8 life changing health tips to improve thinning hair and overall health

woman wearing black coat
Photo by Radu Florin on Pexels.com

This is a tough one to write but I’m giving you some realness today. Of all the PCOS and hashimotos symptoms I have dealt with, the hair thinning has been the hardest for me.  It was also the canary in the coal mine, showing up in my early 20s as my very first indicator that something in my body was imbalanced.

I grew up hiding behind a thick wavy mane of shiny auburn locks. My hair became such an integral part of my identity that losing it felt like losing a dear friend. I grieved my hair. I denied it. I wore strange hairstyles and ugly bandanas. And no matter how good the rest of me felt, it was there in the background softly hissing in my ear that I was ugly, worthless and damaged.

I had naively thought that doctors would be able to quickly identify the cause and send me on my way with a simple solution. But my blind faith in doctors turned to despair after years of hopping from doc to doc that led to no conclusion and very little hair on my head.

It may sound so shallow to someone with good hair, but those with hair problems understand, hair loss can put you on a psychological roller coaster and make you rethink your entire life. Hair loss sparked my interest in nutrition, and it eventually led to both my PCOS and hashimotos diagnoses, albeit a decade later.

Perhaps the most frustrating part has been my unique situation as a working hairstylist. Seeing and touching beautiful, normal manes every day and knowing I’m still so far from that has sent me reeling into episodes of deep depression and crushing anxiety on multiple occasions. But being a hairstylist has also given me a unique advantage, as I’ve learned a handful of tips and tricks for rocking thinning hair that I use on myself and my clients daily. Most of my clients don’t believe me when I tell them I have experienced super excessive hair loss “your hair looks super full?” they always say with a puzzled look on their faces. And it’s true, I’ve found a combination of lifestyle adjustments and styling tricks to help me rock the hair I do have, stop shedding excessively and even wake up a few sleeping follicles.

So please, don’t lose hope. Thanks to a healthier lifestyle and a few hair tweaks I can actually say I am in a much better place hair wise and am ready to dish my tips in order to help anyone else who needs a boost in the follicular department.

As I write this, I am sitting at a pool with my hair down. Not slicked back into a teeny weeny ponytail that has come to be my default for years. Nope. My hair is down, and no one is giving me the side eye or staring awkwardly at my scalp during conversation. And while I’m not going to be cast in a Pantene commercial anytime soon, I can honestly say this is one of the few times in over a decade that my hair looks normal. I also have lots of fine frizzy regrowth, that most people would find irritating but is a very welcome addition to my particular head.

This is a two part blog post, but today I’ll be talking more about the diet/lifestyle side of things, because there is no sense trying to cover hair loss while still thinning excessively. It’s like shovelling your walks in a snowstorm and ain’t nobody got time for that.
As a student of holistic nutrition one of my favorite quotes is ‘what we eat can either be the safest most powerful medicine, or the slowest poison.’ This speaks volumes about the state of modern health and how important a healthy diet is to staving off disease and even reversing existing health issues.

Heathy eating should be a combination of adding the right things into our diets while simultaneously removing the wrong things. Finding a diet that works for you and your own health objectives can be a long process and I highly recommend working with a health professional such a holistic nutritionist, health coach, or naturopath on your journey. Foods that are harming your particular body may be perfectly healthy for other individuals so don’t just go crazy eliminating everything in the world, but also don’t assume that you can continue eating the way you always have because you don’t have any major symptoms.  Spoiler alert, hair loss is a symptom, especially when it manifests at a young age in a person with no genetic predisposition.

I have spent years of trial and error trying to fix my own hair probs and know how confusing all the conflicting information out there can be so I’ve complied my very best advice to start restoring your hair and your health today.

Take it slow, celebrate even the small victories and remember, we are all so much more than our hair.

1. Limit your intake of foods that cause inflammation

If you are dealing with unexplained hair loss, gluten dairy and grains should be the first things you think about removing from your diet. Sometimes even healthy foods can cause inflammation in people with intolerances so it is wise to be tested for allergies. You can do your own testing for free by completing an elimination diet, and carefully observing your reaction to foods during the reintroduction phase. I completed a whole 30 diet to identify some of my intolerances, I also ditched ALL GLUTEN and almost all DAIRY and GRAINS with the exception of grass fed butter and some occasional rice. I know giving up these three ingredients may seem super limiting, but trust me, it’s not. That’s why I’m here writing this blog. Cooking without these things has opened a whole new realm of food possibilities and my food horizons are expanding everyday.

