health

"The Struggle is Real. Women & Autoimmune Disease." by Deana Gunn

Autoimmunity. Are you familiar with it? Chances are you probably have heard about it or know someone with an autoimmune disease.  So what is autoimmunity? In its simplest form, your body is attacking itself. What? Yup, that's right. For example, if you have Celiac Disease like me your body is attacking your small intestines and with Rheumatoid Arthritis your body is attacking it's joints. In Hashimoto's, your body is attacking your thyroid.  

Why can it be challenging to figure out if you are suffering from one? As someone who has an autoimmune disease, that typically can take about nine years to pinpoint, I'd love to share some of my thoughts and experience on why so many women are not only suffering, but aren't being diagnosed. 

 

1.) Doctors. Taking time to really listen and understand all the symptoms going on with someone takes time! Unfortunately our current medical system is not set up to accommodate time with patients. Practitioners generally are paid by insurance companies based on the number of patients they see.  Functional doctors take the time to listen, look at the symptoms, and attempt to get to the root of the issue and restore balance in the body.  The patient is treated as a whole, instead of treating symptoms. It's why often functional practitioners can't take insurance. It's just not cost effective. I can't tell you how many doctors and specialists I saw that couldn't find anything wrong with me but I knew something wasn't right. My diagnosis came when I worked with a functional doctor.

 

2.) Our SAD diet! I'd be remiss without mentioning what we put in our body. The Standard American Diet (SAD- how ironic) has contributed to the increase in autoimmunity. Sure, you may have a genetic predisposition to it but what you eat and how you live plays a huge factor. Why? The SAD diet is carb heavy. It contains foods that are highly processed and high in sugar which create inflammation in our bodies. Chronic inflammation can often lead to disease and in many cases an autoimmune disease. Eating a diet closer to the earth, meaning food with no added ingredients. Nutrient dense foods like veggies, fruits, lean protein and nuts increase your odds to not developing one. If you aren't feeling well and not getting answers, looking at your food is a great place to start. There are other foods you can add in and take out to cool inflammation. A health coach can help with this too!

 

3.) Women aren't taken seriously. Okay, so if your doctor doesn't have enough time to listen and your symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, feeling depressed, aches and pains...you can feel helpless. These were all the symptoms I had in addition to heart palpations, tremors and balance issues. If you have kids then you are an overworked mom. If you have a career that demands much of your time, well you too are overworked. If you have both, forget it! That's about the time when many doctors open up their scripts for a prescription for Xanax. "You need to relax, you're stressed, take this...." and now you feel CRAZY. This happened to me during my time of trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It's infuriating!

 

4.) Hormones! Hormones like estrogen and progesterone and our thyroid hormones are all pieces of a complex puzzle. Many doctors just look at TSH for thyroid but there are about five other tests that can actually tell how your body is converting your hormones and how they are working together. Proper hormone testing, looking at things like inflammation markers, listening to a patient's symptoms and along with analyzing your diet can really help create a clear picture of what's going on in our bodies. From my experience, many doctors don't look at all of these things together and it's hard to put a puzzle together without all the pieces! One of the things I recommend to my clients if they are having symptoms but aren't able to get to answers, is to download a period tracker and note their symptoms around their cycle. Many times a pattern is found. This arms them with information for speaking with practitioners.

 

Please don't think I’m bashing traditional medicine because I'm not.  If I broke my leg, I'd go right to the hospital and be very thankful for all our medical advancements. I saw five doctors and specialists before I received a proper diagnosis of Celiac Disease from an Integrative Doctor who uses a functional approach. I feel lucky to have received a diagnosis within a year as the average time to diagnosis is approximately nine years! It's why I'm a fan of Functional Medicine. It approaches the patient differently by attempting to get at the root of the issue and identifies preventative measures. It looks at the whole person instead of just one symptom. If you are a woman who is struggling with pain and hasn't been able to figure out what's going on, I've walked in your shoes. You may or may not have an autoimmune disease, but if you aren't getting answers, try seeing a doctor who uses a functional approach. If that's not an option, don't give up! Look at your food and track your cycle for starters. Remember, doctors are only people too. My advice to anyone is to follow your intuition, keep asking questions, advocate for yourself and do what you can to take control of your health! 

