family wellness | health research | women's health

Small Changes, Big Results: Reducing Your Toxic Burden

By on July 15, 2020

I have brushed on the topic of chemical exposure and health concerns in many blogs. Today I want to dive a little deeper into the meaning of toxic burden. The toxic burden is the toxic load our bodies carry while still trying to function normally. We are exposed to chemicals and toxic substances in so many ways. There are toxins in our food supply, the air, the water, personal care products, household cleaning products, lawn maintenance, make-up, packaging, and so much more.

Green Washing

“Clean”, “green”, “non-toxic”– these are words that are trendy, or bougie these days. So many companies have “green” versions of products to cater to that trend. I have fallen into the trap of “green-washing”. You know, when the package looks non-toxic and good for the environment? The claims on the label even support it? However, the actual ingredient list is far from clean. The list is full of hormone disruptors, carcinogens, and artificial fragrances.

I have been keeping an eye on current environmental laws and recently 100 protections have been reversed. This means that even more, harmful chemicals will find their way into our personal care products and the environment. There are over 1400 chemicals that have been banned in Europe but are allowed in the USA. To become aware of these chemicals we have to become adept at reading labels and knowing what is in our products.

Risks of Toxic Burden

Like I said, the toxic burden is the load our bodies carry while still functioning normally. What about those times when our bodies say enough is enough? There is a time when the toxins build-up and start to affect our health. For me, it started happening in my teens (although I didn’t have a clue) but by my 30’s I had a lot going on. It was showing up in my bloodwork, health appointments, and truly making me feel unwell.

Some of us are more sensitive than others and there are a variety of ways toxicity will manifest. Fatigue, headaches, eczema, sleep issues, allergies/breathing issues, infertility, acne, certain cancers, and so much more. The toxic burden can also fuel existing conditions– think autoimmune hell!

Areas of Concern

There are so many things we encounter in our lives that are toxic offenders. In our family, we have several key areas we work to keep as pure as possible. We can not control all that happens in the world around us, however, we can control what goes on in our homes. I’ll share a list of the areas we are mindful of in our home.

  • Water Quality — Nothing quite wakes you up about water quality until you live through a “water crisis“. 2014 did it for me! In our home, we are particularly careful with our cooking and drinking water. Ultimately, a whole-home system is on my list but right now we make sure what we are ingesting is clean. You can receive a local report from your public water system to know where the areas of concern are in your system. We use a Berkey Water Filter in our home and also purchase some 5-gallon refillable jugs from a local water supplier. I am careful about the plastic our water is packaged in and won’t buy single-use bottles.
  • Air Quality— Mold, allergens, and synthetic aromas are all a cause for concern and air toxicity. Removing candles, air fresheners and synthetic fragrances improve the air quality rather quickly. We only use pure essential oils and diffusers and natural cleaning products.
  • Personal Care Products/Household Cleaning— These are one of the biggest offenders. After learning how to read the labels more closely (or even scan the barcode Think Dirty App or EWG) I’ve found that I am not comfortable using about 90% of the items found in most stores. I have a few places that I shop for the majority of these items. This means less choices or experimentation and sometimes I pay a little more. I’m okay with that. Less choices = less stress and also you generally get what you pay for. I’ve found that most higher quality products require less (a little goes a long way) and I have less waste and clutter as a side benefit.
  • Food— I know I’ve shared this info many times but it is worth repeating. I generally try to eat food that is as close to natural as possible. A diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, humanely raised meats/dairy, organic if I can or at least following the dirty-dozen list. Eating locally and in season is also great but isn’t always the most accessible.

Getting to Know Yourself

It is important to know yourself and do your own research. Information is so readily available and it is easy to find contradictory information. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to know yourself and what level of “green” living you want to adopt. My best advice is to find out what is most important to you when making the switch and start there. Baby-steps are always the best and most sustainable. When researching look at all sides and from different perspectives, from a reputable source.

