Monthly Archives: December 2012

Other things I changed…

I didn’t necessarily start with the “big” things first, but the key here is that I started with something.  I was already clued in to the glycemic index after having acquired a horse that was a chronic founder case and researching founder to death.  Turns out, founder isn’t unlike diabetes.  Don’t let them graze on frozen grass, don’t feed first or fourth cutting hay (might have been frozen causing the sugars to collect in the stems), no grain (metabolizes slow just like grains for us) and on and on.  This isn’t really the right forum to discuss equine management, but it’s where I started to pay attention to things a little better.  I didn’t change anything in my own life at that time (2007), but I was thinking.  Then a friends dog had food allergies and his prize hunting dog, whom we all would have put down, went to a big vet lab for testing and was put on a strict diet of meat and sweet potatoes and recovered.  More thinking…

Then I became a mom and one of the first things I did before bringing my baby home was order glass bottles.  I was terrified of plastic!  I also vowed to use only chlorine-free diapers.  That lasted about three months as the convenience of the regular ones was easier.  Then I quit my job and decided I’d better look at ways to save money and a friend who was cloth diapering encouraged me to give it a try.  I ordered two and decided it wasn’t so bad after all.  We started cloth diapering.  That eventually led to cloth wipes.

The big changes for me didn’t come until May 2010 after I had laparoscopic surgery and hysteroscopic surgery (I believe as a result of taking soy isoflavones which completely screwed up my last attempt with fertility drugs to get pregnant).  I had mid-cycle bleeding that was unexplained and not a result of implantation of an embryo.  I went in for surgery after not ovulating (the eggs sucked back in (thanks, soy (sarcasm))).  My doctor didn’t find a thing other than a plugged left tube which we already knew and polycystic ovaries.

After that surgery, getting incredibly sick from anesthetic and then a slower recovery than I was told, I had nothing left than to get healthy.  I needed a break from trying to conceive.  My body needed a break.  My mind and emotions needed a break.  I was done.  We were not going to conceive.  I’d spent all the money-more than we’d planned to spend on “trying” (again!) and all I ended up with (again) was dashed hopes, a significantly smaller savings account and piss poor health.  Great job, Gretchen.

I didn’t want to go back on “The Pill”.  I was getting old (32 now).  I needed to treat my PCOS the way I knew I was supposed to.  Recovering from surgery showed me I was extremely afraid to die of diabetes, heart disease or any of the other “wonderful” things that come as a result of untreated PCOS.

I noted in an earlier post that a friend whom I’d been penpals with since 5th grade sent me Jillian Michael’s book, Master Your Metabolism and then encouraged me to try the Insulite program.  I did quit sugar cold turkey and experienced some pretty horrible withdrawal symptoms.  Headaches, fatigue, cravings like crazy, grouchiness…good stuff.  I failed.

Three weeks later I had the Insulite system at a cost of $85/mo.  Cheap.  Wayyyyy cheap compared to fertility treatments.  And I was chucking things out my cupboards and replacing them with better things.  I’ll detail how I started and what I changed below.

First I threw out:  Soybean oil (also called vegetable oil) and anything that contained it (Crisco, Miracle Whip, most Mayonnaises, Velveeta, fake cheese slices “singles” candy bars, salad dressings (I never ate much of that), breads, pudding mixes, dessert mixes, boullion).  I started reading labels big time.  I replaced it with Canola oil at first and then Olive Oil.  Now, I use Coconut Oil, Butter and later my own rendered lard (super easy).  I added Flax Seed to lots of things, but have backed off on flaxseed as I am unsure about the lignans and how similar/dissimilar they are to soy lignans and perhaps potentially harmful.  Until I know more, I’m backing off, although most sources tout the benefits of flaxseed.

Then I threw out anything…and I mean anything hydrogenated:  Boullion cubes, lard (for pie crusts), candy bars again, chocolate chips, canned soups, peanut butter, etc.).  I started shopping at the health food store for healthier versions of canned soups.  Aghast at the price of those things I then made my own.  I ordered beans in bulk, flour in bulk, etc.  I switched to all natural peanut butter that has to be stirred.  Adams is my preferred brand, but there are others that are just peanuts and peanut oil, not hydrogenated palm oil and other “funky” things.  I was amazed that there was/is a healthier option and substitutes for everything.  You just have to be willing to research it and find out.

I stopped buying white flour.  For years I had bought only unbleached white flour for baking.  Now I stopped buying it altogether.  I instead bought whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill has a great white wheat flour that you can sub), oat flour, barley flour, rye flour, spelt flour and started subbing my baking with those things.

