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Summer Berry Harvest : How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
(Written by contributor, Renee)

This is the time of year that people just crave fresh produce. I love eating seasonal. When summer hits, my body hasn’t had fresh strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or raspberries since the previous summer, and I just savor them more. I enjoy them to the fullest!

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
If you are so blessed to live in an area where farmers open their fields up to let you pick your own produce, take advantage! The prices per pound are drastically cheaper than what you are going to find at the store – and even the farmer’s market. And the experience is one you will look forward to every year. If you are unsure of any U-Pick farms in your area, I found THIS site quite helpful in locating the ones around me.

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
Here are some ways to take advantage of your local U-Pick season:

    1. Resist the urge to go on the first day of picking. The picking will be easier and more abundant about a week or so into the picking season for most things. In my experience the only exception would be cherries, whose season is only about a week anyway so go as soon as those are ready!
    2. Plan on going first thing in the morning, especially if you live somewhere very warm. This is not only to ensure you don’t overheat, but you will avoid all the late morning and afternoon bug pests. And especially with something like strawberries and cherries that get picked over very fast, you will be getting the best of the best.
    3. Bring your own containers. When I go in, I’m going for a haul. I’m talking 40 pounds of strawberries. 60-70 pounds of blueberries. I don’t want little pint containers. I want buckets that I can easily carry, and that hold a lot without damaging the fruit. Big plastic buckets, old plastic ice cream containers, etc work well. Some U-Picks offer decent containers you can borrow. Just check if there is a limit or a price on them.
    4. Plan to go on a day when you have time to tend to your haul right after picking. You don’t want to go picking and then let it sit in your garage or home for the next day or so until you can get to it. You want to come home right away, get them washed up, and prep them for what you plan to use them for. A simple wash I like to do is just plug up your sink and start filling with water. Add in a few big shakes of baking soda and vinegar with a squeeze of a full lemon and swish it around.
    5. Freeze, freeze, freeze! Do you know how much frozen fruit costs at the store? A lot! Get that fruit up on some baking sheets after you wash them, and freeze them flat. Once frozen you can dump them into plastic freezer bags and stack them up in your deep freezer. Use them for your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or baking. You will never have to buy another freezer bag of fruit!
    6. Dehydrate! Wash up part of your haul and get them right onto your dehydrator trays to go for a few hours. Store the dried berries in airtight containers to add to your granola, oatmeal, yogurt, or trailmixes. If you don’t have a dehydrator do them on the lowest setting in your oven. I only recently got a dehydrator and have done them in the oven for years.
    7. Jam! I’m actually not much of a jam maker, although last year I did make blueberry jam for the first time and it was the most amazing thing I ever tasted! Hit up Google – there are many recipes using natural pectin, or even no pectin, and all using either very low if any sugar or natural sweeteners like honey.
    8. Eat them fresh. There is just nothing like fresh picked fruit. You can make your fruit last longer by giving them a quick baking soda and vinegar bath. Eat up all you want while they are in season! That is what they are there for! Stock your body up on the antioxidants so you have a storehouse once the long winter sets in.

So tell me! What do you go picking this time of year?

Three natural tips to overcome insomnia

This is a Type-A Parent paid post to discuss sleep issues, and to share a new insomnia resource from the National Sleep Foundation.

dealing with insomnia

There’s no sugar-coating it, insomnia stinks.

Through my life I’ve had plenty of nights here and there where I didn’t sleep well. Usually it had to do with something I ate or drank, sometimes due a stressful situation, and other times due to taking a nap during the day. So when I dealt with chronic insomnia I didn’t really know what to do.

Of course the worst part was that I was completely fatigued and had major brain fog during the day so I had a hard time following through on any treatment protocol I thought of.

It began with my miscarriage almost three years ago. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (which is very common due to emotional and physical stress as well as the hormonal changes) and within a month or so I was also waking up each night only a couple of hours after I had fallen asleep. This went on for a year and a half, five hours of sleep was a good night. I was a walking zombie during the day and it was affecting just about every part of my life! I was grumpy to those I loved, scatterbrained and forgetful, and so consumed and overwhelmed with my own life I was a horrible friend.

