Herb of the week #3: Red Clover

I’m on a roll everyone… it’s week 3 of the Herb/Plant of the Week here! And I have some fun news!  I decided to enroll in Rosemary Gladstar’s online herbalism class! I got my notebook in the mail this week and I am so excited to start learning from the master! I will definitely share what I learn along the way and I will still keep doing these weekly posts and share what I am learning through my own experience with the herb that week as well.

This week we are doing another heart herb: Red Clover

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Botanical Latin Name: Trifolium pratense

Botanical Family: Fabaceae (Legume) family

Parts used: flowers and leaves

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Nutritive, alterative, expectorant, antispasmodic, sedative

Energetics: Cooling, stimulating and relaxing

Taste: Mildly sweet

Dosage: 1 tbsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea infusion 1-3 times daily and/or 10-60 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture

Contraindications: pregnancy, those on blood thinner medications and possibly those with hypothyroid

Red clover is known to a great detoxification herb.  It helps to purify the blood to aid in the removal of toxins. It also helps clear out the lymph system which helps with our immunity. In the process of clearing out waste in the liver and lymph, it replaces it with nutrients like calcium, nitrogen and iron. Because it’s detoxifying, it in turn helps with most skin conditions and tumors, fibroids and cysts.

It also helps with cardiovascular and respiratory health. It can helps ease chronic chest problems like coughs and colds. The combination of detoxification and cardiovascular benefits have shown to improve cognitive function thought to be due to the purified blood reaching to the smaller capillaries in the body to improve overall function.

Additional uses for red clover:

  • Children with spasmodic coughs
  • Chronic skin eruptions
  • Swollen hard lymph nodes
  • Stiff neck
  • Muscle cramps (relieved by heat and massage)
  • Childhood eczema
  • Whooping cough or dry irritated cough
  • Throat and salivary glands
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Menopausal hot flashes
  • Herpes virus
  • Cancer, especially lymphatic or breast

How to use red clover:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tbsp per cup and drink 1-3 cups daily) steep in hot water for 15-20 minutes, the longer you steep it the more the constituents. I steeped mine for 30 minutes and it was slightly sweet and delicious, very easy to drink alone.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results.
  • NOTE: Never use wilted red clover only fully fresh or fully dried. The wilted flower has a compound called Coumadin that is what they use in rat poison and blood thinners that can be harmful or deadly.

Here’s a tea recipe for a mild and pleasant tasting liver cleansing and nutritive daily tonic from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health:

Liver Tonic Formula #2

3 parts nettle leaf

2 parts dandelion leaf

2 parts lemon balm

2 part red clover

1 part alfalfa

Prepare as an infusion, using 4 tablespoons of herb mixture to a quart of water and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy 3-4 cups daily.

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Herb/Plant of the Week #2: MOTHERWORT

It’s already time for the second Herb/Plant of the Week here on the Aesthetic Athlete, blog of Nutrition Designed! Yay!

This week we are doing another heart herb: MOTHERWORT

motherwort-herb

 Botanical Latin Name: Leonurus Cardiaca

Botanical Family: Lamiaceae (mint) family

Parts used: aerial parts (all parts exposed completely to air)

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, Nervie, Uterine tonic, hypotensive, bitter, Cardiotonic, Emmenagogues

Energetics: Neutral to cool and drying

Taste: Very Bitter

Dosage: 1 tsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea infusion and/or 20-40 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture

Contraindications: pregnancy or during breastfeeding, those on blood thinner medications and possibly those with hypothyroid

Motherwort is great for the heart, kidneys and uterus. The latin name Leonurus literally means “lionhearted” and is thus great to nourish and strengthen the heart and blood vessels. If taken daily it can help new blood vessels grow to the heart. It can also calm the heart and the nerves around it, thus helping with palpitations or hypertension.

It’s great for women’s health as well, in particular the uterus and helping with menstruation (inducing it for those that are delayed and helping to normalize the flow), abdominal pain – in particular after birth  – and for those going through menopause.

