Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Health

2016 Highlights

It’s a bit surreal to be back to this once-familiar screen. It has been over three-and-a-half years since my last post. Two days after that post came one of those experiences you read about in books, where the world stops for a moment, when it feels as if your heart must have surely stopped beating, and when you know that your world with never be the same. So began the darkest valley of my life, which was not bloggable. And through that valley, my Savior and Redeemer proved Faithful and True, and took me deeper than my feet would have ever nightmared to walk. He let me see His wisdom, sovereignty, and goodness in such rich and sweet ways. And perhaps, some day, I’ll be able to tell you about His redemption in our story. But for now…

Lately, I’ve been feeling the pull (the conviction, actually) to get back to writing, and to get back to my blog. I’ve been pondering some of the ways the Lord has shown me His goodness this year, and it seems like a fun place to re-start the ol’ blog.

So here are some highlights…

Into God’s Word with the One Year Bible
Many years of my life I have begun a Bible reading plan with a new year. I am a rule follower, and a smidge OCD, and generally by March, I would have diagnosed myself as a failure and given up.
A couple years ago, I met my friend Jill and began to hear her talk (A LOT 😉 ) about her beloved One Year Bible for Women. I found out that it’s the entire text of the Bible, just divided for readings of approx. 15 minutes for each day of the year. What got me, though, was realizing that my friend would just read the passages for each date, regardless of whether or not she had missed a day. Granted, I think she rarely misses a day, but it was the idea of not having to “catch up” that intrigued me and made me think this might actually work for me!
So, several days into 2016, my One Year Bible arrived, and I began a new adventure. I think that I have absorbed more of God’s Word this year than I ever have before in a year. I’ve missed plenty of days, but never felt discouraged. And the Lord has been faithful to show more and more of Himself to me as I’ve been in His Word.

Priorities/Rest/Stillness
The Lord has been teaching me much in this area. I don’t think I’ve ever been a “yes man,” yet I’ve had a strong tendency to overfill my plate. I think I’ve come a long way this year in learning to let go of things that are not on my priority list, to make wiser choices, and to not feel guilty when something does not make the cut.
Much of this work in me is just listening to His still small voice. My husband has been a terrific physical voice in this process, and my Mama has been my cheerleader. Crystal Paine’s book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode has been a great practical help, with exercises to help me think through priorities, Best Things, etc.

Growth in my Relationships with my Family
I like where my man and I have grown to in our relationship. Settled, content, growing and working together, etc.
I’m also thankful for the growth I’ve seen in my relationships with my darlings.

Time with my Mother-in-Love
This month marked two years since Mom Smith was diagnosed with advanced cancer. I treasure the tenderness and sweetness that has developed in our relationship as we have walked this journey together. Time is so very precious.

Health Improvement
This…

June 2016
June 2016

to this…
December 2016
December 2016

makes a tremendous difference. It’s not just the 40 pounds lost; there is much more to it than that. I made the commitment to myself and my family that I would do something to become healthier. My wonderful chiropractor has gone above and beyond in helping me to find something that would truly work for me, and my family has put up with both the weirdness of my eating, and with my need to cook “blind” because I couldn’t taste test their food. Definitely a highlight!

Our good God is only good, and He only gives good. He is worthy of all praise!
All is grace.

In Which I Speak of Soy and Estrogen

I have recently been asked to articulate my concerns about soy as food. I have told some of my experience with soy and estrogen dominance in my dust-gathering-yet-unfinished series on Balance, but thought I would share this brief as well.

About five years ago, at 32 years of age, I was displaying the classic signs of pre-menopause (about 15 years earlier than average). I will not go into the details of my physical symptoms, but I was miserable. In addition to my obviously feminine-related symptoms, I had memory loss, confused thinking, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue, and blood sugar issues.

A midwife friend suggested that I might be dealing with the results of estrogen dominance. After research, I realized that while I had likely been dealing with estrogen dominance for most of my life (having displayed key signs of hormonal imbalance along the way), the soy-intensive diet plan that I had been following for the previous year plus had sent my balance further askew than ever before. This resulted in the symptoms mentioned above, all of which are linked with estrogen dominance.

After realizing that my consumption of soy was likely linked to my physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, I cut soy from my diet. I made changes to eliminate other sources of phyto (plant) and xeno (chemical) estrogens from my life, but the elimination of soy was by far the biggest change. Within a month, I could see a dramatic improvement in my mental, emotional, and physical state. In a few more months, it was like a new person (the person I had once been, but hopefully even better) had come to live in our house.

Hormone balance is all about balance… having the right proportions of estrogen, progesterone, etc. Large amounts of soy, a phyto-estrogen, can cause an imbalance in anyone. Some people are more susceptible than others to this imbalance or, already having an hormonal imbalance, to even greater extremes of imbalance. I am one of those people, but I am not rare. And I believe that there are many people whose health issues are, unknown to them, due to hormonal imbalance.

If I’ve peaked your interest, I would be glad to answer questions as I am able. Also, I have found Dr. John Lee’s website to be a helpful and informative resource.

My Health Journey – an update

I’ll get the confession part of this post out-of-the-way right off the bat. I got stuck on my journey for a few weeks. I had five days of sickness, which had some scale advantages, but also weakened me considerably and contributed to my difficulty in getting back into my fitness routine. But honestly, my stalled-out-state was more mental than physical.

I got stuck in complacent mode.

Yes, I was still thirty pounds from my goal weight.

But …
I was over thirty pounds down from the weight I “settled” at after Andrew’s birth.
I no longer cringed when I passed mirrors or saw pictures of myself.
I was into the smallest clothes I owned, aside from a few favorite “thin” outfits I’d saved.

I was starting to think, “You know, I look pretty good for a mother of eight.” Not in a “maybe I’ll stay here for the rest of my life” kind of way, but in a “hmmm, maybe I don’t need to walk today after all” kind of way.
But you know what? “Hmmm, maybe I don’t need to walk today” thinking leads to “maybe I’ll stay here for the rest of my life” thinking.

Thankfully, I “woke up” last Saturday and remembered that my reasons for eating carefully and moving more are bigger than not being disgusted at myself or wearing a particular size of clothing. That being healthy and strong is much more important than looking “pretty good for a mom-of-eight.” That I don’t want to be the fat old lady who hurts her children and grandchildren as they try to care for her. That I want to be the mama and gramma who runs and hikes and swims and plays actively with her children and grandchildren. That I want to glorify God in my body.

So I got moving again this week. I walked with my friend Bethany on Monday and Wednesday, did lots of active work outside with the Blessings, and was thoughtful with my eating. It was nice when the scale showed the difference yesterday morning (I crossed 20 pounds lost since joining Sparkpeople and 35 lost from my “settled” post-baby weight), but better than the numbers is the way I’ve felt. I’m back to pursuing my health goals and becoming who I am meant to be in this area, and it changes my perspective and attitude about so many things!

Thank you, Lord, for the gentle reminders! Help me to be faithful to abide in You and to bring joy to Your heart as I pursue being the woman You’ve called me to be, both inside and outside.

Here are some pictures of my journey that I posted yesterday on my Sparkpeople page.  I was surprised by how dramatic they seem to me…
September 1995 – Our Wedding Day

August 2010 – Three months post-baby and heavier than the aforementioned “settled” weight.  I was already cringing at the thought of looking at this picture.  Can you tell?

May 2011 – Making progress. And loving it!

An update on Andrew’s diet

I mentioned near the beginning of the month that we had discovered that Andrew does not deal well with the bovine milk protein that comes through in my milk (a condition called allergic colitis), that I had gone off dairy, and that he seemed to be improving.  I’ve now been off dairy since around 1pm on Thursday, September 30 (not that I’m counting or anything) and thought I’d give an update on how Andrew and I are doing.

Andrew is doing much better.  Over the first couple of weeks, we saw a dramatic improvement in his comfort level, cheerfulness, and the quality of his stools.  About three weeks in, however, it seemed like he was moving backward.  I felt quite unsettled about him, and called wonderful Mary, our midwife.  She connected me with a friend/client who has dealt with allergic colitis with a few of her babies and who has, through necessity, become an expert.  It was very helpful to talk with her, and I tweaked a couple of things after our conversation, including dropping goat cheese, as her experience indicated that it is any dairy, not just cow dairy, that causes trouble.  That helped a bit more.

Early this week, with Andrew still having the occasional pre-bloody (I can explain that in more detail if you really want) or blood-tinged diaper, I became more convinced that Andrew is one of those babies who cannot handle dairy or soy.  I have generally avoided soy products for years now, but I had not realized how many innocent looking foods have soybean oil in them.  I’ve peeled off a whole other layer of the dietary onion this week. And it seems to be paying off.

Just to give you an idea of the changes I’ve made, here are some of the things that are in the works in our kitchen:

Things at which I feel the need to develop proficiency/for which I need to find recipes that are dairy/soy free –
~ Tortillas
~ Mayonaise
~ Biscuits
~ Potato soup – a fall/winter staple in our home.
~ Popcorn. I tried it tonight with seasoned salt (and olive oil to hold the salt on the popcorn). It was passable, but nothing to hoot and holler about. I’m looking for ideas.
~ There are more on my mental list, but I can’t find the mental paper it’s on. I guess that’s a sign that I need to write it down with pen and paper.

Things I’ve tried/am trying –
~ Experiments in substituting for butter in various recipes. I have some coconut oil, but it is quite pricey, and I’m definitely not going to be making cookies with it at a cup or cup and a half per batch.
~ Today I tried an idea suggested by a friend – using mashed up white beans as a substitute for butter. I found a recipe for oatmeal cookies using beans and they were quite yummy. I’ll post more about this on my Love You Can Eat blog, because, well, it qualifies!
~ I have a batch of artisan bread dough in the fridge so I can start making bread again. Need a carrier for my homemade apple butter, you know. (Store-bought bread is pretty much an automatic fail)
~ I made cornbread last night. I generally use bacon drippings for the fat in my cornbread, so the only sub was almond milk instead of buttermillk. Quite tasty.

Foods for which I’m developing appreciation (read: my sanity savers) –
Almond Milk
Dark Chocolate Almond Milk
Dark Chocolate that doesn’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
Almond butter on gala apples
(Do you see an almond theme here? I’m extra grateful that almonds are an alkalizing food, or I would be in a world of hurt!)

In the midst of our food journey, I am thankful that we do not have to be concerned about one of the most common side effects of allergic colitis, failure to thrive.

Adventures with Andrew

We’re in the midst of a new adventure with our sweet Andrew.  He had a rough week this week, with lots of misery, crying, and poor nursing.  On Thursday he started having blood in his stool, and after the second time, I called our pediatrician.  While I waited for her to return my call, I did a little online searching, so it did not shock me that, after hearing my recitation of Andrew’s troubles, she recommended that I stop eating dairy.

It seems the type of bloody stools Andrew was having are most commonly indicative of a reaction to bovine milk protein (cow’s milk protein) in the mother’s milk, also known as allergic colitis.  The degree of sensitivity varies; I’ve heard tales of moms who can’t eat one chocolate chip without causing a reaction, and of moms who can return to eating yogurt and/or cheese.  But for now I’m avoiding anything with any milk product in it.  I discovered that includes store-bought bread. I don’t eat much of that anyway, but it was a hint as to how pervasive dairy is in our food and what a big job I have ahead of me.  I might do some experimenting later, but for now I’m being ultra careful.

I’ve been concerned about Andrew’s digestion for a while now, and recently discussed my concern with the pediatrician at his four (almost five) month check, but the blood was the first thing that was definitive enough to point the way to helping him.  And he obviously has been processing well enough to gain weight like a champ, so I guess we needed a red flag to give us some direction.

Dr. H said we could expect an obvious improvement by Monday if dairy is indeed the issue, and we have already seen a change for the better.  Andrew is happier, nursing better, and the bloody stools seem to be on the way out.  It has been so wonderful today to see him smile and laugh.

I’ve learned that I’m far from the first mom to deal with this, and that I have several friends who have dealt with similar situations in the last year.  They have said very little about the issue, whether because it hasn’t been a big deal for them or because they did not want to complain, I’m not sure.   

I don’t want to complain either.  Aren’t you relieved?

At the same time, I want other moms who deal with this to know they’re not alone, so you’ll probably be hearing about my dairy-free journey from time to time.

It is hard.

I love dairy.  I love my extra sharp cheddar cheese, my quesadillas, my cream in my tea, etc.  I keep thinking of new things that, for now, I will no longer be enjoying.  Tonight was pizza night, and I did my best to fix myself a good consolation meal… and the black bean salsa salad was wonderful.  But it wasn’t pizza.  When I went to the grocery store this afternoon, I fought tears the majority of the time because I kept seeing yummy things I couldn’t eat.

But…

he is so worth it.

We don’t know what the next few months will bring as far as food is concerned.  But I’m thankful that it looks like we can do something as simple as adjusting my diet to help Andrew feel better and be healthier.  That is so much for which to be thankful! 

When I hear that little chuckle as Mama comes in for the tickle, I’m sure that the sacrifice is worth it.

And when the time comes that I find myself once again eating ice cream and having my Earl Grey with honey and cream?  You’ll probably hear the shouts of rejoicing.

The Hair Saga

I’ve been reading here and there around blogland for a year or more about hair care regimes that do not include shampoo and conditioner. As I’ve been trying to minimize our use of harsh and unknown chemicals for the last several years, the idea has fascinated me. From all I read, people are having great results with very simple hair care. However, I also read that during pregnancy is not the best time to switch from using shampoo, due to all the changes already going on with the pregnant body. So, I set aside the idea at least until Andrew arrived.

In mid-August, I finally made the leap and dropped the shampoo. (How’s that for a visual?!)

Here’s my routine:
“Washing” – I put 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda in one of my little squirt bottles (a peri-bottle works great, for those who save them from post-birth care), fill it with 6-8 ounces of water, and shake.  Once I’m in the shower and have wet my hair, I shake my baking soda again and proceed to squirt it all over my head, focusing on the scalp, not the hair.  I give it a good massage, then rinse well.  Sometimes I leave an inch or so of baking soda solution in the bottle on the first round, add more water, massage and rinse again.  A wise friend suggested a second wash with a lower concentration of baking soda, and this is my lazy way of accomplishing that.

“Conditioning” – I have a spray bottle in the shower that has water and apple cider vinegar in it (1T to 1c water). I use cheap ACV from the grocery store, not my good Bragg ACV. My method has morphed over the last month into me holding my hair in a “ponytail” with one fist and spraying what’s long enough to stick out from my fist with the ACV solution. This is to keep the ACV from getting too close to my scalp (you can read all about why in the links above). I usually proceed with the remainder of my shower routine and rinse before I get out, but I think that’s a holdover from my slathering conditioner days, not a necessity.

How is it?
I love it. My hair feels soft and silky, it tangles much less and has more body than when I was using shampoo and conditioner. I had a fairly easy transition, with just a few days of feeling a little “gunky” as the baking soda worked out build-up of product. I’ve started washing my girls’ hair this way, and it works great for them as well.

I would defnitely recommend that you give it a try for at least a month and see what you think. I’d try to pick a month when it’s not a huge deal if you have a few “off” hair days, especially if you currently wash your hair daily.  Again, see the links above for more information. I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing my experience.

Plantain – The Wonder Weed

Several summers ago, I was bitten by a brown recluse spider.  I set about researching online.  Most of the information I initially found pretty much told me that I was out of luck – that unless I had made it to the doctor almost immediately, I would just have to suffer the effects of the poison.  And from the way my body was responding to the bite, I was guessing that I was going to lose a good-sized chunk of my thigh.

Then I happened upon this article: http://www.highway60.com/mark/BRS/linda_bite.htm. It is a pictorial story of a woman’s experience with a brown recluse bite.  The pictures are scary-looking, but they also show clearly that things really turned around when this woman started using plantain poultices.

I started using a plantain poultice the day I found Linda’s story.  Jonathan went out and found a bunch of plantain and chopped it in the Cuisinart (because neither of us wanted to chew on that much plantain!), and added a smidge of filtered water to make a paste.  We then applied the paste to my bite and covered it with a wet washcloth (as hot as I could stand).  I wrapped in all up in an ace bandage to hold it together.  I don’t know if it was my fertile imagination, but it seemed that I could feel that plantain going to work!  We could see a difference in my brown recluse bite within about 6 hours.  We continued using the poultice several times a day until it was obviously not needed.

The next summer, our oldest son was bitten by a brown recluse.  It was several days before he showed us his bite, but as soon as he did, we started using the plantain.  Right away, the reaction started to go down and it worked toward healing.

A plantain poultice is made using plantain, which is, to my knowledge, the most common yard plant in North America next to dandelions.  Yes, plantain is a kind of super-banana that grows in South America.  I don’t know why a common yard plant in North America shares the name.

One type of plantain has a rounded leaf, similar in shape to a baby spinach leaf.  The other has a longer, skinnier leaf.  The main distinctive about plantain leaves is that their veins are parallel, rather than branching off in many directions.

While the two types of plantain seem to be equally effective, I find that I prefer to use the rounder variety.  The skinny variety seems more “veiny” and is harder to chew.

Plantain seems to be effective in reducing reactions to any sting or insect bite.  For smaller bites and stings, I get a couple leaves of plantain, chew them up into a mush, and put on the bite.  If we’re at home, I’ll take the time to rinse them off, but if we’re without water, I don’t worry too much about it.  I’d rather stave off a huge reaction to a bite or sting.

We have used plantain many times for bites, stings, and even for snake bites.  The Blessings are trained to go find plantain and chew it up to stick on themselves.  It has saved us many extended recoveries.

Here are some more pictures to help you identify plantain:
Spring Plantain

Late Summer/Fall Plantain