Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Dozen Dos & Don'ts for Deep Sleep

So many people have been talking about sleep issues lately, which is nothing new...and if you are looped in to the “wellness world” it has been a hot topic that has been written about from many different angles for quite some time now.  Almost every article starts with hammering home the ginormous importance of catching Zs by using lack-of-sleep-associations like “accelerates aging,” "contributes to inflammation,” “leads to disease,” “premature death.”  I find that all super helpful in calming me down and making me less anxious about the fact that I can’t find the magic solution to lull me into a full, quality night’s sleep…NOT!  This article won’t be using scare tactics, because I don’t think we need convincing that sleep is crucial!  We aren’t kids who are trying to get out of sleep anymore…most of us long for an extended peaceful slumber, and would actually do ANYTHING to get it, so why make us feel worse about not achieving it?  I hope to give you some new things to think about and different approaches to try, because I truly feel your pain…and there is almost nothing worse than insomnia, because it impacts everything and makes life hard to live.

Some of my favorite sleep aids
When my health first crashed in 2011 I actually went for about a 2-week period with basically no sleep.  I was up around the clock.  I was finally able to pick apart some contributing factors.  One was pain…abdominal and full-body muscle/nerve pain (makes sense why I couldn’t sleep through that).  Two, was my heart rate being super high (can’t rest when you are revved).  Three, was unstable blood sugar.  My gut, as it turns out, was so bad it was sort of like a sieve…not able to absorb nutrients, so I had to constantly eat to keep my body from panicking that it was going to starve (which essentially it was as I uncontrollably lost 25 pounds in 4-5 weeks).  So, as with most health challenges, my #1 suggestion is…

1. Work On Gut Health! - This is so multifaceted that I can’t address it all here, but I will share this link with a short story to drive my point home - Years of Insomnia and Adrenal Fatigue Fixed By Healing The Gut.  And, if you think blood sugar dips may be part of the problem for you, try having a small snack right before bed to sustain you (some sweet potato, nut butter on a rice cake, etc.)  Overall, neurotransmitters are the key here…in a healthy gut they thrive (serotonin, GABA, all sorts of sleep helpers), but when the gut is out of balance, sleep can suffer big time.

2. Magnesium - Speaking of nutrition, you always want to consider nutrient levels, and when it comes to sleep (and relaxation), magnesium is an important one!  You can either try to troubleshoot this externally (Epsom Salt bath, Magnesium oil/spray on skin), or by taking a supplement.  I like Calm by Natural Vitality (there is actually a 40% off + Free Shipping deal right now)…just know that this form of magnesium can loosen stool, so start slow and work your way up to bowel tolerance - bonus if you are constipated, though!

3. Warm Yourself Up - Many find that warming themselves up makes them drowsy, so trying a warm shower or bath (such as with Epsom Salt, as I mentioned above…even with some lavender or another relaxing scent you like), or heating up some heat packs and throwing them in your bed (I like to do this while brushing my teeth and getting ready for sleep so my bed is nice and warm when I get in).  Also, placing something warm and slightly weighted on your chest and/or abdomen can be quite calming and soothing.  Just don’t use something like a heating pad that stays hot (or increases in heat), because you could fall asleep and burn yourself, and a cooler temp later on is actually better for sustaining sleep.

4. Drink Lots of Water (throughout the day) - WHAT?!  Ok, let me explain.  I love experimenting on myself and being my own private investigator.  In the early days of my illness I got up to pee in the night A LOT.  You see, the body is very smart.  When there is a toxic exposure/overload on the body (including allergens & infections) the body does its best to dilute and flush them out.  As I got better I started to notice that on the days I drank the most water and peed more throughout the day I didn’t have to get up at night to pee…even if I drank right before bed.  On days I was very busy and didn't drink enough water (which usually meant a more stressful day too - so more stress hormones for the body to detox), or pollen counts were high, or I had a chemical exposure of some sort, I was up in the night at least once to pee.  Help your body detox and hydrate throughout the day so it isn’t stuck trying to do it at night while you are supposed to be sleeping.  Just another cool way the body tries to protect us!

5. Activated Charcoal - To go along with the water/toxin point…  Sometimes the reason we can’t sleep is because our “bucket” is full.  Once we reach our “fill line” with environmental and internal (ie. stress) toxins, allergens, electronics, and all of the other inputs our system has to process daily, we start to “overflow.”  Then we need to figure out how to start bailing out some of that excess to quiet the overreaction.  One quick “go to” for me is Activated Charcoal, or what I like to call my “miracle pill."  If a toxin, allergen, or bacteria has sent me over the edge, insomnia and night terrors/jerks are one common symptom for me.  A few days/nights of Activated Charcoal (with tons of water) are usually enough to bring me back down to a good baseline.  It’s like a reset button for me!  (Be sure to consult a healthcare practitioner when considering any supplement - and follow the directions!  This one needs to be taken AWAY from other meds, nutrition, etc.)