It can also help with liver health, digestion and the nervous system. Nutritionally she offers flavonoids, tannins and vitamin A. Motherwort can help to calm the nervous system by moving our body from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic. Because of this she can assist with racing thoughts and help us think through our actions more slowly and clearly. As well as anxiety and stress that is held in the stomach area.

Additionally, motherwort is known to be a very emotional healing herb. Specifically, when it comes to feeling your emotions and balancing those feelings. Herbalist and wise woman Kristin Schuch of Apothecary Tinctura in Denver, Colorado says motherwort “brings abundant peace and ease to all matters of the heart.”

Additional uses for Motherwort:

  • Reducing fever
  • Suppressing (retained) placenta
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Menstrual headaches
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Insomnia due to menopause
  • Herpes or shingles (and nerve pain from these)
  • Sciatica
  • Graves’ disease or hyperthyroid
  • Melancholy
  • Restlessness
  • Disturbed sleep (emotional or physical) or wakefulness
  • Premenstrual cramps due to delayed menstruation
  • Bloating from menstruation
  • Hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings from menopause
  • Reduced appetite
  • Improves slow or sluggish digestion
  • Calms overactive thyroid
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Postpartum depression and anxiety

How to use Motherwort:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tsp of the plant per cup and drink 1-3 cups daily) steep in hot water for 8-10 minutes, the longer you steep it the more the constituents, but also the more bitter. I had to add a healthy dose of honey to my cup that I steeped for 15 minutes, and it was still almost undrinkable. I prefer tincture or adding just a small amount to a blend of tea.
  • Tincture is the best form to use this herb,in my opinion. Use 1 dropper full (30 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results.

Here’s a recipe for tea to help with hot flashes for those going through menopause from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health:

“Heat Relief”

2 parts black cohosh

2 parts motherwort

2 parts sage

1 part blue vervain

1 part chaste tree berry

mint to taste

After making this blend, use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz cup of water, steep for 30 minutes and strain. Then drink ¼ cup as a “dose” throughout the day up to 3 cups daily, depending on what you need for support.

Motherwort Image

New Series: Herb/Plant of the Week – Week 1: Hawthorne

Hello everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are enjoying your short week! I know I am. But before I call it quits for the work week, I wanted to throw up an update, since a lot has happened since I last posted.

The biggest news is that I’ve started my own nutrition practice: Nutrition Designed. It’s been super rewarding and I’ve already seen huge changes in a lot of my clients. Additionally, I am working at a local Denver apothecary called Apothecary Tinctura. I started there mainly to bring my nutrition knowledge into their space since most that work there are schooled herbalists. And though I learned a bit about herbs as medicine in my nutrition program, I would not call myself an herbalist. I find the use of herbs and medicine fascinating and a great tool to use in my nutrition and wellness practice. And every day I work there I learn more and more about this. It never fails to blow my mind how knowledgeable the herbalists there are.

A few weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend a weekend immersion course on the “Roots of Herbal Medicine” led by the wonder woman owner of the apothecary, Kristin Schuch. It was an amazing educational experience and of course it was led in a teepee (sidenote: it was kinda AH-mazing and I think I need a teepee now)! I came back to the shop with a new depth of knowledge and a new weekly assignment: to pick one herb per week, take 3 days to experience it as a tea and the next 3 days as a tincture (an alcohol extract form of an herb). I am on my second week now and my first week was so great I thought it would be fun to share with you what I experienced and learned each week with my “herb/plant of the week”. Plus, it’ll keep me more accountable for posting here… I’ve not been super consistent here. But you didn’t notice that… right?!?!😉

So to our first herb/plant of the week: HAWTHORNE 

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Botanical Latin Name: Crataegus Spp.

