Facing the Holidays

Few of us can escape the holiday season without feeling a bit worried, anxious, or stressed. The demands to perform perfectly and deliver exceptionally can be overwhelming.

What’s interesting is that according to Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal, the top five stress triggers are finances, health, family, weather, and loneliness.  All of these experiences are snowballed into the next  two months as we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.

Whether we realize it or not, stress not only complicates life, but it has a far greater effect on your health as well. Feeling stressed out instantly releases a cascade of hormones throughout the body. One of them being cortisol, which causes you to over eat and store excess energy as fat rather than expend it. Those same hormones also lower your immune response against disease.

For decades, stress management wasn’t part of most health practitioners toolkit because its effects were thought to be mostly psychological.  That’s beginning to change. Recent studies show that even negative emotions (like stress) are a precursor to cardiovascular dysfunction and disease. Are we writing our own prescription for poor health?


Stop Stress in its Tracks

When stress is at its peak, it can be difficult to stop and regroup. So what do you do? Lock the front doors and eat turkey in the dark?  Certainly not.

The best way to handle stressful situations is to prepare yourself in advance. There are plenty of resources that talk about ways to reduce stress but you can’t always say “no” to grandma and you can’t escape to meditate in the middle of a holiday dinner either. Perhaps the best way to manage holiday stress is to simply understand the temporary nature of it all.

Below are three practical ways you can pause and try to understand the circumstance – while keeping stress hormones in check.

1. Look Ahead into the Future

When you are overwhelmed  by the day look into the future. Three, six, nine months from now ask yourself will it really matter?

2. Take a Wider View

Are you seeing the entire picture? Try to not have a narrow mind when there is a room full of people with different backgrounds and stories. In a conversation that is polarizing try to understand each other rather than proving points.

3. Change Perspective

Walk into the next two months knowing the real meaning of the holidays. Be thankful for the small pleasures in life.  Celebrate generously by giving more of your time than your money. Appreciate the peace when you find it, even in the small moments.


Words of Wisdom

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton

Tomas Merton said it perfectly. Lead with love this holiday season and try to see things from a larger, healthier perspective.

What ways have you found to manage the stressful season ahead? Feel free to share your success stories in keeping your health and relationships at their best this busy time of year by leaving a comment below.

A Holistic Approach to Hypothyroidism:

a post by Katherine Heineman, DO at Holistic Care Approach

What does thyroid hormone do?

Thyroid hormone is the body’s metabolic regulator. Every cell in the body from muscles to organs to arteries depends on adequate thyroid hormone levels to achieve and maintain optimal function. When the thyroid gland is releasing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone to meet the body’s demands, the metabolic rate is reduced.

Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include the following:

  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Essential hypertension
  • Hair loss
  • Nervousness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Infertility
  • Irritability
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain

What are some concerns for long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism?

Long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism can predispose patients to developing high cholesterol levels, which can lead to coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the number one killer in the US. However, when the hormonal system is re-balanced appropriately,  oftentimes, the cholesterol level will lower significantly, thus lowering events related to heart disease.

How is the thyroid gland stimulated?

The pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in order to stimulate the thyroid gland. Once stimulated, the thyroid gland then secretes two major hormones, Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is about 300 times more active than T4. T3 is responsible for increasing the metabolism inside the cells.

What does a conventional approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism look like?

The conventional approach to thyroid illness primarily revolves around the measurement of the TSH level. The TSH test has been the gold standard for conventional medicine to diagnose hypothyroidism for greater than 30 years. The reference range for ‘normal’ reported by most laboratories is 0.5-4.5 mIU/L.

What does a holistic approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism look like?

A holistic approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism will look at more than just the TSH levels. It is very valuable to also check T3 and T4 levels. Many times, patients will have normal T4 and TSH levels, but will have low T3 levels, bringing about the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. In addition, many people cannot adequately convert T4 into T3 because of nutrient deficiencies, medications, illness, stress, aging, and more.

Despite the ‘normal’ reference levels from most laboratories for TSH ranging up to 4.5 mIU/L, my experience has been clinically that the majority of patients have optimal thyroid function with a TSH between 0.3-2.0 mIU/L.

