Having Lupus doesn’t mean the world gets less crazy. How to deal

Self-Care Checklist for when the world has lost its mind

Warning: I’m going to talk about current events. If you are in a phase of your journey where you have more than enough on your plate with just waking up every day and have no desire to know whats going on in the world, stop reading here. You do your journey and don’t feel guilty for a minute. With a disease like Lupus, we all do the best we can. There are plenty of great blog post you can read on this site that will help you on your journey that don’t deal with the news.

Now for the rest of us: This weekend was an especially brutal one. The events in Charlottesville are deplorable and heartbreaking. Like you, I am angry and sad. After holding vigil by my phone all Saturday, I was in a pretty horrible place. I woke up feeling ill for the first time in a long time and, frankly, a little depressed.

Maybe this describes you this past weekend or maybe it’s some other horrible thing happening out there that takes you down. Whatever it is, I want to remind all of us (myself included) how to manage our reaction to the craziness of the world so we can protect our health. This is vital because we aren’t just women with chronic diseases, we are a citizen of the world and what happens in it affects us deeply. But, unfortunately, the world didn’t stop being crazy when we got our diagnosis, and worry and stress tend to exacerbate our symptoms.

These are the things I reminded myself that help me take care of myself while being a citizen of this world.

  1. Care and worry aren’t the same things.  I give myself permission to care about the world and the people in it, but my worry doesn’t help anything. My worry doesn’t stop bombs, or change hearts, or rewrite history. My worry only hurts me; it compromises my physical and mental well-being. When I figured this out, I started saying this mantra when I find myself being consumed by worry over issues I can’t control: “I can care deeply, but this situation doesn’t need my worry.
  2. Act on your convictions. If you struggle to get out of bed every day you might be inclined to skip this step, but please don’t.  When I say act on your convictions, it could mean go volunteer or go to a meeting to talk about the big issues and brainstorm solutions, or it could just mean pray or meditate. Smile at a stranger. Tell someone in your life how amazing you think they are.  Action doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture, it just means to strike back against the ugly with love. Remember to direct that love as much inwardly as you do outwardly.
  3. Use your energy wisely. I woke up on Sunday feeling horrible because I spent my energy on worrying over Saturday.  When you have dealt with or are dealing with fatigue (like the exhausted in your bones kind), you realize that energy is kind of like money. You don’t always have it. If you don’t spend it wisely, you can end up hurting. Spend your energy wisely, preferably on things that will increase your energy and help you heal.
  4. Get yourself to your community. A big part of taking care of yourself is finding and being apart of a community of uplifting people who support you and are worthy of your open heart. Maybe that means your local lupus support group and/or your church. Maybe it means an online community of people who share your love for knitting or Jane the Virgin. Thanks to the internet, community can be cultivated anywhere, it just takes action on your part to find it and show up.

The world is a broken place filled with broken people but it’s also a beautiful place filled with loving and caring people. Take care of yourself, your heart, and your mind.

XOXO,

Carrie

A few of my favorite (free) things

I’m ramping up to do a blog series on alternative healing modalities like massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy and how those therapies can contribute to our healing. But before I started all that, I wanted to acknowledge the costly elephant in the room of autoimmune disease: being chronically ill can be pricey. From missed time at work to out-of-pocket medical expenses, the price tag for the autoimmune disease can get expensive, depending on your type of insurance and access to medical care. When you add alternative methods of healing to the traditional medical model, the money adds up fast.

While I deeply believe that every dollar I’ve ever spent on my healing was well worth it, I also want to control that cost as much as possible. Over the years I’ve discovered how I could give myself the best care while saving some money along the way. I’ve written several posts on how to reduce your spending while striving to clean up your eating and environment, but today I want to share those things that are free. We are lucky to live in a time when a wifi connection and a device of some kind can open up a world of quality teachers to assist you in your healing.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the best things out there to reduce pain, detoxify, and help heal our broken relationship with our bodies. And for my money…um…time, Yoga with Adriene is the best way to get all those benefits without having to go to a studio. She offers a variety of videos for free from yoga for weight loss to yoga when you are angry and several yoga challenges.  But the best thing is that you get an authentic teacher who is clearly passionate about bringing the healing power of yoga to everyone while having fun. I don’t know about you, but fun isn’t something I think of when I think yoga. But Adriene Mishler makes it happen.  So even if you think you hate yoga, give Yoga with Adriene a try. I promise you will find something useful.

