Saturday, December 3, 2016

What Ya Got Under There?

I often have people ask me what the number one, most important "health thing" is they should invest-in or change in their lives.  I really can't narrow it down to one thing.  Healthy eating, good sleep, stress-management, reduction in toxin exposure (personal care and cleaning products)...and the list goes on.  I know it is not realistic to expect people to throw everything out and start over, but you can start by doing a few switcheroos and building from there.

You can't have 100% organic everything in your life, but in addition to food I feel that underwear and pajamas should be high on your priority list.  Underwear, for obvious reasons (those are delicate areas) - and this includes socks (the health of our feet is more important than we realize - and we release a lot of toxins out through them), and pajamas because we spend a lot of time in bed/sleeping (hopefully), and while we sleep is when our body essentially takes out the trash and repairs itself.  While we sleep everything can relax and open up to breathe, and if our body is covered in something synthetic or toxic, that's what we are taking in...and then our body is tied up trying to process that stuff instead of focusing on its most important job.

Again, for these "favorite things" posts I am not going to dive into the science and data too much, but by now we all know sleep is very important.  Our bodies and brains do amazing things while we sleep, and if you do want to know more, you can start here.

They always say that no one does better research and investigating than a mother!  Well, it's true!  Our go-to store for my sons underwear and pajamas (and most of his clothes) has always been Hanna Andersson.  We love their quality, softness, durability, and the fact that ALL of their "Unders" and PJs are 100% Organic Cotton.  In addition to those most important qualifications they come in THE CUTEST colors and prints...including our all-time favorite, Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang!  I basically refuse to pay full-price for anything, so I get most of my "Hannas" during sales or promotions.  We are also lucky to live fairly close to a Hanna Andersson Outlet Store.  They also carry women's clothing, which I love.  I have some of their "adult" stuff, but I am also able to wear their largest kids size, so that saves me a lot of money, too (plus they are way more fun and I can match with my son...until the day he thinks that is an awful and embarrassing idea!)  One other thing to note is that they have just about the best Customer Service I have ever dealt with!  *ATTENTION: Kids jams are $29 right now online (normally $44-46) - including the licensed stuff (Disney, Peanuts, Star Wars, etc.), which is rare.
Our latest Hanna Andersson treasures!
An awesome source of adult underwear and socks is PACT Apparel!  They are super comfy, last a long time, and come in lots of colors and patterns...as well as the basic solids.  I also love their leggings, tanks/camis, and t-shirts.  They are a company with an amazing mission, too...which makes me want to support them even more!  You can read all about it here.

Another website I want to mention is Faerie's Dance.  It is one of the very first places I shopped for these sorts of items back before they were easier to find.  It's where I learned about BGREEN products, which I also really like.

A couple of times I have indulged in Coyuchi pajamas, which are wonderful...they are just over-priced.  I have been lucky enough to catch some pretty awesome sales...when the pajamas are already on-sale, and then they send an additional coupon, is when I jump on them.

I have also noticed that Burt's Bees now makes organic clothing.  I have bought some of their baby pajamas as gifts, and they seem very nice.  I also noticed some of their pretty holiday sleepwear when I was at a local Whole Foods the other day.  It looks like they have some matching kids and adults pjs for the season...check it out tonight (12/3), and you can get 25%-off: Burt's Bees Family Pajamas.

One last tip, because I know these things can be quite pricey...head on over to an "overstock/discount" site like Sierra Trading Post, 6PM, Backcountry, etc., and type "organic" in their search bar.  I find lots of good stuff, at very reasonable prices, this way!

If you are going to be buying gifts for loved ones (or yourself) anyway, buy fewer things, but make sure they are healthier and higher quality!  That's a good way to show you really care!

Some of our favorites from our organic PJ collection!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Support & Soothe Your Gut

There are just so many opportunities to indulge this time of year!  Unfortunately most of the options are laden with gluten, dairy, and lots and lots of sugar.  All of these things can be challenging to digest, even if you don't have a true sensitivity or allergy.  It takes a LOT of work for your digestive system to process stuff that is processed.  I would argue that is actually what is behind "flu season," which in my mind actually translates to "asking way too much of your body."  The stress, staying up later, rushing around, and eating less than optimal food all suppress the immune system...and having your defenses down rolls out the red carpet for anything you might be exposed to (or even for your own internal "bugs" to come out and "play").