Which thyroid medication is the best?

There is no one “best” medication, as each patient is a unique biochemical individual. There are many options available to treat the underlying cause(s) of thyroid disorders. The conventional thyroid hormone replacement is Levothyoxine (Synthroid) which is an exclusively T4 thyroid preparation. Inactive ingredients of Synthroid include cornstarch, dyes, and lactose. In those individuals who cannot convert some, most, or all of T4 into T3, the T4 preparation may not be the best choice for thyroid hormone replacement.

What are other options for thyroid hormone replacement?

Amour Thyroid is a T4 and T3 thyroid hormone replacement derived from porcine (pig) thyroid gland. As it is glandular derived, it contains other active ingredients including calcitonin, selenium and thyroid hormones T2 and T1. Other porcine derived thyroid hormone replacements include Westhroid and Nature-Throid.

Cytomel is an exclusively T3 preparation. Cytomel contains sucrose and talc as inactive ingredients.

Compounding pharmacies can make various doses of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones without the additional additives and fillers. Sometimes it can be very beneficial to provide an individualized ratio of T4/T3 specific for each patient, or for those with allergy concerns.

Many times it can take a trial and error period to find the optimal dose for the patient. If you do not feel you are achieving the best results with your thyroid medication, I might suggest trying a different medication or altering the dose.

What are some common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect thyroid functioning?

In order for the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormone, adequate amounts of iodine must be present. Other vitamins and minerals are essential for aiding in the conversion of T4 to T3. These include selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin B12. When these vitamin and mineral levels are inadequate, symptoms of hypothyroidism may develop.

What else might be considered regarding hypothyroidism?

A holistic treatment plan for hypothyroidism may also include natural hormones, vitamin and mineral supplementation, dietary changes, and detoxification.

As you can see, treating thyroid disorders involves more than simply adjusting medications based on lab tests. Often times, thyroid disorder can be improved upon or corrected by simply improving the function of the thyroid gland with appropriate vitamins and minerals and by detoxifying the system.

There is lots of hope for patients with thyroid disorders. Educate yourself and don’t accept disease. You must be your own advocate in working toward achieving your optimal health.

grand rapids holistic doctorDr. Heineman is a fully licensed, board-eligible physician in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. She specializes in the apprenticed art of osteopathy that has been passed down, literally “hand to hand,” over the last 150 years. At Holistic Care Approach, Dr. Heineman will work with all of the holistic health care offerings and provide her specific expertise to approach health care problems including low back pain, neck pain, other somatic pain, headaches, traumatic injuries, pain of pregnancy, and treatment of infants with chronic infections, colic, plagiocephaly, torticollis, or birth trauma.

An osteopathic approach to medicine is ideal for patients looking for alternative solutions to chronic health issues. Dr. Heineman will commonly screen for nutritional deficiencies and offer expanded testing for thyroid, adrenal and other hormonal dysfunction. She will explore alternative approaches that are used in place of, or in addition to, prescription medications. Dr. Heineman fully discusses treatment plans regarding any abnormalities found in testing.

: 616-361-9221



UpToDate: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/diagnosis-of-and-screening-for-hypothyroidism?source=search_result&search=hypothyroidism&selectedTitle=1%7E150. October 25, 2012

Brownstein, David. Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, 2nd Ed. Medical Alternatives Press: 2008.

Barnes, Broda. Hypothyroidism, The Unsuspected Illness. Harper and Row: 1976.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Elderberry Syrup: Nature’s Cough Medicine

Temperatures are dropping fast around Grand Rapids this time of year. In the past, I would normally get anxious. Not because the holidays are approaching, but tis the season for colds and flu. I have a son who has asthma and even a small cold can begin to constrict his lungs. That leads to coughing and if left unchecked can send him to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack.

While a healthy diet goes a long way in building a strong immune system, it isn’t a bulletproof vest. I debated with myself for years if over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription drugs were the only solution to help our son through the colder months. I knew there were alternative answers out there but I didn’t know what they were.

Then I stumbled across Wellness Mama and she challenged me to think outside the box. Perhaps the medications we need are not at the pharmacy but in our backyards. Using plants and herbs as natural remedies was the answer I was looking for – enough with the steroid treatments and daily medications. I began a new journey making elderberry syrup for problems with asthma, colds, and flu.

