Does Choosing Supplements Feel Like a Never-Ending Maze?

iStock_000008226295_SmallI have been getting some questions as a health coach about how to go about choosing from the many holistic product options, especially when it comes to supplements. So, I will summarize 4 key pieces of advice:
 
1) Make one change at a time.
This is the only way for you to feel whether a product is working for you, and it increases your chances of sticking to the new habit, because you will know EXACTLY what changed.
As a health coach, I have seen people change only what they eat with no added supplementation at all, and still reach 60-95% of their goals. Nothing is more important than what you choose as fuel for your body, what you do to keep it in shape (movement of some sort), and how you manage your thoughts (lessening stress and negativity).  
Many find it easier to start with taking a supplement, because they feel it is something they can do with less effort at first, or because they feel it will help them have more willpower. If that is you, then go ahead and try it, but JUST take your new supplements at first so you know what is changing. If you start the supplements AND you start eating better AND working out more…you cannot say which change is helping most. How do you really know? 
 
2) Research your ingredients.
Natural does not necessarily mean it’s right for YOU and your body. A year or so ago I had a friend who started taking aloe daily to help with digestive issues. After a couple months, he went for a colonoscopy. Afterwards, the doctor told him he knew he was drinking aloe juice and to stop it immediately because the continued use over time was turning his intestines black, and although it would reverse if stopped, if continued it could do damage.
And did you know that if you have a latex allergy, you should be VERY cautious of taking aloe? The aloe plant contains an aloe gel in the middle and an aloe latex before the leaf and after the gel. When the aloe ingredient manufacturing process includes both, an aloe-allergic person could react and the latex portion is what causes the intestinal damage due to its laxative effects.
Now for some, aloe has been a lifesaver and works well, but most gastroenterologists agree it should be taken as needed and not proactively/daily over time to be safest. Is it possible that some supplements have found a way to harness the good parts of aloe and not the challenging parts to ensure continued use is safe? Absolutely. But if it were me, I would want to ask and know how they are ensuring that, and I would at least want to know that it COULD become an issue so that I could monitor with my doctor. This is merely one example of why it is important to know your ingredients and be aware of all potential benefits AND risks.
Basically, do your research because not all ingredients are manufactured or processed the same, and some have risks to specific groups of people. High quality supplements cost money, so make sure the ingredients and science behind it feels worth your investment. Just be sure your research is coming from expert sources, and weigh both negatives and positives against logical tests to see if you can trust all the information (e.g., Is the opinion based on newer or older research?, Does the person have a personal interest in the advice presented?, Does the article include links to science-based studies/references?)
3) No one option works for everyone.
Every body is different, with a different natural chemical plant than everyone else. So, although some things may work for the majority, no one thing will work for EVERYONE, and no experience will be exactly the same. So, do your research to ensure the line is pure, well balanced, and ask others how it has worked for them. Then trust your instincts. If you feel it may be right for you, then try it. You have nothing to lose usually. In most cases, you will receive some benefit even if it isn’t exactly what you were looking for, and many high quality lines offer a money back guarantee the first month.
 
4) No supplement or natural product is legally allowed to claim it CURES or HEALS disease, or that it REPLACES any approved medication.
If someone is saying that their supplements will cure cancer, heal your Crohn’s Disease, or replace your prescriptions then you should be at least a bit skeptical. That sort of language is often used to convince those groups to buy, and does not always stem from truthHowever, some natural products ARE proven to be highly supportive of specific normal body functions (e.g., respiratory, digestive, etc.).
And, many times the person means well. It is completely normal process to have a product work so well at supporting a body system that a person experiences a grand improvement in their wellbeing, and of course that leads them to wanting to shout it from the mountaintops and help everyone they know feel better too! When someone says to you something like, “I took this and my reflux was cured!”, that is hopefully an accurate perception of what they believed to have happened. However, what most likely happened is that the product helped fill a deficiency within their body and that enabled that body system to fully function again. The supplement didn’t cure the reflux, it supported healthy digestion. The body then stopped the reflux because it was able to.
This is largely different than what happens when you take a manufactured drug that is synthetically produced to change how normal body functions operate in order to facilitate a change in disease state. If someone is marketing honestly and legally, then the message should be that the product supports or promotes healthy normal body functions or promotes or improves normal, everyday types of issues (aches after working out, feelings of anxiousness before a test, etc.).
According to the FDA, as soon as someone is benefiting from the sale of a product, that person can no longer say that the product stopped his or her reflux or saved them from buying reflux medicine….EVEN IF THAT IS THEIR TRUE EXPERIENCE…because it then falls under commercial speech. Someone may take that as a drug claim and purchase based on that perceived promise. How do I know? Because I carry the doTerra line of oils and supplements and our company has been cooperating fully to educate every leader and advocate in the company as to why controlling commercial speech is so important, and on how to still promote the benefits of our products in a compliant manner. I believe the best in most people, and think those who are still making those claims are doing so because they just don’t understand the laws yet, but the few who use those claims for financial gain only, the few who are the reason the FDA has to make these efforts to begin with…those are the people you want to watch out for.
The bottom line?
I think it is awesome that there are so many natural, quality supplements out there to choose from today. They are sorely needed thanks to the state of our food supply, the amount of toxins we are subjected to daily, and the latest findings that are finally proving that many of the grocery and pharmacy chains have fake supplements on their shelves or supplements without the proper ingredients to facilitate absorption (resulting in expensive urine).
 
So, understand that natural supplement products are merely a support tool that DOES NOT give you a free pass to eat like crap and never workout, yet still expect to get healthy. Research the ingredients so you know what the potential benefits and risks are. And, maintain an accurate expectation of natural supplements’ role in your wellness goals.
They are supportive. They are not magic pills.
iStock_000008226307_SmallThey cannot immediately instill perfect willpower, turn your metabolism into overdrive, erase years of bad habits, make that hot in the corner see you as sexy, or fix your marriage.
 
