Why I've Jumped On The Beautycounter Bandwagon

To go straight to Beautycounter, click here.

 

 

I did a thing.

I jumped on the Beautycounter bandwagon.

I was really hesitant, despite using and loving their products for well over a year.  I didn’t want to seem like one of those people you see on Insta, or on Facebook.  The kind that you befriend, and within 20 seconds you are receiving a copy-and-paste message about how excited they are to be your friend and how easily you can buy from them, and DO YOU HAVE A CONSULTANT YET?! It just gave me the feeling of “not my thing.”   The thing is, however, I’m not one of those. I’m not trying to sell. And I don’t know one person who wouldn’t benefit from what this company is doing and offering, so I am coming from the standpoint that I am truly just here to help, and inform.  That is definitely not one of those people.  But hey- maybe they feel the same.

As a nutrition consultant, I loved that safer beauty was finally even being considered as important, and finally being made.  But here’s something you may not know about me: I am also a hair and makeup artist, and have been for the past 15 years.  So, even though I had the nutrition consultant in me saying yes, I also needed this other huge part of my life as a professional in the beauty industry to say yes. And it needed to be a big yes.  Meaning: products that work, that I’d be proud to carry in my kit, and proud to tell people about.

A bit of backstory: A little after I started trying some Beautycounter products, my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.  My cycle was off; I couldn’t know if it were coming infrequently or too frequently.  I was having hot flashes.  And the tests rolled in that I wasn’t ovulating. (In case you haven’t heard of it, or have it yourself and want to know more about what it is and what you can do, you can click here to read another post I’ve made about it.)  Anyway, I was well versed on PCOS, as this was a topic I chose to study in school by choice, and report on. No coincidence, right? I knew I was mostly on the right track, but there were still aspects of my self care products that I had to clean up.  I could feel it in my bones that it would make a difference.  What do they call it? Oh yeah, a woman’s intuition. Not only do I also have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto's, I want my fertility to be balanced, and I also want to try for a baby sometime in the near future, so I started switching most of my cosmetic/body products over to safer skincare.  I started looking at everything I could change, without aiming for perfection.  Let’s face it, I still do color in a salon a few days a week.  Totally NOT non-toxic.

I’m not going to say it was the reason, because that wouldn’t give enough credit to all of the other diet, supplement and lifestyle tweaks I made to get things in balance hormonally, but after switching out a good majority of my body care products (and again, the other changes I made, like targeted supplements), my cycle started becoming regular, I stopped having the hot flashes.  The "yes" in me was getting bigger.  I'm in no way saying Beautycounter cured anything, but I am saying that removing offenders like toxic and harmful products from my body made a big difference and may have been a missing link.

It may sound far fetched but let’s just stop to consider the fact that anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams are to be avoided  days before and/or during the testing of your hormones, or when doing a hormone panel, since a lot of these creams have added versions of progesterone and DHEA.  What if you are super sensitive like me? What if this bit of exogenous hormones is pushing your body just that perfect bit over the edge, and into syndrome-like territory (PCOS)? 

Let’s also consider the fact that Europe bans around 1400 chemicals  “ from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects,” says Safecosmetics.org.  You want to know how many the U.S bans? 30. THIRTY!!! Beautycounter has taken it upon themselves to ban over 1400, “because it is the right things to do.” Amen.  It is the right thing to do.  As women constantly being told what we need to look younger, or be "prettier," I look at buying Beautycounter as a way to make a political statement with your dollar, while leaving all political parties out of it (phew!). Let’s put our bodies into consideration for our decidng, instead.  Oh man, let me just leave our bodies and politics out of a blog post, 'cause that’s another subject…..

Speaking of laws, however, Beautycounter has also gone to work at Capital Hill to get lawmakers to pass a bill that would bring more transparency to the cosmetics industry.  This bill would hopefully apply more regulation over what substances are allowed go into into what we put on our bodies. Well done, and about time!

So, I’ve done the thing. I’m pretty darn excited to be consulting for Beautycounter and on their train headed to better beauty. I’m excited to give women the relief that they can look and feel rejuvenated safely; that they don’t have to throw out their self care regimens and that they can even give do them with gusto with a line that is thinking of the whole person, not just the disappearance of wrinkles, at any cost.  We deserve more than that.  

Do you know whats in your self care products? Do you know whats in the moisturizer, sunscreen, or the body lotion you more-often-than-not apply more than once a day? You can check (and I highly recommend) out how your products may be affecting your body and health here, with this gigantic cosmetics database that tests, rates, and tells you whats in your cosmetics.  You don’t have to throw out what you are using now, but awareness may sway your next purchase. 

To check out Beautycounter for yourself, click here

Want to know some of my favorites products?  Here are my top Beautycounter products:

  1. Overnight Resurfacing Peel: This serum gives the best damn glow upon waking and throughout the next day.  You kind of don’t even feel like messing it up with any kind of foundation or powder.  A little blush and mascara goes a long way with just your natural skin after a night of this stuff.
  2. Cleansing Balm:  I was skeptical about this one for a while because the thought of cleansing with a balm didn’t sit well. I haven’t particularly loved cleansers that don’t lather in the past, like milky cleansers, but this one is amazing, especially for those who tend to have combo to dry skin.  I have found this cleanser to be the best at removing makeup without any makeup remover wipes necessary, and love that it comes with a soft muslin cloth to wipe off the cleanser.  Your skin is left clean, yet soft, not streaky and dry.  Plus, the tub lasts forever. Well worth every penny.
  3. Rejuvenating Eye Cream:  I’m not going to say this cream is tightening, or removes blue circles overnight.  I have found that with consistent use, my fine lines have been minimized (a place where my concealer goes to let the world know it’s there, and then die) and that makeup on my lids and under eyes goes on much better.  Because of how sensitive my eyes tend to be, putting eye cream on my lids sometimes irritated them but not with this. 
  4. Tint Skin Moisturizing Foundation:  This foundation kind of reminds me of Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer (which I do love), only with a bit more coverage and stays on longer.  It has a super light feel, not oily or greasy.  At the moment I am in between shades (summer tanning) so I currently mix Honey and Golden together to make my shade and apply with a brush, but fingers work great also.  Having two shades is great for when the seasons switch and I can go down a shade, or up if I reach my summer tan goals!

Want to know more of what I love? Ask away! Shoot me a comment or message me :)

Why It’s Not All About Calories

Recently someone asked me if he thought I could agree that it’s really just about getting enough of your necessary calorie intake and keeping it there.  Calories in, calories out. I wish I could say that it is.  I wish I could say that a packaged “100 calorie snack-pack” was better than a handful of almonds.  Actually, if I’m being honest, I don’t wish I could, and instead wish those would go away and everyone just magically knew how to take care of themselves, or even knew how to eat for their bodies.  That kind of convenience isn’t even worth it, and it’s not real food.

Here’s the thing: when someone tells me that counting calories helped them lose X amount of dress sizes and taught them about portions, I’m going to, as gracefully as possible, throw out a big “OF COURSE.” I’m also going to ask if it were the first time one took any step in caring about the amount in what they were eating, and also if it were the first time in a long time they thought abut anything else but flavor when they ingested anything? Chances are they haven’t.  I have almost the same response when someone tells me how much improvement they saw going vegan, or vegetarian, or fruitarian, or green-smoothie-arian; whatever.  I’ll just place it in bold here: you will see positive results with any diet, even if its just for a short amount of time, when you move further away from processed foods, and less food, no matter which way you choose.  

The real way, in my opinion, that you will know any diet-lifestyle change is one that is true and best for you is if you are still thriving, have energy, can experience joy and maintain a social life, or feel a sense of community that allows you to eat there as well after a long period of time, and not just a few weeks or even months; I’m talking for life.  Or, to put it simply, if it is sustainable.  While we can all mostly agree that eating plant-forward is always best no matter which way you choose to eat, this looks different for everyone, and comes with much variety.

Let me get back to calories.  Since I do not want to completely discredit this way of getting “healthier” for some folks, (especially for those that have to lose weight quickly, and need to start somewhere, or for other life-threatening conditions and certain ailments) let me talk about a few pros *some* people can experience.

