What It Was Like Recovering From a Double Mastectomy (My Top Surgery Healing Journey)

Disclaimer: This article is written from my personal experience getting an elective double mastectomy. I do not, nor have I ever, had breast cancer and did not get my breasts removed because of cancer or the BRCA gene. I simply wanted my breasts removed and got them removed with a plastic surgeon (you can read more about my decision to get this surgery here).

While cancer patients may be interested in this article for healing purposes, please be aware that this article is written more with people who want their breasts removed for gender reasons in mind. I say this simply because I don’t want to offend anyone with the language I use in this article to describe my journey or my desire to get my breasts removed, so please keep this in mind when reading.

That being said, I am also not transgender and so transgender individuals reading this article, please also keep in mind that I didn’t get top surgery because I changed genders.

I am also not any type of health professional and am not recommending my personal healing protocol, including herbs or supplements, to anyone. I would always advise following your surgeon’s instructions for healing and following up with an herbalist or another natural health professional as you see fit.

There will be photos of surgical incisions, scars, blood, and bruises in this article. Please be mindful of any triggers you may have in regards to trauma, body dysmorphia, etc. before continuing to read this post.

Also, this post is going to be long!

So here we finally are! I’m almost 13 weeks post-op as I’m writing this. I got my breasts removed via a double mastectomy with a plastic surgeon on November 23, 2020.

I wanted to post a longer, more detailed article about my recovery journey because when I was looking for information about top surgery it was hard to find all the details I needed to feel “prepared” for my surgery (put that in quotes because I feel like you can’t ever really be prepared for something you haven’t experienced).

Don’t get me wrong—some of the videos and articles I saw were super helpful. I’m just posting my experience in the hopes that it could also be helpful to someone else recovering from this procedure!

While this article won’t be a day-to-day guide, it will be a week-by-week guide up until week eight post-op. I will also continue to update this post as I heal throughout this year with photos and any other information I feel belongs here.

Before I begin with my week-by-week process, I have to say one thing: I am SO happy that I got my surgery at the time of year that I did. There are a few important reasons for this:

  1. I got my surgery at the end of November, and it’s cold where I live in November. I could not imagine having gotten this surgery done in the summer when it’s nice outside and I would have been moping about all the things I couldn’t do. It was the perfect time of year to cozy up on the couch with my husband, watch movies, and eat toast. I’m convinced would have been miserable if I had gotten this surgery done during warmer weather.
  2. My binder after surgery was super tight and itchy and horrible and I felt that if it was warm outside, I would have been more sweaty and irritable with that thing on. As it was, I was already so irritable with it that when I texted my husband after my post-op appointment to tell him that they had taken the binder off and the drains out, he sent me an emoji of a sweaty face (like he was nervous about what would happen if I came out with my drains still in and that binder still on, ha).
  3. I got my surgery done the week of Thanksgiving, which gave me a perfect excuse to not see anybody for that holiday (I wouldn’t have seen anyone anyway, but still, it was nice to have an excuse).

So now that you know why I’m happy I got my double mastectomy done in November, here’s my healing journey (there is also a scar salve recipe and some FAQs at the end!).

Table of Contents

But First, Some Before + After Pics

There will be other pictures in this post, but here are my before and after pictures:

Before (taken in a parking lot sometime in 2010, don’t ask):

Don’t let this too-small neon purple push-up bra fool you—my boobs didn’t actually look like this. In fact, my surgeon used the word “deflated” in my case notes when he described my breasts (thanks, doc!). They were between a 34 D-DD size.

After (taken February 2021):

Now I have about 14 inches of scar tissue where my breasts used to be. It may sound weird to some, but I am so much happier without my breasts and feel like this is “me”.

Herbs and Supplements I Took to Help My Healing

Before we get into my week-by-week journey I want to start with what I took to heal so that my week-by-week healing journey will have more context for you.

I worked with my herbalist to incorporate some herbs into my usual herbal routine to help me better heal after my procedure. Although I can’t recommend specific dosing or what herbs would be best for you, this is what I took:

  • Arnica. My herbalist recommended homeopathic arnica tablets taken just before and after the surgery (I took them for about four days after the surgery).
  • Calendula. I added one tablespoon of organic calendula flowers to my herbal broth that I drink every day for about two months post-op.
  • Comfrey. I added one tablespoon of organic comfrey to my herbal broth that I drink for three weeks following the procedure.
  • Horsetail. I added one tablespoon of organic horsetail to my herbal broth that I drink every day for about two months post-op.
  • Violet. I added one tablespoon of organic violet leaf to my herbal broth that I drink for about two months post-op.

I had to stop taking my ginger infusion, stop eating any garlic, and stop taking fish oil supplements before the procedure and had to avoid them for two weeks following the procedure (I didn’t avoid garlic for that long, that just wouldn’t have been humanly possible for me).

As I likely have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), my body is also pretty bad about healing and I scar easily, so I was taking hyaluronic acid (40-60 mg a day) and collagen supplements for my skin and for healing. I’m currently still taking these. Please keep my potential EDS diagnosis in mind when looking at my scars 🙂

I also drink an herbal broth every day that contains burdock, chaga, astragalus, dandelion root, codonopsis, reishi, shitake, and garlic, so I’m not sure if all these babes helped me heal or not (this was the broth that I added my calendula, comfrey, violet, and horsetail to).

Medications I Took

I HATE taking medication and will avoid it at pretty much all costs. However, I did take the medication my surgeon prescribed because I wanted everything to go smoothly after the procedure.

I know this sounds weird but I don’t know if I really NEEDED these medications, it was just hard to tell how much of a difference they made. But these are the ones I took:

  • Celecoxib. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. I took this for one week following my surgery.
  • Gabapentin. This is an anticonvulsant drug that also can treat nerve pain. I took this for one week following my surgery.
  • Tylenol. I took OTC generic Tylenol for one week following my surgery.
  • Zofran. HOLY SHIT I would never want to take this anti-nausea medication again! I’m pretty sure this medication, in combination with the drugs they used in my IV, made me constipated.
  • Nausea patch thing. I don’t know what this is called but I had to put it behind my ear 12 hours before the surgery and took it off later that night. It made me nauseous.

I think what surprised me about these meds is that a) I’m not sure if they really helped and b) THOSE NAUSEA MEDS MADE ME FRICKIN NAUSEOUS! The only thing the nausea meds did that was helpful was prevent me from actually throwing up (I did not throw up once).

I did not have to take any narcotic medication because my surgeon injected some sort of numbing stuff into my chest after the surgery, which we agreed on prior to the procedure. I paid extra for this. I really wasn’t in any pain which was surprising!

So now my week-by-week healing!

Week One

That first week was the worst. This is what my binder and drains looked like (this picture was taken as we were leaving for the plastic surgeon’s office to get the binder and drains removed one week after my surgery):

I was crazy nauseous and panicked when waking up from the anesthesia. My anesthesiologist never told me I was going to fall asleep while I was in the operating room, so it felt like I was awake and conscious one second and the next, I was waking up in a dream.

I don’t remember much of this but I remember telling the nurses “I can’t breathe!” over and over again, probably because my binder was so tight. I remember someone saying, “You are breathing”. This was after the procedure.

Later, my husband told me that the nurses told him they gave me Valium to calm me down, which was awful. I don’t remember hardly anything of leaving the hospital outside of flashes of nurses dressing me and feeling the cold air of the parking garage.

At home, I slept most of that day and was super out of it. I was nauseous for three days following the surgery (with the first two days being the worst). I was able to type and start working the day after the procedure (I freelance write full-time), but I only did a little work and mostly rested and slept.

I wasn’t able to reach anything or do much of anything at all. I wasn’t able to bathe or take care of my bunnies. Getting out of bed by myself was almost impossible. I was upset and didn’t want to see people, I felt gross and weird and not like myself. I slept propped up on pillows to help my chest drain better. Sleeping was surprisingly easy; I was knocked out every night.

A few days after the procedure I began having strange buzzing sensations and sensations of almost stabbing in my chest. They were brief but still felt really weird. My chest was mostly numb and I wasn’t in any pain really, but I was uncomfortable because the binder was so tight and the drains became sore and itchy by the end of the week.

I was also constipated from all the drugs they put in my IV which was frickin awful! I wish I started taking flaxseed or chia seeds a couple days before my procedure, but I thought since I wasn’t taking narcotics that I wouldn’t be constipated. That was a mistake!

Week Two

After getting my drains out one week after the procedure, I felt so much better. I was much less nauseous, able to reach more, and began taking care of my bunnies (although I wasn’t able to fully care for them and so relied on my husband to help).

This is what my chest looked like after the binder came off (it’s gross, sorry, at this point I hadn’t bathed yet):

Also, I love how my surgeon wrote L>R on my chest, because my left breast was bigger than my right one.

Reaching, lifting, and twisting were still difficult, although I was still able to type on the computer and work. I wasn’t able to cook or do much still. It was really weird seeing my new chest and feeling like the procedure was more real.

I still wasn’t able to wear regular shirts and so needed to wear capes and button-down shirts which was annoying. I really just wanted to wear a tight t-shirt and show off my new chest. I was able to sleep flat on my back and took the binder off halfway through the second week, as I felt I didn’t need it anymore (although my surgeon told me to wear it for at least one more week).

I also began having arm pain during my second week. Every morning when I woke up my arms were numb, but it went away as I moved around. This was a little alarming.

One surprising thing was how tight the skin on my chest was. I did tell my surgeon that I wanted everything to be tight, but every time I tried to stand up straight, it felt like my skin was pulling from my neck all the way to my abdomen. It was really weird and uncomfortable. I was a little alarmed by this, but fortunately, it got better as the weeks went on and now I don’t even really notice any pulling in that area.

Week Three

The surgery still doesn’t feel super real three weeks in. I was still processing it. I’ve shown friends my surgical scars, but my family didn’t want to see them (now I know why so many transgender individuals have wanted to show me their new chests—I really just wanted to show people my new chest!)

