Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Story: Part 3, Finding Health

Hello and welcome to the final installment of my experiences with illness, recovery, and now health.

If you missed the first two posts, check them out:
Part 1
Part 2

My journey to where I am today was certainly not an easy one and it was filled with many missteps and hardships. However, thankfully, I have ultimately obtained a state of health I have never before experienced.

Additionally, having this experience has shown me the difference a supportive partner, family, and group of friends can make. Without all the wonderful people in my life it's doubtful I would have reached the point I have today. Having experienced illness and knowing that my symptoms could return in a heartbeat if I choose to eat the wrong chocolate bar or can of soup has also caused me to appreciate all that it means to be healthy.

Every day that I wake up without all the horrible symptoms I lived with every day I am thankful. Knowing what it means to have health taken from me has made me truly value what it means to gain it back. Being able to take a walk if I choose to, or do yoga, or whatever activity I feel like, without fearing I will collapse on the floor has an extremely liberating and exhilarating feeling.

Along with this appreciation I have found a passion to always seek better heath and happiness, a passion to experiment to find what works best for me, and a passion to learn as much as I can about nutrition, happiness, wellness.

Through this passion I have discovered the joy of cooking. There is nothing quite like preparing a wonderful meal from scratch, knowing 100% that everything in it is something I can and want to put into my body, and then getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor. As a result I don't even really mind doing the dishes!

I have also learned about our country's food system and how there are many things I do not agree with or support and that I would love to see change. Having this knowledge has pushed me to continue looking for more and to find a greater understanding of how food works in our modern day world.

Additionally, I have discovered how animals are treated in our food system, the negative impacts the production of meat and dairy foods has on our environment, as well as the health benefits that have been linked with eating a plant-based diet. Armed with this knowledge I have dedicated my food choices to those that are animal product and by-product free and now consuming a vegan, plant-based, gluten and corn free diet.

I have also, especially recently, taken the choices I make with my diet further, trying to make the best choices for my health and environment through every product I purchase or use. This especially has been a long transition as my budget does not allow a compete overhaul and replacement of my cosmetics, lotions, etc.

Exercise has become central to my life in a way it never has before. I no longer feel as though I need to exercise or that it is something I am supposed to do. Instead I genuinely enjoy the times I spend every day being active. Some days, especially during say finals week, this may mean only the 20 minute walk to campus, but even those 20 minutes can brighten my day. Most days, however, I am thankfully able to enjoy more activity. Currently I am loving my (almost) daily yoga practice. Not only does it get my heart pumping but it has provided me with an invaluable stress management technique.

Along those lines I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been. I find happiness all around me and even when my day feels completely overwhelming and full of negatives I can still find something good or at least know that there will be good just around the corner.

Amazingly, while I just completed the busiest quarter of my undergraduate career, when I reflect back on it I do not see three months filled with stress and breakdowns (although those things did happen from time to time) but instead feel that I found a peaceful and functioning balance between my responsibilities, perhaps even experiencing less stress and more enjoyment than previous, much less demanding, quarters.

I believe I have found health.

However, this does not mean I intend to sit back and relax, hoping to stay where I am without any effort. Just the opposite. I know that health is a lifelong commitment and that it is one that I am ready to make. Every day I consider my food choices and what they will do for my body, think about the products I am using and how they will impact me and the environment, assess the impact my actions and words will have on those around me, and continually search for more and more information to continue me on my pathway of health and well-being.

Currently, I am not perfect nor completely satisfied with myself or my life, I think that while "perfect" is not the goal that there are always things to improve upon. But no matter what, I look forward to striving to, and being able to, improve upon those things and know that I am doing what I can and want to do to be the healthiest person I can be.

Thanks for sticking through my long and drawn out story. I hope it gives you some insight into who I am and the perspective I come from.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Story: Part 2, Recovery

Hello again!

So if you stuck through my long post about "when I was sick" as I like to refer to it, then you are likely interested in hearing how I moved on from all of that nastiness.

Well, here it goes!