  1. For the “ I haven’t cared about what I’ve been eating … ummm EVER in my life” kind of eater, this can be a fairly good starting point.  A calorie is a way of quantifying the amount of energy or density a particular food holds, and even though a number says nothing of the quality of energy (whether positive or negative energy…and more on this in the cons section) a food carries, for some, they can at least look at the weight of that number and start thinking about whether a food is worth it.  They might be shocked to see which have more or less calories.  Everyone starts school somewhere and this can bring about some awareness with food that a person has never paid attention to.
  2.  For number-oriented people, this can be really satisfying and less stress.  You count, you get to a certain point, you stop.  We all know there is SO much more to this story. 
  3.  Some people, after sticking to calorie-focused diets for long periods of time, begin to learn that they would rather eat a full meal of non-starchy veggies, clean proteins, and healthy fat over one cupcake for the same amount of calories, and thus, learn a new way of eating.
  4. Counting calories can teach some folks portion control.  There is something to be said for portion control, no matter how healthy a person eats. Having typed that, check out #5 of the cons section below

In reality, the scale tips much farther towards the cons of counting calories. Let us begin.

For the cons:

  1. The number in calories says absolutely nothing about the quality of food you’re eating, which is crucial.  While those convenience pack of cookies may be only 100 calories, and the handful of raw almonds being 1round 160-165, have you ever thought of how this is so? Usually, when processed foods are able to be low calorie, they have to be modified. They have to be processed. Necessary and natural fat is replaced with chemicals, since fat holds more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates.  And the same goes for those proteins and carbs; they are simply replaced with substances that are non-foods.  Substances that are usually hard for the body to recognize and process, substances that are void of nutrients and chalk-full of ingredients you could never buy individually on a grocery store shelf.  These foods, quite frankly, are not food, and they will make you much hungrier faster, due to their lack of macronutrients.  You want to stay satiated and eat less? You’ll need the richer, real-food calories from fat and protein and fiber and everything else found in natural foods to do this.
  2. Counting calories does not teach you how to eat.  Some folks, regardless of losing dress/pant sizes from counting calories, never get to scrolling down the nutrition facts label with their eyes to see the amount of sugar, what form sugar, or whether what they’re eating contains tran fats, and this is crazy important if you are eating lots of packaged foods.  They may never see a correlation with an ingredient listed way down that ingredients list, that is causing them to bloat or worsen their particular inflammation. Your unique inflammation could be the very thing that will not allow you to lose weight, regardless of calories. A lot of foods that people could be eating that are nutrient dense, don’t even come with nutrition labels ( like fruits and vegetables), because it would be silly to even count those.  This is why calorie-based programs allow those types of foods, like fruits and vegetables, as “free” calories.  Also, a calorie can’t point out what you could be having an intolerance or allergy to.  Very often, I notice that counting calories doesn’t deepen ones connection to how their food makes them feel, because it fit in their daily allowance of calories and this doesn’t elevate a persons awareness around their diet choices. 
  3. That last one leads me to this: Counting calories gets exhausting, and you can't diet forever.  When I think of diets (and definitely when I think of math), I think shorter term.  When I think of eating for health and vitality, so that I can do all the fun things I want to do in life,  accomplish goals, etc., I think of a lifestyle.  There's no other way to have a lasting diet than to look at it as your lifestyle.  People give up on counting calories so often because you cannot improve longterm if you are eating the same foods, only less.
  4. Caloric needs vary from person to person.  The amount of calories a person who does vigorous exercise an hour a day versus one with a more sedentary lifestyle will be completely different.  2000 calories may not be enough, even for a woman, who is highly active.  I know calorie-based programs have this factored in, but again, a sustainable diet is one where you can maintain energy to live, and function, and maybe even thrive.  Listening to your body and knowing when you need more or less food is part of a healthy sustainable diet lifestyle that is unique to each person.
  5. Eating the wrong foods under a calorie counting program does not fulfill satiety.  Sadly, processed foods (umm, the snack pack) are made with damaged fats, and chemicals that cause inflammation and eventually keep certain hunger/satiety sensors (like leptin, the hormone that lets you know you are full)  confused or insensitive to the signal.  This will keep anyone constantly hungry, as the body never knows when to say “stop, we are done.”  And this is yet another factor that keeps most calorie counting programs from being sustainable.  A diet lifestyle that works keeps the body from becoming inflamed, allows necessary hormones to work when they need to, and keeps you satisfied.

So, I could’ve just answered my friends question with a no.  It’s not about calories in and out.  

Look, calorie counting is a form of portion control, and there is something heavy to be said for that.  It can work, no matter how healthy or unhealthy you are eating in terms of trimming up.  And if you’re not eating healthy, balanced diet during that, it cannot last for long.  You want something to count?  I’ll give you something to count (cue memory of parents saying “ You bored? I’ll give you something do!”). Count nutrients.  Count how many balanced, whole-food meals you had in a day, or how many servings of fresh vegetables you’ve had, or even how many varieties of plants you’ve eaten in a day.  Count the colors of naturally grown foods you see on your plate. Count how many ounces of water you’ve had, or do the math on what time you’ll need to be in bed to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep by the time you need to be up and out the door.  Count how many times you encouraged yourself through positive affirmation, when your weight isn’t dropping at rapid speed, but you’re learning how to truly eat and care for yourself for life.  Count what matters and will give you lasting energy throughout your day, and for your life.  I can guarantee you the 100 calorie snack pack will not.

 

 

 

 

Re-Thinking The Neon Post-Workout Drink

You just did a workout that has you feelin’  ahhhhmazing.  You broke a good sweat, and you hear your soccer coach from when you were 8 years old  in your head reminding you to hydrate and get those electrolytes that you’ve lost back in your body. Because what if you don’t? Your muscles will never build, and your face will shrivel into a raisin, and of course you’ll have no energy to carry on for the day.  Time to reach for that electric blue drink at you local liquor store, right?

Wrong. 

While some of these drinks may offer a hint of these electrolytes, the truth is that the majority of these drinks will offer you much more of something else: artificial colors, chemicals, and processed sugars that are basically exactly what you shouldn’t drink after a great workout. 

The whole thought behind these drinks is hydration, and replacing beneficial electrolytes you may have lost through the process of sweating (ummm….or in some cases, after a night of heavy drinking followed by a vicious hangover). I often hear people talk about needing to replenish with electrolytes in these cases, but if I pulled a Jimmy Kimmel street interview (please youtube these if you haven't, they are hilarious) on most people as to what electrolytes even are,  I bet not a lot would know. 

Electrolytes are mineral salts that cause electricity in the body, and have a positive or negative charge.  When these mineral salts hit water, they come to life and help keep the body hydrated.   Some of the main minerals involved here are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, copper and zinc. These electrolytes keep our cells energetic, and keep our muscles and nerves sharply functioning. All pretty important things, especially for those of us who like to break a sweat.

Now that you have an idea of what electrolytes are, you can probably understand that there are many ways to consume these minerals, and it doesn’t have to be with an unnaturally colored drink that other starts with “smart” or ends with “ade.” 

In fact, here are a few foods and drinks you can easily consume to get replenished easily and quickly.

  1. Good ol’ fruits and veggies:  And, I mean the the whole of them.  Juicing is fine but I personally prefer chewing on fruits and veggies for a few reasons. Not only will you stimulate necessary digestive enzymes that help absorb vitamins and minerals from these foods, but you will be getting healthy fiber that helps keeps blood sugar balanced, and, eating the whole keeps you from overeating too much fruit; something that easily happens when we drink fruit-forward juices. Over-consumption of fruit essentially means an overconsumption of sugar, whether natural or not. Would you sit and eat 4 apples, 1/4 pineapple, 3 oranges, etc. in one sitting if you were chewing? Probably not, but I digress.  Fruits and veggies that are packed with electrolytes include:
  • lemons
  • apples
  • carrots
  • beets
  • limes
  • celery
  • sweet potatoes
  • dark leafy greens, such as chard, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, arugula and a variety of lettuces
  • bananas

2)  Nuts and seeds: Choose raw and organic. I personally love pumpkin seeds for their zinc content, and brazil nuts for their magnesium, which most folks don't have enough of. I also recommend trying products where the base is a minimally processed nut or seed butter, such as Phat Fudge  (which are especially great for on the go), or even a travel pack of nut and seed butters like these, that are free of refined sugar, and some you can even add to a piece of fruit, as mentioned above, like banana or apple.  