Over the course of about two months, following the tips below, I was finally able to sleep again, getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

1. Get tested

I always knew that some nutrients are associated with a good nights sleep, but I figured that wasn’t my problem as I ate quite a healthy diet. But in my quest to figure out why I always felt so horrible my doctor ran a myriad of tests. Come to find out, I was deficient in both Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D and began supplementing right away.

It wasn’t a quick fix, but within the first week I began to remember my dreams again, something I hadn’t done since my miscarriage. I also felt like the sleep I was getting was a better quality, deeper sleep. So if you’re dealing with insomnia, make sure to check with your doctor and get tested for common nutrient deficiencies.

We also found through testing that my thyroid was running on the slow side and my adrenals weren’t functioning very well at all.

If you have chronic stress in your life, it’s probable that you might be dealing with adrenal fatigue, with insomnia being one of the major symptoms.

2. Go to sleep earlier

Going to bed early has been a difficult thing to do in many seasons of my life, whether it’s dealing with a baby/young child or staying up late to work and write. I was really good at trying to squeeze in a few extra hours to my day and after bedtime seemed like a great way to do it. Especially when I was most likely dealing with minor adrenal fatigue in the beginning and my second wind (boost of cortisol) hit me around 11pm. All of a sudden I had plenty of energy, a clear mind, and a quiet house.

I knew that going to bed earlier was probably going to be helpful, but I began to experience that 11pm wakeup, even when I went to bed 30-60 minutes earlier. What I found was that I needed to be in a deep sleep by that time for my adrenals to chill out and rest as well. So we began going to bed by 9:30pm most nights and that seemed to take care of my inability to fall asleep as well as waking up soon after I fell asleep.

3. Cutting back on night snacks

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but I began to sleep so much better after giving up my nighttime snacks! Granted, I still snack at night sometimes, but when I was still dealing with middle of the night waking (I woke around 2am and couldn’t sleep again until 4am) it was immensely helpful to not snack at all, especially anything heavy or in mass quantities.

I do know that the body works to repair and detoxify at night and when it’s busy digesting it may not function as well as it needs to in other areas. My body may have needed that time of rest so that it could fully heal. So for a couple of months I made sure I ate dinner before 5:30 to make sure digestion was well on its way before I fell asleep.

 

Of course, there were other things I did as well, like:

  • cut out caffeine
  • light exercise in the morning when possible
  • no napping after 11am
  • no sweets after lunch
  • limited my schedule to allow for extra rest for my adrenals

I still have nights of insomnia, but instead of every night, it’s only once or twice a month. I finally feel good and can think a lot more clearly!

How have you dealt with insomnia?

natural tips for insomnia
Be sure to check out a new resource from the National Sleep Foundation at sleepfoundation.org/insomnia – a good place to start if you think you have insomnia or aren’t sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation is your trusted resource for everything sleep – understanding how sleep works & why it’s important, learning healthy habits, creating a relaxing bedroom & bedtime routine, & finding solutions to your sleep issues.

Gluten-free rhubarb pie

(Written by contributor, Jessica)

Well, it is finally spring! It seemed to take extra long for this past winter to end.

I have been patiently, well really not so patiently, waiting for warmer weather that would start to bring in local produce. One of our first crops in my garden is rhubarb.

Gluten-free rhubarb pie

I remember when I was little I thought rhubarb was the most disgusting thing ever. That is, until I had a really awesome rhubarb pie!

Most rhubarb pies have had an ‘eggy’ feel and I just can’t stand eggy! This recipe is just right.

It is also not overly sweet and combined with the tart rhubarb, it is just right.

If you need a pie crust recipe, check out this one I posted earlier. It is gluten-free but you can also sub cup for cup white flour if you are not a gluten-free family. I am a big fan of the Namaste gluten-free flour blend, I can get it at Costco. And, as much as I love Bob’s Red Mill products, I do not enjoy the gluten-free flour mix for a pie crust.

gluten free rhubarb pie

Gluten-free rhubarb pie
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp. of gluten free flour*
  • 1½ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 2 Pie Crust
Instructions
  1. Stir flour and sugar together.
  2. Add egg and beat thoroughly.
  3. Fold in rhubarb
  4. Pour into pie crust and top with other pie crust.
  5. Pinch together edges and put a few slits in the crust to allow pie to breath.
  6. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 50-60 more minutes. (If you didn't use my gluten free pie recipe your pie may be done sooner as butter crusts take longer to brown)
  8. * I use a gluten free flour mix but rice flour with xantham gum works just fine.

