A Health Update {Hashimoto’s, pregnancy, fertility, and food}

19wkbelly

It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about my health here, and I know some of you might be curious how things are going with treating my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) naturally, and how it has affected my pregnancy.

Quick background: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in summer 2013, after years of not being able to find any answer to why I felt completely awful so much of the time. This diagnosis lead to massive changes in my already “healthy” diet. Over the previous years I’d been vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, avoided processed and refined foods, done detoxes, and yet still had very little energy and got debilitating headaches more days out of each month than not.

Once I learned the root cause of all of these problems, I was quite determined to learn to manage it naturally and very much wanted to avoid the need for any medication. I began researching a ton and found that much of what I’d always known to be true in the realm of nutrition, actually wasn’t (at least not for every person). In the midst of all of this I was also trying to conceive our third baby, and after 1.5 years of trying was diagnosed with PCOS. I learned that hormone balance depends on an abundance of healthy fats, and that I needed more quality proteins to help keep my blood sugar stable. I was told to avoid gluten, as it increases inflammation for people with autoimmune disease, and as I dug deeper I found that same to be true of legumes, sugar, dairy, and grains in general. All signs pointed to a grain-free, primal (paleo) diet, and I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t eaten any gluten at all since January 2014, and permanently quit dairy and corn a while after that upon seeing so clearly how much they affected how I feel. I rarely eat sugar (refined white sugar, almost never) or legumes, and I have gone many stretches being completely grain-free. This has been such a huge change, and definitely not always easy. I miss lentils and bread, but when I think about how I used to feel when eating them frequently, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

ultrasound

So back to pregnancy. After over a year and a half of trying to conceive, even with all these dietary changes my progesterone was still low, so I was put on a natural compounded progesterone. We found out in late June of last year that I was pregnant, just weeks after starting the hormone treatment. At 8 weeks, it ended abruptly in a miscarriage. I don’t know, and will never know, if Hashimoto’s was to blame at all, but after it happened I became a lot more careful with my diet, avoiding inflammatory foods and increasing healthy fats and veggies. In January, after more months of overusing pregnancy test strips and wondering if it would ever happen, once again I was faced with two little pink lines. This time felt so different though. The anxiety that had surfaced after my miscarriage attacked with a vengeance, and I fought it every day with prayer, faith, and essential oils. When I passed the 8-week mark where I’d been last time, and especially when I reached the 12-week mark where risk is considered much lower, I began to relax. Twelve weeks happened to come almost exactly when I’d been due with the one we lost, which was bittersweet but also healing for me. With the second trimester came the end of my constant nausea, and I entered the phase of truly enjoying this pregnancy.

My morning (read: all-day) sickness in the first 12 weeks made it basically impossible to stay as strict with my diet as I had been. I still avoided gluten, sugar, dairy, and most legumes, but added some grains back to save my sanity. Protein-rich foods often made me feel ill by simply thinking of them. Even now, I’m eating rice or a piece of millet bread here and there, and simply trying to listen to my body and discern what it needs on any given day. Sometimes that’s a big green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, banana, avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes it’s sweet potatoes, or raw coconut oil chocolate, or some eggs or grass-fed beef. Most of my cravings have been along those lines, though sometimes it’s for things like donuts or ice cream and I’ve had to find creative healthy ways to satisfy that!

breakfast

Pregnancy can affect thyroid problems pretty drastically at times, and for the first time I have needed a low dose of thyroid medication. I don’t love being on it, and am hoping to be able to stop after baby comes, even if it means getting even more strict with food for a while. I truly believe that the body can heal itself, but I don’t want to do any experimenting with thyroid levels while I’m pregnant.

Despite that, this has overall been the best I have ever felt while pregnant. I have more energy than I remember having with the boys, much fewer headaches, and most significantly much fewer digestive problems. My first two pregnancies involved almost constant tummy issues—painful indigestion practically ever time I ate—and now it’s pretty rare and usually directly linked to slipping up and eating something I shouldn’t (like some corn chips, hummus, or peanuts).

