Tag: naturopath

Healthier Holiday Treats

Christmas is fast approaching! We are less than 2 weeks out and I’m about to buckle down on my holiday baking. This year my naturopath is hosting her first annual Christmas Cookie Exchange geared towards those with food allergies, sensitivities and dietary restrictions of every kind! How BRILLIANT is that. I think it’s awesome and a great way to include those who might otherwise feel left out around the holidays.

I just ran a couple of test batches of the cookies I will be making and gifting this year. I’ve selected Snickerdoodles and Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies. Snickerdoodles because Christmas and Mocha Chocolate Chip because we all need some chocolate in our lives (do you like how I made that all inclusive? Ok maybe I need some chocolate in my life, at all times…). YUM! The best part? They are both Gluten & Refined Sugar Free, Paleo and Vegan… and they taste awesome!! That’s right, no all purpose flour, butter, eggs, milk, OR white sugar but still delicious.

I use to be a baking machine but when I initially got sick, baking became the least of my worries and was the furthest thing from my mind. When I started feeling better and the urge to bake came back, it became much more challenging to do so because of my newfound dietary restrictions. At first, it was very discouraging. In reality, my experience with and exposure to baking with healthier, alternative ingredients was non-existent and I simply needed a little education on the matter (aka trial and error). 

I’ve tried a variety of recipes from various bloggers over the last year and I’ve struggled to find someone whose recipes could not only suit my ever changing dietary needs but also consistently tasted fantastic (I was a baker and come from a background of sugar and flour, winning combinations in the taste department… I have REALLY high standards with the things I create and refuse to let “healthy” translate to “less than stellar”). If you’re looking for healthier alternatives to your favorite holiday treats, I honestly think I’ve found the perfect girl for you. 

Enter Rachel Connors and her blog, Bakerita. I seriously encourage you to check out Bakerita and the story behind it. I made one of her recipes when I was in Georgia visiting my family over Thanksgiving and was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipe I choose was both delicious AND doable. By that I mean there weren’t any crazy, only going to use once a year ingredients (another pet peeve with health geared recipes… ugh!).

Since nixing refined sugar, I’ve stuck with using pure maple syrup and honey as sweeteners for dessert recipes. I’ve now expanded that to include organic maple sugar and coconut sugar and that opens up the door to things like COOKIES, which really rely on the granulated texture that sugar normally brings to the table. All of the new recipes on Bakerita are gluten, refined sugar and dairy free.

This is a great article on baking with sugar alternatives, if you’d like to learn more. 

Whether you have your own specific dietary restrictions this holiday season, are trying to cook or bake for someone with them or simply want to enjoy food that tastes good and incorporates more health conscious ingredients, you need to know that it is possible and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Last Christmas was an overwhelming one for me on the food front. I knew what I couldn’t eat but I really didn’t have any idea what foods I could eat. By that, I mean I just wasn’t aware of all of the options that are out there – 
in both the sweet and savory departments! – for someone trying to avoid some of the most common ingredients. This year will be a different story for me, and it can be for you too.

Check back soon for a post on pantry staples for health conscious baking!

Gluten Free – by choice?

I do not have Celiac Disease. I won’t even go so far as to say I’m gluten intolerant. I personally know people who have tested negative for Celiac yet a gluten filled meal will send them running for the bathroom or leave them plagued by various symptoms. They might still indulge from time to time but they know the consequences. Thankfully, I have never experienced a reaction that extreme. For me, it’s more subtle and eating gluten free is a voluntary choice.

Last year’s birthday pancakes made from a gluten free mix.

The question of Celiac inevitably comes up, most often by inquiring friends or waitresses when I venture out. My response in the negative is usually followed by a somewhat quizzical look until I explain that I’ve had some health issues and I just feel better when I don’t eat gluten. I make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who respect my choices even if they may not fully understand them and I’ve been fortunate that my family and close friends have automatically fallen into that category.

I don’t make a big deal out of my dietary choices, in fact, my instinct is to stay as far under the radar as possible with things like that. I’ve never been one that likes to draw attention to myself and declining a piece of pizza is definitely attention grabbing. It’s something I’ve had to work on. You playing small does not help anyone. It prevents you from bringing awareness to areas that need it and potentially helping others who might be in the same boat as you.

I still get uncomfortable from time to time talking about my health issues and my food choices. Many people just don’t understand. Judgement has always been a fear for me but one I’ve made great strides towards overcoming and continue to work on. My blog has created a platform that has allowed me to be more honest and more authentic, with others and with myself.