Just this past month, my son’s entire preschool class came down with a terrible cold. When he woke up with a raspy cough I began giving him two teaspoons of elderberry syrup every two to four hours. In two days he bounced back! For the first time ever we avoided steroid treatment and a trip to the doctors.

elderberry syrup

Elderberries medicinal benefits are simply outstanding. The bioflavonoid in the berry juice destroys a viruses’ ability to infect a cell. People with the flu report less severe symptoms and speed up recovery when consuming elderberries while sick. The anthocyanins enhance the immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. What does that mean? These unique proteins send messages to the immune system to regulate an immune response by increasing antibodies to defend the body against the offending agent.

Local Honey

Local raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey strengths the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and alleviates allergy and asthma symptoms. When the throat is irritated from raspy, dry coughing and the bronchial tubes are inflamed – honey soothes.

Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe


  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup raw honey


1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries and water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Strain off the berries from the liquid then stir in the honey to create a thin syrup.

3. Bottle the elderberry syrup in glass mason jars with a lid. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Where to Find the Ingredients

If you live in the Grand Rapids Metro, check out one of Harvest Health’s locations or Elder and Sage for quality ingredients. Otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs is a premium herbal company that supplies all these ingredients on-line.

Everyone is more susceptible to coming down with an illness this time of year. Why not make a batch of elderberry syrup ahead of time to be prepared? Who knows, it might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Plantain and Vinegar Tincture

Plantain, a “weed” that grows in most of our yards, coupled with apple cider vinegar can make for a long-lasting skin remedy.

Plantain has many medicinal uses and you can often times find it in skin salves at the health food stores.

  • it creates a cooling and soothing effect on the skin
  • pulls out toxins from bee stings and bug bites (astringent)
  • often used for skin issues like eczema, dandruff, and sunburn
  • contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that kills germs, speeds wound healing, and stimulates the growth of new skin cells (source)

The easiest way to use plantain is to pick it from the yard, chew it up, and use the plant to place on bee stings and bug bites – it will help to pull out the toxins and lessen the pain and itch.

If you’re foraging, there are two types of plantain, english (the thin leaves like I have in my yard) and common plantain, one with a much broader leaf.

But what if you don’t have any in your yard? (like the guy from True Green would like to see our yard….void of plantain) Or what if you’re going to be camping or traveling and you don’t want to run around looking for a weed while your friend or loved one sits painfully waiting? And a tincture can also be used throughout the winter, when your plantain sits under many inches of snow and ice.

Making a tincture is one of the best ways to always have a herb on hand when you need it. And with just two ingredients, plantain and apple cider vinegar, it’s simple to make and both ingredients help heal the skin.

plantain tincturePlantain and Apple Cider Vinegar Tincture


  • Plantain, dried or fresh
  • apple cider vinegar, the one with the ‘mother’

Method of Preparation

1. If you are using fresh, wild plantain it’s best to pick before they send up the seed heads, but anytime will work. And you can also use the seed heads in the tincture. Use plantain from areas where you know that not pesticides have been used and wash it lightly….just in case a dog used it as it’s bathroom.

2. With fresh plantain, you’ll want to bruise the leaves a bit. So either roll them between your hands, use a mortar and pestle, or even just chop them up a few times with a knife. With dried plantain, you don’t have to worry about it.

3. Fill a jar approximately 2/3 full of fresh plantain or about 1/2 full of dried plantain and cover with apple cider vinegar. With skin preparations I don’t feel the need to weigh and measure the herbs…..but do what you’re comfortable with.

4. Cover and put the jar in a cool, dark place. Pull it out once a day or two and shake it.

5. Let sit for 2-3 weeks, strain out the plant matter, and keep the tincture in the cupboard or in a dark-colored bottle. (sunlight will damage the medicinal benefits.)

To use, you can apply to bites and/or stings with a cotton ball. Some people also use this as a facial astringent (diluted 1 part tincture, 10 parts water). (also be aware that it can make your skin sensitive to the sun)

Have you ever made or used a plantain tincture before?

