Expert advice on vitex for fertility

Vitex (also know as chaste tree) is often said to be great for fertility, but is it for everyone? You’d think so by reading fertility forums and blogs! But often times it can make a woman’s symptoms worse.

Join Kelly LeGendre and I as we talk about vitex; what it is, how it works, who should take it (and who shouldn’t), as well as proper usage.

And make sure you scroll below the video to grab her top fertility tip and a three-day fertility menu! I’ve also added the show notes in case you’re a reader and not a watcher. ;-)

Vitex for fertility

About Kelly

Kelly LeGendre, the creator of The Fertility Fix program, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist who has been helping women grow their families naturally for over a decade. After the birth of her son (who was conceived while following the first iteration of The Fertility Fix plan!), she left her acupuncture practice to focus on helping make motherhood a reality for other women worldwide. Kelly uses a research-based approach to naturally optimize fertility through a combination of functional nutrition, lifestyle modification, and herbal medicine. You can find her website at TheFertilityFix.com and she is also on Facebook.

Top fertility tip

Do everything in your power to reduce your stress level! Women don’t realize what a huge effect stress has on their hormone levels, but it takes whatever else is happening inside your body and amplifies it. Stress increases insulin resistance, interferes with thyroid function, lowers progesterone, makes it more difficult for your liver to break down excess estrogen and other toxins, and causes inflammation by impacting gut health. No matter how much you clean up your diet, if your stress level is still through the roof, your health (and fertility) will suffer.

Where to buy vitex

Mountain Rose Herbs vitex extract

Gaia vitex extract available on Amazon

Show notes

Not an exact transcription, so check out the video for the entire conversation, but here are some of the main points from our talk!

What is vitex?

Vitex, also known as chaste tree, is a bush/herb native to the Mediterranean. The berries are used in herbal medicine.

What actions does it have on the body?

It works on the hypothalamus to stimulate dopamine production and when dopamine is up, it suppresses prolactin which has a cascading effect to raise progesterone.

It can be useful in women with progesterone deficiency issues, but Kelly always tries to use other options to raise progesterone first.

Is this a herb for both men and women?

No, this herb is for women only. It may decrease testosterone and impair sperm motility in men.

Is it estrogenic?

Vitex does have a slight estrogenic effect, but it tends to raise estrogen and progesterone at the same time. So women with high estrogen want to be wary taking it.

What reproductive issues should we be taking vitex for?

Kelly uses it primarily for luteal phase defects (where the second half of the cycle after ovulation is too short). Vitex is usually only used after options haven’t worked.

It’s also important to know that dopamine and progesterone have the same precursor hormone, pregnenolone. And if you are low in pregnenolone, she tries to raise those levels first as vitex will force the body to produce more dopamine which could cause deficiencies in other areas causing a “crash” later.

What other natural remedies should be tried first?

Lifestyle - Pregnenolone is also used to produce cortisol, and if you have high levels of stress for a long period of time, the body uses this precursor for stress instead of progesterone production.

Women tend to gloss over this recommendation and move on to more exciting remedies, but reducing stress, and figuring out better ways of dealing with it, are really important and make a big difference.

Diet - Consuming a lot of vitamins and minerals as well as good fats is important in hormone production.

Sugar needs to be cut out as it can cause the body to preferentially produce serotonin instead of dopamine.

Caffeine needs to go as it can raise cortisol levels.

A focus on whole foods is important.

Supplements - replacing nutrients you may be deficient in can also be helpful. Magnesium, zinc, B6, and vitamin C can all help in the production of progesterone and its precursor hormones.

Can vitex be used for PCOS or annovulation?

PCOS responds so well to diet and lifestyle changes that those should be primary in those experiencing PCOS. Because they aren’t ovulating progesterone will be low. But once we can get them ovulating through dietary changes, then we can look at progesterone levels and see if they have any luteal phase problems.

What is the best form to use – tea, capsule, or tincture?

Alcohol extracts the constituents from the plant so tinctures are going to be your best bet.

How much vitex should you take?

It’s important to work with someone who knows the herb well as they can figure out the correct dosage for your situation. Normally Kelly recommends about 30-40 drops per day in water, upon waking, and on an empty stomach.

How long does it take for it to have a positive effect on the body?

It normally takes about 3 months to see any changes due to vitex.

Should you take it throughout your whole cycle, or just post-ovulation?

Kelly has most of her patients use it during the luteal phase or last half of the cycle. (from ovulation until the first day of your period)

Is it bad to take along with other herbs or supplements (what about Maca)?

No known contraindicated herbs for vitex, but maca seems to be another overused herb right now.

The only research done on maca in women is to raise estrogen levels post menopausally. Women with early menopause or premature ovarian failure may have good results with it, but if a woman has low progestersone the last thing they need is more estrogen in their systems.

And because they do opposite things, there is no need to take maca and vitex together.

If you are taking hormones or going though medicated cycles for assisted reproductive therapies, you shouldn’t be taking herbs that help to balance your body’s hormones. The herbs are trying to naturally balance while the prescriptions are trying to take over and do what needs to be done so it’s counter-productive.

