Category Archives: Holistic Living

DIY Candida Cleanse

“Marinated Kale Salad-2” by Jules is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” 

Many people have a problem with Candida due to poor diet and lifestyle. You could argue that the majority of Americans have a problem with candida, and it’s important to understand the relevant health issues as well as how to properly address it.

Candida is yeast and bacteria that live in our gut. It is what we consider the “bad bacteria.” We also have “good bacteria” in our gut, which promotes a good immune system and healthy digestion. When we have higher amounts of candida than we have good bacteria – a candida overgrowth – it can cause serious health issues.

Some common health problems associated with candida overgrowth are:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Skin rashes and acne
  • Digestive disorders (Crohn’s, IBS, etc)
  • Yeast infections
  • Hormonal imbalances

These are just to name a few…

 

How does someone develop candida overgrowth?

Candida feeds off of sugar and yeast. Eating foods high in refined sugars, high in carbs, and processed foods all contribute to candida overgrowth. Not eating enough foods that contain good bacteria also contributes to the problem. Taking antibiotics, birth control pills, and steroids all create an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.

 

How can I tell if I have a candida problem?

If you’ve eaten a conventional American diet throughout your life, you likely have a problem with candida. However, there are a couple of other clear indicators. If you have a white film on your tongue in the morning, this is often an indicator of candida overgrowth. Nail fungus can also be a sign of candida. You can conduct a “spit test.” Fill half of a glass with room temperature water. First thing in the morning, spit a dime-size amount of saliva into the glass. It should float at the top. Check it several minutes later. If the spit sinks, starts to form strings hanging from it, or you see a cloudy residue at the bottom, it indicates candida.

 

How do I get rid of candida overgrowth?

Doing a candida cleanse can help kill off the bad bacteria and help rebuild healthy bacteria in your gut.

 

There are two steps to a candida cleanse:

  1. Kill off the candida
  2. Add good bacteria

 

Killing off the candida:

  • Eliminate foods that feed the candida: 
    • Eliminate anything with sugar. No artificial sweeteners either. 
    • Avoid natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, agave). Stevia is ok.
    • Eliminate foods with yeast (bread, crackers, pasta, etc).
    • Avoid fruit (berries other than strawberries and apples are ok in small amounts).
    • Avoid starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, other root vegetables, etc).
    • No alcohol.
    • Avoid dairy.
    • No processed food.
    • Take supplements that kill bacteria, yeast, and fungus at breakfast and lunch (garlic, oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract). Candida can become immune to a supplement, so it is best to take one for 4-5 days and then switch to a different one. You can rotate with a couple different supplements.

 

Adding healthy bacteria:

  • Eat plenty of fermented, cultured foods that contain natural probiotics (kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented vegetables).
  • Drink apple cider vinegar (I drink it as a “shot” – a tablespoon of vinegar in a shot glass then diluted with water).
  • Add unrefined coconut oil to tea or smoothies (it has anti-fungal properties).
  • Gluten-free grains in small amounts may be alright (brown rice, quinoa, oats). Listen to your body.
  • Eat lots of cooked vegetables (especially dark green veggies). Cooked veggies are easier to digest.
  • Eat lots of protein (chicken, turkey, fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, etc). Make sure they are free of antibiotics and hormones.
  • Take a probiotic with your dinner (raw, refrigerated is best). 
  • Take an L-Glutamine supplement to help heal the lining of your intestines. 
  • Get plenty of fiber to help clean out your colon. Eat ground flaxseed, ground chia seeds, or make chia pudding.

 

Follow this diet and supplement routine for at least two weeks. You may need to go longer if your candida overgrowth is particularly bad. You can slowly start to introduce starchy vegetables and fruits into your diet, and gradually cut back on the antibacterial/anti-fungal supplements. Keep sugar, high-carb, and processed foods out of your diet altogether to prevent candida regrowth. Make eating probiotic foods and drinks a part of your regular diet as well.

 

Die-off:

It is common to experience “die-off” symptoms while doing a cleanse, because of all the toxins flushing from your body. You may feel tired, have a skin breakout, headache, or need to use the bathroom more frequently. However, if you are someone who has not been eating very healthy, I recommend changing your diet to more whole foods 2-4 weeks prior to starting the cleanse. The good news is that the die-off symptom are temporary and usually last 3-5 days. You will then start to feel much better as your body regains balance.