2. Heal your gut

So much modern disease starts in the gut and healing your gut lining is a super important step when it comes to healing chronic inflammation. A healthy gut is better able to absorb nutrients form your food. You can eat all the kale and broccoli in the world but if your gut is compromised you are probably only absorbing a fraction of the nutrients. Heal and seal that gut lining! Make BONE BROTH, PROBIOTICS, and FERMENTED FOODS a part of your DAILY diet. I almost always have a slow cooker simmering away with some grass fed bones and fragrant veggies. I will literally ladle it into my mug and sip it throughout the day like tea. I also make my own kraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Take a good quality probiotic, no, it won’t be cheap but you should feel a difference within a few weeks.

3. Improve your bodies acid alkaline balance

Your blood maintains it’s own PH of between 7.35 and 7.45 but this doesn’t mean eating all the acid forming foods will have no effect on your body. An overly acidic body can leach vitamins and minerals from organs and bones as well as lead to all kinds of issues including unhealthy hair. One of the easiest ways to obtain PH balance is to squeeze lemon into hot water and drink it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. It sounds strange because lemons are acidic, but they actually help increase your bodies PH. You also want to aim for about 50% of your diet to be alkaline (mineral rich fresh veggies and fruit) Invest in a water filter that puts important minerals back into your water and aim to drink at least 8 glasses daily but push yourself to get a full 3 litres.

4. Get all of your aminos acids

Aminos are the building blocks of protein and thus the building blocks of our hair, our hair is literally made of protein after all. To better assimilate protein, avoid eating foods that require different digestive juices at the same time. Focus on eating simply. This way your body can optimally digest each ingredient you are taking in. This may seem strange and go completely against the way you grew up eating but try to avoid eating protein and excess carbs at the same meal, try to eat only one animal protein at a time and don’t consume protein with excess fat. One easy way to get readily usable aminos into your body is by drinking COLLAGEN PEPTIDES daily. I rotate between marine collagen and organic grass fed bovine collagen. I mix it into my coffee or tea every morning and stir it into my bone broth throughout the day. It tastes a bit weird, but not terrible, and I definitely notice a difference in not just my hair but also nails and skin when I am consistent with it. It is super important to eat only organic, pastured proteins when consuming animal products including collagen peptides.

5. Take the proper supplements

In a perfect world we would obtain the majority of our nutrition from the foods we eat but people experiencing unexplained hair loss likely need a bit of help. Modern agriculture has depleted the nutrients in our foods while genetic modification, pesticides and herbicide use has wreaked havoc on our guts. Being overweight and simultaneously malnourished is becoming more and more common in developed nations and this can lead to a wide range of ailments, including hair loss. Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for women experiencing hair loss are Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B vitamins (in particular biotin) Iodine, Selenium and Zinc. It is wise to get tested for deficiencies prior to supplementation, but when in doubt adding a high quality, organic multivitamin is a great place to start.

In my particular case, I have been chronically deficient in Iron for years.  Apparently this is fairly common in young women with diffuse hairloss! With over a year of consistent daily supplement my shedding has slowed tremendously but my functional doctor recommends I aim for a ferratin of at least 70 for optimal regrowth ( I still have a ways to go). I also found it helpful to remove my copper IUD to lessen my monthly menstrual flow as Iron is lost with blood. Addressing deficiencies can take time so the sooner you identify them the better. Supplements are not regulated and you could be doing yourself no favors or even harm by choosing the lowest priced option. Make sure your supplements are of a high quality, choose organic whenever possible and pay attention any fillers and additives.