3)  Some animal products.  Grass fed beef, and sardines are a few that carry some of these minerals.  I really need to stress that quality, when choosing animal products is of extreme importance, much more so than organic produce, in my opinion.  A healthy animal that was raised in it’s natural environment will have a much better amino acid, vitamin and mineral profile. Make sure beef is organic and grass fed, and that sardines are wild, not farmed. 

3)  Water with a pinch of sea salt and/or any citrus juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.). A good quality sea salt or himalayan pink salt (**not table salt!**) has many trace minerals that make up a good amount of electrolytes, along with citrus fruits.

4)  Greens Powder: I like a greens powder that is pretty mild.  Some of  these powders even offer an array of probiotics, like this one.

5)  Minimally processed, unrefined coconut water. This is by far my favorite brand.  Coconut water has a ton of vitamin, mineral, and nutrients that contain a good balance of electrolytes.

So, there you have it.  More ways than one to get these minerals back.  You can probably kick ol' turquoise sugar-load to the curb.  

How much water or electrolyte replenishing you need after a workout varies from person to person, and how much fluid they individually lose.  The best thing to do is listen to your body, and don’t wait to drink water until you’re dying of thirst.  If you feel dizzy, nauseous, irritable or abnormally exhausted after exercise, slow down and consider some of the above mentioned recommendations before you take the time machine to that dyed sports drink. You may have even noticed that if you put some of these listed items together, what you get is a balanced, whole food, colorful meal that will do an amazing job and then some for replenishing those electrolytes. I am of the personal opinion that the everyday optimal nutrition, real food way and simple water intake is enough to not have to worry.  Electrolytes are not just something you should be thinking about when exercising, but all the time, and as you can see, there are many ways to get them.  

How I Healed My Gut…and Why I’ll probably Do It Again

I am no stranger to bouts (some long and some shorter) of gut repair.  How I Healed My Gut…and Why I’ll probably Do It Again

I’ve dealt with candida overgrowth for years, parasites, and antibiotics that left my gut at ground zero.  And to keep the cycle of gut repair familiar I have one more thing: an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, or an underactive thyroid. There are times I have the symptoms of this autoimmunity really under control, and times where the song and dance of taking care of this needs a little more attention to detail.  Like most autoimmune conditions, taking care usually starts with issues of the gut. A gut, or digestive system that is working up to speed is one of the first steps in getting any health condition to improve.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, for one, you certainly do not need an autoimmune disease to have a gut that is showing signs that it needs repair, and for two, I really cannot stress how important gut health is. About 80% of your immunity is reliant on the gut, along with the making of the majority of your serotonin, your happy juice (also kinda important, right?). More often than not, however, I realize that most people don’t even realize why or when it may need some extra love and repair.  Some of the signs may be ( but are not limited to):

  • bloating/gas
  • skin issues: acne, itching/rashes, eczema
  • sudden allergies to foods 
  • depression/anxiety
  • candida overgrowth
  • constipation and/or diarrhea, pain during bowel movements
  • abnormal stool (what’s your poo looking like?!)
  • low energy
  • heartburn 

Whether it’s leaky gut, an inflamed intestinal tract, an imbalance of unhealthy bacteria in the gut, or some other you-don’t-know-what causing any of the above mentioned symptoms, a gut healing protocol is always your best place to start. I know a lot of people reading this may be dealing with one or more of those bullet points,  so keep reading.  You’ll be surprised after trying and feeling  for yourself, how much can be cured through getting your gut together.  What’s even better is the steps I’m about to mention are ones that you can do at home, without drugs, chemicals, and before you get into expensive or invasive tests to see what’s causing all your woes.  Let’s start.

Remove.  The first step is when you’ll want to remove unnatural, refined, processed foods and other common irritants that will wreak havoc on most digestive systems.  This means processed sugars, refined, glutinous carbohydrates like pasta, pizza, breads (all of those made with refined flour), dairy, soy, processed corn, and grains.  All animal products should be of the highest quality: pasture raised eggs and chicken, grass-fed beef, organic pork, and wild fish.  I must note that there can be levels to this.  Are you already a pretty healthy eater? Do you already refrain from gluten, dairy, and sugar? For those of you who are already here and still having problems, I would also recommend removing eggs, and maybe even watch what happens, and how you feel with nuts, and consider removing legumes, to really be able to rule out any sensitivities.  Do you avoid dairy but still eat grass-fed butter? Maybe for you, switching over to a lactose-free option like ghee is the next step.  Do you already avoid refined sugar but allow coconut sugar and honey? Perhaps for you, all sugars aside from the lower glycemic fruits should be removed.

There are also a few extra things to consider if you’re really going to give your gut a solid chance at healing:

  • check ingredients of non-dairy milks for hidden sugars and gut-irritating fillers and shelf stabilizers like carrageenan, and loads of chemicals you can’t pronounce.
  • avoid deli meats that are high in nitrates, chemicals and sugars
  • try not to replace your previous gluten-filled carbs with gluten free refined carbs.  We are trying to get to the bottom of something, and these can also affect the healing process.  If you do partake in these, make you’re to choose kinds with very minimal ingredients that you recognize.  

Some of these foods, such as legumes or some non-glutinous grains, you may be fine with bringing back after enough time passes. Some foods you may find should be spared for special or rare occasions.  

It’s the removal of these foods for a good amount of time that allows us to feel and get to know our bodies unique constitution better.

Replace. Replacing what may be missing, or what there may not enough of in your digestive tract, such digestive enzymes that break down food, will be really helpful in creating more ease on your gut. Heavy doses of antibiotics, antacids, or other medications are just a few reasons  these natural digestive juices can get weak.  These acids are part of what helps us not only digest but to absorb the nutrients from our food.  You may have heard the expression “you are what you eat,” but we know now that this expression could use an update to “you are what you can absorb.”  You could be eating a healthy diet that you are not reaping the full benefits of due to low digestive enzyme production.  It’s also important to break down food particles small enough to not further irritate a digestive system that is already in distress. This is also a great place to add in your friendly reminder that enzyme production/digestion begins the moment you begin chewing, so get your chew on until your food is unrecognizable. Relax, and try not to “inhale” your food.  

Reinoculate.  Now that we are setting the stage for a healthy digestive production with the first 2 steps, let’s talk beneficial bacteria.  While some “bad” bacteria can and should live in the gut, it’s important that we keep these guys outnumbered by beneficial, healthy bacteria.  A high quality probiotic, and even some fermented foods like kraut, kimchee, and a high quality yogurt are a good way to do this.  Feeding this beneficial bacteria with prebiotics can also be helpful so that they thrive.  Some examples of prebitotics include sunchokes, or jerusalem artichokes, cooked and cooled potatoes, garlic, jicama, dandelion greens, and you can also find prebitotics in supplement form.

Repair.  Once you start to feel the positive effects of doing this gut healing process (at the very very minimum 4 and 6 weeks), and some, if not all, of your symptoms have subsided, it’s time to pull out some secret weapons that are known for their repairing benefits. 

  • slippery elm: eases inflammation of stomach and intestinal lining, helpful for constipation and diarrhea
  • marshmallow: repairs the gut lining, prevents leaky gut, helpful for constipation and diarrhea
  • organic, pasture raised or grass fed bone broth: contains beneficial amino acids that heal the gut lining
  • grass fed or pasture raised collagen and/or gelatin powder: same as above, more convenient form 
  • magnesium: regulates bowel movements, lowers all around inflammation 
  • l-glutamine: repairs gut lining 
  • zinc: strengthens gut barrier of gut wall, and activates digestive enzymes that break down food 
  • licorice root: lubricates and helps heal gut lining
  • vitamin D: low levels are linked to inflammatory disorders, especially of the digestive system * thought vitamin D toxicity is hard to do, be sure to check levels with your doctor or health care practitioner first 

So, you’re feeling better.  Bloat is gone. Pain gone. Regular daily bowel release (I’m sorry, I know. . . . but everyone poops). Skin cleared up.  What now? Never eat an ounce of sugar again? Continue taking “healing” supplements forever? Avoid most parties, even when your better, because you’re afraid to eat with everyone, or to eat what everyone else is eating? Struggle with food when traveling, and only keep to your strict regimen that you have at home?  There will be times when life happens and all of this is just. not. realistic.  Period.  Birthdays happen. Celebration happens.  Bugs and bacteria happen.  Sometimes we get glutened and sometimes, when we are feeling really good for long enough, we can get real relaxed on what the new normal is.

