health

All posts tagged health

Are those onions in your pantyhose?

Published May 21, 2014 by Jennie

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So today is day 2 of my IUI.  Besides minor cramps and bloating, I feel great.  I am so glad I took Letrozole as opposed to Clomid for this cycle.  I think Clomid is a great drug that works for many people but not me.  It also makes me feel crappy even for weeks after I take it.   Hopefully, insurance companies will soon accept Letrozole  for use as a fertility drug and not just a drug to fight breast cancer (it can be difficult to get some insurance companies to approve it sometimes).

Today I got up early to do yoga and took it easy for the rest of the day.  I am trying hard to relax 🙂 I also spent some time researching healthy options that I can include in my life.  I originally created this blog document my journey to health.  I also consider my blog an infertility blog.  My infertility is still unexplained so for me, health and fertility are the same thing.  There is nothing wrong that I need to address or some diagnosed infertility cause that I need to overcome.  The only thing I can do is improve my mental and physical health

One of my primary health goals is to cut out processed food.  I still have a ways to go but I have made a ton of progress.  One thing I struggle with is finding the best way to store and preserve my food since unprocessed food tends to go bad quickly.  I recently found a great food hack that suggested storing onions in pantyhose.  My husband was a little confused when he saw this and asked me why on earth I would store onions in pantyhose.  While it is strange, it really works and does extend shelf life!

Today I decided to create a pintrest account so I can share and organize the recipes, tips, and information I have found that have helped me make healthy changes.  I also added a pintrest follow button on my blog (I feel so technologically savvy!) and you can also find it here.  Feel free to browse, follow, give suggestions, or share information you have found useful.

I wish all my fellow bloggers currently in the 2WW (as well as those with scheduled upcoming treatments) the best of luck!  Baby dust to all – Jennie

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Sabotage!

Published April 30, 2014 by Jennie

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For those of you not familiar with my story, my husband and I decided in December to resume fertility treatments in May.  In January, I decided I would do everything possible to improve my physical, mental, emotional health.  I have worked hard and have made some significant changes.  Things were going great until a few weeks ago.  I have kept many of my good habits (no soda, artificial sweetener, limited added sweeteners, etc). Even so, I have let a lot of things slide.  I’ve been cooking less and relying more on quick meals which are more likely to be processed.  I have also not been to the gym as much and when I go, I have been focusing mainly on cardio (I know that it does not do me much good unless I balance it with strength and flexibility training).

I should also say that this time correlates with the end of my last semester of doctoral classes.  I have telling myself I have just been to busy to be healthy.  Logically, I know my reasoning is full of crap.  Being healthy is a lifestyle, not just something you do when you have time.  Life will always be busy.  I can not just be healthy when its convenient.  I am really disappointed with myself.  I also have this crazy thought that maybe I am sabotaging myself.  It would be extremely difficult to accept that I did everything to prepare myself for fertility treatments and I still failed.  I feel like I may be setting myself up to fail because I can not handle being let down again.  Why is it so hard for me to stay positive?  I get so tired of trying to be perfect.  I just want to hide in my closet and eat ice cream. – Jennie

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Our Infertility Game Plan!

Published March 19, 2014 by Jennie

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So for those of you not familiar with my blog, my husband I decided to look into IVF in December of last year.  He started a new job that has pretty incredible infertility coverage.  We figured since we have been trying and failing for four years with zero explanations, this may be something we want to do.  His job and my school schedule make it difficult to do anything until May so I decided back in December to do everything I can to improve my mental and physical well-being as a way to prepare for IVF.

Yesterday I got together with one of my friends I had not seen in several months.  He told me he could tell I am different now.  I look different, I act different, and I feel different.  I am not perfect (by far) but I never would have thought I could change so much in such a relatively short period of time.  While it has been hard at times, I can’t even begin to explain how glad I am that I have made these changes (if you are interested in learning more about what I have done you can refer to my prior post).

While I have been preparing for fertility treatments I have not been focused on trying to get pregnant which has been really great.  After four years, I needed a break.  I am not obsessing over all the normal TTC stuff which has helped focus on some other things I had been neglecting.  It is also nice to not fall apart and feel like a failure every month.  I am now able to remember that there are a few things I am good at.  I am a doctoral student and during the last few months, I have made some pretty good strides in my research.

