Are Birth Control Side Effects Ruining Your Life?

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I have yet to meet a single woman who has taken birth control without experiencing any side effects at all. When I meet women who say they don’t experience any ill effects, I usually ask some specific questions. Things like:

  • How is your digestive health?
  • Do you experience restful nights of sleep on a consistent basis?
  • How is your sex drive?
  • Do you have regular periods? Or do you even have a period?
  • Do you have acne?

I can guarantee these ladies have health issues and likely have no idea they are being caused by their birth control “frienemy”. Now I know that there are women who would swear by their birth control and that’s totally cool (everyone has to make their own decision), but the reality is that not all women are created equal. While the pill might be a good experience for some, it can be equally awful for others because we all have different kinds of hormone receptors. Women with less sensitive hormone receptors tend to have a lot more birth control side effects.

What I do know for sure is that birth control does not allow our beautiful bodies to function optimally. In fact, one study found that 32 percent of 1,657 women who started taking oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) discontinued them within six months; 46 percent of the discontinuations were due to side effects. Yes, almost half! 

You should be concerned if you have experienced any of the following birth control side effects:

My Aching Head!

Some women experience migraines when they first begin taking birth control pills. Basically a drop in estrogen levels can trigger migraines, and if you’re on a low dose pill, your estrogen will likely be lower than what your body is accustomed to making naturally. What is frightening to me is that if you are experiencing migraines while on the pill the majority of doctors will start adjusting your hormone dosages to figure out a way to balance out your hormones chemically, which can only cause additional health issues down the road. If the source of the migraines is the synthetic hormones in birth control, then the only solution is to eliminate the culprit and figure out a healthier alternative to prevent pregnancy.

Spotting is for the Gym Ladies

As if bleeding during “that week” isn’t bad enough for many women, some forms of birth control actually cause spotting or breakthrough bleeding throughout the month. This is usually caused by an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. Progestin-only methods like the Mirena IUD, Depo-Provera shot, and Nexplanon implant are the most common offenders. Additionally, progestin-only pills need to be taken at the exact same time every day and even a little deviation can cause irregular bleeding.

Sore Breasts are for the Birds

Since most birth control methods are created to make your body feel “as if” it were pregnant it shouldn’t be a big surprise that your body will feel pregnancy-like symptoms. Anything from mild breast tenderness to don’t-touch-me sore boobs may occur as a side effect of birth control.

What’s up with all these stomach problems!

Do you know that the birth control pill actually messes with your gut bacteria? Yup, many women become estrogen dominant while taking hormonal birth control which can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. This overgrowth can cause constipation, diarrhea, gas/bloating – all of which are commonly diagnosed as IBS. I was plagued with horrible digestive problems for the four years I was on the pill and it took me ages to reverse the damage. And I see women on a daily basis whose gut problems all began while on the pill.

Ack, yeast infections too?

I was also plagued by chronic yeast infections when I was on the pill because of the imbalance in my gut bacteria. Unfortunately for women, that bacteria can easily travel from the anus to the vagina, especially if you’re wiping in the wrong direction. No fun! Quitting the BC usually puts an end to these bacterial infections and just FYI, these kinds of infections can mess with your ability to get pregnant.

Nutritional deficiencies…

What is not usually discussed is the fact that in order for the liver to metabolize birth control pills, it requires extra amounts of B-complex vitamins (especially B2, B6 and B12), vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. If you’re taking birth control for years on end, as are most women, you’re creating serious deficiencies of these crucial nutrients. Most women don’t realize this until after they have come off they pill and they’re contending with bouts of cystic acne, mood disorders, weight gain, sporadic periods and infertility.

Why Cant I Fit Into These Jeans?

Ever had a PMS-fueled late night munchies session? Yeah, I know, who hasn’t right? While studies show that hormonal birth control does not cause weight gain, I’ve seen enough women in my practice who say otherwise! I don’t think most women take the pill and suddenly put on 15lbs, but it definitely seems to have a more indirect effect on appetite and weight gain.

Women who use a combination of estrogen and progesterone show lower levels of ghrelin (“I’m hungry” hormone) and higher levels of leptin (“I’m full” hormone) than do women who use estrogen-only birth control. Which means that combination pills might mean less weight gain than estrogen-only pills or progestin-only birth control options. 

It appears the biggest offender of birth control-induced weight gain is the Depo-Provera shot with some women gaining 11 pounds and going up 2 dress sizes!

