infertility

Our Miscarriage Story–From Sorrow to Joy

I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to sit down and write this out. Not so much because of the heavy emotions it brings up, of course that’s difficult, but because of my pride.

You see, I always want to be honest and transparent. That’s important to me and it’s just who I am. I know that doesn’t mean I have to share everything with you, my reader and friend, but this has been heavy on my heart and something I think needs to be talked about. Not by everyone, but by someone. Because so few can actually talk about it without completely falling apart, but every woman whose experienced this needs the encouragement and to know they are not alone, not broken.

I’m talking about miscarriage. A difficult, completely unexpected and uninvited reality, every time. Yes, I said every time because I’ve experienced two. One with a twin pregnancy before our amazingly healthy daughter was born and another just two weeks ago.

It’s hard to say that, to admit that to you. In fact, as I’ve shared with people in my community, I’m reminded that I am a woman who has experienced miscarriage not once, but twice. I’ve sat through the quiet, heartbeat-less ultrasound...twice. I’ve cried tears of sorrow and mourned the loss of my babies...twice. I’ve experienced the bloody aftermath of the news and the physical and emotional stress...twice. I’ve picked up the pieces and my broken heart not once, but twice.

And experience sure as hell doesn’t make it any easier, but I will say that my experience this time was different. My heart is in a different place, my faith is stronger, my knowledge of fertility is better and my hope is overwhelmingly present.  

Let me share my journey over the past 6 weeks...

In early November, I noticed that my cycle was running really long. My husband had been away for two weeks on a trip to Israel and was gone during what I thought was my fertile period so at first, I figured it wasn’t even possible for me to be pregnant!

I pulled out my period tracker like three nights in a row before I went to sleep and counted the days since my last period...34, 35, 36... you get the idea. On Sunday, November 5 I had this gut feeling that it wasn’t just a long cycle, but that I may be pregnant so I asked Matt to stop at the store on our way home from my parent’s house that night.

As we headed up our street, I told Matt I’d be really excited if it was positive. You see, the last time him and I had talked about our feelings on growing our family, maybe a month or two before this, we were on the same page that we’d be happy with just one, our sweet girl.

We went home, I put Elle down for bed and acting as cool as a kitten to Matt, I said, “Don’t worry babe, I’m sure I’m not pregnant.”  I anxiously grabbed the test and headed for the bathroom. I watched as the single line turned pink, but the second line didn’t show up right away so I set it on the window ledge. As I stood up, I glanced over and the double lines caught my eye. Holy $#*%, it was positive! Low and behold, I was pregnant! I fell to my knees and prayed, asking for the Lord’s protection and peace then brought the test out to Matt who was totally stunned. In fact, his reaction was a tad bit disappointing. It took him a day to process, but he quickly joined the happy train.

So started the process of growing a fetus. I was super tired that next week, taking naps a few times with Elle and going to bed by 8:30pm. I was over the moon because four of my best friends are also pregnant and if you’ve ever been pregnant with a bestie, you know it’s kind of the coolest thing ever. Someone to bitch about pregnancy aches and pains with who actually knows what you’re feeling, what more could you ask for?

With all the excitement I have to be honest, there were moments of pure anxiety. Having experienced a miscarriage in the past, the early weeks of pregnancy can be overwhelmingly concerning if you allow them to be. I had to stop in my tracks and pray through moments of anxiety and fear and I used lots of affirmations.

Though we planned on having another home birth, I like to start out with an ultrasound to see the little nugget and hear a heartbeat. There is just something about the sound of a heartbeat that brings so much comfort and reassurance in those early weeks of pregnancy. We couldn’t get in with my doctor until late December, but at an appointment with the nurse she informed me there had been a cancellation and she booked an appointment with the doctor for the following week. I thought that given the time frame that Matt and I had sex, before and after his Israel trip, I had to have ovulated early and figured I would be close to 8 weeks by that first appointment so seeing a heartbeat would be totally doable.

So we anxiously awaited the appointment. Even as a Nutritional Therapist, feeling confident in my first trimester nutrition and lifestyle habits, taking all the supplements and all that good stuff, I still struggled with all the emotions. There was fear, there was excitement, there was uncertainty, planning, dreaming, anxiety, concern. You name it, I felt it.

Now, with that being said, I really tried my hardest to stay positive and believe that baby into reality. I allowed myself to feel the fear and the anxiety, but didn’t let it run my world. Prayer, affirmations and my amazing family and friends were all I could stand on at this point.

The appointment came and there we sat in the doctor’s office awaiting that first ultrasound. I had all the symptoms–exhaustion, a little queasiness, a wee bit of moody–so we were feeling pretty confident.

As Dr. P scanned us, he found the sac and a little bean shaped babe within it. There was the tiniest flicker of a heartbeat, not yet audible. The baby measured about 6 weeks at this point and the anatomy was all there for this time frame. Since this was smaller than we had originally thought, of course there was some concern.

Maybe I actually ovulated late in my cycle, conceiving when Matt came home from Israel. This in and of itself concerned me because those late cycle eggs aren’t usually as good and have higher miscarriage rates (ignorance is bliss my friend, that’s for sure. Knowing so much about the world of fertility and baby makin’ brought in some extra worries...and reassurance...oddly enough) hence why having a regular cycle is so important for health conception.