AND THIS IS WHY I (and you) WILL PROBABLY DO IT AGAIN.

And again. And maybe even again, after some more years go by. It doesn’t mean I will be on a constant vicious cycle of the same gut healing process.  In fact, each time I will get to know my body better, and so can you. The healing time may not be as long, and I may even notice that I may not need to avoid as many things, or maybe I do need to avoid a lot, but maybe won’t need as much supplemental assistance.  One thing that I have found to be true is that health, much like any life phase or lesson, is not linear.  It doesn’t go in a straight line.  Things can happen more than once but I can guarantee a new lesson will come to the new you every single time.

 

 

 

 

The MOST POWERFUL MATCHA IN THE WORLD

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As of recent, I have cut back on coffee, limiting it to Sundays, to reduce my caffeine load and to help reverse a recent PCOS diagnosis.  And, man! How I love Sundays! I would SO be lying if I said I didn’t.

But now, I’ve fallen in love with Monday, and Tuesday, and even Wednesday….you see where I am going?  I am loving what I have switched over to: the most powerful matcha in the world!  

Sometimes, monday through saturday I'll drink other things, but this one is worth honorably mentioning because it truly is doing so much. Doing “extra” as the young kids say these days.  My energy has really improved, and I've noticed it lasts longer than that of my coffee days.  If you’re like me, and like to start each day with a nourishing drink that promotes a little, or a lot of self care, then you NEED to try this.  Because it takes care of a lot, as you will see below.

So, first, the recipe, and then, the reason. 

Recipe/Ingredients:

***click on links to see which products I use***

Directions: add all ingredients to blender and blend for at least 10-30 secs. Pour into your favorite mug, and enjoy. Thats it!

 

So, what is all this ish?! Why should you use it??

Well, the Reason(s):

  • Matcha 
    • super high in antioxidants, that help fight aging of all sorts; think cells, tissues and skin
    • energizing, *without the shakes*, or hard caffeine crash, due to L-theanine content that brings about a calm without feeling tired
    • EGCG, an antioxidant, also increases fat burn, and is cancer protective
    • can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Maca root
    • an adaptogen that can help balance hormone levels in women (and men) especially those with PCOS, menopause. Whether estrogen is too high or too low, mace can adapt to your body’s needs
    • supports adrenal glands
    • supports male fertility (sperm production, mobility and volume) 
    • helps support energy and mood, keeping anxiety at bay
    • can increase sex drive in both males and females
  • Turmeric root
    • one of the strongest known natural anti-inflammatories, across many cultures
    • cancer preventative
    • helps boost weight loss by improving metabolism
    • helpful for intestinal and bowel disfunction, such as IBS
    • keeps immunity strong; potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial
    • also helps improve candida overgrowth as also an anti-fungal
  • Blue green algae
    • high in protein
    • super-detoxifier
    • helps remove heavy metals, such as lead and mercury from the blood (helpful to drink after enjoying seafood, especially with today’s ocean waters)
    • protects against cardio vascular disease
    • protects against fatty liver disease
    • anti-inflammatory
  • Medicinal mushroom blend (this particular mix contains: Agaricus blazei, Turkey Tail, Maitake, Shiitake, Cordyceps, Reishi, antrodia camphorata)
    • anti-cancer properties
    • immune boosting 
    • high in antioxidants
    • anti-inflammatory
    • can help with athletic performance, mental focus, and athletic recovery
    • contains enzymes, XXX, XXX (look at package)
  • Grass fed collagen powder 
    • high quality source of protein
    • contains glycine which is beneficial for hormones and reducing anxiety
    • lubricating and strengthening for the joints and gut
    • great for hair skin and nails
    • helps to alleviate anxiety, promote better sleep, and improve mood due to glycine content
  • Cinnamon
    • helps stabilize blood sugar
    • potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
    • anti-microbial; helpful for fighting Candida, as well as other harmful bacterias
  • MCT oil
    • improves brain function
    • beneficial for gut lining
    • reduces excess hunger, can aid in weight loss
    • improves athletic performance
    • source of fat that stabilizes energy
  • Full fat coconut milk
    • healthy source of fat
    • keeps you feeling fuller longer
    • can help lower cholesterol levels
    • can boost weight loss due to MCT oil content
  • Raw honey
    • can reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies, since raw honey also contains bee pollen
    • works as an antibacterial that protects against pathogens in the body
    • beneficial source of natural sugar that can improve your workout
    • contains antioxidant rich polyphenols that boost the immune system
    • free from additives, which are present in non-raw, pasteurized honey

Okay now, check it out: you might not have everything in your cabinet right now to make the most powerful matcha in the world, but matcha done simple is still going to have it’s amazing benefits, and tastes mighty fine with a lil’ dairy free milk of choice, and honey (adding cinnamon makes it special too, and does help stabilize blood sugar). It doesn't have to be fancy! And, if you bought all of these superfoods in one day, I’m not going to lie; it will be expensive (but if you want to do that too, be you’re own guest and treat yo’self!…..just over here trying to not get reamed about how much this would all cost like the uproar created over the day in the life of Moon Juice creator….anyone remember?!..poor thing).  Just know, as you start to accumulate these powerful additions, that they do last a long time and will be way cheaper than your old coffee shop habit. I guarantee it.

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Confusion + 6 Tasty Gluten Free Brands Worth Eating

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Let me start by saying I eat gluten free, so I’m not against GF in any way. I recommend a gluten free lifestyle to people all the time, for various reasons. I have Hashimoto’s, in which gluten directly affects, so removing it has been a no brainer and I’m many years into a gluten free lifestyle.

However, gluten free products have gotten GOOD. Like, real real good. I’m talking pizza-donuts-toast-cookies-cakes-good. Any glutenous treat you once previously enjoyed before [fill in digestive challenge here] kicked in, is probably being sold in stores as we speak with “gluten free” largely typed on the front of the label.

And that term, gluten free, must be making major sales, because even products that should already be and have already been gluten free, like corn chips, are making sure their labels say gluten free on the front, because, well, people are buying it. On the contrary, however, you’d be surprised to learn which products unnecessarily use gluten to either enhance texture or flavor, such as french fries, and, well, maybe even corn chips; these surprisingly can contain gluten.  So as much as it may be out of a marketing scheme, it’s also out of safety, and as a response to the gigantic rise in people who have developed gluten sensitivity. 

While I think there is a starting place for anyone new to gluten free, I’m just going to say, do not fool yourself.  Eating all of the above mentioned new gluten free treats, all of the time (GF or not) is just not healthy.

Sure, it’s perfectly fine to indulge every once in a great while in a gluten free donut, pizza, or cake ( I have a birthday, too, you know!) but, at the end of the day, these  are PROCESSED FOODS, which we could all use way less of. Lots of times, these treats use things like soy, damaging oils, processed, refined sugar and other non-health-promoting chemicals/additives to make it taste as delicious as it is, and to replace the glue-like, binding effect that is gluten. And, lots of times they are super high-carb with little nutrients.

So, even though I do promote a gluten free lifestyle, whether you have an autoimmune disease or not ( because wheat is not what it used to be, unless you’re getting that local, high quality fermented and/or sprouted wheat/sourdough.......which I doubt for most people), remember to use sparingly; that occasional sandwich, that occasional treat, that overseas trip you're about to take, a birthday, etc. And when those times happen, remember there are 468687533578 amazingly clean recipes you can make from scratch from the google, to avoid all of those additives, or choose GF products that contain few ingredients.

Having said ALL of that and, speaking of gluten free products with few ingredients, there are a few gluten free bread and other gluten free product companies I can recommend, for when that occasion arises.  And you can try these, guilt-free, now.