 

"When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change!"

 

 

Wishing you health & healing,

Deana

 

Deana Gunn is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who specializes in helping women with autoimmune disease take their power back and the owner of threekindsofkale.com. She's a gluten free Mom of two, a closeted lover of comic book character movies, and enjoys a nice glass of red wine. 

How To Stay Healthy With The Season

Yesterday, I all of a sudden had a HUGE craving for a big salad. 

I like salad and all, but it’s not typically a staple of mine when it’s cold out, it’s more of a warm weather food for me.  I also noticed that I was feeling a little more antsy than usual, and also SUPER inspired to keep working through most of the day yesterday. 

This feels more like spring energy, but I’m sitting here with a Winter Weather warning in Baltimore.  What gives? 

Then I remembered that the Chinese elemental calendar start seasons on different dates, and when I googled it I realized that yesterday, Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year, marks the start of the Spring season.

To. The. Day.  I called it, because I felt that shift.  Crazy, huh?

In Chinese medicine, the Spring or Wood season marks a sense of renewal and inspiration.  The worst of the winter is (hopefully) over, the days are noticeably longer, and we start to plan ahead for the warmer months. We start to make plans for our gardens, getting ready to plant seeds and eventually we break through the tough soil to allow for movement and growth.

As we get into this season, as lovely as it is, many folks tend to experience some not so fun emotions as well.  Anxiety, depression, and irritability are common as we deal with the build up of energy from winter to spring. 

And oh boy, I’m feeling that too.

With that being the case, this is a great time to refocus your self-care practice, and there are a few things you can specifically do to help ease yourself into this time.

      ·      Begin to incorporate more raw vegetables into your diet.  As it’s still chilly on the east coast         of the US, I’d say don’t rush into it and suddenly eat salad or juice for each meal, but here and         there start to add some in!

      ·      Drink 60 to 80 oz of water per day to help flush out the liver.  The liver is responsible for             detoxifying the blood, so you want to keep that shit moving!

      ·      On a similar note, start incorporating more movement into your days to also get the liver             going.  Take a walk a few times per week.  Join a yoga class.  Or friend me on Couch to 5K               (caitbyrnes) so we can keep each other motivated!

      ·    Re-organize your space!  This is a great time to get rid of all the crap that builds up during           the winter (hello KonMari method!).  Throw out old papers, dust those ceiling fans, and get             your shit in order.  You’ll feel so much better after.

 

How are you feeling right now?  Still feeling the winter blues?  Caught the spring anxiety? 

Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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Get Some Rest This Holiday Season

Did anyone else just get overwhelmed by their calendar?  Today when I opened my google calendar I realized that almost every weekend has something planned until the end of December.  And don’t get me wrong, it’s all SUPER fun stuff.  A weekend away with friends for our annual Alliterative Thanksgiving, a burlesque show, a girls night, actual thanksgiving, my family’s annual Holiday Hoo-Haa.

Shit is crazy.

Late fall and winter are really a time meant for us to be slowing down.  Our bodies are craving the rest after an active, busy summer and harvest season, and yet November/December is often when we tend to speed up.  Much party planning.  Very gifts.  So decorations.  Wow.

We rarely allow ourselves the rest that we need during this time… usually not until after New Years Shenanigans.  And by then we’re so burnt out, undernourished and frazzled that we’re feeling terrible.

Not a great way to start the new year.

So many of us set new years resolutions that include things like loosing weight, getting fit, getting healthy, and feeling better in our bodies.  And yet, we’re starting at a huge disadvantage because of they way we’ve treated ourselves the previous few months.  We quickly loose sight of those resolutions, and spend the rest of the winter feeling depleted.  This can quickly amplify feelings of seasonal depression for those of us whom it affects.

