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!

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. 

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?

 

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

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!

Why Freedom & Coffee?

I love period dramas.

To be able to experience what life was like in another time period is to catch a glimpse of a world that once was, and never will be again. Especially alluring to me is the 1700-1800’s, the times of the Revolution, Civil War, and Westward Expansion.

The series Outlander goes deep into the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland in the mid-1700s. It drew me in for several reasons: the time period, the location (I am ever fascinated with Scotland) and the message. This ragged band of 18th century Scottish highlanders fought for freedom with everything they had. They believed that “the system” (British monarchy) was corrupt and didn’t serve their interests. They fought for a country and a king of their own, no matter what the odds. The story hooks you with deep character development and even has a time travel twist.

One episode was called “Freedom & Whiskey.” Whiskey was a symbol of Scotland, and during this time it was banned from being sold, and it became synonymous with Scottish freedom. Robert Burns wrote a poem alluding to this tie, calling for “Freedom and whisky,” which every Scot understood as a call to independence.

Just as whiskey was to the Scots, so coffee is to America. We are a people fiercely independent; winning our own freedom from the Monarchy just a few years after the Jacobite fight was lost.

The freedom for which we fight

is no longer a fight of sovereignty, but for a freedom for which every person longs: to live our lives happy, healthy and free; to teach our children to become great; to fear no person, or circumstance, or government.

Let’s live in freedom:

where cancer is not a death sentence;

where we do satisfying, productive work and reap the rewards;

where we are afraid of nothing.

 

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s go!