Meditation

There have been hundreds of studies that have found that meditation does many positive things for us, from increasing our compassion to improving our health. For those of us with autoimmune disease, meditation can help to reduce our stress, inflammation, and decrease our fears. For beginners to meditation, the Headspace app is a great tool. Each guided meditation is 10 minutes long. The app is technically not free, but it offers 10 days of free meditation and you can take those 10 free days over and over again. The Calm app is also another great guided meditation tool with some free features. Like Headspace, it is a paid service with free guided meditations, but what they offer for free is quality guided meditations full of useful information.

Workouts

Working out is extremely important for those of us with autoimmune disease because it helps to reduce inflammation and to increase our levels of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?  Gyms are often a good place to go to get your workout on, but they can be expensive. And if you take classes, you have to work around their schedule.  This is why I really like Fitness Blender. This free, online resource has a plethora of fitness videos in a variety of styles and times. The search feature should be the poster child for all searches. Only have a 20 minutes to do a full body workout for beginners? No problem. Just input your requirements and find a workout that’s right for you.

 

Chronic illness can be so expensive, but supporting your body doesn’t have to be. I would love to know what you think of these resources. Have you tried any? Have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Move now, move later!

The workout and I have a long complicated history. In elementary school, I was super creative in getting out of P.E. and probably only went about half the time. As a chunky child, I sat out of fear of looking like a fool. In high school, I spent an hour plus at the gym every dang day, running on the treadmill and lifting weights. As I got older, the exercise thing was like a rollercoaster. I was either completely dedicated to it or dedicated to the couch. There were no in-betweens. The only thing these exercise stages shared was that exercise equaled punishment for being less than.

Thankfully, that’s not where I am today. Part of my healing journey was to find a way to work exercise into my life in a loving way. To do this, I developed a new way of looking at exercise. I would move in intentional ways so I could continue to move in those ways into the future.

While I have a much more rigorous exercise routine now, this idea is my base. At the very minimum, I walk now because I want to take long walks when I’m older. I pick up heavy objects and hold planks for my kids to crawl under because I want a strong body well into my old age. I do yoga and stretch throughout my day so I can keep my balance and flexibility when age makes that more difficult. Movement is an investment in my future self.

Of course, exercise can be challenging to fit into your day, especially when you have little ones, work, laundry, and other adulting to do. But you have to prioritize it. Just like you prioritize brushing your teeth, eating food, and update your Facebook status. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing different ways to get exercise into your life. But for now, start brainstorming about what you hate about exercise, what you love about it, and why you aren’t getting enough. Leave me a comment below!

 

Stress management during the storm

Before I became a health coach, I was a policy lady. I went to policy school because I wanted to help right some of the injustices of the world. I still do, but I’ve changed my approach a bit. However, coming from this background, you might imagine that, like many of you, the last few months have been pretty stressful.  In that spirit, I want to dive into how you can manage your stress even if you can’t do anything about what is causing the stress.

First, our body’s stress response is very important. It keeps us alive by diverting our blood where it needs to go in the event that we need to fly or fight. Think about being chased by a bear or lion, you definitely need to run away or fight it off if you are going to survive. But when we are constantly under stress, it can harm our health by causing us to store fat around our organs and by creating inflammation. But it’s more than that. It can rob us of joy, and it just feels really horrible.

But what do you do when the thing or things that are causing you stress are out of your hands? Here are my tips:

    1. Get as much trustworthy information as you can. My tactic is to stay away from any news outlet that needs you to watch or click ads because those sources tend to sensationalize things. 
    2. Create a plan to act on that information if needed.  You don’t have to do everything, but pick a thing and do it. 
    3. Disengage from social media. Social media can be fun, but it can also be full of inaccurate information that can cause a lot of fear and panic. And you have no control over what you are going to see. While you are scrolling through pictures of cute kids or puppies, you get smacked by hateful or scary memes. Back away from your devices for a few hours or even a few days to give yourself a rest. I hear the world outside is pretty beautiful. 
    4. Hang out with people who lift you up. Share your concerns, your fears, and then listen to theirs. Sharing our concerns helps us feel like we aren’t alone.
    5. Take care of yourself. This isn’t a time to fall off the wagon. In fact, it’s a great time to up your health game. Exercise to reduces stress hormones and lower inflammation and eat those vegetables, fresh and fermented, to keep that brain-gut connection well-fed.
    6. Implement stress management techniques into your day. 
      • Breathe. A solid breathing practice is one of the fastest ways to calm your stress hormones. 
      • Practice gratitude. This means taking a few minutes to write down or meditate on a few things you are grateful for. This not only anchors you in the present, but it also has been shown to reduce inflammation. 
      • Meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool, but it’s basically just giving your brain a break from all those thoughts going through your head. Simply get comfortable in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. You can do this by slowly counting as you breathe in and out. When I meditate, I like to count to 10 and then start again as I breathe slowly in and out. During this time, my mind might start to wonder so I just bring it back to my breath. There are loads of guided meditations out there. I really like the Headspace app (paid) or this resource from UCLA for free guided meditations. 

I hope this help you and that you will make it a priority to take care of yourself, no matter what storm you are weathering.

 

Carrie

Another side of wellness

alex-sick

When we think about what it looks like to be healthy, we envision eating lots of vegetables and doing lots of exercise. While all that’s true, sometimes being healthy looks a little different when you aren’t. (Think cold and flu season.)

Imagine, if you will, that your partner/kid/loved-one is really sick. Your response (hopefully) is to get them to bed, make them some soup, and give them comfort. We do this because we know they feel awful and we don’t want them to feel awful. Now, try to remember the last time you were sick. Did you push yourself to work through it? Did you say horrible things to yourself because you aren’t exercising like you needed to be? Did you change your diet to reflect your body’s needs? Probably not.

Our body sends us messages all the time about what it needs, but we are either deaf to it or willingly ignorant. If we want to be healthy — full of energy, a healthy body weight, strong and happy into our old age, etc. — then we have to start listening. When your body says sleep, sleep! Listening to those signals and actively working to heal your body when you are ill is just as important as all the kale salads and trips to the gym you take when you are well.  So speak and treat yourself like you would someone you love and let the healing commence.

What’s a health coach?

mountain-of-poop

“Hello, my name is Carrie, and I help men and women transform their health after years of disappointment.”

This is how all the business training events I attend want me to introduce myself. It’s good, I think, though probably not as slick as it could be. But I still have a problem doing it. It’s not that the statement is wrong — I certainly do help people transform their health — it’s just that it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter or impress on people the importance of the work I do.

All of us have “where we are”and “where we want to be” points in our lives. In between these two points is a mountain of crap keeping us from reaching the where we want to be. It can be about the food we should or shouldn’t be eating or the exercise we should be getting, but in my experience, that is very little of what holds us back from getting where we want to be. The mountain is built of bad habits, negative thoughts, misconceptions about your failures or situations, stress management or lack thereof, and loads of other manure blocking your path.

This mountain of crap is what I help clients break down so that they can actually move along the path from where they are to where they want to be. I do this by listening, asking questions people don’t think to ask themselves, making suggestions, and, yes, giving homework that helps break down that mountain. It’s not that you can’t change your diet or exercise by yourself, but we all have blind spots that sabotage us. At the end of the day, I bring those things to light, help you deal with them, and create a crack in that mountain. And then you can continue your journey to where you want to be on a smoother, clearer road.

If you want help identifying and removing the mountain of crap in your path, contact me today to book an appointment.

Go play!

play

We bought our kids a trampoline for Christmas. This serves two purposes: 1.) to keep from adding more clutter to our tiny house and 2.) to have fun! (Because trampolines are just really, really fun.) They love it. My oldest races home from school every day to jump, and it has ended our arguments about screen time. My youngest has a blast and wears herself on the regular. Yay for longer naps, may they stay for a while. It’s such great play. We have a net and some rules, so I set my worries about ER visits aside.

But it’s also got me thinking about what I do for fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stop having fun. Or maybe it’s just that fun turns into going on dates or out to bars with friends. Now I am not a teetotaller by any sense of the definition, but I find that really sad. Not only is drinking too much really bad for our gut health, but it’s also usually a sedentary event. And when we try to right all of our sedentary ways, we usually do it by going to the gym. Where is the fun!?! When did we stop having fun through moving our bodies?