This year, I challenge you to do something for yourself during the holiday madness.  Take a break!  Use some of those vacation days and actually get some rest.  Take one extra day if you can to just lay around and sleep.  Go to bed early.  Wake up late.  Escape from the parties when you need to.  Give in to the early darkness!!  I know I’m not the only one who contemplates going to bed at 6pm after the whole daylight savings thing.

Make sure your subscribed to my newsletter this fall and winter.  I’ll have some extra goodies coming your way to keep you healthy through the hectic holidays, and you’ll get to be the 1st to know about how to have the best new year ever!

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How To Stay Well While Traveling

For those of you who don’t know me and/or follow my twitter or instagram accounts (cough, you should), my creative outlet is burlesque.  It’s been an amazing 6 years of costuming, choreography and crazy dancing, and I can’t get enough of it!

This week, I’m heading out to Seattle for my first time at Burlycon, and I’m so stupid excited.  As me and my fellow showgirls (and boys) navigate being healthy while traveling, I thought I’d share my top 5 travel tips with you.  And check back in with my instagram to see how I’m keeping myself well every day of the con.

Here’s what I’m doing:

Call the hotel ahead of time.  Is there a fridge in your room? Microwave? Some hotels don’t provide these things up front, but will if you ask (sometimes for a fee, which may be worth it depending on how long you are staying).  Are there restaurants that will deliver or are within walking distance? How about grocery stores?  Think easy ways to stock up on good eats once you arrive, especially if you are flying.

Pack whatever food you can. Think snack bars (Kind bars are my fav, try for the options with low sugar), almond butter, apples, maybe a protein powder or green powder.  Be careful with the sugar content on all “healthy” on the go foods.  Some granola bars and trail mixes are full of it…sometimes with 18-20 grams of it! 

Get some movement in.  Lucky for me I’m planning to take a ton of dance classes at Burlycon, but that’s not always the case with travel.  Try to take a break to go for a walk, or check out the hotel gym. 

Don’t overdo it on food you’re not used to.  If you don’t normally eat something, this isn’t the time to go crazy with it.  Having a stomachache on the road blows.  Have a taste and move on.

Immune boosters are your best friends.  Echinacea and Emergen-C are my go-to’s when I’m on the road, especially in the cooler months.  With all the shared spaces of airports, planes, cars, hotels etc it’s often easier to catch whatever’s going around, especially if you are already compromising your immune system with too much sugar (see tip above). 

How do you stay well while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 Ways to Welcome Fall

Oh hey, it’s Fall!

I’m a summer gal through and through.  I relish in it, and frequently day dream about moving to a place where there’s no such thing as spring/fall/winter.  But there’s still something quite lovely about fall. 

Part of me always felt fall is a fresh start.  This was probably drilled into my brain as a kid because of the public school calendar, but I tend to want to clean up my routine and home, stock up on supplies, and hunker down on some projects.  There’s definitely a “geterdone” energy about the start of the new season, and it’s a refreshing change from the “sit back and relax” energy of late summer.

Simultaneously, however, I’m trying to really be mindful to take extra care of myself as the temperatures start to drop.  Winter is a tough time for me, and as I’ve alluded to in past blog posts I struggle with seasonal depression.  The last few years have gotten better with regular self-care including acupuncture, rest, and making a weekend away to a warm place a priority, but it’s still something I have to be super mindful about. 

This year, I’m starting these efforts extra early to really support myself through the cooler months.  Here’s what I’m doing:

Witchy Spirity Rituals  Last week in preparation for equinox, my mama and I cleansed all of our healing crystals with sage and moonlight, and lit some candles and set our intentions for the upcoming year.  It was lovely, and such a nice reminder of getting back to myself.  Looking for some inspiration?  We loved this list of equinox rituals, and these can be done anytime!

