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Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part one: getting blood sugar under control

Originally published Jan. 30, 2013.
heal the thyroid naturally

WHY?!?!

Why does every health issue in my life necessitate cutting out and cutting back on sugar? Heh.Years ago I told a coworker of mine that I wouldn’t cut back on sweets and sugar unless someone told me that I’d die if I didn’t. And while I won’t die tomorrow, due to eating sugar, it was slowly destroying my body.

I don’t eat near as much sugar as I used to, but I could definitely focus a bit more time on making sure my meals are well-rounded, so as not to give me problems with my blood sugar balance. Because of my many, many years of too much sugar consumption, this area of my body is weak and very sensitive to a lot of sweets and refined carbs.

As Americans (and you Canadians and other international readers that live in ‘modern’ countries) we are addicted to sugar. My (free) Sugar Detox Challenge is insanely popular this time of year as people try to tame their sweet tooth yet again. And I won’t lie and say I don’t have a taste for the stuff, I still very much enjoy some of my old favorite treats; when they’re around it can be extremely difficult to keep my hand out of the bowl.

Dr. Kharrazian  has an entire chapter in his book about taming the sugar beast, and states.

“My experience shows that attempts at successfully managing a person with hashimoto’s or functional hypothyroidism are futile as long as he or she indulges in a sugar-laden high-carbohydrate diet.”

Come to find out, an increase in the consumption of sweets not only directly affects the production of our reproductive hormones, but also affects the production of thyroid hormones. Because the endocrine system works as a whole, and not separate from each other.

One of the problems is when we do indulge, our pancreas secretes insulin into the blood stream to deal with rising glucose levels. Once this happens the glucose level drops, causing low blood sugar, which then causes the adrenals to go in to their “fight or flight” mode. The adrenal hormones help to bring the blood sugar back up to normal levels, and these hormones cause stress in the body.

When all of this is happening in the body, because it’s important for our survival, the rest of the hormone production takes a back seat.

“Dysglycemia is a condition loses the ability to keep blood sugar stable………….it’s effects on adrenal function are at the heart of numerous health imbalances that frequently end in hypothyroidism: Dysglycemia weakens and inflames the digestive tract, weakens the immune barriers of the gut, lungs, and brain, drives the adrenal glands into exhuastion, sets the stage for hormonal imbalance (PMS, PCOS, miserable transition into menopause), clogs the body’s attempts at detoxification, impairs fatty acid metabolism, and fatigues metabolism.” – Dr. Kharrazian.

Low blood sugar, or reactive hypoglycemia (reacting to foods consumed), hypoglycemia, and insulin resistance all affect the adrenals, and therefore the thyroid as well.

So how do you begin to control and balance your blood sugar?

  1. Cut out all refined sugar and severely limit sweets. It’s best to cut out all sweets entirely until you’ve been able to control your cravings. (if you’re having a tough time cutting out sugar, you can download the Sugar Detox challenge for free once you subscribe to the newsletter)
  2. Start your day out on the right foot; with a protein rich breakfast. Skip the cereals and coffee, instead focusing on a healthy protein source like pastured eggs or grass-fed sausage. Carbohydrates are important of course, they are an essential nutrient, but have them as a small side instead of the main dish. I also find that eating a breakfast like this ensures that my hunger doesn’t come back ravenous in just a couple of hours.
  3. Stop drinking coffee. Whether or not the actual caffeine in black coffee affects your blood sugar levels, I know from personal experience that it plants the seed for craving sweets as the day goes on. Plus, caffeinated drinks are hard on your adrenals.
  4. Include quality protein, fiber, and good fats in every meal or snack always and along with any carbohydrate consumed. People who have issues with their blood sugar regulation may find that eating a small amount of protein every few hours is very helpful at first.
  5. Do you ever get tired after you eat? I do sometimes! And it’s not because you ate too much turkey, it’s because you ate over your carbohydrate limit. Each of us have a set amount of carbohydrates that our bodies can handle and it’s really important to listen to the cues of our body and pay attention to how much is too much for us. Because all the dietary advice in the world (low-carb, high-carb) isn’t going to help until we can figure out what our bodies need. So if you feel fine before and while you’re eating, but get very tired about an hour later, you may have consumed to many carbs. Make a note of what meals make you sleepy and after a couple of weeks you should be able to figure out your carbohydrate limit. (as a side note – food sensitivities also show up as sleepiness and lethargy after eating, so if you ate a lower carb meal and are still tired, figure out what ingredients were in that meal and try cutting them out for a week before reintroducing. Common sensitivities are dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy)
  6. Do not eat sweets before bed! Dr. Kharrazian mentions that this is one of the worst thing you can do, and it makes complete sense. When you eat a high carbohydrate meal, or indulge in desserts, your insulin level will rise to counteract the blood glucose level, which will then drop to low. When this happens you still have hours to go before your next meal, so the adrenals have no choice other than to begin producing hormones to help fix the problem. (3am wakenings or restless sleep is often tied to blood sugar and insulin issues)

In his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” Dr. Kharrazian has a fast for unwinding insulin resistance that you may find beneficial if you have a bad case of insulin resistance. Magdalena’s Thyroid Detox Program also addresses the blood sugar issue.

