Why Endometriosis can feel so isolating

When I first found out I had Endometriosis, I didn’t tell anyone. My family knew because well, I needed someone to drive me to the hospital but very few people knew – even some of my closest friends only heard about it after several months. The truth is that I was embarrassed about having Endometriosis. To me, it felt like a dirty disease. Like someone had gone and spread a whole bunch of dirty blood around my insides and that it needed a good mop and some detergent to get rid of it.

It was also in a very private part of the body. When you start having to explain the condition of Endometriosis and have to use the words: “Vagina”, “Menstruation” and “Cysts” around people, it is somehow inevitable that our face might turn a shade of red out of embarrassment. I just preferred not to tell people and keep it to myself.

I think this is why the condition can feel so isolating. We are alone with it for a large part of the experience.

endometriosis can be isolating

I also think our experiences with the condition often involve experiences where we are not taken seriously, where we are told that our period pain is “normal” and that we might just be pain sensitive or that it is all in our head. I remember experiencing these thoughts for many, many years prior to finding out and being properly diagnosed with Endometriosis. It creates a feeling of not wanting to speak up, for fear of being told: “you are just super sensitive” or “it is all in your head”. We keep it to ourselves because we don’t want to be made out to be weak or overly sensitive. Those emotions are incredibly hard to deal with and I remember feeling particularly isolated within several work environments which were very male dominated. It was unlikely I would ever be truly understood by those around me, when they had no concept of basic period pain, never mind the extensive pain I experienced!

Throughout my 20’s I simply accepted that I had to suck it up and deal with it.

Endometriosis was now part of my life and I just had to heed its warning. I had to adjust and compromise to its every whim and call – cos when that pain struck, it knocked me in a big, big way! It meant many nights of being alone with nothing but me, a hot water bottle and some girly movies to make the wait for the pain-killers to kick in a little easier. I missed so many special events or went along but felt that tender ripping in my abdomen throughout the whole event – really reducing the enjoyment of it all. I remember a particular wedding, where the pain was so bad, I spent a large portion of the day clutching my abdomen in the bathroom stall. It was really debilitating and so incredibly isolating. I felt so alone with it all and like no-one could possibly understand the experience of it all. I felt weak, limited and so incredibly disempowered about my body and my health.

I am sure if you are reading this, you can relate. Endometriosis is just so incredibly challenging to explain to others and even when we do, we still don’t think they really get what we go through. I often describe it as having a bad case of diarrhea but without the release of going to the toilet!

The truth is that I was embarrassed about having endometriosis

So, you might be asking yourself why I now share my story and write all this personal stuff, all over the internet….

There are a couple of reasons. The first is that I feel Endometriosis needs a voice. Women need to know that it exists and that there are plenty of other women who also suffer from the condition. Struggling with this condition on your own is really, really hard and when you can share the struggle with others and get motivation and real support from other women, it makes the whole thing so much easier.

Secondly, I sharing my story It took me a good part of my 30’s to finally realize that the medical system wasn’t really helping me. As much as I listened to the advice of going on a variety of contraceptive pills, hormone treatments and 7 surgeries, it left me with the same symptoms and problems plus a lovely array of side-effects to go with it!

What I discovered was that there was a way I could look after myself and support my body to alleviate many of the symptoms and that dreaded pain with Endometriosis. It took me a few years to really understand it all but I now live a completely pain and symptom free life with Endometriosis. I want to share what I have learned with as many women as I can… which means sharing my story and finally acknowledging and accepting Endometriosis.

It saddens me so much to hear of women struggling everyday with Endometriosis because I have felt that pain. I have felt the limitation and the lack of understanding. I really wish more women knew that there is a better way.

So, I contribute here at NFW to share my experiences and I created a website and a support network to give women a feeling of empowerment.

When dealing with chronic health issues, it’s important to know that we’re not alone. <3

Healthy blueberry smoothie

As our days start getting longer and the sun starts shining, my body starts to crave lighter foods. I love trading in the heavy soups and stews for smoothies and salads.

When I first started making smoothies they weren’t that good. In fact, we used to call them ‘grities’ because they were so coarse.

Healthy Blueberry Smoothie

Seriously,  I would just throw EVERYTHING in the blender just because it is good for you. That didn’t leave for very flavorful smoothies.

As time went on I learned that you don’t need to put everything in your smoothie just to make it healthy. You can have a healthy smoothie and make it taste good. Just make this ingredients count!

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits to add into a smoothie because they are full of antioxidants.

To make my smoothies creamy, I love to add Greek yogurt. You get a nice dose of probiotics along with it adding a nice, thick consistency to your smoothie. This also is a good source of protein.

I love to add available on Amazon) to my smoothies as well because it can help stabilize blood sugar levels. This can be key for managing PCOS, thyroid and adrenal issues.

healthy smoothie

Gelatin (available on Amazon) is another great add in. I love that it is good for gut healing as well as great for joint health because of the collagen. (Make sure you are using the cold soluble kind of smoothies!)

