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!

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?

Natural Product Review: PiperWai Deodorant

PiperWaiEver since I found out how dangerous and toxic regular antiperspirant deodorant is, I have been on a mission to find a safe, natural alternative that actually works.  I’ve tried lots of different kinds and brands and most have worked for awhile but seem to lose their effectiveness over time – you can see all the ones I’ve tried over the years here.

I finally found a local company that made a natural deodorant that I really liked – Primal Pit Paste.  But it didn’t last long enough and I would have to reapply at least once during the day.  After a couple months of using it, my underarms started getting irritated, itchy skin from the baking soda that’s in it, so I continued my search.

While watching Shark Tank last year, I saw a new product – PiperWai Natural Deodorant – featured that seemed to show promise and I had to try it.  I ordered some online and several months later feel comfortable to share with you my new favorite deodorant!  Watch the Shark Tank pitch and follow up episodes here to hear directly from the creators of this awesome product.

The ingredients list is amazingly simple.  Organic coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and vitamin E oil make it easy to apply and perfect for the sensitive underarm skin – it has not caused me any irritation at all and I often apply right after shaving. But the main ingredient that works to deodorize is activated charcoal – it creates a pH balance that neutralizes bacteria that causes odor.  Plus, that same ingredient is super absorbent and wicks away moisture from sweat, leaving you dry without clogging your pores. (source) It also has 11 different essential oils in it that help fight bacteria and make it smell great.

PiperWai is the best natural deodorant and antiperspirant I’ve found that is totally safe to use without compromising how well it works and how comfortable it is. It comes in a small jar and you just use your fingers to apply- it rubs in quickly and doesn’t leave a residue or any staining on clothing.  It seems expensive at first but one jar lasts me over 2 months applying each day.  Buy it now and try for yourself!

*I have not received a commission or any free products from this post; all opinions are based on my own experience.

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.

Italian Lemon Farm Tour + Cooking Class

Last month, my husband and I took a two week trip to Europe to visit London and southern Italy. We had a wonderful vacation full of stunning views, delicious food and fantastic vino. One of the highlights of the trip was the Amalfi Lemon Experience

Amalfi DuomoWe stayed in the beautiful, small town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. A short cliff-side drive or ferry ride takes you to the slightly larger town of Amalfi. The main piazza (town square) is a quick walk from the port and the star of the town – the duomo (cathedral) that is absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. We sat at the bottom of the church steps as the morning bells rung and waited for our ride up the hill to the lemon farm.

Valley of the Mills Lemon FarmsThe lemon farm is located up through the town into the Valley of the Mills – a valley lined with lemon groves and old paper mills. When arrived at the Aceto family lemon farm, we toured a small museum with the family’s collection of area artifacts. We learned about the history of the main industries of lemon farming and paper milling – lots of hard work.  This lemon farm has been in the family for many, many generations.

Limoncello ProductionNext, we saw the production room where they make small batch limoncello and then got to sample some! Their limoncello is unique, and especially delicious, because it is made with grappa – an alcohol made from grapes – while most is made with grain alcohol. We tasted regular limoncello, creme di limoncello (think a lemon version of Bailey’s) and a dark chocolate sauce infused with limoncello – all amazing!

Amalfi LemonsWe began the steep trek up each level of the lemon farm, walking through the garden terraces. The Acetos are committed to maintaining a sustainable, organic lemon farm when so many have started using pesticides. They believe in producing high quality fruit that is nutritious, delicious and healing. 

We met the 80 year old patriarch who still works daily on the family farm.  He brought down a basket full of lemons picked fresh. Salvatore, his son and our tour guide/host, pushed his thumbs right into a lemon the size of an orange and cut it into slices with a pocket knife. Each of us ate a whole slice (including the rind) and it was delicious.. soft and sweet, just barely sour. The Aceto family eats several lemons each day and he noted that it is the essential oils in the lemon that keep them healthy. They use lemon as a remedy for all ailments and keep their immune systems strong with natural vitamin C. Sal’s personal anecdote was that he went to work off the farm for several years and was always getting sick… as soon as he returned and lemons re-entered his daily diet, he has been healthy.

Lemon PergolasIt was fascinating to learn about the organic gardening process. If a tree catches a disease, they do everything they can naturally to save it because it takes a new tree 25 years to produce the amount of fruit that the mature, old trees produce.  They use other citrus trees to help graft any the new lemon trees. And the trees are planted under hand crafted wooden pergolas that support the branches and the heavy fruit; plus, it allows the top leaves to provide shade to the fruit below.

