Wholistic Melissa

Now What? Gut Health

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with their loved ones! 

The timing of this blog post couldn't be any better. My family and I spent the holiday weekend away with my family in the Poconos. We had a BLAST! We played board games, corn hole, ate, played ping pong, ate some more, had cocktails and wine then ate some more. It was filling on so many levels. 

However, my body was all like, oh no you didn't, by Sunday. 

Do I know what my triggers are? 

Absolutely. 

Did I pay FULL attention to them this weekend.

Absolutely NOT. 

Did I feel like poo by Sunday.

Absolutely! 



Let me rewind a little to refresh your memories. 

I have suffered from gut health issues for a very very long time. 
At their peak of dysfunction, I was bloated, exhausted, arthritic, anxious, depressed and either experiencing constipation or diarrhea

Over the past couple of years I have made it my quest to optimize my health. You've read my journey through hormone health and now I'd like to share with you my journey to optimal gut health. 



Before you log off thinking gut health isn't linked to anything I described above, give me a few minutes of your time (please). 

It's a scientific fact that 70% of our body's serotonin is made in our digestive tract. 

70% folks, 70% (not in your brain but in your G U T)

It's also a fact that an imbalance in serotonin is linked to mood disorders, osteoporosis and digestive disorders. 

Let's not forget that the strength of our immune system is directly proportional to the strength of our digestive system too. 

You see where I'm going with this? 

Everything I described to you about how I was feeling was connected, and the common denominator was my gut health. 

Not only was I suffering from leaky gut, where my food was being absorbed improperly, causing immune/mood issues, I also had an imabalnce of serotonin, causing further immune/mood issues. 

Wow...no wonder I wanted to curl into a ball and sleep most days. 



So what's a girl, with a messy digestive system, to do? 

First, I researched and read and read some more.

If you want the quick and dirty:

Phase 1: eliminate all trigger foods & beverages

Phase2: repair and rebuild your digestive system

The story...

F O O D

If you recall, I was in my hormone health discovery phase at the same time. So, I was already eliminating foods from my diet that were hormone disrupting (gluten, dairy and sugar). As it turns out, these are also common triggers for people with IBS or sensitive digestive systems (as are legumes, coffee and alcohol). 

I think coffee was the hardest for me (I still crave it sometimes). It powered me through my days (eh hem...adrenal fatigue) but it was doing a number on my stomach. I weaned myself off slowly, going black first then decreasing the amount each week until I was drinking 1/4 cup in the morning. 

The food part was messy at first too, I had no idea gluten came in so many forms and had to read every stinkin' label. I also fell into the gluten free trap. You know, the one where you think because it says gluten free on the package means it's good for you. I eventually weaved my way through millions of products to find those that work for ME. 

I now live grain free (no gluten free grains either), dairy free and refined sugar free (honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup are my sweeteners of choice), 90% of the time. I still enjoy gluten free oats once or twice a week. 



R E B U I L D & R E P A I R

Our digestive system is also full of healthy bacteria (and bad bacteria).

We have more bacteria in our body than we do cells!

When we talk about rebuilding our gut health, it has a lot to do with regaining a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut so that the good out number the bad

We can achieve an optimal balance through food and supplements. Always food first.

Fermented foods are a powerhouse of good bacteria, and adding a small amount to your daily diet can shift your gut bacteria back into balance over time. 

Foods like: 
-sauerkraut
-kimchi
-kombucha
-pickled veggies
-kefir
-tempeh 
-natto
-raw cheese
-cultured yogurt (dairy & non-dairy)

I have also gotten on the bone broth band wagon! As soon as I read about the benefits and how simple it is to make I was hooked. Bone broth is basically stock, cooked for a much longer period of time. I like chicken broth the best and cook mine for 24 hours. Here's my recipe. Bone broth has two main components that help to heal your gut. L-glutamine and collagen. Both are leeched out of the bone as it cooks down, so make sure you are cooking with organic or pasture raised/grass fed bones. I save  bones from whole chickens we cook and am even using the turkey bones from Thanksgiving. I also purchase chicken feet from my local organic market, they provide a much higher collagen output. Squeamish about the feet? No worries, just use regualr bones and you'll achieve the same effect. Whole Foods now has organic frozen bones to purchase too! You can also check with your local organic farms. 

Probiotics greatly increase your success in healing your gut. I went through quite a few before I found a brand that works with my body. You'll want to look for one that has a variety of strains of bacteria, has 15-30 CFUs and is from a reputable brand (Renew Life, Garden of Life, ect.). If you experience any side effects (gas, bloating) either try a lower CFU or switch brands. If it's not your thing to supplement then you can simply add one of the fermented foods into your diet on a daily basis to gain the same benefits. 

The latest and greatest trend in the world of gut health is powdered collagen and gelatin. Collagen not only works to heal your gut lining, it is found throughout our body in our hair, skin, nails and bones. I like to supplement with collagen peptides, I use them in my smoothies, oats and morning hot elixirs. My go-to brand is Vital Proteins. I like that they use high quality ingredients and source their collagen from grass fed animals. They have a great blog article about how to use collagen and gelatin for better gut health. 

I've partnered with Vital Proteins, to get collagen and beef gelatin into one of my reader's hands. If you hop on over to my Instagram page you can enter my giveaway to win a box of peptide sticks and a canister of beef gelatin. You'll be rolling in gut health soon!!!

Curious about ALL of the benefits of collagen? Check out this article  I wrote! 

Like anything else, you are looking to maintain a balance. You don't have to do ALL of these things EVERY day, but incorporating these gut healthy solutions into your life will help you in your quest to heal your gut and achieve overall optimal health. 

Oh and speaking of balance! How do you manage stress? If you're laughing or thinking of your nightly glass of wine, then you're probably not managing it optimally!

Stress increases our cortisol levels which can also contribute to poor gut health. SO...get your stress levels down with anything that brings you joy or peace. That might be a walk in the park, a warm epsom salt bath, the smell of essential oils, meditating, exercising (but not too much), date nights or even a night on the couch watching a movie with the fam. 

Slow down. Give yourself a time out and listen to what your body is telling you. 



Getting back to last week...