Personally, I gave-up the food indulgences years ago (because it makes a huge difference in how I feel), but I fully engage in the rest of it...stress, doing way too much, staying up too late.  I am not immune to the impact this has, and my weak place has always been my digestion.  Though I have nailed down some solid ways to troubleshoot digestive flare-ups, I am still working on fully healing my gut.  This is priority #1, because let's not forget that more than 70% of our immune system resides in our gut.  Without a solid foundation there health conditions, such as auto-immune illnesses, can take root.

Thankfully I have learned many gentle and herbal solutions to soothe my system.  I am very grateful to my grandmother and cousin for introducing me to herbal tea at a very young age.  It is something that I started drinking daily, almost intuitively.  Mint was always my go-to, and now I have an understanding of how it helps digestion.

I can't imagine life without tea!  I am always on the lookout for new blends, and just like my shampoo/conditioner shelf, I have a cabinet dedicated to my teas, herbs, and powders.

A glimpse at my tea collection
There are all sorts of digestive teas out there, but I had never found one quite like "Tummy Coat" by Flying Bird Botanicals.  It is a very unique and well thought out gut brew.  In Ayurveda they believe that Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, and Cardamom are among some of the very most important herbs for digestion, and I happen to agree.  Then more classically I had learned about Chamomile, Lavender, Licorice, and the ever important Marshmallow Root.  "Tummy Coat" combines some herbs from both groups, and I like that it actually leaves out Licorice.  I went through a period of time where I drank Licorice tea everyday, which resulted in elevated blood pressure (it is important to use the deglycerolized version, or DGL, to avoid this problem), so I try not to drink anything that has it as an ingredient more than once or twice a week.

"Tummy Coat" has all Organic ingredients (which is a must in my book) that are grown in the USA.  I picked this tea up at a local natural foods store, and it was $2 cheaper than from the company's website.  You can also just buy the bulk herbs from a trustworthy source (like an herbalist or Mountain Rose Herbs) and put together your own!  Here is the full list of ingredients:
Organic Marshmallow Root, Organic Fennel, Organic Chamomile Flowers, Organic Raspberry Leaf, Organic Coriander, Organic Lemon Balm, Organic Lemongrass, Organic Lavender
(And I like to throw in 1/4 teaspoon of Slippery Elm powder to really add to the gut soothing power!)

"Tummy Coat" canister & tea bag, with my baggie of Slippery Elm in the background
Since energy is needed to digest food, create new cells, and fight germs, then you need to treat yourself like the very valuable machine you are.  It isn't always a bad thing to partake in all the season has to offer, but you need to be prepared with ways to care for yourself and recharge the "energy" you depleted.  That way you can feel your best and be fully present for ALL festivities!  Hopefully this tea will calm any sort of repercussions you might feel from overindulging, as well as keep your gut in tip-top shape no matter what.  I am sure I will be sharing some more tea faves before the New Year!

Happy Hair

One of my obsessions in life is definitely personal care products (which is why I started this blog in the first place)!  Back in the day, like when I was in college, I used to splurge on salon shampoo and conditioner...and my make-up bag was always well-stocked.  My choices (and what drives them) have changed dramatically, but I still feel like a kid in a candy shop as I S-L-O-W-L-Y make my way down personal-care-product aisles (just ask my husband and son)!  I love to take it all in...smelling, reading labels, making note of new companies on the market.

And...I really go crazy for shampoos and conditioners!  As you can see for yourself...

An entire shelf in our bathroom closet dedicated to my shampoo/conditioner collection!  (Maybe I have a problem?!)
Today I am featuring two products, because they both boast an amazing scent that leaves me more relaxed and happy, which is something we all need more of during this busy time of year.  The power of aromatherapy is a very real thing!  Both of these products highlight lavender, which is well-known for its ability to calm and soothe...and even alleviate headaches...among many other things.