Lemonade and Lemon CakeAfter our tour of the farm, we joined the family on the outdoor kitchen terrace, overlooking the valley. They served fresh lemonade and lemon pound cake as we enjoyed the view. Then, they brought out the wine and we began our Mediterranean cooking class with Ramona.

First, we prepared Antipasto Parmigiana – a recipe I cannot wait to try out at home. Grilled eggplant slices topped with fresh tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, grated Parmesan and basil, rolled up, then baked to melt the cheese (if you don’t eat them all before putting in the oven).

Next, we whipped up the dessert – lemon tiramisu… using the local specialty limoncello instead of traditional espresso. Those went in the fridge to chill as we moved on to making the fresh pasta. We kneaded the pasta, rolled it, cut into ravioli pieces and filled with a mixture of fresh cod and potato – unique, but good!

Once the food preparation was complete, we sat down at a long table with the whole family to enjoy our several course lunch:Lemon Tiramisu

  1. Bread with olive oil, garlic and mint
  2. Antipasto Parmigiana (recipe here)
  3. Cod & Potato Ravioli topped with cherry tomato & basil sauce
  4. Fresh tuna steaks with lemon
  5. Lemon tiramisu – pictured (recipe here)
  6. Espresso with lemon peel (delicious! also great for relieving headaches!) and limoncello as a digestif

It was a wonderful meal, made even better with the hospitality of the large Italian family… filled with many laughs, stories and glasses of wine. Thank you, Aceto family, for the perfect day in Amalfi and unforgettable experience!

Lemon Farm

Thieves Essential Oil

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write about one of my all-time favorite essential oils: Thieves.  This oil is incredible at supporting the immune system to help fight illness.

So what’s with the name?  This blend of oils is based on a formula that allegedly kept 4 thieves from getting the bubonic plague as they robbed the dead and dying.  When questioned by authorities, legend has it that they revealed the secret blend they wore in masks to protect themselves in exchange for a lesser punishment.

What’s in it?  Whether the legend is true or not, Thieves is a blend of 5 really powerful essential oils:

  • Clove has been used since ancient times by Healers to aid the body in fighting infection. Interesting historical tidbit: When the Dutch conquered the island of Ternate in 16th century, they destroyed the many clove trees on the island. Until that time, many generations were protected from epidemics because of cloves in their diet; afterwards, nearly the entire indigenous population died from disease.
  • Lemon contains properties that amplify immunity and promotes circulation and lymphatic function.
  • Cinnamon Bark is mentioned throughout the Bible and is valuable for helping your body fight infection.
  • Eucalyptus Radiata was a treasured ingredient in folk medicine; it’s great for supporting the respiratory and sinus system.
  • Rosemary was burned as incense to help protect against infection by cultures for many centuries. This herb is supports immune function and improves mental clarity.

How do I use it? I put a drop of Thieves on the bottom of my feet every day as a regular immune system boost.  I use extra when I’m sick and put it in my diffuser to disinfect the air as well. Whenever I fly somewhere, I put a couple of drops on a scarf and wear it on the airplane to help disinfect the air I breathe.

IMG_6806I also clean my house with it. Thieves Household Cleaner is the best all-purpose cleaner I’ve ever used. And the best part – it’s completely non-toxic.  I use it for all my kitchen and bathroom surfaces, as a de-greaser and for cleaning my windows and mirrors. I recently, finally threw away all the chemical cleaners in my house and replaced them with this safe option. The good news is that it’s also cheaper than all the other products I was buying!

For more information about essential oils, you can reach out to me personally or visit this page.

 

Source: Essential Oils Pocket Reference

My Favorite Diffusing Combos

One of the ways I use essential oils every day is through aromatherapy. I almost always have some essential oils in my diffuser at home and on my desk at work. Research has shown that the fragrance of essential oils can have a profound impact on the limbic system (our emotions), the hypothalamus (our hormones), and on the oxygenation & function of the brain.  Today, I’m sharing some of my go-to essential oil blends to diffuse when I’m sick, stressed, or just want to clear the air:

EO Allergy BlendSeasonal Allergy Blend:

  • Lavender (4 drops) – Lavender is an incredible natural antihistamine and helps reduce inflammation in the sinuses.
  • Peppermint (2 drops) – The minty freshness of peppermint opens up the airways, helping you breathe and easing congestion.
  • Lemon (2 drops) – Lemon is another natural antihistamine that helps reduce inflammatory response and mucus.
  • If you have a sinus headache, add 3 drops of Copaiba – it’s a super strong anti-inflammatory that helps with pain relief.
  • *I used this same blend mixed with coconut oil to calm my skin and relieve itching when I had an allergic reaction that caused a rash.

