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Have you tried what seems like all-the-treatments and there seems to be a missing piece? Check out the 12-week program, Empowered Healing, and learn how to reclaim wellness! Click to read more!

Empowered Healing: Reclaiming Your Health & A GIVEAWAY

This giveaway is sponsored by Innovative Medicine and is open through May 31, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST. Scroll to the bottom and follow the directions to enter!

Over the last few years I’ve done anything but lie in wait for healing. I have made a lot of sacrifices, faced incredibly difficult treatment protocols, and put a huge daily effort into supporting my body’s healing.

My diet has shifted dramatically, and multiple times at that. I relied on an expensive supplement plan just to keep functioning. And up until 3 months ago I spent the majority of my days at home. Not out of choice, but because my unimaginable fatigue and symptoms demanded so much rest.

But in the last three months I’ve seen tremendous healing come from adding in an entirely new treatment program called DNRS. And because of that I’m truly starting to get my life back. DNRS is based on the foundation that we have the ability to heal ourselves by rewiring our brain. You can read more about that here.

Because of this new addition to my healing protocol, I’ve become absolutely fascinated by reading up on neuroplasticity. I’m always intrigued to hear about other treatment programs with similar, yet unique perspectives on healing.

So when Monica from Innovative Medicine reached out to share more about their Empowered Healing program launching on June 1, I was all ears!

Psssst…spoiler alert: they are giving away FIVE of their 12-week programs here on the blog! You can scroll down to the bottom for more info on how to enter.

What is Empowered Healing?

Empowered Healing is a 12 week program designed to put you in the driver’s seat of your health. EH is founded on the idea that we all have the ability to reclaim our natural state of health and functioning. And their program gives you the tools you’ll need to do just that: to activate your journey back to health.

What you’ll learn…

(taken from their website):

  • A holistic understanding of the underlying causes of illness and the critical (yet often overlooked) mechanisms that determine how people truly heal.
  • How to start feeling better instantly and optimize your recovery response by learning and applying the scientific evidence that the body can heal itself.
  • The 7 key fundamentals of health and how to address each of them in a personalized way that starts with your current individual-based priority.
  • The ‘Healing Blueprint’ framework: A five step process for charting your own unique course back to health, starting from right where you are.
  • How to solidify your newfound vitality, step fully into your healthiest self and sustain your new ‘set-point’ for the rest of your life.

The program consists of a 12-week guide, video lessons, interactive exercises, personal accountability calls, email coaching, research, and an online community to foster your healing journey.

I also found it super compelling that the program has been 12 years in the making…12 years! The creators of the program spent that time interviewing doctors from around the globe and learning from them. And now have used what they’ve gathered to create a comprehensive system that offers tangible steps for healing.

One of the creators, Ben Ahrens, suffered years with Lyme disease and has seen tremendous healing through implementing some of the practices presented in the program. You can listen in on his fascinating story he shared on a TED talk here.

“Could the program help me?”

As I was reading some of the info on the website, their description of who the program is for tugged at my heart. Simply put, it’s because I feel like it resonates with so many of us that have been working hard at healing:

“Whether you’re chronically ill and looking for ways to optimize your success outside the doctor’s office, wondering why various treatments don’t always lead to long-term health, or simply curious about what you can do in your personal life to compliment your medical treatment, this 12-week program will show you how to implement all of the discoveries and principles that Innovative Medicine is based on to empower yourself and reclaim health outside the medical office.”

How many of us have tried yet-another-treatment that helped someone else, but our body couldn’t tolerate it? Or it made us worse? And how many doctors have we seen that left us wondering if there was possibly a missing link? Perhaps something they hadn’t thought of that could help.

I know I, for one, could answer so many of those questions with a head nod. Or a blank look while trying to add up the number of times I’d been there.

The Empowered Healing program is a 12-week program that includes one on one accountability, email coaching, video lessons and interactive exercises to help you regain health! If you've been living with chronic illness click to read more about this amazing new approach to healing!

So what do I think?

I have to say that I’m excited about this program! I’ve seen firsthand how powerful neuroplasticity based healing can be. And with that being just one component to Empowered Healing, I’m embracing it with open arms.

I’ve had a chance to look over their beta program and will be diving into the full program in June. And I’m impressed just from my first exposure to the program!  The science behind it, their teaching style, and holistic approach really resonates with me.

And if you’re one of the lucky winners, maybe we can swap our experiences as we go through the program together! 😉

The GIVEAWAY:

Innovative Medicine was kind enough to offer not one, but FIVE lucky readers their brand new 12-week program!

Here are the deets:

  • Giveaway winner must be 18 years or older.
  • You may earn up to EIGHT entries.
  • Submit all entries by 11:59 PM, May 31, 2017
  • Winners will be contacted by email and must respond within 24 hours to claim their prize.

To enter click this link or enter using the Rafflecopter form below!

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Why would you like to win the Empowered Healing program?

Enter to win an Empowered Healing program from Integrative Medicine: the 12-week program that's designed to help you reclaim health and wellness through a holistic approach to healing.

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Did you know that there's healing that can be found by transforming the way we think? Here are 3 practices that are helping me release negative thoughts and reclaim health! Click to read more.

3 Practices That Help Me Release Negative Thoughts & Heal

My original version of this post was first published on ProHealth’s Inspirational Corner.

As I sat outside sipping on my cup of tea this morning, the cool air brought a smile to my face. In the quietness I brought my mind into the moment, took a deep breath and closed my eyes against the rising sun’s bright beams.

And then I did something I’ve been doing more of lately. I silently reminded myself: “I’m strong. I’m happy. And I’m healing.”

You see, I recently started a new treatment that’s brought up a lot of new emotions. Renewed hope for healing, a genuine happiness, and more quiet rest in my mind. And while the quiet and calm have been so welcome in this tired body, I’ve discovered some buried debris:

Some negative thoughts I’ve held onto about my worth, purpose, and talents.

