Category: Health

A Brief Guide to Using Essential Oils

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The use of essential oils has grown widely in popularity in recent years, but one thing is for sure, they’re nothing new. They have existed since the moment the earth was created and have been used therapeutically for centuries.

When slicing a lemon, the smell that is left behind on your hands comes from the oil of the peel, and the beautiful, heady scent of a rose is from the oil of its leaves.

If you’ve ever been handed a bottle of potent smelling oil and wondered what to do with it, I’m going to break down the what’s and the how’s of essential oils here.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic flowers, plants, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits or other parts of the plant by various extraction methods.

They are called “essential” because they are necessary for the life of the plant and contain the essence of the plant. They are live, they contain life force, intelligence and energy that gives them healing power when used by the body.

Essential oils can be traced back to biblical times, with over 600 references to essential oils and/or aromatic plants in the Bible. The most popular one we probably all know are the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus at his birth.

The use of aromatherapy came into existence after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils and their therapeutic use to treat diseases.

How do Essential Oils Work?

Essential Oils are composed of tiny molecules that can penetrate into every cell, administering healing therapy at the most fundamental levels of our bodies which, when used correctly, come with no side effects. Once the oils are in the system, they remodulate themselves and work in a positive manner at the area of malfunction or distress. One of the wonderful things about essential oils is their ability to target a problem in a cell but leave the surrounding area unaffected, unlike some medical treatments.

Although essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, there is little published research on their effectiveness. But that is about to change as countries all over the world are conducting clinical studies on their power and uses. Research studies so far show positive effects on a variety of health concerns including infections, anxiety, pain, depression, cancerous tumours and hormonal imbalances, to name just a few.

Why Choose Essential Oils?

Essential oils are safe, which unfortunately we can’t quite say about medicines manufactured by man. Man-made pharmaceuticals lack the life, energy and intelligence found in essential oils and often come with many undesirable side effects, some of which are deadly.

The reason only licensed doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs is because they are inherently dangerous; a person can die from an overdose or from failure to follow given instructions. They also frequently work in disharmony in the body when more than one type of drug is taken at once, producing a downward spiral of needing more drugs to counteract negative side effects, hurting the body further and causing a dependence on the health system.

Essential oils however, when used properly (by this I mean not pouring a whole bottle of undiluted oil on your skin or down your throat) have no serious side effects and they can be used by anyone without needing the supervision or prescription of a doctor. When certain oils are used together, they work in harmony. They also have the ability to truly heal, naturally and harmlessly, bringing the body back into balance whilst withdrawing a persons’ dependence on the medical system.

How Do We Use Essential Oils?

There are a few ways to use essential oils, the main ones are through topical application, massage, baths, inhalation and controversially, ingestion. I say controversially because there are many companies selling essential oils who promote their internal use and the information surrounding this seems conflicted. Personally I do NOT ingest essential oils and I would never recommend anyone to. Please see here as to why.

When diluted appropriately, essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. I would think most household bathroom cabinets contain a small pot of Vicks Vaporub, and that’s all Vicks is; an ointment containing essential oils used for inhalation and topical absorption to relieve the symptoms of congestion.

I use essential oils topically for a variety of purposes; I use a diluted blend which includes frankincense, spruce, blue chamomile & blue tansy oil as perfume, which has a grounding effect and helps support my thyroid. I rub diluted oils directly on my neck in the area of my thyroid, as part of my healing from Hashimotos protocol.

At night I rub lavender on my son’s feet after his bath to help him sleep, and in the morning I rub an immune supporting blend on his feet for nursery.

Applying essential oils to the feet is one of the best ways to use them topically; the feet have much larger pores than the rest of the body so they can be absorbed better, but no sebaceous glands so the oil won’t have to compete with our own body’s natural production of sebum, which can act as a barrier. Combining essential oils with reflexology gives even further benefit, targeting specific areas of the body that need support through particular pressure points on the feet.

Inhalation is one of the ways I personally use essential oils the most; I have multiple diffusers in my house which serve a multitude of purposes. One of the most fascinating things about essential oils is they contain antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I found this particularly helpful when my son was first born last November, the time of year when colds are rife. I found diffusing essential oils helped to protect both him and me from airborne germs unintentionally brought in by our visitors.