Another really helpful tip I always follow when baking a pie is that I line my oven with foil or bake on a baking sheet. It never fails, that when I forget to do this, my pie leaks all over my oven. I have much better things to do than clean my oven, so I opt for foil!

I’d love to hear from you, what are your favorite ways to use rhubarb? 

Gluten free pie crust

(Written by contributor, Jessica)

Homemade pie crust…those words make people cringe. I. have. been. there.

I’m in the kitchen, covered with flour and a pile of dough that was supposed to be a crust. There is nothing more frustrating than disasters in the kitchen.

gluten free pie crust

And, agh, pie wasn’t even worth my time. It’s never been a favorite of mine. I am a dessert kind of girl but other than a mandatory slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I could pass it up.

Until I had a pie crust made with butter….oh.my! Total bliss! I have never had a pie melt in mouth like that.

It takes a bit of time and patience but once you get the process down, pie crust isn’t so intimidating.

Gluten Free Pie Crust :recipe:
 
Gluten Free Pie Crust
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups of gluten free flour mix
  • 2 tbsp. of evaporated cane juice crystals (This is optional)
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 sticks of COLD butter
  • 6 tbsp. of very COLD water
Instructions
  1. Mix salt, flour and sugar
  2. Cut butter into flour until mixture is course.
  3. Slowly add cold water, a little at a time until the dough pulls together
  4. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your counter and your rolling pin.
  5. Cut dough in half and roll out one crust at a time.

A few helpful hints: 

Make sure your butter and water are COLD! If they are room temperature, it’s hard to get the right consistency and then it’s easy add too much water.

Add the water a bit at a time because the amount used is never quite the same, depending on the temperature and weather.

If your dough get a bit too warm, put in the refrigerator to cool off a bit before rolling out.

When rolling, keep your pin covered in flour.

To pick the dough up after rolled out, gently roll it over your pin and then unroll over your pie plate.

You can use a food processor, it makes it easy to see when you’ve add enough water if you pour it in while the mixer is mixing because you can see it pull together. However, the pie crust will not be as flaky.

gluten free pie crust

Once you have the pie crust in the plate and ready to go, place the pie in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking. It makes for a more flaky crust. (This is a tip from my Grandma.)

While this may seem like a lot to remember, once you get going, I think you’ll find it easy. And pie crust is forgiving!! I have had many a pies pieced together looking kind of funky…but, if your pie tastes good, believe me, nobody will care! ;)

What are your favorite tips for making a good pie crust? 

My favorite gluten free/egg free muffins

gluten free/egg free muffins

Enjoy a morning brunch with muffins on the porch, while the weather is warm. Also, great for travelling and easy to pack.

I was super excited when I discovered that I could use Chia Seeds as a replacement for Eggs. I love eggs but often times recipes can call for up to 4 eggs in one dish and this can often feel like far too many eggs for one sitting. (yes, I have been known to eat an entire batch of muffins in one day!)

I have always had a problem with Chia Seeds. Though I know they are super nutritious and have heaps of Omega 3 in them, which helps with inflammation and pain (if you have Endometriosis,then this is a really good thing!), the trouble was that I didn’t like the texture of them. They turn into a “gooiey” kind of consistency. It is this same “goieyness” which makes them fabulous for the digestive lining but personally I just struggle with it. With these muffins, at least you don’t physically feel that “gooieyness” on your tongue and it is this same texture and ability of Chia Seeds which allows our muffins to hold together.

I have also been Gluten Free for about 3 years now and it was imperative that the muffins had no gluten and even better, preferably no grains at all. I have found an unbelievable about of relief within my own healing journey with endometriosis and the removal of gluten. Gluten created such a huge amount of inflammation and digestive issues for me, that I used to have a tummy that looked like I was 3months pregnant. I used to believe it was just because I suffered from Endometriosis but the reality is, that my tummy is now completely flat – no bloating or inflammation thank you! I know there is a huge correlation with Endometriosis and eating gluten, so if you are still eating it and you suffer with bloating or Endometriosis, then it is a great idea to cut it out.

The rest of these ingredients are common things you would find in your home. I asked my husband, who was also a chef for 20years, to help me create these muffins. He is very fussy about what he eats and even if it is super healthy, he won’t eat it if it doesn’t taste good. So, the fact that he absolutely loved these, is a sheer indicator as to how good they are.