I am particularly excited about flourish products, because I went to high school with one of its founders!  In the past I have used their "Lemongrass" shampoo/conditioner, and I love how clean, fresh, and uplifting it is.  However...the "Lavender Mint" is my favorite so far...such a perfect pairing!  There is something about it that is very "holiday" to me as well (probably the delicious mint), so I am enjoying it more than ever right now.  Each time I use it I feel a peaceful boost throughout the day as the scent revisits me.  I am particularly impressed with how short their ingredient lists are, which is proof of how thoughtful they are about what they put into their products.  Energetically you can feel the love in their blends, and I am really looking forward to trying their "Cocoa Spice Body Creme" this holiday season!  YUM!  And what's better than supporting a small, local (Vermont), conscientious company?!  (Obviously you can shop online, but I have also found flourish in my local natural foods stores).

Set yourself up for a peaceful day (or restful night) when you shower with these beauties!
Just a few weeks ago I was happy to discover Carina Organics, newly added to the shelves of a fave local health store.  Of course I started opening the bottles and smelling right away.  I really loved their "Citrus" scent, but when I got to the "Lavender" I knew that was the one!  I already have a handful of Citrus-scented hair products (there are way more citrus options out there), and I am particularly drawn to lavender and its healing properties.  It also just feels luxurious and reminds me of being at a spa!  Something else that is cool about this shampoo is that it also doubles as a body wash!  Perfect for when you are in a hurry!  All-in-ones can be great, but I usually find they don't do much for the hair...I can tell you that is NOT the case with this one.  Next on my list is definitely the "Sweet Pea" scent, but I haven't found it around here yet, so I am waiting to smell it in person.  Once again, our wonderful neighbors in Canada have given us a health-conscious product to be grateful for!

Both brands leave my hair soft, shiny, and smooth!  I really admire the story behind both companies, and I am so impressed with their short ingredient lists, chock full of well-thought-out, high-quality plants and herbs.  The #1 reason I suggest these two brands is their QUALITY!  I know you can find lavender-scented products elsewhere, but my nose can tell the difference...and it matters!  Treat yourself, or someone you love...you will be so glad you did!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Handy Germ Vigilante

I have been known to be a germophobe from time to time (ahem...I may have carried Lysol spray around with me at college...and I may or may not have panic attacks at the mere thought of using a public restroom).  Anywho...I have now learned about toxic products versus healthier alternatives, as well as over-sanitizing and the impact it has on our microbiomes.  I now resist the urge to pump my hands with goop every chance I get, and I am also more choosey about just what that goop is.  I had read more than enough info about common hand sanitizers and how toxic they are (like this article), to know I needed to find some good alternatives.  In the past I have used CleanWell spray and wipes, which I have been happy with (I like that they use Thyme, which is a well-known germ-killer), but sometimes I just feel like I need a heavier hitter.

Over the years I have really come to learn the value and effectiveness of essential oils...and I have quite the collection of them!  Last year we were planning our first family airplane trip since I had become ill, and I decided to make my own batch of "Thieves Oil" to help protect us.  I had read so much about its germ-fighting, immune-boosting powers...it has quite a history and reputation, which you can check out for yourself.

I was so excited to also find this awesome Thieves Oil Hand Purifier by LULU ORGANICS!  We dropped the straight essential oil blend on our collars to breathe in while traveling, and this hand sanitizer kept our hands clean...and we didn't get sick, even during "high-flu-time."  (Keep an eye out for a future post about my "healthy travel" tips!)

LULU ORGANICS Hand Purifier - Don't Leave Home Without It!!!
I also passed these tips on to a fellow "Choir Mommy" while our kids were practicing, because she and her family were heading to Disney this Fall for a much needed "Make-A-Wish" trip.  Due to the fact that her young daughter's immune system is in the process of rebuilding after chemo treatments she was concerned about her getting sick and the implications of that for her and their trip (potential hospitalization, etc.)  She even used Thieves in a mister in their hotel room both while they were out and while they slept!  She was thrilled to report to me last night that their entire family of six all stayed healthy during, and after, the trip!  I was over-the-moon happy to hear it, and it just reinforced my confidence in Thieves-based blends.  I have had many people I know tell me stories of "I woke-up sick this morning, did a steam tent with Thieves, and was well by the afternoon," but this story meant the most to me and really touched my heart...so that's why I share it.

