Category Archives: Ulcerative Colitis

5 Tips for Better Sleep

As many of you probably know by now, our family has officially grown from two to three with the birth of Baby Sweet Potato. I am taking some time off from blogging to settle into my new role as a mother so for the next month I have authors from around the web stopping by to tell their stories and share their favorite recipes. I hope you enjoy all they have to say, I look forward to being back with new posts and recipes of my own soon!

Today’s post is by Michelle Hoover of Unbound Wellness.  

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Hi, there! Michelle Hoover from Unbound Wellness here. If you don’t know me, I’m an NTP, blogger, and have used real food and lifestyle to overcome chronic gut issues and Hashimoto’s disease. Under the lifestyle umbrella, sleep is huge… and something that poor Samantha is probably struggling with right now with a newborn.

Sleep is one of those obvious health needs like drinking water, or getting exercise, but that doesn’t mean that people actually get enough of it it. Especially for those of us with chronic illness, sleep can be hard to come by, and incredibly important to heal. It’s in times of rest that our body rebuilds, and sleep is our built in rebuilding time every single day.

Trouble getting asleep and staying asleep is common in many autoimmune illnesses and related conditions, so what do we do to get more of it?

Here are my top 5 tips For Better Sleep

Get Sunlight Early and Avoid Light Before Bed

From the time we wake up, our bodies are already preparing for sleep the next day. Regulating our circadian rhythm is hugely about getting enough sunlight during the day. It doesn’t have to be an hour every morning. Even taking a 10 minute walk around the parking lot at your place of work can be enough to get your body into the groove.

Just as important as getting sunlight early is avoiding light at night. Blue blocker glasses are popular for late night screen time, however, I urge you to just try and avoid screen time altogether and opt for other night time activities like reading. (Using amber light bulbs like THESE are also helpful) 

Move During The Day

Most people have jobs where they sit all day and expend little energy (myself included) which is bound to result in a poor nights sleep. Moving your body during a short walk, time at the gym, or even just playing with your kids can have a drastic effect on your sleep

Eat a Good Fat Snack Before Bed

Many of my own clients report to me that they have issues with waking up at 2am and not being able to get back to sleep. This is typically caused by cortisol and blood sugar shifts from stress to the adrenals, or a drop in blood sugar from a poorly balanced diet. When this happens, I suggest trying a good fat snack before bed! This could be an avocado, some coconut butter, or a snack like my anti-inflammatory coconut turmeric bites.

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Photo by @mydallasobsession.

Get a Night Time Routine Down

Morning routines get talked up a lot for productivity, but night time routines are just as important. Sleep helps us to be more productive during the day!

Focus on getting down a routine that works for you. This may change on the week versus the weekend, or in different seasons of your life. It could be anything from a restorative yoga routine before bed, snuggling up with tea and a book, or whatever floats your boat! As long as it’s something that relaxes you and makes you want to keep doing it, go for it.

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Make it Non-Negotiable

We put value on so many things in our life… why not sleep? Make it non-negotiable to get to bed early, and do everything you can to make your sleep restful.

My husband and I like to hold each other accountable for things like this, and I highly recommend leaning on partner, or a even a daily reminder on your phone to go to bed!

I hope these 5 tips are helpful! Sleep tight!

For more information on sleep and autoimmune disease I encourage you to read my post on how I decided to buy a non-toxic mattress and how it helped my health – Samantha


michelle-hooverMichelle Hoover is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner from Dallas, Texas who after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s as a teen, turned to the paleo and autoimmune protocol diets to manage her autoimmune disease and heal her gut naturally. She is now the author behind the blog Unbound Wellness and you can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Birth

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Birth

I wrote this birth story in such a way that I could share it on multiple platforms and have it for myself so it is not just focused on the paleo/AIP side of things. I have included some notes about specific AIP concerns at the end. Also, it is an honest retelling of the birth and includes birth language so if you are super squeamish about these types of things this may not be a story for you. However, it is a positive story and I encourage people to read it and learn more about the options surrounding birth today. For more on my paleo/AIP pregnancy you can read about my first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester by clicking on these links.

 Many birth stories aim to walk through the physical details of the day a child was born, what happened and when. While I do want to remember every detail of the birth of my first child, focusing on these physical details is not fully indicative of my labor and birth experience. As a birth doula myself, I have seen many births, I am not afraid of birth, I understood the physiology of childbirth long before I ever became pregnant myself. I knew that I wanted an un-medicated water birth, who I wanted as my doula, and the type of provider I wanted the minute the test came back positive. My labor preparation was not found in childbirth books or classes. For me, preparing for labor was a mental and spiritual journey.

My pregnancy was filled with a lot of stressful events, unrelated to actually being pregnant. I lost two family members unexpectedly in my first trimester, my husband had to travel for much of my second trimester and at the start of my third trimester I found out that I was being laid off from my job following my maternity leave. All of these things kept me from feeling very in tune with being pregnant. I was just desperately trying to get things in order, assuming that I would just focus on the baby when it arrived. All of that changed at 37 weeks when I started having almost non-stop prodromal labor. Suddenly, it was impossible to ignore the fact that I was about to become a mother. I had to finish working early because the contractions were made worse by being on my feet all day and by being tired, so at 38 weeks I left my job early and finally switched my focus to gestating. I started taking daily short walks, during which I listened to birth and pregnancy podcasts and meditated to my birth playlist. One day someone on one of the podcasts mentioned that they had challenged themselves to pick three words to describe their ideal birth, words that were unrelated to the actual environment or method of delivery. I liked the sound of that, so I gave it some thought. The words that came to mind were worshipful, peaceful, and confident.

