My Detox Routine: Part 2 (Castor Oil Packs, Oil Pulling, Herbal Teas, Toxin Binders)

As a caveat to what lies ahead in this post: I am NOT a doctor, and the information presented here should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or naturopath before embarking on an intense detox regimen like the one presented below. Also, the products I recommend are products that I have used or am currently using with success, I am not being paid to recommend them (although, I wouldn’t object!).

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Welcome to the second portion of ‘My Detox Routine’; to read the first part, click here. Today I’ll be writing about some of my favorite detox therapies- herbal teas, castor oil packs, oil pulling, and toxin binders. Each of these therapies are fairly inexpensive and easy to implement, and I do hope you’ll try a few of them! Let’s jump in.

Herbal Teas

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There are lots of different teas on the market today that can aid in detoxing your organs. I am a big fan of sipping on tea throughout the day, whether it be cold or hot, but it’s important to be picky about which types of tea you choose to enjoy. Many brands of tea on the market today (even the fancy, super expensive loose-leaf teas) have been sprayed with chemicals, have added GMOs and/or food coloring, and even contain mold. To read more about the safety of the tea you choose, check out this article.

A few simple rules to live by when selecting your tea are: always choose organic, check the ingredient list, and don’t assume that it’s safe just because it’s expensive. I also recommend staying away from caffeine as much as possible, as caffeine can wear out your adrenals more quickly than just about anything else, including processed sugar.

All of this knowledge in hand, some of my favorite types of teas are:

Organic, Decaf Green Tea: enjoy hot or cold with fresh squeezed lemon and a drop or two of raw honey or stevia in the raw. My favorite brand is Allegro, found at Whole Foods.

Asparagus Extract Tea: it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds and is packed with folic acid, making it an incredibly nutrient-dense option. I buy mine here on Amazon.

Fresh Cilantro, Parsley, or Basil Tea: as shown above, steep about one half bundle of herbs in hot water for about ten minutes. Strain and enjoy a wonderfully detoxifying and fresh tea. Warning: Cilantro is a powerful heavy metal chelator, and doctor/naturopath supervision is recommended.

Castor Oil Packs

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Castor oil is derived from the castor seed and has been used as a health remedy for various ailments for centuries. Although the safety of the internal use of castor oil is much debated, there are many positive effects of using castor oil topically. The castor oil pack is the most common, and arguably most beneficial, of all castor oil therapies.

There are many benefits of incorporating castor oil packs into your healing protocol, but perhaps the greatest is the effect on the immune system. When castor oil packs are used on the abdomen, they have been proven to increase your number of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are the body’s disease-fighting cells and are mostly created and stored in the lymph tissues. As I mentioned in the first post of this series, your overall health is largely contingent on the health of your lymphatics, as this is the system that collects toxins and debris from all of the tissues in your body. The escalation of lymphocytes that castor oil produces allows your lymphatic system to be quite efficient at clearing toxins, which contributes to your overall ability to fight illness.

Castor oil packs have also been shown to have a positive effect on detoxifying the liver, an organ that is in near constant need of support in the toxin-riddled world we live in. Additionally, in my experience, castor oil packs have been helpful in calming rumbly intestines and stomach aches.

One word of caution is that castor oil should probably be tested on a small patch of skin prior to administering a large dose. It has been known to cause skin reactions in some individuals. Do not take castor oil internally unless instructed by your health care practitioner.

Now, let’s look at how to make and administer a castor oil pack.

Supplies:

– three sheets of organic cotton, cut into squares large enough to cover your abdomen (from the tip of your sternum to about 3 inches below your belly button)

– 1-2 Tbsp Castor Oil

– 1 piece of syran wrap large enough to cover the cotton

– heating pad

Method:

To create a castor oil pack, simply stack up your three pieces of cotton and drizzle castor oil as evenly as possible across the top layer of cotton. Place on your tummy, cover top layer with saran wrap, and place the heating pad directly on top. The heat will allow the oil to work through all three sheets of cotton and into your skin. Leave on your tummy for 10-30 minutes. Remove, throw away cotton sheets, wash your tummy, and you’re done!

Oil Pulling

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Oil pulling is useful for cutting through plaque, whitening teeth, and removing toxins not only from the mouth but also from the rest of the body. Although oil pulling has gained popularity in the past year or so, it is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in India. While oil pulling is an exceptional (and cheap) way to maintain oral health, it can also aid in detoxing the entire body by stimulating the lymphatics. Some oil pullers have seen improvements in liver conditions, skin conditions, arthritis, and headaches.

Supplies:

– 1-2 tsp of coconut oil or another healthy oil, such as: cold pressed sesame, olive, or avocado oil

Method:

Simply gather the oil in your mouth and swish for around 20 minutes. As you’re swishing, try pulling the oil in and out of your teeth, and really work those muscles. The swishing movement works to stimulate the lymphatics, allowing you to gather up more toxins into the oil.

When you’re finished swishing, simply spit out the oil into a paper cup or trash can, rinse your mouth with warm water to remove any excess bacteria, and give your teeth a good brushing with your choice of natural toothpaste.

Toxin Binders

If you are in poor health and plan on doing a lot of detoxing, as I have been, then it may be helpful to take some toxin binders to help bind the mobilized toxins so they can be excreted. In my opinion, this is one of the most important aspects of any detox routine, and in my experience, taking binders makes the process much more tolerable.

Some of my favorite binders are: Pecta Sol, Medi Clay, and Zeolite. Keep in mind that binders should be taken an hour before and after any other medications or supplements.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series where I’ll cover infrared sauna use and Biomat sessions.

Xx, K

Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub

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For as long as I can remember I’ve had deep lines on my forehead. What can I say, I’m an animated personality. I was never worried about or bothered by them, but when I entered into my late twenties I started taking inventory of every grey hair (yes, I have a few, okay, more than a few) and wrinkle. To remedy my wrinkles I tried numerous fancy moisturizers and face washes, but never noticed much of a difference. When I decided to transition my personal care items to clean, toxin-free products, the fancy (read: expensive) skin care products were some of the first to go.

I’ve been using one version or another of this salt scrub recipe for about 8 months, and I can promise you that my skin is healthier than ever. Those deep forehead lines? Well they are quickly fading away. Perhaps what I love most about this salt scrub is that it cleanses, exfoliates, and moisturized the skin in one simple step. It can also be used all over the body to do the same- this would have been great to use during the long, cold winters that I spent in NYC.

One last thing- keep in mind that this recipe can be adjusted to fit your needs, and feel free to try different types of salts, oils, and scents to see which suits your skin best.

Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub Recipe

1 1/2 Cups Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Coconut Oil
10-15 Drops Lemon Essential Oil (I use Young Living)
7-10 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped and ground with pestle and mortar

If you try a salt scrub recreation, I would love to hear about it, as I am always looking for exciting variations. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter (@KaylaMarieDenny), or simply leave a comment below.

Xx, K

My Detox Routine: Part 1 (Juicing, Detox Baths, Homeopathic Detox Drops, Dry Brushing)

As a caveat to what lies ahead in this post: I am NOT a doctor, and the information presented here should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or naturopath before embarking on an intense detox regimen like the one presented below. Also, the products I recommend are products that I have used or am currently using with success, I am not being paid to recommend them (although, I wouldn’t object!).

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There seems to be a lot of curiosity surrounding the topic of detoxing, and whether it’s something you object to or agree with, it’s become a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away. Prior to 2008, the concept of a ‘juice cleanse’ was all but nonexistent among the general public. Nowadays, there are juice bars, organic food, and complicated detox diets a’ plenty. What’s changed in the past few years?

Toxins, toxins everywhere. They’re in our air, water, food, cleaning supplies, beauty products, and even our laundry detergent. The human body has an incredible, innate ability to heal itself, but it simply doesn’t recognize or have the capacity to deal with the bombardment of toxins that it’s faced with everyday. When the body doesn’t recognize a particular substance, or if the liver is already stressed, the body’s response is to store the substance away in our cells, lungs, liver, kidneys, gallbladder, and deep tissue. Unfortunately, as toxins accumulate, they have the ability to lead to illnesses, such as autoimmune disease and cancer. For more information regarding the link between certain toxic substances and cancer, check out this article.

Our bodies simply were not built to detoxify themselves at the rate at which we are now exposed to toxins, and this is why it’s so important to lead a healthy lifestyle. For some individuals whose detox pathways may be inhibited by genetic factors (such as the MTHFR mutation), this may involve detoxing regularly.

Detoxing is particularly important in the life of a Lyme patient because as the Lyme bacteria live and reproduce in our bodies, they also emit neurotoxins. These neurotoxins are the main culprit in Lyme symptoms and cause quite a bit of inflammation and acidity on the cellular level. This cellular inflammation is what causes most of our symptoms and pain. Furthermore, the Lyme toxins combined with the everyday toxins that we’re exposed to in the modern world can easily combine to create a painful and sickly body.

For the past four months, I’ve been waist deep in detox sludge, employing a multitude of different therapies to release the stored toxins in my body. Some of the therapies that I’ve implemented include: juicing, detox baths, dry brushing, homeopathic detox drops, coffee enemas, biomat sessions, sauna sessions, oil pulling, castor oil packs, and drinking lots of herbal teas.

I do most all of these things every single day. It’s a full-time job that takes all of my will power and all of my energy on most days. The rest of this post is dedicated to expanding on the use of juicing, detox baths, dry brushing, and homeopathic detox drops. In future posts I will follow up to discuss the other therapies mentioned.

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(This is a super scientific diagram showing the direction in which to dry brush)

Dry brushing:

Dry brushing is used primarily to stimulate the lymphatics. The lymph system is part of the circulatory system and is known as the body’s ‘drainage system’. Made up of an extensive network of lymph nodes and vessels, the lymph system serves to clean cells and clear debris from all over the body. Keeping the lymph system in good working order is an important part of health and should be considered an essential component of any intensive detox protocol. For a comprehensive overview of the lymph system, check out this article.

It is important to know that the lymphatics do not flow on their own, instead they need to be stimulated in some way to produce motion. Dry brushing, as well as other therapies such as sauna, detox baths, deep breathing, and exercise all help to stimulate movement of the lymphatics. A few added benefits of dry brushing are: increased circulation, dead skin removal, skin tightening, cellulite reduction, and super soft skin (even your baby will be jealous).

For best results, do your dry brushing twice per day or before taking a shower or bath. With a soft bristle brush, start at your feet, and in short strokes brush upwards towards your heart. Work your way up your body until you have brushed your legs, tummy, arms, and chest. Just remember that you want to brush in the direction that your lymphs flow (they’re a one way street), and you always want to brush towards your heart. Brushing can be done from 2-20 minutes, I usually spend about 10 minutes brushing while I run my bath.

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(This is exactly what I look like while taking a detox bath)

Detox baths:

Detox baths are one of the best ways to clear toxins quickly through the skin (the second largest organ, after the intestines). Another great aspect of these baths is their ability to reduce muscle aches and pains. In addition, as your body temperature rises in the hot bath, your body is able to kill off unwanted bacteria and viruses (for Lyme patients, this means that Lyme and co-infections are being killed in the process, which is great news!).

A number of different products can be used to create a healing detox bath. Some of my favorites are: Epsom salt, sea salt, bentonite clay, mustard seed bath, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda. The key to a super detoxifying bath is using water as hot as you can stand and several cups of product (I use around 6 cups in each bath).

Warning: If you’re very ill, you will most likely feel drained after taking a bath. I cannot stress this enough- GO SLOW. If you aren’t used to taking baths like these, make sure to start at a cooler water temperature, don’t use as much product, and don’t stay in for as long. When I first started these baths, I used 2 cups Epsom salt, medium hot water, and soaked for about 20 minutes.

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Homeopathic Drops:

These magic drops help to naturally stimulate detoxification in the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, and lymphatic system. Both the Pekana Trio and Heel Detox Kit are great options. If you’re super sensitive or super sick, I recommend starting with the Pekana Trio, as it’s a bit more gentle on the system.

The normal dose for a healthy individual is 30 drops per day. When I started on these drops, I was so toxic that I had a hard time taking one drop per day. Therefore, I started at one drop per day and then gradually increased my dose as I could tolerate. I would advise starting slowly and gradually increasing once you know your comfort level.

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Juicing:

Most people are probably aware of the benefits of juicing, but for good measure, I’ll list a few anyway. Juice delivers highly concentrated vitamins, minerals and enzymes rapidly into the bloodstream, where the nutrients are quickly absorbed. It also allows you to consume a higher quantity and a wider variety of vegetables each day, as opposed to eating them whole. When juiced, many vegetables and some fruits such as leafy greens, beets, and green apples have the wonderful effect of cleansing the liver, kidneys, and blood, which aids tremendously in detoxification.

It’s best to consume juice quickly, or at least on the same day that it was juiced, because that’s when it’s nutrient value is the highest. However, if you store your juice in an air tight container, it can still be consumed for a few days after it was made. Juice fasts have become incredibly popular these days, but I believe that incorporating juice into your daily life is more beneficial than fasting a few times a year, especially if you’re sick and require more protein, like I do.

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If you suffer from a chronic illness, detoxing to this extent may seem like a daunting task, and believe me, I completely understand! The detox process can be an intense one and can leave you with some undesirable side effects, such as: dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headache, skin rashes, and intestinal disruptions. It is for this reason that I strongly suggest being under a trained practitioner’s care while embarking on such a protocol. If you are in need of someone to help you oversee the detox process, please email me, and I can give you the name of my doctor as well as a few others who offer guidance via phone consultations.

Remember that the journey to attaining wellness is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Go slow, and set reasonable goals. Be gentle with yourself. Pray often, love much, and keep your head up because wellness is coming for you.

Any questions? Feel free to shoot me an email at kayla.denny@gmail.com.

Xx, K

Quick Update & The Lyme Diaries: Leah’s Story

After the month of May, I decided to take a few weeks of respite from all things Lyme. I stopped reading books or articles about how to heal Lyme, which is something I regularly do to stay on top of my healing game. I even stopped googling random questions, like, ‘why does a full moon exacerbate lyme symptoms?’. My little Lyme ‘holiday’ also involved stepping back from blogging, which admittedly happened more by necessity than by conscious decision.

The truth is, I’ve been much too busy with my intense detox routine to have much time or energy for anything else. I spend hours each day preparing for and taking my two detox baths so that I can sweat my face off and potentially faint in the water. I’ve also added a new little friend, the coffee enema, which I will go into greater depth about in another post. And of course there are biomat sessions, healthy meals and snacks, and gobs of supplements, tinctures, and minerals in between.

Let’s just say that my new routine has me worn out, and the creative juices don’t flow so well when you’ve face planted into the sofa. I will say, however, that what I’ve been doing seems to be working, and even though it’s taken time to see even a tiny bit of progress, I am feeling encouraged and can feel the fog lifting. I am thankful and am praying that this upward swing continues.

Today, I am honored to have the opportunity to share another Lyme lady’s story. You can read Leah’s story below, and I think you will be inspired by her attitude. I also thought this a good time to remind everyone to take the necessary precautions against tick bites (scroll down a few posts to read about Lyme Disease prevention if you haven’t already), as the summer months are notoriously the most common for contracting Lyme.

Until next time,
K

First Name: Leah
Age: 21
Gender: Female
Where do you live? Madison, WI

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Leah (between her parents) with her immediate family

When/Where do you suspect that you contracted Lyme?

I never saw a tick bite, but growing up I spent a lot of time camping in Wisconsin and I travelled to Colorado in 2004 where I become seriously ill with an unexplained illness. My doctor suspects I could have been bitten on any of those trips.

When did you first begin to feel ill or start to notice strange symptoms?

For as long I can remember I’ve had a weak immune system. In 6th grade (2004) I missed 30 days of school because of two mono-like illnesses. My body never recovered from those illnesses and throughout high school my symptoms became worse. Four months into my freshman year of college I got mono (for real this time) and my body practically shut down. There were a few days where I actually thought I was dying. I was even taken to the ER and tested for serious illnesses such as cancer because of my abnormal white blood cell count.

What were they?

For many years my main symptom was extreme fatigue. I woke up feeling tired every single day and I often felt sick (I don’t have a better way to explain it, I just felt crappy). I experienced bloating for many years, but when I studied abroad in Chile my junior year of high school my stomach issues became much worse. My anxiety increased over the years and my senior year of high school I started having small panic attacks almost every day. I became depressed and even had suicidal thoughts. When I became sick with mono 2 ½ years ago all of my symptoms were amplified. I was so exhausted that even lying down felt like work. I just wanted to sink into the ground. These last couple years I’ve had a lot of headaches, nausea, body aches, sore joints, and extreme dizziness (so bad I still can’t sit up for more than a few hours each day).

How many doctors did you see before reaching an accurate diagnosis?

There have been A LOT of doctors, both traditional and non-traditional. Some of the doctors were very kind and admitted they didn’t know what was wrong. But others tried to minimize my symptoms and just told me to sleep more or see a therapist. I even saw one of the “best” infectious disease doctors and was basically told “everyone feels tired so it’s not a big deal that you are”.

Were you misdiagnosed with anything prior to being diagnosed with Lyme? If so, what?

Last year I was diagnosed with chronic mono, but otherwise I haven’t had too many actual diagnoses. Many doctors seemed confused by my symptoms and suggested I was depressed or didn’t get enough sleep. For years I blamed myself for feeling sick because if there wasn’t anything “wrong” with me then it must be my fault.

What are the main symptoms that you experience currently?

My main symptoms are debilitating fatigue and dizziness. Like I mentioned above I can’t sit up much and I can only walk for 5-10 minutes. I also have terrible insomnia, which keeps me up late at night (I still don’t understand why I can’t fall asleep since I’m constantly tired!) I also struggle with headaches, nausea, muscle and joint pain and anxiety. The symptoms range in severity depending on the day or even hour.

What does your treatment regimen look like?

I take a lot of supplements and herbs, which change every few months. Last summer I was on antibiotics for three months, which really wiped me out. I recently started antibiotics again and antifungals after my doctor found fungus in my brain (apparently more recent research shows this is common for Lyme patients). I eat a super clean diet, which is free of gluten, dairy, yeast, eggs, corn, soy, alcohol and most sugar. This last year I’ve been seeing a wonderful woman who does craniosacral therapy (for the headaches and body pain) and energy work. I try to ease the aches and pains with therapeutic yoga, stretching and short walks.

How much do your symptoms prevent you from living a normal life?

I haven’t felt normal in quite some time. Because of Lyme I’m living at home and the majority of my day is spent watching TV. When I do have enough energy to go out I use a wheelchair. I’m really hoping to return to college in the fall, but as any Lyme patient knows, Lyme treatment is fairly unpredictable.

What do you like to do in your free time and how is this different than before you were sick?

I’ve always enjoyed crafts, but when I got sick I started making leather jewelry and actually opened up an Etsy shop (www.etsy.com/shop/LeeBeeJewelry). When I have a little energy I love creating jewelry and forgetting about my illness for an hour. I’ve also really grown to appreciate cuddling on the couch with my mom while we watch our favorite TV shows (The Bachelorette, Project Runway, Long Island Medium, Parenthood and basically anything on HGTV)

What do you want people to know about Lyme?

I would love for people to understand how incredibly lonely it is to deal with Lyme or really any long-term illness. I spend the majority of my day alone and even when I’m around people I feel out of place. I realize it’s difficult for people to totally understand someone else’s struggle, but I wish everyone would take a minute to really think about someone’s situation. Everyone deals with hardships in life and these adversities should connect us, not isolate us.

What are you most thankful to have gained, or what important lessons have you learned, from your experience with Lyme?

I’ve learned that health and happiness are not guaranteed in life, you have to fight for them both. I’ve realized it’s really easy to be sad, but it’s not helpful. For the first two years of being extremely ill I felt really sorry for myself and cried a lot. But after connecting with other Lyme patients and reading “Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender” (I highly recommend this book) I’ve been able to shift my attitude away from negativity. It really sucks that I’m sick, but I can’t dwell on it. Instead I’ve taken control of my healing process and fight for my health everyday. And most importantly I trust that I will get better. I don’t know when I will, but I do know I have a wonderful life ahead of me.

The Lyme Diaries: Kristen’s Story

Like so many of my closest Lyme friends these days, I met Kristen on the wonderful world of Instagram. For me, Instagram has been such a wonderful place to connect with others who are navigating this crazy world of illness and healing, and I am so grateful for the support system I’ve found there.

Kristen writes a blog called The Lethal Lymie , and I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in learning more about her story, treatment plan, and especially her time at the Sierra Integrative Medical Center, where she has been in intensive treatment for the past few weeks. Even though Kristen and I haven’t spent a lot of time chatting, I have learned a lot from her journey, and am thrilled to be able to share some of her path toward healing with you.

X, K

First Name: Kristen
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Where do you live? Tennessee, but I’m a New Englander at heart

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When/Where do you suspect that you contracted Lyme?

May 2011 from a tick bite while camping in Arkansas. However, the tests showed I had it prior to this tick bite.

When did you first begin to feel ill or start to notice strange symptoms?

My symptoms began 3 days after the tick bite in May 2011 when I started my 2 weeks of Doxycycline. What I thought was a reaction or sensitivity to the medicine, was really a Herxheimer reaction.

What were they?

Daily migraines, joint pain (knees, elbows, wrists), weakness in knees and ankles, lower back pain, fatigue, irritability/moodiness, depression, fits of rage, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, eye pain, finger and toe numbness, skin sensitivity, muscle weakness, jaw pain, ringing in ears with pain, teeth/jaw pain, migrating pain all over body, and neck stiffness.

How many doctors did you see before reaching an accurate diagnosis?

The first Lyme test I had came back positive, so I knew at that time that I had Lyme. I did see an Infectious Disease doctor a month later to follow up on all my symptoms. He tested me again, the test came back negative, and he told me that I didn’t have Lyme, and that my original positive test was not accurate. I saw a LLMD a couple months later and started treatment.

Were you misdiagnosed with anything prior to being diagnosed with Lyme? If so, what?

No. I am one of the lucky ones.

What are the main symptoms that you experience currently?

Fatigue, joint pain (mostly in knees and shoulders), migrating stabbing pains, weakness, brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, speech problems, depression, light and sound sensitivities, jaw pain.

What does your treatment regimen look like?

After being on oral antibiotics from August 2011 until December 2013, I am currently getting treated at Sierra Integrative Medical Center. I am no longer taking over the counter or prescription drugs. I am getting 4 different treatments via IV and injections at SIMC, as well as changing my diet to gluten free, sugar free and focusing on cleaning out my body and ridding it of all toxins.

How much do your symptoms prevent you from living a normal life?

A lot. The fatigue really did me in. I think that was the main cause of my depression. While working in sales and marketing, depression is not the best thing to be carrying around. And then there’s the fatigue. Having to wake up, shower, dry my hair, put on make up, and get dressed, I was done for the day before I even left the house. Then having to fake it. Putting on a happy face and surviving another day was completely draining. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and sleep forever. On top of that, I would have the pain. Pain in my head all the way down to my feet. Looking back, I’m really not sure how I made it this far. I’m so grateful for my loved ones. I have recently quit my day job to focus on healing.

What do you like to do in your free time and how is this different than before you were sick?

I like to lay in bed, in a dark room, with my husband and two dogs and watch movies. Before I was sick I was very active. Working two jobs, working out 5 days a week (cardio and weights), cooking yummy delicious meals, taking the pups for walks, hanging out with friends and family. I pray and hope that I can do all those things again without feeling like I’m dying.

What do you want people to know about Lyme?

I want everyone to educate themselves before it’s too late. I want them to know that Chronic Lyme does exist, and it is an invisible illness. I want them to know that 2-4 weeks of antibiotics will not cure Lyme, the testing isn’t accurate, ticks are not the only carriers of Lyme, and most doctors don’t know anything about chronic Lyme. And if they do get a tick bite, they need to see a LLMD to make sure they are ok. I wish everyone would watch the documentary “Under Our Skin”.It was a huge eye opener for me when I was first researching.

What are you most thankful to have gained, or what important lessons have you learned, from your experience with Lyme?

My relationship with God has been strengthened and I will always be so very grateful for that. I have learned a lot about myself and others and I have learned about compassion. I have learned to appreciate the little things. And I am so thankful for the friendships that I have made along this journey. I have met some very strong and inspiring people, and I hope to help others as they have helped me.

xoxo
Kristen

Liebster Award

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I am so excited to have been nominated for the Liebster Award this year. The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers as a way to help honor their work on the internet and also to help bloggers and readers to discover new blogs. Liebster is a German word and means, sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Seems like quite a compliment to me! If you’re nominated for the award, you are asked to answer several questions about yourself and then pay it forward by nominating a handful of other new bloggers. It’s all about building a community and connecting with others, which is one of my favorite things to do, so naturally I am thrilled to participate.

I was nominated for this award by Megan over at The Recipe For Healing. If you aren’t familiar with her recipes, I suggest you acquaint yourself because she has some amazing creations on her blog and Instagram page (@therecipeforhealing). A few years ago, she used the GAPS Diet to heal herself from a nasty Lyme Disease infection and hasn’t looked back. Her dedication to clean, whole, and healing foods has definitely been inspiring to me on my own road to recovery. Below are the questions that Megan asked me to answer along with my responses:

1) How did you eat before you decided to change your diet?

I have always been a relatively healthy eater and was lucky to grow up in a home with many home cooked meals and few preservatives. Since I played competitive soccer from the time I was 10-18, I was always aware that what I put into my body would be used for energy later on, but as with most people at the time I was lured by foods that I thought were healthy, but were actually often packed with chemicals and preservatives and were void of healthy fats.

For many years I believed that fat was the enemy, which is totally wrong thinking. During and after college, I went through a period where I ate relatively little animal fat or meat. I thought that this was a healthier way to live, and even though I was eating lots of fruits and vegetables, I was lacking in what I believe are two essential foods groups for my body type- healthy fats and animal protein.

Post college, I became more and more dependent on sugar and caffeine as I became more and more sick with an unidentified illness (which years later was finally diagnosed as Lyme). I would reach for a piece of candy, coffee, or tea when I became stressed at my fast-paced job, and since my adrenals and thyroid were a mess due to the effects of Lyme, I truly depended on these things to help me make it through the day.

After I became so ill with Lyme that I had to move back home to Texas to live with my parents in May of 2012, I knew that diet was one of the first things I wanted to address. I had been living off of Thai takeout and decadent brunches for months (okay let’s be real- years), and the sharp contrast of clean, home-cooked meals that my parents fixed me were a dream. It wasn’t long before I transitioned onto an anti-inflammation diet that consisted of a limited assortment of fish, vegetables, and fruits, and this is where I was first introduced to ghee, my BFF nowadays. Gluten, dairy, and sugar were prohibited on the diet, but since I had eliminated gluten in 2009 and dairy oftentimes caused tummy aches, I didn’t have much of an issue with adjusting to the diet, other than having to eat fish twice a day, everyday for several months. Basically, the rest is history- I’ve been eating organic, clean meals since August of 2012 and am hooked.

2) What are your favorite foods to eat, cook and bake? Have you always enjoyed being in the kitchen?

My favorite foods to eat are probably baby back ribs, fish, and sweet potato fries. I’ve been fighting off some candida recently and have had to eliminate the sweet fries, and boy am I missing them! The foods I probably eat the most are eggs, hamburgers and lamb burgers, steamed or raw green beans, and all types of assortments of coconut flour biscuits and muffins. I also try to consume at least one cup of bone broth per day and when my tummy isn’t in knots, I can eat my weight in hummus with carrots and celery.

Just to be clear, I am currently not well enough to cook for myself, and so most all of my meals are prepared by either my dad or my good friend, Betty, who basically works as a personal chef. I usually come up with the menu for the week and then we take it from there. I can’t wait until I am well enough to get into the kitchen though. I used to love baking with my grandmother, so that’s what I’m looking forward to most.

3) What made you decide to start a blog? What do you wish to accomplish with it?

When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I learned a lot about an illness that I had previously discounted as being easily prevented and quite curable. Those two misconceptions could not be further from the truth, and I wanted to be a voice of awareness while also providing a place for chronic illness sufferers to come and know that they are not alone.

4) If you could do/be anything, what would it be? There are no limits.

I would be a completely, 100% healthy individual, and I would travel. Everywhere. I want to live in so many different places that I’ve lost count. One day, I will travel again and live in a place that invigorates me the way that Brooklyn & NYC did when I lived there.

5) Who are some of the people that inspire you to eat clean?

Oh, there are so many. It probably sounds trite to say this, but literally every beautiful and healthy meal that I see posted in Instagram or Pinterest inspires me to eat clean, think up delicious meals, and take pretty pictures of them.

And here are my nominations for the Liebster Award…

Incredible Edibles by Erin M. Harker– I just recently discovered Erin on Instagram (@incredible_edibles) and was immediately drawn to her beautiful pictures. Turns out she’s got the creative recipes to back them up. As if this weren’t enough, she’s got some seriously killer dish ware that I am quite envious of.

Lemons ‘n Lyme– Victoria was actually featured in The Lyme Diaries several months ago, and since then, she and I have kept a running dialogue of our treatment protocols, diets, and gains or setbacks in fighting Lyme. Her blog is one of the first Lyme and healthy food blogs that I discovered and is part of the reason that I felt encouraged to start my own blog. She has some seriously delicious recipes for both paleo and raw food lifestyles, and she also shares the same heart that I do for spreading Lyme awareness. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook too.

Plateful Paleo– I’ve been following Rachel on Instagram (@platefulpaleo) for several months, and though I don’t know her personally, I always enjoy her posts of beautiful and well-thought out foods. She’s also from Houston, as am I, and I love to see what foods and paleo-friendly restaurants she finds in this city. Her blog has some seriously delicious recipes, so check her out!

My questions are:

1.) Why did you choose your particular diet plan and what health benefits have you seen from it?

2.) What inspired you to start your blog and what is your favorite part about blogging?

3.) What foods do you eat most often?

4.) What is your favorite “cheat food” or comfort food?

5.) What do you want your readers to know about you? (It can be anything)

December: Neuropsych Eval & Holidaze

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In my post from a few weeks ago, The Pain Game, I mentioned that I had regressed in a few ways and that my pain level in particular had been affected by some events that took place in December. I do realize that we are now almost halfway through April (how did that happen?), and I had intended to post a summary of events much, much sooner, but life with chronic illness does not always allow the luxury of planning ahead.

So, at last, here’s the story…

In mid-December I completed a full neuropsychological evaluation to measure my cognitive function. The ultimate goal of the evaluation was to have an additional form of hard evidence proving that I am and have been unable to work in any capacity since May of 2012. At this point I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been denied disability benefits by both social security and my private disability insurance company, and this test is one of the things that my lawyer insists will help me win my case.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, a neurophsyc evaluation is a comprehensive oral and written exam used to test a “subject’s cognitive, motor, behavioral, linguistic, and executive functioning” (for those inclined to read more, check out this article via Medscape). There are various degrees of testing and the length of test time can range from anywhere between 2-3 hours to around 10. During the evaluation, the facilitator asks simple questions to measure things like short term memory, word recall, analytical skills, simple math skills, vocabulary, and even the patient’s emotional well being, such as whether or not the patient is depressed, anxious, etc. It’s usually preferred that the testing be completed all in one day, but there are certain patients who require multiple, shorter sessions, and this was the case for me. I had planned to come in for 3-4 hours for two consecutive days, but my body basically shut down after only 2 hours of testing on the first day. By the sheer grace of God, and after a day of rest in between, I was able to return to complete the remainder of the evaluation, with a little help from a fully reclined Lazy Boy, a microwaveable heating pack, an ice pack, and a mom who answered many basic questions about what I am able to do on a daily basis, etc.

I left the doctor’s office feeling drained, teary, and in an escalated state of pain, which was an effect of my mental over-exertion. Nonetheless, I felt accomplished for taking care of what I needed to and was hopeful that I would recover quickly before Christmas, which was only a few days away.

Fast forward to a few days after the evaluation…

I was feeling better and was slowly regaining my strength, but I was still extremely fatigued and in more pain than I had been for several months. And even though I was excited about the holiday season and having loved ones in town, the heightened activity level around the house was hard on me during a time when I really needed total stillness and quiet to recover from the pain and fatigue.

If you aren’t familiar with the type of pain that Lyme has caused for me, and for many others for that matter, you can refer to my post, The Pain Game, for more details. Also, for the readers who do not struggle with a chronic illness, I want to explain what I mean when I say that I was ‘extremely fatigued’. It’s not a normal fatigue that a nap or a few days of rest will fix. It’s a deep, aching, all-encompassing type of fatigue that cannot be helped no matter the amount of sleep or rest. For me, fatigue is a state of being, but when I become severely fatigued from over exertion, I become weepy, achey, and largely feel as if I’m going mad. Depression isn’t something that I have struggled much with during the course of my illness, but if I have my days of being down in the dumps, it’s most likely because I’m so tired that I can’t think straight. During these times of extreme fatigue, I effectively turn into a small child who cries dramatically, and sometimes uncontrollably, because they haven’t developed the ability to communicate, but rather, my ability to communicate has been engulfed by fatigue. Several months ago, I ran across this article about what the writer describes as, ‘crushing fatigue’. To this day I have not forgotten the honest and effective words she uses to portray what fatigue feels like for the chronically ill, and if you have a moment, I encourage you to read it.

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Needless to say, the holidays were considerably less enjoyable in this state. Due to my level of fatigue, sensory overload was at an all time high, causing every opening door, sneeze, conversation, or running dishwasher to irritate all of my senses. Despite all of my hopes, I was not in a great place, and on Christmas day I locked myself in my parents bedroom, where the noise from cooking and chatting was minimal, and cried uncontrollably for two hours. I still don’t fully understand why, I just remember sobbing to my mom, saying, “I am just SO tired”.

It’s been a few months now, but I still don’t feel as though I’ve recovered from December and the neuropsych eval. My level of pain has been dramatically effected, and I never saw a sharp decrease in my pain level the way I had hoped. And in case you’re wondering if I’ve won my disability case yet, the answer is, no. Sigh. But one day at a time.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NIRV)

XX, K

The Lyme Diaries: Julie’s Story

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared a new story in The Lyme Diaries, which is mostly because I took a little break from writing, but is also because I wanted to vary my content a bit more. Regardless, I’m happy to share this next story in the series, which is brought to you by another Lyme blogger named Julie, of Just Julie Writes. Julie is a Christian and is quite open and honest with the role that her faith plays in her healing process, her writings are eloquent and honest, and I encourage you to check out her work.

Her story is yet another powerful reminder of resilience and the powerful will to survive that each of us innately has deep within, even in the most bleak and trying of circumstances.

Be inspired. Xx.
K

First Name: Julie
Age: 53
Gender: Female
Where do you live? Fort Wayne, Indiana

When/Where do you suspect that you contracted Lyme?

My doctor suggested it as a possibility in January of 2012. He’s a family practice physician and chiropractor.

When did you first begin to feel ill or start to notice strange symptoms?

I have had fibromyalgia since 1992 in addition to some thyroid and female/hormonal issues. Regardless, I was the fittest I had ever been in my life when I became extremely ill with viral hepatitis in October of 2011, after kayaking in a local reservoir. When was unable to recover as time passed, my LLMD suggested underlying Lyme and that I read about mold illness too.

What were they?

The worst symptoms included: ongoing nausea, increased muscle pain and headaches, decreased activity tolerance, worsened ringing in my ears, back pain, lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, fractionated sleep, and genital, stomach, and dental pain.

How many doctors did you see before reaching an accurate diagnosis?

If you start from the fibromyalgia diagnosis in 1992, the number would be around 60 including chiropractors and a naturopathic physician. If you start with October of 2011, it would be 2: the emergency room NP and my LLMD.

Were you misdiagnosed with anything prior to being diagnosed with Lyme? If so, what?

It’s unclear if the myriad of health issues over the past two decades are related to Lyme Disease or not. I started treating for Lyme (first with antibiotics then a Rife machine; supplements too) after confirmation of the diagnosis from biomeridian or electro-dermal testing in January of 2012. A year later we discovered that we had mold in our home and remediated our entire home. I had a significant history of mold exposure in a work setting about 6 years earlier and a genetic disposition that favored mold illness more than Lyme disease. Another year later and currently, a systemic yeast infection (level 3 of 4 levels) has taken center stage in my course of treatment. The treatment of Candida has been as difficult as that for Lyme or mold!

What are the main symptoms that you experience currently?

Virtually every day I feel like I have the flu, experience muscle and joint pain, endure headaches/neck headaches, and battle weakness and fatigue. The other symptoms noted above persist as well. The WORST SYMPTOM by far is that of seizure-like episodes! The first episode happened one month after the onset of viral hepatitis. Then I had no episodes until I began treating for Lyme disease with the Rife machine and after the initial trial course of 5 weeks of antibiotics. Seizure attack episodes thus began around April of 2012 and have gradually worsened since then: generally up to 4 hours per day! If I did not have a personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, I would not be able to endure this personal hell.

What does your treatment regimen look like?

I can no longer tolerate virtually all of the supplements or compounded medications for Lyme or mold illness without the seizure attacks escalating into convulsions! I have maintained an increasingly and very strict Candida and mold-free diet for the past year. Treatment focuses on Candida (rotating anti-fungal meds. & supplements as tolerated); I am no longer able to tolerate the compounded medications of Dr. Shoemaker’s protocol for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (www.survivingmold.com)

How much do your symptoms prevent you from living a normal life?

My life is severely restricted to chemical/fragrance-and-mold-free environments and settings void of loud music and bright lights. I have not attended our church in about 8 months as it is a water-damaged building. Physical deconditioning restricts former activities including kayaking, bicycling, walking and gardening. I am grateful for the occasional exceptions and was able to maintain some raised bed gardens this past year. Yeah God! Travelling is particularly difficult and severely exacerbates seizure attack episodes no matter what precautions we try! After 30 years as an occupational therapist, including adapting my career with various events of my life, I have not been able to work in 2 years. I miss working!

What do you like to do in your free time and how is this different than before you were sick?

As tolerated, I blog in the middle of the night on topics incorporating my faith in God and hoping to encourage others with my story of recovery from chronic illness. I am grateful to have published an eBook this past October entitled: Hope Beyond Lyme: The First Year. In August of 2012, I started making macramé hemp jewelry to keep myself sane; today I am grateful to offer jewelry from two missionary organizations helping families at risk. A donation will be made to Ianna House (a residence for persons with Lyme Disease) for all Lyme disease awareness items purchased at: Trinity Jewelry By Design.