6. Give your digestive system a little boost

Bottom line, you can do all of the above but if your body is not able to properly break down and utilize the nutrition you give it, you will feel like you’re getting nowhere. Taking digestive enzymes, probiotics, sipping on water with apple cider vinegar, and drinking ginger tea are all useful ways to increase your stomach acid and better utilize your foods nutrition. This kind of ties back in to healing your gut lining but I feel it also deserves to be highlighted.  Something I never used to do and now am very conscious of, is slowing down to eat.  I used to be a gross eater, inhaling the next bite before even swallowing the last. Now I chew my food well, and always try to say a quick prayer of gratitude and blessing before each meal. Gobbling down food at lightning speed stresses our digestive system and slows down its ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. Don’t go too long between meals, practice gratitude and mindful eating.

7. Work up a sweat 

Not all exercise will be beneficial for all people. (It’s kind of like diet) But that is not a free pass to forgo consistent exercise. Try a few different things and listen to your bodies cues. If you feel like absolute rubbish after a HIIT class maybe give yoga a go. A good exercise routine should make you feel energised rather than depleted. It should also be something that you truly enjoy so that you keep up with it. I love soccer, Pilates and solo gym workouts so that’s what I stick with. And don’t forget to sweat. The process of sweating itself can be profoundly therapeutic and help your body shed toxins as it sheds fat. I love infrared saunas and also go in the steam room at my gym at least twice a week. Preface your sweat sessions with dry brushing and you are way ahead of the game.

8. Get your mind right 

Spend some time every day in meditation and visualise the hair you want. When you see a beautiful head of hair, don’t feel jealousy or resentment (been there) instead give them a mental, or verbal compliment and be grateful for the hair you do have. The things we focus on are the things we attract to us, as Mother Theresa said, people should be pro peace rather than anti- war. I know it’s hard but try to stop fixating on how thin your hair is. Learn to rock the hair you do have, have fun with it, try out extensions, wigs, and color. Allow yourself to learn from the hair loss and embrace the chance you’ve been given to transform yourself both internally and externally.

It has been over a year since I have implemented all of the above in my own life and I have seen obvious improvements. That being said, my hair is still not what it used to be in my teens (my hair started falling out at 20!) Hair grows in cycles and it can take a long time to see tangible changes so I am treating it as a journey rather than a destination and am enjoying all the many health benefits along the way. I’ll be back soon with some killer styling tips and more hair healthy grain free recipes.

My celery juice experiment, results and recipe.

My celery juice experiment, results and recipe.
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Celery juice is all the hype these days. Perhaps you too have observed the recent trend of hot girls on Instagram touting it’s health benefits?

If anything can convince me to try out a bizarre health trend with absolutely no medical evidence to back it up, it is the dewy skinned, flowing haired selfies of (often surgically enhanced and photoshopped) babes telling me I too can have a #healthylife if I just power back 16 ounces of salty green sludge every morning.

I have a love hate relationship with juicing. I love drinking fresh pressed juice and can literally feel the plants enzymes flowing into my body and giving my cells life but I hate assembling/ cleaning out my juicer. The bags full of wasted pulp bother me a bit, and I still have not figured out a use for it other than to feed my compost (I’ll keep you posted on that one). I did manage a decent carrot muffin with carrot/ pineapple pulp at one point, but celery pulp, blech!

I don’t even really like celery at all to be honest.

Sure, it finds it’s way into many of my soup recipes and can cool off a plate of hot wings but that’s about it for me. The stringy texture and bitter salty flavor has just never appealed.

As per the medical medium, you are supposed to wake in the morning and down a 16 ounce glass of celery juice on an empty stomach waiting 30 minutes before consuming anything else.

Well, being lazy and adverse to cleaning out my juicer, I decided I would be smart about it and just blend that celery in my trusty vitamix. I thought I would save myself some time, and with a house on the market, the less cleaning I need to do the better.

Between the time I spent powering that green bad boy down (literally gagging over the sink) and then dramatically running to the bathroom for the rest of the day, no time was saved.

Guys, don’t just blend a full bunch of celery into a smoothie without fruity additives. Trust me on this one. Thick, frothy, celery smoothie is not the business.

After my false start I almost dropped the plan entirely. A hot almond latte just seemed so much more enticing in the morning, but for the blog, and those luscious IG models I persevered.  To save time (but for real) I pre-washed my celery the night before and had my juicer set up and ready to go on the counter the next day.