However, they CAN be a HUGE part of your wellness toolkit when used properly.
 
My most important piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to try different products, and once you find one that helps you reach your goals, don’t let the naysayers and skeptics talk you out of it…stick with it until your body tells you there is a change needed.

Magic Potions? They’re Hocus-Pocus!

Screenshot 2016-01-06 15.34.12As a health coach, I respect the fact that every person is different and therefore will find different products that work for them. That is why I carry more than one, and use more than one brand of product. I choose what works best FOR ME. I also help my clients choose what is right FOR THEM, even if what’s right isn’t any of the products I can supply.

In health coaching school, we are taught that choosing real, unprocessed foods that are non-gmo and grown in a sustainable manner AND managing your primary foods (emotional needs such as stress, love, exercise that you love, and spirituality) are the foundational cornerstones of health. My experiences with my family’s health and my clients’ have proven to me that this is true.

What about all these magic potions out there?

There is no magic potion, no fancy drink or pill that will make up for choosing too much sugar, unhealthy fats, or toxic chemicals. To be at our best, most of us should be eating real foods at every meal, including a full glass of water and about 6 grams of protein within 1/2 hour of waking…and I don’t mean by adding water to a processed protein shake…I mean through FOOD.

Healthy smoothies, ground by you, using fresh veggies, fruits, and food-based-proteins are fine. And, if you choose to use a healthy, no-chemicals-added replacer shake from time to time because of time constraints that is better than nothing, but it is still NOT a healthy food replacement.

Feel free to enjoy and use some of the natural herb and essential oil based products that can naturally help curb cravings and support healthier digestion and weight loss…but just don’t think they make it so you don’t need healthy foods.

What about supplements and essential oils? Do you really need them?

Supplements and essential oils support health and can have amazing benefits, but they are not a “get out of healthy habits free card.”

The answer is that with our current food supply, yes, most of us do need supplements (even those of us who eat very healthy). Again though, they are not even close to a replacement for healthy foods. And, most supplements you find either don’t have the right kind of nutrients and macronutrients, not enough of what you need even if it IS the right kind, or they have TOO much (which can also cause problems). In all of these cases you are likely to end up with very few benefits and very expensive urine…because you likely won’t absorb most of what you take in.

Most everyone needs a BALANCED multi-vitamin and mineral (no or minimal iron unless you are low), Omega-3s, Vitamin D (if it isn’t in your multivitamin in high enough amounts) and a high quality, multi-strain probiotic.

Many companies claim to have amazing probiotics and charge an arm and a leg for them, but do you know what matters in a probiotic?  The number of healthy bacteria strains, the measurement of bacteria strains (cfu), how it is stored/protected to keep those bacteria alive until you consume it, and how those bacteria are introduced into your system and how they plan to ensure most of the bacteria make it through your digestive system into the targeted location. If your probiotic brand is not refrigerate, you have no idea how long it has sat on that shelf, has only 1-4 strains, and has no explanation of how it was specially made to ensure you will actually benefit from those bacteria (rather than merely killing them during digestion)…well, I would recommending researching them more before you spend the money.

You can skip the expensive probiotic altogether if you choose to ingest foods high in probiotics EVERY DAY such as kombucha, water kefir, sauerkraut, raw cheeses, and raw unsweetened yogurts…but these can be expensive too unless you make them yourself; and if you buy the regular processed store cheese or yogurt instead of raw, unsweetened it won’t help much (and may hurt by feeding the unhealthy bacteria with the sugars and additives they contain).

Whether of not you NEED essential oils is a very personal opinion, but they are not magic potions either, but just as with supplements, they can provide great benefits and be a supportive part of your wellness toolkit.

What about a cleanse? Are they really helpful?

I believe I owe my life to a healthy, food-based elimination diet cleanse. Literaly. I am not exaggerating. So, of course I feel a cleanse can be helpful.

But be careful. There are some very UNHEALTHY cleanses out there being touted as safe, when in reality they can cause harm. For example, your body needs fiber to remove toxins, and juicing releases a lot of toxins from your system. So, if you stay on a juicing-only cleanse for many days without adding in any fiber, or even worse, while also adding in supplements to enhance the detox, you could easily overload your filtering organs and get very sick.

Any cleanse should be primarily food-based (or all). Remove all sugar, processed foods, trans-fats, and inflammatory foods for 10-30 days. That along with increased water intake of 64-96 ounces of water per day will make most Americans feel like a million bucks (at least after the first week of detox sludginess…that is a word according to me). 🙂

If a cleanse says you don’t have to change what you eat, or worse yet, that you don’t have to eat at all, please look for another one. Supplements can support cleansing, but the right foods are still what matters most. Great cleanses will teach you healthier habits you can maintain even after you are finished with your cleanse.

And as usual, don’t blindly take my word for it…do some research…look up some of these things for yourself and make an educated decision on what works best for you.

What do I advise?

Please throw out this search for magic potions and fountains of youth, and instead consider these three primary steps to work toward and maintain your version of healthy:

1) Eat real, healthy, unprocessed foods.

2) Move your body every day…in whatever form of exercise makes your heart sing. Take a hike, go for a walk, do yoga on your bedroom floor, join a fitness class group (peer group, belonging, AND exercise…helps with number 3 too)…just move somehow.

3) Take care of your emotional needs. Make your self-talk kinder, surround yourself with people who help you stay positive and celebrate your strengths instead of pointing out your challenges, learn how to say no unless you are excited about saying yes, and make yourself a priority. You deserve to be healthy, but almost no one can be healthy if they aren’t first HAPPY.

Feel free to supplement these steps with any of the holistic complimentary therapies that work for you. In my family, some of the things we supplement with are regular chiropractic care, herb and whole-foods based supplements, essential oils, an annual cleanse, and pet-therapy (we have two of the cutest dogs ever who smother us in unconditional love, laughter, and cuddles).