I wanted this birth to be a spiritual experience. I felt like so many popular natural birth affirmations functioned to convince the mother that SHE could give birth through her own physical power and while I know that that resonates with a lot of people I didn’t want to conquer birth, I didn’t want to rely on my physical strength, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. Instead, I decided that my focus would be on using this experience for God’s glory and relying on His power to guide me through the process. I wanted the environment to be peaceful at the time of birth, I didn’t want things to feel rushed or chaotic and regardless of what happened or how I gave birth I wanted to feel confident in the decisions that needed to be made so that I didn’t come out of the experience with regrets. I didn’t share these convictions with anyone, I just meditated on them every day in preparation for delivery.

My estimated due date was Nov. 25th, the day after Thanksgiving. When my prodromal labor started so early I thought for sure that this baby would arrive ahead of schedule and that I would be spending my Thanksgiving getting baby cuddles on the couch. Thanksgiving came and went. My whole family traveled down from 2 and half hours away to spend the holiday with us and I hoped and prayed the baby would arrive before they left so that I wouldn’t have to call them to come back again. However on the 26th everyone packed up and drove home and I was left grumpy and convinced I would be pregnant forever. In fact, my husband found me in my PJs, in bed, with the lights off watching TV, in full hibernation mode by 4 o’clock that afternoon. I was mentally done and ready for this baby to make an entrance. At midnight on the 27th I woke up to some strange “cramps”. I tried to ignore them and go back to sleep, but that quickly became impossible. I got up to go to the bathroom and low and behold… bloody show! The contractions were coming about every 6 minutes and were strong enough that it was uncomfortable to stay still through them. They quickly progressed to being every 4 and a half minutes apart so we alerted my doula and my mother and they both prepared to come to our house. My plan was to wait and go to the hospital when I was in transition because we only lived a few miles away and I wanted to spend most of my time at home. Over the course of the next nine hours I spent time watching TV with my husband while he rubbed my back, I visited with my mom and my doula in the stillness of the early morning, the sun came up and my team took turns eating breakfast and drinking coffee as I labored in the living room by the Christmas tree, leaning forward with each contraction, swaying back and forth as someone rubbed my back. We bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood, joking that it was probably against HOA guidelines to have a baby in the parking lot. Finally, around 11 AM I began to get shaky and feel some pressure so we decided to go to the hospital. We packed everything up and caravanned to the hospital. I was very nervous about dealing with the drive, check in and triage process and I could feel my focus and faith slipping as soon as we made the call to go to the hospital. The triage process was long and irritating and when the midwife finally came in I could tell instantly that she and I were not going to click. She gave me an uncomfortable cervical check, the first cervical check of my pregnancy, and announced that I was only 3cm. I could stay and be monitored for an hour or I could go home. While I was obviously somewhat frustrated by this news, I was also relieved. Now I could go back home to where I was comfortable and get my focus back to where it needed to be. Looking back, I am actually really thankful for this “practice” trip to the hospital because it gave me a chance to walk through the part of labor I was most fearful of, the transition from home to hospital, so that when it came time to do it again I was prepared.

My mom, my husband and I headed home and my doula headed back to her house to check on her family. My husband laid down to rest, my mom sat with me as I took a bath and tried to eat and then I took some Tylenol PM, at the advice of the midwife, and tried to rest myself. The contractions were still coming every 4 and half minutes and I still couldn’t stay still through them so I was only able to groggily drift off in between contractions before rolling onto my hands and knees through each one. This went on for about two hours when I decided to get up and try to get things moving. I pulled out all the stops, doing abdominal lifts, positioning exercises, walking the stairs, squatting, and moving my hips like my life depended on it. By 7:30 that night we called my doula back and we once again transitioned from day to night with everyone taking turns eating dinner and rubbing my back. I decided to go get back in the shower, since that was where I could relax the most, but I told my husband I needed him to stay with me. He tried helping me through contractions from outside the shower but that wasn’t really working so he changed into some shorts and got in with me. This was honestly my favorite part of my labor because I was so focused, my husband was doing a fantastic job of supporting me and it was private, just the two of us. The water was so relaxing and in that moment, I was sure I was never leaving that shower and that the baby would just have to be born right there. Unfortunately, we ran out of hot water… I stayed in the bathroom with my husband for a while longer but I think my team could sense a shift in my mood and started talking to me about going back to the hospital. The tiniest bit of fear started creeping in again and at first I said no, but then my wonderful doula reminded me to trust in my team and that fear was not a good reason to stay home. So, at 9:45 PM – almost 22 hours into my labor we headed back to the hospital. I began to cry a little as we pulled away from our house because I knew that when we came back we would have a baby and that still seemed so surreal.

This time, I was not afraid of the drive or the triage process I was just determined to get through it without losing my focus. The contractions in the car were very very hard but I only had two before we arrived. I stayed focus through check in and was brought into triage, I got right up onto the bed in hands and knees and strapped the monitors to myself so that they would stay on and I answered all of their questions without losing my focus. The nurse offered to check me so that we wouldn’t have to wait for the midwife, a different midwife from earlier in the day, and I agreed. Her check was much more gentle than the previous one and I was thankful for that. She asked if I wanted to know how dilated I was and I said not if I was far enough along to be admitted. She said that I was, so they sent my doula up to our room to begin setting up the birth pool. I told them I would be wearing my own clothes, rather than a hospital gown and I walked myself to our labor and delivery room, albeit very slowly. I had to do another 20 minutes of continuous monitoring before I would be allowed off the monitors to get in the pool, so again I climbed up into bed on hands and knees, closed my eyes and focused. The only negative to this time was that I overheard the nurses talking to each other, saying that I was still only dilated to a 5. At that point I knew that I needed to shift my efforts to conserving the energy I would need for transition and pushing so I told my doula to go ahead and fill up the pool even though everyone wanted me to walk around to try and get things progressing. I had been on my feet almost non-stop for almost 24 hours and I could feel my legs starting to get weak. I finished the monitoring and got in the pool and it was a definite relief. The water took the pressure off my legs and made it much easier to move from a resting position to my hands and knees for contractions. I would lay on my side to rest in between while my mom poured water over my belly to help my muscles relax, when a contraction came I would get on my knees and lay my upper body over the side of the pool while my husband applied counter pressure to my back. This routine went on for probably two hours before the midwife came in to check me again. It was now around 1 am the next day, November 28th. She told me that I was still dilated to about 5cm and that my bag of water was bulging, causing the pressure I had been feeling for much of the day.

