Another Year of Living, Another Year to Grow

Another year of livingAnother year to grow

Last week, my birthday marked the passing of another year. I consider this a special time to reflect on the year that passed. I ask myself, what am I proud to have accomplished? What are the things I did that made me really happy? And where would I request a “redo?” I also set goals and intentions for the year that lies before me. I focus not on the fact that I’m getting older, but celebrate the fact that I am growing wiser.

In case you are wondering: The homemade muffin and frosting (pictured above) fit in to my real food lifestyle. Eating it I felt nourished and special, without the sugar rush and cravings that follow the processed versions. The pumpkin carrot muffin is from Nom Nom Paleo. And the decadent frosting (made from cashews) is from PaleOMG.

Abundance

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally researched or tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

One Word Theme

I have been listening to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier, for several months now. By the way, I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. It’s a little bright spot in my week that makes my long commute fly by. Each episode contains useful tips and relatable stories. It usually makes me laugh and always gives me something to think about. And if you have not read her book, Better than Before, that is all about habit change- I suggest you do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today!

But I digress…. Gretchen suggests picking a one-word theme for the year as a way to make a resolution or shape your year. You can read about that here.

The word that I chose for the year is ABUNDANCE. I’m not just talking about money; I want to experience abundance in all aspects of my life. When I think about abundance, I think about quality, about giving AND receiving. A simple reminder that there is more than enough.

It has been said that doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life. And that is what I aspire to do. Tuning in to my passions and being truly gratitude for all that I have are areas that I want to concentrate on this year. If you haven’t read my post on gratitude, check it out here.

Wayne Dyer says that abundance is not something we acquire… it’s something we tune in to. I aim to be fearlessly open; A state of allowing that feels relaxed, calm, open, harmonious, and joyous. I want to relinquish my need to control or attach to an outcome.

I also chose a mantra to support my theme: What would love do?

When I find myself hesitating, holding back, or contemplating my options, I plan to ask myself this simple little question. I really like how it has the potential to reframe and bring to the fore what is really important.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks

Family Hike

When my husband asked what I’d like to do for my birthday, it took me all of 5 seconds to exclaim, “Hike, of course!” When hiking, I am present, happy, connected, and vibrantly alive.

In fact, I also chose to close out year 35 with a hike. My son and I are part of a group of adventurous babywearing hiking mamas. I am incredibly grateful to have these mamas in my life. Not so long ago, I found myself in a new town, in the middle of winter, with an infant, and this group offered me a community and restored my sanity. To read more about these Half Pint Hikes, click here.

On the day of my 36th birthday, the sky was a brilliant shade of blue with just a few clouds along the horizon. The sun shone brilliantly down on us as we hiked to the Fire Tower. My husband endured brutal wind gusts and confronted his fear of heights as he climbed to the top. With our son on his back. Yeah, he’s pretty special.

Fun Fact: The Fire Tower on top Mount Nimham, itself more than 1200 feet high, stands 90′ above the mountain top making it the tallest existing fire tower in New York State. The view from the tower is all-encompassing, taking in NYC to the south through to the Berkshires and the Catskills 75 miles away.

Hiking has become our way to mark special occasions. It is how we celebrated the purchase of our first home, my first mother’s day, and our son’s first birthday. I love that we continue to carry on this tradition. We have made so many precious memories.

Free and Fearless-2

Fearless Art Making Ritual

After our hike, I chose to spend the afternoon in my studio/office participating in a virtual art experiential. In addition to being a holistic minded hiking mama, I’m also an art therapist. I understand the power of the creative process and have used it to heal myself and others. I don’t spend nearly enough time making art as I would like.

I recently finished Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book, The Anatomy of a Calling. This book both inspired and terrified me. It has had an incredibly profound effect on how I view my passions and understand my purpose. When I saw that Dr. Rankin was offering a virtual art experience on my birthday, I knew this was how I needed to spend my afternoon.

Dr. Rankin and her colleague, Shiloh Sophia, led the group in conversation and creative ritual. It is difficult to put into words all that transpired but I will share these two concepts that particularly resonated with me:

  • Consider that every time you choose love you weave it into a fabric that becomes something larger.
  • Develop a new relationship with uncertainty, get comfortable with the discomfort and even welcome it. Uncertainty is a gateway to possibility.

 

I’d say the year is off to a great start. I am open and grateful, inviting love and abundance to flow through me.

How do you celebrate your birthday? I’d love to hear about your rituals and if you have chosen a word to shape your year.


 

Recommended Reading:

Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life

The Anatomy of a Calling: A Doctor’s Journey from the Head to the Heart and a Prescription for Finding Your Life’s Purpose

 

Are Organic Foods Worth the Expense?