It hurt my feelings when my family didn’t want to see it. If someone wants to show you their new chest, just let them unless you feel it would do massive phycological damage to you.

This is what my chest looked like during the third week:

I was able to drive at the end of week three and became fully able to take care of my bunnies. Lifting and twisting were still difficult. My arm pain continued throughout week three, but I was able to lift heavier things like grocery bags. The Steri-Strips my surgeon put on at my post-op appointment have mostly come off at this point and I’ve begun using my scar salve (we’ll talk about that in a bit).

I was taking comfrey and horsetail in my herbal infusion but discontinued using them at the end of the third week. However, I did still take violet and calendula in my broth.

Week Four

Emotionally, I was still coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have breasts. The surgery still doesn’t feel real in so many ways. During week four after my Steri-Strips came completely off, I noticed that there were still some stretch marks above my incisions from my breasts. I’m mad that the surgeon and I didn’t discuss this and mad that my drain holes appear to be scarring.

Fourth-week photo:

I’m using my scar salve nightly and putting Covidien bandages over my scars to keep the salve on overnight. I’m able to do everything I was doing before the surgery except for lifting weights, yoga, and running. I’ve been walking for exercise but that’s it.

I can vacuum and mostly get in and out of t-shirts. I’ve been sleeping well. I can sleep on my side for only a few minutes without it getting uncomfortable (not sure if this is because my incisions go so far into my armpit area). I’ve been mostly sleeping on my back during my healing process.

I’m still having arm pain in the mornings and my underarms are a little numb. I have had a couple days without this during this week. After researching online, it appears to be nerve pain from the surgery and should go away in time.

Week Five

I’m feeling pretty good about things five weeks in, but I’m still getting used to my new chest. The scars are really visible and taking their shape. My arm numbness/pain has been much better, but I still have trouble lifting really heavy stuff.

I can get in and out of t-shirts fairly easily but I do have trouble getting in and out of tighter shirts by myself. Towards the end of this week, I did a really short jog and a few long walks, it felt great to be doing some of my normal stuff again. I could even sleep on my side for brief periods of time without my incisions hurting.

I feel optimistic about my scar salve but towards the end of this week, I started developing a bad rash around my incisions. I thought it was from the scar salve but I found out it was from the Covidien bandages I was using. I have discontinued them.

Week Six

By week six I’m feeling pretty upset that my stretch marks are still there and that the surgeon and I didn’t talk about this. I’m still getting used to the way my chest looks and slowly feeling more and more like I don’t have breasts. That’s been one of the most surprising things about having this surgery—how it didn’t even feel like my breasts were gone afterward. I’m not sure how to explain that.

The rash took a turn for the better and is starting to look good. While the rash was healing I didn’t use anything on it except organic rosewater. By the end of this week, I’ve started using my scar salve again. Instead of using Covidien bandages, I instead sleep with a clean old t-shirt on to prevent the oils from the salve from ruining my sheets and comforter.

I can sleep on my side without it hurting much. The arm pain is mostly gone but returns intermittently. It’s a weird numb and aching feeling, mostly underneath my arms extending between my armpit and my elbow, and mostly on my left arm (my left breast was bigger so not quite sure if this had anything to do with it).

Week Seven

I went back to work at my job in DC (I work on-call at a women’s homeless shelter in addition to my freelancing work) during week seven. More people have been finding out about my surgery; it feels weird to share what used to be my deepest secret (that I hated my breasts) with people. Upon hearing that I’d gotten my breasts removed, most peoples’ initial reactions were horror.

“Oh my God, do you have cancer?”

“Are you ok?”

“What happened??”

It was, I have to admit, pretty entertaining to watch my coworkers’ expressions change from horror to confusion to the realization that I didn’t have cancer, I just hated my breasts. The ending line was always “As long as you’re happy.”

Thank you, Mary, Allison, and Jaynada, I am happy!

Anyway, during week seven, I’m still feeling weird about my stretch marks. I just wish I had been prepared for the fact that they would still be there. My rash is completely gone, which is good, but there are still some purple marks on my skin where it was. It takes my skin forever to heal!

I’m using my scar salve every night with just a t-shirt to go to bed. I can sleep on my side without much pain, and my arm pain is completely gone. I even went for a 1.5-mile run this week and I’m feeling good. I can get in and out of t-shirts easily, but tight clothes are still a little difficult for me to manage.

Week Eight

So week eight, there’s not much to note. My rash is gone but still some marks where it was. I have no arm pain. I’m continuing to exercise more, although I still have a little trouble getting out of tight shirts.

I’m feeling better about my chest in general and starting to accept my stretch marks. I’m feeling a little more each day like I don’t have boobs.

I’ve been lifting heavier things and have some mild pain when doing so. Sometimes when I wake up, my incisions feel sore. Twisting my body is difficult. At the end of week eight, I began doing yoga and weights again. Surprisingly, the hardest part has been lifting my arms over my head. I can feel the skin stretching in a weird way, almost like my incisions are pulling apart (this is the sensation I talked about in Week Two). It’s not painful, it just feels uncomfortable. I’m guessing this will go away with time.

My surgeon also told me before my procedure that my chest wall (whatever that is) was extremely asymmetrical and that he couldn’t fix that, so my chest would have an unusual shape after the procedure. I’m certainly noticing it more as I heal, but I actually think it’s adorable and it makes my body really unique (if I can get a good picture of the asymmetry and its effect at some point, I’ll update this post with it!).

My Magical Scar Salve

So I’m still figuring out how magical this scar salve really is, but I have high hopes for it. My herbalist Mischa Schuler at Wild Carrot Herbs assisted me with enhancing this recipe for scars and stretch marks.

  • 8 tablespoons herb-infused olive oil (I used a mix of organic violet flowers, arnica, comfrey, calendula, and yarrow)
  • 5 tablespoons rosehip seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons moringa oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea buckthorn seed oil
  • 2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 2 tablespoon beeswax
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa butter
  • 24 drops helichrysum essential oil
  • 16 drops lavender essential oil

It was really fun (but also really expensive) to make this salve. I’ll post updates as I see how it’s working, right now, all is going well but it’s too early to tell if it’s helping my scars and stretch marks. It made enough salve for me to use for a long time, I’m expecting it will last me a year with daily use, if not longer.

For scar management, I’m exclusively using this salve and didn’t use the silicone strips my surgeon recommended. I just wanted to go this route; it’s a personal preference. I just massage the ointment into my chest scars every night and put a clean t-shirt on and hop into bed.

FAQs About My Top Surgery Experience

How Did You Choose Your Surgeon?

As a Cancer and an empath, my relationships with people are very important to me and I am easily affected by people’s attitudes and energy.

I chose my surgeon because he was very experienced and I had an initial positive experience with his practice. He has almost 20 years of experience doing breast surgeries, including mastectomies. I didn’t choose him because I loved his personality. But he did spend an hour with me during my initial consultation, and invited me to return for a second consultation just to be sure I still wanted to continue with the procedure and to answer follow-up questions.

I’ve seen a lot of transgender and non-binary individuals say they are embarrassed about showing their breasts to the surgeon. It is awkward! I mean, you’re exposing a part of your body that you hate to a complete stranger. Of course, I didn’t like that part of the consultation (or the part right before the surgery, when the surgeon draws on and around your breasts) but unfortunately, it’s part of getting top surgery.

For the most part, I had a positive experience with my surgeon although, in a perfect world, I would have chosen a surgeon I felt really connected with AND was super experienced.

What Questions Did You Ask During Your Consultation?

I asked so many questions! Here’s the list of the exact questions I asked:

Will all breast tissue be removed?

Do you have experience with aesthetic flat closure?

Can I see pictures of before/after with no nipples?

Will the surgery reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Recovery time?

Risks/complications?

Will my breast tenderness with periods go away completely?

Will I get liposuction around breasts to prevent “dog ears”?

Will I have drains?

Are there any long-term effects, for example, I like to exercise, will I feel pain when running/lifting weights/yoga?

What happens to my breasts once they are removed? (do you keep them/use them for research, can I keep them, etc.?)

If I get pregnant, will there be any breast tissue left that would produce breastmilk, swell, or affect my chest/surgery results?

Do you offer financing?

Does the estimate (price) include follow-up appointments, post-op procedures such as drain removal?

Will I be able to go home the same day? How long will surgery take?

What type of anesthesia will be used?

How exactly will the surgery be done (incisions)?

Where will my scars be? What shape/size will they be?

What can I do to help scars heal?

Will I need revisions? What percentage of your patients ask for revisions? What is the pricing for revisions?

Am I at higher risk for seroma? What percentage of your patients experience this?

What needs to happen before the procedure? Bloodwork? Letter?

Here are the questions I did NOT ask but SHOULD have asked:

Will my stretch marks still be there after the surgery?

I didn’t ask this question and REALLY wish I did because I didn’t realize that I would still have some stretch marks around my scars and my surgeon and I never talked about this.

You REALLY have to be proactive and advocate for yourself and ask every single question you can think of. It really sucks, but you CANNOT expect your surgeon to tell you these things. You have to ask even if it seems like a stupid question. There are no stupid questions, especially not compared to how dumb you’ll feel after the procedure is over, and wham! There are your stretch marks.

Don’t feel like you’re bothering them with all your questions and if they make you feel like you’re bothering them, find another surgeon. You (or your insurance company) are paying this person thousands of dollars to do this very important and sensitive procedure—you deserve to know every detail and inform yourself of the process!

Will the drain holes leave scars?

Didn’t think to ask this but there were actual holes in my body where the drains were (one hole on each side just under my incisions). It’s still early on in my healing process but it looks like they will scar.

A pic of one of my drain holes taken a week after the surgery:

How long will my scars be?

This is a specific question and although my surgeon and I had several conversations about where exactly my scars would be as far as how far up they would be on my chest, we didn’t talk about how long they would be. My scars are pretty long and extend to the very end of each armpit. So I have two scars, one for each breast, that are seven inches long each, which is about 14 inches of scar tissue.

Can I purchase my own binder for after the procedure?