1.  Bread SRSLY. This company uses organic ingredients, and is allergy-friendly. Meaning, free of eggs, dairy, soy, sugar, tree nuts, peanuts, potatoes tapioca and chickpeas. Wow! And I cant recommend their sourdough loaf enough!  I mean, it’s been years since I’ve had the real deal, but I cannot taste a difference.

 

 “Classic Sourdough” Ingredients (non-GMO): Organic white rice, organic millet flour, organic sorghum flour, arrowroot, Ssourdough starter (water, organic sorghum flour), xanthan gum, kosher salt

“Classic Sourdough” Ingredients (non-GMO): Organic white rice, organic millet flour, organic sorghum flour, arrowroot, Ssourdough starter (water, organic sorghum flour), xanthan gum, kosher salt

 

2.  Legit Bread Company.  A paleo community favorite.  While the company is mainly known for their mixes that you then bake yourself, they also have ready-to-eat loaves you can order as well.

 “Original Sandwich Loaf” Ingredients: Ottos Naturals cassava flour, potato starch, psyllium husk powder, potato

“Original Sandwich Loaf” Ingredients: Ottos Naturals cassava flour, potato starch, psyllium husk powder, potato

3.  Barely Bread.  I almost walked by their rep more than 3 times at my local health food store to get a sample of this bread (ha!), it was that good.  I not only loved the taste, but I thought the ingredients held up quite clean.  This bread is also paleo-certified, meaning grain and junk-free.

 “Almond Flour” Loaf Ingredients: Egg whites, eggs, unsweetened apple sauce, almond flour, cassava flour, psyllium husks, water, coconut oil, sweet potato flour, flax seed meal, almond butter, hazelnut flour, apple cider vinegar, honey, baking powder (monocalcium phosphate, potato starch, potassium bicarbonate, as leavening agent), baking soda (as leavening agent), Salt, Cinnamon

“Almond Flour” Loaf Ingredients: Egg whites, eggs, unsweetened apple sauce, almond flour, cassava flour, psyllium husks, water, coconut oil, sweet potato flour, flax seed meal, almond butter, hazelnut flour, apple cider vinegar, honey, baking powder (monocalcium phosphate, potato starch, potassium bicarbonate, as leavening agent), baking soda (as leavening agent), Salt, Cinnamon

4.  Canyon Bakehouse. Although canyon bakehouse is not sugar free (2 grams, per slice), I find this brand to not only be super accessible, but to be pretty clean in ingredients.  No soy, no damaged oils (which a lot of other gluten free breads use).  The texture of their sandwich bread is top-notch and they also carry hamburger, hot dog buns, tons of different sliced bread, and even focaccia bread.  Chances are they are being sold at a store near you, and a lot of times even at more conventional stores instead of just health food markets.  The price is right, too.

 “7 Grain” Sliced Bread Ingredients: Water, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, organic agave syrup, whole grain sorghum flour, whole grain millet, eggs, xanthan gum, extra virgin olive oil, whole grain teff, egg whites, whole grain quinoa, organic cane sugar, molasses, whole grain amaranth, cultured brown rice flour, yeast, sea salt, organic cane sugar vinegar, whole grain buckwheat flour, enzymes

“7 Grain” Sliced Bread Ingredients: Water, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, organic agave syrup, whole grain sorghum flour, whole grain millet, eggs, xanthan gum, extra virgin olive oil, whole grain teff, egg whites, whole grain quinoa, organic cane sugar, molasses, whole grain amaranth, cultured brown rice flour, yeast, sea salt, organic cane sugar vinegar, whole grain buckwheat flour, enzymes

5.  Cappellos. Oh Cappellos, how I love you.  Mostly known for their cookies, Capellos products are grain free, soy free, dairy free and just beautiful. They carry the most amazing gnocchi, fettuccine, and, my personal favorite, lasagna sheets that do not require pre-cooking (like boiling).  After using these sheets myself, I can tell you that they were like using a fresh made batch of pasta.  The lasagna sheets are also super versatile; you can make enchiladas, ravioli, manicotti, crackers, and really get creative to make anything else with them.  And talk about few ingredients…….

 “Lasagna Sheets” Ingredients: Almond flour, cage-free eggs, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, sea salt 

“Lasagna Sheets” Ingredients: Almond flour, cage-free eggs, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, sea salt 

 

6.  Mikey’s.  Which one do I choose? For the sake of variety, I will choose the cinnamon raisin muffins, but their pizza crust is squeaky clean, too.  The cinnamon raisin muffin works great as french toast, and even as bread pudding. Aside from the raisins, these are an amazing, sweet but low sugar option (just 4 grams of sugar per slice).

 “Cinnamon Raisin Muffin” Ingredients: Eggs, Almond Flour, Water, Raisins, Coconut Flour, Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda, Egg Whites, Cinnamon, Kosher Salt, Stevia. 

“Cinnamon Raisin Muffin” Ingredients: Eggs, Almond Flour, Water, Raisins, Coconut Flour, Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda, Egg Whites, Cinnamon, Kosher Salt, Stevia. 

*Click on photos to be lead to brand sites, where you can find their store locators and try these for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Ultimate PCOS Guide

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So, life is funny, isn't it? 

Some years ago when I was in the therapeutic nutrition portion of school, we had to frequently choose topics to make extensive reports on, depending on what we were learning at the time.  During a specific period, I chose PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. Matters of women seem to touch me more than others, so I figured this was a good one to dive into. Of all of my reports and research I did on various topics, this one always stuck out to me for some reason. 

Now, let’s fast forward to two years later; to just a little over two months ago. After crying in my doctors office, I almost walked out laughing after being diagnosed with PCOS myself.  I could hear a little voice say “stop crying, go look at the report and get to freaking work.”   I argued back and told the voice to just give me one day. Just one day to grieve a little.  Be dramatic. Allow me to call my sisters, my boyfriend; go to the worst possible scenario that PCOS can bring, and then be talked off the ledge. Just one day. So that’s what I tried to do but I grabbed that report anyway, and got to studying my own work. To my pleasant surprise, it was good!  I’ve been following my own advice and truly feeling relief with natural additions I had almost forgotten about.  I’ve also been sharing tidbits on Insta and even though I already knew this disorder was very common (up to 20% of women at reproductive age), the amount of women I’ve been hearing from who have also been diagnosed with PCOS is startling.  AND, the amount of women I’ve been hearing from who also don’t have any clue what to do, or where to start is exactly what has inspired me to write this. 

Before I go into guiding y'all on ways to heal, and get some relief from this naturally, it’s important to go over a little of how you may have gotten here, as well as what it means to have PCOS, because I realize this is also not as talked about in a conventional doctor’s office.  

While some cases may have been brought on by genetic factors, and the absolute answer as to why so many women have PCOS is not completely understood, we do know that PCOS is heavily rooted in blood sugar imbalance (specifically insulin resistance-which you will see mentioned A LOT in this post).  Also, inflammation, obesity, lack of exercise, constant exposure to pollutants, and on-going high stress environments.  More recent studies are seeing a high prevalence of PCOS in those with auto-immune diseases, like Hashimoto’s disease, autoimmunity of the thyroid. And go figure, I too have Hashimoto’s. 

With PCOS, ovulation happens infrequently, or there is no ovulation happening at all, accompanied by certain markers on blood and saliva tests, which show hormonal abnormalities such as excessive amounts of androgens (male hormones, like testosterone), along with other markers like decreased progesterone.  Ultrasounds can also show cysts on the ovaries.  BUT, here’s some Willy Wonka naming of a disorder for you: one can still have PCOS without these cysts, and one can also have ovarian cysts without having PCOS. (Where is my confused emoji girl with her hands up, now?!).

And with these triggers and markers, any of the following symptoms can be present:

  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • excessive or heavy bleeding
  • hirsutism (excessive facial/body hair, similar to that of a male)
  • male pattern baldness on head
  • acne
  • Acanthosis Nigricans (darkening and discoloration of skin around neck, groin, underarms and skin tags)
  • weight gain, especially around bottom
  • inability to lose weight
  • anxiety, depression, irritability
  • low libido
  • increased stress
  • the possibility of infertility and/or miscarriage 

No fun at all.

