There is Hope for Infertility

Please welcome my friend and fellow blogger Rebekah Greco, of the blog Brothaholic. Rebekah suffered from infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy complications, but then discovered how she could heal her body and now has six healthy children! She has generously contributed this educational guest post about infertility and her experience, as well as ways you can heal and find hope to conceive! 

Infertility can be a topic that is treated a lot like money: it is mostly avoided,  but bringing it up can cause explosive reactions or grief.

It is a topic that involves feelings of despair, shame, and hopelessness. While it can be a painful topic, infertility is a condition that is pretty common in the US.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

While pregnant  with my second daughter, I was told that I had the beginnings of both endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). After that birth, my husband and I packed up and moved to another state. I had a new doctor and a new set of eyes to look at more ultrasound results. At this point I was pregnant again. I was told the same thing: Endometriosis and PCOS.

My doctor told me that this would likely be my last birth, that my diseases would continue to escalate, and eventually I would need a hysterectomy. I was told to mentally prepare myself.

I miscarried another pregnancy after that appointment.

Just like the first miscarriage, it was emotionally devastating.

During these years I began to really research the causes of infertility, miscarriage. My search for answers has continued for another eight years.

I have discovered there are a lot of possible causes and various forms of infertility. For one person there may only be one or two reasons to experience infertility, for someone else it may be a combination of several reasons, and some never find a reason.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus.

It is an inflammatory condition that can cause cramping, pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. (See the sections below about true vitamin A and progesterone as they are related.)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS

PCOS is diagnosed when either one or both ovaries are present with regular abnormal cysts. It can cause delayed or infrequent ovulation and can be associated with later experiencing type II diabetes and heart disease. It is associated with low vitamin D levels. (1)

Low Progesterone

Low progesterone can occur during different times for women of childbearing age. Some women have low progesterone, ovulate, are able to conceive, but experience very early miscarriages or what is called chemical pregnancies.

Then there are women that produce enough progesterone to conceive and have pregnancies which go four weeks or more.

During early pregnancy, an ovary will have a beneficial ovarian cyst called the corpus luteum cyst that supplies progesterone to the baby until their own placenta takes over and begins to produce its own progesterone to sustain the pregnancy. This occurs around the twelve weeks gestation mark.

For some reason, in some women, the placenta never fully takes over progesterone production, and this causes miscarriage or it may produce progesterone on a more low side of normal.

The ones producing low, or on the low side of normal, may have frequent cramping and spotting. Low progesterone can cause a subchorionic hemorrhage behind where the placenta is implanted. Low progesterone can also cause stillbirth in late-term pregnancies.

Low progesterone is associated with estrogen dominance. (2)

Fallopian Tube Blockages

Fallopian tube blockages can cause the inability to conceive. They can also cause a tubal pregnancy where the baby begins to grow inside the fallopian tube and is most often a medical emergency.

The most common cause of fallopian tube blockages is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, aka PID, from sexually transmitted infections or surgical infections.

Blockages can also be associated with endometriosis. Unfortunately, the solution to this is not dietary/lifestyle changes. These changes could certainly help to prevent further damage, but a minor procedure using a laser can be used to clear out the tube or tubes.

For some types of blockages, a non-surgical procedure can be performed using a special catheter to unclog the blockage.  

Low in True Vitamin A

Being low in true vitamin A makes it difficult for the body to rid itself of excess estrogens. Excess estrogen can cause excessive bleeding and is associated with endometriosis. (3) Excess estrogen causes progesterone insufficiency.

We associate Vitamin A with eating orange vegetables or green leafy vegetables.

Unfortunately, converting beta carotene to true vitamin A is dependent on a few factors. Does the individual have the proper gut bacteria present to make the conversion, and are the vegetables consumed well-cooked and with saturated fat? If not, the conversion will not occur (4). 

(Note from Leah: You can boost your gut bacteria by taking a high-quality probiotic and real-food supplements. For more information on how to increase beneficial gut bacteria, see my post  Bacteria Boom: What Are Probiotics and Why are They So Popular?).

There is a way to bypass these issues by eating foods that have true vitamin A, like pastured eggs (the nutrients are in the yolks!), pastured butter or ghee, and organ meats from pastured animals. For the more squeamish, grass-fed desiccated liver pills can be found online. They come in easy-to-swallow capsules.

Reduced Cervical Mucus

In order to conceive, cervical mucus is needed to transport the sperm to the egg. In fact, noticing extra cervical mucus is typically a sign that the body is in its fertile phase.

When a woman does not produce enough cervical mucus, everything in her fertility may be in working order except for the cervical mucus production. This is when beta carotene from orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes becomes a shining star because it increases cervical mucus production, many times significantly (5).

A Regular Low Body Temperature

Hypothyroidism is associated with infertility.

Some cases of hypothyroidism are from the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Other cases are more easily fixed.

The thyroid gets stressed from not eating enough calories, excessive dieting, excessive exercise and in turn lowers adrenal function. Hashimoto’s on the other hand typically requires a gut healing protocol and testing for a chronic high viral load from things like Epstein Barr.

Removal of heavy metals may also be necessary. Other causes of a chronic low body temperature (below 98.6) can be fixed by reducing stress, sleeping more, eating enough calories, and avoiding excessive exercise.

While low-carb diets are beneficial to some women, for other women these diets can stress the thyroid excessively, affect the adrenals, and make conception difficult. (6)

Toxic Exposures

Toxic exposures to poisons can cause both the inability to conceive as well as miscarriages.

An example of this occured where I live in the Plano/Frisco area in North Texas. The water supply was poisoned with trihelomethane, which is a known female fertility disruptor. Who knows how long this had been going on and where else this is occuring.

Our family relies on a heavy duty gravity filter, like a Berkey, to reduce our toxic exposures. We do not drink or cook with water directly from the tap.

Early Ultrasound Exposure (before 13 weeks)

Unless a tubal pregnancy is a serious concern (extreme pain in the pelvis and sometimes bleeding caused by the baby growing and the tube rapidly expanding), early ultrasounds are mostly always unnecessary.

Ultrasounds have been shown to cause changes in tissue temperature and depending on where the baby is attached in the uterus and how long the ultrasound takes, it could be dangerous. We do not fully know the effects at this time. (7)

I personally had two miscarriages after an early ultrasound. I was on progesterone at the time, so low progesterone was not the cause. During the ultrasounds the babies appeared to be very healthy and active.

Though it’s possible the ultrasounds did not cause my miscarriages, for the rest of my pregnancies I have avoided early ultrasounds. This is merely anecdotal evidence, and is up to your discretion.

How I Healed

After the birth of my second child, I had begun to clean up my diet.

I have never been one to avoid eating regular fruits and vegetables, so that certainly was not my problem. I did begin to eat good fats, such as coconut oil, butter, real olive oil, avocado oil and meat fats.

I had no idea in years previous that consuming my regular salads with store bought salad dressings was causing chronic inflammation in my body and not allowing my body to properly convert sunlight exposure to vitamin D.

At that point, I rarely ate things like packaged cookies, crackers, or chips (which are mostly all loaded with cheap, rancid omega 6 oils), but until I became rigorous in avoiding high omega 6 vegetable oil products, I did not see results.

Another thing that helped my body convert sunlight to usable vitamin D was transdermal magnesium. I happened to have moved to a place by the ocean and had my feet in magnesium-rich ocean water regularly.

Those not by the ocean can get extra magnesium by using magnesium oil or magnesium lotion on their skin. Epsom salt baths are another great, inexpensive way to absorb more magnesium, as well as detoxify your body. Another way to get more magnesium is by switching from table salt to Celtic Sea Salt, which has more magnesium. I personally did both.

During this time, I began to do something else that helped my body get rid of mineral deposits in my reproductive organs, which was to consume more vitamin K2. This happened purely by accident, because I had discovered how to make Parmesan cheese crisps and ate them liberally.

