All Natural Birth Control?

Some of you have heard me mention “NFP” in our discussions about birth control. And if you haven’t, now is a great opportunity to learn more about it!

Natural family planning (NFP) is often interchangeable with fertility awareness. Both are umbrella terms for several different methods of avoiding and achieving pregnancy. Regardless of the specific model/method you are taught, NFP is a method of birth control that does not use any drugs, hormones, or devices. There are no risks, no side effects, and very little cost associated with it. How cool is that?!

Even better…the benefits of NFP:
-97-99% effective in avoiding pregnancy when used correctly
-Higher levels of self-esteem, spiritual well-being, religious well-being, existential well-being, intellectual intimacy and an overall holistic sexuality
-Together with a trained provider, NFP can help diagnose and effectively treat
o Menstrual cramps
o PMS
o Ovarian cysts
o Irregular or abnormal bleeding
o Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
o Infertility and/or miscarriage
o Postpartum depression or the “baby-blues”
o Hormonal imbalances
o Infections
o Chronic discharge

This all sounds pretty good right…so what does NFP look like?

Again, all of the methods rely on the interpretation of natural (biological) signs of fertility. The basic assumption of NFP methods is that that woman and/or couple abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile time of the woman’s cycle if they are avoiding pregnancy. Use of any artificial means to interfere with fertility is not natural family planning.

There are five basic methods of natural family planning:

•Calendar Based Methods (rhythm) – relies on counting cycle length and use of a simple formula to determine the beginning and end of fertility.
•Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – employs recording of the woman’s daily waking temperature and observing the changing patterns.
•The Ovulation Method (OM) – involves observing and recording the patterns and changes of cervical fluids.
•The Sympto-thermal Method (STM) – consists of combining daily waking temperature, changes in cervical fluid, cycle length and other minor signs of fertility.
•Hormonal Fertility Monitoring (HFM) – uses ovulation test kits and electronic fertility monitors to measure reproductive hormones in the urine.

In my opinion and experience, the OM, STM, and HFM, are the most “modern” and scientifically studied methods to date. For example, the Creighton Model and Marquette Model of NFP. These two models have extensive and fascinating research and information available! And yes…the Marquette Model was created by a nurse researcher and his colleague’s right here in Wisconsin, at Marquette University-Institute of Natural Family Planning!

This is just a very brief introduction to NFP, so I will leave you with a few great resources to check out:
*http://nfp.marquette.edu/definition_nfp.php
*http://www.creightonmodel.com/
*http://www.popepaulvi.com/FCYoungWomen.php (This is a really cool newsletter that pertains to fertility care for young women!)
*http://www.fertilitycare.org/

Ok, I lied…one more thing! If you or anybody is interested in learning more about any of these methods, I would love to hear from you! NFP is near and dear to my heart and I am actually going to visit Marquette’s Institute of NFP this winter in hopes of establishing a graduate project in this field. One of my primary goals…to bring more awareness and education to women about ALL of their options for birth control, including natural methods!

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!
Brittany

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Winter Health Myths

We’ve all heard the Old Wives’ Tales. But what fact truly comes from these myths? In this post I will be a Winter Health Mythbuster, helping you feel good when there is a blizzard outside.
Myth 1:
Feed a cold, starve a fever
FALSE!
really_190
Starvation is never the answer, even when it comes to the flu. A well balanced diet is key to a healthy lifestyle when sick or well. Instead of feigning away from meals, look for foods high in beta carotene and Vitamin C and E. Some of these include spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe and oranges.
For more information on this topic check out WebMD’s article on it:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/starve-cold-feed-fever

Myth 2:
You will catch a cold from going outside with wet hair
FALSE!
Although you may not be comfortable, only the exposure to viruses will cause you to catch a cold. This means that breathing in air particles sneezed or coughed out by an infected person or touching your face after touching an infected surface can cause the cold, but the weather cannot.
coldhair
For more information on this topic and why antibiotics are ineffective for treating colds read this article from healthyliving.msn:
http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/cold-and-flu/can-heading-outside-in-winter-with-wet-hair-increase-your-chances-of-catching-a-cold-1

Myth 3:
You lose most of your body heat through your head
FALSE!
While wearing a hat in winter is important for keeping warm, it is proven that any exposed body part will release heat. The head is only 10% of the body’s surface area and as such, does not release the majority of heat from the human body. As stated above, colds are caused by viral infections; therefore, forgetting a hat will not cause illness.