If you are taking it while trying to conceive, can you continue it during pregnancy?

This is really something to talk to your midwife or OB about as there are no studies that show it’s safe…and yet there are no studies that show it’s unsafe.

The concern with going off of it abruptly is that vitex is artificially getting your body to produce progesterone and if you stop taking it without using supplemental progesterone it could make miscarriage more likely. Other alternatives are progesterone creams or prescriptions.

Vitex and breastfeeding – should you take it while breastfeeding and does it reduce milk supply?

Not aware of anything that has shown that it can bring back cycles while breastfeeding. But it has traditionally been used to increase milk supply in the immediate post partum period, and yet at others times it can be used to reduce prolactin levels – it all depends on the individual situation so check with a practitioner that knows the herb.

There hasn’t been really any research that has proven it safe or unsafe, but taking herbs that affect hormones makes Kelly somewhat wary as it’s not something you really want to pass on.

Additional information added after the show

Vitex can make depression worse, and in some cases can even promote suicidal ideation. So women who have a history of depression should be VERY cautious with it. This is especially true for low dopamine-type depression, the symptoms of which include apathy and having a really hard time getting excited about anything.

vitex for fertility

3 day fertility menu

The diet I recommend to my clients centers around real, whole foods. You need plenty of good fats and protein to create the hormones needed to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy, so I try to include a wide variety of them.

I also focus on LOTS of veggies to provide necessary vitamins and minerals, plus the micronutrients and fiber that are needed to break down and remove surplus hormones and other endocrine disrupting toxins from the body. Cruciferous veggies are especially good for helping the body eliminate excess estrogen, so I try to include some everyday.

Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine have been proven to have negative effects on endocrine balance, so I recommend excluding them completely while trying to conceive.

Meat, eggs, and dairy should always be grass-fed and organic to avoid added hormones and maximize good fats, and fruit and veggies should be organic when feasible.

While my plan isn’t paleo, I highly recommend Melissa Joulwan’s paleo cookbook, Well Fed, to anyone trying to transition to a way of eating that includes more cooking. In it, she outlines what she calls the “weekly cook-up”, where you basically spend an hour or two once a week grilling chicken, browning ground beef, prepping veggies, and making a few sauces, then all week-long all you have to do is throw a few things in a pan with a little oil and some spices, and voila—dinner is done in 10 minutes flat!

Melissa’s got a quick primer on her website, plus links to recipes and a few meal plans with more detailed info and shopping lists here . I’ve started doing a weekly cook-up recently and it’s absolutely revolutionized the way I cook (and eat), because I always have something on hand that’s healthy and quick to prepare. To save even more time, make enough at dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Day one

Breakfast: Steamed greens (I like a spinach, kale, and chard blend) with butter, two eggs over easy with salt and pepper, topped with diced avocado

Lunch: Bean chili with ground beef, pico de gallo, and plain, full-fat Greek yogurt over mixed greens

Snack: Small handful of raw almonds and blueberries

Dinner: Chicken breast or thighs, stir-fried with avocado oil, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and Greek seasoning, small green salad with olive oil and vinegar

Day two

Breakfast: Steamed greens with butter, turkey sausage, and sweet potato

Lunch: Leftover Greek chicken and veggies over mixed greens

Snack: Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt with raspberries

Dinner: Paleo Pad Thai, riced cauliflower sautéed with onion in butter and chicken stock

Day three

Breakfast: Steamed greens with butter, two eggs scrambled with salt, pepper, and garlic, topped with feta or goat cheese

Lunch: Leftover pad thai and small green salad with olive oil and vinegar

Snack: Veggies (cucumber, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, etc) with hummus or guacamole

Dinner: Zucchini noodles (made with a vegetable peeler or spiralizer – found on Amazon), cauliflower “cream” sauce, with mushrooms and wild-caught shrimp sauteed in butter and garlic

*as with any dietary changes, see your health care provider (preferably a holistic practitioner) for personal recommendations.

 

If you have any questions concerning vitex that we didn’t answer, please feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll get it answered as soon as we can!



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Adrenal Calming Infusion

I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the term adrenal fatigue I kinda “poo-pooed” it.

I mean come on…I thrive on keeping busy. I am a born “do-er”.

But in the last couple years I have literally been through some of the darkest health days I have ever experienced because I chose to ignore the very apparent adrenal issues I was suffering.

Back to back pregnancies followed by a miscarriage and then very quickly and unexpectedly getting pregnant shortly after that threw my body into a deeper level of adrenal fatigue to complete exhaustion. Nothing. Nada. I wasn’t even registering cortisol on the charts because I flat-out didn’t have any.

In the last 18 months, I have thrown myself head first into healing my adrenal health which in turn has uncovered the root of many longstanding thyroid issues I have just dealt with for many years. It has also given me a great respect for this thing called…enjoying life. Relaxing. Taking a deep breath. Sitting DOWN. Chilling out.

I am not completely healed. But I am functioning at a level I haven’t functioned at since well before I had children.One of the things I really needed help with doing was relaxing enough to sleep well at night. I just physically couldn’t do it on my own. All the downtime, healthy food, and deep breathing in the world just couldn’t settle my frazzled nerves. And sleep is what my body was craving the most at this point.

