To Exercise or Not to Exercise…

runningSo I’ve had a lot of questions about exercise lately and what you should do when you have an autoimmune condition. So I thought I would share my not-so “expert”, based on experience, opinion. 😂

I think exercise is as bio individual as is food. What works for one person may not work for another. This is an area where it really pays to be mindful of your body and it’s responses to what you are doing. Listen to your doctors and consider what they tell you. But also, no one knows your body as well as you do. So when you are taking part in an activity, really be mindful in the moment and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Most likely, you will have a gut instinct as our bodies are very good at telling us what they need, if only we listen.

If I had to give you my own opinion of what you should do, it would be something like this: If you are in the middle of a flare up or you are in the process of trying to heal, I would definitely dial back what you are doing. As an example, if you are someone who runs marathons and is training multiple times a week with long runs, you might dial it back to running 3 to 5 miles a couple times a week.  If you find yourself at the gym for a couple hours at a time, five to six days a week, doing several high intensity type workouts, maybe you dial it back by only being there for an hour, three to five days a week.

In evaluating your own situation, there is a really important question I would ask yourself. It’s not necessarily how often are you exercising, it’s

how often are you balancing your exercise with something that is grounding or centering?

In a more scientific way of saying it, how often are you balancing your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)?

You have to understand that when you exercise, it is a form of stress on the body. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, when we are in a state of stress all the time, that’s when it can be detrimental to our health. So, if you are someone that has a very stressful job, several kids that you are running around, you’re exercising multiple times a week, running errands between appointments and/or practices, you are stressing your body all day long. That’s when it becomes a problem. Add in any financial, career, relationship, spiritual, or other struggles and now you’ve got a recipe for staying in, or triggering, a diseased state.

When you are in a state of stress, you are triggering your SNS. This system is designed to take all of your energy resources and put them in the areas, like your muscles, to help you flee from danger. Think back to very early human days when danger was keeping yourself alive from the tiger chasing you. In this state, there is decreased blood supply to the gut and an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Being in this state on a frequent, or all the time basis, can be harmful.

We also have another system called the PNS. You will often here this referred to as the rest and digest system. When it is engaged, there is an increased blood supply to your gut which increases digestion. When you are in a parasympathetic state, your body is in a healing state. When you have an autoimmune condition and are dealing with a flareup, you want to be in the parasympathetic state as much as possible.  And even if you are a healthy individual, it is still just as important to have a healthy balance between these two systems.

So when we talk about exercise, not only should you ask yourself how much stress are you putting on your body with the type of exercise you are doing, but, how often are you balancing that out with something that triggers your PNS?  How often are you doing grounding, centering, and/or relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, taking a bubble bath, reading a good book, or in my case, watching the birds at my feeders? If you can’t say that you are doing an activity that triggers your PNS as often as you are doing an activity that triggers your SNS, then I encourage you to push yourself out of the comfort zone of your normal routine, shake things up a bit.  Ask yourself what you enjoy doing that relaxes you and maybe look into meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.  Your body will absolutely thank you for it!  And who knows…you might just lose those extra few pounds that won’t go away.

 

If you need help balancing your exercise, your work/home life, or your stress, reach out to me here!  I would love to help you!

 

Spring is in Bloom and Summer is Just Around the Corner!

green-422995_1280

With Spring finally here and summer around the corner,  I wanted to talk about seasonal crops and their nutritional value.  (*Little side-note, these are mid-western crops.) Some of the ones that are going to be popping up and ready to go in June are arugula, radishes, mustard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach, green onions, kohlrabi, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, beets, parsley, and chard.  Wheew!!  That’s a lot of veggies and greens!! 🙂  I LOVE this time of year because there are so many greens to choose from!

I know several of these, especially the greens, can be overwhelming at first.  You don’t know how to use them, they don’t sound appetizing, etc.  Because greens can be the most intimidating, we’re going to talk about those today.  There are two easy ways you can enjoy some of these greens.  First is in a smoothie.  I love throwing together some frozen berries, mix in Sun Warrior’s grain free plant-based protein powder, add in some superfoods (like cacao nibs/powder, flax/chia seeds, maca powder, etc.), throw in some sea vegetables like nori or dulse (you can’t taste them and they are good for those with thyroid conditions), and then of course, add in my favorite greens!!  However, I highly recommend you pick a piece of the green leaf first, taste it, and decide if the flavor is too strong for you.  Most of these will taste the exact same way in a smoothie.  For example, I will not put arugula or kale in my smoothie.  They both have pretty bold tastes that I don’t care for.  Spinach is PERFECT in a smoothie!  It doesn’t have much of a taste when eating it raw so you can’t taste it at all in a smoothie!