You see, I’ve worked through a lot of the things that have surfaced in these years of health challenges. Ideas that I’m not enough. Thoughts of comparison with someone else’s talent or ability. Beliefs that what I have to share isn’t of value to anyone else. It’s really quite a messy collection of harsh words and emotional knick-knacks that I just don’t need.

So I’ve started to question, what do I believe about myself? Do I really believe that my diagnoses define me? That my thoughts, experiences, or talents have no place in this world? Are they really “not good enough” or am I just afraid of letting my talents shine?

I don’t want to live buried by a pile of doubts and insecurities so I’ve decided to intentionally shift my thoughts. And in doing so, my aim and hope is to make more room for self-kindness, acceptance, and grace. Let me share a few ways I’m tangibly putting this into practice…

Daily gratitude journal.

Over the years, the people I’ve met with health challenges are some of the most grateful, appreciative bunch I know. We see the beauty in the simple things, soak in the things and moments that matter. So I wanted to be even more purposeful in this. Writing down a list of the things I’m grateful for has created a perfect space to allow the good in my life to shine.

And this list is not just about noticing the good, but also recognizing my efforts for the day. This can look like “I’m grateful I did a great job at sticking to my treatment schedule today” or “I’m thankful I was able to commit to my appointment even though it took a lot of extra effort.” It reminds me of positive truths like: I’m strong, committed to my health, determined. And when does that ever not feel encouraging to hear?!

(I’ve also been doing a Living Gratitude Journal for the month of May in my Instagram stories. Short video clips of something I’m grateful for each day. If you’d like to follow along for inspiration – or join me – come visit my feed and click on my profile pic!)

Speaking kindness to my inner self.

I can be incredibly hard on myself. So learning how to treat myself with the same gentleness I wish to give others has been a process for me. And one way I’m challenging the tide is by silently reminding myself of my worth. Affirming what makes me, me.

The more I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone with this one the more emotional healing I’ve experienced. Why? Because I’m actually starting to believe what I’m saying. That I’m talented. That I’m important. That I have something to offer the world. The beauty in growing in how I self-talk and care about myself is that I believe I’m becoming more equipped for encouraging and supporting others around me, too.

Meditation.

Meditation is something I’ve only recently begun exploring, but it’s such a treasured new experience! I love how calm and relaxed it can make me. So each day I make space for a bit of meditation before bedtime. And I do my best to get in another hour at some point during the day.

It’s something that has taken practice (and I still have room to grow). But I make a great effort to remain focused on healing for that hour. My body sometimes gets restless and distracted, so it’s been important for me to learn to be gentle with any thoughts that arise. Which can look like calmly reminding myself/my mind that it’s time for healing. And in giving myself permission to let go of any harsh thoughts during my meditation I’ve found that the harsh thoughts have lessened as a whole!

Finding My Center.

These three practices, while small and not-so-out-of-the-box, have played an important role in centering me on my quest for healing, fullness and purpose. Because as I’ve approached each one with intention and grace, they’ve helped quiet the thoughts that don’t serve me well. It’s helped me refine my focus on healing, be more gentle with myself, and be more accepting of where I’m at right now.

And it’s given me hope that there can be a full life in this moment – as I embrace the now, hope for tomorrow, and learn to dance in the freedom to dream.

Have you tried any of these practices or have one you’d add to your own list? What inspires you to stay mindful in healing?

If you’re looking for some guided meditations, here are a couple of my faves: Meditation Minis by Chel Hamilton and Tracks to Relax for bedtime. But there are a lot of other great guided meditation podcasts on iTunes if those don’t quite resonate with you! Or you can check out what’s available for beginners on Amazon.

(If you click on one of my affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase – at no extra cost to you!)

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After spending years chronically ill I began researching the DNRS program as a natural alternative to healing. I've seen great results and am sharing 3 important questions I've been asked - and answering them! Want to know more? Click here to learn more about how the treatment works!

3 Things You Should Know About DNRS

This is not a sponsored post. These opinions are entirely my own and are in no way endorsed by the Dynamic Neural Retraining System.

If you read my post last week, you know that over the course of the last six weeks I’ve been adding in a brand new treatment. And it’s a program that’s, well…outside of the box.

It doesn’t come in the form of capsules. Or an injection. And it doesn’t involve a device, for that matter.

Because this treatment, interestingly enough, can’t actually be seen.

Sure, the information and instructions for DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System) are delivered in the form of a DVD series and a personal workbook. So there’s something tangible you have in hand as you’re learning. But implementing the program involves working on/with your brain.

Which means it’s a lot of internal work.

The techniques presented in this program are based on research surrounding neuroplasticity. Which, in short, refers to the brain’s unique ability to change itself. Wild, right?

So today I thought I’d answer some of the questions that I’ve been asked the most since starting DNRS:

  1. What is DNRS?
  2. How would retraining the brain help current health challenges?
  3. Is it worth the $250+ investment?

These are all questions I’ve asked before starting the program so you’re not alone! Information on healing through neuroplasticity is still relatively new to me, but I’ve been seeing profound shifts begin since starting DNRS.

So how about we just tackle these one by one?

What the heck is DNRS?

As I mentioned before, the program arrives at your door with a set of DVDs and a personal workbook. You’re encouraged to complete the program (which consists of 14+ hours of material) in 4 days in order to get the most benefit, but I’ll be honest: it took me a bit longer. But I gave myself some grace and, as I’ve shared, am still seeing positive shifts in my health.

In a nutshell, the DNRS program aims to first educate you in the science behind neuroplasticity and then equip you with both the tools and techniques to help you repair your limbic system.