I started making this after dinner infusion last year and it really helped my quest for better sleep habits. I would make it right after dinner and let the herbs infuse the water and drink it when my kids went to bed. An hour later I was definitely ready to rest which was perfect timing. I made myself bedtimes. I took some time out for *me*. And used my “do-er” personality to dive head first into the task of healing my body from fatigue.

It’s just a simple step – but giving your body a little help to wind down in the evening so you can rest well could be the first and most important step to your own stress and adrenal healing.

herbal tea for adrenals

relaxing tea

Adrenal Calming Infusion
 
Author:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp dried chamomile
  • ½ tsp dried hibiscus or rose hips
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Optional squeeze of lemon and/or drizzle of raw honey to taste (I love both!)

Instructions
  1. Pour the hot water over your dried herbs and steep anywhere from 5-10 minutes (this will make more of a “tea”) or over a couple of hours (this is called an “infusion” and is a little stronger than tea). I like to use my French press so the herbs are strained out as I pour.
  2. After the herbs have steeped you can strain them out, add the pinch of sea salt, and squeeze the lemon and stir in the raw honey to your taste.

adrenal calming infusion

 

Herbal information

Chamomile – traditionally know for it’s relaxing properties, dried chamomile is often used before bedtime or during moments of mental or emotional stress.

The small white flowers have a slightly sweet scent pleasant flavor. It is part of the ragweed family, so a person with extreme ragweed allergies may want to use caution.

Hibiscus – Just a bit tart, hibiscus adds a wonderful red color to the tea as well as plenty of antioxidants. Avoid if you have gallstones.

Rosehips – the dried fruit of certain species of roses is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and adds a slightly tart flavor to the tea.

 

(note from Donielle – I love to purchase my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store! I’ve been pleased with the quality from both of them.)



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Benefits of journaling during infertility (weekly challenge #8)

Infertility, or even simply the thought of becoming pregnant, can bring about BIG feelings.

Hard feelings.

Since the benefits of journaling is well-known, I thought our newest weekly challenge should be one where we look at those feelings and get them out. We can hash out what we truly think about the situation we find ourselves in with no underlying fear of judgement from even those that love us most.

Benefits of journaling during infertility

  • releases pent-up emotion
  • gives you the ability to organize your thoughts
  • helps you to record symptoms, goals, and personal growth
  • enhances emotional breakthroughs
  • allows you to express emotions without fear of judgment
  • the practice of journaling may have a positive impact on your physical well-being
  • it helps you to understand how you really feel about a situation or event
  • gives you the opportunity to re-process previous events

I want you to find a journal or notebook (I love my moleskin from Amazon), a quiet place, maybe a good cup of tea/glass of water/coffee/etc, and spend at least 5 – 10 minutes writing.

You can write about your day, about your hardships… about anything you want. Just write and see what comes up.

I love what Michael Hyatt says about journaling –

“What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it. Journaling helps sort this out.”

Below are some journal prompts you can use over the next week if you’d like, but feel free to come up with your own as well.
journaling during infertility

7 journal prompts for this week (or feel free to use your own)

  1. When you were young, what was your dream family? Focus on what your dreams were before you met your husband.
    1. What type of guy did you want to marry?
    2. When did you want to get married?
    3. What type of house did you think you’d live in?
    4. When did you want to have children? How many did you want?
  2. After you met your husband, how did your dreams change?
    1. Did you begin to want something different in life?
    2. Is he the man you had always seen yourself with?
    3. Describe your relationship while dating. How did it change after marriage?
  3. Going back to your relationship with your husband…what are your ideas about family?
    1. How are your ideas and desires for family the same?
    2. How are they different?
    3. What causes you the most frustration in your relationship right now?
    4. (if applicable)How has infertility changed the way you communicate?
  4. If you never had children (or more children) how would that make you feel?
    1. Why do you think that causes you pain?
    2. What is the root feeling behind that pain? (feeling “left out”, feeling like you’re not complete, losing control, losing your dream, etc)
  5. Describe yourself.
    1. What do you not like about your personality?
    2. What part of your personality do you love? How can you embrace that more?
    3. When you think of your body, what comes to mind? If you dislike what you can see physically, why? When did that dislike start?
    4. What do you have to offer to your friends and family?
  6. If you were to have infinite resources, what would your life look like?
  7. What scares you about your future?

Other ideas for journal prompts:

  • Throughout your life, what person has hurt you the most emotionally? (think about how you can resolve, forgive, or let go)
  • What is the biggest lie you ever told? (have you forgiven yourself?)
  • How have you experienced rejection in your life?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • Remember the time when you were the happiest.
  • What sounds give you comfort?
  • What have you dreamt about this last week?
  • Write down 10 things you need prayer for. (patience, encouragement, finances, marriage issues, etc) Use this list to pray for yourself or ask a close friend to pray them for you. (more ideas here – http://www.amateurnester.com/2014/10/31-days-infertility-prayers.html)

 

 

 



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Cortisol and Stress

Stress. Few things are more familiar to us. In fact, it’s everywhere.

