What’s the Difference Between Himalayan Pink Salt and Table Salt? (And Why You Should Care.)

This article is a guest post written by Polly Telegina, a holistic health expert from Siberia. She loves writing and helps people to know how to be healthy and beautiful using only natural remedies!

So why is salt even good for you? Sodium is an essential nutrient involved in nerve and muscle function, it helps regulate fluids in the body to prevent dehydration, and it even plays a role in regulating blood pressure.

In fact, you may have heard all this before if you know what an electrolyte is. Yes, salt is an electrolyte! Some things you might not know about salt is that it’s also used by your body to regulate the blood pH and help produce stomach acid. Like any type of food you put in your body, over consuming can cause problems — and may even be toxic.

So why is salt bad? The most common problem it causes is high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Meat, fish, and other food contain salt. Salt is added to most processed foods as a preservative which can make food delicious but unhealthy in the long term. Because of the long term effects, salt should always be enjoyed in moderation.

Why Are There Different Salts?

All salt is essentially the same. However, salt is processed and sourced in different ways which can affect minerals, sodium, and nutrient content.

There are several kinds of salt and they all contain varying amounts of minerals, sodium levels, and additives. However, depending on where and how it’s sourced, it gets a different name. To learn more, check the graph below.

Type of Salt Benefits Cons
Table Salt Contains added iodine. It’s low in impurities. It’s low in healthy minerals, contains anti-caking chemicals to prevent the salt crystals from clumping.
Himalayan Pink Salt Contains trace minerals and is lower in sodium than regular table salt, and contains no additives. Contains less iodine than other type of salts.
Sea Salt Contains trace minerals like potassium, iron, and zinc. Contains trace amounts of toxins like mercury and microplastics.
Kosher Salt Contains less anti-caking chemicals than regular table salt. Contains less iodine than regular table salt.
Celtic Salt A type of sea salt which contains trace amounts of minerals and is low in sodium. Contains trace amounts of mercury and microplastics.

What Are the Benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt?

Like any type of salt, Himalayan pink salt is beneficial in its own way. It’s natural, contains minerals, and is low in sodium.

However, many of the nutritional differences depend on how the salt is refined, the location it’s extracted from, and the purity.  Like any substance, pink salt does have some side effects. However, it’s up to you to decide what is best for your body. 

Pros

So how is Himalayan pink salt beneficial? First, you have to understand what makes it different from all other types of salt. Geographical location plays an important role in this.

Himalayan salt comes from the nutrient-rich Khewra Salt Mine in the Pakistan mountains. Its signature pink color comes from the trace amounts of iron oxide and other minerals it contains which are only found in the Himalayan mountains.

Although pink salt functions in the same way other salts do, the main benefits you get from pink salt come from its inherent nutrients which include calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Magnesium, potassium, and iron are extremely beneficial for heart health and lowering blood pressure. Since it contains a higher percentage of these trace minerals, it has less overall sodium than table salt. It’s also more natural than table salt and does not contain any additives.

Cons

This pink salt can be expensive which might deter many people. It also doesn’t contain high amounts of iodine like table salt does. Iodine is essential for thyroid function. The thyroid is an organ that regulates hormones. However, iodine deficiency isn’t a typical problem for many and only tends to occur in third world countries.

Himalayan Salt Pros Cons
High in minerals, no trace toxins, lower in sodium than table salt.  Cost, low in iodine.

What Are the Benefits of Table Salt?

Table salt is the most common type of salt consumed around the world. It isn’t sourced from any particular location and can come from anywhere in the world.

It’s also processed more heavily than Himalayan pink salt to remove any impurities. This is done to remove toxins, but this process affects its overall nutritional value However, the sodium content between the two are very similar. Although table salt does contain more sodium per teaspoon than Himalayan salt does.

Pros

First, salt is a necessary mineral so that in itself is beneficial. Table salt is extremely refined when compared to other salts. This means it contains no impurities or trace toxins like those contained in sea salt.

Table salt also contains high levels of iodine which are critical for thyroid function — an organ that regulates hormones.  In healthy doses, salt keeps your body hydrated, is good for your blood pressure and heart, and prevents heat stroke.

Cons

Since regular table salt is heavily processed, it loses most of the healthy trace minerals it naturally contains. This means it also contains more sodium per teaspoon than Himalayan pink salt, but it’s also nutrient deficient when compared to Himalayan salt.

Apart from this, most table salt isn’t 100 percent natural, as they contain anti-caking agents to prevent the salt from clumping together.  