Vitamin K2, not to be confused with vitamin K, helps the body to stay in balance. A lack of K2 may cause mineral deposits or plaque in the brain, arteries, kidneys and ovaries instead of in the bones and teeth. Foods with vitamin K2 are pastured egg yolks, grass-fed butter, cultured vegetables like cultured (not vinegared!) sauerkraut, hard cheeses, and natto.

I changed my fats, was out in the sun, had magnesium exposure, and ate parmesan cheese with wild abandon–and I got pregnant again. 

My doctor was not optimistic about this pregnancy, but when I had another ultrasound, there was no sign of endometriosis or PCOS! He was so confused that he went to my old records to re-verify that he was not mistaken. I have had multiple ultrasounds since then and it has never come back.

A Supplemental Band-Aid And More

I had to use progesterone to maintain my pregnancies starting around 6 weeks and lasting until 34 weeks.

I cleaned up my lifestyle increasingly with each consecutive pregnancy.

I began to avoid eating or drinking from plastics or cans because they contain chemicals that cause hormone disruption.

We began to filter our water with a Berkey. I did a gut healing regimen to heal from mold exposure that had sickened me in many of the places I had spent a lot of time, like places of employment, a rental home, and a home we owned that we discovered had mold. Mold can produce mycoestrogens, which can also disrupt normal hormone levels. (8)

Another thing I discovered to avoid was conventional beef.

Beef is one of the last meats on the market that allows excess estrogen unless it is labeled as hormone free. When the cows or steers are put on a feedlot, they are given an ear piercing that delivers estrogen to cause them to gain weight quickly. (9) At home we eat grassfed beef, but when we go out to eat, I now avoid beef.

In my quest to avoid estrogen producers, I also began to avoid soy (with the exception of organic fermented soy sauce or occasional natto) as soy is estrogenic. (10)

Furthermore, to avoid hormone disruption, I also changed all of my personal hygiene products to ones that avoid toxins and hormone disruptors.

 

My Real Food Success

My last pregnancy was different than all of my other pregnancies.

For the first time in my life, at six weeks of pregnancy, my progesterone levels were on the low side of the normal range. I was always below normal in week 6 and 7 in previous pregnancies (per the levels recommended by the Pope Paul IV Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, which differ from the levels presented as within normal range by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology).

Since I was on the low side of normal, I took progesterone again to prevent nuisance cramping.

As a note: I used supplemental high dose progesterone.

For one pregnancy, I had done the progesterone injections and had a terrible reaction: huge hives at the injection site.  For this reason, I do not recommend the injections because the carrier oils can cause the body to overreact with what appeared to be an autoimmune response.

The pills (Prometrium) are bioidentical, but my Dr felt they were not as effective as progesterone vaginal suppositories. To prevent pregnancy loss I took them for a few days until a compounding pharmacy could finish a prescription for the bioidentical progesterone suppositories. I did this a few times during times of bleeding while I waited for my prescription.

My Experience

What does all of this mean? At this point, if I were to conceive again, would I need supplemental progesterone? I do not know the answer to that, but I am really happy with the results I have gotten so far. I no longer have any signs of endometriosis or PCOS, my progesterone levels during early pregnancy with my last child were close to normal for the first time and I now have six healthy children.

–Written by Rebekah Greco of Brothaholic


Looking for ways to clean up your diet and lifestyle for reasons of disease prevention, infertility or so you can live a happy, healthy life for years to come?

Learn more here about how to cut processed food from your diet and how to navigate the confusing, muddy waters of health and wellness.

And if you are looking for great prices on clean, natural, organic groceries and staples, check out Simply Real Foods Market–with a low-price guarantee, no GMO food in stock, no membership fees and free shipping!

Sources:

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669857/

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3902220/

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521362/

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10799382

5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6441332

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15007197

7) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.7863/jum.2008.27.4.541

8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036702/

9) http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1302&title=Implanting%20Beef%20Cattle

10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270274/

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Disclosure: many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

What is a Fast and Why Would I Want to Do One?

Have you ever tried fasting? 

If you are religious, you may have done a little bit of fasting for that reason in the past.

When they hear fasting, some people think of Lent, and “giving up something” for a set number of days before Easter. Maybe chocolate, TV or Facebook.

A true fast, however, involves giving up food completely for a set amount of time, usually at least 24 hours.

There are different types of fasts: absolute fasts (no food or liquid at all), water fasts (only water is consumed), juice fasts (calories from clear liquids such as juice, clear broth, or water can be consumed), Intermittent Fasting (narrowing your eating hours during the day to a window of 6-8 hours), and other variations.

I have done several juice fasts for durations ranging from 3-10 days, for different reasons each time (sometimes to focus on prayer or an event coming up, sometimes for health reasons), and each time I’ve found it a difficult but very rewarding experience.

Each time I come out of a fast of any duration, I feel physically cleansed, like a deep detox has taken place. One great benefit I have noticed is that junk food is no longer appealing to me at all.

It’s like my body has been re-booted.

When my computer gets sluggish or starts acting buggy, what do I do? I reboot, and most often that resolves the issue. And re-booting the computer periodically is best for optimal function and health of the computer.

So why don’t we think about doing the same thing with our bodies? What if we could re-set our bodies to a more natural, optimal state?

WE CAN.

Most religions incorporate fasting for a period of time to focus on a spiritual purpose: in order to pray for something or someone, to prepare for a ceremony or holiday, or just to focus on God and discipline our minds and bodies.

When I began researching fasting, I was surprised by all of the health benefits that result as well. And since I am a Christian, this serves to confirm to me that all of these different practices and guidelines that God has put in place are there for our ultimate good: spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I started my research on fasting several years ago when I read the book A Hunger for God by John Piper.

I knew the spiritual benefits of fasting, and was convinced it would be beneficial for that reason.

Then I began researching the health benefits and I was blown away. The first time I tried a ten-day fast I was living in China after college, and I wanted both the spiritual and physical benefits that fasting offered.

Without a doubt, fasting is not easy. It takes commitment and determination, and not even for the reasons you may think. The longer you do it, the harder it is, but the more benefits you receive.

Most recently I did a Master Cleanse fast about 5 years ago for 10 days. Master Cleanse is a modified juice fast in which you take only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in water several times per day for 10 days. The lemon juice serves to detox the liver and other organs and alkalinize the blood, the maple syrup provides some calories and minerals to help prevent severe hunger while still bypassing the digestive system, and the cayenne pepper is a blood purifier and helps ramp up the results.

Ketosis

The Keto Diet and Ketosis are all the rage right now, but what is ketosis and is it a good thing?

Ketosis is what happens when your body literally goes into starvation mode. There are no available sugars (glucose) for energy in your body to function, so your body releases ketones into the blood which triggers the burning of body fat for energy. If you go into ketosis under the right conditions, this state can be very healing and energizing to your body in the short term.

Ketosis can be beneficial on a short-term basis for plenty of reasons: bad bacteria, parasites and cancer cells all feed on glucose. If they are deprived of that energy source, they will die.

Ketones have also been shown to be an optimal fuel for the brain. Ketosis has been proven effective in treating numerous health issues, including various types of cancer, brain disorders and illnesses, as well as degenerative diseases such as diabetes and dementia.

The Keto Diet is popular right now, and a lot of people are jumping on board without really understanding how it works or the best way to go about it. Most people aren’t truly doing a keto diet at all, in fact. Since going into ketosis requires eating almost no carbs and 80% fat, 20% protein, this is not an easy diet to follow or sustain for very long. As a short-term cleanse or for the purposes of healing a major illness, I think going into ketosis is great; for a long-term diet, I think a more balanced approach is in order.

Reboot Your Body

Now that we understand a bit about why ketosis can be a good, short-term strategy for detoxing, healing, cleansing and losing weight, it’s easy to see why doing a fast for a few days that puts your body into ketosis for a short term has a similar effect.

When I fasted I did experience a clear mind, energy, and weight loss (weight loss results will vary for the duration of the fast, but rebooting your body makes it easier to lose weight for the long term as well).