Let’s think about it for a moment:

How many times a day would you guess that you “stress?”

How many nights a week do you lie awake, worried about a situation?

How often does that nagging thought resurface throughout the day?

How do you care for yourself amidst all the stress you find in your life?

Money. Relationships. Car accidents. Loss of loved ones. 
Even the very thought of these.

They all affect our bodies.

The body responds to all stress is the same, even if the stressor is a looping thought that just won’t go away. Whether you’re getting chased by a bear or you’re worried about paying the bills, it’s all the same to your body and causes your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) to fire up.

This function is both beautifully simple and complex.

cortisol and stress

Let’s explore.

Cortisol and stress

When we experience distress our SNS kicks in and says, “DANGER! PROTECT! I’M NOT OKAY!” What that will look like for you is dependent on many factors. Biologically, though, your body goes through a series of predictable physiological changes, including:

  • Rapid breath and heart beat
  • Perspiration
  • Increased body temperature
  • Pupillary dilation
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Flush or pale skin, depending on the individual

Because there are fibers of the SNS that extend into nearly every tissue in the body, effects of chronic stress are felt throughout the whole body.

Our brain function, stomach, large and small intestines, kidneys and reproductive organs are just a few systems that suffer. When stress isn’t simply momentary, but constant and unrelenting, our bodies never receive the cue from the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) that the danger has dissipated and we’re safe from harm once again.

The problem with never receiving the “all clear” signal is that the momentary bursts of hormones become chronic, and bodily processes like reproduction, digestion, memory, and kidney function, which were meant to be momentarily suppressed to allow us to make it to safety, become chronically suppressed, and our adrenals, which function as the body’s “shock absorbers” stay on, convinced that we’re still in emanate danger. All. The. Time.

Cortisol and weight

Most of us know cortisol as “the stress hormone.” As a society we have come understand that when we’re under a lot of stress, higher levels of cortisol cause us to gain weight. And we hate gaining weight! But how exactly is this true?

Cortisol is released by the adrenals when they receive notice that we’re in danger (be it a conflict, finances, or a rabid monkey chasing us). Cortisol then assists us in “getting away” by activating a long list of bodily processes, such as converting proteins to energy, attempting to combat stress, and restoring homeostasis in the body. Together, with decreased nutrition absorption from a depressed digestive system, weight gain is increasingly likely.

So, here we are. Coping with stress. All cylinders firing. And, as we know, prolonged excess cortisol causes us to start gaining weight. While this seems counter-intuitive, let’s consider how weight gain could be a protective measure. If you were really being chased by a rabid monkey, would you stop to eat? Probably not. Food is the last thing on your mind. Your body, being the intelligent, dynamic organism that is is, sustains you by packing on the pounds so you don’t need to stop and feed while fleeing for your life.

Thanks, body!

adrenals and stress

Cortisol and the immune system

And then, when you least need it, you start getting sick. Really sick. And you stay sick for a long, long time. When you do get better, you still feel run down.

Why?

Because cortisol blocks T-cells (a vital part of our immune response) from doing their job. We can cope with this temporarily, but over time the sustained roadblock T-cells encounter to do their job leaves us vulnerable to every little germ. And because the body is prioritizing the perceived threat against our lives, the bug that would give us the sniffles slips through undeterred.

Cortisol and memory

Initially, cortisol can give us great clarity in dangerous situations. However, it does so by suppressing function to the hippocampus where memories are processed and stored. Long term excess cortisol, as is present in chronic stress, overwhelms the hippocampus, causing it to atrophy, or waste away. (Don’t fret this too much, though! All signs are that, for the chronically stressed, this can be reversed!)

10 Wellness strategies for countering chronic stress (and balancing cortisol)

adrenal fatigue

As with most health challenges, there is no one magical thing you can do to feel better. In fact, it’s my hope that it’s YOUR hope to not just feel better, but actually be better. What can we do to not only lower our cortisol levels, but to heal ourselves and move towards living as wholly integrated individuals?

1) First and foremost, it is essential that you look to put yourself first and find ways to destress and simplify life. There may be stressors that are beyond your control, so look for the things that you can do something about immediately.

2) Consider meditation. Recent research is proving what many cultures have asserted for centuries: meditation, particularly Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction reduces stress levels while increasing your ability to handle stressful situations.

3) Because sustained excess levels of cortisol work against insulin and increase blood sugar levels, it is important to move towards a food lifestyle where the majority of your foods are whole foods: foods that look like what they are.

4) Lots of good, healthy fats, such as coconut oil (available here) and avocado. Not only will this help stabilize your blood sugar, but it also helps to soothe frayed and tired nerves.

5) Eliminate stimulants from your diet, in all their forms. Energy drinks. Coffee. Caffeinated teas (white, green, black). Even refined sugars can stress an already-rev’d-up nervous system. While some can go “cold turkey,” you may find that you’re more successful if you eliminate one type at a time.

6) Water. Drink lots of water. Daily. Half your body weight in ounces, every day. (For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your water intake goal for the day is 75 ounces.)

7) Get to bed by 10. This one’s the one that gets the most pushback. But it’s also one of the more important ones. Without sleep our body can’t rest recover. And those of us in the chronic stress camp need to get to bed by 10. If not, we may find ourselves up until 1-3 a.m.