Hope you enjoy them and add them into your day.

My Favourite Gluten Free Muffin Recipe - No Eggs either!
 
This is super easy to make - just need some waiting time for the Chia Seeds to do their thing :) Also, easy to find most of the ingredients.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch
Serves: 12 Muffins
Ingredients
  • 4 Ripe Bananas (the riper the better - they become sweeter with age)
  • ¼ of a cup of Chia Seeds
  • 1teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
  • ⅓ cup Coconut Oil
  • 11/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • ½ cup Coconut Flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • Coconut Flakes for decoration
  • *Optional Walnuts and/or extra honey if your Bananas are not quite ripe enough. I would usually add about ½ cup of Walnuts and maybe 3-4 Tablespoon of Honey.
Instructions
  1. Get your ¼ cup of Chia Seeds and fill the rest of the cup with water. Stir in the Chia Seeds so they are not just floating on the top. The idea is to get the Chia Seeds to absorb the water. This makes them lovely and sticky, giving the same binding texture as eggs. This should take around 15minutes - you may want to leave and come back to making the recipe after it is ready.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the cinnamon, coconut flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. Mush your Bananas with a fork or a Potato Masher. Add the Chia Seeds, Coconut Oil and Vanilla Essence. *If you live in a colder climate, melt your Coconut Oil first by placing the container in a little hot water for a few minutes.
  4. Mix everything together. Since there is no gluten or eggs in this recipe we don't need to stick with the traditional way of beating in one "egg" at a time but can just mix it all in really well. If you are adding in Walnuts, you should ideally pre-roast them in a pan, on the stove (no oil) for a few minutes. This just takes the bitterness out of the nuts. Add them in at this stage of the recipe.
  5. Prepare your Muffin Tray by rubbing in additional Coconut Oil and ensuring it is well lubricated to avoid sticking.
  6. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased muffin tin. (coconut butter or butter work great)
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until browned.

Baby Steps to Going Gluten Free

I look at the two top reasons why, in my practice, women take on a gluten free lifestyle.  They have either realized an intolerance exists and are eager to shed the layers of inflammation, chronic pain, excess weight, acne, depression or infertility, OR, they have read a compelling article, blog post or book giving them studies and reasons why a lifestyle free of gluten is a good shift to make.

There have also been women who call me with this request, “Can you help me figure out my food thing?”.

To which I reply, “Your food thing?”

And then I hear, “Yes, my food thing.”

Upon further conversation we find that these women are making lifestyle changes left and right that aren’t rendering results worth staying committed to.  What I find is they go dairy free because a friend is doing it or they go gluten free because their mother suggests it.  A few days or weeks in they decide eliminating dairy isn’t working so they reintroduce dairy and cut sugar.  This is crazy making.

One recommendation I give to women like the above is to see a holistic practitioner who does food sensitivity testing so they have data to back up of “what’s so” with their body.  I also recommend she choose ONE THING and stick to it.  Sticktoitiveness is one thing missing in our culture of healthy lifestyle change.

 Gluten Free loaf of breads on display in a health food shop.

Some things may change right off the bat, folks, such as more energy and better sleep, and, they may not.  Change takes time.  Have you ever seen a caterpillar turn into a butterfly with the snap of a finger?  It’s the same with celebrities.  We think their fame happens over night, and that’s just not the case.

When taking on lifestyle change, going cold turkey is fine for some and others find baby steps are the path to take.

3 Different Baby Steps to Going Gluten Free

1-Begin with allowing one serving per day of gluten.

You quickly realize just how much gluten you are getting on a daily basis when you have cereal and/or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, crackers as a snack and pasta for dinner.

Choose one time to have your gluten containing food during the day.  Maybe you have toast for breakfast, a slice of turkey wrapped around a cheese stick with veggies for lunch and rice pasta for dinner.   Or a smoothie for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and bun-less burger for dinner.

2-Substitute for Gluten Free Products

I’m not a huge fan of bringing in a substitution for everything gluten in our lives.  It’s just not a healthy way to go, AND, you have to start somewhere.  Simply eliminating the gluten from the beginning is a step in the right direction, however, when replaced with gluten free high starch replacement foods, you’ll likely find yourself with the same complains and concerns in a short period of time.