Having attended a fair amount of births I was not terribly surprised by this news and I knew in my heart that it was time to help things along. The midwife offered to break my water and I agreed but I asked for ten minutes to talk with my team and to get myself prepared. After 25 hours of labor there was a definite part of me that was nervous about feeling things change and intensify. I had my doula say the risks of an artificial rupture of membranes out loud so that my mom and my husband would understand them and we all agreed that it was the best call. I got out of the tub and made my way to the bed as the midwife came back into the room. She was very gentle during the procedure and I hardly felt a thing. When they said the water was clear I started to cry out of relief. My contractions intensified immediately. I agreed to get in the shower for a while to help keep pressure on my cervix so my husband and I got in the shower and while I never felt scared or out of control I did cry and say a few curse words when it was just the two of us because the intensity of the contractions was a lot to get used to. After a little while I got back into the tub and I went into that full “labor land” hormonal state that people talk about. It was incredibly surreal, I felt as though I was drifting in and out of sleep and I just kept saying “Ok, Ok, Ok” after each contraction because in my mind I just kept reassuring myself that I was ok and that things were going well. Around this time the nurse and the midwife asked to check me again and without even really thinking about it I just said “No” very firmly. They hung around for a while and each time they would ask to check me I would just close my eyes and shake my head. I just knew that I could not handle anything breaking my focus and I knew that this baby was going to come out whether they checked my cervix or not. Finally, they left the room and I decided to try and see what it would feel like to bear down a little bit during the next contraction. I hesitantly tired it and it felt Ok so I tried it again on the next contraction without saying anything to anyone. All of the sudden on the next contraction my body took over and “trying to bear down a little” became involuntary pushing. My sounds and body language must have changed because my doula very calmly came over and asked “was that you pushing on that last contraction or was it your uterus?” I barely got the word uterus out before my body started pushing again. My doula chuckled and said, “it looks like you have a butt full of baby!” Apparently at that point she went out in the hall and told the nurse and the midwife that they should probably come back in, the nurse replied “well she is going to have to let us check her” my doula just laughed and said “I don’t think you’re going to have to, the head is coming out.”

The nurse and the midwife came back in and got everything ready. I don’t think I really realized how close I was to having this baby because I remember someone saying that they were setting up for delivery and thinking, “yeah right, that doesn’t mean anything I could still have hours left.” Then they moved the mirror to the side of the pool so that I could see myself pushing and there on the next contraction I saw the head starting to crown. One of my favorite songs on my birth playlist came on, “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli, this is one of my favorite worship songs and is all about creating a sacred and worshipful space. At this point my body was pushing so hard and uncontrollably I honestly felt like I couldn’t breath and in just two or three more contractions our little baby arrived! I reached down and pulled our little one up and out of the water. It was 3:30 AM just two hours and twenty minutes after my water had been broken. My doula was standing on a table taking pictures and both she and my mom were singing along with the song in a moment of total praise and worship. The baby’s cord was tangled at first so I could only get her to my belly. It took me a minute to snap out of labor land and realize that it was over and we had a baby! They untangled the cord and I pulled the baby up to my chest. I kissed that wet little head, covered in hair, and said “Oh baby, you did such a good job!” We heard that perfect little cry and I just stared in total awe. It was actually a few minutes before we realized we still didn’t know if we had a girl or a boy. I had my husband look and he announced to the room that we had a baby girl! I announced her name, rubbed her vernix into her skin, and my husband cut her cord. She went with him for some skin to skin time while I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta. The only downside to the whole experience was that her quick decent and my strong pushing caused some tearing that took a while to get repaired so I wasn’t able to feed her and hold her for another hour and half, but she was in the room with her daddy where I could still see her and hear her. After she ate and we moved to our postpartum room, she was weighed and measured. She was 6 lbs 14oz and 19 inches long.

Honestly, I would not change anything about my experience. I felt calm and confident throughout the entire 27 hours of labor. My team did an amazing job of supporting me. Even the slight hiccups, like the first trip to the hospital and having to have my water broken helped me reach my goals in the long run. The length of my labor kept me fully relying on my faith in God and her moment of birth was honestly one of the greatest moments of pure worship I have ever been a part of. I am still in awe of the experience and I am so thankful that it brought us our beautiful baby girl.


AIP-Related Notes:

  • Part of my motivation for wanting an un-medicated childbirth was that I do not tend to react well to most medications and I wanted to avoid side effects that could potentially trigger my autoimmune disease. I was able to avoid any medication during birth, and I did not even have an IV line placed. I have been taking Tylenol post birth to help relieve pain from the stitches and I used an herbal tincture to help relieve the discomfort of those post birth cramps.
  • I did eat and drink throughout labor. In my early labor and immediate postpartum I ate THESE paleo protein bars. They are not AIP. I also ate some sweet potatoes, applesauce and plantain chips. To help keep myself hydrated I drank coconut water and THIS mineral water.
  • In a future post I will talk about my postpartum period, including what I ate during my hospital stay.