 

The first time I did a candida cleanse was about seven years ago. It was a rough experience. Looking back, I did not approach the cleanse properly. I went from eating a high-processed, high-sugar diet to – wham! – complete candida cleanse. I think it was too much for my body to handle all at once. I broke out in acne all over my face and felt really sick. I had intense sugar cravings, and really struggled to stick to the diet. After having made some healthy lifestyle changes over the past several years, I have found the cleanse to be much more doable, and the die-off symptoms are more minor. It’s a good idea to do a cleanse once or twice per year, even if it is only for a week to keep candida at bay.

Guide to Treating Common Female Hormone Imbalance

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I have shared my personal experience with birth control pills, and my journey to finding natural alternatives. I am pleased to say I have been off synthetic birth control for over six years, using the Fertility Awareness Method to track my fertility and prevent unwanted pregnancy, as well as gaining better balance in my natural hormones.

There are some incredible supplements out there that can help support your body to better balance your hormones. If you have recently gone off birth control pills, suffer from PMS symptoms, or get cystic acne prior to your period (those large pimples under your skin that really hurt), there is likely an imbalance in your hormones.

Hormones are very complex and work together in ratios. We can simplify the most common hormonal-imbalances in women to two primary issues: Low Progesterone or High Androgens.

 

Low Progesterone

Progesterone is one of the female hormones. It has several important jobs. It produces the ovaries, normalizes blood sugar levels, and allows for a healthy pregnancy. It is also naturally prevents anxiety and depression. This is the hormone that naturally increases to induce ovulation, and can be detected by tracking your Basil Body Temperature.

Common symptoms of low progesterone:

  • PMS symptoms (moodiness, bloating, cravings)
  • Painful breasts
  • Headaches
  • Low libido
  • Cystic acne prior to menstruation
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Weight gain around your waist
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping

 

How to Treat Low Progesterone:

There is a strong link between chronic stress and low progesterone. When your body is under a lot of stress, it uses the resources normally used to produce progesterone to produce cortisol instead.

  • Lower your stress
    • Practice self-love,
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Don’t workout too hard too frequently
    • Quit caffeine
    • Reduce the amount of sugar you eat
    • Make sure you are eating enough calories
  • Try taking the herb Vitex (Agnus Cactus or Chastetree Berry) to help support progesterone production
  • Magnesium, B6, and Zinc, and Vitamin C are all needed to support your body in producing progesterone.

Take Fertility Blend for Women by Daily Wellness. This supplement contains Vitex, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B, and green tea. I took it for one month, and right away noticed I had no cystic acne prior to my period. I’ve been taking it ever since!

 

 

High Androgen

Androgens (such as testosterone) are male hormones that are found in both men and women. Androgens are produced in women through the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Androgens are often converted to estrogen, another female hormone. Androgens aid in the functioning of organs such as kidneys, liver, and bone-density.

Common symptoms of high androgen:

  • Acne
  • Excess hair growth on chin or upper lip
  • Hair thinning or balding on scalp
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Irregular periods
  • Blood sugar disorders (such as diabetes or insulin resistance)
  • High blood-pressure
  • High cholesterol

 

How to Treat High Androgen Levels:

Androgens are linked to sebum production in the skin. If the level of androgens are too high in our body, our skin produces too much sebum, which will clog pores and cause a breeding ground for bacteria – leading to acne. Eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates will cause an increase in levels of androgens. Having high levels of “good” estrogens will combat the negative effects of androgens. We also have “bad” estrogen (xenoestrogens) in our body from living in a toxic environment (pollution, eating and drinking from plastic containers, taking synthetic birth control pills, etc).

  • Reduce “bad” estrogen in the body
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Eat a low-sugar and low-carbohydrate diet (low GI)
  • Use facial oil to unclog sebum in your pores.
  • Try taking a DIM (diindolylmethane) supplement

Estroblock is a supplement containing DIM (diindolylmethane). This is a substance found in leafy green vegetables. DIM works to reduce excess androgens as well as support your liver in removing “bad” estrogens. There has been a lot of hype on the internet over Estroblock, and it has helped many people get rid of their acne. I have used it for about two years, and have found it to be tremendously helpful in keeping my acne at bay. 

 

Balancing your hormones often times requires you to make some lifestyle changes in order to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Simply taking supplements will likely not help much if you are eating a poor diet, not getting enough sleep, and not exercising. Take care of yourself, and start by giving your body the nutrition it needs. 

 

Use Facial Oil to Clear and Cleanse Your Skin

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Homemade Tincture” by Nekenasoa is licensed under CC by 2.0

Growing up I was always taught to avoid skincare products that contained any type of oils. The theory was that using oil on your face would clog pores and lead to acne. Having been an adolescent with less than perfect skin, I wasn’t about to put anything on my face that might worsen my acne. I continued to avoid facial oil into my adulthood, and used facial cleansers and other products that were intended to clear acne.