No Boom Boom in the Bedroom

In most cases you went on the pill to not get pregnant. Well, there’s no better way to not get pregnant than to not have sex. It is widely known that birth control pills can lower your libido but it can also have other unpleasant effects. First, birth control pills thicken and dry up your cervical fluid creating the dreaded “dry down there” issue. This eventually leads to painful sex…And we all know if it’s painful we ain’t gonna’ do it.

Testosterone is almost entirely responsible for our sex drive and vaginal lubrication. And guess what? The pill causes the liver to increase production of a protein called Sex-Hormone Binding Globulin which binds to testosterone and makes it inactive. This is a no-no for your libido my friends. The only solution is to get OFF the pill. And post haste for you and your relationship’s sake. You can read more about this issue here and sign up for my natural birth control webinar here.

My Mood is Swinging 

Nothing drives me more insane than hearing someone suggest that it must be “her time of the month.” Uggggh! I know from my own personal experience – and from my experience with countless clients – that depression and anxiety can be balanced out naturally with diet and lifestyle changes in conjunction with coming off hormonal birth control. This is because estrogen is intricately linked with serotonin (that feel-good brain transmitter) so when estrogen drops (on low dose BC pills for instance) it takes down serotonin and your mood with it.

By using natural birth control methods you will not only ease the dreaded mood swings but you can communicate with your body in a new and exciting way. And I guarantee you will be able to say that you’ve never been happier or more even-keeled.

Adult Acne, Are You Kidding Me?

Aren’t breakouts supposed to be for teenagers? It turns out that even as an adult the hormonal ups and downs over the course of your cycle can cause unwanted zits. Many women go on birth control to reduce acne but the only reason their acne goes away is because the BC has a testosterone-lowering effect. Once they come off, their testosterone and other androgenic hormones begin to rise again and the acne comes back. The best way to help over-production of androgens is through food and supplements. I highly recommend making food and lifestyle changes about 4-8 weeks before going off the pill the ease the transition. Remember, your body can go into a frenzy trying to balance things out so a little patience goes a long way.

My Period Has Gone Missing! (Amenorrhea)

Taking your birth control pills correctly, every day, at the exact time, doesn’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly. In fact, some women on birth control will not get their period at all.

While you might rejoice at the thought of experiencing no period, it is no laughing matter. Amenorrhea is caused by too little estrogen and progesterone and if a doctor just prescribes a different birth control, it will just mask the issue instead of fixing it. The only way to address birth control-related amenorrhea is to come off the birth control and begin beefing up your diet and supplement regimen.

If you want to learn more about how the pill and other hormonal birth control methods damage your amazing body, read this post. Or tune in to my radio show The Period Party for even more information on your hormones and how you can take back control of your health and your menstrual cycle. You can also join my Know Your Flow Facebook group community to get support from other women who are on this journey too!

If you want more more more, I’ve got two options for you! :-)

You can sign up for my next Menstruation Mavens Inner Circle Call where we’re covering natural birth control and how to start using it. It’s $10 and you can participate live or watch the recording at a later date. 

Want to fire up your hormones after being on birth control? Then grab my Fix Your Period Kickstart 28 Day Program and you’ll not only learn why your hormones are hurting but how to actually wake them up so you can feel great again. It’s like a search and rescue team for your period!

Sources:

Mayo Clinic “Headache and Hormones: What’s the Connection?” Nov 13 2012 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-daily-headaches/in-depth/headaches/art-20046729

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0515/p2073.html#afp20020515p2073-b4

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0515/p2073.html

https://www.womentowomen.com/healthy-weight/hunger-hormones/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/10/27/birth-control-part-two.aspx

 

 

COMMENT

Do I really have to stop eating gluten?

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“Gluten is not bad for you, bad gluten is bad for you…”

…says Dr. Tom O’Bryan, the boss of everything gluten. I listened to an interview he did a couple months ago and was blown away by what he said about gluten and I think you will be too. Here’s the wisdom…

There is gluten in a number of other foods besides wheat - you’ll find it in rice, corn and even quinoa. The difference is, for the most part, humans can digest these gluten proteins. Some people are sensitive to corn but that’s mostly because of GMO’s.

Gluten in wheat, rye and barley are a separate family of glutens. It’s this family of gluten proteins that no human can fully digest. 