I wasn’t familiar with the limbic system prior to this treatment program. So in case you’re like me and your thoughts are starting to drift toward what you’ll be eating for lunch, let’s quickly cover the basics.

The limbic system consists of several parts of the brain including the hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and cingulate cortex. Together, these structures make up the “feeling and reacting” functions of the brain.

Now if the limbic system is impaired due to injury or trauma (whether that’s an infection, chemical exposure, mold toxicity, emotional or physical trauma, etc) it becomes hypersensitive. And in this hypersensitive state it will overreact to even the smallest stimuli that would otherwise be passed over as harmless.

Since our limbic system works intimately with our endocrine, autonomic and immune systems, it inappropriately activates those systems which can end up in a “party” of symptoms we never invited.

The DNRS program gives you a system to implement that will help rewire the limbic system so that it’s once again functioning properly. The treatment you implement includes both daily brain exercises you work on throughout each day and one hour of devoted time of “practice”. Practice each day involves a combination of mild movement, vocal exercises, and mindfulness techniques – all to help restructure the pathways in the brain.

I obviously can’t share exactly what the practice outlines for you to do each day, but something that may be helpful to talk about is the reality that I was very limited before starting this. And even I was able to implement these practices in the beginning. Sometimes I just had to do it in an abbreviated way, such as lying down or sitting during a portion of the daily one-hour of practice.

Want to learn more about the Dynamic Neural Retraining System? After years of treatments, doctors, and way too many years spent home-bound this method is helping me HEAL! Click to read more as I'm responding to my 3 most asked questions about the program.

 

How would retraining my brain help my current health challenges?

Great question! And one I asked over and over again before purchasing the program.

One of my first thoughts upon looking further into the program was that it seemed like everyone was “drinking the Kool-Aid.” But heck, I was desperate. And if  the Kool-Aid actually worked, I couldn’t care less about the modality. I just wanted to be better!

And while I am getting better, this most definitely is not brain washing. (Or sugary Kool-Aid for anyone wondering). There was an important distinction I knew I needed to make early on in the program. As I learned more about the brain and neuroplasticity it became clear I had to treat my brain just like I was treating my body.

My magnesium has been regularly low for years now, which is why my naturopath has been supporting my body’s diet with magnesium supplements. My blood pressure has also been regularly low, so I frequently drank Himalayan salt water to help keep it from dipping too far.

So for me, it was helpful to view my efforts in neuroplasticity retraining as working with the organ of the brain.

As in: utilizing my mind to retrain my brain’s pathways. And while a huge part of this program is working with your thoughts, it’s more specifically working with the thoughts/messages your brain is inappropriately sending.

The aim is to redirect the neurons that are firing incorrectly (i.e. sending symptom and pain signals) so that over time they are no longer wired with the same old pathways. The outcome is rewiring the brain with new, healing pathways so the limbic system can be properly functioning once again. Which results in lessening symptoms!

I’ve heard all sorts of “just think positive” mantras and over these past years of health struggles they’ve felt like a big ball of blame. The message received was “you’re not positive enough, therefore it’s your fault you aren’t getting better.” And I don’t buy that one bit.

Any mindset shifts I’ve experienced (or been able to set in motion) in this program have been a direct result of experiencing tangible healing. Meaning: literally feeling a difference in my brain and body. It’s been like a fog has been slowly lifting. A fog I simply did not invite or entertain. Because believe me, I wanted all of the symptoms and discomfort GONE. 

This program isn’t about just thinking positive, but rather learning how to communicate with your brain to help it reach wholeness. And what I’m finding with each passing week is that I do feel lighter. Even happier, but genuinely so. And it coincides with the healing that’s begun in my brain and body.

How did I decide it was worth the $250+ investment?

First off, I can tell you one thing that didn’t help me decide: a guarantee I would get better. Because there wasn’t one. I knew that just like every other treatment I tried, no one could tell me this would 100% work for me.

But the following things really did help.

    1. A money-back guarantee. This was a first for me. We have shoveled out tens of thousands of dollars, much of which we fundraised, to pay for treatments over the years. Never once have we seen this. If you commit to the program for the full 6 months and don’t see significant improvement, they’ll refund you. That’s quite a statement of belief in their program!
    2. It’s really not that expensive. I probably don’t need to say more after what I just said about “tens of thousands”, right? But in case you need a further statement: $250 doesn’t begin to touch how much my supplements cost us right now each month. If getting me better means being able to go off of those, it’s well worth it.
    3. The research speaks for itself. The more I’ve studied about neuroplasticity through the program (and now after), it JUST MAKES SENSE. Variations of the techniques in this program have been proven effective in so many others. Want to be really amazed? Watch this TED talk given by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who suffered a stroke and talks about her experience and neuroplastic healing.

The following contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase something through one of these links I may receive a commission – at no extra cost to you. As a reminder, I only promote things I have personally tried or believe are beneficial. Any commissions earned help me keep this blog running. So, thanks! 🙂

You don’t have to take my word for it. Learn more yourself!

Since starting the program I’ve had a craving for learning more about the brain, specifically neuroplasticity. So I have a running list of the books I’d like to read and recently checked out my first one from our local library by Dr. Norman Doidge, called The Brain’s Way of Healing. I’ve just started and already it’s a fascinating and helpful read! I also plan to read his first neuroplasticity book, The Brain that Changes Itself.

Since watching the TED talk video I mentioned earlier I’ve been eyeing Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, for a future read also. Because after watching her tell her story I just have to know more!

Finally, of course, the Dynamic Neural Retraining System’s website contains more information about both the program and understanding the science behind their approach. And it’s a great way to check it out more before deciding if it makes sense to purchase the program for yourself. Let me know if you do! I’d love to connect.