Now I carry LULU ORGANICS Hand Purifier with me everywhere I go!  I get mine from my local natural foods store (cheaper than the online prices, too), but there are other versions such as the one made by Young Living you can look into.  If you have essential oils already (or you are planning to purchase them) you can make your own, which is even better!

I hope these tips will help you and your loved ones stay healthy...not only for the holidays but EVERYday!  XO

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What You REALLY Need To Get Through The Holidays

When I first decided to do this "Sharon's Favorite Things" for the 2016 Holiday Season my mind was swirling with ideas.  What made sense to start with?  I settled on the fact that you won't get very far if you aren't feeling well, which made this share easy.  For the last 5-6 years of being quite ill I have gotten extremely hypersensitive and reactive...to the point where most of the vitamins and supplements suggested to me by my doctors did not agree with me and just ended up in my "pill-bottle-graveyard."  That's why I was SO EXCITED to finally find some that worked very well for my "fine-tuned" system this year.

I am using some self-restraint not to get too much in my head for this series of posts.  I don't want to spend a lot of time explaining the geeky/sciencey details...instead just getting to the good stuff!  However, I will say, we all have very different needs, but most of us are vitamin and mineral deficient...even if we eat the most healthy diet, our foods are just not as nutrient dense as they used to be.  Also, some of us have genetic factors that prevent us from actually utilizing what we eat and supplement ourselves with.  For example, for a long time I was getting B-12 in my multivitamin (Centrum - suggested to me by my PCP before I knew better!  Yuck!), but I wasn't utilizing it.  It was basically just building up in my system (my blood levels were between 2,000-3,000), which was causing me anxiety and insomnia, among other things.  Since then I have learned about the ever important "Methylation."  (If you want to read more about methylation I have carefully selected two articles that I think explain it well, without getting into the over-the-top details, from: "To Health With That!" & "Judy Tsafrir, MD"...the second one is really cool, because it looks at methylation - both under and over - and the emotional/mental implications).

Though a healthy diet is first and foremost, a high quality multivitamin is a close second!  Pure Encapsulations is one of my all-time favorite brands, and they really do seem to agree with even the most sensitive of people (like moi).  Their O.N.E. Multivitamin ROCKS!!!  Among tons of other good stuff it has Metafolin (methylated Folate), methylated B-12, and TRAACS molybdenum, which is huge for detoxification!  Multivitamins can be hard to tolerate, so I started with literally a pinch on my breakfast, and very slowly worked my way up to a full cap overtime (I still open it and mix it with my food to help with absorption).  I can't wait to have my homocysteine levels rechecked to see if they have gone down!

POWER DUO!!!  They will keep you going this holiday season...and beyond!
B-Vitamins are extremely important for so many reasons...especially nervous system function and energy levels.  Vitamin B-12 deficiency is the root cause of many ailments (which you can read about if you are interested...just click the link).  It is important to get your levels tested, but just know that a very high level doesn't mean you are all set (remember what I said above...my high level just meant that I wasn't using what I was taking...though doctors mistook that high level as a good thing, it wasn't).  After lots of research I found Global Healing Center's liquid (and it also happens to be Vegan) Methylated B-12.  I love that I can take as little as I want and start slowly...and there are no crazy additives.  I started with 1 drop, first thing in the morning, and worked my way up to around 3-4 drops total.  If I go up too high my body lets me know with insomnia/strange dreams and agitation.  Since I take so little, one bottle lasts me a very long time!  I started taking these drops in June (2016), and I just had my blood drawn to check B-12 last week, so I am excited to see where my levels are at.  I definitely feel better, and that's all that really matters!  I just purchased some other products from Global Healing Center (digestive enzymes, probiotics, oxy-powder, etc. to support digestion), because I really love their quality, and they had some crazy "Cyber Monday" deals - running until 12/4...so get in there!

I am hoping this "favorite things" post will help you feel your absolute best this holiday season, because that is THE BEST GIFT EVER!  May you have energy and peace to spare so you can truly enjoy yourself and be fully present with your loved ones (without relying on coffee or energy drinks)!  XO!