Yup, Dr. O’Bryan is saying that humans cannot properly digest gluten from wheat which means that gluten isn’t just a problem for celiacs or people with a gluten sensitivity – it’s a problem for everyone. Whoa.

We’re gonna go straight into autoimmune conditions…

The pioneering researcher and pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Alessio Fasano who started publishing ground-breaking papers in 2003 on gluten intolerance, states this:

There is a triad of things that happens in the development of most autoimmune diseases. Three things have to occur:

  1. A person has a genetic vulnerability to that particular condition
  2. There is an environmental trigger that sets it off, kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  3. Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut).

Gluten causes this intestinal permeability in humans. Every time we eat gluten, it creates microscopic tears in our gut lining. Then our intestines heal and then we eat it again and around we go. Eventually these tears stop healing and this leads to pathogenic intestinal permeability.  This is a gateway that makes people vulnerable to developing an auto-immune condition which can eventually become an auto-immune disease.

Let’s break down those steps:

I want you to think of your gut lining as a dam. Over time the dam is exposed to the elements and must be monitored and repaired to prevent holes and leaks. Just one hole can allow massive amounts of water to escape which could ruin the whole purpose of the dam. Your gut is the same, just one tiny hole can cause big problems.

If you are exposed to unhealthy food, allergenic foods (gluten), environmental toxins, genetically modified foods and stress over a long period of time, this very thin lining actually starts to deteriorate. And when this lining breaks down, it will leak food and toxins into your blood stream.

When incompletely digested food and waste “leak” through the gut lining into the bloodstream, your immune system begins to attack these foreign substances. This then triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, acid reflux, even more food sensitivities and a general inflammatory response. This autoimmune reaction and inflammatory response can lead to joint pain, skin rashes or other skin conditions, chronic adult acne, pelvic pain, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune diseases.

The three most prevalent auto-immune conditions caused by gluten-sensitivity are:

  1. Celiac Disease
  2. Type 1 diabetes (that’s right!)
  3. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (49% of Hashimoto’s patients have elevated antibodies to gluten. It’s not everyone but it’s half!)

The reason gluten causes intestinal permeability is two-fold. It contains a sneaky little molecule called zonulin which has been shown in studies to increase gut permeability. Additionally, gluten-containing grains contain a protein called gliadin, which has been shown to increase zonulin production and thus directly contribute to leaky gut.

But wait there’s more…

According to Chris Kresser, several studies show a strong link between autoimmune thyroid disease (both Hashimoto’s and Graves’) and gluten intolerance. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) The link is so well established that researchers suggest all people with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa.

Here’s the connection between leaky gut and your thyroid function:

It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue because it looks the same as gliadin. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

Even worse, the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it. This explains why it is critical to eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you have AITD. There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid.

I’ve written about thyroid function and how it is closely linked to fertility here and here.

Luckily, current research indicates that you can arrest autoimmune disease by healing your gut. That’s why it’s so critically important to evaluate the intestines when you’re considering, “Do I have a thyroid problem or not?” because you don’t necessarily treat where the symptoms are (thyroid), you treat what’s triggering the symptoms (gut problems). <<I heart this man so much!>>

Dr. O’Bryan uses a good analogy here – he says, if you pull at a chain, it always breaks at the weakest link. Wherever your genetic weak link is, your brain, your liver, your thyroid etc, then this is usually where the dis-ease will typically manifest. For MANY of us, our genetic weak link is our thyroid and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is usually the end result. No bueno.

Please keep in mind that you could have weak thyroid function and your sister could have weak muscle function which could manifest as fibromyalgia, so it all depends on where the weakest link is in each person.

So, if I quit gluten can I ever have it again?

According to Dr. O’Bryan and the many gluten experts he’s consulted with, the answer is no, you can’t have even a little gluten. If someone has quit gluten and their symptoms are greatly reduced or gone, and they choose to have gluten again every day for a month, 75% of celiacs will have elevated antibodies again. The other 25% don’t immediately have elevated antibodies but eventually they go back up for everyone.

Based on the research, this is one food that you can’t just have a little of. The danger is not just stomach issues or brain fog, it’s that weak genetic link that I mentioned above. If you had elevated antibodies for your thyroid or your brain, they always come back and your immune system begins attacking your thyroid, your brain or whatever part of your body that is susceptible.

How much exposure does it take to turn back on a memory B cell (aka the gluten cell)?