I didn’t know to ask this and ended up getting charged $200 for a binder that cost $28.50 online (from the same exact website the surgeon ordered it from). The surgeon’s office refused to refund me the difference (and they were rude about it).

Did You Need a Letter to Get Top Surgery?

No. For those who don’t know what this is, this is a letter from a therapist stating that you want the surgery for gender-related reasons and that you have documented gender or body dysphoria. Even though I’m not transgender, I was a little surprised that my surgeon didn’t require a letter prior to my surgery. All he asked was that I come in for a second consultation before actually scheduling the surgery. He also didn’t require any blood work prior to the procedure, which was a little surprising to me too. The whole thing was relatively easy as far as my feelings being validated and the surgeon being willing to do the procedure.

How Did You Pay for the Procedure? Did Insurance Cover It? How Much Did It Cost?

Since I am not transgender and it was an elective procedure, my insurance did not cover any of my surgery. I had to pay a facility fee, a surgeon’s fee, and an anesthesia fee out of pocket. The total cost of everything was $11,225.

I could have went through the process of finding a therapist and getting myself documented as non-binary, but this would have taken at least a couple years and I’m still not sure if the insurance could have covered the procedure. I’m not sure how well that would have worked out since I don’t really consider myself a certain gender, and I present as female for the most part.

While I technically had the immediate funds to cover my procedure, I didn’t want to drain my disposable funds and so instead opened up two new lines of credit to pay for the procedure. I have good credit and got approved for two credit cards, one of which offered 15 months interest-free financing and the other 20 months.

So I paid for the anesthesiologist upfront (which was a little over $1,000) and my down payment for the surgeon (which was $1,000), but then put the rest on these two credit cards, so now I have 15 and 20 months to pay off the balances interest-free, which is great (I would highly recommend this option to people who have good credit and are looking for a way to pay off a large balance interest-free, I’m SO happy I found out that I could do this! Here’s an article about it in case you’re interested).

ALSO I had to pay for my breast tissue to be tested for breast cancer after removal. This was something my surgeon required. The cost of that was over $2,300, but fortunately, insurance covered a lot of it, so I ended up having to pay $650 in addition to the $11,225.

How Long Did You Have to Take Off Work?

So I took off seven weeks from my on-call job in DC at a women’s homeless shelter and I only took off one day of writing. I was writing in bed the day after the procedure: freelancing life! I probably didn’t need to take the full seven weeks off of my DC job, but I wanted to be safe and that job can be unpredictable as far as things happening on the job, so wanted to be sure I would be recovered enough to handle anything that might happen. If I had a standard office job, I would think taking off at least a week (more like 10 days) would be appropriate. If I could have, I would have taken a full week off of everything to do nothing but watch movies and eat toast.

How Long Until You Were Able to Drive?

I drove at the end of week three but felt like I was probably ok to drive at the three-week mark.

How Much Pain Were You In?

Not much pain at all! My surgeon used some type of numbing stuff (I don’t have the name for this, sorry) which prevented me from having to take narcotics at all. I only had to take Tylenol for about a week and that was it. Of course, my surgical site was sore, but as far as actual pain, there really wasn’t any.

What Was the Worst Part of the Surgery?

There were three parts of the surgery that I felt were “the worst”, but the primary one was the nausea. I was intensely nauseous for two whole days following the surgery, and it finally started getting better on the third day. However, I’m prone to motion sickness and nausea in general, and I found that my nausea was worse in general in the weeks following my surgery.

The other two horrible parts were:

  • The drains. My drains were in for seven days and as my chest slowly became less numb and was healing, the drain holes felt itchy and irritated and every time I sat down they just felt like they were tugging and it was awful. I was SO happy to get those out at my seven-day post-op visit!
  • The binder. I was really dreading wearing the binder. It was pretty awful. Fortunately, I only wore it for 10 days, and it was very tight for the seven days following the surgery until my post-op appointment. After that, I got to take it off to shower and only wore it for another few days after that. I really just felt like I didn’t need it after the 10 days. I’ve heard other people say they have to wear it for six weeks—I wonder if this just has to do with whether or not you get nipple grafts?

Why Didn’t You Get Nipple Grafts?

This is a really personal question but it has a simple answer: I didn’t want to. All the years I had envisioned my chest without breasts, I imagined it without nipples too. I didn’t even know nipple grafts were a thing until I got older and learned more about top surgery. My nipples weren’t important to me and I chose not to keep them.

Why Did You Get Straight Scars Rather Than Following the Pectoral Line?

My surgeon wanted to follow the pectoral line for the scars but I told him no. That wasn’t what I wanted. I felt that it would have given my chest a more masculine appearance, and since I’m not transgender and didn’t want to appear more masculine, I opted for straight scars. My surgeon said straight scars like mine are more of what cancer patients who get double mastectomies get. That’s not the reason why I wanted it, I just felt that aesthetically they were more pleasing to me. I’m very happy with my decision to do this!

How Long Did You Need Someone’s Help After the Surgery?

I’m sensitive to medication was extremely nauseous for two whole days following the surgery even with taking two kinds of anti-nausea medication (read that again). After that, I felt more capable and aware, but not enough to fully take care of myself. I’m also a bunny mom and was not able to fully care for my bunnies until about two weeks post-op.

In my experience, having someone there until you get your drains out (which is normally seven days following the procedure) is necessary. At least, this was the case for me. If you can’t get someone to stay with you for the full seven days, I would say for a minimum of three days following the surgery (just make sure you have clothes that are easy to put on and put all of your necessary things within easy reach!).

What Surprised You the Most About Having Top Surgery?

There were so many things!

  • How scary it was to be in the operating room as the nurses strapped me down to the operating table, hearing the anesthesiologist say he was giving me “the medication”, just waiting to be unconscious. It was literally like someone flicked a switch and it was lights out.
  • How sick (nauseous) I felt after the procedure.
  • I had some vaginal bleeding after the surgery, which I noticed after I got home. My husband called the surgeon and he said he wasn’t sure what it from, but could be from the trauma of the surgery. That freaked me out a little (has anyone else had this experience??).
  • How it didn’t even feel like I’d gotten my breasts removed.
  • Discovering days after the procedure that the surgeon (or someone) had cut my armpit hair.
  • How emotional and in need of emotional support I felt (I’m so grateful to everyone who checked in on me!).
  • How much I hated wearing button-down shirts (this is really weird but I would recommend having clothes you actually like to wear after the procedure. There was something about wearing powder-blue button-down shirts that just made me feel awful. I wish I had something fun to wear to make me feel better during this crappy time).
  • How much I enjoyed saying “my chest” instead of “my breasts”.
  • How I didn’t remember much after the anesthesia.
  • How I didn’t realize that after surgery, I thought my body would be perfect. It was NOT perfect. I had ugly, uneven scar tissue, stretch marks, and an asymmetrical chest wall. I think I thought that once my breasts were gone that my body would be perfect and beautiful. It’s still beautiful, but it’s definitely not perfect. The surgery didn’t magically make it perfect.
  • How I immediately began noticing boobs after my surgery. Did anyone else have this experience? It was super weird! I literally never paid attention to anyone else’s boobs before the surgery and now it’s like I’m seeing them everywhere. Not sure how to explain this.

What Were the Things That Helped You the Most?

  • Straws. I kept reading about these but felt like they were overrated. Turns out, I really needed them for the first few days after surgery!
  • Button-down shirts. I hate button-down shirts but unfortunately you just really need them following surgery.
  • Lemon and honey tea for my nausea, as well as smelling lemon essential oil. I wish I had a diffuser at the time; I didn’t know how good lemon was for nausea! Normally I would take ginger but I couldn’t take ginger because it thins the blood and can increase risk for bleeding following surgery.
  • V-neck shirts. This is a weird one, but I slept with a t-shirt on after my surgery for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to protect my scars from rubbing on my sheets and comforter, and the second is that I was using my scar salve which contained a bunch of oils and cocoa butter, which would have stained my bedding. The V-neck style was nice because I didn’t feel like I was getting choked while I was sleeping because I move around a lot and regular t-shirts were just too constricting.
  • Freezing food. I made smoothies, broth, and frozen lasagna and chili, all of which really helped when my husband and I didn’t feel like going to the store and I still needed nutrients, ha.

Is There Anything You Would Have Done Differently?

YES! Outside of asking my surgeon the questions I neglected to ask, there is one big thing I would have done differently. And that thing is—DO NOT eat pizza the night before your surgery!

I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight the night before my surgery and for some idiotic reason my husband and I still aren’t sure about we decided to get takeout (something we almost never do) and have a gluten-free dairy-free pizza the night before my surgery.

The result? I was INSANELY thirsty and couldn’t drink anything! By the time I arrived at the surgery center at 8:30 the next morning, I was practically dying of thirst. It was miserable. The nurse couldn’t even get a vein on me because I was so dehydrated, which is something that never happens to me (I have good veins, thank you very much!). The result was this:

So yeah next time… I would literally eat a fruit salad and lots of water the night before my surgery.

Do You Miss Your Breasts?

Honestly? It’s really weird but I do miss them sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely feel this way. Sometimes I miss them during sex which is weird because I kinda hated doing anything with them during sex. Sometimes I miss how soft my chest used to be (it’s really hard now). Mostly I’m ecstatic that they’re gone but I think it’s to be expected to miss them sometimes, even if you hated them (it’s like missing an ex you don’t regret breaking up with, ha).

Finally! That Was a Long Post!

I had tried to prepare so much for my surgery, and I think I did a good job, but there are some things you really just can’t prepare for, and you just have to experience it.

If you have any questions about my journey or healing process, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or reach me directly at jenn@thegreenwritingdesk.com. I’d also love to hear from you (and I’m sure other readers would love to know too) if you’ve gotten top surgery and found something helpful or surprising about having the procedure!

I’d like to thank the transgender community and all the individuals who posted videos or articles about their experience, they helped me SO much and without them I would have been so lost with preparing for this procedure. Their information empowered me to advocate for myself as much as possible, and it’s part of the reason why I’m writing this article and sharing this information with you now. So THANK YOU!

