Condition Your Hair with Apple Cider Vinegar

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For several years now I have been using the “no-poo” or “low-poo” method to care for my hair. This means I do not use shampoos containing harsh detergents such as sulphates. I use gentle shampoos that do not strip the natural oils on my scalp. Many people who use the no-poo method simply use baking soda as a shampoo and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner.

I found the baking soda to be a little too drying on my fine curls, so I use a gentle shampoo such as Mop C- System Hydrating Shampoo

Once you stop using harsh (and often toxic) products on your hair, your hair will become much more moisturized, have more volume and shine, and require less styling products. 

A few years ago I started using apple cider vinegar (ACV) to condition my hair. For some reason (I can’t remember why) I stopped using the apple cider vinegar, and started a quest to find the perfect organic conditioner. I was looking for something light, yet very moisturizing and not too expensive. I can tell you I spent a lot of money in the process – and remarkably came back to what seems to work the best – apple cider vinegar!

Here’s why you should use give ACV as a conditioner:

  • It is antibacterial and anti-fungal, so it heals dandruff 
  • It seals the cuticle of the hair to reduce frizz, provide shine, and keep hair moisturized
  • It’s slightly acidic and is the perfect PH for your scalp
  • It clarifies and gently removes product build-up
  • It is very inexpensive and a little goes a long way

After shampooing, I add approximately 1 or 2 teaspoons to 16 ounces of warm water and pour all over my scalp and hair. There is no need to let it sit on your hair. You can rinse immediately. If your hair is thicker or longer, you may need to use more ACV. My hair is short and fine, so a little goes a long way for me! I have found that if I use too much ACV, my hair becomes greasy. There is a slight vinegar smell when using this in the shower. However, it dissipates quickly, and your hair will not smell like vinegar at all once it is dry.

If you are using the no-poo or low-poo method, you will not be able to use hair products containing silicones as they can only be removed from your hair by using a shampoo with harsh sulphates. The silicones will build-up in your hair, and it will become limp and dull. I am confident you will find that you don’t need products with silicone once you start using natural, gentle products on your hair.

You will notice a great improvement in your natural, “naked” hair! It will feel incredibly soft, and look much shinier when using ACV as a conditioner!

Give it a try!

 

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!

Healthy “Pumpkin Spice” Latte

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With cold weather approaching, and autumn just around the corner the fall-flavor season is nearly here! I am a lover of all things pumpkin, especially a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. However, all that sugar and caffeine will not do any favors for my complexion or immune system.

Instead, try this warm, yummy recipe originally found on No More Dirty Looks to get your pumpkin spice fix! The main ingredient is turmeric – giving it that pumpkin color.

Here are some of the health benefits of turmeric:

  • Research has shown turmeric to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. It reduces the likelihood of heart attacks, delays diabetes, and reduces heartburn.
  • Turmeric is also cancer-fighting: killing cancer cells, reducing the size of tumors, and increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy.  
  • Studies also show that turmeric can repair stem cells in the brain, indicating it can be beneficial for those suffering from stroke or Alzheimer’s.
  • Research also indicates turmeric is just as effective for pain as ibuprofen for people suffering from osteoarthritis.

Reduce inflammation, kill cancer, improve brain function, and reduce pain? Sign me up!

Faux Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte:

  1. Heat one cup of unsweetened coconut milk (either on stovetop or in microwave)
  2. Whisk in:
    • 1/4 teaspoon if turmeric powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
    • pinch of black pepper
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • pinch of cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon of honey
  3. Blend it all up with a whisk or frother.

This recipe is free of dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine. Deliciousness in a cup – and so good for you!

DIY Rose Moisturizing Body Oil Spray

Rose Body Oil Spray

I am someone who likes to shower in the mornings, and I am usually in a hurry to get to work. Simply applying body lotion post-shower can be too time-consuming for my hectic mornings. With the dry weather season approaching, I need to take the time to add some extra moisture to my skincare routine to avoid scaly knees and elbows!

I have created an easy, natural, and budget-friendly way to moisturize in the morning.

DIY Rose Moisturizing Body Oil Spray:

Pour it all into an 8oz Glass Spray Bottle and shake it up.

Application: After finishing my shower, while my skin is still soaking wet and standing in the tub, I mist my skin with the oil spray. Then I quickly use my hands to smooth the oil over my skin to ensure an even application. I gently pat my skin dry with a towel. The process only takes a minute!

I love the romantic rose fragrance, and the cacao adds some depth and warmth to the scent. The best part about this recipe is that you can customize it to fit your needs. You can use other moisturizing oils such as sweet almond oil or olive oil. You can substitute other essential oils instead of rose such as lavender.

 

Have you tried a body oil spray before? What are your favorite ways to moisturize?

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?

Two Products to Relieve Dark, Puffy Eyes

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Image 322” by Ierdnal is licensed under CC by 2.0

There’s no better remedy for dark, puffy eyes than to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated. However, we all experience those mornings when we didn’t catch enough sleep, indulged in too much sugar or sodium, or had a few too many glasses of wine the prior evening. I have two products to quickly reduce puffiness, dark circles, and give you fresh, bright eyes!

100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream:

This eye cream is packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients such as coffee and green tea to quickly reduce puffy eyes on contact. It also contains antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients such as rosehip oil to brighten the eyes and reduce fine lines. Rose hydrosol is another ingredient – one of my all-time favorite moisturizing properties in skincare.

This eye cream is moisturizing without being too greasy, and will work well under makeup. It smells like a vanilla latte! It’s organic, vegan, and safe for sensitive skin. A full-size tube is $25, and they have a smaller size for $13. I typically order the small size – it will last for months! I find 100% Pure’s eye cream to be much more affordable compared to other organic brands without sacrificing quality.

 

100 percent pure eye cream

Studio 78 Paris ‘Off We Go’ Anti-Dark Circles Concealer:

This concealer seems to have become a favorite in the organic beauty industry – and for good reason! This concealer comes in two colors: At Dawn for cooler skin tones, and Moonlight for warmer skin tones. I ordered At Dawn, which matched well for under my eyes. I have very fair skin, so I was surprised that it was a match considering there are only two colors to choose from. This concealer has a way of blending in with the skin to match a variety of skin tones.

The consistency is thicker and seems less creamy compared to other organic concealers I’ve tried. However, it works really well for under the eyes. It will stay put without melting away or gathering in creases or fine lines – yet, it’s not too drying. A little goes a long way. It will last you quite a while. The pigment is perfect for counter-balancing the bluish hues of dark circles. This concealer is vegan and contains antioxidants and anti-free radicals. It comes in a little pot with a mirror – perfect for on the go.

The only drawback for me is that I can’t use this as a concealer for other parts of my face such as on blemishes. It is a little too dark for my fair skin. However, I have read other reviews where women use this as an all-over concealer without any problems. 

 

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Have you tried either of these products? What has worked for your dark, puffy eyes? Please share!

My Miracle Serum for Clear Skin

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Blissoma Solutions Smooth A+ Perfecting Serum has been a wondrous product for me! This little gem is packed with antioxidants that provide ultimate healing power. My skin has truly changed for the better since I started using this product almost a year ago. I have noticed fewer breakouts, more even skin tone, and smaller pores.

The secret ingredient in this serum is Niacinamide: a topical antioxidant that combats oxidation of the pores.

One of the main reasons we get breakouts is due to oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen damages the molecules of our sebum. You know how an avocado will turn brown if you leave it out? That is oxidation happening. Our sebum contains squalene, a fatty acid. When squalene oxidizes, it becomes squalene peroxide which will clog your pores. Once the pore is clogged, bacteria accumulates and inflammation occurs… leading to acne.

Niacinamide is essentially a topical Vitamin B3. It is a powerful antioxidant – which is the antagonist of oxidation. When a topical antioxidant is applied regularly, it will effectively decrease the likelihood of oxidation, resulting in less breakouts! Win!

This serum is incredibly light and dries with a matte finish. The fragrance is not potent, and smells like roses. I use only one pump for my entire face while it is still damp after applying my toner. It can be used alone or along with an oil or moisturizer. I allow it to dry before applying my facial oil.

 

Have you tried Blissoma? Do you have a favorite acne-fighting serum? Please share!

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.

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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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