Viewing entries tagged
hormones

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Track Your Hormones by Tracking Your Fertility

Example chart of hormone levels correlated with basal body temperature.

Example chart of hormone levels correlated with basal body temperature.

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Ever since the NuvaRing completely jacked my hormones, I have looked for other means of birth control. My husband and I considered *all the options* including elective surgery for either one of us and ultimately decided on using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). And while the FAM is a great way to both avoid and achieve pregnancy, it came with an added bonus: It allowed me to track my hormones without having to pay for expensive and lengthy lab tests! 

How you might ask? Well if you are not familiar with the Fertility Awareness Method, I'll just sum it up. Basically you track three data points relating to a woman's fertility: basal temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position. Each of those data points are indicative of relative levels of various fertility hormones: Estrogen, Progesterone, Lutienizing Hormone (LH) and Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH). So by tracking the temperature and cervical fluid+position, you can get a pretty good picture of what is happening with your hormones each month.

While there are great lab tests out there that measure Estrogen and Progesterone throughout the month, typically through saliva samples, they are costly (~$250 each) and you have to collect saliva samples every other day for the full length of your cycle. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of expendable cash to do this every month, nor do I really enjoy collecting saliva that often! 

Of course I have apps that track all this, right? You bet! About two years ago, I stumbled on an app called Kindara that allows me to track everything associated with the FAM. This is really what made FAM work for us - both of us can run the app and see high and low fertility times. Kindara really made it easy, and after a few months of charting in this way, I started to understand my body - and my hormones - on a much more intimate level. Kindara plus the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility really brought the hormones into light. Plus, I can send my charts to my practitioner so she can review whats happening with my hormones too!

So what is the next best thing? A companion thermometer of course! Kindara has just announced Wink. Wink is a discrete compatible thermometer that syncs automatically to the Kindara app making it all that much easier to track your hormones. Plus, it doesn't look like a thermometer - so no one has to know I'm tracking, or think Im sick when they see it. Wink is now available for pre-order and each time you refer someone else, you get $10 off your order price! 

Charting gives you insight to all sorts of fertility-related issues: PMS, PCOS, peri-menopause, menopause, difficult periods, and more. It does take a few months to get the hang of charting, and you may need to re-read a couple of chapters in the Taking Charge of Your Fertility book, but once you get the hang of it, its a very cost effective method of knowing your hormone status!

Any of you chart your cycles this way? Have you noticed a difference? Leave a comment below - would love to hear from you!

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5 Simple Ways to Detox Your Kitchen

Note: not my kitchen - CC image courtesy of Nathan Siemers

Note: not my kitchen - CC image courtesy of Nathan Siemers

Since this week's theme is detoxification (a la The Detox Summit), I thought I would share with you some simple tips that I have discovered along the way to remove toxins out of the kitchen. When tackling large projects like lowering toxins in the home, it can be overwhelming to try to do it all at once. I find it's much easier to break it down into manageable chunks and even that might need to be broken down into several steps to accomplish it all. So let's start with the kitchen.

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home. As such, there is a lot of opportunity to have unwanted toxins. Years ago, I had many commercial cleaners under the sink, teflon cookware, and lots of highly disorganized plastic "tupperware" bins for left overs. Over time, I have budgeted to swap those things out that are more environmentally friendly and more biologically friendly on those of us that use the kitchen. Here are the areas I have focused on:

  1. Natural cleaners - It's amazing the kind of cleaning you can get from simple baking soda and vinegar! I now have a spray bottle with 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar and a few drops of citrus essential oils that I use to clean counters . I have a jar of baking soda that I use to scrub pots and sinks. For the rest (soaps) we seek out products from companies that are as toxin-free as we can find, such as those from Better Life.
  2. Ditch the plastic storage containers - plastics, whether BPA free or not, are a primary source of xenoestrogen compounds. That is a fancy word for estrogen-like compounds that come from a source outside the body. Absorbing these into your food or skin can wreak havoc with your hormonal balance. So we replaced our food storage containers with glass and stainless steel. Our favorites are Weck jars, Ball/Kerr canning jars and Lunchbots. Even our water bottles on the go are now stainless steel or glass.
  3. It's a wrap - plastic wrap gets the same bad rap as the plastic storage containers. My new favorite green replacement? Bee's Wraps - they work great over bowls and cups, and even keep my remaining avocado halves green when I store them covered in a Bee Wrap.
  4. Cast iron cookware - Even if you have a small budget, consider swapping out your teflon cookware for cast iron. No, its not super anti-stick, but the more you season it the more it becomes anti-stick. The good news here, is that cast iron cookware does not have to break the bank. A great company that is made in the USA is Lodge Cookware - we especially love this guy for melting butter or other solid cooking fats. Plus its super versatile and can be used in the oven, on the stove top and even on the outdoor grill.
  5. Go organic - No one likes pesticide residues. And recent studies show that organic is the way to go when avoiding pesticides and maximizing nutrients. You might think its expensive, but check out my previous post on how to go organic without declaring bankruptcy.

What are your tips for reducing toxins in the kitchen? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

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My Top 5 Lifestyle Changes for Autoimmune Disease

CC Image courtesy of Paolo Neoz

CC Image courtesy of Paolo Neoz

Maybe it's because Im older now; wisdom creeps up on us as we age, I have found. Maybe it's because I have finally had enough. Or perhaps, it's because I have decided that after 30+ years of existing for the soul purpose of pleasing other people, that it's time to take care of myself. What ever the reason, I am one of many many people who never stopped to take care of myself. 

Oh sure, I ate organic, socialized, exercised - so in that sense, I did take care of myself. But I never properly rested. I never took time to decompress the mind, or sip a cup of tea while watching the sunrise (or set). I have always been busy trying to achieve that one little bit of research, homework, email to a client, taking care of others needs, signing up for yet another volunteer activity, taking on more at work... the list goes on and on. All of this was activity that I felt would pay off in the end after I achieved that next goal.

What I found is that this behavior leads to chronic stress, which for some of us leads to autoimmune disease. But in order to heal and properly manage autoimmune disease, we have to take a critical look at our lifestyle and make some changes. Some of these are harder for some of us (read: me!) than others. Especially habits that have been built up over decades.

Here are my top 5 lifestyle changes that have made a huge difference for my autoimmune condition. Let me be straight with you, I am no master at these - these are all challenges that I face daily. But it is getting easier with practice!

  1. It's OK to take a day off: most of us get caught up in the workaholic culture, you know, the one where your co-worker (or was that you?) shows up to work sniffling and coughing just to not take a sick day! If you feel like you need rest or recuperation - I'm giving you permission to love yourself enough to heed to the body's request for rest! This is perhaps my biggest personal challenge: knowing when to take time to rest. I have developed such a numbing-to-my-body over the past several over-achiever decades that its hard for me to listen to the subtle signs (headache, slightly swollen lymph nodes, brain fog, fatigue...). Even today I get tempted to "power up" with some coffee or sugar to get through <insert over-achiever moment here>. Now, if my body starts being subtle, I make time for rest. It's a much shorter recovery than burning the candle at both ends complete to burnout.
  2. Say "No" more often: Being the over-achiever that I like to be, I find that I say "Yes" to an opportunity before I even knew what the opportunity was. These days, I have had to learn to sit on my hands and not give answers till I have thought about it for a few days. So now, I work to really consider the benefits of the opportunities in front of me before making a commitment. My go-to response these days, "Probably not, but let me think about it and get back to you."
  3. Quiet the mind: If you want to use meditation, great! (Im currently hooked on the Headspace app for this) But if that is to woo-woo for you, then just taking 10m out of the day with a cup of tea and being quiet with your thoughts is a great way to restore balance.
  4. Get out in nature - a lot: "Weekend warrior-ing" the nature contact may be beneficial, but its not enough. I have found that I need to get out in the sunshine, feel the wind on my skin, or the earth/grass under my feet on a daily basis. Plus, regular sun exposure raises Vitamin D levels which is beneficial for those with autoimmune diseases [1, 2]
  5. Move the body: Not a ton - most of us with autoimmune disease need as little inflammation as possible - so no chronic cardio here. But getting outside to take a walk (see #3) every day, doing some restorative yoga, or perhaps a bit of weight training are great things to help take care of yourself.
  6. Spend time with those you love: being around those people that you love the most, make you laugh the hardest is where you want to maximize your time. Not only does it raise Oxytocin, but you get to have a great time to boot!

 

 

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Detox Revelations

Image courtesy&nbsp;Toréa Rodriguez

Image courtesy Toréa Rodriguez

For the new year, I decided to do another 21 Day Sugar Detox... but then after reading the book, The Hormone Cure, by Dr. Sara Gottfried and following her blog, I decided to do her Detox instead of 21DSD this time.

Many things were great about that detox but I learned that not all protocols work for me

  • Protein powders, no matter how cleanly produced are not optimal for my body. My body works best when eating foods that are not processed. I had increased inflammation and puffiness from the protein powder "shakes" and I tried several - no go
  • Don't do too many protocols at the same time. Couple this with heavy metal detox chelating agents and you have  a recipe for a too intense experience. I had to stop both the detox protocols and give my body a break

I have to say that I thought the program was well laid out in terms of how to do an elimination diet, how to re-introduce foods and really notice if its a food that doesn't agree with your body and having the online and webinar support was great! I had some good takeaway learnings from the experience:

Blood sugar - I don't have "low blood sugar" or hunger shakes anymore since changing my diet. However, since we needed to measure blood sugar I did realize that my Fasting Blood Sugar was very unstable and sometimes too high - working through the detox really helped me learn how to stabilize my blood sugar, monitor which foods had a spiking effect and which didn't. I was able to stabilize the FBS rather nicely just by tracking it on a regular basis.