Here Is a video of some photos from our birth (Nothing Graphic): 

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Third Trimester

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Third Trimester

To read more about my AIP/Paleo pregnancy experience read my First Trimester and Second Trimester Posts.

Well, here I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy with Baby Sweet Potato and I am caught in that place of feeling simultaneously overwhelmed at already being so close to the finish line and so incredibly ready to be done. The third trimester feels like it has been the longest of the trimesters for me. I am not good at being patient, so every day feels longer than the next as I anticipate all of the things to come. However, overall the third trimester has gone very smoothly.

The baby has been growing well and staying very active. I have had a fair amount of trouble going back to sleep in the middle of the night for most of the third trimester but some weeks are better than others, I did develop a few stretch marks on the lower part of my belly and on my hips but I am confident that they will fade. The only big complaint I have had is that around 28 weeks I developed fairly severe pelvic girdle pain or SPD that was caused by my body producing too much of the hormone relaxin in too short a period of time causing my ligaments to loosen and my pelvis to become unstable. This lasted for about six weeks and then just as suddenly as it came on, it disappeared. I went to the chiropractor regularly in those six weeks, I stretched and did exercises to try to strengthen my pelvic muscles and I had to be really intentional about not moving too fast or doing anything that would pull my pelvis out of alignment. It was royally uncomfortable and I am very glad that it didn’t last the entire length of the third trimester.


My diet has remained mostly the same in the third trimester. I did have to switch to eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day to keep my heartburn at bay and my blood sugar stabilized. I found that my acid reflux and heartburn improved when I started supplementing with calcium so I made the personal choice to reintroduce a small amount of aged, low lactose, dairy on a once a week or less basis just as I finish out the remainder of the pregnancy. This isn’t something that I would recommend to everyone it was just something that I felt comfortable doing and it has worked fine for me. Around 34/35 weeks I started eating 6 dates per day since some research has shown that there is a component in dates that mimics the effects of oxytocin and that women who consumed 6 dates per day in the last month or so of their pregnancy has higher rates of spontaneous labor, spontaneous rupture of membranes and greater cervical dilation upon arrival at the hospital. Plus dates are yummy, so why not? I also continued to drink this pregnancy tea daily.

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Third Trimester

Physical Self Care:

The amount of physical self care that I required definitely increased in this trimester. I started going to the chiropractor weekly, as opposed to every two to three weeks, to help with aches and pains as well as optimal fetal positioning for birth. I continued taking Epsom salt baths most nights to help with sleep, aches, and keeping any swelling away. My bedtime routine became very important and very extensive. I found that in order to get the best quality of sleep possible I had to start my bedtime routine an hour earlier so that I could spend more time away from blue light and more time decompressing before actually needing to fall asleep. I couldn’t do a lot of exercise during the six weeks where I was experiencing the SPD pain. I did some basic exercises at home each day and tried to stretch and remained active at work and about once a week I took a short walk but too much movement was very painful and took me a long time to recover from. As soon as it cleared up though I went back to walking about 3 miles every other day and doing some occasional yoga. Paying attention to optimal fetal positioning is important to me because I have seen a lot of unnecessarily difficult labors that have resulted from babies being in a posterior position so I have made sure to be particularly mindful of my posture and making sure to spend some time each day sitting on the exercise ball and resting on all fours to keep baby in a good anterior position. (if you’re interested in this check out this website and this article) I also really became intentional about trying to cut back on my level of busyness. We still had plenty of things going on, but I didn’t travel and I tried to keep things to a minimum so that I could stay at home and rest or work on preparing for the baby when possible.


Medical Care:

I have been extremely happy with the care providers I switched to in my second trimester. They have been very accommodating and have a naturally minded, evidenced based, but minimalistic approach when working with low risk patients. The two big tests this trimester were the gestational diabetes test and the group b strep test. The gestational diabetes test typically involves drinking a very sweet, very processed glucose drink and then having your blood sugar checked. I was not about to do that because I doubt I’ve had that much sugar and dye in my system in at least 5 years. Instead, I got my blood drawn at a fasting level at one appointment and then scheduled my next appointment for two hours after breakfast and got my blood sugar levels checked with the finger stick reader. It was all very easy and my levels all came back great. In regards to the group b strep test, the test itself is very easy but I wanted to try to do everything I could to minimize my risk of testing positive so that I could avoid the need for antibiotics in labor. I want this baby to get as much good bacteria from me as possible during birth and I want to be in optimal health postpartum and antibiotics are a big trigger for my ulcerative colitis. I knew I was going to be tested at 35 weeks so around 28 weeks I began a regimen of taking 2,000 mg of vitamin C in divided doses, two of these probiotics each day, and 500mg of garlic oil each day. Then at 33 weeks I also used this same probiotic vaginally every other night. My goal was to optimize my gut and vaginal flora, not cheat the test, so I didn’t want to do anything to target and kill bacteria only strengthen my immune system and introduce lots of healthy bacteria. My results came back negative, so that was a huge relief! I did not have any routine third trimester ultrasounds and since I was measuring on track there was really no need for one and I have declined any routine cervical checks at my weekly appointments.


Baby Prep:

We took a tour of the maternity hospital where I will be delivering, got baby’s closet organized with all of the wonderful gifts people gave us at our showers, prepped our cloth diapers and packed our hospital bags. When I write my post about the birth and the hospital stay I will talk about what I included in my hospital bag. I also started prepping for birth by intentionally practicing my relaxation techniques and getting my heart and mind in the right place. This phase of my life has been filled with a lot of stress, separate from the pregnancy, so one of the biggest ways I have been preparing for the baby is by trying to do as much healing and praying and mindfulness as I can so that that stress doesn’t get in the way during birth and my early postpartum days.

Stay tuned for the final update on my birth experience and to meet Baby Sweet Potato!