Playing helps to reduce stress, makes us feel younger, and reconnects us to ourselves and our loved ones. What could be more important than that? Work you say? Bills? I get it, but wouldn’t work be easier if you were less stressed and felt more connected? Aren’t those bills always going to be there no matter what your health status is?

I’m issuing a challenge. Go play! Spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing something active that you find fun. Turn on the radio and make up a new dance. Have a race with your kids. Start a tickle fight with your partner. Just move your body and give into the joy of play. I’ll be jumping!

 

Mindset matters

dumpster-fire
Created by Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks

As we round the final bend of 2016 I want to take a few seconds to reflect on this year and how important our mindset is to our health. The very witty ornament pictured above pretty well sums up how the world felt this year. Deaths of icons, a stressful election season, and injustices of all sorts hitting the headlines daily — it was a pretty crappy year when you take the 1,000-foot view. In all honesty, it was starting to take its toll on me.

I spent a lot of time feeling angry, sad, and completely helpless, and this started to manifest in my health. I was starting to lose energy and have those tell-tell signs of inflammation in my joints. Those of you battling illness know that this usually signals a downhill spiral. I know because I’ve spiraled away many times before. But not this time.

This time I took stock. Yes, the world can be a broken and horrible place, but how has my year been? My kids are healthy and growing. My marriage is strong and supportive. I’ve got the love of my extended family and have even seen some of them this year. I’ve got friends, I’ve got a roof over my head, and I’ve got the desire and ability to do good in this world.  In short, I’ve got a lot.

Next, I reduced my triggers. I found that when I got into the car and turned on the news my mood would sink, so I started listening to music. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter were sadness destinations, so I took a break.

Finally, I ramped up the self-care: More walking, more baths, more fun reads and silly podcasts, a fancy new coloring book with my own fancy colored pencils, and more time with people that lift me up.

This does not mean I am shirking my responsibility to be a well-informed citizen or viewer of funny cat videos. It means that I have made the choice to do those things that will allow me to act intentionally as opposed to  reacting to all the ills the world has to hold. This is me shifting my mindset so that I can continue the work of healing my body.

Detox 4: The lovely liver

 

liver

For this fourth part of the detox series, we are going to look back into the body to talk about the miracle that is the liver. First, let’s learn a little about this amazing organ. The liver breaks down nutrients, stores vitamins and minerals, produces red blood and Kupffer cells, and flushes out all the toxins we take in or create.

So how does it do its magic?  Toxins are mostly fat soluble which makes it really difficult for the body to excrete. So first, the liver must break down the toxins using a two-phase process to convert the toxins to a water soluble state so the toxins can be sent out through our bile or our kidneys. Goodbye, toxins! However, if we aren’t very nice to our liver, then it can’t do its job well and the toxins start to back up and accumulate in our bodies, harming our health. For example, when our bodies are done with the estrogen it has used, it sends it to the liver. In a healthy liver, the estrogen is converted and sent out of the body. In a gunked up liver, estrogen goes through the first stage of conversion but it can’t go to the next stage so the liver dumps the estrogen back into the blood supply to be recycled. This is not the kind of recycling we want because when this slightly changed estrogen goes back into our bodies we are more susceptible to reproductive cancers.  Cleaning up your liver is vital.

But how, you ask, does the liver get all gunked up? In her book The Immune System Recovery Plan, Dr. Susan Blum explains that the chronic exposure to toxins causes our liver to become clogged up and unable to send toxins out of the body. And as we’ve learned, that applies to most of us. The air we breathe, the foods we eat, the products we use, and even the amount of stress we feel creates this heavy load of toxins our liver is supposed to deal with.