6. Screen Protection - I won’t harp on this one too much, because we all like to be entertained before bed.  For some of us, it is our one end-of-day indulgence.  I am not going to tell you to stop, but if you are desperate for sleep, stop ALL screens at least an hour before your desired bedtime, 2-3 hours would be even better!  If you just can’t imagine it, then I would suggest really getting honest with yourself about why...and if it is a healthy relationship (this is something I am currently exploring).  If you decide to proceed with nighttime screen use, then protect yourself as much as possible.  I have been using blue-blocker glasses (made by Swanwick) every night after sundown for almost a year, and I see a MAJOR difference.  I am serious!  Who knew?!  I bought the ones that go over glasses, because I am almost always wearing my glasses at night.  There are a bunch of brands on you can check out, too.  I also use the f.lux software on my computer as well as a screen protector on my cell phone from Bulletproof.  EMFs/Wi-Fi also mess with our sleep, so what I suggest is putting your Wi-Fi on a timer so it is off during sleep hours…and if you MUST have your cell phone in your room, put it on “Airplane” mode so it is not zapping you all night.

Under this category I will also just reinforce that it is all about controlling light exposure.  If you have lights around your house that have dimming capabilities, then use them…or switch from your overhead lights to your lamps (we love our salt lamps) at night.  If you are finding your circadian rhythm completely off, limit light exposure after the sun goes down and get your face out in the light of morning as early as close to waking up as possible (you can also use a light box…or other blue light - in the Winter I use the blue light setting in my infrared sauna).  This will reset your internal clock, balance hormones, prevent seasonal depression, etc.  When the problem is that it is light too early an eye mask has worked wonders for me!

7. Send a Message To…Yourself - I am sure all of the resources you have already read talk about the importance of a bedtime routine and consistency.  It’s true.  We all know it.  It’s why we do bath time and stories every night with babies and children…to cue them for sleep.  Consistent in-bed and wake-up times are also key…ahem, some of us struggle with this even if we have read about it a thousand times (raising my hand).  I sort of start to tune out when people lecture on this one, because I feel I have heard it all before and still haven’t changed.  Then I heard something that really struck me in one of my classes the other day.  The doctor presenting explained that if we made the effort to introduce a new bedtime habit, like a cup of chamomile tea, and we had some sips and got right into bed, over time our body would associate that tea, those sips, with sleep.  Since I fully believe in rewiring the brain, I bought in to this.  I am only a couple of nights in, but I will keep you posted!  My favorite nighttime tea is Fidnemed Nighttime Tea by Mountain Rose Herbs, and from now on I will not be having it at other times, because I don’t want to confuse things…I want to be sure to reinforce the connection with bed/sleep.

8. Summon Your Senses - Explore and figure out which senses work most in your favor.  For some, it’s their sense of smell.  Essential oils and lotions are great for this (I discourage candles, because many are toxic, and you should never risk falling asleep with them burning).  You can easily Google the best scents to promote sleep, but as you have probably heard, lavender is the most common.  My all-time favorite essential oil blends are made by 21drops. Their "Sleep" potion is miraculous...I never leave home without it.  Any time my son can't sleep he asks for it, and it always works!  It contains my favorite scent, Ylang Ylang, which is known for calm/sleep/relaxation.  You can dab it on your wrists, temples, under your nose, on your pajamas and pillow.
(For 21%-off your order with 21drops, use the discount code: "Sharon21")

Another tool I have found helpful is sound.  I have used guided meditations specifically for sleep (Yoga Nidra is also something to consider), as well as delta waves/binaural beats.  You can purchase them on iTunes/Amazon, or just do some searches on YouTube to try some out for free.  I really like Wholetones and Dr. Jeffrey D. Thompson’s collections, but there are many options out there.

9. Comfort Food - For digestive health you should try to eat your full dinner meal 2-3 hours before bed, but a snack before you turn in can actually help you sleep.  I mentioned stabilizing blood sugar above, but beyond that, you can pick foods and drinks that have compounds and nutrients that actually promote sleep.  Again, you can Google and experiment, but here are some good choices: cherries, nuts - especially almonds, bananas/plantains, granola, chamomile, warm milk (it really DOES work…and if you don’t do dairy, almond milk is great!)…a really excellent anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, sleep enhancing drink to have before bed is “Golden Milk.”  The most simple recipe is: 1 Cup Milk (dairy or alternative), 1 tsp. Turmeric powder, or a 1-inch coin of fresh Turmeric root, peeled, A dusting of fresh cracked Pepper, or a small pinch of ground Cardamom, or both (Put the ingredients in saucepan; Whisk the milk while bringing to a gentle boil; Drink warm).  You can read more about it here - The Healthy Nightcap You Need For Better Sleep.

I feel compelled to add that everything you put into your body throughout the day can have a significant impact on sleep.  If you are eating things that you have a sensitivity/intolerance to it can contribute to immune disruption, inflammation, nervous system agitation, and other imbalances, which can spill over and disturb sleep.  There are obvious things like caffeine, alcohol, and medications (some even have sleep issues listed as a side effect), but things we think are healthy for us can also mess with our ability to sleep, like some herbs, supplements, and vitamins.  For example, if I get too much Vitamin B-12 (or other B Vitamins) it acts like a stimulant in my system and can cause anxiety and insomnia.  This is due to methylation challenges I personally have, which is something you might want to explore with your doctor (by checking genetic mutations, homocysteine levels).  I just urge you to remember that ANYTHING can be a “poison” to someone, and it is possible to have too much of a good thing (finding YOUR perfect brand/dose/level is key and takes patience and a commitment to being an investigator, along with a trusted practitioner).