Supplements are also pretty important when growing a human, and must go far beyond a simple prenatal vitamin.
I take a prenatal multi recommended by my nurse practitioner (who treats my Hashimoto’s). It contains methylfolate instead of the standard folic acid, which is absorbed much more readily by my body.
My other dailies are: fermented cod liver oil (one of the very best sources of essential fatty acids and vitamins A & D), a quality probiotic, curcumin (turmeric capsules, for inflammation), a special thyroid supplement from my nurse practitioner, and a magnesium/calcium drink.
I also use various essential oil daily according to what I need. One of my favorites is the Gentle Baby blend, which is specifically for pregnancy and babies. The book Gentle Babies has been a great resource for figuring out which Young Living oils can be used while pregnant.

gentlebaby

I think that just about covers it (for now anyway). What a wild ride this has been! I’m so thankful for all the knowledge I’ve gained and help I’ve received that has helped this pregnancy along so far and helped me grow the healthiest baby possible, and feel as well as possible so I can enjoy every moment of this. Now at 24 weeks, I am deeply aware of the magic of being her home for these months, her nourishment and protection. Every kick and squirm I feel is so very precious.

Continue Reading

kombucha

kombuchaSomewhere along my journey of learning how to heal naturally from Hashimoto’s, I began hearing about the many benefits of fermented foods and drinks. They are loaded with probiotics, and aid in gut and immune health.

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea and contains beneficial acids and enzymes in addition to probiotic cultures. (more on its benefits here!) It’s fizzy and can be slightly sweet depending on how long you ferment it. The first time I tried it years ago, I absolutely hated it. I think it was mostly that the flavor was so unexpected, and when I finally tried it again I didn’t mind it much. Now I actually really enjoy it.

Making it at home beats store-bought in both price and freshness. It’s really easy and doesn’t take a ton of extra time. The easiest way to start it is to ask around and find a friend who can give you a scoby (the kombucha starter culture, which is very strange looking but totally non-threatening, I promise. It’s name stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. Yum!) Scobies are always growing new top layers, so it’s great to give pieces away to friends interested in starting their own brew!

1388907_396277887169528_706865359_n

Once you have a scoby, which should hopefully come in about a cup of starter kombucha, you’ll also need:
-1 gallon of filtered water
-5 bags of green tea (or 5 teaspoons of loose leaf- some people use black tea, but it has to be one of the two; herbal won’t work the same way)
-1 cup of granulated sugar (don’t use a substitute here- the scoby “eats” the sugar during the fermentation process, so you don’t end up consuming it)

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

1. Bring the gallon of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the tea. Steep for a few minutes and remove bags or strain loose tea.

2. Add the sugar and stir. Cool to completely room temperature (heat will kill your scoby).

3. When the sweetened tea has cooled, pour into a gallon-sized glass container (like a really big mason jar—I just use two, and I have two separate scobies. This fits better in my little kitchen. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band and let the jar sit in a dark corner at room temperature.

4. Let it ferment for at least a week or up to a few weeks—it will get less sweet and sour towards the end. Taste it, and when it seems right to you, remove the scoby and all but a cup of the kombucha and pour into glass containers (mason jars or these bottles work well). Save the reserved liquid to start your next batch. Store your kombucha in the refrigerator. You can drink this as it is, or you can continue to ferment it for a couple more days in bottles in the fridge—just add in any fruit you wish (fresh or frozen- some good options include berries, ginger, or pineapple), and be sure to burp the bottle each day to release the pressure. After a couple days your kombucha will be fizzy and delicious, and you can strain out the fruit and return the kumbucha to the bottles and keep refrigerated. It will keep for up to a couple months, but I doubt it will last that long!

1172193_1491674541057225_2021325946_n

Continue Reading

Battling anxiety with hope and oils

dahlia 2

I haven’t talked about it here yet, but if you follow me on instagram or are friends with me in person, you know that in June of this year—after over a year and a half of trying—I was pregnant. And then by the first week of July, I wasn’t. Losing a baby was something that I never expected. Always knew it to be a possibility, yes, but it’s something that can’t feel close and real until it actually happens to you. I always trusted my body completely in pregnancy and birth, and had very little fear surrounding that stage of life. So when I was hit so suddenly with the loss of our tiny baby at 8 weeks, it was a shock I could never have been prepared for. The emotional and physical pain was greater than I ever would have thought. Over the weeks that followed, the most intense pain of it dulled gradually. I stopped crying during diaper commercials (well, for the most part at least). But in place of that pain, anxiety had entered. I was on edge all the time. The boys would climb onto me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe; any type of crowd made me want to run far and fast; I worried over every little thing and couldn’t sleep at night—everything in life felt magnified and too heavy. It took me a while to realize that it had been spurred by my miscarriage. Through a conversation in a friend’s kitchen, it dawned on me how freaked out I was by the thought of getting pregnant again, while simultaneously wanting it more than anything. And so I began the work of trusting God and accepting that it’s out of my hands and in much more capable ones.