At night I religiously diffuse Frankincense and Lavender; both very calming and soothing, helping us all sleep. Both Frankincense and Lavender have respiratory supporting properties, helping to clear mucus and reducing the spasmodic effects of coughing. If someone at my house has a cough, the first thing I do is turn on the diffuser!

Adding a few drops of essential oils to a bath, and Aromatherapy Massage are both wonderful ways to incorporate the benefits of oils into a relaxing way to de-stress and support the body. Having a professional massage is of course ideal, but we can become our own massage therapist just as easily (or ask a loved one!).

Essential oils are very powerful, and their uses are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. It’s important when choosing a brand of essential oil that they are graded as pure and therapeutic. There are many companies out there who are using synthetic oils which may smell nice, but they are adulterated, often containing no actual trace of essential oil and containing no health benefits.

Have you ever used essential oils for your health and if so, did they help you? Comment below!

References
P.H. Koulivand, M.K. Ghadiri, A. Gorji Lavender and the nervous system Evid Based Complement Altern Med (2013), 10.1155/2013/681304
Frankincense (乳香 Rǔ Xiāng; Boswellia Species): From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924999/
Disclaimer
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on the use of essential oils is based on personal opinion, research and experience, it is not advice and should not be treated as such.

 

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My Thyroid Story

My first baby, Sebastian was born at the end of 2016, I had had an amazing pregnancy and can honestly say I felt better pregnant than in other times in my life. Although my birth recovery was hard (I ended up with a c-section at 42 weeks as baby was breech and decided not to turn or come naturally!), I revelled in the energy, joy and adrenaline I was blessed with as a new mother in the first few months with a newborn, even though I was feeding him every two hours, night and day.

Things changed when Seb was about five months old. I started feeling unable to tolerate the cold, particularly in the morning. Granted it was winter, but I would wake with freezing cold hands and feet and really struggle to get warm, even in bed. My encouraging postpartum weight loss suddenly seemed to reach a plateau, I was gaining not losing weight and all of a sudden my hair was falling out in handfuls, blocking my drains and sticking to everything, even ending up in my baby’s nappy. I felt anxious and a sickening tiredness swept over me that I was unable to recover from, even when I did sleep. All of a sudden I was struggling, not enjoying motherhood, unable to keep up with the demands of my now-mobile baby, normal household chores and simple outings to the supermarket. I felt exhausted.

We were moving house around that time so I assumed it was just stress, it was a difficult time for us being so far away from family support. My husband was managing our business, I was taking care of Seb and we would both pack bits of the house in the evening, trying to race against the clock of our looming moving date. I cried most of our moving day. I had become so unwell and exhausted I could barely function, our new house was less than a mile away and I pushed our baby in the stroller back and forth from one house to the other using the basket to transport any extra bits from our house, depressed, wondering why on earth my body felt like it was held down with lead. I felt like I had been poisoned.

However, I thought this might be normal for a new, breastfeeding mother of a very energetic child, and that I just wasn’t adapting to it. Weight gain (breastfeeding does make you crave carbs), hair loss (isn’t some post-partum shedding normal?!) and exhaustion (synonymous with sleep deprivation). But then my arms and legs broke out in horrible bumps, I got stinging eczema around my eyes and I stopped being able to taste my food. I couldn’t concentrate on a simple conversation about the weather and while my husband always joked about my terrible memory, I was forgetting everything from appointments to the dentist to names of my family members. The fatigue was unlike anything I had ever experienced, if I missed the chance to sleep while Seb napped I would cry in desperation wondering how I was going to get through the day.

Eventually I went to the doctors thinking I must have a vitamin or mineral deficiency. I had bloods drawn Friday afternoon and 9am Monday morning, the doctor called me in and revealed I had become severely Hypothyroid with my TSH over 100, higher than my doctor had ever seen, apparently.

I was dumbfounded. I had developed an overactive thyroid when I was 17, told I had Graves Disease and was put on thyroid-supressing medication for six months, after which I was told my thyroid function had returned to normal and I was discharged.