Tips for supporting and ungunking your liver: 

    1. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Of course, I would say this. But really, if you want to give the liver what it needs to do its job, you are going to need to give it the nutrients it needs. Stick to non-starchy vegetables, included lots of green leafy plants, and make sure they are organic. Remember, eating a bunch of pesticide-laden vegetables is just going to give the liver another job to do.
    2. DO eat protein. According to Dr. Blum, the liver needs amino acids to complete phase two of the conversion process. This means that those juice fast aren’t great for your liver because the toxins are just getting stuck between phase one and phase two and that’s actually a really dangerous place for toxins to be. This is not to say don’t juice, just make sure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs and keep it organic!
    3. Reduce the sugar. Sugar (fructose) gets stored in our liver as fat. This is bad for our liver and our waistline.  Reduce the amount of sugar you consume, which often means taking a good look at where you are getting your sugar from. Hint! It’s not often where you expect. Check out your jars, cans, and boxes. Even your organic, whole grain cereal bars are packing a heavy punch of sugar. Health Coach tip: Divide the amount of grams of sugar by 4 and you get a rough estimate of how many teaspoons of sugar are in each serving.
    4. Reduce or eliminate your use of Tylenol/Acetaminophen. According to Drug Watch “It (Tylenol) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.” That is big and crazy and really, really needs to be screamed from the mountain tops. When Tylenol loads up in the liver, it gunks up the processes and the liver sends it out to the body as a toxin. For frequent users, this is a big, dangerous deal. There are several ways to reduce pain that doesn’t require popping pills, like bodywork, yoga, meditation, and essential oils. For those of you in the Austin Area, we are very lucky to have Jesse James Retherford at the Art of Fitness to help with pain.

I hope this helps you understand a little more about our amazing detoxification processes and how you can do your part to ensure they keep you healthy and happy. Next week, detoxing your kitchen!

Detox 3: Reduce the toxic load in your home

toxins 3

You are breathing in toxins as you read this. . . and so am I.

As I was preparing to write this post, I couldn’t help but think about the SNL sketch from several years ago in which a news team does a series of terrifying teasers for that night’s broadcast: “Common household item — something we all have in our homes and are probably using right now — is found to be full of lethal poison. We’ll tell you what it is at the end of the hour.”

While I have no intention of scaring you or making you paranoid, I do not think I could have a series on detoxing without addressing the places that we do most of our living; namely indoors. Between work, home, the car, and the store, the majority of our lives will be spent inside, which is where we are constantly exposed to toxins.

Any indoor dwelling is basically a big human sized box holding all manner of materials made with chemicals that can harm us. And because we are very concerned about outdoor air pollution (or maybe just our heating and cooling bills) our homes are sealed to make them more energy efficient. This means that all the toxins in the house are just hanging around making us sick. Toxins like…

Microbiological toxins. These are things like mold, animal dander, mildew, and mite poop. These suckers can live in those hard to reach places in your bathroom or under your kitchen sink or (most unsettlingly) in your pillows and comforters. As we breathing all that mite poop in, our respiratory system becomes inflamed, and that can exasperate conditions such asthma.

Gases. Volatile organic compounds or VOC are found in just about everything. Office equipment, furniture, even craft supplies. You know that “new car smell?” Well, that is just your new car releasing a bunch of VOC by off-gassing. Congratulations! VOC can cause immediate allergic reactions and might have long term ramifications like damage to our liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, and may cause cancer.

The list of toxins in our home can go on and on, such as toxins we put on our body or those that live in our cookware, and I will address some of those things in a later post. For now, I want to give you some practical and inexpensive ways to reduce the toxic load in your home by cleaning up the air we breathe.

Simple Steps to Detox Your Environment

  1. Clean cleanly. The best way to keep microbes at bay is to keep your fabrics clean, especially your pillows and comforters. And when you do clean, make sure to forgo strong smelling detergents (no matter how lovely mountain breeze might sound) and opt for some “you-friendly” cleaners like lemon juice to get out stains or hydrogen peroxide as a bleach alternative. Check here for some ways to clean cheaply and safely, and check in with the Environmental Working Groups to find out what cleaning supplies are healthiest for you and your family. The EWG has tested over 2,500 products so that you can have the power to make healthy choices.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230460/
From “Planting Healthier Indoor Air”
  1. Clean your air. The air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than the air outside. For example, all those pieces of equipment and furniture shed their chemicals and become dust; and dust, as you know, can enter our body easily through our airways. So make sure dusting is a regular part of your cleaning routine and then run a vacuum with a HEPA filter. But probably the cheapest, most passive, and coolest things you can do to improve the air quality of your home is to buy yourself some plants. A NASA scientist did experiments with houseplants to see if they couldn’t help clean up the toxins that would be released by all the equipment jammed in tight confined spaces, like a space station or our homes. He found that plants were really great at absorbing all those nasty things.  So go get some clipping of some house plants from a friend or run to your nearest nursery to start reducing the overall toxicity of your home.*

 

I hope you feel empowered to reduce the toxic load in your own space by making your air cleaner. Check out the other post in this series.