The second easy way is to saute them.  My favorite of all the greens mentioned above is spinach and chard, although I haven’t yet discovered a green that I don’t mind sauteed.  Even the ones that have pretty strong smells and pretty bitter tastes raw, have a much milder taste when sauteed.  Here is a quick and easy recipe:

EASY GREENS RECIPE
1/2 Tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 tsp Better than Bouillon, chicken flavored
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups greens, diced, stems separate from leaves IF the stems are a hard stem (like a chard).
Salt & Pepper to taste

Turn your burner to medium, add in the oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in your onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  If you are working with a green that has hard stems, such as a chard, you’ll want to put those in next.  Let those cook about 3-5 minutes (I prefer five because I prefer mine to be a little softer).  Then add the rest of the ingredients, cooking for another 3 minutes or until the leaves are wilted.  Bam, you’re done!  You can eat these as a side dish or throw additional vegetables on top.  I like to eat spinach with my sweet potato and eggs in my pre workout but I love to eat chard by itself.  If you are making some homemade soup, you can always add ins some spinach and kale, adding a lot of nutrients without changing the taste of the soup!

As always, enjoy finding ways to add in some of these delicious crops whenever you can.  It’s always more nourishing to your body to eat crops that are in season.  Oh, and there’s the added benefit of it being cheaper on your pocket book! 🙂

For additional benefits of eating in season, check out this link!!
https://www.rebootwithjoe.com/benefits-of-eating-seasonally/

Struggling to Give up Soda Pop? Try this!

It’s been years since I had my daily Diet Coke! I could go into all of the reasons why I gave it up, but I don’t think I need to! Now-a-days, we all pretty much know that pop isn’t good for you. (Just in case 😂 causes dehydration, plaque build-up on teeth, SUGAR, ASPARTAME, phosphoric acid, caffeine, possible heavy metal toxicity, and high fructose corn syrup 😳) But, I’ve always missed the carbonated beverage. I got hooked on Zevia (a “better” pop) and I have been drinking that in the afternoons for a couple of years. But, fighting an autoimmune disease, I wanted to give up drinking out of an aluminum can because of the possible toxicity exposure. So, I did some research and found out I could basically make my own beverage! Check out this video to see how you too can give up your pop and make your own healthy version!

Are you looking for support on your autoimmune journey? E-mail me here!

Another Reason Why

This little lady made me a mom. Now don’t get me wrong, I have two beautiful, gorgeous step children who are much older than Paisley. They definitely made me a mom prior to birthing Paisley & Eden. But, by the time they came into my life, they were past all the late night, early-morning feedings, diaper changing, bedwetting craziness! And because of that, I say that this little stinker above, really completed the whole mom picture!

Paisley is beautiful, smart, and kind. She loves spending time with her best friends, loves our animals, and, although my parents would prefer she doesn’t, she loves rooting for Purdue with her daddy! She’s always been my fun-loving, laid back little girl…until recently.

As I’ve mentioned before, we currently have Paisley going through an elimination diet. Since almost the beginning of the diet, her behavior has changed. She has become stubborn, frustrated, easily angered and easily annoyed. Now it would be easy for me to blame the diet itself and say that she’s just angry that we are making her do it. However, she took it very well from the start. She even memorized all the things that she would have to avoid. She also made and decorated a food log. We’ve bought and made all kinds of things to help fill in the gaps of all the grain items that she knows and loves. We’ve made pancakes, muffins, bread, etc. I’ve bought different kinds of chips and crackers that she can eat. And she’s really enjoyed all of it. But, the one thing that I have not found a replacement for is dairy. Yes, I can buy coconut or almond milk yogurt. I can even buy vegan butter and cheese, but they all are missing the one thing that I think plays a huge role in why she’s acting out.

Casomorphin is something that is found in milk. God put this in milk to encourage the baby to continue to come back for more. It’s a way to ensure that the baby will get his or her nourishment. The problem is, casomorphins have a very addictive nature, which can be why a lot of people have a hard time giving up dairy, especially items like cheese and ice cream, which have more than double the amount of casomorphins than plain milk. I believe that this is what is affecting Paisley.