In our family we have worked within our budget and have found solutions and for us, we are very, very cautious about what we use. Like I mentioned above, we avoid 90% (if not more) of mainstream-store personal and home care items.

I have a few companies I trust, I make some things and purchase some locally made items. The majority of our products come from Young Living, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. They offer so much, I love everything they create, and the ease of one-stop shopping does it for me.

Another thing that happens when you begin to remove toxic substances from your life is that you will begin to have keener sense of body awareness. Most likely your health will improve (issues you may not even know you have will clear) and you will definitely notice when you come in contact with a chemical and have a reaction.

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health research | hormone balance

Hormonal Balance & Fertility Optimization

By on January 8, 2019

My journey into natural health began because I struggled with PCOS and was told at an early age that I would probably need help conceiving. I distinctly remember hearing that at 15 years old, and the only thing I knew I wanted for my adulthood was to be a mom. I did have trouble getting and staying pregnant, for awhile.

At a point in my adulthood journey I started reading about how diet, exercise, environmental toxins, and even emotions can wreak havoc on our hormones. In the United States, infertility is actually becoming quite an epidemic and has a very high price tag when undergoing medical intervention. I don’t know about you, but for me medical intervention did not feel right, I felt there was a “why” and a “how” right before my eyes. I just had to find it out for myself. I am glad I did, because I have found success and health, and have watched many other couples do the same.

It is possible to create an optimal environment for conception, restore both male and female fertility, or just age gracefully by taking a few simple steps to cleanse and nourish your body.

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Managing our Chemical Load

Many variables have to be in aligment for proper hormone balance. The first thing I suggest doing is taking a look at your environment and assessing your toxic load. This is part of life that we do not have complete control over, however we can minimize the exposure in our homes.

Petrochemicals in our environment are often a huge culprit in hormone imbalance. They mimic estrogen, even in men, who do not naturally produce estrogen.  Estrogen dominance can create problems in females releasing eggs, or if eggs do release and fertilize, may have difficulty attaching to the uterine lining. Men can suffer from impotence, mood swings, and many other ailments.

So, assessing and cleaning out our homes and replacing with products that contain the least amount of chemicals possible is desirable. Toothpastes, shampoos, lotions, make-up, cleaning products, etc. all can be major hormone disruptors. Our skin is our largest organ, and will absorb anything and everything that we put on. Learning to read labels and being wary of words like “fragrance”, which actually means chemical cocktail!

 

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Food as Medicine

Our diets are also cause for concern. In previous blogs, I have shared the most successful dietary protocol for my body. It is really important to realize that factory farmed meats, artificial flavors and colors, as well as foods that contain phytoestrogens (soy) can be damaging for our delicate hormonal balance. Sticking to a whole food diet, eating humanely farmed meats, removing grains and sugar typically do a world of good.

It is also nearly impossible to meet all of our nutritional requirements from diet alone. Even the “perfect” diet can spark some questions. What was the length of time the food traveled to get to your plate? How was it grown or processed? What do you clean your fruits and veggies with?

High quality, whole food nutritional supplements can help us meet our nutritional requirements. Whole food supplements of the highest quality are necessary so that our bodies can actually absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the supplement. Common supplements that you pick up at big box stores are from synthetic sources, so our body immediately works to eliminate them or can have a toxic response trying to process the vitamin.

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Gut Health

In natural health, it is found that women who suffer from hormonal imbalance tend to have problems with their bowel and liver functions. When our bowels are stagnant, or the liver is not performing optimally, the toxins our body would prefer to release are sent directly to the sex organs. Cleansing is a way to “flush the pipes”, so to speak.

Following a gentle cleansing protocol can reset the system to prepare for a pregnancy. Following these steps typically take about 3-4 months for hormones to begin to regulate, however each individual is different depending on toxicity and gut/colon health. For gut cleansing, I prefer 4 specific types of supplements.