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Lyme Disease Prevention and Awareness in Michigan

natural tick prevention and treatment

photo credit: 31031835@N08

A post by Dara Weaver

The recent warmer winter weather has created a perfect storm for the increase in Lyme disease in Michigan this year, and  Yahoo news recently confirmed my concern.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection that can begin with flu-like symptoms, and if left untreated, can cause long-term chronic health issues that can become disabling. (more information on Lyme disease)

Ticks and tick bites are becoming more of an issue, even in urban areas in Michigan.

This spring for the first time one of my kids got a tick bite right in our backyard….. in town. This was the first tick I have ever seen for myself in Michigan, and it motivated me to start looking into the prevention of Lyme disease, as well as its cure!

Here are some of the protocols for prevention that I have discovered.


  1. If you know that you or the kids are going to be playing in woods or overgrown grasses, wear long pants, socks, and shoes. Ticks hang out in brush and long grass, waiting for a host to come walking through, then climb or drop onto a person or animal in hopes of finding a meal.
  2. When you or the kids come in from spending time in nature, check for ticks underneath clothing on the skin- try to catch them before they bite. If a bite does occur, save the tick and tape it to a piece of paper, or seal it in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer. If symptoms of illness begin, it is much easier to test the tick for Lyme than it is to get a positive Lyme diagnosis for a person, since blood tests often have up to a 50% false negative rate.
  3. Cedar, Lavender, Oregano, and Thieves essential oils may be effective in repelling ticks. Mix several drops of essential oil in a spray bottle of water, shake, and apply as a natural repellant (you can add a couple of tablespoons of vodka to help disperse
    the oil into the water, if desired).
  4. For a preventative repellant, use a water bottle that has never been used for anything but water, and add 5 pellets of Ledum Palustre and 5 pellets of Hypericum Perforatum, homeopathic remedies, (30C potency or 200C potency, just be sure they are both the same potency) and shake to dissolve. Spray skin and clothing as a repellant.

Immediate Bite Treatments

Herbal options:

Direct application of an essential oil (Cedar, Lavender, Oregano, and Thieves) to a tick bite, even while the tick is attached, may cause the tick to disengage, and will flood the bite with antimicrobial properties immediately, hopefully killing any bacteria at the site of the bite within minutes of the tick’s removal. I carry a couple essential oils in my natural first aid kit so that I can treat bites immediately when they happen.

Homeopathic options:

Homeopathy is a modality that falls under the umbrella of Herbal Medicine, but works from a completely different premise. (After studying it carefully, my husband and I have concluded that it is, in fact, very much scientific, and something that we are comfortable with as Christians and students of Alternative Medicine.)

After a tick bite, take one dose of Ledum Palustre 200C, and the next day take one dose of Hypericum Perforatum 200C. (Ledum and Hypericum can be purchased in the 200C potency from Lucky Vitamin.)

You can use essential oils and homeopathy both, but not within a close time frame. I personally like to use essential oil first, and then follow up the next day with the homeopathic protocol.

And of course, always call your health care provider for help and information.


Dara Weaver is a Certified Nutritionist and amateur herbalist who lives with her family in West Michigan. They were diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2010 and have recently started a natural herbal product company at Elysium Naturals, offering natural first aid kits as well as tinctures and oils.

Are you taking precautions to avoid tick bites this year?

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

How to Make Elderberry Syrup

elderberry syrup
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Guest post by Mel.

Last week my friend Sarah called asking me if I could make her some homemade elderberry syrup. Both of her children were sick with bad coughs and she thought she was coming down with it as well. She mentioned that the jar I made her last year worked miracles for their coughs and she needed some more. I dropped off a batch to her that afternoon and yet again the syrup helped them tremendously.

Since starting to make elderberry syrup a couple of years ago for myself, and eventually for some friends and family, I have gotten some rave reviews.

It really does make a tremendous difference!

So what makes elderberry syrup so powerful? Elderberries are a great flu preventative and also an excellent treatment. They contain high amounts of Vitamins A and C as well as powerful antioxidants. It’s antiviral properties help stop the flu from entering your body and from spreading throughout. This simply, easy home remedy is a must have during cold and flu season!