I think that Paisley is going through her own version of a withdraw. She was lactose intolerant as a baby and then we thought she had grown out of it. She would eat cheese and yogurt like it was going out of style. So, to completely remove that from her diet was like asking a crack addict to go cold turkey. 😳 So now that we’ve removed it, we have been struggling with her attitude and trying to figure out how to help her.

So, what’s our next step? Well, her functional medicine practitioner has asked us to do a urine test. This test will determine basically what’s going on up in her brain and what we can do to help her in terms of supplements until she is through this withdraw period. We will be doing this test this weekend and we look forward to the results.

What are your thoughts on dairy? Do you find it addictive for you? Have you or do you know of anyone that has eliminated dairy and found something similar to happen? I would love to hear your feedback! Feel free to leave a comment!

For support going through an elimination diet or help with what steps to take, email me at StacyRawlings@mac.com for information on my health coaching packages.

*additional update on Paisley – we received news from her most recent labs. She has elevated IgG levels which is rare for a person of her age. We will be seeing an immunologist for what our next step will be.

**For more information on how casomorphins can be addictive, click here

Infections in English

The word “infection” can seem like a dirty word.  And it’s such a broad word… infection.  What exactly does it mean?  Infection.  I’ve heard of an ear infection or people saying “It smells like an infection”, which is so gross, btw, but other than that, I have no clue what it really means.

When the words “possible infection” have been mentioned at previous doctor appointments, I’ve really had no clue what they meant.  I don’t have an infection.  There’s nothing going on with me, except the obvious Hashimotos.  So I have always just, kind of, ignored those words and moved on.  My doctor has never pushed the subject and has never really elaborated by what he meant.  But let’s be real, he has about 30 minutes with me at each visit and I always come loaded with tons of questions!  (And I’m usually good for being about five minutes late.) So it’s not like I give him a whole lot of time to speak on any given subject. (Note to self: maybe I should work on this…)  But back to the word infection, I’ve always brushed it aside when it’s been brought up.  But that is no longer.

“Low white blood cell count”, more words that have been uttered throughout the last seven years.  Again, not something that was talked about more than the quick mention.  And not something that I have worried much about.  The first time I heard them I was either pregnant or it was postpartum, I can’t remember honestly.  Either way, there was a lot going on with my body at the time so I didn’t think it was a big deal.  However, at my last appointment, he said those same words again, “your white blood cell count is low” (aka “wbc” in white coat terms). He decided that we need to look further into it.  So a couple of days ago (about 2-3 months after my last appointment) I had my blood drawn again to see if my count was still low.  What comes back from the test will determine where we go from here.

So the reason that I want to talk about infections is because it wasn’t until recently that I even understood what the heck he was talking about, which means a lot of other autoimmune sufferers probably don’t either. Not only that, but I didn’t realize how much having any one of these infections could affect flare ups of my symptoms. And, even more importantly, that one of these infections could be the root cause of my Hashimoto’s.  THAT right there is priceless information, and ladies and gentlemen, I’m not charging you, so read on to see if any one of these could be affecting you!  (Cause upon further investigation, I know that I for sure have some of these and some of the others are possibilities.)

So why did I not ever understand what infections are?  Or even more specifically, what ones my doctor was referring to?  Well, that’s because, a lot of times when they are talked about, they are referred to in their “white coat” terms.  So most of us who are “plain-clothed patients” don’t have one iota (that word is for you dad!) what the doctor is talking about.  We also tend to not ask enough questions and that’s a whole other blog in itself!  So, I’m going to give you some of the most common infections, in easy “plain-clothed” terms of course, that could be causing your symptom flare-ups or be the root cause of your Hashimoto’s.

First, Herpes, more specifically herpes simplex type 1 and type 2.  In easier terms, think cold sores or fever blisters that you can get on your mouth or sores that you can get on your genital area.  If you have either of these, or think you might, blood testing can be done to determine if you have an active herpes virus.  Because any of the different herpes viruses (there’s more than just these two) can impact Hashimoto’s, to be safe, I would test for them all.

Second, Helicobacter pylori.  You know what this one is?  Cause I sure the heck didn’t. I was even affected by this one when I was in high school and then possibly again in college. Instead of doing testing the later time, they just assumed and gave me medication.  Regardless, I’ve dealt with it and didn’t even know it.  So, Helicobacter pylori, aka H. pylori, is the cause of ulcers.  If you’ve ever had an ulcer, you want to address this.  But here’s the crazy thing, you can have had an ulcer and not know it… so you want to test for this even if you think you’ve never had one.  If you have both an autoimmune condition AND you have problems with your thyroid, then there’s a high probability that you would test positive for this.  Testing for this can be done with a breath, stool, or blood test.

