A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked if I knew of any natural ways to raise progesterone levels in women. The reader had a baby about a year ago and thought her progesterone levels should have been higher by now, but she’s had a history of low levels in the past, which has caused a host of problems.

I did know a little about progesterone, but, oddly enough, because mine tends to run high and aggravates my heart arrhythmia. But, most of my knowledge was centered on the balance of progesterone and estrogen: when one goes up, the other goes down. So, I did a little research, and this is what I found.

As mentioned, estrogen and progesterone run opposite each other, so avoiding foods that increase estrogen will help keep your progesterone stable, or, theoretically, raise it if your estrogen is low enough. Don’t automatically think SOY, however. (Oh, poor soy!) There are a lot of foods with much higher levels of phytoestrogens – like flax! (Think of phytoestrogens as faux estrogen.) Flax is crazy high in phytoestrogens. Sesame is also pretty high in phytoestrogens, as are many other foods. If you have a family history of breast cancer, I definitely wouldn’t give up whole soy; I’d actually start start adding it to your diet if you haven’t  already. Regardless, I’d be cautious of added soy, which is essentially in all processed foods. Whole soy is a completely different ballgame. But, I’d strongly reconsider using flax, and I’d limit intake of sesame (hummus, multigrain breads, etc.) Chia and hemp are great for Omega 3’s and 9’s, if you’re worried about being deficient. (Keep in mind, however, supplementation of EFA’s is not necessary on a whole-foods, plant-based diet.)

Keeping cortisol low will also help keep progesterone balanced. Reducing cortisol levels can be achieved by reducing/eliminating stress (ha ha) and being cautious of super high intensity workouts for extended periods of time (over 45 minutes seems to be the prevailing opinion). Short spurts of intense exercise like those in HIIT workouts are good for cardio. Yoga is great for reducing stress and doesn’t tend to increase cortisol levels. Over time, your supposedly body gets used to the intensity of your workouts, and you can increase their duration.

Since progesterone and cortisol go hand in hand, having higher levels of cortisol is often an indicator of inflammation in the body. Fruits and vegetables, in general, are anti-inflammatory, so eat up! Blood sugars could also be running high with increased cortisol; allergies can flair up, and the list goes on. Balancing progesterone can help regulate blood pressure, too. (If you have trouble with PCOS and/or adrenal fatigue, your progesterone/cortisol/estrogen balances are likely out of sync.)

Luckily, there are foods and other natural ways of naturally increase progesterone/working on that progesterone/estrogen balance (and ultimately decreasing cortisol levels).

Vitamins: B6, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium can all contribute to increasing progesterone. While I don’t normally suggest supplements for any reason other than B12 for those on a completely plant-based diet, in this case, I suggest a B Complex vitamin supplement might be a decent idea. In general, I think supplements are a waste of money and can be dangerous. However, since all B vitamins are water soluble, you’ll pee off the excess. I would definitely go for the best brand of supplement you can afford. Money equals quality when it comes to supplements, unfortunately. Try to find a supplement that has Folate instead of Folic Acid. Folate is natural; folic acid is artificial and has been linked to a host of issues. There are natural, non-food ways to increase magnesium, too. Soaking in Epson salts can produce a slight increase. (Bonus: it’s great for sore muscles!) Magnesium oil can also give your levels a little boost, and it, too, is great for sore muscles.

Foods: Foods that increase B6, Vitamin C, zinc and magnesium include: whole grains, walnuts, beans, bananas, spinach, citrus fruits, watermelon, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, okra, raw nuts (almonds get a gold star) and cacao. (Woohoo for the chocolate!) There are some animals products that may also increase B6, zinc and magnesium, but they all come with hormones (artificial and naturally occurring) – and animal cruelty, which is not supported here. Eat those plants!

Things to avoid/do more: Try to avoid STRESS as much as possible. Sleep more. Move your body gently every day. Be social. Do things you enjoy. Drink more water. Drink more fresh juices and smoothies. Avoid dairy and other hormone laden items. Stay away from lavender and tea tree oil. I know I use of these oils often, but that’s not a great idea for those with low progesterone levels. Check lotions and other health and beauty products for lavender and tea tree oil; they’re seemingly everywhere!

As a side note, I would be leery of progesterone creams. For the most part, they’re bad news – even the “natural” ones. One of the biggest side effects of those creams is increased blood pressure, which can already be high from the progesterone/estrogen/cortisol imbalance.