1/1000th the initial dose of gluten. Basically, if someone serves you a salad with croutons on it, and you pick the croutons off there are still crumbs you can’t see and these invisible crumbs can reactivate gluten response in your body!

What foods and products have gluten?

This is a tough one! Especially for those on medication because many medications have gluten in them and their labels don’t indicate that. Most labels will say “starch” as a filler. Unfortunately, one of the starch sources is wheat. Even more unfortunate is the fact that most doctors and pharmacists are unaware of this so a lot of people have to do their own research.

Even more confusing is the fact that thyroid medications tend to have gluten in them! Jeez.

Luckily there are websites like: glutenfreedrugs.com and celiac.com which provide lists of medications and vitamins that do and don’t contain gluten. If your vitamins don’t say “gluten free” on the label, then you can assume there is gluten in them or ask and find out.

I eat bread in Europe and I feel fine!

Many people say that they go to Europe and eat bread but don’t experience the same symptoms they experience when in America.

Dr. O’Bryan says this, we must differentiate between how we feel when we eat something and what type of an autoimmune response we may have triggered. The breads in Europe have a lower FODMAP level – a lower level of the fermentable carbohydrates – than American breads have. This is because of the strains of wheat that are grown in the US. While they are not genetically modified (it is actually not legal to genetically modify wheat), they have been hybridized. They’ve gone through hundreds of hybridizations over the years to get the best strains of wheat that will produce more tonnage per acre and less vulnerability to pests. As a result, American wheat is very different to European wheat in terms of the carbohydrates and the gluten content.

Anyways, what he’s saying is that your immediate reaction to European wheat is different but the underlying immune reaction is the same. Those memory B cells (gluten cells) don’t forget. The symptoms in the gut have very little to do with whether or not you trigger the autoimmune response in your body. You may not get bloated but you are still doing damage. Boo.

Even more motivation for you…

Dr. O’Bryan did a study in his office years ago on 316 patients. He tested them for antibodies to gluten and antibodies to their brains. Of the 316 patients that came back positive to gluten antibodies (yup, all of them) 26% of them also had elevated antibodies to their cerebellum. This is the part of the brain that controls your balance and how you walk. Know any 70 year olds who can walk up stairs easily? This is because their cerebellums have likely been under attack for many years.

Is it just gluten or all grains?

There is a group of gluten sensitive people who do much better when they go completely grain free. In Dr. O’Bryan’s practice, 20-35% of people don’t get better on just a gluten free diet, they need to remove all grains. He has people go wheat, rye and barley free for about 2-3 weeks and if they aren’t doing better then he will have them remove gluten-free oats. If in 2-3 weeks they’re still not doing better he’ll have them remove the oats. If there is no marked improvement after another 2-3 weeks he’ll have them remove all grains to see how they feel.

Proper testing to identify a gluten sensitivity…

Every lab in the US looks at something called Alpha Gliadin to determine a gluten sensitivity. If it comes back positive, you have a problem (celiac) but if it comes back negative you still have a problem because there are other parts of gluten that aren’t being tested. Additionally, these tests only show a positive if you’re full-on celiac because they aren’t mean’t to test for just sensitivity.

Another quick bombshell from Dr. O’Bryan: 14-28% of schizophrenia sufferers have gluten sensitivity and when gluten is taken out of their diet they do better. People come off their meds and are able to recover and function normally again. This is published in medical journals by the way.

Interestingly, the most common part of gluten that schizophrenics are sensitive to is different to the Alpha Gliadin, so if a doctor doesn’t check for it they won’t find it.

Cyrex Laboratories is the only lab in the US that tests for the top ten gluten peptides that can affect humans and this is the lab that Dr. O’Bryan recommends. Also, many people who have autoimmune disorders don’t have noticeable gut issues so it’s hard to tell if they’re being affected by gluten or other allergens – that’s why Cyrex offers a test that looks for antibodies that are destroying intestinal integrity.

Supplement recommended by Dr. O’Bryan:

Glutenza – this is a new product that helps to digest gluten if someone happens to eat it accidentally. It breaks down 99% of gluten within 30 minutes which means there won’t be chunks of undigested gluten protein going into the small intestine. He highly recommends it!