10. Check Your Surroundings - I will share a little story with you…it was actually a BIG story for me.  Ever since my major health struggles began I have had bouts of severe insomnia.  Unfortunately it isn’t usually just about not being able to sleep, but would include intense nightmares or short vivid dreams, jerking/startling awake every, single time I start to dose off (all night long), waking up but still “seeing” scary things (usually gigantic spiders hanging from the ceiling, in front of my face), feeling like I stopped breathing/gasping for air, and waking up panicking and shaking, with my heart racing until I could find a way to finally calm down (sometimes it would take me an hour).  Thankfully I have figured out many of the root causes of these flares (allergies, toxic exposures, something I ate, stress, etc…which means I can trouble-shoot better when sleep issues pop up).  However, this past January the jerking/startling awake all night had kicked in again.  It literally felt like every 10-15 minutes…ALL.NIGHT.LONG.  This went on for weeks…I literally tried everything I knew how to do.  Nothing touched it.  My days were growing more and more impossible to get through.  After a month I was programmed not to fall asleep at all.  Not sleeping seemed better than jumping awake and calming myself down over and over again.  As I laid there I started to cry.  I felt like I just couldn’t take it anymore.  Then I noticed something…a loud CLICK sound.  I waited…another 15 or so minutes passed and it happened again.  I woke my husband up…”Do you hear that?!” I asked.  He was too out of it to join in on my mission.  Back in December we were having issues with our heating system and had quite a bit of work done on it.  I had already connected the timing of my sleep issues to this change in our home, but all of my e-mails and phone calls were met with promises that no chemicals had been used.  However, they had also changed the thermostat in my bedroom from an old dial style to an updated electronic version.  After calling my father and talking it through with him, we figured out it was programmed wrong to “run” five times an hour, or about EVERY 12 MINUTES, and every time it “ran” it CLICKED!  BINGO!!!  My father helped me reprogram it so it ran less often, but it clearly had to go.  I moved all of my stuff into our guest room until I could get the heating company to come back with an archaic dial thermostat for my bedroom.  It took about another week for my system to reset and stop waking up all night, but once the irritant was removed my system could finally relax.  I started to reflect on my poor sleep in hotel rooms, and other places…those wall A/C and heating units banging on and off all night always woke me up.  I was born with a sensitive nervous system, but since having Lyme Disease it is dialed up a few notches.  After researching online I found I was not alone, though…there were many “noise complaints" about the specific thermostat I had issues with, as well as other people who slept near refrigerators, or A/C condensers, or anything that kicks on and off around them, sharing their sleep woes.  Noise pollution is very real and can be super disruptive to sleep.  I now travel with earplugs/earbuds with music or a sound machine.

Some things to consider in your sleep environment…
Remove: Any light source (put tape over alarm panels, media consoles, etc.); electronics/EMFs (put Wi-Fi on a timer to shut off during sleep hours); anything that makes noise intermittently
Add: Fan/air filter (helps cancel out noise & keeps air clean)/sound machine (on low); organic bed/bedding (post coming on this one soon); plants that are known to calm and help with sleep (I have a lavender plant in my room...for more ideas - 12 Plants For Your Bedroom to Help You Sleep).

11. Address Emotions (especially around sleep) - I know.  Most of us don’t really want to hear this one, because it seems so “out there."  For a while I took this one as a bit of a “throw away” suggestion and blew it off a little…probably because I didn’t know how to go about working on it.  Once I fully believed in its importance, the first step I took was really thinking through why I wouldn’t want to go to sleep at night.  The obvious answer was the more recent experiences I had had with nightmares, sleep-panic attacks, etc.  Who would want to go to sleep if it meant being startled awake repeatedly?  It made perfect sense, and I had a lot more compassion for myself.  I stopped pressuring myself about sleep and had a more caring approach.  Once I dug deeper I remembered a lot of old childhood fears and insecurities around sleep.  I was scared of the dark, afraid my brother would come in and spook me, and I was a sleep walker (and even fell down a flight of stairs once).  As a child I really hated lying there, in my bed, alone with all of my fear and scary thoughts every night.  I also had a lot of digestive issues as a child, and I would frequently be woken up in the middle of the night with intense pain, distention, and distress that had built up while I was sleeping.  I tell you all of this to demonstrate that we typically have lots of deep layers behind every challenge or symptom we face…and hopefully to inspire you to give yourself the space and self-love to look behind the curtain.  Here is a great resource that sheds more light on what can feel like a somewhat nebulous topic - Subconscious Causes of Insomnia – How to Know, and What to Do.