The doctor wanted to test my Hcg and rescan me in another week. If I was that early on, there would definitely be a fetus forming and an audible heartbeat in another week.

So we went home and just relaxed into it. Of course I had some concern, but I tried not to deny my pregnancy in order to not let myself be let down if we did end up losing it. I tried to focus on staying positive, pour myself into my first born and just relax.

My Hcg came back strong, growing as it should so this added to my confidence.

Then came the next ultrasound. I went alone since it was smack dab in the middle of naptime. Going alone gave me some anxiety, my heart rate was 99 BPM just sitting in the office!

Dr. P came in, kind of somber from what I remember and said, “Alright Justine, let’s see what we’ve got!” and began the ultrasound. Yet, again, there was the silent wait as he moved the ultrasound wand around, trying to orient himself to the space and locate the sac.

I could see what he was looking at, the same little sac we had found last time, but this time that little bean was more like a funky looking, smaller than before triangular shape. No 7 or 8 week fetus shape, no heartbeat flicker or sound. Nothin.

When I think back to this moment, I don’t remember feeling a huge let down in emotions. It was almost like I had subconsciously known or prepared myself for this. I took a deep breath and said, “It’s OK Dr. P” as if I was reassuring him.

We sat and talked about the next steps. I told him I wanted to miscarry naturally, no meds or invasive surgeries. Just me, at home, allowing my body to do what it needed to. Any other patient he may have encouraged the medical route for fear of infection or poor self-care, but he knew my story and my beliefs, he was there to wish us good luck on our home birth two years prior and he trusted my intuition.

He did his best to reassure me, but I didn’t want false hope. I knew it was over, that that baby had gone to meet Jesus and was already waiting to meet us in Heaven.

I was OK with that.

I had to do another Hcg level to begin to follow the trend downward and it took everything in me to hold myself together until I got to the car. I text Matt and my mom and a few besties that had been praying for my appointment. I needed time to just sit in the emotions, by my self, in the car, while people pulled in and out next to me.

I sat and just sobbed like a total baby. Out loud, yucky, ugly, serious crying.

The first thing I said to God was, “Ok God, how are we going to spin this one?” because all I could think about was how embarrassed I was. A holistic Nutritionist dreaming of changing the way we nourish fertility to grow healthier families, teaching couples about how to prepare their bodies for conception so they DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS VERY THING and here I was, miscarrying.

It was hard. Really really hard. My pride was shattered and I was mourning the loss of a baby I never knew. Mourning the plans we had made looking forward to a family of four. Mourning the picture of pregnant bellies with besties. Mourning the experience of pregnancy and the excitement for another birth at home.  

I was finally able to answer the phone and talked with Matt and a few friends. By the time I got home I had settled down and felt a little less overwhelmed with emotion. We talked and prayed and took the next few days to rest and allow ourselves to experience the rollercoaster of emotions that were surely to come.

But that next day I was hit with a peace that I can hardly explain. A peace that allowed me to share the news with more of the people we had shared the pregnancy with. A peace that allowed me to pray prayers of gratitude for our story and His perfect plan, despite the pain and brokenness. A peace that truly surpassed all understanding (and I’m so grateful for whoever prayed that prayer for me).

As my body naturally let go and I began to miscarry, a traumatic experience in and of itself, I was reminded of something that I struggled with in my first miscarriage. This was a blessed interruption, a difficult loss yet a moment in life that reminds you of just how precious life is and what a miracle our first born was. A reminder that you just never know, despite your best efforts.

But in this, and the greatest gift of all was the reminder that God is good and God isn’t done and that His perfect plan will come to pass. I’m surely not saying HE caused this because I don’t know how all that works. I do know that God quite literally makes beauty from ashes and my story isn’t exempt from his mighty redemption and grace.

As hard as it is to experience loss and as hard it has been to come to terms with all the broken plans and humbling of my heart, I’m so glad that God is beside me and above me and beneath me. I am so grateful HIS plans are better than my own.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

As I type that, I can hardly read through the tears. Not out of sadness, but out of joy and peace and overwhelming gratitude that our sorrows will one day be washed away and that we’ll get to join our 3 babies in Heaven amidst the glory of the Lord.

I’m looking forward to putting all I teach with my preconception prep couples into motion in our own life, seeing our own Nutritionist (yes, this Nutritionist has her own Nutritionist!) and really digging in with intention, now that we know we want another babe. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, both the ups and the downs. Whatever comes along the way.

And if you’re still reading this, I’m guessing maybe you’ve experienced loss yourself. As I ride the wave of this miscarriage onto a calmer shore, I know that the Lord is using this to connect us.

I hear your cries, your pain, your hurt, your confusion. I feel your sorrow and your longing for life within.

I want to remind you that you are not alone and you are not broken my beautiful friend. I pray that you will be blessed with the same peace that I’ve experienced. I am here with you mama and I know the Lord will see you through this, no matter how hard and yucky miscarriage may be. God is good always and always God is good.

I’m praying for all of the hearts that are hurting out there because I know there are so, so many.

Looking forward to sharing our journey of healing through this and getting our bods all baby ready. For when the time is right and the prep is done.