But otherwise focusing on making sure your meals consist of vegetables, meats, and some fruit will go a long way in helping your body learn to better control your blood glucose levels.
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 today for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

The Thyroid Tests You Need to Ask Your Doctor For

Originally published Jan 24, 2013
thyroid testsAfter all of this research on how to heal the thyroid naturally, I keep coming across the idea that most doctors don’t order the tests that you really need. I’d been having a hard time believing that, I mean…….MOST doctors don’t know what lab tests to run?

Hmmmmm.

But as I kept reading, I’ve found out that it’s because it doesn’t matter what some of the other numbers are. All the treatment options are the same; medication until the organ completely stops working. And then more medication for life. Or until your diet and lifestyle help heal your thyroid and the medication is no longer needed.

I’ve also had many, many conversations with all of you through email and facebook, frustrated because you also feel like junk, but either your lab tests are “normal” or because you’re not feeling better even under the care of a physician. And in those conversations I’ve found that what I’m reading is true! (I’ve even had multiple people tell that that their doctors told them to stop coming back over the issue because there was nothing wrong with them!) Many doctors aren’t testing the thyroid the way it needs to be tested.

Not MD’s, not OBs, and not even RE’s.

That doesn’t mean that your doctor wouldn’t think to run them – it just means that there are doctors out there who don’t.You can also ask your doctor to run specific tests and any good, patient-minded doctor, should be more than willing to help you get to the bottom of your issues.

After our first post in this series, I hope you’ve called your doctor’s office and gotten your lab test results and written them down, because today we’re going to talk about WHAT you need tested. And if it hasn’t been done, it’s time to call them back and ask for more labs. We’ll also look at what the functional ranges for each are, as most doctors look only at a pathological range. (meaning that you could be within a range where you aren’t totally diseased, but also not feeling well)

Five tests for thyroid function

1. TSH

The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is released from the pituitary gland when the levels of T4 drop. It’s one of the most sensitive markers for thyroid function and is commonly the only one tested. Though since it’s the pituitary gland that secretes TSH, it’s more of a marker on pituitary function, and how the pituitary is reacting to overall health. From many women I’ve heard from, by the time their TSH was enough out of range to get treated medically, they were in really bad shape.

Functional Range – 1.8 – 3.0 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 0.5 – 5.5 mU/L

Most laboratories also give different ranges, as they all take an average of the tests from other people that come to their lab. So if you live in an area where hypothyroid is quite common (like here in Michigan!) the ranges could be quite wide. My labs range was actually .35 – 4.94. I have noticed though that many doctors are starting to look more at the functional ranges, which is a good thing. But again, just testing TSH is a poor indicator of overall thyroid health.

2. Free T3

This tests for the available T3 in the body, and since it is active thyroid hormone, is a good marker for how much of the hormone is accessible to your body and its cells. “Free” refers to the hormone in it’s unbound state, instead of when it is bound to proteins and being transferred through the body.

Functional Range – 300 – 450 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 3.0-4.0 pg/ml

3. Free T4

Again, this tests for the unbound T4 in the body. While inactive, this hormone is converted by the body into the usable T3 hormone.

Functional Range – 1.0-1.5 ng/dl

Typical Lab Range – 0.7 – 1.53 ng/dl

4. Reverse T3

This lab test checks for any reverse T3 that the body produces; this can take place because of extreme stress or trauma.

Functional Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

Typical Lab Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

You can then figure out the ratio of free T3 to reverse T3 at Stop the Thyroid Madness. This way you can make sure that even if your labs show up as “normal”, that everything is functioning as it should.

5. Antibodies

Usually checking for multiple antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase) TGB (thyroglobulin). Sometimes a lab is run for thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies if Graves disease is suspected.

An antibodies check is HUGE. Why?

Because if it shows positive, you have a confirmed auto-immune disease. Your body is attacking itself and causing major damage to the thyroid. And some experts state that up to 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism are due to Hashimotos. Dr. Kharrazian also mentions that he will test a person twice (especially if they are on a gluten free diet already) if he suspects Hashimoto’s because the immune system fluctuates.

Other Important Labs

Thyroid labs: There are a few other thyroid labs that Dr. Kharrazian lists in his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?”, though the ones listed above are a really good start.

Adrenal Cortisol Levels: done by a saliva test, not a blood test.