My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Second Trimester

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The second Trimester

It has been a while since I gave you all an update on how my AIP/Paleo pregnancy has been progressing. My last update came at the end of my first trimester and recapped the absolute craziness that those first 14 weeks had entailed. I am still overwhelmed thinking back on those months and all of the changes that happened so quickly both in our lives and to my body! However, I have now entered into the third trimester, believe it or not, so I decided it was time to give you all a recap of how the second trimester went.

Physically, the second trimester was fairly easy. However, we used that to our advantage and had a very busy summer. We celebrated my sister’s wedding, made two trips up north to visit family, I spent a week in Texas, and the hubby went on three work trips one of which took him to Guatemala. The summer is also a busy time for me, as a nanny, since all of the kiddos are home from school. Each day was jam packed and I needed every extra bit of energy I had to deal with the schedule and the 90 degree weather!


In contrast to the first trimester, the second trimester was easy in terms of diet. As soon as the morning sickness subsided I was able to easily go back to my pre pregnancy diet, which was AIP with a few reintroductions. I removed the white rice I had added in during the first trimester and ate a fairly normal amount of food. The only thing that got added was an extra snack before bed to help stabilize my blood sugar over night and keep me from waking up at 3am. I added kombucha back in, after abstaining during the first trimester, and I started drinking THIS pregnancy tea once a day to help prepare my uterus for birth and add in a few more good nutrients. All in all though, there were no big dietary changes to report, I didn’t have many cravings and all was well. I have still had consistent hormone-induced acid reflux though, which I have managed with medication, as I did in the first trimester.

Physical Self Care:

I didn’t have lots of physical complaints in the second trimester. Right at the beginning of the second trimester I had some hip and back pain, but that was managed through regular visits to the chiropractor. I have seen the chiropractor every two weeks throughout my pregnancy, which I would recommend to every pregnant woman. It helps tremendously with back pain and hip pain and it is a must for helping baby get into a good position for birth. I am carrying this baby very low so my pelvis and my hips easily get out of alignment and I don’t know what I would do without chiropractic care. I also take regular Epsom salt baths, which help to ease sore muscles and also help with my sleep. In terms of exercise, outside of running after 4 kiddos every day, I mostly walked for exercise. I tried to do at least three 4 mile walks each week around our local parks.

Medical Care:

The big second trimester medical event was the anatomy scan ultrasound. I have declined most ultrasounds during my pregnancy with the exception of ones used to check on the baby after some first trimester bleeding, but we did consent to this ultrasound since it gives the doctor’s good information about conditions that could impact the growth and delivery of the baby. We had this ultrasound at 19 weeks. This is typically where people find out the sex of the baby, but we declined finding out and decided to leave it as a surprise for delivery day! It was fun to see our little sweet potato on the screen, but it looks like he or she may be fairly strong willed since the little darling spent most of the time trying to hide and escape from the ultrasound wand. As a result, our one take home picture is of the baby doing a back flip… That being said baby passed with flying colors and looked healthy as could be!

It was around this point in the pregnancy that we made the decision to switch obstetric practices. Having an autoimmune disease has shown me the importance of advocating for myself and has shown me what a big difference having the right care team can make. After spending half of our pregnancy with my original practice I knew in my heart that I needed a different care team. I originally chose to be seen by midwives because the midwifery model of care emphasizes the importance of limiting unnecessary interventions, focusing on a well balanced lifestyle, and trusting women and their bodies to do what they were designed to do. My pregnancy has been very low risk so far and I am a good candidate for this type of care. That being said, just like all OBs are not the same neither are all midwives and it became clear to me that my original team of midwives was taking a much more medically and fear driven approach than I was comfortable with. As a result, I switched to a different practice around 23 weeks and have been very pleased with our decision ever since. I will be honest, this process was a pain, but it was well worth it and it reminded me again of the importance of self-advocacy and following your gut when it comes to who you trust with your care.


Baby Prep:

Because our summer was so busy we didn’t do tons of baby prep, but we did attend a class on water birth, which is an option that our hospital allows, we had a wonderful family baby shower, and we started setting up some of the baby’s things like the crib! We also used what little spare time we had to do some cleaning out and organizing around the house so that things weren’t too cluttered for baby’s arrival.


Overall, I would say the second trimester was much more similar to “normal” life than the first trimester. I felt well most of the time. My energy level was ok, although I didn’t get a big burst of energy like some do. I was able to keep up with AIP no problem, I had normal pregnancy weight gain, the baby continued to growth well and with some good self care I felt fine most days. That being said, the first few weeks of the third trimester have been another story entirely, but that is a post for a few weeks from now!

My Big Fat AIP Wedding

My BIg Fat AIP Wedding

From Samantha:  I am super excited to share today’s post with you all. Some of you may remember my sister from her previous post about her journey with ulcerative colitis, well today she is back with an extra fun post all about her recent wedding! She got married in June and it was an absolutely beautiful event! She and her husband put so much thought into the details of the ceremony and the day and their personalities really shined through in every aspect. I was so honored to be my sister’s “Best Woman” (I didn’t want to be the Matron of Honor because if felt like too old of a title) and I am honored again to have her here today to tell you all about some of the AIP-related details of the day. As anyone who has every tried to attend a wedding on the autoimmune protocol knows, its difficult. Now imagine being an AIP bride! Cake, champagne, buffet style food, lots of chemical-y cosmetics and finally travel to a honeymoon destination… there are a lot of potential pitfalls and areas of stress to deal with on a day that is supposed to be one of the best of your life. Jesse handled it all with incredible grace and she picked up some great tips to share along the way, so without further ado I will let her tell you all about it…

The Caterer

When following the Autoimmune Protocol food is obviously the most important factor in your daily life, so why wouldn’t it also be on one of the most important days of your life? After all, it is your big days and you shouldn’t have to be stuck eating bland chicken and watery vegetables. Find a caterer who will work with as well as for you. Our dinner was served “family style”, meaning there were several different menu items on each table for the guests to choose from. This made it easy to accommodate any other dietary resections for our guests. The caterer also made AIP versions of most of the menu items for my sister and I and served them to us individually during the dinner reception. When it came time for the toasts, while the guests had the choice between champagne or sparkling cider, my sister and I toasted with a locally brewed Kombucha so we could still have that “bubbly” effect.