Lots of love my friend,

Justine

 

For more information on how to get your body ready for baby makin' and create a stress-less conception story, join our brand-new email list for posts on healthy eating + living, upcoming events and programs and more!

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Episode 60 | How Toxin-Free Living Actually Affects Your Health

We’re finally doing it, digging into the nitty gritty of environmental toxins–the cold, hard facts about chemicals within the beauty and skincare industries in the US, ways these chemicals get into our bodies and how they reveal their nasty little side effects and affect our health.

The episode is not for the faint of heart, we definitely go deeper than usual and use some big words, but we break it down, explain the buzz words and connect it all to real life (like how it affects babies in utero, how you experience their effects and more).

Our goal is not to scare you, rather to empower you to be an advocate for your own health, to be able to make decisions that affect positive change within your health journey and create more balance and beauty within your life. No stress, just steps forward. Know better, do better, right?

Don’t forget that November 30 is the last day to enter to win our conscious holiday gift basket. Don’t worry, we made it super simple for you! Head to the purple podcast app on your phone or the iTunes store and write a review for the Colorful Eats podcast! That’s it! You’ll automatically be entered to win. We’ll announce the lucky winner during Episode 61, airing December 4, so make sure to stay tuned!

Highlight Reel:

10:55 | How side effects of toxin exposure can reveal themselves in your life (aka symptoms)

16:18 | Endocrine disruptors and how they affect your hormones

20:38 | Heavy metals and your beauty routine

27:32 | The toxin-skin connection and hormonal acne

33:25 | Why “natural” isn’t always enough

38:02 | Sourcing vs safety – what these buzz words really mean

Download Episode 60 in iTunes!

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The Better Beauty Gift Guide–The Gifts that Keep on Giving

If you’re anything like me, this year you thought, “This is the year I am going to get all my holiday shopping done BEFORE November. No stress. Think ahead. Relax during the holidays.”...then November rolled around and you realize you’re back to your usual holiday scramble. Anyone?

No worries, there’s still plenty of time to get all the goodies you need and still have time to relax your pumpkin spiced tush into the season!

This year I have a better idea of how I want to bless the loved ones in my life. Their health is always at the top of my priority list, as I'm sure it is on theirs as well, so I am going to give the gift of good health this year through safer, conscious products.

Yup, it's decided.  

As I dive into the world of non-toxic living, the more I see the need for knowledge all around me–hence why I am always sharing my fave products on Instagram stories or on the blog.

Because the products we use on our skin and around our bodies can affect our health in a positive or negative way. Yes, what you eat matters, but it’s just not enough!

Everyone uses products–skin care, beauty, home and cleaning, etc.–each and everyday, so I thought to myself, “Why not make my gifts a little more meaningful so that I can help create positive change in the health of the people I love the most!?”

No brainer, right!?

I have actually tried this in years past with friends and family who were interested in health and wellness and they loved the goodies and now support those very same companies I gifted them products from.

So many people are starting to learn that the products they use may be affecting their health, specifically their fertility and conception journey, but it can be really intimidating, especially if you’re brand new to the healthy living game. Everyone desires to have better health, to feel better and live with more vibrance–gifting someone a safer product, like a delicious smelling non-toxic body butter, lip gloss or candle, can be a great way to introduce them to the world of non-toxic living and encourage them to explore further on their own.

So today I have put together a list of my very favorite products that will fit oh-so-perfectly into any stocking or beautifully wrapped holiday box and create a positive ripple effect in your loved one’s health! Now that is some seriously good gift giving, right!?

***Just FYI–I share a lot of my fave products from two of my go-to beauty and skincare companies, Primally Pure and Beautycounter. A little birdie told me that both companies will be having some A-MAZING Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals! I'll be posting again on Black Friday with more info! I'll also be doing a GIVEAWAY this weekend so definitely stay tuned!

Use the links below to take you to your gifts!

2017 Safer Beauty Gift Guide

Skincare

  • Primally Pure’s Starter Kit–absolutely perfect for the clean beauty newbie or pro on the go, the set comes with a body butter and deodorant of your choice, an ‘everything spray’ and three lip balms!
  • Primally Pure’s Spa Kit–everything you need to pamper yourself or a loved one, the spa set comes with a dry brush, a body oil of your choice, sea soak salts, flower bath salts and a beautiful organic bag (yes, even the bag is good for you!)
  • Primally Pure’s Baby Kit–perfect for the new mama or new baby (whomever you decide to gift it directly to!), it’s got everything you need to keep little ones all clean and snuggly!
  • Mini Body Butter Collection–yes, one is not enough. You need to have them all. PP’s body butter is like heaven, so silky smooth and super hydrating.
  • Lip Balm Set–this set was made for a stocking, I’m sure of it! I keep one of these lip balms in every room of my house and every bag or purse I own!
  • Body Oil Collection–PP just reformulated their body oils and this set is perfect for anyone who loves beautiful scents and products that actually hydrate the skin...perfection!
  • Multi-Masker Set–let me just say, these masks are a GAME CHANGER. I have seen these beauties in action at one of my Beautycounter socials and it was pretty impressive.