Botanical Family: Rosaceae (rose)

Parts used: berries, leaves and flowers

Method: Tea, Tincture, Foods (i.e. syrups, jams, and jellies)

Actions: Diuretic, Antiarrhythmic, Astringent, Antioxidant, Cardiotonic, Nutritive

Energetics: Cooling and drying

Taste: Sweet, astringent, sour

Dosage: safe to use with no upper limit

Contraindications: none that we are aware of. However, if on heart medications, meds may need to be decreased over time due to Hawthorne’s effectiveness

The Hawthorne plant is ideal for the cardiovascular system and known as then superior heart herb. And may herbalists even say it’s a daily must in our diet for heart health and a long and productive life. It is a nutritive herb, it contains great antioxidants and bioflavonoids to nourish the heart and body. It also strengthens and tones the heart muscle. It has a great ability to either gently stimulate or depress the activity of the heart. It can dilate arteries and veins, which increases blood flow and can helps with blockages. It can help with many areas of heart disease, such as reducing the risk of an angina attack, lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Well-known and revered herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, says in her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, “I always tell women, if you love your husband, start feeding him Hawthorne berries when he turns 40. They are not only rich in antioxidants but also protect the heart.”

Hawthorne is also known to help with emotional pain as well, things like heart break, grief, stress, depression or anxiety as it relates to the heart. It’s can also be great medicine for those who have trouble with their emotions, especially when it comes to suppressing or expressing them.

Additional uses for Hawthorne:

  • Varicose veins
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor memory
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • strengthens connective tissues
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Insomnia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Acne or other skin conditions
  • Stop diarrhea
  • Helps week or slow digestion, indigestion or appetite loss
  • Vertigo
  • Pain or injured ligaments or tendons

How to use Hawthorne:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tbsp of the plant per cup and drink 3-4 cups daily), decocting (boiling the water and herbs on the stovetop and simmering for at least 20 minutes, strain to drink) the berries for tea is the best form to draw out all the constituents of the plant. I recommend trying this at least once, I noticed a better quality taste when I decocted the berries. But a normal hot infusion (pouring hot water over the herbs and letting steep for at least 10-15 minutes) was good too. The taste was quite pleasant. I could easily drink this alone daily.
  • Tincture can be used more for deliberate work with heart conditions or disease (like heart palpitations or hypertension) or emotional trauma (like the death of a loved one or heartbreak).
  • Food (jellies, jams, syrups and more) can and should be used daily for general health and nutrients. Plus they are delicious!

Here’s a recipe for a jam with hawthorn from Rosemary Gladstar’s book:

hawthorne_jam

Give it a try if you haven’t tried it yet and let me know what you think about Hawthorne!

Hawthorne Image

Hormone Balance with Seed Cycling

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I have some AMAZING news everyone! I am officially a holistic nutritionist! I had my final presentation yesterday and it went great! It was a fast and fun 18 month program. I enjoyed being back in a physical classroom again with some amazing individuals. It even looks like one of my colleagues and I will be starting a corporate wellness lecture program together. Now the students becomes the teachers! Eeekkkk!!!

Aside from all that wonderful news I am starting to work on developing my own private practice  and moving into some cool new office space with some amazing doctors and other wellness practitioners. Naturally, I thought the blog (if you can call my irregular, once a month posts a blog) would turn a little more into a holistic health space. Yeah? Cool!

So I planned to start off slowly, you know talk about macronutrients, different foods and what they are good for, etc. You know more basics and foundations and then get more into the juicy stuff. HOWEVER… last week over snapchat (yeah I have one of those too… right now it’s ymontoya, but that’s my maiden name and I am switching it over soon to NutritionDsignd, so stay tuned) I posted a flyer about seed cycling and got a great response and lots of questions from it. So… I decided to write a larger more in depth post on seed cycling for everyone interested.

Just to back up for a quick second, a big part of what got me interested in holistic nutrition was my painful journey off birth control. Though I have come a long way, I still am struggling with it at age 33! Ugh! So, in finding more out about what it going on in this body of mine, I sought out a naturopathic doctor to help me run some tests. After doing the DUTCH test (I can talk about this more in depth too, just comment below if you’d like this) we talked about my hormone balance and among a few things, she suggested seed cycling.

I know hormone balance can seem like a very trendy term being thrown around out there right now. And it’s for good reason. Hormones are pretty delicate. They influence and impact every system in our bodies. These imbalances are related to various things including our food and lifestyle choices, exercise, chronic stress, environmental toxins and even age. And can cause a host of issues including adrenal fatigue, inflammation, dysbiosis, weight gain and PMS. All of these are symptoms are our body’s way of signaling to us that something is out of balance. Yup, even PMS. That thing that we are taught at such a young age is a normal part of our health as a woman. But just know that while it may be “normal” today it is NOT RIGHT and it is our body crying out for help. Great news is, we totally have the power to fix it ourselves! So let’s start!