Have you read any books on Neuroplasticity? Have you done the DNRS program or something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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How the DNRS Program is Helping Me Heal

If you’ve been following me here for awhile, you know that here in this blog-space I share the grit and guts of what I’ve experienced in the realm of the sick life. But if you’d like to catch up on my story to understand how powerful the news I’m about to share is feel free to check out this post. It’ll give you a look at what used to be an average day-in-the-life for me. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here til you’re done…

Ready? Okay.

So a little over a year ago I met a doctor through a friend and my goodness has she been a godsend to me. Quite frankly, I believe she is one of two doctors that has helped keep me alive. Well, them and a nurse who quite literally gave me back my life in 2015.

Through her care I’ve seen some beginning signs of improvement as well as experiencing a much lower # of ER visits (1). But I’ve still been largely home bound. Weak. Frail. Experiencing way too many symptoms to be normal. She was feeling hopeful that by the year’s end I’d see some marked change. And I tried my best to hope with her.

But then I was sent a message from an Instagram friend that told me I needed to check out the DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System) program. She said it had completely changed her life and since our stories were so similar I thought I should at least look into it.

So I clicked over to the website and began to read. My first response was honestly, an eye roll. “‘Retrain the brain’? Do they think this is all in my head? This sounds like another load of positivity B.S. So…I’m outta here.” I replied to the friend with a thanks, but this just isn’t for me. And I thought that was it.

But it KEPT. POPPING. UP.

A few weeks after I said ‘no thanks’ it popped up again. Then a couple days later a friend messaged me about it, asking if I’d heard of it. Call it what you will: a sign from the universe, or God, or my own body/brain trying to send me a message, but I just couldn’t get away from it.

So I looked at the website again. I watched tons of the testimonial videos as well as a presentation by the creator of the program, Annie Hopper. Her story, though different than my own, also held so many similarities. And she confirmed what I knew to be true: this illness is NOT all in our heads. So I softened.

I felt like her heart was compassionate toward others who had gone through what she had. And her incredible story was this: I learned to retrain my brain and I healed myself.

That’s quite a bold statement, no? So I looked at the price of the program and I talked it over with Trevin. A couple weeks later I had the DVD program in hand. It came right after I’d finished running my very first workshop with some of the readers here at Living Grace. The timing felt perfect.

Have you heard of the DNRS program based on the research of neuroplasticity? It's a fascinating program that is helping me heal from years of chronic illness. To read more of my one month update, click here!

I entered the DNRS program with a lot of skepticism.

I just feel like you should know that. It definitely wasn’t as if I bought into this deal right off the bat. But there were some aspects of the research I found online surrounding the brain’s ability to change itself (neuroplasticity) that I couldn’t ignore. And seeing how it had helped so many others similar to me gave me enough hope to give it a shot.

The program is designed to help you rewire your limbic system so that it builds more functional neural pathways. As I learned more about the brain and limbic system in this program, the cause and effect of why I continued to grow sicker or only experience small amounts of relief started to make more sense.

In the DVDs Annie explains that when the brain experiences various forms of trauma, whether that’s viral, physical, emotional or otherwise,  a maladapted stress response can be triggered. Essentially that means that our brain’s instincts to protect us get kicked into overdrive, leading our limbic system into a constant state of fight or flight mode.

And how on earth could I get better if my brain constantly thinks it’s under attack?!

This video documentary on neuroplasticity is quite fascinating if you’re interested in understanding more. (Just feel free to ignore the creepy music.) Variations of these concepts have been proven effective in the treatment of physical injuries, such as stroke patients or those who have suffered brain damage. And it’s also helped those who have suffered psychological PTSD or have OCD. 

Next week I’ll be unpacking a bit more about neuroplasticity and the design of the program, but until then you can also check out the website to watch some tutorials and read up on the science behind it. (<—that’s my affiliate link, which means I may earn a small commission if you click on it and purchase the program. As a reminder, I only share things I’ve either tried or believe in the value of. In this case: I’ve tried it and it’s helping me heal!)

My one-month improvements:

I’ve been on the program for just 4 weeks now and the changes in that short period of time have been quite amazing. Especially when Trev and I compare it to the life I’ve been living the last few years. And while I have more healing to work towards, I’m truly grateful for these beginning signs of healing.

As a pre-cursor to my improvements here’s a list of most of my diagnoses: Lyme, Bartonella, Babesia, Mold Illness, Heavy Metal Toxicity, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, MTHFR genetic mutation and POTS).

  • I’ve gone from barely being able to walk a couple blocks on a very good day to walking almost daily the last week+.
  • My fatigue levels used to be at an average of 7-9 every day (on a scale of 10 being “I can’t move”) and now my levels are averaging below 5 consistently.
  • The inflammation and joint pain I’ve consistently lived with hasn’t been this low in over 4 years.
  • My strength is slowly growing and my litmus test is being able to do the dishes almost daily. They used to sit an average or 2 days before I could get through another round.
  • Dizziness used to be one of my most debilitating symptoms. Now? It’s at an all time low also.

The healing process continues…

There continue to be new things that pop up and surprise me as I continue to commit myself to the program and work toward further healing. And in my commitment to the program, this post will be one of my last to mention diagnoses or symptoms for awhile. It’s a necessary part of retraining my brain in this critical stage of early healing.

Guys, I’m not going to sugar coat it for you: this treatment is not easy. But then again none of what I’d done for healing has been. Seeing improvements and feeling genuine hope is most certainly worth sticking with it.

With all that said, I feel so happy to share that I believe I’m in the process of healing. And while I believe in God, I’m going to keep my feelings on this experience ultra-real for you: this is not something that I’ve seen sprinkled down magically into my life. 

I’ve fought for this. For years.

I’ve committed myself to countless supportive supplements, doctor’s appointments, injections, blood draws, detox, nourishing myself, gripping onto my pebbles of hope, so-much-waiting and now I continue to reach for healing with this program. (And I continue to maintain my supplement protocol under my current doctor’s care while on the program).