 

*”For maximum benefit, multiple species of houseplants would likely be needed on a site to remove the relevant toxicants in a particular space, given that houseplants vary in the types of chemicals they are able to remove from the environment and the efficiency …” from “Planting Healthier Indoor Air” by Luz Claudio

Detox 2: Love your lymphatic system

 

lymphatic

Our lymphatic system is amazing. I think of it as the vacuum of our body, just sucking up all the toxins so our bodies can keep on keeping on.  This system runs throughout our bodies and keeps things flowing by bathing our cells in nutrients, recovering fluid (waste created by our circulatory system), cleaning it up, and returning at a rate of about 3 liters of fluid per day. It also helps our digestive system by taking toxins and pathogens that weren’t Lymphatic_system_(vector).svgdestroyed by the process of digestion out of our gut and either flushing them out or organizing an immune defense against them.

The lymphatic system works with our skin, lungs, colon, liver, and kidneys to remove the toxins coming into our bodies and created by our bodies. This amazing system touches every cell, every organ, every tissue and is vital to life.  If the lymphatic system were to stop, we would become very toxic quickly and die. Unfortunately, the only time this system gets much love is when your doctor goes poking around your neck looking for a poor little lymph node that became inflamed fighting off an infection.

In order to help the lymphatic system do its job, we need to give it a little love. Here are some ways that you can start nourishing your lymphatic system today.

1. Move. Possibly the coolest thing about the lymphatic system is that there is no pump moving the lymph throughout our system so our movement is the pump.   So move, especially when you have been sitting for a long period of time. Even if it’s just a brisk walk or some chair stretching. Better yet, get a sweat going so you can really help your body get those toxins out.  You move = your lymph moves. You sweat = toxins move out of the body.

2. Dry Skin Brushing. Seventy percent of your lymphatic system is located right under your skin.  Before you take your shower or do yoga, get down to your birthday suit and  grab a dry brush like this one. Now brush all over your body, but remember to be considerate of those sensitive areas like nipples. I found this video by a lymphatic drainage therapist and fellow Lupus conquer to be very informative, and it completely changed the way I do my own skin brushing. Bonus: Skin brushing is a great way to improve how your skin looks.

3. Reduce your stress. According to Dr. John Douillard, stress hormones create a very acidic environment which gunks up our lymphatic system’s ability to do its job. I know that this recommendation sounds overwhelming; it did for me for several years. But stress management is paramount to health, and it can be done through little tweaks to our lives. Check out my stress management series here for some practical tips. There’s an added bonus to using deep breathing exercises to de-stress because the lungs are one of those pathways the lymphatic system relies on to get toxins out.

I hope these tips help you to start thinking about how you can support your body’s natural detox processes and provide you with concrete ways to actually do it. Of course, the lymphatic system can’t flush those toxins if the rest of the detox pathways are clogged, so stay tuned to learn more about ways to support those processes as well. For more in this series

 

Detox 1: Your body on toxins

toxins-pic 1

I’ve done just about every detox out there. I’ve taken huge pills several times a day for 14 days, I’ve had days on nothing but fresh pressed vegetable juice, and I’ve even jumped head-first into an intense candida diet.  Over time, I’ve come up with three realizations. One, I was very toxic and those toxins were making me sick. Secondly, detoxing can be harsh on the body and can cause damage if done in a drastic way. And finally, I would rather set my body up to handle toxins daily rather than randomly cleaning it out through a big dramatic effort.*

In this series, I want to help you understand what it means to detoxify and give you practical and gentle ways to reduce your body’s toxic load thereby reducing your vulnerability to disease. But first…

The bad news:  We come in contact with toxins every day. Sitting on our couches, breathing in that “new car smell,” even cooking up healthy veggies for our family in that non-stick pan exposes us to toxins. And this exposure starts at the beginning of our lives. In 2004 the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal had the umbilical cords of 10 newborn babies tested and found over 200 toxic chemicals; chemicals known to cause cancer, that are harmful to the brain and nervous system, or that cause birth defects.