8) Herbal and dietary supplements. Herbs that are nervine (nourishing to the nerves) and adaptogenic (supporting the body in adapting to stress) are going to be particularly helpful. My encouragement is to find a Naturopath or trained herbalist who will sit down, get to know you, and make specific suggestions. Herbs, like people, have personalities and nuances that help professionals know exactly the kind of person they will be helpful for. This is just one reason why your neighbor can have great success using chamomile to relax and it may do absolutely nothing for you.

9) Schedule down time. Ideally every day. Have time set aside that is meant for things that bring you peace and restoration.

10) Emotions. Although I put this last, don’t think it’s less important! From a Naturopathic perspective, there is an emotional component to our illnesses, especially if the illnesses are chronic. This mind-body connection is crucial! The adrenals and kidneys have a strong affinity to fear and a feeling of “I’m not safe.” Explore how these emotions might be showing up in your life.

 

Have you dealt with chronic stress? Comment below and let us know what has helped you! (or what you’re having a hard time with)



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Aubrey Organics – a review of the age-defying therapy moisturizer

It’s no secret around here that I like to use natural products, especially when it comes to beauty products!

Many times I simply make my own or make do.

But…as I age I’m finding that sometimes my homemade stuff is lacking. My skin sometimes needs more nourishment than what I can provide it with my basic skills. And as we delve into the world of handmade skin and hair products via beard oil and another line we’ll be launching in the next couple of months, I’ve come to realize how much research and work goes into producing a great quality product.

I have so much more respect for companies that go above and beyond to produce safe and toxin-free products for my skin and hair.

But I also like to protect my pocket-book and sometimes have a hard time paying the extra money that these products cost only to throw them out if they don’t work. (I once threw away a $30 natural shampoo and conditioner set because it did horrible things to my hair!) Yet, I’ll definitely pay extra from a company that has worked for me in the past.

After trying out the moisturizer I was sent from Aubrey Organics I have no qualms buying anything from them.

aubrey organics

I also really like the company:

  • they’ve been making all-natural beauty products since 1967
  • their vision is “To be the earth’s most respected leader in personal care products for health and environmentally conscious consumers.”
  • part of their mission is to lead by example
  • they have a complete body care line, so you can get exactly what you need based on your skin type
  • they have an INCI dictionary on their website so that you can see exactly what the ingredients are and they also list all of the common names.

My review

Aubrey sent me the Age-Defying Therapy Moisturizer.

Sigh…guess there’s no time like 33 to start using a product to decrease the formation of more thin lines on my face!

It features:

  • Sea buckthorn and vitamin C to protect skin from oxidative aging
  • Carnosine, milk thistle, and a vitamin E blend to reduce the depth of wrinkles
  • Laminaria Ochroleuca to protect against environmental aggressors and to improve firmness

Pros:

  1. It contains a natural preservation system. And before you think that preservatives are only bad, let’s think about what might happen if bacteria gets involved. Any product made with water or water-based ingredients NEED a preservative in order to keep consumers safe. Nobody wants MRSA or a flesh-eating bacteria on their face. Not to mention that mold can also take over.
  2. The packaging is pretty, which totally makes me feel better about leaving it out on the counter in the bathroom.
  3. This product is gluten-free, which isn’t a big deal for me, but is definitely a big deal to a lot of other women!
  4. The moisturizer itself is very light with a great slip to it, almost silky feeling. It goes on easily and absorbs very quickly! I can put my foundation on right after I use it without any problems.

Cons:

  1. If I had to pick any con for this particular moisturizer it was that the scent wasn’t my favorite. The scent fades rather quickly (which is a bonus for me – I don’t like to smell lotion all day) so it wouldn’t prevent me from buying it again when I run out, and I know all of the ingredients used are specifically meant for aging skin.

Overall I was quite happy with it and need to remember to use it twice a day as my skin feels fantastic when I do! If you’ve ever used products from Aubrey Organic, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

Discount:

Aubrey Organics is offering my readers 25% off when you use the code “NFW25″. They also have free shipping for orders over $25.00!

Giveaway:

Enter to win a bottle of the Age-Defying Therapy Moisturizer for yourself!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you used any of the Aubrey products? Which ones?



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Asian Spring Slaw Salad

Right around March my body starts craving fresh, raw veggies. We are pretty seasonal eaters in our house, so with the winter comes less variety to my veggie rotation – and I think that is a good thing. Cooked veggies (with friendly fats like butter) are easier on our guts to digest, and it is good to give our bodies a break from foods while we rotate with the seasons!

Asian Spring Slaw Salad3

While I am still a good couple months away from fresh salad greens in my garden, I do have access to some nice late winter and early spring vegetables that make a really great raw “slaw” type salad. Just a simple julienne peeler (available on Amazon) is all you need (the spirilizers work too if you have one, also found on Amazon) and you will have colorful strips of veggie that really feel like a noodle indulgence.

Asian Spring Slaw Salad

I am a big time Asian cuisine fan and a couple of years ago I put a twist on my Thai peanut sauce and made a salad dressing – it is one of my favorites and it really dresses up this slaw type salad so nice!