Next, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, aka SIBO.  This is when your gut bacteria is out of balance.  To test for this, your doctor would order a breath test.

Toxoplasmosis, this parasite is one of the infections that I could totally see me having but don’t know for sure.  So if you’ve ever been pregnant and your OB told you not to change your cat liter, this parasite is why.  This can be a risk to your fetus.  I’ve been around cats since the day I was born, living with 13 different cats in my 38 years.  So to me, the likelihood that one of them carried this parasite is probably pretty good.  However, it not only can be found in cat feces, but also in undercooked pork.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had undercooked pork, but I guess it’s a possibility.  This one also can be tested through a blood test.

Hepatitis C – this one is pretty tricky, just like the H. pylori (ulcer) because a high percentage of people have it and  don’t know it.  Another one that I suggest you test for even if you think you are in the clear.  It’s another one that can be found through a blood test.

Another one, blastocystis hominis…. ever heard of this one?  Me either.  So if you have traveled to a developing country, then this one is something that you want to test for.  Again, you can have it and not know it as some people don’t experience any symptoms at all and many people clear up on their own.  The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, bloating, hives, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, and excessive gas.  If you’ve been to a developing country and came home and experienced any of these, it’s possible that you may have it.  Again, just be tested to know for sure and you can do that with a stool test.

Borrelia burgdorferi – this is associated with Lyme’s disease and can be discovered with a blood test.

Epstein-Barr… this one probably makes me the most mad.  I’ve heard the name Epstein-Barr numerous times but never realized it’s the same thing as mononucleosis, aka mono, aka the kissing disease.  I know for a fact that I had this in college and had I known that there was any possibility that this could be the root cause or the reason for my symptoms, I definitely would have told someone.  Why the heck these all can’t just be called something that we are familiar with, like mono, is beyond me.  Per Dr. Amy Myers in her book The Thyroid Connection, “a whopping 95% of U.S. adults have picked it up by age forty, and it can present without any symptoms.”  Whaaaatttt?!?!  How did I not know this? (insert eye roll here)  This one can be detected with a blood test as well and since there seems to be a 95% chance that you have it if you’re over the age 40, I say get tested.

The last one is yersinia enterocolitica.  This one can feel like food poisoning…rightly so since you can get it from undercooked pork, or water, meat, or milk that has been contaminated.  You might see symptoms like diarrhea (can be bloody in sever cases), low-grade fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting.  Again with this one, you typically clear up on your own and don’t require medical treatment.  If you’ve ever experienced food poisoning, or food poisoning type symptoms, I would suggest testing for this.  It can be done with a stool test.  But from what I’ve read, you will need a functional medicine doctor for this.

So, these are the main infections that you want to be aware of.  I’m sure there are more and I will definitely add them to my blog as I run across them.  But for now, know that if you have any of these, or THINK you could have any of these, I would highly recommend being tested.  These absolutely could not only be causing your symptom flare-ups, but could be the root cause of your Hashimoto’s (or other autoimmune condition).

For more information on any of these infections, if they could pertain to you, and testing for definitive answers, speak to your FUNCTIONAL MED doctor.  If you would like support with your autoimmune journey, feel free to reach out to me at StacyRawlings@mac.com!  Together we can free you from your symptoms so you can lead a beautiful, healthy life!

**Although these are my own thoughts and takes on infections, there are several books, doctors, and websites that I go to for all my autoimmune, digestion, and gut information.  Among those are my own doctor, Dr. Kevin Logan at The Logan Institute for Health and Wellness, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, The Thyroid Connection and The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Izabella Wentz, Pharm D, Mickey & Angie at Autoimmune Wellness, The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum, and Medical Medium Thyroid Healing by Anthony William.  These are just the start of some amazing resources for people with autoimmune conditions.  I highly recommend them all.

 

Are You Meditating Yet?

So meditation is one of those things that I thought I could never do. Let’s face it, in this day and age, we are always on the go, nonstop from one place to another, with 1 million things to do. Not only am I physically doing 1 million things, but my mind is as well. How could I possibly meditate?!?!