I eradicated High Fructose Corn Syrup and anything that contained the ingredient.   I switched to white sugar.  The “natural choice”.  Whatever!  Later, I learned of how toxic white sugar is to your immune system and I began to slow my consumption of white sugar and in an effort to wean myself I used honey, agave, stevia, rapadura.  None of which I now feel are great substitutes, but it was a start.  I have also used barley malt, but now that I’m gluten free, that is not an option.  I have yet to try sorghum “syrup”.

I threw out anything and I mean anything with MSG, “flavorings” (whether natural or artificial) and “spices” (which is often a fancy word for MSG).  Except, my husband’s Hidden Valley Ranch.  He can’t give it up.  I don’t eat it, so I let him keep it.  If you are starting out on this purge process you will be overwhelmed that MSG is in so many things.  Chicken broth, for instance has HFCS and MSG-why?  MSG is a “taste enhancer” derived from soy and was used a lot from 1950-1970.  I started reading Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russell L. Blaylock which detailed it even more than The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Daniels.  It (MSG) was put into soldier’s rations to make their food more appealing.  It was put into baby food (seriously!  baby food!) to make it taste better.  It’s in everything processed, it seems like.  But you can very easily make your own chicken and bone broths by boiling the bones and freezing the liquid either in quart jars or ice cube trays.  This is what I do now.  I couldn’t find a viable and affordable substitute.  I hate MSG.  The more I’ve learned the worse my reaction when I see it in the ingredients.  I am appalled that a can of name brand or store brand chicken broth has 5-8 other ingredients rather than the broth itself.  Broth is not supposed to be a main meal or even tasty.

I replaced my toast, cereal and bacon at breakfast with greens, berries and bacon (or some kind of protein!) and milk.  I switched from pasteurized skim milk to pasteurized 2% (it was a start) and for a little while found a source for whole unpasteurized (raw) milk locally.  Occasionally I would splurge for the $10.50 gallon of raw jersey milk at the health food store, but not often.

I stopped snacking in the afternoons, or if I did, I made sure it was healthy with a vegetable an a protein and/or fat.  I stopped snacking before bed.  No more ice cream for me.  I discovered when I did have a sugary snack before bed, I slept horrible or had bad dreams and woke every few hours thinking I was starving.  I replaced those midnight snacks at first with nuts or cheese (real cheese).

I stopped feeding food coloring to my kids and other kids in my care.  I stopped making Jello or putting Jello in their applesauce to make it pretty.  Food coloring can cause hyperactivity/attention problems and who knew … read the back of the box and it is laced with parabens!  Cancer causing agents in food coloring.  Yes, let’s toss those things.

I hit WinCo and bought nuts in bulk:  raw almonds, raw walnuts, macadamias, pistachios, brazil nuts.  I bought whole wheat pasta (I now buy gluten free) as well as beans, other seeds.

I stopped storing food in plastic and switched to glass.  I stopped microwaving in plastic and switched to glass.  I never was big on baking in aluminum, so that wasn’t a change I had to make.  I use Pyrex glass to bake in.  I would like to get to the point where I don’t depend on that microwave for much of anything…not there yet.

Then I tackled indoor chemicals.  I stopped using chlorine bleach.  A good substitute is vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.  I mixed up my own dishwasher detergent and made my own laundry soap (also a cheap option for a mommy who just quit her job).  I was part of the Melaleuca Company at this time and had their “safer” cleaners.  Now that I’m out of those, I make my own.  Baking soda cleans anything!  I had some friends using natural cleaners who told me what they did, that helped.  I subbed Dawn for Seventh Generation, Windex for Vinegar…(or is it vice versa for proper grammar?)…

I stopped using hair spray and gel, it didn’t work anyway.  I never used conditioner.  I changed my shampoo (to SLS free) and body soap.  I use Desert Essence castile soap on my face and have used Dr. Bronner’s (any flavor) on my body.  Most of the time, I just use a safer bar soap.  I stopped using Secret and Degree deodorant/antiperspirant because of the aluminum and tried a few different brands.  I didn’t care for Jason brand and finally settled on Nourish.  Yes, I often sweat through it and sometimes I use antiperspirant if I know I am going to be on the chopping block as far as a sweaty occurrence goes.  Not often, though.  I love the smell of the Nourish brand.  You can get it at Mountain Rose Herbs or on www.amazon.com.  It’s a little more expensive, but it lasts about a year, so it evens out.  I also have a recipe to make my own with coconut oil and baking soda, but I haven’t done that yet.