Looking back now it all makes sense. The next almost two decades of my life after being discharged from my endocrinologist saw constant fluctuations in weight, unexplained fatigue, persistent gastrointestinal issues which seemed to rule my life, acne, constant thirst and urination, periods of depression and anxiety, brain fog, achy joints and a host of other odd ailments that made me feel “off” most of the time. I went to the doctors often, and usually I got the impression they thought I was a hypochondriac or a nuisance. They looked at everything independently, and I don’t remember them testing my thyroid. If they did I never thought to ask to see the results.

I feel certain now I have had thyroid antibodies for over two decades which have gone up and down depending on my lifestyle at that time. How much damage they have done to my thyroid I won’t know without a scan, I’m almost too scared to have one and find out. I’d rather believe my diet and lifestyle interventions, along with my methods of using essential oils to rejuvenate my thyroid tissue will help bring it back to a state of normal. I know it’s going to take some time but thyroid tissue can regenerate; our bodies are amazing at healing when provided with the right environment, and I have every hope mine will.

Essential Elements for Overall Wellbeing

There are many factors today that affect our health, many more than our ancestors would have faced. We are ever-evolving and adapting to our increasingly toxic world, but sadly not without a price.

Our vegetables are grown with toxins, the standards of our meat industry are questionable (at best) and our grains are overly processed, almost unrecognisable by our gut which has to work tirelessly to process and protect us from everything we ingest.

We put toxins on our bodies with the promise of looking younger and more beautiful, and we put chemicals on our skin to block out the sun, missing out on much-needed vitamin D.

We forgo sleep, maybe because we are too busy or too stressed, then we rely on coffee during the day to keep us going. We forget to drink water, or if we do, we drink it out of plastic bottles and then drink alcohol at night to relax, only to wake up feeling exhausted and do it all again.

Maybe we follow fad diets and extreme weight loss programs that appear to work for those posting perfect bikin-body photos but end up making us feel ill or gain even more weight.

Does any of this sound familiar? (And depressing?!). Thankfully, even when stuck in a health rut our bodies are amazing at adapting and recovering, and it really doesn’t take much to get ourselves back into balance, feel well, live well and look well.

When we focus on proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, and managing environmental toxins, we can get ourselves back onto the path towards optimal health.

Lets start with Nutrition.

I can’t stress enough the importance of good nutrition, we can so easily get into a bad rut with our diet and it can seem easier to keep doing what we’re doing than to break the cycle.

Many issues with our health these days result from poor diet, our food can be saturated with hidden fats, sugars and salt, it can be really challenging to eat well and nourish your body. Our global obesity epidemic isn’t reducing, in fact it’s only growing. In the West we rely too heavily on convenience foods, perhaps because we are too busy to cook, too tired or just don’t know where to start. A good way of looking at your food intake is to think, if it didn’t fly, walk, swim or grow from the ground then don’t eat it!

Let’s look at the basics:

* Cut the C.R.A.P – Carbonated Drinks & (excess) Caffeine, Refined Sugar, Alcohol & Processed Food

Carbonated Drinks – This means no soda; Coke, Pepsi, Sprite etc. There is no goodness or hydration in these drinks and they should not make up any portion of your hydration requirements for the day.

I’m not a happy mama if I don’t get my coffee in the morning but it’s not because I need it to wake me up, I actually find the juice from half a lemon with hot water much more energising. I just love the ritual of having a steaming hot cup of coffee and I love the smell and taste. I drink organic decaf. Organic coffee is obviously more expensive but so worth it as coffee can contain a whole range of different toxins in the processing period, which can upset our stomach. I hear a lot of people say coffee upsets their stomach but then find this eases when switching to organic coffee. Waitrose (UK) have a wonderful selection that isn’t too pricey. Caffeine should ideally be limited to two cups per day, otherwise it can affect sleep. Herbal tea is not included in this, herbal teas are a great alternative to black tea and has numerous health benefits.

Refined Sugar – Sugar is not just limited to the obvious list of cakes, pastries, sweets and sugary breakfast cereals, it can also be hidden in things like peanut butter and tomato ketchup. Read the labels on your food; the terms sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup all indicate the presence of refined sugars. Check out my list of sweet swaps to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Alcohol – This is an interesting one, as I love a glass of wine and happen to be quite a dab-hand at making cocktails. So I’m not going to say I think we should all abstain from drinking alcohol, life is too short not to enjoy wine! But I think it’s important to stick to the recommended guidelines and to take regular days off from drinking. However in pregnancy, avoid alcohol altogether.