So, what is seed cycling exactly, you ask? It’s a process of using specific seeds in our diet based on where our cycle is to aid in proper balance and elimination of hormones.

What can seed cycling help with?

  • Acne
  • PMS
  • Irregular cycles
  • Fertility
  • Flow of bleeding (light and heavy)
  • Menopause (peri and post)
  • Adrenal Issues (ex. Adrenal fatigue)
  • PCOS
  • Endometriosis
  • Weight gain (especially in the stomach)
  • Excess sweating
  • Low libido
  • Painful periods
  • Thyroid disorders
  • depression

Let’s take a quick second to talk about womanly cycles and the moon. The cycle of menstruation is one of the most natural actions we have. According to women’s health expert Dr. Christine Northrup, “the monthly ripening of an egg and subsequent pregnancy or release of menstrual blood mirror the process of creation as it occurs not only in nature, unconsciously, but in human endeavor.” As modern life and technologies have evolved we have gotten more and more removed from our natural rhythm’s. Birth control and artificial light are great examples of how we have sought to control this natural cycle. (I know many of you reading this might be on birth control and I would strongly urge you to think twice about it and what it is doing to your body. I do plan to write another blog post on this topic, but in the mean time do some research and feel free to reach out to me as well, I’d love to talk with anyone about it in more depth). It’s no coincidence that women’s cycles are 28 days, the same as the length of a full lunar cycle. We are designed to be at peak fertility (ovulation) at the full moon (this just past Thursday August 18th) when it’s the brightest out. On the opposite side, we are at our lowest fertility when we are menstruating, coinciding with the new moon and the darkest out. (If you are curious about what phase the moon is in I use a handy app called “Moon Free”.)

Now, holistic health can get a little too woo-woo for me sometimes. But rest assured that if I am recommending it or writing about it, it’s rooted in science (some references are below, but if you’d like more, email me).

HOW TO SEED CYCLE

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Phase 1: Day 1-14 – Follicular Phase (aka Waxing Moon)

Day 1 refers to the first day we begin to bleed. During this phase our bodies are using estrogen to prepare for ovulation. Having too little will hinder ovulation and too much estrogen will cause those severe PMS symptoms. This phase is correlated with low hormones.

This is when you want to consume:

  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw, freshly ground* flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw, pumpkin seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • High quality Omega-3 supplement like fish oil (I recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega) or vegan equivalent. However, I highly recommend the fish oil, it’s better for the conversion our bodies have to do to use it and its absorption, email me if you want to chat more about this) at 1500-2000 mg of EPA/DHA daily

The aim in this phase is to balance estrogen and discard the excess properly. Pumpkin and flax seeds combined help the body to eliminate the extra estrogen that occurs at this time of the month. The lignans (an antioxidant chemical compound found in plants, especially high in flax) bind to this extra estrogen and properly eliminate it by helping us carry it out of our body. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and phytoestrogens, stopping the estrogen from converting to a harmful form of testosterone and help with progesterone production that is needed in the Luteal phase. Omega-3s aids in cell communication and lowers inflammation, both of which will contribute to balanced hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone.

Phase 2: Day 15-28 – Luteal Phase (aka Full Moon)

Day 15 refers to the beginning of ovulation. This is correlated with lower estrogen and higher levels of progesterone which build up the walls of the uterine to prepare for pregnancy. When pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone decreases and the lining is shed (menstruation, beginning phase 1). Progesterone is needed for a healthy pregnancy and when not balanced it can cause painful menstrual cramps.

This is when you want to consume:

  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw sunflower seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw sesame seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • Evening primrose oil at 500 mg of GLA daily (Barlean’s Evening Primrose Oil Softgels)

Sunflower and sesame seeds are rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin E, zinc and selenium that can improve damaged cells, keep cells healthy, help the liver detox, proper thyroid hormone conversion, balance blood sugar and help with progesterone production. They are also a great source of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid (LA), which can convert to gamma linolenic acid (GLA) to help balance progesterone and estrogen. Evening primrose oil is also great source of omega-6s essential fatty acids: LA and GLA, that support overall hormone function.