My mind is going nonstop all the time and quite frankly, it’s one of my worst enemies. It’s what tells me that I can’t do something, that I’m going to fail, I’m going to get sick, I’m the worst mom, this is going to be a bad day, what if I get lightheaded in this store and pass out, where’s the nearest bathroom, what if I have to get up in the middle of church and leave, what if one of my little girls has a serious illness, what if I’m the last one to finish this work out, what if, what if… WHAT IF.

One would think that with all the craziness in my head, meditation would be a no-brainer, easy solution for me. But it hasn’t been. I’ve always used all those thoughts in my head as a validation of why I couldn’t meditate. You know, the normal excuses… “There’s no way I could sit for that long.” “There’s no way I could quiet my brain like they want me to.” “I think too much.” “I have more important things to be doing.” “I don’t even know where to begin.” Those excuses made it very easy for me not to do it. And honestly, I just had no desire.

But, over the last 6 to 9 months I’ve been learning a lot, way more than I even knew I could. I’ve also been experimenting with healthy foods and different lifestyle changes. As you know, I have Hashimoto’s and I’m trying to heal my thyroid. I’ve learned tons of things but one of the things is how much stress can play a part of chronic illnesses. Meditation is one of the ways, one of many I might add, to help relieve stress and quiet your mind. One of the symptoms that comes along with Hashimoto’s, at least for me and many others, is anxiety. We all know how crazy our minds get when we are anxious. Using meditation to learn how to acknowledge those thoughts, not fight them, and then move on from them, is huge in creating a more peaceful environment in your head.

So I began a meditation practice. I have to say, I’m still at a point where I kind of fight myself on doing it. Just because I still have the urge to do other things. There is still that thought in my head about how I could be doing so much more, that there are other priorities. But, what I have learned, is that when I meditate, it changes the rest of my day. I can’t really even begin to describe some of the ways that meditating affects how I see situations differently. My day is more peaceful, my mind is more calm, and when situations occur that would otherwise normally get me fired up, I’m able to maintain more focus, clarity and peacefulness to get through them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever get angry, it just means I’m able to see the situation differently. It’s kind of like the “cup’s half full or half empty” scenario. It opens up my eyes and allows me to come from a place where my cup is half full.

Meditation also helps rejuvenate me. If we go back to the example of the cup, it’s so easy to have little things happen all day long that pick away at your cup. It’s almost like it has a leak and it’s dripping constantly. Sometimes not only is it leaking, but someone might come along and knock it over, thereby losing a lot at once. When I meditate, it’s like my cup is filled back up. I’m ready to go again.

The best part about meditation for me is the quieting of the mind. I’m learning how to not get frustrated with my thoughts. Instead, I’m learning to acknowledge them, label them as negative or positive, and let them go. And when you have anxiety, there’s something that you aren’t letting go. Learning how to let your thoughts move on is huge in helping to relieve your symptoms. I’m very new at meditation, but one thing I look forward to, is continuing the process of learning how to let the thoughts go. What a huge relief for my anxiety that will be!! I’m already practicing some of the techniques when I get anxious. And I’m already seeing positive results. I can’t wait to see what happens as I continue my practice.

If you aren’t meditating yet, I hope that I’m persuading you to either do it, or at least consider doing it. My personal favorite app for meditating is called Headspace (and they’re running a GREAT deal right now!).

https://www.headspace.com/buy/newyears?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=917256436&utm_content=51529947492&utm_term=238573809545&headspace&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7I2z9uDz2AIVg7bACh1GHwBdEAAYASAAEgJA__D_BwE

I have to admit, I’m a voice person and sometimes voices that are used for different apps annoy me quite a bit! I love Andy’s voice and find it perfect for meditating. I love what I am learning and find it easy to carry it over into my day. And when I was worried I couldn’t meditate for a long time, it was a relief to find out that my first 10 sessions would only be three minutes! I don’t care who you are, what you do, but you have three minutes to better your health. Headspace also has multiple packages that you can do relating to health, jobs, sports, all kinds of things! It even has little mini versions that you can do if you only have a couple of minutes and need to refresh. Have kids? It even has meditations for them! We use them at my house and they are awesome! I can’t speak highly enough about this app and I can’t encourage you enough to get out of your comfort zone and try to meditate.

If I’ve not convinced you, or you need more information, check out this article on the many ways meditating can improve your life.

https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5842870

If you are interested in taking steps to improve your health, would like support along your health journey, feel free to reach out to me!

StacyRawlings@mac.com

I would LOVE to help you! There is always light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to start taking the steps to get there. Until next time…