Vitamin B12: B12 is a vitamin which has a key role in red blood cell metabolism of your entire body, giving you energy, sharpness in your brain, and healthy nervous system functioning. (source) Functional ranges in the US are from about 200 – 900, but other countries use 500-600 as a minimum. (mine was 380 and my DO wants to see it at 700)

Vitamin D3 (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test…): We’ve talked a little bit about the role of Vitamin D in fertility and this is an overall good thing to check for everyone. Especially those who live in the mid to upper states or spend most of their days indoors. Functional ranges are 50-100, with most people feeling better around 75.

You can also find a few more recommended lab tests at Stop the Thyroid Madness.

Finding a lab

Many of us have decent medical insurance where many, if not all, of these lab tests are fully covered. Or at least covered with a copay. Not me, I have to pay for diagnostic tests. And I’m sure many of you may have issues paying for all of these lab tests too!

One of the online groups I’m part of mentioned a private lab, located throughout the states, that will run lab tests without a doctor’s prescription. Here’s a list of labs you can check with – make sure to call as I found out there were more locations than stated on a couple of these sites! Another bonus is that most of the time these labs are much cheaper than the laboratories your doctor may send you to.

HealthCheck USA – 1-800-929-2044

This was one I was referred to and they had a location closer to me than listed. While I didn’t use them (over an hour and a half away, I may use them when I want to get everything rechecked in a few months to save some money)

They have labwork specifically designed for readers of Stop the Thyroid Madness, as noted by STTM before the test name. Click here and find a discount code on STTM!

My Med Lab

You have to sign up to view the site, but comes recommended by STTM. Also has STTM specific lab tests.

Direct Lab

A discount lab where you can view your results online. Again, has STTM tests.

 

So for those of you who have your test results – did you have the proper tests done? And if so, how do your numbers look on the functional range guidelines compared to the pathological/typical lab ranges?

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if 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!

Symptoms of Thyroid Disorder

Originally published Jan. 22, 2013

natural treatment for thyroid disordersThyroid disorders seem to be on the rise in modern civilization, but why? And how do we know if it’s something we deal with?

As many of you know, I’ve been basically feeling like crud for the last year. I’ve very much had feeling of depression and anxiety along with major fatigue and insomnia. I also think it’s probably something that’s been lingering for many, many years, yet only showed up in full force after my miscarriage.

I now am a believer that stress can cause or multiply health issues.

I’ve always dealt with many of the symptoms, but they’ve never interfered with my life before. Or they came and went within weeks/months. When I switched to a whole foods diet most, if not all of them, went away. But then I got too busy for my own good and had to have the help of a chiropractor friend to help pull me out of adrenal fatigue, and felt well afterwards.

But this last year has been a bugger of a year, as symptoms of a thyroid disorder showed up more and more. As a mom of young children, I shrugged off the fatigue. I mean, all moms are tired right? And the feelings of depression and anxiety could be related to the miscarriage and grief. Yet deep down I knew there was something else wrong.

My much awaited lab results showed me just that. And I have a feeling that many of you may also deal with thyroid issues and just don’t know it. Or maybe you’ve been tested and your doctor told you that everything was “normal”. Even when you feel that it’s not.

Thyroid Basics

We will just discuss the very basics of thyroid function, as to cover it all, we’d need to write a book!

The thyroid is a small endocrine gland, just above the adam’s apple in the throat, consisting of two parts. To me it sort of looks like a butterfly. An ugly one. This gland takes in iodine and produces thyroid hormones. Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their own metabolism. It detects shifts in body chemistry (chronic blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalances, chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, liver congestion, poor digestive health, or even the use of hormones, synthetic or bio-identical) and helps the body compensate for them.

But the thyroid does not act alone. As with everything in holistic health, we must also look at how it functions along with other parts of our body. According to Datis Kharrazian in his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?“:

  1. The hypothalamus sends thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) to the pituitary. (this is basically the thermostat regulator in the body)
  2. The pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland, giving it the signal to produce more hormones.
  3. TSH stimulates thyroid peroxidase (TPO) activity to use iodine to create T4 and T3 hormones. 93% of the thyroid hormone production is T4, an inactive form which needs to be converted by different organs in the body. 7% is the usable T3. These hormones hitch a ride in the bloodstream on thyroid-binding proteins to the cells that need them and can convert the T4 to T3.
  4. 60% of the T4 produced by the thyroid is converted to T3 in the liver by an enzyme called tetraidothyronine 5′deiodinase. Another 20% of the T4 is converted in the digestive system via the sulfatase enzyme which is present in healthy guts.

