EverlyWell Food Sensitivities Test Review

Over the past couple years, I have been having gastrointestinal discomfort, pain and bloating that have gotten progressively worse over time.  In an effort to avoid a dramatic elimination diet that takes awhile and is hard to stick to, I tried keeping a food & symptom journal to track my reactions and figure out a culprit with no luck. It seemed that I would feel bad just about every day. When I saw that EverlyWell was doing a 30% off Black Friday sale on their tests, I decided to give the Food Sensitivities test a try.

A note on the difference between Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies… An allergy is a histamine response that the immune system produces (IgE antibodies) and occur immediately after consumption. Sensitivity is still an immune response (IgG antibodies), but typically not as severe and a different reaction – GI issues, acne, fatigue, brain fog, etc can all by symptoms- and can occur / last for days after consuming. This can make them quite difficult to identify (definitely my experience). The EverlyWell test is for Food Sensitivities (IgG).

The Process

After ordering, I received my kit in the mail just 3 days later. It came with simple instructions to do a finger prick for blood samples (something I was used to after having gestational diabetes).  I was a little unsure about my sample, so I emailed their customer service a picture and got a quick response that it looked perfect.

I dropped it in the mail that afternoon and received confirmation that the sample had arrived at the lab about a week later. Two days after that, I had my results. So, it was just under 2 weeks from ordering that I had my results.  Throughout the process, I was super impressed with EverlyWell’s communication– consistent emails updating the progress, great customer service when I had a question, and incredibly clear and easy to find information on their website.

Accuracy

The key thing to be aware of when you take the test is to ensure that you have had all the foods within the past 4 weeks so that it can measure your reactivity. Taking it during the holidays was perfect for me because I had a larger variety of food than I may have in a typical month.   Take a look at the list of foods it tests for and make sure you have consumed them before you take the test.

You might have heard about EverlyWell on Shark Tank- they have disrupted the health testing industry, offering at-home tests to the public, often for a much lower cost than you can get through your doctor (I would have paid 3-4 times the price with my doctor PLUS they are usually covered by HSA/FSA). These tests are sent to CLIA-certified labs that are industry leaders and results are reviewed by a physician.

In general, elimination diets are the most accurate to finding food sensitivities, but EverlyWell tests are 95-99% accurate. They recommend a combination for the most accurate identification of problematic foods to you- take the test to find out what foods you should consider eliminating, eliminate, and then 6 months down the road, re-introduce one at a time and allow several days to see if a reaction occurs.

The Results

The results provide a rating for the 96 foods, rated on a scale from High to Normal Reactivity. In my case, I rated High for Egg Whites and Moderate for Egg Yolks.

 

 

There were 14 other foods in the Mild category, which means a smaller immune response, but ones that can definitely still cause symptoms.  Those included: Brewer’s Yeast, Eggplant, Garlic (sooo sad about this!!), Ginger, Gluten and Wheat (also quite sad about this, but kind of expected), Orange, Rye, Tarragon, Mushroom, Mustard Seed, Yogurt, Bell Pepper, Winter Squash (hope you all enjoy your pumpkin and delicata squash next fall!).

Takeaways

Since I have known my results, I have started to avoid those foods, but didn’t completely eliminate with holiday and birthday season the past couple of months. Now, my plan is to follow an elimination diet of all those 15 foods for the next 6 months.  After 6 months, I’ll start trying to re-introduce to see if my reactivity has gone away or not.  I can tell you that even with avoiding these foods lately (especially eggs), my skin has been so much more clear. I’m hopeful the other symptoms start to fade soon.

Ultimately, I am really glad I took this test. I was considering going on the AIP diet and still would not have removed garlic (which I have definitely noticed reactions to). I could have gone a long time still suffering symptoms before figuring out the cause. I would highly recommend testing first, then elimination to get accurate results.

Symptoms are not normal. If you are having digestive issues or fatigue or any other issues that make your life uncomfortable, I would encourage you to figure out what is wrong. If you would like to try this test or any of their other at-home tests (vitamin deficiencies, hormones, etc), you can use this link to get 25% off!

Beachbody LIIFT 4 Challenge Review

In 2018, I had a goal to lose 18 pounds. It matched the year well, but also with the amount of weight I gained during pregnancy.  While I was nearly back to pre-pregnancy weight almost immediately after delivering my 9.5 lb daughter, I gained it all back with breastfeeding.  I’d always heard from people that you should lose weight while breastfeeding from all the extra calories you burn- it’s not true for everyone!  This article does a great job explaining why if you fall into that group.