*EXTRA TIP: Take your Multi, and especially the B-12 (and other B-Vitamins), in the morning because they can be stimulating to the system...and we NEVER want to interfere with a good night's sleep!


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Find Your Happy Place - From Bliss to "Trouble"...and Back Again

Last week officially earned the title of “Best Week of Our Lives” as a family.  As far back as my son’s memory goes I have been “sick.”  Though it has presented gifts as well, he has missed out on a lot because of it, and one of the things he had never known is the experience of a true family vacation.  For a long time I just wasn’t strong enough or well enough, and then there were all of the new allergies and sensitivities to consider.  What about food?  What about chemicals and environmental triggers?  Could my body handle a flight?  Could I stay in a hotel room?  So many uncertainties, so much doubt, but I held on to the dream that my son would experience Disney World and that I would be there to see it.

About a year and a half ago, at the urging of my health coach, I made a “Vision Board.”  I know that there is a lot of evidence that envisioning yourself well and doing the things you long to do as a fully healthy person can boost healing, but it can feel unrealistic and far away when you can’t even get out of bed.  However, I did it.  I vividly remember placing a picture of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World on my board and then cutting out a family picture to paste in front of it.  As we stood in front of the castle last week FOR REAL, it was not lost on me that what I had envisioned for myself, and had hoped and dreamed of, actually came true.  I cried many tears of joy and gratitude throughout the week.  I felt like an Olympian who had repeatedly envisioned their best performance winning them the gold, now standing on the podium in victory.


My "Vision Board" from 2014

My first "surreal" glimpse of the castle!

































The nitty-gritty truth of it is that eventually I got myself to a point where I just said, “This may be as good as I get…enough with my life being on-hold.”  I took a chance, took a leap…and I started to plan a trip to Walt Disney World in August of 2015.  Between the time of that decision and actually leaving last week there were many ups of excitement and anticipation, as well as downs of doubt and worry about it being a potential disaster.  The result?  BEST.DECISION.EVER!  It was literally the best I have felt in many, many years.  I set myself up for success…talking with the dining department beforehand, and asking the resort to use gentle (low chem) cleaners in our room.  We opted for a room with a full kitchen and made a Whole Foods run as soon as we landed.  We also shipped some necessities to our hotel in advance.  All good ideas if you have health challenges and want to optimize your chances of doing well on a new adventure.  Still, that doesn’t account for everything.  I do all of those things, and more, at home and still feel horrible sometimes.  Add to the equation that I walked countless miles, in mid-80 degree Florida heat.  So what gives?  I truly believe that joy can trump a lot of things.  All of the walking and the natural Vitamin D from the sun probably were big contributors, but the happy change of environment, the fun, and the laughter, all while being with my loved ones, were truly the healing medicines.  I also had people praying for me, which you can’t underestimate the power of, either.  The big message here?!  FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE!

We got home last Thursday night, completely exhausted, but still on a high.  It was the good kind of tired…the result of a life well-lived, the feeling of “I did it” coursing through my body and mind.  Then Sunday morning arrived, and my son had a fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, and threw up.  Not totally surprising after airplane travel, not to mention being on-the-go from 9:00AM to 10:00PM every day of our trip, and add to that some different foods than he usually eats.  It's a lot for an immune system, even a strong one.  Long story short, he spent six LONG days hovering between 101 and 102 temperatures, exhausted and uncomfortable.  Like I always do, I pulled out all of my “holistic healing tricks" and went into full-time “Nurse Mommy” mode, but by day four, with nothing changed, off to the doctor we went.  No strep throat…and no answers beyond that.  It could be “the flu” or some other random virus, and if it wasn’t better by the weekend we should go back to see the doctor.  Something I have really struggled with in life (and especially with my own illness) is wanting answers, wanting to figure everything out and connect the dots to complete the picture, so I can come up with a solution and fix, fix, fix.  Also, seeing my son sick is very triggering for me.  As an empath, it hurts me to my very core.  However, this time, perhaps still carrying the joy and “can do it” attitude from Disney, I did what I could do and let go of the rest.  I was able to take a bit of a leap again.  I seized the opportunity to get more snuggles and play more games (like endless rounds of “Trouble").  I replaced my worry and toil with love and fun.  I even used it as an excuse to try some new products (which I always LOVE to do and is why I started this blog in the first place)!  I treated myself to a luxurious new hand lotion bar due to the fact that I was washing my hands raw (check it out - such a cool company).  Again, I found a small “happy place”...this time in the middle of a less-than-ideal situation.