 

Beauty + Makeup

  • Ultimate Nudes Eyeshadow Palette– TO. DIE. FOR. I got this for myself (oopsies) and it is all things amazing. So many beautiful shades for dressing up or down. A must.
  • Illuminating Trio– This set is at the top of my “yes please!” list! Perfectly paired highlighters for any skintone.
  • Perfect Pout Trio, Pinks– This set can be given whole or split up between stockings or personally curated gift sets.
  • Best of Brushes Set– Four brushes that every beauty needs!  
  • Blue Tansy Beauty Cream–the perfect addition to your safer beauty routine, blue tansy oil is used to

 

Safer Products for the men in your life...because their products matter too!

  • Clean Slate Charcoal Duo–comes with the charcoal bar and the No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask, perfect for the man who's OK with gettin' his 
  • Counterman Perfect Shave Set–everything your man needs to prep, shave and soothe, this is the perfect gift for your health conscious dude or any man in your life for that matter!
  • Beard Oil or Beard Oil Pack–the perfect way to nourish, tame and hydrate facial hair without weighing it down or looking greasy. Plus, they're cocktail scented (old fashioned and mint mojito please!) which is pretty awesome. 

 

For the Non-Toxic Home

  • Branch Basics Starter Kit–does it seem weird to gift someone cleaning products!? haha Not when they're one-of-a-kind goodness, packaged in a beautiful reusable cloth bag with a red bow, ready to make that loved ones life way easier (and less toxic, duh!). Use promo code "alo10" to get 10% off your starter kit!
  • Honey + Fern beeswax candles–this is one of my fave new shops and I already have a box full of candles to gift to loved one! Their candles are non-toxic, pure beeswax and just plain pretty. 

 

I hope this gift guide helps give you a few ideas for gifting safer beauty, skincare and home goodies to your loved one! Healthy living really can trickle into every aspect of your life, even in the gifts you give!

I'd love to hear what some of your favorite healthy gifts are or if you end up gifting any of these goodies! Please share in the comments below! I love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays my friend! Praying you have a beautiful Thanksgiving!

xo

Justine

 

For more information on how to get your body ready for baby makin' and create a stress-less conception story, join our brand-new email list for posts on healthy eating + living, upcoming events and programs and more!

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3 Simple Steps to a Creating a Non-Toxic Cleaning Routine for Better Health & Fertility

Cleaning your home seems innocent enough, right?

Sadly, not so much.

Keeping your home all spic and span has the potential to be one of the most toxic things you do in your day to day life. Crazy, right?

More and more studies are showing the nasty chemicals companies are using in these everyday, household products are linked to different cancers, endocrine disruption (causing issues with sex hormone and fertility, birth defects and developmental delays, etc.), allergies, respiratory issues and so much more.

And these aren't uncommon issues. In fact, they're all too familiar to far too many of us.

Yah, that scared me too. Enough to make some serious changes in the products I purchase, the companies I stand behind and the way I protect my family.

These are simple, yet powerful choices we are able to make for ourselves. For our families. For our health.

Especially if you are a woman (or man for that matter) who is looking to bring littles into the world–or are pregnant, nursing or raising little humans. The damage these powerful chemicals have on our delicate systems, both male and female, can play a major role in our ability to conceive with ease, get and stay pregnant and as you'll read below, provide a safe and nurturing environment for our growing babe.

In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

"Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied." –EWG.org

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.

That's a hard pill to swallow.

This information makes me cringe, well up with tears and push harder to educate the women and couples around me to make some serious changes in the way we do life. 

The amazing thing is that we have the power to change the way we live our lives and the choices we make day to day to change that reality for ourselves. 

Ridding your home of harsh cleaning products can be a big step forward on your health journey and can have a huge impact on your fertility, pregnancy and your littles one's wellbeing.

And it's easier than you may think my friend!

I know there are always a lot of questions when it comes to this topic so I'm always looking for ways to simplify the process of cleaning up your environment. Today I want to share a few simple steps that have really helped our family and I know can help you as well!

1. Take a look at what you’ve got.

Pull out all your cleaning products and take a good look. Literally, put them all out on your countertop. What have you got? Common products like Windex, Clorox, Mr. Clean and the like are rich in chemicals linked to different health issues and should be thrown out. Like, STAT.

I used to say, “Why don’t you just finish up what you’ve got and work toward a less toxic option when you run out,” but the more I learn the easier it is to say to clients, “Just toss it and start fresh. Your bod will thank you!” If you don’t want to waste, I’m sure you can donate your cleaners to someone in need.  

2. Look up your current product's safety rank.

The Environmental Working Group has a huge database of information on the ingredients used in common cleaning and beauty products and how they rank in terms of physical and environmental safety. You can look up just about any product you’ve got under your kitchen or bathroom sink and learn how the ingredients within can affect your family’s health and even the health of your future offspring! (Keep in mind that companies are not required to send the EWG their data or even disclose all ingredients used so you may not be able to find data on some of your products. Honestly, that makes me trust them even less.)

I plugged in a couple of common products I’ve seen used in friend’s homes and what I found was absolutely astonishing. Pledge Wipes, in Lemon scent, commonly used to disinfect surfaces, is rated an “F” on EWG’s A-F rating scale. The product was given such a poor review because of ingredients linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity as well as skin and respiratory irritation, but the scariest part was what was ranked as “High Concern”- cancer risk. That is serious my friend.