I switched my makeup to Dr. Haushka, but I wasn’t fond of it, the price, coverage on my skin or the smell (rosy smell).  So, I switched to a different kind and now use Lavera foundation topped with a powder.  I was using Rejuva Minerals as the powder, but then when the ingredients weren’t any different from anything else, I switched back to a loose powder from Mabelline.  Still on a search for a good, affordable powder.  I changed my eyeliner, mascara (who knew they put plastic in mascara!), eye shadow, lipstick/gloss.

My face was greasy at this time, so I used a french clay mask from Burt’s Bees to draw out the moisture.  It was some $8 for one ounce and had a fragrance to it that I didn’t prefer.  I found Rose Mountain Herbs in Oregon and ordered a pound of french green clay for what?  $9  $10?  My skin is now clear and non greasy (going on 2 years!) so it sits in my bathroom closet.  My oldest remembers when I used to put it on my face and he would ask for the “leftovers” so he could too.

These changes happened little by little, but one thing leads to another.  If chlorine was something I shouldn’t be applying to my body, then I probably shouldn’t be using topical acne creams, either.  Upon more research, I ditched those and did the green clay mask and melaleuca oil.  My skin cleared up.  I also threw out anything with parabens and dimethicone (some “natural” and “organic” products still have dimethicone) because they are cancer causing and can screw up female hormones.  You can check the safety of your beauty products at www.ewg.org and follow the link for the cosmetic database.  They also have one for sunscreens-most of which are horrible.

I also changed my feminine products.  First I went “chlorine free” using several different brands and trying to figure out what was best.  Eventually I made my own mama cloth (because I’m frugal I refuse to pay $5 per pantyliner that I could make for .10c).  I still use Seventh Generation products or others that I find during the cycle.

If all these toxins build up in your body and cause reproductive harm, then I was pretty sure this was my problem!  There is a fancy term for this…bioaccumulation.  It essentially means that the 2% or “less than 2% hydrogenated” or food coloring, minute amounts of chlorine and other harmful chemicals, which are not probably harmful in those small “doses” are accumulating in your system. So, 2% is not being disposed and then compounds to 4% and then 20% until all those little things that said “less than 2% of whatever” have built up to really cause some substantial harm in your system.

I’m not a hippie, nor am I “green”.  I’m not a big consumer and I don’t follow fads, but I research and if I find similar information in 2, 3, or 4 unrelated sources, then I tend to see a link.  Especially if those sources are not supported by big medicine, pharmaceutical companies, big Ag or big Dairy.  There is compelling independent research out there-you just have to go looking for it.  And looking is what I did.

Conquering the world (the rest of 2012)…

I don’t know how else to explain this feeling but as “feeling like I could conquer the world.”  I have never been so strong in my legs and so pain free in my joints that I wanted to run.  I was motivated to walk all over this old farmstead we just bought in June.  I was picking up doors and throwing them into the pickup and then unloading them.  I was stacking 80-90 pound bales of hay.

A full night of sleep was coming nightly for me and I was feeling a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

I had never EVER had a regular period in my life.  Ever.  No kidding.  I mean it, ever.  I might have one every 3 months, 45 days, 4 months…you just never knew.  I might have a positive OPK (ovulation predictor test) and then not pop out an egg.  Prior to 2009, no one even knew for sure if I had even ovulated on my own!  There was always pain “down there” in my sides, but it was from cysts, who knew if it was from ovulation.  Sometimes, I am told, the lining in the uterus can build up and not get sloughed monthly to the point where after three months it just sloughs itself without ovulation.  That was probably me.

June saw my first period, 3 weeks after starting the drops.  July saw another at 29 days past the first and charted by me as I felt ovulation and noticed the classic fertile mucus.   July also found me almost 10 pounds below pre-pregnancy weight and about 7 pounds til I was pre-marriage weight!  Pre-marriage weight?  That was a number I never thought I’d see.  It’s just a number, though!  I was healthier than I had ever been, all numbers aside.  August saw another at 27 days and charted to be right on time.  At the end of August with all the fertile signs there and a positive OPK I convinced my husband (didn’t take much) that we should try for a baby.  September’s period didn’t come.  I was pregnant.  First try.  Unreal.

Now that I was pregnant I couldn’t take the drops.  A little bit of joint pain came back and my sleeping grew erratic again, but my Naturopath gave me another supplement to help and told me above anything get enough rest.  I had just had some blood work done which revealed coming to the top of Stage 2 Adrenal Fatigue, so my motivation as of late is to really take care of myself and not lose the ground I gained.