Typically, conventional health care will give you a few options like birth control pills to lower the elevated testosterone, treat acne, lack of ovulation, and regulate heavy and/or irregular periods. Some circles of thought  consider this dangerous, and I agree.  This post describes why in an easy-to-understand way. Or, doctors will prescribe anti-androgens, or something like Metformin, the diabetic medication that treats, *not cures*, elevated blood sugar (again, one of the strongest known roots in PCOS and cause of so many side effects).  These may give you some relief to go on, and pretend like PCOS ain’t even there. Oh, but it is. And why keep PCOS in slumber, or masked,  when we have so many natural tools at our fingertips (nutrition and lifestyle changes being the best ones) to not only free ourselves from annoying symptoms, but even possibly reverse this syndrome?  It is possible, and why not try while getting stronger in the process?  I believe that getting to the root cause of any disease instead of treating every little symptom with a pill, is always the best route.

Okay, so, before we really go any further, you must know this: since insulin resistance is such a big deal with PCOS, I can’t continue without noting that a lot of what you will see below will be about become insulin sensitive. So, let’s get clear on what this is. Insulin is the hormone that gets glucose, or energy from your food, into your cells. When you are insulin resistant, the glucose/sugar floats around in the blood, unused, causing damage to tissues, which also leads to weight gain and the release of that excess testosterone, and the decrease of of SHBG, the hormone that removes potentially harmful excess hormones, capiche?  Understanding the "why" behind so many natural  healing methods of PCOS, also takes understanding a bit about blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. 

Now we can really get started and on our way to healing.  Your ultimate PCOS guide is here.

1)Diet. The first and easiest thing to know is that processed food. must. go. Like, yesterday.  This is true for all of life but in healing from PCOS, it’s time to remove damaged, inflammation-inducing fats and oils (vegetable, corn, canola, soy, safflower, grapeseed… yes, even Earth Balance), refined carbohydrates (crackers, pasta, breads), and refined sugar, stat. Also:

  • Focus on a whole food, real food diet. Read and get to know the ingredients when something is bought in a package.  This is more important than reading the nutrition facts listed above the ingredients, in my opinion. Sure, something could have little sugar, or carbohydrates, but look at everything else there. Is it filled with chemicals you’ve never heard of, oils that are adding to your inflammation load, or fillers that are ruining your gut health?
  • Reduce all sugars, even those found in natural sources like higher glycemic fruits.  Yes, even excess fruit can add to blood sugar imbalance, like insulin resistance.  This doesn't mean removing all fruits for good or never eating a banana, but it’s really important to stick with fruits that are lower in sugar, such as berries, and citrus, and up your intake of veggies instead. And now that you know this, you can bet that excess intake of even the “better” unrefined sugars like coconut sugar, maple syrup, and especially agave (which is basically just sugar…sorry, people).  Once in a while is always doable, but use caution. However, if dessert is what you absolutely need, fruit is a great choice, instead of processed sugars.
  • Reducing or removing grains is also a good idea to control blood sugar and improve gut function-which in turn, improves excess inflammation. If you still need grains, choose organic sprouted options, such as sprouted quinoa.
  • Make sure you are getting enough high quality protein that is organic, grass fed, and/or pasture raised, and free of hormones.  Upping your intake of high quality protein stabilizes blood sugar levels. 
  • Fuel your body with healthy fats such as avocados, avocado oil, soaked/sprouted nuts, olives & olive oil, coconut, coconut oil, grass fed butter and ghee.  Seeds such as chia and flax are also beneficial and provide antioxidants that fight inflammation.  Fats keep us fuller longer, and are another strong stabilizer for the blood sugar imbalance that is usually present in PCOS.
  • Watch your starch intake. Even though I still recommend starchy carbs in vegetable form (potato, sweet potato, all squash, root veggies), be your own food detective after you eat them.  Did you get sleepy, irritable, or crave sugar afterward? Chances are that may have been too much for your body to handle and process fast enough. Remember: insulin resistance, the hormone that helps get energy from your food to your cells, may be impaired.
  • Switch out those 2-3 cups of coffee.  Out in the inter-web, you’ll find a lot of word that coffee is good for PCOS, but take into consideration that coffee increases cortisol and adrenal production, which over time, can interfere with your ability to handle stress; something women with PCOS may already be struggling with.   And, for women with cysts, coffee can increase those.  Choosing green tea over coffee can not only help fight inflammation, but is great at increasing SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) which is marked low with PCOS, and in turn, lowers elevated free testosterone in the blood.  I love coffee, but my switch to matcha is just as enjoyable.  Plus, matcha can also be done bulletproof style :)
  • Limit Alcohol. Moderate, as opposed to excessive, alcohol intake can help improve insulin sensitivity, and lower inflammation. This is also key in optimizing liver function, whose job is to detoxify nearly everything in the body, including hormones.

2) Supplement.  After you have adopted a real, whole food diet that is replenishing your body with the nutrients it so deserves and needs, it may be time to start implementing some other nutrients not as easily found in your diet that target specific causes and symptoms of PCOS. After (written above) is stressed in italics here because supplements cannot replace an unhealthy diet, and will only be working against a strong tide of a diet that is harming your body.

  • Chromium: can help one to become more insulin sensitive, while a deficiency can lead to insulin resistance.  Chromium is helpful for weight management, reducing cravings and hunger, and controlling fat and cholesterol in the blood.  Recommended dose: 200-1000 mg./day
  • Berberine: powerful in helping blood sugar dysregulation. Has proven to work better than the usually prescribed Metformin, by increasing SHBG (removes free testosterone), and decreasing harmful cholesterol and triglycerides.  Recommended dose: 500-1000 mg./day
  • B vitamins:  a complex B vitamin can help convert fat and sugar to energy, helps control fat metabolism, keeping weight off.
  • Zinc: can help control appetite, and regulate blood sugar, cure PCOS-associated acne, and reverse hirsutism.  Recommended dose: 30-50 mg./day
  • Magnesium: deficiency in this mineral is linked to insulin resistance and helps reduce mental and physical stress.  Recommended dose: 500-1000 mg./day either spread out, or taken at night.
  • Co-enzyme Q-10: produced in nearly every cell. Important in breaking down carbs; makes energy instead of storing as fat.  Recommended:200 mg/day
  • Vitamin D: extremely important for immunity and, research has proven, can normalize menstruation and fertility.  Recommended dose: 2000-5000 IU/day, depending on tested blood levels.
  • Herbs/Roots: I truly believe herbs/roots are some of the most powerful plants we can use for PCOS. Especially the following: 
    • Saw Palmetto: works as an anti-androgen, helpful with the side effects due to excess testosterone.
    • Vitex (Chaste Tree): one of the most important herbs for PCOS, stimulates and normalizes the function of the pituitary gland ;helps control release of luteinizing hormone, which is often elevated in PCOS.
    • Nettle root/leaf: increases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), removes free testosterone, reducing circulating levels in the blood.
    • Red Raspberry leaf: strengthens and tones the uterus, promoting a healthy reproductive system.
    • Red Clover: treats acne associated with PCOS, improves liver function and boosts fertility.
    • Dandelion root/leaf: supports the liver in removing excess hormones, increases fertility
    • White Peony: has been shown to positively influence low progesterone, reduce elevated androgens (male hormones), and acts to modulate estrogen and prolactin.
    • Black Cohosh: helps lower elevated luteinizing hormone. Reduces anxiety and tension associated with PCOS.
    • Licorice root: reduces testosterone synthesis, decreases serum testosterone concentrations, and helps modulate a stress response.
    • Maca root: adaptogenic herb that helps support adrenals.
    • Turmeric root: powerful anti-inflammatory.
    • Cinnamon: brings blood sugar in balance.
    • Holy Basil (tulsi): excellent stress reliever, anti-androgen properties, fights inflammation and can regulate blood sugar. 

I personally like to make tea blends with many of the above-mentioned, so that I can get multiple helpful herbs in one cup.  I also highly recommend tincture blends with any of the herbs mentioned above, like this one, and from this company.