The hardest part was not even being hungry: especially if doing a juice fast. I was surprised how hungry I was not.

The hardest part is mental. 

I wanted to eat. I smelled food or saw friends going to a restaurant and I felt sad. I just missed eating. 

There were times I reached for food without even thinking, and almost ate something out of habit.

There are also some detox symptoms that made me feel sluggish. Even though I wasn’t hungry, I knew that eating would make the discomfort stop. So I had to resist the urge and push through.

Want to Try?

I’ve always believed that fasting contributes to optimal health. Ideally, I would do several short fasts (1-3 days) each year and a longer fast (10 days) every few years.

But I’m not gonna lie. Fasting is hard. It’s hard to schedule 10 days where you can’t go out to eat. It’s hard to go to work every day or work out when you aren’t eating. It’s hard to maintain strong willpower for 10 days straight.

Recently I came across a few companies who offer products that claim to put people into ketosis quickly.

See, normally, even when on a true fast (not eating anything) it takes the body the better part of a week to go into ketosis.

With these new products, which contain ketone salts, the body is able to go into ketosis in hours or minutes, even if you are still eating.

Crazy, right? 

I’ve decided to try the products from a couple of different companies to see how they work for me. I will probably do a few livestream videos on the topic to map my progress and share my results.

But first, I decided to do a Keto Reboot. It’s a short-term fast (60 hours) that puts your body into ketosis during your first night’s sleep, and keeps it there for the next 60 hours. They provide a kit that moves you through the process. The kits contain a few supplements, as well as drinks that contain ketone salts (teas and drink mixes).

Since I’ve done a true fast, I am going to compare how this stacks up. There is a Facebook group of people who all do it at the same time, and they only sell the kits for a few days time so everyone does it together. 

Who’s in?

If you would like to do this 60 Hour Keto Reboot with me, check out the intro video and kit here and apply to join this Facebook group.

I would love to do this with as many people as possible–we can all share our results and chart our progress and how we feel as we’re doing it!

The next keto reboot event starts the evening of July 15 (Sunday night) and goes until the morning of July 18. It last 60 hours (2 full days and 3 nights).

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Disclosure: many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

Step Away From the Can: Ditch Processed Food For Good

I grew up in the era of processed food.

  • Breakfast? Break out the milk, cereal and O.J.
  • Mid-morning snack? Grab a candy bar from the vending machine.
  • A little soup and sandwich for lunch: grab bread, American cheese slices, and a can of soup—all warmed in the microwave, of course.
  • Want cookies? Open a package in the cupboard. Grab some chips & canned salsa for an appetizer, and order pizza for dinner.
  • Dessert is ice cream from the store, or maybe a colorful pack of candy.

This was a way of life for my generation, and we didn’t know any other way.

If someone pointed out that everything I ate in a given day was processed in some way, I wouldn’t even care, much less know what that meant. Looking back, I cringe at the things I once ate, and I marvel that people still eat this way.

Whenever I venture into the grocery store there are inevitably people with carts loaded full of popular processed items: TV dinners, ice cream, packaged snacks, breakfast waffles and canned everything.

I remind myself that there was a time when I didn’t see anything wrong with these items either, and I realize how important  for us to educate ourselves about nutrition and the dangers of processed food.

My food education came in stages.

You could say I was privileged because my parents were very health-conscious. This gave me an interest in health and some knowledge that the food we eat does matter.

Still, I bought into the idea that food is food, and surely the government and food companies wouldn’t allow anything into the marketplace that was harmful for us.

…Right?…                                     ….Right?

Slowly, though, I started to see the world differently. I began to realize that huge billion-dollar food companies were just that: profit-centered businesses.

I began to realize that my health was my own responsibility.

Wake-Up Call

When I began this research, and became aware of the toxins and nutritional deficit in almost all of the “food” I was eating, I became disillusioned and depressed.

I felt betrayed by the system, abandoned in a world that didn’t care whether I lived or died, as long as they made some money from me while I was here.

I began to educate myself. I realized that all of the information I needed was out there; I just had to find it. And with the internet these days, if we have anything in abundance, it’s information. Knowledge is power, and I was about to empower myself to a whole new level.

Big Food is Not Our Friend

We’ve literally grown up on processed food, and most of us never thought twice about it. Cereal for breakfast, candy for snacks, and fast food burgers for dinner was just our way of life.

When I began to realize that the food industry was not in the business of keeping me healthy, I started to educate myself, and I discovered a lot of things that needed to change.

I was overwhelmed: so many things to change in my own diet, not to mention changing the mammoth food industry as a whole.

But all I could do was begin with myself and try to educate others so they could make their own intelligent choices. A friend introduced me to a book called Nourishing Traditions that totally changed the way I think about food, along with a few other books (like this one).

The first thing I began to eliminate from my diet was artificial sweeteners. The news was reporting studies that aspartame was definitively linked to cancer.

Wait, what?

I grew up drinking diet soda. Sugar is bad, right? But now the alternative is going to kill us.

Wonderful.

Next I saw studies of artificial colors linked to brain disorders such as autism and even tumors and cancer. I began studying the ingredients lists more carefully now, and started wondering what all of those other unpronounceable ingredients were.  Research into each ingredient resulted in some unsettling information.

Almost every ingredient was questionable at best.

This is where it began: my disillusionment with the food system in America.

Up until this point I trusted the food supply. I realized now that food corporations weren’t trustworthy: they were after the bottom line, no matter how many corners needed cutting. I realized that cheap food comes at a cost, but I still didn’t understand the extent of that cost.

After I began to see that virtually no processed foods were free of the dangerous ingredients I had learned about, I realized that getting rid of processed food altogether was really the only option. Like everyone else, I was used to the convenience of processed food, and frankly, I didn’t know how to cook food from scratch.

Could I do it?

Organic Food 101

Around the same time I had discovered organic food. At first I didn’t believe the hype: I thought it was just another way to mark up the price of the same food.

Then I tasted it.

Apples, chicken, milk, you name it! It was like I’d never had these foods before.

An apple tasted more like an apple, and chicken was more… flavorful! Rich! Delicious! Almost everything I tried tasted better and was more colorful and healthy-looking, and because of this I concluded that these types of food probably contained more nutrients as well.

After tasting the difference, I was convinced. So my first thought was to switch to organic processed food.

Genius, right?

Easy, awesome and healthy: win-win! And most of the offending ingredients I was trying to avoid were absent in the more expensive organic-certified packages. Score!

I also began following a number of health-living, organic-minded, do-it-yourself blogs; documenting various clever ways people have come up with to make their own versions of beloved, processed junk food.

After all, we grew up with it, and when you have a craving you can only resist it for so long. Fortunately, there are a lot of creative people out there who have already tested recipes for our favorite comfort and junk foods using real ingredients. Just try searching “paleo brownies,” “real food fudge,” or “grain free mac & cheese” to get the idea. If you want it, there is a healthy-substitution recipe out there that tastes good.

Enter Traditional Food

So here I am, fully committed to eating only organic food, and happily munching away on my organic crackers, cookies, pastas, breads, and cakes.

Enter Traditional Food.

I was introduced to a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which documents and supports an earlier work by Weston A. Price called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (both of these books are so good, and I highly recommend you read them).

These two books turned everything I knew on its head. They not only confirmed my unwilling belief that processed food (organic or not) was the devil, but they confirmed what I secretly knew instinctively, deep down: people have been thriving on their local, fresh, whole, traditional diets for millennia, and within a few years we industrialized the whole food system to make food cheaper, easier, and more convenient.

These “benefits” have a cost, however, and that cost is has become higher than anyone could have guessed. I started watching the growing number of documentaries showing the cover-ups in the industrial food system in America. Continue reading “Step Away From the Can: Ditch Processed Food For Good”

Clean up Your Cleaning Game! Cut Toxins and Save Money.

I have a dilemma.

I hate cleaning. There are just so many other productive things I can be doing with my time. I don’t want to live in a dirty house, however, and my husband is an absolute clean freak, so regular cleaning is a necessity.