I stopped eating gluten around April of 2017. Both the D.O. I was seeing at the time as well as my naturopath later on, encouraged it. I was experiencing a lot of nausea and stomach trouble and through my research had learned about gluten and at the minimum, the distress it can cause in your gut. Within days of completely eliminating gluten from my diet, my bloating decreased and my stomach issues improved significantly. Coincidence? Maybe. Worth steering clear of most things gluten? For me? Absolutely.

Before we go any further, let’s break it down…

What is gluten? Taken from the Celiac Disease Foundation, simply put, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat… Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.” Wheat, barley and rye are the three main gluten containing grains. Non-gluten containing grains include amaranth, buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff.

What foods contain gluten?  – Some common foods that typically contain gluten include pastas, breads, baked goods & desserts, cereals and sauces. Foods that you might not realize contain gluten but likely do include snack bars, chips, bouillon cubes, salad dressings, chili packets & other seasonings, soy sauce and more. Basically, if it’s pre-packaged, you need to check the ingredients. I was blown away with the amount of food stuff that contains gluten. Foods aren’t the only gluten containing items, many beauty products also contain gluten.

Is gluten bad for you? – I don’t think gluten is inherently bad. Our ancestors ate gluten containing grains for centuries but modern technology and farming techniques have ensured that the grains they ate were vastly different from the grains we eat today. This is a great article that goes more in depth.

Like with anything, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Unfortunately, gluten is now added to almost everything we eat and our bodies are on overload. Because gluten containing foods can be hard to digest, it’s often recommended that those with autoimmune conditions, especially conditions such as leaky gut, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, etc. remove gluten from their diet, at least temporarily.

Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity – There are a wide range of symptoms that can range from stomach issues, nausea, gas, bloating and vomiting to headaches, fatigue, brain fog and joint pain. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to do a quick Google search.

Some additional things to keep in mind:

– Eating gluten free has become so much easier. There are whole sections in the grocery store dedicated to gluten free food stuff, but don’t be fooled. Many gluten free products contain ingredient lists that are ridiculously long and very unhealthy. Aside from gluten free pastas, soy sauce and seasonings, and along with the occasional loaf of gluten free bread, I steer mostly clear of gluten free touting products. I aim for fresh, whole foods instead.

The best salad I’ve ever eaten – spring 2018, Washington DC. Who said gluten free or “healthy” for that matter has to taste bad?!

– Many people think eating out gluten free is difficult and it can be, at first. Once you learn a few tricks of the trade, eating out gluten free will be a breeze. Many restaurants now include gluten free sections or alternatives in their menu. I live in a pretty small town in north central Ohio where gluten free eating is not common. I have not been to a restaurant yet where I can not find something to eat. You might have to modify the menu a little bit (burger with no bun, salad without croutons, an entree with no sauce, etc.) but once you explain your situation, I’ve found most restaurants are very accommodating.

– An at home elimination diet (removing all gluten from your diet for, say, 2 weeks) is a cost effective first step and can be extremely insightful. If you think you may have a gluten intolerance/sensitivity or even Celiac disease and want additional resources and help, talk to you doctor. If they don’t listen, find someone that will.

– I want to add one last point. Aside from gluten, I’ve also removed almost all refined sugar but I think it’s important to emphasize that I don’t view the way I eat as a restrictive diet, I view it as a choice. While I choose to eat gluten free a majority of the time, I will indulge in the occasional gluten containing meal under special circumstances. This might be during a period of travel where an opportunity presents itself to try something that is not readily available back home (such as Maryland crab crakes!). Aside from those occasions, I prefer to eat without.

Those with severe gluten intolerance or Celiac have to eat gluten free. I don’t claim to fall into either of those categories. I eat gluten free most of the time because my body simply feels better without it. Everything in moderation. I enjoy myself and I enjoy my life. For me, as I’ve said before, it’s all about the balance.

More soon on the subject of “labeling” yourself and why that can be a slippery slope. It’s something I’m working to change in my own life and I look forward to sharing more thoughts on it soon. In the mean time, look out for a fun blog in 2 weeks with a gift idea that just might be the perfect fit for those special people on your holiday shopping list! 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Adrenal Fatigue

This week brings us to the last post in the five part overview of my own recent health journey. I appreciate everyone that has followed along and hope that that the telling of my story has offered some guidance and hope to those going through similar things and perhaps some insight for anyone on the outside looking in. Over the next few weeks I look forward to delving deeper into some of the topics that were touched on and much more.

