Does our skin always absorb what we put on it?

Have you heard that “fact” that says what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream within 26 seconds? I heard it for years, and I would knowingly use toxic shave cream and body wash and frantically rinse it off before my 26 second in-my-head countdown went off!

Now that I’m more educated on what is safe for our skin, lungs and other organs, I can’t help but laugh at the sheer lunacy of my in-shower ritual.  There is an idea in the clean beauty industry that EVERYTHING we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bloodstream and causes dire health consequences. And that’s simply not true.

 

WHAT IS THE ABSORPTION CAPACITY OF OUR SKINCARE PRODUCTS?

The everyday product I’m most passionate about helping others switch to safer is SKINCARE. Why? Because the average woman uses 12 products on her skin daily which can contain upwards of 100 different chemicals – most of them with little to no safety testing and many of them with proven harmful effects such as immunotoxicity, hormonal imbalance, reproductive/fetal harm, infertility, PCOS, autoimmunity, and cancer. 

 

While 100% of every chemical we put on our skin does NOT reach the bloodstream, many chemicals have UP TO a 60-70% absorption rate (some have a 0% absorption rate or will only be absorbed if skin is broken – i.e. a cut, scrape or open blemish). Each chemical we apply to our skin has a varying penetration and absorption rate. Some chemicals in presence of others increase absorption rate and broken skin significantly will increase rates as well. Molecule size affects the ability of products to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which is why there are certain chemicals we don’t have to worry about being absorbed like gluten (the molecule size in it’s non-hydrolyzed state is too large to penetrate the skin barrier) and silicone (which creates a barrier blocking absorption but can also clog pores). 

 

Think you’re completely immune to what goes on your skin entering your bloodstream though? I ignored the facts for years until I read countless studies showing correlative and causative links between the ingredients I was putting on my skin and my chronic health issues that DO NOT RUN IN MY FAMILY. I recommend using PubMed to do your own research too (search words like “phthalate”, “paraben”, “triclosan” “personal care products”) to find science-backed articles examining these particular chemicals. 

 

In fact, phthalates are one of the most heavily studied environmental toxins used widely in the personal care industry with dangerous health effects documented in hundreds of studies worldwide. Not only do their metabolites show up in your urine, but men with higher concentrations of phthalate metabolites in their urine also demonstrated decreased total sperm count and concentration as well as altered sperm morphology.

 

IF YOU WANT TO NERD OUT, HERE ARE 38 ARTICLES ON PHTHALATES EFFECTS JUST ON MALE SPERM AND FERTILITY.

 

 

HOW QUICKLY CAN WE DETOX THESE CHEMICALS OUT?

 

Did you ever see this ABC news segment showcasing the lab work results for the anchor who eliminated toxic chemicals from her skincare/makeup routine? Within less than a week of eliminating her previous products, her lab work showed a significant decrease in levels of harmful chemicals.

 

In a separate study, in just 3 days teenage girls who eliminated toxic personal care products saw a  significant reduction in the concentration of hormone-disrupting chemicals in their urine. Our bodies have several mechanisms for proper detox and methylation – they just need a break from the daily load in order to regain efficiency. Trust me, your internal organs will thank you for the support! We live in a toxic world and many of the toxins we simply can’t avoid (i.e. Round-Up impacts all of our air quality not just farmer’s), but the ones that touch our skin… we have an immediate ability to say “No” and choose better.

 

THE (HARD TO HEAR) FACTS

  • More than 200 chemicals have been found in the body of nearly all Americans – including newborn infants – and the majority of them have toxic or potentially toxic effects. These chemicals are frequently absorbed via the skin and respiratory system.

  • 16 different hormone-disrupting chemicals, linked to early puberty, hormonal imbalances, reproductive concerns, PCOS and more, were found in the bodies of teenage girls

  • Currently, more than 85,000 chemicals are registered for use in the marketplace with the vast majority of them with little to no safety testing

  • Only 2% of the chemicals in the marketplace have been verified for safe use on children

 

WHY I CHOSE BEAUTYCOUNTER OVER OTHER SAFER CLEAN BEAUTY BRANDS WHEN I WAS MAKING THE SWITCH

 

The clean beauty industry is growing rapidly which means there are plenty of safer options in the marketplace now. You can’t even walk down the beauty aisle of Wal-Mart without seeing packages adorned with green leaves and words like “all-natural” which hold no industry regulation. Greenwashing, or the marketing industry’s slippery tendency to use words, colors and images that mislead consumer’s to believe their products are “healthy” is a whole OTHER topic though.

 

The reason I personally support Beautycounter and joined their mission as a Consultant is because they set the bar high for industry safety standards. Our headquarters also works tirelessly to lobby for stricter regulation at the federal and state level – so we’re not just changing the industry with our products but with legislation too. I wanted to be able to provide my audience a solution to the very real problems I was presenting; a solution that I trusted, loved using myself and have been using on myself and my kid (soon to be kids) for over two years now, nearly exclusively.

 

Beautycounter’s strict ingredient screening (from source to finished product), contaminant and heavy metal testing, and commitment to only using ingredients they feel confident will not have a harmful effect on human, animal or environmental health is bar none. I’ve never found another makeup company that tests for heavy metals – let alone TRIPLE tests for them in every single batch. I find it empowering each day I’m applying my lipstick or foundation that I know *not just am guessing* my makeup has been tested this stringently.

And what makes every lifestyle change more doable? If you love what you’re doing or using! Think of how much easier it is to make a healthy dietary switch when you’re armed with the best-tasting recipes or starting a new fitness routine when the activity gives you joy! Same goes for personal care products – and Beautycounter has made the switch to safer so much easier for me because the products PERFORM like all my old toxic faves that I had so much fun playing with!

 

Take Beautycounter’s Skincare Quiz HERE for 10% off your regimen!

WANT A FREE 1:1 SKINCARE CONSULTATION?

Take my 2-minute survey here & I’ll email you back with a budget-conscious routine addressing all your skincare concerns!

My Pregnancy with Hashimoto’s (Part 1)

Well, hello again! It’s been a long while since I published a blog post… in fact the last one I published was right before we found out we were expecting baby #2! Recipe testing, writing and overall being inspired took a back seat to babying myself while I grow this baby. I announced on Christmas that I am pregnant with another girl, and I knew I’d get a slew of questions on how it happened (considering a lengthy history with infertility and autoimmune disease), how life has been, and how I’ve been managing autoimmune disease during this pregnancy while also parenting a toddler and running a full-time business with Beautycounter.

 

You also submitted some thoughtful questions that I’m going to answer today in a simple Q&A format to make scanning to whatever questions you’re most curious about easier.

 

Q: When are you due? When/how did you find out?

 

A: I am due March 31st, 2019 with a baby girl (we’ve had her name picked out for months!) We had been trying for a second baby casually for about 6 months (essentially not-not-trying) and more seriously for another 4 months before we conceived (within 10 months total) which is a dramatically shorter time than last time. I had been discouraged after months of negative pregnancy tests and a very early chemical pregnancy. After that experience, we decided to stop trying, buy an RV and travel the country for 3 months with Grace during spring of 2019 (we even went to an RV show to pick it out & started loosely mapping our route). About two weeks later, after telling our friends & family of our master plan, we conceived this baby to our surprise. We were even trying to avoid my most fertile days, but with both pregnancies so far, conception has occurred early in my cycle (around day 7-8) versus during the “normal” time of day 10-14.

I tested on day 29 of that cycle (in July 2018) expecting a negative test, as I had been experiencing fatigue and sore breasts and figured my period was just a day late. I was shocked to see a bright blue line appear immediately. Grace and I were home alone, and she was sitting on our bed. In a bit of a daze with a big smile on my face, I scooped her up and told her she was going to be a big sister, and we took a photo together. I actually didn’t tell my husband for 10 DAYS because I was nervous it could result in another early miscarriage, and I am a protector of my emotions. I like to process something first before I share it with others (hence the near third trimester pregnancy announcement).

 

Q: Did you have morning sickness? How did you stay on a nutrient-dense diet with it?

 

A: With both pregnancies, I’ve had pretty severe morning sickness, not just nausea throughout the day. From around 5 1/2 weeks to 14-15 weeks, I was throwing up between 2 to 4 times a day and had ALL the food aversions like most moms-to-be. My aversions were the same as last time: animal protein, vegetables (especially raw), warm beverages and basically anything that wasn’t a simple carb or fresh fruit. My meals were very carb-heavy, sometimes just a bowl of pineapple, clementines, grapes and strawberries, other times some gluten-free, egg-free avocado toast with lots of pink salt. For protein, I could manage a few nibbles once or twice a day of seafood like wild salmon or scallops (likely because seafood is easier to digest than chicken, beef or pork). I survived some days on energy balls, green juice, orange/grapefruit juice, and fresh citrus and berries in those early weeks. I wasn’t worried about the lack of nutrient density in the first trimester and simply listened to my body, knowing the nausea and aversions would (mostly) pass like they did last time. Trust that stress during pregnancy over your diet is much more impactful for you and baby than not eating what you consider or a book considers the “perfect” pregnancy diet, especially during the first trimester. For me, first trimester is survival mode.