I remain gluten free, sugar free (mostly) and soy free and take the supplements properly.  I am motivated to be healthy!  I go to sleep at 8:15/8:30pm and wake at 4:30 am on the weekdays.  I milk my dear cow at 5am, when everyone is still sleeping.  I take a nap if I need to, but not very often.  I eat lots of green stuff (breakfast, lunch and supper).  I can tell in my joints when I need to eat better!  I sometimes eat coconut oil by the spoonful so I get my “healthy fat”.  I’m not as energetic as I was this summer, but I trust that will all come back, too.

I feel amazingly blessed to have at one time begged at the altar of the Lord for healing.  I meant physical healing.  I received emotional healing first.  Then I received the gift of a child given to me by someone else.  Then He, in his perfect love, revealed to me little by little what I should be doing health-wise.  My mind opened with each practitioner I saw.  This is not the end of my story and I am not completely healed yet, but my God has given me some amazing answers and just in the nick of time…before my fertility (or lack of) ran out, before menopause hit.

I am humbled that my prayer some 9 years ago was answered and I have received blessings that I would never have known some 12 years ago could be so sweet.  Blessings that I do not take for granted (most of the time).  Blessings I thought would never come my way.  Blessings I pined over and spent an incalculable amount of time grieving.  Blessings that now remind me of the hope in life and I hope to help others on their infertility path as well.

Gluten, Cortisol, Vitamin D…what was my starting “regimen”? (Early 2012)

So I mentioned in my previous post that I went off gluten in late Nov/early Dec 2011.  And refined sugar too.  I kept looking for sugar replacements (honey, agave, stevia) and have pretty much given up on that at this point.  I do use honey and I have stevia in my cupboard, but those things I used to put sugar on I just eat without now.  The sourness of a grapefruit doesn’t bother me anymore.  It’s all what you get used to.

In mid-January, 2012 upon seeing my Naturopath (hippie doctor, quack, whatever you want to call him…miracle worker?) I continued to be gluten free, soy free by choice, and sugar free.  He referred me to the kalish diet and at this time I had also read The Perfect Health Diet by Jaminet and Jaminet and understood safe carbs, grain-free, lots of veggies and good fruits, healthy fats, the healthiest nuts, etc.  Dairy can be an inflammatory agent, but raw dairy seems to be ok.  He especially wanted me to keep eating dairy because I was still nursing the baby and needed the extra calories.

I was also (and still am) taking a supplement called Juice Plus, which is, I think, essentially the fibers left over after juicing organic fruits and veggies, in pill form.  I’ve been taking this for two years.  Now, my kids are on it, too.

I added a better prenatal, although the one I was taking wasn’t “so” bad.  I added Vitamin D3, fish oil, started being more cognizant of using coconut oil and butter as opposed to olive oil.  I even rendered my own lard because that is a healthy saturated fat my body needed and the stuff in the store is hydrogenated.

I added phosphorylated serine at supper and melatonin at bedtime.

My baby slept.  I slept.

Did I mention I slept?  I have rarely slept completely through the night and upon wakening felt rested.  I slept and I felt rested for the first time in my entire life.  No kidding.  Just that was a miracle!  Ok, I did sleep a little better after taking the Insulite supplements in 2010.

By the time I stopped nursing (and I do NOT diet) I was down to pre-baby weight.  Not really something to brag about, but I had lost 20 pounds prior to conceiving and could have stood to lose a bit more.  I don’t own a scale, remember.  I weighed in at the Naturopaths office every couple months.

My baby stopped nursing when he was 10 months and since he had pulled two other “strikes” on me I was done fighting him.  I cried that day because I could see him graduating high school and leaving home for good…yep, just because he was done nursing.  In the end, it became a relief not to be attached to the Medela or my beautiful baby attached to me, or me worrying about my milk supply and timing nursings before we went out and about.

Once I was done nursing I could add in DHEA and Pregnenolone drops and did so the end of May 2012.  WOW-wee.  He told me I would feel lots better but it would be gradual.  He was right and it was gradual…in about a month or two time I felt like I could conquer the world!

Holy joint pain… (2011, 2012)

I had had joint pain all my life, I just didn’t know it until it went away.  I had had ovarian cyst pain all my life but didn’t know it until a doctor told me that was not normal.  My hair had been falling out all my life (when I wasn’t hormonally controlled), acne, and the list goes on.

