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Because to improve health we must improve health literacy.  

Hi, I am Shania, a life-long learner working to combine my passion for digital media and health. As a recently published children's book author and non-profit director I hope to fill the gaps that currently exist for children. 

I am currently a doctoral student at McMaster University and my research is focused on child health and access to health resources. I am passionate about using knowledge translation practices to disseminate health information to the public.  

My academic work has supported my non-profit organization, evidence-informed wellness blog, and my teaching. 

Most recently I had the honor of representing my class as the 2021 Faculty of Health Sciences Valedictorian. 

Read the Daily News Article here

To listen to my Speech here

The Story behind my first childrens book: Gurk and Bianca

I believe that changing the way that we frame wellness starts with our children. We must take responsibility over our health, and it starts by using the tools in our very own lives to learn how to manage our stressors. I wrote “Gurk and Bianca” to help children explore the gut-brain relationship and introduce the role of mindfulness. Promoting mindfulness is a holistic way to empower youth to reflect on their sense of self, build confidence and monitor their own health.

 

As a child, I had a hard time understanding my emotions, focusing on my thoughts, and voicing my feelings to my parents. I did not understand how I was feeling, and why my digestion was a bit off when I was stressed, sad, angry, or frustrated. I had no idea why I felt a heavy pain in my chest in the mornings or why I could never sleep at night. It felt unfair - it felt limiting. Despite having a naturopath as a mom and a physician as a sister, most of my time was spent at school and the education on well-being was lacking.

 

It wasn’t until my teen years that I recognized the connection between the mind and the gut. After growing and learning about the gut-brain connection I began to ask myself, “How do I feel in this situation?” rather than “What did I eat to cause this feeling?”. 

 

I learned that, in many cases, our emotions can impact our digestive health. Even though I was nourishing my body with the “right” nutrients, I learned that I needed to fuel my mind, body, and soul for overall well-being. It wasn't until I practiced mindfulness that I discovered strategies to cope with everyday stressors and nourish my mind.

 

Mindfulness allowed me to be the person I always dreamed to be. Mindfulness allowed me to promote all facets of my health.

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WHY write a book about the gut-brain connection?

Child Health should be a priority for our community:

We should really give children more credit. They are intelligent little beings, and with increased access to education and specifically health education... the health of our population will be improved. 

Gut health... why?

My story of learning about the gut-brain connection began in 2017 after a year of excruciating digestive pain every moment of every day. My mother Sheriffa, a naturopath, and sister Anaar, a physician, changed my life. My mother emphasized how we all as humans live under vast amounts of stress, and our bodies do not know how to distinguish between different types of stressors. My sister emphasized that the food you eat not only needs to be good for your health but for your gut microbiome. 

How does gut health impact our overall well-being?

My mother and sister taught me how important it is to really see your body as an interconnected unit, in which all avenues from immunity to digestion, and brain health affect one another at all moments of the day. I learned how to take a step back and instead of analyzing a system in isolation, I thought more holistically. I chose to pursue lifestyle changes to improve my digestion, working on my relationship with food, mindful eating, and daily meditation to allow my body to process stress. 

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Add Gurk & Bianca to your child's library

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My latest projects
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The Canadian Courage Project

Co-founded a non-profit organization alongside my sister Anya. Leading a team of over 60 individuals working to support youth facing structural inequities in the community. 

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