I enjoyed myself over Thanksgiving break. 

I had wine or a cocktail each night. 

I had stuffing made with GF brown rice bread. 

I ate apple and pumpkin pie (not GF).

I stayed up late and snacked late. 

By Sunday...

I was exhausted, achy and my face looked like it was going through puberty. 

I'm sharing this because I think it's important to understand that while there are eating trends that seem to pervade social media, there are also real reasons that people post about or write about particular ways they live. I eat and live the way that I do so that I DON'T feel like I did on Sunday all the time. 

I also believe that by sharing my story, I am paying it forward. Hopefully the me two years ago is reading this and finding hope.

Our health is vitaly important. If you aren't feeling well or feeling quite like yourself, take the time to figure out why. 

You are worth it.



Be Well,
Melissa

 

Wholistic Melissa

What Now? Hormones

If your like me, you've researched and read and read some more, and thought, ok, now what?

Not only does it feel daunting, but...

What do you do first?

What will make the most impact?

Is what I'm doing right?

How long before you know what to do next?



When I began my personal journey after reading Woman Code, I dove in head first. I drove my family crazy! 

I cycle synced my food.

I did a round of Whole30.

I went dairy free for a week then broke down and ate yogurt and got so sick!

I went on a rampage about our cleaning products and skin and hair care products.

I literally tried to do everything ALL AT ONCE.

This was not a good plan, because it was difficult to sustain and and I failed, A LOT. 



estrogen

Most often when we think of hormone imbalance we think of an estrogen dominant state. There are several hormones in our body that play a vital role in hormonal homeostasis, but estrogen dysfunction seems to play a large part in issues so many women face today. However, as you can see, symptoms of estrogen dominance definitely mimick other imblances in our bodies, making it even trickier to parse out. 

But, I will just focus on hormones for now. 

When it comes to our hormones there are numerous factors that affect our ability to maintain a healthy balance. 

-genetics
-stress
-sleep
-diet
-lifestyle
-environment
-beauty products
-household products
-alcohol
-caffeine
-adrenal function
-exercise

Imagine taking this list one day and deciding it's all going to change. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE THAT OPTIMISM, especially if you have some not so healthy habits holding you back. However, like I said before, it's not going to be sustainable for you if you feel like you are in a tidal wave of change. 

For me, it was easiest and most effective to work on what I put into my body. Looking back on it, I defeinitely had an intoxicated approach, weaving back and forth trying to get it right

What helped me the most was figuring out how food affected me.

I began cutting out big things like gluten, dairy and sugar (the three biggest hormone disruptors). I was so naieve that I had to read EVERY SINGLE LABEL, EVERY SINGLE TIME I purchased something new. I quickly learned that processed foods (the stuff in a package) were not for me. The more whole food I consumed, the easier it was and the better I felt. I realized that I wasn't the 'cleanse' or elmination type of person either. I needed to eat, otherwise I would leave the cleanse and binge on whatever I could find. 

Removing foods and food products from your lifestyle that are harming your body on a hormonal and cellular level every day, will not only help you stave off chronic diseases, it will also help you FEEL BETTER

For me, this also meant taking a hard look at how much alcohol and caffeine I consumed. Both of these substances were key in gaining control over all three areas I was struggling with (hormones, IBS and adrenal fatigue)

Alcohol has an insane effect on our hormones, including insulin, and the effects in women last twice as long as in men. Meaning, when we overdo it, we are left reaping the negative effects (blood sugar disregulation, cravings, fatigue, bloating) for days. 

Caffeine, just like alcohol, can disrupt our hormone balance by blocking the absorption of key nutrients that help make our hormones and it can also cause cysts to form in our breasts and ovaries. And, just like alcohol, women metabolize caffeine slower than men, so it's effects are sustained for longer periods of time. 

I don't know about you, but when I read all of this, I took a sharp turn towards detox town. Was it easy, hell no. Was it worth it, hell yes. 



Lucky for us, so many amazing companies have emerged over the past couple of years that make it easier (albiet more expensive) to choose better foods and food products. 

Some of my favorites are:
Primal Kitchen
Vital Proteins
Tessemae's
Steve's Paleo Goods
Applegate
Amy's 
Purely Elizabeth
Sir Kensington's
Chosen Foods
Jovial Foods
Woodstock Foods
Organic Valley
Califia Farms
Vital Farms
Siete Foods
CoYo Yogurt
RxBar
Epic

You can also begin by looking for this symbol when you shop:

non-gmo-project
When you see this symbol on a product, you know it's also organic per the labeling requirements. So it's a double win!

Remember, the way food is grown, raised and fed has just as much effect on OUR bodies as it does the plant or animal's bodies and our environment!

If you're really interested in learning more, check out this article I wrote. It breaks down the whole organic, non-GMO thing for you!



The next big thing I tackled was changing my household and beauty products, because what we spray in our house and put on our skin is JUST as important as what we put into our bodies. 

Environmentally speaking, we are exposed to thousands of hormone disrupting (estrogen mimicking) chemicals every day. 

These chemicals wreak havoc on adult bodies and are even more disruptive to developing children's bodies. Numerous studies and statistics show a definitive connection between these hazardous substances and asthma, diabetes, obesity, autism, arthritis, menthal health, digestive and skin disorders, allergies (food and environmental), and even cancer. 

The importance of changing the way we view these products isn't just for the sake of our environment's health, it's for the sake of our health and our family's health. 

Seriously Melissa? 

I know, I'm sorry to be such a bummer, but if you think about it, every one of you knows a child (or has a child) that has one of the issues I mentioned above. 

SO! Start small like I did and change the products you use most; your detergent, dryer sheets, surface cleaners.

I personally like to use the EWGs Healthy Living App or the Think Dirty App. These allow me to search the products I use to determine their safety.

Eventually you can tackle your beauty products. From soap to shampoo to face cream, it all matters. 

Today I shared my favorite deodorant, Nfuse, via IG and FB (don't forget to hop onto INSTAGRAM for the giveaway!). I have a drawer full of products as proof of my never ending search for the one that works for me! So, when I'm ready to share, it's because it's been road tested and researched! 

