Pregnancy Health Hacks

pregnancy-health-hacksAs I am nearing the end of pregnancy, I thought I would share some “health hacks” that I found helpful during pregnancy.  All of these “hacks” are safe, natural methods for dealing with pregnancy symptoms and in preparing for labor.

Chiropractor Adjustments – I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly for years and can’t imagine life without it.  I continued my regular visits, increasing frequency to once every week or two, depending on how I was feeling throughout my pregnancy.  Not only did I not suffer from lower back pain, which I know is a very common pregnancy ailment as the belly grows, but she was also able to help with other symptoms.  I ended up having some shoulder and neck pain as I started sleeping on my side that she addressed.  She kept my hips in alignment, helping greatly with the round ligament pain.  And, most surprisingly, she was also able to adjust my stomach to relieve most of the indigestion/heartburn caused by pregnancy (up until the last week before the baby dropped). Lastly, my chiropractor is also trained in acupuncture, which can be a great help for natural labor induction- now that I am past my due date, I’m going to see just how well it works!

Prenatal Massage – I’ve always considered massages more of a treat than a necessity, but I really tried to get at least one prenatal massage each month throughout pregnancy.  Studies show that massage during pregnancy can help improve sleep and reduce stress/anxiety.  Of course, they are also greatly helpful for pain relief and overall relaxation (you deserve it, mama!).  Look for a massage practice that has staff specifically trained and certified for prenatal massage AND one that has a special pillow so that you can lay face down, instead of on your side.  Those 30 minutes of laying “on your stomach” were magical because you never get that luxury.

Magnesium & Potassium – Suffering from middle-of-the-night painful leg cramps?  These two supplements are a must; they worked to completely take those cramps away for me.  Magnesium is also beneficial in helping to calm you before bed, leading to better sleep, and for helping to keep you regular if you are suffering from constipation.

Probiotics – I highly recommend everyone take probiotics regularly, not just pregnant women.  We encounter so many antibiotics in our food and other toxins in our environment- we need to consistently restore our levels of healthy bacteria. The health of our digestive system has a strong correlation to the abilities of our overall immune system, so probiotics are essential for supporting your immune function.  They are also helpful for keeping your bowels moving if you are suffering from constipation.  Lastly, I definitely believe that regularly using probiotics was a big reason I tested negative for Group B Strep.

Essential Oils – I am a big fan of essential oils and use them every day for both my health and around my house.  Here are a few that I used most commonly during pregnancy:

  • Copaiba – An anti-inflammatory oil, this helped relieve my indigestion; I rubbed it on my chest/throat/stomach.
  • DiGize – Another one to help with indigestion and to prevent constipation.
  • Peppermint – Great to smell or add to water when you experience morning sickness; it helps relieve nausea.  I plan on bringing it into labor also in case I experience nausea then; but I will put it away while I am breastfeeding since it can cause a decrease in milk supply.
  • Thieves – I put a drop of Thieves on the bottom of my foot every day and diffused it often to boost my immune system.  I also cleaned my house with it to keep everything chemical-free.
  • Frankincense – I definitely suffered from the “daughter stealing beauty” thing and had lots of breakouts on my face from the hormones.  Frankincense mixed with coconut oil was the only thing that works to heal blemishes fast.
  • Lavender – Very useful for overall relaxation and to help promote good sleep.  Mix some with distilled water and mist over your pillow each night. It’s also very moisturizing, so I found it helpful when I was itchy from my belly stretching.
  • Clary Sage – Only to be used at the end of pregnancy when you are full-term, this oil helps ease the pain of cramps and promotes uterine contractions.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – I drank this tea often throughout my third trimester.  My midwife recommended it as a way to tone pelvic and uterine muscles to prepare the body for productive labor contractions.  It’s full of great nutrients like magnesium and vitamin C that are also beneficial for sleep, nausea, leg cramps and immune function.  For more information, Wellness Mama wrote a great blog post about the benefits of this herb.

Evening Primrose Oil – Another recommendation from my midwife, the oil of evening primrose can help soften the cervix to prepare the body for labor.  You can find the capsules in your local pharmacy and it’s usually recommended to start after 36 weeks.