I had finally found someone who could help me, someone who had answers and the ability to help me take back my health.

Upon reviewing the paperwork detailing my history and past treatments, listening with respect and interest about the symptoms I was experiencing, and asking some surprising questions such as "were you a colicky baby?" my naturopath quickly told me she thought I had food allergies or sensitivities. She also told me these were likely paired with high levels of inflammation, gut and intestine damage, and nutritional deficiencies.

Sure enough, blood tests would show I was both iron and vitamin D deficient and upon going on an elimination diet, which removes the most common allergens, I immediately started to feel better. While it would take many months for all of my symptoms to go away, in less than a day of modifying my diet I was feeling better. I was less foggy, my headache had finally ceased for the first time in over a month, and while I still felt the dizziness it was much less pronounced.

Over the next 3 months my body began to heal.

I was on an anti-inflammatory and gut repairing supplement, vitamin supplements, and most importantly a new and improved diet.

An important hallmark of this elimination diet was slowly adding back in the foods I had removed and watching for reactions. Being a college student I of course first added coffee and dark chocolate and was enthused when my health continued to improve even with the addition of these wonderful food groups.

Things continued along the same path of improved health until Christmas when I discovered my first food sensitivity. It was one half of a Brussels sprout which had been cooked in chicken broth containing corn starch that did me in. And man did it do me in.

Within 30-45 minutes of eating that little half a Brussels sprout my ears were bright red and pounding, my heart was racing and hands shaking, I was nauseous and dizzy, and I had a migraine. We soon assessed the meal and sure enough the only thing I had not been regularly encountering was that small amount of corn starch in the broth on that one half of a Brussels sprout. And so, I discovered my very intense, long lasting negative reaction to any corn containing product and came to learn of my corn sensitivity/intolerance/allergy (take your pick!).

Since then I have discovered the far, far reach this sensitivity has and how much of our food (well not my food!) contains corn. For example, anything labeled dextrin, dextrose, maltodextrin, food starch, glucose, "malt" anything, xantham gum, honey, and many many more ingredients potentially, and likely, contains corn (for an extended list look here). This past weekend I rediscovered the many names for corn in processed food when my roommate's family graciously invited me over to dinner and had the unfortunate task of preparing a dinner I could partake in. I was quite heartbroken to see "dextrose" on an ingredient list, thus forcing me to refuse a dish that had been specially prepared for me. Nonetheless, it is quite an endeavor to uncover all the hidden corn in so many of our ingredients, a task that I still find myself having trouble with from time to time.

I also learned that any animal product or by-product coming from an animal that was fed corn was also off limits and that I didn't only have to read the ingredients of foods. I discovered the hard way, after taking one too many medications (nyquil anyone?) and feeling only worse than I had before, that anything going into or coming into contact with my body must be screened for potential corn products.

After brief, and painful, love affairs with each dairy and gluten I would also discover my lactose and gluten intolerances.

Despite hiccups along the way when I found myself unexpectedly poisoned by a food I am sensitive to, my health continued to improve. Eventually all of my previous symptoms disappeared (except during those hiccups) and symptoms I had never known were unhealthy or signs of illness disappeared as well. I found myself with more energy, getting deeper and more restful sleep, returning to my pre-illness weight, no longer experiencing stomach pains or discomfort, no longer experiencing digestive issues, having improvements in memory and mood, and just experiencing an overall sense of well-being. While there were still many hurdles to overcome, I was finally recovering and on a path towards health.

Well, there is a very brief summary of my recovery. There were many ups and downs throughout the process and "process" is definitely the way to describe it.

It took me a huge amount of time and energy to become in tune with my body the way I am today and to learn the way I should eat to feel my best.

However, through this process I have also discovered a passion for finding health in all aspects of my life and hope to help others do the same.

But, more on that next time!

Happy Thursday! Thanks for sticking with me through this series, tune in Saturday for the final installment!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Story: Part 1, Illness


I thought it would be good to share my story about why I am who I am today and how it has inspired me to have the plans I do for my future. Read (a lot) more below!