Myth 4:
You should not exercise outside in the winter months
FALSE!
As long as you don’t have preexisting health conditions that the cold might worsen, like asthma or heart disease, exercising outside is fine. It can, however, be dangerous to do vigorous exercise without warming up first. It is even important to do warm up exercises before going outside and shoveling. Shoveling can cause strain on the heart so no matter what level of health you are on it may help to take small, frequent breaks and use a small shovel. Also make sure you are dressing in layers and covering your hands and ears.
For more tips on exercising outside check out this article from Mayo Clinic:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/HQ01681

Myth 5:
You don’t need sunscreen in the winter
FALSE!
UV rays are present no matter what season it is. In fact, reflections from snow and ice might make their impact worse than in warmer months. Whether you are on the ski slopes or going for a walk, it is important to wear SPF 30. Just because you don’t feel like your skin is burning doesn’t mean it isn’t being harmed.

As finals week is approaching and germs are being spread faster than you can say ‘mononucleosis,’ I hope my mythbusting helps you stay in tip-top shape. Good luck!

So what is Paleo?

I mentioned in my previous post the term paleo. The paleo lifestyle (I don’t like the word diet!), is the most powerful approach to health and overall wellness. I’ll try to keep this short and sweet 🙂 For anyone reading this who wants to know more about the science behind it all…I’d be happy to share my knowledge anytime!
For now, I’ll keep to simple…

Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC author of Practical Paleo does a great job of describing the lifestyle beginning with the basics.
1. Eat whole foods:
Meat, seafood, and eggs. Ideally from grass-fed, pasture raised, organic-fed animals or wild-caught sources.
Vegetables and fruit: There are tons of different veggies available and it certainly does not need to be boring! Farmer’s markets are a great place to start! Fruit can be hard on your blood sugar if you over-do it.
Nuts and Seeds: These are great go-to snacks. Again, they can be over done, especially for if your goal is fat loss.
Fats and oils: Coconut milk and oil, avocado, butter, ghee, olive oil, tallow, and lard are all great quality and healthy fats. We NEED fat to be healthy. High quality saturated fats are required to maintain healthy cells in every part of our body.

2. Eliminate refined foods

Refined grains: Cereals, oatmeal, toast, muffins, pasta, rice…it is all processed and should be avoided.
Whole grains: All whole grains including wheat, barely, rye, corn, rice, quinoa, buckwheat and others. Again, processed. Anything that has been popped, puffed, flaked, floured, or shredded has been processed and therefore, it is not in its natural state and lacks its proper nutrition.
Dairy products: Eliminate processed and pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream. Raw dairy is a maybe food.
Sweeteners: Anything sweetened, especially with artificial sweeteners should be avoided. This includes soda, diet soda, juice, teas, coffee drinks, shakes/smoothies.

It may seem that eating whole foods is hard and limiting, but trust me…it isn’t! It is certainly an adjustment and at times can be challenging, but when it comes to our health, it’s totally worth the extra time!

Lastly, I need to point out the quantity and quality of scientific research behind paleo as noted in Practical Paleo. If you are interested in learning more, the following are excellent resources:
-Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet
-Robb Wolf, biochemist and author of The Paleo Solution (www.robbwolf.com)
-Chris Kresser, LAc., Integrative Medicine Practitioner (www.chriskresser.com)
-Dr. Amy Meyers MD (dramymeyers.com)

Podcasts you can download from i-tunes:
-The Paleo View
-Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness (one of my favs!)
-Dr. Amy Meyers MD
-Nutritional Weight and Wellness
-Chris Kresser
-Balanced Bites

Recipe blogs/websites:
-thepaleomom.com
-paleomg.com
-civilizedcaveman.com
-Everyday Paleo
-there are too many to mention…you guys all know how to Google and Pinterest!