 

Q: What prenatal/supplements do you take during pregnancy?

 

A: During the first trimester and first few weeks of the second trimester, I could not stomach a traditional prenatal, so I did the powdered Nutreince supplement packs that you mix into water in the AM & PM. They don’t taste amazing (I buy the unflavored), but they usually didn’t cause me to throw up like a regular prenatal capsule vitamin did. In my second trimester and beyond, I take the Thorne Basic Prenatal (it’s a very basic multivitamin but it has the proper form of folate for someone with Mthfr, and you only need to take 3 capsules/day versus 8 capsules/day with Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal) plus an array of other supplements like Vital Choice’s Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil + Vitamin D,  an additional 2,000 IU of Vitamin D drops, Magnesium Glycinate, Trace Minerals in water in the evening, Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides (a scoop in our smoothie each day), and a supplement my functional medicine doctor prescribed to me called Mitocore. I also take a variety of probiotics (when I remember) such as the ones from Hyperbiotics, Jarrow Sac Boulardii (I find it helps with pregnancy constipation) and the prebiotic fiber from Hyperbiotics goes into my smoothies (about 2x a week). I also just added Jarrow Women’s Probiotic to get a variety of bugs and hopefully avoid testing GBS positive this time. I plan to continue all of these supplements post-partum while breastfeeding and beyond.

 

Q: Should people with Hashimoto’s wait until their antibodies are low to conceive?

A: This is definitely a question for your doctor because antibody levels are so relevant to the person, and just because you do have high antibody levels does not guarantee a miscarriage. You can read more about the connect between thyroid antibody levels and miscarriage, infertility, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia and other pregnancy complications in Dr. Sarah Ballanytne’s aritcle HERE.

I may be a unique case, but I have had elevated antibodies at conception for both pregnancies. There are instances of mothers’ miscarriage coinciding with elevated antibodies, but it’s hard to know if it’s the overall inflammation, imbalanced sex and thyroid hormones or the actual antibodies that is causing the pregnancy loss (or something else, like Mthfr or a genetic or blood clotting issue). For me, remission is TPO antibodies between 30-40 (no matter my diet/lifestyle, my numbers do not fall below this range and that’s okay). My TPO antibodies were 60 when we conceived this baby (I had a slight flare from consuming Four Sigmatics immune-stimulating mushroom tea the month prior – also the month of the suspected chemical pregnancy curiously). When I conceived Grace, my TPO antibodies were in remission but my thyroglobulin antibodies were in the hundreds (I had a very severe flare from switching from synthetic thyroid hormone to porcine thyroid hormone, which my body mounted an extreme attack against that lasted an entire year – this was in 2015).

My thryoglobulin antibodies have remained at a 0 the entire pregnancy, while my TPO antibodies have hung out around 30-40 (most recently a 29). With Grace’s pregnancy, they actually dropped to 0, but I think the level of stress that comes with caring for a toddler (who isn’t the best sleeper), running a business, and not eating entirely AIP (I was mostly AIP with Grace) has caused them to hang out in that range.

The decision to start conception with elevated antibodies is not an easy one, and I certainly don’t feel comfortable recommending waiting until the fall below a certain range OR trying to conceive if you’re in a severe flare. I can’t tell you why my body has been able to carry two babies (so far) with elevated antibodies, but so far both babies have been healthy (fingers crossed since this one is still in my belly!)

 

Q: What was your thyroid like before you conceived?

 

My thyroid levels (TSH, free T4 and free T3) were normal at conception but my reverse T3 was slightly high, and my TPO antibodies (as stated above) were slightly high (but I wasn’t feeling flare symptoms). My levels have been wonkier this pregnancy and hard to catch. We haven’t made any adjustments to my T4 medication (Tirosint – a preservative/additive/dye free version of Synthroid) since my numbers still fall in the normal pregnancy range for TSH, free T4 and free T3 (I’m on 137 mcg), but my reverse T3 has crept up. My functional medicine doctor believes its due to mitochondrial insufficiency (essentially not getting ENOUGH nutrients during pregnancy to keep up with my body’s demands AND the growing baby’s demands, which my body will always prioritize). This is why she prescribed me the Mitocore supplement, and I started eating organ meats again as soon as I could stomach them. I’ve never had an issue with reverse T3 before, so it’s something we’re keeping an eye on. I have a full thyroid panel done every 4 to 5 weeks during pregnancy (every 2 weeks during the first trimester). It’s about $32 with insurance, which is the lowest I’ve ever paid for a full panel.

If you want to learn more about why reverse T3 is an important test to include in your thyroid panel, please read this article.. Essentially, high reverse T3 means you’re still in a hypothyroid state (or may be feeling that way) even if your TSH and free T4 and T3 are normal. The thyroid is not a simple organ – it interplays with a variety of bodily systems and finding the right medication dose for you can take months and months – sometimes lowering T4 and adding a small amount of T3 can help bring reverse T3 down, so we are exploring that now.

Read about How I Manage Hashimoto’s During Pregnancy here.

(including how often I have my thyroid tested during pregnancy and post-partum)

 

Q: Has your diet changed? Do you still drink kombucha?

A: My diet has changed – it’s not quite as nutrient dense as it was with Grace (different cravings but still a whole foods diet). I let myself eat some gluten-free grains, dairy and sugar during the first trimester, if that’s all I felt like eating (like our local gluten free cafe’s amazing carrot cake that I couldn’t stop craving but have since weaned myself from!), but I also majorly crave citrus, salty grassfed steaks, steamed beets, wilted spinach, wild salmon, pistachios, dark chocolate and grass-fed ghee (all good blood-building foods). Now that I’m in my third trimester, meals are more nutrient dense, but I don’t have a large appetite except in the morning and usually later at night, and I can easily go 5-6 hours without eating or just having a small snack. I’ve read the pregnant body naturally falls into a ketogenic state more readily, which is likely why I can keep such a stable glucose levels for a longer period of time during pregnancy (I’m never, ever hangry when pregnant). Whereas with Grace’s pregnancy, I made sure to eat cruciferous veggies and kale 3x a day, this baby seems to want more healthy fats, fruits (pineapple, grapefruit, citrus mostly), cooked spinach, spinach & organic berry collagen smoothies, and beverages (like kombucha, celery juice, red raspberry leaf tea, chicken broth, almond milk, tart cherry juice “spritzers” and orange juice). I’ve actually had a hard time digesting cruciferous veggies even with the proper digestive enzymes!

Other nutrient dense foods I’ve been including once the aversions went away: US Wellness Meats Braunschweiger, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, organic green apples, organic pastured chicken breasts, the occasional grassfed cheddar, sprouted rice, massaged kale salads, grassfed beef (steak, ground, sausage), white sweet potatoes, Medjool dates, and did I mention CRUNCHY SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER? I’m currently going through a jar every 10 days over here!

I don’t track anything, and I don’t question what I’m eating. I know I could be even “more nutrient dense” or eat more food in general, but I’d rather listen to my body and not stress, knowing this baby will get everything she needs inside and outside the womb, as long as I’m respecting my body’s wishes.

I decided to continue with kombucha this pregnancy, but I don’t make my own. I buy the low alcohol versions from GT’s, Mother Kombucha (a local fave) and Health-Ade (the Pink Lady Apple from Trader Joe’s mmmm!) and drink max 1/2 a bottle (8 ounces) per day with the permission from my midwife. It was one of the first questions I asked her because I missed my ‘booch so much the first go around, and it’s better than drinking the alcoholic cider that I have craved my entire pregnancies (yeesh!)

 

Q: When did you get your period back post-partum since you did extended breastfeeding?

A: I breastfed Grace from May 2016 to April 2018 (just shy of 2 years). My period returned at the 14-month mark in July 2017, so it was exactly 12 months from that time that we were able to conceive. I weaned from middle of the night feeds around 13 months, which helped my period come back. For reference, I did not have a cycle from the time I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2008 until right before we conceived Grace in August 2015. For my body to naturally stimulate it’s own cycle in July 2017 was a HUGE health win for me, and it was the first time it had done that in nearly 10 years on its own. I did not experience an autoimmune flare from weaning because we did so very, very slowly. I haven’t had any major autoimmune flares since 2015 – just a couple smaller manageable ones.

If you’re worried about your period not coming back while breastfeeding (and it’s been over 12 months), you could always get a hormone panel done such as the DUTCH test but know that the results will be slightly skewed as your female sex hormones may still be stunted from nursing. I have mom friends who do not get their period back until they’ve weaned completely, and I also have mom friends who don’t get their period back because they’ve lost too much weight breastfeeding, not eating enough calories and exercising too much. We all have a different threshold of sensitivity to our hormonal balance, but if you have lost a significant amount of weight while breastfeeding or you have a disordered relationship with your body, food and/or exercise, it may be time to take a peek into your habits and mental wellbeing.