Adding fresh greens give you a nice boost of minerals and vitamins. I love getting my veggies in with a breakfast smoothie. (If you are sensitive to oxalates, then be sure to  lightly steam your greens first.)

As far as a sweetener goes, you can add as much or as little as you like.

Add a pinch of salt in there to support your adrenals too.

Smoothies for fertiity

Healthy blueberry smoothie

5.0 from 1 reviews
Blueberry smoothie
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup of blueberries ( I use frozen)
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt
  • 1-2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp. of cold soluble gelatin
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • Sweeten to taste if needed
  • (If you don't use frozen berries cut the water down a touch and throw a handful of ice in there)
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Smoothies come together fast and are great for a breakfast on the go when you load it up with nutrient dense ingredients.

Also, if you happen to be doing the Trim Healthy Mama plan this smoothie is considered a fuel pull.

We really have come to enjoy smoothies in our house and are always experimenting with the flavors.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to add into smoothies? 

Support “Sweetening the Pill” and help change the way we view hormonal birth control!

It’s all pretty normal really.

Don’t want to get pregnant? Take “The Pill”.

Want to “regulate” your cycle? Take “The Pill”.

But as women, we aren’t being told the whole story.

That the pill has side effects and causes changes to our delicate hormonal system. And hormonal birth control is being used at younger ages than ever before with no long-term studies being done on the implications of this!

My on story with the pill is one I hear often, I went on it right before I got married as we wanted to wait a while before having children. And the doctor mentioned that it would regulate my almost non-existent cycles. So it was a win-win right?!

Almost immediately I began gaining weight, started getting acne that wouldn’t go away, and I had migraines all the time. After a few changes in pills, I found one that was “ok” and stayed on it for over three years because I felt I had no other options.

I didn’t know it was doing was causing major emotional issues: irritability, rage, being irrational, moody, and plain old mad most of the time.

I didn’t know that there were other ways to balance my hormones and prevent pregnancy! Over the last few years I’ve also found that many other women don’t know they have options either.

If a woman wants to take hormonal birth control – more power to her. The issue I have is that it doesn’t really seem like informed consent when we aren’t being told (or asking about!) how the pill changes our bodies. Prescriptions are handed out all the time to “fix” hormone issues, and yet diet and lifestyle changes are rarely mentioned, or implemented.

And we aren’t learning how our bodies work. 

I was shocked how much I didn’t know when I began learning about Fertility Awareness/Natural Family Planning. Women email me weekly with questions trying to figure out what’s going on with their bodies and many of those can be answered if they simply knew how to chart their cycles.

In fact, if you learn only ONE THING from me, it’s that, as a woman, learning about the physical and emotional nuances in your cycle is one of the most important things you can do. Talk about empowering!

But all of that could change in a BIG way and I really, really hope you’re with me on this. Help me back this Kickstarter project!

If all of my readers gave just $2 we can get it fully backed this weekend!

sweetening the pill

Sweetening the Pillbased on the book by Holly Grigg-Spall (available on Amazon) and executive produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein – the brilliant team behind The Business of Being Born, is a new documentary that will explore what technological and medical advancement might mean for birth control in the 21st Century.

The donations will not only fund the film, but they will also act as an affirmative vote, a raised hand of support, for this project. For starting this conversation. It won’t just be the money raised that counts, it will be how many people came out to show support for addressing these issues.

Show your vote and support by donating! As of right now there are almost 800 backers and I know, without a shadow of doubt, that there are more than 800 women that support this message. Even if you only give $1, your vote will count.

 

Exclusive Q&A with Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, & Holly Grigg-Spall

What made you want to shed light on this topic of hormonal contraceptives?

Ricki: It really seemed like a very natural progression for us from ‘The Business of Being Born.’ Women spend more time trying to avoid pregnancy – a decade or more at the start, then they have babies, then they’re back to trying to avoid it for further decades. It’s an experience all women share. What we did for birth, we want to do for birth control, and empower women with more information and more choice. ‘The Business of Being Born’ was about body literacy and this project is the same – it’s about women knowing, understanding, and trusting their bodies.

Abby: We’ve both had our own negative experiences with different kinds of hormonal contraceptives over the years. We know other women who have experienced the same thing. Holly Grigg-Spall sent us her manuscript for ‘Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control’ and something just clicked when I was reading it. For the first time, I was connecting emotionally difficult periods in my life to the use of the pill and it just made so much sense to do this film. We could approach birth control with women’s empowerment in mind, too.