This salad makes a fantastic lunch since it is filled with satiating friendly fat from the dressing. You can add chopped nuts/seeds or chicken/tuna to your bowl for added protein if you want as well.

Asian Spring Slaw Salad

Asian Spring Slaw Salad
 
Author:

Ingredients
  • 2 large carrots, julienne peeled
  • ½ diakon radish, julienne peeled
  • 1 cucumber, julienne peeled
  • ¼ head purple cabbage, sliced thin (green cabbage works too if you can’t find the purple)
  • 2-3 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup Asian dressing (If you like more dressing you can add more!)
  • Optional red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and/or water cress to garnish

Instructions
  1. Put the dressing in the bottom of your salad bowl.
  2. Add the veggies and toss with the dressing.
  3. Add your garnishes if you want!
  4. Note – the salt in the dressing will pull the moisture from the veggies over time – if you are packing it up ahead of time it would be a good idea to pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad upon eating.

So! Are you ready for rotating to spring veggies too?



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Soothing Period Pain Naturally

I think it is easy to reach for pain killers with our monthly period. Trouble is, those things leave us with nasty side-effects and can also interfere with our digestion. Ever noticed how you get constipated with your period? Those little Nurofen’s might be playing a part in that!

I want to share some natural alternatives to ibuprofen, NSAID’s and other pain-killers for your next monthly.

Soothing Period Pain Naturally

6 ways to soothe period pain naturally

1. Increase the amount of Omega 3 in your diet.

The hormone like substances called prostaglandins, are the ones that control our clotting, inflammation and pain responses. We want to stimulate the ones that negate those reactions. One of the ways to do that is to increase the amount of Omega 3 in the diet. You can try fish oils, krill oil and eating more Chia Seeds during that time of the month.

2. Try natural pain relievers.

My two favourite herbs to use during your monthly to alleviate pain are feverfew and crampbark. They have beens shown to dramatically improve period pain and aid the body by reducing inflammation at the same time! Plus… not nasty side-effects!

3. Drink plenty of water.

When we think about what our monthly is and what our bodies are trying to achieve, we want to aid the natural blood flow as much as we can. If we don’t drink enough water, the blood becomes more thick and sticky. Make sure you increase your water drinking efforts during your monthly to really aid in a cleaner and easier monthly.Untitled_2

4. Take care of your Uterus.

I attended a Mayan Massage course in London a few years back and was amazed at how much I could care for my uterus by a daily massage done morning and night. This encourage stimulation and circulation of the Uterus muscles and provides valuable nutrients. ** You can learn how to do the Mayan Massage through my video demonstration here. 

5. Stop viewing your monthly as a dread and something to be embarrassed about.

This is a natural process and a wonderful way for our bodies to be able to flush out toxins. Men only have two outlets! We get three!

6. Try to take some time out or at least relax more than normal during your period.

It might not be easy to take a day or a half day off work but if you can, try to. Give your body the space it needs to cleanse during this time. Do an easy Yoga class, go for a back massage or just watch a girly movie with a nice cup of tea. Just take some time out and give your body some love.

 

I hope these ideas really support you during your monthly period. I would also like to stress that having period pain every month, where you are relying on strong pain-killers is actually a cause for concern. It could be an indicator of something more serious going on for you, that could impact your fertility. One of those conditions is called Endometriosis.

After I experienced period pain, pretty much from my first period, I discovered I had Endometriosis. It did take me a number of years to get a proper diagnosis. If you suspect you might have Endometriosis or feel that your monthly period pain is a little higher than average, definitely visit a Gynaecologist to find out what is going on. I have created a list of common symptoms experienced along with Endometriosis, which might guide you on whether you might have the condition.

 

If you’ve dealt with period pain, what natural remedies have helped you?



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My favorite homemade spaghetti sauce

Spaghetti is actually one of my husband’s favorite meals and I also love the fact that it’s so easy! Just noodles, sauce and a bit of meat. Although to make the meal a bit more balanced, it’d probably be a good idea to include a salad or something…

Homemade sauce always seemed so daunting, and my husband was very picky about the brand I was to buy. So with a bit of trepidation, I entered the world of homemade spaghetti sauce. Both he and I were pleasantly surprised, and we haven’t gone back to premade sauce since.

homemade spaghetti

For me, the addition of fresh, and not dried, ingredients really make the sauce. In the summer I can grab fresh basil and oregano from my garden, but in the winter I do use dried. (Sometimes my own, other times from Mountain Rose Herbs as I’ve found theirs have great flavor.)

Onions and garlic that are slowly sautéed also add a depth of flavor not seen when using dried versions of the two.

homemade spaghetti sauce

This sauce also works great with meatballs, but rarely do I take the time to make them! Though lately I’ve been making myself take the time to add a bit of sauce and cooking water to the drained pasta and the results definitely make the final product better.

My favorite homemade spaghetti sauce - this one definitely rocks!