It all started a little over two years ago. I was a freshman in my third quarter at the University of Washington. I had just had a challenging, yet rewarding Winter quarter in which I realized that the music major I had entered college to pursue was not what I was meant to be doing and made the switch to the psychology department, where I felt much more at home. Overall, I was excited to be finishing up my first year of college, was having a great time in the dorms with my new friends, and was enjoying my classes. Then all that changed.

One Sunday after having a wonderful weekend and just beginning to prepare for an exam the next day, I was hit with the most painful headache I had ever experienced.

I had a migraine once before, the summer before going to college, but this was nothing compared to that first experience. I also felt nauseous, dizzy, and any sounds or light made things exponentially worse. I assumed my symptoms would pass, maybe I had food poisoning or was getting sick, perhaps I was more stressed by this exam than I had thought, maybe all I needed was a good night's sleep. Surely everything would get better in a few days.

Only it didn't. This became routine. I constantly experienced migraines and headaches, was nauseated, and had extreme vertigo. What I experienced I later learned didn't really fit the mold of vertigo, as my experiences were never accepted as such by doctors, but most resembled how one feels on a boat on rocky water. Swaying back and forth.

Only I could never get off the boat.

Additionally, because of the feelings of dizziness and vertigo I found myself unable to sleep. While walking, standing, and sitting were always hard, I could normally sway through them and get whatever I was doing done. However, when I was laying down that all went away. All I could feel was the sway. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes I felt I was about to fall out of my bed. Cognitively I of course knew this was not going to happen but my senses deceived me, leading to many restless nights and torturous days.

Relatively soon after I started experiencing my symptoms I visited my family doctor in search of help. She performed all the tests she could think of but no cause was determined. Vision was fine, heart was fine, blood pressure was fine, no diseases, and so no answers. She was able to prescribe me migraine medication, which did manage to dull the pain that was always present in my head.

Then began the endless passing between specialists.

First I saw a neurologist, only he had fewer answers than my primary care doctor had. After running more tests and passing me off to other specialists (no brain tumor, no inner ear problem, no anything) he resorted to prescribing me medications in the hopes that they might help my symptoms.

"You can't sleep? How about some antidepressants with drowsiness side effects?"

"Hmm, those didn't help? Just up the dose and take these drugs that potentially could help you."

"Nothing? Well you really should address that weight gain, never-mind you can barely walk, you really need to start exercising more."

By that point it was clear to me he was not really believing what I was telling him. All I got from him was that it was all in my head and maybe if I lost some weight or took some more antidepressants it would all go away.

Unfortunately, at this point, because of all the drugs I had been put on, not to mention all of my symptoms that prevented me from functioning normally, I was very unaware of the poor level of care I was receiving and continued going with the program. It was all I knew to do.

About three months went by like this. That summer, summer of 2011, is all a blur for me. I know it included a lot of drug induced sleep, coffee to keep me barely awake during the day, pain, drugs, and tears. I remember visiting a friend in Vancouver WA, almost, a camping trip I went on, mainly because of the terrible pain I was in, and...that's about it.

I do however, remember the end of it. Specifically the turning point where I got closer to finding a way out.

It was late in the summer, August I believe, and my Mom had convinced me to walk, well sway, around Greenlake with her and a friend. As we were going around the lake my Mom was talking about my symptoms when her friend suggested I may have a food allergy.

I immediately responded with something along the lines of "How could I have a food allergy and not know about it? If that were true I must have learned about it sooner." However, thankfully, my Mom's friend went on to tell us about her daughter, who they had discovered had food allergies and were working with a naturopath to treat them.

At this point I was still extremely skeptical. How could I have something like a food allergy? Surely something so basic wouldn't have been missed by all the doctors I had already seen and couldn't be causing so many extreme symptoms.

However, this truly was the turning point. Mainly because I had hit rock bottom and had nowhere else to go. No other options, and no other possible explanation for my symptoms.

So, I made an appointment with a naturopath, which was possibly the best thing I could have done for myself.