Holly: For me, I wrote the book because I had a pretty terrible personal experience with the Pill, which I used for ten years consistently. The book began as a blog that I wrote about coming off the Pill and my experience doing that, how it made me feel, finding alternative contraception, learning about my cycle and so on. That blog meant that lots of women got in touch to share their own stories. I realized the extent of this problem. I then soon realized it was really taboo almost to criticise the Pill or the culture around the Pill. That interested me. I saw ‘The Business of Being Born’ when I was actually writing the book and I made the connection right away. I wrote about the parallels between the birth and the birth control industries. I knew that the book could make the basis of a great documentary and that the absolute best people to do this would be Abby and Ricki. I set my sights on that. Of course, I am now over-the-moon about the film. A book is one thing, but a documentary like this can reach so many more women.

 

Why have you turned to Kickstarter to get this movie made?

Abby: We spent a year going the traditional route and we met with a few networks and production companies. We had a lot of discussion and a lot of real interest. People were saying this film could be “the Food Inc. of birth control.” Everyone has a story or knows someone who has a story about this, it’s just that kind of subject. But, it doesn’t have that commercial pull. It seems, at first, a little scary even. Some people struggle to understand the perspective. We have to explain that it is not anti-birth control or anti-Pill. Instead it is pro-informed consent, pro-choice, and pro-knowledge. We want women to have more options for contraception, not less! We want them to have more access, not less! It’s a feminist film project. This topic is very politicized right now, so that takes a little time to explain.

Ricki: People might not realize, but we didn’t actually make any money from ‘The Business of Being Born’ – it was hugely successful in many great ways, but we lost money. Documentaries are really passion projects. We know a grassroots effort is right for this project, it spreads awareness and gets the conversation going. Women will share their stories and may even share their stories for the film. They will have their experiences validated by this, which is so important. The campaign is doing really well, but we have to keep going strong to reach our goal now.

 

The Kickstarter campaign highlights Fertility Awareness Methods as a non-hormonal alternative, particularly when supported with apps and new technology. How did this area come to your attention?

Ricki: We got introduced to Kindara first through Holly’s book and we have met with them and discussed their work with their app and new wireless basal body thermometer, Wink. They want to democratize this knowledge, make it part of every woman’s education. They really think it could change things for the better when it comes to women’s lives. We also spoke with the makers of Clue in Berlin. They’re helping women track every part of their monthly cycle. It’s great progress for women’s reproductive health. Just this week we saw that Apple finally decided to add menstrual cycles to their HealthKit app. This is wonderful. It means other apps can sync with the native technology on the iPhone and it means more women will come to realize they can track their cycles and benefit from being aware of this information. They will be made aware of that option.

Abby: Really the technology sector is leading the way here. We’re seeing them step up and help and support women who don’t want to or can’t use hormonal contraceptives. They’re making using Fertility Awareness Methods simpler, easier, less time-consuming and more approachable. They’re getting in the media and getting their message out there. And these people are also a wealth of knowledge because thousands of women are using their apps and talking to them about their cycles and experiences.

 

A lot of women take the Pill for other issues these days, not just for contraception. Do you want to explore this?

Abby: Absolutely. A couple of our film advisors work in this area – providing holistic, natural reproductive health support. They are working with women who have found the Pill hasn’t helped them long term. They’ve had side effects or the problems they had before have returned after coming off. They’re struggling to get pregnant. The Pill is prescribed for so many health problems these days and, although it’s definitely helpful and even essential for some women, it’s not the right treatment in all situations. In the Kickstarter video we highlight one part of this – how women are using it to regulate their cycles, even though they’re getting misleading information on that.

Holly: This is such an important area. More and more women are on the Pill for everything from acne to PCOS and yet the Pill doesn’t treat these problems, it only masks them. When women come off, most commonly the issue returns and might even be worse than before. We think that women have to suffer with PMS, like it’s our destiny, inevitable, when actually a lot of hormonal balance-related problems can be treated properly long term with alternative protocols. Women deserve better. They don’t have to put up with this stuff. And they don’t always have to use drugs that give them side effects to fix the problem. For some women, as Abby says, hormonal contraceptives are essential treatment. But we’re at a point now where it’s being doled out like a cure-all and it’s just not.

Click here to donate and help make this movie a reality!

And please share this information with your friends. They need to know that The Pill isn’t always (or ever) the best choice.

We women deserve to have the information we need to make the best choices we can for our health.

The many petals of depression (5 contributing factors)

written by contributor, Asher Thayer (trigger warning: mention of suicide)

A 1-1 moment. Me to you.

I generally write an article at least twice. I write an article the first time, decide it’s not quite what I want to say and write it again. And I’m always much happier the second time. 

But this article … I’ve restarted about six times. Each time feeling as though I’m not really getting to the heart of what I want to say about depression.

Because depression.

It’s a big thing. And it affects a minimum of 10% of the US population, each year.

1 in 10.

Amazing, really, in a really unfortunate way. Because depression isn’t just a bad day or week. It’s not just sadness and disappointment. It’s something much more. And there are so many different kinds of depression. It’s one of those things that, when you’re in the midst of, feels as though it is never. going. to. end.

I don’t take that lightly. 