Another common issue is STRESS!  If we are revved up and pushing all day, and numbing/distracting ourselves at night with TV, internet, our "drug" of choice, our bodies and brains don’t have an opportunity to unwind and process everything.  Many of us are just running one day into another.  This results in swirling thoughts when we are supposed to be “shutdown” for recovery and repair.  One suggestion I would make is trying to leave time in your day to process things realtime, but I know many of you are laughing right now and saying, “Yeah, right”…so instead I want to really encourage you to carve out time in your evenings to process stressful experiences and thoughts.  For many, writing is a very helpful tool.  Letting thoughts and concerns out on paper frees up your mind to let go into a more restful sleep.  Some people process things better by getting physical and moving their bodies, so if you fall into that category I would recommend trying a bedtime yoga routine (this one is short and sweet - only 7 mins).  Our brains are our friends, and if they don’t have time to work through things for us during the day they will do it at night while we are trying to rest.

If you find yourself in negative thought loops/worry before bed, or when you wake up in the middle of the night, it is important to use the opportunity to rewire your brain!  You can reassure yourself that daytime, or the time you set aside at the end of the day, is the time for working through those thoughts, and then quickly switch to a “go to thought.”  Your “go to thought” can be a prayer, a favorite poem you memorized, a mantra, or a joyful memory you can play out in full detail (I like to replay funny things that happened in college, or watching my son experience Disney World).  Come up with a few things ahead of time so you can access them at those difficult and discouraging times of sleeplessness.  Make it something that brings you comfort and/or lots of joy!

One last thing I will say on the topic of emotions is to be aware of your entertainment choices.  Sometimes the stimulating TV shows (or news), frightening horror movies, high speed video games, and even thrilling books are choices we make to keep a familiar (though unhealthy) dose of feelings going.  You may still be able to enjoy these things, but maybe earlier in the day/evening.  Personally, I decided to cut off reading my typical health-related stuff in the evenings and have bought a couple of just fun, lighthearted books to read instead.  What we feed our minds matters, too!

12. Let It Go - This is by far the hardest one on the list.  I have spent tons of time worrying, in my insomniac hazes, about all of the damage sleep issues are probably causing me, but that really only made it harder for me to get back on track.  Thankfully these sleepless episodes always pass (though, some take longer than others), I have survived every time :-) …AND all that I have listed in this post gave me a plan!  Sleep issues no longer have the power over me they used to, because I have tools to replace the old helpless feelings.  Instead of laying there frustrated, focused on those “oh no” thoughts, and worrying about how long the flare-up would last, I have learned to dance with it.  If I am not going to sleep, then I get out of bed and write in my journal, read, or do something else that I enjoy.  I kind of embrace the attitude that I might as well make the most of it!  Symptoms are usually trying to tell us something, and we can learn a lot if we use our courage to face them and listen.  There is no sense in fighting it, or trying to run away.  Trust yourself and the unfolding of the process.

* I am at the end of my list!  It is very important for me to add that if you cannot get your sleep issues to a manageable place, it is ALWAYS worth setting up an appointment with your most trusted practitioner to get things checked out- thyroid, allergies, sleep apnea, environmental toxins (like mold), etc.  Prioritizing sleep is important for healing any current health issues you have as well as maintaining overall optimal health as you go through life.*

I never mean to overwhelm or bombard with info, but I have tried so many things on my healing journey, and I want to share them all in case even one thing helps someone.  No approach is one-size-fits-all, which is why I have given you a buffet of options.  Try one or two things here that really resonated with you (something that stood out to you while you were reading = intuition, so follow it).  You can always come back for more later.  It is a process of trial and error when trying to find the “perfect fix” for you, and that takes patience.   Remember, with more natural approaches results sometimes take a little longer, but they usually get to the root of the problem which means a lasting solution and healing!  Wishing you deep, satisfying sleep and sweet dreams tonight and always!!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So Irritated!

Hey everyone...once again, a lull in my posts...  I have had a challenging Winter/Spring, I am now enrolled in a course and have lots of homework, my back and neck went out consecutive weeks, and my son just got over having the flu for a week-and-a-half, yada, yada, yada...I'm tired.  Hahaha!

I have had all sorts of grand ideas for posts since you last heard from me...insomnia, a great Spring hand lotion you must try, and more, but here I am sharing what is absolutely top of mind, and top of season for me right now.

Unfortunately I am having a "flare-up" of some sort right now, and that is not all that uncommon for me this time of year.  The bonus about having a "chronic" illness is that you start to notice very helpful patterns, and you are able to make very interesting connections, and therefore come up with solutions.

A few weeks ago I woke-up very early one morning and my neck had completely seized up...such an awful "surprise" to have just appear like that.  Before that my back was out, and in the last week I have developed a "problem tooth."  I started freaking out and worrying that I would have to go to the dentist...and since I have never had dental work (knock on wood), I was painting a picture of how awful it was potentially going to be (thoughts can also be an unhealthy contributor, of course...which I will address in another post).  All of these issues have something in common...inflammation.