I became frustrated that I was now an adult and still needed to use acne products to keep my acne at bay. Aren’t teenagers the ones who have to deal with this problem? I started to do some research, reading and learning about other adult women who had similar concerns about their skin.

Through my research, I discovered healthy ways to clear my acne at the root of the issue that would provide lasting results. The most important decision I made was to improve my lifestyle and make healthier choices. I write about how I changed my diet and introduced supplements to my daily routine here.

I also discovered how to improve my skincare routine. Here is what I learned:

Oil-Free Cleansers can Damage Skin

Most commercial facial cleansers (especially those geared for acne) contain harsh detergents such as sulphates that strip natural oil from your face and drying your skin. Stripping natural oils (sebum) from your face can cause skin damage and accelerate the signs of aging. It can also further aggravate acne, eczema, and rosacea.

Facial Oil will Help Reduce Oily Skin

Using products that contain high quality oils can actually trick your skin into thinking it has already produced enough oil, and will decrease your natural sebum production.

Facial Oil will Clear Pores

Using oil to cleanse your face will actually help dissolve clogged pores such as whiteheads or blackheads. Water cannot dissolve oil – but oil can dissolve oil, so the oil will mix and clear up clogged pores!

Cleansing with Oil Removes Makeup

Nothing removes makeup faster and more gently than an oil-cleanser – even eye makeup! I use One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Oil Cleanser and Makeup Remover. Some other favorites to use are plain joboba oil or virgin coconut oil. This method is sometimes referred to as the “oil cleansing method.” The key is to massage the oil on dry skin, then wipe away with a warm wash cloth and rinse. You can follow with another cleanser for a deeper clean or just stick with the oil-cleanser.

 

Have you tried cleansing with oil? What are your favorite facial oils? Please share!

 

Three Natural Deodorants that Actually Work

“Homemade Deodorant” by Megan Myers is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Living a healthier lifestyle requires not only taking a look at what you put into your body, but also what you put on your body. Many deodorants, specifically antiperspirants, are filled with toxic ingredients such as aluminum, parabens, synthetic fragrance, and phthalates – just to name a few. These ingredients are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, fertility problems, and seizures.

Sweating is one way our body releases toxins. Antiperspirants block the sweat glands. If you stop your body’s natural ability to sweat, your body will end up reabsorbing those toxins – leading to numerous health issues.

Ditch the antiperspirant and allow your body to do what it is naturally designed to do – sweat out unhealthy toxins! It’s actually good for your body to sweat!

Although you may sweat more when you quit using antiperspirant, there is no need to worry about body odor. There are many natural deodorants you can use that provide long-lasting odor protection.

When I initially quit using antiperspirants, the search for a nontoxic deodorant that actually worked turned out to be an arduous journey. I started with several store-bought deodorants (such as Tom’s of Maine, Thai Crystal, and Jason)  and was quickly disappointed with the results. They did not seem to prevent body odor – but rather poorly masked it.

After lots of trial and error, I am happy to say that I have found several nontoxic deodorants that truly get the job done!

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Soapwalla Deodorant Cream

This is probably one of the most popular deodorants among the green beauty community. It’s become a cult favorite! This deodorant is the most powerful in odor protection. It requires finger application. It provides a lavender-citrus fragrance. My only issue with Soapwalla is that my skin can become irritated if used right after shaving. If you have sensitive skin, this deodorant may be too strong for you.

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Green Body Deodorant

Many natural deodorants require finger application. If you love the convenience of a stick deodorant, this is the deodorant for you – and it really works! The best part is that is comes in six different scents!

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Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream

This is my holy grail deodorant. It provides powerful odor protection, yet is sensitive enough to use after shaving. It does require finger application, but is worth the nuisance due to the simple yet effective ingredients. It comes in two scents: lavender and tea tree. You can also order a mini size for travel or sampling the product.

Have you quit using antiperspirant? What is your favorite nontoxic deodorant that actually works? Please share!

Healing through the Power of Self Love

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happy_woman_in_flower_field” by Imagine is licensed under CC by 3.0

Whether you are trying to clear acne, lose weight, or simply live a healthier lifestyle, learning to love and accept yourself is an essential part of the healing process. While increasing nutrition, reducing toxins, sleeping well, and exercising are all great ways to improve your physical wellbeing, these steps would be incomplete without also working on emotional wellbeing.

What is self-love? It can be difficult to define, and the meaning may vary depending on your individual needs. To me, self-love means being at peace with who you are, recognizing your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and appreciating yourself.