Table Salt Pros Cons
High in iodine, no trace toxins. Low in minerals, high in sodium, and contains anti-caking agents.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

Every type of salt contains its own perks. However, when you compare the differences between them all, one definitely comes to the forefront out of all of the rest.

For several reasons, Himalayan pink salt is the clear winner. Why?

Well, first, pink salt contains more minerals than all the rest. Second, pink salt contains magnesium and potassium which are good for blood pressure and heart and kidney health. And third, Himalayan salt is lower in sodium which means you’ll consume less sodium in the long term, lowering your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Lastly, Himalayan salt does not contain any toxins or additives making it the most natural salt for your body!

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?

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!

How to Get Rid of Butt Acne—7 Simple Habits

If you think acne is frustrating, thinking about how to get rid of butt acne (also called buttne or even assne) is even more frustrating.

Fortunately, butt acne is relatively easy to get rid of, although it does take a little bit of time and effort. With the adoption of healthier habits including eating habits, you can have a clean, smooth-looking bum in no time.

I know no one wants to talk about how to get rid of butt acne, but there are people out there who have lived with it and people out there Googling it, and so here we are.

The following list isn’t necessarily in order of most importance, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne. So while loose clothing might majorly help you out, dry brushing might not, and vice versa.

Here are seven simple habits that will help you if you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne! 

1. Wear Loose Clothing

If you’re into wearing tight yoga clothes that don’t let your skin breathe, you might be doing your bum a disservice.

Often, yoga clothes and other tight clothes such as leggings are made from synthetic materials like polyester. These toxic clothing materials often suffocate our skin in addition to introducing it to toxins, making it a poor garment choice.

Wearing loose clothing in addition to organic clothing can help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne because it actually lets your skin breathe and detoxify itself.

I’m not saying you have to wear loose, flowy cotton skirts forever, but it’s a good idea to wear loose clothing most of the time while trying to get your butt acne to clear up and then you can enjoy wearing tight clothes on occasion.

2. Try Dry Brushing

After reading about some of the benefits of dry brushing, I decided to give it a try.

Basically, it’s just getting a dry brush (which are relatively inexpensive, I think I got mine for $15 on Amazon) and then brushing your skin towards the heart, so starting with your legs and then working up.

I’ve really liked dry brushing although as someone with dry skin, it does tend to be a little harsh on the skin. It’s just another way to exfoliate basically but I have really enjoyed doing it and it’s pretty refreshing and makes your skin feel amazing!

Dry brushing can help your skin recover from bouts of butt acne, just be sure to do it gently and once a day for the best benefits when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne. 

3. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)

I’ve been doing a lot of research about omega-3 fatty acids lately, especially since the majority of mine had always been mostly plant-based (I’m not a big fish person).

In addition to being excellent for inflammation and menstrual cramps, omega-3 fatty acids are also great for the brain and body, including your skin.

Plant-based sources of essential fatty acids include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and avocados. These are great, but they provide the body with ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) when the body primarily needs EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but research shows the conversion rate is rather poor. Getting the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA can pretty much only come from fish.

Taking a quality supplement such as cod liver oil (I take fermented cod liver oil) or an omega-3 capsule is your best bet (after my research, here’s one of the best ones I’ve found). I take an omega-3 capsule in addition to raw fermented cod liver oil in a liquid form every day. This can help clear your skin right up when you’re thinking about how to get rid of butt acne!

4. Consider Probiotics

I’ve talked about probiotics in a previous blog post and how finding the right one is really important, as many of them contain milk proteins (which I can’t have, being intolerant to dairy).

However, probiotics provide many benefits to the human body. They help digestion, can clear your skin up, boost energy, and overall provide you with a great foundation for a healthy body.

I take a vegan probiotic supplement a few times a week, but natural sources of probiotics are your best bet (and they’re a lot cheaper). These include anything fermented, such as:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Kefir (do not eat this if you can’t have dairy, although I have yet to explore water kefir)
  • Yogurt (I eat cashew and coconut milk yogurt, no milk)
  • Apple cider vinegar

You don’t need to overdo it on the probiotics—an herbalist once told me they should be considered as medicine, so there’s no need to overdose. A daily serving can be enough to help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne and clear up your skin!

5. Exfoliate Regularly

If you don’t exfoliate, you’re missing out on a body pampering routine that will change how you shower (or bathe if you’re a bath person—hello fellow bath lovers!).

Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, stimulate circulation, and refresh your skin. I always feel pretty boss after I exfoliate. If you have sensitive skin, you probably shouldn’t exfoliate any more than once a week, but if you have oily or normal skin, two times per week is fine.