Here are my final thoughts on this gluten stuff…

A lot of people say to me “this gluten thing seems ridiculous” and “why has gluten become such a big deal?” My response is this: Every day our bodies are under constant assault. We are exposed to more stress, chemicals and processed foods in one week than our grandparents were exposed to in one year and I believe that our bodies simply can’t keep up. This has led to an epidemic of gut and digestive disorders that occur at younger and younger ages. While humans have been eating wheat for a very long time, it differed greatly to the wheat of today. Ultimately I think the combination of our messed up guts, stress, poor food choices, chemicals (in drugs and food) and hybridized wheat are to blame for the vast increase in gluten intolerance and celiac cases.

Hope this article was informative and helpful for you! :-)

Sources: 

1. http://www.eje-online.org/content/130/2/137.abstract

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15244201

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9872614

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12919165

5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11768252

COMMENT

Finding Your Creative Path

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This post was written by Breana Gilcher, one of my star apprentices. She talks about discovering her path and finding her feminine. 

A beautiful thing happens when you begin to explore and release your feminine self – because our feminine self is one of many expressions of our authentic self. And the more we are exploring and releasing our authentic selves, the more freely our creative path can open up and flow through our lives. It’s a very deep and powerful thing!

My journey towards my fullest feminine expression began last winter when I realized that chemically manipulating my hormones had left me feeling fat, moody, and dull.

I wanted the answer, the entire answer, not just a band-aid for my symptoms. And after lots of hopeless digging thinking I was doomed to experience painful periods and sexual frustration, this whole world of holistic women’s health opened up in front of me. It was so overwhelming at first, but I was reading about these women who were finding themselves in their womanhood and healing their bodies, and I was hooked. I wanted what they had.

It was this discovery, followed by my apprenticeship with Nicole Jardim, that was a catalyst for the creative and spiritual floodgates to burst open in my life. I believe this is because the moment I said “yes” to the desire, that inner pull towards learning everything I could about healthy hormones and wellness, I unlocked an element of my feminine self that then flooded my life with creative expression.

Shortly after taking the risk and signing up for Nicole’s program, I landed an amazing music therapy internship in hospice care, I began playing music again after recovering from an injury that had totally wrecked my musical life, I found the spiritual ‘home’ I had been longing for for years in Orthodoxy, and now I’ve started a business as a Women’s Wellness Coach! Holy hormones!

Yeah, that’s a head-ful. But it begins with this beautiful, intimate work that we do that starts with ourselves on a very real, very base level. Restoring harmony in our menstrual cycles, re-balancing our hormones, and healing our relationship with food and our bodies. This can seem really basic: eat more greens and take supplement x, y, and z. But it’s more than that.

It’s restoring the expression of our natural womanhood, which then takes us closer to who we each really are. And the closer we get to who we are at a human, soul level, the more we remove the stuff that has blocked our creative and spiritual path from opening up before us.

This is intense stuff, but this is what draws me to this work so strongly, which makes me so passionate about it. And this is the crux of my message as a Women’s Wellness Coach. I want you to have happy ovaries AND experience being fully connected to the Divine.

I want you to have pleasant periods AND find that dream job. I want you to clear your brain fog SO THAT you can clear any barriers to your most powerful, fully-expressed and authentic woman! Now that’s worth raising a pink martini to! Together let’s start this sexy, beautiful, and world-shaking journey!

 

b.gilcherI’m Breana Gilcher and I’m a Women’s Wellness Coach. My work moves with the understanding that every woman is a creative channel, has an inner artist, and that every woman is a divine being who is innately spiritual. I am trained in women’s holistic hormone health, level 1 Reiki, counseling, behavior modification, music therapy, and classical orchestral oboe playing and I am passionate about healing. My own journey through healing began when I listened to the blaring signals from my body and threw away my birth control, took charge of my feminine health, and made a commitment to honoring and developing myself as a woman. Now it’s my mission to empower women with knowledge about their bodies and become their most authentic, fully-expressed self, and discover their passion and calling in this life! You can find Breana on her website http://www.breanagilcher.com/ or on her Facebook page

COMMENT

The connection between your dental health + your hormones

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Dentist: You’ve got elevated levels of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Me: Really? How is that possible? I’ve never had dental problems in my life, not even a cavity.

Dentist: Well, you do now.

Oh dear.

This conversation happened last year October after many months of dealing with what I thought were minor dental issues. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a year-long journey into the land of holistic dentistry and the discovery that dental health is connected to hormonal health. In fact, women are more susceptible to oral health problems than men because of our unique hormonal makeup.

