Day #1 of Fertility Treatments

What I’m about to talk about is different to the questions, answers (suggestions), and recipes that you will normally find on Ask Leah Renee.  Since I have this blog, I thought it would be a good way to broaden the criteria in a way that may then broaden my audience, connecting with others who may be going through the very same thing I am. I love to help and love to be helped, which is why I’ve decided to share this experience.  Today was the first day of what will be a twice a week visit to a Doctor of Acupuncture in order to help me get my body become fertile and functioning the way it should.  The mission is to get my cycles back, and then regular, in order to get pregnant.

Unfortunately, since the time I first began menstruating, I have had a fairly unpredictable cycle.  I have been on and off the pill since age 14 for cysts on my ovaries which is what western medicine prescribes to help that issue.  Most recently I have been on the pill again for the past 2.5 years, going off of it in January in hopes of becoming pregnant in 2014.  As I suspected, and like the previous 5 years up to starting the pill again, I have not had a cycle yet.  My gynecologist gave me the option and suggested shots of hCG and going on Clomid which he said has been very successful.  I do not doubt that to be true, but I thought there’s got to be an underlying factor.  I almost went that route, but opted to go the natural way since I wanted to get the core of why my body is not functioning the way it should anyway.  Not to mention, while I think it’s great to integrate both Eastern and Western practices, Eastern practices take time to find the reason the body is doing what it’s doing–not only prescribe and treat.

Today was my first visit with the Acupuncturist who is also certified as a Nurse Practitioner and has over 20 years of medical experience.  She is very passionate about what she does.  It shows and I’m so happy to have found her.  Reading all the testimonials I am confident that together we will make this happen!  I have been to other Acupuncturists before, and already I can see that this one is different.  She diagnosed me by looking at my tongue to see where the abnormalities were, as well as asking me a series of questions, ones it seemed she already knew the answers to as the questions themselves were so specific.  The term that’s most familiar (in western medicine) for my condition is called amenorrhea.   In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I have Spleen Qi deficiency, Liver Qi stagnation, and Kidney essence deficiency.  That all means that I have stagnation, of the blood, which needs to be freed up in order for everything to start functioning normally again.

There are some diet guidelines to follow to help with the deficiencies.  She also gave me a recipe for “Blood Soup” to make to raise hemoglobin.  I will post that recipe and other dietary guidelines soon!

I am excited the process has begun, and hope to soon join many of my friends who have had the gift and pleasure of giving life.  I will continue to post on this topic as I go through the sessions!

If you have gone through something similar or know someone who has, I would love to hear from you!

Super YOU

Dear Leah Renee,

This question is a little broad, but it seems like you eat so healthfully most of the time.  How are you so disciplined and what makes you stick to it? ~Ally, Seattle WA

Firstly, thank you!  I’m certainly not perfect all the time and I will dive into a bowl of peanut M&M’s if they’re there–nasty food coloring, sugar, and all!  There will come times of temptations, going on a vacation, and social gatherings that you should most definitely enjoy yourself, whatever that means to you.  For the most part, in daily life, I choose to eat foods that are nutrient dense.

The biggest reason I eat the way I do: it makes me feel SO good.  In my mind, it’s not even a question.  I want to feel good.  I want to feel energized.  I want nice skin.  I want a strong body.  I want to be in a good mood.  Each and every day, I look to acheive that.  There are many ways to do so, but one of the power players in the equation is how you nourish yourself with food.  It’s a choice– yours, mine, and one that I am happy to make.

One of the most energizing and nourishing meals I consume is at the beginning of the day.  After I’ve had a cup of warm water with lemon, I make a super-food smoothie bowl (I don’t know if this is a term, but this is what I’m calling it!).  It looks like this:

Superfood Bowl mod.jpg
There’s a lot of goodness that goes into this, and the beauty of it is that the options are endless!  Sometimes I mix it up daily while other times I go on kicks of making it the same for weeks.  Depending on what’s in season, what’s on special, and what’s speaking to me that day determines some of the ingredients.  Here is what I put into my Vitamix to make the ice cream-like foundation (the green stuff!):
Superfood Bowl Ingredients.jpg
Ingredients:
  • 1 scoop of Barleans Greens
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen organic spinach
  • 1/2 large ripe banana, frozen
  • small nob of organic cucumber
  • 1 tsp of matcha powder
  • 1 stick organic celery
  • Toppings of choice!  The toppings shown in the picture are: hemp hearts, organic blueberries, brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and pepitas.

Directions:

Using a high speed blender or food processor (I use a Vitamix), put all the ingredients, except for toppings, starting with the liquid in.  I start on a low setting and work my way up, using the masher so help the process along.  I like the consistency of ice cream, so that means being patient and adding liquid if/as needed!  Blend until smooth.  Add toppings of choice!