So I’ll leave you with this one-month update and hope that this program may also help some of you sweet struggling ones on your own healing path. To reclaim your own health. To heal your brain’s limbic system. And begin to see yourself able to dream again… of living a healthy life, of travel, and of pursuing the things you’ve been waiting for.

Have you heard of DNRS before? Or tried it? Have questions you want me to answer in another post? Drop your thoughts below in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

As a heads up: I’ll be largely taking a break from my Facebook page indefinitely, so if you want to stay in touch be sure to sign up for my email list. Or connect with me on Instagram!

 

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Thanks for supporting this blog and my health!

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Want to save money on gluten-free, organic, natural, or Paleo items? Thrive Market will save you 25-50% and deliver right to your door!

Thrive Market Review: Saving Money on Organic + Paleo

This post contains affiliate links. This means that when you purchase an item through one of my links below I may receive a commission. Thanks for your help keeping this blog running!

Recently I signed up for a free Thrive Market trial offer to explore whether or not the yearly membership ($59.95) would be worth it. There are many reasons I believed it could be beneficial. But when you’re throwing a huge chunk of cash at treatment each month, adding a membership cost can feel overwhelming. If not downright impossible.

Buying organic, grain free, all-natural products to fit my dietary needs has it’s limits with our current budget. As in: we simply can’t afford it. So I had high hopes that this could help curb our costs. Spoiler alert: I just wasn’t prepared for how quickly the cost would pay for itself in savings!

So before I start throwing confetti all over you and singing Thrive Market’s praise, let’s get down to the basics.

What is Thrive Market?

Thrive Market is an online membership-based site that offers many of the top selling non-GMO, organic, healthy food and household products at a discount. We’re talking 25-50% off retail value!

“Why, yes, I do love a good discount, Thrive.” – Me.

Is non-toxic cleaning important to you? Well, they’ve got it.  Gluten free snacks? Done. Following a Paleo diet? You’re covered too. And you are going to be in love with the Simple Mills line. Or at least, I am.

So, in short, think: shopping the speciality/health food market at wholesale prices.

A Business That Gives Back

Beyond their selection of great healthy products, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was Thrive’s heart for those in need. I love that it’s their mission to give free memberships to those who can’t afford one. And for every paid membership, a box of food is donated to a family that needs it.

Which means that by shopping with Thrive, we get to be a part of that cause. And I LOVE that by buying groceries that my body needs (and even saving money while doing it) I can play a small role in helping someone else out.

What’s in my first Thrive box?

I know this is what many of you sneaky blog readers really want to know anyway. Yes, I’m looking at you, cutie who reads through posts but never says hi. 😉 Don’t worry. I still love you. And I’ve done it too.

Here’s what I got this round:

If you're looking to save money on organic, Paleo or gluten free products, Thrive Market will deliver them right to your door. And for 25-50% less than your local grocery store!

Teeccino Dandelion Dark Roast Tea – $4.45 for 10 ct.
I am supposed to stay away from coffee due to mold and candida issues and let me tell you: I MISS IT. Some friends told me about this awhile back and I finally tried it with this Thrive box. I’m in love, you guys!! It reminds me so much of coffee. Mmmmm coffee.

Thrive Organic Spices – $2.95 each.
I bought their brand of paprika, Chili powder, and cumin seeds. It’s such a great price period, let alone for organic. I’m not a spice expert, but they’re fresh and flavorful. Just like they should be. 🙂

Check out my recent Thrive Box review: Why it's helpful for me in chronic illness.

Simple Mills Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers – $4.45
These were probably my favorite thing in the box. Let me just ‘splain something before I get crazy with excitement. I do my best to eat grain free. And I’ll be honest and say it’s sometimes sad and I dream of donuts, but avoiding them helps my sick body. So basically: THESE CRACKERS ARE LIFE!! They taste amazing, have the crunch of crackers that I miss so much and I could easily write them a love song. That is all.

Simple Mills Pizza Dough Mix – $7.55
Okay, so I splurged with this one a bit. The box makes two 8-inch pizzas, but if I were to buy again I’d either try to make them bigger and thinner or make 3-4 smaller personal pizzas. I did like the crust, but probably won’t be buying this again anytime soon because paying for crackers and fake coffee come first.

Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips – $2.95
Get ready for more giddy excitement because these babies were another fave from this box! I absolutely adore these chips. Everything about them. The salty, thick kettle-like crunchy, that sweet potato goodness. Sigh. These are the goods. And they’re baked in coconut oil for a double win!

My Thrive Box Review: Unboxing and my favorite grain-free and organic products!

Acure Lemongrass Conditioner – $6.15
I’ve been a fan of Acure natural bath products for a couple of years now so I decided to try this out. I’m waiting to finish my current bottle of Acure conditioner in a different scent so I’ll have to update you later on how it works. But it smells great! And is several dollars cheaper than on Amazon.

Acure Body Wash – $5.95
I’m a fan of clean. Clean ingredients and clean skin. But sometimes organic + natural products can leave a little to be desired in the area of “sudsing”. This body wash is a winner in my book! I’m not sure how to describe the scent, so we’ll just go with I like it. And it’s fresh. Not overly floral or fruity, but light.

Meyer’s Hand Soap Refill – $6.45
This is such a deal for this hand soap refill! And the scent (lemongrass) feels so refreshing to me. I hadn’t tried this before, but I’ve used Meyer’s dryer sheets and loved those so decided to give this a shot. And I can report that the soap hasn’t disappointed either.

Califia Farms Better-Half Almond milk + Coconut Creamer – $2.95
It was important to me to get a full “coffee” experience so I treated myself to this dairy-free creamer. I was very impressed with it! I’ve run out and am definitely planning on ordering more of this. And soon.