Common Symptoms of HYPOthyroid (under active thyroid)

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low basal body temps and/or low temperatures throughout the day
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Morning headaches that go away throughout the day
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight easily
  • Sensitive to cold weather
  • Constipation
  • Digestive problems
  • Poor circulation
  • Slow wound healing
  • Need excessive amounts of sleep
  • Gets sick often (colds or viral infections)
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Dry hair that breaks often, or thinning hair
  • Thinning of the outermost part of the eyebrow
  • High cholesterol

What happens in the body when you have hypothyroidism

There are actually different ways that hypothyroid happens in the body. Sometimes it’s because the pituitary senses the thyroid isn’t doing it’s job correctly and produces more thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Other times the pituitary is fatigued and not able to produce the TSH to signal the thyroid how many hormones to produce. Another pattern of hypothyroid is the inability of the body to convert T4 to T3 because of excess cortisol or chronic inflammation.

Some women with high levels of testosterone may also find that too much T4 is converted to T3, causing the cells of the body to become resistant to the hormone and not allowing it entry to do its work. (most often found in those with insulin resistance and PCOS- per “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?“)

Symptoms of HYPERthyroid (overactive thyroid)

  • heart palpitations
  • heat intolerance
  • nervousness
  • fast heart rate
  • hair loss
  • muscle weakness

What happens in the body when you have hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a medical term that basically means your thyroid is producing to many hormones so you have to many thyroid hormones for the cells. This could be due to the thyroid getting the signal to produce too much, or the inability of the cells to absorb the thyroid hormone.

The following may also indicate Hashimotos, an autoimmune thyroid disorder:

  • heart palpitations
  • inward trembling
  • increased pulse rate, even at rest
  • feelings of nervousness and emotional distress
  • night sweats
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • people with Hashimoto’s also tend to go back and forth between the symptoms of hypo and hyper thyroid.

What happens in the body when you have Hashimoto’s

This is an autoimmune disease where your immune system is actively attacking your thyroid, destroying it. It is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism, some sources stating that up to 90% of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. This causes the thyroid to continue to lose function, eventually not working at all. It can cause hypothyroid symptoms  and then can change to hyperthyroid symptoms as a “flare-up” destroys the thyroid tissue and hormones stored in the gland flow into the bloodstream. Once these hormones get into the bloodstream, the body’s metabolism speeds up, and a person will experience the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

The good news

You don’t have to live your life feeling like junk; depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and overweight. There is hope for fixing thyroid issues without lifelong medications, and in the following days/weeks, we’ll be talking about ways to heal the body and focus on supporting your thyroid.

Have you had your thyroid checked? Your homework for the next couple of days is to call your doctor and get your test results. I cannot stress this enough! You need to find out your numbers and have them tell you exactly what thyroid hormones were tested and what ranges they used to decide what “normal” function is.

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!

The type of awareness I feel Endometriosis really needs

(by contributing writer Melissa)

Photo by Wendy Dyer Photography

Photo by Wendy Dyer Photography

It was Endometriosis Awareness Month last month and I was hugely honoured to be part of a massive Endometriosis March campaign around the world. It was also incredibly sad to hear from so many women who are struggling so deeply with this condition. I heard so many stories of women having Hysterectomies and countless surgeries and their bodies don’t feel any better off or in some cases, they even feel worse.

I feel that the kind of awareness we should be spreading about Endometriosis involves more than just surgery and hormone treatments as options to deal with the condition. Doctors have a hard time understanding the condition and focus solely on the hormone irregularities of the condition. To me, this is simply dealing with a symptom of Endometriosis, rather than actually getting to any sources of imbalance or where any form of healing can begin.

I wish the awareness included more of the benefits that have been indicated in using natural and holistic approaches for Endometriosis. Awareness about how our diet and our nutrition influences our health, awareness about how exercise influences our health and awareness about hope and possibility with the condition.

So many messages about Endometriosis focus on the limitations of the disease. That there is “no cure” and that we need to just deal with the pain. Messages are about “fighting” and “coping”. To me, the message should be about EMPOWERMENT. Empowering women to overcome the inflammation, reduce their pain and think positively about the condition. Endometriosis actually provides us with a wonderful opportunity to change how we treat ourselves and our bodies. We can finally give it the respect it deserves! This is done by giving it the right foods, thinking the right things and being nurturing and caring towards it.

I once got an email from an Endometriosis Association about my message on my blog. They indicated to me, that I should not give women “false hope”, that I was doing more harm than good by indicating women could do something for themselves and their Endometriosis. This was really concerning to me. I don’t believe there is such a thing as false hope! I believe we can feel better with Endometriosis. Thinking that we are downtrodden, stuck and limited in our choices is far more damaging, in my opinion.