An herbal cleansing supplement is the first thing I use and recommend. This gets the digestive system moving. Even if you are “regular” it does not mean that you are actually actively releasing the excess hormones. A multi-complex digestive enzyme is also key. Most people do not have adequate enzyme activity in the gut to actually break down and assimilate all of the food that is consumed.

The supplement will replenish the digestive enzymes and help the body stay at an adequate level. A fiber supplement  is also helpful and will bind free estrogen in the system and allow it to pass. And a high-quality probiotic will feed the good bacteria and allow the microbiome and immune system to flourish.

Cleansing the gut allows the toxins to release from the body, and healing to occur. Following the dietary recommendations will speed up the healing process. I also like to use the collagen HA supplement I mentioned in a previous post, since it truly helps to close the seal on “leaky gut“, which so many of us with autoimmune conditions suffer from.

Love Your Liver

The liver controls many, many functions in our bodies. Saving and supporting your liver is also a key to hormonal health. The liver is the major filtering organ of the body. It is known that impaired liver enzymes are cause of recurrent miscarriages, and that most estrogen metabolism takes place in the liver. Once the colon has been cleansed, the liver can do a better job releasing and removing the toxins from our bodies.

A healthy body weight is important for a healthy liver, as is limiting chemical exposure. Dietary choices have been the key for my liver health. Removing sugars, grains and  getting most of my carbs from vegetables has been the best way to support my liver. Making these changes have helped me release inflammation, belly fat, and pain that I carried in the upper, right portion of my abdomen.

Moderate exercise is also very helpful. Just a 15 minute walk per day can keep the flow and release going in the area of the liver. If we are stagnant, our organs become stagnant. There are also some very nice supplements and essential oils that will support healthy liver function.

 

Stress and Exercise

Another hormone killer is chronic stress. The stress hormone cortisol is often referred to as the “death hormone”. Why? High cortisol levels changes our blood sugar levels, slow digestion, changes cardiac function, lowers immunity, increases inflammation, decreases thyroid, among many other things.

We have this hormone to protect us in times of danger, but chronic stress leaves us living in this state much of the time.  The autonomic nervous system controls our stress/relaxation response, and can be addressed and nourished in several ways.

Yoga and mindfulness exercises can work wonders in reducing chronic stress. Our breath is powerful in rewiring our stress response and something as simple as taking slow, rhythmic, deep breaths can massage our organs and reduce our cortisol levels.

Since this post is so wordy, I will save a few mindfulness exercises for a future post.

I am also aware that I have shared a lot of information in one post. I am always happy to elaborate or point you to more resources that may be best for you– so feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if this info sparks any questions.

 

 

 

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collagen | diet | health research | pregnancy

Second Trimester Woes and Remedies

By on December 7, 2018

I am big on finding natural, healthy remedies for common discomforts. Pregnancy is a time for discomfort of all types and I am sharing what I use to curb a few common second trimester irritations. I strive to live a chemical-free life. I know as well as anyone that sometimes medication is necessary and I am not here to replace medical advice (obligatory disclaimer). Also, adequate water intake, nutrition, and exercise are necessary to support ALL pregnancies. Many symptoms and discomforts can be alleviated by ensuring these requirements are met.

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1. Pregnancy Insomnia (yes, that is a thing!)

Since the first trimester ended and I rebounded from morning sickness, I have spent many nights tossing and turning or not resting when I actually do fall asleep because of crazy pregnancy dreams. Wowza, hormones can be something else! Thankfully, I have found some natural remedies to help promote a restful night sleep.

Tart Cherry Juice

This is surprisingly effective. I have been drinking 2 oz twice per day at about 3pm and again at 8pm. Tart cherry juice contains the highest amount of melatonin of any food. Another bonus with this juice is that it is high in antioxidants and has a low glycemic index, which is not typical for juices. This remedy can take a week or two to become effective, although I have noticed an effect within a few days.