Jason Peppermint Toothpaste – $3.95
What I like about this toothpaste is it’s better for me than what I’d used before. And it makes my teeth feel really clean. As in slick when run over with my tongue and my mouth stays fresh longer than with regular paste. The taste is different than traditional toothpaste mint (guess those chemicals taste pretty good…) but I really don’t mind it.

Is it worth it?

In short: I’m a convert. I love the ease of ordering specialty items online, saving money on things I’d be buying anyway, and supporting a company that gives back.

In my first two boxes (the second one containing only 3 items), I saved nearly $60 – which, as you read at the beginning of this, is the cost of the yearly membership. So I’ll most definitely be joining as a way to save money this year!

A free gift for you.

When I signed up for my free trial I didn’t get a free gift, but YOU WILL! This month when you sign up for a free 30-day trial through my link, they’ll include a FREE full-sized bag of raw cashews with your first order of $50+. And you’ll only pay $1.95 shipping! (UPDATE 5/23/17: You can get 25% OFF your first order and FREE shipping!)

You can even more perks if you share the Thrive love. Invite a friend to join and they’ll get 15% off their first order, while you get $25 Thrive Cash! And if you blog and want to become a Thrive Market affiliate, you’ll earn a commission every time a new customer joins or your fellow bloggers sing up as an affiliate.

Have you tried Thrive Market? What are your favorite items?

Who knew you could buy healthy groceries AND save money?! Have you checked out Thrive Market? Click here to check out the free gift you get when you sign up for a trial membership.

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There's a whole separate reality that those with chronic illness experience. A reality that goes far beyond the smiles in a picture or being able to attend a rare gathering. Our reality can look like survival, every moment. Even in the ones where we're smiling.

The Truth Behind My Smile in Chronic Illness

I sat silent, staring intently at my phone. A tangled web of thoughts was being formed in my mind: Do I post the picture? But what will this picture say about my life? No picture tells the whole truth. And how many people are going to point out how good it is that I’m “out and about”, as if that’s all that really matters?

Nearly every time I consider sharing a picture of myself on a rare outing, I go through a long list of doubts and fears. Wondering if I can handle the potential cheers from others seeing me someplace other than my couch.

Because sometimes, I’ll be honest, I just can’t hear it. It can be painful to listen to the two second excited pop-ins, especially from the ones who show up for only these particular moments. Here to celebrate my 3 minutes of “normalcy” that were a rare part of yet another very sick day for me.

I’ve then sat and over-thought and critiqued myself for feeling so afraid to just share my moment. For feeling upset with those who truly mean well, but end up hurting me.

I’ve given myself the pep talks, reminding myself to continue bringing others into my world. To show the real me, in real moments. The me that looks mostly normal, but is actually very sick.

“So what’s the big deal anyway,” you ask?

I think in it’s most simplest terms this comes down to perception and reality. Most people see a picture of me smiling on a sandy beach with my husband and they read: “I’m feeling great today! So here I am, out adventuring like a normal person!”

What they don’t see is how long it took me to “wake up” that morning. How many hours passed before the hit-by-a-truck feeling let up enough to get dressed for the day. No one besides my husband was there to help me slowly make my way to the car so we could drive from our hotel to the beach.

I wanted to visit the sandy shore on our birthday getaway last month. Nothing felt more important to accomplish. So that’s what I set my sights and energy on. Because I had hope that there was just the right amount of everything-in-the-stars aligning for me to make it happen.

Just enough strength, the right level of pain, an inner excitement for a tiny bit of fuel. A sturdy cane and a husband to keep me from stumbling.

It took me what felt like an eternity to make my way from the parking lot, over the sand hill and down close enough to the water to let my toes take a dip. Each step painful and difficult. My breathing, labored. The sun shooting through my sunglasses, spiking my head pain higher.

And yes, it’s true: I made it. Without falling over or passing out.

But not without sacrifice.

Can we talk about the reality of chronic illness for a minute? It's hard. It just is. And yes, we will endeavor to live our life to the best of our abilities, even if that looks like a "big day" being just getting outside of the house. We might even smile and post a pic about it. But our reality never changes. We will pay for exertion. We will fight to survive every day with strength and dignity. But it's never easy, and it's never "normal" for us. Behind that smile is a war that's raging, unseen by the naked eye.

The truth? I found myself regretting all the effort of that birthday weekend days after we returned. In multiple moments you’d have found me sobbing that following week from all of the pain and symptom aftermath. It took me a week and a half to finally feel like my “baseline” was in sight, my sick normal.

And yet that picture we took sits brightly in my social media feed. To some as a beacon of hope that their friend or relative had a moment of enjoyment.

But to me it’s a picture that displays the very center of this excruciating journey. That sometimes the cost for something beautiful is far more than what we’re willing (or what should be fair) to pay.

What can also be lost in translation is that those moments for me aren’t as joyful as others view them. Like any normal person, when you’re going through something hard everything can feel tainted by that circumstance. Almost like a heavy film that is layered over our horizon.

I’m learning that it’s natural and okay for me to sit in the tension of what this reality is for me. That I can both regret and cherish that point in time. That choice I made to find enjoyment in those minutes at the beach.

Because the truth is this: no one should have to endure what I and other sick ones face for accomplishing simple tasks. Like slowly walking yourself to the edge of the shore. Or loading a dishwasher. Or getting out of the bathtub on your own.

Knowing what everyday tasks will do to us has a tendency to spin our view of the enjoyable moments when they come. Because they don’t tend to last in our world. We visit them, enjoy them, cling to the memory of them – but then the storm comes in all its fury.

And we know it. We know it’s coming. Because for many of us it always, always does.

In the end I chose to post that picture, and many others, because I’m reaching for something different. I’m reaching to cherish them for what they really are. They are part of documenting the reality of this chronic illness life. The good, the bad, the real.

