What your basal body temps are telling you

Your temperature dipped one day and you can’t figure out why. Or maybe your temperature bounces up and down and it’s hard to figure out when (or if) you ovulate. Join Rianna Poskin and I as we talk about charting from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view!

I had so much fun with this one – I almost forgot I was the one doing the interviewing as I listened to her share insight about what was probably happening in one woman’s cycle. Our charts are really interesting!

Charting from a TCM view

About Rianna

Rianna Poskin is a Mom of 3, an Entrepreneur, Lover of the Outdoors/Exercise/Nutrition, and Servicing others. Her mission is to make you the best by bringing you to your full potential in Body, Mind and Spirit!

Rianna and her husband dealt with Fertility issues, including miscarriages, which is why she is so passionate in helping others achieve their family dreams and stay healthy!

Rianna worked as a TCM practitioner focusing on Women’s Health and Fertility until having children.  Now she continues her work online consulting while being at home with her children.

Education: Master’s in Business (MSBA), Bachelor’s in Science (BSAT), Certifications in Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, and Body Mind Nutrition.

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

Find her at RiannaPoskin.com (where you can sign up to get her free ebook and menu), on Twitter: @riannaposkin and Facebook: facebook.com/backtobasicsblogger

Top fertility tip

It’s so simple… breathing.

We tend to be shallow breathers and we don’t allow for that oxygen to go to the right places and feel our bodies in the right way. We need that to survive and if we’re not nourishing ourselves in that way everything else we’re doing will have a harder time bringing about good health.

Charting resources

Fertility Friend – Fertility charting with Fertility Friend thus involves observing and recording your fertility signs so that you can easily see your daily fertility status and identify your most fertile time.

Lady Comp Baby – If you would like to become pregnant without stress and avoid undergoing complex procedures, the intelligent fertility monitor of Valley-Electronics is for you.

iBasal – The ibasal is much more than just a basal thermometer – it’s an FDA-cleared fertility monitor that is able to calculate your precise ovulation date and peak fertile days based on your daily temperatures and a variety of other fertility indicators.

FairHaven Health – supplements, basal thermometers, and test strips among other items.

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!

How does TCM and charting go hand in hand?

SO many women get hung up on every little temperature fluctuation and trying to figure out what each variable means. This becomes a constant stress int every day charting because it’s a constant reminder that the goal you’re reaching for has not yet been obtained.

My approach is to look at the whole thing together and create a strategy to implement without causing excess stress. You don’t want to bombard yourself on a regular basis with those minute details, it’ll drive you crazy!

Practice charting…but do it and then let it go!

Rianna goes in-depth into a specific chart – make sure you what the video for this!

Tidbits during the chart review:

  • Ideal follicular phase and luteal phase is about 12-14 days for each.
  • Checking out the tongue! By looking at the tongue you can see which organs may be having problems. This tongue was swollen has a white coating and red tip.
  • The symptoms listed in the charts match what the tongue and the temperature variations all point to the same thing.
  • 5 phases in Chinese medicine – all five are important to look at
    1. follicular
    2. ovulation
    3. luteal
    4. premenstrual
    5. menstruation
  • We can actually change our dietary and lifestyle habits during each phase to optimize each phase. Some recommendations are shown on-screen just before minute 10! (supplements , dietary changes and acupressure points)

Seriously – watch the video here as Rianna really gets into every detail of the basal body charts!

  • Alkalizing very day is important. (helps you detox without doing a full-blown cleanse)
    • 1/2 cup of juice with filtered water and a pinch of Himalayan salt first thing in the morning.
    • 15 minutes of quiet meditation
    • Get in your supplements! (Rianna gives her recommendations here)
    • Throughout the day, make sure you drink alkaline water (just a pinch of Himalayan salt. Fruit between meals will help to alkalize the body. Foods high in zinc are also important! (menu shown in video 18:00)
    • Possible supplementation for anyone trying to get pregnant and for advanced maternal age recommendations given (19:00)
  • Analyze your charts over a few months.
  • Take three months of dietary and lifestyle changes before conceiving as the egg has a 100 day maturation cycle.