This may sound strange but I am a little nervous about getting back into TTC mode in a few months.  For me, it means getting back to endless testing/poking/prodding which in the past has always led to disappointment.  Even so, I feel that I have done everything I can to prepare myself for this process.  I think if I tried IVF a year ago and it did not work, I would not have been able to handle it well.  I do not know how I would handle it now but I think I have reached a point where I would be okay (at least eventually).  For some reason, it is difficult to think about how I might react if it worked.  Even so, I know that is a possibility and I can allow myself to get a little excited thinking about it possibly working

The truth is that this whole process does scare me a little.  In the past, I do not think I could admit that to myself.  I am as ready as I will ever be.  My husband and I recently finalized our infertility game plan for May.  We are going to complete one more IUI first and then IVF for sure if it does not work.  We did two IUIs last year but did not have any infertility coverage and we did not include any monitoring.  I am going to give it my best shot.  If anyone has any suggestions to prepare for IUI or IVF, please do share.  Also, on a side note, one of my friends is having her bachelorette party at the beach in July.  If all of this does not work, I can at least tell myself I can have more fun at the party.  If not, I will have other great things to look forward  🙂 – Jennie

Lost in the yogurt aisle

Published February 28, 2014 by Jennie

Today I continue my quest to change my eating habits.  I initially did this to prepare for IVF, but I am starting to view this process as a lifelong change.  Even so, one reason I decided to look at yogurt is because it is recommended by the Harvard Fertility Diet.  There are so many benefits of eating yogurt.  Yogurt is high in calcium, contains good bacteria that helps manage digestion and control yeast in the body, and can be high in protein.  It can be difficult to find the best yogurt among the countless options at the grocery store.

toomanyyogurts

Here is what I am looking for in my yogurt

* No artificial sweetener
* Low in sugar. Plain yogurt does have the lowest sugar and I will use that to make smoothies. However, it is hard for me to eat it without adding a bunch of stuff to it. Later I may try to adapt to plain yogurt by initially adding a lot to it and tapering off. Right now, I will focus on vanilla or strawberry flavored yogurt.
* High in protein
* Minimally processed
* Calories are not my primary concern but I will keep them in check.
* Note I get my images and nutrition information from fooducate.com

To start things off, this is what I used to get.

gv

This yogurt has 80 calories, 12 grams of sugar, 5 grams of sugar, contains aspartame, and is highly processed.
Check out the ingredients: cultured grade a nonfat milk, water, cherries, fructose, modified food starch, contains less than 1% of modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, natural and artificial flavors, aspartame, malic acid, potassium sorbate, acesulfame potassium, sodium citrate, sucralose, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d3, red 40, caramel color, blue 1, active cultures.
Yikes! It is time to look for other options.

While I have dismissed Greek yogurt as a fad in the past, I decided to make the switch after reading about the multitude of benefits including higher levels of protein. After trying it, I realized I also prefer its creamier constancy to traditional yogurt. Next, I looked at a few popular options.

yoplait
Calories: 100, Sugar: 7, Protein: 13.
Ingredients: cultured pasteurized grade a nonfat milk, water, sugar, contains 2% or less of: corn starch, natural flavor, lemon juice concentrate, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, vitamin a acetate, vitamin d3.
This brand is highly processed and contains artificial sweeteners.

cho
Calories: 120, Protein: 16, Sugar: 13
Ingredients: cultured pasteurized nonfat milk, evaporated cane juice, natural vanilla flavor, locust bean gum, pectin, live and active cultures.
This could possibly work.

fob-non-fat-strawberry-53oz
Calories:120, Sugar: 15, Protein: 12
Ingredients: Nonfat Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk), Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei, Strawberries, Evaporated Cane Juice, Pectin, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Fruit and Vegetable Juice Concentrate (For Color).

dab Calories: 120, Sugar: 18, Protein:12
Ingredients: Cultured Grade A Non Fat Milk, Water, Sugar, Fructose, Modified Corn Starch, Contains Less than 1% of Natural Vanilla Flavor, Malic Acid, Potassium Sorbate (to Maintain Freshness), Sodium Citrate, Vitamin D3.
This brand is highly processed.  I’m gonna pass.

fruit Calories: 140, Sugar: 18, Protein: 13
Ingredients: STRAINED YOGURT [ Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei)], Cane Sugar, Water, Corn Starch, Pectin,Natural Vanilla Flavor, Ground Vanilla Beans, Lemon Juice Concentrate.
Next up is their strawberry flavor.
ooCalories: 120, Sugar: 16, Protein: 13
Ingredients: STRAINED YOGURT: Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei). STRAWBERRY FRUIT PREPARATION (20%): Strawberries, Cane Sugar, Water, Corn Starch, Contains 2% or less of: Strawberry Juice Concentrate, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Xanthan Gum.