I don’t think all depression is genetic, but I also don’t believe it’s all a reaction to food. 
And not everyone struggling with depression has experienced a major trauma in their life. 
And what helps one person to come out of depression may not be what works for another.

contributing factors in depression

You’re not depressed because you’ve done something wrong. 
Or you’re somehow weak. 

I’ve never met a human being, no matter what they struggle with and carry with them, that I haven’t found to be completely and utterly amazing. Even those who are depressed.

 I’m not going to give you “quick fixes” because you’re far too unique for that.

I want you to hear me say these things because I want to honor your story and the story of your loved ones that deal with depression. As much as I can here on this blog.

I also want you to know that you are not without power. And there are things you can do, steps you can take, to improve how you feel. 

Currently, about 9% of the US population actively struggles with depression, with the numbers increasing, steadily.  In 2012 the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the leading cause of disability is depression, with roughly one million suicides worldwide, 30,000 of those in the United States. Women struggle with depressive illnesses 50% more frequently than men, as the leading cause of disease in middle and high income women (WHO, 2008).

When I think of depression I think of it like a flower (well, truthfully, I think of MOST illnesses this way). A flower is a flower because it’s comprised of many petals. Each playing a vital roll in making a flower the flower that it is. And, like a flower, a disease has many petals that make it what it is. Many factors create the illness of depression.

 Let’s name a few of these petals.

depression and infertility

Contributing factors in depression

Petal 1: Stress



Say you’re stressed. Bad stress (called distress). Your daily grind is too demanding. Or isn’t fulfilling. Or isn’t what you thought it’d be like. Or maybe your boss is overbearing and critical. Or you’re confused about your future. Roll. Identity. Relationships. Even good things can cause stress (called eustress). Too much stress for too long and we start to feel the effects negatively in our bodies and our minds.

What you can do: Identify what stressors are unnecessary. Which ones can you eliminate? What about reduce? For those stressors that can’t be thrown out the window: How can you change your relationship with the stressors to lessen its effect on you?

Petal 2: Food

Last month I wrote about the Food/Mood connection. We specifically talked about serotonin, and how roughly 80-90% of serotonin is produced in the gut! When we’re eating foods that we have allergies, intolerances, autoimmune responses to, or otherwise are not able to nurture us well, the production of serotonin is disrupted and can affect our moods.

What can you do: Keep a food log of the foods you eat and the emotions you experience each day. Keep in mind that the foods you eat can affect you for several days after. So, if you eat an offending food on Monday and are feeling extra upset on Thursday, they could very well be connected.

Petal 3: Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

So much can be said about how various deficiencies affect our mental health. One of the most commonly known ones, especially for those of us in the northern most reaches of the northern hemisphere, is vitamin D.

We all know that low vitamin D can lead to the winter blues. Other significant vitamins, minerals, and neurotransmitters: B-vitamin family, magnesium, EFAs, zinc, copper, iron, tryptophan, tyrosine, and glutamine.

What you can do: Focus your eating efforts on foods that will be nourishing to your body. Fruits, Veggies, Grass-fed, organic meats. Stay hydrated with water. Supplement significant deficiencies with herbal/whole food supplements.

Petal 4: Genetics

It is true that if your family struggles with an illness of any kind that you are more likely to struggle with the same or similar issues. But the great thing about genes is that just because you have a gene for something doesn’t mean you HAVE to get it. Whether or not we get an illness is dependent on a lot of factors, some of which are in our control and others are not.

What you can do: Focus on factors you CAN influence. Diet. Relationships. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in life-giving ways. Be active in ways that bring you joy and that work for you.

Petal 5: Thoughts and Feelings

When I was a teen I was taught that depression is anger that we don’t feel the right to feel, so we’ve stuffed it deep down within. As an adult whose lived some length and as a naturopath that gets the honor and privilege to sit with and journey alongside so many beautiful souls, I can attest to there being a significant stuffed emotional component to depression. Sometimes it’s anger. Others: guilt, shame, grief, trauma, fear, confusion, loss of direction. Often, it’s more than one.

We’re catching up in our understanding that what we think influences how we feel, and how we feel then influences what we do. Stuffed emotions, because of the stress they force the body to cope with, can lead to deficiencies, which then lead to larger chemical imbalances.

What you can do: Identify what thoughts and feelings you’ve stuffed down deep in your body. Maybe it’s all the way down there, hiding in your left pinky toe. That’s okay! It had to go somewhere! Just because we don’t express, doesn’t mean it goes away! 

Learn to express what you think and how you feel. For some, this means learning to scream out in the woods or into a pillow. For others it’s learning to cry. Or, maybe sharing thoughts and opinions instead of staying quiet.

In my Naturopathic practice, I get to hold space with people using a Holistic Dialogue technique that’s designed to help people gently explore their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and how those things influence their health. But I also encourage clients to utilize friends, family, and sometimes even a counselor to support them on their journey as they reconnect to their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

If you haven’t already found support with friends, family and a counselor that is a good fit for you, I highly recommend enlisting a few of these types to journey with you!