L to R: My favorite smoothie/almond milk company - Jubali's healing mixes; Wedderspoon Lozenges; My favorite digestive bitters-making company (from my home state of Vermont!) - Urban Moonshine's "Immune Zoom" ; Moon Valley Organics Lotion Bar; Trouble Game :-)
You see, anytime we choose to take a leap, trust the process, let go, or search for the positive, we aren’t guaranteed that it is going to work out the way we want, but it makes the journey more enjoyable and helps us learn to be more and more comfortable with the fact that we are never really in control.  Many things could have gone wrong while I was at Disney, but they didn’t…and I would have stayed in my “safe place” and missed out on absolute bliss.  If I am honest, I have had plenty of reactions and miserable times in my “safe place,” and taking the chance to branch out not only brought me joy while I was there but is still unfolding its healing powers as I carry the message “I can” deep in my being.  I have drawn on those memories and how good life can be many times this week while being stuck inside, getting my son through a tough time.  I feel like we spend a lot of life fighting the current, trying to control every little (and big) thing.  This is exactly what keeps us from building resilience, finding peace, and being at ease in life.  Do what you can, and then let go of the rest.  This is not the same as giving up!  When you take constructive action, trusting your intuition and doing what you know to do, then it is easier to accept the flow of what comes and goes.

Take all of that energy that was used for “controlling” and use it for positive waiting and natural momentum.  I can say with absolute conviction that if you want to find health, happiness, or make some other shift in your life, you must have dreams, aspirations, goals.  You need to be as specific as possible so you can “see” it clearly in your mind, and that also makes it measurable so you are able to know when you have made it a reality.  I am not suggesting you do something major and way out of your comfort zone, because sometimes our restrictions (like special diets, etc.) keep us safe and healing.  You need to do things on your terms, and in your time.  I would not have been ready for this a year ago, so the outcome may not have been so profound then.  Just take note of where there is wiggle-room in your life, and how much of what you are doing (or not doing) is out of fear and stories you have told yourself along the way.  Just like a lighthouse provides a guiding point to head toward in the fog, we need something positive to focus on, up ahead.  Otherwise we can get stuck going ‘round and ‘round in the same circle, without even realizing it.  Sometimes for years.

So here is my “travel guide” for finding your HAPPY PLACE in life (no matter where you are right now):

1. Make a goal/aspiration/“Vision Board” - simply put, list some things that you would like to do and that would bring you joy (look at the list/board - and/or meditate on them- regularly), and update as necessary.  I can't tell you what this would look like, because it is ALL up to you and only you!

2. Change/break your routine (even if that means something as simple as putting your left pant leg on before your right) - Switch it up!  It sends a message to your brain that you CAN change.  For me, after years of compromised mealtimes, due to working around a strict medication/supplement schedule, I am moving back to eating at more reasonable times (with my family), and eating when I am hungry instead of waiting for the “perfect” window.  This = a sense of freedom and flexibility again!

3. Change your environment/visual cues - waking up somewhere other than the same four walls and ceiling that I spent years staring at while sick in bed was wonderful!  I realize that not everyone can take a trip, but you can change the pictures hanging on your walls, rearrange your furniture, paint the walls a different color, organize a messy room, or take your meal out on your patio/lawn…you get the “picture!”

4. Get sunshine on your face - even if it means sticking your head out of a window because you can’t leave your house.  DO IT.  15-30 minutes each day!

5. Move your body - sometimes my attempts at exercise have set me back, but the constant movement while walking around the Disney parks almost felt like an “unwinding” of my body.  The more I moved, the better I felt.  First, my left hip got a little tight and achy, and then it popped and the discomfort moved to my left knee temporarily, and then my knee popped, and I felt better than ever…able to do more and more.  It was like by giving my body the movement it was created for it worked itself out.  Walking, yoga, and dance seem to be the best for me and my needs.  I may never be a runner or “Cross Fit” person, and that’s okay.  Even if all you can do is wiggle your toes or pump your ankles from bed or your chair, start there.  Our bodies crave movement, even if it feels like they don't.

