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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)

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Ever since I can remember I’ve had blood sugar issues, namely hypoglycemia, when I was overdue for a meal, even by a little bit.  My Dad has the same problem and my mother adopted the phrase, “feed ’em or fight ’em” when dealing with the two of us.  It’s like all of a sudden our evil twins would possess us and turn us into belligerent psychos.  Despite the fact that it was a regular occurrence, we never recognized the signs, and after we had eaten, there were apologies to give for our insane behavior.  It’s like having a multiple personality at times.

The foods I was drawn to when I was in this state were very carby and very refined.  In fact, as a child/teen, I routinely chose meals that were mostly starch with very little protein.  I ate frozen waffles with fake maple syrup most mornings, that or canned biscuits with white gravy.  When I was around 17, I became a vegetarian, but what it really should have been called was a Carbotarian.  French fries and pasta were on the menu every day and in large quantities.  This was the first time I started putting on weight, although I would have still been considered a healthy weight.  When I started college, I became very preoccupied with losing the extra weight, but I got fairly obsessive about it and got WAY too thin, probably about 95 lbs (not shocking for 5 ft, 0 inches, but still noticeably skinny, especially for me).  I got a lot of attention and praise from my family and friends for losing my “baby fat” and blossoming into a young woman (with no boobs or butt).  I lost the weight by eating lots of fat free, but high glycemic carbohydrates.  For the next 10 years, I yo-yo’ed in my weight, always trying to stay slim, and usually doing a pretty good job of it, but usually only by calorie restriction and eating “diet” foods.

When I was in 7th grade, already far into puberty, I contracted the chicken pox and got very ill.  I missed a full 6 weeks of school and lost every bit of extra fat that was on my body.  My breast buds went away and my puberty was halted for about a year while I was able to gain back my weight.  I did not get my period until the following year, long after most of my friends had gotten theirs.  It never became regular, but I was still having one every 6 weeks to 2 months.  That is until the unhealthy vegetarian eating started and I started gaining weight.  I noticed that I was getting my period less often, but I was not about to mention it to my Mom because I knew she would have made me see a doctor about it.  It was after I lost too much weight in college that my period stopped pretty much all together.  Despite not having a cycle, when I was 20, I went to the health center at college and got on birth control pills.  I failed to mention that anything was wrong with my cycle because I was worried that they would not give the BCPs to me and would want to do testing.  I continued on the pills until about 6 months before I got married at around 25 years old.  I was having migraines and intermittent depression and I just felt like it was the pills.  I stopped taking them and the symptoms went away.  I grew concerned when my period did not come back, even after most of a year.  I was concerned about my future fertility by that point and so I went to a Reproductive Endocrinologist to get checked out.  She had a hard time diagnosing me because I fit some of the criteria for both Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (what anorexics and athletes get when they do not get their period anymore) and PCOS.  I had a high LH: FSH ratio, multiple cysts on my ovaries, and acne, but I also had a very thin lining despite not having menstruated for many months and low estrogen.  I did have a light withdraw bleed with Provera, so she decided on PCOS as the diagnosis.  I think very little was known back then about PCOS, and especially Thin PCOS.  As the years have passed, there in no question in my mind that I have PCOS.

In conclusion, I began with blood sugar issues and then had one assault after another on my HPO axis – starvation from illness, eating a diet comprised almost completely of carbohydrates, disordered/restrictive eating, and years of birth control pills.  I also have Celiac Disease, which supposedly has some correlations to PCOS.  It’s no wonder that I am having a hard time getting my cycles back despite working very hard for it.  It’s a complicated medical picture for conventional and holistic practitioners alike.   It definitely confounds me.

While I was waiting for the D-Chiro-Inositol to arrive from Australia, my acupuncturist put me on regular inositol (called myo-inositol).  I did quite a bit of research into myo-inositol and is has been found to really help with OCD and panic/anxiety disorders, in addition to increasing insulin sensitivity (the main reason why I’m taking it).  I’ve had issues with OCD-ish type issues and anxiety before, off and on throughout my life, so I took it upon myself to increase the dosage from 6 tablets at 400 mg each/day to 9 tablets which is getting closer to the 4-20 gram therapeutic dosage for OCD.  I mean, why not kill two birds with one stone since I am taking it anyway, right?  Over the next few days after starting the myo-inositol, I noticed that I was spending less time in the mirror, inspecting my acne and grungy pores, and I was resisting the urge to pick and squeeze.  My face miraculously cleared up, except for a scant few spots making me realize that my acne is really not as bad as it seems.  I am actually creating some or most of the problem myself.  This last Saturday though, the DCI arrived and I stopped taking the myo-inositol, forgetting the effortless improvement in my self-caused acne.  Since that time I have gradually started feeling more anxious (with no real cause) and I have found myself scrutinizing my pores in the mirror more than I would like, and sadly, my face is looking bad again.  It just dawned on me that stopping the myo-inositol is to blame and started it back up again today.  I actually just found a really great article from Incyst.com, explaining the use of inositol (both DCI and myo-inositol) for PCOS and when and why women might need both.  Fascinating.  I will report back in a few days if adding the myo-inositol helps me again.  It will be a valuable experiment for me.