Ginger Candy – I carried this in my purse constantly when I was battling pregnancy nausea (aka morning sickness that lasts all day).  You can make them or find them in a store; the hard candies last a bit longer in your mouth, but crystallized ginger is also yummy to chew on.

Controlling Blood Sugar – I wrote a whole post about the diet, exercise, supplements and water intake that helped me keep my gestational diabetes under control – check it out here.  If you want to limit weight gain during your pregnancy, this is definitely the protocol to follow; plus, the diet+exercise simply make for a healthier lifestyle that will help you avoid much of the discomfort of the 3rd trimester.

Is there anything natural you tried during pregnancy that helped you?  Please share!

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A Recap of 2016

Wow… is it really almost 2017!?!  As I look forward to the huge life change that 2017 will bring, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2016.  If you’ve missed any of my blogs this year, this will be the perfect opportunity to catch up!

2016 was certainly a roller-coaster for my health.  The year started off with me still trying to figure out what was causing my random high cortisol responses and unexplained weight gain.  Then, in May, we found out we were expecting, even though doctors had told me I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. Pregnancy brought on constant nausea and exhaustion that kept me down and out for a few months, and then a gestational diabetes diagnosis rocked my world.

Here’s a recap of the blogs I wrote in 2016:

Travel

VeniceI’m a huge believer that vacations are super important for your overall health and well-being.  We all need to take a break and relax, and traveling to experience different foods and cultures is great way to relieve stress. The past couple of years, we have taken two trips to Europe that were incredible.  I got so many requests for advice, I just decided to write all about our itineraries and recommendations right here:

My Favorite Natural Products & Organic Grocery Deals

BruschettaHealthy Recipes

Pregnancy:

Essential Oils

Thieves Essential OilHighlighting the benefits of some of my favorite essential oils to both your overall wellness and to creating and keeping a natural home.

Happy New Year!!

2016-recap

DiGize Essential Oil

digize-oilLooking for natural help with digestive issues? DiGize is the oil to try!

DiGize is my go-to whenever I have an upset tummy or I’m suffering from pregnancy indigestion.  It’s a blend of several different oils creating a powerful combination:

  • Tarragon – traditionally used to fight intestinal parasites
  • Ginger – a very common stomach-calming item, especially helpful with nausea
  • Peppermint – many cultures chew mint leaves or drink mint tea after meals to relax stomach muscles and help with digestion
  • Juniper – helps to detox and cleanse
  • Fennel – stimulates the digestive system and helps prevents gas
  • Anise – shown to help calm spasms and increase the flow of bile
  • Patchouli – very helpful in alleviating nausea
  • Lemongrass – traditionally used for it’s anti-inflammatory properties for the digestive system

I’ll admit it is my least favorite oil in terms of scent (I think it’s the fennel maybe?), but I use it all the time regardless of the way it smells. It’s totally worth it!  You can also get the Vitality version and put a couple drops in a capsule to swallow so you don’t have to smell it.

Another great home remedy for digestive issues is activated charcoal – learn more about that here!

For more about essential oils, visit this page.

Natural Product Review: Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak

Thieves Fruit and VeggieI am constantly trying new natural products to replace the toxic ones and create a safer environment in my home.  Every once in awhile, I come across a product that really stands out – Thieves Fruit & Veggie Soak by Young Living is one of them.

I kept having friends try it and tell me how much longer it helped keep their produce fresh, but I didn’t really believe them. Finally, I decided to give it a try and was blown away by how well it actually worked.  Produce that used to go bad in just a few days now lasts me all week, if not longer. I was especially surprised at how long it kept strawberries fresh (even when cut!), which for me are always the fastest to get moldy and soggy.

This wash is powerful because it uses the combination of 3 different essential oil blends:

The three of these oils help to clean the produce of dirt and bacteria from grocery handling as well as protect from mold.

It comes in a concentrate so you just add 1 oz to a gallon of water for your soak.  My routine is to put all my produce in a clean sink when I get home from the store or farmer’s market and soak for a couple minutes.  Then, I rinse and dry the fruits and veggies before putting them in my fridge or counter top ready to eat!  I also put some in a spray bottle with water to use if I skip my routine and just need a quick wash for things like apples or potatoes.

