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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diet | recipes

Simplifying Dietary Changes

By on January 17, 2019

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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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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family | musings

Surprise, Surprise

By on November 7, 2018

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October was a month for the books! My husband and I found out that we are expecting our second child together. It has been a bit of shock and awe, I have had emotional days of “what the hell are we thinking”, and of course bliss and being ecstatically happy.  Mentally I was not prepared for the 2 lines on the test. My mind was wrapped around chasing our very active toddler, helping my teenager through his first year of teenagerhood, and really pushing for business growth.

The past 3 years have been full of major life changes! Moving, natural disasters, divorce, death, marriage, babies– I think we have covered all of the major categories– sometimes more than once. Why not add one more!?! Gus and I are a good team and always up for an adventure, so cheers to the newest piece of our puzzle. And at least I am still (barely) in my 30’s!

The thought that has eased my mind and worries is that I have given myself a major health revamping this year. After having Ezra and dealing with a difficult pregnancy, birth, and recovery I knew I needed to look deeper into healing. I have tried many things over the years to heal my hormonal & autoimmune issues and 2018 was the year to find the missing link. Ezra and I both responded very well to the lectin-free diet, his issues resolved rather quickly after we acclimatized to the changes and I had a lot of healthy “side-effects” from the change as well.

I believe I have the tools to really give this pregnancy a good head start for a different type of delivery and health outcome than my previous experiences. I am, of course, doing things by the book medically and will be watched like a hawk– I am completely fine with giving extra blood and urine to the lab! Life is full of adjusting and adapting to whatever surprise is around the corner. Our newest surprise is due in May– so mommy, daddy, and big brothers still have plenty of time to adjust and find our routines along the way.

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