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While I felt much improved after my candida diagnosis and subsequent treatment, things still weren’t great. By the time I went home to Michigan again for Thanksgiving I was seemingly relapsing with more symptoms. Christmas was worse. Once the downhill slide started, as with everything else I had dealt with, it seemed to progress very quickly. For a couple of months I couldn’t do much of anything. Walking through the grocery store was exhausting. I once again needed help looking after my animals. Trips to the barn were brief. I could not get my body out of bed in the morning and everything was overstimulating. The anxiety I was again experiencing was palpable. Night sweats became common, a sure sign that my hormones were out of whack.  After another consultation and test with my naturopath, we confirmed I was suffering from adrenal fatigue.

I think it’s important to briefly explain what adrenal fatigue actually is. Your adrenal glands sit right above your kidneys and they control a variety of hormones. One of the hormones indicative of adrenal function is cortisol. When your body perceives danger (real or “imaginary”) your cortisol levels rise and your body goes into fight or flight mode. Once the danger has passed, your cortisol levels return to normal. If your body is under a constant perceived threat (which could be anything from major relationship problems to the death of a loved one to physical stressors) your cortisol levels are kept at a constantly high level and the adrenal’s ability to regulate other hormones starts to suffer which can set off a chain reaction.

In the morning, your cortisol levels for the day are supposed to be at their highest. That’s what wakes you up and gets you out of bed every morning. From there, cortisol will slowly taper off until nighttime hits and melatonin (your sleep hormone) begins to rise. For someone with adrenal fatigue, that pattern can be seriously skewed. My own cortisol level was not only at its lowest for the day in the morning, it was below the normal range completely. From there, my cortisol spiked around noon, dropped significantly again by late afternoon and then once again started to rise in the evening. I was, literally, riding a wave. My DHEA levels, another hormone produced by the adrenals, was also extremely low.

As with everything else since finding my naturopath, I choose to go the more holistic route with treatment which was basically a combination of supplements and mindfulness practices. I began making a concentrated effort to get to bed by 10pm (I’ll admit, it’s still a struggle), my living and work situation allowed me to sleep in past the point most would be able to which gave my body some of the extra rest it needed, I continued to eat as clean as possible in an effort to reduce the effort my body was required to put forth to digest, and, perhaps the biggest of all was my mental shift, allowing myself to just be. I was so tired of being tired and unwell.

For someone who hates to draw attention and make a big deal out of anything that has to do with oneself, I constantly felt like my body was forcing me to do nothing but that – out of pure necessity. In retrospect, I realize that others did not view me anything like the inconvenience I was sometimes sure I was, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful in the moment. I know that many can relate. You have to make a concentrated effort not to let your mind become your own worst enemy. Your family and friends love you, they want to see you well again and often feel just as helpless themselves. We all need to give ourselves a little break now and then.

Around April of 2018, I started a stronger supplement called HPA Axis Daytime Maintenance, which made a huge difference in my energy levels throughout the day. I started venturing out, doing more things little by little and realized that I could, in moderation. As I improved, the night sweats did as well until they disappeared completely. The palpitations now come only as a warning when I’ve done too much – pushed too hard – instead of as a daily occurrence. I had had so many plans before I started to feel unwell at the end of 2016 and doing things again started to seem possible. I got the urge to travel and moved forward with arrangements, prepared to apply the brakes as soon as my body began showing signs of overload. The timing seemed right to start that blog I had been thinking about for so long, to share my journey thus far and everything I’ve learned with others. To start a conversation, maybe plant an idea or two.

And here I am. For six weeks this summer I enjoyed island life in Canada on Prince Edward Island off the coast of New Brunswick (reference the Anne of Green Gables books for those familiar). I’m so much better in so many ways but my body continues to remind me not to get lackadaisical, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. In a continued effort to heal my gut, I recently took a food sensitivity test to try and more easily identify the foods that could be causing an inflammatory response in my body. My next focus will be to take out those foods for a period of time and then slowly reintroduce them. I’ll also be retesting soon to see where my levels are with my adrenals. For now, I’m enjoying my ventures into new territory and the elusive, ever changing quest to find – and keep – the balance.