What do you use currently to wash your produce?  Is it working to keep things fresh?

RC Essential Oil Blend

As we approach the Fall, I wanted to share about one of my favorite essential oil blends you should consider getting to have on hand for the colds, coughs and sinus issues that back to school and a new allergy season bring.

The name “RC” stands for respiratory congestion – it’s energetic aroma will help open up your sinuses when you are feeling stuffy.  Apply it to your chest with some coconut oil as a natural version of Vicks VapoRub.   Or diffuse it in your bedroom. Many of my mom friends swear by this stuff – diffusing it constantly at home when the kids get sniffly.

It is a blend of oils and includes each of the individual oils below, creating a powerful combination:

  • 3 kinds of Eucalyptus oil – globulus, radiata & citriodora – eucalyptus plants have the highest levels of something called cineole which has been proven in medical studies to help reduce inflammation and act as an expectorant (source)
  • Myrtle – ancient Greek & Italian physicians used this leaf oil as an ingredient in children’s cough syrup
  • Marjoram – calming and relaxing to our sinuses
  • Pine leaf – a refreshing oil used for respiratory support
  • Lavender – read all about the benefits of lavender oil here
  • Cypress – acts as an anti-spasmodic to calm that throat tickle that keeps you coughing, and studies have found that active ingredient camphene limits bacteria growth (source)
  • Black spruce – Native Americans chewed the balsam and bark of this plant to help with respiratory ailments
  • Peppermint – read all about the benefits of peppermint oil here

BreatheRC smells very woodsy and invigorating.  I like to combine it with either Thieveslemon or orange oil to diffuse and it gives my house an autumnal scent while also helping to boost health.

When I feel congested, I also like to use a similar blend called Breathe Again that is pre-mixed with coconut oil and comes in an easy, ready to roll on bottle.

If you have any questions about how to use essential oils, how to buy them or are curious to try them out but not sure where to start, feel free to contact me by commenting below or start here.

Purification Essential Oil

The name of Purification essential oil makes its benefits pretty clear. This blend purifies, cleanses and disinfects in so many ways and can be used both around the house and for your health.  It packs a powerful aroma that well represents the power of the individual essential oils inside the bottle:

  • Citronella – anti-inflammatory and helps repel insectsPurification Essential Oil Blend
  • Lemongrass – purifying and antifungal properties
  • Rosemary – may help fight candida and infections
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) – anti-inflammatory properties
  • Lavandin – antiseptic properties
  • Myrtle – may support immune function

I use this powerful blend all the time and it truly works wonders. Here’s how I use it:

  1. Odor EliminatorDiffuse for Air Purification – a couple drops of this in the diffuser (add some lemon too!) will help purify the air and any unwanted odors in your home. I use this after I cook curry or fish when the smell seems to linger.
  2. Laundry – Have a front-loader washer and hate the mustiness?  Put a couple drops of Purification in the front rubber seal every month to neutralize mildew. Forget to move your clothes from the washer to the dryer for a little too long? Add a couple drops to a dryer sheet, dryer balls or to a wet cloth and add to the dryer to make your clothes fresh again.
  3. Odor Elimination – There are SO many ways to use this oil to eliminate unwanted odors. Put a drop on a cotton ball and put in your shoes (bonus: you can reuse the cotton ball for several shoes). A drop on a cotton ball in the bottom of your trash can or in your car air vent; or a drop to some baking soda in a cup in your refrigerator or down your sink disposal. Purification also works great if you’ve hung around the campfire and can’t get the smoke smell out of clothes, blankets, etc.
  4. Blemishes – Forget to wash your face last night and breaking out? Add a drop of Purification oil to some coconut oil and apply to your face to reduce inflammation  and clear up the blemishes in just a few hours.
  5. Ear Aches – Whenever I get an ear ache and am worried about infection taking hold, I add a drop to a cotton ball and place in my ear to see relief overnight.
  6. Pet Spray – I add a couple drops Purification to a spray bottle with water and spray it on my pup before she goes outside to help repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Plus it helps get rid of the outside-dog smell.
  7. Cuts & Bug Bites – When I cut myself with a rose thorn and my hand swelled, Purification was the only thing that worked to help bring down the inflammation and promote healing. I’ve found the same thing with mosquito bites and wasp stings. Mix with a drop of lavender and teaspoon of coconut oil and apply to bites and cuts.