Organic-2

Standing in the produce section of the grocery store, my head is on a swivel, going back and forth between the conventional broccoli and the organic broccoli. The conventional broccoli is half the price and nearly twice as big. What’s the big deal about organic I wondered, is it worth it? Fast forward about 7 years to present present day and this case is officially closed. I remember the questions and confusion that crowded my thoughts in those early days. In order to understand how I came to the conclusion that organic food is very much, indeed, without a shadow of a doubt, worth it, let’s start by exploring what exactly is present in conventional food that is not present in organic food.

Pay the farmer nowor the doctor later

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally researched or tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

What is Glyphosate?

 Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the US. It is used in agriculture and forestry, on lawns and gardens, and for weeds in industrial areas. Glyphosate was first registered for use in the U.S. in 1974 by Monsanto, (the company that also brought us DDT and Agent Orange). Despite Monsanto’s claims that it is safe, and even biodegradable, serious concerns have been raised that link glyphosate to a widening array of chronic conditions. The US consumes 25% of the glyphosate in use.

In 1996, with the advent of GMO “Roundup Ready” crops, the use of glyphosate skyrocketed. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or genetically “engineered” (GE) foods, are live organisms whose genetic components have been artificially manipulated in a laboratory setting through creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and even viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. Now that the pesticide doesn’t kill the plant, they can spray the entire field. Over time the weeds have become resistant to the herbicide, requiring them to use even more.

In May 2013, despite huge opposition, Monsanto was awarded an increase in the permitted tolerance levels of glyphosate residue in crops. Just this week the FDA announced that it was going to begin testing for glyphosate residue in soybeans, corn, milk and eggs, among other potential foods. Prior to this, the FDA has not performed independent tests on whether higher residue levels of glyphosate were dangerous to humans or the environment, instead relying on tests and data provided by Monsanto.

What does it do to our bodies?

 The International Agency for Research on Cancer called glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.”  It has also been tied to development of antibiotic resistance in common disease-causing bacteria. In addition, there’s a growing body of evidence that it is responsible for hormone disruption, infertility, organ damage and birth defects.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT who has been conducting research there for over three decades, provides a thorough overview of how glyphosate impacts the body.  

There are 3 main ways Glyphosate Impacts the Body

1) Interferes with Shikimate Pathway

  • The Shikimate Pathway is: metabolic route used by bacteria fungi, algae, parasites and plants for the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids. This pathway is not found in humans; however, it is found with the microbes that live within our gut microbiome. The products of this pathway are the essential amino acids.
  • Glyphosate harms gut bacteria in the same way that it harms the plant. Especially horrifying is the fact that it seems to primarily affect beneficial bacteria, killing them and allowing pathogens to overgrow.
  • These pathogens create excess toxins. Toxins lead to inflammation. Inflammation interferes with communication among the endocrine, central nervous, digestive, and cardiovascular/respiratory systems. Researchers are linking inflammation to a widening array of chronic conditions.
  • Gut bacteria out number our human cells 10:1. This makes the Shikimate Pathway pretty important.
  • Responsible for disease- diabetes, heart disease, mood swings, digestive issues
  • Disrupts bioavailability of folate: Gut microbes are responsible for making folate.

 2) Blocks Cytochrome P450 (CYP)

  • One of the roles of CYP is to metabolize chemicals and potentially toxic compounds, principally in the liver.
  • Glyphosate gets into the cells in the liver and disables CYP and disrupting detox and related to sulfur deficiency
  • Impairs: sex hormones, detoxification, vitamin D production, bile acid production
  • Associated diseases: obesity, infertility, autism, high LDL cholesterol

3)  Chelates Minerals and Promotes Deficiencies

  • The human body depends on minerals for a wide variety of functions. The best way to get them is through your diet so that your body can utilize them properly. Minerals in food are more bioavailable than in supplements.
  • Glyphosate chelates the minerals in your gut, meaning the gut bacteria cannot access them. This is unfortunate because our gut bacteria need minerals to work properly.
  • Glyphosate disrupts the management of manganese, iron, cobalt (cobalamin) and molybdenum, and copper.

For a more in-depth understanding of how this all ties together, I strongly recommend grabbing a cup of (organic) green tea and watching this interview with Dr. Seneff.

 

How do we avoid Glyphosate?

It’s important to understand that the glyphosate sprayed on conventional and genetically engineered crops actually becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. It’s inside the plant.

Moms Across America, frustrated by the lack of education, testing and labeling of GMOs conducted their own national study.  Their testing found glyphosate residue in water, urine and even breastmilk. The discovery of levels of glyphosate in breast milk that are much higher than any reported results for urine samples is a great concern. This data suggests that glyphosate is bio-accumulative, building up in the body over a period of time. Researchers in Argentina even found glyphosate residue in sterile gauze, cotton, and tampons.

