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Baby Ian is now 6 months old and I am JUST starting to get my life back in order again in terms of meeting my long term health goals.  I promised myself when I first started this experiment that I would not abandon my health and wellness goals once I was no longer seeking pregnancy.  I’ve been enjoying reading back through this blog to remind myself all of the wonderful meals I created and lifestyle choices I made to get the fertility results I was after.  As it turns out, I don’t think they are all that different from what my new, “post baby” health plan should be.  After all, I still have PCOS and Celiac Disease, and will for the rest of my life.  It’s time to start thinking about my health for the long term and how to stay trim, healthy, happy, and vital as I age.  I recently saw an interview with Deborah Szekely, one of the founders of the health and wellness movement, who just turned 90 years old this week.   Not only did she look great, but she was as eloquent and vivacious as someone half her age.  What a testament to practicing what you preach, but really, what an inspiration!  I’m 35 now, and so I will set my health goals at living to 100+ years old.  That leaves 65 years, or 780 months.  I hear-by rename this blog, My 780 month PCOS Experiment.  To christen the name, I’m going to round-up and share all of the new health/wellness information I’ve come across recently as this passion of mine has slowly emerged in importance again in my post pregnancy life.

1) A more nutritious and PCOS friendly gluten free bread

I’ve often been dismayed at how refined and lacking in nutrition most commercially available gluten free breads are.  And when you look at the carbohydrate content, it’s not something a woman with PCOS should be eating either.  After some searching around, I came across a woman’s website, http://www.elanaspantry.com/, who has developed many gluten free baking recipes using primarily almond flour.  She also uses coconut flour and several types of alternative sweeteners that I’ve grown to like.  I’ve taken her “Paleo” bread recipe and adapted it for myself and I’m really happy with the results.  It is packed with protein and has almost no carbohydrates.  It’s easy to make, nutritious, and filling.

2) Grain Free Diet

The woman I mentioned above, Elana, is a celiac, but she also has Multiple Sclerosis, and has developed her own grain-free, healing diet that keeps her symptom free.  I was not aware before reading her website that many people with Celiac Disease and other kinds of auto-immune disease do better with no grains in their diet, in addition to avoiding the gluten producing ones.   I also found out on her site that both Celiac Disease and Diabetes have the same gene in common and so it makes a lot of sense that I have insulin problems/PCOS AND Celiac Disease.   The diet that I followed at the beginning of this experiment was primarily grain free, as well as low carb and low sugar and obviously I did very well with this way of eating, so I am going back to it, but with renewed vigor as I now better understand the hows and whys.  I do want to mention that it is not a “Paleo” diet though.  I eat dairy and beans and probably all sorts of other things that are not allowed on the Paleo diet.  It’s simply a diet that I have tailored to my own, particular health needs.

3) Xylitol

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is primarily derived from birch trees (and the fiber of other fruit and vegetables).  It’s low in calories and carbs unlike sugar and it also does not affect blood sugar the same way sugar does.  I’ve been a big fan of agave nectar in the past as my alternative sweetener of choice, but with the recent studies showing a correlation between fructose and high triglycerides, I have decided to limit my use of it, as it is a “high fructose” product.  I am REALLY picky about my sweeteners, as I cannot stand that weird artificial aftertaste that many, even natural, sweeteners have.  I don’t use stevia for that very reason.  Xylitol tastes very much like cane sugar to me.  Xylitol has many other health benefits though that I am also very interested in.  When ingested, it creates an environment in your mouth that is not welcoming to the bacteria that cause plaque and so it can do wonders for one’s oral health if used in sufficient quantities over time.  In fact, it can help remineralize your teeth, virtually healing them from within.  It’s been shown to do the same things for bones too.  There is also research that shows that it prevents ear and respiratory infections.  It’s amazing to me that there is such a product out there that I am only recently hearing much about.  My whole family is using it now with great results.