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The Cake

My husband loves pie. Apple, cherry, lemon, blueberry… You name it and he will love it. So, instead of the traditional wedding cake, we decided to have a pie table. We chose about 5 different varieties of pie for the guests to choose from and display on our table. This made it easier to have an AIP pie that we could display and cut into during the reception. My sister, the best maid of honor ever, made the Raspberry “Cheesecake” from Autoimmune-Paleo.

cake poses


I highly recommend two AIP friendly products that played a crucial role on my wedding day. The first is Primal Pit Paste Deodorant. You’re going to be sweaty on your wedding day, there is no way of getting around it, and you need something that will give you piece of mind and not mess up your dress! I have used this deodorant for two years now and love it. With the primary ingredients of baking soda, arrowroot powder and essential oils, this deodorant keeps your dry and smelling fresh all while being chemical free! They also offer varying levels of strength and a baking soda free option, depending on your level of sensitivity.


The second product is OWay Sculpting Mist. I have utilized an all-natural hair care routine for several years. However, when I met with my hair stylist to do the trial run of my updo for the wedding, I didn’t give a second thought to using traditional aerosol hairspray. Unfortunately, about 2 hours after the trial I got a terrible headache, and when I went to wash my hair, large amounts of hair started falling out. I was stumped as to how I would keep my updo to hold shape for close to 9 hours on the big day without all the terrible side effects. So I recruited my sister, who wonderfully scouted out to her AIP blogger connections to see if she could locate an AIP friendly hair spray and she did! Kat Cline from The Primordial Table recommended OWay, an all-natural hair spray that she uses in her professional salon. Let me tell you, this bad boy worked! It wasn’t too wet, making it easy to style hair, it help the hair perfectly without making it too hard or crunchy, and it didn’t give me a single ounce notion of headache or tension!


Managing Stress

Planning and executing a wedding can be very stressful. There is no way of getting around that fact, so it is important to implement solid stress management techniques during this season of your life. These are a few that really helped me:

  1. Mindfullness
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Walking/ Light Exercise
  4. Sunshine

Having a support system and people helping you is key. Planning a wedding is a multifaceted task and it’s important to delegate and ask for help. My mom basically acted as my wedding planner and it is because of her I was able to have the wedding of my dreams. Find help, delegate tasks, and definitely don’t plan this event on your own. It is also important to start organized. This really helped me manage all the to-do lists and ensure I was able to sleep at night. I typically had several notepads next to my bed so I could right down all of my thoughts before bed. This enabled me to sleep soundly and return to planning in the morning.

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The Honeymoon

  1. Travel

Travel can be physically taxing and anxiety producing, so why add more stress and exhaustions to the days proceeding the wedding? I chose the keep the travel distance short and go to a honeymoon destination within the continental U.S. So, we chose Anna Maria Island, FL. It was beautiful little piece of tropical paradise without all of the travel.

  1. Accommodations

My husband and I nixed the idea of doing the “all inclusive resort” because I wouldn’t be able to eat any of the food or drink of the drinks and, most likely, wouldn’t be able to either bring in any food or cook while we were there. Instead, we rented a little on bedroom beachfront apartment that was part of a cottage resort. This way we were still able to enjoy some amenities on the property like laundry service, access to property grills, hammocks and tiki huts, chairs and umbrellas, as well as enjoy being right on the beach. We had a full kitchen, so I was able to make all AIP friendly meals for the week and enjoy them on our balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

  1. Paleo on the Go

Since we still had about a 9-hour travel day on the first day of our honeymoon, we decided to utilize Paleo on the Go to supply our dinner the first night. They delivered the food straight to our hotel, where the staff kindly unpacked the food and placed it in our refrigerator prior to our arrival. They have a wide variety of menu options and the food was delicious!


Photos by Kristie Lea Photography 



Tips For Improving Health and Fertility Before Trying to Conceive

Tips For Improving Health and Fertility Before Trying to Conceive

Did you know that 78% of autoimmune patients are women, most of which are of childbearing age? As women this presents us with a unique set of issues relating to health, fertility, and pregnancy.

Autoimmune disease and fertility is a topic that has fascinated me since the moment I was diagnosed with my autoimmune disease, because on a personal level I have always wanted children, and on a professional level I regularly work with women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. Over the years, I have done a lot of my own research and talked with multiple doctors about some of the best ways to improve health specifically as it relates to fertility and pregnancy and while I am not a doctor or a medical professional, today I would like to share some of the helpful things I have taken away from my research.

Tips For Improving Health and Fertility Before Trying to Conceive


Tips For Improving Health and Fertility Before Trying to Conceive:

  • Get off of Hormonal Birth Control: I have written on the topic of hormonal birth control as it relates to autoimmunity in the past, but suffice it to say that sex hormones can play a big role in immune system regulation, gut flora, and the management of autoimmune disease. Hormonal birth control can throw all of those things out of balance. Hormonal birth control has also been shown to lead to serious nutrient deficiencies that can impact fertility. So, even if you are not quite ready to start trying for a baby, ditch the hormonal birth control in favor of a non-hormonal option like condoms, a diaphragm, natural family planning, or a copper IUD. Giving your body time to recover from hormonal birth control use is probably one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of conceiving. I personally, switched to a non-hormonal IUD about a year and half ago and I have had a great experience.