The ocean of our fertility does not dry up, it just becomes still. And with help, it can flow once more.

– Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure

  • Femoral massage for bringing blood flow to the ovaries. (shown later in the video at 32:00)
  • If you have a short luteal phase it will be difficult to get pregnant.
  • Low temperatures you might want to get your thyroid checked out. In TCM it’s connected to a “low spleen energy”.

What are some of the biggest issues you find with women’s charts?

Statistically…there’s a variation of errors. Consistency is hard and there are many variables that can throw temps off slightly, so don’t get consumed about it.

Stress = cortisol production = acidifying the body.

So make sure you chart, but don’t get so wrapped up in it! If you do give up on taking temperature, just don’t give up on writing down your signs and symptoms as they are really important for a holistic practitioner to help you figure out what is going on in each part of your cycle.

Those signs and symptoms as well as the emotions can pin point which organ needs focus.

We also had a great conversation about how you have to be comfortable with your practitioner! (34:00)

what your basal body temps are telling you

Eat your veggies and greens

No matter who you ask, when people think of a healthy diet they automatically think of vegetables. Almost every dietary protocol out there suggests that we should eat more!

Vegetables and greens offer a wide variety of nutrients, fiber for moving things along, and anti-oxidants for fighting free radicals. Unfortunately many, if not most, Americans eat very few vegetables and never any greens!

eat your veggies

5 ways I struggle with eating more vegetables:

  1. During the winter months they are available only from the grocery store… trekked in from warmer climates. For me, this means that they don’t taste near as good since they are often picked before they are at their ripest.
  2. The produce in our smaller grocery stores (the ones closest to our home) tend to begin to rot fairly quickly, sometimes I buy only half of what I’d really like simply because they aren’t fresh! They also offer very little in terms of variety. In one store I can’t even buy a bunch of kale and the bagged spinach is super pricey!
  3. It can take longer to prepare vegetables for me. The chopping and slicing definitely take some time when I’m making meals.
  4. They don’t taste as good as chocolate. I mean really… Veggies are great and all, but when I reach for a snack and it’s either the M&Ms I had hidden away or a handful of carrots, what do you think is going to happen? Either you (I) grab the chocolate or I miserably eat the carrots wishing I had chocolate instead.
  5. Greens, other than kale, are hard for me to find ways to eat on a regular basis. I think it’s a texture thing for me.

Excuses are just that though – an excuse. And eating more vegetables and greens can increase your health dramatically if you aren’t already getting in at least 4-6 cups per day. (if you are, shoot for 7-9 cups!)

5 ways to kill my excuses

  1. Deal with it. Plain and simple, I just have to deal with the fact that many veggies won’t taste as fresh as during the summer. I’ve also found that during these months I prefer to use many vegetables frozen during this time, like corn, green beans, and broccoli. Or I’ll use a dip to give them a bit more flavor. Adding them to soups also helps as the single flavors aren’t as important as the whole.
  2. Make time in my schedule to get to the bigger supermarket that carries higher quality produce (with more variety)! And when I go I need to focus on shopping the produce section first and filling up my cart. Having a stock of frozen vegetables is also helpful in the weeks where I have to choose the smaller store.
  3. I always kick myself for not taking an hour to chop and prepare my weeks worth of veggies. When I’m able to wash, chop, and get all my snacking veggies ready to go in the fridge, I’m much more inclined to grab some carrots and homemade ranch or celery and almond butter. I can also get things chopped up for a quick stir fry as a quick lunch or dinner. And speaking of a quick veggie meal… having lettuce and salad veggies chopped up makes grabbing a big salad for a meal really easy! I toss in a bit of protein and a great homemade dressing and I’m all set. <—note to self – do this every week!
  4. I can’t buy sweets. I know there are people out there that say if you simply have access to them, or over eat them, that you’ll lose your desire for sweets. Nope. Not me. And it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been without them. I have found that I am an emotional eater when it comes to sweets, and the emotion that triggers them is overwhelm or stress. So for me, in this stage of life, it’s important that I don’t have those foods in the house. This makes the already cut up veggies a sure thing.
  5. I love sautéed kale and have it multiple times a week! But other greens are not my favorite. Instead, I steam them and freeze, adding them to my smoothies. And more recently I’ve been using a powdered greens mix to drink once a day, either in water or a smoothie. Todd has been getting this drink every morning as well. (I have a hard time getting veggies into him during the day while he’s at work!)