Turning Inward I’ve been giving myself a little extra time to journal at the beginning or end of the day.  It’s been hugely helpful in allowing me to process my feelings and to make sense of the jumble of emotions and thoughts in my brain.  On paper, on my computer, whatever is convenient and in front of me works for me!

Check That Nutrition As we shift seasons, it's great to take a moment to check in with your nutrition..  If it's already cooled down where you are, it might be a good idea to start adding in more grounding, warming, cooked foods to your diet.  Raw foods have a cooling effect on the body, and if we have too many when it's cold outside it can make it hard for our immune system to keep up! 

Self-Care Time Take some time to Treat Yo Self!  Long walks in the park? Yup.  Facial? You got it.  Epsom salt Baths? Every damn night.  X files and couch cuddles? You bet.  We all need that extra care some times so that we can re-set, re-charge, and re-focus on what really matters in our lives.

 

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Guest Post! "The Whole 30 Halfway" by Amy Kocur

I'm so pleased to be able to share my dear friend Amy Kocur's account of her Whole 30 halfway-mark!  Check out her blog The New Minutiae for more great writing about wellness and style, and to read more about her Whole 30 journey.  -Cait

I am halfway done with my first Whole 30 food challenge.The way this has worked for me is I plan my food weekly  and I track my food daily. Weekly planning ranges from actually writing it down on a chart or a loose idea in my mind. I track daily using My Fitness Pal, for over a year and it's the backbone of my fitness transformation. My thoughts on The Whole 30 so far:

  • I feel healthier.
  • I'm skeptical about eating so much meat and eggs.
  • I worry a lot about relying too much on fruit and almond butter.
  • Within my support trio none of us abide the same 'version' of the plan.
  • I feel like I've lost weight and my physique has shifted (I also exercise and have not actually weighed myself - we're supposed to wait until Day 30!)
  • I have cooked more than I ever have in my entire life (honestly, the aspect I'm most proud of)!
  • The beginning was REALLY hard. 

The Whole 30 timeline is an invaluable resource. Having that as a guideline proves that nothing I'm experience is abnormal or something that needs to take me down (or cause me to go off plan). 

The first 11 days I experienced the headaches, exhaustion, and irritability. My body went through a major shift. I am a person who can resort to eating total crap junk food on the regular. Even when I was eating healthy - structured eating helped me lose 55lbs over the last year - that food routine was full of carbs, dairy and permitted sugars. Read: just enough dopamine-inducing food drugs to get by. I have not attempted eating Paleo since it was called Atkins in the late 90s (wink).  Inevitably, when I started, I was really grouchy and bitchy to my boyfriend who said I looked 'zapped' (drained) and grey or gaunt due to a rapid initial drop. Basically, I could tell my body was going through something. But I wanted to see what was on the other side.

Sugar and carbs are drugs and can have the same numbed-out impact of any wake and bake.   

I kept on - acclimating myself to this structure has had surprising positives. Don't tell anyone but I LOVE COOKING. I have cooked more in the last two weeks than I have in my whole life. I cook large batches of blueberry hash or ground beef with red onion, tomato, and balsamic.  I'm also more aware of my sleep hygiene, I see how my body fuels and restores itself. I'm more focused on goals and clear in my pursuits, personally -- The initial fog has truly fallen away to reveal a new, healthy aptitude.  

The nice part about turning the corner after the detox/ sugar hangover is that I barely remember how or why it was so difficult. I casually plan my meals for the week. I cook in bulk to be prepared for work days. I have go-tos when I don't have time to cook.  I am even focusing on how I'd like to refine my last 2 weeks to be more disciplined and get as much out of this as possible.

Once you hit the midway point The Whole 30 (or even just eating clean) is a healthy instance of, "if it feels good, do it."

I have struggled with food my whole life. Only in the last 2 years have I turned toward whole living, in many ways. I utilize support to help me through my struggles. I learn new and holistic ways to care for my body. I feel my feelings and inhabit my skin. I reach out to people who know more about topics I want to learn about. And I take action. The opposite of fear is action and all actions result in progress. So, while I'm glad this is only 30 days (or 20, or 3, or whatever you're ready to do in this moment) the amount of progress it speaks to is infinite. 