Next week: Learning to Love the Process 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Finding a Naturopath

In spite of the new challenges my allergies and the onset of asthma (that I covered last week) presented, summer came, the tests and doctors visits slowed down and it felt good to get outside. I was still having a lot of GI problems and was growing frustrated with the symptomatic treatment I was receiving from doctors. No one seemed to think that my sudden outbreak of symptoms and issues were related. To me it was a no-brainer. I was being treated and medicated for each symptom on its own but what about the cause??

Per the recommendation of the allergist, I bought a HEPA air filter and some allergen proof mattress and pillow covers that spring… I was doing my best to cover my bases!

Summer time meant warm weather up here in the Mid-West and ICE CREAM. Like ice cream every day. At least, multiple times a week. I might have an ice cream addiction, okay? Well, it’s not that bad but it’s a personal favorite and finding little enjoyment in much else during that period, I indulged in it.

Around this time, my mother told me about a conversation she had had with a doctor who had recently partnered with a business that my parents co-founded, called Bonvera. She had told him about myself and everything I had been dealing with. He had started a revolutionary clinic in Wichita, Kansas called Prairie Health and Wellness that offers a monthly membership and takes a multi-faceted approach to health and healing. It was too bad I didn’t live closer to his clinic, he had told my mom, there were a number of tests he would have run right off the bat that a typical doctor most likely wouldn’t.

One of the doctors in his practice is a licensed naturopath, something I hadn’t even considered up until that point. After deciding that moving to Kansas for a short time was just not practical, I decided to look into the possibility of seeing a naturopath. I honestly didn’t know much about them and had certainly never been to one before; I didn’t even know if there were any remotely close to where I live.

Lo and behold a quick Google search revealed not one but many naturopath’s in the state of Ohio and several with-in a 90 mile radius. I quickly educated myself as I narrowed down the results to one who I hoped would be a good fit for my situation. Not all self proclaimed naturopath’s have actually had formal training, I learned. There are only 7 accredited naturopathic medical programs in the United States and only 22 states currently recognize licensed naturopaths. I noticed that Ohio was not yet one of them.

What does this mean? It simply means that even if your ND (Naturopathic Doctor) has had formal training (which was important to me), if they are practicing in a state that does not recognize that training, they have some restrictions placed on them. They are more than qualified to practice medicine but they will not be able to accept insurance and they will also not be able to write prescriptions, if they are needed. They can however, still order a large variety of home based test kits depending on what your situation calls for. Overall, I’ve come to think of it more along the lines of a consultation.

Initially, I was a little taken back by the fact that my visits would all be out of pocket and the initial consultation costs were around $250. But honestly, what did I have to lose? I had already spent thousands of dollars (after insurance) on doctors and tests that, in the long run, did not seem to be doing anything for me. I felt like if anything, I was being pushed along on a sideways trajectory. I wanted up and out. I wanted answers. I wanted to feel better again, and if this had any potential to be the answer to my prayers, I wasn’t going to let another couple hundred dollars deter me. What is your health, sanity and quality of life worth? I couldn’t put a price on it.

I began taking more notice of the foods I was eating. I felt like crap already and didn’t need junk food to drag me down further. I found comfort and enjoyment in healthy, nourishing snacks that not only tasted good but didn’t make my body feel worse.

I finally settled on Dr. Maleigha Watts of Toledo Naturopathic. Dr. Watts has a very professional website that clearly states her views on medicine and her belief in the use of both traditional and non traditional methods depending on what the situation calls for. She isn’t against using medications if they are necessary. She also offers free 20 minute phone consultations with potential patients so you can both get a feel and assess if you’d be a good fit for each other. Many of the other naturopath’s that I looked into offered something similar. After my initial consultation with Dr. Watts I had no doubt.

I scheduled my first appointment with Dr. Watts and was amazed when she spent an hour and a half during my first visit asking various questions about my physical and mental health history, dating back to childhood. She is usually scheduled out a month or more in advance for the initial consultations – it’s worth the wait, trust me. The best part? She listened. I mean truly, sincerely listened to what I had to say and to the concerns that I had. Dr. Watts has a beautiful way of making you feel at ease and in every appointment since the first, I walk away feeling refreshed and reinvigorated with a renewed sense of direction and understanding. I left that very first appointment on a high, both physically and emotionally, already so very grateful for what would become a game changer on my journey towards health and healing.

To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a licensed naturopath near you, click here.

Next week: My Journey Through Health and Healing: Candida Overgrowth