6. Spend time with loved ones - this is pretty straightforward, and there is a ton of scientific evidence stating that positive social ties are the most important piece of a healthy life.  To read more on this topic...The Mystery of The Rosetan People & Is The Internet Killing Us? Let's Create Local Soul Tribes That Heal.

7. Take action & let go of the rest (as explained above) - learning to develop and trust your intuition helps with this one!

8. GRATITUDE - acknowledge all victories, big and small.  Don’t let them slip by!  Take a good amount of time to celebrate and honor them, and then set your sights all over again.

MORE THAN ANYTHING, find something exciting, joy-making, that gets you out of bed (showered, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, whatever...) each day.  Realistically I know that can’t be exploring a Disney Park every day, but I am working on building something for myself (in addition to being a wife, mother, etc.) in to my life that makes me really excited to show up and participate in life each day!  Maybe ultimately going back to school?!  Who knows?!  Stay tuned...

"Until next time!"  On to our next HAPPY PLACE!
How about you?!  I want to know!  Keep me posted in the comments section below.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ax Your Allergies

Allergy season is definitely in full swing!  Everywhere I go I hear people talking about it, and that old, familiar "dust" is coloring everything green.  Years ago I associated seasonal allergies with stuffy/runny nose, red and watery eyes, and scratchy throat, but then I really started to learn about the deeper impact allergens can have on the body.

For me, I have less of the "typical" seasonal allergy symptoms, but my nervous system really seems to take a hit.  I experience an increase in anxiety, nighttime insomnia and daytime lethargy, inflammation that manifests as joint stiffness and muscle tightness/spams, headaches and nerve pain, itchy skin/hives, and even raw and irritated spots on my tongue!  Another interesting thing I have experienced is seasonal food sensitivities.  For example, I find that when ragweed is out I don't tolerate foods from the squash family.  After doing research I learned that squash is part of the ragweed family!  There are a lot of cross-allergens between seasonal pollen and the foods we eat, which makes perfect sense.  You can learn more by looking up "Oral Allergy Syndrome."  The most important thing to know is you are NOT crazy!  Always listen to your body for clues about what does (and does not) make you feel your best.  Everything is connected!

Now for the most important part of my post, WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOURSELF!  My personal approach is from a common functional medicine/holistic point of view - to think of my whole system (body and mind) as a bucket.  Once I reach my "limit" of irritants (and my "bucket" overflows) I start reacting to more things and with increasing intensity.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.  If you can pinpoint and remove what is setting you off you will start feeling better and better.  It is like peeling back the layers of an onion, and every little bit helps.

I do not use allergy medication, so here are some super simple, safe, and non-invasive things to try during times of increased allergen/pollen exposure:

1. RINSE: At the end of the day (or whenever I know I am inside for the night) I wash my face and thoroughly rinse my hair to remove all of the pollen my hair/eyelashes/etc. have trapped while out and about.  (When you go to bed with "pollen hair" you are depositing allergens on your pillow only to be breathed in while you sleep.)

2. FLUSH: Along the same lines as above...I use a saline spray to wash out my nasal passages, and I use homeopathic eye drops to clear and cleanse my eyes.  I only use the gentlest products since my irritated system doesn't need anything else to contend with!  Of course you could also use a neti pot, and I am sure they are great, but I have just heard too many stories about brain infection and amoebas!  ;-)  I also gargle with an herbal mouthwash to clear allergens out of the back of my throat (I love this one - Vita-Myr Natural Mouthwash.)

Products I use to flush away allergens!
3. REMOVE: I have a strict "no-shoe policy" at my house for many health reasons (which I plan to blog about in the near future), but shuffling pollen all over the house is one of them.  If you are wearing sandals outside I suggest washing your feet before getting into bed at night, too.  I also remove the clothes I wear outside when I do my "rinsing and flushing" outlined above, and then I put on my "comfy clothes" or pajamas for the afternoon/evening.