Here are some ways you can grow in self-love:

Pay attention to your thoughts

So many of us function as if we are on auto-pilot. We go through our days rushing from one moment to the next with many thoughts flooding through our minds. It’s important to slow down and pay attention to what we tell ourselves. Do you frequently have negative thoughts about yourself? Perhaps you are telling yourself, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not worthy of love,” or “I’m ugly.” Perhaps you are putting off self-love by thinking, “I’ll feel better about myself when…” You may need to ask yourself if these thoughts are helping you or hurting you. Are your thoughts accurate? How would someone who loves themselves think about themselves? Empower yourself by taking control of your negative thought-patterns, and start engaging in more positive ways of viewing yourself. Recognize your strengths and tell yourself, “I am special…worthy, kind, helpful, etc.”

Practice Self-Compassion

We can be so hard on ourselves. Learn to recognize that you are human, and therefore, imperfect. Punishing yourself for your mistakes will lead to low self-esteem and feeling like a failure. Instead focus on what lessons are to be learned from your mistakes. Ask yourself, how would I treat a friend facing a similar situation as my own? Be kind to yourself. When facing hardships, take some time to care for yourself. Relax with a good book, call a friend, get a massage – whatever helps you alleviate stress!

Set Boundaries

Set limits for yourself and learn to say no to activities or people that are harmful to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This may require making some lifestyle changes or letting go of relationships. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of your success and happiness. Spend your time engaging in activities that are beneficial to your physical and emotional wellbeing. Some ideas might be taking a yoga class, spending time outdoors, learning a new hobby, going to church, cooking healthy meals, joining a book club, etc.

Live with intention

What is your purpose in life? What kind of a person do you strive to be? Set goals for yourself that support your values and beliefs. Establishing your intention will bring guidance to decisions you make in life. When you live your life with purpose and meaning, you will have more love and appreciation for yourself.

 What are some ways you practice self-love? Please share!

Easy At-Home Remedies for Colds

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It’s that time of year – when it seems like everyone around you is suffering from the cold and flu…and you keep your fingers crossed that you’re not next.

Unfortunately for me, I was.

After suffering from a severe cold the past several days (head and chest congestion, body aches, and fever), I felt inspired to share some natural remedies that helped me get through it and start feeling better. I rarely get sick to this degree –  a recent increase in stress likely caused my immune system to weaken. I am reluctant to take antibiotics due to the issues they cause within the digestive system and the balance of healthy bacteria (which is the core of a strong immune system to begin with!). Therefore, whenever possible, I rely on at-home remedies – and they actually work!

Gargle Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is loaded health benefits! If you are struggling with laryngitis or a sore throat, gargling some apple cider vinegar can help kill bacteria in your throat, loosen mucus, and boosts white blood cell counts. The acid will coat your throat, preventing germs from accumulating. Dilute one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar (the one with “the mother”) with a couple splashes of warm water. Gargle, spit, and repeat. You can do this every few hours if you’d like. Your throat will thank you!

Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Get Rid of Ear Infections

Hydrogen peroxide will kill bacteria within your ear and loosen congestion. Lay one side of your head down onto a pillow. Use a dropper to put 1 or 2 drops of hydrogen peroxide into the ear facing the ceiling. Wait 7-15 minutes, then switch sides and repeat.

Use Steam to Clear Sinus and Respiratory Congestion

I remember going to my pediatrician as a child, and she told me that breathing in steam was just as effective as taking an antibiotic. I always remembered that. You can purchase an at-home facial steamer or boil water in a pot. The steam will sanitize your head and chest and break up congestion. Place a towel over your head and facial steamer/ bowl of hot water and breath it in for about 15 minutes. I also added several drops of hydrogen peroxide to boost bacteria-killing power. The steam is also great for cleaning out your pores!

Use a Neti Pot to Clean Your Sinuses

A Neti Pot is a little pot that looks like a cross between a tiny teapot and a genie lamp. You fill it with a saline solution, place the spout in one nostril, and tilt your head to the side as you raise the Neti Pot, causing the solution to flow through your sinuses and out your other nostril. Then you reverse nostrils and repeat. Sounds kind of gross, but it works magic! I use a teaspoon of sea salt and fill the pot with lukewarm water (if the water is too warm, it will burn). If you’ve ever gone swimming in the ocean and had salt-water up your nose, it feels a little like that. The salt will clear away mucus and kill germs.

Drink Detox Tea

Speed up your recovery by drinking a tea with plant and herbs that support your liver to help flush out toxins. Try this detox tea with healing ingredients such as dandelion, burdock root, and ginger. Add some raw honey to help sooth a sore throat. Drinking tea will also help increase your fluid intake and warm your body.