I’m really into making homemade exfoliating scrub (this is my all-time favorite recipe here), they are super easy and fun to make. Certain scrubs tend to be harsher on the skin than others. In my experience, I’ve found that salt-based rubs are too harsh on my skin while sugar-based ones are perfect for me.

Exfoliating at least once a week can help improve your skin and help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne!

6. Eat Clean

Eating clean sounds easy, but I want to mention food intolerances here since acne is a symptom of an unhappy gut.

Since everyone’s body is different, everyone will react differently to different foods. For instance, I can’t have gluten or dairy, but I’m fine with most other foods. Some people respond fine to gluten and dairy.

A food intolerance is not the same thing as an allergy. Though they both can have dramatic and life-threatening symptoms (yes, my gluten intolerance was actually life-threatening), an intolerance tends to take a day or two to show symptoms while an allergy will have more immediate symptoms.

If a certain food makes you feel a certain way, you might consider removing it from your diet. Food intolerances can cause acne, even butt acne. Other symptoms that you’re reacting to a certain food may include:

  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Rash or eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches

This list is by no means complete; even psychiatric symptoms have been shown to be associated with gluten intolerance.

If you suspect you have any food intolerances or need supplementation of any kind, I would really recommend working with a natural health doctor or an herbalist instead of just self-diagnosing and taking random vitamins. I have a vitamin and herbal regimen in addition to my diet that helps me a lot but it took years to develop with professional help!

7. Move!

Our bodies were made to be in motion. Similarly to wearing tight clothing, if you’re not moving throughout the day and are just sitting at a desk, you’re suffocating the skin on your bum. If you want to be successful when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne, you need to get up and move!

Whether you choose to exercise a few times a week (your best option) or just take numerous breaks throughout the day to take a spin around the office, do it. I promise, your bum will thank you!

Conclusion

So as you can see, working on how to get rid of butt acne will take some time and effort. Switching to loose, organic cotton clothing, exfoliating and dry brushing, and eating clean and supplementing can help you achieve that baby bum skin you’ve missed!

My Experience with Dermatomyositis: How Gluten Was Behind It All

I’ve previously written about my misdiagnosis of dermatomyositis (which was 11 years ago now!) on HuffPost and Natural News. Today, I want to share more about what happened to me all those years ago here on my personal site.

In an effort to not to let what happened define me, I’ve mostly shied away from talking about my diagnosis of dermatomyositis at the age of 16, although I did write about it briefly when I first started my business on The Green Writing Desk.

But here we are, and I realize that part of my work is helping others and sharing something that I used to consider monumental about myself—that I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis and almost five years later, discovered all my symptoms were being caused by a gluten intolerance.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Here’s what happened and how I came to realize a devastating, life-changing illness called dermatomyositis was being caused by one of the world’s most common foods.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or provide medical advice. Please view the following story from my personal experience only. If you have any more questions about my personal experience with dermatomyositis, please feel free to contact me.

The Beginning: Muscle Weakness and Rash

I graduated high school one year early at the age of 16. As many people can testify, I was a punk-ass teenager who had dreadlocks from not brushing her hair and wore men’s clothes to school. I didn’t care about much, and I certainly didn’t care about going to college, which was why I was starting a job as a nanny for a four-year-old boy with autism a week after graduating.

A week after I started my job, about two weeks post-graduation, I was at work one Monday morning when I found I had trouble getting off the toilet. There was a vague muscle ache in my thighs. It was odd, but it wasn’t painful, and I didn’t pay it any attention.

Just days later at the end of that week, a Friday, I was in so much pain and my muscles so affected I couldn’t walk up a set of stairs. I remember going to Starbucks with my friend Kat that night to get passion iced tea, and my legs were in so much pain that I had trouble getting out of the car. I remember crying while trying to walk up the set of curved stairs to my room—I was literally pulling myself up the stairs on the railing. My muscles were giving up.

My disease quickly escalated to the point that I couldn’t work, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t really do much at all. I first went to an urgent care doctor with my mom and was misdiagnosed with Lyme’s disease, then placed on antibiotics, which made me even sicker.

When the antibiotics didn’t help, we saw another doctor, who admitted he had no clue what was going on, even after I started developing a mild red rash all over my body. This was our family doctor who we’d trusted to care for us for years. I tried to explain to the doctors what it felt like: “It feels like I worked out A LOT, but I haven’t worked out,” and “Everything hurts.”

I had pain medication from my Lyme’s diagnosis and still couldn’t sleep. I was in pain all the time. I felt like I was going to die. This went on for three weeks before I woke up one morning and my legs—my thighs, the initial part of my body that hurt—were extremely swollen. We saw the family doctor once more, who sent us straight over to the hospital, where a bed was waiting for me.