For My 30th Birthday, I Was Going to Get a Neck Tattoo—Instead I Found Out I Have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Thirteen years after my misdiagnosed autoimmune disorder, 18 years after having debilitating painful periods almost every month, and almost nine years after going gluten-free and feeling healthy, here I am with a potential new diagnosis.

In hindsight, it all makes perfect sense. Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome. I have many of the symptoms of each. Yet, no one—outside of my integrative health doctor a few months ago—told me that I had these disorders.

Yet I know that at least one of my doctors knew I had Ehlers-Danlos. She had me perform the maneuvers of the Beighton score during my appointment at the age of 21. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what she was asking me to do; all I knew was that she was surprised by my hypermobility. She never told me I had the disorder.

(I recently attempted to find this doctor—who told me I would be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life to manage my autoimmune disorder, and who I only saw once—to get my records only to find that the practice is closed and I cannot locate her. Very frustrating. She came highly recommended to me from some acquaintances who had lupus—she turned out to be a total joke. She knew I had Ehlers-Danlos, probably knew about the connection between Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome, and probably could have come to the conclusion that my “autoimmune disease” was a result of my body overreacting to foods that it didn’t like.) Anyway!

So how did I get from there to HERE?

You can read the full story here, but the short version is this: I walked out of that doctor’s office feeling hopeless yet determine that this was not going to be my life. I found an herbalist who helped me figure out that gluten was causing all my symptoms. I stopped eating gluten and have been fine for the past nine years without any medication.

And yet.

While I’m currently healthier than I’ve ever been in my whole life, there were still some nagging issues that I couldn’t quite figure out.

  • The insanely painful periods (which have improved SO MUCH with help from my herbalists, but still sometimes leave me in bed all day)
  • My unexplained anxiety and skin picking disorder
  • The bad reaction I’d often have to alcohol (I’ve since quit drinking for good)
  • Having brain fog after eating
  • My orthostatic hypotension and low blood pressure
  • Hives after eating food (never quite figured out which foods caused this)
  • Poor wound healing, scars, and dry skin
  • The fact that I feel cold almost all the time

I couldn’t put my finger on it, and often times I’d forget that many of these symptoms weren’t normal because I’d been experiencing them forever. I chalked it up to genetics: my dad has insomnia and dry skin, my mom and brother have some form of skin picking disorder (which is actually a mild form of OCD).

Brain fog and hives are classic symptoms of a food intolerance, but I couldn’t figure out what I was eating that was causing these symptoms. I already don’t eat gluten, dairy, alcohol, and genetically modified food. I also do my best to avoid refined sugars (although, of course, I do indulge once in a while).

So what was going on?

I blamed it on my parents: I got screwed with bad genes, blah blah blah. But that didn’t explain my low blood pressure (high blood pressure runs on both sides of my family), and it didn’t explain my bad periods. There were gaps that I didn’t understand.

And then.

I needed to talk to my integrative health doctor to get some paperwork for my job in DC. I tried to get reception to send it, but they said that I had to schedule an appointment. Boo. So I did, even though I didn’t really feel that I needed to see him. It was COVID times, so I had a phone appointment with him (I love my integrative health doctor, I just hate doctors in general, so I always have an attitude when talking to him).

We spoke about some of my symptoms and he suddenly but strongly suggested that I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and mast cell activation syndrome after asking me some questions. After asking me to come in for bloodwork, we got off the phone.

At first, I didn’t think much of his suggestions, but then, I felt upset. Here I am with yet another disorder—ahem, disorders—at age 30.

So I started researching and read the material my doctor sent me. I was convinced that I had this. I had so many of the symptoms. Not only could I perform several of the actions on the Beighton score, but I also had Gorlin sign—the ability to touch the tip of my nose with my tongue—something I’d always been able to do. Only 10% of people can do this, but 50% of people with Ehlers-Danlos can.

I’m still learning about Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome, but I can’t help but feel that this is a huge missing link in the big picture of my health—a merging of my misdiagnosis and my current symptoms. I also found some tentative research about the role of mast cells in dermatomyositis, and how mast cells could not only be “the first cells” to become activated in dermatomyositis, but also how maybe treating mast cell activation could be a missing link for those with dermatomyositis.

I’m currently working my herbalist to address many of my mast cell related symptoms and am excited to see what the future holds for my health! And the neck tattoo? Don’t worry, it’s on the list for next year 🙂

The Real, Research-Backed Reasons Why (And How) Marijuana Can Hurt You

I don’t usually discuss my personal views on things such as recreational drugs on my blog, but I’ve always been anti-marijuana (and anti-drug in general) so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.

I have never used recreational drugs, never smoked or vaped ever, and I don’t drink (for the record, I have drank in the past but have never been drunk, and I’ve been officially sober since November 2019).

Unfortunately, it seems as though more people believe that marijuana isn’t harmful to human health (or environmental health), which is leading to an increased number of users.

That being said, I do recognize that using drugs and drinking are personal choices. I would argue that they should be informed choices, so let’s talk about how marijuana can influence the body, as well as my thoughts on cannabidiol (CBD) oil use.

Marijuana Use Can Permanently Alter Brain Function

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience concludes that smoking as little as one to two joints can change gray matter in the brains of teenagers.

Yes, it was a small study—just 46 teens—but their brains showed more gray matter volume. The biggest changes were in the amygdala, which is involved in fear and other emotions, and in the hippocampus, which involves memory and spatial awareness.

But what does this mean?

The researchers aren’t sure, but the lead author of the study says that teenage brains undergo a process where it gets thinner as it refines synaptic connections, and they suspect that marijuana use disrupts this process.

Let’s look at a larger study.

1,037 individuals were followed from birth to 38 years old, establishing research criteria from before marijuana use started to well after a pattern of use had been established.

The research concluded that “persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education”.

What does this mean, exactly?

It means that cannabis has a neurotoxic (meaning damage to the brain or nervous system) effect on the brain, and even after ceasing cannabis use, neuropsychological functioning (which is related to cognition and behavior) was not fully restored.

Negatively Impacts Fertility and Fetal Development

If you’re planning on having a baby, it’s best to stay away from marijuana for three reasons.

  1. Changes sperm DNA. The psychoactive component in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana alters the DNA of sperm. Again, this was a small study—24 people—but it showed that THC alters a DNA process that’s “essential to normal development”, although researchers aren’t yet clear on how this affects the children this sperm is responsible for.
  2. Problems for baby post-birth. Babies exposed to marijuana in the womb are not only more likely to have a low birth weight, but are more likely to need neonatal intensive care compared to babies whose mothers didn’t use marijuana during pregnancy.
  3. Children may be at an increased risk for behavioral issues. Women who smoked marijuana during pregnancy have been found to have children with behavioral problems, even after controlling for outside variables. Children exposed to marijuana in utero tend to be more impulsive, hyperactive, have lower IQs, and have an increased risk for memory and mental health problems.

Marijuana Use Can Also Affect Your Mental Health

Cannabis use “is likely” to increase the risk of developing disorders such as schizophrenia and social anxiety disorder, and may exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Heavy cannabis users are also more likely to report having suicidal thoughts.

In one study of 50,000 people, marijuana use during adolescence was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The higher the marijuana use, the higher the risk for schizophrenia.

Some research also notes an increased risk of depression with regular marijuana use, although other studies have not reached this conclusion. However, a recent study noted that people under the age of 18 who used marijuana were 37 percent more likely to experience depression in early adulthood than those that didn’t.

A small study of 43 people also noted changes in impulse control and hostility, including perceptions of hostility, for people when using marijuana.

Contains Many of the Same Carcinogens as Cigarettes (and Puts 4x More Tar in Your Lungs)

I’ve long argued that smoking marijuana is not better than smoking cigarettes by any means. People like to argue that marijuana is “natural” without having any research to back up their claims. Radon is natural too, but it’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer.

So what does research say when it comes to marijuana versus cigarettes?

More Tar in Your Lungs

Research concluded that smoking marijuana “results in a substantially greater respiratory burden of carbon monoxide and tar” than smoking a similar quantity of tobacco.

Marijuana also leads to four times the deposition of tar than cigarette smoking.

What does this mean? It means four times the amount of tar is being deposited into your lungs when you smoke marijuana than it would be if you were smoking cigarettes. Tar can take years to leave your lungs after you stop smoking, and the longer you smoke, the longer it’ll take for your body to remove the tar.

Higher Concentrations of Some Chemicals

Other research notes that marijuana and tobacco have many of the same chemicals. In fact, ammonia was up to 20 times greater in marijuana smoke than tobacco smoke (ammonia has a corrosive effect on the lungs and can lead to permanent lung damage).

Additional chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide were found at concentrations 3-5 times higher than those in tobacco smoke. Hydrogen cyanide is extremely poisonous at high levels and is used as a pesticide, and can affect the entire body.

Marijuana smoke also contains 50 percent more benzoprene (a potent cancer-causing chemical) and 75 percent more benzanthracene (also suspected to be a carcinogen) than cigarette smoke.

No, Marijuana Does Not Cure Cancer

And, surprise, marijuana (as well as CBD) does not cure cancer—in fact, with all the chemicals involved in smoking this plant, I’d say there’s a much higher chance that it actually causes cancer, although research has not yet proven this link. However, some studies have concluded that long-term cannabis use increases risk of lung cancer.

Not to Mention…

Some people argue that marijuana use helps alleviate chronic pain and reduce anxiety, among other claims.

I’m not arguing that marijuana doesn’t have these effects on people—but I would argue that there are alternatives to solving your problems than permanently damaging your brain, lungs, and body with a substance, and many of them are more “natural” than smoking marijuana.

With marijuana use, I find it hard to feel that people are actually addressing the root cause of their issue, and instead are covering it up or trying to treat it with marijuana, which, as we’ve seen, can cause even more problems in the body.

A Note on CBD

The use of cannabidiol, or CBD—a non-psychoactive component of marijuana—has been growing in popularity. While CBD has some promising results, my personal thoughts on using CBD are more hesitant.