So truly, the only way to eliminate it from your diet is to avoid conventionally grown foods and processed foods, and to eat as many organic foods as possible. Organic standards do not permit glyphosate. Do not confuse this with labels that say “natural” or “all-natural.” These are NOT regulated, and are often GMO!

This is equally, if not more, important when it comes to meat and other animal products, as factory-farmed animals are typically raised on a GMO diet, and glyphosate has been found in every organ, including the muscles.

GMO “Roundup Ready” crops (so common in processed foods)

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Sugar Beets
  • Alfalfa
  • Cotton
  • Tobacco

Crops heavily sprayed with Glyphosate prior to harvest

  • Wheat
  • Sugar Cane
  • Certain types of Beans

GMO sugar-4

How to detox from glyphosate

 The problem is that glyphosate accumulates throughout your body and it can be difficult to get out. While charcoal has shown some effectiveness in animals, it remains unclear just how efficacious it might be for humans.

Dr. Seneff recommends routinely soaking in magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) baths as a means to detox and increase sulfur in the body. She suggests using ½ cup in really hot water and soaking for twenty minutes. This is preferred over taking a sulfur supplement (such as chondroitin sulfate) because it can be absorbed through the skin and bypass your gut mucosa.

What we know for sure- It is much harder to reverse the damage once it’s done, so avoid glyphosate from the start—especially in your child’s diet.

283.5 million lbs glyphosate-7

Learn More:

Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods

Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating

An interview with Jeffrey Smith, author of Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/interview-jeffrey-smith-gm-food-safety

 

 

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456713/

http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

More About Glyphosate (RoundUp)

http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/23/health-problems-linked-to-monsanto-roundup/

http://www.panna.org/blog/roundup-cancer-future-food?

 

 

Let’s Talk About Fat

Let's Talk About Fat

Did you ever stop to think about the fact that despite being advised to follow a low fat diet we are heavier and sicker than ever before?  Would you be surprised to learn that the rise in obesity corresponds to the demonization of fat and cholesterol? Have you tried a low-fat diet only to find yourself hungry and irritable, or craving fatty foods so intensely you can hardly focus on anything else? If you can relate to any of this, you’ll want to read on.

Nina Teicholz Big Fat Surprise-2

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally researched or tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

Our bodies need fat to function properly. Here are a few of the ways fat works in our bodies:

  • Saturated fats act as carriers for fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
  • They don’t trigger insulin release, helping to stabilize blood sugar
  • Increase satiety because they slow down absorption
  • Provide a long burning consistent source of energy
  • Saturated fats provide building blocks for hormones and cell membrane

I want to investigate the different types of fats, but before I do, I feel like I must answer your burning question:

Doesn’t saturated fat cause high cholesterol and lead to heart disease?

And the answer appears to be… Nope!

In 2010, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a meta-analysis where they pooled data from 21 studies. These studies followed over 350,000 people- 11,000 of whom developed cardiovascular disease- over an average of 14 years. The analysis concluded that there is no relationship between the intake of saturated fat and the incidence of heart disease or stroke.

In fact, dietary cholesterol has very little impact on overall cholesterol in most people. While there are those considered to be “high responders” it is important to note that while increasing dietary cholesterol did raise overall cholesterol, it did not affect the ratio of “good” to “bad” cholesterol, nor did it increase the risk of heart disease.

Did you know that our bodies actually produce cholesterol? It serves as a building block for cell structures and hormones. Cholesterol also plays a role in Vitamin D and serotonin production, as well as brain function. It is also supports the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. Another fun fact: breast milk is high in cholesterol. (If cholesterol were so bad for us, why would nature supply it to babies?) The fact is, people with higher cholesterol tend to be healthier and live longer.

There are risks to having too little cholesterol in the body. Low cholesterol is a risk factor for heart arrhythmia. (This is what kills you when you have a heart attack) There is also an association between low cholesterol memory loss (also a well known side effect of Lipitor). Alzheimer’s patients with the lowest cholesterol have the worst symptoms.

Sugar is far more damaging to the heart than fat ever was, and we’re

Where did we even get the idea that saturated fat causes heart disease?

How did this happen? It’s called the diet- heart hypothesis. And it was based on faulty research from the start. It is described in this fun little clip:

While my research unearthed conflicting dates regarding the first heart attack, there is no questioning the fact that the rise in heart disease has raised serious concern. Rates of heart disease began to rise in the 1920s and have skyrocketed to a point where 65 million Americans are afflicted. Despite fat watching and cholesterol obsessing for well over half a century, heart disease and obesity rates continue to climb. What’s going on? Have we villainized the wrong player? I’d say so. I am convinced that real foods contain the perfect ratios of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and fatty acids to nourish our bodies. The real villains are the food-like substances that are highly processed and loaded with unrecognizable ingredients. I will write more on that later.