I am really enjoying my new and less structured approach to this experiment.  I am finally starting to experience a little balance that I’ve been after.  “Letting go” of control is the central theme in so much Eastern and spiritual teachings, but this concept has always been a challenge for me.  I intensely start a project with bull-dog determination, holding myself in contempt of my goal at all times.  Obviously this gets old fast and within a few months, I revert back to an easier life.  This time however, I’ve kept all of the tenants of this experiment, but just turned down the flame a little.  What I’ve discovered is paradoxical.  I stopped posting everyday, and the traffic to this blog has flourished.  I’ve been exercising every other day, rather than 6 days a week and I’ve lost weight!  I’ve incorporated more fat (organic pasture butter and some raw whole milk) and beneficial carbohydrates (such as oatmeal more regularly) into my diet and I’ve lost yet more weight.  The yoga pants that used to slide down my hips when I was breastfeeding are doing the slide yet again.  I think this proves that stressing and fussing excessively over something only crowds out the inherit growth and potential within it.   This is shaping into a plan that I can stick to for life, I sincerely hope.

Even since the time change a few days ago, I’ve felt like a chicken running with it’s head cut off.  I was so tired from the weekend that I almost talked myself out of exercise today, but I had some green tea instead and got my butt moving anyway.  I am really going to have to work on my motivation to get through the rest of this experiment.  My routine has really been trying to run off course lately and I keep nudging it back, trying to salvage it.  Jude is requiring more and more from me – I feel like I’m running in circles most of the day just to keep up.

Had a tiny more bit of spotting and felt bloated after dinner for the first time in months.

Exercise – did about 3/4 of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates DVD with 3 lb. weights

Mind/Body – Had a very brief few minutes to soak in the tub and read while Jude watched a video.  He did end up joining me within a few minutes to splash his arms in my bathwater, so my time-out was shortly over.  Good while it lasted.

Diet – 114 lbs

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

Lunch – leftover butternut squash bisque, collards with black eyed peas, braised red cabbage,  and about 1/2 cup cottage cheese for protein

Dinner – Half a grilled NY strip, half a roasted acorn squash with butter/honey/cinnamon, leftover braised red cabbage, and a wedge of iceberg with homemade blue cheese vinaigrette dressing

Snacks – green tea with milk, half a grapefruit and a handful of raw almonds

Feeling a bit sluggish on the second day of no exercise.  With everyone in town, plus trying to stick to this experiment, plus getting things done on a usually busy weekend, and I’m running in circles all day.  Started spotting a tiny bit again and boy, oh boy, my acne is HORRID!  What the hell is going on with my hormones??  A period, ovulation, or just plain screwed up??  I wish I knew.

Exercise – took the day off

Mind/Body – Got to hang out more with my friends from out of town and see their miracle babies.  Due to the time change, I got a few extra minutes at the end of the day for a relaxing bath and some reading time.

Diet – did not weigh

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

Lunch – leftover butternut squash bisque and about 1/2 cup cottage cheese for protein

Dinner – Chicken Parmesan cutlet topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese with sauteed portobello mushrooms/thyme/butter/sugar snap peas, and lima beans on the side. very small glass of red wine

Snacks – green tea with milk, red grapes and a handful of raw almonds

When we began in earnest to try to conceive Jude with fertility treatments (early 2008), I became part of an internet support group for thin women with PCOS who were also trying to get pregnant.  Over the years most of us have remained friends and have shared the ups and downs of our pregnancies, births, and our adventures in mommy-hood together.  We arranged a little get together this weekend in Austin for four of us and our babies (plus 3 husbands).  It was so weird and wonderful to finally get to meet everyone after sharing so much online.  What a miracle to see all of the babies after some of us had such a hard time getting them here.  I know I will eventually meet everyone in the group in real life because these women are my true friends – friends that were really there for me through some of the hardest times in my life, and continue to be there during the happiest.

Exercise – took the day off

Mind/Body – I had such a good time getting to meet and visit all of my friends and their babies.  It was good for the heart and soul.  Also got a badly needed date with my husband where we were able to talk, laugh, and have fun.

Diet – 114 lbs.