Endless possibilities for both the base and toppings include: protein powder (I like hemp), maca powder, flaxseeds, peanut (or any nut) butter, pineapple, strawberries, blackberries, cacao nibs, avocado, coconut oil, kiwi, spirulina, kale, oats/granola, acai, goji berries, mango, romaine lettuce, pear, and many more!!!

What makes this super you ask?  Here’s a breakdown of what you’re gaining from this bowl:

  • Spinach: Rich in Vitamins A, C, and K.  High in manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron. That means healthy skin, blood, energy, muscles, and hair.
  • Coconut Water: Potassium, electrolytes, enzymes, Vitamin C.  Translation: energy, beauty, hydration, recovery.
  • Almond Milk: Calcium.  Strong bones!!!
  • Banana: Potassium, B6, fiber.  These guys will help you prevent high blood pressure, aid in elimination of waste through the body, and aid in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Cucumber: Vitamin K and flavonoids.  That means healthy blood and lots of super rich antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Eat them with the skin on!!!
  • Celery: Digestive tract support (digestion), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory.
  • Matcha (green tea) Powder: High in antioxidants, catechins, L-theanine.  What this means for you is strong immunity, detoxification, energy, good mood, and concentration!  Yes, please!
  • Powdered Greens: In this case, Barleans brand, is a great top-up on anything you may otherwise miss out on.  This is basically a multi-vitamin packed with vitamins and minerals that can help energize and alkalize your body.  It most often also includes chlorella, wheatgrass, and spirulina which have incredible health benefits including vitality and detoxification.

Now go enjoy some superfoods for an even more super-you! :)

What are your favorite superfoods?!  I’d love to know!!!

 

i have decided to be healthy quote

What Does “Healthy” Really Mean?

Dear Leah Renee, 

I feel like I’m constantly chasing “healthy” but I don’t even know what that is anymore.  I feel like there’s always room for improvement, something healthier I can be eating, working out more, weighing less.  It’s getting a little exhausting and I’m confused.  Maybe you can shed some light on this topic!  Thanks!  ~Annabelle, MA

Healthy is the really the umbrella term for feeling your best.  How you go about achieving that is going to be different than those around you.  We all have our own story of how we got to right here, right now. which creates our own unique perception and on what healthy looks and feels like.

It’s like getting an ‘A’ on your paper; everyone wrote a different narrative, had different perspectives, contrasting angles, but getting that ‘A’ meant it was well written and expressed, and the best it could be for what it was.  Your friend may have been awarded the same grade, but it was based on a completely different story.  Being healthy is doing the best you can do for you.  Staying on your ‘A’ game means learning to recognize and listening to your body’s signals which are different than the next persons.

Healthy is not necessarily:

  • a number on the scale
  • what pant size you are
  • comparing yourself to others
  • going on frequent detoxes
  • being consumed with ‘trying to be healthy all the time’
  • being the fastest
  • judgement
  • obsessively counting calories
  • criticism

Healthy should be about:

  • creating balance
  • feeling good in your skin
  • an open mind
  • love (self, and others)
  • having a little variety (foods, environments, workouts)
  • lightness in your thoughts and outlook
  • knowing how you feel your best and following that
  • feeling supported and encouraged by those you’re close to
  • setting goals that are achievable and attainable

There isn’t any amount of antioxidants that will make you healthy if you have a negative outlook.  A loving relationship won’t make you healthy if you’re both eating fast food every night.  There isn’t one key ingredient.  The secret, and I wish there was another word because it’s used so often, is…balance.  It’s combinations (maybe that’s a good replacement?!) of various qualities that make up our lives.  It’s ultimately staying true to yourself, because only you know the feeling you have after a particular event, hanging around certain people, doing a certain workout, or eating a particular meal.

The best news of all is we can all achieve it.  I love providing recipes, so maybe a quick one that works for me is:

  • 1 dash of sunlight (let it soak for about 10-15 minutes until warm)
  • 5 good laughs (spread out throughout the day)
  • 3 meals that make me feel energetic, not weighed down
  • 3 hugs (dogs, cats, husband, wife, kids, fish all will do)
  • 1 compliment (you can do that in the mirror or to someone else, no judgement)
  • busting out a dance move

I’d love to know what makes YOU feel healthy too!  Feel free to comment below :)

Mary’s Gone Crackers: Product Review

There are few brands I really trust to deliver.  Taste, texture, flavor, non-GMO, nutrient dense, easy-on-the-go, gluten free, low sodium, low in sugar, not too many calories, certified organic; these are all elements I look for when choosing a packaged product in the grocery store.  With that many expectations, that doesn’t leave too many options.  One of the brands I came to love many years ago, and still do, meets all of these requirements.  Mary’s Gone Crackers is the name, and great snacks are their game.  They know how to bring it, and I’m so happy to review some of their products.