Which of these three primary areas do you do well in? Which would you like to focus on improving this year? What are some of the complimentary therapies you find helpful? I’d love to hear from you!

 

“You were right.”

My daughter, Jaylee, is a gymnastics ADDICT. She has NO other interests. She is determined to become an elite gymnast, compete in the NCAA at a top school, and compete in the Olympics at 19 (the first Olympics she will be eligible to compete in if the age requirements stay the way they are). It is so amazing watching her learn the physical and mental dedication it takes to work toward such a lofty goal.
Two weeks ago, I was scrutinizing our current food choices in an effort to make them healthier and better for our daughter Karly, whose little body is fighting off Lyme Disease at the moment. I told Jaylee that I felt that she was eating too much hidden sugar or foods that convert to sugar, and that it was likely a major factor in why she was feeling more tired than usual, and why she had knee ligament pain (something she hasn’t had in the past). So, she started an elimination diet with me…complaining the entire time.
We didn’t start “all-in” right away, because she is picky and I was trying to help her find enough recipes she likes first. We started by ensuring a healthy, no-sugar breakfast each day instead of her normal gluten-free but flour-heavy options (and of course we were also using essential oils and targeted supplements to help support ligament healing).
On Friday night, after practice, Jay spoke up from complete silence in the car and said the three words we parents would all love to hear from our kids more often: “You were right.”
What? I seriously am not sure this particular child has EVER said that before, so of course I was curious. I asked, “Right about what baby?” She replied, “Eating healthier this week really did make a difference. My skills were much better and my knee hurt much less. I had an amazing night. Even my coaches said so.” Wow.
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Yesterday, at her meet, she won third place all-around, first on bars, first on vault, and tied for sixth on floor. She fell off the beam, but not because of knee pain. Win for the Mom. Now, I just hope she remembers that lesson for a very, very long time.

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

Are you sure it’s Lyme Disease? Ask the right questions before starting antibiotics.

One of my twin daughters is in her pre-teen years, and has been sick since Thanksgiving with what seemed to be sequential viruses. She would have a few good days, then would get a low-grade fever and feel tired; then a few good days, followed by a low-grade fever and some congestion; then a few more good days, followed by a low-grade fever and stomach aches.

Although she has historically always been a very healthy child, I didn’t think much of it. I just figured she was having a rough winter. But then, on one of her most frequent good days I said, “Honey, it is so nice to see you feeling well again.” She replied, “Well, I feel better, but I still feel really weak and tired all the time.” My inner mommy alarm started ringing. Ironically, a couple of days later she came home from school with a stomach ache, nausea, and low-grade fever. That was on a Friday.

By Saturday her fever was gone but she still felt tired and dizzy. By Sunday she seemed mostly better, but on Monday I found her lying lethargic on her bedroom floor…at 12:30 in the afternoon. I called the doctor immediately and took her in.

The pediatrician was concerned with her recent weight loss combined with all the symptoms, and decided to test her for quite a few things, including: Celiac Disease, blood count/Leukemia, thyroid levels, and a general blood panel. When she asked if I was thinking of any other possibilities, I suggested we add Lyme Disease and Mono. The doctor didn’t feel Mono was likely due to no swollen glands, and wasn’t sure about Lyme because of the time of year, but she agreed both tests were reasonable to add.

Tuesday afternoon we found out there was something in her blood work that indicated it MAY end up being a positive test for Mono, but the actual Mono test wasn’t back yet. They also said something else was slightly off, enough that they wanted to send her for more testing: a complete metabolic panel and urinalysis to check for vital organ function and possible kidney or liver issues. However, they suggested we wait until Thursday to give her body time to recover from all the blood they had previously taken, and to give the other tests more time to come back.

Yesterday afternoon we received a positive Lyme test back, so the nurse called to let us know they were calling in a prescription of Doxycycline, which was to be taken 2 times per day for 30 days. I hung up and immediately looked up the drug information. It warned NOT to use the drug if there was a risk of kidney or liver issues. Hmmmmmm, they were sending my daughter for tests to check her kidney, liver, and other major organ function. Shouldn’t we wait to start this until we know if her kidneys and liver are OK? I called and submitted that question to be asked and chose to not fill the prescription yet. I listen to my gut when I have a check, and I had a big one.

I also sent a text to a friend whose son had been diagnosed with Lyme, and she shared that after almost finishing the antibiotic with her son and living through all the side effects, they had found that he never had Lyme disease to begin with…it had been a virus. She shared the CDC standards for ensuring Lyme Disease is properly diagnosed. Do you know there are two tests, and one without the other can be a false positive? I didn’t, but I am glad she shared, because when I called the doctor’s office this morning to ask, they had only done the Western Blot test, which the CDC labels as the second test. They had skipped the first test (EIA or IFA). According to the article:

“The two steps of Lyme disease testing are designed to be done together.  CDC does not recommend skipping the first test and just doing the Western blot.  Doing so will increase the frequency of false positive results and may lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.”

I am thankful that my friend shared her experience. I just hung up with the nurse. During the conversation, I learned that my daughter has had Mono in the past but it is not active or contributing to current symptoms.  I also asked the nurse to tell the doctor that before I fill this prescription, I want:

  1. All of the blood work that she has requested back so we can be sure my daughter’s kidney and liver function is operating efficiently.
  2. To wait until we add the second Lyme test to today’s follow-up blood work and get a positive result back.

Advocating for your children and yourself is so important. Anymore, almost everyone agrees that antibiotics should be used more sparingly and carefully. Not only can you become immune, but antibiotics can completely throw off the balance of healthy bacteria needed in your gut. When your gut bacteria becomes unbalanced it can lead to a host of other issues, such as lowered immune function, anxiety/depression, digestive issues, focus issues, weight issues, food intolerances, and more. Personally, I need to be SURE she has Lyme before starting a month-long treatment that carries definite side effects.