*The lovely women at Nfuse, Ann & Emily, are offering my readers 10% off of their online purchases through January 1st by using the code, 'wholistic10' at checkout. PLUS, you'll get free shipping when you order two or more bottles!*

If you think about the positive impact on your hormone balance by changing something you literally do EVERY DAY, like applying deodorant, it seems to be so simple. 

And, that's because it is.

It's simple because when you make small changes, eventually the sum will be greater than the parts and you will be feeling better on so many levels. 



The very last pieces of my hormonal puzzle were found at my holisitc practioners office. I wanted to be able to turn to someone who wasn't me for some final answers. 

Supplements have been a key part of this journey as well. Lab work and conversations have allowed us to tailor an approach that is right for my body. 

And, if you have been following my Instagram story this week, you'll know that I finally embarked on my meditation journey too. I can eat kale alllll day every day, but find it so hard to intentionally disconnect and go to my happy place (other than sleeping). 

If you've been thinking about adding meditation to your life, join me this week! I'll be checking in on my IG story daily. Maybe we can even keep it going through the holidays!



One final thought for you as we head into the CRAZIEST (and most wonderful) time of the year. 

We need to find OUR balance. 

I know I post all about health and wellness and what healthy things I'm cooking or eating, but there's a reality that exists beyond social media.

We are not here for perfection, but for progress. 

Be kind and be true. 

Be you.

Until next time, (which might be after Thanksgiving).

Be Well,
Melissa

P.S.

I can work with you to help you find your balance.

Email me. 

Let's get the conversation started. 

wholisticmelissa@verizon.net


Wholistic Melissa

My Why: Adrenal Fatigue

Hello and Happy Friday! 

I still can't believe the positive responses and feedback I've received over the past couple of weeks. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you!



This weeks' topic is kind of a culmination of everything I've discussed so far. 

I've pointed out before that not one system in our body, (hormonal or chemical) works autonomously. Which makes our bodies an amazing wonderment but also a hot mess sometimes!



After years of struggling with hormones and IBS I hit a giant wall in my mid-thirties. 

Here's how it all went down (hind sight is truly 20/20)

I had spent a better portion of my early thirties trying to attain and maintain what I thought was my "ideal weight" (especially after having my last baby at 31). As it turns out, what worked for me in my twenties surely wasn't working in my thirties and was a detriment more than I realized. Also, I had a pretty crappy body image and had my expectations all in a bunch. 

During this time, I spent a good year using a food diary app (which I will not name, because I don't want to get all negative Nancy on companies that actually do good for people).  I set the most unreasonable limit of 1200 calories per day and worked tirelessly to stay within those parameters. I tracked every meal, snack, bite, "cheat" and drink down to the calorie.

The trouble was, not only was I under eating and lacking key nutrients, I was also over exercising (6 days a week), addicted to coffee (3-4 cups a day), suffering from major anxiety,  and binge eating/drinking on weekends because my body was starving (on so many levels!).

My body and brain didn't know WTH to make of the conditions I had it working under.

I spent many nights staring at the fridge looking for ways to feed my exhaustion and quiet my anxiety. It was usually binging on almond butter or ice cream or both! 

In August of 2014 I stopped working (out of the house) and by November I was sitting in my family doctor's office getting my blood drawn because I felt so awful. 

I wanted answers as to why I couldn't wake up in the morning. I don't mean the typical Monday morning, ugh I don't want to work today feeling. What I felt was so physical and chemical that my arms and hands were literally numb when I woke up, because my brain thought I should still be asleep, it was actually kind of scary. Oh and yes, I would get that crash and burn in the afternoon, only to rebound around 7 or 8pm like I was ready to party!

I had literally torched the candle on both ends.

But, guess what? My blood work was PERFECT...according to my doctor. My thyroid function was fine, my white blood cell count was great and my iron was good

So, you know what she said?

Have you considered going on an anti-depressant?

My face: poker. My brain: was screaming, are you flipping kidding me!!!!

Here I was thinking I was going to gain a little insight as to what was going on with my body, but instead was offered a prescription. If you read my last two posts, you know that medications had been tried and tried again since my twenties, with no success.

BUT, when the answers you're seeking aren't coming from a pill bottle, what do you do?

I left the office that day without a prescription and a lot of questions.

I spent the next 2 years seeking information. I saw one physician who sent me away with rough instructions on an elmination diet.
The first three days of which were a bone broth cleanse (at that time I was like a who in the what now cleanse?), followed by eating certain foods for a period of time. TODAY, I totally get it, but THEN, I didn't have the capacity nor the proper information to properly follow through (insert your health coach, me, here!)

Eventually, I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition after reading my holy grail, Woman Code (the author is a graduate of IIN), and began my deep dive into how food affects our body. 

I was amazed at the how the dots began to connect; from changes on a cellular level to immune system reactions to chronic imflammation. 

My tipping point, which brough me to the adrenal fatigue diagnosis, was when I could no longer function and manage on any level. 

When standing made me dizzy. 

When I would wake up at 2am EVERY night unable to fall back asleep.

When I was trying to start my business but felt like, "how can I be this great sharer of all things heathly, when I myself feel so terrible?".

My first phone call.

Was acutally to a bioidentical hormone physician. I was desperate. I wanted so bad to just fix it. I thought that considering my hormone history, this was the answer. I didn't care how much it cost or what the risks were, I just wanted to feel better. 
 
However, I knew in my heart this wasn't the right choice for me. I didn't want to feel so clinical in my approach to my body and knew there had to be a better way, FOR ME. 

My second phone call.

Was about 1 year ago now, to a holistic physician

AH-HA

As it turns out, I was doing everything right that I had in my power to do. 

What I didn't have was access to was someone who knew to look beneath the surface.

Through blood tests and conversations, we unearthed adrenal fatigue, vitamin D deficiency (so common but so detrimental for hormone synthesis and production) and B12 deficiency

Which connected the dots to my hormone imbalances too.

We also chatted about my life, kids, relationships, work, food, menstrual cycles, sex, you name it. We also talked about solutions. Some that come in supplement form and some that I have to manifest throughtout my day.
 
I have left her office each time so EMPOWERED. More than I every thought was possible, feeling the way I did.