I'd love to hear your Whole 30 hooray or horror stories below! Take care. 

x/Amy

 

Getting Real About Sugar

 

Sugar, wtf.

So I’m in the middle of my first Whole 30, which I didn’t think would be terribly difficult for me.  30 days of no grains (I already don’t eat gluten), no dairy (already there), no legumes (eh, I can take them or leave them), and no added sugar – natural or otherwise (small amounts of fruit are ok).  I thought, no problem, I don’t eat THAT much sugar.  I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, right?

I was so wrong.

I AM generally a healthy eater, but what I didn’t realize is just how much hidden sugar there is in the everyday foods I was eating.  I definitely noticed some withdrawal type symptoms, similar to when trying to get off caffeine. I was feeling sort of angry, headachy, tired, and annoyed.  I think it really hit me when I was starving, walking around the grocery store trying to find a quick option for dinner and figured I’d pick up a rotisserie chicken.  Every single one had a form of sugar.  On chicken?  Really?

Everything from pickled peppers, to ketchup, to Emergen-C, to deli meat.  Everything my partner picked up and asked frantically “CAN I HAVE THIS” was a solid no, due to some form of sugar. 

It’s terrifying.  And it’s been a huge eye opener.

Food companies say they add sugar to their products to “enhance taste” but really, they do it to get you hooked.  Sugar lights up the same pleasure centers of our brain that a drug would, and once you have one hit you always want more.  Our bodies are hardwired to crave sugar in particular, because in the days of hunting and gathering, something sweet was a quick form of energy (Keep in mind, fruit was the sweetest thing you could typically find.  Not nearly as much sugar as that gluten-free donut).  It makes it extremely difficult to say no when that food comes up again.  And yet, we’re often told it’s a “lack of will power” that causes us to cave into food cravings.

No, asshole.  It’s you and all your added sugar. 

The other thing that’s been really striking to me is the way that I tend to use sugar, or food in general, in response to my emotions.  I knew I was sort of doing that, but this is the first time I’ve really had to challenge that, instead of giving in.  Generally, my idea of giving into a sweet tooth was a banana with almond butter, or some dark chocolate, but the point is that I’m reaching for those things for comfort, instead of dealing with whatever is going on. It’s been difficult, but I’m grateful for the chance to ask myself “what am I really craving here?”  I really noticed it when I had a few big projects due at the same time and was getting stressed out, and my first thought was “I just need a treat.”

No. I just need to sit down and do my work.  And maybe drink some extra water, write in my journal and take a nap.

To anyone considering a Whole 30, I can say wholeheartedly to give it a go.  Planning and prepping makes it a lot easier (so you don’t end up frantic and starving in the grocery store, like me), and it’s so SO worth it to be forced to take a good hard look at your current diet.  My body is super grateful for the break from sugar, and I’ll be sure to report more from the other side.

How about you?  Do you struggle with sugar cravings? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 Ways to Bounce Back After Summer Holidays

I don’t know about you guys, but I have a hard time not going a little overboard during summer holiday weekends.  4th of July is one of my all time favorite holidays (eating, swimming, drinking, bikinis, fireworks… what else matters really?)  and this year I paired it with an amazing weekend away in western Virginia for my 10-year friendiversary with some of my best pals.  Even though I packed the healthy gluten-free snacks and tried to pace myself, when your friends are making some incredible food/drinks, it’s hard to stick to your optimal health routine.  Which is totally ok from time to time.  More than ok even, I think it’s healthy in itself to say “Fuck it” sometimes.

The view from Friendiversary!

The view from Friendiversary!

But you know, eventually the weekend ends, and the real world comes crashing down on you in the form of hangovers, nausea, headaches, fatigue and general fogginess.  And it's not just 4th of July.  Sometimes in the summer it feels like there's an event every weekend that includes food and booze!