Another couple of days won’t hurt her if she does have Lyme. If I am sure, then I feel the risks of untreated Lyme Disease outweigh the risks associated with the antibiotics. Plus, I will do everything I can to counter the negative effects with natural efforts if we end up going down that road.

I will keep you posted as we continue along this journey. For now, I wanted you all to know about the two-test method for ensuring an accurate Lyme Disease diagnosis, and to remind you of how important it is to advocate for you and your children. Doctors are human.

  • Always read the drug information sheet, and I suggest you do it BEFORE you pick it up at the pharmacy. They are all posted publicly on the pharmaceutical companies’ websites. I make this suggestion because, once you leave the pharmacy with a drug, they cannot take it back. We have learned that expensive lesson the hard way.
  • Ask your questions, even if the doctor seems agitated that you are asking. Your thoughts matter. NO ONE knows your child like you do.
  • Listen to your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable with a suggested treatment, tell the doctor and work together until you either do feel comfortable, or until you come up with a different option that does feel right to you.

See my follow up post here.

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

Nascar Bullies Those with Celiac & Food Allergies

In my last blog post I wrote about how I once had a stranger say that in the past, food allergies would have been called natural selection: implying that my son was weak somehow and the world should just let him die sooner because he is flawed. Food allergic people run into this a lot, where people feel it is a horrible inconvenience and unfair to them that they have to sacrifice what they want to eat in their school or place of work. But, I had hoped that this sort of bullying was dissipating; that people were starting to see how serious food allergies can really be, starting to see that it really is a community problem that we need to tackle head on.

I guess I am wrong, because a soon to be released Nascar Super Bowl ad says, “When our idea of danger is gluten, there’s trouble afoot. Yes, we the people have gotten soft.”

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Though I can see the larger “joke,” this is why I have never liked sarcastic, slap-stick humor. I don’t see how making fun of people who live with real challenges just because they are different is funny. This is the very definition of bullying, trying to reap some form of personal gain (e.g., inflated sense of self-worth or popularity) by publicly making fun of or taunting others who are perceived as weaker for some reason.

Just as with kids who are bullied, the truth usually is that those being bullied are really the stronger and kinder human beings. The same holds true here. My kids suffer from multiple foood allergies, some life threatening. They have to learn every day how to be strong enough to be OK with who they are even though those around them see the challenges they live with daily as an inconvenience, a lie, or something to be afraid of. They have to figure out how to NOT define themselves by what they can and cannot eat, even though many of those around them do so constantly. They have to figure out how to live with the knowledge that food could kill them, when kids are supposed to grow up feeling invincible. The fact that they’ve figured all that out and are still successful makes them some of the strongest people I know.

And the fact that whomever wrote that ad, and Nascar execs who approved that ad felt they needed to disparage an entire community in an effort to make a “catchy” and “edgy” ad that will incite a large amount of attention makes them some of the weakest people I’m glad I don’t know.

This world needs far more compassion and empathy and far less sarcasm and apathy.

I will end my soap box rant now.

If you agree and wish to share your disapproval, a petition to have Nascar pull the ad is here.

If you need to see it in order to decide for yourself, the link to the ad is here.

“Mom, I hate my allergies!”

Yesterday was a rare day in our household. It was a day where my husband and I allowed ourselves to wallow over how unfair it is that our son has to live with sever allergies and a hyperactive immune system. We have been managing his health so well for the past 6 years that we haven’t really had anything challenge us enough to bring us back to that place where we find ourselves thinking, “Why did it have to be our child?” But we returned to that place for a while yesterday.

Our son is an amazing, highly intelligent preteen who wants to grow up to be a scientist. He is quite shy, loves to learn, and loves to ski. He was so nervous to go to junior high this year that he was begging not to go, but then he LOVED it. All of it. He loved his teachers, the kids, the interaction, the increased independence. We saw him starting to be a bit less shy, starting to make new friends, starting to interact more with his peers and seem a bit more confident. We were so thankful and happy that he was finally getting past the less than stellar aspects of his childhood that taught him far too early that his life wasn’t guaranteed, that health is fought for, that constantly watching for potential danger is a must.

Then, about a month after he started at the school the little sirens in our guts were warning us that we were in for another unwelcome ride. In all honesty, I had an inkling when we visited the school for orientation, but I didn’t want it to be true. Since our home is a clean air bubble, I am far more sensitive to things that don’t belong in the air, and I thought I noticed the faint scent of potential problems. We had been through this before, during a time where we were less aware of how our son’s health was directly connected to his environment and the things in it, during a time where we were blissfully ignorant but he was severely ill. This is no longer that time.

In this place and time, we are painfully aware and he has been blissfully healthy: until this fall. Since September he has been slowly but consistently reverting back to the very sick child he was when he was almost two. That toddler child was unable to walk more than a few steps without his legs hurting, unable to breathe very well without medication, unable to eat without feeling sick, unable to be hugged because his skin hurt him so badly, unable to tolerate clothes or textures because his nerves were so hypersensitive, unable to fight off infections or stay off antibiotics long enough for us to replenish his system with probiotics. We had celebrated when those challenges were finally eradicated, and over the last couple months, we’ve been watching them slowly come back.

It started with the constant runny noses, slight headaches, rashes, and what we call ‘fuzzy brain.’ That moved into constant sinus issues and us helping his body fight off the infections using as many of our natural methods as possible. Then the stomach aches and general loss of energy along with sore muscles. By this point, it was obvious that there was some sort of allergen in the school, and it was slowly building up in our son’s system. He is VERY allergic and sensitive to molds, much more so than even most mold-allergic people. So much so, that his system starts to go haywire, his immune system weakens from the constant exposure, and then nothing is stable. He reacts worse to his other food and environmental allergens as well. That is the our best guess as to the allergen culprit.