Around that time we received our starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. After hearing them recommended time after time for anxiety and depression, I decided to start using Valor and Joy daily- I dilute them 1:1 with a carrier oil in a little roller bottle, and roll just a little on my wrists, heart, and behind my ears once or twice a day. The difference I’ve felt has been amazing. The best way to explain it is that I feel balanced, and more grounded. I can breathe again, and life is still life, but I don’t constantly feel like it’s more than I can bear.

valorjoy 2

So I’m clinging to hope, trusting in things I can’t see, and so thankful to have these wonderful, completely natural tools to help me heal. I will never stop being sad when I think about the baby we lost, but I know that we are okay, and that we’ll have another baby when we’re meant to. For now, I am feeling better, and that feels freakin awesome.

Continue Reading

Lavender Lemonade

IMG_2264

 

Lavender Lemonade

7 lemons, juiced
2 limes, juiced
1 drop lavender oil
14 cups water
1-1/2 cup organic agave nectar

Mix all ingredients together and chill.
Add more water or agave, depending on the size and tartness of the fruit.
Be careful that you don’t add more than a drop of lavender oil so that it does not overpower your lemonade.

My friend Sondra and I served this at the first oils class we taught last month and everyone loved it! I’ve made it at home since then and it’s the perfect refreshing, relaxing drink for a weekend afternoon!

IMG_2263

***  Any suggestions made on this blog are very specific to Young Living essential oils and should not be used with oils from another source. Statements made on this website about Young Living Essential Oils have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician. If you are currently on medication, please DO NOT STOP. This is just how I make & do things. you must make informed decision for yourself and your own family. 

“We are starting our journey with Essential Oils and have done our own research on the purity of oils.  I am confident in using oils in our recipes because we only use Young Living.  They are  beyond organic and never use pesticides, herbicides or any harmful chemicals. Their soil has never been exposed to them as well.  I don’t suggest ever using any other oil for ingestion because I don’t know of their purity. “

Continue Reading

Natural Healing + Essential Oils

EOphoto

One of my goals for this year was to replace more of our medicine cabinet with natural alternatives. For years now we’ve used homeopathy, herbal supplements, and other natural remedies to treat various ailments, but we still frequently turned to OTC medicines and I loathed every single time the boys were put on antibiotics. I also wanted to dive deeper into treating my autoimmune issues (and the host of symptoms it causes) naturally.

I’d always been curious about essential oils, and even had a handful of them from the health food store that I used to make cleaning products and such. I’d heard of using them medicinally but I knew so little about it. I figured the benefits were mainly in the aromatherapy aspect, but I didn’t realize how powerful they could be beyond smelling good! Then my best friend started using Young Living oils and her excitement about them was enough to get me to finally look into it. We purchased a starter kit, and within a week of receiving it my husband and I were both completely on board.

Before my introduction to the world of therapeutic grade oils (which are so very different from the brands you’ll find at Whole Foods), I had absolutely no idea what a wide range of things they can be used for. We use them topically, diffused into the air, and occasionally internally*—for cuts, burns, bites, sore muscles, headaches, immunity, fevers, coughs, congestion, hormone balance, stomach aches… that’s seriously only scratching the surface. I hear testimonials every day about amazing results people are experiencing with everything from everyday issues to truly serious health problems. EO’s support the body’s natural ability to heal itself, and I just love that.
And honestly: they do smell really good!

I recently decided to begin sharing more about how we use our oils and what’s worked for us so far, and hopefully start a conversation with others on this journey. Find out more here.

*Any suggestions made on this blog are very specific to Young Living essential oils and should not be used with oils from another source. Statements made on this website about Young Living Essential Oils have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician. If you are currently on medication, please DO NOT STOP.

Continue Reading

Lavender & Almond Skin Cleanser

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset

I’ve tried a ton of different skincare options over the years. It started when I was about 10 and my mom was selling Mary Kay products, and on and on from there. I’ve been careful about ingredients since my early twenties- mostly buying from health food stores and avoiding harsh chemicals. But I’ve never found something I 100% loved. I’ve tried everything from extremely overpriced department store cleansing milks, to raw honey (it gave me a rash). I used only coconut oil for a while, but came to the conclusion that for my particular skin, it’s better as a once-in-a-while treatment rather than a daily ritual. When it comes to store-bought, LUSH’s Angels on Bare Skin cleanser has been my favorite, but there was still something a little off about it, so I decided to try making it myself, with complete control over the ingredients. I made my first batch several months ago, and I absolutely love this stuff. It’s the perfect combination of moisture and gentle exfoliant, with clay to draw out impurities.