In addition to these at-home remedies, nothing beats getting plenty of rest, eating whole foods, and drinking lots of water. Listen to your body! If your body is telling you to slow down, don’t push yourself to go to work or any other obligations if you can help it. Take care and feel better!

 

Three Must-Have Supplements for Clear Skin

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Looking to improve your complexion, eliminate acne, and feel your best? Inflammation, redness, acne, and uneven skin tone are results of deficiencies in your health and lack of nutrition. In order to improve your skin on the outside, you need to heal yourself on the inside. Topical skin products that promise relief may only temporarily alleviate some symptoms, but to truly make a long-lasting difference in your skin, you need to increase your nutrition. Even when trying to live a healthier lifestyle, it can be difficult to get all the nutrition you need on a daily basis. Adding these supplements to your routine can make a big difference:

Fermented Cod Liver Oil

Fermented cod liver oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids – the healthy fats! It is also especially high in vitamin D and A. It is packed with more nutrients compared to other types of fish oil. When the cod livers are fermented, the nutrients are extracted without being damaged like in other processing methods. The fermentation also allows the nutrients to be more easily digested. This supplement can be a little pricey – but well worth the money since you will get a lot of bang for your buck. Your hair, skin, and nails will GLOW! Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil is a reputable brand, and it comes in yummy flavors!

Probiotics

Probiotics are hugely important for keeping clear skin as well as overall health. “Good” bacteria is needed in your gut to digest food properly and maintain a strong immune system. Many health problems can be linked back to an influx of “bad” bacteria in the gut: yeast infections, acne, diarrhea, constipation – just to name a few. Having too much bad bacteria can result from taking antibiotics and eating too much sugar and breads. We get healthy bacteria naturally from eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir milk, yogurt, and raw apple cider vinegar. However, it can be hard to eat the amount we need daily, so adding a probiotic supplement is a must! Try Garden of Life Raw Probiotics.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is one of the most well-known herbs to help support liver function. The liver is essential to flushing out toxins in the body. Having a healthy liver will heal your skin and keep acne away. Milk thistle contains silymarin, a property which supports the liver by increasing glutathione levels and cleaning toxins out of the blood. It also helps regenerate liver tissue and decrease inflammation. Show your liver some love, boost your body’s healing power, and try taking Pure Encapsulation Silymarin.

Have you tried any of these supplements? What supplements have helped to clear your skin? Please share!

The Best Natural, Nontoxic Sunscreens

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Marilyn Monroe con bañador blanco en la playa” by Antonio Marín Segovia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There’s a big debate happening over whether sunscreen is actually causing more harm to our health than we realize. We already know too much sun causes cancer and accelerates aging – thus, protection from the sun is a must! But is the sunscreen your using potentially just as harmful? More research is indicating that certain types of sunscreen are linked to increased inflammation, aging, and cancer.

There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone are absorbed into the skin and cause a chemical reaction that is believed to prevent UV damage. When these ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream, they are considered endocrine disruptors . Endocrine disruptors interfere with our natural hormones. They tamper with estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and thyroid. Endocrine disruptors can cause undeveloped testicles in small boys, early puberty in girls, low sperm count and infertility, and breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer…. Hmm, no thank you!

Physical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens include the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These ingredients sit on top of the skin and block/deflect UV light. Physical sunscreens can also be dangerous if the minerals are in a form called nanoparticles.  Nanoparticles are small enough to be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.

The best, safest form of sunscreen is a physical sunscreen in non-nanoparticle form. Microfine zinc and titanium dioxide are small enough to apply smooth and even on the skin, but not so small that it will be absorbed into the bloodstream. Zinc oxide is also known for being a little more gentle on the skin compared to titanium dioxide, especially for those who suffer from acne and need a sunscreen for the face.

A common complaint when converting to natural sunscreen is that they frequently give a thick, whitish film on the skin. This is especially common in less expensive brands that do not use microfine zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. I have tried NUMEROUS natural sunscreens before finding some that apply smooth, even, and clear – and I am happy to say that they do indeed exist!

Here are my favorite natural sunscreens:

Grahams SunClear Natural Sunscreen:

This is my favorite body sunscreen for those days I spend at the beach or outside at a BBQ. The main ingredient is microfine zinc oxide, SPF 30. It applies more like a body oil, and is a little shiny at first. However, it absorbs into the skin quickly. It leaves no white film at all! It also contains skin-yummy ingredients such as rose hip oil, grapeseed oil, shea butter, and vitamin E. It is also water resistant. This is truly a sunscreen gem!