It’s part of the remembering. For some day if I’m well enough to walk to the shore again without pain and without a week and a half of my body crashing like a deflated balloon? I’m going to look back at that moment.

And I will remember the beauty and the pain.
The inner strength and the frailty.
The kindness of a stranger telling me to take my sweet time up the hill. 

I’ll remember that brokenness and beauty can mysteriously survive hand-in-hand. 

Be sure to find me on Facebook and Twitter if you haven’t already! I’d love to connect. 🙂

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5 Ways to Reduce the Toxins in Your Home

5 Ways to Reduce Toxins In the Home

**This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission based on any purchase you may make. My review of the items contained in this post remains unbiased. I simply love these items enough that I have purchased and recommend each of them!**

Many of us with chronic illness become what I’ll call “toxin detectors.”

Our illness has compromised our immune system so much that many of the products and foods we may have thought we could tolerate years ago, have become triggers to us now.

I honestly never used to give a second thought about what I put on my skin, in my belly or sprayed into the air that I breathe – I was so clueless! From makeup to shampoo, detergent to daily coffee with creamer laden with processed ingredients – I didn’t worry about what I was putting into my system then.

But my health has insisted it matter to me now.

So, while I’m still learning and working to reduce the toxins around me, I thought I’d share a few of the little and big changes I’ve made along the way. Some are easier and less costly to than others, but I believe all have been helpful in my fight for wellness.

Some of these items are beauty/personal care, some are related to cleaning, but all enter the home and therefore I want them to be as clean of ingredients as possible.

Before I begin, I’d just like to say that there are a LOT of opinions on this topic. And I mean A LOT. So if you’re at the beginning stages like I was a couple years ago, I encourage you to use this list as a starting point. Do further research on your own to find a balance that’s best for you and your wallet.

On to the list…

Makeup

Many of us women wear this every-single-day. I had no idea years ago how many harmful ingredients I was putting on my face. Since our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, I wanted to be cautious of what I was allowing to absorb into my bloodstream. So while I only wear makeup occasionally now, I try to use natural products whenever I do.

100 Percent Pure makes a mascara that I love that is all natural and dyed with fruit and black tea pigments! I also use their Lip & Cheek Tint in Cranberry and Grapefruit Glow. They have a full line of non-toxic makeup and skincare products that are all made from pure, organic and natural ingredients and from the ones I’ve tried – they all smell ah-mazing.

For more budget-friendly options, I have also used this brand of foundation powder and I’ve been happy with it. There are even shops on Etsy of handmade all-natural makeup so be sure to include them in your search!

Hair Products

 This one was hard for me to let go of. I had used Dove shampoo for a few years and really loved the results I had (along with the fact is was inexpensive). But hair care products can also contain a lot of harsh chemicals.

I’ve used a few non-toxic and natural shampoos and conditioners that I have enjoyed, some not as much. My top two favorites are this Argon Oil Shampoo by Maple Holistics (I’ve yet to try the conditioner) and this shampoo and conditioner by Acure Organics. Both smell divine and I love how my hair feels using them!

This 7 Thirty hairspray was developed by a stylist after she became ill and left her salon practice to create her own line of natural products to use! It has a good hold and smells great (can you tell scent is important to me yet?). I love knowing I’m supporting someone else who has fought illness.

Cleaning Products

There are so many affordable ways to get around using the cleaning agents that are dripping with chemicals that we don’t need in our systems. I’ve made my share of DIY cleaning mixtures using household staples like vinegar, baking soda, salt and scented with essential oils and believe they work just as well as the cleaners I used to use. Pinterest has a wealth of recipes if you want to make your own!

Most stores are now carrying non-toxic alternatives in their cleaning aisles. 7th Generation, Method and Mrs. Meyers are a few. I love the scents in the Method line and the versatility of their sprays. My go-tos are this bathroom throne cleaner and this all-purpose cleaner which I also use in my floor cleaner mixture (1 pint mason jar: 1/3 Method, 1/3 Vinegar, 1/3 water. Use 1/2 cup per gallon of mop water).

 

Detergent

Non-toxic Laundry Detergent that works like a charm!

My skin became super sensitive a few years ago when my health began to rapidly decline. This detergent by Ecos has kept me from irritation and the smell of the Lemongrass is amazing (as is the Magnolia Lily scent). We recently found this same detergent at our local Costco for a great savings!

We’ve tried many products for the dryer, and have been left disappointed by a couple of brands. Ultimately we landed on using wool balls like these along with a sheet of these dryer sheets by Mrs. Meyers and we’re really happy with the results.

Mattress

When we made our move in January, we knew we would be replacing our mattress. We had read articles about the danger of flame-retardants and the off gassing that occurs with new mattresses that have been sprayed. We were concerned about exposure while I’m already immune-compromised in my fight with Lyme disease.

So we did some research, looking for the best options that would be less toxic and stay within our budget. Our top choice was out of our price range, so we bought this one and have been SO happy with it. I had no reaction (which says something for this sensitive bod) and it’s the comfiest mattress we’ve ever owned. You just need a base like the one below and you’re set.

        


 There you have it, a few of our shifts toward a non-toxic home. We’ve worked our way through these changes as we’ve been able to afford them, which means this definitely wasn’t an overnight switch for us.

I will say that when you’re sick, you want your body in as healthy an environment as you’re able to create! So many of these we’ve chosen out of that place – of wanting to protect my (and our) health.

What are some of your favorite non-toxic (or less toxic) products that you’ve found? I’m always looking for new ones to try! 

Be sure to find me on Facebook and Instagram!

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Dining out with a special diet

DineSafe: An App for Dining Out with Food Allergies

This post was sponsored by DineSafe, but the following are my own opinions on the app.

Dining out when you have food allergies – or even sensitivities – can range from impossible to headache-worthy. And sometimes both.