Finally, remember it can take a long, long time for hormone levels to go back to “normal” after being pregnant and/or giving birth. Supposedly, natural births helps that process along quicker, as does breast feeding, but each body is different, and it make take more time for some than others. And, as a bright note on the horizon, estrogen levels naturally decrease with age, so progesterone has a tendency to naturally increase – especially around the onset of menopause. Personally, I’m seeing this shift (at nearly 40), and it’s not exactly a pleasant experience so far. However, for those with naturally low progesterone, this time of life may be a blessing. Something to look forward to!

Of course, as with any medical concern, please consult a medical practitioner. If you’re not happy with the results you’re receiving from allopathic medicine, consider a naturopathic physician and/or chiropractor who specializes in natural healing. Acupuncture, massage and aroma therapy, herbs and essentials oils are great supplements to professional medical treatments.



Chicago Eats & Treats

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ellen and I went on a little road trip. She’s a vegan too, so that made eating while traveling a lot easier!

Armed with Traveler’s Trail Mix, Tofu Two Ways, and assorted fresh fruits, we left early Friday morning for the 5+ hour drive to Chicago.

Our main objective for the trip was to attend the Self Work-Out in the Park, which was on Saturday, so of course we had to go a little early to enjoy the vegan-friendly parts of Chi-town.

Before we left, I researched places to eat that were either close to our hotel or easy to get into and out of on our way home. Coincidentally, our hotel was within view of Karyn’s Cooked, one of the three Chicago restaurants owned by Karyn Calabrese.

The inside of Karyn’s Cooked was quaint – clean and friendly. Craving comfort food, Ellen ordered the sampler meal, which included a choice of three side dishes. She chose potato wedges, mac-n-cheese, and chili with cornbread. And, for dessert, lemon meringue pie. I went with the raw plate, which included broccoli with aminos, red cabbage sauerkraut, half of an avocado, almond hummus, sunflower seed pate, and a couple of raw nori rolls. For dessert, I chose gluten-free carrot cake and a raw cranberry-almond cookie bar for later.

I originally ordered the green enchiladas, but it didn’t make it to our takeout order, so when I called to find out what happened (somehow my order didn’t get added to the ticket), I changed my order to the raw plate, and the staff threw in a couple bags of raw crackers.

Throw in my new favorite drink – kombucha – and I was a happy one-night Chicago resident.

Saturday morning, Ellen and I got up early and headed down to Butler Field in Grant Park for the Self Workout in the Park. The weather was perfect, and the crowd wasn’t too bad.

After we got into the event, we waded through the excited exercisers and visited all of the vendor booths before spotting what we came for – Dolvett Quince.

Ellen originally asked me tag along on this trip because she’s a huge fan of Dolvett and really wanted to meet him. (She attended the Self workout last year in Chicago and got to meet Jillian Micheals – her idol.) I was pretty skeptical that we’d get to actually meet Dolvett, but she was determined.

It worked!

We accidentally stumbled upon the media area where Dolvett was taking photos with Self staffers and some fitness models. I was surprised how close we were able to Dolvett, and Ellen was ecstatic. She kept trying to sneak in for a photo, but after a few minutes, photo ops were offered to everyone in line (about 10 people). With cameras ready, gleeful ladies got to touch the rock-hard abs of Dolvett. Giant smiles for miles!

After the excitement of the photo op of the year, we headed to Lincoln Park to grab some goodies from the Chicago Dinner before making our way back to Ohio.


Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5K…A Week Later

Last Sunday was the official day for the Automattic’s Worldwide 5K.

I’ve been running/jogging/slogging (slow jobbing) for a couple of years, and I regularly participate in 5K’s throughout the spring/summer/fall, so I happy to participate in this blogging event. But, the timing of the event wasn’t the best for me. The end of the semester always catches me off-guard, and this semester was no different than usual.

To off-set the timing thing, I got my 5K in on Saturday instead of Sunday – for two reasons. First, I had a bunch of school stuff to do on Sunday, and second, I wanted to leave Sunday morning open for biking riding with Mr. M. However, that didn’t happen *sigh* Regardless, because the weather was crappy on Saturday, I had to run inside on my beloved treadmill, which was totally fine with me!

What almost 4 miles look like.

I haven’t gotten in many long runs since having my gallbladder out, so I went a little over the required distance 😉

It felt good to sweat through the miles. Mr. M. came into the office and chatted it up with me through the last mile or so, which was nice. I’m not used to having company when I run!

This was the first year I’ve participated in the WWWP5K, but it won’t be the last 😉



Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k

Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k.

Product Review: ChaLEAN Extreme

I’ve been pretty active on the fitness front for the past year and a half or so, but most of that time has been spent doing cardio. I’m sure you remember my love affair with the treadmill. I have, however, been half-heartedly lifting light weights with a few videos, but I’ve been in the mood for more for quite a while.