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Calories: 150, Sugar: 21, Protein: 9
Ingredients: lowfat yogurt (cultured pasteurized grade a nonfat milk, sugar, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate, kosher gelatin, modified food starch), strawberries preparation (strawberries, sugar, water, glucose-fructose syrup, pectin, citric acid, locust bean gum, natural and artificial flavor, guar gum, sodium citrate, carmine).
Moving on
download (1)Calories: 110, Sugar: 12, Protein: 15
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized organic nonfat milk, organic sugar, organic vanilla extract. Live active cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei
This looks good.  Let’s look at the strawberry flavored version.
strawberry-0-fat-greek-yogurt-5p3oz_0Calories: 120, Sugar: 17, Protein: 12
Ingredients: Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Organic Nonfat Milk), Strawberry Fruit Preparation (Organic Strawberries, Organic Sugar, Organic Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Fruit and Vegetable Juice Concentrates [For Color], Organic Guar Gum). Live Active Cultures: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. casei

I decided to get Stonyfield Organic Greek Vanilla yogurt. The sugar is low, it is minimally processed, it has a decent amount of protein, and lots of good bacteria. It is a little expensive but thankfully, you can create an account on their website and get some good coupons. I also found that it is cheaper at Harris Teeter vs. Whole Foods and Harris Teeter sometimes puts it on sale.

All of this was just my preliminary research. I have said before that I am by no means an expert on nutrition and I do value input. Please feel free to share thoughts on these or any other brands of Greek yogurt. It is difficult to choose among all the options!

To IVF or not IVF

Published February 15, 2014 by Jennie

This post is a plea for advice.  I completely understand that all women are different when it comes to infertility. However, I am kind of at a crossroads right now.  I love writing this blog because it allows me to connect with other people are are going through similar experiences.  I have been overwhelmed with the encouragement and support I have received.  No one understands infertility like someone who has gone through it (although I am lucky to have have additional support from my non-infertile friends).  So here it goes.

For those of you who may be new to my story, I have undergone an incredible amount of medical testing and procedures to obtain the coveted label of unexplained infertility.  You can read more about this journey here.  As a result, I have began to take a more holistic approach with a new focus on health.  I understand I can not do everything (no one can!), but here is what I have done so far.

* Gave up soda
* Eliminated caffeine
* Eliminated artificial sweeteners
* Read food labels to cut down on processed food
* Eliminated any food that have been modified to be reduced fat, low sugar, etc.
* Eliminated fast food
* Avoid foods that could possibly have listeria
* Avoid soy when possible
* Switched from cow’s milk to almond milk
* Switched to organic meat. This means they have not been feed antibiotics or growth     hormones. You can read more about it here.
* Sometimes switching to organic when I think it is worth it. I do not buy a food just because it is organic. I research it and then make a decision. For example, when I buy berries, I make sure they are organic but organic junk food is still junk food.
* Drink a lot of water. I recently learned about the multitude of benefits of lemon water. You can read more about that here and here.
* Make foods at home as opposed to buying them at the store when possible
(for example, I make pizza from scratch now which actually tastes a lot better)
* Exercise 4x a week (I am lucky to have an awesome workout buddy)
* Maintain a healthy weight. I have never been overweight but I have been underweight.
* Trying to get into yoga (I have a friend who is a yoga instructor and she
is willing to work with me on this one)
* Started acupuncture
* Started a blog (huge benefits here!)
* Actively trying to maintain an positive attitude.

We are currently scheduled to start IVF in May.  I am now starting to have second thoughts.  I do not know if all this stuff I am doing can actually make a difference.  Even so, it may be worth trying on our own for a while with these changes to see what happens.  Also, it may be worth trying another IUI. We previously did two and had great numbers both times (our doctors really thought it would work). Additionally, I think I am a little scared of IVF (is that strange to say?). I have seen other people go through it and it is a lot to take on. I know it can be worth it but I want to make sure I am prepared and I am not sure if I am quite there yet (if that makes any sense). I am 31 now which I know does not make me a spring chicken but I do feel we have a little bit of time to explore options. I sincerely appreciate any feedback that people would like to give. I do not judge and I am open to considering different options. As always, thank you so much for your support! xoxoxo

A Cheesy Post

Published February 9, 2014 by Jennie

cheese

So cheese is one of my favorite foods.  Nothing is more comforting then curling up with a grilled cheese (and maybe some tomato soup) especially when it is rainy or cold outside  Cheese is not something I will ever give up so I wanted to learn how it may impact my fertility and overall health.  Here is what I found.