  • Focus on Eating a Nutrient Dense Diet: If you are following the autoimmune protocol or the paleo diet, you are already doing great in this department. Cutting out processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine and adding in nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, grass fed meat, bone broth, and ferments will accomplish a number of things. First, it will decrease inflammation in the body which is a big inhibitor of fertility, second, it will increase depleted nutrient stores, third, it will aid in gut healing which is important to the health of your future babies (you should tae a probiotic supplement for this as well) and finally it will aid in the management of autoimmune disease. Cutting out dairy may also help to balance hormones, which may make it easier to get pregnant.


  • Begin Taking a Prenatal Vitamin That Contains Bio-Available Folate: Most doctors recommend beginning to take a prenatal vitamin at least three months before you plan to start trying to conceive. The goal here is primarily to increase your folate levels before conception, which can help minimize the risks of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. The problem is that most vitamins contain folic acid, which is a synthetic compound that is supposed to be broken down by the liver and converted into a useable form of folate in the body. However, many people lack the appropriate amount of enzymes in the liver to accomplish this task which results in high amounts of unusable, unmetabolized folic acid in the blood stream. This is especially true for those with a diagnosed MTHFR gene mutation. It may surprise you to know that folic acid was not even invented until 1943 and it was not introduced as a mandatory food fortification technique until 1998. Large amounts of unmetabolized folic acid do little to help your developing baby and have even been speculated to cause larger potential health problems down the line. As a result, it is best to increase folate levels naturally. The best way to do this is through a diet high in leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, and liver. However, if you are planning on taking a prenatal vitamin I would recommend using this one as it contains bioavailable folate rather than folic acid and I can say from personal experience that it is easy on even the most sensitive stomachs.


  • Optimize your Vitamin D and Omega 3 levels: Aside from folate there are a few other nutrients that are specifically important when it comes to fertility and pregnancy: Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Omega 3s. Optimizing vitamin D levels is important for anyone looking to manage autoimmune disease in general, as vitamin D can act as an immune regulator and is an important nutrient. I would definitely recommend getting your levels tested by your doctor. Getting adequate sunlight, eating grass fed, organic, meat and supplementing with both vitamin D and Vitamin K2 should help increase your levels. Omega 3 fatty acids are also very important when it comes to over-all health and decreasing inflammation, they also play a big role in baby brain development. There is a ton of information out there on how to get enough omega 3s. Food wise, seafood, pastured egg yolks, and grass fed liver are your best options. If you are also interested in supplementing, you will hear a ton of conflicting information about a variety of fish oils to use. In my research I found some uncertainty about the source quality of many plain fish oil capsules, there has also been a lot of controversy surrounding cod liver oil lately (which used to be one of the top recommended way to supplemented with omega 3s) and I just didn’t feel comfortable with it, so in the end I chose to supplement with high quality krill oil. It is affordable, has high levels of omega 3s and is easy to digest.


  • Begin a Regular Moderate Intensity Exercise Routine With a Focus on Back, Core and Pelvic Floor Muscles: We all know that regular exercise is good for you. We also all know that getting into the routine of exercising is half the battle. This is especially true when you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Exercise in pregnancy is super important, but chances are you are not going to have tons of motivation to start a new routine if you’re battling first trimester fatigue or indigestion. So, get yourself into the routine now! Keep your exercise at a moderate intensity, as too much high intensity work can possibly affect fertility in some people. You will also benefit from including some serious core and back work in your routine because these are the muscles you will rely on the most to maintain healthy posture and minimize pain throughout pregnancy. Having strong core muscles can also help you recover faster postpartum. Yoga is a great option as is pilates or lower to moderate intensity weight lifting. Personally, I really like these online videos because they are short, fun and there are a ton of them.


  • Work on a Gentle Detox Routine: An overload of toxins in your system can impact your health on a number of levels, but definitely on your hormones. Gently working to detox your body may help reduce your overall toxic load and improve health and fertility. The easiest way to do this is to drink plenty of water. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps flush out your system, it is also a good habit to get into because when you get pregnant you have to drink water like it is your job in order to stay hydrated and reduce your risk of preterm labor. Another easy way to gently detox your system is to include detox baths into your bedtime routine a few days a week. I regularly take Epsom salt baths to help reduce my inflammation and prevent pain, but a simple bath with some Epsom salts or some baking soda can help to gently detox your body and improve overall health.


If you’re looking for more information on autoimmunity and infertility, recovering from hormonal birth control use or getting pregnant here are some resources I recommend:

5 Tips for Healthier Sleep

5 Tips for Healthier Sleep FB

I believe that sleep is the most valuable commodity of adulthood; because lets face it we are a population of people in need of a nap. Sleeping has always been an issue for me. In high school, I stayed up too late and got up too early and always wound up asleep in my 7th period psychology class (a fact my, high school sweetheart, husband still gives me a hard time about). In college, I would take naps in my car or the student lounge in between classes and then drink 2-3 cups of coffee in order to make it through the day. Then, when I got married and had to share my bed with someone who was on a totally opposite schedule from me I just resigned myself to living life in a constant state of exhaustion. Even after my health tanked and I started the autoimmune protocol I didn’t really think about how much my lack of sleep was affecting my health. Finally, after we moved last year and our lives settled down I decided to really commit to getting more sleep. I started sleeping 8-9 hours every night, but I was still having a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning at night and waking up tired. It has taken me a few months to figure it all out, but I have learned a few things about how to get healthy, restful sleep.