These toxins creep into our body from the chemicals in the products we use, like furniture, wrinkle cream, or even spatulas; through the air we breathe that’s full of pollution; through the food we ingest that contain pesticides and heavy metals (even organic produce); and by the water we drink that has been contaminated by commercial agriculture run off and  pharmaceuticals. Basically, our systems are either dealing with or storing toxins in our body pretty much always.

Right about now, if you aren’t in the corner curled up in the fetal position, you might be thinking that this all sounds rather bleak. Honestly, it ain’t great.  We haven’t been good stewards of our earth, and in return our health is suffering. But there is good news…

The good news: We have amazing bodies that are designed to rid our bodies of toxins, and many non-toxic choices are available.

Our lymphatic system and our digestive system handle all toxins our bodies come in contact with. When these systems are hampered, meaning they aren’t able to move the toxins out of our body, toxins get stored in our fat. However, our fat has only so much storage capacity, so when our fat cells can’t hold the toxins anymore, the body send the toxins to our brain — our very fatty brain.

So our job is to do the best we can to make sure those systems are working really well and to give them a break by reducing our toxins.  Next up in the series, how we keep our lymphatic system chugging along. Stay tuned!

 

*Note: I’m not opposed to time-constrained or seasonal detox programs. However, the focus of this series is the work we need to do to keep our body’s daily detoxing mechanisms up and running.

I’m back and I got something to say… and a new series on the way!

Hello, Everyone! I’m back from my media fast with an epiphany. Are you ready? Here it is: We are super adaptable.

I know, you are probably thinking, “Duh! How else could we live on every corner of the planet and function when the heat index is an ungodly 108 if we weren’t adaptable? 108!!!!”

What I mean is that we adapt very quickly to new behaviors, for better or worse. For example, before going on my media fast, I was spending a lot of time scrolling through social media with jaw clenched and outrage turning my stomach in knots. But despite my daily (often hourly) habit, my first day of living media-free was incredibly easy.  I did have to remind myself not to just mindlessly “surf” while waiting in line at the store, but, other than that, I wasn’t missing anything. The days following were about the same, except that I felt much more relaxed. Even when my partner would give me updates on a disturbing news story, I just wasn’t getting as bothered.

The moral of the story is not that I learned so much or grew as a person, but rather that the Carrie with clenched jaw scrolling passed outrageous memes and the Carrie that was living her life outside of a screen is the same person. The only difference was the behavior. We slip into behaviors so easily, and, unfortunately, it’s often the ones that we don’t want to have. Staying up too late, drinking that extra glass of wine, having a daily “treat”, or just forgoing exercise comes so easily that, before you know it, it’s just how life is.

It’s as if we are on autopilot.  I try hard not to be on autopilot because I would rather be practicing intentional and purposeful living, but sometimes we just have to shake things up to keep from falling into bad patterns. That’s why I’m starting a new series on detoxing or, more specifically, supporting our body so it can do its job and get the toxins out. Stay tuned!

 

Lean in to your life!

Alex yoga

Today (Tuesday, July 5th), I have hit the halfway point in my challenge to do a month worth of yoga. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a yoga challenge, but I’ve had an epiphany that might apply to you too, dear reader, even if yoga isn’t your thing.

Lean in rather than backing off when life gets challenging. In the past, when things would get stressful at home/work/what-have-you, I would give myself a break. I would forgo exercising and eating right because something had to give. Right? Wrong! Taking care of yourself is essential when life is hard. By not taking care of myself, I was pulling myself into a vicious cycle: stress, treat my body like crap, get sick and gain weight, stress. Life was just happening to me through a haze of stress and poor health.

Taking time to tend to yourself adds time to your day. I know there are some math whizzes out there that will tell you that that is not possible, but they are wrong. (At least this time.) Another math whiz once said that time is relative, and never is that more clear for me than when I am facing my day/children/random obligations with energy. During the years I was sick, there was just never enough time in the day to get everything done. But now. . . well, I still wish I could get more done, but I have the energy I need to be productive.  Even when that means taking 30 minutes or more out of my day to do something that is just for me.