I believe more clinical trials should be done to study the long-term effects of CBD in the body. I also think there a ton of low-quality CBD products on the market, and as CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, it’s hard to say what you’re getting in a particular product. If you choose to use CBD, look for full-spectrum hemp oil as a starting point, or follow up with your herbalist or natural healthcare professional to find the best product for you.

Again, I’d argue that for many medical problems, there are healthier alternatives that we can take advantage of until further studies are done on CBD’s effect on the human body. Two of these alternatives are diet changes and herbs, which can dramatically influence chronic pain, anxiety, and even cancer.

Wrapping Up

With all this said, I would not advocate for marijuana use for anyone under any circumstances. I hate seeing how much misinformation there is out there about marijuana, and that’s not even to mention its negative effects on the environment, or how it can increase your risk for drug addiction.

Can we stop saying marijuana is harmless?

These 7 Habits Have Dramatically Improved My Sleep Life

As someone who has had lifelong problems sleeping, I know firsthand the frustration that comes with not getting your beauty sleep.

But there’s a silver lining.

All those years of not being able to sleep well and trying different things have helped me slowly improve my sleep life over time.

Now that I’m nearing my 30s and live with my husband, my sleep life has dramatically improved thanks to these five habits I’ve cultivated over the years.

1. No Tech in the Bedroom

My husband and I just keep our bedroom for sleeping (and sex, of course). This means we don’t hang out in there during the day, don’t work in there, and don’t watch TV in there. It’s important to us to not have a TV in our bedroom.

We also don’t bring our laptops into the bedroom either. We do, however, bring our phones, but they are solely for alarm purposes, we never look on our phones in the bed or use them while in the bedroom. My phone is off in the bedroom since I don’t need to wake up at a specific time most days and my husband’s is on airplane mode (scary cell phone radiation, anyone?)

This just our personal philosophy but we don’t want to accumulate a bunch of energy in the bedroom, especially before bed. We find that minimizing our activity in the bedroom and keeping tech out of the bedroom helps the space feel calm and ready for sleep.

2. No Sugar or Caffeine Before Bed

I’ve noticed that I sleep a lot better when doing intermittent fasting, which is how I lost the few pounds I wanted to before my wedding.

I chose to do intermittent fasting by not eating for a period of about 16 hours every day. So essentially, I would eat my regular meals throughout the day, but cut out late night snacks. So I would not eat from about 8 p.m. at night to noon the next day.

This also helped me eliminate sugar and caffeine a few hours before bed. This is a practice I started doing years ago when I found that eating these things at night—think desserts, chocolate, coffee, or even caffeinated tea such as green tea—would make it impossible for me to fall asleep.

3. Using Organic Bedding

I did not realize how much a toxic mattress was killing my sleep life.

A few years ago I realized conventional mattresses are made with dangerous chemicals and can give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for years after purchase, which can harm your health and the air quality of your home.

Fortunately, the mattress I had at that time was about a decade old and needed to be replaced, so about a year before our wedding, my husband and I invested in an all-organic mattress. We also chose to invest in organic cotton sheet sets, pillows, and a comforter.

(You can read more about my transition to all organic clothing here and here).

Not only is my organic mattress and bedding so much more comfortable and luxurious than my old bedding (and hella more expensive!), I swear it helps me sleep better knowing I’m not being exposed to toxic chemicals.

4. The Military Sleep Trick

So I know this one is weird but I swear it works! It was developed to help soldiers fall asleep anywhere in less than two minutes.

It’s easy and can be done in three simple steps as you are trying to fall asleep:

  1. Relax your entire body including your facial muscles as you sink into the mattress. Let tension go from places you didn’t realize were tense.
  2. Take ten deep, conscious breaths while keeping your mind clear. For me, if my mind begins to run with a thought, I start over.
  3. Do one of the following three things that most resonates with you:
  • Picture yourself lying in a canoe on a calm lake with only blue sky above you
  • Imagine snuggling in a velvet black hammock in a pitch-black room
  • Repeating “don’t think, don’t think” until you fall asleep

I do the canoe one; if I have trouble sleeping, most nights this helps me fall asleep.

5. No Clock in the Bedroom

We actually don’t have a clock in our bedroom. I haven’t had a clock in my bedroom for the last 12 years.

Looking at the time when I’m trying to fall asleep gives me anxiety so I just don’t see the need to have a clock in our bedroom. Fortunately, I’m a freelancer who works from home so I get to sleep in every single day and don’t need to worry about what time I get up.

Even when you do need to wake up in the morning I recommend setting your alarm and turning your phone on airplane mode and not looking at your phone until the alarm goes off. My husband and I have found this practice super helpful (especially since he needs to wake up in the morning and I don’t).

6. Exercise

I’ve found that exercise plays a huge role in whether or not I sleep well. Usually, regular exercise helps me sleep so much better!

I run but I also lift weights and do yoga on occasion. I also walk a four-mile loop with my neighbor several times a week. Staying active not only relieves stress but helps me fall asleep easier and stay asleep.

7. Addressing My Health Issues

So, of course, many of you know my crazy misdiagnosis story which led me to a wild and wonderful journey of hard lessons in learning how to take care of myself.

I’ve been tested for food intolerances and have eliminated gluten, dairy, genetically modified food, and commercial meat from my diet. I’ve found that, in general, my body doesn’t respond well to grains and so I lead a mostly grain-free diet.

I’m also super sensitive to caffeine and sugar and so keep these very minimal in my diet as well. I’ve worked with numerous herbalists who have helped me to address my minor health issues and supplement my diet so I feel better and live a much more harmonious life these days.

Sleep Is Not Separate

I can usually get to sleep quickly now provided I follow all these guidelines that I’ve naturally incorporated into my routine over the last few years.

Sleep is not separate from the rest of our lives. I’ve found that by considering the effect of my diet and lifestyle on my sleep, I can better care for myself to get that essential good night’s rest!

Do you have any sleep tips that you’ve found have been super helpful?

These 8 (Mostly Vegan) Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products Will Make You Forget About Aquaphor

Getting a tattoo is a super exciting time.

I remember when I first started getting tattoos. The artists simply gave me little packs of A&D ointment and told me to follow up with Aquaphor. No mention was made of natural tattoo aftercare.

By the time I started getting tattoos, I already knew that products such as these contained toxic ingredients. However, for the record, Aquaphor and its maker Eucerin do not test on animals, which is surprising but apparently true.

What I did find when searching for alternative products is that there’s definitely a market for natural tattoo aftercare products that cater to both vegan and non-vegan audiences. You have options besides using nasty, petroleum-based, animal-tested products to heal your beautiful new ink!

First—What’s Wrong with Aquaphor?

Let’s talk for a second about why you might want to avoid ingredients in brands that some tattoo artists recommend and instead go for natural tattoo aftercare products.

The main active ingredient in Aquaphor is Petrolatum. In case you didn’t know, Petrolatum is just another word for petroleum jelly, so don’t be fooled. Why should you be concerned?

Petrolatum contains possible carcinogens which can lead to cancer development, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Needless to say, this likely isn’t the best product to put on your open wound, especially when there are other natural tattoo aftercare products available.

In addition, some tattoo artists argue that using petroleum-based products can inhibit healing of the tattoo and even testify that they believe tattoos heal faster when using natural tattoo aftercare products.

8 Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products

Let’s forget about those other crappy products and talk about some authentic, natural balms that you can use so your new tattoo heals beautifully!

All the natural tattoo aftercare products listed here do not test on animals and do not contain synthetic ingredients or fragrance, which can be very toxic to our wellbeing.

1. Ohana Organics Tattoo Butter (Vegan)

So I’ve personally used this natural tattoo aftercare product for my last two tattoos and have really enjoyed (you can see my last two pieces on Instagram here and here).

This tattoo butter is vegan and uses very simple ingredients including shea butter and olive oil.

If you’ve never used shea butter before, it does have a greasy feel to it and so that’s my only problem with this product. I definitely have to be careful with what I touch when I have this on.

Ohana Organics offers half an ounce of their tattoo butter in an adorable tin for $4.99 with larger sizes available. Shop here.

2. Wild Rose Herbs Ink Spray (Vegan)

I’m actually really excited to try Wild Rose Herbs’ natural tattoo aftercare products. I just bought some of their stuff for my sister-in-law for Christmas and they seem to be high-quality products. (Update to this post: I have tried the non-vegan ink balm and so far love it!)

What I love about this ink spray is that it uses peppermint to help with the sometimes severe itching that happens while a tattoo is healing. It also has some other really cool ingredients including witch hazel and German chamomile.

This spray is also vegan!

Wild Rose Herbs sells 1 ounce of their ink spray for $9.95. Shop here.

3. Wild Rose Herbs Tattoo Balm (Both Vegan and Non-Vegan Formulas)

So Wild Rose Herbs carries both vegan and non-vegan formulas for their natural tattoo aftercare balm with the difference being the inclusion of beeswax in the non-vegan formula.

These tattoo balms also use peppermint to help with itch and lavender which tends to be gentle and soothing for healing skin.

Wild Rose Herbs sells both their vegan and non-vegan tattoo balm formulas starting at $10.49 for .85 ounces with larger sizes available. Shop here for vegan and here for the beeswax formula.

4. Brooklyn Grooming Tattoo Balm (Not Vegan)

Ok so I have again not tried Brooklyn Grooming’s natural tattoo aftercare balm; however, it contains pure organic ingredients and is not tested on animals.

With ingredients such as hemp seed oil, shea butter, and vitamin E, it’s hard to go wrong with this tattoo balm. Remember that this formula isn’t vegan friendly due to the fact that it contains beeswax.

Brooklyn Grooming sells their tattoo balm in 2-ounce sizes for $22. Shop here.

5. EiR NYC Tattoo Balm (Vegan)

If you’re looking for a vegan version of Brooklyn Grooming’s tattoo balm, check out EiR NYC’s tattoo balm. I haven’t tried this one but I love the simple, organic ingredients in this natural tattoo aftercare product, including dried rose petals and rosemary!