Now some of you may have already made an attempt to try out some “greener” products like Green Works or Mrs. Meyer’s. Unfortunately, many of the common “green” products available on most supermarket shelves aren’t so good for you either. Green Works All-Purpose Cleaner received a “D” rating because it contains potentially harmful ingredients. Most of the Mrs. Meyer’s products are rated a “C” with a handful of “D’s” and F’s”!

Their marketing efforts are good, but it sure makes me question their intentions with keeping us healthy and our environment safe!

3. Fill your home with clean, green, non-toxic goodness.

Stock up on a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner. I recommend one simple cleaning formula, making it pretty darn easy to put into action! My very favorite cleaning product is Branch Basics multi-purpose Concentrate which can be used for cleaning just about anything you can think of, from toilets and countertops to floors, hands and even laundry! The Concentrate is used to fill Branch Basics pre-marked spray bottles (All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free and Foaming Wash for hands) that come with their Starter Kit, each with a recommended amount of water and concentrate. I have a lot of glass spray bottles from my homemade cleaning product days so I've also used the Concentrate in those to place them in more areas around the house.

Use promo code "alo10" to get 10% off your first Branch Basics purchase! Because you have to get this goodness in your house friend!

The formula is incredible, 100% non-toxic and super safe. What I love is that I am using the same safe concentrate throughout the house, just in different water to concentrate ratios. I don’t have to worry about looking into the safety of new products or different products for different cleaning jobs. Perfect for a busy mama and takes the stress and guess work out of non-toxic cleaning! You can learn more here or purchase Branch Basics Concentrate.

Branch Basics is in the process of getting their product on the EWG website, just in case you try searching!

Another option is a simple mix of ¼ cup organic white vinegar, water and a few drops of pure essential oils in a glass spray bottle. When Branch Basics was reformulating their concentrate and had taken their product off the market, this was all I used.

Don't forget to use promo code "alo10" to get 10% off your first Branch Basics order

I hope these steps help you take your non-toxic living journey a giant step forward and make your preconception journey that much healthier! I'd love to hear what you think about Branch Basics, let me know if the comments below!

xo

Justine

 

For more information on how to get your body ready for baby makin' and create a stress-less conception story, join our brand-new email list for posts on healthy eating + living, upcoming events and programs and more!

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How Nutrition & Non-toxic Living Helped This "Infertile" Couple Conceive Naturally | A Testimony

Today I wanted to share a story with you, from a beautiful client of mine, Erin. It's one of those testimonies that leaves me in awe. It begins similar to so many other women's story. One of dieting and restriction and years of unintentional abuse that can leave a body in a bad, bad place. A place that makes starting a family an incredible challenge. The difference in Erin's story is that she decided to do something about it and used Nutritional Therapy and healthy living to change the direction of her (and her husband's) health journey in order to conceive naturally. When Erin emailed me to share she had become pregnant, I literally cried my eyes out! What a gift and what a powerful testimony. I am so grateful that Erin was willing to share her story with us and I hope that it encourages and inspires you to continue on your path toward a healthier body and better fertility! 

"My hormonal problems started long before I realized how crucial hormones actually are. When I was about 13, I became very body conscious and desired to be thin above all else.  At that time, I associated being thin with being healthy.  The thinner the healthier was what I thought, so I got very thin. I did so by eating less than I had ever eaten before and exercising as much as possible. I would eat an apple before school, a banana with a slice of fat-free cheese for lunch, and a salad with fat-free dressing for dinner. I feared fat in all forms. This behavior continued for several years and, when I look back, the saddest part for me is that I honestly believed I was “healthier” than my friends who were eating three normal meals. I thought I had accomplished something by eating less than 1,000 calories per day and was proud of myself.  

By age 14, my menstrual cycle had disappeared completely. This should have been a huge red flag that I was not, in fact, healthy but it did not bother me one bit. Prior to college, at age 17, during a physical at my pediatrician’s office, the nurse asked me when my last menstrual cycle was. I giggled and responded that it had been years. Her look of concern frightened me. The pediatrician, however, told me not to worry and prescribed me birth control pills to “bring on a period.” I started the birth control pill, got a monthly bleed and was happy to continue my restrictive ways. I wish so badly now that the pediatrician had done more investigative work and told me the importance of hormonal health.

Over the next years, I met my husband, went through college and dental school, got married and started a new job. All this time my nutrition and lifestyle did not change. I ate about 1,200 calories per day, exercised vigorously 7 days per week, and was under chronic stress from school and work. I often thought about wanting children one day, but I always seemed “too busy” to worry about it at that time.

When my husband and I decided we wanted children, I went off the birth control pill. To no surprise, my period did not return. After 8 months of no cycle, I went to the OBGYN and had blood work performed. At the age of 27, my hormones were that of a post-menopausal woman. I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, which means essentially my brain stopped communicating with my reproductive organs due to the stress signals it was receiving. My doctor informed me that my lifestyle had caused this and that I would never conceive on my own. He told me that, when we were prepared, he would refer us to a specialist for assisted reproductive technologies. I did not want this at all and was willing to change whatever I needed to make it happen naturally.   

I knew in my heart it was time to make some drastic changes. I did a great deal of research on Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and made lifestyle changes. I quit intense exercising, ate more calories, and stressed less. After 15 years of no period, my cycle returned, albeit irregular. At this point we knew it was game time for trying to conceive.