After taking vials of blood and examining my rash, which had come on my face, back, arms, and legs, I was allowed to rest there for a few hours before being woken up in the middle of the night. Turns out I had an irregular heartbeat, and the hospital couldn’t treat me. I was being transferred, to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, at about 4 a.m. The doctors said all my muscles had become involved and were essentially breaking down.

The Middle: Diagnosis and Treatment

I really hated being at Johns Hopkins. It was a crowded, noisy, inner-city hospital in Baltimore, about an hour away from our house, somewhere a farm girl like me had no business being. My roommate was a girl who couldn’t speak and had swollen lips; I got a glimpse of her once through the curtain.

After being at Hopkins for a day or so and running more tests, I was finally diagnosed. A team of doctors stood in front of me and told me that I would be sick for the rest of my life with a disease called dermatomyositis. It did not have a cause, it just happened. It had a treatment, but was incurable. I would need to be on medication. I might not ever feel better.

This was devastating news. I remember sobbing while they told me, and my mom standing next to my hospital bed, telling me to get it together. I couldn’t. It felt like someone telling me that I wasn’t actually going to get better. How was I supposed to feel about that, at 16 years old?

The main doctor on my team, one who was standing there that day, a rheumatologist whose name I will not disclose here, treated me for the next three years. I was treated with high doses of prednisone intravenously, Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug) via injection, among other anti-inflammatory meds such as Naproxen. After four days, my parents and I finally convinced the hospital to let me go home with all my medicine.

At home, things were different. I couldn’t walk by myself, couldn’t shower by myself, couldn’t really do anything by myself. My family had to help me do all these things. I felt different. It felt like I had been branded with something, and what I felt now had a name I could identify it by: dermatomyositis.

I got out of the hospital a few days before my seventeenth birthday, in the middle of July. For the rest of the summer and into early fall, my parents and I drove to Johns Hopkins twice a week so that I could get intravenous steroid treatments. At home, I did my injection of Methotrexate once a week. Very slowly, I started getting better from dermatomyositis, although I understood it was a chronic disease. Once my dermatomyositis was more or less under control through lots of medication, eventually, I went back to work and had a relatively “normal” life.

Not Quite the End: Relapsing

Three years after my diagnosis of dermatomyositis, I relapsed. I was weaned off most of my medication by this point, and for a couple years, I felt healthier and happier than I had in a long time.

I had lost the 30 pounds I gained from all the prednisone and then some, weighing in at about 125 pounds when I was about 140 when I’d graduated high school. I started college over a year after I was diagnosed, in the fall of 2008, just going part-time to better manage my stress. I even had a few flings with guys I’d met in college. I felt more like a person and less like a patient, until the fall of 2010, when the first relapse happened.

After experiencing an intense period of stress, my legs started hurting again and I felt fatigued. I was afraid. My bloodwork didn’t show any muscle inflammation; my CK levels were normal. My rheumatologist from Hopkins put me back on my medication—lower doses than before—but it helped me get better.

I didn’t want to be on the medication for any longer than I had to. I’d met a guy in my phlebotomy summer program in 2009 who had gotten me into eating healthy. For the first time, I was paying attention to what I ate, buying my own food, and trying to be better about taking care of myself and more conscious of what I put into my body. The medication made me gain weight, feel gross, break out, and the Methotrexate made me feel nauseous.

So, about eight months after relapsing, in 2011, after going off nearly all my medication, I relapsed again just a few months later. At this point, my Hopkins doctor suggested I find another doctor, given that I was well over the age to be treated by a pediatric rheumatologist.

After asking around, I went to see a doctor in Annapolis who was highly recommended by some women in my lupus group. Lupus is a close cousin of dermatomyositis and these were the closest people I could find to relate to. I’d never met anyone else with dermatomyositis. The group was a helpful support to me during this time of believing I had dermatomyositis.

After seeing this doctor, she told me I would most likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life to manage my dermatomyositis. I walked out of the office that day and felt completely and utterly hopeless. The sky was gray and overcast, and as I walked to my car, I tried not to cry. I had just turned 21 a few months earlier. I felt like I was going to die.

The End: Discovering the Root Cause of my Dermatomyositis

It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t accept this fate for my life. I needed someone else who could help me. This doctor was not it. I tentatively felt hope. Maybe this wasn’t the end.

I’m not sure where I got it in my head to find an herbalist, but within a week, I began researching online and placed countless phone calls, trying to find someone who could help me. I spoke to a woman who was moving, so she said she couldn’t help me, but to not give up. Eventually, I found Barbara. I began seeing Barbara in November 2011.