Little Helper

Now that my son is 12, I have him contribute to the household chores. He washes the floor of the entire house at least once a week, helps with the dishes, and keeps his room and bathroom clean, among other various housecleaning activities.

Personally, I can be very sensitive to the fumes and scents of most cleaning products, and I definitely don’t want my son breathing those noxious chemicals in while he’s doing chores to earn his screen time.

Indoor Air Pollution

We all know that there are many toxins and pollutants in the air we breathe every day, and depending on where we live, pollution may become a health concern causing acute issues like asthma, migraines, and upper respiratory infections.

To avoid this, many of us keep the windows shut all the time so we’re not breathing all of the polluted outdoor air.

But did you know that it has been found that indoor air is even MORE polluted than outdoor air, no matter where you live?

This can result from a number of factors: from the fact that the air inside already comes from outside, to paint and carpet fumes, off-gassing from yoga mats, appliances and furniture, and a number of other toxic things that build up as a result of our everyday lives.

Even if you have air filters or purifiers in your house, the number of things polluting your indoor air would probably astound you.

One of the biggest causes of indoor air pollution may be surprising however: your cleaning products.

To cut down on my household air pollution, I’ve been searching for non-toxic cleaners, and have been surprised that what I have found is not only completely non-toxic, but also more environmentally friendly, and CHEAPER!

Of course the first place I looked was at the store in the “natural” section of the cleaner aisle, and I was dismayed to find those products not only more expensive than the conventional products, but the ingredients they contained didn’t seem that much better than what I was leaving behind.

Real Alternatives.

In the realm of non-toxic, all-natural living, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils are superstars, and for good reason: they disinfect and clean a lot of things, and not only are they safe they are actually edible, so there are no worries of toxins invading our spaces from those!

Vinegar. I love to use vinegar for lots of things:

  • Spray cleaning counter tops
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Cleaning urine out of furniture (vinegar neutralizes uric acid, so even if you can’t throw it in the washing machine, it will get the smell out!)
  • In place of a fabric softener in my laundry
  • As a rinse agent in my dishwasher!

Baking soda is also great:

  • Add it to a pot of boiling water to get stuck-on and burned-on food or stains off of your cookware
  • Clean glass and stainless steel to a bright shine
  • Make a paste and apply to ovens for deep cleaning
  • Adding as a cleaning agent to my laundry detergent
  • I even put it in my deodorant recipe for a super effective all-natural deodorant!

I also discovered the “magic erasers” can be good for cleaning soap scum and other build-up from sinks and tubs, but I did worry about what those sponges were made of and what it was leaving behind, because to be sure they are not natural, safe and non-toxic.

Revelation

Then one day I discovered microfiber cleaning cloths, and I fell in love. If you haven’t tried microfiber cloths for cleaning, you are in for a wonderful treat: using just water and these cloths, you can clean almost anything to a bright, streak-free shine. How economical is that?!

I’ve been using those for a couple of years, and then I came across a company that takes this concept to the next level.

Not only did they take the microfiber concept and run with it in the form of different types of microfiber cloths for different uses, they also wove antibacterial silver into the fabric, making the cloths themselves able to disinfect using only plain water!

This is huge. Now I am able to use simply water and these cloths to clean virtually any surface in my house, from countertops to floors, furniture, sinks and tubs, walls, and even my body! They even have a cloth that cleans fruits and vegetables! It virtually eliminates the need for cleaners or soaps of any kind, making this a great investment that pays for itself almost immediately.

Non-toxic living: the best of both worlds.

If you or anyone in your household suffers from asthma, allergies, have chemical sensitivities or have a compromised lung capacity for any reason, these cloths can literally save  your life! They clean allergens, dust and toxins from your home using just water, so they don’t add to the toxic load in your household, creating a “safe zone.”

The Benefits of Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Cleaning

I love to see stories like this one, where a mom was able to protect her micro-preemie baby by using these safe products to clean her home:

Even better, the quality of these cloths is so much better than what I was using before, and the company guarantees them to last at least 2 years from the time of purchase, so they are a phenomenal value.

Saving money and making my job easier. 

Now I don’t need to buy fruit and veggie washes, furniture polish, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, dusting sprays, tub or sink cleaners, toilet cleaners or even body wash! These kinds of consumable products take up a large chunk of every household budget, as we have to replace them all at least once per month. Imagine more than 24 months of not having to purchase any of those products, and the toxins that are eliminated from your household by not using them at all!

I am a believer in the efficacy of using these cloths to clean everything in my house, and I will never again be persuaded to waste money on expensive cleaners that only add a toxic load and a large footprint to my household. It’s the greenest of all possible choices!

Visit the Norwex website to peruse all of the zero-footprint, eco-friendly, completely non-toxic products they offer, from the super convenient dust mitt to the microfiber floor sweeper and mop, to the window cloth and polisher and the body cloth. There are so many great customized options to cater to every cleaning need in your house, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

You may never have to buy another cleaning solution again!

And, unbelievably, my dilemma is made easier, because using these cleaning cloths actually makes cleaning fun!

I tried out the dusting mitt on my super dust-prone entertainment center: it’s black glass so every bit of dust shows up and I have to dust it often! The dust mitt is soft and fluffy, and picks up tons of dust, and you activate it just by rubbing it together then wear it like a glove and wipe every surface.

Check out these before & afters!

 

Gross! All of that was on my furniture? I love that all I have to do is wipe everything down and then throw this mitt into the wash. It’s so easy! And did you know that those dusting sprays actually coat the furniture in a film that attracts dust? So using this means you can dust less often.

I’m sold. Check it out for yourself! 

Contact me by email (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to learn more about how to live your life toxin-free.

 

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

 

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

 

What is a Side Hustle? (And Why Everybody Needs One)

Have you ever looked at your paycheck and been frustrated with how much of it is taken out for taxes?

Have you ever thought what you could do with all of that extra money if you could actually keep more of what you are earning?

Have you ever wondered why you still have to pay more taxes in April, or why you’re not getting nearly enough money back on your tax returns?

You should get a side hustle.

A side hustle is any work you do “on the side.” Some examples are: cutting hair, mowing lawns, tutoring, or selling products. Side hustles are done on your own time for extra money.

You may already be involved in a side hustle and not even realize it.

But there’s more benefit to a side hustle than just earning a little extra cash.

Money you spend to fund your side hustle is tax deductible–AND some of your current expenses could also be tax deductible!

Did you know that you can also deduct expenses that you may not have thought of?

Some examples:

  • A portion of your rent or mortgage if you do any business or preparation for business at home
  • Mileage on your car if you ever use it to drive to and from places you do business or try to get new customers
  • Utilities
  • Internet bill
  • Cell phone bill

These kinds of expenses really add up. If you are paying these expenses anyway, and you can use a portion of them to deduct money from your taxable income, your tax bill not only shrinks, but you may bump yourself into a lower tax bracket.

We’re talking potentially thousands of dollars in tax refund money.

You might say:

“I don’t have time to do anything else.”

When you think about the tax savings, you can really see the potential: what if you were doing something that only took a few hours a week but saved you thousands of dollars on your taxes, PLUS the money you make doing what you’re doing?

Do you have time NOT to get a side hustle?

You might say:

“I don’t have money to invest in a new business.”

What if you could invest a couple hundred dollars and save a few thousand dollars on taxes, and make money on top of that? Do you have the money NOT to invest in that kind of side hustle? That’s a pretty great guaranteed return, no matter what business you are in.

Here is a simplified example of the kind of tax savings possible with a side hustle:

Say you make $65,000 per year. According to your tax bracket, you’d pay 25%, or $16,250 in taxes over the course of one year.

If you had a side hustle, let’s say you could write off $15,000 in expenses per year (car mileage, part of your rent or mortgage, a portion of your cell phone bill, purchases and supplies for your business, start-up costs. If you take a trip for your business, the tax-write off numbers could easily be higher).