4. HYDRATE: Have you noticed a theme yet?  Rinsing, flushing, cooling...hydration is your best friend when it comes to dealing with allergens.  Make sure you are drinking more water than ever this time of year...and then drink some more!  Also, dry post-Winter skin is sensitive, inflamed, and over-reactive.  In addition to hydrating from the outside, make sure you are using a good moisturizer on the outside to lock hydration in.  Try not drying off after your bath/shower and applying your lotion right away to wet skin.  All of this should help prevent allergy rashes/hives.

5.  NOURISH: Diet is also extremely important to keep your immune system at its best in order to manage allergens.  80% of your immune system is in your gut, so gut health is key for allergies!  The #1 item you should consider cutting back on (or dropping) is sugar!  It is an immune-system-saboteur!  Dairy (which is mucous producing) and gluten (inflammatory) are other food categories you might experiment with reducing or eliminating.  Aim to keep your diet on the lighter and "easier to digest" side so your body can focus its energy on proper reaction and repair.  Some ammunition that is particularly helpful when it comes to allergies are - Vitamin C, Quercetin, Magnesium, Omega-3s (like fish oil), Probiotics, Stinging Nettles (herb)...just to name a few heavy hitters.

Excellent tools to nourish the body and build a healthy immune response to allergens!
6. AVOID: I know most of us love the fresh Spring air (especially after a particularly long Winter), but be aware of how much and when you are enjoying it.  If you wish to air out your house, do so first thing in the morning before the heat of the day rises along with the pollen (skip it altogether on particularly windy days).  While you are driving around keep windows closed or cracked instead of wide open, and have your fan on recirculate instead of bringing in the outside air.  If you have pets that go outside, do your best to wipe them down (with a damp towel, wet brush, etc.) when they come in, and try to keep them off furniture - especially your bed!  We also have air filters throughout the house, which help with indoor air quality.

7. BALANCE: I feel like this one deserves a drumroll!  This is the #1 most helpful category when it comes to overall health!  This one I am speaking about from personal experience.  From early on in my healing journey I have known (intellectually) that yoga and meditation have amazing benefits.  However, I only practiced them here and there, and never strictly stuck with them for an extended period of time.  One of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 was to do yoga regularly...and I have been doing it 2-5 times a week ever since!  Then, 8 weeks ago I decided to get back to my meditation practice with complete commitment.  I have spent 20-50 minutes each day resting my mind and nervous system.  The results?!  NO anxiety and very minor allergy symptoms so far this Spring!  I am a believer!  If you take the time to rest, recharge, and reset your system, the benefits will be more far reaching than you can even imagine!  Stress wages a major attack on all systems in your body and increases your chances of allergic reactions, infections, and disease.  Finding a healthy way to manage, and relax, should be your top priority...along with consistently getting a good night's sleep.  Those two go hand-in-hand, and I would argue are way more important than even diet and exercise.  Other helpful alternatives for bringing balance and managing allergies include acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic adjustments, and essential oils (especially a blend of lavender, peppermint, and lemon - I like it in my bath or added to an oil and rubbed on feet, chest, etc.).

Remember, allergies = heat and inflammation.  For people with pre-existing inflammatory issues, like arthritis, this causes problems beyond just the nuisance of a stuffy or runny nose.  The same goes for nervous system conditions, such as migraines, which typically increase during allergy season.  Think of ways to clear, cool, and calm your body and mind.  Your perception also makes a big difference.  Instead of thinking of your body as the "enemy," or that it is failing you/malfunctioning in some way when it overreacts to allergens, take its symptoms as signs that you need to pay closer attention and bring yourself back into balance.  Your body is your friend!  Think of a baby or toddler who is melting down because they are teething and/or sick and haven't eaten or slept well...would you blame them?  Would you yell at them or punish them?  I would hope not!  You would give them extra loving-kindness, rest, nourishment, and problem-solve to find anything to make them comfortable and help them heal.  Apply the same care to yourself when your body "acts out" with symptoms.  It is doing the best it can at any given time and has a lot to deal with in today's world.  You will be pleasantly surprised to find that small acts of self-care make a big difference in chipping away at your allergies!

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*For more information about the various symptoms seasonal allergies can cause, check out the following interesting articles: