Why I removed my IUD and what I now use for birth control instead

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My second child was a miracle. I say that now, after a PCOS diagnosis and a kid who makes life amazing, but at the time it was a major wtf how could this happen moment.

I had just given birth to my first child three months earlier when the two lines appeared on a home pregnancy test. I had no idea when I could have conceived as the one possible instance of post partum intimacy had led me to take the morning after pill, just as a precaution.

My first baby had been 9 pounds 4 ounces, and was delivered naturally at home, so the pain of labour was still very fresh in my mind. I was also not yet sleeping well, was living in a tiny apartment, had no money and was quite honestly scared sh**less. But, I knew in my heart this was a blessing, and given the circumstances was so obviously meant to be.

My second little baby was much kinder to body, weighing only 7 pounds, his birth was easier than the first, but that’s where the easiness ended. He had colic, he seemed to hate sleeping, and was only ever happy in my arms. This time around I swore I wouldn’t tempt fate and wouldn’t even let my husband so much as glance my way until I was safely using birth control.

I went into the hospital at three months post partum and had my IUD inserted while my tiny baby slept on my chest. The insertion hurt, but I felt so relieved, there would be no more surprises any time soon.

Due to all of my hormonal issues I opted for the copper IUD (paraguard). It was touted as  the most natural form of birth control, after all copper is an element essential to health, and I was told it would not affect my hormones at all.

In the beginning I was still nervous about pregnancy. How could this tiny piece of metal really stop a baby? In time I began to feel more at ease with the IUD and eventually came to trust it completely. For me it worked like a charm as far as preventing pregnancy but in other ways my body didn’t seem stoked on the little thing at all.

My periods were so extreme and heavy I would be running to the bathroom every hour to empty my diva cup, and with the heavy blood loss every month (or so) my ferratin levels just would not rise. I eventually became chronically iron deficient. In addition to the menorrhagia my cramps were like early labour pains and I would be fully incapacitated for the first two days of every cycle.

I have a girlfriend who developed breast implant illness, and in reading up a bit about the subject, I came to understand that many people’s immune systems will actually fight against any foreign object in our bodies. I had developed, or at least been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease while using the IUD, and couldn’t help but wonder if it had played some part in my hashimotos disease.

I also learned about copper toxicity, how it can build up in the soft tissues of the liver and impair the livers ability to detoxify. In addition, copper competes with zinc and manganese for absorption in the gut leading to mineral deficiencies.

Anyone with chronic illness will tell you, healing is like a crusade towards the light. My friend finally opted to remove her breast implants and I decided if she could go to that extreme in a quest for health, removing my little IUD would be a cake walk.

I wasn’t expecting any dramatic changes right away, but my first period after removal was like a dream. It came on quietly, no cramps, no bloating, just some slightly tender boobies, and it left just as quietly three days later. My blood loss was what I presume normal periods are supposed to be, and about ¼ the volume of previous cycles with the IUD.

In hopes that it wasn’t just a fluke I waited a full four more cycles before writing this and can now firmly attest that removing my IUD was the right choice.  Every consecutive period has been as benign as the last.

Having PCOS, I am already less fertile than the average woman, but as my pcos symptoms have been steadily improving and my periods have been becoming more regular (thank you diet changes!) I am definitely not in the clear as far as baby making goes, thus I am now using natural family planning to track my cycles.

In order to use natural family planning you will first have to determine your typical cycle length, you can do this using a calendar (start counting the first day of your period) or use a handy app to track it (there are lots of them out there).

Typically, women ovulate 14 days before their period and we are the most fertile 5 days before and 3 days after ovulation. So for about 8 days we should abstain, use condoms, or get busy, depending on the desired result.

We also produce a thin watery mucus when ovulating (kind of like natural lube) that is thicker or even non existent when not ovulating and we are about 1 degree warmer during our most fertile days.

By paying attention to our bodies natural secretions, temperature, and getting in tune with our natural cycles we can family plan naturally, safely and for free.

While only abstinence is 100% guaranteed, lets get real, people are going to be getting busy and we don’t need to rely so heavily on invasive forms of birth control to avoid pregnancy.

I know lots of women who have had great results with natural family planning and if you are struggling with autoimmunity and trying to find that smoking gun, exploring the removal of foreign objects from your body could be a necessary step in your journey. For me removing my IUD has been a game changer.

What are nightshades and why they could be effecting your gut health?

 

If you have never heard the term nightshade, you would not be alone, and even if you have, you might not fully understand the health effects they could be having on your body.

In fact, many night shades are widely considered to be health foods but could be having an unhealthy effect on your gut and autoimmunity.

If you are still sitting here wondering what nightshades are, they are from a family of foods called Solanaceae with over 2500 varieties, many of which are inedible, though some are used for medicinal purposes.

Some of the common night shades that you have probably eaten are; potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, chili peppers and gogi berries. The reason these foods can cause problems for some people comes down to their glycoalkaloids, in particular solanine.

Now if you are really wondering what the heck I’m taking, glycoalkaloids can easily be explained as a plants natural defense mechanism, it is most concentrated in the skin and is used to ward off insects and disease. This is why we are technically not supposed to eat green sprout-y potatoes and why people can get super sick from doing so. (Though c’mon, who among us hasn’t sliced off those little nobs and carried on with their potato cooking?)

In addition to Solanine, nightshades contain super high levels of Lectins (plant proteins) that can actually permeate cell walls, causing leaky gut and weird allergic reactions.
An ideal healthy gut can likely handle itself some glycoalkaloids. However, if your gut is already compromised (many of us with autoimmune disease have some level of leaky gut) or if your body displays an allergic reaction to nightshades, a wise choice would be to minimise your intake of them or cut them out entirely.

When I did my elimination diet, I was sure to also eliminate nightshades and discovered I get a severe reaction to eggplants. As a result, I have also cut back on eating peppers, potatoes and tomatoes just in case. My nutritionist informed me that cooked peeled Roma tomatoes are among the least gut offensive nightshades, provided I purchase them in a glass container (no BPA!) so thankfully tomato sauce is still on my menu and I still do enjoy me some peppers and potatoes in moderation.

Finally, it should be said that what is healthy for one person’s body can be incredibly toxic to another person and would never claim that everyone in the world should cut out nightshades entirely. I do highly recommend omitting them during an elimination diet and be very observant of how they affect you when you reintroduce them back into your diet.

For more information on how an elimination diet is an integral part of an overall health overhaul, I wrote a post about it here.

Cream of sweet potato and cauliflower soup

Cream of sweet potato and cauliflower soup

 

 

This soup is easy peasy.  The only special thing you need is an immersion blender (something I could not live without!)

I suppose you could do it the old fashioned way in a blender but after a blender explosion that involved 3rd degree burns and ceiling stains, I generally stay away from putting hot things in my beloved Vitamix.

This was one of those use what you have soups that turned out so good I had to blog it. Pureed soups can be a bit of a hit or miss with me  I find they can go from gourmet to baby food mush pretty easily so I always garnish them up really nicely to add interest to my palate and eye.

This time I indulged with bacon, pine nuts, parsley and cashew feta.  I ate two bowls to myself and by the time my family got done, there were no leftovers to forget about in my fridge.  Success!

If you want a hot, creamy, nourishing bowl of soup on your table tonight, give this one a try!

 

Cream of sweet potato and cauliflower soup

Ingredients:

1 large or two small leeks (white parts washed well)

1 clove garlic

3 cups chopped cauliflower

1 sweet potato (about 1.5 cups cubed)

1 tsp thyme

2 tbsp. grass fed butter or coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut milk (creamy part)

3 cups bone broth or veggie stock

3 tbsp. cashew cheese

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Heat butter and sauté leeks until translucent

Toss in garlic and remaining veggies

Season with salt, pepper and thyme

Cover with stock and simmer 30 minutes

Turn off heat and stir in coconut milk and cashew cheese

Using an immersion blender, blend until a creamy pureed consistency

Garnish with some herbs, meat, nuts, grain free crackers, and or any cheese of choice.  Just have fun with it, the soup is a perfect base for a wide range of flavours!

 

 

 

 

 

An 11 step plan to heal your body and get a jumpstart on your new life of wellness

pexels-photo-965161.jpegCheesy photo aside, this is a super important and detailed blog post so if you want to learn what I have done to make huge strides in healing my own illness, get comfy.

First a mandatory disclaimer, though I have studied nutrition, I am not a doctor and would never suggest that anyone should neglect a doctors recommendations in the face of critical illness. This being said, I also believe it is everyone’s responsibility and right to take control of their own health and choose a healing protocol that they can feel good about and believe in.  I am simply sharing what has worked for me and many others in improving heath and even reversing supposedly irreversible disease.

It is becoming a more common opinion that most illness starts in and is cured by the mind (followed by the gut), so if you believe the only road to healing your own body is following a western medical route, I would agree that you are probably right.

(Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. ~Henry Ford)

Many people facing illnesses ranging from the flu to cancer have been healed by western medicine, but on the same note, people also heal themselves every day using natural, less invasive methods. Listen to your body first, believe in its ability to heal and go from there.

These days it seems everyone is sick to some degree and it is actually more rare to meet someone experiencing vibrant health than it is to meet someone who has some form of illness. The list of modern day medical afflictions seems to be endless. Even the common cold seems to run through my kids school multiple times a year.

I truly don’t believe we were designed to live a life of illness and suffering, but sadly, our modern diet, toxic environment and lifestyle choices has predestined us to these fates. We put far too much trust in our traditional medicine that puts far too much trust in textbooks and dogma. Health care providers often fail to truly listen to their patients which then leaves us tuning out our own inner voices who are screaming at us, ‘hey, remember me, your body? Something serious is going on in here.’

Regardless of your current state of wellness, I believe it is vital for everyone on the planet to take a serious look at the foods they put in their body followed by a full body and mind detox to hit the reset button on their health.

If you are currently undergoing treatment for a life threatening disease I DO NOT recommend following these suggestions in lieu of treatment but rather integrate or turn to them after your critical illness has gone into remission.  These steps will help create an environment where your disease will be less likely to return.

Don’t be intimidated by the long to-do list, just put one foot in front of the other and check them off one at a time. Listen to your body, pay attention to how you FEEL. If supplementing, add only add one supplement at a time so you can appreciate the differences it affects in you. In no time you should feel like a completely new person.

 

1. Undergo an elimination diet followed by a complete diet overhaul. Hidden allergies and intolerances also cause constant inflammation leading your body ignite an autoimmune response. Some experts believe all modern autoimmune diseases are caused by chronic inflammation as the result of undiagnosed allergies and infections. Gluten dairy and soy are BIG ones to watch out for. You can also get professionally tested for intolerances but these tests are expensive and not always accurate. You already intuitively know what your body needs to heal, you just have to listen.

2. Begin a mostly whole foods, anti inflammatory diet and be sure to omit all ingredients you have found you have an intolerance to. You should try to make all your own sauces and become a vigilant label reader if you purchase anything processed.  Soy, gluten and sugar are hidden everywhere.

3. Replace all products that you use on your skin, hair and home with natural non toxic ones. You can make these yourself, or purchase them if you are not the DIY type. Your skin is your bodies largest organ and soaks up everything you put on it like a sponge.  A good rule of thumb I try to follow is, if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth don’t put it on your body.

4. Get tested for hidden infections, viruses, candida, heavy metals, parasites and bacteria. If your immune system is working overtime fighting off a chronic condition your body will be in a constant state of inflammation which leads to many forms of illness and will keep you operating below optimal levels.  Many MD’s are reluctant to test for these things so I recommend seeking out a naturopath.

5. Begin to detox. This part of healing is controversial, some health experts claim that your body is more than capable of detoxing itself but recent studies show everyone on the planet is carrying a toxic load (even babies are being born with thousands of toxins already in their system) and when your body is working to fight off constant inflammation it may put detoxing on the back burner. The detox phase can take a while, but will ignite a radical transformation to your overall health.  For me this was a huge game changer.  Some good detox strategies are dry brushing, saunas, Epsom bath and using herbal preparations.

6. Heal your gut. When you have eliminated all food intolerances and begun to detox their residual effects it is time to repair all the damage they have done. Gut health is so super important more and more experts are being led to believe that all disease begins right there. Taking bone broth, and supplementing with the Amino Acid L-Glutamine are two proven ways to heal that precious gut lining. Probiotics (good quality ones) are also super vital to replenishing your good bacteria, especially if you have recently done a herbal cleanse/ detox.  However, there is no point even beginning this step if you have not already done step two. As long as you continue irritating your gut with foods that you are intolerant to, it will never fully heal.

7. Find your supplements. All bodies will need and respond to different supplements so it is a great idea to work with a holistic nutritionist, Chinese medicine practitioner or naturopath to determine the things your body is lacking and start adding them into your diet via high quality nutritional supplements. Not all supplements are created equal, I was anemic for years taking daily iron fumarate tablets (at my GP’s recommendation) before an integrative physician recommended iron bisglysinate and I was finally able to raise my iron levels quickly and painlessly.

8. Change your mindset. A toxic mindset creates a toxic body. Having a positive mindset is important not just for healing but for affecting all elements of your life from money and career to love and happiness. Releasing patterns formed over a lifetime takes work and time, but it is time well spent. Integrating daily meditations, gentle movement, affirmations and breathing exercises will improve not only your quality of life but your health as well.  And NO MORE negative self talk.  You are a miraculous being so lets take a moment to acknowledge that.  This step in particular has been a huge change for me.

9. Sleep. You need at least 7 hours and 8 if you are dealing with illness. Period. Even if you seem to function well on 5-6 hours chances are your body wants more. Your cells do the most healing work while you snooze so this area of your life should never be neglected. Also sleep makes you look better which never hurts in improving your overall quality of life.

10. Exercise. You have got to get sweaty. While sweating in saunas and baths is a big part of a good detox plan, actual physical exercise that pushes you to your limit and makes you sweat buckets is a vital component of your journey to lifelong health and happiness. I have left this to the end because intense physical exercise before you are ready, can stress your adrenals and lead to raised cortisol levels (wich actually can make you hold weight and increase inflammation). When you have completed all the steps above and are starting to feel like a new person it is time to start pushing your body with both weight training and cardiovascular training. You’ll know you are ready for this phase when you actually WANT to exercise and (mostly) look forward to your workouts/ feel energised rather than depleted when your workout is over.

11. Remove the toxic people from your life, or at least limit the energy you give to them. You’ve done all this work removing toxic ingredients from your diet, skincare and household products, and improving your mindset, so why are you still allowing toxic people to suck the joy out of you. You are a sum of the people you spend the most time with so make sure these are high quality people and you will notice your energy levels and outlook improve drastically.

I know this can seem like a daunting amount of work to do but if you are sick of feeling run down, dealing with illness and quite frankly, looking like shit, this is a great place to start.

Health is a journey not a destination, and if you really want to get the most out of your life, you’ve got to care for this body you are living in.
Life is so much more enjoyable when you have energy, a positive mindset, and quality people surrounding you.

In 2017 I began implementing these changes and am finally feeling like a new person going into 2019. Hopefully this helps someone else who is suffering feel like they have their life back.

Almond Chicken Stir Fry – Hunan Kung Pao- Whole 30 – Paleo – Dairy Free – Grain Free

I  love this dish and I make different variations of it all the time.  Since going grain free I really miss noodles and I find the zucchini carrot ‘noodle’ combo really hits the spot.

Because this is essentially just a big plate of delicious veggies and meat I can serve it atop rice or actual noodles for my grain eating fam and they don’t complain one bit.

The magic here is in the sauce that just takes a few moments to whip up with ingredients easily found in most pantries.  I like to divide it up, use half to marinade my meat and half for cooking with/ drizzling on at the end to taste.

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It’s honestly so satisfying and healthy, much better than my sub par photography skills make it out to seem.

Sometimes, I sub out the chicken for beef or prawns and the almonds for cashews, or sesame seeds. When I feel like living dangerously I add chopped peanuts or even add a spoonful of peanut butter to the sauce to make it richer and creamier.  (Oh the joys of food sensitivities!)

Sauce

It can be made ahead of time and stored in a mason jar in the fridge.  Sometimes when ingredients allow I will make a huge batch, it always gets put to use. 

4 tbsp. tamari or coconut aminos

1 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp. coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)

1 or 2 grated clove(s) of garlic

1″ piece of grated ginger

1 chopped red chilli ( I like thai ones, use more or less to taste)

Black pepper

Mix it all up and divide in two portions.

 

Hunan Kung Pao – Almond Chicken Stir Fry

 

Ingredients:

Meat – pasture raised and humanely handled – of choice

Veggies – preferably organic – of choice

Sauce – see above

One fresh zucchini

Two fresh carrots

Coconut oil

 

Directions:

  1. Chop your meat into long thin strips and marinade for 1 – 24 hours in the sauce.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler slice one zucchini and two carrots into long thin strips of ‘noodles’. (A spiralizer could be used as well though I prefer the thinner strips texturally)
  3. Chop your veggies.  I Like to use, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy, and peppers.
  4. Using either a wok or cast iron skillet, fry the meat in coconut oil until lightly browned and fragrant.
  5. Remove meat and fry veggies in the same pan – add more oil if necessary.
  6. Toss in the ‘noodles’ and add the meat back on top.  Pour over more sauce to taste, cover and steam for 1-2 minutes.
  7. To finish drizzle with a bit more sesame oil and sprinkle with almonds (or whatever you opt to use) and fresh chopped scallions.

And that’s it.  So super easy, nourishing and compliant with most diets.  It could easily be made vegan by subbing out the fish sauce and meat for miso and tofu or just leaving them out altogether.  If you try it let me know what you think and what combos you opted for.

Butter chicken that tastes like butter chicken – grain free – primal

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I finally did it. After years of experimentation and an assortment of varying failures,  I pulled off butter chicken so good that I found myself compelled to make it three times in one week.

Even my kids who usually hate anything curry related devoured it.

I’m not sure why it took so long or was so hard to get the flavours right, I’ve followed countless online recipes only to be disappointed in the end.

I’ve gone to specialty grocery stored searching out ingredients like menthi leaves or garam masala, certain they would be the smoking gun, finally pulling everything together and replicating the savory, sweet, tangy and slightly spicy combination I had come to enjoy in restaurant versions.  My kitchen would always smell glorious, but when I would taste the finished product it was a major let down.  The flavours would never live up to the promising aroma and I would be forced to rely on a mountain of basmati rice to help wash it down.

Since dropping grains from my diet there is not room for error in curries or sauces, it has to taste good enough to be eaten solo or I might as well save my ingredients and make something fool proof.

Still, there is something about butter chicken that brings upon occasional cravings so intense the only solution is a big bowl of hot creamy buttery goodness.  And with my new primal way of eating, to heal my autoimmunity, takeout is generally not an option.

In this recipe I used real grass fed butter because I have done an elimination diet and found my body actually loves the stuff, but for the yogurt I found plain almond yogurt worked beautifully.  If you eat dairy, go for some really good full fat Icelandic yogurt, and always choose grass fed.

I also discovered what I believe to be the secret ingredient for nailing this flavour profile… pumpkin pie spice!  I added it on a whim and it really brought this bad boy together.  I know its not traditional, but try if you try it, let me know what you think.

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Butter chicken (that tastes good enough to eat) grain free – primal – whole 30.

 

Ingredients:

2 pasture raised chicken breasts

1 small yellow onion

2 roma tomatoes

crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken or beef stock

lemon juice

1 cup full fat coconut milk

grass fed butter or butter replacement

vegan or grass fed plain yogurt

1 clove garlic

1″ piece ginger

1tsp cumin seeds

1tsp coriander

1tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 tsp pataks curry paste

pinch menthi leaves

coconut sugar or honey

cilantro for garnish

cooking oil (olive or coconut)

 

Directions:

  1. Mix 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 heaping tsp curry paste and juice of 1/2 lemon into a marinade. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Marinade whole chicken breasts for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan and lightly sauté cumin seeds and chopped onion and cook until soft.
  4. Toss in spices, remaining curry paste, ginger and garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  5. Add Roma tomatoes and stock.
  6. Bring it back up to a simmer and place whole chicken breasts and the yogurt marinade in the saucepan.  Transfer to a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
  7. After 25 minutes remove the chicken breasts from the cooking liquids, add 3/4 cup of coconut milk and 2 tbsp. butter to the rest of the ingredients.
  8. Once the butter has melted, use an immersion blender (or any old blender will do) to puree the onion tomato liquid mix into a creamy sauce.
  9. Finally, add the sugar and menthi leaves, shred the chicken back into the sauce and drizzle the remaining coconut milk over the curry.
  10. Top with fresh cilantro if desired.

I made a pot of basmati rice for my grain loving family, but ate my curry over a bed of wilted spinach and a side of aloo gobi.  It was so good I didn’t miss the grains at all.  Seriously.

Next time I’m going to serve it with a warm, soft platter of paleo naan bread in an effort to encourage my family to eat less grains.

Both my Aloo Gobi and Paleo naan recipes are coming soon!

 

 

Super easy weeknight roast beef

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I used to be a vegan.  People change.

For the entire decade that I abstained from animal products I was iron deficient.  I would go through phases where I would diligently supplement, see my ferritin levels bump up a couple notches, get constipated, quit taking them and end up back at square one.

I went through this cycle for years before finally accepting that my compromised gut was just not properly absorbing certain nutrients from plant based foods.

Many people with hashimotos, and PCOS also have low iron levels.  I believe this is because all disease starts in the gut and malabsorption of nutrients + too many anti nutrients ends up leading to a myriad of issues.  Once you have one autoimmune disease it is common to get more and I believe this is partly because people with autoimmunity often refuse to fully change their diets.  Those poor white blood cells are constantly being bombarded by food triggers and in an effort to protect us, they end up attacking our own bodies!

Since quitting gluten and adding pasture raised meats back into my diet I feel better than I did in my early twenties. It’s like I can feel the energy flowing into my veins with every bite.

I do still think a vegan diet is a compassionate choice and does have many health producing benefits when done correctly.  I also still maintain a healthy repertoire of plant based recipes that I will toss onto the blog.  Eating meat again was simply a choice I had to make in an attempt to heal a debilitating chronic illness.

When the plane is going down you have to put your mask on first.

This roast is an easy way to get a filling grain free meal on the table.  I make it in my trusty cast iron skillet for an even bigger dose of iron.  It usually takes about 10 minutes to prep and put in the oven, and I can walk my dog while its cooking.  When we return the whole house smells glorious and this juicy bad boy is ready for carving.  Serve it with a loaded salad or roasted root veggies and you’ve got dinner.

 

Easy weeknight roast

 

Ingredients:

One 3-4 pound pasture raised beef roast

Quality olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup beef stock

A sprig of thyme

Chopped veggies I use carrots celery mushrooms and whole garlic cloves.

 

Directions:

  1. Drizzle the roast with olive oil and rub generously with salt and pepper.  I love to use Himalayan sea salt and fresh cracked peppercorns.
  2. Heat a skillet, I love my cast iron, and sear the roast to golden brown on all sides.
  3. Toss the veggies in around the roast.  You can get creative and use whichever veggies you like.  Aromatics give a beautiful flavor to the gravy and the carrots come out tasting gourmet.
  4. Sprinkle the leaves of thyme over the meat and veggies.
  5. Pour the stock and wine over the veggies.
  6. Place the whole thing into a preheated 350 degree oven. Cook for 18-20 minutes per pound. When in doubt use a heat thermometer but I find these numbers have never failed to produce a perfect roast that is consistently pink in the middle but not red.
  7. Remove from oven, set the meat and veggies on a cutting board.  Let the roast rest for at least another 10 minutes before carving.
  8. Go ahead and make gravy with the pan dripping using your favorite grain free flour,  it will be heavenly.

 

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Enjoy.