Breakfast – small latte and one black bean, bacon, cheese, and avocado breakfast taco on a corn tortilla

Lunch – did not feel great so only had an almond Bumble Bar

Dinner – date night out – tortilla chips and salsa, 3 mini al pastor tacos, and a few bites of refried black beans. One top shelf margarita on the rocks!!

Snacks – iced tea

I forgot to mention that at my visit this past week, my acupuncturist wanted me to try halving my Gymnema dose to only one tablet, 3 times a day rather than 2 tablets, 3 times a day.  I wrote about Gymnema in depth here, but in a nutshell it helps regulate sugar metabolism and makes me have virtually no sugar cravings despite eating low carb and almost no sugar, except for in fruit.  I started feeling sugar cravings by the end of the first day with the reduced dose (11/2/10).  I tried to fight the urge the next day, but I decided that I needed to up my dose again and just modify it a little.  Since I eat almost no carbs at breakfast, I will not take any after that meal.  I will take 2 after both lunch and dinner.  So far this seems to be working.

Exercise – Crunch: Super Slim Down DVD

Mind/Body – Got a quick and very hot bath where I was able to lay back and meditate for a short while.  It really helped to both relax and invigorate me at the same time.

Diet – 114 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese (which Jude ate most of)

Lunch – leftover red cabbage, collards/black eyed peas, and a scoop of cottage cheese for a little protein.

Dinner – Roasted butternut squash/veggie soup (pureed) topped with cheese and cilantro chicken sausage

Snacks – half an apple and a handful of raw almonds, green tea with milk, small juice glass of raw milk

Still feeling a little scatterbrained and slightly anxious.  Not sure where this is coming from, but I don’t like it.  I’ve enjoyed so much focus the last few months so I hope this is not a trend.  At least I physically feel strong and well, unlike earlier in the week.

In better news, Jude’s verbal communication is really taking off again after not hearing much during his teething crisis.  I’ve been in a constant state of amazement in him nearly all day.

More breakouts today.  Blahhhh!

Exercise – Self: Slim and Sleek Fast DVD – about 40 minutes with 3 lb. weights

Mind/Body – Got a very nice soak in the tub today after my workout and I enjoyed a great chapter in my book.

Diet – 114 lbs.

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

Lunch – Part of a can of organic tomato soup and a piece of GF high fiber bread, toasted with a tablespoon or so of roasted almond butter

Dinner – 6 huge sea scallops pan seared with pasture butter and parsley and collard greens sauteed with slow cooked black eyed peas and truffle oil.

Snacks – small bunch of red grapes and a handful of raw almonds, 1/2 a small grapefruit and a handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk, chai tea with milk, 1 mini Reeses peanut butter cup

I had a little daydream today while I was laying beside Jude as I was trying to get him down for his nap.  I’ve recently had some inner turmoil regarding the notion of having another baby.  Part of me never wants to go down that path again because it’s such a hard one, from start to finish, and then you actually have to raise the baby that comes at the end of it!!  The other part of me cannot see myself with only one child.  I still have feelings of longing and jealousy when I see pregnant women.  This conflict in my mind really troubles me.  As Jude fell asleep and I was looking at his beautiful little face, I remembered so distinctly how he looked when they handed him to me after birth, about what an absolute sacred and spiritual moment it was. A calm came over me and I suddenly felt the debate in my mind melt away.  I knew right then and there that I will have another baby someday.  I’m not going to stress about how or when, but I know it will happen.  I put this issue to bed along with my child – for now…

Jude had a really good day today, better than I’ve seen him in several weeks actually.  He seemed to be pain free and attempted lots of verbal communication and ate well.  The daily struggles with him really stress me out and take their toll on us all, so these respites are very welcome and exciting.

Sadly, I’m breaking out again despite taking care of my face before bed.

It was a cold and overcast in Austin today, but that means nothing to a toddler when they want to play outside.  I’m actually going to need cold weather gear this year because I will be sitting outside in the cold for hours and hours this Fall/Winter.  I always feel better for doing it though – a little sunshine and communion with nature.  It’s good for the soul and my poor, neglected kitty loves the company too.  Off to find a hat and gloves that a toddler will actually keep on his head and hands.

Exercise – The Trainer’s Edge: Integrated Strength Training with Jeffrey Scott, about 40 minutes with 3 lb. weights.

Mind/Body – Had a very nice Epsom salt bath with Clary Sage and Lavender essentials oils.  I even got a whole chapter read as Jude took a long nap today.

Diet – 114 lbs.

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

Lunch – Half a portion of oatmeal with butter, cinnamon, agave nectar, milk, and a tablespoon of almond butter.  Had it with half an apple and about 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.

Dinner – leftovers: coconut milk braised chicken and veggies over lentil pilaf
Snacks – 1/2 plum and handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk, red grapes with a handful of almonds