I was ravenous while breastfeeding, so it was hard to keep from eating. Even when I did practice self control with portion size or trying to cut carbs, my milk supply would tank so I couldn’t continue. When I weaned, I started trying to eat healthier to lose some weight, but my sugar cravings were huge. I would snack with my toddler and I still felt so hungry that it was difficult to portion-control. I needed a big change and when a friend shared with me about her results from Beachbody, I was ready to try it.

I joined an 8-week challenge and absolutely loved it, so I thought I would share with those of you who need something to get you motivated. Here’s what I loved:

liift4Exercise

Going to a gym or group workouts are not my thing. It doesn’t fit well within my schedule and I don’t feel comfortable. I loved the access to Beachbody on Demand- doing the workouts any time I want from home. For this 8-week challenge, I did the LIIFT 4 program. It is 30-40 minutes 4 times per week, which felt so do-able. The routines were HARD, but every exercise had a modification option too.

I discovered that I really like the mix of weight lifting and cardio and that it works really well for my body. I improved significantly in strength- starting out with 5lbs as my heavy weights and ending up with 15lbs. There is a weight tracker so you can track the weight you use on each move and see how you improve.  I feel so much stronger and have more stamina and better balance. I could barely do a couple of modified push ups at the beginning, and now I can do 30+.

The other thing I liked about this program is that every day is different. Weeks do not repeat, so it keeps things interesting.  Typically, one day would focus on chest/triceps, one on legs, one on shoulders and one on back/biceps, always ending with a couple core exercises. I saw inches lost in each area and toning all over, but especially in my waist (6 inches lost).

Since doing this LIIFT 4 Challenge, I did the 21 Day Fix work outs during December. They were okay but I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. I love that I have the flexibility to try out different styles and trainers, but I’ll be going back to LIIFT 4 soon.

Nutrition

Weight loss is mostly what you eat. I knew this would be my greatest challenge, but I was motivated to do it right. The program I did was part of the 21 Day Fix meal plan. You get containers mailed to you and based on your weight, you know how many containers of each food group you can eat that day: veggies, protein, fruit, carbs, nuts/seeds, oil.  Essentially, the focus is on veggies and protein.

I liked this model because it gave me some reasonable guidelines to follow. I never actually measured using the containers, but generally eye-balled the amounts and tracked how much I ate each day.  I was extremely strict about following the plan, BUT I did not follow it exactly when it came to healthy fats and fruit. I felt the program allowed more fruit than I really needed (3 servings), so I never ate that much. I also feel that it doesn’t allow for enough healthy fat. I didn’t hesitate to cook with coconut or avocado oil or to eat avocado or drink butter coffee or use as much Primal Kitchen dressing on my salads as I wanted (I didn’t go crazy like eating a stick of butter). Those healthy fats help us feel fuller longer and help us lose fat.

The other thing I like about the meal plan is that it allows for a couple of cheats. 1- three days a week, you can trade a carb container for a glass of red wine. I didn’t do it often, but it was nice to have the option. 2- you get one cheat meal each week, which I usually reserved for football-watching parties on Saturdays or date night. I would drink and eat what I wanted without worrying about it and always make sure I exercised the next day. Having this cheat meal to look forward to was helpful for me to stay motivated.

Ultimately, following the meal plan was most important to getting results- many people in the challenge group admitted to cheating multiple times per week and their lack of results definitely showed it.

The other part of this program is Shakeology. I was most hesitant about this because I am not a shake person. I am a big fan of “real food” and not using meal replacements. However, I looked into the ingredients in Shakeology and was impressed. It includes protein and dense nutrients, with only 7 grams of sugar, and is whole-foods based.  The nutrients include super-fruit antioxidants (to combat free radicals), adaptogens (to combat stress), a blend of super-greens, and pre- and pro-biotics and enzymes to aid digestion.

Beachbody makes the following benefit claims about Shakeology, and from personal experience, I would agree these are definitely true:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce junk food cravings – to me, this was the most important one and it is what kept me drinking it daily. I simply don’t crave dessert or sugar after drinking it.
  • Provide healthy energy
  • Support your digestion and regularity.

I personally use the Vegan Vanilla Shakeology (I avoid dairy as I’m not very tolerant to it) and like that it is flexible to drink simply with unsweetened coconut milk and ice, but also to mix with berries and/or a half banana for a smoothie.  I add collagen peptides and spirulina powder as well for an extra nutrient punch. I use it as a snack replacement mid afternoon when hunger or cravings kick in.

Motivation

I think we all know- it helps to have a friend hold you accountable. I had my friend as my “coach” personally encouraging me, but also was part of a Facebook group with everyone participating. There was a prize at the end for earning points throughout- points for posting pictures of the shakes, sweaty selfies after exercising and for checking in each Monday with measurements and other results.  It was encouraging to see others posting and know I wasn’t alone.