Well, that about wraps up part one of my very long winded story.

Thank you anyone who stuck through that whole novel of a story. I've realized through writing it out why only my closest friends, most of whom were there while all this was happening, know in depth about this experience. It would take me an hour to explain it to someone!

Nonetheless, this is something that is now central to my identity, so where better to share it than here!

Please tune in for part two on Thursday, I promise it's much more lighthearted!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Love List Number Three!

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you all had a great past week and have some fun things planned for the upcoming week!

Here are some things I am loving!

1. Mail from roommates

We just got this wonderful postcard from my roommate who it is Africa this summer. How awesome is that?!

2. Birthdays and birthday celebrations

Last week was my 21st birthday and I had a wonderful time, getting to spend time with the people I care most about!

I also received many super thoughtful, useful, and perfect gifts. From my parents I got the Ninja blender which is UH-mazing! I finally have something that can blend the giant smoothies I make on a near daily basis. This thing has a 72oz pitcher which a couple nights ago I filled to the brim with smoothie good-ness! I also got a vast array of tazo teas, something I am extremely grateful for, cause can you really ever have too much tea? I certainly don't think so!

From Morgan I also got some wonderful gifts. I had asked for a new yoga mat and a deck of yoga pose cards both of which are super useful for my yoga practice. I was also pleasantly surprised by some beautiful natural amethyst earrings and this painting!

It was overall a wonderful birthday and thank you to everyone who I was able to celebrate with!

3. My first bar experience

The night of my birthday I went out with Morgan and my parents and had my first legal drinks! We first hit up a bar in Ballard called the Copper Gate which is unfortunately closing at the end of the month. This place has quite unique decor with pictures of women in the nude everywhere you look as well as a viking ship. Here, as my first legal drink I had a Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie which was delicious and tasted like an apple cider made like champagne. Yum yum!

Here are a couple pics I got of the night!

The naked ladies in the bathroom
The ship in the middle of the bar
4. Undiet

I just finished reading this lovely nutrition/cook book last week and it was one I absolutely adored! Normally I just get books from the library, read them, and then move on. However this book is one I want to own, and so my amazon order is on its way!

Some of my favorite parts of this book were the sections on how to prep and store different fruits and veggies, the chapter on beauty products and the different plastics in food storage products, homemade herbal tea blends, tips on limiting or eliminating refined sugars, as well as some delicious recipes.

5. Homemade oat milk

I started making this this past week and I love it! It is super easy, cheap, and fast to make. It even has cinnamon in it, which gives it a really nice taste!!

I found the recipe here, one of my all time favorite blogs.

6. Homemade granola

Another oat centered item! Since I had the week off I did a good amount of recipe experimenting and this was another experiment that turned out really well!

Check it out!

This is part of my second batch of the week,
it was so delicious I couldn't resist the first batch!
7. Bramblewine tea

This tea is so delicious! I first encountered it at the tea bar in the tazo store in University Village and fell in love with it on the spot! This was one of the teas I received as a gift from my parents and have cold brewed it for the past two nights.

Look at how beautiful that is!

A blend of hibiscus, freeze dried strawberry,
raspberry, and blueberry, jasmine green tea,
rooibos, orange peel, rose petals, chamomile,
and blackberry leaves. Yummy!
8. Good tv

I just finished watching the season finale of Mad Men and also started re-watching 30 Rock this past week. I love going back through shows from the beginning, I am always amazed at how some actors will look really different in earlier seasons while others don't age a bit! I also find that going through the years on a tv show is a great way to see how fashion trends and styles have changed over the years!

Well that about sums it up! I apparently have a lot that I'm loving this week, I hope you are too!

Also, tune in later this week for some installments of my personal experiences with illness, recovery, and finally health and how this connects so centrally to my diet, who I am today, and who I plan to be!

Happy Monday!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Love List Number Two!

Hey all! A much later posting than I had intended but hey, it's still Monday!

Here's my love list for the week.