We started talking about removing him from the school during first quarter, when it was just sinuses and some other lesser warning signs; but none of us wanted to take him out. He was thriving educationally and growing socially. The last thing we wanted to do was pull him. So, we saw his allergy and immunology specialist. She very bluntly told us we had only two options. The first: put him back on the allergy shots that somewhat block the mold reactions, but worsen some of his other issues (again, taxes his system and can make his reactions more severe). The second: pull him out of the school. Since the shots increase his risk of life-threatening reactions to his food allergens and don’t even really start working until he is on them for 3-6 months, we all decided the best option was to switch to cyber school. With cyber school, it is best to switch at the end of a quarter or semester. Otherwise he has to make up all quarter work he has missed.

As we waited for second quarter to end, he got worse. His leg muscles have been weak and he has felt overall weak (even before the infection) and he has found it difficult to fully enjoy his ski team, which is usually the highlight of his young life. We lost our battle with the infections and he had to be treated for a sinus infection and bronchitis…but the antibiotics have not worked so far. His sensory issues returned and he forced me to cut all his tags out of his shirts again (I hadn’t had to do that for years). He has this vocal tick that has returned as well.

Yesterday I went to sign the withdrawal form and pick him up from his last day of school in that building. I wasn’t expecting to get emotional, but I did start tearing up. I just resent that I have to remove him from a normal school experience when clean air should be a priority…especially in our schools. A very nice lady there asked me why I wasn’t speaking up, why I wasn’t forcing the district to do something about the air quality. I know many of you will judge since that always happens when you put something like this out there, but our journey has been long. We had to pull our son from a school for these same reasons before, and that time we did speak up and try to help the others in the school. We told the principal. We asked permission to pay for air testing ourselves. We shared with other parents since, even though their children were not as highly sensitized to it as our son, it is logical to think it is still not healthy for them either. What we received in return was:

  • Defensiveness from the school and a complete refusal to let us test the air. I am sure it was because if we found molds they would have to come up with the money to clean it, plus calm parents’ concerns, and potentially lose students. I understand the logistical challenges, but was saddened that money was more important than the potential health of the students.
  • Skepticism from one group of parents who thought we were just members of one of those tree-hugging, conspiracy-theorizing, witch-crafting groups that make mountains out of molehills and try and brainwash people into believing that what we put on and in our bodies/environment has an impact on our health, and that organizations exist who want people to believe it isn’t true. In hindsight, I guess I am a member of that group now, but back then I still didn’t completely grasp the concept, I was just trying to keep my son healthy.
  • More anger from another group of parents who felt we were stirring unnecessary trouble and risking the future of the school they loved.
  • Even more anger from another group of parents who didn’t want to have to pay for any kind of air cleanup since molds are a fact of life and their kids were ‘fine.’ Colds and infections are a normal part of life, so why should their tuition or taxes increase just because my son is ‘flawed’ and cannot handle it. Yes, a very nice gentleman actually said that to me. He even suggested that in the olden days, that was called survival of the fittest. Ouch.

So, I am tired of fighting those types of fights. It is hard enough fighting the ones I have to fight right here at home. Right now, my energy needs to be focused on supporting my son as he tries to figure out cyber school, and in finding him other social opportunities for peer interaction. When I picked him up from school yesterday, he said to me, “Mom, I told Josh this morning that I hate my allergies.”

Maybe tomorrow we will remember that in many ways our allergies have been a blessing; how we are all much healthier thanks to not being able to eat most junk foods and having to learn how to cook with real, whole foods; how we have been able to pay it forward and help many others who found themselves in the overwhelming position of that initial diagnosis. But right then, all I could say was, “I know, buddy. Right now, I do too.”

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

Ohhhhh, THAT’S What it’s Like to Smell Again!

I love what I do so much!

Last night, I met with a woman named Kathy who is allergic to her cats. However, since they are part of the family, she has lived with the chronic sinuses and infections over the past years. Kathy and her mom came to my house, and they were very excited to learn ways to support health naturally using essential oils. Kathy desperately wanted to help support her body’s efforts to handle allergens better. She had been highly congested for months, and was working on another sinus infection. Her chest was tight and wheezy. We discussed some holistic ways to lessen the impact of her allergies that included diet and lifestyle changes. We also explored my essential oil arsenal. Because it seemed like she had the signs of an impending sinus infection, I suggested she follow my 5 Steps to Calm Your Sinuses Naturally, and she returned home with:

  • Samples of our seasonal blend and our respiratory blend
  • Probiotics and pure Olive Leaf capsules from my personal stash
  • Fresh oregano sprigs from my garden so she could make oregano steam

I had to make sure she had enough to carry her over until her new essential oils kit arrives! Last night I received this message:

“Thank you again for all you did for us today and the amount of time you spent answering all our questions. I’m so excited to see how these all work out and hopeful that it will help me transform my body…There are many things I know I should have done in the past from reading up on things, but speaking with you actually gives me the nudge I needed to take action on those things…i.e. weaning milk out of my life, getting cats out of the bedroom. Your time and knowledge was much appreciated. Talk to you soon.”

Then, this morning, I received this message from her:

Had a few minor issues ( think I woke up 2x’s) but not like normal and fell back to sleep fairly quickly. Noticed I could breathe through one nostril fairly well when I woke up the 2nd time. Did not feel the need to hit snooze this AM like I’ve been doing often for the past month. Best nights sleep in a while. Can’t wait for the diffuser!

Yep. I SOOOO Love what I do. It means that everything my family and I have gone through had a purpose…paying it forward ROCKS. I will be even more excited in a few days when she feels even better! These results were after only 12 hours!!!