The recipe:

a heaping 1/4 cup of almond flour
4 tsp clay (I use Redmond, but I’m curious about green clay and may try it in the future.)
1 Tbsp vegetable glycerin
7 drops pure lavender essential oil (I only use Young Living; I’ve noticed such a difference since switching from store bought oils)
4 tsp water
1 tsp organic dried lavender

Mix the almond flour and clay together in a bowl. Then add glycerine, water, and lavender oil. Mix together well (I like to use a silicone spatula to sort of knead it against the side of the bowl.) Scrape together and roll in hands to form a ball. Store in a lidded container. To use, pinch off just a tiny bit and mix it with water in your hand, rub into face, and rinse clean. Follow with your favorite moisturizer if needed.

Continue Reading

Homemade Almond Milk

almondmilk5

I’ve used almond milk for years now in place of regular milk, and since going completely dairy free a few months ago I’ve been using it even more. It’s definitely my milk alternative of choice. I always purchased cartons of it at the store, but then I decided to try making it myself at home and I haven’t bought another jug since! It’s just as good (if not better), super easy, and requires very little time commitment.

And then there’s the savings: I figured out that making it myself cuts the cost almost in half. I buy blanched slivered almonds from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, but really I could go even cheaper and get whole raw almonds with skin on.

The first time I tried this I used cheesecloth to strain it, and there was a lot of grittiness from the pulp left in the milk. Then I saw nut milk bags mentioned somewhere online, and purchased one of these on Amazon, and now I’m a total convert. Completely worth the money, and less wasteful than using cheesecloth and throwing it away!

So here’s how to do it:

Soak 1 cup of raw or blanched almonds in twice as much water for several hours (or over night).

almondmilk1

Drain and rinse the almonds and place into a high-powered blender (mine is a Vitamix). Add 3 1/2 cups of filtered water and blend on high for 30-60 seconds until it looks like you’re just blending milk.

Place your nut milk bag into a medium-sized bowl, and hold it open while pouring the contents of the blender into the bag. The lift the bag over the bowl and squeeze, starting at the top and working down. I finish by kind of sectioning off pieces of the pulp and squeezing those, just to get every last drop.

almondmilk2

almondmilk3

Use a funnel to pour the milk into a 32 ounce glass container (a quart-sized mason jar is perfect).

almondmilk4

Try to use within 4-5 days, and shake it up before each use. Keep the pulp in a container for up to 4 days.

 

The first time I made it, I saved the pulp but wasn’t really sure what to do with it. After a bit of googling, I found this cracker recipe and fell in love (there is a serious lack of crackers in this frugal gluten free girl’s life lately!). These are sweet and the flavor reminds me of graham crackers; I’m definitely planning to try making some savory almond pulp crackers as well!

Every single time I make a batch this creamy white goodness, I get this hilariously awesome feeling of self-sufficiency and green domestic goddess-ness. I mean, I just made milk.

Yes I realize you’re laughing at me right now. But seriously, try it! It’s pretty empowering.

Continue Reading

hello, I’m a canary.

detoxwater

I can’t believe my last post on this blog was nearly a year ago. Suddenly I’ve had an urge to write publicly again lately, about things other than art and photography (which of course I do over here). I think Instagram is largely to blame for my absence here. It’s so easy to snap a photo and type out a little blurb about what’s happening in my life, and press share. Instant gratification. But I’ve got more on my mind these days and for some reason I have this innate pull to share it with whomever wants to listen. So here I am, once again. Hello :)

Ten months since my last post also means ten months since finding out I have Hashimoto’s. It’s been quite the journey, to say the least. After months of the strictest eating plan I’ve ever followed, my headaches were more frequent than ever and I felt awful. I spent the last few months of last year eating mostly healthy but with no restrictions. I was traveling, working quite a lot, doing the holidays thing, and I knew something had to change again at some point but I just wasn’t ready. In January I began reading more about Hashi’s and knew that gluten really didn’t have a place in my life anymore, and that it would have to be permanent. Apparently gluten and my thyroid look too similar to my crazy immune system, so when I eat gluten it creates antibodies to attack it, which then get confused and attack my thyroid too. So I made peace with saying goodbye to wheat, and honestly it hasn’t been as hard as one would think.