I also want to point out that to conceive both times, I’ve had to gain weight. I think I would have conceived earlier this time around if I had been at a heavier weight from the start, but I needed to gain 5-7 pounds of fat (doesn’t sound like much, but on a 5-foot-frame, it’s pretty significant) to do so. I was also not exercising during conception other than walking. Previously, I had still been running/sprinting and doing some HIIT workouts at the gym 4 days a week, and waking up early to do them! I got a knee injury, stopped working out, and then conceived this baby within two months, which I don’t think is a coincidence as I was really trying to heal adrenal issues during this time.

 

Q: Any big differences between this pregnancy and your first?

 

I would say so! My lifestyle during my first pregnancy was very simplified and easy. I was finishing writing The Healing Kitchen, living in Austin, worked only 20 hours a week at a pediatric clinic as an occupational therapist, hiked and worked out (fairly intensely, still disordered at the time) every day, and had a LOT more time to prepare meals. This pregnancy I’m juggling a 2 1/2 year old (and wanting to soak up every last second of our time with her as an “only child” before baby arrives), working 35-40 hours a week, and fitting in meals and movement when I can. For movement/exercise, I walk between 3 to 4 miles a day with my dog (never breaking a sweat or getting my heartrate up though… he’s an old man) and do yoga 3x a week (at this point, modifying significantly). About 1x a week, I may pick up a set of dumbbells and do some biceps curls and shoulder presses or 50 kettlebell swings, but exercise isn’t at the top of my priority list as I have SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction), and I don’t want it impacting my labor like it did last time. And simply, I don’t have the motivation to get a heart-pumping work out in – my body has been craving rest more than anything,

My first pregnancy my thyroid was also more stable and I had bounds of energy during second AND third trimester. This time, my energy is more focused on mental efforts and my intense “nesting instinct” and less so focused on my kinesthetic needs. I’m also unable to tolerate cruciferous veggies this pregnancy without getting seriously bloated, the baby is MUCH lower, I have a posterior placenta (makes pregnancy so much more fun now that I can actually feel her little tushy, head and back with my hands), and my anxiety is MUCH lower too (so I’m sleeping better for the most part!) Braxton Hicks started early, I’ve already experienced some labor contractions, and I’ll also be birthing in a birth center this time versus a hospital.

 

If you have any other questions, please leave them below and I’ll answer them if I can! I will likely be doing a Part 2 to this post as I did receive a lot more questions than addressed above!

 

 

 

You need to try the Beautycounter Overnight Resurfacing Peel!

… AKA MAGIC SKINCARE POTION

I’ve been bottling up my excitement for over a month about Beautycounter’s new at-home Overnight Resurfacing Peel!

FIRST: Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about the name of this new magical spot and line-busting treatment!

#1 It does NOT peel your skin. The word “peel” here means that it is dissolving and sloughing off thousands of dead skin cells (invisible to the naked eye), resurfacing skin to reduce hyperpigmentation, dryness, dullness, fine lines and oil-prone areas of your face.

#2 You do NOT peel it off your face. It looks, feels and goes on like a serum, and in the morning, you simply wash your face to wash away the dead skin. No extra steps needed, friends!

#3 It gives the RESULTS of an in-office treatment but without any downtime, redness, skin peeling, or burning. For some people, the first few applications may tingle, but this just means you’re benefitting from the AHAs!

#4 Yes, it’s safe to put acids on your face. In fact, the skin prefers acidic conditions and naturally creates an “acid mantle” on the top layer to protect from environmental hazards like bacteria, viruses, microbes and harsh weather conditions. Alpha hydroxy acids are commonly found in skincare products because of their powerful exfoliating capabilities.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BEFORE YOU ASK

How Often Can I Use It? You may use the Overnight Resurfacing Peel at night, after cleansing and toning, and before moisturizing. Start with applying up to 3 nights a week. I have found I can use it 7 nights a week prior to my usual serum and moisturizing routine without any skin sensitivity, but I probably apply it closer to 5x a week to make it last longer.

How Do I Use It? Cleanse and tone skin as you typically would. My favorite way to prep skin for the Overnight Resurfacing Peel is cleansing with the Cleansing Balm and toning with the Rejuvenating Toner Pads. Apply 1-2 pumps of the Overnight Resurfacing Peel to face and neck, massaging it in in circular motions to increase circulation. Let sit for 1-2 minutes to dry and allow the actives to penetrate skin before proceeding with your regular oil, serum and/or moisturizer nightly routine.

Can Sensitive Skin Use This Product? Yes, just be sure to do a test spot behind your ear to make sure you’re good to go, but generally at-home acids are a great choice for sensitive skinned individuals who cannot tolerate in-office prescription-strength treatments, chemical peels or microdermabrasion. Ask your dermatologist before use if you recently received an in-office chemical peel or are using high-powered prescription creams.

Can I use it if I’m pregnant? If you are pregnant, I would just check in with your doctor & let them know it contains a small amount of over-the-counter salicylic acid (oral salicylic acid is the main concern during pregnancy, FYI). I personally would feel comfortable applying 2x a week as a pregnant woman, but I think the decision should be up to you! A 2011 study on skincare safety during pregnancy noted that the amount of salicylic acid that penetrated the skin varied from non-detectable to 25% (when used in high, daily doses, or on open wounds).

 

Okay’s let chat about what’s IN the peel that makes it a product I think every woman and man needs in their bathroom!

The Overnight Resurfacing Peel contains 15 total acids including 7 resurfacing AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) to slough off the top two layers of the skin that have the hardest time shedding.

These top two layers are responsible for dryness, dullness, build-up that can cause breakouts, blackheads and large pores, and also where visible hyperpigmentation, sun damage, scarring and fine lines is most evident.

Resurfacing the skin means treating and decreasing our most common skincare concerns that our regular routine may not effectively or deeply target enough.

IF YOU HAVE…

Dullness/Uneven Tone

Dryness/Redness

Fine Lines/Wrinkles

Hyperpigmentation (i.e. sun damage, light scarring, melasma, age spots)

Large Pores/Blackheads

Oily/Breakout-Prone Skin

THE BEAUTYCOUNTER OVERNIGHT RESURFACING PEEL IS FOR YOU!

 

GLYCOLIC ACID: sourced from sugarcane, this acid is the one of the most common high-powered exfoliators to treat signs of aging, skin discoloration and melasma. It is also indicated for use in oily skin, blackheads and acne.

LACTIC ACID: sourced from fermented sugarcane (to keep this product dairy-free) is another popular AHA that resurfaces skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines, skin discoloration, acne, and dullness. It also helps improve skin elasticity and plumpness by stimulating collagen synthesis.

PHYTIC ACID: sourced from plant extracts like beans or oats (no concern for gluten from these extracts, safe to use if you don’t eat oats or beans – it’s not the same as ingesting them at all). Phytic acid’s main benefit is lightening and brightening skin. I have sun damage from growing up in Florida as well as melasma on my shoulder from pregnancy & I saw an improvement in skin evenness after the first night!

SALICYLIC ACID: derived from willow bark and probably the most commonly used BHA (beta hydroxy acid), salicylic acid is a workhorse for sloughing off any of the dead skin the other acids can’t get to and an acne healing and prevention powerhouse.

MALIC, TARTARIC, ASCORBIC AND HYDROXYSTEARIC ACID: these acids are all powerful in their own way. Malic acid is used to decrease hyperpigmentation, tartaric acid smoothes and evens skin texture, ascorbic acid is a soothing vitamin C-derived acid that brightens skin, and hydroxystearic acid is a safe fatty acid that provides antioxidant support to skin.

HYALURONIC ACID: this acid holds up to 1,000x it’s weight in water to provide ultimate hydration, improving skin elasticity and plumpness. As we age, our production of HA significantly decreases, so it becomes important to supplement it in your skincare routine.

ARGANINE: increases blood flow and oxygenation as well as hydration

RASPBERRY SEED OIL: a nourishing plant-based oil that is thought to help with UVA and UVB protection, protection from free radical damage, and hydration to name a few. It also contains phytoesterols which are thought to be beneficial for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, although this product is not intended to treat any specific skincare condition.

 

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR OVERNIGHT RESURFACING PEEL

Taco Beef & Butternut Rice with Dairy-Free Cilantro Sour Cream

 

paleo taco beef

 

Wow I’m finally back with a new recipe after taking a much-needed break from the kitchen after releasing Enthused in December! Well, that’s a half-lie because this is one of the recipes I made for the ebook but decided it would be best for the blog! It’s a take on Taco Beef and Rice Bowls. The “rice” is actually shredded butternut squash, which I have been loving as a dinner addition since way back in 2014 when I posted my popular Lamb with Olive-Butternut Rice!

 

This dish can be found on Autoimmune Wellness for my monthly guest post. It’s topped with a delicious dairy-free cilantro sour cream and crispy leeks to add more depth of flavor and a variety of textures! If you’re craving a good ol’ bowl of nightshade-free taco meat and veggies, this is the dish for you! You can mix it up and replace the butternut squash with just about any veggie you can shred in your food processor! Celery root, white sweet potato, and rutabagas would be especially tasty here too!

 

Enjoy this AIP-Friendly, Gluten, Dairy and Nightshade-Free Family-Friendly Dish!

 

Click here for the recipe!