It is acceptable to take a “loss” in a new business for up to the first 3 years of the business. If you don’t make any money on your business the first year, here is your new taxable income:

$65,000 – 15,000 =  $50,000 taxable income. 

Now you’ve bumped yourself into a lower tax bracket, which only taxes 12% of your income. Now you’re paying only 12% taxes on a total income of $50,000

$50,000 x 0.12 = $6000 taxes.

Originally you would have paid $16,250 and now you’re paying $6000. 

You just made $10,250!

And that’s without doing anything other than starting the business– and not including any money you make for your business.

These are all estimates and would vary based on your specific circumstances, but you can see how this works. 

How would an extra $10,250 per year change your life? 

Maybe you could pay off that credit card bill. 

Make several mortgage payments. 

Take a family vacation… or four. 

Get your Side Hustle On!

 If you don’t already have a side hustle, you should definitely get one. But what kind?

For anyone in search of the perfect side hustle for you, this is an excellent webinar that discusses all of the considerations to make when choosing your side hustle.

There are lots of things you can do, from tutoring to babysitting to mystery shopping. The way to really make money, however, is to sell things. And you need to find something to sell that people really want. If you sell something you love, you can even deduct some of the products you use on your taxes as well! After all, if you are selling something to people, you need to try it out so you can tell them how great it is!

The great thing about a side hustle is that it’s flexible, and it’s based on effort.

If you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t need to make a lot of money: perfect! Do a little here or there and make some extra cash while saving tons of money on your taxes.

If you dream of quitting your job and finally being financially free: PERFECT. You can totally do that.

A Slave to the J.O.B.

I love to talk about ways to save money, and even make a little money or bonuses doing things you already do–like shopping online.

Today I want to talk about something more powerful, though: residual income.

You know how….

you go to work and you get paid for the time you spend doing things they tell you to do?

 you can have a great job with lots of money and amazing benefits, but if you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid (or lose your job)?

 your boss (or your company) can make you do things you don’t want to do because they have the power to take away your livelihood?

 rumors in the company about layoffs keep you up at night, worried what you would do if you lost your job?

The big corporations we work for have us at the end of a rope, and there isn’t much we can do about it. We need the money they are paying so we will do whatever it takes to earn it.

  • Hour-long commute in rush hour traffic.
  • Long days in a boring office sitting at a computer.
  • Eye, back, neck strain from sitting at a desk all day.
  • Doing the same thing every day.
  • Longing for that next vacation.

What choice do we have? We have to earn a living. We have bills to pay, kids to feed, Christmas presents to buy!

Where does all the money go?

Enter: Side Hustle

What if you could reduce your tax burden while increasing your income?

Most of us have jobs. A side hustle is an income “on the side.” Working for yourself! There are so many advantages to working for yourself: flexible schedule, tax deductions and extra income!

You can make your own hours–you can work as much as you want to, and you don’t have to quit your current job (unless you want to…).

There are so many benefits to getting a side hustle, you may be wondering why you don’t have one yet.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding on a side hustle:

  • If you could do something you love and get paid for it, what would that be?
  • How much money would you want to make to reach your goals?
  • What is your biggest motivation for finding a side hustle?
  • How could your family’s life change if you made an extra $1000 a month? An extra $5,000? $10,000?
  • What personal goals could be pursued or attained if you had financial freedom?

 The answers to these questions may bring you closer to the side hustle that’s perfect for you.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! 

I love this webinar that goes through all of the things to consider when deciding on your perfect side hustle. Watch it here:

 What do you think? What kind of side hustle would suit you best?

 If you want some suggestions or tips on finding a side hustle, email me at leah@freedomandcoffee.com or message me on Facebook and we’ll discuss your goals and how you can achieve them!

Contact me by email (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to learn more about the side hustles I’m involved in and the side hustle that is perfect for you.

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

I am not an accountant, so please talk with your accountant or tax preparer for more details on the tax deductions for which you qualify. 

CBD Oil: Top 5 Things to Look For

You’ve likely heard a lot about CBD oil lately: it’s the newest health craze. People are claiming it can cure any ailment! Alleviate any discomfort! Heal any sickness!

With any “miracle cure” it’s hard to distinguish the truth from the hype.

We all have access to so much information these days, there is hardly an excuse to be uneducated about anything–so let’s find out what CBD oil is and if it’s worth investing our valuable time, effort and money.

After all, if the things people are saying are really true, who wouldn’t want to benefit?

In this post, we’ll discuss

Scroll down to claim your $50 Gift Card–Hurry, there are only 9 available! 

What is CBD Oil? 

CBD oil (cannabidiol) is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant (from which both hemp and marijuana plants derive) that is reported to have healing benefits to the human body.

There have always been claims regarding the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. In several states, “medical marijuana” has been legal for quite some time. More recently, legislation has passed for the legal recreational use of marijuana in many of the same states.

Marijuana can now be found in dispensaries on almost every street corner in states such as Colorado, Oregon and California.

Hemp and Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

The first thing to understand is that CBD oil is usually derived from the hemp plant, not the marijuana plant.


Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of the cannabis sativa plant, but have each been selectively bred and cultivated with very different purposes in mind. Marijuana has been bred to enhance THC, the psycho-active chemical that will make us “high” when smoking marijuana.

Hemp, on the other hand, has been bred to enhance more practical uses: strong fibers that can be woven into fabrics, ropes, clothing and industrial uses.

Both hemp and marijuana varieties of the cannabis sativa plant contain chemical compounds called cannabinoids. THC, the psycho-active component of marijuana that makes you “high” is only the most famous cannabinoid. CBD is another one.

In all, the cannabis plant contains at least 85-100 different cannabinoids.

Legality. While THC levels in marijuana can vary from 5-30%, hemp plants contain inconsequential amounts of the psychoactive chemical. In the U.S., the FDA rule is: any product containing THC levels under 0.3% are federally legal, because at these levels there are no mind-altering effects.

Another important cannabinoid, CBD (cannabidiol) has garnered a lot of attention and scrutiny lately, with claims that CBD oil can heal almost anything.

The hemp plant, which contains very low levels of THC, contains much higher levels of CBD than marijuana.

Additionally, research has shown that CBD acts to inhibit any psychoactive effects of THC–which widens the gap between the two plants even further.

But does it really work?

Traditionally, CBD oil was used as a cure-all, and it was a component of almost every medicinal remedy until the early part of the 20th century.  If you look up pictures of old medicine bottles, a staggering number have CBD listed in the ingredients.

Why is that?

If it’s so effective, why has CBD fallen out of favor in the medical community?

(Will prescribing medicine from a plant–that anyone can cultivate in the back yard and use personally–create profit for doctors or drug companies?)

Though CBD is no longer widely used in pharmaceutical drugs, people everywhere have been re-discovering the healing benefits of CBD.

There is no shortage of information about CBD oil on the internet: from video testimonials to articles, documentaries to clinical trials and research studies: the evidence is compelling.

So compelling, there is no reason not to try it.

Top 5 Considerations to Choose the Best CBD Oil

My research into CBD oil has convinced me that it is safe, and the abundance of studies, research and testimonies have convinced me that it is effective.

If it can do even a fraction of what people are claiming it can do, who wouldn’t want to try it?

If you have decided to try CBD oil, the next questions are:

How can I get some?

and

How do I know if what I’m getting is good quality?

With any supplement, FDA regulation is loose. Because it’s not technically a “food” or a “drug,” (as long as it is within the minimum levels of THC) the FDA has permitted the sale of CBD anywhere in the US, and does not regulate quality or potency.

Here are the top 5 things to consider when choosing a CBD oil:

1. Pure and Unadulterated

Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as food or drugs, some companies will inevitably maximize profit by diluting a product to cut costs. Cheap fillers in some CBD supplements are not only ripping us off, they can be harmful to health.

Ensure your CBD oil has guaranteed levels of CBD in each serving: look for verified independent accredited lab tests that demonstrate these levels.

Remember: CBD is what we are paying for–so if the maker can’t guarantee the levels of CBD, what is the point?

