, and they make great gifts too. – Prep To Your Door

Create a zero-waste laundry routine. The holidays bring more gatherings and hosting which in turn means more laundry. An easy eco-friendly switch we recommend to your home is creating a zero waste laundry routine by using our eco dryer balls and zero waste laundry strips. Our eco dryer balls reduce drying time and eliminate the need for clothing softener while our zero waste laundry strips replace plastic detergent jugs and clean wonderfully. – Hands Producing Hope

Say goodbye to single-use plastic saran wrap. This beeswax wrap is one of the three easiest swaps to make and it is so versatile. This beeswax-coated canvas forms, molds, and covers just about anything. We use it to cover bowls of leftovers, to wrap around awkwardly-shaped chunks of cheese, to carry around snacks-to-go…it’s limitless! I had this item in my cart for so long before I finally bought it. My only regret—I wish I was using this sooner. Sustainable, so easy, and so versatile – The Foundation Blog

Use eco-conscious foodware. During the holiday season, there is a lot of single-use foodware that piles up. We recommend using as many reusable tableware items but if that isn’t possible, Karmic Seed’s fallen palm leaf plates and bowls are one of the best and most eco-conscious options available. They are made from fallen leaves so no trees are harmed, and once you are done using them they can be tossed into your compost. They are great for our soil, unlike plastic and Styrofoam. The best part is they look very eco-chic for all gatherings. – Karmic Seed

Invest in more sustainable and long-lasting products. While these often carry a higher price tag, their multifunctionality and renewability will actually save you money over time. For example, at holiday gatherings you can swap plastic utensils for your own Bambu reusables, wrap your gifts in a tea cloth or scarf from Tilonia, and when you’re apple-picking for that delicious pie – bring a Frusack compostable produce bag instead of opting for plastic. – Toasting Good

Make your own shampoo and conditioner. Instead of buying bottle after bottle of shampoo and conditioner for your home, start making your own. It’s as easy as baking a cake and reduces the amount of plastic you’ll use throughout the year. Shampoo bars make great gifts as well. – Simple Life Mom

Originally published by Redfin