 

 

Getting in Your Own Way, Self-Limiting Beliefs and Fear of Success

Lately, I’ve been inspired to write a little bit more about topics on my mind that have nothing to do with food or healthy living. As I continue to grow my business and reflect on past experiences, I am beginning to notice a trend in myself and others: getting in my own way with self-limiting beliefs that I am too fearful to challenge. Self-limiting beliefs prevent us from growing as people, from experiencing the scary yet thrilling experiences that often lead to the most success, and they keep us in a status quo.

 

For some of us, we live happily in our comfort zone. We are unlikely to try new foods, we visit the same vacation spots year after year, we’ve been doing the same job at the same company for a decade or more. We’re comfortable. Why would we get off the four-seated plush chaise lounge and plop ourselves on an unpadded rattan deck chair? But guess what happens when we do the thing we don’t want to do, the thing we don’t think we can do? We grow, we develop, we learn, we impact, we fail, we succeed, we are never stuck. We feel happiness, we feel sadness, we feel fear, we feel excitement, we feel alive.

 

Constantly challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone expands past your exercise routine, food choices, or television programming. How many people do you know though who have been going to the same gym for years, eating tacos on Tuesday and spaghetti on Thursday week after week, and watching Friends re-runs for the better part of two decades? Okay, I’ll let the last one slide. Too much Chandler Bing does not exist. Ask these people: do you feel ALIVE?

 

I see these self-limiting beliefs and fears of success all the time in my Beautycounter business: women who join the mission because their heart is telling them this would be a personal growth step and contribute beneficially to their family and communities. But once they take the steps to become a Consultant, it’s crickets. They are too paralyzed by the fear of exiting their comfort zone to grow their business, learn a new skill set, and to reach out to their community to educate on a mission they are actually passionate about. Why does this happen? Self-limiting beliefs and a fear of success – these things exist whether our consciousness wants us to be aware of them or not.

 

We believe we’re too shy, or we’re not “experts” so why would anyone care what we have to say? We believe we don’t have time, yet we don’t prioritize our schedule to make time. By the way, barring cases of single parents, caregivers of ill family members, or people with highly demanding jobs, we ALL have time. In fact, I caught myself saying on Tuesday I was “too busy to eat breakfast” but if I hadn’t scrolled Instagram for 10 minutes, I would have had at least a smoothie in my belly.

 

Maybe you want to change careers but you’re TERRIFIED of the financial distress it would cause. Do you know how many business ideas I’ve had that could have erupted into something life-changing that I never pursued because of this fear? Ask yourself this: how many people do you know who have taken a responsible, well thought out risk with a passion project winded up bankrupt? Not many. In fact, one of our country’s most successful female entrepreneurs started out of their apartment making women’s shapewear. Ever heard of Spanx?

 

Here are some instances in my life where I jumped off the cliff despite my fear of heights:

 

~ Quitting my job in advertising without having a back-up plan. Can you believe the audacity of leaving a good career to do NOTHING? I knew advertising was never going to be emotionally or spiritually fulfilling for me. Rather than wasting years of my life doing something I didn’t love, I left. I spent the next two months developing a plan for a vegan (I was vegan at the time) snack company. I had a full marketing plan, an investor (my dad of course), a business name, a logo. I had everything I needed to start a successful food company except ONE thing: trust in myself. I’ve always wondered “what could have been”, and I decided I’ll never allow myself to wonder that again.

 

~ Moving to Chicago without knowing a soul. I moved to Chicago in 2013 against my family’s wishes and because something was pulling me to that city. When I arrived, I realized I had never lived somewhere that felt more like home. Pretty wild coming from a girl who grew up in a Florida beach town of 2,000 people, huh? Unfortunately, my husband didn’t feel the same, and we left after a few years, but not a day goes by I am not grateful for the experiences I had and the people I met while living in that city.

 

~ Independently finding a clinical rotation in Atlanta, GA. While all my classmates trusted a lottery system to assign them their destiny for the next 6 months, I went completely outside my comfort zone and found within HOURS of the deadline to spare a spinal cord injury hospital in Atlanta who would take me. We moved there with nothing but our clothing, my dog and my Instant Pot and had to RENT dishes and silverware. While in Atlanta, I got to know Sarah Ballantyne who eventually invited me to co-author our successful cookbook with her publisher. The Healing Kitchen was a dream accomplishment for me – I had wanted to write a cookbook by the time I was 30 since I was a kid and that dream came true at age 27!

 

Asking my now-husband on our first date. We have an 11 year age difference, worked at the same advertising agency, and basically had nothing in common besides our love for boating and beer. Sure I thought he was funny and cute, but I was 21 years old. Why the heck would I even WANT to get involved with someone “so old” (oh, I can’t believe I thought 32 was old!!) 8 years later we have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, have moved around the country together, and are still boating and enjoy many a beer (well, cider) together. I was so scared he’d say no, or we wouldn’t work out and work would be awkward, but I am so glad I didn’t allow those self-limiting beliefs to keep me quiet that day. Grace (my daughter), YOU’RE WELCOME, KID!

 

~ Joining Beautycounter as a Consultant. Oh boy, I toiled with this decision for almost a full year and daily for an entire 6 months before I decided to take the leap. It truly was a leap of faith and I battled self-limiting beliefs and fear of failure daily. Who am I to talk about safer skincare and makeup (even though it has been a passion of mine for years)? What if no one cares what I have to say? What if I fail? I decided to NOT go back to work in occupational therapy (for now) because I wanted to give Beautycounter a shot. Can you imagine how scary it is to, once again, abandon your career and do something new that you could very well fail at? Time after time, it is when I decide to do the thing that scares me that leads to the most success in my life. Maybe it’s universe-wired Darwinsim? Those of us willing to challenge self-limiting beliefs and the fear of failure end up being the most successful (and success means MUCH more to me than financial success – you can make $1 doing what you love and should consider yourself successful).

 

I consider myself a successful person BECAUSE I’ve gone against the societal status quo, against my family, friends and coworkers’ expectations, and have challenged myself to always believe I CAN. I can do anything I want to do – I truly believe that. I can be the CEO of the next Silicon Valley start-up – I don’t want to be, but I truly believe I could if I wanted it bad enough.

 

Little Alaena, the girl with no fear, would look at me now and be proud as well. She always wanted me to pave my own path, to never feel trapped by others’ expectations or my own beliefs. Nothing feels quite as good as making our Inner Child proud.

She would be enamored at what a dedicated mother I am, impressed at the many times I’ve made a sharp left turn for no good reason other than going straight didn’t feel right. What is your Inner Child, your subconscious, telling you to do? What do you keep quieting to keep yourself comfortable? Ask yourself why you are afraid of both success and failure, and why you continue to sit on the fence when the party looks fascinating on either side.

My Recent Podcast Features & Interviews: Pregnancy, Autoimmune Disease, Intuition, Raising Daughters & More!

 

Hey friends! I wanted to compile a list of my recent podcast interviews in one place for you. I’ve been talking about a range of subjects from Batch Cooking Tips on the AIP to Raising Unbreakable Daughters to Infertility, Autoimmune Disease & Post-Partum Flares and Pregnancy and Autoimmune Disease

 

** Please support your fellow female entrepreneurs and subscribe and rate their podcasts! I know each of these ladies put their heart and soul into serving their communities through weekly podcasts – it is no easy feat to complete interviews week after week! ** 

 

AUTOIMMUNE WELLNESS PODCAST with Mickey Trescott & Angie Alt

SEASON 3 EPISODE 2 “Meal Planning & Batch Cooking with Alaena Haber”

This episode is all about how to implement some kitchen hacks to help you save money on food. We discuss our personal best practices when it comes to getting food on the table affordably, the first of which is meal planning. Some of you have heard us chat about these topics before, but just stick with us, because you may not have looked at the benefits from this angle before.

Then, we chat with Alaena Haber of Grazed and Enthused about her favorite AIP kitchen tools and how she sets herself up for success in an AIP kitchen. Scroll down for the full episode transcript!

 

THE UNBREAKABLE YOU PODCAST with Meg Doll

EPISODE 1 ” Raising Unbreakable Daughters”

In this first official episode of Unbreakable You, Meg interviews Alaena Haber about the key parenting techniques she is using as she raises her two-year-old daughter, Grace. Alaena has a history of autoimmune disease and overcoming infertility, which she touches on in this episode as she shares in detail about the inner healing she has been required to do in order to get to where she is today in her health journey and as a mother.

 

MODERN MAMAS PODCAST with Jess Gaertner & Laura Bruner

EPISODE 37 “Autoimmunity, Pregnancy & Self-Care with Alaena Haber”

In this episode, Jess and I discuss my path from autoimmune disease and infertility to a healthy, natural pregnancy, my best tips for post-partum self care and avoiding flares, harnessing your intuition and why we are BFFS (Claire’s heart necklace included). This one was so much fun – do not miss!

 

THE UNBOUND HEALING PODCAST with Michelle Hoover & Anne Marie Garland

Episode 31 “Fertility and Pregnancy with Alaena Haber”

My good friend Anne & I discuss our conception, pregnancy and my post-partum journey with autoimmune disease and infertility. Anne discusses feelings after her miscarriage and the joy she experienced with her second pregnancy.