5 Tips for Healthier Sleep

  1. Limit Blue Light Exposure in the Evening Hours: I think most of us don’t realize just how sensitive our bodies are to the environment. However, amazingly enough, our bodies are designed produce hormones that can either wake us up or make us tired in response to light. Blue light, like the light the comes off of your phone, TV, computer screen or CFL light bulbs, stimulates the body’s production of cortisol and suppresses production of melatonin which results in feeling more awake and alert and less sleepy. Darkness or exposure to dim, amber colored light has the opposite effect. As a result, you want to try and limit your exposure to blue light for at least an hour before bed. Here is what I do: After we eat dinner and talk about our days I usually turn off the lights in the living area and move upstairs to our bedroom. I turn off the overhead light and turn on our bedside lamp, which uses one of THESE very cheap amber light bulbs. In our bathroom, we leave the vanity lights off and use a smaller, dimmer, light as we get ready for bed. I also installed this free software on my computer, which changes the background lighting to an amber color at night. Finally, I use this screen protector on my phone, which minimizes blue light exposure. These were really easy and inexpensive changes to make but I noticed a dramatic difference in being able to fall asleep faster after I implemented them.
  2. Limit Social Interaction Before Sleep: Social interaction is highly stimulating and makes it hard for the body to wind down and prepare for sleep. When possible, I try to give myself an hour of limited social interaction before falling asleep. This means no major discussions with the hubby, no over stimulating movies or TV shows, no phone calls, no checking email.
  3. 5 tips for healthier sleep PinterestCreate a Routine: Routine is super important to me in most areas of my life, but especially when it comes to sleep. I cannot just fall into bed and go to sleep, even if I am exhausted. Personally, my routine involves drinking a cup of tea, taking a bath or a shower, doing something mindless for a while, turning on my sound machine, and then going to sleep. I do this every night, without fail and it allows my brain to recognize that it is bedtime and helps me to wind down.
  4. Limit Sleep Disturbances Like Noise: Speaking of my sound machine, I am a super, super, super light sleeper. I could be sound asleep and if there is any sort of noise I will be completely awake instantaneously. On the one hand, this is a good thing, because as a doula I need to be reachable at night if someone needs me, but the rest of the time it is problematic. I can’t use earplugs because I do need to be able to hear my phone if I am on call and I can’t turn off my phone for that same reason, so I ended up getting this sound machine and I love it. It provides just enough ambient noise that I am not bothered by normal sounds like my husband moving around or using the bathroom, but I can still hear my phone and my alarm.
  5. Invest in a Non-toxic, Supportive Mattress: Using all of the above tips helped me to get to sleep faster and optimize my hormones for a better night sleep, but they don’t have much impact on the actual quality of my sleep. When my hubby and I got married we couldn’t afford a new mattress so we used his older mattress from his childhood home. It was very firm and even after adding a topper to it I would wake up in the middle of the night with back pain and hip pain and if I stayed in the same position for too long my arm and hand would fall asleep. I honestly chalked this up to an annoyance and for three years we just dealt with it. A few months ago, after saving up for about a year, we decided to purchase a king size mattress. I was very nervous about such a large purchase and I wanted to make the best decision possible in regards to long-term durability, comfort, and health. While doing my research, I learned that most mattresses contain toxic chemicals in the form of fire intelligel grpahicretardants and off gassing foam. I will be doing another post soon that covers this topic more in depth, but after looking at this research I knew I had to avoid these chemicals in order to continue decreasing my inflammation and optimizing my health. When I started looking into organic mattress options, I found that most of them had poor warranties and got bad reviews when it came to support and durability. Then I talked to a few other blogger friends who recommended Intellibed. Intellibed has created a mattress that uses no flame retardant chemicals, produces no off gassing effects and utilizes a special type of gel that optimizes spinal alignment and reduces pressure. They also have an in-home trial period, which allows you to try the mattress, with the use of a mattress cover, in your home for 60 days to decide whether or not you like it. If you don’t like it, they will pick it up and give you a refund. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, after doing months worth of research and agonizing over the decision I decided to go for it and give it a try. We purchased their motion dampening model and it has completely revolutionized my sleep. The feel of the mattress is unlike any other bed I have tried. The gel is soft and comfortable around your pressure points like your shoulders and hips, so I no longer wake up with hip pain or shoulder pain from laying on my side, but at the same time the gel actually pushes back against the rest of your body providing a ton of support for the lower back, neck, and legs. It took us about two nights to get used to how different it felt, but after that, I never looked back. I sleep so much deeper than I ever used to. In fact, most nights I feel like I fall asleep and wake up in the same position. I no longer wake up with a stiff neck or pain in between my shoulder blades and I have yet to have my arm, hand or leg fall asleep in the middle of the night. Hands down, investing in this new mattress was the best thing I have done for my overall health since changing my diet. In the coming weeks, I will share more about why I invested in a non-toxic mattress and how I went about choosing the one that works for us. In the mean time, I love my bed so much that I talked with Intellibed and asked them to create a promo code that I could share with any of you, in case you decide to give this mattress a try. They agreed, so if you are interested in learning more about intellibed click HERE and enter the code SWEET10 to get 10% off of your purchase. Also, if you’re not ready for a new mattress yet but you want some of the comfort and pressure relief benefits of the gel they also sell mattress toppers and pillows that work wonderfully!

I honestly wish I hadn’t waited so long to work on my sleep, because now that I have it really has made a huge difference in how I feel and how I live my life. We all know that getting enough sleep is important, but its not always easy to figure out how to achieve good quality sleep. I hope that these tips help you out in your journey for better sleep and better health. Let me know in the comments if you have discovered any good methods for getting a better night’s sleep!

*Affiliate Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post, so the views expressed here are my own and were not influenced by any manufacture or company. However, this post does contain affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link in this post and make a purchase a percentage of the proceeds will come back to me to support myself, my family, and this blog.