A Few More Notes on Seed Cycling

  1. If your cycle is missing (and recommended that you are not on birth control) start phase 1 seed cycling on the new moon. Continue on a 28 day cycle even if your are not syncing up and your body will eventually balance out.
  2. Seed cycling isn’t the end-all-be-all answer for hormone balance. And just like the amount of time it took to get an imbalance of hormones, this didn’t just happen overnight, seed cycling is not a quick-fix. It is known to take 3-4 months before you see results. However, some have seen results in the first month, or at least some improvements like less moodiness and cravings.
  3. More is not better here. Stick to the 1 tablespoon of each seed recommend daily, more will only confuse your body and it will not be able to find it’s natural rhythm. It’s a try keeping a detailed journal of your daily moods and symptoms. This will really help you stay in tune with your body and help to see the changes that occur.
  4. Other important aspects that play a key part to hormone balance are a whole food, plant-based (this doesn’t mean vegetarian or vegan necessarily, but rather means mostly plant foods on your plate, adding in 3-5 ounces of high quality organic and pasture-raised animal proteins are a great addition here), great digestion, stress reduction, and proper, revitalizing exercise. The great news is that we have the power to control it naturally and without medications. If you need any guidance or advice feel free to get in touch with me. I’d love to help Yvonne[at]nutrition-designed.com
  5. This post is aimed at women’s health, but be sure to know men’s hormones can be helps with seed cycling as well. In fact, men’s hormones suffer from the same metabolic imbalances that women do, but because have fewer hormones fluctuations and because they are men they often don’t seek help for it. Therefore, it’s not talked about a lot. However, their hormones closely mirror those of women, being most fertile at the full moon.
  6. If you are a man that wants to try seed cycling simply do the opposite of what is suggested above:
    1. From the new moon to the full moon: 1 tbsp of ground sesame and sunflower seeds
    2. From the full moon to the new moon: 1 tbsp of ground flax and pumpkin seeds

*Why do the seeds need to be freshly ground? This is most important in the flax seeds, since these have a harder shell to protect its nutrients inside, they must be ground in order to be assimilated in the body, otherwise they will simply act as insoluble fiber and be passed right through your body. In general, its best to grind them all in a mortar and pestle, blender or coffee grinder the day of (though they will last for up to 2 days if you want to grind them every other day, otherwise they will go rancid). This will break down the shells of the seeds and make the nutrients more easily absorbable for our digestive system. And please keep all raw seeds (and nuts) in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

If you have any kind of digestive issues you can go an additional step and soak your raw seeds overnight and throw them in a smoothie or otherwise. Or after soaking you can then sprout them or dehydrate them in a dehydrator or the lowest temp in the oven in order to preserve the most nutrients in them by not heating them too high. This soaking and sprouting processes allow them to be more easily digestible and provide the most easily absorbed nutrients in our bodies. Do whatever you can or have time to, either way don’t let any of these processes get in the way of trying seed cycling. You can simply throw the raw seeds on a salad, in soups or anything really, just make sure you chew well to break the seeds down. Simply know that if you don’t grind your seeds it may take a little longer to see the same results.

**If you are pregnant or planning to be, here’s a great article by naturopathic Dr. Amy Neuzil on Seed Cycling for Pregnancy.

Sorry for such a long post. I normally don;t like to write this much, but it’s hard when it comes to health and our bodies, I would rather be thorough than brief.

Have you ever tried seed cycling? What are your thoughts about it? Hit me up if you have any questions about nutrition, health or wellness. I am always here and love to share what I can!