I don’t remember the first time I came across the ChaLEAN Extreme program, but I’m guessing it was about the same time I found Turbo Fire. I’ve been a huge fan of Turbo Jam for years (and I still love it!), so I was really intrigued by both programs.

After debating over the investment in a new exercise program for what seemed like forever, I finally broke down and bought ChaLEAN Extreme about six weeks ago – and I’ve been doing the program ever since.

Today was the first day of the second phase of the program, PUSH, and wowza! It was tough, but I made it through the first video. So far, I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I thought. I can easily squat 40 pounds (20 in each hand), and 30 pound sit-ups are nothing. Plus, I can do 15-20 push-ups now!

All of this may not seem like a huge accomplishment to some people, but it is for me. I think I was the world’s biggest couch potato before I decided to get healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m hogging the kitchen, my husband jokingly asks when I”m going to go back to lying on the couch, eating chocolate covered donuts, and drinking gallons of creamer with coffee. (Yes, I meant to say it that way – ha!) My response…NEVER!

If you want a real challenge in a relatively short amount of time, check out ChaLEAN Extreme. It’s worth your time and money.

Vegan MoFo Day 8: Sweet Potato, Kale & Split-Pea Soup

Vegan MoFo Day 8…already! It’s crazy how fast this month is going. Then again, I think October always goes fast because it’s my favorite month of the year…and my birthday month. Woohoo! Par – tay! In a couple of weeks, I’ll begin sharing the 8 Days of Veggie V! with you. Are you getting excited yet?! Hahaha. Oh, if I were only joking 😉

Mr. M and I participated in another 5k this morning. I wish I had a picture to show you, but Mr. M is camera-shy, and I forgot to ask for a solo pic. Plus, I don’t exactly look pretty on event days. I’ve never been able to pull off the headband. Regardless, I was excited to post my fast time ever with 43+ minutes. So ya, in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m still walking/jogging. But, in my defense, I’ve only been running a few months. Fourteen is a few, right?! Hahaha. Again, I wish I were joking.

I love running. As you know, I love my treadmill. I can run for over 2 miles without walking on my treadmill. I even ran on the treadmill at the hotel last weekend when were in Tennessee. (I also spent some quality time with the elliptical machine, which I haven’t done since college.) But running outside is SO much different. It’s a lot more work! I’ve been trying to get out more, but I’m not quite comfortable being out by myself, especially super early in the morning, which is typically when I work out.

To get us ready for the big race (ha ha!), I made a crazy healthy soup last night. Although Mr. M passed on eating any, he did call it vitamin soup, which I kind of liked, but went with the more literal name anyway.

Sweet Potato, Kale & Split-Pea Soup

2 lg sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 lg bunch kale (I like the flat kind)

1 c yellow split-peas*

1 sm onion, diced

1 lg cove garlic, minced

4 c veggie broth

2 – 4 c water

Seasonings to taste (I only used a little salt and a couple cranks of pepper.)

Saute onion and garlic in a little bit of broth until translucent – about 5 minutes – in a large soup pot. Add remaining broth and desired amount of water. Add sweet potatoes, kale, and yellow split-peas. (If using pre-cooked split-peas, add to soup after potatoes are tender). Add seasonings. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, kale is wilted, and split-peas are al dente (or heated through if using pre-cooked) – about 20 – 30 minutes.

*Pre-cook the yellow split-peas if you want them well done because the sweet potatoes will fall apart before your split-peas are well done/mushy. Do an internet search for a method that works for you.

Sweet Potato, Kale & Split-Pea Soup

I’m sure a different legume or grain would work great in this soup – or even just the sweet potatoes and kale. I originally went to the pantry for some red lentils, but decided to save them for tonight’s soup (spoiler alert!). The yellow split-peas looked so lonely all by themselves (The red lentils have tons of company from their green and brown cousins), I just had to use some. And I’m glad I did!

I have a lot more recipes to share with you this month, and, in keeping with my birthday month theme, I’m going to share a little bit more about myself and why I decided to dedicate myself to a plant-based way of life. Come back for more MoFo madness!

Vegan MOFO Day 6: Apple Pie Smoothie

After I got back from jogging in the park this morning (We are experiencing some freakishly warm, summer-like weather this week!), I noticed this in the neighbor’s yard.

Hello, fall.

 Yup. It’s fall.

Seeing all those yellow leaves made me hungry. Or maybe it was my workout. Either way, I needed something quick, cold, and liquidy. Enter – Apple Pie Smoothie.