2. Legal

I live in California, so it’s easier for me to get hemp or marijuana products from a dispensary, but the good news for everyone else is:

CBD oil products that contain less than 0.3% THC are federally legal!

Because the government is only concerned with THC levels, and CBD oil doesn’t contain significant THC, CBD oil and supplements are legal on the federal level.

That’s good news for us, because right now anyone in the US can benefit from pure, organic CBD oil.

3. Organic

Any crops that aren’t certified organic are sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides, herbicides and other toxins that can mess up our hormones and make us sick. Hemp is no different.

I live in California, where a law for recreational marijuana use was recently passed, and where medical marijuana has long been legal.

Though cannabis products are easier to get, studies show high levels of pesticides and toxins in 93% of dispensary marijuana and CBD products tested.

If your CBD isn’t organic, find one that is! The added toxins may be doing more harm than the CBD is doing good!

4. Low in THC

The main issue with marijuana for me, and for many others, is the psycho-active properties of the chemical THC found in marijuana.

After all, you want healing benefits, but you don’t want to be mentally compromised when you are driving, working or taking care of your kids!

Besides, if you don’t live in a state where marijuana has been legalized, getting a product with high levels of THC is not only harmful, it’s illegal!

Ensure the CBD supplement you choose is guaranteed to contain maximum amounts of CBD and minimal amounts of THC.

5. From a Company You Can Trust

For all of the above reasons, when finding a source of CBD oil, it’s crucial to find a provider you can trust. High quality CBD oil is not cheap, but it is a case of getting what you pay for.

How to Find the Best CBD Oil

Most states don’t have dispensaries, so many people have to find a CBD source online. Find a company you know is committed to quality: purity of the oils, no adulteration of the product, insignificant THC levels, and most importantly: an ORGANIC source.

In my research there is only one company that fits all of these criteria: Kannaway. I trust Kannaways’ commitment to quality and purity in the products, and the results speak for themselves.

If you’re looking for a high-quality source of healing, organic CBD oil supplements, I urge you to look into Kannaway and try their products for yourself. They even offer a “PURE” line that contains guaranteed 0% THC for those who undergo drug tests with no-tolerance policies, such as military personnel, professional athletes, policemen and firefighters.

Right now is the best time to save money on CBD oil with Kannaway!

How to Save Money on Kannaway CBD Oil

You want to try CBD oil and now we know that Kannaway has the highest quality CBD oil available. Now learn how you can save the most money possible on Kannaway CBD oil!

Starter Packs

Kannaway offers “starter packs,” which include a variety of the most popular CBD products at a significant discount. These starter packs are offered to first-time orders so you can try out several products and see which one you like best!

Example: if you purchase the items in the Starter Pack individually at retail, you spend:

  • Premium Full Spectrum Capsules $113.30
  • Chocolate Energy Chews: $49.50
  • Rev!ve AM: $110.00
  • Rev!ve PM: $79.20
  • Total: $352.00

If you purchase the same products as a loyal customer (wholesale pricing) you still pay $289.30

But if you purchase the Starter Pack, you pay $218.90 (38% off!)

 

On Sale!

Now through January 31, these already-discounted starter packs are on sale! You can save even more on these value packs if you order now! Those same four products from above? $193.90 if you order before midnight January 31!

$50 Gift Cards!

On top of this, I have nine $50 Kannaway gift cards I will offer to any first-time orders through my link. This will give you an additional $50 off these starter packs!

3 Ways to Order

  1. Buy retail. 
  2. Sign up as a “loyal customer” which automatically enrolls you in a monthly auto-ship. You get wholesale pricing–a 30-40% discount–on all purchases.
  3. Sign up as a Brand Ambassador. You receive the wholesale discount, and you receive two $50 gift cards (free!) to pass along to others who want to try CBD oil!

As a Brand Ambassador can earn commissions for anyone who buys CBD oil from you, and you can use Kannaway as a SIDE HUSTLE. Brand Ambassadors pay $55 per year to stay active, and this will be added to your total.

Kannaway doesn’t spend big bucks on advertising–instead they use word-of-mouth “Brand Ambassadors” who make a commission on the sales they refer.

 

Save Money Now

On top of the starter pack sale (ends Jan 31) and $50 gift card, any purchase paid with American Express or e-check also gets an additional 10% discount.

Here is a breakdown of the savings you can get today by taking advantage of the starter pack sale, the $50 gift card and using AmEx or e-check:

Get Your Gift Card! Only 9 Available! 

AND if you sign up as a Brand Ambassador, I will personally help you to reach your first goal, selling 3 starter packs within 30 days–this will earn you a $180 bonus. That pays for your starter pack by itself before your credit card bill is due!

Email me (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to request one of the $50 gift cards today! They are good for any purchase over $50.

I paid for these gift cards myself, so please only claim one if you are planning to use it right away.

THE BEST PART: Kannaway offers a 30-day Money-Back Guarantee! If you are unsatisfied for any reason, you can return the product for a FULL REFUND within 30 days–There’s no risk! 

Get the best deal while you can! 

ORDER NOW! The sale ends Friday, January 26!

BONUS: What is a SIDE HUSTLE?

Did you know you may be able to reduce your tax burden while increasing your income?

Most of us have jobs. A side hustle is an income “on the side.” Working for yourself! There are so many advantages to working for yourself: flexible schedule, tax deductions and extra income!

Tax Deductions

The biggest benefit of working for yourself is the tax deductions. Businesses deduct expenses from their taxes every year. With a side hustle, you can take advantage of this business benefit–deductions can reduce taxable income and may even bump you into a lower tax bracket–so you pay less tax on all of your income!

  • If you work from home you might deduct part of your mortgage or rent.
  • If you use your car for your side hustle, you might deduct applicable mileage.
  • If you use your computer, internet, TV, cell phone, groceries–you name it–you might deduct the cost of those items (or a percentage) on your taxes!

This is huge. The money that you are already spending on everyday expenses could be deducted from taxes, simply by getting a side hustle!

Tax deductions alone should be motivation for everyone to have a side hustle. 

Extra Income

You think CBD oil is great. Naturally you will tell other people how it is helping you and how it could help them. Why not get paid for it?

Sign up as a Brand Ambassador and get paid just for sharing the health-promoting benefits of CBD oil!

Contact me by email (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to claim your $50 gift card: save money and make money by signing up as a Brand Ambassador today!

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

In this CBD oil review, I share what CBD oil is, why I am using CBD oil, what the benefits are, and whether or not it may be able to help you. I also talk about how to choose the best CBD oil brand, how I evaluated the different CBD oil products and companies, and why I chose to become a distributor with a specific company.

I am not an accountant, so please talk with your accountant or tax preparer for more details on the tax deductions for which you qualify. 

 

Resources:

What's the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

Cannabis is Contaminated in California Dispensary Samples.

If I'm Healthy, How Can CBD Help Me? 

Kannaway Site

See the starter packs in greater detail. 

Get your side hustle on and deduct the expenses on your taxes! 

Kannaway Independent Accredited Lab Test Results

Bacteria Boom: What are Probiotics and Why are They So Popular?

Over the past couple of years, I noticed that the pastor at my church has had some health issues which made him him sometimes miss meetings, stay home sick from church on Sundays every once in awhile, and generally just not feel very well.

Thinking back, I remembered about two years ago he had a big infection and was hospitalized for several weeks. During that time, he was put on an aggressive course of antibiotics (as most sick people are, whether or not they have a bacterial infection).

I don’t know the details of this original illness, but I do know that he’s been suffering from digestive issues ever since, which have increasingly tormented him and prevented sleep at night, interfering with his work and ministry at church.

One day after hearing he was again missing meetings, I emailed him and told him my suspicion: the course of antibiotics resulting from his illness two years ago had wrecked his gut and had precipitated most (if not all all) of his current issues.

I recommended he try taking some high-quality probiotics.

I shared some articles and research, then gave some recommendations of how to choose a few good ones.