Researchers at UCLA recently discovered that 75% of heart attack victims didn’t have high cholesterol. Rather than questioning their theory, they simply lowered the threshold of what was considered high cholesterol. As Liz Wolfe wittily describes in her book, Eat the Yolks, this practice successfully sells more statins but hasn’t done a thing to stop heart disease.

Let’s look at the 3 different types of essential fatty acids:

All fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms.

  • Saturated Fats: Have the maximum possible number of hydrogen atoms attached to every carbon atom, making them resistant to oxidative damage caused by light, heat, and air. They are more stable than the other types, making them the preferred choice for cooking. (lard, tallow, butter, full fat dairy, coconut, palm)
  • Monounsaturated Fats: When a pair of hydrogen atoms in the middle of a chain is missing, creating a gap that leaves two carbon atoms connected by a double bond rather than a single bond. It has one gap making it less stable than the saturated fat. Liquid at room temperature but may start to solidify in the refrigerator. (olive, avocado)
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: When there are two or more unsecured bonds, so there is more than one gap. These are even less stable. (safflower, sesame, corn, soybean)

Almost all fats are a blend of saturated and unsaturated but the ratio varies. For example, tallow (beef fat) is 54% unsaturated, lard is 60% unsaturated, and chicken fat is about 70% unsaturated. Dr. Mary Enig, in her book Know Your Fats, reminds us that totally unsaturated fats are nonexistent in natural foods.

Beware Trans Fats

Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (Crisco) was developed in the early 1900’s to prolong shelf life. Production increased during WWII and butter consumption dropped to ¼ of what it was. At the same time hydrogenated vegetable oil consumption increased 200%. We now know that Trans Fats are associated with cancer, heart disease, inflammation and infertility. And yet, according to WebMd, they are in 40% of the products on supermarket shelves. They can be found in items such as cakes, cookies, pies, crackers and margarine.

A law was passed in 2006 that required labeling of Trans Fats. This was good news… if it weren’t for the loophole. A food product can contain less than .5 gram per serving and still be labeled free of trans fat. So, rather than relying on the “No Trans Fat” label, make sure partially hydrogenated oil isn’t listed as an ingredient.

 

Canola Oil: Healthy Alternative?

Here’s a clip describing how canola oil is made. Ask yourself if you consider this healthy.

Solvent wash and bleaching… How in the world is your body supposed to recognize that as food?

When it comes to choosing your fats consider:

  • How processed is it
  • Is it stable
  • What nutrients does it contain

It is time to question what we’ve been taught. Let’s return to a time when we were in tune with nature and followed our instincts instead of listening to food “experts” who are heavily influenced by manufactures. Your great grandmother didn’t need a commercial to help her decide what to eat. And neither should you.

Liz Wolfe Eat the Yolks-2

Healthy fats come from healthy sources

It is important to choose your fats from organic pastured animals. Toxins are stored in the fat so you want to make sure you are getting the best quality that you can afford.

 

To learn more about which fats are best for cooking and which should be used cold, here’s an excellent chart put together by Diane SanFilippo, BS, NC.

Another reason to avoid processed seed/vegetable oils: GMO’s. In the US, 93% soybeans, 88% corn, 94% cottonseed and 90% canola is genetically modified. So if you must continue to eat these, at least make sure they are organic.

I still remember the trepidation that came with those first (glorious) mouthfuls of fat. I found myself eating avocado by the spoonful and scooping butter and coconut into my coffee wondering “Could this all be true?” And then, “Mmmmmm, I sure hope so.” That was over three years ago and I have never looked back. I was someone who was always snacking, if I didn’t eat for awhile I felt shaky and irritable. I left that behind along with my non-fat latte. The low-fat dogma is so ingrained in our culture that few people question it, I know I sure didn’t. But once you do, your body will thank you.

Have you increased your fat intake? What were the results? Share your experience, I’d love to hear all about it.


 

Additional Resources:

Eight doctors talk about the myths of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol in this video

Chris Masterjohn speaks about Saturated Fat and Cholesterol in this podcast

 

References:

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe

Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary Enig

http://chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat-are-not-the-enemy/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19852882

http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1133027

http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/19/why-cholesterol-may-not-be-the-cause-of-heart-disease/

 

 

 

 

 

Owning Your Fertility

I obtained a prescription for birth control from the health clinic at my college when I was nineteen. There was no informed consent or even a discussion about possible side effects. Pretty much everyone I knew was taking it, so I filled the prescription and barely gave it another thought. Fast forward to my early thirties when I began to question what I was putting into my body each month. I had been taking hormonal birth control for over ten years at that point. Ultimately, I decided that it was incongruent with the wellness lifestyle that I had adopted to continue. It wasn’t until I stopped taking the birth control that I realized the negative impact it had on my health.