4) Unsweetened, unflavored protein powder

I’ve been looking for a protein powder that I can add to baked goods and smoothies to boost protein without adding a flavor (vanilla for example) or any sweetness (such a stevia).  Both hemp and pea protein powders were recommended by Dr Frank Lipman.  I found hemp powder at my store, and I can say that so far I am really happy with it.  It has a very mild and pleasing natural flavor and I like the green color too – it just “looks” healthy!  I use it in my new bread recipe as well as smoothies to replace the yogurt that baby Ian can’t tolerate right now while breastfeeding.  I can see lots of ways to use it in the future as the package says that it can be used replace up to 25% of the flour in a recipe.

5) Dr. Frank Lipman

I mention Dr. Frank above, and for good reason.  He’s an MD who practices “Functional Medicine” in NYC, and a wonderful source of health and wellness information.  He gives truly sane, well researched, and highly usable advice to stay on the cutting edge of health.  After reading his website, I can wholeheartedly recommend him as a valuable guide to health.  I love his site and his Facebook presence.  The best thing I can say about him though is that I trust him.

6) Misclaneous – Here’s a list of some of the other things that I’m still doing regularly (or have resumed doing recently) to help treat my PCOS:

-cooking with and making salad dressing with organic apple cider vinegar

– having green tea every morning

– having sufficient protein with each meal and snack

– taking a multi-vitamin, B-multi, vitamin C and D, calcium, magnesium, omega 3s/fish oils, and probiotic.  I’m keeping my supplement list quite simple right now since I’m breastfeeding.

– deep, mediative breathing any time I can

– avoiding toxins and chemicals in my cleaning and personal care

– eating whole, mainly organic foods

– avoiding sugar, most grains, and things with a high carbohydrate and glycemic load

– eating lots of healthy fats (unrefined olive and coconut oil, pastured butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, fish/sardines)

I was a whirlwind of industry today – kicking ass and taking names.  I’ve recently added back a few of the household chores that my husband has been doing to help out while I was postpartum, breastfeeding, and then feeling ill on Metformin.  My goal is to eventually be able to get most of the chores that we usually save for weekends done during the week so we have more fun family time for outings and events without our house falling into disorder (you know, no groceries or clean clothes).  It’s all very exhausting though and I have been falling into bed with a completely tired body, the way I imagine a manual laborer feeling.   People may scoff at my traditional role as a stay at home Mom, but that’s only if they find domesticity an inferior job.  I don’t.  When I am feeling well, it’s the most fulfilling career in the world.

Exercise – 40 minutes of Crunch: Super SlimDown DVD

Mind/Body – Quick, Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil and a few minutes of reading.    I could not fit this in until the very end of the day, but I’ll take it.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Chopped salad with leftover pork and chicken, veggies, fruit, a little bit of cheese, and avocado with homemade apple cider vinaigrette.  Multi-grain crackers.

Dinner – Broiled lamb chops with mint/cucumber Greek yogurt sauce.  Crock pot chick peas sauteed with baby spinach, yellow/red pepper/onion, and Kalamata olives.

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, handful of raw almonds, half cup of green/spearmint tea with milk.

We’ve got one molar through and the other one pushing hard and this mama is exhausted!  I’ve been playing catch up all day as Jude finally napped at 2pm and I rushed through a salad and a work out.  This morning, I felt almost, barely crampy and I found that I was spotting a little.  It has not amounted to much, but it’s still there.  I’m not sure what to make of it, so I guess we will have to just wait and see.  I absolutely never spot, even though my periods are always many months, and sometimes over a year, apart.  So, this is a real surprise today.  My acupuncturist said this about it:

“Spotting isn’t necessarily ideal (unless it’s implantation spotting), but it may give us some indication that your body is trying to regulate your cycle and could use a little progesterone support.  I do see it as a positive development, though!”

I also received a very nice compliment from my husband tonight that made my mouth hang open.  He said my butt looked great!  It’s these words floating around in my head that keep me motivated and my eyes on the prize.