It's been a year since my first visit. 

A long year.

But, I feel good

I feel like I have regained control of my body. 

I also know that I need to be kind to myself, love MY body, be more mindful and live each day with as much intention as a mom, with 3 kids, a dog, a hubby (that sometimes acts like a kid) and a new business can. 

I'm excited for my journey now. Even more so because I can SHARE this with you and hopefully creat a ripple effect. 

Thank you once again for reading!



Feel like I've left you with a lot of story and not a whole lotta solutions? 

Don't worry, I got you!

Starting next week, I will post a follow up for each story so far, entitled; Now What? 

I'll give you a sneak peek into my daily routine and what has helped me over my many humps! 

Stay tuned for special colaborations and giveaways via Instagram too! 

Enjoy your weekend and as always, thank you for your support!

Be Well,
Melissa









Wholistic Melissa

My Why: IBS

Welcome back!



First, I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who read last week's blog. The positive response was overwhelming and truly amazing. I am so grateful to be able to share my story with you and connect on a very personal level. 


I also thought I should mention that each of these areas I'm writing about typically don't work independently of one another. At least that was/is my case. I like to consider it a triad.  if you list the symptoms of  hormonal issues, IBS and adrenal fatigue, you will see a lot of commonalities between the three. This is also what makes it very tricky to diagnose and parse out. I'm hoping that by sharing my stories, I can help you shed some light on your own situation!

Ok! Now that we covered that little bit of info let's dive into IBS!



This week I will be sharing my journey through Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you watch (regular) television, you have most likely seen an add or two about medications used to treat IBS. I used to be one of those people. I was spinning on a hamster wheel looking for answers and covering up symptoms while never addressing the root cause of my health issues.

Seventeen to Nineteen

I will always remember my first year of college. I'm sure we all do, but hopefully your reasons are better than mine! 

My entire high school career, I was active, I played a sport each season and was generally in good health.

Mid-way through my freshman year of college I began to develop stomach discomfort including abnormal bowels (constipation and diarrhea). 

Once again, looking back on it, my underlying issues and root causes were a no brainer.

I was stressed about my grades (I didn't do well my first year...at all!), surviving on very little sleep, consuming lots of coffee and eating crap food (frequently ordering the giant bucket of chicken fingers from the cafe, they would literally deliver them to your dorm). 

No wonder my digestive system was hay wire!!!

Naturally, I went to my family doctor who prescribed a drug to help with my intestinal motility. Basically a giant bandaid to alleviate my stomach discomfort and all the while, I kept on with the same unhealthy lifestyle habits as before. I honestly don't recall how long I continued the medication or how much it helped, because it was at this time I began dealing with depression

*Fun fact: Serotonin (the feel good chemical in your body) is responsbile for much of the stability of our mood. 80% of our body's serotonin is made in you STOMACH!*

Considering that fun fact above, you don't need to have a medical degree to know what was going on with my body. 

I was way out of wack and I was constantly insulting my body with a barage of terrible food and lifestyle choices. 

Needless to say, I left school after a 3 semesters because I knew it was the right thing to do. I wasn't productive and was wasting valuable resources. 

Nineteen to Twenty-Five

I worked my but off that year I took off, sometimes over 50 hours a week. I even self-funded a trip to Ireland with my grandparents. 

However, I continued to deal with a very unstable moodI would spend my non-working hours watching tv and eating junk.  

(Hershey kisses and swedish fish were my go-to, like the Costco size too.)

At some point I was prescribed anti-depressants and sought out therapy, both to no avail. The medication made me flat and the therapy just helped me shift the blame onto my childhood instead of what was going on right in front of me. 

*My parents divorced when I was two. Maybe someday I'll blog about this experience, but for now, let's just say, while it wasn't always a fun situation it most definitely wasn't to blame for everything*

I honestly wish I would have realized my personal struggle at the time too. Going from an all around good student to one who practically failed out of her first year in college. That might of been weighing on me bit too!

But, I pressed on. 

I met my husband when I was 20 at his cousin's pharmacy (my hubby's a pharmacist too). He was a saint (and still is, lol). He helped me through some of my roughest days to see my worth and realize my potential again. I probably don't thank him often enough. 

Shortly after we met, I applied to pharmacy school and began the insanely intense course work to get in. I was knee deep in organic chem, bio, physics and calculus.

I was still dealing with IBS (and stress) and what I now know are food sensitivites, but who had time to stop and get to the root of what was going on with my body? Not me!  

*Also, things like food sensitivites and gut health just weren't talked about as much, especially in pharmacy school*

During those 6 years in pharmacy school, I floated on and off of various anti-depressants (they either didn't work, flattened my affect, made my anxiety worse or destroyed my sex drive), started birth control, and just figured I would always have a sensitive digestive tract and that bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation were totally normal!

If you payed attention last week, you'll know that birth control just put another notch in this already too tight of a belt of  physical symptoms.

I graduated in 2004, began my career and my long, stress-filled work days and had our first babe by April of 2005. 

Twenty-Six to Thiry-Five

For most of this decade, I was pregnant, had newborns, had newborns and toddlers or towards the end had just begun dealing with pre-teen business with our oldest! Motherhood was both utterly amazing and utterly exhausting, leaving me with little time to care about what was going on with me (a common story). 

I remember being constipated so often that I was relying on Dulcolax to get me through my days. Do you know how terrible that is!?!?

Not only that, but I was relying on heavy duty antacids to help calm my digestive issues too. 

My body really didn't have to figure out what was going on, medications were doing the work for it!

But, I kept on...

Not realizing the perfect storm of hormone and gut issues I had going on.

I would spend the better part of this decade managing.

Managing work, kids, marriage and physical issues. 

Thirty-Six to Thirty-Eight

When I first started trying to right so many of my wrongs, I kind of went a little extreme, or crazy as my kids would say. I would try a juice diet, fast, cut this out, cut that out, think that all super foods were the answer, but never really had any balance or consistency. 

Around 36-37, I began to have a lot of overlap with IBS, hormone health and adrenal issues. More so than ever before. (I will share more about my adrenal health journey next week.)