Perhaps you replace your morning Brownberry Bread with an Udi’s Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin bread, enjoy a salad for lunch and grilled chicken breast with asparagus and sweet potatoes for dinner.

If pasta is your thing a few times per week, use a quinoa/brown rice pasta as a substitute.

Initially if grabbing a bag of gluten free cookie mix meets the needs for the office day goodie tray you are responsible for on Fridays, then do it, however, because of the sugar content, you might want to bring a bag of apples next time or find a healthy gluten free cookbook that introduces you to cleaner baking and cooking such as Nourishing Meals by Tom Malterre.

3-Start with One Meal per Week

Another way to slowly change over to gluten free eating is to take one meal at a time, one week at a time.

For the first week tackle breakfast.  You can have gluten free oatmeal, scrambled eggs, smoothies, egg bakes, sausage, gluten free granola and even gluten free waffles for your morning meal.  Continue eating your lunch, dinner and snacks as usual as:

a) get familiar with eating breakfast every day and reap the myriad of health benefits that comes from that, and

b) get more comfortable with broadening your horizon with the morning meal.

Now that you’ve tackled breakfast, continue your successful work there and add your mid morning snack.  Great and easy ideas for this include nuts/seeds/dried fruit, veggies and hummus, apples and nut butter or cheese and gluten free crackers.

Once you’ve accomplished that for a week, include lunch.  You’ll soon realize you get full off a small scoop of tuna salad without the bread and fresh vegetables with an orange, or the salad bar, a stir fry or a simple yogurt and berries bowl.

You’ll continue this to include a mid afternoon snack, then move on to tackling dinner. After 5-6 weeks you will have shifted from a diet that contains gluten, likely at every stinkin’ meal, to a lifestyle of gluten free eating.

 
Photo Source

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Allergen Friendly :: Natural Fertility and Wellness

(By contributing writer, Renee)

One of my favorite things about summer is berry picking! We live in a pretty perfect area for berry harvests as far as growing conditions go, and I take advantage of it!

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
Just about every month from June until September a new harvest arrives from June strawberries to late August and September raspberries. By the time fall arrives, I have a freezer full of various berries to last us through winter.

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
Hopefully we will start seeing strawberries pop up here soon, and besides freezer jam, dehydrating some, and freezing them for smoothies, I’m planning making a few batches of these breakfast cookies. I took my original breakfast cookie recipe and made it fit the season! They turned out so great, and they individually wrap up for the freezer so good! Perfect pull out breakfast on the go.

Happy berry season to you!

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • • 1 cup pureed strawberries, plus ⅓ cup chopped strawberries (will need a little over a pound of strawberries)
  • • ½ cup coconut flour
  • • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • • ¼ cup white rice flour (If you are grain free, use ¼ cup blanched almond flour or another ¼ cup tapioca flour)
  • • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (If you are egg free use ½ cup applesauce or banana to bind, or egg replacer)
  • • ½ cup crispy almonds, crushed (OR get blanched almonds to crush, OR use blanched almond flour. If you are nut free use crushed sunflower seeds)
  • • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
Instructions
  1. Combine everything EXCEPT the chopped strawberries in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Fold in the chopped strawberries.
  3. Make palm size balls (size of about a racquetball) and flatten into 1 inch discs on to a silpat lined baking sheet (or parchment paper lined). They don’t flatten out so make them about the size you want.
  4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

So how will you be using your strawberry harvest up this year?

Top Labs Tests for Fertility :: Part 2

In last’s month article, we talked about the best first lab test for women trying to get pregnant.  If you missed that article, you can see it HERE.

Today we’ll discuss the best first lab test for men, the complete semen analysis.

super sperm

The quality of the semen is the end product of a healthy body and reproductive system.  Healthy sperm reflects a healthy amount of testosterone, a low degree of oxidation and an undamaged testicle.

As far as when to get a semen analysis, the decision is up to the couple, but here are some things to consider:

1.  A semen analysis is fairly inexpensive and non-invasive, and can rule male factor infertility ‘in or out’ quickly.

2.  There is no sense putting the female partner through a prolonged period of treatment without knowing if the male is also in need of treatment.