Odor EliminatorOdor Eliminator:

  • Purification (3 drops) – This stuff is magical – it disinfects the air and neutralizes bad odors, including those from mildew and smoke. It’s a blend of citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, lavandin, and myrtle.
  • Lemon (4 drops) – Lemon helps to cleanse and disinfect the air while adding an invigorating, clean aroma.
  • This blend is also fantastic for getting rid of that mustiness in your washing machine or added to carpet spray used on pet accidents.

BreatheBreathe

  • RC (5 drops) – aka “Respiratory Congestion,” this incredible blend of oils provides significant relief from colds, sore throats and sinus issues. It contains many oils that help open up airways: Myrtle, (3 kinds of) Eucalyptus, Marjoram, Pine, Cypress, Spruce, and Peppermint
  • Lemon (2 drops) – Lemon helps to reduce excess mucus and to open up lymph pathways for proper drainage.

Immune BoosterImmune Booster

  • Thieves (4 drops ) – With powerful ingredients like clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary, this oil has proven through research and history to boost the immune system and disinfect the air of germs.
  • Lemon (2 drops) – Lemon helps to cleanse the body of toxins and opens up your lymphatic system.
  • Tea Tree (2 drops) – Promotes cleansing and purity, helping fight infection.

RelaxRelax

  • Lime (2 drop)  – Stimulates a tired mind and renews your spirit.
  • Lavender (2 drops) – Calming & relaxing.
  • Stress Away (4 drops) – My favorite blend… it truly does help take the stress of the day away.  It contains Copaiba (to help soothe), Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla (because who doesn’t love that wonderful fragrance!?), Ocotea (creates peaceful environment) and Lavender.

Happy BrightHappy & Bright – My very favorite everyday combo!

  • Joy (4 drops) – A delightful blend of beautiful oils that brings positive energy to the household. It promotes romance and harmony. It’s a mix of bergamot (relieves stress and tension), ylang ylang (to balance crazy hormones), geranium, lemon, coriander, tangerine (calming), jasmine (promotes feelings of love and support), roman chamomile, palmarosa, and rose (creates a romantic, magnetic energy).
  • Lemon (4 drops) – Purifies and provides a bright, uplifting fragrance.

Bedtime BlendBedtime Blend:

  • Lavender (4 drops) – Lavender is calming to the body, both mentally and physically. A University of Miami study found that inhalation of lavender increase beta waves in the brain, leading to heightened relaxation; and an Osaka Kyoiku University study found that it reduced mental stress.
    • Since lavender is one of the most commonly adulterated oils (chemical fragrances are added), you have to be careful where you buy it. I once bought a bottle from the grocery store when I ran out and, while it (mostly) smelled the same, it had zero effect on inducing relaxation like my Young Living bottle did!
  • Stress Away (3 drops) – The perfect blend to help you wind down for the day.  It contains Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood (to release melatonin), Vanilla, Ocotea and Lavender.
  • Variation: If you have them, add a couple drops of each of the following to the Lavender instead of Stress Away: Cedarwood – stimulates the pineal gland to release melatonin, and  Ylang Ylang – Restores peace and balances hormones (can help reduce cortisol spikes that inhibit sleepiness).

Oh Happy DayOh Happy Day!

  • Peace & Calming (4-5 drops) – I think the name says it all… this blend truly does bring emotional peace. It’s a blend of tangerine (combats nervousness), orange (sedating and calming), ylang ylang, patchouli (clarifies thoughts and promotes grounding), and blue tansy.
  • Frankincense (2 drops) – Increases spiritual awareness and improves attitude. This oil was used throughout the Bible to enhance connection to God through worship and prayer.

What are your favorite blends to add to the diffuser? Let me know how you like these!

Source: Essential Oils Pocket Reference

For more information on essential oils and why I chose the Young Living brand, visit this page.

P.S. It’s important to be careful how you diffuse essential oils into the air because when you heat them, it destroys the healing compounds. I use a cool air diffuser that uses ultrasonic technology to mix the oil with water and disperse into the air. This atomizer activates the healing effects of the oils and allows the aromas to stay in the air for longer.  Plus, it’s also a humidifier so is great to put by your bed when you’re sick.  When you order a starter kit from Young Living, it comes with an amazing diffuser – read here for how to get started.