How to Avoid Heavy Metals in Your Makeup

 

For this month’s safer skincare post, I’ll be chatting about the problems and pervasiveness of heavy metals in your makeup and how you can avoid them!

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for my April Beautycounter gift!

 

WHAT ARE HEAVY METALS & WHY DO THEY MATTER?

Heavy metals are found naturally in the earth but become more concentrated with human activities like mining and manufacturing. Common routes of exposure include air pollution, dental procedures (mercury amalgams), water (arsenic), food, cigarettes, work, school, the home environment (i.e. lead in paint) and color cosmetics including children’s play makeup and face paint.

Many heavy metals have been demonstrated to be harmful to humans. The metals lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic pose some of the biggest risks to health. The effects of heavy metal exposure can include lowered IQ, neurological effects, cancer, headaches, extreme irritability, and kidney, lung and heart damage (Heavy Metals in Makeup, Beautycounter). 

Heavy metals can be particularly problematic for children whose detoxification systems cannot handle the environmental assault of even a minor amount of heavy metals. Neurotoxins like heavy metals can have dramatic effects on a child’s intellectual and physical development (EWG). 

 

HEAVY METALS IN MAKEUP: HOW COMMON IS THIS?

Companies do not intentionally include heavy metals in their makeup yet their ingredients are often contaminated with these harmful compounds. Beautycounter tested several luxury and natural brands’ makeup via third party testing and found that every single product tested had some level of heavy metal in it.

However, heavy metals are frequently found in makeup because they contaminate the colorants that companies use. Whether those colorants are natural ingredients that come from the earth (where heavy metals are present at random and may attach to the intentionally mined ingredients), or whether they are synthetic, heavy metal contamination can be found in both luxury and natural brands (Heavy Metals in Makeup, Beautycounter). 

Currently, the FDA does not require companies to screen, test or limit heavy metals in their cosmetics. If a company discovered dangerous levels of lead in their lipstick, they do NOT have to recall the product. 

 

HOW BEAUTYCOUNTER IS PROTECTING YOU FROM HEAVY METALS 

Beautycounter sends every single color cosmetic to a third-party testing facility during formulation, at the end of formulation AND then during every single production batch going forward.

Beautycounter tests for 12 heavy metals: antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and selenium. Our goal is to achieve non-detectable levels of heavy metals in all of our products, and we have established extremely low level limits for all metals, much lower than Health Canada’s current allowable levels (some of the lowest in the world).

You can feel confident using TRIPLE TESTED products from the only brand I am aware of that screen, tests and reformulates for heavy metals. Beautycounter’s #1 mission is to provide safer products for everyone, which is why we’ve also expanded our lipstick line to compete with long-wearing, high-performance department store lipsticks.

 

 

THE NEW COLOR INTENSE LIPSTICK COLLECTION

Okay, I don’t think I’ve ever been this stoked about lipstick in my LIFE! Our newest makeup line is the Color Intense Lipstick Collection which includes 8 BRAND NEW shades from neutrals to pinks and bold reds – a color for every skin tone!

Here’s a cheat sheet to help you choose the best colors for your skin! Lipsticks are similar to foundation – you should know if you skin is warm, cool or neutral to choose the best shade.

The first safer LONG-WEARING, ONE-SWIPE, GLUTEN-FREE, SOY-FREE, NUT-FREE & VEGAN LIP STICK YES!!

 

 

Addressing the Stigma of Being a Stay At Home Mom

Over the weekend, a woman of an older generation told me she loved that I remain “home” with my daughter. The words were shocking – I’ve heard them just a few times since I decided to postpone going back to work almost two years ago during her most formative early development. I’ve received a lot of flak from other women, rarely men, regarding my choice. While I love being a stay at home mom, I haven’t been without my critics – near to my heart as a friend (behind my back more than I can count), an arm’s length like a neighbor, and as distant as a complete stranger. I believe the social distaste for stay at home moms that has developed over the last few decades is a feministic issue brought on by feministic pursuits. Refrain from passing your judgment of that word for now.

 

As we broke free from our households and tossed our aprons aside, respect for the modern woman who chooses to stay home (even for just 2 to 3 years, even part-time, even with 5 kids and no financial ability for 5 daycare bills) in the 21st century has diminished. In many eyes, particularly other females’, you became a more valuable human if you worked outside the home. You lost worthiness, respect and desirability by remaining at home. If you don’t agree, you only need to look in the shallow waters of our advertising culture or get the opinions of a few friends or colleagues. “Soccer mom” has become a derogatory term. “What does she do all day? I would be bored.” is often a sentiment I’ve heard friends and other women make. A judgment really.

 

While women on both sides of the coin (working and stay at home moms) have experienced judgment on their decision, the root of the problem is equitable. Far greater than men, society has told us who we are supposed to be and what ideals we must adhere to be deemed ACCEPTABLE.

 

ACCEPTANCE is the elephant in the room of every psychologist’s office humankind is unwilling to face. The constant, seething need to be accepted, to belong, to be deemed worthy, to be validated is a deep human desire dating back to tribal times. So, how do you judge stay at home moms? Yes, I’m asking you. Is the first thought in your head… lazy? bored? stupid? soccer mom? How do these judgments make you feel about yourself – accepted into the majority? Shameful for wanting that?

 

Now, if acceptance is largely one of the most important factors that guides our self-esteem, how we interact with our world, and who we portray ourselves as… why do we continue to tell stay at home moms (or working moms) they are not accepted? By doing so, we are telling women that by acknowledging a primal desire to care for their child and set aside their career pursuits (or pursue them from home), they are not meeting your expectations. That dialogue transfers down to generations as the stay at home mom feels constantly defensive of her choice, children begin to think, “Am I a burden? Did my mom make the ultimate sacrifice for staying home with me?”

 

Why do we not qualify men as “stay at home dads” or “working dads”? Besides the fact we automatically assume all fathers work, we also automatically assume that all dads must work to support their families and adhere to principles of masculinity. Men are also not immune to these stereotypes and pre-judgments but to a far lesser degree than women. Most men follow the pages of the patriarchal story they’ve been told their entire lives – you must work to support your family. There isn’t a male-centric movement telling them to think differently.

 

On the other hand, women are told many things. We must be “nice” (what exactly is nice?). We must be thin. We must cook. We must clean. We must get an advanced degree to compete with the opposite gender. We must work our way up the corporate ladder. We must accept a lesser pay grade. We must break the glass ceiling. We better please our husband or he’ll leave us. We better be Super Moms or the PTA won’t want us. Our cookies need to win the bake sale. We shouldn’t eat cookies. We need to drink to loosen up, but we can’t drink so much that we start talking too much. We shouldn’t talk so much. Loud women are unattractive. We need to speak up more. We need to be in a constant pursuit of perfection. We need to accept our bodies. We all hate our bodies. We must be sexy. Don’t be conceited. We’re quiet. We’re bitches. We’re hormonal and hysterical. We’re making it up. We all like shoes. Our opinions matter less. We’re bossy. We’re submissive.

 

The only consistent message women receive is that we need to be all the things, for all the people, and accept that we will still be marginalized and judged for our choices as a mother.

 

Feministic pursuits (which I align with) working to reverse the above stereotypes have also played a part in mitigating the beauty of maternalism. I’ve heard all of those judgments above. I’ve been called a bitch for standing up for myself, caustic for not being afraid to share my opinions, hormonal for being sensitive to my needs and asking others to respect them, and disrespected for being at home with my daughter… by my friends, my neighbor, a stranger on social media, a stranger at the grocery store, a friend of a friend. I’ve been told I’ve wasted my master’s degree. She really should be in school 5 days week. You need to be around adults (My response: But I learn more from my child than I ever did in 25 years of school. She is more joyful, interesting and so much less of an asshole than you.)

 

I consider myself an unwavering feminist, but feminism has also caused a ripple effect washing away the esteem of motherhood in some sectors. I work for myself because you bet I will break the glass ceiling at my previous job in advertising. In fact, my main source of income is *gasp* working for a direct retail company whose mission drives me more than any office job could. Would it shock you to know that I’ve built a business among my blog, books and Beautycounter that has more than replaced my previous income as a full-time occupational therapist yet I work 20 hours a week from home while caring nearly full-time for my 2-year-old. I’ve also saved my family tens of thousands of dollars by holding off on full-time daycare/preschool.

 

I’ve felt pressured to justify my financial contribution to my family when in it should be an empty descriptor of success. In America, money = success, value and self-worth. In America, stay at home moms do not financially contribute to their household (untrue, see above), therefore we cannot consider them successful, valuable and worthy (on the more extreme spectrum, more people sit comfortably in the category of “less successful, less valuable and less worthy”.) If I had chosen to not work at all, I would be equally as proud of myself for becoming a self-sufficient, loving, immensely caring mother. Because I see the time, devotion, thought, skill and intention that goes into motherhood. It’s the hardest job a woman will ever have – you’ve heard that before haven’t you? Then why does the stigma of being a stay at home mom still permeate?