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

5 Steps to Calm Your Sinuses Naturally

All six of my family members would end up at the doctor or ER at least once every fall or spring (or both). Every single one of us. Every. Single. Year.

I used to joke that I needed frequent flyer miles because the chronic sinus issues and subsequent asthma or bronchitis attacks were only one of the reasons we frequented the ER. It is always bad when the intake people recognize you by name as you walk in.

BUT, in the last two years, the only one who ended up being seen by a doctor for a sinus-related-issue was me…and it was really my own fault. I was so busy making sure my sick kids were following the protocol I am about to share, that I didn’t make time to do it myself. I ended up with severe bronchitis and spent almost a week in bed.

Lesson Learned.

iStock_000041361116LargeAt this time of year, my inbox is filled with questions about how to help the body so it can fight off and keep away sinus infections. So, I will share what we do in our home. First, I will share the steps, then I will share the logic behind why each step is helpful along with some reference links.

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Tea: Create a “tea” with 8 oz of water at your preferred temperature, 2 tablespoons of local raw honey, and 1 tablespoon of organic ACV (Braggs or Eden Organics are two great brands).  Or, add the ACV and honey to your favorite tea. Stir, and then drink. You can add two drops of lemon essential oil to help thin the mucous and a drop of a protective blend to further support your immune system.
  2. Netti Pot: About 1/2 hour after you finish drinking your tea, prepare your netti pot. If your sinuses are really bad and you are feeling pressure, dip a toothpick into a single drop of pure Lavender essential oil, and then swirl the toothpick into to the mixture. Use the netti pot at least 2x per nostril, or until you no longer see visible mucous exiting. Neil Med is the brand of netti pot we use and trust; you can find it at most pharmacies. You can also opt for a sinus rinse instead of the pot style. Just be sure to follow the directions and use the packets. They help to match the natural environment in your sinus passages. Regular water will burn and cause further irritation. You can also research how to make your own salt mixture, but I didn’t have much success making my own. The kids could tell the difference.
  3. Oregano Steam: To create the oregano steam, either (1) add 3-4 springs of fresh oregano from your garden, turn down the heat and let the oregano’s natural oils seep in the water until the water turns greenish brown, and then bring the water back to a boil before continuing; OR (2) turn off the heat, add 1 drop of pure oregano oil, stir and give it a minute to diffuse. Oregano essential oil is very potent and if you don’t pause a bit after adding it to the water, it can create a burning sensation inside already inflamed nasal passages. If you choose to use the oil, it is also helpful to add a drop of lavender, lemon, melaleuca, and peppermint.
  4. Apply pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils: For congestion due to virus or bacteria, we apply three essential oil blends: 2 drops of respiratory blend on the chest, 1 drop of digestive blend across the bridge of the nose, and 1 drop of protective blend behind each ear. For congestion due to seasonal or environmental discomforts, we still apply three essential oil blends: 2 drops of respiratory blend on the chest, 1 drop of digestive blend across the bridge of the nose, and 1 drop each of lemon, lavender, and peppermint essential oils behind each ear (you can mix your own oil blend by placing equal drop amounts in a roller bottle, diluted as needed). For young children and for those with sensitive skin, be sure to dilute the oils with a pure 100% carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, olive oil or grape seed oil (dilution chart).
  5. If viral or bacterial, take Olive Leaf Capsules: Just like with some of the essential oils, olive leaf has natural chemical properties that help the body better ward off environmental threats. It is also completely natural with no side effects. My kids don’t love the taste, but they love getting better. For our child who is not yet able to swallow the capsules, we open the capsule and mix the powder into a tablespoon of honey. She then swallows quickly and chases it with water. We choose East Park d’Lenolate Olive Leaf capsules for our family.

This protocol works like a charm for us. In a pinch or at the initial onset, we just gently blow our noses to get as much out as we can, and then follow with the oregano steam/oils. We repeat the steps both am and pm in our home, and then just reapply the oils in the middle of the day.

So why do these steps work?


Apple Cider Vinegar is very powerful at thinning the mucous which will make it easier for you to get the mucous out. Mucous sitting in your sinus passages is a perfect environment for additional bacteria to set up shop. Mixing the ACV with honey not only makes it taste better, but also helps soothe sore throats from the inflammation caused by post nasal drip. You can mix just the honey with ACV and swallow, but the water helps with hydration and thinning the mucous, so at least drink the water as a chaser if you choose this option.


The Netti Pot is the most natural and effective way to flush the extra mucous and the bacteria that may be trying to call your sinuses home. It takes a bit of practice to use it without any discomfort, but once you get the hang of it, most find it actually soothing and can feel it helping. The most important tips for success are to:

  1. Keep the tip of your head DOWN and tilted to the side that needs to drain out. If your head is too level, it may burn some.
  2. Breathe through your mouth as you are pouring the fluid into your nostril. It will not work if your mouth is closed and you are holding your breath.
  3. Remember that if my kids at the age of 2 could do it AND ask for it because they knew it helped; then you can surely figure it out. 🙂

If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to do this, then just gently try and blow as much of the thinned mucous out of your passages before continuing with the rest of the steps.


Oregano supports your body in fighting off environmental threats. It goes into your nostrils with the steam and helps make it a less optimal environment for bacteria to take hold. By clearing as much mucous as you can with the netti pot prior to breathing the steam, you are increasing the chances of the oil reaching any threats that are trying to take hold.


The essential oils we use in our home are extremely powerful at helping the body fight the causes of congestion. Lavender helps calm and sooth inflamed nasal passages, respiratory blend helps keep airways open, digestive blend helps reduce mucous production, and protective blend helps support the immune system so it can fight off the virus/bacteria that may be trying to set up camp. The essential oil blend of peppermint, lemon, and lavender has helped many of my clients ease seasonal and environmental discomforts that were previously uncontrolled. Because natural wellness products are not chemically altered medicines that slow release, you do need to reapply more often. My family is supported with 2-3 applications per day.