What do you want people to know about Lyme?

Examine carefully and journal your symptoms (response to treatment, etc.), do online research especially at http://www.ilads.org including vector-borne co-infections, join online Lyme forums, do IGenex testing (www.igenex.com), find an experienced Lyme AND mold literate physician (s), and consider several treatment options as you begin this long journey to healing.

What are you most thankful to have gained, or what important lessons have you learned, from your experience with Lyme?

I don’t know how anyone can recover from this difficult illness without two things: 1) the love, care, and support of other people in your life and 2) faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ who loves you, sees your suffering, grieves with you, and will carry you through the ups and downs of this difficult journey. He is our true source of hope! When struggling with hours of seizures at night, He meets me there every time and comforts my weary heart, my weary soul, my weary frame. Sharing my faith with you is my reassurance that this experience won’t be wasted! I welcome your thoughts and would love to meet you through my blog (Just Julie Writes) or on Facebook at: Hope Beyond Lyme.

Coconut Flour Bread

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I’ve had a bit of a rough week, and when I feel terrible I tend to crave things that are more likely than not to make me feel worse- can we say french fries and rice pasta? So in an effort to keep myself from eating all of these starchy, high carb foods that Lyme flourishes off of, I decided to try out a new recipe for coconut flour bread. I found a recipe with relatively few ingredients on Lexbake’s blog, and then my friend Betty, who cooks for me on Wednesdays, made a few tweaks to make the recipe even better.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this bread, it’s not too sweet, but does have a hint of sweetness, probably from the coconut oil. If you wanted to make a more dessert type bread and you’re not watching your sugar intake, then feel free to add a bit of honey or stevia to sweeten it up. I haven’t tried using the bread to make a sandwich, but it sure is tasty with some pumpkin seed butter spread in top, and I can think of about ten other things that I want to try with it. Endless possibilities.

In other news- I’m currently working on a new post with a treatment update to fill everyone in on my progress, or lack thereof, and I promise that you’ll hear from me again soon(ish).

X, K

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Ingredients:
3/4 C coconut flour
1/2 C virgin coconut oil, melted
1/4 C ghee
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pan with coconut oil. Separate egg whites from yolk, and place in two separate bowls. Beat egg yolks until frothy. Beat egg whites until fluffy and voluminous. Combine egg yolks, ghee, and coconut oil in a bowl. Add salt, baking powder, and coconut flour and combine with egg yolk mixture. Fold in egg whites. Mixture will be a thick paste. Push it down into the loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Staving off Candida & Hearty Oat Bran Muffin Recipe

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About a month ago I found out that I have a moderate case of systemic candida. I had suspected this might be the case for quite a while because I’ve had body wide itching for over a year now but have never been able to attribute it to a specific allergen or anything else. I had taken a candida test early last fall that came back negative, but the test I took in December came back positive, so here I am, treating yet another chronic infection in addition to the Lyme. I’m hoping that knocking the candida will knock the itching and will also speed up my Lyme treatment, which seems to be moving at a glacial pace, but I guess that only time will tell.

For those who don’t know, candida is a fungal infection that occurs when the flora in the gut becomes out of balance and bad bacteria begins to overwhelm the good bacteria. It has been said that all health starts in the gut, and gut flora is so complex that doctors and scientists still know very little about the multitude of microorganisms that reside there.

What we do know is that a healthy gut contains an 80:20 ratio of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria and is also indicative of proper immune function. However, toxins like pesticides, GMO’s, and antibiotics are all known to severely alter and disrupt proper gut flora, making it immensely difficult to maintain intestinal integrity. Since it’s almost impossible to avoid all damaging contaminants, one really must remain diligent in maintaining proper intestinal health.

Since digestive and intestinal issues have been a problem of mine for the past ten years, I knew that regaining my health in this area was of vital importance to my overall healing journey. Some of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably remember my post about a healing dietary plan called the GAPS diet, which I spoke about here, and I am happy to report that I have gained some weight and am more properly digesting and absorbing my food now. However, with the new candida diagnosis, I decided to refine my diet yet again.

While treating candida, it’s crucial to eliminate ALL sugar, grains, dairy, and starchy vegetables, because sugar is essentially what allows the candida to flourish (starchy foods metabolize into sugar). Even though I eliminated conventional sugar, dairy, and gluten long ago, I decided to follow a bit of advice from the official Candida Diet which requires the elimination of honey, maple syrup, agave, and fruits (with the exception of green apples and grapefruit), rice, and root vegetables (goodbye sweet potato fries).

Luckily for me, oat bran and coconut flour are still permitted on the candida diet, and when I stumbled across this oat bran muffin recipe by Whole New Mom, I knew I had to try them. I modified the recipe a bit, and the results are delicious, just trust me on this. If you’re not watching your sugar intake, feel free to top your muffin with a natural fruit preserve, honey, or nut butter for an added pop.

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Ingredients:
2 1/2 C uncooked oat bran
2 t baking powder
1-2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1 C water
2 t vanilla extract
2T coconut oil
2 T ghee
2 sm green apples, peeled and cut into chunks

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Cook apples in saucepan on medium-high heat until soft. Purée and add to wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Butter or grease muffin tin (ghee, grassfed butter, or coconut oil), and spoon batter into tins. Bake 10-20 minutes, or until the muffins set up nicely. Top with butter, raw honey, jam, your favorite nut butter, or enjoy them all by themselves!

*Makes about 14 regular sized muffins.