Making even small changes in one our more of these areas is a good, strong step towards wellness. None of us heals completely overnight, but we are all worth the journey! My hope for all of us is that we would always move ourselves closer and closer to the healthy, wholly-integrated people we were always meant to be!

 

If you are looking for more help in overcoming mood issues like depression and anxiety, please check out The Depression Sessions. This online event starts June 14th where you can watch for free each day. But you can also purchase the entire thing starting on June 8th for $67.00. (I am not affiliated with, or an affiliate for, this particular event – I just thought it could be beneficial for some of you.)

Connecting with your spouse through massage

If there is one thing that almost every couple dealing with infertility goes through, it’s the loss of intimacy and connection with their spouse.

Infertility can take a toll on many aspects of our life, but our relationships can suffer the most, especially in the area of sexuality and intimacy.

  • It can lower our self-esteem and change the attitude we have about our bodies.
  • Painful or humiliating treatments or exploratory techniques can become triggers and hard to put out of our minds.
  • The thoughts of “why bother?” or “what’s the point?” creep in and apathy towards connecting with our spouse becomes normal.
  • Sex on a schedule is less than spontaneous or fun, causing a “have to” mind-set instead of a “want to” one.
  • Health issues and/or medical and hormonal treatments can cause sex to be painful.
  • Emotional pain can surface during and after sex, causing tears instead of satisfaction.
  • Differing opinions on testing and treatments, along with the financial burden can cause a struggle between us.
  • Getting pregnant can mean that your lady bits are looked at under fluorescent lights by someone in a white coat more often in one month than most women have to deal with in a lifetime.

Depending on our medical issues preventing conception and the path we choose to take in trying to fix the problem, we can also lose our sense of privacy, as our most private parts and moments come under scrutiny.

Infertility can cause us to lose not only physical intimacy with our spouse, but also emotional intimacy. Sex becomes a means to an end – pregnancy – and not the God-given emotional and physical bonding or mutual satisfaction it should be. That we desire it to be.

Many couples try to find ways to connect without intimacy as a way to overcome struggles surrounding sex. This is good, and needed of course, and there are many ideas on ways to have fun with your spouse outside of the bedroom:

  1. Recreate your first date
  2. Watch a funny movie snuggled up on the couch with your favorite snack.
  3. Go hiking or do something active you both love.
  4. Get out in nature and explore your neighborhood, local park, or beach
  5. Have a weekly date night
  6. Exercise together
  7. Take a class or learn something new, together

But what if you both desire intimacy and a physical connection, but sex just makes things too hard at the moment? Or what if you do want to get there, but you need to reconnect first?

Massage can do that for you.

fertility massage

Have you ever said (or heard) “I just want a back rub?”

Sure, sometimes it’s because we legit have a sore back, but most of the time it’s because we desire a physical connection with our spouse while feeling as if someone cares for us, yet not wanting to go all the way if you know what I mean.

But how can we take the simple “back rub” (that honestly is never what we really want/need) and bring it to the next level?

Enter Melt: Massage for Couples

*this post is sponsored in part by Melt, a company I’m really excited to tell you about. This one is a game changer for marriage folks. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I first heard about this online video massage course a few months ago when I had a few friends go through the video course and it intrigued me, but at first I felt that it might be awkward, or kind of corny. Maybe too cheesy or even too medical/boring in approach.

But in reality? It’s a series of beautifully filmed short clips teaching you how to use simple massage techniques to connect with your spouse. They are classy and elegant, taking into account the intimacy and sensuality created between a couple, but in a manner where even the most conservative couple will feel comfortable watching the instruction.

This massage technique is for all couples, but I find that the physical and emotional benefits also make for a very special type of fertility massage. It brings a tender closeness with the one you desire to create life with, and that is a powerful thing. It’s also a way to relieve emotional and physical stress (which benefits fertility).

This website and technique is designed by Denis Merkas, a professional massage therapist with 15 years’ experience, and he, along with his wife Emma, teaches you a step-by-step technique and how to use your hands properly.

And even shows us how to set up for the perfect massage. (Not on your bed!)

So far we’ve gone through the basic series and I look forward to watching (and using the techniques) from the rest.

couples massage

The Basic Series – This series starts with correcting some of the most common massage mistakes and showing you the foundations of your massage with long, sweeping strokes. You watch the short videos with a technique or tip in each, and it ends with a 5 minute follow-along massage routine.

The Highlights Series – This is where things start to get really good! You learn to look for the sore spots on each other’s bodies and how to work them. The neck, shoulders, lower back, arms, head… you’ll find places you didn’t even know that were sore! After you learn the 9 techniques from this series, there’s a 15-minute massage routine to follow along to. Hands still don’t hurt!