Important to know:

According to this study and this study, the increase in progesterone in the second half of your menstrual cycle can lead to swollen, bleeding gums and canker sores. This also applies to women who are pregnant (high levels of progesterone) and women who take certain progesterone-only birth control pills. Additionally, some women experience these symptoms at ovulation time as well due to increases in estrogen. This is why it is so important for women to be on top of their dental care.

Me!

 

 

 

 

<— This picture is just to let you know that the story ends well! 

 

 

 

 

As I said, the first thing the dentist found was this elevated level of harmful bacteria in my mouth. This indicated to him that my immune system wasn’t fighting off this bacteria and they were growing out of control. (Gross, I know). This was causing severe gum disease – my gums were receding at an alarming rate along with jaw bone loss – apparently when your gums recede your bone goes with it. Not cool…once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. So if you’ve got great gums now, make sure you take fabulous care of them girlfriend.

I also had pretty deep pockets – basically my gums were pulling away from my teeth – a wonderful breeding ground for more bacteria. And these pockets would only continue to get worse if I didn’t do something about it asap. “Something” meaning a very expensive series of treatments.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dentist also noticed a cavity – eeek, up until that point I’d been rather proud of my cavity-free mouth and now with all these dental issues I was just like everybody else! Haha, I kid.

The treatment involved numerous visits to the dentist where they would perform super deep cleaning, ozone therapy and laser treatments on my gums. Pretty rad that we can use ozone and lasers to fix gum problems these days huh? Of course it also involved lots of homework for me!

Here’s the exact dental protocol that I used to address my bacterial problem and heal my cavity – a super cool side effect of taking extra good care of my teeth! :-)

1. I bought one of those fancy electric toothbrushes.

The Phillips Sonicare Platinum toothbrush (and the ProResults Compact Brushes) were somewhat life changing. I know, who says stuff like that right? Someone who is now deeply in touch with her tooth health. One of the symptoms of harmful bacteria residing in your mouth is plaque and I couldn’t keep the stuff at bay before this toothbrush came into my life. I’d have plaque buildup within a day or two of visiting a dentist – yeah, bad!

2. I also bought a dental irrigator aka a water flosser.

Pre-dental irrigator I flossed (with dental floss) daily but my holistic dentist doesn’t believe in flossing unless something is really stuck in your teeth. He says that oral irrigation is a far more effective method for removing debris from your gums and in between your teeth. I bought the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser and never looked back. I use warm water and a splash of hydrogen peroxide every night after brushing. Amazingness!

3. I changed my toothpaste (I wasn’t using Crest or anything so don’t freak out lol).

The dentist recommended I switch from my current toothpaste to Weleda Natural Salt Toothpaste because it’s the “best”. I didn’t get much more of an explanation but I really loved using it. I’ve also experimented with plain old baking soda which works just as well as the $8 tubes of fancy toothpaste. I also became obsessed with Living Libations dental health products. They cost a small fortune but I had good results using the Healthy Gum Drops, the Ozone Gel and the Neem Enamelizer. I wish I could have afforded to continue with their products but I was spending way too much on them!

4. I began rinsing my mouth with salt water.

This is supposed to strengthen your gums. I don’t do it every single day but about 2-3 times a week. I simply add a teaspoon of sea salt to warm water and swish it around for 2-3 minutes. Easy peasy.

5. I was given an oral probiotic by the dentist.

The product was Evora Pro Oral Probiotic Mints and it’s only available through dentists, however you can purchase their consumer product here. I’m not sure how effective this product was but I used it faithfully for the first eight months of my treatment, then I ran out and didn’t get anymore. There are a couple of studies on their website that corroborate what they claim the product does and my dentist seemed to really believe in them so I’m sure they work when combined with everything else.

6. I finally started oil pulling.

I did this a number of years ago but didn’t stay consistent with it, likely because I was not facing $1000′s in dental bills and a receding gum line back then! Anyways, I got serious about it and began oil pulling with sesame seed oil for 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening. Whoa, I gotta say I really didn’t believe the hype but I started oil pulling between my second and third dentist visits and on my third visit my cavity no longer needed filling. Wooo!! For those who don’t know….oil pulling is an ancient Indian cleansing practice in which you swish 1-3 teaspoons of oil (coconut, sesame or olive) around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day. Check out Wellness Mama for more details on how to do it. I tried all three and love the sesame seed oil the best.