I was still struggling with constipation, diarrhea, and food senstivities.

For a period of time, no matter what I ate I would get nauseous, severely bloated or have indigestion.  Literally everything I put into my mouth would elicit this response. 

THEN, I developed arthritis. 

I couldn't walk up the steps without pain in my knees, my fingers would ache and my sciatica was so inflammed that I was seeing my chiropractor twice weekly. 

My body was being ravaged from the inside out.

I was exhausted and desperate for answers.

If you recall, I was just beginning to uncover and remedy a lot of my hormone issues too! I was a HOT MESS!

Oddly enough, this whole time period came to a boiling point when I was in the middle of my education at the Institue for Integrative Nutrition. 

My AH-HA moment.

The term leaky gut came up in one of our lectures.

It was like a giant light bulb went off!

Here I was, the poster child for leaky gut 

(here's a little graphic representation for those visual learners like myself) :)

LeakyGutCourse


I could finally define what was going on, and I wasn't  (that) crazy.

I had a GIANT piece of my health puzzle.



Thus began my now 2 year journey towards optimal health and wellness. 

It was not easy and sometimes seemed like a never ending dark tunnel. I had great days and not so great days (and still do). I fell in love with fermented foods and bone broth, lol. 

I can happily say that on most months, my symptoms are non-existent. My digestive system is stronger and able to tolerate an occasional piece of pizza, a beer (or two) or ice cream (only Ow Wow Cow...the best in my opinion). 

It can NOT, maybe never will and I don't want it to, tolerate too much of a bad thing. My body quickly reminds me how bad it is to feel bad.

I'll repeat my mantra from last week:

Nothing is static and what's working for me today, may not a month or a year from now.

But I'm much smarter now and in control. 

I took the freaking wheel.  



As I'm writing this, I'm thinking about how excited I am to share my adrenal fatigue story with you. 

I'm crazy right!?! 

Honestly, it's because I can still see back to those days that were really difficult and uninspiring and then I think of today; when I choose to eat the foods I want to nourish me, have balanced sustained energy and am FULLY inspired to share my story with you. 

It's quite remarkable what we can do! 

Thank you, thank you, thank you again for reading my story.

I look forward to sharing more with you next week!

Be well,
Melissa








  










Wholistic Melissa

My Why: Hormones

I have been wanting to share my story with you for quite some time now. Once I started drafting the post I was like, WOAH, info overload!!! SO, I decided to break it down into 3 posts for the three key areas of my health that have had the most impact on my lifestyle choices. 



HORMONES                            IBS                          ADRENAL FATIGUE



Over the course of the  next few weeks, I will be sharing my personal experiences with each of these chronic issues many people face. My WHY will hopefully resonate with you and help you begin YOUR JOURNEY just like I did. 

So let's get going!!!

TEENAGE YEARS to EARLY TWENTIES

Looking back on my teen years, I can't say that there was anything dramatic about my hormonal existence. I went through a bought of painful periods caused by cystic ovaries that were treated with birth control at 13 but after that, it was pretty quiet. I didn't stay on the pill for long and didn't start it again until many years later in my early 20's. There was a distinct change after starting birth control. Sometimes my period was late, I would have breakthrough bleeding or bleed for weeks at at time...all while on birth control.

I spent many a doctors visits questioning what was going on, only to be met with little answers. There wasn't anything glaring; no cysts, no PCOS, no endometriosis, nothing text book. 

So we tried a different pill, then another, then a ring then the 3 month pill. It was CRAZY! Nothing seemed to work and my mood was just as wacky as my PMS (cravings, bloating, breakouts). 

I should also mention that I was in full on pharmacy school mode too. Late nights, early mornings, chicken fingers for dinner, coffee all day, soft pretzels from the food truck, and lots of candy, cookies and ice cream (I am a former sugarholic). 

My 38 year old self can quickly assess the perils of this equation, but my 20 something self didn't have a clue.

So, I kept on. 

Eventually I graduated, got married and was ready for a family. 

TWENTY -FIVE YEARS OLD

I stopped birth control at the beginning of the summer of 2004 and my period never returned, BUT I did manage to get pregnant, go figure! I was pregnant by August and due at the end of May. I had a very quiet pregnancy but did go into labor 5 weeks early (my water broke). I always wondered if my dates were accurate considering I never had a period to go by but nonetheless, our first born was a healthy 6 lbs 7 ounces and didn't have to spend any extra time in the hospital. I did ask my doctors if they had any insight as to what happened and once again was met with very little information. Actually they said that the baby's nail in-utero could have caused my water to break. I still laugh at that!  

TWENTY -SIX  to TWENTY -SEVEN 

As a new mother I was WAY more concerned about the health and well being of my new babe than focusing on my menstrual health. I was working full time as a pharmacist too. I also had the same lovely food choices as I did in my early 20's. I tried to cook more but 10-12 hour days at work didn't make that very doable. We lived on a lot of take-out and pizza. I also had continued with my candy addiction, I had a stash at home and work! I had the same erratic cycles, painful periods and insane PMS (tons of mood swings and bloating). I believe I was on birth control for a little while in-between pregnancies but not for long. 

TWENTY -EIGHT - THIRTY

Enter pregnancy #2. Once again, I was pregnant fairly quickly and easily. Only this time I began bleeding and contractions around 28 weeks and went into full on labor at 32 weeks. Our second peanut was a wee 4 lbs 12 ounces and had an almost 3 week stay in the NICU.  While, Andrew was perfectly healthy and just needed to gain and grow, as they say, it was a rough delivery and agonizing not to be able to bring your baby home. Then when he did come home, he was so tiny and fragile that it seemed near impossible I was going to do anything right. 

But, we did. He is a healthy 10 year old now. 

This experience also shaped my mental journey for the next few years. I would battle anxiety and depression well into my mid-thirties. I also continued to eat a steady diet of crap, consume too much alcohol and work crazy hours in a very stressful environment. 

Can you say HORMONAL SUPER STORM????

THIRTY -ONE

SUPRISE! Baby #3. Literally, a suprise, lol

While we weren't expecting our little Katie, we, of course, embraced it and prepared for our little girl.
 