References:
Chestnut school of herbal medicine. (n.d.) The ecology of estrogen in the female body. Referred from http://chestnutherbs.com/the-ecology-of-estrogen-in-the-female-human-body/
Hall, A. (2014, April 20). Seed cycling for hormonal balance. Referred from https://theherbalacademy.com/seed-cycling-for-hormonal-balance/
Hartman, E., 1966. Dreaming sleep (the D State) and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 143:406–16; Swanson, E.M., Foulkes, D. 1968. Dream content and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 145(5):358–63.
Northrup, C. (n.d.) Wisom of the menstrual cycle. Referred from http://www.drnorthrup.com/wisdom-of-menstrual-cycle/

Olympic Inspiration

Hi there again! Happy Hump Day!

I wanted to pop on here for a quick post today. I just watched the 2016 Olympic anthem, “Rise” by Katy Perry. And it’s breathtaking and so moving, I had tears in my eyes. I was so inspired I had to share it with everyone in case you haven’t seen it yet.

I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. Enjoy!

My Year Alcohol-Free

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I have been procrastinating writing this post for a few days when I wake up in the morning it’s on my to-do list, but yet somehow SOMETHING or NOTHING always gets in the way of me writing it. So today, I am sitting here after procrastinating yet again for at least an hour or so, and I am finally putting some words to the proverbial paper. And yet all I can think about it going and checking my laundry. You know… maybe it’s done and needs to go into the dryer. You know, that’s SO much more important than this… hmmmm.

So what is so important and yet so hard to write, you ask?!? Well, a very personal topic to me. Drinking. No. Not soda or water. But Alcohol. It’s been a love/hate (mostly hate, if I am being honest with you) relationship. For those few people that follow my somewhat inconsistent blog, I assume that’s mostly friends and family, you probably are aware of this, whether we have discussed it together or not. And to those of you that don’t know me, here is a small glimpse into my decision to give up alcohol for a year.

A year ago on June 12, 2015, I decided to stop drinking. It was one of those moments where I woke up with a hangover that I thought I might Actually die from. You know those, right? Well, I hope some of you don’t. But I know some of you do. And there there will be a few of you that think you do, but still haven’t actually felt this way yet. To me I think it’s the closest thing to a “rock bottom” that I have ever felt. Aside from my feelings of headache and nausea, there was a heaviness in my heart. Followed very closely by that sinking feeling in your gut of “oh shit what did I do last night” moment. That moment of let me check my phone to make sure I didn’t call/text/email someone in that drunken blackout state. Follow by the sadness and anger of thinking “seriously, how did I let myself drink this much again?!”

After a cup of coffee and a little breakfast. I sat there with one of my best friends going through my excuses, it was a party, celebration, there was open bar, I wasn’t driving anywhere, etc. Followed by a realization that I was 32, married to a wonderful man and WAY too old to still be acting this way. Not that there really is ever an excuse for this type of behavior no matter what age. But I should know better. So my wonderful friend suggested that maybe it was a bigger issue. Maybe I should try eliminating alcohol from my life? Maybe I should try AA? I knew she wasn’t judging me but rather deeply caring for me. The more I thought about it the more I was truly excited to take on this challenge. The more I reminisced the more I could tie alcohol (and excess) to all the bad events in my life: losing friends, breaking and losing things and much more I won’t delve into right now. Needless to say, my relationship to alcohol had never been a good one. And no one should ever stay in a bad relationship.

Coincidently, I had just moved to Colorado from California a few months prior to this. I had few friends in this new town, and the more I thought about it, most of those I did know here didn’t drink or rarely drank. Ironically, I also had just started nutrition school. I use the words “coincidently” and “ironically” but really the more I thought about it the more I realized these events and people were in my life for a reason and I needed to listen. It was the PERFECT time to stop drinking. I had a world of support in my life.

I DID go to AA for a few meetings, I found wonderful people there. But yet something still didn’t feel right when I went. I ended up not going anymore and for a while felt very guilty about it. I knew the people that didn’t see me there anymore would think they lost another one that just wasn’t committed to the cause. But in reality I just needed to find my own way. I know some say there is no other “way” to sobriety. But I even had a hard time with the word “sobriety”. To me, I wasn’t sober. I was just not drinking. I know there are some out there that will say it’s semantics at that point, but to someone that is in a fragile state semantics can be everything.