7. I got serious about my MTHFR gene mutation.

I discovered I am homozygous for 677T in early 2013 and didn’t do much about it - read my blog post about this if you’re totally confused by what I mean! :-) Having an MTHFR mutation can cause a lot of issues for people, especially women of childbearing age. A mutated MTHFR gene means that your body doesn’t detoxify efficiently, which leads to a taxed immune system and the decreased ability to get rid of harmful pathogens and toxins (think heavy metals, excess hormones, chemicals etc). My theory is this applies to any kind of bad bacteria, including the ones in my mouth. I talked with the dentist and he confirmed that the MTHFR gene has come up in his research and this could be part of the problem. Unfortunately I haven’t found any conclusive evidence online but it makes a lot of sense.

Women with this gene mutation have a higher risk of infertility, multiple miscarriages, hormonal imbalances, PMS, anxiety and depression amongst others. This can be attributed to a number of things but I’d say the main cause is the fact that your liver just doesn’t function as well when you’ve got this mutation. See my post on liver function here and how it connects to your hormones.

If you experience any of the above issues, I highly recommend getting tested so you can take steps to mitigate any negative effects the mutation is having on your health.  I take a double dose of Thorne Research Basic B Complex every day as part of my MTHFR-battling protocol and do my best to help my body detoxify every chance I get – more detoxification ideas in the MTHFR post I mentioned above.

8. I upped my vitamin and mineral intake in a big way.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy teeth and gums so I figured I may as well try out a little dental health protocol on myself and see what happens. In addition to adding in more of my fave sea vegetables like Kombu and Wakame, I also included these supplements:

I began this process last year October and a year later I’m excited by my success. There has been a lot of trial and error but I think I’ve finally got this beast under control. The bacteria is back at normal levels and my teeth have never felt better.

I just want to reiterate that your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body and as a result your dental health is connected to your overall health in numerous ways. Inflammation in your gums is the same as inflammation in any part of your body and it needs to be addressed as part of a whole health healing protocol. Numerous studies show the correlation between gum disease and these conditions:

  • Diabetes – do you know that diabetes sufferers have a higher likelihood of gum disease
  • Heart disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis -
  • Lung conditions
  • Cognitive issues like memory loss
  • Babies born prematurely and at low birth weight – some evidence suggests gum disease triggers preterm deliveries and low birth weight (women who are of child-bearing age, I’m looking at you!)

I wish I had done all of this 5 years ago but there is no point dwelling on that. Thankfully I caught all of this before I needed to have teeth extracted and hopefully this post helps you if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I was experiencing. If you’ve got healthy teeth and gums, please don’t take them for granted. Take good care of them and yourself. xoxo

Do you have a dental health protocol? Have you healed a cavity?  If so I’d love to know everything in the comments or in our Know Your Flow Facebook group! :-)

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22763599

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15088879

American Academy of Periodontology.

American Dental Association: “Healthy mouth, healthy body.”

National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.  

American Academy of Periodontology: “Gum Disease and Diabetes.”

Noble, J. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, May 5, 2009, online.

 

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How do you handle adversity?

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“Mercury is in retrograde. That has to be it babe!”

My boyfriend looked at me and rolled his eyes.

We were in the midst of the most frustrating situation ever and I was convinced that that damn Mercury had something to do with it.

It all began three weeks ago when H’s work visa renewal application was suddenly denied and he was given two days to leave the country. What?! After three and a half years of living and working here he was just denied with scarcely an explanation.

This wouldn’t have been so terrible but we’d just come back to Montenegro 3 days before from an absolutely insane trip to five different countries and three weddings. All we could think about was laying on the couch for a week and getting some grounding.

We decided to head to Italy so he could meet with a business partner and well, it’s Italy so we figured we’d try and make the best of a raw deal. We rented a car and headed up the Croatian coast (beautiful, highly recommend as a vacay by the way) and a couple hours into the drive our car started cutting out. Oy. Yup the engine pretty much died three different times, on a very busy highway. We finally got to Trieste and made our way to the Airbnb place we’d rented and learned that the car had some kind of faulty computer chip. At least that was an easy fix but luck was clearly not on our side that weekend.

Two days later we headed out to Trento where H was going to do business and I was gonna hole up in our hotel room to get massive amounts of work done. By Friday he was all finished and we drove to Venice for the day (see pic below). That was a true highlight as Venice is one of those surreal magical places that feels almost like a Universal Studios theme park.