While this seemed to help some, I was still not feeling great. I saw an endocrinologist for the first time, and then received a recommendation from a friend for a nurse practitioner she sees for Hashi’s, who specializes in functional medicine. I made an appointment right away, and I’m so thankful. She confirmed my gluten-free decision, and prescribed a 10-day detox program, a daily circumin supplement (to reduce inflammation in my body), a predominantly alkaline diet, and then another blood test in a few months to see if my antibody levels decrease. So that’s where I am now. I loved the detox program. It wasn’t easy, but I felt so clear and just better. It’s been over a week since it ended, and so far I still haven’t eaten dairy or sugar because I just feel so much better without them. I’ve had coffee only once since, which is huge for me. I really enjoy coffee. But I’m trying to make it a once-in-a-while treat rather than a daily thing I depend on.

So right now, my diet is predominantly plant-based. I eat more vegetables and legumes than I ever have before. Fruit, some gluten-free grains, some fish and eggs, and sometimes poultry. I’m trying to purchase organic/wild caught/cage free whenever I can, and my current challenge is doing this while sticking with a reasonable food budget. (I’ll write a whole post on that endeavor soon.)

I do still get headaches, but they’re not as bad or as frequent since I did the detox. And there’s an obvious link between them and either lack of water or increase in stress. I read somewhere that people who have autoimmune diseases are like the canaries in the coal mine for everyone else. Things that everyone else should do, we just pay a much bigger price for ignoring them. We’re sensitive, so we have to take extra care with how we eat, what toxins we’re exposed to, our stress levels, sleep quality, and basically every area of self care. My body forces me to slow down and care for myself, and if I don’t I inevitably crash- unable to care for those who need me or keep up with my work and other responsibilities. Lots of people, when they hear how I eat now, say they could never do this, that they love bread and cheese and sweets coffee way too much. Trust me, I love them too. But the alternative for me is feeling exhausted constantly, in pain almost all the time, and consequently short on the patience and energy required to raise tiny humans, run a business, and live my life. Now, for the first time in years, I am myself more often then I’m not. I’m enjoying playing with my kids, and I have the energy to do the things I love. It’s amazing. Giving up those foods and changing my lifestyle doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore—it feels like an incredible gift.

beach

 

I’ll be back soon. (for real this time!)

Continue Reading

Learning how to eat, again.

© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography
© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography

I know I said I was back, and then I left you hanging ;)

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with photographing awesome peeps in love and raising babies, and also for a while it felt like I’d hit a dead end on the path to ridding myself of headaches.

Then I heard about food sensitivity testing, which led me to a local natural health practice that offers such a test. After meeting with a practitioner there, I had a lot of blood drawn (like, I nearly passed out), and today I met with her for the results. Which led me back here, to this blog, because I’m just starting to process everything and it’s simply too complicated for an Instagram or Facebook post. I know it will be of no interest whatsoever to many out there, but writing always helps me process things.

The tests that were done were basically a full workup and hormone panel- vitamins, thyroid, and on and on- and a food sensitivity test called LEAP-MRT.

Much of my regular health labs came back good, but it’s been determined that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign entity, eventually resulting in severe hypothyroidism. It can progress over the course of years and even decades, and often in the beginning it isn’t detected because thyroid levels themselves will remain in normal range. The true test for the presence of the condition is a thyroid antibody test, which isn’t included in routine bloodwork. In all my years of seeing doctor after doctor for my headaches, most of them ordered blood tests, but this practitioner is the first who’s ever checked my thyroid antibodies. Even before true hypothyroidism occurs, symptoms can begin to show up and are often written off as unrelated and without apparent cause. It tends to be genetic, and my mom had it before finally having her thyroid removed last year. Mine is in very early stages still and does not require any thyroid replacement medicine. My nurse practitioner is optimistic that following the diet they’ve outlined for me will do a lot to keep my levels in check.

Hashimoto’s and food sensitivities often go hand-in-hand, so it turns out that the MRT results could help with it and my headaches (it’s likely the two are closely connected anyway). The foods I’m reactive to are broken into high and moderate reaction levels. For the next three months, I need to avoid all the food from both categories, and then I can challenge by moderately reactive foods one at a time. I wont bore you with the entire list, but suffice to say that for the next three months I have to avoid dairy, gluten, soy, rice, quinoa, oranges, onions, shrimp, walnuts, and several other foods.

The nutritionist I met with suggested I learn about the Paleo diet and the recipes that go along with it, and loosely follow that since there are so many grains on my “no” list. So here I go into entirely new food territory, re-learning how to eat (and shop, and cook). I’ve been pretty overwhelmed thinking about it today- knowing that I have to find alternatives for so many things I’m used to eating, and wondering how I’m going to organize our meals when I have to eat so much differently from my family. But I know I’ll find a groove with it, and if it leads to feeling well and being pain-free it will certainly be worth the effort.

Continue Reading