Sometimes it feels like I am fighting for Women’s Liberation with my cause to help women with Endometriosis. I feel like there is a huge disservice towards women and the way the condition is being handled. Women are being chopped up and their bits burnt away far too easily. Their poor bodies are put through so much unnecessary angst and pain. It fills me with such sadness when I hear of cases of women who are only 22 years of age, having Hysterectomies. It is a procedure that seems to be recommended far too easily, without much thought on the emotional or physical consequence of it all.

Receiving Awareness about Endometriosis is incredibly powerful and I feel it is a worthy message that needs to be heard by so many people within our communities and organisations. The condition has been dismissed for too long and it is great to see real acknowledgements of its severity around the world. I just hope, the message carries with it, the power of empowerment to go with it.

Why we keep quiet about infertility

(by contributing writer Amanda) 

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 20-26, a week in which many of us in the infertility community commit to sharing our stories, spreading awareness, and bringing much-needed attention to the disease that affects an estimated seven million Americans.

But some who carry this burden – who walk this journey, do so silently, quietly, and mostly alone. Infertility is an isolating journey, and many choose to walk it alone. Their friends and family members are often left with unanswered questions, wondering what to say, how to help, and what it’s like. And they wonder why? Why will my loved one not let me be a part of this journey?

Every journey is different, every heart shatters into unique pieces. I can only share from my own experience, but perhaps my own struggle will shed a glimmer of light onto the struggles that others face as they walk this lonely journey.

Why We Keep Quiet About Infertility

why we keep quiet about infertility

1. Making a baby is (usually) a very private experience

We are keenly aware that most couples are able to create new life together without an audience. Babies are made in secret, in those intoxicating moments of love and passion. When a couple experiences infertility, those secret moments of passion are often replaced with gut wrenching moments in a doctor’s office, with doctors, nurses, and receptionists taking a gander at charts and medical tests and all things that once were private. Passion is replaced with frustration, love is sometimes overshadowed by fear, and what once was sacred and private becomes another statistic. We feel that invasion of privacy so deeply.

My husband and I battled infertility for a couple of years before we ever opened up about it – even to family. Clinging to what semblance of privacy we could, we guarded the sacred moments between husband and wife, even the ones in a sterile, cold doctor’s office. We tried to protect our hearts by keeping private those things we inherently know are supposed to be private.

2. You have questions, but we don’t have answers

Infertility introduces a crushing number of questions for which we rarely have answers. My husband and I were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, so we quite literally had no answers for most of our questions. Not having answers to our own questions is brutally painful, and not being able to answer your questions has its own pain and frustration too.

We know you have questions, and we know that most of your questions come from a place of love and concern. You want to know how we’re doing, but most days we really don’t know. You want to know if we’re okay, but sometimes (most of the time) we aren’t. You want to know how to help, but really, you can’t. You want to know why we don’t have babies, so do we.

For many, it is easier to journey silently and alone than it is to give the same answers (or lack thereof) over and over again. The “I don’t knows” and fragile facades of “I’m okay” wear us down and remind us of the never-ending heartache.

3. We feel our barrenness in our souls

I speak here as a woman of faith battling infertility. Christian couples facing infertility often feel barren within their soul. We question God’s plan, we wrestle with God’s will, and in our darkest moments we doubt God’s love for us. After all, God’s Word is clear that children are a blessing from God; so we wonder: is lack of children a curse from God?

Every Christian couple who battles infertility will do so on a spiritual level. Some will do so much more gracefully than I did. My faith was shaken to its core, and I often wrestled with God out of anger and rage. It was ugly and my heart was raw. And for a long time I was unwilling to be vulnerable with my friends and family about my bitterness and anger. Most of us don’t want to air our spiritual dirty laundry for others to see.

Perhaps you are the loved one of a couple facing infertility. Remember that they are on a journey of grief, and there is no wrong way to grieve. I hope you know that you are a much needed source of strength and encouragement. You have the ability to offer comfort, even when you don’t know what to say. I challenge you to value their privacy, to honor the way they have chosen to journey the path of infertility, to do what you can to protect their hearts.

Do you silently struggle with infertility? What are your reasons for staying quiet?

The top lab tests for fertility: part 1

Written by contributing writer Bridgit.

If you are ready to do a fertility check-up, you may be wondering where to start.  Today I’ll start with the best first lab for women, and next month we’ll talk about the guys.

A CBC ‘With Extras’ for Her

I think the best place for women to start is with an easy, peasy blood draw.  When you analyze blood work with a functional medical lens, it can tell you quite a bit about your health.  And when you order those tests with fertility in mind, you get a great base to get started on your fertility journey.

Here’s what to get:

top fertility tests for her

  • CBC with differential
  • vitamin D
  • Fasting glucose (you need to have not eaten)
  • HA1C
  • TSH
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • TPO ab
  • TG ab
  • free testosterone

These tests will inform you about anemia, digestion, immune activity, liver, thyroid function, autoimmune hypothyroid and blood sugar/ PCOS.