For my tooth I did what I usually do when I have a significant symptom...head to my acupuncturist...then the next day I hit my craniosacral therapist for a little jaw/mouth work...etc...  All the while throwing every home remedy I could come up with at my tooth in hopes of avoiding the dentist.  Well, here I sit today, pain-free (in the mouth, anyway), and seemingly not having to go to the dentist.

However, my insomnia is back, and it's not the old "Damn, I can't sleep" kind, it's the full-blown waking up gasping for air, heart racing, shaking, having to poop immediately (TMI?!), feel-like-you-are-dying, kind.  I like to call it "Seasonal Sleep Apnea" nasal and oral tissues get so inflamed from allergens that the poor breathing sends me into fight-or-flight/panic.  Not a fun way to "wake up."  Unfortunately I have had this off and on for the last 6 years of dealing with a chronic illness, and it is by far the worst symptom I have had.  Usually it hits me in Spring and Fall (or after a chemical exposure), but in my strongest, healthiest times it isn't as bad.  I know that the cumulative stress I have been dealing with lately set me up for the perfect storm this time.  Just a reminder that stress management and self-care are KEY!

I have written about allergies before (you can check out my allergy tips and tricks here), and I could go on and on about the crazy, Private-Investigator-dots I have connected for myself and the people I coach (things like allergies AND digestive issues, sleep disorders - teeth grinding/insomnia, dental issues, muscle/joint/nerve pain), but I really want to highlight the connection between what you eat and histamine intolerance/allergies.  About three years ago I discovered an absolutely AMAZING resource ("Foods, Food Families, and Other Food Lists") that lists many foods and what "family" they are in.  This can serve like a key or a legend to a map that will help you figure out some pretty incredible cross-reactivity stuff...for instance I was always insanely allergic to poison ivy as a kid (so reactive I had to have prednisone every Summer to reel it in)...cashews, mangos, and pistachios are in the same family!  AVOID!  I have shared this resource with anyone who is interested in decoding their sensitivities...including my son's former Kindergarten teacher, because her son has major allergies.  She looked at his diagnosed food allergies on the list (mostly tree nuts), and she found that some of the trees in their yard were in the same "family" as her son's biggest food offenders, so they cut them down, and it helped!  Knowledge is power...and sometimes even very powerful medicine!

Just this week a new MindBodyGreen article popped up: "The Surprising Foods That Are Making Your Seasonal Allergies Worse."  This is such important information to be aware of.  You may be like me, no real "obvious" signs of seasonal allergies, but just experiencing an overall not feeling well.  It could be digestive issues, body aches and pains, a general sense of agitation or anxiety.  There may be foods that you are fine eating most of the year, but can't tolerate during allergy surges...for example, you might want to skip that chamomile tea or sunflower seed butter during ragweed season!

The last few resources I am going to share with you are absolutely BRILLIANT "must reads."  The first gives an excellent overview of why so many more people have allergies in today's world...and that number is growing all the time.  I found it in one of my favorite magazines, "Experience Life" - "Taking On the Allergy Epidemic."  You will learn so much about the many factors that contribute to allergies.  "Pollen Is Not The Problem," by "The Healthy Home Economist" goes hand-in-hand with the previous article.  Sarah gets right to the heart of the matter...and per usual, it all comes down to your gut!

The other very timely article that showed up in my inbox today is by one of my fave docs of all-time, Dr. Aviva Romm - "Histamine Intolerance: Could It Be Causing Your Symptoms?"  The reason I was inspired to bust out this blog post TODAY, is because she is having a Facebook Live tonight (4/12/17 @7:00PM Eastern) to go along with this super informative article.  You might be (pleasantly) shocked by learning more about Histamine Intolerance, because much like other things (Lyme, etc.) it can be in disguise and causing significant misery...and it just might be the answer you (or a loved one) have been searching for!  Speaking of Lyme, Histamine Intolerance is sometimes triggered by (and shows up following) a virus, bacterial infection, or the onset of an autoimmune illness...think immune system overreaction (or one that can't calm/shut off after the threat is gone) if you have a chronic infection (like Lyme, Mono/EBV, etc.), a thyroid condition, or a digestive condition like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, H.I. just might be more common for you.  Though it is not common in the general population, as a whole, it is quite common in the chronically unwell/ill (especially those with "mystery"/undiagnosed conditions).

Not sure if you have allergies and/or histamine intolerance?  One clue would be you (or your child) having a "flu" or cold for a week or more, at the same time every year (this is not reserved for Spring only).  A personal example I can share of the initial immune response someone can have to a change in the air is when we bring our live Christmas tree into the house my son always has a "cold" for about the first 3-5 days until his system adjusts.  This year we didn't have one, and NO "cold."  I highly recommend keeping a detailed journal noting days you don't feel your best and adding details about what that day was like (weather, food you ate, pollen count/noticing buds/green stuff in the air).  Over time you will be able to connect your own dots and improve your quality of life!  What's better than getting more deeply in touch with yourself and how to cultivate your optimal wellness?!

If you do suspect histamine intolerance, run to this AWESOMELY AMAZING RESOURCE: Healing Histamine, created by a former CNN journalist who went through her own battle and won.