Results

At the end of the 8 weeks, I had lost 12 pounds and 20.5 inches. The challenge ended just after Thanksgiving.  Through December, I continued to focus on protein and veggies, resisting sugar but indulging when I really wanted to, and kept up a 4-day per week exercise routine. I lost an additional 5 pounds after the challenge, narrowly missing my goal.  While I gained back a few lbs from Christmas and New Year’s champagne + dessert, I quickly lost those and more during a 10-Day Sugar Detox I did starting Jan 2nd. Since October 1 when I started with the Beachbody programs, I’ve lost 20 pounds!!

I’m motivated to continue towards more weight loss and toning this year, so I’ll be starting another challenge later this month. If you are interested in joining me to start off reaching your goals this new year, let me know!

Baby Led Weaning

Now that my baby is almost a year old, we’ve got nearly 6 months of solids food eating underway.  It has been such a fun experience watching her explore food.  She is an incredible eater compared to most kids her age and I am thankful she is always willing to try new foods.

When I was pregnant, I read the book Bringing Up Bébé (highly recommend!) that shares bits of wisdom from French parenting. One of the main topics in the book was about kids’ eating and it really struck a cord with me. The idea is this: Kids Eat What Parents Eat.  It involves eating mostly real food, eating a variety of food – including lots of colorful vegetables, tasting new items, having a healthy relationship with eating habits, and eating together as a family.  When we were getting close to starting solids with my daughter, I started to research more about how to implement this practically and discovered Baby Led Weaning (BLW).

(FYI: Weaning in this case simply means the introduction of solids, and not weaning from breastmilk.) BLW takes into practice the whole idea above in a safe way for little babies as they are learning how to eat.  Babies have been eating what their parents ate for thousands of years- far before we had blenders to make purees or little baby spoons. Many nations around the world follow the BLW way naturally.

We have loved the BLW process and I’m now a huge advocate of how it works to create a healthy little eater.  My mom and husband were very skeptical at first, but now they are believers in the process too! Here are the benefits I have seen so far:

  • Family Meals: Sharing food together as a family and in community are important to me.  Developing this habit early was a big goal for me.  The biggest benefit practically is that baby sees you eating and mimics you- both being willing to eat what you eat and copying the way you eat (chewing, bite sizes, using utensils).  This also begins to teach a baby how to behave at a dinner table -I think has already had a positive effect on our ability to eat in public without causing a scene and actually getting to eat our own meals.
  • Confidence & Independence: Giving my daughter the ability to learn how to eat has given her confidence in trying new foods and starting to be self-sufficient.  It also gives me a much-needed break as I don’t always have to sit there spoon feeding her.
  • Safety- Chewing Before Swallowing: When babies start with purees, they are used to getting a large amount of food in their mouth and swallowing.  When they start solids from there, food often must be cut very tiny so they do not choke.  BLW teaches babies how to chew before swallowing. It also teaches how much is appropriate to bite off of an item and how much will fit in their mouth. Since babies have a stronger gag reflex when they are younger, it is the perfect time to teach this skill- I have seen my daughter fill her mouth and start to gag, learning to spit it out and try again rather than forcing it down and choking.
  • Developing Tastes: Have you tasted baby food? It’s bland and disgusting. It doesn’t taste good to us, so why would a baby want to eat it? Babies are born with a full set of 10,000+ taste buds and are just as eager to enjoy their meals as we are.  There is no reason to stay away from various flavors or spices.  My daughter can eat food just as spicy as I like it and she prefers her food to be well-seasoned.  She loves chili, Tex-Mex and BBQ!
  • Learning by Touch/Senses: We all know that babies learn by putting things in their mouth.  They explore the whole world this way.  As I put various items from our meals on her tray, she gets the chance to touch everything- the different textures and sizes- and develop her grasp. She also gets to experience the smells and colors of her food much better than she would through a puree.  Babies are drawn to color (as we see in their toys) and this translates to the food they eat as well- often, my daughter will choose the orange sweet potato or green bean or red beet over white bread.
  • Convenience: I don’t have time to make homemade purees.  When we go out, she just eats whatever I order. And at home, she eats whatever I cook.  I’m not making special meals for her or accommodations. It’s simply easier on me.

Does this sound like something you would be interested in trying with your baby?  I know that getting started with something so different to the norm can be overwhelming, but here’s a little intro on what helped me the most:

Resources: I recommend reading either of the following BLW books:

I also joined the Baby Led Weaning for Beginners Facebook group to see helpful pictures and videos, answers to questions and tons of tips.  I started following it about 2 months before we started and it was more helpful than anything!

When to Start: No sooner than when baby is 6 months of age, can sit unassisted, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex, and has an interest in food.