I have to say, drinking fresh pressed celery juice is not what I would consider a treat, but after my traumatic introduction to drinking celery, it was definitely do-able. I knocked that green boy back like a champ and noticed a burst of energy more powerful and longer lasting than any almond latte has ever provided.

The following morning, I dutifully continued with my celery experiment, but decided to add a half cucumber, one lemon and a granny smith apple to the juicer.
(Adding to the celery juice is not prohibited by the medical medium, but is discouraged. Regardless, I didn’t feel like torturing myself every morning for the next month and the extras improved the juice taste so dramatically my kids even knocked back shots of it.)

Even with my controversial add ins, the results of my experiment were pretty amaze.

Celery juice is said to improve skin tone and digestion. It is also great for increasing stomach acid which helps us better absorb nutrients from the foods and supplements we consume. It acts as a diuretic and is helpful in allowing the body to flush out fat and toxins.

Sometimes its easy to miss subtle changes that happen slowly over time so I took before and afters for my own reflection. Once I get over how much I hate how I look in photos, I will post the pics, but for now you will just have to take my word for it.

The whites of my eyes began to appear brighter at just a few days in and the redness in my skin decreased exponentially at around the half way point. I usually put on some bb cream or foundation in the mornings so people don’t ask me if I’m tired or sick, and by the end I honestly didn’t even really need it.

The dark circles under my eyes seemed to lighten, but that could also be due to getting more sleep or having my allergies ease up a bit towards the end. (Snow mold kills me every spring and I have finally found a natural solution that works for me that I can’t wait to talk about in a future post.)

Additionally, I have also noticed less hair shedding in the shower which is a huge win for me. Maybe I can attribute that to the improvement in circulation (celery juice increases it) and the extra iron I was getting. (There’s iron in celery juice, who knew?!)

Finally, I lost a half inch from my waist! Since switching to more of a paleo diet, I’ve actually noticed my body composition shift from very pear shaped to more of an hourglass, my breasts have grown nearly a cup size in the past 6 months without any increase in weight, and I’ve learned this is actually a common occurrence on the paleo diet. I’m not sure if I can attribute the 1/2 inch loss to the celery juice or just my improved diet in general, but I’ll take it.

All in all, I would have to say celery juice is a worthwhile health hack to add to your daily routine. If one month of c-juicing has produced these benefits I can’t wait to see what I will look like in a year (fingers crossed I will transform completely into an ethereal IG goddess… ha!) but in all seriousness, I’m gonna keep juicing those green things and hope to soon replace my coffee with juice entirely in the near future.  A girl can dream right?

Here is my every day version of ‘celery juice’ much improved with my healthy ad ins. (On a side note, has anyone else noticed the price of celery shoot right up since the start of this whole celery juice craze?  Price is yet one more reason to dilute your juice with some tasty, healthy add ins.)

Celery Juice (+ other goodness)

1 large organic bunch of celery – celery is a member of the dirty dozen and not something you can really peel so it should be purchased organic.

1 organic cucumber – These are another dirty dozen member, however sometimes the organic version is so pricey that I will opt for conventional and just be sure to wash it well and peel it before juicing.

1 organic granny smith apple – these have the lowest sugar content of all the apple varieties and add such a crisp, green sweetness to the juice. If you cant find organic, just be sure to peel it.

1 lemon peeled – Lemons are an absolute superfood for your liver. One of my best friends is a nutritionist and she always says one of the easiest things we can do to improve our help is to drink lemon juice on a daily basis.

Optional add ins – ginger, turmeric, cilantro, or parsley. Sometimes I’ll also add one of two of the optional add ins for a little boost of anti-inflammatory detoxing power.

If you can’t do normal celery juice, or want to stretch your juicing budget a little farther, try my version and let me know what improvements you notice in your health!

Happy juicing.

Why I removed my IUD and what I now use for birth control instead

Why I removed my IUD and what I now use for birth control instead
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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

My second child was a miracle. I say that now, after a PCOS diagnosis and a kid who makes life amazing, but at the time it was a major wtf how could this happen moment.

I had just given birth to my first child three months earlier when the two lines appeared on a home pregnancy test. I had no idea when I could have conceived as the one possible instance of post partum intimacy had led me to take the morning after pill, just as a precaution.