Again, I have only given a few examples and clues...allergies and histamine intolerance can come in MANY shapes and sizes.  You could be on an anxiety medication, when really you just need to cut out some of the foods you are eating and focus on healing your gut.  This is why I am studying to be a Functional Medicine coach, because in FM we investigate, connect the dots, and tend the soil, instead of spraying the leaves repeatedly with a chemical...hoping the tree will just survive, instead of thriving as it has the innate potential to do.  Inform yourself and you heal yourself in the process!
BONUS TIP: 2 "Quick Fixes" I use to stop a reaction (chemical, allergy, etc.) are 1. Activated Charcoal & 2. Alka-Seltzer Gold.  They are not meant for long-term healing but can relieve the most intense symptoms while you eliminate foods/triggers and work on a longterm wellness solution.  These are about bringing some much needed RELIEF!  (And always make sure you are drinking plenty of water!)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Pump It Up

Well, if you haven't noticed, it's Winter...sort of, anyway.  Winter can be a great time of reflection, slowing down, and rebuilding before the higher energy Spring & Summer come back around.  It can also be a time of stagnation and sluggishness.  Many people are deeply impacted by the lack of sunlight and having to constantly brace against colder temperatures.  The struggle is very real!

One thing we have to be very mindful of is keeping ourselves moving somehow.  For me, after the holidays come and go, I can get a little depressed and literally just want to sit around, doing stuff on my computer.  That's bad for many reasons, but mostly because it means I am more sedentary and I am getting more EMFs and artificial light on my eyes from too much screen-time (more to come about all of this soon).

I have been helping people through a lot of "stagnant" conditions lately...numbness and tingling in extremities, constipation, and ovarian cysts, to name a few.  Something that most of the conditions I am seeing right now have in common is LACK OF CIRCULATION!  The cold, the sitting around, it's a vicious cycle for things to get backed up, just like traffic at rush hour.  And that sets the perfect stage for problems to develop.

Today I urge you to learn more about your lymphatic system!  Some of you might be saying, "Huh...what?!"  Hopefully by now we have learned a lot about our bodies and the various organs and systems, but poor little lymphatics usually get left out.  We know that our blood has a pump (our hearts) but our lymphatic fluid relies solely on us to pump it around.  This is VERY important, because our lymphatics are our "garbage disposals."  If we leave them to their own devices they back-up and start to stink everything up.  As always, your gut is a major player in all of this as well...can you say "IMMUNE SYSTEM?!"  This is a big reason why so many more people get sick this time of year.

I want to share one of the absolute best, most helpful articles I have found on the topic, "The Secret to Staying Healthy: Get The Lymphatic System Moving!"  It explains the basics of the lymphatic system and beyond, AND it gives you many ideas to get your lymph moving.  If you are going to alert people to a concern, then providing solutions is an absolute must in my eyes!  Some of my favorite things to do are dry brushing (here is the brush I use), rebounding, yoga/deep breathing, saunas/hot baths, and massage, which are all discussed in the article.  I would like to specifically add one of my loves...dancing!

The good news is that it doesn't have to be strenuous.  Since a big "pumper" of our lymph is our big toes you can take a gentle walk, go up and down some stairs, do some toe-raises, or even sit and manually massage/bend/pump your big toes.  You can even manage some of these moves while standing in line at the store, under your desk at work, or even while sick in bed.  Do what you can!  As someone who has managed a chronic health challenge I know that exercise is not always possible.  I completely understand the fine line between moving your body and overexertion.  Saving energy for healing is very important, too!

If you are interested in learning even more, you can also check out this great mindbodygreen article, "9 Ways To Reset Lymph Flow And Decrease Bloating."

So put on some good music, and get moving...and keep yourself warm (heat packs are my best friend...especially on the abdomen and neck/shoulders)!  Your lymphatic system is counting on you!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cooking Up A Storm

Hi everyone!  Happy New Year!  I fully intended to keep posting between Christmas and New Years...and beyond...but family-time and "life" was my priority instead, and this took a backseat.  I'm good with that!  Still, I have missed posting and the awesome comments, interactions, and feedback from all of you wonderful people.

I have some great news to share.  As I have been trying to figure out how I am going to channel my passion and help more people I applied to become a certified "Functional Medicine Coach," and I was accepted into the program.  I start February 1st, and will be back in "school" for a year.  I have some other good stuff in the works around becoming certified in Mind-Body Medicine as well.  I am beyond excited and look forward to sharing the journey with you.

I knew I had to get back to blogging when within the same week I had two totally unrelated people in my life (one a high school friend, and the other a newer friend) ask me the same question..."What kind of cookware do you use?"

In my attempt to keep blogging "doable" for me, especially now that I will have homework, I will do my best to keep these posts shorter, pointing you to the resources that will help you learn more.  To find out more about the toxins lurking in your cookware, this article by Dr. Axe (one of my fave docs) is a great starting place.  You might be surprised, or even overwhelmed, by the information, but once you know better you can do better.  From this point, forward is all that matters.