During my second meeting with Barbara, she looked at me and said, “I think gluten is causing your illness.” I was confused. I’d heard about gluten, but only in passing. “Doesn’t that cause stomach problems?” I asked. “It can cause many symptoms,” she told me. In my mind, there was no way it was causing my dermatomyositis.

I thought she was crazy. I even told her so. “I was diagnosed at one of the best hospitals in the country,” I told her. “If they couldn’t figure out what was causing my illness, you won’t be able to.” Barbara maintained that once we’d built my immune system back up a little bit, that she wanted me to go gluten-free.

Ideas are strange things. They grow in our minds. And as I left our meeting that day, her words stuck with me. I did more research and even talked to a friend about it. She had celiac disease, and when I told her what my herbalist said, she didn’t think the idea sounded that crazy. She even gave me a book to read, The Gluten Connection by Shari Lieberman.

By the time I got a couple of chapters into the book, I was convinced that gluten was causing my illness. This is what’s happening to me! I remember thinking. I felt a stirring in my soul that can only be described as a gut feeling that this was it.

Although Barbara didn’t want me to go gluten-free yet, I couldn’t stop myself. I immediately stopped eating gluten. Gluten is mostly in bread products, but it can also be in other weird food products such as soy sauce and beer. I didn’t care. I wasn’t eating any of it.

A few days into my gluten-free diet, my family remarked that I looked weak and pale. It was probably my body detoxing from the gluten; I didn’t know. They were worried about me and weren’t exactly supportive of my decision. Of course, I was still taking medication for my dermatomyositis.

A couple more days into my gluten-free diet, almost one week in, I had an extremely long day. I went to school, then work, then to a friend’s house to hang out. My legs, which were almost always in pain, especially after a long day, didn’t hurt. I remember telling my friend: “My legs don’t hurt. This is amazing!”

My dermatomyositis symptoms disappeared about a week after going gluten-free. A couple weeks later, I weaned myself off all my medication for dermatomyositis, dug my feet in for the long haul of being gluten-free, and I haven’t looked back since.

Now: I’ve Never Felt Better

It’s been almost seven years since I went gluten-free, and to this day, I have experienced no symptoms of dermatomyositis and have taken no medication for the illness.

After reviewing my medical history paperwork from both hospitals, I realized that I had never been tested for gluten intolerance. The doctors truly had no idea what was wrong with me. They made their best guess based on their training, treated me, and I got better. But my immune system couldn’t sustain itself without the medication, because the root cause of my disease went unchecked: gluten.

Once I removed gluten from my diet, my body got better. I got stronger, healthier, and gained a little bit of weight back from my skinny frame in my late teens. Today, I work out several times a week (running, yoga, weights, walking) and come in right around 130. I feel healthier than I ever have.

I don’t necessarily blame the doctors. They are only required to take one nutrition class throughout their entire medical education. How could they have possibly known that food was making me sick? How could they have known that my illness wasn’t some cosmic mystery, that it had a cause, a name, and that name was gluten?

I don’t blame my parents either. Should they have taken me to the hospital earlier, rather than waiting three weeks to get me the help I needed? Of course. But, like any other parents, they did the best they could with what they had. I was a child, I didn’t know better, and I was out-of-my-mind sick; I couldn’t advocate for myself. I trusted them to get me help. Although that “help” came much too late, I don’t think it was entirely their fault. I saw the doctor three times during those three weeks I was sick in the beginning, yet only on the third and final time was I sent to the hospital.

I don’t blame myself either. There was a period of time when I did, but the truth is that I didn’t know. I grew up eating Oreos and Hot Pockets. I didn’t know that food could make me sick. I ate what my parents bought and that was it. I didn’t know what gluten was when I was sixteen, didn’t realize that I was making myself sick. So I’ve had to let that go. I know better now, and that’s what matters.

So What Really Happened?

What happened is that my body, for whatever reason, decided to start reacting to gluten and create such a severe immune response that I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis at the age of 16.

If I had caught my disease earlier, it’s likely that it wouldn’t have gotten so bad, although we still wouldn’t have figured out that gluten was the problem. I would have still been on those terrible drugs.

Gluten is a protein. When we eat food, our body is responsible for breaking that food down into digestible particles that the body can use for nutrients. My body decided to start treating gluten like an invader, and since my body was using gluten to nourish itself, my body was attacking pretty much every part of itself.

It sounds weird, yes, but the body can all the sudden decide it doesn’t like something and start reacting to it, quite literally overnight.