The few years leading up to my third pregnancy were so clouded with all things parenting, working, deaths in our family and mental struggles that I still neglected to focus on my health. And, it showed. Only this time, I had swung the pendulum the other way and over exercised (in attempt to quiet my anxiety), underate (because I thought skinny = healthy) and lived on caffeine (kept me going and supressed my appetite). I thought all of this was an equation for optimal health. 

By 16 weeks of my pregnancy I was beginning to have contractions. I was already on progesterone shots bi-weekly because of my history. I was visiting L& D quite often to help qwell the contractions until they finally put me on a cocktail of medications to keep things quiet along with modified bed rest for 4 months. 

All of the interventions worked. I delivered a perfectly healthy babe at 38 weeks. 

THRITY-TWO 

Just after Katie was born, our middle son, Andrew, was diagnosed with multiple food and environmental allergies. Andrew's allergy diagnoses forced us to really take stock of how food affected us. It took A LOT of work in the beginning but really opened our eyes to the amount of crap that is in our food! 

I shifted my focus on making him well and finding his balance. 

To my credit, I was also making Katie's baby food from scratch...hints of Wholistic Melissa started to appear.

Personally, however, I kept on with my crap tactic of low calorie, high exericse, and mismanaged stress as my keys to optimal health. I kept the disastrous equation alive!

I can happily say that Andrew is pretty much allergy free and is a happy and healthy boy. 

THIRTY-FIVE to THIRTY-EIGHT

My AHA year was 35

My hormones literally started to get the best of me. My final straw was my last stint with the birth control Mirena, which left me menstruating every 2 weeks for about a year.

I was so tired. Tired of being on a constant hormonal roller coaster ride. Tired of feeling like crap. Tired of no answers.

I finally called it quits with birth control and dieting and decided to get to the bottom of ME.  

The first book I read, and life-changer for me, was Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. It was like she had taken pages from life and pasted them right in her book. I couldn't believe this information existed, these answers existed and it wasn't being offered on the front page news!

It was through her book that I began the years long journey through nutrition and healthy living to where I am today. 

Normal periods. No anxiety. Little to no PMS. 

(I never tested out my pregnancy chops, lol, we have enough kids:)

I have had many misteps and, at times, didn't feel like my body was my own. I've learned the importance of listening to what my body is asking me and telling me. 

I also sought out the help of a naturopathic physician to help me put the few final pieces together using supplements appropriate for my body. 

I say all of this knowing that nothing is static. My body right now doesn't have the same chemistry it did a few years ago, just as it  will not have the same chemistry a few years from now. It will not look, feel or act the same and I need to honor that

I will do this by listeing to what it needs and nourishing it with healthy choices, exercise, meditation, self-care...and a glass of wine. Because I now know that restriction and demonizing are a recipe for disaster. 

ALMOST THIRTY-NINE 

I AM

A lot smarter. A lot healthier. A lot happier. 

I AM

So honored to be able to share this with you. 


Be well,
Melissa


P.S. I hope you will stay connected with me next week when I share my experience with IBS. 




Wholistic Melissa

How to Keep You and Your Family Healthy This Season

I can't believe we are half way through October already! I also can't believe that we had our first round of sore throats last week already:(. I shared a post via social media about a few natural remedies I keep on hand to help my family and I stay healthy throughout the year. I know we would all like to choose better for our family and quite often that means we need more information. We also want to trust that information! So, I thought I would go into more detail about the remedies I like and how I use them. 

**Keep in mind, if you are already on specific medications for ANYTHING or are pregnant or nursing, it's wise to reach out to me further to make sure it is safe to use any of these products.** 


OK! Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, let's get going!

COLD CALM HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY

cold calm
Yep! Just as it says, it's for: sneezing, runny nose, sinus and nasal congestion, and sore throat. I have known about Boiron products since 1996! My mentor, who I was working for at the time, brought them into his pharmacy and also had them give us a presentation about their company and products. At 17, I knew just enough to pay attention and it obviously stuck with me, because here I am 21 years later using their products! As soon as any of these symptoms start to appear, follow the directions on the box. It may seem excessive (2 tablets under the tongue, every 15 minutes for the first hour) but it truly works every time. I find this at my local Rite Aid in the cough and cold isle. I linked it to amazon in case you want the quick route! Oh and BONUS: it's a homeopathic remedy and therefor safe for ages 3 and up!

TRADITIONAL MEDICINALS TEA

gypsy cold carethroat coatcold care kidsthroat coat kids

I have been drinking these teas for many years now. Back when I was working full time and stressed to the max, I would constantly get sick and these teas were the first thing I reached for (along with cold calm). The gypsy cold care has such a soothing flavor that comes from a variety of herbs and flowers, including peppermint, cinnamon and clove. Throat coat has a much more lively flavor from ingredients such as licorice, slippery elm and fennel. I brew them strong, about 10-15 minutes and add raw honey for an extra immune boost. I buy these at any local grocery store. I also linked the kids versions that are only available online. My kids LOVE the cold care but usually turn their noses up at the throat coat. Follow the package directions for use AND read the warnings please if you are on medications, have chronic issues or are pregnant or nursing. 

RAW HONEY

Honey is funny. It's one of those products that succumed to mass production to meet demands and therby compromised quality over quantity. Raw honey is unpasturized and unfiltered and maintains all of its glorious immune boosting and antioxidant benefits. LOCAL raw honey is known to help allergy sufferers too. We use a good stir in our Cold Care tea or take it by the teaspoonful when a cold is lurking. I typically try to pick up honey from PA or NJ (it will say on the label where it's from). There's an awesome farm, Bucks County Honey, above Quakertown that produces delicious local honey. It was there that I learned that not all raw honey will be solid. It depends on the type (clover, wildflower, tupelo, etc). I have also found raw (but not local) honey from Costco by Nature Nate's (they use US bees). Considering using local raw honey for allergies? Here's a nice article to get you started!