Just make sure your brand is pure, therapeutic grade (tested to ensure 100% purity and potency). You will not get the same results with food- or fragrance-grade essential oils. I personally did alot of research before choosing the brand I use, and learned that in our country, an oil labeled 100% pure may only contain 5% of the oil labeled. I trust the brand we chose, please be sure to choose one you trust as well.


Olive Leaf is very effective at helping your body kick infections and viruses quicker, and at fighting them off if taken at the first sign of symptoms. We used this even before we found essential oils, and we continue to use it when the cause is viral or bacterial because we feel it is an effective extra support and there are no side effects. Not all Olive Leaf is created equal though. We trust the East Park brand I linked to above.


There are many other helpful herbs and oils for congestion such as onion and grapefruit seed extract. We have just found this protocol and it works very well for us and for far less cost than conventional options, so we are sticking with it. I hope you have as much success in your home!

What protocols do you follow in your home to fight congestion? Please share in the comments below.

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

What Does the Word “Coach” Mean to You?

ImageI was talking to a dear friend of mine, and we were brainstorming how to change our company name and tagline to something that better represents what we do. As we were talking, she shared that the word “coach” turns her off, that to her it represents someone who is more distant. Suddenly, flashbacks flooded my brain. My high school gym coach, in some misguided attempt to motivate me, was screaming in my ear, “C’mon you pathetic wimp…put some effort into it!” I hadn’t thought about that, and it pains me to think that someone’s perception of what is suppose to be an amazing word may stop them from reaching out for help.

I cannot change my certification title. Certified Health Coach is the legally recognized term for what I do. BUT, I CAN clarify what it means. I am the version of a coach that you either always wished you had (or I suppose some of you may have been blessed enough to have a true coach in your life).

I will NEVER yell at, insult, or demean you. However, I WILL:

  • Educate you about various holistic options that are likely to help you reach your health and lifestyle goals
  • Guide you as you apply that knowledge and choose the changes you feel are best for YOU
  • Support you as you figure out how to implement those changes
  • Challenge any beliefs, thought processes, or influences that are holding you back from realizing your goals (but in a professional and supportive manner)
  • Teach you any new skills you need to be successful (alternate cooking methods, how to read labels, etc.)
  • Partner with you (celebrate successes and encourage you through any setbacks)

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So if you don’t like the word coach, and this list isn’t clear enough, then picture a guide. On my honeymoon, we had this amazing guide who trekked with us through the rainforest of Costa Rica. He was AMAZING! He was invested. We could tell he truly cared about whether we were getting what we wanted out of our experience. He was knowledgeable. He seemed to know everything about the forest and the living things found in it. He was experienced. He had hiked through that forest numerous times and knew the most time efficient and enjoyable routes to choose.

Experience

I have been where you are and walked the same path before. I suffered from IBS, diverticulitis, and mild ulcerative colitis in my young 20s. I reacted to almost any medications and missed work so often I worried about losing my job. I was so worried about various embarrassing symptoms that I never went out to eat with friends, and I rarely went out at all. I didn’t understand how my environment and the foods I ate could be the reason I was so sick.  I was so skeptical and resistant that I didn’t make the changes I should have, until age 30 when I was given six months to live…shortly after giving birth to my first child.

I am embarrassed to say that it took something that drastic to motivate me. Yet, it did motivate me to finally explore beyond conventional healthcare and embrace more holistic lifestyle approaches. My reward was proving my doctors wrong and living to raise my son and adopt three more wonderful girls.

Knowledge

After watching almost every member of my family manage medical challenges that are supposedly severe and lifelong by incorporating holistic, natural changes; I was inspired to enroll in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s health coaching Program. I initially just wanted to learn more so I could help my own family better. But, while I was there, I was inspired by experts who are at the forefront of wellness. These speakers were the leading doctors, PhDs, researchers and authorities in nutrition today. I learned about most nutritional theories, what the potential benefits and risks were of each, and what the general feedback was from those who embraced those theories. So, in addition to my life experience, I also have a broad palette of information to draw from when working with my clients.

Investment

I take your success very personally. I will customize your program however we need to in order to reach your goals. I will not embark on a health coaching program with someone unless I feel that both of us feel it is the right fit, and I am confident that I can help you succeed. I feel your excitement when you have a good day, and I feel your disappointment when you have a more challenging day. I have two main reasons for doing this:

  1. It hurts me to see others suffering the way I did and to know that they don’t have to…that they really can help themselves, and that the changes are not nearly as bad or difficult as they have them built up to be in their minds.
  2. Knowing that all the struggles and challenges I’ve faced in my life, all the times I wanted to give up and quit, all the times I felt overwhelmed and angry that I had been given so much to handle…knowing that ALL of that had a purpose…well, let’s just say that I get just as much out of helping you as you get out of it.

If you are like my dear friend Tricia, and you shrink away in slight disgust at the word “coach,” then I hope this post will help you see that health coaches are not the same as the one(s) that gave you such a negative perception. I would welcome the opportunity to be the person who helps you replace it with a much more positive one, but really I just want you to reach out and find someone that will help you take charge of your own health and improve your quality of life. It is worth fighting for, and hopefully you will choose to fight before you are in a critical life or death situation like I was.

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

Reflecting on Jayleena’s Healing Journey

Today is my perpetual-baby’s 9th birthday. Wow. It seems like just yesterday that I was on a business trip where my phone had been confiscated, and my boss’ cell phone rang. He passed me the phone with a huge smirk on his face, assuming it was my jealous husband. Instead I heard, “You need to get home RIGHT NOW! We pick up a baby at 10am tomorrow morning.”