My biggest fear when I wasn’t pregnant anymore is that all this stuff would return and return fierce.   I hoped nursing my little guy would keep some of it at bay.  I also hoped I’d have another miracle happen before I finished nursing.  I was not going back on “The Pill” ever again.  And I was done with synthetic fertility drugs forever.  So, I needed to get healthy, but I was so tired from having a new baby!

Thanksgiving of 2011, my folks came out.  I had been dabbling in gluten free and really limiting my consumption of such things because I knew it could be the source of some of my problems.  But in all honesty, I really hoped and prayed (did I really pray about gluten?  Probably not.) that I could just limit it and I’d be ok.  That Thanksgiving, I made pies and all the goodies that come with the holidays that we were not accustomed to eating.  We had wild Alaskan salmon for Thanksgiving dinner, with steamed broccoli.  My parents love pies and breads and I was careful not to eat bread, but I did eat a half slice each of apple and peach pie.

The next morning, my joints were so incredibly stoved up.  It hurt to climb the stairs in that old farm house and I seriously had to use my arms to help pull myself up them.  I thought, “For crying out loud, I’m 34!”  What is going on?  I remembered back in my high school sports days that there would be rare occasions when I felt really energetic and strong and could tie even with the fastest girl on the basketball floor running “lines” or I could make a really good start running to the grocery store (sports practice) and back to school when I felt good.  I figured it all had to be tied in together.

I must have a food allergy.  I got online once my parents left becuase I vaguely remembered some posts and links on gluten and PCOS or gluten and joint pain or gluten and cysts.  My abdomen was screaming at me, even though I was still nursing.  My face was clear, though, still!  I also knew sugar was terrible for your immune response.

So, when one has questions where do we go?  Books and the Internet.  I’d just finished reading Robin O’Brien’s The UnHealthy Truth and started Kaayla Daniel’s The Whole Soy Story on deck was a book about Excitotoxins and non-related Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography.

After some research showing that 85% of PCOS women have a gluten sensitivity and seeing how gluten causes cysts and gluten free healed some women I was convinced.  Joint pain, cysts.  Sugar also doesn’t help the matter.  So I went on a two-week elimination diet of gluten and sugar.  I was strict.  If I’m going to do it, I do things right…usually.  In this case, yes.  I didn’t want to start over!

On Day 9, I was pain free.  I could get up those stairs no problem!   On Day 11, I goofed up and had a hamburger bun.  Just to make sure I had two (sometimes “they” say to get all glutened up to test it).  24 hours later I was stoved up and the pain was back.  I went back to gluten free and sugar free and 9-10 days later the pain was gone again.  I goofed up and ate some sugar and got a hell of a heachache, extreme crabbiness 30 minutes later and then the classic sugar crash.  Joint pain followed in about 12 hours and subsided within 2-3 days.  The joint pain was a little different than that with gluten.  Not quite as intense.  I also dropped more weight, yes in two weeks.  I don’t own a scale, but I lost a ton of weight…fast.  Ok, not a ton, but a noticeable amount and fast, within 2-4 weeks.

I got on the phone.  I needed some answers!  I called allergists, made appointments, cancelled appointments and finally spoke to a Naturopath who did gluten testing.  She was in Seattle (or one of those cities up there).  I decided I didn’t want to go that far in the winter (it was not December), so I called around at Spokane and sent emails if they had a website.

I found Dr. Graves in Spokane.  I met with him in January when our Flex Spending Account reset and he immediately tested me for Cortisol Imbalance and told me that when the Cortisol is “off” it can cause inflammation.  I was tested and had a fairly significant imbalance, putting me in Stage 2 of Adrenal Fatigue.  He recommended staying gluten free, soy free and sugar free.  He said only raw dairy (which we were doing at that time anyway) and increasing greens and berries and nuts, red meat, etc.  I was already doing this, so no problem.  Later he tested my Vitamin D and it was way low.  My baby was still not sleeping worth a darn and he told me to read Good Night Sleep Tightby Kim West and follow her suggestions.  I did and that little bugger was sleeping from 7-5am in a few days.  He told me PCOS would go away and he’d seen it happen before.  I wanted to believe him and I was going to put myself into this 100% because it’s all I had left!  He also told me I’d get pregnant again, which I wanted to believe also, but I wanted to nurse my second little guy as long as I could.

Gluten, Vitamin D deficiencies and Cortisol alone are indicated in PCOS and I had all three problems!  I always wondered where the missing link was.  Perhaps I’d found it?