As far as what I have in my kitchen, though it may not be the most perfect thing out there, I use ceramic coated cook/bakeware.  I can't say for sure what the healthiest brand is.  I think this is a space that could really use a lot more attention, but for now we will just choose as best we can.  The most important thing is knowing what to stay away from (teflon, etc.)  I was happy to see Dr. Mercola adding his efforts, but I can't say for sure what his products are like, because I have never used them.  Lots of other countries are putting safer products out there, but they are harder to get for the time being.

For baking/cookie sheets I have the "Orgreenic" Ceramic Jelly Roll Pans, but there is some debate over if the material/product actually lives up to its name (this happens a lot, so don't just believe in a product that has "Organic" in its name) - and they are no longer available, so hmmmmm?  I am still looking for a good replacement.  A good idea is to use parchment paper or a silicone sheet over the surface for extra protection.  My favorite parchment, and additional kitchen products (like the sandwich/snack bags we use), comes from "If You Care."  For pots and pans I have the "WearEver Pure Living" ceramic sets.  I purchased them from Amazon.

Other brands I would consider:
- xtrema

*Don't forget to pick up some great silicone cooking spoons, etc. to use in your ceramic pots & pans! You definitely don't want to use metal or anything harsh, and also in an effort to preserve your cookware stack them with a cloth in-between (I like to use old dishcloths/towels).

Of course glass is usually a safe way to go (check lead levels), and some people love cast iron.  Some articles claim that stainless steel is a good option, but a lot of times it has ingredients in it like nickel, which many are sensitive to.  If you have heavy metal toxicity/burden, then you want to avoid such products.  You can find this out through Functional Medicine/Naturopathic testing.  Way before I ever had such testing I knew I couldn't tolerate nickel, or lots of metals, because my skin would blister, ooze, and turn green from jewelry made from those materials.  That's a big reason I use bamboo cutlery much of the time, because every time you eat you could be exposing yourself to something that doesn't agree with your system, and that is an added burden your body does't need.  Listen to your body's messages!

I hope this article points you in some helpful directions to green up your kitchen and keep yourself and your loved ones as healthy as possible!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Minute Gifts You Are Never "Too Late" For

Hopefully all of your holiday shopping is done and you are nice and that groove of just enjoying all that is going on around you.  But...if you are finding yourself panicked about those last-minute gifts you didn't get and the fact that you are now "out of time," get your loved ones something digital.  It's NEVER "too late"...that's just a story we tell ourselves.  There are always solutions.  Here are a couple of my suggestions...

1. Access to "Food Matters TV (FMTV)," where they have amazing documentaries and other content around healthy eating and mind/body/spirit stuff...and they add new videos each week.

2. Something from "Sounds True"...loads of awesome life improvement stuff from meditation to online courses, audio, video, etc...just hit the little "shop by category" tab in the upper left, and it is all sorted out for you.

3. A mindbodygreen class...there are so many topics to choose from including yoga, meditation, fitness, nutrition, home, relationships, etc.  So many goodies to check out!

What's better than helping someone live a healthier and fuller life?!  It's truly the gift that keeps on giving (and you can get it right up to the last minute!)  Good luck out there!  I am hoping to continue with some more of my faves between Christmas and New Years...there are so many I haven't gotten to yet!  That's a good "problem" to have!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Helping Hands

I have always loved scents.  Give me a good song to listen to, and a sweet scent to smell, and I am happy.  There are so many cues around us that tell us it's the "Holiday Season."  One of my favorites is the various smells.

Today I bring you two hand lotions that are sure to make you (and the people around you) feel festive!  The first one will blow your*record scratch*...oops!  I just went to look up the link for this one, and it appears the company (Soap & Paper Factory) did not make their holiday scented hand cream this year.  Such a bummer!  I really can't believe it, because they sold out quickly last year everywhere I went.  So grateful I scored an extra for myself!  However, fingers (and toes) crossed they come back next year, because I have never gotten so many compliments before...people wondering if I had just cut down a Christmas Tree ("Frosted Pine" scent)...not kidding.  In the meantime, you can check out their other lovely hand cream scents (which fit perfectly in just about any purse you might be carrying).  They are super luxurious and would make awesome stocking stuffers!  Also note that the "Roland Pine" scent appears to be the same as the "Frosted Pine" from the past (or at least similar), but for now they only have it in soap, candles, room pray, diffusers, potpourri, etc.  Good stuff!
Soap & Paper Factory - Snow Drop Collection "Frosted Pine" Hand Cream & Indigo Wild "Frankincense & Myrrh Zum Body Lotion"
I did some searching around to find a good "Pine/Fir/Spruce" replacement hand cream to suggest, but I was stumped.  I know there are some out there, but I couldn't find any that meet my safe-ingredient-list-standards!  Then I remembered a product my father received as a gift from one of his customers a few years back.  I discovered it while visiting my parents house.  I found myself sniffing around to find the source of the awesome smell I was smelling, and I finally figured out what it dad's hand salve.  It is called "Hard Core Hand Care," and the scent is "New England Woods."  It has an impressive ingredient list, and it is made not too far away in New Hampshire.  This is a great find for the loved ones in your life who have jobs/hobbies that beat-up their hands...note, it comes in a tin instead of a tube.  I tried it for myself, and this is some serious hand healing!  Check it out!