Exercise – 40 minutes of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates.  I was able to add 10 additional minutes to the work out today rather than stopping at 30 minutes!  Progress!

Mind/Body – I did not get much down time today, but I did see a little piece of heaven while reading books to Jude.  It’s a powerfully spiritual thing when you see the light of recognition come alive in your baby’s face.  He kept taking my face in his hands and loving on me so fiercely after each book.  He’s a passionate little dude.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, fruit, cheese, roasted chicken, avocado, and homemade apple cider vinaigrette.  Multi-grain crackers.

Dinner – Organic chicken thighs and shitake mushrooms braised in coconut milk, served over cilantro pesto dressed lentils.

Snacks – 5 multi-grain crackers and slice of cheese, green/spearmint tea with milk, chai tea with milk

After the pants fiasco yesterday, I decided to do something that would normally strike the fear of God in me – try on my clothes and clean out my closet and drawers.  I’ve been an extraordinary number of sizes in the last few years.  Now that my weight has stabilized, and as an incentive to keep it that way, I have packed up all of my clothes that are too big, even by a little bit.  If I did not have confidence in this experiment or in my ability to stick to it, I would not have had the inspiration to make this clean start.  I’ll admit it.  It feels pretty good.

I discussed my increased acne with my acupuncturist today and she added a supplement called B6-Niacinamide that she thinks will help to my supplement regimen.   It is essentially a mega dose of Vitamin B6 and Niacin.  Apparently women who have acne that is related to their menstrual cycle respond well to B6 supplementation.  I’ll be reporting back on any improvement.  Fingers crossed!

Exercise – 40 minutes of Crunch: Super SlimDown DVD

Mind/Body – Hot bath with lavender essential oil and a good book.  Also had a really nice 45 minute relaxation/meditation during acupuncture.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – leftover pork loin/onions/grapes and collard greens/black eyed peas

Dinner – Crispy herbed and oven-fried chicken, sauteed yellow squash/zucchini/onions, lima beans

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, handful of raw almonds, green tea with milk, black iced tea, 3/4 Bumble Bar.

I could barely move around at Gymboree this morning because my pants kept falling down.  I wore these same pants a few weeks back with no issue and so I did not think to wear a belt.  I may not be losing weight, but I must be losing inches/fat and gaining muscle.  I have noticed the same thing with a few new pairs of skinny jeans that I bought at the beginning of this experiment.  They look less skinny and more baggy.  Having more muscle mass is supposed to help you burn more calories at rest (raises metabolism) and helps reverse insulin resistance – both super health benefits for women with PCOS.  Oh, and it looks good too.  😉

Exercise – 30 minutes of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates with 3 lb. weights.

Mind/Body – Epsom salt bath with Clary Sage essential oil and a good book.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, fruit, cheese, avocado, and multi-grain crackers

Dinner – Soy Lacquered Salmon with lime and cilantro, crock pot black beans with spring onions, and lemon/ginger broccoli

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and a slice of organic cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, venti black iced tea, handful of almonds, chai tea with milk

I’m proud of myself for using this weekend to continue my experiment rather than using it as an excuse to fall of the wagon.  Traditional diets, ones that are based on restriction and scarcity, often have “cheat” days where you “reward” yourself with foods that are bad for you.  By now, I feel like the diet portion of this PCOS experiment has become a way of life.  I don’t feel like rewarding myself with foods that I know undermine the work I’ve done so far.  They don’t even seem appetizing.  Nothing tastes as good as total health feels.  I’ve gotten a taste of total health lately, and I want more.

I was able to take some time this weekend to write up two posts that I had been wanting to for a while.  One is about my favorite way to relax, in a hot bath with Epsom salt and essential oils.  With a little more research, it seems that Epsom salt also may help underlying PCOS health concerns, such as insulin resistance.  The other is about the supplement I take called Gymnema 4g, an herb that has been used for centuries to help regulate blood sugar.  I credit it for my now month long adherence to the lower carb, PCOS diet and my diminishing hypoglycemia, carb and sugar cravings.  Both definitely worth a read:

https://melissacottonwomack.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/gymnema-helps-regulate-my-blood-sugar/

https://melissacottonwomack.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/epsom-salt-bath-with-essential-oils/

Exercise – Took the day off.