My first baby had been 9 pounds 4 ounces, and was delivered naturally at home, so the pain of labour was still very fresh in my mind. I was also not yet sleeping well, was living in a tiny apartment, had no money and was quite honestly scared sh**less. But, I knew in my heart this was a blessing, and given the circumstances was so obviously meant to be.

My second little baby was much kinder to body, weighing only 7 pounds, his birth was easier than the first, but that’s where the easiness ended. He had colic, he seemed to hate sleeping, and was only ever happy in my arms. This time around I swore I wouldn’t tempt fate and wouldn’t even let my husband so much as glance my way until I was safely using birth control.

I went into the hospital at three months post partum and had my IUD inserted while my tiny baby slept on my chest. The insertion hurt, but I felt so relieved, there would be no more surprises any time soon.

Due to all of my hormonal issues I opted for the copper IUD (paraguard). It was touted as  the most natural form of birth control, after all copper is an element essential to health, and I was told it would not affect my hormones at all.

In the beginning I was still nervous about pregnancy. How could this tiny piece of metal really stop a baby? In time I began to feel more at ease with the IUD and eventually came to trust it completely. For me it worked like a charm as far as preventing pregnancy but in other ways my body didn’t seem stoked on the little thing at all.

My periods were so extreme and heavy I would be running to the bathroom every hour to empty my diva cup, and with the heavy blood loss every month (or so) my ferratin levels just would not rise. I eventually became chronically iron deficient. In addition to the menorrhagia my cramps were like early labour pains and I would be fully incapacitated for the first two days of every cycle.

I have a girlfriend who developed breast implant illness, and in reading up a bit about the subject, I came to understand that many people’s immune systems will actually fight against any foreign object in our bodies. I had developed, or at least been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease while using the IUD, and couldn’t help but wonder if it had played some part in my hashimotos disease.

I also learned about copper toxicity, how it can build up in the soft tissues of the liver and impair the livers ability to detoxify. In addition, copper competes with zinc and manganese for absorption in the gut leading to mineral deficiencies.

Anyone with chronic illness will tell you, healing is like a crusade towards the light. My friend finally opted to remove her breast implants and I decided if she could go to that extreme in a quest for health, removing my little IUD would be a cake walk.

I wasn’t expecting any dramatic changes right away, but my first period after removal was like a dream. It came on quietly, no cramps, no bloating, just some slightly tender boobies, and it left just as quietly three days later. My blood loss was what I presume normal periods are supposed to be, and about ¼ the volume of previous cycles with the IUD.

In hopes that it wasn’t just a fluke I waited a full four more cycles before writing this and can now firmly attest that removing my IUD was the right choice.  Every consecutive period has been as benign as the last.

Having PCOS, I am already less fertile than the average woman, but as my pcos symptoms have been steadily improving and my periods have been becoming more regular (thank you diet changes!) I am definitely not in the clear as far as baby making goes, thus I am now using natural family planning to track my cycles.

In order to use natural family planning you will first have to determine your typical cycle length, you can do this using a calendar (start counting the first day of your period) or use a handy app to track it (there are lots of them out there).

Typically, women ovulate 14 days before their period and we are the most fertile 5 days before and 3 days after ovulation. So for about 8 days we should abstain, use condoms, or get busy, depending on the desired result.

We also produce a thin watery mucus when ovulating (kind of like natural lube) that is thicker or even non existent when not ovulating and we are about 1 degree warmer during our most fertile days.

By paying attention to our bodies natural secretions, temperature, and getting in tune with our natural cycles we can family plan naturally, safely and for free.

While only abstinence is 100% guaranteed, lets get real, people are going to be getting busy and we don’t need to rely so heavily on invasive forms of birth control to avoid pregnancy.

I know lots of women who have had great results with natural family planning and if you are struggling with autoimmunity and trying to find that smoking gun, exploring the removal of foreign objects from your body could be a necessary step in your journey. For me removing my IUD has been a game changer.

What are nightshades and why they could be effecting your gut health?

What are nightshades and why they could be effecting your gut health?

If you have never heard the term nightshade, you would not be alone, and even if you have, you might not fully understand the health effects they could be having on your body.