The Deep Tissue Series – So many people, myself included, love Deep Tissue stuff but it shouldn’t by over-emphasized. Denis leaves these tips to the very end for good reason, but they are such good techniques. It ends with an epic 30-minute massage follow along massage routine.

 

Melt Video Series is on Sale until 21st of June, 2015. Get 20% off the bundled courses – only $79 (usually $147 in total). A few “date nights in” to help you reconnect and change your marriage. You won’t regret this investment into your marriage!

This special promo is for our NFW community, with 20% off the retail price for LIFETIME video access to these incredible massage techniques.

Visit MELT: Massage for Couples, I highly recommend it! (and you guys know how picky I am about things I recommend….)

Because, as Denis and Emma, the creators of MELT say, every relationship deserves a little massage.

 

Gluten free strawberry muffins

I LOVE to bake. I do. I think it fun to throw together ingredients and watch them raise and fill the house with wonderful aromas.

Really, is there anything better than a nice warm muffin with a steaming cup of coffee in the morning? Sigh. Pure.bliss.

It doesn’t really matter what time of the year either. When you have some many produce options throughout the seasons, you can find something new and yummy to make in your kitchen.

Muffins happen to be a favorite of mine. They are not as picky as a cake and they are instant portion control. (Well, maybe some of you don’t have that problem….)

I also love that you  can make a big batch and freeze them for a quick, easy breakfast to pull out on busy mornings. Add a nice green smoothie and you’ve got a filling breakfast.

While blueberry muffins are a staple around here, my family enjoys a nice strawberry muffin too. They are beautifully moist and just a touch different to make them a nice treat.

strawberry muffins

Gluten free strawberry muffins
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 1¼ cup rice flour cups of gluten free flour mix
  • ¾ cup of of tapioca starch
  • ½ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup of chopped strawberries
Instructions
  1. Melt butter and set aside
  2. Mix milk, egg and vanilla until combined.
  3. Mix dry ingredients
  4. Add the melted butter, wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir, do not over mix.
  5. Fold in berries carefully
  6. Line muffin pan with cupcake wrappers
  7. Spoon into muffin pan.
  8. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are a nice golden color.

This recipe is easy to change up. Another idea is to change out those berries for chocolate chips. (or maybe just reduce the strawberries just a skosh and sprinkle a few chocolate chips in there…that’s probably the healthier option!)

What is your favorite type of muffin to bake? 

 

Sleep and fertility, why you should go to bed by 10PM (weekly challenge #16)

Sleep is so important for our overall health, but also for the health of our hormones.

I wish I had always known that!

Instead, I often stayed up late: reading books, watching movies, finishing household projects….

It was a horrible cycle of staying up late and using coffee to get going the next morning. After awhile I struggled to fall asleep before midnight, but I brushed it off as being a night owl.

Sleep and fertility

 

If only I had known then what I know, maybe I could have prevented adrenal fatigue.

As we work through our fertility challenges and I share things I’ve learned in my own journey with infertility, I’d have to say this is one of the most important.

My notes on sleep and fertility

  • Our adrenal glands are more at rest and can better produce the hormones our bodies need when we get quality sleep. We also naturally will produce more cortisol between 11PM and midnight if we’re not asleep, keeping up awake even longer and changing the way our bodies produce both cortisol and melatonin (two important hormones). But if you’re asleep by 10PM, the cortisol boost won’t happen until morning, allowing you plenty of energy to wake up and get going.

 

  • When we follow the pattern of the sun our bodies are working within its natural circadian rhythm. No matter how long we’ve kept the schedule we have, our bodies have an ingrained circadian rhythm that controls:
    • Neurotransmitters – chemicals released in the brain which allow impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another
    • Hormone production – chemical messengers
    • Enzymes – which catalyze chemical reactions
    • Behavior
    • Appetite
    • Body temperature
    • Blood pressure
    • Heart rate
    • Metabolism
    • Libido

(source- fertility_health.com)

 

  • Length of sleep also matters! Did you know women that don’t get enough sleep struggle with leptin production? If you don’t have enough leptin, you may not ovulate. Leptin is also important for weightloss.

How much sleep do we need?

Experts recommend 7-9 hours across the board. If you struggle with hormone imbalance and/or adrenal fatigue, nine hours would probably be best.

In our culture of go-go-go, it seems that we think doing more and resting less makes us more productive…and we think less of people that look “lazy”. Unfortunately this thinking has many of us struggling with our health! How great would it be if we simply got the rest our bodies need?

To allow for proper restoration and healing. For proper detoxification. For hormone balance.

When should we sleep?

All of us have very different schedules and we do need to work within certain time-frames depending on our work hours, but the best time to sleep is between 10PM and 6AM. 

Have you ever heard the saying “one hour before midnight is worth two after”?

Getting to bed by 10PM allows us to follow our natural circadian rhythm and fall asleep when it’s at the lowest point. We can then wake as the sun comes up between 6 and 7AM.