Magnesium Supplements

Most of us are deficient in the mineral magnesium. Diet and lifestyle choices are often the cause of our deficiency. Processed foods, stress, pharmaceutical drugs, and soil depletion are all causes for magnesium deficiency. We can ensure that we are foods are magnesium rich by eating plenty of leafy greens, nuts; such as almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews. Many seafood choices are high in magnesium, as well as dark chocolate (70% cacao, in moderation). Also, taking a high quality magnesium supplement is also necessary. I use this one, and take before bed.

Essential Oils

I only use pure therapeutic grade essential oils from Young Living, and would never recommend anything else. The oils that are my favorites and promote a good night sleep are lavender, vetiver, and the blends Valor, Stress Away, and Peace & Calming. I apply these directly to my body, typically on the back of my neck or on my wrists. Sometimes I use a diffuser and diffuse in my bedroom. Oils are also nice to mix with epsom salts and use in a relaxing before-bed bath. P.S. Epsom salts also provide magnesium! If you haven’t tried oils yet, or want to check out Young Living, contact me and I will share my referral code with you.

 

2. Constipation

Ugh, pregnancy constipation is a common discomfort. The hormone progesterone slows down digestion therefore causing elimination issues. There are several remedies I have found effective with this complaint.

Hydration is one of the key components of digestive motility.`During pregnancy 3-4 quarts of water is necessary per day! Water fixes so much, and it is incredibly important to keep the digestive system functioning appropriately. Also, in the dietary realm fiber is important for digestion as well. Since we typically avoid grains and legumes in our diet, our fiber comes from green leafy veggies, cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, and sweet potatoes. A green smoothie each morning is excellent digestive support.

Supplements

Magnesium is another winner for helping alleviate constipation. Along with magnesium, adding a good quality probiotic, and a full spectrum digestive enzyme are must haves for digestive support. A probiotic will help alleviate constipation, however probiotics are essential for so many facets of our well-being. Probiotics are key in immune system function for mama, and will help baby develop a strong and healthy immune system. Taking a probiotic during pregnancy helps the colostrum fill with good flora that will aid in baby’s immune function, microbiome production, and production of vitamin K.

Enzymes are crucial because they aid in the digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in our food. When taken with meals, our food can be properly digested, absorbed, and converted to energy. They also have another role– proper enzyme balance helps regulate our hormones, cellular growth and repair, etc.

Tea

There are several teas blended and marketed to pregnant women. Pink Stork Constipation Tea is the one I have tried, since the business is based locally to me. It is tasty and did the job quite well. I also like that it is organic, non-GMO, vegan, decaf, and gluten-free.

Essential Oils

The oils that have been my favorite during this time are orange & marjoram. I massage them into my lower back and abdomen 2-3 times per day. I love a few drops of lemon essential oil in my water for relief as well. Plus, it adds a wonderful flavor to my water and makes drinking 3 or more quarts palatable!

3. Fatigue

Ah, how often does 2pm roll around and you are struggling to keep your eyes open? I know after chasing my toddler all morning and attempting to get some work done, this is a common occurence!

Exercise

My most effective remedy for fatigue is taking a brisk walk. When I am struggling to keep my eyes open and I know a nap or a cup of coffee is not the best choice, I will pack up the toddler in his stroller and take a brisk walk around our neighborhood. Within 15 minutes I usually feel better and have enough energy to get me through the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.

Supplements/Essential Oils

The oils I use to give me a pick-me-up are grapefruit, orange, peppermint, and frankincense. These oils are all uplifting and energizing. I will pick an oil or two, put a few drop in the palm of my hands, rub my hands together and inhale until I feel a shift in my energy level. My favorite supplement is a mineral supplement called Revitalize, which is a natural mineral supplement that supports energy levels and cellular function. I mix it with 20 oz of water and almost immediately my energy levels and cognitive function improve. Plus, it tastes like a yummy kool-aid and is free of sugar and caffeine. Again message me if you want to try it out and I’m happy to share a discount code.

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4. Itchy, Stretching Skin (and maybe the dreaded stretch marks)

Ah, one of the joys of motherhood! There are many OTC remedies for stretch marks. With my first pregnancy I used every belly butter, oil and cream that I could find at Target and still ended up with the dreaded stretch marks. Luckily, THEY DO FADE!