ON GUARD ESSENTIAL OIL 

on guard

I LOVE On Guard, actually my entire family LOVES it too. As you can see, you can diffuse it, dilute and apply topically, or take internally (adults only). I have it on hand as shown above, so that I can diffuse it and/or dilute it with fractionated coconut oil (FCO) to apply to our neck, feet and back. I purchased these roller bottles from Amazon and this FCO to make my own. I use 15 drops of On Guard per roller bottle and fill the remainder with FCO. If that sounds like too much work, DoTerra also sells On Guard in roller form ready to go as well. As soon as someone starts to complain that they don't feel well I start rubbing this on their spine and neck during the day and feet at night as well. 

BREATHE ESSENTIAL OIL 

Breathe

This is the second favorite oil in my house! Breathe contains; laurel, eucalyptus, peppermint, melaleuca, lemon, cardamom, ravintsara, and ravensara oils. Combined, these oils help to promote a healthy repiratory system and fight off seasonal allergies. We most commonly use it when congested. We'll warm water in a bowl then add a drop or two in and inhale the vapors to help clear our airways. My oldest (prone to congestion) asks to do a "treatment" any time he feels a cold coming on. It's also in a convenient stick (think vicks rub) that we apply on our chests too. Just like On Guard, it comes in prediluted roller bottles for easy use on your feet or chest. You can also get the bottle and dilute with FCO yourself. 

OREGANO ESSENTIAL OIL 

oregano

Not to be taken lightly, oregano has a variety of health benefits. It's a very potent immune boosting antibacterial oil. I reserve oregano for when I feel one of those nasty sore throats coming on. I will mix ONE drop in 4 ounces of orange juice for the kids (mine are 7 years old and up). I also purchased empty gelatin capsules and will use 2 drops in a capsule for myself and take daily until I feel better. I advise you to take a probiotic an hour before or 2 hours after the oregano to offset and digestive disruption while using the oil. You can also apply to the bottoms of your feet with a little bit of FCO. 



koflet-lozenges
Lastly! Everyone likes a good throat lozenge. I literally cringe at the typical lozenge. It's filled with HFCS, artificial sweeteners and dyes. Somewhere in there is menthol or a soothing mucosal agent but it's buried underneath all the other junk! Enter Koflet lozenges. This is one lozenge that I have been able to get everyone to agree on. It's soothing, has a warming effect and works to protect your throat and supports a healthy immune system as well! I've found them at my local organic grocery store and Whole Foods. I know amazon carries them too.

DON'T FORGET TO STAY DRINK PLENTY OF WATER, MOVE YOUR BODY AND GET PLENTY OF REST TOO!!  

I'm truly so happy to be able to share a bit of my healthy, natural remedies with you. I remember how daunting it was at first when I was seeking alternative remedies for myself and my family. I hope this heps to ease that burden and answer some questions for you. As always, feel free to comment or reach out to me directly with any questions! 

Oh, and share via social media or email with a friend who may like this too!

Be well,
Melissa 


Wholistic Melissa

It's That Time Of The Year Again...Back To School!

I don't know about you, but I always have mixed emotions about back to school. I love being able to hug and kiss my kids on demand during the summer, I also love the unstructured evenings (other than a couple of activities) of no homework, I love letting them sleep in and veg out if they want to, and I love just having them home. Those are the GOOD days; then you have days like yesterday when the entire day was spent yelling at every insane sound they made, it was like watching cats play all day, just a swirling ball of madness! So yea, I'm conflicted! 

The other downside of school, will be the sheer craziness of our afternoons. I'll have two kids in jiu jitsu and one swimming and playing drums. Doesn't sound like much, but sprinkle in homework, tutors, and any other pop-up events and it's going to hit the fan real fast! Oh and running two businesses, let's not forget about that:)

SO, it got me thinking. Am I the only one reviewing her Pinterest board for go-to slow cooker recipes??? Probably not right!? Then I thought, I should totally compile my favorites and share them! Maybe I can get some good ones from you guys too! It takes a village people! Not the ACTUAL Village People, just a village, oh you know what I mean:)

So without further or do, here's 12 of my fave back-to-school slow cooker recipes!

My Heart Beets - Chicken Curry

chicken-curry-crockpot_mediumthumb


Know Kitchen - Chicken Tacos

chicken_tacos_mediumthumb


Skinny Taste - Balsamic Pork 

Skinny Taste - Balsamic Pork


Skinny Taste - Kid Friendly Chili

Skinny Taste - Kid Friendly Chili

The Kitchen Wife - Whole Chicken 

The Kitchen Wife - Whole Chicken

Rachael's Good Eats - Stuffed Pepper Soup 

Rachael's Good Eats - Stuffed Pepper Soup

Modern Christian Homemaker - Sausage & Peppers

Modern Christian Homemaker - Sausage & Peppers
 
Healthy Slow Cooking - Lentil Quinoa Tacos

Healthy Slow Cooking - Lentil Quinoa Tacos

Real Simple - Slow Cooker Lasagna

Real Simple - Slow Cooker Lasagne

Cooking Classy - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Cooking Classy - Chicken Tortilla Soup

I Heart Eating - Garlic Rosemary Chicken

I Heart Eating - Garlic Rosemary Chicken

Wholesomelicious - Paleo Turkey Meatballs

Wholesomelicious - Paleo Turkey Meatballs

I hope you're enjoying these last few weeks of summer (if you haven't gone back already) and these recipes help you ease back into the routine of school days. 

Be Well,
Melissa










Wholistic Melissa

Why Choose "Pasture Raised or Grass Fed" Anything???

It's no secret that I love Costco and shop there weekly for many of our grocery and household needs. I have found numerous high quality products and foods from brands I trust and my family loves. They even carry my favorite brand of Kombucha! 

I had been buying Nellie's Free Range eggs from Costco for months. I was so happy when I found them because of the quality and value. I don't eat eggs every day but at least 3 times a week. The kids love them scrambled or hard boiled, so they are great for lunches or snacks. And at the rate we consume them, it only made sense to purchase in bulk if available. 

I don't know what prompted me to browse Nellie's website one day (I'm always looking something up), but I came across their info page about their chicken raising practices. I WAS SHOCKED at what I read! According to their site, all of their chickens have access to forage but aren't forced to go outside and if they choose to stay in the hen house (which most likely they will because they are social creatures), they will feed on grains. And not just any grain but non-organic, non-gmo grains. GASP! I know, don't make fun of me, I can't help but get annoyed in these situations. 