I have a couple of theories for why my body all the sudden decided to start reacting to gluten which landed me with a dermatomyositis diagnosis:

  1. I had just graduated high school a year early, had literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and was all the sudden expected to figure it out (read: stress).
  2. My family and I had just finished adding an addition onto our house (of which we did much of the work ourselves), and I was exposed to untold numbers of chemicals through paint, insulation, polyurethane, new carpeting, etc. These materials have highly toxic chemicals in them and I was exposed to them every day for several months.

Do I know for sure what caused my body to feel that gluten was the enemy? No. Do I care? Not really. This is my life now, and I’m so grateful that instead of being on chemo, steroids, and other anti-inflammatory drugs, that I just get to skip bread and feel better than I ever have in my entire life.

FAQs

  1. Do you have celiac disease?

I do not believe so, I believe I have a gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease are all slightly different versions of each other. It’s also important to remember that an intolerance is different from an allergy. I am not allergic to gluten, my body simply doesn’t tolerate it.

  1. Do you have any lasting effects from your disease?

Yes, but they’re minor. When I get really stressed out, my face gets red and my legs hurt. These symptoms are always temporary and fade within a few hours (provided I deal with my stress!).

I also have to pee frequently thanks to all the prednisone I was on. My weight gain from the prednisone also gave me mad stretch marks. I’m also having minor symptoms of a benign tumor on my pituitary gland; whether this is the result of my illness and all those drugs, I don’t know.

  1. Do you still see a doctor?

I have a deep distrust of conventional doctors, of course. I do see an integrative doctor when I need to and I work with an herbalist to address any other health problems I have.

  1. Did you contact your doctors after you found out?

I did contact my Hopkins rheumatologist to let her know, about two years after going gluten-free. Her response was very nice:

It is great to hear from you. I am very glad to hear that you are doing so well now. You are right—there is still a lot to learn about autoimmune diseases and the interaction between diet and inflammation. I am so happy that a gluten-free diet is working for you. It sounds like you have a bright future planned—please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. I am sure you will be very successful.

  1. So do you have dermatomyositis?

I do not believe I have dermatomyositis. Dermatomyositis isn’t like other illnesses such as HIV or Lyme’s disease: there is no definitive marker in your blood or tissues that proves that you have the disease. Doctors make their best guess based on your symptoms and bloodwork. I believe my immune system was simply responding to a threat, and when the threat wasn’t removed, my symptoms got so severe that they warranted a diagnosis of dermatomyositis. After seven years of not eating gluten and having no symptoms of dermatomyositis without taking medication, I can only assume gluten was the culprit the whole time. 

I’m looking forward to having a bright future without gluten in it, and feel so fortunate that all these years later, I’m still alive, disease-free, and loving life. A huge thank you to everyone who was part of this journey, even if it wasn’t in the way I wanted or imagined. Would I have preferred to not have been diagnosed with dermatomyositis? Of course. But this is my journey, and I can’t be sorry for any of it.

Also, I wrote a research essay on gluten and dermatomyositis while I was at Penn State. If you’re interested in reading more about dermatomyositis and proof that other people like me who had a dermatomyositis diagnosis have healed from a gluten-free diet, just email me and I’ll send it over!

Thank you so much for reading!

5 Things I Learned After Using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for a Year

When I was first looking for an herbal method of birth control, I found several different herbs that were reputed to work. It was in looking for this information that I stumbled across an herbalist who taught the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

We quickly connected and there began my journey to learn the method. It seemed safer and more reliable than using the herbs I’d found, and its benefits were numerous—tracking my cycle would give me more insight into my health and empower me to consciously not conceive instead of relying on an outside power.

After using the FAM for over a year, here are five different things I’ve learned.

1. every cycle is different

Before I began tracking my cycle for real, I’d estimate on what day my period would come based on what day it came last month. Turns out, predicting one cycle based on another is not how the FAM works.

Every cycle is different. On some months, I ovulate 12 days into my cycle, while other months, it’s not until 19 days in. I’ve learned that just because I ovulated late last month does not mean that I’ll ovulate late this month, so it’s not ok to rely on that information.

I’ve learned to honor the subtle differences that each cycle brings. Some months, it was obvious what day I had ovulated, while other months, I needed help from my herbalist to determine the exact day. Through honoring the differences, I’ve learned to listen to my cycle rather than trying to tell it what to do or predict its mysteries (which, of course, never works).

2. squatting helps

So yes, the FAM does require daily cervix checking. The method has received some negative attention for this, with some healthcare professionals saying that it’s not sanitary to touch your cervix that often.