 

What is my goal in writing this article? For the general public to move towards the following dialogue. I respect women who choose to stay at home, who choose to work, who choose to do both part-time, who choose to not have children. I accept women in my life for pursuing what brings them happiness, balance and success. I refuse to define success in terms of financial value but rather the physical and emotional contribution that woman is making to her household, and I equate caring for her 2-year-old at home to the same level of value and reverence as a mother working a 50-hour a week job outside the home. 

 

 

 

 

Hormone Testing, Adrenal Fatigue & Hard Truths

 

DISCLAIMER FOR THIS ARTICLE: This article is not meant to diagnose or suggest diagnostic testing or treatment. I am not a doctor, I am simply sharing my experiences with advanced hormonal testing as requested by many readers. Please do not ask questions below regarding your own health or whether or not this testing would be appropriate for you. You may share your experiences with other women in the comments, if desired. Seek professional help to determine whether or not hormone testing, supplementation and changes in medication are medically appropriate for you.

 

Today, I will be discussing my recent experience with the DUTCH hormone panel as well as how I am naturally addressing adrenal fatigue caused by motherhood. Motherhood, you are full of loving, hilarious & joyful moments, but can you please return my basic human need of sleep and eating in normal intervals?

 

DUTCH stands for “dried urine test for comprehensive hormones”. Essentially, your functional medicine practitioner, integrative wellness practitioner, functional NTP or naturopath provides you the test kit (or you order it online) to complete at home during a certain span of your menstrual cycle. The DUTCH test gives a comprehensive look into your sex hormones, 4-point cortisol, total cortisol, state of adrenal fatigue, and how all of these hormones are working together down the hormonal cascade that begins with cholesterol.

 

For regularly cycling females (cycles not too short or too long), you take your test around day 21 of your cycle. If your cycle is shorter in length, you’ll need to take it sooner; if it’s longer in length, you’ll need to take it later in your cycle. I did the Dutch Complete kit which also included melatonin. There are DUTCH tests that include both blood and urine as well as month-long testing so you can get the most accurate view of how your hormones are cycling for a 28 day period.

 

**IF YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR A FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE PRACTITIONER, USE YELP TO FIND ONE IN YOUR AREA OR USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION ON IFM.ORG

 

HOW IT WORKS

You test at 4 to 5 intervals throughout the day by urinating on test strips. You are instructed to essentially dehydrate yourself (my words, not their’s –  I hate being thirsty) for many of the test points because the scientists need concentrated urine for the most accurate test results. Test points include immediately upon waking, 2 hours after waking, dinnertime, bedtime and overnight (optional). There are test stipulations like no caffeine before your two morning tests, holding certain medications, and reading the instructions for irregular, short or long cycles.

 

You send in your dried urine strips to DUTCH who processes, analyzes and sends a report to your practitioner. It took about 3 weeks for me to get my results. Your practitioner should review the results in detail with you and supply an appropriate plan of action. My DUTCH panel cost $250 out of pocket.

 

SOME (NOT ALL) REASONS YOU MAY WANT TO DO A DUTCH TEST

You are trying to get pregnant but it’s been 12 months with no conception.

You feel tired and wired, cranky, gaining weight, low libido, low motivation (signs of adrenal fatigue).

You have a history of estrogen dominance or are experiencing conditions related to estrogen dominance or painful periods.

You aren’t cycling and are anovulatory (no period, no ovulation).

You want to know how your genetics are playing into your hormone cascade.

You want to see how you are methylating or you have a known MtHfr defect.

You suspect androgen dominance and conditions caused by this such as PCOS – one of the most common causes of infertility.

You suspect you have adrenal fatigue but are not sure which stage you are in which will determine your treatment (this is why I did it).

 

WHY I DID IT & RESULTS

I took the DUTCH test because I was experiencing low energy in the mornings, poor short term memory, poor recovery from workouts and mood swings. I was 20 months post-partum at time of testing, and my symptoms appeared about 3 months ago during a stressful time period with poor quality sleep.

My results indicated that my body isn’t producing enough cortisol and sex hormones throughout the day to give me the energy I need. Your results page will demonstrate a very detailed graph of your:

CORTISOL (free, metabolized and daily total), DHEA, ESTROGEN, PROGESTERONE & TESTOSTERONE as well as if those numbers are in an optimal range, pre or post menopausal range or too high. You will also find out the metabolic activity of these hormones and how they eventually go through the methylation chain.

 

Here is a DUTCH RESULTS SAMPLE (not mine!) from their website so you can get an idea of how much information is in your pee. If you’re wondering, blood serum does not produce as accurate testing as the DUTCH. The only hormone I test via blood serum is thyroid. Please note I’ve also done that 4-point salivary cortisol test with Genova but it does not give the same amount or detail of information. The 4-point salivary cortisol test (also ordered through your wellness practitioner) is about $150 and can also give you information on sex hormone levels (but not how they’re interacting with one another).

 

Other information you’ll get:

  • melatonin

  • neurotransmitters

  • glutathione

  • b12 and b6 markers

  • oxidative stress


 

ADRENAL FATIGUE

Adrenal fatigue isn’t new to me. I have struggled with it for years on & off even while healing my autoimmune disease and infertility. I have tended towards a hyperactive, Type A, “I hate relaxation” state my entire life (like many people with autoimmune disease!) and that is a breeding ground for adrenal issues. I’m not going to discuss the causes or mechanism of adrenal fatigue here because I’m not a doctor and you can Google that for yourself, but I will provide my experiences.

 

My first 15 months post-partum my adrenals felt pretty stable. I recovered from my workouts, woke up energized even if my sleep was poor because of teething or multiple wake-ups, but by 18 months things changed quite quickly. I was finishing up my ebook and moving through some typical life stressors (husband working loooong hours, holidays, travel) when I noticed a pretty sudden drop in my energy levels and recovery.

 

 Initially in November, I was having a hard time winding down at night and waking up super early with a ton of energy (around 4 am). I would crash by 10 am, I didn’t have an appetite, and I felt overwhelmed with basic daily activities like cooking dinner or doing housework.

 

I immediately knew my adrenals had taken a hit from a 2-month span of only sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night while finishing up Enthused (which also coincided with shifts in Grace’s sleep schedule – btw go grab my ebook so it makes this whole adrenal thing worth it). Rather than truck through it and “baby” my adrenals on my own, I decided to do the DUTCH test to see EXACTLY how low my cortisol and hormones were. At this point, I was probably in Stage 2 of adrenal fatigue when your cortisol is usually HIGH – especially in the morning.

 

We also still breastfeed (she is 22 months old today) which has its own affect on hormones. Breastfeeding suppresses female sex hormones, poor sleep eventually suppresses cortisol (after an initial spike), low cortisol suppresses testosterone and female sex hormones. That’s a recipe for some messy hormones.

 

By the time I took the test, I was feeling exhausted all day and had gained 5 to 10 pounds despite daily exercise and frankly undereating. I had no problem falling asleep or staying asleep – in fact I needed at least 9 hours of sleep per night. This was only a couple months after I first started feeling signs of adrenal fatigue back in November. This is likely when I entered Stage 3 adrenal fatigue.

 

WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER MY ADRENALS

 

With my physician’s guidance, I weaned from 3 breastfeeding sessions a day at 21 months post-partum to only 1 a day (in the morning for 5 minutes). I’m going to completely wean after a trip to Napa this weekend. This will be an emotionally difficult process for both Grace & myself, but my intuition is telling me its time for my body to believe it’s only taking care of ONE person instead of TWO!

I also did TONS of other tests for insulin, advanced cholesterol, thyroid, inflammation, etc. They came back GREAT! My cholesterol is in range, my insulin is fantastic, my thyroid meds need to be slightly adjusted (more on that below) and I don’t have any inflammatory markers! My doctor said that thanks to my diet and lifestyle I’m feeling a lot better than I look on paper.

One of my best tips when dealing with a new diagnosis is to focus on everything good going on in your life and in your body. I love my job, I love my baby more than anything in the world, my health otherwise looks excellent, and I’m enjoying taking some time to care for myself right now.

 

BLOOD SUGAR

It was important for me to know what my blood sugar was doing because it is linked to adrenal health. Thankfully, my insulin and blood sugar is very stable which I can certainly credit my diet. I’m going to continue with my intuitive eating which means eating different types of foods at different parts of my cycle. The biggest issue for me is to eat ENOUGH food. I suspect not eating enough contributed to my adrenal issues because I focused all of my energy on feeding my daughter the most nutrient dense meals. I also tend to not eat full meals when I’m stressed (which I was for several months at the end of 2017). Not eating enough ENERGY (calories) in general can contribute to adrenal issues.

 

I have been focusing my meals more on higher fat, moderate protein and moderate or low carb (depending on the point in my cycle and time of day). I feel best when my morning meal is at least 500 calories and high in fat and low in carbs. My body also prefers high fat, low carb during my follicular phase (first 14 days of my cycle) and an addition of nutrient dense carbs during my luteal phase. Some people with adrenal fatigue will crave protein & carbs versus protein & fat. Play around with it (without adding stress – your diet should not be a source of stress – if it is then you need to either change your mindset or change your diet), and find what works best for you. The end goal is to stabilize your blood sugar enough that you can go long periods of time in between meals without feeling jittery or hangry (5 to 6 hours for most people – if you find you need to eat every 3 to 4 hours – that is perfectly fine if you’re not getting hangry in between meals!)