But here’s the thing; your doctor may not be willing or able to order and/or interpret these tests for you. You can certainly ask your GP or GYN to order these tests, and you may have better luck with your endocrinologist or RE.  But many physicians are not trained to order or interpret blood work from a functional medicine perspective.

There’s no reason to get upset if you can’t get these tests this way.  We can’t ask physicians to suddenly practice in a way they are not trained for, and we can’t ask them to utilize your insurance benefits in a way that they can’t justify.

So what can you do?  You can order through directlabs.com and then set up an appointment with someone trained in functional medicine (either as a virtual/online consult like I do) or through a qualified local naturopath trained in functional and fertility medicine to have the results analyzed.  I think you’ll be quite surprised by what you haven’t learned through your labs thus far!

You can usually use your health savings account (HSA) to pay for these non-covered medical expenses, so that’s something to think about for next year if you don’t already have a HSA.

It’s worth the time and money to get this information so you can create a clear plan, based on fact, with your qualified practitioner.  And then you’re really on your way to making that baby!

What are your questions about labs?  I’m always happy to help!

6 tips to balance adrenal fatigue naturally

(by contributing writer Nichi)

Notice how you feel when you read through this list:

  • Long hours at work
  • Exhaustion of parenting wee ones
  • Living with teenagers
  • Relationships
  • Your annoying co-worker
  • Emotional stress
  • Bad food choices: coffee, sugar and highly processed foods
  • Traffic
  • Lack of sleep
  • Illness and disease

Are you stressed out yet?

What about when your alarm goes off in the morning and you either jolt upright out of bed or do the hand-scramble as you flop it around feeling for the OFF button?  No matter which way you respond to that morning alarm clock, your heart is now in your throat and we start out day exhausted and with an adrenaline rush all at the same time.

How to balance adrenal fatigue naturally   www.naturalfertilityandwellness.com

Working with clients on adrenal fatigue is a multi-faceted approach, AND, balancing it naturally via managing your lifestyle goes a long way.

Now, I can’t do without my Drenamin a lot of days, which is a raw organic supplement that contains whole food ingredients that support my whole body in dealing with adrenal fatigue.  That being said, a specifically clinically designed nutrition protocol is what I am in and it’s the whole versus the part that supports me.

The adrenal glands produce hormones in our body that help us respond to stress.  I personally notice a link with my blood sugar metabolism and immune response when my adrenals are suffering.

When you don’t have supplementation available to you, you can seek out the support of a Nutrition Response Testing practitioner, Naturopath or Acupuncturist and they will create a protocol just for you.

In the ‘meantime’, you know, that space between when you decide to take a step toward seeking support and when you actually do, there are a few lifestyle management tips you can implement to soften the sharp rise and fall.  I always say it can make the difference between feeling like you’re on the G-force roller coaster and the old wooden roller!

6 Tips to Naturally Balance Adrenal Fatigue

  1. Implement a healthy sleep rhythm-settling into bed at the same time every night and rising at the same time every morning quickly establish a cadence your body will soon drum to.
  2. Drop the refined and processed food and opt for whole foods.  At least commit to this for one meal/day.  Perhaps begin with lunch-opt for the salad bar, add a boiled egg and grilled chicken instead of the drive through McSandwich.
  3. Cut sugar.  I know, you’re so sick of hearing about sugar as begin a culprit.  Don’t even get me going.  Just. Cut. It. Out.  It’s in your soda, in your bread, your cereal, your candy, your juice, your granola bars and cookies and fat-free this and low-fat that.  In just about everything that says “no sugar added”, they are just substituting it with an ingredient you can’t pronounce and thus don’t know it’s sugar.
  4. Drink water.  Replenish your cells, please.  They are so thirsty and they try to tell you, but when you listen, you’re actually hearing that you’re hungry.  You’re not.  Often when we are thirsty we are already dehydrated and we opt for food instead.  Drink half your weight in ounces per day.
  5. Turn off the screen.  I get you’re reading this on a screen, AND, I urge you to turn them off at least 30 minutes prior to sleep at night and read a book or take a bath instead!
  6. Practice relaxation.  Whether it be sitting on a bench at the park, taking a restorative yoga class or participating in a meditation course, you need to implement relaxation into your life.

Combat adrenal fatigue naturally
Now, I can relate to all of this.  In the past year I have struggled with adrenal fatigue and candida.  I did a candida cleanse during the summer, which took away the fog and the need for adrenal support.  My acupuncturist requested I turn my brain off at 6pm every night.  I agreed upon 8, then after seeing how much better I felt, I quickly took on the 6pm cut off.

It feels awesome.