Naturally Sweet & Delicious

Apple Pie Smoothie

1 c non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

1 apple, cored and chopped (I leave the skin on)

1 frozen banana, chunked

1/4 c oats OR 2 TBSP flax meal OR 1 scoop protein powder & 1 TBSP chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1 TBSP cinnamon

Combine everything in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.


I like leaving the skins on the apples so I have something to chew as I’m drinking. This is a real bonus if you’re one of those people who likes to eat their smoothie with a spoon from a bowl 😉

I hope you’re enjoying the first few days of my birthday month, Rocktober, October and Vegan MOFO as much as I am!

It's the Vegan-est MoFo-y-est!

I’m Having an Affair

That’s right. I’m having an affair…with the treadmill. And I’m cheating on it with vegetable sushi. I just can’t help myself. Both are so darn good that they’ve coaxed me into a love triangle.

Mr. M introduced me to the treadmill about a year ago. I was reluctant to even be friends with it at first, but we run in the same circle, so we kept running into each other. Eventually, I gave in and started spending time along with it, and, well, it was all up-hill from there.

Our relationship has developed into a torrid affair. I think about it at night before I go to bed, and it’s the first thing I think about in the morning. I bought special clothes just for our time together, even though by the end of our trysts, I’m barely clothed.
Mr. M completely understands and supports my relationship with the treadmill. He doesn’t question my hesitation to join him for early breakfasts or community service projects. He doesn’t wonder why I have an expensive wardrobe of brightly colored bras and skirts, fancy socks, or a seemingly endless accumulation of spandex. And he doesn’t open the door to the room when we’re together, even if he hears loud music and heavy breathing.

J'aime mon tapis roulant ❤

 Years before I was introduced to the treadmill, I stumbled upon vegetable sushi. I was on yet another go-nowhere-date when we met at what quickly became “Our Place.” At first, I was resistant to its flirting – the sweet smell of its pickled vegetables, sticky rice, and seaweed wrap, the creaminess of its avocado goodness, and the saltines of its friend and confidante – soy sauce. But eventually, I gave in. And once I put that first bite in my mouth, it was all over. I gobbled up my first plate and waited for more; I couldn’t get enough! I begged my friends and family to join me, driving the 30+ miles to meet my new love. Each trip was punctuated by the thrill of anticipation. Giggling ensued and smiles were abundant. Careful planning allowed for the most of our time together. 

Mr. M hates everything I love about the tasty rolls, so my desire for vegetable sushi has gone underground. Because of the distance between us, I have to sneak visits, giving up what every amount of time I can between trips to other, more legitimate locations. Anticipation is still involved, and I still catch myself giggling and smiling uncontrollably  as my car gets close to the exit that leads to my old friend, but the pleasure derived from my indulgence is tarnished with the knowledge that I’m cheating…on all the sweaty mornings the treadmill and I have spent together. To alleviate my guilt, I spend extra time with the treadmill when I get home, but not before I brush my teeth and take a shower.

Giddy with Anticipation


Motorcycles and Kale Chips

I knew before I married Mr. M that his favorite hobby was riding motorcycles. He had (and still has) two – a customer chopper and a Harley. But somehow, I managed to avoid riding on either – the chopper because it’s a single-seater, and the Harley because, well, I just did. But, when he traded in the HD on a Goldwing, I knew my excuses were limited.

Today was one of those days.

In an attempt to get me on the bike, Mr. M offered to drive aimlessly around the countryside, looking for the location of my next 5k. I have to admit, it was a nice ride, and the park looks nice. I’m excited for a new challenge!

As a reward to myself for getting on the bike (and putting on jeans, socks, and riding boots in 90F heat) and strapping on my crazy, albeit fairly comfortable, helmet, I made kale chips when we got home.  As usual, they were delicious!

Cheezy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale (I prefer the flat kind over the curly), washed and stemmed

1/3 c nutritional yeast (a.k.a. nooch)

1 TBSP Olive Oil (a.k.a. EVOO) – Optinal

Salt to taste

Stir together the nooch and EVOO. “Dip” the kale leaves into the mixture, coating both sides with cheezy goodness.

Bake at the lowest temperature your oven will allow (mine is 170F) until the chips are dry and crispy.

I set a timer for 60 minutes, check chips, then reset timer in 15 minute intervals, checking for crispness. Mine take anywhere from 90 – 120 minutes.

Kale Chips in the Oven

I really like this recipe because it doesn’t require a dehydrater. Most of the recipes I’ve seen on the web require hours of “cooking” in a dehydrater. True, using the oven set at this high of a temp means your chips won’t be “raw,” but they’re still delicious! Enjoy!

Cooked kale chips