Maybe you’ve been here before…

After waiting for 45 minutes you are finally seated, only to be handed a menu that you now must carefully scan for options that fit your very specific dietary needs.  Much of it is a guessing game as you sort through each category, mentally crossing off anything that might contain your food enemy.

20 minutes later and somewhat (if not entirely) defeated, you make the decision to play it safe with a salad. Without the dressing, cheese, croutons, or seeds. You’ll dress it yourself with a side of olive oil and the salt and pepper from the table. Your stomach will thank you later.

You’ve created an item that works for you. And you know what? That makes you happy indeed. You’re pretty used to this. And you conquered that menu like a champ!

This menu adaptation game has been my story countless times. In my years of battling illness, I’ve seen my bestie food friends drop like flies as I’ve taken on some necessary diet changes to protect and support my health: gluten, dairy, soy, and lastly: most grains. (I KNOW. Cue the weeping).

For a foodie it can be a mournful loss that becomes even harder to cope with when the search to find restaurants YOU CAN ACTUALLY EAT AT leaves a girl spinning in circles.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could cut out the work for us in searching a menu for safe foods? To remove that headache I mentioned a bit ago?

Guys. There’s a new app that does just that.

Enter: the DineSafe App.

DineSafe helps make dining out safer and easier. Check out more of the features over on the blog!

DineSafe’s goal is to improve the dining experience for those of us with specific dietary needs, as well as help restaurants connect with diners who need safe options.

After reading up on all the app offers, I downloaded the app to explore it myself.

This app makes it so-super-easy to create your very own personalized menu. You simply tap once on any allergen or special diets you follow and it’s automatically saved in your profile.

One of my favorite parts?

There is NO LIMIT on how many allergens you can add to your list!

This is a revelation for those of us with multiple allergies or sensitivities: no more hunting through menus and product lists when the work has already been done for you!

So just how many allergens are available?

There’s a total of 24 including various meats, vegetables, gluten and ingredients like Sulphates or MSG.

Even better is the ability to select from 8 different diets ON TOP OF whatever food allergies you may have. Paleo and Vegan users, rejoice!

Here’s a sample of some of the allergens and diets you can choose from. I spy with my little eye a little something called Organic…(!!!)

How to Find Safe Dining Options Near You with the DineSafe App

For restaurants, this app is a great way to connect with individuals and families who look for menus that will cater to their restrictive diets and clearly list allergens.

Restaurants can easily enter in their own menu on the app, detailing current offerings, ingredients and allergen information.

I love that this leaves any guessing out for me as the user as to whether the menu showing is up-to-date and/or accurate. I am much more likely to trust the menu they release over anyone else.

With the United States estimate of 15 million people affected by food allergies, this is a great time for restaurants to get ahead of any upcoming laws regulating allergen disclosure. Europe and the UK already have their own regulations in place, requiring mandatory allergen information for all of their menu items.

I can’t ignore that it’s also a great way to play a part in changing the landscape of the dining world for those with sensitivities. We will all thank you!

You can easily locate restaurants near you using the built-in GPS feature. Once you have chosen a restaurant you can then scroll through the menu using the “filter menu” option which will apply your current diet settings.

The app then allows you to find menu items that are safe, ones to avoid and even a list of items that can be modified to fit your specific diet.

DineSafe App for Safe Dining Out

Because this app is on the newer side they are still growing their restaurant list.

One way we can help is by endorsing and submitting petitions for restaurants in our area. If we find a restaurant that offers items catered to our specific diet requirements, endorsing their menu helps other diners with the same restrictions know it is a safe place to eat.

We can also look up restaurants in our area and start (or sign an existing) petition, requesting that they upload their menu to DineSafe (which is free!) detailing any allergens to be aware of.

It’s really a win-win for both restaurant and user – the user locates a restaurant with food items they can have and the restaurant increases its reach!

I’ve already started some petitions for some restaurants in my new home town and have signed a couple of existing ones. It’s such a great, tangible way to encourage restaurants to get on board!

If you’d like to check out DineSafe, you can download the app for free on both iPhone or Android. It only takes a few seconds to install and a couple minutes to set up your personalized menu and you’re done!

Super easy and you’re on your way to fewer menu-searching-induced-headaches and more restaurants to enjoy.

If you have food allergies, a sensitivity or if you follow a special diet – do you have a favorite restaurant in your area that goes out of their way to cater to your needs? Try finding them on DineSafe to give them a shout out!

{You can follow DineSafe on Facebook and Twitter.}

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Wildflower: a Solid Perfume by FIG + MOSS

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Hi there readers. 🙂 I have a short little post for you today sharing my new favorite perfume: Wildflower by Fig + Moss

I first heard of this perfume from my friend Angela, who creates the most fabulous handbags in her very own Etsy shop. You should definitely check them out!

Back to the perfume…
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This beauty is 100% natural with a deliciously floral scent. It’s not overpowering which is super important to this girl and to everyone else who’s every been stuck in an elevator with a “Perfuminator”, amiright?! 

It’s super easy to apply with the swipe of a finger and a little dab to each of your pulse points. Then it’s off to conquer your day! While smelling ah-maxing, of course.
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I love the packaging for this perfume and the fact that I’m supporting a small business. They even sent me a sample of a solid shampoo bar that I have yet to try! 

It also feels SO great knowing I’m not putting toxins into my system when wearing this.

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As an added bonus, this fabulous item is also VERY affordable and will last me a long while. For this cute .5 oz tin, the cost is $8. Out the door with tax+shipping I paid just under $13.

I now have my eye on their new roll-on perfumes…ISLA is calling my name for summer! 😉

photo from fig+moss
photo from fig+moss

Have you ever tried a solid perfume? Have a favorite all natural scent to recommend? I’d love to hear from you!!

XO
Kami

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