Then we drove a little south to Verona (home of Romeo and Juliet) to check it out for a few days. By then I was in a panic about my business and not being able to get enough done – a somewhat constant worry of mine, which was only heightened by all the traveling in September. I know every woman can relate to this, business owner or not. It creates such a feeling of overwhelm and anxiety in me that I feel like I might suffocate sometimes! I found it hard to have any fun with this huge weight sitting on me.

A couple days later, we drove south to Tuscany to spend one night there before heading down to Bari on the southeast coast to catch a ferry back to Montenegro. And that’s when the shit really hit the fan.

We pull into Bari and go to get the ferry tickets. At this point we’re planning to get H back into Montenegro on a provision in the law that states anyone can come in for up to 7 days without a visa if they are allowed into the EU, the UK or the US. Easy right? Well, not when Mercury is in Retrograde apparently!

We got our tickets and to my awe and delight, I saw a sign for an Eataly restaurant. Eataly is like a warehouse of the most delicious Italian food in existence. And this one just happened to be in a random port town in the south of Italy.

The ferry guy warned us that they steal everything here so we parked the car just outside the restaurant where there were a lot of people milling about. Unfortunately H left his satchel in which he had his laptop and iPad in the car and we came back to a broken window and a stolen satchel. You know when your intution is telling you to do something, practically screaming it at you and you don’t listen? Yeah that was me – knew he should have taken his bag but didn’t make him do it.

Defeated, we headed over to the ferry terminal to board the ferry. We were sure the night couldn’t get any worse. Then everyone begins poring over H’s passport because they are convinced he needs a visa. We explained everything and showed them proof of their own laws backing up our claim. And no dice. In the end, he had to get off the ferry and I had to travel back to Montenegro alone because we had to return the cursed rental car!

It’s now been just over a week since all that drama went down and H is still stuck in Italy because every visa avenue they’ve explored has come up short. And I’m here alone packing up our apartment so we can leave – we were going to be leaving Montenegro permanently at the end of October anyways – but this has seriously thrown a wrench in our well-laid plans.

The hits keep coming in waves too – his phone wasn’t working properly, then the internet suddenly stopped working at the place he was staying in Italy so he had to find new accommodation, blah blah blah – and it feels like it’s never going to end.

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I recognize that problems will present themselves to us throughout our existence. I’m definitely no stranger to adversity but I’ve had to dig real deeeep to find some sense of calm and surrender in this insane process. I’m also trying to find the lessons and the silver linings. I’m not gonna lie though, it’s been a massive test in every way. My friend Malissa said my life is like a Liam Neeson movie. LOL I’m inclined to agree.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, H is not stuck in Italy forever! We’re just in a holding pattern right now while the apartment gets packed up and he decides whether to go meet with his investors. And of course I decided to spay and neuter the cats in the neighborhood who have adopted us and their stitches can’t come out for another couple of days. My good deed for the week. :-)

Right now here’s what I am doing to get through:

1. I’ve accepted that adversity is inevitable. I’ve always liked the line “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” However, I’m human which means I’m not necessarily handling any of this in the most stellar way. I’ve had my share of meltdowns and freakouts but I keep reminding myself that this will pass.

2. Perspective. A good friend and I chatted a couple days ago and she told me about a friend who had lost her boyfriend of 9 years to cancer last week. Three days before he died she discovered that for years he’d been having affairs with women he found on craigslist. Such an unbelievably heartbreaking story and suddenly, perspective. While our little immigration drama is quite miserable, we’re both still alive and here for each other.

3. Talking to all my friends! A lot! I simply do not know what I would do without the women in my life. Sisterhood and a support system is the key to getting you through when the going gets tough.

4. Taking care of myself. Luckily Montenegro is a super cheap country to be stuck in. One-hour massages cost 15euros and the infra-red sauna is only 8euros a pop! Movie tickets are 3.50 and gelato is 80 cents! Haha. Life ain’t that bad!

I’d love to hear what you do when caught in an untenable situation. How do you handle it and most importantly what does it cultivate in you?  

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Salad Happiness!

Oh man it’s been ages since we’ve put a blog post up..being more active on the blog is definitely in the cards for 2012…amongst other things. We have so much going on that we’re just bursting at the seams in anticipation.  Tomorrow is our big launch day so stay tuned! In the meantime, today we […]

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