Have you ever gone to a restaurant and tried to sweeten your iced tea with a packet of granulated sugar? What happens? Not much, right? All the sugar granules meant to sweeten your tea sink to the bottom. You’re left with UNsweetened tea and sad taste buds. Sure, those granules will eventually dissolve, but you’ll finish your beverage before that happens.
Since sugar is more soluble in hot liquids than cold liquids, you’ll always have this problem with restaurant iced tea. But at home, there’s a remedy for this! Make a simple syrup. Below I will explain how and why you should make your own simple syrup. And most importantly, I’ll give you a recipe on how to make a naturally-flavored syrup using 100% pure, edible essential oils.
Essential oil-flavored simple syrup will add sweet, unique flavors, and even health benefits, to your desserts and beverages. Just think of all the possibilities! Perhaps a lavender lemonade? Or a lemon/rosemary tea?
Simple syrups are not reserved for only cold items, you can use them on and in baked goods, too. Imagine drizzling a peppermint-flavored syrup over a freshly baked chocolate bundt cake. It soaks into the cake, keeping it moist and flavorful.
Oh man, I’m having all the drools…
Flavored simple syrups are everywhere – they’re used in coffee and cocktails all over the world. But, did you know that it’s called “simple syrup” because it consists of only two main ingredients? Sugar and water. And it’s extremely simple to make!
You can spruce up your syrup by flavoring it the old way (adding fresh herbs and fruits to the syrup during the heating process and skimming them out at the end) OR, you can do it the quick, easy, and longer-lasting way by using 100% pure, edible essential oils.
Fresh herbs/fruits vs. essential oils?
Herbs and fruits are perishable. If they are used in your syrup, it will lose flavor within 24 hours and go bad quickly. It will have to be consumed within a day or so. This is okay if you are going to be using it all up the same day. But for those who want to store it in their fridge, and use as needed, essential oils are the way to go.
Essential oils will pack a flavorful punch to your syrup, giving it a much longer shelf life. It’s a great way to incorporate sweetness and fresh natural flavoring to items that wouldn’t do well with a grocery-store extracts.
Oh, and the BEST part!? How often do you find flavorings that actually have health benefits? Um, never. In order to keep those lovely health benefits, the essential oils are added to the syrup after it’s cooled down a bit. High heat diminishes the health benefits in essential oils.
Think of the wide variety of flavors you will have to choose from! Lemon, lime, tangerine, bergamot, lavender, black pepper, pink pepper, fennel, ginger, basil, marjoram, Roman chamomile, peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, wild orange, cassia, cinnamon bark and many more. And the myriad of combinations that you can create! You need only 1-2 drops (sometimes less) of essential oil to flavor the whole batch, and so it’s very economical.
PLEASE ONLY USE 100% PURE, FOOD GRADE ESSENTIAL OILS. As you may have heard, not all essential oils are created equal. You can’t buy any old oil from a store and ingest it. They are not all 100% pure (EVEN IF THE BOTTLE SAYS 100% PURE ESSENTIAL OIL!!). Only certain companies provide the purest of essential oils that are safe for consumption. The bottles I purchase have a “Supplement Facts” on the bottle if it is ingestible. The company is also very open and forthcoming about their oil sourcing, testing for purity, etc. So you know that you are getting exactly what the bottle’s label says.
The recipe below is commonly known as the 1:1 method. There is also a 2:1 method which is much richer – it takes 2x the amount of sugar as the 1:1 method.
SIMPLE, SIMPLE SYRUP WITH ESSENTIAL OILS
1 C granulated white sugar (for richer syrup, use 2 C sugar) 1 C water 1 drop (or more or less, depending on which oil is used) 16 oz. sterilized mason jar
Gently heat sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat immediately and allow to cool. Do not let boil.
Boil some water in a kettle to use to sterilize the mason jar/lid. Sterilize your mason jar by filling it with boiling water – and pour some over the lid too. Only dump out the boiling water once you are ready to fill your jar with the hot syrup.
Dump the boiling water out of your jar and fill it with your yummy hot syrup. When the syrup has cooled, add the essential oil(s). Tighten the lid and shake.
Date your jar and store it in the fridge for about a month. If you use the 2:1 method, it should last up to 6 months. (**TIP: For an even longer shelf life, add a shot of vodka to the mixture (it may keep for a year!).