During my research on hypothalamic amenorrhea I came across several holistic health blogs, podcasts and books. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I do not know! Of course this led me down the path of more research as I learned exactly how critical our nutrition is to our own health and that of our offspring. I realized, my body was craving specific nutrients and minerals to build the healthiest DNA possible. I also learned that my husband’s health was just as important as mine, as he will be providing half of the DNA for our children.

In mid- 2016 one of the holistic health podcasts that I listened to, The Colorful Eats Podcast, did an episode on preconception health. I listened to that episode three times in a row and hung on every word. I was fascinated by the fact that my husband and I have the power to influence the health of our future children before I was pregnant! Changing what we eat and how we live our lives now could protect our future children from illnesses and give them a healthier foundation. This sounded like a no-brainer to me. Now that we knew it was possible to impact the health of our future children, we had to take every advantage of this opportunity.

Justine from Alo Wellness had mentioned on The Colorful Eats Podcast that she was passionate about preconception health. My husband and I discussed reaching out for guidance on our journey and decided to set up a pre-conception game plan with Alo Wellness.  We drastically changed many aspects of our lives from nutrition to sleeping to cleaning products.  My husband jokes we added the “B’s” to our lives… butter, bone broth and Beautycounter!

One of the simplest, most impactful changes we made was changing the products we use in our home. After learning how quickly the toxic chemicals from everyday products can enter our bloodstreams and influence our hormonal health, we were adamant on only using non-toxic products. I began reading about products on the Environmental Working Group’s website (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/). We purchased safer, non-toxic cleaning and personal care products. I did a beauty product dump and purchased all new products from Beautycounter.

We also made many diet changes. We focused on getting a balance of carbs, fat and protein with each meal as well as a variety of vegetables each day. We began taking whole-food based supplements rather than the synthetic supplements we had been taking for years. We added bone broth to our daily diet to promote gut health, which has been shown to be extremely important in overall health. Finally, we cut back on our caffeine consumption to support our adrenal health.  Amazingly, caffeine is no longer a daily necessity for either of us, but rather an occasional, special treat.

We implemented these practices religiously for 6 months before we went to see a specialist about our troubles conceiving. It turns out, while they were running tests, they told me I was already 6 weeks pregnant! I am currently 18 weeks pregnant and could not be happier. All babies are miracles, but I truly believe this baby is a miracle and a testament to the power of lifestyle changes that we can make prior to conception!" Erin, North Carolina

Wow, what an incredible testimony of healing and the power that real food and healthy living can have within your life and on your fertility journey. It's surely not always easiest route, but it's always worth it!

If Erin's testimony touches your heart and you'd like to create your own path to better fertility, naturally, I'd love to help support you! I support couples who are preparing for conception, are struggling with infertility issues or are looking to begin assisted conception and would like to get their bodies as healthy as possible. Learn more on our Preconception + Fertility page.

Have questions? Not sure if it's right for you? I'd love to schedule a time to talk and see if Nutritional Therapy can support you! Email justine@alowellness.com 

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Why Making Preconception Health a Lifestyle, Not a Fad, Does More Good Than You Can Imagine

I read a random blog post recently that really got me thinking. The woman writing the post, obviously some sort of health practitioner or Nutritionist, was talking about how we as women, are all about taking care of others. Even within the “fertility fad”, she wrote, we’re focusing on doing something for someone else (um, that healthy baby we’re dreaming of?) and that we should work on making healthier diet and lifestyle improvements for ourselves so that one day, when we do conceive, we’ll be nice and ready to make a healthy baby.

Because we’re focused on nurturing ourselves. Not for anyone else’s benefit.

That was wordy, sorry. I definitely don’t disagree with her. In fact, I really liked her viewpoint, but then I thought, "Is it really different than my own?"

What am I really hoping for when couple’s come to me for fertility support or when a woman reads a blog post of mine about preparing for conception? What is my ultimate goal with the education and support I provide?

I can say for certain that it sure as heck isn’t a “fad”. It’s not about something you do today and drop like a bad habit the moment you get pregnant.

It’s about so much more than that.

Yes, it’s about eating better and focusing on nourishing foods and cleaning up your environment and lowering your stress levels, but a big piece of it is about YOU learning to take care of yourself better. Learning to make your beautiful self a bit more of a priority, getting healthier so that you can show up better in life, but also better as a mother and caretaker. Not just today, but when you get pregnant, into mommyhood and beyond. The same goes for the hubs.

This is by no means selfish. Mommying is hard work.

I believe it’s one of the most important jobs on this earth and an absolute gift, but it’s taxing and overwhelming at times and if you’re not working daily to take care of YOU in some way or another, it can be an even greater challenge to show up as the best version of yourself.

Maybe with less mood swings, better energy and patience and my very favorite, more joy.

Preparing your body for conception is about so much more than just what you put in your mouth or the cleaning products you buy.

In the intentional choices you and your husband make each day to live healthier, you’re working toward creating a stronger connection between that lucky sperm and ready egg, a welcoming womb that nourishes and protects and a home environment that nurtures baby in every way possible.

These daily choices create a new way of living. A way that’s more mindful and intentional and understands that showing up this way can create a better future. For you. And baby.