I became aware of the Fertility Awareness Method only after I had given birth to my son. It was incredibly empowering to learn that I could manage my fertility without the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Now that my eyes are fully open, I want to pass on this wisdom. I would love for the next generation of females t0 grow up liberated from the pill and living in harmony with their fertility, rather than fighting it.

Toni Weschler quote-2

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally researched or tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

The Fertility Awareness Method, as described by Toni Weschler in Taking Charge of Your Fertility, can be used whether you are trying to prevent pregnancy, trying to conceive, or want to gain control of your sexual and gynecological health. This post is not intended to be a how-to guide. It is meant to familiarize you with this method and to inspire you to develop a greater understanding of your cycle and deepen your appreciation for the female body.

 

How Does it work?

 Women are only fertile for approximately one third of their cycle. A normal cycle ranges 24 to 36 days, and ovulation occurs as early as day 8 or as late as day 22. There are three primary fertility signs.  Two of the signs should be checked and charted on a daily basis. The third sign provides additional information and can help you to understand patterns in combination with the other two signs.

Observe your Waking Temperature

Take your waking (basal body) temperature upon waking- A women’s temperature generally rises a day or so after ovulation. It is advised that you do this immediately upon waking, before anything else. The idea is to look for an overall pattern. Before ovulation temperatures go up and down in low range and after ovulation they go up and down in high range. Once your temperature pattern is in the low range, ovulation has already occurred.

Check your Cervical Fluid

Cervical fluid is to a woman what semen is to a man, it provides sperm nourishment and mobility. Over the course of a cycle, a women’s cervical fluid will vary in amount and consistency. It goes from Dry to sticky to creamy to raw eggwhite (extremely slippery and stretchy). It may take a week to build up but less than a day to drop. Check three times a day. Perform kegels to get it moving. Peak day is usually one or two days before temperature shifts.

Note the Position of your Cervix

Check the position of your cervix. This is optional but can be used to crosscheck for ambiguity in other signs. The cervix is normally firm like the tip of your nose but, around ovulation, it opens and becomes soft and mushy like your lips to allow for sperm passage. You may have noticed that sometimes sex positions can be painful- this is why. There is a learning curve here and it may take a few cycles to understand these changes.

 

Understanding the Role of Hormones

Hormones are often referred to as “chemical messengers.” They pass information and instructions from one group of cells to another. In the human body, hormones influence almost every cell, organ and function. They regulate our growth, development, metabolism, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, the way our bodies use food, the reaction of our bodies to emergencies and even our moods. There are two key hormones involved in the female reproductive cycle. They are estrogen and progesterone.

Estrogen is group of hormones that play an essential role in the growth, development and regulation of female sexual characteristics and the reproductive system. Ovaries supply the main source of estrogen, but the adrenals and fat tissue also make small amounts. Estrogen levels are highest mid cycle and lowest during menstruation.

Progesterone stimulates and regulates bodily functions. It is produced in the ovaries, placenta and adrenal glands. Progesterone helps to sustain pregnancy, keeps the egg implanted and regulates menstrual cycle. Progesterone helps to moderate mood and plays a role in sexual desire. If progesterone is absent or levels are too low, irregular and heavy menstrual bleeding can occur. A lack of progesterone in the bloodstream can mean the ovary has failed to release an egg at ovulation.

 Prior to ovulation and for most of your cycle, estrogen is slightly higher but parallel with progesterone. Then, immediately before ovulation, estrogen spikes but progesterone stays even. They crossover at ovulation when progesterone spikes and estrogen dips. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone drops and they cycle continues.

If you are looking to balance your hormones, you must first understand how they are functioning. Charting your basal body temperature provides important information about the estrogen and progesterone in your body.

Contrary to cultural myth, the birth-control pill impacts on every organ and function of the body, and yet most women do not even think of it as a drug.-2

Concerns about hormonal birth control

 Side Effects:

  • decreased sex drive
  • mood instability
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bleeding between periods
  • breast tenderness
  • blood clots
  • gingivitis
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • stomach cramps or bloating
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • hair growth in unusual places
  • swelling, redness, irritation, burning or itching of the vagina
  • brown or black skin patches

And those aren’t even the “serious” side effects. Click here to view additional side effect information.

Nutrient Depletion:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

**Note: This is especially concerning because these are the same nutrients that are so important for fertility and healthy pregnancy.

Estrogen dominance and yeast overgrowth:

Symptoms of yeast overgrowth range from migraines to infertility, endometriosis, psoriasis, PMS, depression, fibromyalgia, and digestive disorders.

 

Is FAM a good method for everybody?

Weschler advises that, in terms of a method of birth control, it is only appropriate for those women who have the discipline to learn the method well, and then to follow the rules once they have internalized them. In addition, it is only recommended for monogamous couples, given the danger of STDs.

For those who want to become pregnant, this method is a great first step to maximizing chances of conception.

FAM is also highly beneficial for all cycling women who simply want to educate themselves about their own bodies.

My ideal is a world where women feel a sense of calm insight and understanding about what is going on with their bodies each month.

 

Supportive Communities

There is certainly a learning curve with this method. It is recommended that you use a barrier method for several cycles as you better understand your cycle. Remember, that if you are coming off birth control, it may take 6-12 months to regulate your cycle. There are many resources out there to guide you. Here are two:

Toni Weschler has partnered with Ovagraph to create an online community to support and guide women. They also have a mobile app for IOS and Android.

 

Kindara is another option. They also use the principles of the Fertility Awareness Method. Kindara has a mobile app that allows you to track your data, learn about your body, get answers from the community. I love the beauty and ease of this app, it makes charting fun! Kindara also recently created Wink, a digital basal thermometer that syncs up to the app and instantly sends the time and temperature to your phone. Wink is designed to be up to 4x faster than traditional thermometers. I have one of these old school thermometers and it does work; however, I must admit, all the shaking involved is certainly a deterrent. Wink is still on presale, set to come out in March. Kindara is offering it at an introductory price of $99. If you use my link you can get another $10 off. The regular retail price of Wink will be $129. I don’t generally geek out of technology, but I cannot wait for my Wink to arrive!

Do you have experience with the Fertility Awareness Method? Are you up for giving it a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


 

Additional Resources:

Sweetening the Pill started as a book and is now a documentary brought to you by the makers of The Business of Being Born.

Kelly Brogan, MD, a holistic women’s health psychiatrist, talks about why she wants her patients off birth control in this video

http://bodyecology.com/articles/dangers_birth_control_pill.php/

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10932/14-things-i-wish-all-women-knew-about-the-pill.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/10/27/birth-control-part-two.aspx

http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-05/primary-risks-oral-contraceptives-and-hrt

References:

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health

Sweetening the Pill: or Why We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601050.html

 

 

 

Navigating the Fourth Trimester

There is no such thing as a baby; there is a baby and someone

Have you heard of this? Despite my extensive research before and during pregnancy this term and concept had evaded my consciousness. It wasn’t until I lamented to my midwife that my son never wanted to be put down that she explained this concept. The fourth trimester refers to the time from birth until the end of the baby’s third month.

The human infant is a perfectly designed organism; it knows when to sleep, when to eat, and how to cry out and signal its needs.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally researched or tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

The Transition from Womb to World

 It might be helpful to consider the situation from the perspective of the infant. Birth is an enormous transition. Tucked inside the womb, the fetus has never known hunger, never felt cold, and is never exposed to bright lights. Days are filled with rhythmic sounds and rocking motions. There is a constant supply of nutrition and the steady beat of mom’s heart. Now, on the outside, the infant must make an effort to get what he needs. Some babies adjust easier than others. Waking upon being put down is actually a survival mechanism; the infant cries to prevent abandonment. A newborn not only depends on its parents for survival, but for soothing. (Babies are not able to self-soothe until about 4 months of age.) During this time, baby’s brain and nervous system are rapidly maturing so that they can begin to cope with the outside world. After three months, the infant can lift its head and is more available for social interactions. About this time a baby begins to be able to tolerate longer periods of time away from a caregiver.

Of course! This makes total sense and somehow knowing that it was “normal” relieved some of my concerns. I wish that I had come across this sooner and been able to mentally prepare (as much as that’s possible) before his birth. There were times when I feared having a child attached to me 24/7 for the rest of my life! Being an introvert who values alone time, this thought was terrifying.

As a new mom adjusting to this new identity, memories and fears are likely to surface. Take note of these reactions, but don’t judge them. Let them inform you. Be patient with yourself. As Daniel Stern notes, “The birth of a mother doesn’t take place in one dramatic, defining moment, but gradually emerges from the cumulative work of the many months that precede and follow the birth of the actual baby.” Stern’s wife and co-author, Nadia Bruscheweiler-Stern, articulates in The Birth of a Mother, that as a woman becomes a mother, she develops a mindset fundamentally different from the one she held before. Reflective understanding of past experiences, trusting your instincts, and empathy for baby can serve as a guide in this transitional period. With increased understanding and empathy comes increased attachment. (I will write more on the importance of attachment in future posts.)