Eat your greens!

The organic greens I’ve been using were sent to me to review from Dr. Mercola. (FDA disclosure a sec – I did not receive any financial compensation from them and the opinions stated are my own.)

eat your greens

At first I was hesitant to accept the product to review because I’ve tried a few powders in the past and never really liked them. One popular brand ended up in the back of my cupboard for a couple of years until I finally tossed it.

Knowing I needed to up the intake of veggies in my diet right now, as well as greatly increase it for Todd, I said yes and I’m glad I did.

The greens mix includes not only powdered greens and veggies, but an organic mushroom blend, specific antioxidants, a blend of spirulina and chlorella, as well as adaptogenic herbs like maca and rhodiola, so it’s a powerhouse of nutrients.

The mix itself is also a fine powder and doesn’t end up chunky when you try to stir it in water which was an issue I’ve had before. If you let it sit for a while it doesn’t tend to settle at the bottom of the glass, but easily stirs back in.

Organic Greens also tastes good (thank goodness, or else Todd would never drink it!). You can mix it with 6 ounces of water or blend with smoothies. Either way it tastes good, though I do love it in my smoothies.

I don’t seem to have an issue getting in enough veggies when life is running smoothly and I’m on top of my game. But in times of busyness or more stress, I love that I have options like this to help me get the nutrients I need without causing me more overwhelm. (overwhelm = stress eating junk food)

And they taste good enough that I don’t mind drinking it everyday!

 

Do you have problems getting in enough vegetables and greens in your diet? Let me know why in the comments and we’ll see if you can kill your excuses too!

I’ve got Hashimoto’s, now what?

So, you’ve been feeling like crud for a while. You make an appointment with your doctor and he runs some blood work. He calls back the next week and tells you that you have Hashimoto’s. 

He will say, “It’s not big deal. You’ll just need to see an endocrinologist and take some medicine and you will feel better.”

Right.

Did anyone else hear that story?

That is what I heard when I finally got a doctor to run a full thyroid panel

I didn’t buy that I just had to take some medication to feel better.

That was when I started my search on Google to find out more about Hashimoto’s. And oy! Let me tell you there is SO much information out there! My brain went into overload and I had to back away for a while.

Good news though, if you are reading this and you have Hashi’s, I’m going to help you out. I want to give you a place to jump-start your research and hopefully, your path to feeling better. 

This is not the end all be all of Hashimoto’s, however I really feel these are great sources to dig into, whether you are using conventional methods of healing, natural methods are a combination of both.

Nothing makes me more sad than people who think that have to live with their Hashimoto’s symptoms. That is far from the truth. There are so many resources available, we just have to work at finding the right one for us.

resources for hashimoto's

Resources for Hashimoto’s

Websites

  • Stop the Thyroid Madness
    Here is where you will find information on what lab tests you should have run, their optimal values, how to find a good doctor and information on medications.
  • Hypothyroid Mom
    This is a real thyroid patient and she covers so much information. It is informative yet easy to read. She also touches on diet and other real life thyroid issues.
  • Thyroid Change
    People are becoming aware that thyroid patients need better care! This site is dedicated to seeing those changes.
  • My Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
    Another site brought to you by a Hashi’s patient. Lots of hands on information as she goes through her journey.

Books

  • The Root Cause by Dr. Izabelle Wentz
    If you only by one book, this is it, my friends. I almost cried when I got my hands on this book because it took me years to get all the information that was now in one book. Dr. Wentz is a Hashi’s patient as well and I find this book information and easy to read. I wish I could by it for everyone with Hashimoto’s.
  • Overcoming Thyroid Disorder by Dr. Brownstein
    Dr. Brownstein has seen many patients succeed in feeling better with his protocols. Lots of good information in this book.
  • Why do I still have thyroid symptoms when my lab tests are normal by Dr. Datis Kharrazian
    While this book is not as easy to read as others, it gave me great insight to why I was feeling as bad as I was. There is also great diet information in this book.
  • You’re not crazy and you’re not alone by Stacey Robbins
    The title of this book says it all. Sometimes having this disease will make you feel like you are losing it, but it is not you…and there are many of us that feel the same way.