 

THYROID

We did discover I was taking too much T3 medication (Cytomel). I was on the lowest dose only once per day, so we completely took me off T3 and now I’m just on T4 (Tirosint). Too much T3 can also stimulate the HPA axis and contribute to adrenal issues. We will be testing my thyroid again in 5 to 6 weeks to see how my body is doing converting T4 to T3 on its own without supplemental T3, and then we will decide if I need to be on a smaller compounded amount of T3. I do not take natural desiccated thyroid as I have an EXTREME autoimmune reaction to it – worse than any other food – WAY worse than if I have a gluten or soy or nightshade exposure. This is irrelevant to the adrenal fatigue conversation, but I want to raise awareness that natural desiccated isn’t always the best choice, even though in natural medicine we’re told it is.

 

EXERCISE

Unfortunately, I had JUST joined a gym right before I found out I was in stage 3 adrenal fatigue. I was feeling pretty wiped out from my gym workouts and had poor recovery like muscle soreness for 3 to 4 days post-workout. Those are also definite signs of adrenal fatigue, and your body’s cue it’s time to take it way back on exercise. I stopped going to the gym, and I have resumed jogging 5x a week at a slow, manageable pace (never out of breath) for 2 to 3 miles as well as daily walks with my daughter and dog. I use the step tracker on my iPhone and average 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day.

I feel energized by this movement rather than drained like I was feeling from weights and circuits (even though I wasn’t pushing myself at the gym). I’ve heard weights are best for adrenal fatigue versus cardio, but I have found steady state cardio like jogging and walking to be enjoyable but not overtaxing.

 

STRESS REDUCTION

ONE: Stress reduction is by far the most important factor in healing adrenal fatigue in my situation. I have added once weekly acupuncture at a private practice that focuses on prenatal and post-partum health. We work on adrenals, sinuses, SI join and sciatica pain, relaxation, sleep, and TMJ all within a 1 1/2 hour appointment! I have not added Chinese herbs to my regimen yet, as I am very cautious with herbs and supplements as someone with an autoimmune disease and easily reactive immune system. 

 

TWO: I also have subscribed to this motto created by the great Casey Wilson of The Bitch Sesh Podcast: Not Gonna Take That On. I’m making an effort to not take on other people’s stress (as an empath, this can be difficult) and to stop worrying about the future (something I’ve struggled with since becoming a mother).

 

THREE: I participate in at least one stress-reducing activity a day whether that is going for a long solo walk after dinner, meditating for 20 minutes using the Headspace app, laying out by the pool with a book, or watching a Real Housewives marathon (which now equates to half an episode since embarking on motherhood).

 

SUPPLEMENTS

I’ve had many questions about which supplements and adaptogens I’m using since I began talking about the DUTCH test on Instagram. I don’t run to supplements in cases of illness or adrenal fatigue. In my opinion, the root of a lot of modern day health issues is stress. Supplements and adaptogens are bandaids for the true problem of an overburdened stress response system. They certainly help in some cases, but I have found many of them make zero difference (for me, you may have a completely different experience) or the effect is placebo (which wears off after a week for me). And I can’t stand paying hundreds of dollars a month for a counter full of supplements. I also think supplements and medications can reinforce the victim/sick mentality. The more medication bottles you see on your counter, the more you feel like you’re broken or need external sources of aid. Please don’t take this as an affront or criticism to your supplement routine – this is my opinion based on my personal experiences with multiple functional medicine practitioners over-prescribing supplements.

 

Side note for those of you with autoimmune disease: a common adaptogen called ashwagandha is actually a nighthshade which can stimulate the immune system and worsen autoimmune symptoms. There are non-nightshade adaptogens like rhodiola and holy basil (which can be immune stimulating, so you may want to avoid). I do not feel comfortable taking adaptogens while breastfeeding so I am currently avoiding. You also do not want to throw adaptogens at every adrenal fatigue patient. Adaptogen use is going to depend on the patient’s stage of adrenal fatigue.

 

Rather than taking all the supplements my doctor suggested, I purchased a few from Amazon (excellent return policy!) and used them for a few weeks. I used my intuition to determine if I sensed a difference from the supplements. Generally, I did not so I returned them. The supplements I returned were Turmeric/Curcumin, phosphatidylserine, DHEA and Pregnenolone.

The supplements that I am taking are Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium + B6 (at night for sleep & relaxation), high-quality Vitamin D + Omega3s, Trace Minerals and Real Salt (added to all my food and to my water if craving). I’m not sharing my dosage because that is something your doctor needs to determine for you.

 

Vitamin D and Zinc are important for immune system health (and people with autoimmune disease tend to be deficient in both), Trace Minerals & Real Salt help replenish minerals your adrenals need to properly regulate hormones, sodium/potassuim balance and therefore blood pressure, muscle strength, thirst, energy and heart rhythm. Magneisum + B6 is useful for nighttime relaxation – my body winds down at night and sleeps more soundly with nightly mag.

 

Instead of over-supplementing, I’m focusing on the above lifestyle and stress reduction practices: eating an energy and nutrient dense diet (and not skipping meals), omitting strenuous exercise, practicing joy and including more joyful activities in my life, age old stress reduction practices like acupuncture and meditation, and intuitive supplementation.

 

Within 3 weeks of doing my own protocol, I feel 50% better. My energy is mostly stable during the day (some dips during mid-morning still), my mood is more stable (less feelings of anxiousness and worry), and I’m not feeling overwhelmed by daily activities and responsibilities.

 


 

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

 

1. How long does it take to heal from adrenal fatigue? 

There is no timeline for healing the body. That may not be the answer you want to hear, but a shift in mindset is also warranted here. How long have you been stressed? Type A? A worrier? An over-exerciser? An under-eater? A self-loather? All of these tendencies lead to an overburdened central nervous system and adrenal response. The sooner you release expectations around healing, the more success you will see and the more joy will flow into your life.

I get this question all the time about the Autoimmune Protocol. “How long do I need to be on it? How long does it take to heal?” No one has this answer for you. It took me 6 months to be successful with reintroductions while it took some people 1 month, 1 year or 2 years. AIP is not a prescription – take 3x a day and see symptoms relief in 3 months. We cannot command our bodies to perform how we would like them to. In fact, that notion is often what gets us in the mess of hormonal imbalance and chronic illness.

Give yourself grace, compassion and learn PATIENCE. Pretend you’re a Buddhist Monk, simplify your life, practice gratitude every day, and stop listening to health podcasts or reading health blogs (even this one!) if it causes you stress. It’s okay to be curious and to be thirsty for knowledge, but often times this pushes women into a state of chronic worry, fear and comparison.

LET GO. Every time your inner voice starts to question, worry or criticize, say LET GO. Take a deep breath. Shake out the negativity and fill your mind and body with a joyful memory or hobby.

 

2. How does adrenal fatigue affect sleep?

Initially, in Stage 1 or 2 you may experience the common “tired but wired” feeling. You get a second wind around 8 pm even though you felt a little sleepy at 6 pm. You could stay up until 11 pm or 1 am watching TV, reading, or scrolling social media without feeling the need to shut your eyes and get rest. You may feel energy dips earlier in the afternoon around 3 pm as well. 

By Stage 3 to 4 adrenal fatigue, you may feel tired all day. You may not have trouble falling asleep at night (or this ability is inconsistent), but your sleep is restless and you don’t feel well-rested in the morning. You may feel the need to be in bed by 9 pm (because you’ve been tired since 10 am) and only have enough energy to drag yourself out of bed at 9 am the next day.

You can support your sleep cycles and help heal adrenal fatigue by practicing good sleep hygiene. For me, that means shutting down my phone and computer at 8 pm, taking a 20 minute epsom salt bath, dry brushing, taking my Magnesium + Trace Minerals supplements and reading in bed for as long as it takes for my eyes to feel heavy. I also wear these very sexy amber night-vision goggles as soon as it gets dark out. This has significantly helped with eye strain, headaches and increasing melatonin. Cortisol and melatonin are essentially opposites. We want our cortisol to be low at night and our melatonin to be high. We want our cortisol to spike in the morning (but not too high) and our meltatonin to be low so we have enough energy to take on our day.

I have read in several books that the adrenals heal the most during 10 pm to 2 am so it is important to establish an early bedtime routine while healing adrenal fatigue and ensure rested sleep during those hours.