3.  It takes 3 months of treatment to fully effect the sperm.

4.  Men over 38 have a greater chance of oxidative decline of the sperm, although younger men can be effected as well.

5.  Early or repeated miscarriage is possibly due to male factor.

6.  Semen analysis tells you how the outside of the sperm looks.  This tells you a lot, but you need a SCSA test to see the internal DNA quality.

The best way to have your semen analyzed is through a reproductive medical clinic.  Your local HMO may not be able to run the complete tests, and may not have the most advanced equipment.

You don’t just want to get your sperm concentration and volume tested, you also want:
1. motility and forward progression
2. vitality
2. morphology
3. agglutination
4. white blood cell count

And then you want to get this analyzed by a practitioner such as myself.  There is a different standard used for IVF treatment than natural fertility, and you probably prefer sperm healthy enough for natural pregnancy.

Once you know if there is an issue, there is a lot you can do to improve sperm quality.

 What are your questions or insights about male factor fertility?

 

Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part four: the adrenals

Originally published March. 2014

We’ve already talked about how blood sugar balance, digestion, the liver and detoxification can affect the thyroid, but there is one glaring fact that I’ve meant to get to. Except that the last couple of weeks have been a bit more stressful than normal and I’ve been dealing with some crashes myself due to…..

Adrenal Fatigue.

If you’ve been a reader here for a couple of years, you may remember when I was actively trying to heal my adrenals. For six months I worked with my chiropractor and supplementation as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

I saw great results and within about 6 months I was feeling a million times better, had plenty of energy, and all around felt good. That all ended a few months later as I dealt with the physical and emotional stress of a miscarriage and has carried on for over a year.

I tried my darndest to get my health back, but I just couldn’t fix myself this time. I tried everything I had tried before; desiccated adrenal supplements, vitamin C, no caffeine or sugar, lots of rest, reducing stress. Last fall I kept trying to make it in to my doctor’s office, and in November and December I took most of that time and stayed away from my computer, focusing on my health and my family, but something was still not right. I just couldn’t get over my fatigue.

And while my original lab tests (for vitamin D and B12 and a full thyroid panel) were back at an earlier date, I was just able to meet with my new holistic doctor and go over my lab results for the 24 hour adrenal saliva test. The appointment in which she told me that my adrenals suck.

 adrenals


Ok, so maybe those words are mine.

But my cortisol levels are extremely low throughout the entire day, which is the reason that some mornings take what seems to immense strength just to get out of bed. Or you know….deal with people.

So, soon we’ll be getting into a bit more about recovering from adrenal fatigue and I’ll share a bit more about what I’m doing, but today let’s just chat a bit about why the adrenals affect the thyroid.

Because sometimes the thyroid is low, or not functioning properly, and it can instead be traced to the adrenals. And most medical doctors don’t test the adrenal hormones.

In fact, mine thought it was silly that my new doctor requested the lab test and said it wouldn’t really help, so there wasn’t a lot of reasons to spend the money to get it done. (at $175.00 I was actually going to skip it, but for some reason decided on day 20 that I would. It’s a test you do on day 21 of your cycle if you want a bit more accurate results for progesterone/estrogen, etc) This is probably because adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical term, with medical doctors only looking for true adrenal shutdown, known as Addison’s. So adrenal fatigue is often called a “theory” that mostly alternative health practitioners “diagnose”.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

The adrenals are two small glands, one on top of each kidney, and they help our bodies react and deal with stress through the production of adrenaline and cortisol. They also produce other hormones that are precursors to reproductive hormones.

Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ back in the 90’s and it is basically an issue with the adrenals, whether they produce too much cortisol or too little, and the major symptom is fatigue. The direct cause is different for everyone, but it’s brought on by frequent stress, either physical, emotional, or mental.

It’s our bodies fight or flight reactions gone awry.

On Dr. Wilson’s website AdrenalFatigue.org (a wealth of info) he states that:

“With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.”

Some of the basic symptoms listed on the AdrenalFatigue.org website:

  1. You feel tired for no reason.
  2. You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  3. You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  4. You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  5. You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  6. You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.

Other symptoms that could point to adrenal fatigue:

  • weakness
  • low libido
  • everyday tasks take a lot of strength and effort
  • little annoyances can drive you bonkers
  • mild depression or anxiety
  • PMS
  • thoughts are fuzzy/hard to put them together
  • decreased memory
  • allergies
  • decreased immune response
  • insomnia

Adrenal fatigue usually begins with frequent stress and ramps up the cortisol production. “As the adrenal glands become increasingly compromised, it’s harder for them to make cortisol. Instead, extra adrenalin is produced to compensate, which can make us irritable and shaky.” (source)

Adrenal and Thyroid function begin in the brain.