The Newborn Dance-2

Finding Your Way

Nothing invites advice like having a new baby around. Societal rules seem to hold implicitly that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. They don’t account for the fact that babies and their parents are all individuals. What worked for someone else may not work for you. And for that matter, what worked for you yesterday may not work today. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, to follow your instincts, and block out the excess chatter.

Our Babies, Ourselves is, without a doubt, one of the most important books of my parenting journey. Meredith Smalls presents a world view of parenting and explores various biological and cultural influences. This text is extremely well referenced and examines studies conducted by anthropologists, ethnopediatricians, and child development researchers. It inspired me to put aside external expectations and to really think about how I wanted to parent.

Above all, keep in mind that you cannot spoil a newborn! In fact, it is love and affection that helps them to flourish.

Creating a Peaceful Fourth Trimester

  • Skin to Skin Contact

 Immediately following birth, mom and baby greatly benefit from uninterrupted time together. Skin to skin contact helps to stabilize heart rate, body temp, and stress hormones, while stimulating oxytocin (the feel good hormone). Weighing and measuring are no where near as important as skin to skin time. Babies kept skin to skin with mother for at least an hour after birth are less likely to cry, more likely to latch and latch well (resulting in less pain for mom), and more likely to be exclusively breastfed and breastfed longer. This practice also helps to colonize baby with mom’s bacteria, providing a reduced risk of allergies. In the case of a c-section, this can be done while mom is being stitched up.

Skin to skin remains important throughout the fourth trimester. Ways to get skin to skin: baby massage, bath time, bedsharing, and/or babywearing. They even have apparel that makes it easier to keep your little one close.

  • Bedsharing/Co-sleeping

Although somewhat taboo in mainstream American culture, this practice is common in many cultures around the world. Dr. James McKenna, a researcher at the University of Notre Dame and leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping, wrote this beautiful article on co-sleeping as a biological imperative. He also provides safe co-sleeping guidelines that should be reviewed prior to practice.

It may be helpful to note that the terms co-sleeping and bedsharing are sometimes used interchangeably. In bedsharing the child is in the bed with a parent(s). Co-sleeping can refer to the child sleeping in the bed or directly next to the bed in a co-sleeper.

We practiced bedsharing for the first three months and then moved our son to a co-sleeper. I have to say, it was really great to not have to get out of bed for those night feedings!

  • Swaddling

Swaddling can be a great way to calm and comfort an infant. Keep in mind that proper technique is important as it can impact hip development. Detailed instructions and video demonstration can be found here.

  • Babywearing

There are so many carriers out there. Where do you start? I suggest seeking out your local Baby Wearing International chapter. For $35 yearly membership you can try out a new carrier each month. And they show you how to use it properly!

Early on I loved the Moby wrap. Once my son got older and heavier, we switched to an Ergo carrier.

Tip: Dance while wearing your baby! Turn up the music and get moving. It totally changes your mood and just might put baby to sleep. I relied heavily on Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. My husband found that two or three songs by Beyonce would send our son off to dreamland. Experiment to see what works for you.

  • Get outside

Like music, this has a mood boosting effect. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Or better yet join a hiking group. To find one, check out Hike It Baby or local Meetup group. If you can’t find one already running- start you own! I’d bet there are other mamas out their who would love to get out of the house and connect.

  • Let Go of Schedule and Follow Baby’s Cues

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have routines, just don’t feel like you have to follow rigid feeding and sleeping schedules as these will likely cause you (and babe) more stress.

There is no such thing as a baby; there is a baby and someone

Exhausted? Remember: Nothing is permanent

All of this might sound exhausting. And it is. But it is just a short phase in your child’s life and I promise you will find yourself marveling at how fast the time has passed.

In addition to the strategies above, it can be helpful to

  • Check your expectations- Our society tends to expect babies to sleep through the night way before they are developmentally ready. Letting go of unrealistic presumptions can help relieve stress and allow you to better enjoy this precious time.
  • Consider a postpartum doula- Services vary, but postpartum doulas generally care for baby or do some light cooking and cleaning while you rest (or shower).
  • Accept help- From your partner, family, neighbors and friends. Now isn’t the time to try to do it all.

How did you experience the fourth trimester? Anything I didn’t mention that worked for you? I’d love to hear from you!


 

Recommended Reading:

I really enjoyed reading these in the early weeks/months of becoming a mama. They helped me to feel less alone.