1. Being done with Spring quarter

Yayayayay! I'm so glad finals are done with! Along those lines I've had time to reset my sleep schedule, get back into my workout routine, spend a lot of time with family, and read some stuff just to read it. All pretty awesome if you ask me.

2. So many people graduating! 

Congrats to Morgan, and my sister, and everyone else who graduated this week (or earlier in the month/year). Congratulations!

3. Visiting with family 

Along with all the graduating going on I had the pleasure of seeing many family members for my sister's graduation party. Something I enjoy doing and I must say is much less stressful when you are not the center of attention at the party!

4. This BEAUTIFUL summer salad that I have been loving the past couple of weeks! 

Cucumber Salad with Roasted Chickpeas
Check out the recipe here!

5. Delicious chocolate hazelnut butter

It's essentially nutella but wonderfully vegan, gluten-free, and corn-free! I picked up a couple of these packets today and had one with an apple as a post-yoga snack!

6. YOGA!!!

I finally had a chance to do some yoga followed by a meditation (and then brief nap) this afternoon. UUUHHHH-mazing!!!

Alright, that's it for now. Anyone have something awesome they are loving right now?

Later this week I should have some time to post some more interesting things, so stay tuned!

Happy Monday!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Love List Number One!

One of my favorite things that my favorite blogs do are post love lists! I think they are such a nice thing to send out into the world. So much of what surrounds us, especially I think on the internet, is negative. Well, why not add a little positive to balance all that out?!

So here it goes, my first love list!

1. Cold-brewed tea

This is something I have just recently discovered! I was in the Tazo tea store perusing all the wonderful teas for birthday gift ideas and I got to talking with one of the saleswomen and she mentioned this great idea!

This is similar to making sun-tea except you just stick it in the fridge!

You place water and tea in the fridge (I used a big juice pitcher) for 4 to 10 hours with about 1.5 the amount of tea you would normally use for the amount of liquid you choose and just let it sit!

I have been making mine overnight and let it brew for about 10 hours and I've been loving it! It really changes the taste of the tea, what better way to make an old tea taste refreshingly new?

Saturday night I made mango green tea and last night I made chai rooibos!

Check it out!


 Mmm, just perfect for springtime! Not to mention a great thing to have around while studying for finals!

2. The University of Washington's campus right now

So beautiful. It makes you almost forget it's finals week (almost)!

3. The Bachelorette

I'm the first to admit, this is one of my (many) guilty pleasures. I just love it. And really, who doesn't love the Bachelor/ette? I've been so excited for so long that every Monday when I go "Guess what's tonight?!?!?" to my boyfriend Morgan knows exactly what I'm talking about!

4. Mad Men
Love it!

5. Adorable Corgis! 

They are all so cute!

Well, with that I guess I better head off to prepare for those finals I was talking about!

If you're looking for some more love lists check these out--or make your own! Please feel free to share what you're loving right now!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, June 9, 2013



My name is Helen. I live in Seattle, Wa. I am a Psychology student at the University of Washington with dreams of becoming a nutritionist and clinical health counselor. 

I'm not entirely convinced that I will continue to blog or what will come of this, but it's something I have been playing around with doing for quite some time and, as it is the Sunday before Spring finals week, there's no better time but now to try it out right?! 

It does always seem to be the busiest times that we decide to do the most random things!

So why should I have a blog? 

Well, that is the very question I am asking myself at the moment. 

Mainly I love reading other people's blogs and have always asked myself if it would be something I could do. 

Unfortunately, overshadowing this musing is always the fear in the back of my mind that I am unworthy to share my thoughts and ideas with the world or internet community. In fact, only recently have I even started leaving comments on some of the blogs I read every day. I simply feel that no one wants to hear what I have to say!

So perhaps that is what this is! A way of proving myself wrong (or perhaps right, I guess we will have to see) or at the very least stretching past my current comfort zone and trying something new! 

Additionally, if I do indeed want to get to the point of being paid to help people, or at least provide them with some resources they may not have had access to before, I better start being comfortable with sharing information with others!