Baby grows in this environment and learns her own version of healthy that she’ll take into the rest of her life. Enjoying more nourishing foods, learning to balance rest and hustle, giving herself grace daily, even choosing products that better support her health.

Because that’s what you did and that’s what she saw. 

Daily choices making waves.

As she marries and hopes to create her own family, she’s already in a better place because of the preparation you put in before her life ever began and the positive choices you made thereafter. She’s well nourished and strong and is better off because of you.

Because you had a little forethought to take preparing for her conception seriously. Learning to take care of your beautiful body and better nourish it’s God-given ability to create life within.

I pray for a movement of change, that couples are inspired to take charge of their fertility and create a less stress-filled conception story.

For their own well-being and that of their future little ones.

The journey won’t always be easy and it surely won't be perfect, but every choice we make has the ability to create positive change, healthier bodies and a stronger next generation.

It all comes full circle when you really think about it. What a beautiful thing.

For more information on how to get your body ready for baby makin' and create a stress-less conception story, join our brand-new email list for posts on healthy eating + living, upcoming events and programs and more!

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5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (before you're even ready to start trying)

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (even before you're ready to start trying) | alowellness.com  

This is a new conversation, I get that. Most individuals think of preconception prep as...well...practicing your love making techniques (gentlemen, I’m mostly talking to you!), but there is so much more to it than that!

We are learning more and more about the importance of getting your body ready for conception....even before the big day. If you think about it, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant until many of baby’s vital organs have already begun to form. That’s enough evidence for me to get my butt in gear and ready for baby makin’...even before “game day”.

My husband, Matt, and I started preparing a few years before the whole “baby” conversation even came up and I am so grateful to have had the "know-how" to do so (I even wrote a little blog post about it in November of 2011, that’s 4 whole years before our baby girl was born, and again in 2013 here! ). 

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (even before you're ready to start trying) | alowellness.com

Now, since Elle is over a year and there is a possibility that we may bring another little human into the world within the next year or two, we are beginning to buckle down and focus in on our diet, detoxification, stress, etc.

Yes, a year or two before we're even ready to start trying. 

Are you catching on now friend?

You see, it’s really never too early to start preparing your body for conception. The more time you have to get the nourishing food in, remove the junk from your diet and cleanse that precious body of nasty toxins that may be lurking around your system and have the potential to cause you and baby harm, the better!

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (even before you're ready to start trying) | alowellness.com

Personally, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Sure, our amazing bodies have the ability to make lemonade out of lemons, but why make our bodies do that and why do that to our little ones?

Preconception is actually one of the most important times for nourishing your body (and hubbies, I’m talking to you too!). Research has shown that good nutrition prior to pregnancy reduces birth defects and has the ability to reduce the risk of chronic disease in our children later in life.

Yes, we can help set the stage for good health in our children, even into their adult years.

Sign me up.

To me, that is the epitome of preventative health. Seriously, I have the ability to positively affect the health of my future children!? I can actually help them to live healthier lives?

I just think that is so powerful.

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (even before you're ready to start trying) | alowellness.com

So today I wanted to share a few ways you can begin to get that beautiful body ready for baby making, even if you’re years away from “game day”. In fact, this is optimal! I recommend 6 months to one year of preconception prep (nourishing diet, stress management, detoxification, etc.) prior to conception.

Yes, I understand this seems crazy to most of you, but my passion is to inspire a change in the way we think about making our children. Let’s change the way we approach conception and actually create some forethought into this incredible time.

Not only will this potentially change the course of our children’s long term health, but can help support and optimize your fertility by nourishing healthy hormones, cleaning up the toxins in your environment and creating emotional wellbeing. 

 

1. Nourish up.

Start taking your diet seriously. Every meal you eat has the ability to nourish conception or work against it and there is no diet changes that are too small in my book. Every little bit counts and that can be encouraging for those couples who are new to healthy eating and living.

My greatest advice here is to eat real food. That’s it, it’s pretty simple. Organic meat, poultry and fish, vegetables and fruit, healthy fats like grass-fed butter and cream, coconut and olive oils, nuts and seeds and even honey and maple syrup fall into the “real food” category.

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (before you're even ready to start trying) + a freebie

Now, if it’s got a nutrition label on it, read the ingredients and make sure every ingredient is a real food itself. For example, it’d be best to make your own spaghetti sauce at home, but if you go for a store-bought option, make sure it’s the same ingredients you’d use at home - tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, etc. I can read those and I know how they look in nature so most likely my body knows how to use them as nourishment.

It’s super important to avoid processed foods that offer no nutritional value and have the ability to burden your body with toxic chemicals, processed sugar and GMO’s that may impact fertility. These “foods” include chips, crackers, boxed or canned items, fast food, processed sugary treats, soda...you get where I’m going with this and I’m pretty sure you understand what processed for is.

It’s also important to avoid alcohol, cigarette smoke, drugs and unnecessary medications. This goes for both men and women. I often see couples trying to conceive when the hubby is still enjoying lots of cocktails, beer or wine. Alcohol can lower testosterone levels in men and negatively affect sperm quality and quantity. That’s no bueno for making babies. Try drinking kombucha instead to get that fermented taste without all the negative effects. Plus, kombucha provides lots of beneficial bacteria, B-vitamins and enzymes.