So in the spirit of getting “back on track,” here’s what I’m doing now to recover:

Drink a crapload of water.  Particularly, water infused with lemon and cucumbers, which aids in hydration and adds extra vitamins and minerals without even trying.  Also it tastes awesome and is great if you don’t particularly like the taste of plain water.

Detox Tea. Give your liver some love after all it’s done for you this past weekend (or you know, your whole life).  I love to keep some detox tea on hand after weekend full of bbq’s and parties, Yogi makes a great blend.

Extra Rest.  It’s the ever persisting feeling of needing a vacation from your vacation, but there’s something to it.  When you break out of your normal routine it’s awesome for your brain, spirit, and body, but can also be extra exhausting.  Cut yourself some slack and make sure you get enough rest during your recovery days.  Need help? Check out my post about getting yo beauty sleep!

Clean up your diet.  During the summer, I let myself indulge a little during the weekends, and try to eat really nutrient dense meals during the week.  It’s my way of keeping some balance.  What should you eat?  Everyone is different, but generally I try to get a good serving of high quality protein (local/free range meat, eggs, nuts, beans, legumes, etc) and a ton of fresh veggies.  It’s summer, so take advantage of all the awesome stuff that’s in season now!  My favorite summer plates are usually 1/3 protein and 2/3 veggies.  Recently, Desmond and I made rosemary chicken, with a heaping portion of roasted zucchini from the farmers market and sautéed garlic kale.  So. Good.

What do you do in the days after a long holiday weekend?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Hello, World!

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4 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, is fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere.  This day, June 21st, marks the longest day of the year before the days begin to shorten again as we head towards winter. 

For me, it’s a little bit of a drag.  I LOVE summer.  I really probably belong somewhere where it’s warm all the time, because winter generally really bums me out.  So for me, when Memorial day comes, a part of me is all “YAY SUMMER POOLS OCEAN HEAT TINY DRESSES YES” and the other part of me is lamenting the fact that since it’s now unofficially summer, it means that it won’t always be summer, and that summer will, in fact, end.

Not a great way to live, huh?  The way I’ve been doing it, I probably am not enjoying summer to the fullest because I’m too worried about it ending!

So this time, I’m trying really hard to take each day as it is, remember to have gratitude for the current moment whether it’s June 1st or Sept 1st, and to just celebrate as much as I can. 

I’m super excited to be heading back home to the shore to spend the solstice with my mom and a few friends, so I wanted to share a few ways to really celebrate the longest day of the year.  Solstice is a time of reconnecting with the earth, and yourself.  This means checking in with your body, mind, spirit and surroundings.

Here are 4 ways to celebrate the sun this day:

Fire Be it a backyard bonfire, your charcoal grill or a candle in your apartment, fire is a great way to center yourself and connect to the universe (whatever that means to you.) Light up a fire and say a quick affirmation (this is one of my favs from Louise Hay)

 

Potluck  Food.  That’s it.

No but really, a potluck with friends/family is an awesome way to really connect with your loved ones, and to re-establish a sense of community.  Make it a picnic in the park, or a BBQ out in the back yard, this is a super easy way to have an awesome gathering.  The plus side? No one person is responsible for all the cooking!

Make Something Maybe it’s a special recipe for that potluck we just talked about.  Or something you’ve been meaning to do in the garden.  Or a craft from your ever growing Pinterest board of things you could just buy but you KNOW you could do it yourself!

 

Even if it looks like this, doing something with your hands is therapeutic, relaxing, and grounding.  Bonus points if your handiwork involves natural materials. 

Check In With Yourself  Take a moment to check in with your body.  Is there something going on that needs to be tended to? Aches and pains that have gone unchecked?  Mental health? Now’s a good time to recommit to your wellness goals (New Years Resolutions anyone?) and make those Dr’s appointments, schedule some exercise, hey, maybe even hire a health coach! 

What are your plans for the longest day of the year?  Share in the comments below!

 

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