These glands are being told what to produce and how much of it to produce by a gland in our brain called the hypothalamus. I love how WomantoWoman.com describes this action:

“Hormones are molecules released by one area of the body to carry messages to another area in the body. The thyroid’s main job is to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone to “tell” your cells how fast to burn energy and produce proteins. The adrenal glands’ primary job is to produce the right amount of stress hormones that allow you to respond to stress of a zillion kinds.”

You can also check out their info picture and description to get a better idea of how this all works.

When the body is exposed to stress of any kind, the hypothalamus sends out a signal (the corticotrophin-releasing hormone) to the pituitary for the adrenals to increase cortisol. Both the signal hormone and the cortisol can then inhibit TSH as well as block the conversion from T4 to T3, causing symptoms of low thyroid.

In some women, they may also have decreased progesterone levels due to adrenal fatigue as some sources mention that the precurser to progesterone, DHEA (dehydioepiandrosterone). DHEA is used to metabolize cholesterol and make the conversion to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, so poor adrenal function can directly affect the reproductive system.

If you have thyroid problems, most alternative practitioners recommend testing the adrenals and if they are not functioning properly, that the adrenals be properly treated before the thyroid. (of course, thyroid support is essential depending on its function – always work with a doctor or health care professional.) Because the thyroid wont’ function properly no matter the treatment if the adrenals aren’t functioning well.

The issue of adrenal fatigue is one that is, thankfully, getting more and more attention over the last few years. Here are some other resources to help you learn more:

  1. AdrenalFatigue.org
  2. Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st century stress syndrome a book by Dr. James L. Wilson
  3. How adrenals can wreak havoc – Stop the Thyroid Madness
  4. Eating to support adrenals
  5. Low metabolic energy therapies – an in-depth look at the adrenals and thyroid, the differences in symptoms, and the treatments.
  6. Adrenal Fatigue Signs and Symptoms – a metabolic chart
  7. The truth about adrenal fatigue – a look at the connection to the brain (it’s a great article, but please be aware of the scantily clad woman on the screen about halfway down…..wouldn’t want y’all to be shocked!)

I know many of you have dealt with adrenal fatigue, so I’d love it if you could share your story here in the comments of your symptoms and maybe how you began to heal! Patient wisdom is a helpful thing for everyone when we share and get new ideas to research for ourselves.

 
If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? Until May 3, 2014 you can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

Healing the Thyroid part three: the liver and detoxification

Part of overcoming and healing thyroid disorders (as well as any other health issue) is that sometimes you see setbacks. You get better, and then for some reason you may start to feel crummy again.

For me this happened last week. I’ve felt a lot better since my lab tests right before Christmas, more energy, better frame of mind, and my thoughts and projects were much more organized. But after a couple of days of eating some indulgent foods and a couple of late nights, I again began to feel very tired and fatigued.

But I also know that my body is healing, because even after a setback, I’m bouncing back better than I had before. And as an added bonus, I’m beginning to really understand what’s going on and listen to my body. When I’m tired, I rest.

So on to the slightly delayed third part of our series on healing the thyroid. (If you’ve missed the others, you can check them all out here: Healing the Thyroid)

natural heal the thyroid

photo credit

Toxins

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that our fallen world is a bit toxic. Well, depending on where you live it might be more than a little toxic. We’ve discussed much of that here on the blog and in my book I go into a bit more detail on some specific toxins and how they affect our bodies, so I’m sure most of you have a basic understanding of how our bodies become overloaded with toxins.

For those of you that are new to this information, we are often exposed to toxins and chemicals in our environment and they get in to our bodies. Just a few of the ways our bodies are exposed:

  • Mercury from amalgam fillings, coal plants, and sometimes fish.
  • Aluminum from personal care products and cans
  • BPA and xeno-estrogens (synthetic compounds that are similar in structure to our natural estrogen) from plastics, hygiene products and household materials.
  • Synthetic hormones, chlorine, and fluoride in our water supply
  • Pesticides from produce

Our bodies were wonderfully created and have a natural cleansing system to get rid of these things, in small amounts. We detoxify everyday through sweating, breathing, urination, and defecation. The problem comes when we’re exposed in large amounts, or our detoxification pathways aren’t working properly due to poor diet.