 

3. What is the difference between adrenal fatigue and feeling fatigued from thyroid disease?

Unmanaged thyroid conditions can also contribute to adrenal fatigue since the adrenals and thyroid work closely together. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism causes a depression of  the metabolism which can be felt as decreased energy and muscle fatigue. You may have trouble climbing stairs or lifting weights. Adrenal fatigue can also cause feelings of fatigue with muscle weakness, lightheadedness and poor exercise tolerance. The best way to tell the difference between which gland is causing the fatigue is to have a full thyroid panel done as well as a DUTCH or 4-point salivary cortisol test. Hashimoto’s also causes the outer 1/3 of the eyebrows to fall out, general weight gain (rather than many people with adrenal fatigue who gain weight in their middle), constipation (adrenal fatigue can cause diarrhea), and slowed thinking. With adrenal fatigue, you may see orthostatic hypotension (feeling dizzy when changing positions – i.e. from laying down to sitting up), obsessive tendencies, hyper responsiveness to stimuli (i.e. loud sounds, sudden movements causing you to startle easily) and brain fog (which is different from slowed thinking). 

 

4. Can I drink caffeine when I have adrenal fatigue?

You can do anything you want to do, but if you want to heal your adrenals and balance your hormones, nix the caffeine. Caffeine is an adrenal stimulant. Your adrenals have been overstimulated if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, so adding caffeine to your daily routine is like throwing salt on an open wound. Omit all caffeinated beverages including coffee, matcha, black/green tea, excessive amounts of dark chocolate, soda or energy drinks. You may have a couple rough days of feeling more exhausted than usual but this is a detox your body needs. Soon you will find yourself with MORE energy than you did when you were drinking caffeine and further depleting your adrenals.

If you can’t quit your Bulletproof coffee or morning cup of crack, I add coconut milk to Traditional Medicinals Roasted Dandelion Tea. You get a healthy dose of fats and a jumpstart on liver detoxification in the morning – excellent if you’re also dealing with an overburdened liver or high estrogen or testosterone.

 

5. Should I quit sugar?

This is going to be dependent on your level of inflammation, blood sugar regulation and whether or not you’re addicted to sugar. It’s one thing to go for a square of dark chocolate after lunch, it’s another thing to eat a pint of dark chocolate ice cream several nights a week because it’s your drug of choice. Okay, those are two extremes, but most of us will be able to tell if we are addicted to sugar and if it’s negatively impacting gut and brain health. If you can’t tell, here are some signs: energy crashes 2 hours later, headaches, lower belly bloating, constant sugar cravings even after satisfying meals, fruit not being sweet enough for your palate, and mood swings. Sugar is addictive and anyone who tells you it’s not has not done their research on the physiological result of sugar consumption. No need to be afraid of it – just know your limits, and recognize if your habits are making you feel worse rather than healthier. 

 

6. Talk about adrenal fatigue and post-partum. Is it preventable?

It’s hard for me to talk about adrenal fatigue prevention post-partum when I did the best I could and still became overtaxed. I began my motherhood journey with the best intentions of avoiding adrenal fatigue – prioritizing sleep, eating well, minimizing stress, not taking on big projects, and getting rid of any toxic people (who wants that around their kid?) Low and behold even with my strict 10 pm bedtime and Paleo, low sugar style of eating, life stress can’t be predicted.

Rather than trying to prevent adrenal fatigue (and then allowing THAT to stress you out), aim to recognize the signs of the early stages such as weight gain, feeling wired, early waking, inability to fall asleep, and mid-day fatigue. By recognizing the rabbit hole you’re about to jump down, you can re-assess your lifestyle and take a step back.

MY HARD TRUTHS 

Don’t keep pushing harder in the gym if you see weight gain, don’t try 14 new diets to try to lose the weight or add another element of obsessive control to your life, and don’t panic if you’re diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is not cancer. I say that as someone who has watched several people pass away from cancer. It’s a modern day illness caused by taking on too much and not allowing your body the rest and love it needs. You will get better – you just have to prioritize stress management as well as re-prioritize what you’re spending your energy on. 

Hate your job? That’s a huge source of internal and external stress. Find a new job. This world is full of meaningful opportunities – don’t continue to do something you hate just to pay the bills. Set up a financial plan where you have several months of expenses in savings & work towards something you love. Take the leap – if you continue to let fear stand in your way of achieving your life purpose, you will remain at status quo. One of the most painful emotions as a human is regret.

Hate your body? Aren’t you tired of hating your body? When is it going to stop? You’re the only one that can fix the relationship you have with your body. Do you hang around friends with eating disorders or those who constantly criticize themselves therefore making you feel judged and inadequate? Do you follow bloggers on Instagram who are self-obsessed, constantly showing off their 6-pack and hard workouts, and who seem to only care about how they look? Get rid of those relationships. Work on finding gratitude in your body but also coming to the very common sense realization that spending time worrying about your body is time wasted. You could be enjoying life and making memories during all of those times you’re at the gym or picking yourself apart in the mirror. The self love journey will look different for everyone, and I’m no expert, but I do know you can CHOOSE to help yourself.

Health worrier? Do you constantly worry about your health? Every time a blogger posts about a new diet, supplement or diagnosis, do you think “I must have that!”? If that’s you, delete every single health podcast from your phone, only use the internet for work and social connection, and work to dig yourself out of the victim mentality. The #1 biggest problem I see in the autoimmune/health community is this constant fear, worry and obsession with health. I used to be this way which is how I can recognize it in others. If I had received an adrenal fatigue diagnosis 5 years ago, I would have spent WEEKS researching it, obsessing, trying to find the solution that would cure it the fastest. That is so exhausting for yourself, annoying for others, and hindering. to your body’s healing.

Turn inward and ask yourself, “What about my life is causing me emotional and/or physical stress?” Write down the 5 things about your life that bring you the most amount of stress (be honest: are your workouts actually a source of stress yet you call them stress relief?) Write down 10 things about your life that bring you joy. Focus on those 10 things, let go of those 5 things.

 

My Top Ten

  1. Spending as much time as possible with my daughter.

  2. Date nights with my husband.

  3. Vacations and weekend trips

  4. My nightly solo walks with my dog.

  5. Bravo (for sure, top 5)

  6. Ghee (if there’s one food that makes me happy, it’s ghee)

  7. Wine dates with girlfriends

  8. Responsible online shopping

  9. Dancing

  10. Phone calls with faraway friends

 

 

 

Honey “Mustard” Chicken Salad (Paleo, AIP, Low Sugar)

 

Paleo Honey “Mustard” Chicken Salad made autoimmune protocol friendly with the new KC Naturals AIP Mustard! This salad is quick to throw together, crunchy, sweet & savory!

 

I completely forgot to post this recipe for my Honey “Mustard” Chicken Salad featuring the new KC Naturals AIP Imitation Mustard! Since seeds are out on the AIP, and it can be hard to find a mustard not made with distilled (corn) vinegar or added spices, this is pretty revolutionary!

 

I call this salad my WEEKEND SALAD because I throw it together on Saturday morning and it feeds me all weekend! I hate spending time in the kitchen on Saturday & Sunday, especially because we usually have fun activities planned like the beach or the boat or meeting friends at a brewery. Rather than trying to hunt down healthy eats (which are touch to come by in a small beach community), I divvy up this salad into 4 containers!

 

When I had histamine intolerance, this is also how I would plan my meals. I would prep my protein and veggies and stick them in the freezer (to halt histamine production in cooked protein) and then grab & go. Even though I was eating a rather restricted diet back then, this made it so much easier to integrate a healing protocol into my lifestyle.

 

Enjoying your favorite hobbies, activities and outings with friends is a non-negotiable to me. Many times when someone embarks on the autoimmune protocol, they also use it as an excuse to enter victim mode. I hear people say “I can’t go to happy hour anymore” or “I can’t go out to eat with friends anymore”, and their social life becomes depleted.

Yes you CAN. You can do everything you did before you started the AIP or another special diet, but it may look a little different. I drink alcohol now, but when I didn’t, I would attend happy hour & have the bartender make me a fun mocktail. If I had plans with a friend for lunch, I’d ask if I could choose the place so we both could eat.

 

We often times make excuses for living life and being happy. Just because you have an autoimmune disease or you have to avoid certain foods does not make you a victim of your body or this world. If the hardest part of my day/your day is avoiding a cupcake, then we’re sitting pretty aren’t we? These sentiments may resemble tough love or make you feel uncomfortable, but I wish someone had told me this back when I started AIP in 2014.

 

While I never allowed AIP to dictate my hobbies, friendships or happiness, I did let it make me feel “different” from my peers and family. I’ve overcome that mental block, and I’m even healthier and happier for it. That is my hope for the autoimmune community – to simultaneously work on mindset while working on healing through food and lifestyle.

 

I can feel the stress and anxiety in the questions and emails I get through my blog & social media. The victim mentality, fear and anxiousness certainly permeates the community.  It doesn’t need to be that way though. Often times fear, anger and worry are the emotions that have led to the imbalance in our immune systems and constitution in the first place.

 

All this to say, if you feel stuck in the victim mentality, only you can pull yourself out. Look inward for validation, love and respect rather than outward. Know that this is a flash in the pan of your life – a chapter in a book of short stories. Your health will change – it will improve – it may take a step back here and there – but your body wants to be in balance again. What we most have power over is our mindset.

 

Finally – Enjoyed this recipe for Paleo & AIP Honey “Mustard” Chicken Salad over on Autoimmune Wellness!

GO TO RECIPE