In order to make elderberry syrup you only need 3 things:

  • elderberries,
  • filtered water, and
  • honey.

I purchase dried elderberries through Mountain Rose Herbsonline. If you need some in a pinch you could call Harvest Health Foods or another local health food store to see if they have any in stock.


Method of Preparation:

1. In a saucepan combine 3 cups filtered water and ½ cup dried elderberries.

2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat stirring frequently.

3. Let simmer for half an hour and then remove from heat.

4. Mash berries and then strain through a mesh strainer.

5. Add a ½ to a whole cup of honey, depending on how sweet you want it.

6. Store in glass mason jars in the fridge for up to 3 months.

You can take some once daily as a flu preventative or take a few times a day when sick. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.



You can use elderberry syrup on your pancakes or ice cream – a great way to get some good health benefits while eating foods you love! Baking with the dried elderberries is another easy way to add them to your diet.

Adding lemon juice, rose hips, cinnamon, and/or other herbs can also add to the medicinal benefits of the elderberry syrup.

Mel has a Bachelors Degree in Business Management from Cornerstone University and is just about finished with a Family Herbalist Certification from Vintage Remedies. She enjoys studying nutrition and herbs in her spare time. As a stay-at-home mother of two she spends her days reading, homeschooling, cleaning, and cooking nutritious meals. Eventually her and her husband hope to buy a property to homestead.

7 Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter

We’re midway through the “cold season” and, at our house, fairing pretty well. We’ve had our share of bugs, of course, but for the most part have been able to keep other family members healthy while just one is sick. {knock on wood} Taking just a bit of precaution and dietary changes can help you to stay well this winter.

7 ways to stay healthy this winter

photo credit: sunshinecity

1) Wash your hands

I remember not being allowed to eat until we washed our hands at my grandmother’s house. And that’s one habit I need to not only get my kids doing, but myself as well. Germs on the hand go so easily in the mouth – and even with a kickin’ immune system, a virus can take over. So wash your hands when you come home from the store, before cooking or eating, and always after using the restroom.

2) Don’t eat sugar

*sigh* Someone has to say it though right? Sugar depresses your immune system, knocking it off its feet for hours after you eat it. This means that while we’re out with friends and someone else has a bug, our immune system can’t effectively fight it off.

It seems that from Halloween to Easter, we’re constantly tempted with sugary treats. During the same season the cold, flu, and stomach viruses are passed around. So do your immune system a favor and stay away from excess sugar, eating no more than a total of 2 tablespoons a day and only 2 teaspoons at a time, preferably unrefined sugar.

3) Eat your probiotics

These friendly bacterial immune boosters can dramatically affect your health. To often we don’t eat enough foods that have “good” bacteria in them! When we consume probiotic foods (or supplements) they help balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria in our digestive system. And did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your digestive system? So make sure to get yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods in each day.

4) Make use of the neti pot

A small little pot, much like a tea-pot, is used to irrigate your sinuses with warm salt water. Since your nasal passages are one of the ways viruses get into the body, the salt water can clear them out. Just make sure that before you use any old water in the neti-pot, that you boil it first and then let it cool. This way you’ll kill any bacteria in the water as well as get rid of the chlorine should you have city water.

{adults and older children only}

5) Gargle with salt water

Along the same lines as the neti pot, gargling with salt water can effectively deal with viruses in the throat and nip them in the bud.

{adults and older children only}

6) Take elderberry syrup

Simple to make at home, elderberry syrup is a great immune booster. Studies have shown that it helps to kill both the cold and influenza viruses. It tastes great as well and just a little bit each day (or more if you’re coming down with something) can keep you feeling great all winter.

7) Eat raw garlic

I have a hard time getting my littles to eat raw garlic, but this little root herb is incredibly powerful! It’s a major immune booster, an anti-viral, anti-fungal and an anti-bacterial. To boost the effectiveness, mince the garlic and let sit for 15-20 minutes before consuming. And while raw garlic is very strong and almost spicy, I find that it’s easy to consume when mixed with other foods. I often make a garlic-herb butter to spread on toast or rice. A few times now I’ve nipped a cold in the bud just by consuming 3-4 cloves per day for a couple of days in a row.