The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year

The Breastfeeding Cafe: Mothers Share the Joys, Challenges and Secrets of Nursing

 

Further Study:

Sleeping with your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping

Our babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

 

The Fourth Trimester: Understanding, Protecting, and Nurturing an Infant through the First Three Months

 

References:

http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/kangaroocare.asp/

 

 

 

Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.%22 - William Arthur Ward

Gratitude has been front and center in my mind for several months. It kept popping in to my consciousness even as I was involved in other seemingly unrelated activities. Gratitude would come up as I was listening to a nutrition podcast or reading a biography. It was demanding my attention. I took notice and now make space for practicing gratitude each day. I incorporate it into my daily rituals, and look forward to it as I drink that first sip of coffee each morning or fluff the pillow before drifting off each night. I can honestly say that it has been an enjoyable pursuit.

%22Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” -- Margaret Cousins

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item through my link you will not be charged extra but I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend products that I have personally tried and loved. I hope you love them too. Thank you for your support!


 

What does it mean to practice gratitude?

I consider the definition of gratitude to be quite broad. Beyond saying thank you, gratitude is many things. In addition to being an emotion, it is a value. Gratitude is developing a sense of wonder, of savoring special moments (big and small). Gratitude is not taking things for granted and looking for a learning moment in a setback. It keeps us in the present moment. When I’m grounded in appreciation, life feels more abundant. I think of gratitude as a gentle form of motivation, free of judgment. My favorite aspect of gratitude is that it crowds out fear, which opens up new ways of thinking and being in the world.

Does it really make a difference?

Gratitude and its far reaching benefits have been widely studied. Research shows, again and again, that people who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, build stronger relationships, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and (this one blows my mind) even develop stronger immune systems!! In addition, optimism lowers cortisol and releases pleasure inducing neurotransmitters. As gratitude becomes a habit, you will develop new thought patterns. These are all great reasons to give gratitude a try!
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Ways to incorporate gratitude

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal– Be specific, you can even make a game out of noticing.
  • Fill a Gratitude Jar– Write down what you are grateful for on slips of paper, roll them up and place them in the jar. Then read them back at the end of the year or when you need a mood booster.
  • Give compliments genuinely– Don’t hold back!
  • Accept compliments graciously– Try to see yourself as others do, this will benefit the giver and receiver.
  • Send a thank you note– If you’re short on time, take a moment to mentally thank someone.
  • Reflect on your good deeds– Take note of a time when you were thoughtful, kind, helpful, forgiving or overcame a challenge.
  • Pay it forward– Volunteer, donate, cook for someone, shop where your values are shared, etc.
  • Join or start a gratefulness group– I got the idea from this website: http://gratefulness.org/connect/gratefulness-groups/
  • Download an app– There are quite a few to choose from, but here are three that I tested.
    • Happier- This one sends reminders, happiness quotes and offers a community to share in your positivity. It is free to use.
    • Grid Diary- Here you can write using a variety of prompts and customize your grid. It is free initially but costs $4.99 if you want to incorporate more than 5 photos which, trust me, you will want to do.
    • Gratitude!- This is the one I chose. It costs $2.99 which gives access to all of the features. While using the app a collage of your photos flash across the screen, reminding you of past entries. It even sends me 3 reminders a day (you can customize this)!

Tips for Daily Practice

Pair your gratitude practice with things you do every day– For example, pause to reflect as you enter your home, when your alarm goes off, before you close your eyes to sleep, or before a family meal.

Keep it fresh– The more specific the better. Generalities like gratitude for family can get stale over time but something specific like family popcorn night holds more meaning.

Gratitude can be cultivated– As you take time out to notice, you will begin to notice that you have more to be grateful for. New patterns will form that lead to an increase in positive emotions.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.%22 - William Arthur Ward

Raising grateful children

When we are grateful, we are inspired to pay it forward. Grateful kids are happier and more apt to share.  Additionally, children who experience real gratitude are less envious and more likely to have higher GPAs. Gratitude is associated with competence, autonomy, and positive relationships.

Dr. Jeffery Froh, a psychology professor at Hofstra and coauthor of Making Grateful Kids, studies the widespread effects that gratitude has on children. He gives these suggestions

  • Watch your language- keep it positive
  • Explain why you are grateful, don’t just model- show/share
  • It’s not about stuff- include special moments such as a beautiful sunrise or shared laugh

Call to Action: In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky writes that 40% of happiness is found in intentional activity (our habits, behavior and thought patterns). So tell me… how do you incorporate gratitude into your life?


 

Further Study:

The Science of Gratitude  A 59 minute soundtrack narrated by Susan Sarandon

The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.

Loving What Is by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell

References:

Emmons, R. A. (2007). THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.

Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923564

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19073292

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24617270

http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2012-22251-023