 

2.  Work to optimize digestion

I often tell clients, “You can be eating the cleanest, most nourishing diet in the world, but if you’re digestion isn’t working properly, then you’re essentially wasting your money.”

Dramatic? Yes, but mostly true.

Poor digestion can cause awful daily symptoms and often times means that we’re not actually absorbing and able to use all of the awesome, baby-making, hormone creating nutrients (specifically protein and fats) we’re working so hard to eat day to day.

Many of my clients suffer from digestive problems due to medication and antibiotic use, processed foods, gluten and stress, to name a few.  So, if these are the potential causes, what can we do to optimize digestion?

Avoid use of harmful and unnecessary medications (the worst thing you can do for gut health is take antibiotics, but if it’s a must, probiotic therapy is crucial after your course of antibiotics), drop the processed junk food and gluten and work to decrease your stress (see details below). No brainers right!?

I recommend using apple cider vinegar daily, a good quality probiotic and in many cases digestive enzymes. You can also begin slowly introducing fermented foods (start with ½ to 1 teaspoon and work up to a few tablespoons over a week or two) into your diet like raw sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha, whole milk yogurt, kefir and beet kvass. All of these fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria, enzymes and lots of wonderful nutrients to support gut health and even repair.

 

3. Put your phone down.

Though you’re not hearing about this much in the news, cell phone and wifi radiation emissions have the potential to negatively impact DNA replication, the way cells grow, brain cell function and even lower sperm count and quality. I don’t think it’s any surprise that the average male sperm count is declining rapidly as most men carry phones in their pockets or on their belts all day, every day. This type of exposure isn’t good for women either, in fact, it may be worse since men are able to turn over sperm every 90-days, but women carry the same eggs all their lives.

Belly Armor, which sells products that protect men, women and children from radiation exposure writes, “A 2008 study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found men who use cell phones for 4 hours a day had 25% lower sperm count than those that don’t use cell phones. Of the sperm they did have, 80% were not properly formed and motility (a measure of swimming ability and a crucial factor in conception) was down by a third.”

That’s pretty alarming to me. So, what can you do about this?

  1. Keep your phone away from your body whenever possible and invest in a Pong cell phone case which helps to divert radiation away from your body.
  2. Put your phone on airplane mode at night and never sleep with your phone near your head or body.
  3. Do not sit close to your wifi and turn it off whenever you’re not using it. My husband thought I was nuts when I started turning off our wifi at night, but it has become part of our nightly routine and I know is doing our health justice. 

 

4. Address the stress

Stress seems to be a major issue in so many people’s lives these days and we’re finding it harder and harder to escape the busyness of our daily modern lives. This can cause major hormonal and blood sugar problems and as it pertains to fertility, can be a major burden.

Picture yourself 5,000 years ago, sitting with your tribe around a fire, minding your own business. Suddenly, a pack of wolves appears and it’s time to fight for your life or get the heck out of there if you want to survive. During this “fight or flight” response, your body is focusing on surviving and not much else- blood is being shunted away from your stomach and sex organs and into large muscle groups, your heart and lungs. This response helps us to survive a threat on our life.

Well, skip forward a few thousand years to your modern world. The traffic, financial problems, the marital quarrels, trauma in childhood or adulthood, etc. can all engage this “fight or flight” response, even if we’re not in any real danger. And while we’re in this mode, our bodies are not concerned with properly digesting our food or making babies, remember, you’re just trying to survive.

Do you see how chronic stress has the potential to lower your body’s ability to conceive? If you are dealing with stress, especially when it’s left you fatigued, without a sex drive, depressed, and feeling like you can hardly meet the demands of daily life, then most likely you’re body isn’t optimally fertile.

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (before you're even ready to start trying) + a freebie

The good thing is that there are lots of things you can do to decrease the stressors in your life and create more mindfulness surrounding this area. Focus on getting plenty of rest, do something each day that you actually enjoy doing, laugh more, do light to moderate exercise and avoid over exercising and work to locate the “energy robbers” in your life. Getting plenty of healthy fats and protein at meals and keeping blood sugar stable is another way to decrease the overall stress in your day to day life.

 

5. Feel the love

Creating more love and trust between husband and wife is so important for conception. If you’ve struggled with trust or past traumas that make your relationship more challenging, work with a therapist or psychologist to address these issues and create closeness and love in your marriage.

If you’re relationship is struggling (and for some this may be especially because of the stress of infertility), work together to address the root issues by reading a marriage book or devotional together, meet with a marriage and family therapist, schedule in more fun activities to do together, put down the distraction of social media and TV and focus on getting to know one another better. Practice giving each other grace day to day as this can make a world of difference in your marriage.

5 Ways to Prep for Baby Makin' (before you're even ready to start trying) + a freebie

I hope this guide helped you understand the importance of beginning a preconception diet and healthy living routine prior to “trying” to get pregnant and gave you some actionable items to get your body healthier and ready for “game day”.

I pray that your conception story is rich in love and excitement and is a walk in the park.

And I’ve got some exciting news for you! I’ve got a preconception prep mini-course in the works! If you and your other half are interested in getting in on the very first group, sign up below! I will keep you posted on the mini-course start date, content and how you can optimize fertility to take the stress and worry out of your conception story.