Fertility challenge

weekly challenge #16: get to bed (preferably asleep!) by 10PM each night.

One scary connection with Endometriosis – this is kinda yucky!

I have had Endometriosis for well over a decade. I was first diagnosed at the tender age of 19 years of age.

The signs and symptoms of it began far sooner than that and were often simply dismissed as severe period pain – if you have Endometriosis, you may be familiar with this experience!

Over the last 5 years I have approached my Endometriosis using a natural and holistic approach – after 7 surgeries, I had enough!

In essence, I focused heavily on my diet and my mindset shifts to avoid feeling stressed.

I knew that these things would all influence my hormonal balance and thereby help me manage my Endometriosis. The truth is, that these things definitely do play a BIG part in how we approach Endometriosis and I can tell you that before making these changes, Endometriosis would really dominate my life. I was more often in pain and struggling, than not…. which quite honestly was no way to live.

The trouble was, that as much as I ate well and focused on reducing stress in my life, it still didn’t feel like I was totally healthy. I often felt tired, foggy brained and I would get digestive struggles – even with a super diet and on some level I just knew there was something else I needed to do.

endometriosis and candida

I began exploring supplements to support my body as I think most of us do. We feel that perhaps what we need is something from the outside. Something external that can somehow “fix” us. I tried a range of different supplements and a range of different herbs and I did notice some improvement but when I stopped taking them, that same feeling of tiredness, foggy brain and listlessness would return. Whatever the imbalance was, I hadn’t fixed anything and my body was still struggling!

Endometriosis, candida, and parasites

It was only when I stumbled on an article about Candida and it’s symptoms that I started to open up…. well for the sake of sounding really silly: A can of worms!

What I discovered about Candida was that it was a yeast overgrowth that could affect our health just because there were too many strains of them in our digestive system. I learned that Candida could become systemic and spread and that this could be linked to Endometriosis and the struggles we experience with Interstitial Cystitis and hormonal imbalances. The idea of anything living in my body eating my food and nutrients also kinda freaked me out…

I found this study which demonstrated the effects of parasites on fertility. (Pubmed 2004)

endometriosis and parasites

I dived in a little deeper and recognized that there were in fact more potential elements, bacteria, parasites and even worms that could be living in our bodies – YUCK, RIGHT?

They move in and live off our food and eat all our nutrients, which inevitably makes us feel tired, foggy brained and would cause digestive struggles. I needed to do something about this!

These are the steps I took:

  1. Prepared my Kidneys with daily teas to support them. This included Dandelion Leaves, Nettle and Bushu Tea. I drank this tea, 3 times per day for a period of 7days.
  2. I got a really good deworming tincture. I researched this thoroughly and discovered that there were a variety of options on the market. The one I decided on was by ArtofDetox. This is a liquid based herbal formula which kills off any parasite or bacteria in the body. I believe Humaworm is another good choice.
  3. Drank plenty of water and rested to allow my body to detox.
  4. Reduced my eating to 80% full to give my digestive system a break and allow it to heal.

Here is what I noticed:

  • I felt far more clear-headed than I had in years!
  • My skin cleared up.
  • My digestion improved.

The thing I found interesting was how different my body felt. Not tired and struggling anymore but more alive and yes, somehow cleaner….

I would love to know if you have heard of the worm/parasite/candida connection with Endometriosis and what your experience has been… did you flush them out? If you tried a cleanse, did it make you feel better?

 

*This was the experience of one woman, use caution and research to see if you need to work on parasite removal and work with a qualified health care professional (preferably a holistic one).

 

 

Food and Mood: what we eat affects our emotions

“People are fed by the Food Industry which pays no attention to health and are treated by the Health Industry which pays no attention to food.” -Wendell Berr

There is a significant disconnect in our understanding of nutrition and wellness. We’ve come to believe that as long as we eat low-fat, the proper amount of calories, move a bit and have normal lab numbers then we’re healthy. 

But the truth is, we have unprecedented levels of mental illness, despite counting calories and watching fat intake, and including the most recent fad nutrient (omega 3s, for instance), particularly anxiety and depression. Children, even before they enter preschool, are being diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, ODD, and anxiety disorders. Many desperate parents, looking for help, opt for medication for their children.

And the disconnect doesn’t stop there. While many times anxiety and depression have to do with very real and very big emotions and life situations, food often plays a significant roll in how we feel throughout the day. And we can change how we eat.

food and mood, what we eat affects our emotions

Food and Mood

Let’s consider Serotonin. Just one neurotransmitter that our body uses to regulate mood.

One factor in the food/mood connection.

Commonly understood as tightly correlated with depression.

Lower levels of Serotonin = more depression.

Would it surprise you to know that 75-90% of serotonin is made for the gut? That’s right! Serotonin, most commonly understood as a feel-good hormone, is primarily intended to be used in your gut.

In fact, Serotonin is key to the functioning of the gut muscles.