The liver is one of our largest organs and its main responsibility is to break down chemicals and toxins through it’s two stage detoxification process, which renders them harmless and secretes them out through our digestive system.

“When the detoxification system is overwhelmed, the liver is unable to remove these harmful substances from our body. These dangerous substances then begin to accumulate in different cells of the body. As more and more cells of the body accumulate these harmful substances, the cells begin to lose their ability to work and communicate properly.

It has been my observation that it is impossible for someone to overcome illness and achieve optimal health without optimizing their detoxification systems.” – Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by Dr. David Brownstein, MD

Dr. Brownstein also writes in his book that he finds heavy metal toxicity in a large percentage of his patients (>80%) and in the case of autoimmune disorders, that percentage is almost 100%. It’s suggested that the metal toxicity causes the immune system to malfunction.

“Mercury has been shown to bind to the thyroid gland and disrupt it’s functioning. Mercury binds very tightly to fatty tissues of the body (i.e. the brain) and to cells with sulfhydryl groups. Many enzymes contain sulfhydryl groups that cause many crucial reactions to happen in the body. One of those is the enzyme that converts the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3, iodothyronine 5’deiodinase*.”Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, pg 256

This enzyme is also dependent of adequate selenium levels, but selenium is also one of the most potent chelators of mercury, meaning it binds to it to assist it’s removal from the body. Sop not only does mercury affect the thyroid directly, it may contribute to selenium deficiency and the lack of T4 to T3 conversion.

(*the book Autoimmune, the cause and the cure also mentions this specific enzyme)

So how do we help our bodies let go of toxicity?

Let me first say that heavy metal toxicity should be handled by a holistic health practitioner. This way they can test you (usually through hair and urine analysis) and observe and guide you through the process. Some doctors choose to use chelation, others may take different steps with supplements and herbs.

1. Get away from the toxins

Reducing our exposure to toxins is extremely important and one of the reasons I choose to use as many natural and homemade products as I can. This helps me to lower the amount of toxins I’m exposed to on a daily basis, because there will always be toxins around that I can not control.

So choosing natural cleaners and beauty products along with getting rid of things like non-stick pans and plastic food storage containers will help lessen the toxic load on the body.

(You can also check out the 31 Days to Cleaner Living if you need some help and/or encouragement in making changes)

2. Focus on food

It always comes down to food for me, it’s the foundation to health! If you can lower the amount of toxins you ingest in the foods you eat by choosing organic produce and meats, you’ll be leaps and bounds healthier in this aspect. But you can also use foods to help support your natural detoxification system as well.

I’ve talked about cleansing with whole foods before, but as a quick overview you can decrease the foods that are either harder to digest OR take longer to digest, (foods like grains, sugar, and animal proteins) and instead increase your consumption of foods that support the liver and bile production (foods like beets, lemon, garlic, and asparagus).

Making sure you’re eating a nutrient dense diet will also help build nutrients that are important in detoxification.

3. Work on digestion

We’ve already covered healing the digestive system, but it’s also important to note it here as well since our digestive system helps us rid the body of toxins, in probably the largest amount compared to our other outlets. When our digestive system is working properly, and we are urinating multiple times per day and having at least one or two bowel movements in the same period of time,  we can be sure that any toxins we take in are being moved out in a timely fashion.

Dr. Brownstein also recommends adequate water intake (between meals) to helps flush out toxins as well as carry nutrients into cells.

Other important aspects

  1. Sweating also allows the body to clear out toxins as well as clear the lymph system. Dr. Brownstein recommends a sauna, especially if a person doesn’t normally sweat.
  2. Herbs can also be effective at helping the body rid itself of toxins and there are multiple herbs to look into. A couple of my favorites for liver support are nettle and milk thistle, though you can also find packaged blends specific for liver cleansing.

Depending on your state of health, cleansing the body may take weeks or even months. And the sicker you are, the more you should work with a holistic health practitioner to guide you through the process.

Have ever done a specific detoxification program or been tested for toxins/heavy metals? Please share you experiences!

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? You can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $79.00*! this week That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!


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