Mind/Body – Was able to sneak in a hot, highly concentrated Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil.  Read more about vet life on the Yorkshire dales.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with roasted chicken, veggies, fruit, cheese, avocado – Multi-grain crackers

Dinner – 1/2 large, grilled NY strip steak with a pat of fresh herb butter, 1/2 roasted acorn squash with agave/butter/cinnamon and sauteed Swiss Chard with thinly sliced and browned garlic and fresh nutmeg.  A very small glass of red wine.

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and a slice of organic cheese, 1/2 grapefruit and a handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk

I had all sorts of projects planned for today, but Jude was in no shape or mood to do them.  He added a runny nose to the teething mix and is miserable and not afraid to let everyone know about it.  I finally got him down for a nap and I quickly started my work out, but had to start and stop it multiple times to get it done because of his frequent crying.  In addition, I have a growing itchy allergic reaction rash surrounding my eyes that I am now sure it’s from mango.  When I was in the hospital to birth Jude, I had the same thing happen, but worse, and I had been eating a mango a day to try to go into labor. Combined with my current acne surge, I’m a hot mess.  Although this is only a preliminary observation, I think my leg hair has slowed way down in it’s growth and is more sparse, lighter, and softer.  I’ll admit that I have not shaved it since Tuesday and it’s just barely noticeable 5 days later.  I wish my apparently lowered androgens would have a meeting with my acne.

Exercise – 40 minutes of Crunch: Super SlimDown DVD

Mind/Body – Not even close!

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – 2 black bean, avocado, cheese, and bacon breakfast tacos on corn tortillas, iced black tea with milk

Lunch – Chopped salad with grilled shrimp, veggies, fruit, cheese, and avocado.  Multi-grain crackers.

Dinner – Roasted chicken infused with lemon and fresh thyme and rosemary. collard green and slow cooked black eyed peas with white truffle oil.

Snacks – 1/2 grapefruit, handful of almonds, cottage cheese x2, green/spearmint tea

When I started working with my first acupuncturist in 2006, I was experiencing anxiety and sleep problems (in addition to amenorrhea and other PCOS issues).  She suggested soaking in a bath with a few handfuls of Epsom salt (around 2 cups) and 25 drops of lavender essential oil.  She explained how the Magnesium contained in Epsom salt would absorb through my skin and help calm my nerves and help me relax.  And the lavender is a powerful relaxation aromatherapy essence and is good for hormone balancing.  I gave it a try and could feel the difference right away.  It elicited such a relaxing feeling in me that the bathtub is where I started doing my daily meditation and down time.  Gradually, in conjunction with ongoing acupuncture and Traditional Chinese herb tea, I was able to overcome my daily anxiety and I began to sleep soundly again.  I’ve gone back to this therapy many times over the years and it never fails.  I mix it up some days with other essential oils.  Clary Sage and Geranium are referenced all over the internet for female hormonal balancing.  I have a nice little variety to choose from daily.

Interested to know more about Epsom salt, I just found a really interesting website sponsored by the Epson Salt Council explaining all that Epsom salt can do for the body.  Now that I am working out almost every day, it seems to really help with muscle soreness.  I’m also amazed to see possible health benefits for those suffering with PCOS, including improving insulin sensitivity.  No wonder it makes me feel so good!