My frustration stems from the fact that all of this labeling of grass-fed, grass-finished, free range, cage free, pasture raised, non-gmo, vegetarian fed, can sometimes amount to nothing, or at the very least, not what you expected. There is enough push back from large beef, dairy and poultry farmers regarding these terms and their significance, that when companies like Nellie's have blatant sub-par practices and loose definitions, it only adds more suspicion to the validity of pastured farming. 

So why am I sharing this with you and why does it matter anyway? 

I wholeheartedly support evidence that suggests eating locally, organically and pasture raised is healthier for us. "WE ARE WHAT THE ANIMALS EAT THAT WE EAT". It makes sense that a cow fed a diet high in processed genetically modified grains would produce meat that is higher in saturated fat content, while grass fed beef is leaner and contains higher amounts of the beneficial fats (omega & CLA) as well as antioxidants and minerals. I also agree that sustainable farming and agriculture is better for the environment and the animals. 

However, for every study in favor of grass-fed, pastured or organic you'll find another rebutting the very same facts with their own evidence. Often times these studies are funded by the very industry they are trying to support (eh hem, big agra) but THAT'S a whole other issue!

So what's the take away? 

Do what you can for your family and your economic situation. Can you afford to buy better quality eggs and meat from local sources and maybe do with less? Then do that! Can you afford to do one or the other and maybe dabble in organic produce? Then do that! 

If nothing else, work to incorporate LESS processed food, sugars and dairy in your diet. Simply eating more whole plant based foods and less factory meat and eggs will help keep you, your family and our world healthier. 

Lastly, my hope is that organizations like American Grass Fed continue to push for tighter regulations and standards and that each industry follows suit. Transparency is key for consumers to be able to make informed decisions about the health and wellness of their families. 

Be Well,
Melissa

P.S.  here are a few local (to PA) farms that have pastured products.
Cherry Grove Farm
Birchwood Farm
Beechtree Farm 







Wholistic Melissa

Why I Care So Much About My Gut Health (and so should you)!

First, THANK YOU for reading my very first blog! This is something I have been wanting to explore for quite some time, so I hope you enjoy reading and learning along with me. 

Wow has this summer been a whirlwind for our family! We've been eye balls deep in activities, family visits and much more. I recently flew to Minneapolis to see my sister and celebrate her upcoming wedding with a shower and bachelorette party. I had an A M A Z I N G time and can't wait to do it all over again for the wedding (albeit a lot smarter this time around).

Something that wasn't so amazing though, was my body after traveling, indulging in a baseball cap filled with nachos (so good though) and quite a few vodka sodas. Like I said, I had a fantastic time! By the time I arrived home, I was exhausted from non-stop fun and very little sleep. I don't know about you, but when I'm sleep deprived and have had too much to drink, my body goes into this mode where I have an insatiable appetite. I treat anything carb related (eh hem, pizza) like it's kale and water. Between the alcohol (it's SOOOOO bad for your gut) and the continued food insults, my GUT was a DISASTER. I had sharp pains in my belly no matter what I ate, I was all over the place with my bowel habits (TMI, but so necessary to share) and I just felt like crap. Rewind to 1996 and you'll find that this has been my life in a nutshell for the nearly 2 decades since. I have always suffered from food sensitivities, had irregular bowel habits, and a wacky menstrual cycle (that's for another blog). It was just a norm for me though. IBS was treated with medications without figuring out the root cause. Depression and anxiety were never linked to gut health. Hormone imbalances were attributed to my make-up or worse, treated with the pill. 

Finally, in 2014, I decided I had had enough, so I made a doctors appointment. I figured they could shed some light on my persistent fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, irregular menstrual cycles and digestive discomfort ( I was basically looking for a miracle).  They did their blood tests and proclaimed that I had a clean bill of health. WHAT??, I said quietly to myself. Seriously, how can there be nothing wrong with me when I feel like absolute poo! Of course, the crazy didn't end there and I was totally blown away by what came next. The nurse practioner then proceeded to offer me a prescription for Prozac. Again, WHAT??. Prozac? Are you kidding me? I'm sitting here telling you that I can't eat without pain, my knees ache like I'm 90, and I'm either terribly constipated or have diarrhea, and you are offering me Prozac? Needless to say, I politely said no thank you, left the office and never looked back.

That my friends was my starting point. The place where I decided my health was worth more than prescription and I was going to get to the bottom of it.

I did what I know how to do best; research and read. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I listened to webinars, podcasts, and seminars galore. The term that kept popping up with the most relevance was "Leaky Gut". Along with that I learned that 90% of our body's serotonin (the feel good chemical) is made in our gut. YES, IN OUR GUT! Unhappy Gut = Unhappy Body. It seemed too simple, heal my gut and heal my pain and anxiety? What did I have to lose?

(In case you are wondering about Leaky Gut...here's the quick and dirty before I move on)

LeakyGutCourse

I can't even remember one website, book or podcast that I can pinpoint as my savior. I gathered what I could from all of them and began my journey. 

Step one for me was eliminating gluten and starting probiotics. If I can offer any simple advice for those of you struggling with gut issues that are permeating your well being, it would be these two things; get rid of gluten and rebuild and repair your gut with good bacteria. Within a few short months, I was free of joint pain. By years end, my digestive system had begun to right itself. I felt EMPOWERED. I also knew it wasn't the end of my journey to optimal health.

Since that time, I have stopped drinking coffee, have gone completely grain free, limit my alcohol intake, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, have taken up yoga and continue to go to the gym. All in an effort to feel better.

So often this is the most difficult concept for people to understand; eating and living a certain way to feel better. Because, much like me two decades ago, the way people feel tends to be their norm. They either don't have anything to compare it to or can't recall a time in their lives when they felt great. I'm sharing my story with you today because I believe it is possible to reach optimal health at any age, stage or point in your life. And sometimes, it's as simple as taking 1 or 2 steps or making a change to one meal. 

Whichever path you choose, keep your eye on YOUR health and remember; YOUR GUT IS YOUR GATEWAY TO OPTIMAL HEALTH.

Be Well,
Melissa