3) Exercise.  Yoga, pilates, walking, some strength training and even some HIIT can all be great for PCOS.  It’s important to remember that workouts that put extra stress on the body or cause you to be lethargic afterward, may be putting you even deeper in the PCOS hole.  The purpose of exercise is not just weight loss (although weight loss is helpful and important for those with PCOS, and following the guidelines in the food section above can help), but for increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. If exercise is not something you’ve been up to as of recent, that’s okay. You can start slow and take daily long walks that will get you into the groove until you can build up your work-out tolerance. Just start!

4) Sleep. Sleep depravation creates the perfect storm to magnify the symptoms and challenges in PCOS, or any condition. Know that the more we put off sleep, the higher the chances are that we are creating even more insulin resistance. This happens because a lack of sleep causes us to crave more sugar, raise cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, and increase inflammation; all factors that cause insulin resistance.  How much sleep each person needs is highly individual, but aiming for anywhere between 6-9 hours of sleep per night is a great goal to have.  Plan accordingly. Set that “bedtime” alarm (I know there is one on the iPhone!) if you must. If it means going to bed by 8:30 to get that many hours of sleep per night, and wake up on time for work, do your best to dedicate that street-lights-just-came-on bedtime; your body and hormones will thank you for it.  I like Valerian root, or Passionflower tincture or tea to get me in sleepy-mode.

5) Reduce toxin load. This means beauty and household cleaning products. The skin is an excellent way for toxins to enter our system and wreak havoc on our reproductive system.  After all, the skin is our largest organ.  Cleaning up what we use on the daily will ease up the toxic load you are exposed to. For me, this meant switching from my beloved gels, to nail polish that is free of the most toxic reproductive harm, chemicals often referred to as the “big 5” and even “the big ten,” like these brands. You can switch to safer skin care like Beautycounter, and even refer to EWG.ORG to check  their Skin Deep cosmetic database to see how what you are currently using rates on the toxicity scale.  They even have a database for your household cleaners, as well as recommendations for what you can use instead.    

6) Reduce your use of plastic. This could easily go in the paragraph above but needs its own number-it’s that important. Remember above when I mentioned that a cause of PCOS may be “constant exposure to pollutants?” Well, look no further than the plastic water bottle you’re using every day.  Especially plastic that is not BPA free. Women with PCOS have been shown to have more BPA in their blood (up to 30% more) than women without, and by a lot.  Not only that, but BPA from plastic increases androgens (male hormones), and mimics the way free testosterone binds to SHBG, the very substance that is trying to get excess hormones out of the body, and that in itself is dangerous. Start carrying your own stainless steel or glass water bottle to avoid cheap plastic bottles that have been heating up in a truck while transported to you.  Same goes for food storage. Part of being an adult means better tupperware, amiright?! Switch out those plastic containers and opt for stainless steel or glassware instead.  

7) Reduce your stress. Elevated stress of all kinds (emotional and physical) raise cortisol levels, which are typically already elevated in women with PCOS. Cortisol, a stress hormone we absolutely need, can turn into a bad thing really fast when elevated, as it stops other necessary hormones for functioning properly. Elevated cortisol also makes one more insulin resistant (there it is again) and makes any pre-existing depression or anxiety worse.  So, you can see how reducing stress is not just important in terms of uncomfortable negative feelings and thoughts, but also for your physical condition and hormonal status.  I highly recommend picking up meditation, a restorative/gentle yoga practice, spending time in nature, getting a massage, practicing an instrument, and talking with people you feel safe with and trust.  These are all great ways to reduce your stress.

8) Cultivate more joy. I know you're probably thinking: easier said than done. But this can be as simple as writing a long list of all the things you love to do(which I highly, highly suggest), and make it a point to do one of those things every single day.  I am not going to guarantee a cure with this recommendation, and may be lacking scientific evidence here, but I do know for a fact that more joy in your life will change your relationship to this syndrome in the healthiest way-which is everything. It is often our relationship to disease that is hurting us more than the actual disease itself. While we may not always see the markers on tests improving quickly, we still have the ability to feel good, and maybe even happy in the process, and this makes all the difference in how much PCOS can negatively impact your life or not. Cultivating more joy and reducing your stress (to jump back to #7 for a sec) might just mean removing the obligations that no longer serve you, saying no to that party you don't really want to go to but are being guilted into, or maybe even ending a relationship in which your teaching there has been learned.  I firmly believe that more joy is a key in healing, not some frivolous act you don’t deserve. 

9) Find a practitioner who's values are in line with yours. This is so important. If the way you would like to go about treating your challenges is not being heard or respected, or is constantly being met with a "well, you could try X pill," and that is no longer sitting well with you, it may be time to seek out a new one.  A functional medicine practitioner will be more likely to look at all of you, as a whole human (what a concept, huh?), and will be able to spend more time to listen to what you need, as well as be open to other healing modalities that may not be "conventional."  In most cases, this will sometimes cost a bit more but this is  true investment in YOU.  Looking for one can be tricky but there are directories made by leading functional medicine practitioners, such as this one, that can point you in the right direction.

So, there it is.  As you can tell, PCOS relief and reversal is largely based on nutrition and lifestyle improvements, as well as natural remedies that are no big secret.  They're not unattainable;  behind a hidden door only doctors have access to.  You CAN heal.  In the meantime, be gentle with yourself, but diligent, and know that all things worth having take time.  You got this.

 

 

Eat...... And Let Others Eat In Peace: 5 Ways To Get People To Improve Their Eating Habits

In todays news….I am currently sitting on the plane and feel highly inspired to write about a rule of thumb I like to follow and that is: Eat, and let others eat in peace.

So, I'm on this flight on my way home to Los Angeles. The flight attendant comes over and asks me- well, actually she more reminds me that I ordered the orzo pasta with shrimp. After I kindly tell her that I don’t think that is the right order for me since I’m gluten free, the man next to me, who, mind you, has not even looked over once at me even though I’m his only neighbor, turns to me and says, “I have a sister who’s gluten free.”

“Oh, really?” Smile on my face.

“Yeah. I’m not really sold on that whole thing because I’m into evolution and if that were really bad for us then we would all be dead.”

Smile has faded to a straight face. Sort of like one of my favorite emojis I like to use in moments of disappointment or where all I can think to say is ‘Welp.’

“Oh.”

The flight attendant then asks him about his meal and he says he doesn’t want it if it has spinach in it because he’s allergic. Ironic, no? Then he turns to me again.

“I really just don’t like it.”

Total evolution buff. I mean, really.

I’m telling you all of this because I think it’s really important to keep in mind that the most inspiring way to eat, and not to mention the most respectful way to eat, is to eat, and let others eat in peace. Even if you don’t like what they are eating. Even if it grosses you out. Even if it is something that you are personally allergic to. If no one asked you your opinion about their meal that they chose to eat, I recommend that you refrain from soliciting your opinion. When people want or need advice, there is a chance they will probably ask you. And, eating is personal. People make their choices based on their morals, beliefs, sicknesses and health. Those things are kind of a big deal. Your unsolicited comments can offend those sacred things that a person bases their life upon. Much like relationship advice- give it when you are called upon.

One thing I know for sure as a certified nutrition consultant (aka someone who's job is to teach people how to eat optimally for their unique selves), is that preaching, calling people out, and/or making someone feel bad about what they are eating does not really inspire people to change. No matter what you know, no matter your education. It will quickly inspire them to eat in the dark and not eat near you. And actually (vegans, vegetarians, fruitarians, paleolithic dieters, etc., etc.- please listen), I really think aggressive approaches only make people want to run the opposite way. You may just be catching someone on the brink of changing their eating habits and perhaps gentle words could encourage that.

But you know what does inspire? Being a living example. Being confident in your choices. Perhaps, by improving your diet, you are glowing, have great energy throughout the day, or have a new sense of calm about you. Maybe there is not a huge physical change but you are finally off of a particular medication, which is a huge accomplishment for some. Or perhaps you have noticeably shed a few pounds and you are going about your damn business with a pep in your step. I think it’s safe to say a lot of people want that.
This is exactly what inspires people; not sitting at a table alienating or berating anyone for their dietary choices. Being someone who is holding the wellness-fort down at the dinner table without having to explain themselves to seem better or make others feel worse, is enough most of the time to make others want to copy you. This kind of silence is a strength.