Safety: Choking risk is the number one reason I hear that people are afraid to try BLW.  As I mentioned above, BLW does not increase choking risk. The key thing is to learn the difference between gagging and choking.  Gagging is a reaction that helps prevent choking and teaching them how not to choke- letting them work it out and learn.  Watching videos on the Facebook group and knowing the signs for gagging vs. choking are important.  As always, it is important to know child CPR as a parent, and that knowledge should help you be more confident when your baby eats.  An easy way to distinguish: If they are loud & red, let them go ahead. If they are silent & blue, they need help from you.

In general, baby should be eating what you are eating, with a few health/safety exceptions…

  • Don’t offer whole nuts or popcorn or peanut butter on a spoon- items that can easily stick to/in their throat.
  • Quarter (lengthwise) round foods to avoid lodging in the windpipe: blueberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, sausage, string cheese, carrots.
  • Season generously but limit the salt/sodium. Since your babies kidneys aren’t fully developed, too much sodium can cause them harm.  This is another good reason to avoid processed food.

No teeth? No problem.  My daughter did not have teeth when we started.  She still would mimic my chewing and those jaws + saliva are powerful at breaking down foods to swallow. You would be amazed at how she learned to pull at a strip of meat with her gums and chomp on it a few minutes before swallowing. This girl loved steak even before she had teeth.

Food Before One Is Just For Fun: For the first couple of months, my daughter really did not eat a lot.  She would taste and chew and explore, but would swallow very little. And that is perfectly normal and okay.  Breast milk or formula is still a baby’s main source of nutrition before the age of one.

BLW How to CutCutting to Size: There is no need to cut foods into tiny pieces.  In fact, you want foods to be more finger-sized so they are easier for young babies to pick up and hold.  Having large pieces also helps them learn to bite off an appropriate amount. Cutting little grooves in slippery items like banana and avocado is also helpful to keep their grip. Here is a great picture to use as an example when you are preparing food for your little:

What do you think? Is this something you would try with your baby?  Have you tried it and loved it (or hated it)?  I would love to hear from you!

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

Thrive Market: My Favorite Deals

If you haven’t yet joined Thrive Market, you are missing out! Think of it as Whole Foods + Costco + Amazon. It’s a membership-based online store full of healthy non-perishable food and household products at fantastic discounts. Plus, they have a great mission to provide healthy groceries to families in need. In my recent post about buying all-organic groceries on a budget, I recommended this as one of my favorite ways to save money (and time)!

Here are a few of my favorite items to purchase and how they compare to the prices I was paying at Whole Foods and elsewhere.

Tomato SauceOrganic Tomato Sauce

  • Thrive Market price: $2.95 for 2 cans
  • Whole Foods price: $4.38 for 2 cans
  • Savings = $1.43 (33%)

Einkorn SpaghettiEinkorn Spaghetti – made from einkorn flour, an ancient wheat that is not toxic like today’s wheat and even safe for many who are gluten-free.

  • Thrive Market price: $2.55
  • Whole Foods price: $3.49
  • Savings = $0.94 (27%)

Honey MustardHoney Mustard Vinaigrette with Avocado Oil – this is the healthiest, yummiest salad dressing you can get… very rare to find one made without toxic vegetable oil!

  • Thrive Market price: $5.65
  • Primal Kitchen Online price: $7.95
  • Savings = $2.30 (29%)

Olive OilOrganic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

  • Thrive Market price: $10.45
  • Whole Foods price: $13.99
  • Savings = $3.54 (25%)

CollagenCollagen Hydrolysate Powder – tasteless and water soluble, I add this to smoothies, soup or juice for collagen support for healthy joints, hair, skin and nails and extra protein

  • Thrive Market price: $16.45
  • Amazon price: $21.49
  • Savings = $5.04 (23%)

Raw Dog FoodRaw Turkey Dehydrated Dog Food – I recently made the switch to this raw dog food and my pup loves it! Learn more about why I switched here.

  • Thrive Market price: $49.95
  • Amazon price: $64.79
  • Savings = $14.84 (23%)

Earl GreyOrganic Earl Grey Tea

  • Thrive Market price: $4.95
  • Whole Foods price: $6.49
  • Savings = $1.54 (24%)

Beef Bone BrothGrass-Fed Beef Bone Broth – I make lots of my own chicken bone broth, but never my own beef bone broth.

  • Thrive Market price: $8.95
  • Amazon price: $15.95
  • Savings = $7.00 (44%)

Graze SticksNitrate-Free Grass-Fed Beef Sticks – these are my favorite easy protein snacks!

  • Thrive Market price: $17.95 for a pack of 12
  • Amazon price: $19.95 for a pack of 12
  • Savings = $2.00 (10%)

Sign up now and save 15% off your first order by using this link! Plus, they will donate a Thrive Membership to a family in need when you purchase yours. P.S. you always get free shipping on orders over $49!