Researchers and physicians report that raising your magnesium levels may:
•    Improve heart and circulatory health, reducing irregular heartbeats, preventing hardening of the arteries, reducing blood clots and lowering blood pressure.
•    Improve the body’s ability to use insulin, reducing the incidence or severity of diabetes.
•    Flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.
•    Improve nerve function by regulating electrolytes. Also, calcium is the main conductor for electrical current in the body, and magnesium is necessary to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.
•    Relieve stress. Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well being and relaxation.

http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/about_better_health_through_soaking.htm

Read a really chilling piece about the state of the environment on my husband’s website this morning.  With a lump in my throat, it got me thinking about what I just read in Michael Pollan’s book, In defense of Food.  He makes several arguments about how food that is the most healthy for humans is also the food that negatively impacts the planet the least.  When I originally read this, I just nodded my head, taking his word for it.  But today, I remembered the grocery lists that I have been making weekly to get the food necessary for my PCOS diet.  Before the diet, and while feeling ill on Metformin, the packaged products in the center of the store made up the bulk of my shopping.  Now the list is comprised of mostly organic produce with little or no packaging.  Like the article highlights, I know and intellectually understand that there is an environmental crisis, but acting on it has always escaped me beyond the customary recycling, etc.  Choosing to eat well for health is also a vote for the ecological health of the planet.  Knowing this and seeing it in action encourages me to make more changes (more locally grown food, reusable produce bags).  You can’t argue with a win win situation.

Back at the ranch, the teething hell is deeper yet today.  Mama finally got in a workout (a new one that kicked my ass) after trying to get Jude to nap for 2 hours, but that was just about all of the nap he could stand and he started crying after about 35 minutes.  I did not get my lunch until almost 4 pm.  Surprisingly, even with an intense workout, I did not get low blood sugar shakes and become non-functional.  I would have passed out just a few weeks ago.

Exercise – First 30 minutes (mainly cardio) of Self: Slim and Sleek Fast DVD.

Mind/Body – I was not able to enjoy any alone time for relaxation today.  Instead, I did a little healing visualization while I was rocking Jude before his nap. I imagined my Endocrine System as an engine that was being started and that settled into a perfect idle.  For some reason I think of it in these terms when I read about it.  I also meditated about how it would feel to be healed from PCOS, trying to fully enjoy the accomplishment, even before it happens.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – small iced latte, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with leftover grilled shrimp from last night, veggies, fruit, cheese, and avocado with homemade apple cider vinaigrette and multi-grain crackers.

Dinner – Leftover meatloaf, broccoli in cheese sauce, green peas, and a tiny bit of bean medley.  Tequila gimlet with mango (1/2 jigger) – I’m a total lightweight.

Snacks – multi-grain crackers, a few bites of mango, a handful of raw almonds, 1 slice organic cheese, green/spearmint tea with milk

We’re in toddler teething hell around here and so nights and naps have been difficult.  With enough milk and coaxing today, I was still able to get my daily work-out and relaxation, but it was difficult.  This might have unnerved me a few weeks ago, but I felt like I could easily deal with the frustration today.  This new found flexibility is really convenient.

Today also marks the first month down of this 6 month experiment.  I have given my first monthly progress report here for this PCOS Experiment thus far.

Exercise – 40 minutes of Crunch: Super Slimdown DVD.  This one feels a little more targeted than the Burn and Firm DVD, especially for abs.  I think I may be sore tomorrow.

Mind/Body – Hot Epsom salt bath with Clary Sage and Geranium essential oils.  Read a little of my James Herriot book while I soaked.  I love hearing his descriptions of Yorkshire life.  All Creature Great and Small was a favorite show that my family watched on Saturday nights when I was growing up.  This book series makes me feel relaxed and serene.

Diet – 115 lbs

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with leftover chicken sausage, cheese, fruit, veggies.  Multi/whole grain crackers.

Dinner – spice rubbed grilled shrimp over red and yellow pepper sauteed with onion and topped with shredded cheddar cheese – all rolled up in Boston lettuce leaves, side of crock pot black beans with crumbled goat feta on top and a side salad of mango and avocado dressed with lime.

Snacks – half grapefruit, handful of almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk, half a plum, handful of cashews, cottage cheese