Need a doctor?

You can type in a search, here, to find a functional medicine doctor in your area.  This is a great resource if you are having trouble getting your doctor to listen to you.

resources for help in healing hashimoto's

Diet information

Brain fog?

Hair loss?

Adrenal Issues

This is just the tip of the iceberg but for me, when I started my Hashimoto’s journey these are resources that made an impact on my journey.

You will quickly learn that you need to be your own thyroid advocate.You deserve to have wonderful care and to feel good. Do not settle for anything less than just that.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and dig for more answers. We are so unique, so each of our journeys to wellness are going to be so different. Do not compare yourself to others, it will only lead you to feel discouraged.

Also remember, you didn’t get here overnight so you are not going to get better overnight. Each step you take will make a difference as you find each puzzle piece to healing.

I’d love to hear from you, what has made the most difference in your Hashimoto’s healing? 

 

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!

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.)

 

For more amazing drink recipes, follow our whole foods board on Pinterest!

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)

 

 

 

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)

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?

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?

Iced Mango Green Tea

This summer has been the summer of drinks! And by drinks I mean the fruity refreshing ones I can share with the kiddos on a hot summer day. A few weeks ago we experimented with freshly picked blackberries, by adding them in a homemade pitcher of lemonade. Let’s just say it was probably the best idea that this dreadful Texas heat inspired so far!

This mango tea is another one that we’ve had lately around here as well. Hope you enjoy!

mango green tea
1.  Bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil.

mango green iced tea

2. Pour boiling water into a safe container and let tea bags sit for about 3-5 minutes. You can actually choose to do this in your tea pot/ pan if you prefer, but I don’t like mine to get stained with sugar and other things, so I just boil water and do all my mixing in the pitcher. Mix in stevia while hot, to dissolve. You can also supplement the stevia with the sweetener of your choice. (Find info on exchanging the stevia for sugar.)

homemade mango tea
3. While the tea bags are sitting in the hot water, set aside and begin slicing up your mango in small chunks.

homemade mango tea

4. Pour mango chunks into a food processor or something similar to make into a thick liquid. I use the bullet, which works perfectly! Process the chunks until the pieces are completely blended.
homemade mango green tea
5. Pour mango juice into the tea pitcher or container that the tea is brewing in, and remove tea bags if you haven’t already. Boil again for a 2-3 minutes to dissolve the mango juice into the tea.

Iced mango green tea

Pour mango tea mix back into the pitcher and fill the rest of the pitcher with water until full. Stir well, and enjoy over a glass of ice!
*You can also add freshly squeezed oranges or cranberries into the mix if you want a little tangy punch!

Mango Iced Tea
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 Mango
  • 4 Organic Green Tea bags
  • stevia (or favored sweetener) to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Pour boiling water into a safe container and let tea bags sit for about 3-5 minutes. You can actually choose to do this in your tea pot/ pan if you prefer, but I don't like mine to get stained with sugar and other things, so I just boil water and do all my mixing in the pitcher. Mix in stevia while hot, to dissolve. You can also supplement the stevia with the sweetener of your choice. You can see this link for more info on exchanging the stevia for sugar.
  3. While the tea bags are sitting in the hot water, set aside and begin slicing up your mango in small chunks.
  4. Pour mango chunks into a food processor or something similar to make into a thick liquid. I use the bullet, which works perfectly! Process the chunks until the pieces are completely blended.
  5. Pour mango juice into the tea pitcher or container that the tea is brewing in, and remove tea bags if you haven't already. Boil again for a 2-3 minutes to dissolve the mango juice into the tea.
  6. Pour mango tea mix back into the pitcher and fill the rest of the pitcher with water until full. Stir well, and enjoy over a glass of ice!
Notes
*You can also add freshly squeezed oranges into the mix if you want a little tangy punch!

 

For more amazing drink recipes, follow our whole foods board on Pinterest!