I am very ready for bed by 9:30/10 and am very ready to jump out of bed by 5:30 the next morning.  I feel rested and peaceful and my skin glows.
Relaxation to me sounds like this: “I’ll just go for a 4 mile walk today instead of 5.”  That exercise is great and all but is not a practice in relaxation.  What I do is put myself into a book that has exercises for me to follow, or listen to meditation cd’s that require me to practice a visualization for even just a few minutes per day.  My weekly Higher Brain Living session does wonders as well.

Now that you know how to balance adrenal fatigue naturally while on your way to the support of a practitioner, which step will you implement today?

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Three Recipes using abundant spring asparagus

Written by contributing writer, Renee

Three Recipes Using Abundant Spring Asparagus  www.naturalfertilityandwellness.com
It started snowing the week of Thanksgiving where I live, and I haven’t seen our grass since. After a long (and I mean LONG!) winter, seeing our farmer’s markets open, and abundant bundles of spring asparagus pop up makes every last ounce of winter blues melt away!

West Michigan is known nation-wide for our abundant asparagus in the late spring, and every April and May I load up our house with green goodies bursting with spring flavor.

We eat pretty seasonal, so after our long winter I can’t tell you how *good* asparagus tastes!!!

Roasted asparagus is a great start. If you have never had asparagus before, I would start here! The flavor is incredible, and the recipe is very easy. Serve it along side beef roast and potatoes, or a roasted chicken and squash!

Three Recipes Using Abundant Spring Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1-2 lbs asparagus, coarse ends cut
  • 2-4 TB friendly fat to roast in (butter, coconut oil, lard, bacon grease work great)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional but so good!)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Toss the asparagus with the friendly fat, garlic, and seasoning on a sheet pan and spread out evenly.
  2. Roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. I love the little tree tops a little “crispy” so sometimes I go a little longer – all in your preference – check them around the 20 minute mark in case you want them less “done”.

Asparagus soup is a great way to take advantage of end of the season “sales”. Right around the end of May when the asparagus season comes to a close, the farmers at the market start selling their asparagus bundles super cheap. As in usually half the cost per pound and even less if you buy them in 10 pound groups. So what do I do with all that asparagus? Soup! This soup freezes up so great. And you can make large batches that you can stash away so that late fall or early winter you can pull it out for something different to have!

Three Recipes Using Abundant Spring Asparagus

Asparagus Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3-4 TB friendly fat to cook in (butter, coconut oil, lard, bacon grease)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (just coarsely chop - it will all be pureed anyway!)
  • 1 ½ quarts chicken stock (homemade preferable for extra nourishment and to avoid BPA)
  • 4-5 small red or yellow potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bunches asparagus, hard ends discarded, coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Garnish with sour cream or coconut milk if you wish
Instructions
  1. Saute the onions in the friendly fat over medium high heat for about 5-10 minutes with a couple pinches of salt to bring out their juices and sweeten.
  2. Add the garlic and cook a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the stock, potatoes, and asparagus and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the asparagus and potatoes are cooked through.
  5. Use a handheld blender or regular blender to puree the soup smooth. Add salt/pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with sour cream or coconut milk if you wish.

Asparagus stir frys SO well. The flavor is amazing, and you can pair it with other spring favorites like peas or radishes. If you have those really thick asparagus stalks that have a bit different texture (in my opinion!) you can shave the spears with a peeler and it makes perfect stir fry veggie additions!

Three Recipes Using Abundant Spring Asparagus

Spring Veggie Pasta (Grain Free Option)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ package of brown rice pasta (if you are grain free you could use chopped potatoes)
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1lb), coarse ends removed, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 large tomato, seeds and juices scooped out and chopped (could do halved cherry tomatoes!
  • ⅓ cup reserved starchy liquid from cooking the pasta (I cook my pasta in stock for more nourishment and so my liquid is stock too but water works as well)
  • 1 ½ cups cheese, shredded (Raw cheese preferable. Otherwise stick with organic right off the block – shred your own – the pre shredded cheeses have too many unnecessary additives. If you are dairy free - just leave it out! It will be just as good with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil!)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Optional extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over top to garnish
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta to al dente and set aside. Reserve about ⅓ cup of the starchy cooking liquid for the veggie mixture sauce.
  2. Saute the onion in a few TB of butter or coconut oil and a pinch of salt for a few minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  4. Add the asparagus and another pinch of salt and cook on medium high for a few minutes until bright green and slightly tender.
  5. Add the peas and tomatoes for a minute or two and then add the starchy pasta liquid.
  6. Simmer the mixture about 5-10 minutes and then pour over the cooked pasta.
  7. Stir in the cheese until melted and is combined with the sauce making it creamy.
  8. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

 

What are your favorite ways to use up your spring asparagus?

