Non-toxic living and clean beauty get a lot of lip service these days, but committing to a more natural lifestyle is easier said than done. With a little help from the founder of Wellthy Belly, Holly Owens, you can practice what you preach. What started out as a passion project for Holly turned into a dedicated Instagram through which she educates followers on everything from health and wellness to workout and travel. Here the model and wellness influencer sheds light on her experience with Lyme disease, maintaining a healthy diet amid a busy schedule, and her go-to non-toxic beauty and food brands.
You’ve been modeling since you were 14 and you’ve basically become a wellness expert along the way. When and why did you start WellthyBelly and what’s your goal for it?
I started WellthyBelly as a hobby and a place to share my recipes, travel hacks, my health journey and favorite non-toxic makeup/skincare etc. Friends kept telling me to post more of that on my modeling/personal account, but it just didn’t seem like the right place. I wanted to have a fresh start and new space to share everything. It ended up growing pretty quickly, I only started it about two years ago, and it has turned into a side business that I work on and manage daily now. I never thought this little passion project would become something, so now I’m trying to figure out the next steps. My goal for this account is to encourage others to take charge of their own health, understand that knowledge is power and to start educating themselves about their health so they can have a conversation with their doctors, and to live a healthier lifestyle by removing harmful chemicals from their home and personal care products, and learning the effects they can have on you.
You have an extensive relationship to Lyme and all things detox, one of them being Bee Venom Therapy. Can you tell us a little about your experience with it and its benefits?
When I was considering Bee Venom Therapy, I was terrified. I kept trying to imagine what it would be like, how I would manage to do it correctly, how badly it would hurt, or how I would keep bees inside of my home with fear that they would get out.
I ended up taking the plunge a year ago based off of scientific studies I had read, showing how the bee venom fully eradicates the bacteria because of the compound melitin. Bee venom is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory—it’s nature's antibiotic and helps with a wide range of other diseases besides Lyme Disease. It has been used for centuries and the benefits are well known within the beekeeping community.
I had a friend who was sicker than anyone I’d ever seen with Lyme. She completed the protocol and is thriving today completely Lyme-free. She created The Heal Hive and now dedicates her time teaching others about Lyme, proper testing and how to do BVT safely. She is who ended up teaching me how to do it on my own.
The protocol is 2-3 years and requires you to sting three times a week, starting with one sting and working your way up to 10 within the first few months. I’m one year in and hopefully only one year left to go. It started out rough, which I had expected. I had a lot of swelling and herx reactions the first 4-5 months. A herx is when there is a die off of bacteria and that is when most Lyme symptoms get worse and you feel completely awful. I slowly worked my way up to 10 stings, it took me about five months and the last few months have been pretty great. I feel more like myself again, I have my personality back and feel like color has been added back into my life. I suffered from brain fog and fatigue for multiple hours everyday and now I maybe have it once a month. My memory is better, my neck doesn’t hurt anymore, and my gut issues have improved as well.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about Lyme disease and Babesia or a myth that needs to be debunked?
Lyme disease is tricky, it knows when it is being attacked so it will go and hide in your lymph and tissues, leaving you symptom-free for the time being, waiting for the best time to strike again which could be years down the road. It’s been shown that antibiotics don’t work after a certain amount of time, so if you are getting diagnosed with Lyme but have shown symptoms for years, I wish more people would understand that the antibiotics won’t stand a chance. Antibiotics are best within the first few weeks after being bitten by a tick.
Living non-toxic can be overwhelming because it’s like, where do you even start? What advice/tips do you have for someone who’s just starting out on their non-toxic living journey?
Start slow, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and feel like you have to throw everything out all at once. When you run out of a product, replace it with a cleaner one, but beware of Greenwashing. A lot of brands out there claim to be “natural” or non toxic and they aren’t. It takes some research to learn what brands are legit and what ingredients to watch out for. I love the EWG website, they have so many articles and you can look up products as well to see how clean they actually are. When it comes to personal care products, I love shopping at Credo or Detox Market, they’re basically a non-toxic version of Sephora or Ulta.