I’m here to say that as long as you wash your hands before checking your fluid or your cervix, you’ll be just fine.

When I first began using the FAM, I couldn’t even find my cervix half the time. I’d locate it during my period for my menstrual cup, but now, I was having problems. My herbalist suggested I squat in order for my cervix to appear. As someone who’s cervix tends to be high (yes, it moves!), this was hugely helpful.

Checking the texture and opening of your cervix can be an indicator of ovulation, but the primary indicator is the texture of your fluid. If it’s stretchy, ovulation is not far away!

3. it brings peace of mind

At first, my partner and I were hesitant about the method. To be safe, I had the herb wild carrot as a backup plan for contraception.

Then, after having a pregnancy scare because we had intercourse on a day that I did not check my fluid, we decided to commit to the FAM one hundred percent. Since we’ve made that commitment (never having intercourse on fertile days—typically from day 10 to 20 of my cycle—and only having intercourse on days we know are safe), we feel much more secure using the method.

Practice has helped a lot too, as has working with a professional. My herbalist has answered all my questions, gently guided me, and also been firm and clear when my assumptions were wrong (it’s not ok to assume intercourse is safe if you have not checked your fluid just because you are only a few days into your new cycle).

4. it’s not that hard

The FAM seemed extremely complicated and daunting at first. There were charts. There was a thermometer. There was the finding of my cervix. How the heck was I supposed to keep up with all this?

I initially thought that taking my temperature and checking my fluid every single day would feel overwhelming; now, they’re just part of my routine. Of course, it was an adjustment at first, like anything else. However, my partner and I feel grateful to have found a method that we feel works for us with no side effects.

5. my body’s rhythm

This is perhaps the best thing I’ve learned from the FAM—my body’s natural rhythm.

After over a year of using the method, I know what’s normal and what’s not. I’m more familiar with my menstrual cycles, what my fluid looks like before ovulation, and how long my cycles typically last.

Being familiar with my body and all the amazing little things it does has afforded me insight and clarity into my health and femininity. My partner and I feel more enlightened using this method and we have concrete knowledge on when we can have intercourse and when my vagina is on lockdown due to ovulation.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely, although the FAM isn’t for everyone. I’m grateful that it works for me and that I’m able to engage in a form of birth control that I feel is not harmful to my body. Yes, I’m still learning, just as we all are. The FAM has taught me many things, just like life, and I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to be its student!

Here’s How I Don’t Know How I Ever Lived without F.lux

About 9 months ago, I was looking up something about the thyroid and adrenal fatigue.

I don’t remember what it was, but it led me to stumble across a page on Wellness Mama’s site about the thyroid. I can’t find the page now (she has a lot of blog posts), but it was similar to this page about getting enough sleep.

Anyway, she recommended installing F.lux on your computer. F.lux is a software that helps to block blue light and allows you to interact with technology without hurting your eyes too much.

So, of course, I had to install this magical thing to see what it was all about. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Adjusting to F.lux

Before F.lux, I had no idea how bright the screen of my MacBook really was. It just seemed… well, normal.

It definitely was not normal. I’m up super late most nights, so staring at that bright screen was overwhelming when everything else was mostly dark. Of course, I could dim it, but that blue light was still there.

When I installed F.lux, it took some getting used to. Everything appeared orangey. I would stay up late working, squinting at my computer screen, thinking, what the heck is up with this software?

Well, F.lux does this ingenious thing where you set your time zone as well as what time you wake up every morning. This means that my computer knew what time it was and adjusted its light accordingly.

This explained why at 1 a.m. I could hardly see my screen. The software adjusted for the time and I was left thinking, “You know, it is 1 a.m.… maybe I should go to bed.”

F.lux also reminds me when I’m getting up. It knows that I need 9 hours of sleep every night, so once that 9-hour mark hits, F.lux gives me a visual reminder to tell me, “You’re getting up in 9 hours.” Every half hour after that, it reminds me that I should start thinking about getting some sleep.

How F.lux Has Changed My Life

F.lux has done a few things to help me clean up my act, both as a professional writer and as a human being. They include:

  • Having an easier time seeing my computer screen
  • Rarely having to adjust the brightness
  • Knowing when it’s time for me to go to bed
  • Reducing my exposure to blue light
  • Helping me to annoyingly point out how bright other people’s screens are
  • Sleep better because I’m not being kept awake by that crazy bright light that my mind thinks is a sun

I have really enjoyed having F.lux installed on my MacBook and wouldn’t take it off for any reason!

