A Health Story: Fatigue, Food Allergies, Inability to Gain Weight

Me and AlyssaToday, I’m sharing the health story of my friend Alyssa. Alyssa is one of my oldest friends… we met nearly twenty years ago at church and we were 2 of just 16 in our graduating high school class. I’m so thankful for Alyssa’s friendship over the years.  She is one of the strongest women I know; her optimism and endurance in the midst of suffering is inspiring and truly displays a joy that only God can give.  

As we have both struggled with different health issues for many years, I’ve been grateful for someone to share ideas & recipes with as we try new diets and attempts at natural healing.  She’s the friend that introduced me to essential oils, which have been so life-changing for me. And, as I’ve become a mom, she is an even more valued resource.  Here’s her story:

Hi, I’m Alyssa. I’m married to my high school sweetheart and we have four kids, ages 9, 6, 5 and 2. When I’m not spending time with my family I enjoy DIY projects at home or working part-time at Board and Brush creative studio.  I’m also passionate about natural health and wellness.

Growing up, my family was close-knit, but my mom struggled with health problems her whole life – depression, gut issues and back problems.  While we did things together as a family, we were limited by her condition  I remember her being in bed a lot. She would try to have a good meal for us on the table every night, but I still ate a lot of junk and processed food when a home cooked meal wasn’t an option.  We weren’t aware of all the short and long-term effects that food has on the body.

In middle school, I started getting made fun of for being so thin, which really affected me.  I had always been slender and unable to put on much weight, but when others started noticing, it made me really insecure.  That continued well into high school.  In high school, I also remember being pretty tired and not having a ton of energy.  My sleep consisted of: going to bed late, getting up early for school, falling asleep on my bed doing homework and going to bed late again.

Fast forward several years after having my first few kids.. just a few sleep deprived nights… my exhaustion and fatigue were much worse.  Not taking care of myself the right way put me in a bad state.  I was having gut issues and I was frequently getting sick and littlest virus would keep me down for a week or two.  

My mom had passed away in 2008 after I had had my first child, from an accidental overdose (the combination of a pain patch on her back and a heating pad).  After that, I began to think about my health in a new light; I knew I needed to figure out what was going on with myself, but I had a bad taste from conventional doctors and medicine after everything that happened with my mom.  

I discovered I had a gluten intolerance via trial and error after a doctor misdiagnosed me with acid re-flux.  I saw a string of natural doctors trying to figure out what was now lack of energy, anxiety, thinning hair, continued inability to gain weight along with some gut issues.  I saw at least 5 different doctors who all saw I had a problem going on with the symptoms and various lab results, but were unable to figure out what it all meant or what the cause was. I started eating healthier, in addition to being gluten-free, and begun researching more about natural remedies.  

When anything came up with our family, from colds and ear infections to strep throat, I tried to find a natural remedy for it. When my oldest was five, she had 5 rounds of strep throat and antibiotics to go with them, but was still sick. I was so frustrated and felt helpless; I came across a remedy of cayenne + honey + garlic and made her try it.  To my surprise, it worked! I had been able to treat her strep naturally without the use of antibiotics and she’s never had strep again. It’s like her body needed just a little natural help to fight it off on it’s own.

I continued seeking out natural remedies for ailments and dabbled in essential oils, not seeing much impact from the ones I had bought from the grocery store.  I didn’t think much of it until I was introduced to Young Living essential oils at a class. I was educated on the difference between store-grade oils vs pure, therapeutic grade oils and how they could help enhance a natural lifestyle. My husband thought I was nuts for being so excited about oils, but he’s now completely on-board and embraced my “crunchy” tendencies of tackling pretty much anything naturally.

As for my health problems, I’m still continuing to sift through the details of understanding what’s going on with my body. I found that following an AIP diet helps with a lot of my gut issues.  When I eat something I shouldn’t, I can recognize it quickly. My blood work still shows off levels and indicates potential thyroid and hormone issues, but the doctor I was seeing was somewhat perplexed by it. I’m currently waiting to see a new functional medicine doctor that a friend with Hashimoto’s recommended. She’s seen drastic improvement with her health over the last 6 months, so I am hopeful for similar results. In the meantime, I take each day as it comes. I am super aware of what I eat, what I use on my body and the products I use in my home. The journey to health and wellness seems to be an ongoing one. It can be so discouraging at times but I know that God has me in this journey for a reason and I’m trusting in His plan.

Like Alyssa, I know that so many of us are still in the thick of it- trying to figure out what’s causing issues and doing all we can to address the symptoms in the meantime.  I hope to someday share the answers Alyssa has discovered and the healing that she’s found.  I’m always comforted to know I’m not the only one still looking for answers, even though it is such a frustrating & discouraging place to be.

If you want to share your story, I would love to feature it on my blog to encourage others- please reach out to me at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com. 

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