This balm also includes coconut oil and shea butter and is sold in half-an-ounce containers for $10. Shop here.

6. After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer (Vegan)

So I actually have tried this tattoo moisturizer from After Inked. It’s vegan, which is great, but I’m not too crazy about the formula.

The ingredients aren’t super pure (it contains preservatives), but one big pro to this natural tattoo aftercare product is that it’s not greasy, so it acts as more of a lotion than a balm.

It’s weird though because this is precisely what I didn’t like about it; it didn’t really feel like it was “protecting” my tattoo. However, if you’re looking for a non-greasy tattoo aftercare lotion, this could be your pick!

After Inked sells their tattoo moisturizer in 3-ounce sizes for $20. Shop here.

7. Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve (Not Vegan)

I have not tried this natural tattoo aftercare product but it’s another great pick. It contains a lot of fun herbs including calendula (I LOVE calendula for healing skin and also dry skin among its other benefits), comfrey, thyme, and St. John’s Wort.

Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve contains beeswax so it’s not vegan. You can find sizes starting at 1 ounce for $11.88 here.

8. Susie Q Skin Ink Salve (Not Vegan)

This one made the list even though one of their ingredients is “natural fig fragrance”. I would absolutely question the company about this ingredient before buying to find out if it is actually natural and not synthetic. (The site does say their products don’t contain any synthetic fragrances but I would double check just to be sure.)

I’m putting this natural tattoo aftercare product on here because their other ingredients are pure and they contain other products that could be good as well including tattoo wash. They also have this cool page on their website speaking out against animal testing.

Ingredients in Susie Q Skin’s Ink Salve include hemp seed oil, lemongrass, rose, arnica, and turmeric. You can find 1-ounce sizes and up starting at $19.95 here.

What Are You Waiting for?

When it comes to natural tattoo aftercare products, you absolutely have the power to choose products that aren’t toxic to your body and don’t suffocate your skin.

Your tattoo was something you dreamed of, it’s now a part of you forever, and you want it to heal perfectly. Isn’t your new ink worth investing in some aftercare balms that are good for you as well as the planet?

What do you use to heal your tattoos? I’d love to hear if you know of any more natural products (or home ingredients) that you feel make the cut for superior tattoo aftercare!

Also–if you’ve got fresh ink–check out my post about the five stages of grief and your new tattoo!

5 Ways Herbalists Have Immensely Helped Me

Many of you know the story of how a crazy autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with was just the result of a gluten intolerance. I found out this monumental piece of information with the help of an herbalist when I was 21.

No one I knew had ever seen an herbalist and I’m not sure why I felt driven to find one. Maybe it was because I was facing a life of chemo. Maybe because I was in chronic pain. Or maybe it was just something bigger telling me that this wasn’t the end of my journey.

I’ve worked with two herbalists since the one I originally saw moved away. Here’s how these women have immensely helped me improve my health and quality of life with some simple suggestions!

Note: I am not a doctor. Please take the following information from my experience only. This information is not intended to provide medical guidance.

Discovering the Cause of My Autoimmune Disease (Hint: It was Gluten)

When I was 21, I was told by a well-known doctor in a city near me that I would most likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Although I felt like I wanted to give up hope at that time, I ended up pursuing another option—finding a natural treatment for my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

Through an herb shop about an hour away from me, I located an herbalist who agreed to see me. During my second visit with her, she told me that she thought gluten was causing my illness. I thought she was crazy. I hardly knew what gluten was.

She turned out to be right. A protein named gluten was causing my immune system to attack all my muscles and my skin. Within a week of going gluten-free, all my autoimmune symptoms disappeared and I was able to stop taking all of my medication. That was seven years ago.

The fact that I spent over four years on detrimental pharmaceutical medications, gained 30 pounds, and felt sick all the time was all undone by a woman who knew that food could make us sick. Her simple but profound knowledge dramatically changed my life for the better.

Without discovering that root cause of my illness, I would likely still be on all those medications today and still feel terrible. My quality of life would have been compromised all because doctors are still grasping the idea that food can cause such severe illnesses.

Saying Goodbye to My Crazy-Bad Menstrual Cramps

I have more or less always had bad menstrual cramps. They aren’t consistent, though. Some months are absolutely terrible. Other months aren’t bad at all. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a pattern (although I have a few theories after trying to figure it out for the last 16 years).

When I began working with an herbalist to learn more about the Fertility Awareness Method, we also worked on addressing the cause of my crazy bad cramps. The solutions she suggested have helped me to remain mostly pain-free during my period today.

Through drinking a ginger infusion, taking magnesium glycinate, and taking omega-3 supplements, my menstrual cramps have majorly improved. In the last seven months, I have only had one episode of bad pain thanks to her suggestions.

Since, unfortunately, I’ll be having a period for a long time, her help has enabled me to not feel like I want to die just because I am a woman.

Helping Me Realize Fats Are Not Bad

I have yet to have an herbalist not recommend fat to me (except, of course, the horrible kinds like trans fats).

Saturated fat such as animal fat and coconut oil as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil are all part of a healthy body. Yes, people will argue against this. I’m not getting involved in that discussion here. I’m here to say that my herbalists helped me realize that fats are not bad—in fact, they’re pretty essential.

Through their help, I’ve been getting more fats from all types of sources (except for Twinkies) and have more energy and better skin!

Implementing a Natural Method of Birth Control

The Fertility Awareness Method has been an enriching experience for me and my husband. I would have never been able to learn the method as intimately as I have without my herbalist.

The method enables my husband and I to forgo conventional methods of birth control, many of them toxic, and simply track my cycle via taking my basal body temperature (BBT) and monitoring my cervical fluid to know when I’m fertile and avoid intercourse on those days.

Implementing a natural method of birth control has allowed me to honor my body and also choose a conscious form of contraception that doesn’t rely on toxic pharmaceuticals. This is a huge benefit for someone who doesn’t want kids (cough, that’s me).

Allowing Me to Realize Food Is Medicine

Before I began working with herbalists, I didn’t understand how much food impacts our health. Food is everything to our health. What you put in your body, the supplements you take, whether you choose to smoke and drink, all have huge effects on our systems.

Perhaps this is the most important gift herbalists have given me, being able to realize that I have so many chances to put either medicine or poison into my body. By choosing the foods that I feel are best for me, I choose medicine (by medicine obviously meaning plants and grass-fed, free-range meat).

Whether it’s probiotics or herbs, food and supplements are a powerful form of medicine, one that I feel grateful to have tapped into with the help of a professional.

Working with an Herbalist

I would absolutely recommend working with an herbalist if you’re facing any health issues that do not yet have an identified root cause. In many instances, conventional doctors are only trained to treat our symptoms, not the cause of our illnesses.

Even for people who believe they have discovered the root cause of their illness or symptoms, an herbalist can help you better manage your health. I’m so grateful to have worked with my herbalists to be as healthy as I am today!

10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea (And What Finally Worked for Me)

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Ok seriously, how many of you suffer from dysmenorrhea?

I’m going to warn you that before you read further, things are gonna get a little personal in this post. So if you don’t like reading about periods or women’s bodies make you uncomfortable, you can leave.

All good? Good.

Dysmenorrhea is the condition of experiencing insanely painful menstrual cramps. My periods have always been relatively bad, but lately, they’ve been really awful. Two periods ago I had the worst period of my life and honestly would have rather died than dealt with that. It was that bad.

Here’s a list of ridiculous things that have happened during my dysmenorrhea-infused periods:

  1. Age 13: Walking down the hall in middle school to the nurse’s office, nearly passing out from the pain.
  2. Age 15: Got picked up from high school by one of my aunts. Walked inside and made four parallel cuts on my left arm with a knife. It didn’t hurt as bad as the cramps.
  3. Age 21: In the bathtub throwing up oatmeal. My brother had to come over to give me some medication. I couldn’t move.
  4. Age 22: On the floor of the women’s bathroom at Penn State with my face pressed into that small space behind the toilet, moaning. Girl asks, “Are you ok?”
  5.  Age 25: In the bathroom throwing up chili, ended up in the bathtub with a knife.
  6. Age 26: Throwing up in the car while my fiance drives us home, scratching myself with a big knife, almost passing out from the pain. Screaming.

These are just the bad ones I remember. There have been countless other times over the last 14 years since I’ve had my period. My dysmenorrhea usually involves a bathtub, a knife, and vomit.

Sounds fun, right? God, I love being a woman. I really do.

With that in mind, I was inspired to create this list of things I’ve tried when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea. So here’s what works and here’s what doesn’t.

A side note: I am not an herbalist or a nutritionist. The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. 

 

10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea

 

1. Cramp Bark

You can find cramp bark in capsules or just buy a big bag of it from Mountain Rose Herbs. It tastes disgusting, but you drink it as a tea (or can take the capsules or use a tincture) to help with painful cramping.

Cramp bark can be taken in the days leading up to your period and can be taken the day of. I have also taken the capsules but have not tried the tincture.

The tea is extremely bitter. Whatever you do, don’t make it too strong!

2. White Willow Bark and Boswellia

This combination actually works pretty well. These are two herbs that are taken together to produce a “Motrin-like effect” on the body. The problem is, you need to take them the morning you get your period. By the time your period starts, it’s too late. At least this has been my experience.

I drink white willow bark tea and take boswellia capsules. I used to take white willow capsules, but then I couldn’t find any that didn’t contain gelatin. So I switched to the tea. Just like cramp bark, this tea is bitter, but it’s not as bad as cramp bark in my opinion.

Get the capsules or the tea and take a few hours before you get your period. This combination can work for other forms of pain as well—I’ve used for headaches and migraines with excellent results!

3. Hot Things: Bath and Heating Pad

In order to stimulate circulation, some people suggest applying a hot compress and then a cold one to your stomach area during your period. I have had mixed results with this method.

What I have had success with is taking a hot bath and then crawling into bed with a heating pad. The heat seems to help the cramps and just helps me to feel better.