Some Features of F.lux

F.lux doesn’t just get all orangey on you and then let you on your merry way. If you have a routine and you let F.lux know about that routine by setting your waking hours, it will adjust for you in a way that mimics natural sunlight.

However, I don’t always feel like watching a movie in natural sunlight. For this feature, F.lux has a “Movie Mode”. If I’m feeling kinda dangerous, I’ll turn F.lux off. This is best for movies that feature a lot of darkness. F.lux’s disable mode is set for an hour. Of course, you can keep disabling it, but it’ll come back on after an hour of you watching something.

F.lux does have another cool feature where you can “Disable for Current App” so anytime you watch a movie, it’ll automatically turn off. It also has a feature where you can disable it for all full-screen applications, but I don’t like doing that. The point is that you have options to customize your F.lux experience.

F.lux is really easy to use and set. I’ve not given it much thought since I downloaded it, except the other day when it requested to update the software.

Anyway, F.lux has helped me manage my time better, go to bed earlier, have healthier eyes, and to be aware of the time. When you have a bright screen, that screen is timeless. When you have F.lux, there is a time, and you live according to it, more in line with your circadian rhythm.

You can download F.lux for either Windows or Mac here. Give it a try for a few days and see if you notice a difference—you might never go back to blue!

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!

 

Harnessing Nature’s Power to Heal

This is a guest post by Martyn Williams, who is a record-holding extreme explorer, author, and successful entrepreneur. He is a yoga teacher and practices natural and Ayurveda healing. To learn more, check out his site here.

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The natural world has an incredible ability to help us heal. Letting yourself open up to the beauty, wonder, and life of nature is a way to encourage your own healing processes and to experience something profound.

The ancient Indian healing tradition known as Ayurveda is deeply appreciative of the value of time spent in nature. Getting out into the natural world and letting yourself become a part of it, even momentarily, will do wonders for you. When we make it a habit to get in touch with nature, we make it easier to find our own proper place in the world.

Ayurvedic Healing Through Nature

In order to get the full benefit of the bountiful healing energies that flow through the natural world, we need to engage all of the Ayurvedic elements (fire, water, air, earth, and space) with all five of our classic senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. The Ayurvedic elements are called mahabhutas in Sanskrit, and we need to set aside some portion of every day to appreciate them.

In many ways, the most potent form of healing we can do when we are in the presence of the natural world is simply to open up our senses and pay attention. Simply striving to become more aware of the world around us and the vibrant play between the different mahabhuta elements going on, encourages both our bodies and our spirits to seek balance and peace.

Meditation and Nature

Meditation is a vital part of the attention that the natural world requires. When you meditate, you turn your gaze inward, paying attention not to the active, rational mind but to the spiritual soul. This, too, is a potent part of the healing process.

Make use of this healing exercise that you can practice almost anywhere. Step outside into a natural environment. Make yourself comfortable and still and then concentrate exclusively on the sensations that you’re experiencing. Reach out with all five senses and do your best to grasp every aspect of the living environment.

Using Nature to Protect and Heal

Once you become accustomed to taking advantage of nature’s restorative effects, it can serve as a powerful shield against undue stress or disruptive life events. Taking the time to return to nature—either literally or by reviewing your favorite memories—can give you a much-needed shelter against the most challenging parts of life.

Retreating to nature temporarily is an excellent way to adjust your perspective on your problems and to cultivate new insights which might lead you to solutions.

Three Bodies, One Healing

Healing in the Ayurvedic tradition is about more than simply purging a body of illness.

According to Ayurvedic beliefs, each of us is blessed with three bodies. The first is the physical body, the crude shell of matter that occupies physical space in the world. The second is the subtle body, made up of your thoughts and ego. The third is the causal or spiritual body, that distinct essence which is inextricably linked to the rest of the world.

Connection is important to all three of these forms, and our bodies both influence and are influenced by their surroundings. This means that personal healing is also a step towards making the world a better place. Improving your physical and mental health will send positive ripples out into your environment.

Life Always Finds a Way

Take the indomitable spirit of the natural world to heart as a useful object lesson when you are feeling most overwhelmed. Life is a nearly unstoppable force that pushes through every obstacle, recovers from every setback, and heals every type of damage. The next time you see news of a natural disaster, pay attention to how quickly new signs of natural growth appear in the aftermath. Life always finds a way and by doing so it teaches us to do the same.

Generally speaking, approaching the natural world as an instructive teacher is a useful attitude. Our world is so rich that it would be virtually impossible to absorb all of the potential lessons that happen around us every day. Pay a little more attention to what the natural world is trying to teach you. What you learn won’t disappoint you!

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!