Here are the 3 Mary’s Gone Crackers products I will highlight:

The Super Seed Crackers are delish!  I could eat the whole box.  Must ration.  The reasons why they’re awesome:  they contain whole grains, they’re gluten free, dairy-free, organic, and non-GMO.   What I love most about these is the combination of whole grains and other wholesome, nutritionally dense ingredients used: brown rice, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, poppy seeds, and seaweed!  There are so many ways to enjoy them (besides just straight out of the box!).  Here are some ideas:

Image

ImageDid I eat them all?  Yes.  Variety is good!  :) I know you’ll enjoy them too.

“Just The Crumbs” was a brilliant idea!  After years of enjoying their crackers, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of little crumbs that got left behind in the bottom of the bag!  They came up with a great solution and put them in an easy-to-use container.  This is perfect for everyone, but especially those always on the look-out for a gluten free bread crumb alternative.  I enjoyed these two ways, one was breaded cauliflower bites, and the other was meatballs!

Image

Why no pic on a plate, you ask?  They didn’t make it.  I guess they’re also referred to “cauliflower poppers” for a reason.  I just kept popping them into my mouth.

Here’s the easy recipe:  

  • 1 organic cauliflower floret
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup Just The Crumbs
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F).  Grease a large baking sheet.  Cut the cauliflower into pieces so some of the stalk is still in tact (see photo above).  Add to a medium size bowl, pour the rest of the ingredients on top and mix well so the cauliflower is coated.  Pour onto baking sheet, make sure it’s spread evenly so they’re not overlapping.  Roast them for 35-40 min, or until golden brown.  Enjoy.

Here are the yummy meatballs I made using “Just The Crumbs”.  , recipe to come:

Image

Meatballs: 

  • 1 lb. organic grass-fed beef
  • 1/4 c Just The Crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Italian spices (a blend of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, oregano)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan or pecorino grated cheese (optional)

Image

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).  In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef in and mix other ingredients on top.  Mix, lightly (with a large wooden spoon), so they’re blended together nicely, but not over doing it.  Using your hand or an ice cream scooper, form into balls and place on a greased, or lined, baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes on one side, take out and rotate to other side, bake another 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned.  Eat them on their own, dip in marinara, or add to a dish of your choice!

 You’ve now had your appetizers and your main, it’s time for a little dessert!  Let me introduce you to Chocolate Chip Love Cookies.  They’re gluten free, nut free, and dairy free!  They’re not flavor free.  Need I say more?  Here they are:

cookie marys

Have you already tried Mary’s Gone Crackers products?  How do you enjoy them?!  I’d love to hear from you!  :)

Baked Parsnip Fries

Dear Leah Renee, 

When I have cravings, I want something salty without all the junk in it like store bought potato chips or french fries from a fast food restaurant.  Do you have any recipes to keep me from going to the drive thru?  Thanks!  ~Liz, GA

Who doesn’t love french fries?  I don’t know if it’s the taste, the texture, the saltiness, or the carb-o-liscious comfort, but all I know is they’re hard to resist!  I’m a fan of balance, so fries every now and again didn’t hurt anyone.  I am also a fan of creating some of my most desired indulgences into something healthier that gives me the same pleasure minus all the harmful ingredients.  Simply switching the cooking method to baked instead of fried helps rid all the extra fats and unhealthy chemicals that come from deep frying.

Here is what you need to make yourself and loved ones some tasty parsnip fries:

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into evenly sized french fry sticks
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat oil (coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning of your choice (I combined onion & garlic powder, an Italian herb blend, and some paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

herb mix for parnip fries

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium or large size bowl and mix it around! You may have to heat the coconut oil first so it liquefies.
  3. Line two baking sheets with tinfoil and/or grease the baking sheet with some coconut oil or cooking spray.
  4. Trim ends of parsnips, peel, and cut into evenly sized french fry pieces (I cut them in half length-wise first).

parsnip1

Warning: After letting these guys cool a bit do everything in your power to not eat all of them (well, only if you have to share). :)

Bon Appetite!

parsnip fries

 

My Stomach Made Me Do It.