Problem is, I don’t always have direct access to a bathtub. Which is why I now work from home and can take as many bloody baths as I want (pun intended). Told you this was going to get graphic. Or wait, I said personal. Same difference.

4. Coconut Oil and Lavender Massage

This one is interesting: research shows that this actually can help and is one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea!

Just get some lavender essential oil and coconut oil (or your carrier oil of choice) and massage your lower stomach. After 20 minutes, it’s supposed to help you feel better.

You can also just straight up huff lavender essential oil while experiencing painful cramping and it’ll help you feel better! Smelling lavender seems to help me more than the massage, actually.

5. Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

My doc suggested I take this stuff throughout the month to lessen the severity of my periods. I don’t feel that it has helped all that much and I eventually stopped taking it. You should take it pretty regularly to experience results.

The dose is between 500-1,500 milligrams a daily. I take 1,000 milligrams. Easy with capsules. They provide essential fatty acids that are also great for skin and hormone regulation. Find some organic vegan ones like Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.

6. Magnesium and Calcium

You’re probably deficient in magnesium and calcium.

Taking these supplements a few days before your period (some people may need to take them throughout the month to see results) and the day of your period can help reduce cramping greatly.

Everyone is different and everyone’s body will tolerate these supplements differently. Talk to your doc!

(Below: see an update to this post because the right dose and form of magnesium has really helped me out!)

7. Masturbation and Sex

Oh dear, this is the part where I said it would get personal, right?

Masturbation works, but I’ve had short-term results with this method. Not enough to actually stop the cramping for good. Sex can work.  The problem with this method is that you don’t really feel that turned on when you’re in extreme pain. But if you’re desperate…

It works!

8. Deep Breathing

Tried this during my last one too with positive results. I’ve been really into Eckhart Tolle and presence lately. Staying present has helped my dysmenorrhea greatly. Practice deep breathing, stay present in the moment, and understand that you are not your mind or body. It helps!

9. Exercising

This is a big one and regular exercise is definitely one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea. I promise. Get out there and do some cardio: this is what has worked the best for me, specifically running. You don’t need to overdo it, just go for a run a couple times a week.

10. The Menstrual Cup

If you’re still using tampons, you need to stop now. Those death sticks contain a known carcinogen called dioxin. And you’re sticking it up your vag! Seriously???

I used tampons for years (it still makes me cringe to think about that) before finally switching to the menstrual cup and cloth cotton reusable pads. I will never go back.

The menstrual cup can help alleviate your period cramps and relax your vagina a little. Don’t believe me? Give it a try, punk.

On the other hand, some herbalists think that blocking the flow of the blood with a tampon or menstrual cup can actually cause severe cramping. I’ve found that this is not the case with me, but it’s definitely worth experimenting with to see if this makes a difference for you.

If you’re already using the menstrual cup and it leaks, check out my guide to stop that thing from leaking!

 

5 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Tried Without Success

 

1. Licorice Root

Licorice is supposedly great for many things, especially helping to regulate hormones and helping during your period. I did not have success with this herb (I love licorice root tea though!)

2. White Peony Root

Tried white peony root (which is anti-spasmodic) without success. I have heard that using licorice root in combination with white peony root can help greatly with painful uterine spasms that sufferers of dysmenorrhea commonly experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I’ll likely give it another try though.

3. Cayenne Pepper Tea

Straight up. Didn’t work. I’ve heard hot peppers are great for pain. Didn’t work for me. Plus it was disgusting!

4. Yoga

I love yoga, but unfortunately, it hasn’t so far helped me when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.

5. Eating Warm Foods and Spices

I had an herbalist suggest to me that I stop eating raw foods and drinking raw smoothies to help with my dysmenorrhea. She suggested eating cooked foods the majority of the time with an emphasis on warming spices such as ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon, especially on the days leading up to your period. I’ve tried this without success, unfortunately.

 

4 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Not Yet Tried

 

These are things I haven’t tried, some of them I don’t plan on trying but others I do!

1. Birth Control

I have never been on birth control or tried birth control. Nor do I want to be. That stuff is unnatural and messes your body up. I’d rather suffer from painful cramping than use this shit when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.

2. Calendula Flowers

These are anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. I use calendula flowers regularly but have not yet applied them to cures for dysmenorrhea. Have you tried them? I should try them next time to see if they work. The tea is much milder than cramp bark or white willow bark!

3. Valerian

I haven’t tried valerian, but I’ve heard it works. Unfortunately, valerian is also known for making you very sleepy. It’s an excellent anti-anxiety remedy as well as excellent for insomnia. Problem is, some people (ahem, me) get super sleepy on this herb and can’t really function during the day. Not that I can function on the day I get my period anyway.

Valerian tea also smells like stinky feet. It’s rather awful. But it could work as a cure for your dysmenorrhea!

4. Healthy Diet

My diet is already healthy, thank you very much. Before I get my period I love potato chips and sugar. Really hard to not indulge. Maybe one of these days I’ll make veggie smoothies for a week before I get my period and see if that helps as a natural cure for dysmenorrhea.

 

Update: What Finally Worked for Me

 

After years of suffering from dysmenorrhea, I finally began working with an herbalist who really helped me out.

Together, we discovered a pattern: on the first day of menstruation for a few hours, I would be getting these insane cramps, but not bleeding. She suggested perhaps my pelvic circulation was poor and my body was trying really hard to expel the uterine blood and tissue, but couldn’t.

So this is what helped:

  • Ginger. Boil 1 tbsp. of dried organic ginger root in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain the ginger out and drink the tea throughout the day. This really helps pelvic circulation! If you get tired of the ginger tea (I got really tired of it after a while), you can take Gaia Herbs Ginger Supreme 2 capsules a day.
  • Magnesium. Turns out, your body can’t really absorb magnesium citrate, which is why many people experience diarrhea at high levels of magnesium citrate. My herbalist suggested I take magnesium glycinate, 400mg in the morning and 400mg in the evening for a total of 800mg every day. I do this throughout the month and it really seems to have helped.
  • Breathing. The right kind of breathing actually saved me from one intense episode of menstrual cramps. Breathe in through your nose, then out through your mouth. Remember to keep doing it. I was amazed at how much it helped!

These are the things I have tried for months with success so I’m convinced they work! Of course, I’m probably jinxing myself by updating this post.

 

A Note on Omega-3s

 

I have also been taking lots more omega-3s (EPA and DHA from fish) in the form of fermented cod liver oil and omega-3 supplements.

I did a lot of research and discovered that these types of essential fatty acids are different from the kind you get from vegan sources such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, etc. Your body can convert these vegan sources into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate has been shown to be poor. Your best bet is to get them from fish if you’re not vegan.

Also, omega-3 supplements have been shown to be as effective as Ibuprofen in research about painful menstrual cramps.

 

I really hope this post helps some of you looking for cures for dysmenorrhea. It’s an awful condition that makes life particularly difficult. Getting your period is bad enough as it is, suffering from dysmenorrhea certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

I would also really recommend working with a natural health professional, such as an herbalist who specializes in women’s health. I’ve found out all the above tips from 14 years of getting my period, but you could save yourself a lot of pain and trouble simply by working with someone who can help you discover what’s causing your pain and how to make it stop.

What do you think of these natural cures for dysmenorrhea? Have you tried any? Are there some I didn’t list that work for you? I wanna know!

 

How to Heal Leaky Gut with Tea and Herbs

I was diagnosed with leaky gut in January 2016. I learned how to heal leaky gut with the help of a natural doctor and some intuition.

I had a bizarre rash on my face for four months that wouldn’t go away regardless of what I did.

I  tried everything—essential oils, cutting out a bunch of different foods (I’m already gluten and dairy-free), trying to neutralize the pH of my body, and overdosing on vitamins, including B vitamins.

Nothing worked when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

Eventually, I went to the doctor and got tested for food intolerances, which was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time but just didn’t do it.

Turned out I was intolerant to a bunch of different things, all having slight reactions to them. The doctor diagnosed me with leaky gut and put me on a powder supplement composed of herbs to help me heal.

In addition to the rash that spread along my chin on both sides of my face, I also had hives around my eyes after having an allergic reaction when eating nutritional yeast.

I later determined that I had accidentally been consuming dairy through my probiotics. This likely caused the leaky gut. I then developed a yeast allergy, which was causing the hives around my eyes. All of this was the result of my leaky gut.

After I was diagnosed with leaky gut and tried to determine what had caused it and how I could heal it, today after just a few short weeks I can eat yeast again and found some amazing herbs that helped me heal.

Here’s how to heal leaky gut!

Healing Leaky Gut First Begins with Eliminating the Things That Caused It

You’ll be able to calm your gut with tea and herbs, but how to heal your leaky gut begins with removing anything and everything that’s irritating it, otherwise you won’t be able to convince your body that it doesn’t need to react to stuff.

When leaky gut happens, your body gets confused and starts attacking things that it previously labeled as ok, like gluten or dairy proteins, yeast, etc.

It could be reacting to anything, including pesticides or GMOs, and it could cause just about any type of health symptom. My bloodwork showed that I was reacting to sesame seeds, eggs, garlic, peanuts, corn, oats, etc. My symptoms just included the rash and the hives.

I would highly recommend that you get tested in order to determine what’s irritating your gut when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

However, if you can’t afford this (many natural doctors don’t accept insurance), begin by cutting out the big gut irritants.

These are mainly gluten and dairy. However, you may also choose to cut out legumes, all grains, and maybe even molds (natural molds are present in foods such as cheese, alcohol, and dried fruits). Listen to your body!

Once you figure out what’s causing your leaky gut, you can begin supplementing your diet with the following herbs to help when considering how to heal leaky gut.

After a few weeks off of the offending foods (I know it’s hard. I had to print a list of everything that contained yeast and hang it on the fridge!), but it’ll be worth it to eat these foods again in a few weeks and drink some delicious tea in the meantime.