If you already have this oil, I’m sure you can try one of these uses immediately. If you don’t have this oil, it’s a must-have! See this post for more information on essential oils, or contact me directly at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.

Stress Away

Oh, stress.  If you’re anything like me, just thinking about or trying to stop being stressed makes me stressed!  For years, I was under constant high-stress and even though I thought I was handling it well emotionally (well, for a while anyway), I had no idea the effect it was having on my body.

Our body’s natural reaction to stress is designed to help us out in a tough situation. It causes a release of hormones and increases our heart rate to get more oxygen to the brain so we can function better. That immediate response is beneficial, but when stress becomes constant or chronic, the effects turn negative. Here are just a few of the symptoms caused by constant stress:

  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood sugar
  • Headaches
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Back and/or neck pain
  • Low libido
  • Frequent illness (decreased immune function)

If you are under chronic stress, let me just say first – you must evaluate your life for stressors and remove as many as possible (job, friendship, time commitments, diet, exercise).  I know, that’s seems obvious, but seriously make a list now and do it.  It took me far too long to make changes and my body and relationships suffered.  Okay, now that you’ve done that… of course, you’ll still have stress in your life at times. I’ve got a great recommendation for how to help with that – Stress Away essential oil.Stress Away Essential Oil

I know you’re thinking “an essential oil? really?”  Hear me out…

It sounds crazy, but there’s actually science behind it. Our nose is different than any other sense in that smells pass through the emotional part of our brain first, while the other senses go straight to the rational part of the brain. It is well documented within science that smells can recall emotions better than a touch or words or pictures. And we know it… the smell of baking cookies inexplicably reminds us of grandma or a cologne or perfume scent reminds us of a certain person. The aromas of essential oils can touch our emotions in ways that cannot reach them by any other means – hence the whole practice of aromatherapy.

Stress Away has become my very favorite blend of essential oils. It brings peace and tranquility, taking the stress of the day away.  When I’m not able to control my cortisol response and my heart is racing, this helps like nothing else ever has.

A “blend” means that it contains several different individual plant oils in one bottle:

  • Copaiba – helps soothe, can provide pain relief
  • Lime – stimulates a tired mind and renews your spirit
  • Cedarwood – clears the mind, stabilizing and grounding
  • Vanilla – who doesn’t love that wonderful, sweet fragrance!?
  • Ocotea  – creates a peaceful environment
  • Lavender – calming, improves concentration

I use Stress Away all the time… here are 10 different ways you can try it too:

  1. When you feel overwhelmed and need instant relief, smell it straight from the bottle.Stress Away Epsom Salt Bath
  2. Mix 5 drops with 2 cups epsom salts and add to your bath to relax after a tough day.
  3. For a calming perfume that will last for hours, add a drop directly to your wrists, neck or temples.
  4. To create a peaceful environment at home, add it to your diffuser. I love adding with another citrus oil for freshening the air (see my favorite diffuser combinations here).
  5. When you’re driving in traffic (or with kids maybe?), put a couple drops on a cotton ball and put that in your air vent to fill the car with a refreshing aroma.Stress Away Driving
  6. Add to a travel diffuser in your office at work to relieve the stress of the day.
  7. Have a stressed pet during travel, storms or fireworks?  Dilute with coconut oil and apply to the front paw. It won’t hurt if they lick it!
  8. If you have a headache, rub on the back of your neck and temples for some relief. Not only is it calming, but the copaiba also has pain relieving effects.
  9. Clench or grind your teeth at night? Try a drop on your jaw joints to reduce tension.
  10. At bedtime, add lavender, stress away and cedarwood to your diffuser to promote both relaxation and the natural release of melatonin to help you fall and stay asleep.

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils or how to purchase, visit this page or you write a comment with your email address and I can reach out to you directly!