Also, AA is just one wonderful way for people to finding what they need in their life. Know that there are so many other options, so know if that’s didn’t work for you seek other ways. Do some research on your own or email me, I am happy to share some of what I have learned along my journey.

My struggle was real. But if everything was easy, everyone would be doing it. There was lots of guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness swirling in my head. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband, who has never struggled with this type of issue with alcohol, in fact, upon hearing about my new vow to not drink he kindly decided to go on this journey with me.

I did a lot of work on my own. I read numerous books on alcohol, addiction and of course nutrition in relation to addiction and mental health (because in my opinion drinking in most forms is a way of covering up depression, other mental health issues and these are tied directly to nutrition and our physical body). I journaled through a lot of emotional times. I worked out a lot, it’s such a great way to immediately lift your spirit. I found yoga and meditation were great stress relievers. I also did a lot of work with my therapist. And throughout this year of no alcohol, the big question constantly swirling around in my head was: am I an alcoholic, an addict, or was it a bad habit, abuse and a possible nutritional imbalance?

After going an entire year without drinking you realize you can do anything you put your mind to. I know that sounds corny, but honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could go an entire year without my glass of wine. I mean even someone that is pregnant only really goes 8-9 months without alcohol. And I have heard even that seems like a long time. The longest I had ever gone was that one month break in January where everyone and your sister is taking a break or “detoxing” from the overindulgent holidays. But if I am being honest with myself and you, if it was just that one glass of wine, I wouldn’t have needed to take a break from drinking. And here I am before you today. With an entire year of no alcohol. And in the end what is a year of our life but a blip in time. A year is so inconsequential, I have had 33 of them so far. What was one in that span? Nothing. But it was by far one of the most important years of my life so far.

If you’ve ever woke up with a hangover one to many times or wondered about your relationship with alcohol, I would highly suggest giving it up for a year and reevaluating your relationship with alcohol. I am not saying it’s all roses through the journey. Of course it will be an adjustment. But nothing but great things have resulted as a consequence in my life.

In my honest opinion, and without judgement (none of us are perfect), our society has accepted this drug with open arms, we use it to cope with stress and other aspects of life. But daily drinking and binge drinking should not be so openly accepted. The more and how often you drink the likely it is that you will develop alcohol-related issues. Seems obvious I know, but really sit with that and think about it. In this Newsweek article “A new study shows that 32 million Americans, nearly one in seven adults, have struggled with a serious alcohol problem in the last year alone. It gets worse if you look at numbers across people’s entire lives: In that case, nearly one-third have suffered an ‘alcohol-use disorder.’”

From a nutrition and health standpoint, alcohol is listed as a carcinogen in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. Yuck! It also means putting yourself at higher risk for stroke, heart and liver disease and all sorts of cancers. In 2015, the Center for Disease Control says “Because of the astounding 80,000 deaths that are related to alcohol abuse every year, alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in the U.S. More great facts on alcohol can be found in this article.

In conclusion here are the top 10 things I learned from my year off of alcohol:

  1. I eat healthier and make better choices when it comes to food. Also, I am more mindful about what I eat and how great it tastes.
  2. I listening to my body’s natural rhythm. For me that means going to bed earlier and waking up earlier, getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep every night and not needing an alarm or coffee to get out of bed. I sleep better and I love mornings! I love waking up feeling good every single day for an entire year (minus the one week I was sick)! And my face isn’t puffy in the mornings! What a perk!
  3. I learned how to really relax and destress. I have always loved working out but since giving up alcohol I have really gotten into my yoga practice in a deeper level, meditation and love taking Epson salt baths in the evening.
  4. I can read more books and spend real quality time with family and friends.
  5. Replacing the glass of wine or cocktail with a mocktail, tea or sparking water is great for hydration and most likely tastes WAY better than that alcoholic drink.
  6. I learned how to get though social situations without drinking. Having a ”mocktail” in hand no one even knows you aren’t drinking and it’s great to easy my social anxiety. It really builds confidence in social situations, since I wasn’t drinking I could more easily see how others struggle with social anxiety as well.
  7. You can have fun without alcohol. If you’ve never tried it, sure, it will be an adjustment. But it gets easier and you remember the fun you had the next day as well! In fact, I have learned how to laugh from my belly and it’s amazingly enjoyable. I don’t care what my face looks like!
  8. Learn to come up with responses for when you are out and people offer you a drink. I started with a simple “no thanks, not tonight” response. But as I saw the same people over and over out or at dinners, I started to be honest with those closer to me. I would simply say “I am not drinking right now.” Or sometimes I would go so far as to tie it into my nutritional program or simple tell them it had become a bad habit in my life and I needed a break. It’s amazing how responsive people are to that. Most people will sympathize or congratulate you with sincerity. Then move on to the next conversation. It’s not nearly as big of a deal as I anticipated it would be.
  9. You learn who your real friends are. These are the ones that are proud of you and don’t judge you. They support you and make your life better.
  10. You learn quickly what people in your life have a healthy relationship with alcohol and who doesn’t just by the mere act of pushing on you or not. It’s really is amazing how society encourages drinking heavily at events, in celebration and every day. This is not normal and we shouldn’t accept it as so. If we are drinking every night (I know, I’ve been there) then we need to step back and reevaluate why and find other ways of decompressing, relaxing and communicating.

As a nutritionist and also as someone who has struggled with these issues, alcohol can contribute not only to depression, sleep issues and weight gain, to more serious things like cancer, stroke, diabetes, and even death.

Take the challenge! Start with committing to 30 days alcohol-free! I dare you not to feel better! How do you feel about your relationship with alcohol? Do you drink and how often? Have you ever desired to stop?

(Image: Judith Collins /Alamy)

Dunton Hot Springs Weekend

A little over a month ago my husband and I went on a bit of a road trip. We didn’t really plan to be taking a road trip, but set out for along weekend getaway not realizing how far away it was from our home when we booked it. But it was SO worth it! And since moving to Colorado early last year we’ve not really made time to explore this gorgeous state. So we thought we’d better start… and what better way than off to Dunton Hot Springs. So we packed up our stuff and we were off!

The drive out from Denver to Dolores, Colorado was breathtaking.

dunton_01dunton_02dunton_03dunton_04dunton_07dunton_06We saw a ton of elk on the drive. Look at those cute little asses! Ha!

dunton_08On our drive out we stopped for lunch in Telluride. I had never been and despite being overcast and a bit rainy and the beginning of shoulder season (the first week they closed in between ski and summer seasons) it was a gorgeous ghost town.

Then just a short 8 hours after leaving Denver, plus a 20 minute drive on a dirt road we were there!

dunton_09dunton_10dunton_19dunton_22And since we were there during off season, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was AH-mazing! These grounds though! Too much cuteness!

We stayed in the Bjoerkman cabin. How adorable is this?!?

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And… the natural HOT SPRINGS!!!! Ahhhhh! They have 3 pools, all are so unique, different temperatures and characters. The main one below is indoors, has plenty of seating, upstairs and down, a hammock, a place to play your own music, a fireplace and has a great swing you can sit on in it with a cold plunge as well. This was our favorite place all weekend.

dunton_13dunton_14dunton_16dunton_23There were two outdoor pools. This one also has a cute little sauna in that hut in the back there.

dunton_15One of the owners loves reading, so her husband, as an anniversary gift, built her her own library! I spent a few hours in there relaxing one afternoon. You can even check out a book to read while you are there! Just don’t forget to return it before you depart.

dunton_20Throughout our 3 days there we kept learning little bits of history about this amazing place. I wont bother you with all the secrets, you’ll have to visit yourself. But one tidbit is back in 1885 when it was simply a saloon and post office, it was visited by Butch Cassidy after he robbed a Telluride bank. He inscribed his name in the bar, which is the bar they still have today.

More here.dunton_17And of course no travel adventure of mine wouldn’t be complete without a little sweat! They provide bikes for the guests to tool around on, so we each rode fat tire bike on the snowy roads. So fun! And boy! What a workout!

dunton_21Definitely highly recommended trip. Though a little bit challenging to get to, no matter where you are, it’s worth the trek. And probably also why it’s just so special and charming.