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BurnOut Eco-Sensitive Sunscreen:

This is my favorite facial sunscreen. It is SPF 35, and applies clean and clear to the skin with a matte finish (which is perfect for under makeup). It is designed for sensitive skin, so it is great for anyone battling with acne! I carry this sunscreen with me in my purse for times when I am unexpectedly in the sun and need protection on my face and body. It is fragrance free, biodegradable, and affordable compared with other high-quality sunscreens!

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Have you tried these sunscreens? What are your favorite natural, nontoxic ways to protect yourself from the sun?

Part 2: Birth Control Pills VS Natural Alternatives

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In part 1 of this post, I discuss my experience using birth control pills for several years, the health problems related to using hormonal birth control, and my decision to find a natural alternative.

After deciding to quit birth control pills, my body did not react so kindly to the transition. The biggest change I noticed was an outbreak in acne. I had tiny pimples covering my forehead and larger pimples around my cheekbones/temples that left some ice pick scarring and hyperpigmentation. It was devastating. I can recall many moments staring into the mirror with tears in my eyes. It was so incredibly frustrating!

I wish I could say there was a quick fix to my acne, but my hormones needed a chance to regain balance. With a healthier diet, natural skincare products, and time (it took nearly two years), my acne was finally at bay (except for the occasional pimple before my period).

I’m pleased to say that I never went back on hormonal birth control, and I started to look into natural methods of birth control. There are a few types of natural birth control I tried:

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Paragard

Most intrauterine devices (IUD) work by using synthetic hormones. However, there is an IUD made from copper called Paragard. The IUD is inserted into the uterus by your gynecologist, taking just a few minutes in the office. The copper acts as a spermicide, killing sperm and blocking sperm from traveling to the egg. The copper also thins the lining of the uterus, making it less likely for an egg to implant.

Pros:

  • It is effective immediately after insertion, and can last ten years before it needs to be replaced.
  • It can be removed at anytime by your doctor and there is no need to wait until hormones have been balanced before pregnancy can occur.
  • It is 99% effective.
  • Depending on insurance coverage and how long a woman plans to use Paragard, it can be cheaper than birth controls pills or condoms – and sometimes even free!

Cons:

  • The insertion of Paragard can be painful.
  • It can cause heavier periods.
  • It can cause more painful periods.
  • Too much copper in the body can deplete zinc, so a zinc deficiency may occur.
  • It does not protect against STD’s.

Many women respond to the Pargard wonderfully. Unfortunately, I was only able to use the Paragard for eight months.

The actual insertion of Paragard was only a brief, sharp pain. The most uncomfortable part was the intense cramping right after the insertion. It felt as though my body was trying to expel the IUD. My cramps were so intense that my legs were shaking. The only way I was able to get up and walk out of the office was by pressing a hot rice-pack on my lower back. The cramps continued to be intense for a couple of days before lessening.

My periods became heavier with much more cramping. I was even experiencing intense cramps when I didn’t have my period. The best way to describe my pain was mind-numbing. There were times when I couldn’t speak or think of anything other than the pain. It finally got to the point where I realized my uterus was not going to tolerate this IUD, and I had it removed. And I immediately felt better!

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Lady-Comp

The Lady-Comp is a fertility computer made my a company in Germany. It has become more and more well-known among women who are seeking hormone-free birth control options. It works by tracking your Basil Body Temperature (BBT). every day to detect the hormone progesterone to detect fertility. It also compares your cycle with hundreds of thousands of other women’s cycles.

Your basil body temperature is your temperature right after you wake up – before you stretch, drink water, use the bathroom, speak – etc. The Lady-Comp has a thermometer attached to it that you use to take your temperature orally each morning right when you wake up.

After ovulation occurs, progesterone rises in the body, causing a slight increase in body temperature. Progesterone stays high until the day you get your period – progesterone drops, and so does your body temperature.

The Lady-Comp tracks the rise and fall of temperature and detects when you are fertile/ovulating. It will give a red light on days that you are fertile (indicating no intercourse unless you have a backup plan for birth control or want to get pregnant), a yellow light (it is still learning your cycle), or a green light (you are in the clear!).

Pros:

  • It is 99.3% effective immediately.
  • It is completely natural.
  • It lasts at least seven years.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It is rechargeable.

Cons:

  • It takes time for the Lady-Comp to learn your unique cycle, so it will give a lot of red and yellow lights in the beginning.
  • It requires daily maintenance, although only a couple of minutes to take your temperature.
  • Some substances or situations could effect your temperature. For example, drinking alcohol the night before will increase body temperature. Having irregular sleep patterns could interfere as well (however, the Lady Comp maintains its effectiveness by giving red or yellow lights if it detects your temperature seems to be off and out of place). Therefore, as long as you abide by the red and yellow lights and avoid intercourse, it will still be 99.3% effective.
  • It does not protect against STD’s.

Watch this video on Lady-Comp:

My experience using the Lady-Comp has been really life-changing! It feels liberating to know I can manage my birth control by simply understanding my body. The Lady-Comp makes it really easy! There is also something very feminine about knowing when I’m fertile. Learning to track my hormone cycles has helped me detect other types of symptoms I experience such as breast tenderness, irritability, or even when I tend to be in a really good mood! I have been using the Lady-Comp for over a year, and don’t see any reason to discontinue.

phone-data

Kindara

Kindara is an app for your computer or phone or computer that helps you track your fertility to either get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. You enter in your data daily: BBT, cervical fluid, menstruation, and intercourse. This app can be used to make the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) of birth control a little easier to track.

When using FAM, you track your hormonal cycle through tracking BBT to detect levels of progesterone (what the Lady-Comp does), as well as the presence and consistency of cervical fluid to track estrogen levels.

Your cycle begins on the first day of your period. The first part of your cycle is referred to as the Follicular phase. This is when estrogen is dominant. Estrogen increases once menstruation begins and peaks at ovulation. Ovulation marks the end of the Follicular phase. The next phase is referred to as the Luteal phase of your cycle. This is when progesterone is dominant. Progesterone remains dominant until the day you get your period. Then your cycle starts over again.

Cervical fluid coincides with estrogen. Cervical fluid is the white discharge you get as ovulation approaches. It ranges in consistency from thick and sticky to runny and watery (kind of gross to talk about, I know). The thinner the discharge, the more fertile you are. Sperm travels through cervical fluid, helping to reach the egg.

As mentioned earlier, your BBT coincides with progesterone. When you see a spike in temperature, you will know that you are entering the Luteal phase of your cycle, and ovulation has occurred the previous day. When you see a dip in temperature, you can expect to get your period on that day, and you are now in the Follicular phase of your cycle once again.

When you take into consideration that sperm can survive for up to five days, and ovulation lasts for two days, you can identify that you are fertile for about seven days. Most women will also add on another couple of days after ovulation just in case you ovulate twice (twins anyone?). Therefore, most women are fertile for about nine days. You can avoid intercourse for those nine days or use a barrier form of birth control instead.

By tracking basal BBT, cervical fluid, and menstruation, you can identify which days you are able to get pregnant, thus avoiding intercourse on those days and maintaining effective birth control. Kindara takes all of the data you entered and puts it into a monthly calendar as well as line graph to provide an easy to follow visual.

Kindara is also now launching a thermometer called Wink that you can use to take your basal body temperature, and the thermometer will automatically sync with the app.

Pros:

  • Kindara offers a comprehensive, user-friendly method to the Fertility Awareness Method.
  • When used correctly, the FAM is 99.6% effective.
  • Can predict which days you are likely to be fertile as well as menstruate based on your previous cycles.
  • Affordable
  • Phone app makes tracking convenient and discreet.
  • Graph of your data is easy to understand.

Cons

  • Requires daily tracking.
  • Will need some basic understanding of FAM before using (there is a learning curve).
  • FAM does not protect against STD’s.

I have been using Kindara in conjunction with Lady-Comp for nearly a year, and absolutely love it! Kindara is what truly helped me learn my hormonal cycle and better understand why the Lady-Comp may have given me a red light versus a green light. My favorite aspect is the graph visual – it really helped me see what was going on with my body.

I have not tried Wink, but I am considering ordering it since it is much smaller, travel-friendly, discreet, cheaper, and overall seems more convenient compared to the Lady-Comp. However, it will not give lights indicating your fertility – you need to make those determinations based on your tracking.

Here is a video about Wink by Kindara:

 

To be completely honest, the Fertility Awareness Method is much easier than it seems. Once you learn the information on how fertility works on the body, and track your temperature and cervical fluid, it just becomes part of your daily routine – much like remembering to take a pill everyday – only FAM has given me a feeling of empowerment and understanding over my own body. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of more women using this method!

 

Have you tried any of these forms of natural birth control? I would love to hear your stories!

Part 1: Birth Control Pills Vs Natural Alternatives

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Birth Control” by Rachel Mendez is licensed under CC BY 2.o

My Journey with Birth Control

My experience with birth control started when I was in my late adolescence. Like so many women I know, I struggled with painful, heavy periods, and was told by friends, family, and my doctor that taking the birth control pill would make my periods less painful, less intense. I took the pill consistently for about four years. And I have to say, my periods were regular and much more bearable.

However, I hit a point in my life where I started to feel like I wasn’t in control of my emotions, and my happiness was suffering. Was it because of a rocky relationship with my then-boyfriend? Hardships of entering adulthood? Did I have a mental health disorder? Or perhaps it was a side effect of my birth control pill…

Looking back now, I can’t say for sure what exactly was causing my emotional toil – it was most likely a combination of factors. Something needed to change. At this point in my life, I was starting to realize that what I put into my body made a big impact in my overall well-being. I was working hard to improve my diet, so I figured I would examine any substances I was taking: birth control pills.

I started to do some research online. I read about other women’s experiences with the pill. So many of them discussed feeling depressed along with many other health symptoms. I started talking to my close friends who were currently on the pill or had used the pill in the past, and several of them described similar symptoms.

Through my research, I learned how birth control pills effect the body:

1. Birth control pills prevent production of natural hormones, causing an imbalance in hormones.

Generally speaking, birth control pills work by preventing ovulation. They contain two types of synthetic hormones: estrogen and progestin. Synthetic estrogen works to prevent the pituitary gland from producing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to stop ovulation and thin the lining of the uterus. Progestin works to prevent the pituitary gland from producing LH.

Some forms of birth control include both synthetic estrogen and progestin, and others contain only progestin (the mini pill). Hormonal birth control does not only come in pill-form, but also in patches, vaginal rings, and some intrauterine devices.

The monthly bleeding women experience when taking the 7 days of placebo pills mimics a woman’s period, but is not in fact a natural occurrence of menstruation. The cycle of natural hormones causes the uterus to build up a lining of tissue to welcome a fertilized egg, and when the egg is not fertilized, the uterus sheds the lining – thus, your period. When birth control pills were first created, doctors felt more women would use the pills if they kept the ability to menstruate. When synthetic hormones are suddenly stopped while taking the placebos, the uterus sheds its lining. However, because the lining is already thinned due to the synthetic hormones, the perceived period is lighter than a natural period. Technically, there is no biological reason for a woman to get her “period” while on birth control pills.

A lot of women go on the pill to have clearer skin (I admit, my skin was very clear while on the pill). The reason for that has to do with the extra estrogen in birth control pills. Estrogen works to decrease the effects of hormones called androgens. Androgens are viewed as “male” hormones such as testosterone. Women also contain these hormones, but in lesser amounts than men. Androgens are linked to sebum production in the skin. The higher the level of androgens, the more sebum is produced. Having a lot of sebum can increase the chance of clogged pores.

Have you ever experienced a breakout right before your period? This is likely due to androgens being at their highest during this point in your natural cycle, and estrogen being at its lowest. Estrogen increases once menstruation occurs, which tends to be why breakouts clear up after you get you period.

Androgens are crucial in managing our moods, sense of well-being, and responding positively to exercise. Having too high or too low levels of androgens can cause problems with our sense of happiness.

Why might there be an excess of androgens in the your body? Research has shown there to be a link between spikes in insulin and increased level of androgens.  Eating high-sugar and starchy foods increase insulin, which in turn increases androgens.

Birth control pills tamper with a woman’s natural hormonal cycle. While birth control pills may help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms such as heavy, painful periods or hormonal acne, birth control masks the root of the problem. When women choose to come off the pill, many of them experience worse symptoms than prior to taking them as their body attempts to regain a sense of balance.

2. Birth control pills create yeast overgrowth 

Having higher levels of estrogen in the body due to synthetic hormones lead to yeast overgrowth (a bacteria called candida) in the digestive system. This happens when the beneficial bacteria is killed. When you consider other common contributors to yeast (refined sugars, high stress, antibiotics) the problem can develop quickly. An overgrowth of candida weakens the immune system, bringing a slew of other health problems.

3. Birth control pills cause a deficiency in nutrients

To metabolize birth control pills, the liver must use high levels of B-complex, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. These nutrients are depleted quickly. A deficiency in these nutrients can lead to a variety of symptoms such as migraines, fatigue, weight gain, fluid retention, moodiness, and depression.

 

When you consider the potential health risks of consuming birth control pills over a period of time, it’s no wonder that taking the pill has been shown to cause an increase in risk for breast and cervical cancer, blood clots, heart disease, decrease in bone density, infertility, and benign tumors.

I, myself, had a benign tumor in my right breast that required surgical removal. Was the tumor a result of having been on birth control for years? I cannot know for sure, but it very well could be.

 

At this point, I had heard enough about the hardships of others taking the pill, and discovered the potential brutal consequences – so I decided I would go off the pill…for good.


In Part 2, I will discuss my journey to finding a natural solution to birth control. Stay tuned!

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