It was nearly 10 pm. So, I verbally tormented my boss for not driving us back to the hotel fast enough, and for choosing to stop for chocolate before he would complete the drive. I remember saying as I beamed with excitement, “Seriously? Your chocolate craving is more important than me getting home to pick up our new baby?” I am fairly certain I drove the 2 hours back home faster than I should have because I wanted to get home so badly. I shouldn’t have bothered, because we couldn’t sleep anyway.

I was nervous about raising a girl, but also excited about all the wonderful things that would mean as well. We were wondering how severe her cocaine withdrawals would be, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to care for her needs well enough. Craig wondered if we could really love her as much as we did our biological son. That concern was the main reason we chose the foster-to-adopt option for growing our family. The night continued to drag by. We can confirm that a watched clock doesn’t tick any faster than a watched pot boils.

ImageFinally the moment came. She was the most gorgeous little china doll (and I emphasize little, she was merely 5 pounds). She gazed at us as if she knew we were there to smother her in love and affection. She had us wrapped around her little finger before we even left the hospital. But she had a loooong road ahead of her, and so did we. We will never know how many of her challenges were due to the cocaine, but in her first five years and again in her eighth year we have worked with numerous doctors, specialists, holistic health providers, nutritionists, therapists, and agency workers to help her overcome:

  • Severe reflux: Her reflux almost took her life multiple times and caused us numerous white-knuckled ambulance rides. It would come out in a steady stream, fast enough that we couldn’t suction fast enough, but slow enough to slowly fill her lungs as she breathed. Once, our son Logan saved her life when he ran out, only minutes after I had laid her down for a nap, yelling that she was turning blue and had white stuff coming out of her nose.
  • Severe asthma: Doctors don’t like to diagnose babies with asthma anymore. They try and term it Reactive Airway Disease instead. But, after two separate occasions where her lung collapsed and we almost missed it and no relief from the lower-end medications, they moved it to severe asthma and loaded her with multiple medications. You may be asking yourself how we could possibly miss a collapsed lung. The doctor himself almost missed it too because she wouldn’t cry and she would still be smiling as if all was OK. The only sign we would get is that she would stop moving around.
  • Severe Sensory Integration Disorder: Jayleena rarely cried. We assumed it was because she didn’t have much air. At around 11 months old, she was also VERY rough. She always squeezed too hard, wanted us to play rougher than we were comfortable, and was regularly hurting her siblings (by this point, we had also accepted twins into our home). I was starting to think maybe something was off, but we really just assumed it was her personality. Then one day, when Jayleena was around 11 months old, she climbed our 2 foot gate at the top of our stairs and threw herself down, scraping skin off her head and arms as she fell. When she got to the bottom, she stood up and looked at me as I desperately tried to remove the gate…AND SHE GIGGLED!! She giggled as if she had gotten away with something, then ran off in a “chase me” kind of way. I was nauseous. When I turned the corner, I found her sitting on our hard wood floor, finger painting from the pool of blood that had collected around her. That was all I needed to push until we got the diagnosis. We were thankful that it wasn’t hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy, since that cannot be cured, but it still required a lot of occupational therapy to help her get to where she can at least know she is hurt.
  • Food Allergies: Because our son had food allergies and intolerances, we recognized the signs fairly quickly. Besides her reflux and asthma (which are potential symptoms), she also had bowel movements that would literally burn away the skin on her buttocks to the point where there were literally patches with NO skin. She would cry uncontrollably after she ate some foods, and would break out in hives regularly. Eventually, she presented with anaphylaxis reactions. Since we had already helped our son navigate the food allergy path, we began working with allergists and immunologists fairly quickly.
  • Extreme Anger/Frustration: And, I do mean extreme. Ask any of our friends or caregivers who helped us during that time. We rarely knew what set her off, but once set off she didn’t stop…sometimes for over 10 hours. She would scream, kick so hard she put holes in our walls, bang her head until it bled, and hurt other people (she broke my back molar by headbutting me with her skull). It would take all my strength to hold her down and stop her from hurting herself.
  • Benign Occipital Epilepsy of Childhood and Non-Obstructive Sleep Apnea: I have written quite a few blog posts on this one since it is the most recent, so please check my archives if you want to learn more.

My point is just to share with those of you who are struggling with similar challenges and behaviors in your own children that there IS hope. I remember feeling like there was none and that Jayleena would struggle her entire life. BUT, You CAN work through it and get to a better place if you listen to your instincts, trust those instincts, and act on them. Even if your husband, your parents, or your best friends don’t see what you see, then ask them to try and trust you or at least respect your feelings in the matter. I am not saying to completely disregard your loved ones’ opinions. I am merely saying that if you carefully consider their input, but you still know in your gut that things are not right, then keep pushing until you do feel things are right. You are the one who has to live with your decisions later. Ask yourself, “If I am wrong and I keep pushing will it harm my child?” “If I am right and there is more to this, could doing nothing harm my child?” Then, do what you feel your gut is telling you to do. If people call you crazy, let them. Who cares? If you don’t believe the doctor has the right answer, then get another opinion, or even a third.

ImageIt took me four different neurologist visits before we finally found out why Jayleena wasn’t feeling pain and how to help her. If fighting the status quo and standing up for what I believe with her medical providers makes me a crazy Mom, then I embrace that label proudly! As I mentioned, today is my baby’s 9th birthday and she is now a happy, healthy child who is a successful competitive gymnast. She has a group of best friends and a BFF that she has enjoyed since Kindergarten. She has regular hopes and dreams, without any fear of being restricted from her ability to achieve them.

I reflect on how far we’ve come, and again I am happy I pushed as much and as frequently as I had to in order to get to the source of the issues and resolve them. All the criticism we received means nothing now. All we have to do is look at her and our other three children who we also had to fight for, and we know it was what we were meant to do (I will write a blog post about our other children’s stories on their birthdays too).  It was really hard work, and it was completely worth it. We cannot even find words to describe how much we love her and how much joy she brings to all of our lives.

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.