 

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sauces, Seasonings, and Condiments

Ingredients
  • 28-30 ounces tomato sauce (homemade sauce is fantastic)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 6 ounces water
  • ½ pound ground beef or Italian sausage
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 small – medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • salt to taste
  • optional: mushrooms, diced tomatoes

Instructions
  1. Brown beef and drain off fat. Set aside.
  2. Saute onion in oil until soft (along with mushrooms if using). Add garlic and saute for about one minute.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Use with your favorite pasta!

Notes
For best results, save ½ cup of the cooking water from the pasta. Once the pasta is drained, put it back in the pot and stir in the ½ cup water and one cup of the sauce. Let sit for just a couple of minutes before serving.

Top with hot sauce and fresh Parmesan.

 



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What is a vaginal steam? (and why YOU should consider doing one)

Alright friends, since we are going to be talking about vaginal steaming today I figured it is okay to call y’all friends, since I wouldn’t talk about this to just anyone. So sit back and hear me out before you rule anything out by just hearing the words ‘vaginal steaming’.

steam my vagina

(And to make it official, I am not a doctor, you should make sure to do your own research before attempting a vaginal steam. This should not be done while pregnant or nursing.)

What is now becoming a new, popular tread, vaginal steaming is actually an age-old tradition meant to cleanse and detox the uterus.

So, let’s get the facts straight.

What is a vaginal steam?

A vaginal steam is basically a steam ‘facial’ only it is for your vagina and uterus. (See? Aren’t you glad I said ‘friends’ because we are talking about personal stuff here!)

What makes the vaginal steam beneficial is what is used in the steam. Typically herbs are chosen that can help increase circulation to the uterus or to aid in cleansing.

Stagnation is not a good thing when it comes to any organ system, but when it comes to the uterus it can cause a myriad of issues with menstruation and fertility.

Herbs can be picked for the individual to help with specific issues and health conditions. Some herbs that are typically used are oregano, motherwort, mugwart or rosemary. (all available at Mountain Rose Herbs)

what is a vaginal steam?

How does this work?

When doing a vaginal steam , you are basically making a ‘tea’ out of herbs and allowing the herbal steam to travel to your vagina and uterus. This sounds kind of hooky, but really the tissues of the vaginal area are very porous and absorb things quite easily.

The steam carries the volatile oils from the herbs to the tissues where it is adsorbed into the body. (Our bodies are so amazing!)

The herbs can help improve circulation and blood flow to the area. The vaginal steams are also said to thin mucus and help the uterus detox and cleanse.

In the past these steams were used to help with irregular periods, fertility issues, and even anxiety. The idea being that the herbal steam goes right where it is needed to aid the reproductive area.

How do you do a vaginal steam?

The hardest part about doing a vaginal steam, in my opinion, is finding some quiet time to do it. (You do not want people banging on the bathroom door when you are trying to relax!)

You need to decide what herbs you would like to use and make a big pot of tea.

1 cup of herbs*
2 quarts of water

You’ll also need a chair or stool with either slats or a hole in the middle (available on Amazon), a couple of chairs next to each other (a cheek on each!), or a clean toilet (turn off the water and flush so it empties the bowl).

  • Bring the water to a boil and let settle for few minutes, add the herbs and stir.
  • You will then want to find a quiet place, which I recommend setting up BEFORE you get your steam ready, to set the basin of water that you will be able to sit over. (If you use a basin that fits into the bottom of your clean toilet, this works well)
  • Once you get the steam ready, sit above it making sure the steam is not too hot. You do not want to burn the area, the vaginal tissue is sensitive.
  • Wrap blankets around your waist to keep the steam trapped in.
  • Typically steams last 20-40 minutes. This is a good time to read, journal, or pray to pass the time.

Once you are done it is a good idea to lay down for a while to allow your body to relax and the herbs to do their work. (This is good to do before bed because then you can just go to sleep and stay resting)

*What herbs do I use?

While it really is something that personal and should be picked on what issues you are trying to work on, these are a few that I found to be beneficial.

  • Rosemary-has been used to help fight infection (steaming should not be done during an active infection)
  • Yarrow-an herb used for cleansing and toning
  • Motherwort-a long-standing herb used for woman’s issues can help with toning the uterus as well as used for anxiety brought on by your period
  • Calendula-a mild, soothing herb that can be beneficial for scarring
  • Lavender-a typically relaxing herb which also has antibacterial properties

When should you do a vaginal steam?

From what I read there really is not set time to do a steam. Traditionally, a safe time to do it is right after your period and before ovulation, this allows any lingering tissue and cells to be cleansed before ovulation.

Some say if you have a lot of menstruation issues that the week before your period is a good time.

I have also read that if you are struggling with  fertility to do it right before ovulation.

However if pregnancy is suspected, do not do a vaginal steam.

A long-standing tradition, vaginal steaming does seem to have it place in the world of herbal remedies. I know that isn’t the most fun thing to talk about, but knowing how herbs work, this practice seems like a great therapy to aid in uterine and vaginal health.

If you are comfortable sharing, I would love to hear from you, what benefits have you seen from doing vaginal steams? 