If you are training to be a health educator or practitioner, or already are one, you already know that there are plenty of ways to bring awareness and educate people to promote positive change with welcoming arms. We want it to be enticing, otherwise, what’s the point? And if you’re not a pro, just enjoy the lifestyle, and/or really want to help someone you love, there are gentle ways to broach the subject. Here are 5 ways to inspire people to make healthier diet choices, and avoid  verbally vomiting on someone you don't know, or worse, someone you love:

1. Host healthy dinner parties. Who doesn't love a good party? Well, some people, BUT not many when it involves free food! Make your friends, family or co-workers a delicious meal that will tickle their fancy into the joy of healthy eats. Maybe they are too scared to walk into that health-food restaurant or just think everything tastes like tofu. This is a great way to teach them this is far from the truth and there are TONS of websites to pull recipes off of to make this a reality.  You could even make it hands on and they could walk through it with you.

2. Invite your friends and family to restaurants that serve up inspiring, health-conscious dishes.  Maybe being the entertainer or hostess with the mostess is not your bag, baby.  Invite them to a place for a healthy meal.  And just maybe next time they are hungry they will remember the place and choose this over their usual two tacos for 99 cents from the drive-thru.

3. Invite them to classes and seminars you are attending on the subject.  There is a solid chance you will both learn a thing or two you didn't know before. Look for demos at your favorite cookware store,  take a glance at what meetup.com has going on in your town in the health/wellness/cooking section, or even look into a fun cooking classes in your city.

4. You can even send them articles (easy, now, easy). Be really careful with this one (unless you know for sure that this is that one friend that is a tough cookie). You may not want to send " Why That Donut Is Making You Ugly." Use your common sense and know who your audience is when sending.  As I mentioned above, try to give advice (and in this case articles) when people are giving the hint that they want or need this information.  New studies are coming out everyday, even in your girly and gossip magazines (I mean, make sure they are true).

5. Gift them with books or utensils to help them get started. I'm not telling you to buy people into your ideas, but buy people into your ideas....I kid, but you know what I'm saying. Cookbooks are usually beautiful, and they make wonderful gifts.  There are a ton of new cook books that also include information about the healthier ingredients used (or omitted), and the way they impact your health.   Also, have you been into a Sur La Table lately?! I'm amazed at the new gadgets and constantly want to buy things I do not even know for what or how they are used.

What I am saying is: there are a lot of ways to get a horse to drink.

So, while my airplane neighbor drinks his diet coke and omits the spinach because his taste buds are allergic, I’ll just sit here and finish this blog post, feeling unscathed by the comments from the peanut gallery, because I feel damn good.

 

 

 

Coconut Butter Berry Bomb

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Say that 5 times fast.
Over the past 8 weeks or so, I have been following a very detailed food plan that falls somewhere in between a strict AIP (Auto Immune Paleo) diet, and a diet that is also tailored to my unique individual needs, avoiding things that may be considered perfectly healthy for others (certain vegetables, fruits, etc.), while for me, can cause some inflammation, due to allergies and intolerances.   And, since inflammation is the root of all sickness and disease, particularly in the gut, what you put into your body is really, really important.  So, due to my own autoimmune condition that comes and goes in a wave of symptoms,  I'm currently avoiding a lot and doing my best to not feel deprived or unsatisfied in the process.

Long story even longer, I'm not left with a wide array of sweets I can indulge in.  Which makes a person like me, who enjoys my occasional Hail Merry and Nada Moo ice cream, get crafty. I have become slightly addicted to coconut butter.  I know- I'm REALLY living on the edge here. Can I live?!!  I got a little bored of simply sticking a spoon in the jar so, I made these.  And they. Are. Delicious. Like candy.  They also kind of remind me of these little yogurt bars my mom used to eat in the 80's- that I'm pretty sure are horrible for you by today's standards- and I loved them.  They're also a really awesome source of high quality saturated fat which helps keep your immune system strong, hormones balanced, keep the mind thinking clearly, and give you  solid energy throughout your day.

I don't have any exact measurements because when I saw that in just a few days I had gone through half of the jar with my nightly spoonings (can I use that term right now?...is this a term?), I acted really fast.

Here's what I did:

1) took half the jar of coconut butter I had left (about 1 cup), put it in the food processor. I like this brand

*It's been about 100 degrees here the past 2 weeks, so I didn't need to warm this but if your jar is super hard- warm it up over the stove for a bit.

2)heated these ingredients over stove in a pan/pot:

  • approx. 1/4 c. coconut oil with 
  • approx.  1 c. of frozen berries (blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry) and
  • 1 & 1/2 tbs. organic grade B maple syrup 

* this is simply to warm the fruit, melt the oil, and warm the maple syrup so that nothing cold touches the coconut butter. If it's cold, it will make it lumpy and hard to make smooth.

3)add approx. 1/4 tsp. organic vanilla extract

4) blend well in food processor until smooth, and pourable (like a thick, slow liquid)

5) pour, or spoon mixture into cupcake tins/paper/molds 

*it's totally okay if it didn't exactly pour. You can easily spoon and press this mixture in, and the result will be the same.

6) freeze for 15 minutes, then transfer little guys into an airtight container to the fridge.

7) enjoy & try not to eat about 5 of these before bed like I did. I used mini cupcake molds; I'm not a total pig.

* I also added 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder and 1 teaspoon of cordyceps powder.  These are excellent adaptogenic superfoods for your adrenals that I sometimes use in moderation.  More on these supplements in another post.....

 

 

 

 

4 Reasons To Grow Veggies

Being in the garden has brought so much joy into my life. I'm also blown away by the daily teachings it gives me about life in general. I feel a sort of pride and ownership when I make a salad in which three quarters of the bowl I actually grew. In my head, I compare this to the way a parent must feel on their childs first day of school, or when they say something cute or funny in front of a friend. Like, "I did that." And yes, I know parents are probably thinking "she has no idea." But, I don't own these things just because I threw some soil, compost, water (and a lot of love) in a box, just like parents don't really own their children, just because they made some love, even if it took a lot of work to grow them.  Like children,  I am realizing that I am just here to facilitate magic and the miracle that is life, to make sure it all goes okay and, not only that, but to show it some damn respect along the way, try my best to protect it, let it do it's thing, and see what happens. I imagine that this is the only way to be when you have a child of your own, otherwise it can really end up being a little disappointing. You can do all that you thought was the best, and they are still going to do what they are going to do. Cucumbers do the same.  You'll be shown what you need to know, either way.

I bet you thought I was just writing this to give my indulgent, emotional thoughts about my garden a home.  But I'm here to tell you that you can have your own vegetable garden too, and not just to form poetic thoughts and ideas (although that's fun too), but because growing your own food, whether in a garden, or in pots on your porch or balcony is so beneficial in so many ways.  Here are just a few ways:

  1. You won't add to your carbon footprint to consume veggies.  Growing veggies in pots, in planter boxes, and directly in the earth requires no car, no fuel, and/or other resources, therefore reducing any negative impact we make on the earth, and can be done almost anywhere.  It's not something you should stress on the next time you drive to market but this fact will hopefully bring some awareness the next time it's a sunny day and riding a bike or walking is an option.  
  2. You'll eat what in season.  Nature has rules, you know.  Some things you can't grow at certain times, so you'll grow things that are meant for your climate with respect to the season, instead of buying  things from other countries that are harvested when they are not ready so they can ripen while traveling to you.  Which brings us to the fact that....
  3. You'll eat veggies that have a higher nutritional content.  When veggies are harvested before they are ready they lose some of their nutrient density, and nutrient density in vegetable is what we want.  Walking to your backyard and picking what is ready to eat and use right there and then will ensure that your produce will not only taste better, but is better for you.
  4. Get a reason to "unplug."  Finding things to do these days in which we can't have our phone with us at the same time is getting harder and harder.  Giving attention to what you grow is a great way to put your device aside and take a breather from the world.  

 

Gardens are popping up in some pretty cool and creative spaces these days, and trust me- they feel damn good.  If you have the will, you can make a way and grow what you can with a little sunshine, some water and some love.  Between Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, books and blogs, anyone can make their garden dreams a reality.