I'm sorry what i said, hunger

Dear Leah Renee, 

Why do I get so grouchy when I’m hungry?  I’ll be completely fine and then all the sudden I get irritable and sometimes snap at others (like my boyfriend!).  I would love if you had some insight and any tips to make the madness stop!  Thanks.  ~Cecilia, GA

If our brain is the CEO of our body, our gut is the managing director.  Our brain tells us what to do all the time.  Our alarm goes off and our brain sends a signal to our legs to make their way out of bed.  We get to the bathroom door and our brain tells our hand to open it.  On the way to the shower, our stomach rumbles and sends a message to our brain that it needs food.  If we wait too long, our brain starts to get foggy and decision making gets a little tougher.  Our stomach and our brain are linked, and each one greatly influences the other in our thoughts, feelings, and impulses.   So what happens when you wait too long to eat?  You get hangry!  Yep, hangry–that’s hungry + angry :) .

There is a reason you get irritable and I promise you’re not alone!  Some people are more prone to aggression than others (depending on their hormone levels and many other chemical factors).  One of the major players contributing to your short temper is serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone found in our digestive tract and one that helps regulate behavior. Women actually tend to produce less of it than men, which could explain why women suffer from becoming hangry more often.  When we have gone too long without food, or are stressed out, aggression levels increase (and serotonin levels decrease).

So what’s going to help you ward off those dips in serotonin levels and keep you from snapping?  Here’s a list of attainable practical ways:

SEROTONIN FOODS with text

  • Eat balanced meals.  That means eating an adequate amount of complex (not simple) carbs and protein.  Healthy carbohydrates help keep serotonin levels stable.
  • Keep snack on you—at ALL times!  I doubt you enjoy being irritable any more than your friends/boyfriends/girlfriends do.  It doesn’t feel great to be annoyed!  Have some almonds, a piece of fruit, or trail mix around to get the right balance of protein and carbs to level you out again.
  • Eat enough healthy fat.  I recently posted an article on healthy fats here.  Our hormones require essential fatty acids to work properly, so incorporating fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds can help tremendously.  We need those omega 3’s and 6’s!
  • Get some sunlight.  Food is not the only way to boost serotonin levels.  A dash of sunlight will help too, even if only temporarily.
  • Exercise.  This is a natural mood booster.  Don’t have much time?  Go for a quick walk or even hop in place (which may even make you laugh).
  • Step away from the sweets.  Step. Away.  Highs and lows from sugar are only going to create or exacerbate the problem.  I’m talking cakes, candies, and cookies—by all means have some berries or an apple (or even a piece of dark chocolate)!

All of these methods will help keep you steady through the day– and that hanger away.

 

Fight Fat with…Fat?!

Dear Leah Renee, 

There’s so much buzz going around emphasizing the important of good fats and how they won’t make you fat.  How does that work and how do I know I’m eating the right, or wrong, ones?  ~Anne, SD

That right!  It takes fat to lose fat.  This may sound like a contradiction, but it is a vital part of keeping healthy and trim.

I remember when I was younger the low-fat diet was all the craze.  I also remember I couldn’t get enough of those Snackwell’s Low-Fat Creme Sandwich cookies either, oops, back to the point.  Diet crazes come and go, but some have lasting effects because we’re taught to trust the ideas behind them.  It sounds believable–if you want to lose fat, eat less of it.  But that’s SO wrong.  Some even argue that’s in part how we got to the epidemic of weight and health we’re at today.  Incorporating the right kind of fats into your diet will have many beneficial effects on your body.

Here’s the low-down on the good-for-you fats:

  • Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs): Liquid at room temperature and turned to solid when  it’s refrigerated (or chilled).  MUFAs help to improve our blood cholesterol levels which in turn helps decrease the risk of heart disease.  Healthy fats help to decrease inflammation in the body.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs): Like MUFAs, polyunsaturated fats are beneficial to our cholesterol levels and help lower the risk of heart disease.  It also offers Omega-3′s and Omega-6′s, essential fatty acids (EFAs) that we must get through our food because our body does not produce any by itself.  EFAs are crucial for proper brain function and normal growth and development.  We need both MUFAs and PUFAs  for cell repair and healing.

Here are the fatty foods to get skinny on: 

Healthy Fats pic

  • Avocados
  • Peanut Butter
  • Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Cashews, Pistachios, Macadamia
  • Seeds: Sunflower, Flax, Pumpkin, Chia, Hemp
  • Oils: Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sesame Oil, Walnut, Avocado, Olive Oil (as a garnish–not heated), Ghee
  • Fish: Salmon (Wild Alaskan), Trout, Sardines, Mackerel

While all of these are very good for you, it’s important to consume them in moderation.  Have an ounce or two of almonds as an afternoon snack or sliced apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter.  Drizzle some olive oil on your salad that has slices of avocado in it with grilled salmon on top!  So yummy, so healthy.