Fertility

As I researched cheese, I kept seeing warnings about listeria.  I had heard about this in the past but was not really sure what it is.  According to WebMD, consuming listeria can increase the chance of miscarriage.  According to foodsafety.gov, the following foods can become contaminated:

  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw sprouts

It looks like avoiding soft cheese may be a good idea (especially if I ever do become pregnant).  While I have never taken a pregnancy test, I think there may have been times I was pregnant and lost it very early.  My cycle is usually like a clock but a few times I was a week late and felt several pregnancy symptoms.  Even though I love cheese, I rarely eat soft versions so for me this will not be to difficult to avoid.  There are other foods on this list that I plan to deal with later.

While information sources do not always agree, many claim that for women, cheese is ok for fertility.  Some sources recommend it due to its calcium (of course in moderation!).  Other sources state that it can aggravate conditions such as PCOS and Endometrosis.  I have unexplained infertility and testing indicates these conditions are not an issue for me.

I did learn that cheese may impact male fertility.  Men who eat 3+ serving of full fat dairy may have poorer quality sperm (You can read more about this here and here.  Lucky for me, my DH is not big on dairy.  He has also had several tests which indicate his swimmers are super healthy.  I know that these tests do not tell you everything but this is still good news.

Nutrition

As I have said before, one of my health goals is to cut out processed food by paying attention to food labels and ingredients.  I took a look at a few of the cheeses I sometimes buy.

Shredded Cheese 

kraft

Shredded Cheese is so convenient!  Unfortunately, I found that it may not be the healthiest option.  According to Fooducate, here are the ingredients

Vermont White Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Mild Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Potato Starch, Cellulose Powder, and Calcium Sulfate Added to Prevent Caking, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).

Um, this looks a little scary.  Lets check out a few of the ingredients

Annatto: This is a seed or extract primarily used to give cheese its yellow/orange color (apparently, cheese is not naturally bring yellow/orange).  The FDA states that certification of this food additive is not necessary to protect public health.  Some sources suggest that there may be issues with annatto but overall, it does not look that bad.  Even so, I do like to avoid food dye and additives when I can.

Cellulose Powder: health.com states that cellulose is derived mainly from wood pulp and cotton, is used in paper ­manufacturing—and sometimes added to food.  Humans can’t digest it(this does not mean it harms us).  The FDA says it is safe but I am thinking this may not be the best thing to consume if my goal is to focus on avoiding processed foods.

Natamycin: This is also used to treat fungal eye infections.  It has a C rating for pregnancy which simply means that one can not rule out a risk (it does not mean that it is dangerous for sure).  The European Food Safety Authority  also says it is safe to consume and I could not find any FDA warnings.  One concern I did find is that it can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Sliced Cheese

I often use sliced cheese to make sandwiches.  This helps me with portion and calorie control.  While those are not my primary health concerns, it is good to keep them in check.  Using a slice prevents helps me control my serving.  One cheese I like is Trader Joe’s sliced provolone.  It has a 100 calories per slice.

provolone

According to Fooducate, here is the list of the ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, animal rennet, salt.

Animal Rennet: Rennet is a complex of enzymes found in the stomach of baby mammals that allows them to process mother’s milk (consumethisfirst.com).

According to , here are some things to know

What you need to know:

1. Cheese has been manufactured using rennet for thousands of years, mostly in Europe.

2. Indeed, rennet is extracted from the lining of the inside of the stomach of mammals, and most commonly from the fourth stomach of young calves.

3. Rennet contains enzymes that cause milk to become cheese, by separating it into the solid curds and the liquid whey.

4. Different animal rennet are used as well to create other types of cheese.

5. Most cheese in the US is NOT manufactured using rennet, mostly due to the availability of cheaper alternatives.

6. Vegetable rennet is made from certain vegetables that have coagulation properties as well. Thistle is the most common form.