Read more:

Yup, I’m gonna talk about vaginal steam baths by Stephanie Brandt Cornais

Should you steam your vagina? by Nicole Jardim

Traditional Vaginal Steam for Healthy Fertility by Dalene Barton-Schuster



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What keeping a food log will tell you

Food diary, food log, food record or food list, whatever you name it, it sounds the same, right?

I can guarantee you they are not.

In my practice, keeping a daily food log is 80% the key to your success in a designed clinical nutrition program.

AND, you don’t have to be on a program to track every little bit of every little nibble that goes into your mouth.

keeping a food log

Why Keep a Food Log?

Believe me when I say (personal experience: I have kept a food log for the majority of the past year) you have no idea what you’re putting into your mouth unless you’re tracking it.

Top 3 objections people have to tracking what they eat:

  1. I eat the same thing all the time.
  2. I will lose the piece of paper.
  3. I don’t have time to write it all down.

My responses to the top 3 objections people have to tracking what they eat:

1. Actually, you don’t eat the same thing all the time. When you have a week or two to look back on, they might think they have the same thing for breakfast every day, though the food record indicates that most of the time they have eggs. Sometimes another food is mixed into the eggs, and other days they have thrown in a dietary meal replacement or shake, and then there is the quick, ‘I grabbed a muffin at the office’, or ‘ate half of my son’s waffle’.

2. You may lose the piece of paper, and you may not. Even in these technologically advanced days of digital everything, most people are still carrying around a bag of some sort with a planner, a pad of paper, or a folder where they carry important documents.

This is an important document. THIS food log is a picture of your current state of health.

Even if you don’t carry a bag with you, it’s likely you have a pocket you can fold it into until you need to pull it out and jot down what you’re eating. The best food logs my clients turn in to me are the ones with food and water stains, they are tattered and wrinkled-they have been used.

If it’s an important document for you, it’s less likely you’ll misplace it. You might forget it on the kitchen counter but you probably won’t lose it entirely.

3. None of us have “extra” time in our days, we’re all on the same clock, however, its all about priority. Is it a priority to get better quickly and stay that way or are you fine with slugging along feeling so-so and hoping things will change? This is where you take matters into your own hands.

Most people eat while sitting down. Whether this be during a project at your desk, while having yourself on mute during a conference call, or while perusing a magazine or browsing online. You are likely sitting. Which means taking out your food log and jotting down what you are eating takes all of one minute. Then you can carry on with the task at hand.

Even if you’re standing because you might feel rushed-it still takes a few minutes to chew and swallow, so get scribbling while you’re at it.

If you forget to write down what you had at lunch because you got distracted while having lunch with a friend, write it down the moment you remember, or during dinner.

Taking responsibility for your health is an empowering step, and one that can be easily made by keeping a food log.

Suspect you have food intolerances or allergies?

Then a food log could be your best friend without yet eliminating any foods. I always tell my clients we aren’t going to eliminate food groups unless we have to, meaning, unless you have tested for needing to remove them one in my program.

However, sugar isn’t a food group.

In case you were wondering.

And gluten can be an anti-nutrient.

But that’s another blog topic right there.

Off soapbox and back to topic: people who have begun paying attention to what they are eating or attribute certain foods to a rash, headache or stomach ache, may notice this might happen, though haven’t challenged it in any way.

Having a food log allows you to see what you’ve eaten in relation to how you’re feeling. Did you know it can take up to a week for your body to communicate its level of unhappiness in regards to a particular food? Yes, your body can respond right away with a scratchy throat, runny nose, a cough, explosive diarrhea, headache and belly ache or a number of other things….or if can take a bit for your body to process, in which case we blame that headache on stress, kids fighting, tight muscles or the like.

It’s not to say our bickering children can’t cause a headache, or your boss pressing into you with a deadline can’t get your heart racing, but having kept a food log, you can look back and connect that after book club stop at the pub for onion rings and a beer with the girls (which is, say, rare for you) with the stabbing gut pain you had two days later as your body is working so hard to digest that gluten you usually don’t eat.

How to begin keeping a food log

Grab a small notebook to keep with you making up three columns, one for each breakfast, lunch and dinner. Track this info, along with your water and other beverage intake each day, leave a spot to track snacks, and perhaps a place to jot down a note or two.

An interesting note to keep in the margin would be a quick word or two summing up how you felt that day: sluggish, full of energy, rested, bloated, etc.

Another level of tracking would be to look at your bowel movements, their number and consistency, along with how many hours and quality of sleep you got.

I can almost guarantee you won’t need a professional eye to make some basic changes based upon a few weeks of data you collect.

Maybe you realize how much sugar you eat between dinner and bed, or that you actually consume 3 or 4 cans of soda per day versus the 2 on your work shift. I have a client who was consuming 6 cans of soda per day, and, on her own eliminated 1 can per day and lost 7 pounds in the first week!

You might notice you aren’t eating any protein with breakfast-maybe that’s why you’re so hungry an hour after you get to work…

Like I said above, taking responsibility for your health is an empowering step, and one that can be easily made by keeping a food log.

And if you decide to begin working with a professional on your nutrition or health goals, you’ll have a great amount of data, failures and successes to share with them, furthering accelerating your quest to being full of energy and vitality.

Have you ever kept a food log? What was your process?



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