How I found the power of food

When Katie asked me to share my personal journey and experience with nutrition and health, I said I would love to, but that I could probably write a book! Over the last several years, I have made a major transition in how I view overall health and wellness.

First a little background…I have always been a “healthy” person. Or so I thought. I grew up playing sports, eating a well-balanced standard American diet (meat, whole wheat bread, low-fat dairy, fruits/veggies, and the occasional diet coke!), and my parents made sure we always had lots of fun as kids. Fast forward a few years- I still maintained what I thought was good nutrition and exercise (running 3-5miles/day, cylcing classes, and basketball). Now add in nursing school, work, and stresses of being a busy college student as well as a young woman trying to find her way in this world. With a hard-working and perfectionist personality, I never slowed down. Not even when my entire world literally crashed right before me.

Weeks before my 21st birthday and in the middle of my senior year of nursing school, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My. life. fell. apart. It was an unimaginably tough battle for our family from the moment the first doctor said the word…cancer. The cancer never once responded to the multitude of chemotherapy burning through my mom’s body. 9 short, yet never-ending, months later, my family and I sat beside my mother as she took her last breath on Earth.

My mother taught my sister and I to always be strong, faithful, and giving women. Thats exactly how we live every day. But as time went on, the busier I made myself, the less I payed attention to how I was truly feeling inside. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This post is supposed to be about nutrition, right? I promise I’m getting there!

The amount of stress I encountered as well as forced upon my self was slowly destroying my body. I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, an auto-immune condition in which my own immune system was destroying my thyroid gland. Very much a result of physical and mental stress and poor nutrition. Unknowingly, I listened to my doctor at the time and was quick to take any medication he gave me. I accepted the quick fix mentality of health care and ignored the possible root cause of my auto-immune condition (stress, lifestyle, nutrition). Powerful medications only made me feel worse. Ok..next quick fix- remove my thyroid! Yes, I was a little nervous, but I was also too busy being a nurse and taking care of everyone else around me, I neglected my own health. BIG MISTAKE!

Somewhere in that time, I was introduced to CrossFit. I instantly fell in love. A daily workout, designed by the CrossFit certified trainers, that was a combination of high intensity, functional movements, and heavy weights. Perfect for this washed up athlete with a competitive spirit! But what I didn’t see coming was CrossFit’s strong emphasis on nutrition and other lifestyle factors. Enter…Paleo!

CrossFit nationwide endorses the paleolithic lifestyle. AKA the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer, whole foods diet, or just paleo. In very simple terms, it is the lifestyle and nutrition of our ancestors from the Paleolithic time. Think about it…back then there was no fast food. They needed to hunt and gather and be fast and fit to survive. Furthermore, the Paleo lifestyle is “nourishing our bodies with real food that is grown and raised as nature intended, not manufactured in a sterile facility. It’s about unplugging from the modern-day electronics from time to time and giving your body a chance to actually rest. It’s about getting enough sleep, getting out in the sun, playing for the sake of playing, reducing stress and giving your body a chance to thrive in the manner it evolved” (Paleo 101).

Finally. Something woke me up. Actually, slapped me in the face! Paleo is a lot more than just a “fad” diet. It is a lifestyle template that makes sense. It is derived from history and supported by modern evolutionary science and research. It has saved thousands of lives, including mine.

I will write a second post about more details of My Paleo Lifestyle. Sorry if you didn’t want all the personal background here! But I think it’s so important as it relates to almost everyone in one way or another! Regardless if your story looks like mine or not, most of us are submerged in a similar busy, stressful, sedentary lifestyle. Or the opposite can also cause stress…under eating and over exercising. Regardless, God put each of us on this beautiful earth for such a short time. We all deserve to find and feel our ultimate best!