7. Microbial rennet is derived from molds. Yum. A side effect is a slightly bitter tasting cheese.

8. Genetically engineered rennet is derived from plants that have been injected with cow genes.

What to do at the supermarket:

9. Companies are not legally required to disclose the source of the rennet, so unless the product specifically states a non-animal source for rennet, you won’t know.

10. Another way to verify that the rennet is not from an animal source is to look for a kosher symbol. According to Jewish dietary laws, milk and meat ingredients cannot be mixed or eaten at the same time.

Overall, animal rennet does not look awful and may be hard to identify.  It does though have a pretty big ick factor.  If I had a choice, I would choose cheeses that did not contain it.

Block Cheese

Here are a few I sometimes buy

kraft

Ingredients: Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color)), Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).

gc

Ingredients: cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, annatto.

Cheese from Walmart actually looks better.  Even so, for many reasons, I am trying to shop less at Walmart.  Next I looked into other options.

c

Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes. Contains No Animal Rennet.

HOORAY!  It has no dyes (annatto) and specifically states that it has no animal rennett!  For some reason though, I had a hard time accepting that it is not yellow/orange.  I don’t know why this was an issue but it was.  After trying it, my concern subsided.  It is delicious!  It is also not crazy expensive.  An 8 oz block at Harris Teeter (a common grocery store in my area) costs $3.49, Kraft costs $3.89, and Harris Teeter store brand costs $3.19.  Of course this is not the only cheese I will ever eat.  Even so, I now have a lot of information I can use when buying one of my favorite foods.

I am now ending with a cheesy quote 🙂 (Get it?  I know I’m awful)

sweet

Milking it!

Published January 29, 2014 by Jennie

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I never though that choosing milk could give me a mild panic attack but it totally did.  There are so many options it can make one’s head spin.  To start with I will share my original milk status.  For as long as I can remember, I have purchased and used skim milk.  I rarely drink it by itself but I do cook with it and have been known to make a mean hot chocolate every once and a while that calls for milk.  I decided to investigate milk options to enhance fertility and improve my overall health.  My primary nutritional goal is to find foods that are minimally processed which usually means I can pronounce all the ingredients.  Here are the contestants.

Skim Milk (Of course nutrition facts can vary from brand to brand).

skim

I did not realize how much protein was in skim milk and it is also low in calories.  Calories are not my primary focus but I do want to make sure I do not get too many or too few throughout the day.  Unfortunately, several sources say that skim milk is not good for fertility.  Apparently, it can actually be worse for you fertility wise than higher fat milk (who knew?),

2% (I know I am skipping a few)

2percent

 

This one has the same amount of protein about and more calories.  I also really do not like the taste of 2% (it tastes like cream to me and I can not even consider switching to whole milk).  Additional studies also this low fat milk can lead to fertility problems.  Specifically, it can interfere with ovulation.  According to my many many medical tests, I have no issues with ovulation but I am starting to think that these tests do not always give you a complete picture and if there is a risk, it is probably best to stay away from this.

Coconut Milk (again there are many varieties!)

coconutmilk

 

I am going to stay away from milk with flavors but I though I would keep the nutrition information in there for fun.  Calories look good but I am not sure where all the protein went :(.  I also know there are about a bazillion health benefits of coconut and coconut oil.  It can also help enhance fertility (although I am not sure if that applies to coconut milk but I would think it would).  This could definitely be an option.

Soy Milk (Going to skip this one because I am avoiding soy since many studies suggest it can mess with your hormones and fertility).

Hemp Milk (Unsweetened of course!)

hemp

Nutrition appears similar to coconut milk and I did not find anything negative about it fertility wise.  I saw a lot of sites that could show you how to actually make it at home but I do not think I will try that.

Almond Milk (Nutrition is from almond breeze milk)

almondstuff

 

Looks about the same.

There are also other kinds I did not look at (like goat and raw milk).  Overall, it looks like traditional milk has the most protein but may negatively impact fertility.  I did not see much of a difference between the alternatives.  I decided to pick up some unsweetened almond milk at Trader Joe’s.  I actually really like it!  I also like that it lasts much longer than traditional milk.  Since my husband and I do not drink much, we often end up throwing a lot away even when we buy half gallons.  I may try coconut milk next or take advice from someone who can give me a little direction and good information.  I very much appreciate suggestions and feedback!  Who knew that something as simple as milk could be so complex.