And really, it’s a 2-way street.

The gut, also known as the second brain, has a profound affect on serotonin levels throughout. When we eat processed foods full of ingredients formulated in a lab and we can’t pronounce, the lining in our intestines can become irritated and even damaged. Sustaining prolonged abuse, our digestion begins to suffer. Our digestion also suffers when we consume foods that we have an allergy, intolerance,  or auto-immune response to.

As our digestive system begins to suffer, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea aren’t the only symptoms we may experience. Serotonin levels suffer and we experience depression. Anxiety. General moodiness. Insomnia.

We must provide our bodies with the building blocks for Serotonin, and its precursor L-Tryotophan, and we can do that through food.

Foods rich in Serotonin

  • walnuts
  • plantains
  • pineapple
  • plums
  • bananas
  • kiwis

Foods rich in Tryptophan

  • turkey
  • bananas
  • milk (preferably raw and grass fed)
  • yogurt (from grass fed, raw milk)
  • eggs
  • beans
  • nuts
  • meat
  • fish

By focusing on these foods, and healing your digestion, you can naturally affect the levels of L-tryptophan and serotonin in your body, which will improve not only your mood, but your energy levels and immune function. We know this because we know that depression and anxiety lead to lower energy levels and suppressed immune function.

While it’s become common place to medicate in order to alleviate suffering medication we are capable of restoring health to our body.

Hippocrates, long understood as the father of medicine, said long ago:

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be the food.”

food and depression

Healing Strategies

1. Breathe. Guilt is the enemy. Whatever food choices you’re making, make them mindfully and enjoy them to the fullest. Guilt over food choices, even if they’re not the best foods for us, leads to shame, and shame leads to worse food choices down the road.

2. Get to know you. What do you need? How are you wired? What does food do for you? Emotionally? Physically? Socially? Spiritually? Culturally? Food is so foundational to all of our lives that unless we sit with (and potentially change) how we relate to food in all facets of life, making food changes becomes about mind-over-matter; an over use of willpower that was really only meant to get us through challenging moments.

3. Focus on eating whole foods! Ask yourself, “Would I find this growing/alive?” If the answer is yes, AWESOME. The best place to get your food is  your garden or a farmer/farmers market. Followed by a farm-oriented store (like Nourish Organic Market in Grand Rapids, MI). Followed by a typical grocery store. Should you go to a typical grocery story, stick to the outer perimeter of the store. All the whole food goodness, including breads, meats, cheese, fruits, veggies will all be along the perimeter of the store. BEWARE the aisles. Rarely will you find living food in a box or bag.

4. Seek out Support from your friends and family, and, as necessary, naturopaths or holistic food coaches. Life changes are most successful when down in community. Your friends and family can make changes with you, and a naturopath or holistic food coach can help give you direction about your specific food-mood needs and how to begin.

5. Track the foods you eat and your moods for at least 30 days. Something we eat could still be effecting our mental/emotional state 3-5 days later. Meaning, if we eat a bagel on Monday and feel really down in the dumps Thursday, your Monday meal may be the culprit.

Resources
Books
The Yoga of Eating— Charles Eisenstein (available on Amazon)

Gut and Psychology Syndrome —Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (available on Amazon)

What’s Eating My Child? (available on Amazon)

Apps:  Calm, Optimism

 

If you are looking for more help in overcoming mood issues like depression and anxiety, please check out The Depression Sessions. This online event starts June 14th where you can watch for free each day. But you can also purchase the entire thing starting on June 8th for $67.00. (I am not affiliated with, or an affiliate for, this particular event – I just thought it could be beneficial for some of you.)

Practice gratitude, weekly challenge #13

practice gratitude

It’s easy, you know.

To complain and whine and focus on all that’s gone wrong.

I could never understand when people told me that you can experience joy in the midst of suffering. When something goes wrong, or I feel like things aren’t going my way, I can wallow deep. And the longer I stay there, the harder it is for me to climb back out.

A few years ago I read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” (available on Amazon) and it opened my eyes to not only practicing gratitude, but finding small things to be grateful for.

Sure, I was grateful for my husband, my family, my home, etc., but that’s where it stopped. When I began to notice the little things in life my moods began to change.

I could be grateful for the clean, cold water out of the tap.

I could be grateful for the way the sun shimmered on the wet grass.

All of a sudden, even though I was struggling with my health and infertility, and grieving a baby lost to miscarriage, I could find small little things in my day that, now noticing them, brought peace and contentment.

This doesn’t mean of course that life is now a field of flowers.

being grateful

I wish it did, but life still sucks sometimes. And I forget to practice gratitude.

I can still find myself wallowing in self-pity.

So this challenge is as much for me as it is for you! I need to reminder to work at this everyday.

Over the next week (and beyond), write down at least three things you’re grateful for each day.

If you tend to wake up grumpy, write them down before you start your day. If you have trouble resting at night, grab a piece of paper and write it down then!