Screens and artificial light past 7 pm. This one is tough for me and I'm sure a lot of us really. Its so easy to watch a screen at night, use an iPad or have a lot of bright lights on. Given this was still in the winter months, darkness came early, and so did the lights. I tried to go "cold turkey" but changing my modern-life habits was very difficult! The premise behind this is that the blue light spectrum that comes from artificial light sources (not candle flames or sunlight), mess with the melatonin your body produces and changes the natural circadian rhythms. This can lead to difficulty with getting good quality, or quantity, sleep.

Uvex blue blocking nerd goggles - Amazon

Uvex blue blocking nerd goggles - Amazon

So what does one do when they have difficulty going by candlelight exclusively past 7pm and still want to get optimal melatonin production? Embrace the total geek factor and don some really nerdy looking lab goggles that block the blue light spectrum. I thought this was total rubbish when I first heard of this idea - but you never know until you try! So I got a $7 pair of dorky lab goggles and donned those when the sun went down each night. 

Now I track my sleep using Sleep Cycle and here is what I noticed: I started waking naturally with the sun. My body that craved an extra hour past sun rise, started waking with the sun! The other thing I noticed is that Sleep Cycle was reporting better quality sleep (more deep restorative sleep) than before. So I am sold and I can handle looking like a total lab nerd as long as I can continue to read on the iPad or watch a movie on movie night w/ the darling husband! (Thank goodness he is willing to be just as nerdy for our movie dates - its sort of like homemade 3D glasses without the 3D!)

Oh yeah, and my sugar cravings that I used to get no matter how many times I had done the 21 Day Sugar Detox? gone! So that is a complete bonus!

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How to Get Out of a Hormone Rut - the Second Opinion

CC Image Courtesy of Bushtick

CC Image Courtesy of Bushtick

When I was learning how to fly, there were day's where I heard lots of sighs coming through the intercom from the back seat. I learned to fly in a Citabria, so my instructor was in the back… sighing and sometimes chuckling as he watched me attempt to land the thing with zero resemblance of grace - more often a chaotic wrestling to the ground. What he helped me realize, is that I have a tendency to stick with the “tried and true” because it worked in the past. I mean if it worked once, it should work again, right? But that is like missing the forest when you are focused on just the trees. Sometimes stepping back and trying a new approach can make all the difference.

When I would finally give up on what worked in the past, pay attention to what is happening in the present (wind conditions, aircraft weight, airport obstacles etc) and then try something new, suddenly the Citabria seemed to land itself and grace ensued! This is when he'd exclaim “Finally! Learning is occurring!”

During my Potions, Pills, & Powders escapade of late, I started reflecting on the last 4 years of my healing journey. Things admittedly have gotten better, but to be honest, they have gone somewhat cyclical and episodic. I have periods where I feel better, and then I have periods where I feel like I am chaotically wrestling with my thyroid.

I realized that I have been doing exactly what I did when I was sticking to the “tried and true” during flight training. I have had treatment protocols that worked in the past for my thyroid, and thus, I have stuck with them. Of course, I have also done protocols for adrenal and GI health; It's silly not to think that those protocols might have an affect on my thyroid given the interrelatedness of our endocrine systems. It’s almost as if I heard my flight instructor sigh again from the back seat! Time to pay attention to the present conditions.

I decided to try a fresh perspective: a second opinion! So today I watched the sun rise and set from an airplane to visit a new clinic in a neighboring state. I found a clinic that specializes in thyroid care, as well as an overall integrative approach to health. In talking with the new doctor today, it was really clear that I have been stuck in a rut of applying the same methods expecting the same result as before without taking into account the present conditions.

The second opinion is exactly what I needed: a fresh perspective, a change to my treatment protocol and new investigations into my thyroid jankyness™. The overarching feeling of all this is RELIEF! Relief that I am not stuck in that rut forever, and optimism that I will find my sweet spot, or as Dr. Sara Gottfried says, my Goldilocks position with my thyroid: not too high, not too low.

5 Signs Its Time for a Second Opinion

  1. That dosage or protocol that worked before - the “tried and true”, yet all your symptoms have returned
  2. Your treating physician seems uninterested in investigating new approaches
  3. That feeling of being stuck in SSDD - Same Situation Different Day
  4. You’re doing all the work, checking every checkbox yet getting nowhere
  5. You just know in your heart of hearts (yep, that intuition thang!) that something needs to change

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