How to Heal Leaky Gut with These Herbs

Go to your local herb shop and grab these essentials:

Stinging Nettle
Slippery Elm Bark
Licorice Root
Marshmallow Root

You’ll ideally want the marshmallow and licorice in a cut-and-sifted form rather than the powder; it’s so much easier to make tea that way.

The stinging nettle is a great anti-histamine and all of the other herbs (slippery elm, licorice, marshmallow) mixed together make a great tea when it comes to how to heal leaky gut! I drank 2-3 cups of plain stinging nettle tea every day with a bit of local raw honey to improve the taste (after a while I didn’t mind the taste, though).

If you choose to do a powder supplement made of these herbs for your leaky gut, choose one with quality ingredients. My doctor gave me Designs for Health GI Revive, which was so easy and tasty to put into smoothies when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

The herbs may be cheaper and even more effective, depending on how much of them you buy and how long you plan to use them for.

You could also get the herbs in supplement form, but I find that those are harder to regulate the ingredients and you’re not really sure how much of it your body is absorbing.

Making a Healing Tea

How to heal leaky gut with tea is easy.

Just get a quality metal tea strainer or cloth tea bag (they’ll have these at your local herb shop) and add a pinch of each of these herbs to your tea for a mixed tea with licorice, marshmallow root, and slippery elm bark.

Use a small pinch of the licorice root—that stuff is powerful and will make your tea really sweet! How to heal leaky gut begins here.

For plain stinging nettle, brew a strong tea by filling up your tea strainer and allow it to steep until dark. The stinging nettle is really important if you’re having histamine reactions because it’s a natural anti-histamine.

Stinging nettle looks like this in its fresh form. If you have the plant handy (and you know with absolute certainty it’s stinging nettle), you can make a tea this way too.

For me, my body was producing histamine whenever I ate yeast, so I broke out in hives. The stinging nettle helped calm my body’s reactions and helped my gut to heal.

The dairy was causing a different reaction (the actual eczema-looking rash) and once I stopped taking those horrible probiotics, was able to get my rash to go away relatively quickly. This also helped calm my leaky gut in addition to the herbs.

I would not recommend mixing the stinging nettle with the other herbs. I have not tried this but I would imagine that it would not taste very good! The slippery elm, marshmallow, and licorice all have sweet tastes that pair well together. The stinging nettle is more bitter and plant-tasting.

Consider Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil helped my body to stop reacting to yeast by producing an anti-histamine effect for my dilemma of how to heal leaky gut.

Yes, just like stinging nettle, it’s a natural anti-histamine. This is for food allergies, though, not for food intolerances (my body was allergic to yeast but intolerant to dairy). There is a difference—the allergy symptoms are more severe faster.

Intolerance symptoms can be just as—if not even more—severe, but they usually develop over a longer period of time. Read more about the difference between allergies and intolerances if you’re interested!

Evening primrose oil contains excellent fatty acids that can help with many things, including dysmenorrhea (another word for wicked terrible menstrual cramps).

I found that it was an essential skin healer and anti-histamine for my body while healing leaky gut. Consider a vegan, organic option such as Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.

Other Essential Practices for How to Heal Leaky Gut

Leaky gut sucks, I know. But do you know how it happens?

A bad diet, antibiotics, stress. Nearly everybody has come into contact with these things. So while you’re considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s a good idea to do the following things.

Sleep a lot

Just make sure you get at least eight hours. I prefer nine or ten myself but again, listen to your body. Sleep is so important and helps you manage stress and weight and can help your body to heal itself.

Avoid stress like the plague

Dude, just relax. It’s not easy, I know. But you can do it. Stay present (read some freaking Eckhart Tolle! Love that dude) and take one thing at a time. Stress is your body’s worst enemy, so relax and take care of yourself.

Exercise

Wait, didn’t I just say to relax? Of course, I did. But, you still need to take care of your body when you’re practicing how to heal leaky gut. Exercising will help promote healing in your body also. Do something you enjoy—dancing, jogging, kayaking, who cares!

Stay away from conventional medications

Prescription medications such as antibiotics can damage your delicate gut flora and even trigger leaky gut. Stick to natural stuff whenever possible. They are your gut’s enemy!

Eat well

When considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s hard to know what to eat. Just do your best. Plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and healthy fats and fiber can help you look and feel great and encourage your body to heal.

Take vitamin C

I make homemade vitamin C out of dried lemon and orange peels and take a teaspoon every day. This will encourage your body to heal when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

Stay organic

Buy organic produce and buy organic herbs. Leaky gut syndrome can cause your body to react to pesticides as well, and you don’t need your body reacting to more stuff than it already is when you’re considering how to heal leaky gut.

Avoid sugar

Yes, sugar is so bad for your gut bacteria and can aggravate leaky gut. Try to avoid it while you’re healing, it does so much more damage than good! Actually, can’t think of anything good sugar does…

Consider Probiotics

Wait, didn’t I just say that probiotics caused my problem in the first place? Yes, those probiotics contained milk proteins, and I’m intolerant to dairy. However, my doctor also put me on a different, vegan probiotic (I was able to call the company and confirm that they were vegan—this is the probiotic I take here) to help heal my leaky gut. If you’re vegan or intolerant to dairy, never take a probiotic without confirming that it’s not made from milk proteins! Unfortunately, you just can’t trust the labels.

A Word of Caution

I am not an herbalist or a nutritionist. I would not recommend just going out and gathering plants when you’re thinking about how to heal leaky gut.

Plants are easily misidentified. I would recommend getting fresh or dried herbs from your local herb shop or online. Mountain Rose Herbs is a fantastic resource.

I would also recommend not self-diagnosing your leaky gut and getting tested. Yes, this step may be pricey, but if you don’t heal your leaky gut the first time, you’ll waste lots of time and money trying to figure out what’s going on.

When you get tested and can clearly see what you’re reacting to, you can eliminate these foods and you’ll know how to heal leaky gut. You can also work with a certified herbalist to help you.

Having leaky gut and trying to figure out how to heal leaky gut isn’t fun.  However, working with a natural doctor or herbalist makes it so much easier than working alone (I was sick for almost five years before finally seeing an herbalist and curing my autoimmune disease with a simple diet change—read the story here).

I healed my leaky gut and you can too. Don’t give up!

My Herbs Are Dying! I’m Making Tea

Want to know how to experience the benefits of herbal tea? Welcome.

As a certified winter herb killer, I know how to take advantage of herbs before they go south.

Since the summer is over and my herbs are on their way to death (I’ve never had good luck with moving them inside), I’ve decided for the first time to pick them, dry them, and experience the benefits of herbal tea.

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With that being said, herbs are very important things for people. Creating a unique herbal tea blend can help you during the chilly winter months and have some additional health benefits.

What are some of the benefits of herbal tea?

Rosemary

Rosemary is amazing for circulation and can provide relief from headaches or colds and infections. Rosemary essential oil is a great headache reducer.

Rosemary helps to promote mental clarity and helps reduce the symptoms of brain fog or fatigue, therefore boosting concentration. It’s known to decrease inflammation as well.

Rosemary is an extremely hardy herb. I left mine out all winter long and the plant thrived. Just don’t forget to water it—and it will spread, so you may want to keep this one in a pot!

Mint

Mint actually isn’t far away from rosemary, as they’re part of the same family. I prefer peppermint myself, but you may also enjoy spearmint.

Mint is well-known for helping with digestion, which means it can also help with symptoms such as nausea or vomiting.

Your mint tea blend can also help soothe respiratory ailments. This herb is fantastic by itself or blended with lavender or lemon balm. Try peppermint tea with a spoonful of coconut oil in it—it tastes like a peppermint patty!

Mint provides some great benefits of herbal tea, but you’ll definitely want to pot this herb. It will spread so fast you won’t even know it happened until you have a yard full of mint.

Thyme

Thyme can be really good in your herbal blend. It can help if you have a cold and detox you—get rid of that negative energy and start fresh.

Don’t ever be fatigued again with thyme in your herbal blend. It can help boost your mood and fight off sickness. The benefits of herbal tea are amplified when you add thyme into the mix.

Thyme is particularly yummy with lemon in there, and pairs well with sage and lavender as well.

Sage

Stressed out? Sage can help calm you down.

Combined with your blend of thyme for detox and energy, mint for comfort, and rosemary for clarity, sage can help restore balance to your life.

Sage can help boost the immune system and even promote a sharp memory. It can decrease inflammation and promote healthy bones.

This herb is soft and fuzzy and just feels good, plus it provides benefits of herbal tea you didn’t know you needed.

 

Lavender

Lavender is known for comforting and relaxing even the most stressed-out people, providing excellent benefits of herbal tea.

If you experience any type of anxiety, need lavender for your tea. Even if you don’t, it’s just great to have around and pairs really well with the other herbs!

Lavender can be difficult to grow, so might not be good for your first go when it comes to how to make tea. Buy a hardy plant to start rather than the seeds!

Other Herbs That Are Great for Tea

Ginger and turmeric make a perfect cancer-fighting blend. Buy the roots fresh and preferably organic at the store. Peel and drop in some boiling water for approximately a half hour.

The above photo is ginger while the below is turmeric, the color difference is apparent.

A blend of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, and ginger can also make an excellent chai tea that provides detoxing benefits in addition to winter comfort.

Pick these herbs up at your local herb shop!

Other amazing herbs you can add include stevia, lemon balm, stinging nettle, calendula, chamomile, and rose petals. Yes, they’re edible. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with insecticides before you eat them or dry them for your tea.

You can also use dried fruit peels or other dried fruits such as strawberries and blueberries in your special tea. Enjoy 🙂

How to Blend the Dry Herbs

Pick your herbs, give them a thorough wash first, then hang them up somewhere to dry.

There are also many other methods you can use to dry your herbs, but I’ve found that hanging them up is the easiest.

Once they’re dry, simply crumble up the leaves and put in an air-tight jar for storage throughout the winter. You can experience the benefits of herbal tea all winter long!

You’ll love having a cup of your special herbal blend in the afternoon, morning, or evening.

Have fun!

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