What are your favorite 5 non-toxic/natural brands to buy from and what item do you like from each specifically?
- Naturopathica is by far my favorite skincare line at the moment. Their carrot seed facial oil and cherry enzyme mask are both incredible.
- Bogavia for hair care. Their shampoo is color-safe which is hard to come by when it comes to non-toxic shampoo, and I love their Deep Conditioning treatment.
- Kálos has this AHA/BHA Buffing Cleanser that really makes my skin glow and helps if I have any blemishes.
- Not a brand, but any type of Raw Honey for a face mask helps calm and redness, heal acne, and reduces inflammation.
- Aleavia Body Wash is my new favorite find this year! Our skin has a microbiome of its own, and most products end up stripping the good bacteria away leaving us with dry, flaky skin. Aleavia’s products have the good bacteria in them so it feeds your skin, leaving it hydrated without needing any lotion or oil afterwards.
You’re all about trying different facials. What’s one facial you’d recommend everyone try and why?
Choose just one!? If you’re in LA then Emma at SkinWorship. It’s a holistic facial that is amazing. In a session, they customize things for your skin, they do red light therapy, oxygen mask, microdermabrasion microcurrent, gua sha, and facial cupping. They pack a lot into one treatment.
If you’re in New York, then visiting Dr. Travall Croom for a facial acupuncture session is a must! Facial acupuncture is a great natural alternative to botox or filler because it relaxes certain muscles, lifts others, and the needles that are placed into the skin create microtraumas encouraging the skin to create collagen.
You mentioned that you sometimes dry brush when you don’t have access to a sauna. What’s your favorite brand of brush and method to use?
I love dry brushing to help assist your lymphatic system to pump and push out toxins and excess water weight. My ideal detox routine is to dry brush then sauna or do an epsom salt bath to sweat or pull out the toxins, then finish with a hot and cold shower. The way I do it is starting at my feet brushing upwards towards the groin area, I do about 10 strokes in each section (lower legs, upper legs, lower arms, upper arms), then I brush my arms into the lymph near my collar bone, then all that down through my stomach and into the lymph nodes in the groin. I do my neck and face sometimes, I mainly do gua sha instead, but you can use a clean toothbrush for the face. I got my dry brush from Whole Foods.
What are your 3 top tips/products for maintaining a balanced gut?
- Know your food triggers. To find out what those are a food sensitivity, intolerance or allergy test which can be ordered through a holistic or function doctor. If that isn’t an option, then I suggest doing an elimination diet. There are a few different ones out there. Eating foods that irritate your gut cause inflammation and can lead to leaky gut which is no fun.
- I love digestive enzymes or bitters before meals to help your gut break down the food you ate.
- Bone broth is great to have to heal and seal your gut because of all the collagen that is in the bones. OWL Venice is my favorite bone broth cleanse that is made to help with gut issues.
Do you have any tips/favorite products for maintaining a healthy diet that doesn’t require a lot of prep work?
Eat real, whole foods that are in their natural state. That is the easiest way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My favorite way to cook that is so easy anyone can do it—a big one pan veggie roast. Just cook whatever veggies you want in avocado or coconut oil (don’t cook with olive oil as it doesn’t have a high smoke point) on a pan with some seasoning and you can mix and match meals all week and change out the protein. Limit the packaged foods, minimal alcohol and sugar, lots of water, and READ nutrition labels! Lot’s of sneaky things hiding in your packaged foods.
Break down your hair routine for us. Include products and tools.
My routine is barely a routine, it’s extremely simple. I wash and condition with Bogavia, most days I let it air dry, and if I want to curl my hair then I use my T3 Curling Iron.
Name one app that changed your life or that you can’t live without and why.
ClassPass is pretty great, it has made finding workout or wellness spots when traveling so easy. Also Instagram has changed my life in the best way, it made my passion for educating others a reality.
Are there any entrepreneur and/or wellness books or podcasts that you think EVERY person should read/listen to?
Everyone should read The Untethered Soul. Hands down my favorite book and absolutely life changing.