So there you have it – just a few simple tips to keep you healthy!


How do you keep yourself, and your family, healthy over the winter months?

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

The Dance of Breastfeeding


photo credit: goetter


When I had my first child, a girl, I was determined to give her the best start possible. When she ended up in the NICU for five days, pumped full of antibiotics, I was even more resolute in my desire to breastfeed. Being able to give of myself to her in that way helped us through a hard and scary time.

When we got home from the hospital it became a bit harder. Although my milk had come in while we were still at the hospital, and even though I had a lot of help from the lactation consultants on staff, I still encounters a lot of difficulties in my breastfeeding experience. I had taken a childbirth education class with my doula, one which covered the ins and outs of breastfeeding, I was not prepared for what I was encountering. Clogged ducts, yeast infections perpetuated by the baby having thrush, mastitis in both breasts, cracked and bleeding nipples… all of these within the first few weeks of our breastfeeding experience. I’m not going to lie, it was horrendous. I cried a lot. Every feeding brought an emotional battle. I wanted to give my baby the best that I could, but each feeding was excrutiatingly painful, and I could hardly bring myself to put her to the breast. I pumped for awhile, hoping to allow my breasts to heal so that we could move on, but it only helped a little bit. There were many calls to my doula, me crying “I just can’t do this anymore”. She was encouraging and supportive, giving me advice and being my cheerleader. She is the reason I stuck it out. At the four week mark things took a turn for the better. I’m not sure what happened, maybe her little mouth was finally just big enough to latch on and stay on, I don’t know. All I know is that suddenly we turned a corner. The pain subsided and I was able to heal and life went on. I was so glad I had stuck with it.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all roses from that point on. Some women can breastfeed for months and months and never encounter a problem.

I am not those women.

I continued to struggle time and again with my first child. I had a lot of clogged ducts, and more yeast infections. The same held true with my second and third child. I had mastitis with each one and yeast infections with both, although experience had given me more tools to use, and those bumps in the road became fewer and farther between. I was able to breastfeed my first and second children for 14 months each and my third for one year.

I set out to write this post about trouble shooting tips for breastfeeding moms, but instead thought maybe I would just share a bit of my story and offer some encouragement to you. Breastfeeding is completely natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes it can be hard. You may be surprised by this, or maybe you have been there and done that, you can relate. Whereever you are in your breastfeeding journey, know that you are able. Whatever you can do, you are doing your best for your baby. The times that are spent nursing are precious and beautiful. Breastfeeding is like a dance. Both mother and baby are learning the steps and finding the rhythm. Through it all they are getting to know one another and creating bonds that cannot be broken. This is a beautiful thing.

Jenny is a stay at home mom with three children and blogs at The Southern Institute for Domestic Arts and Crafts – a blog of sharing, learning, and creativity. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.





All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Learning Herbs Workshop {west MI}

I know this is really last minute, but thought you local mommas may want to know that our local Weston A Price chapter, Nourishing Ways, is having a “Learning Herbs” workshop tomorrow from 1-3pm.

Does your yard have what you need in a medical emergency?  Rediscover how our ancestors used their environment to heal and unlock these secrets for your family. Laurie Tanis will take you on a guided tour of her yard and woods to point out beneficial species and how to use them. You will learn how to make salad, tea, tincture and salve.

I’m excited to go and expand my knowledge on herbs and how to find them in my own backyard! To find out more, and to sign up – visit the Nourishing Ways Meetup page.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Post Partum Depression

“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.” Billy Wilder

Looking back, I could see some serious warning signs for postpartum depression before I took my first pregnancy test, but I chose to naively assume that I was immune. Unfortunately, my ignorance nearly cost me my life.

I was no stranger to depression when my husband and I began “trying” to get pregnant four years into our marriage. In fact, by the time I got the (positive) results from my prenatal blood work, I had been on antidepressants for at least 10 years. However, it had been years since my last depressive episode and, except for some fatigue and frustration during the weeks of intense morning sickness, I was emotionally stable and very excited about the pregnancy.