Supplements/Essential Oils

With my last pregnancy, I ended up getting by with minimal additional stretch marks, although I did have the itchy, stretching skin multiple times throughout my pregnancy. I would use a carrier oil and the essential oil blend Gentle Baby. This really soothed my stretching skin and I believe prevented additional stretching. Now, during this pregnancy I am taking the collagen HA supplement that I mentioned a few posts ago, this is my favorite and by following the link you will receive $10 off your first order! The cool thing with this is that I began taking it prior to this pregnancy and I noticed a firming of my abdomen within 2 weeks of taking. So this is a part of my daily regimen to support my organ and cellular health with the added benefit of skin support!

I know I have just touched on just a few complaints that surface during the second trimester. What are some common complaints or solutions that you have found along your pregnancy journey?

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diet | health research | success

Mind over Mama-Brain

By on November 13, 2018

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I have to admit, I went quite a bit off the wagon with my health habits during the first few weeks of knowing I’m pregnant. Something clicked inside of me that wanted comfort, I did not want to cook, and I was emotional. Like I mentioned in my previous post– I had the “what the hell are we thinkings?” going on for several weeks. I am not a good pregnant person. I worry, I obsess, I become a ball of anxious stress. That is; until I get the all clear from the doctor that the pregnancy looks viable and is on track. As soon as we had our first ultrasound and I heard the heartbeat, my anxiety levels bottomed out.

Also, planning with my doctor to manage my risk of preeclampsia alleviated a lot of my stress. My doctor praised me for my diet and body changes over the course of this year, so I regained hope and had to revisit my relationship with the lectin-free diet. Why is the lectin-free diet such an important factor? My entire physiology changed after getting in a groove with my diet. Anxiety and postpartum depression ceased, I lost over 20 pounds, and the shape of my body changed. I have lost weight many times, but never actually lost the puffiness in my upper abdomen and actually been able to keep it off. My hormones regulated, I stopped having digestive issues, and my moods stabilized. As you can see, I received many benefits from these dietary changes.

I felt off the rails for a bit– eating what I wanted, eating emotionally, and feeling I deserved the junk because I was carrying a baby. My logical mind knows much better. I know that it is a slippery slope moving from something that obviously works very well (and probably a key factor as to why we conceived so easily) to something that was known to cause many issues! I had to readjust my mind and diligence to keep myself on the program. Being pregnant, working, raising 2 other children and being a wife is a lot of work. Healthy eating is also a lot of work, and a lot of money. However it is something that will prevent many problems down the road, so the investment of time and money is worth it.

To be successful with a plan I have to find my belief. I research, study, make plans, do a lot of trial and error. Once the parameters were established and I figured out the websites to visit, cookbooks to use, and where to buy the food I was set. We rotate a few of our favorites and occasionally try something new. When I think of something I am choosing to do for health and wellness, or habit changing I always put my kids first. What am I modeling for them? My choices are often reflected in their behavior and attitudes. We have proven time and time again that if my teen overeats sugar or carbs, his attitude is much worse. If I am choosing a fast food meal over a nourishing meal of protein and vegetables and allowing my toddler to have those tastes, his tastes will develop around what he is fed. And now I am the keeper and incubator of another wee one, and this baby’s well-being is also going to be determined by my choices.

When I take a step in the wrong direction, it just takes some strength of mind to dust myself off and get back on track. Remembering the pain of the past often makes it easier to face the discomfort of a green smoothie over Chick-Fil-A. The “pleasure” I receive from eating something that does not nourish my body is not worth the damage it does. I can take this lesson and apply it to many aspects of my life. How often am I reaching for something that feels pleasurable that ultimately does not line up with my goals? Am I talking to and about others in a constructive manner? Am I spending my money wisely? Am I working my business effectively? You get the idea. Keeping on track will make things feel much better in the long run.

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