I told him to start slow (because there can be an adjustment period as “bad bacteria” die off and “good bacteria” begin to populate the gut–but nothing worse than the symptoms he was already experiencing).

Two weeks later my pastor approached me and said, “Leah, I’m a new man! I feel so much better! I’m sleeping better and I have energy and I don’t feel sick any more!”

Word began to spread at church, and now I have people approaching me with questions about their health all the time. I’m happy to pass along any knowledge and resources I have, because the information is all out there!

What are Probiotics? 

Probiotics are “beneficial” bacteria. In modern society, we’ve been conditioned to see all bacteria bad, foreign things that will make us sick, but this is simply not true. There are millions of bacteria that live with humans and animals in a symbiotic relationship: they benefit us, and we benefit them.

Why do We Need Them?

We don’t know the full scope of the symbiotic role that beneficial bacteria play, but we are beginning to understand how vital they are to our existence.

  • It is estimated that human bodies are made up of approximately 90% bacteria by volume. These microbes are everywhere: on our skin, in our sinuses, ears, mouths, in our guts… literally everywhere. These microbes do a good job of helping to regulate our bodies and keep them functioning properly, and in return, we feed them with the food that we eat or byproducts from our bodies, like skin cells and sweat.
  • A huge variety of our bacteria live in our digestive systems, or our “guts,” and researchers are discovering that at least 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. Our guts have a huge influence on our overall health: both physical and mental.
  • Bacteria do a lot of work in our bodies, including helping to regulate hormones that control fat stores, skin issues, auto-immune response, fertility, available energy, and overall well-being.
  • Balance is key. We refer to bacteria as “good” and “bad” but really we just need a balance of the bacteria in our guts. The fact is, we all have “bad” bacteria such as E. Coli in our bodies, but if these bacteria don’t overrun our systems or multiply too quickly, they are not a threat. Even “good” bacteria can cause problems if there’s too much of it. Our bodies generally do a good job of regulating the population of bacteria, as long as we ensure we have a good variety of bacteria for our bodies to work with. As long as we have enough “good bacteria,” or probiotics, in our guts, they will fight off the “baddies” and keep our bodies balanced and healthy.

How Can I Get Them?

You may have noticed an array of probiotic supplements in your local health food store (and how expensive they are).

The good news is that you don’t have to buy a lot of expensive supplements to get a good balance of bacteria in your body. In fact, different fermented foods carry a large population of beneficial bacteria, and they are really easy to make, and to eat.

Yogurt is the most popular and widely-known source of probiotics, but not all yogurts are created equal.

Many of the yogurts on the store shelves are full of sugar (which feeds bad bacteria) and a lot of them even have harmful additives like carageenan (which has been found to cause cancer) to keep them refrigerator shelf-stable for weeks at a time.

Store bought yogurts can be a source of probiotics, but you need to know what to look for, and they shouldn’t constitute your only source of probiotics.

  • Look for “live and active cultures” on the container, and check the ingredients for which specific cultures are contained.
  • Find out if the yogurt has been pasteurized. Most yogurt is made with pasteurized milk, but even after it’s been turned into yogurt is then pasteurized again. Pasteurization will kill the beneficial bacteria that were necessary to make the yogurt, so they won’t benefit you.
  • Get organic. Yogurt is made from milk, and if the milk is not organic it will contain antibiotics and hormones that were given to the cows. These substances are detrimental and even toxic to our bodies, and can cause hormonal imbalances and antibiotic resistance in the long run.
  • Get plain and unflavored yogurt. You may not like the taste of plain yogurt, but you can add fresh fruit and honey for flavoring, instead of consuming a lot of extra added sugars.
  • Get whole milk yogurt. Studies have shown that low-fat dairy products do not contribute to weight loss and may actually cause weight gain. The full-fat options allow your body to more efficiently process the beneficial fat-soluble vitamins in the yogurt, and the fat will make you feel full longer, so you’ll eat less overall.
  • Check the ingredients. In addition to checking for live and active cultures, make sure your yogurt doesn’t have any additives like carageenan, sugar, color, or anything else. Ideally, it should just be milk and a culture.

Did you know? 

Yogurt is so easy to make. Yogurt makers are inexpensive and make it easier, but you don’t even need one to make yogurt. My favorite yogurt is clay-batch yogurt, which I make in VitaClay.

VitaClay has a built-in yogurt maker in most models.
VitaClay Personal Yogurt Maker and Slow Cooker

All you have to do is load in milk and a yogurt culture and press “yogurt” and a few hours later you’ll have the best yogurt you’ve ever tasted, and a starter batch to make more!

Kefir is a milk-based probiotic beverage that is also known as “drinkable yogurt.” Kefir often contains different bacteria than yogurt, and sometimes at greater quantities per serving. If you’re buying kefir from the store, apply the same checks as listed above for yogurt. Add kefir to smoothies or drink it plain–it tastes like buttermilk.

Incidentally, my father suffered from terrible seasonal allergies for over 60 years. My mother read about kefir and started making it at home, and he hasn’t had a problem with allergies since!

Homemade Sauerkraut: cheap, easy to make, and loaded with probiotics!

Other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, natto and miso contain other probiotics that are beneficial, and they are delicious additions to your diet. Sauerkraut is super easy to make, and two ounces of homemade sauerkraut contains exponentially more beneficial bacteria than a whole bottle of store-bought probiotics, for pennies on the dollar!

Chop up the ingredients for salsa, then just add a little whey and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days–you won’t believe the healthy zing!

Additionally, lots of things can be fermented: I’ve fermented homemade salsa, which was super easy and so delicious! I’ve also seen recipes for fermented carrots, onions, cucumbers (pickles!), and even guacamole! The possibilities are endless! (Wild Fermentation link)

If you don’t want to make these fermented foods at home and would rather buy them, follow the rules listed under yogurt, and make sure they have live and active cultures (which is, after all, the whole point). Also watch for additives such as MSG and citric acid, in addition to those listed for yogurt.

Probiotic Supplements

Overall, I think that many probiotic supplements are a waste of money. As discussed above, the probiotics in just one serving of homemade sauerkraut can contain more good bacteria than an entire bottle of store-bought bacteria! This generally applies to lacto-based bacteria, however, which are the type contained in yogurt and most fermented foods. These bacteria are good, and you should definitely get them. If you absolutely don’t want to ferment anything at home, go ahead and buy them.

A few great brands to consider are: 

I recommend going to a health food store with high-quality probiotics rather than trusting a drugstore brand.

AND! Check out this really great database that can help you determine which probiotic strains may help you the most based on your current symptoms and struggles!

Look for a bottle that lists the type of bacteria included and a guaranteed number of live bacteria per serving (usually listed in the billions CFU). The higher the number, the more bacteria it will contain (and very high numbers will require a slower breaking in period, which you can discuss with the worker at the health food store). These higher-quality probiotics will cost more, but this is a classic case of getting what you pay for, and what we want here is results.

Probioitics I buy

My one exception to the “store-bought probiotics are a waste of money” rule is in the category of soil-based probiotics. Here’s why: the lacto-based probiotics like those found in yogurt, sauerkraut and other ferments are so easy to make and so delicious to eat that there’s no reason to pay expensive store prices for a shelf-stable inferior product.

Soil-based probiotics, however, are different strains that have a different effect in our bodies: they go deeper into the gut and contribute differently to immunity. So we need both, but soil-based are found in soil, as the name implies.

In antiquity, people got a good amount of soil in their diets from digging up veggies and eating them.

These days, I don’t trust the soil as far as I can throw it. It’s been compromised with pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical drugs, and all manner of other toxins from our waste water and runoff. Even if I were inclined to eat soil (I’m not), it would probably do much more harm than good.

So when it comes to soil-based probiotics, I will purchase them from a reputable company that can guarantee their purity, quality, and effectiveness–even if they are expensive. I’ve listed below a few soil-based probiotics on which I have done research. I trust them to deliver a safe, effective, quality product.