One of my very favorite scents of all-time, not just during the holidays, is Frankincense.  I really love it at church when they use the incense burner on and around the altar.  There is just something about it that transports me...takes me back...and lifts me up.  I just feel more connected to my roots and to God.  It is like it grounds me and enlightens me all at the same time.  Maybe it is triggering some sort of epigenetic response of my ancestors...whatever it is, I love it!  This time of year when I smell Frankincense and Myrrh I imagine the journey of the Wisemen and the feeling in the air that Holy Night.  All of those warm feelings and images are evoked when I use my "Frankincense & Myrrh Zum Body Lotion" by Indigo Wild.  Personally I only reserve it for use as a hand lotion, which I keep by the door for when I am running out into the cold.  It is silky smooth and packed full of hydrating and soothing ingredients.  And each time I catch a whiff of it I smile and feel content.  The power of aromatherapy!

Maybe you have a practitioner, mail-person, teacher, friend, or someone in your life you want to give a little holiday "Thank You" to...or maybe you deserve to treat yourself for almost making it to the finish-line of the most wonderful (and stressful) time of the year!  For whatever reason...these are the perfect little treasures to pick-up and have on hand this season.

Monday, December 19, 2016

I've Got A Cookie For That

My first education in food allergies came not long after my son was born in 2008.  He was a lethargic eater with digestive issues.  His pediatrician sent us to a G.I. doc who said, "reflux," prescribed "Zantac," and told me there was nothing else I could do...other than raising the head of his bassinet.  My mommy-intuition told me there was more to it, so I started my research.  I found that dairy/soy allergies are fairly common in infants (at least those presenting with digestive issues), so I cut dairy and soy out of my diet (because I was exclusively breastfeeding).  Once the proteins had a chance to work their way out of my system my son did so much better and finally started to gain some weight!  Lessons is a powerful solution, and always trust your gut!

I sort of panicked thinking about not having desserts, since most contain dairy or soy in some form (this was back before my health crashed and I gave up all sugar).  My searching brought me to Erin McKenna and her beautiful Gluten-Free and Vegan "Babycakes Bakery."  Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to make it to NYC to enjoy her treats, but as luck would have it she had a cookbook!  I ordered it right away and started baking.  I think I literally made everything in her first evidenced by the beat-up and stained pages.  Our favorites were her chocolate chip cookies and banana bread.  I was so impressed with her story, and her desire to create a safe place for kids and adults alike to come and enjoy sweet treats...but even more impressed that they actually tasted delicious!  (I was skeptical since this was my first experience in the "allergy-friendly baking world," and baking was sort of my thing.)

Erin McKenna's second cookbook which includes the sugar cookie recipe
I continued to follow Erin's every move...she opened a couple more bakery locations, and I kept my fingers crossed for the addition of a Boston shop...still waiting...  Thankfully she put out another cookbook for all of us ravenous fans!  Once again I made my way through the gorgeous pages (it really is a work of food art), enjoying each recipe.  However, it was always sort of hanging over my head that the holidays would never be the same again.  I had so many classic, beloved, family-tradition recipes.  It was hard to let go, but when Christmas rolled around it was the perfect time to try out Erin's "Sugar Cookie" recipe.  It is AMAZING!  Seriously.  And it includes modifications to help you get your cookies just the way you like them (I happen to prefer a "cakier" cookie, which means a little more flour and less sugar.)  I have now tried 3 other "allergen-free" sugar cookie recipes, and the Babycakes one comes out heads and tails above all the rest.  It is delicious (as professed by my son and husband...but also by those who don't have food avoidances), and equally important to me is the fact that the dough is very easy to make and handle.  It rolls out well and works with tricky cutouts BEAUTIFULLY!  And one of the best parts, which is a HUGE added bonus, is that it doesn't have eggs in it, so you don't have to worry about your little ones handling the dough...or even eating it!  It is pure perfection!

Erin McKenna's Sugar Cookie Recipe (for the modifications pick up her book!)
Our finished products 2016 - including our vintage cookie-cutters, passed down from my mother
I would urge you to follow Erin McKenna & Babycakes no matter what your diet situation or preferences, because it is just better for you all around, and I PROMISE you will thoroughly enjoy her goodies.  We FINALLY got to try them straight from the bakery while at Disney World...opening a location there was total genius on her part.  I am SO HAPPY for all of the little kiddos with food allergies who can fully enjoy their Disney experience...treats and all!  I ordered one of her adorable and YUMMY birthday cakes to celebrate my son's birthday, and we ALL loved it!  I even had a little piece...vanilla cake, chocolate frosting, with maple frosting in the middle...unbelievable!

My son's delicious birthday cake from Babycakes Orlando, which delivers to Disney World Resorts/Restaurants
I hope this post will help EVERYONE find a way to celebrate and feel included in the festivities this holiday season!  ENJOY!!!