In fact, many night shades are widely considered to be health foods but could be having an unhealthy effect on your gut and autoimmunity.

If you are still sitting here wondering what nightshades are, they are from a family of foods called Solanaceae with over 2500 varieties, many of which are inedible, though some are used for medicinal purposes.

Some of the common night shades that you have probably eaten are; potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, chili peppers and gogi berries. The reason these foods can cause problems for some people comes down to their glycoalkaloids, in particular solanine.

Now if you are really wondering what the heck I’m taking, glycoalkaloids can easily be explained as a plants natural defense mechanism, it is most concentrated in the skin and is used to ward off insects and disease. This is why we are technically not supposed to eat green sprout-y potatoes and why people can get super sick from doing so. (Though c’mon, who among us hasn’t sliced off those little nobs and carried on with their potato cooking?)

In addition to Solanine, nightshades contain super high levels of Lectins (plant proteins) that can actually permeate cell walls, causing leaky gut and weird allergic reactions.
An ideal healthy gut can likely handle itself some glycoalkaloids. However, if your gut is already compromised (many of us with autoimmune disease have some level of leaky gut) or if your body displays an allergic reaction to nightshades, a wise choice would be to minimise your intake of them or cut them out entirely.

When I did my elimination diet, I was sure to also eliminate nightshades and discovered I get a severe reaction to eggplants. As a result, I have also cut back on eating peppers, potatoes and tomatoes just in case. My nutritionist informed me that cooked peeled Roma tomatoes are among the least gut offensive nightshades, provided I purchase them in a glass container (no BPA!) so thankfully tomato sauce is still on my menu and I still do enjoy me some peppers and potatoes in moderation.

Finally, it should be said that what is healthy for one person’s body can be incredibly toxic to another person and would never claim that everyone in the world should cut out nightshades entirely. I do highly recommend omitting them during an elimination diet and be very observant of how they affect you when you reintroduce them back into your diet.

For more information on how an elimination diet is an integral part of an overall health overhaul, I wrote a post about it here.

Delicious Herb Falafels

Delicious Herb Falafels

Falafels are one of those amazing foods that meat eaters enjoy as much as vegetarians.

In my vegan days falafels got me through some dark times, but now I am eating to heal my autoimmune diseases and have eliminated most grains and re-introduced pastured meats.

I have seriously never felt better, but that doesn’t mean I’m only into eating meat centric meals.  In fact I still have a well rounded arsenal of delicious grain free vegan recipes I love and would still consider my diet to be largely plant based.

While legumes can be tricky for some guts, I did an elimination diet that revealed garbanzos to be fairly benign for my sensitive belly.

And so, my love for falafel lives on.

The biggest problem with falafels is the price tag on the pre-made ones.  It’s crazy to me considering I know how to make these delicious little bad boys right at home, and I also know how ridiculously cheap it is to do so.  Two dozen falafels only cost a couple bucks to throw together.

They store in the fridge or freeze very well so you can make them ahead and always have them on hand. They are perfect to round out a salad, toss into a flatbread or just serve them up with some dips like coconut tzatziki, hummus, or my favorite cashew cheese!

The key to authentic tasting falafel that are crispy outside and fluffy inside is using dried garbanzo beans soaked for 24 hours.  Yes, I’m not joking, dried garbanzos!

Whenever I come across a food blog with falafel recipes that call for canned chick peas I am so outta there!  Not only are these recipes non authentic tasting, but they often call for a breading to get that crisp outer layer.

Real falafels are easy to make, take just a few ingredients and should always be 100% grain free and plant based.  These ones taste like they come from your local shawarma spot.  Try them out today and let me know what you think!

Delicious Herb Falafels

Ingredients:

1.5 – 2 cups dried garbanzos soaked for 24 hours (should look like roughly 3 cups after soaking)

1 shallot

3 large garlic cloves

1/4 cup cilantro

1/4 cup parsley

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp pepper

1.5 tsp salt

1 tbsp. garbanzo bean flour

0.5 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup refined coconut oil

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend into breadcrumb texture

Gently form small balls about the size of ping pong balls

Heat oil and fry until golden brown in two batches

Drain on a paper towel and serve with your favorite dips such as, cashew cheese, coconut tzatziki, or hummus.