Find the self-care thing that works for you and commit to it like you do your Netflix account. For this period in my life, yoga has been my go-to. It is helping me heal from a pretty traumatic birth experience, and it’s helping me keep my focus on my goal of living a healthy, productive, and giving life. There might be something else that works for you. Maybe it’s walking with your neighbor, cooking nutritious meals, kickboxing, or something else entirely.  Whatever it is, make it a priority and start leaning in to your life.

 

For those of you who are interested in doing a 30-day yoga challenge, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene’s free 30-day yoga series on YouTube. Check it out here.

 

Deficiency du jour: Vitamin D

vitamin d

 

Everyone you know, including yourself, has probably been tested for and found lacking when it comes to vitamin D. So what gives? Turns out most of us — about 50% to 70% of children and adults — are deficient in this key nutrient. While we don’t really know why that is, it seems likely that it has something to do with sitting inside all day and not eating the right types of foods. Whatever the cause, vitamin D deficiency is a real problem as it can contribute to. . .

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Asthma in kids
  • Osteoporosis in adults
  • Rickets in kids
  • Certain cancers, like colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.
  • etc., etc., etc.

I don’t know about you, but that list and all those “et ceteras” are a bit scary. But there is good news! Most doctors are hip to the importance of having the correct levels of vitamin D and will work with you to ensure that you have them. Also, changing your diet to add vitamin D-rich foods like salmon and eggs yokes, working on your gut health to help your body absorb the nutrient, spending a little bit of time in the sun without sunscreen*, and taking a good vitamin D supplement will help set you right.

Of course, I am not a doctor, so pop over here or here to find out what doctors have to say about vitamin D deficiency and how to address it.

In the mean time go outside and start absorbing some D!

*Skin cancer is still a thing so we need to balance the need for vitamin D via sun exposure with protecting our biggest organ, our skin. You can do this with taking into account your age, skin tone, and health, and using your knowledge and intuition to determine how much time you should spend in the sun without sunscreen. For  example, as a light-skinned woman in my late thirties with autoimmune disease, I get out roughly 10 to 15 minutes every day in the morning sun without sunscreen. 

Self-care, dang it!

self-care

I’m taking a break from my gut health series to write about something that has been on my mind: self-care.  Self-care is vital to our health and, in many ways, is the linchpin of creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. And while it’s one of those things that is talked about ad nauseam in health blogs and in health-focused magazines, it’s really hard to get people to actually do it.

In fact, self-care might be the most challenging aspect of health for my clients.  I preach it because I know how important it is, but even I can have a hard time incorporating it into my life. In fact, over the last month I’ve not tended to myself at all. And I have excuses. There’s my business and volunteer commitments, unexpected travel, illness, and now a toddler that can scale just about anything.  In the face of all that, I just let self-care fall off the list. And you know what? It did not serve me. Here I was trying to serve everyone else, but I had nothing to give.  I did it; I took care of those diverse needs, but I wasn’t eating as well as I should or exercising enough. I felt overwhelmed; I had very little patience for those around me and  started to seriously feel resentful. I don’t know about you, but this is not how I want to live my life.

Part of the challenge of incorporating self-care into our lives is that we don’t really know how to do it.  When pushed to say what we think it is, we tend to think about eating right and exercising. While there is truth in that, it goes a little deeper.  It’s really about the why and how. Self-care requires a shift in our thinking. We prepare good food or exercise not because we are beating ourselves into submission but because we know that when we eat well and move our bodies we feel better and we can handle our lives with more grace. It’s about turning off the T.V. and the phone at the end of a long day and curling up with a good book so that we can get deeper, more restful sleep. It’s meditating, spending time with friends that lift us up, and paying attention to and managing our stress.  It’s about making those things that build us up and nourish our body and mind a priority.

Here are a few tips for incorporating self-care into your life.

  1. Pick your self-care. Decide on one or two self-care practices you want to work into your life. Maybe it’s just using all that fancy face washing things you got for Christmas or maybe it’s practicing yoga daily. Pick something that will nourish you.
  2. Schedule it. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, put it on your calendar each day and treat it like you would a meeting with your boss.
  3. DO IT! Seriously, you will always have too many things on your list and not enough time. What does it hurt to take half and hour or less to focus on your health? Nothing. It hurts nothing.

If you need help figuring out how to get self-care into your life or are ready to transform your health, contact me for a free consultation.