By most accounts (and according to all the major websites focusing on postpartum depression including Mayo Clinic, The Center for Postpartum Adjustment, WebMD and even Wikipedia) I was not at serious risk for postpartum depression, despite my medical history because:

  • I was in a loving, supportive relationship with my husband and extended family.
  • We had planned for this pregnancy financially and emotionally (as much as possible).
  • I had close friends and family members with whom to share my excitement (and discuss my fears).
  • I had a (surprisingly) positive body-image despite the history of an eating disorder (gaining weight was not an issue while concentrating on my health and the growth of my baby).
  • I was planning to breastfeed (as bottle feeding can be a risk factor).
  • There was no history of PPD in my family (to the best of our knowledge).


Yet, less than 24 hours after the delivery, strangely numb from the epidural (I had found a high risk specialist who would allow me to have a vaginal delivery, provided I agree to a second-stage assist), I wanted to hurt myself. I told my obstetrician immediately. However, I faced numerous obstacles to getting proper help despite having the highest score possible on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the most well recognized assessment for postpartum depressive symptoms.

For over a year, I consulted various psychologists and psychiatrists and took cocktails of powerful psychotropic medications without success. Two hospitalizations (for a total of four weeks) and experimental therapies (that wiped out my short term memory) still did nothing to improve my anxiety which developed into deep despair and eventually became a numbing trance. Eventually, I got tired of the trial and error with my body chemistry, and I made a personal decision to fight back (with the support of my husband and family).


Although highly simplified, these were the critical steps to healing:

  • I initiated a ton of research on nutrition and hormones (and added significantly more Omega-3 rich fish, coconut oil, whole milk, avocados, nuts and seeds to my diet as a result),
  • I confronted my unrealistic expectations of motherhood (initially, I did not consciously realize how much I expected myself to be perfect),
  • I accepted help (although my family stood by me through everything, I had to mentally accept that my son was better off in the care of others while I healed),
  • and learned to forgive myself for a situation that was out of my control (I, like many mothers suffering from PPD, blamed myself for being “weak”).


When my second child arrived five years later, I was significantly more prepared. Following the guidelines from Baby Center and AskMoxie, I:

  • began meditating (and napping) during my pregnancy,
  • warned my extended family, doctors and friends of the possible need for additional assistance following the birth (and educated those closest to me about the warning signs),
  • ate nutrient dense foods during and after the pregnancy (specifically those high in healthy fats and calcium) and
  • exercised up to the day of delivery (careful not to overexert myself, but also mindful of the emotional and physical benefits of regular movement).

After the (completely natural this time) birth of my second child I:

  • immediately began gentle exercise (walking, light weights and basic abdominal/core conditioning)
  • went outside in the sun for at least ten minutes every day (thankfully, mother nature cooperated with this one),
  • drank tons of water and ate healthfully,
  • took some time off work (with my first child, I was answering work-related questions in recovery) and napped during the day,
  • nursed exclusively and on demand,
  • spent every possible moment holding my baby (and her big brother, but he pushed me away) and, most importantly,
  • cut myself some slack.


Being proactive really paid off. I experienced only very mild irritability, occasional anxiety and some crying (essentially the most common “baby blues”) in the first few weeks (and again when the sleep deprivation kicked in). Being fully present during the days and weeks following my daughter’s birth was truly a blessing, but I mourned the bonding time I missed with my son. I regret not being there for him in a way I have for my daughter and I worry (often) about what long-term consequences he will have as a result. But, I am grateful for the opportunity to fully appreciate my children now that I am healthy.

If it takes a village to raise a child, we need (as women, as sisters, as friends) to create a community of support for new moms during the critical postpartum days (weeks, months…).

What are you doing/have you done to prepare for the postpartum period?

How (specifically) have you supported another mom after her child’s birth?


For our local West MI moms, please check into getting help from MomsBloom and look into our events page for local PPD support groups.

natural living momsJana Christian, mother of two, recently transitioned to full-time stay-at-home mom. Her extensive knowledge about and passion for health and nutrition have helped her resolve her own personal health issues (including a life-threatening eating disorder and severe postpartum depression) and adjust her family’s diet to accommodate multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities. Jana takes her job very seriously and can unusually either be found at the library researching new theories or in the kitchen baking bread. You can read her blog at Write on Jana.



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