Processed Food – I have a really simplistic view on this; cook fresh, real food. Even gluten free packaged foods are still just processed foods. I try to think about the process of what I’m about to eat, how did it get on my plate? Meat from my butchers with vegetables from my local farmers market that I cooked on my stove? Or a plastic tray containing meat and vegetables, with a host of other ingredients I can’t pronounce that I heated in the microwave? You get the picture.

* Eat fish at least twice a week.

* Eat the rainbow – eat from all colours of the spectrum, think of beautiful red raspberries, delicious crunchy green peas, succulent blueberries, ripe red tomatoes, zesty yellow lemons, oranges and brightly coloured purple beets. There are so many beautiful plant food choices out there, I think there is nothing more satisfying than having a lovely array of colourful vegetables and fruits on your plate.

* Grow your own. This is time consuming and may take some effort but it’s a wonderful thing to get children involved in and can be simple and cheap (you can buy rocket as an example for pennies and it grows really easily in pots)

* Eat local – visit your farmers market if your town has one, they are a wonderful source of local food and it’s great to support local farmers and businesses. Or look to see if your region has an organic vegetable box business.

* Eat organic (whenever possible)

 

 A Note About Gut Health and Mental Performance

We tend to think the brain is in charge when it comes to your mental health, your behavior, and even your mood, but in reality, your gut has more influence on your brain than you might think.

In addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with your brain. Scientists are increasingly convinced that the vast assemblage of microfauna in our intestines may have a major impact on our state of mind, (and I can attest to this. I always feel really down when I have a stomach ache, and not just because it aches, it seems to make me feel really irritable.)

Your ENS contains 500 million neurons and is thought to be largely responsible for your “gut instincts”, responding to environmental threats and sending information to your brain that affects your well-being.

This communication between your “two brains” runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood.

This can also suggest that positive gut health can lead to a better state of mind and encourage mental performance.

I am a firm and passionate believer in probiotic and prebiotic foods, it’s one of the first things I do to support gut and immune health and I’ve seen great results in my GI issues with the use of pro and pre-biotics.

While pro-biotics are the good bacteria that live in our system, pre-biotics are the plant fibers that nourish these good bacteria that are already in the large bowl or colon.

Prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, leeks, artichoke, and bananas help these good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio.

When buying over-the-counter probiotics, generally the higher the number of billions of bacteria, the more expensive the product. However I don’t think they are always necessary if you can manage it in your diet. It’s proving to be more beneficial to eat fermented foods, for example yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. A recent look at the number of probiotics in sauerkraut showed it to be in the trillions! When buying sauerkraut it’s important to buy it from the refrigerator section as the bacteria don’t tend to have a good shelf life at room temperature. Even better, make your own!

 

Update on Life and Everything Else 

I haven’t written a post for a long time. A really long time.

Maybe I’ve been a little lazy, a little preoccupied with life (having a baby, moving house, co-managing an expanding business), and a little tired (recently learning I had become hypothyroid after a whole manner of fun symptoms), so I’m allowing myself a few excuses.

I’ve never faced such drastic changes and challenges in my life as I’ve done over this last year. Pregnancy and new motherhood being the most intense and joyful of these, without a doubt.

Our incredible, spirited little boy was born in November last year, a profound moment which drew a line in the timeline of my life that is – before Seb / after Seb. Birth and new motherhood is literally life changing, more so than anyone can ever tell you, more than you can ever really prepare yourself for.

So much has happened this last year, so many experiences I’d like to share about motherhood; my wonderful, healthy, nausea and exhaustion-free pregnancy (yes it is possible!), our breech birth, things that helped me with breastfeeding and getting used to life with a newborn, and easy baby weaning recipes.

I’m also attempting to find the root cause of my recently diagnosed hypothyroidism and my journey back to health beyond the standard “take this medication for the rest of your life” protocol. Lots of reading, research and experimenting so check back in if you find any of this interesting…!

In health and wellbeing,

Fleur 

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