What About Prebioitics?

Prebiotics are the “food” for beneficial gut bacteria that already live in our guts. And since not all gut bacteria can be supplemented with probiotics, it’s a great idea to get some good prebiotics in your diet as well.

As a matter of fact, you probably already do get some prebiotics, as they are often soluble fiber found in fruit.

There are also symbiotic prebiotic-probiotic supplements that you may find beneficial, especially if you have recently taken antibiotics or had some digestive problems. Here’s one I like because it includes a prebiotic in drink form, a probiotic with several different types of strains, and a real food multi supplement. 

One Last Thing

Since probiotics by their nature will multiply in our guts, it is unnecessary to take the same one every day of your life (though it is a great practice to ensure you are always getting plenty of prebiotics so your gut population can flourish). In fact, it’s better to switch them up, comparing the ingredients to ensure you get different bacteria with each different supplement.

Once a bacteria colony is established in your gut, it will likely be there awhile, so after you’ve taken one for a month or two, you can move on to a different one with different strains. You may want to double back to one you like in a few months or in a year to make sure that colony is still thriving, but overall, your body will maintain those bacteria once they are established (until they are killed off by antibiotics or toxins in the diet).

Read this article about how different strains may help different health issues.

Resources:

Humans: 10% Human and 90% Bacterial
Our Bodies, Our Health, Our Gut Bacteria  (Cornell)
5 Quick Tips For Healthy Guts And A Healthier Immune System
The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet (Johns Hopkins)
Gut microbes closely linked to proper immune function, other health issues
How to Repair Your Gut After Antibiotics
Why Antibiotics Today Could Threaten Your Life Tomorrow
Antibiotic overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria
Is Carrageenan Safe?

 

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Disclosure: Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks! 

No More B.O.! Going Natural With Your Deodorant (Recipe!)

Growing up, if anyone said to my dad, “I’m gonna go take a shower,” He’d say: “That smells like a good idea.”

Ahhh. Dad jokes for days.

 

Nobody wants to smell, and deodorant is big business. With breast cancer an ominous threat to women (and even men!) in the world today however, the chemicals in commercial deodorant and antiperspirant are getting more attention.

Is it a coincidence that the vast majority of breast cancer tumors are found in the upper-outer quadrant, closest to the armpit?

Armpits sweat a lot, and this makes them a toxin eliminator in the body. When we prevent our armpits from sweating we are preventing that toxin outflow as well. Those toxins get trapped, building up in that area. Since toxins are easily stored in fat, the fatty tissue around the breasts is the perfect breeding ground for mutated cells that can develop into cancerous tumors.

What we don’t want to do is add more toxins to the mix, by applying chemical-laden products on our skin. Did you know that the skin absorbs about 70% of what is put on it?

 I focus on what I can do to eliminate toxins in my own life, and this has included eliminating antiperspirant and switching to natural deodorants.

 

I decided to nix antiperspirant completely, because I don’t want to prevent the sweat from flowing–it’s getting rid of toxins, so why would I want to stop that?

Let that sweat flow!

My sister wears antiperspirant to work because she worries that she’ll have sweat rings on her shirts all the time. This may happen at first, as your body adjusts to the absence of the antiperspirant, but after a week or two your body will adjust and for most people this will not be an issue unless you are doing strenuous activity.

When I was in college I was alerted to the toxic ingredients in commercial deodorants, and I switched to a deodorant salt crystal, like this one:

I loved it. It was cheap, easy to use and travel with, and worked like a charm. Just wet it and wipe on your armpits. Plus it lasts forever. I probably still have the first one I started using in college; you literally might only ever have to buy one.

I’ve talked to people who say that the salt crystals don’t work for them, though.

Luckily, there are other options that work great as well.

I actually have been making my own for the past few years, because I like having a pasty texture (similar to conventional deodorant) and I can add whatever scents I like with essential oils.

Here’s my basic recipe:

Ingredients for Safe, Cheap, Effective Homemade Deodorant

Directions to make your Safe, Cheap, Effective Homemade Deodorant

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the jar and stir
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature, and use by applying with your finger
  3. That’s it! How easy can it be?

*The magnesium oil, jojoba oil and essential oils are not completely necessary: the essential oils are for scent, and the jojoba/Vitamin E are soothing. I like to add the magnesium oil because it’s a great way to absorb more magnesium and it gives the deodorant a fluffier texture that I really like.

 The active ingredient here is the baking soda: that’s what really neutralizes the odors. Some people are sensitive to baking soda. If that’s you, try using a lower quantity of baking soda relative to the other ingredients. Some people have recipes for “sensitive” deodorants that eliminate it, but for me those don’t work.

Even though it’s easy, inexpensive and totally customizable, I have friends who don’t want to make it. If that’s you, there are lots of natural options that use similarly safe ingredients, like these:

 

 

 Some people also recommend an armpit detox, like the one mentioned here

The main reason to do something like this might be to make the transition between commercial and natural deodorants easier, and possibly pulling toxins to the surface to be eliminated. If you want to do an armpit detox, it’s easy enough to do in 10-20 minutes after taking a shower, and there’s no harm in it.

I have taken a regular clay mask that I have for my face and spread it on my armpits, waited for it to dry, and rinsed it off. Another great way to detox your whole body, including your armpits, is to take an Epsom salt bath  a couple times per week.

Since you are already detoxing every time you sweat, I don’t think an armpit detox mask is super necessary. As long as you stop using the harmful, chemical-laden stuff and switch to something more natural, and allow yourself to sweat, you’ll be on the right track.

 

Resources:

What Is Armpit Detox? (And Why You May Need It)

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet

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Disclosure: many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

 

 

Want to Change Your Health Today? Start Here!

My friends are all over the board when it comes to diet and exercise.

I have friends who don’t spend much time thinking about what they eat: they eat whatever tastes good that is in front of them. Some like to work out, expecting that to make up for a less-than-ideal diet. Some don’t exercise or pay attention to diet, and most of them eat out a lot.

Those that are  careful about what they eat may follow the mainstream low-fat, vegetable-oil-laden diet, or a maybe a raw foods, vegetarian or vegan diet. Trending now are Paleo and traditional food diets–looking back to the cavemen and our ancestors for clues on what we should eat. The common factor is cutting out processed food and sugar.

Most people don’t make a change until there is a problem: terrible back pain, migraines, weight gain, or a terrifying diagnosis. Sometimes it’s a child that suffers from an autism spectrum disorder, food allergies, frequent sickness or low energy. These kinds of threats will motivate any of us to seek alternatives to drugs, surgery and sickness.

That’s when these friends come to me. They’ve seen my posts on traditional diets, healthy living, articles on how this supplement or that food or this method can do wonders for your health. They think that maybe there’s nothing to lose by trying it. So they ask me where to start.

There are a lot of great resources out there, of which I’ve only read a few. Here are a few resources that are a great place to start when you want to learn how to take control of your health.

If you’re concerned about food allergies or other issues for your kids, you should check out this book written by a researcher who also happens to be a mom.

 

 

 

 

My philosophy is that people have been eating a certain way for thousands of years, and since diseases have increased exponentially since we started processing food and messing with what works, maybe we should get back to what people used to do. This book has history, recipes, pictures and anecdotal evidence that points to the benefits of a traditional diet.

 

 

If you love solid research and a great foundation, check out this book, written by Weston A. Price, a dentist, in the 1930s when he noticed that many of his patients were becoming less healthy on a processed diet.

I also really love the up-and-coming field of epigenetics

Epigenetics is the study of gene function, and how it can change based on environment. This is huge, because it means your genes do not determine your fate! You determine your health and your fate–and you can turn “bad” genes off and “good” genes on simply by changing what you eat, what you do, and what you’re exposed to. This is great news! Read more about it in this fascinating book.

There are also a lot of great documentaries out there, such as Supersize Me and Food, Inc. that can help you be more informed and begin your journey to healing and health.

What resources have helped you and your family find healing?

 

Disclosure:  many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!