The decision of trying to conceive during chronic illness

(written by contributing writer Jessica)

All of my life I dreamed having a large family. I must have been sheltered because I never once remember hearing things like ‘miscarriage’, ‘PCOS’, or ‘chronic illness’. I thought if you wanted a baby, you would have one.

My bubble of security was busted after my first miscarriage. My feelings were all over the place, but fear of never having a child ranked high up in my list of worries.

A few years down the road, I also never imagined I’d have to weigh my health into the equation about the decision of trying to conceive.

the decision of trying ton conceive during chronic illness

The decision to wait until I’m healthier has been a heart breaking one, that included a lot of prayer and conversations with my husband. It is a joint decision that we pray is the right one at this time. Our hearts are ready to try but my body is not.

Chronic illness, in many cases is a delicate balance from day-to-day depending on the condition. A delicate balance that pregnancy can completely offset.

How do you decide if it is the right time to try to conceive when you are managing a chronic health condition?

 Here is a brief list that helped me to logically see the answer that was right for us.

Prayer. 

Prayer is the first step that our family uses when making a decision.

What does your doctor say?

While I don’t think your doctor is the end all be all in making this decision, they should have an educated opinion on how your condition is going to effect a pregnancy and your baby. They may also have helpful things to do to get your body ready to try to conceive. The other great thing about doctors in this situation is they do not have the same person feelings invested and can give you a logical look at things.

How would your illness effect a pregnancy?

Some times the chronic illness itself until controlled can negatively impact a pregnancy and the baby. Or, will the supplements or medications you need daily have an effect on the pregnancy or baby while in the uterus? These are two things to heavily factor into the process of deciding if it is the right time to try to conceive.

How do you feel?

If you are in mid flair or experiencing a lot of symptoms, how would a pregnancy effect that? I know in my heart right now that a pregnancy would add a very large burden to my already very taxed body. I would be short-changing a new little life and depleting myself of already scarce resources.

What is your time line for healing?

What if by waiting a few months your body can be more fully loaded and healed to take on the burden of a pregnancy? It’s good to have a goal and then prepare the body for pregnancy.

There are so many things to weigh when making a the decision to try to conceive while you are manage a chronic health issue. It’s even more tough when your heart is already longing for a child. However, taking the time to heal and get your body in shape is only going to help pave the way for a healthier you and pregnancy.

What are some of the things that you had to consider when making the decision of trying to conceive during a chronic illness?

 

 

 

One simple way to raise your BBT (basal body temperature)

(Written by contributing writer Natasha)

One of the first things you’re told to do when you start working on fertility issues is to track your BBT (basal body temperature). Several years ago I started taking mine and immediately I had an issue. The handy little chart the doctor gave me? It didn’t go low enough. With the numbers starting at 97.0 and my temps ranging from 96.3-96.5, I was thoroughly confused.

Eventually I realized that my low BBT was a common aliment amongst those struggling with infertility. But what could I do about it?

one way to raise your basal body temperature    www.naturalfertilityandwellness.com

For seven years I tried numerous “treatments,” including, taking thyroid boosting herbs and supplements (like kelp), exercise, and natural progesterone.

After years of work, I was able to raise my BBT to 96.7-96.9. Better, of course, but still not stellar. However, by this time I was thoroughly sick of looking at unchanging temperatures and left my thermometer to gather dust in my bedside drawer.

Several months ago I went to a seminar about health and wellness. It was excellent and afterward I spoke with the speaker for a brief period of time. I mentioned some of the issues I have with losing weight and he made a suggestion. While I had been told that eating a “good healthy breakfast” would help me lose weight, he suggested pushing my first meal back until later in the morning.

“Our bodies need adequate time to digest our food,” he told me, “and if your body struggles with the normal routine of things, making sure that you have a 13-15 hour ‘fast’ in every 24 hour period can make a huge difference.”

The idea was simple: make sure there are around 14 hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal in the morning.

It’s not hard to implement and completely flexible. (If, for example, you have late dinner the night before, just push your breakfast back until 10 or 11 the next day.)

It sounded like the easiest diet in the world, so I immediately started. Around this time I decided to begin taking my BBT again. Imagine my complete surprise when my temperatures almost immediately zoomed up! Since I made this one simple switch, making sure there is always a 14 hour break from dinner to breakfast, my BBT has held steady at 97.3-97.5 with an ovulating temp at 98.0-98.3.

When I researched online, I found it has already been documented that this simple change does raise your BBT, but for some reason I had overlooked it.

I feel like I have been handed a lifeline, one that frees me from swallowing handfuls of kelp capsules and remembering which days to apply progesterone.

Do you have a low BBT? What are the tricks and thoughts you’ve learned in the process of trying to raise your temps?

 

For more on raising your BBT:
Naturally Warmed Up, How to Raise Your Basal Body Temperature

 

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