I’d love to hear your flavor combinations – please share below!
Sorry, I couldn’t help the corny title. I’m a corny girl, living in a corny world.
If you’re a vegan, you’ll want to skip this post – it’s not for you. Why? Because…BUTTER! Well, were actually talking about ghee – but ghee is made from butter, and butter is from an animal, so…
Read on to discover what makes ghee a healthier cooking/baking substitute for butter and oils, why it’s good for your health, and when/where it originated.
WHAT IS GHEE?
Ghee is a clarified butter that is stable at room temperature with many health benefits. The lactose and casein are removed during the simmering process and what remains is a healthy, delicious oil with a nutty, buttery flavor.
Ghee has been used for thousands of years, but the first known use was 2000 B.C. It originated in India, but more recently, it is being used all over the world for its health benefits. Back in the early days, it may have been used for trade, and so it had to be stable to carry on long trips. This is another reason ghee is popular today. You can leave a jar of ghee on your counter for 3 months, whereas butter will go rancid much earlier than that.
High smoke point (485 degrees) (whereas, butter is 350 degrees).
Great go-to for baking, sautéing and roasting.
Contains fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K).
No lactose or casein! Great for lactose intolerant peeps.
Contains conjugated linoleic acid.
Lots of butyric acid. Great for gut health & healthy insulin levels; fights inflammation.
Strong, nutty-like buttery flavor (you can use less when cooking).
Great for weight loss.
Great for burns & rashes
Great for moisturizing the skin and scalp.
Great for keto diets, lactose diets, Whole30 and other weight loss diets.
Just as with any saturated fats, don’t go crazy and put it on everything. Use it sparingly as you would with butter or other oils.
WHERE DO I GET GHEE?
You will find jars of ghee at most grocery stores, especially health food or ethnic grocers.
I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a cheap-o or non-organic brand, if you’d rather purchase than make your own. I tried a cheap one many years ago and had to toss it – disgusting flavor. While I’m sure the organic ghee brands at the health food store are acceptable, why not make your own? Homemade is always better, right? It’s fresher, longer-lasting and you can be proud that you made something healthy.
While I wouldn’t recommend slathering ghee all over your morning toast (strong flavor), I do recommend adding some along with your cooking oil (preferably avocado or extra virgin olive oil) when sautéing veggies to add some depth to the flavor.
I also recommend using a little ghee in your baked goods in place of a portion of the butter required. I wouldn’t recommend replacing the entire amount of oil or butter in a baking recipe with ghee. The nutty butter flavor might overpower the intended flavor of your baked goods.
And now, if you’re up for it, make your own delicious ghee at home with the simple recipe below. I didn’t invent this recipe – it’s actually all over the Internet. I just provided some of my own tips and added some visuals.
There really isn’t any magic or skill in making ghee, except for the type of butter you use. It’s verrrrry important that you don’t substitute the grass-fed, organic, unsalted butter for anything of lesser quality.
HOMEMADE GHEE RECIPE
You will need:
16 oz (4 sticks) grass-fed, organic, unsalted butter (do NOT substitute)
16 oz glass mason jar
Clean cheesecloth (about 3 or 4 layers)
Saucepan/pot (preferably stainless steel)
A discard bowl (glass or stainless steel) or a mesh skimmer
Shove a few layers of cheesecloth into the mouth of a clean mason jar (with a bit hanging over the outside) and put it aside. You don’t need as much cheesecloth hanging over the sides as my photo below – I grabbed too much.
Melt all butter in a heavy saucepan/pot on medium-low. As it’s melting, stir occasionally and keep at a simmer. It can take up to 20 minutes until the milk proteins have separated from the oil. You’ll know this has happened when you see white foam on the top and some bits of milk fats on the bottom of the pan.
With either a mesh skimmer or a large spoon, gently skim the foam off the top and toss into a glass or steel discard bowl. (When you’re done for the day, let this discarded foam/butter harden, and then wipe it all out into a trash can with some paper towels. DO NOT run it down your garbage disposal. Oils will harden and clog your drain!)
There may be a few more stages where it foams up again and again. Just keep skimming and discarding until there is no more foam. The milk fats on the bottom of the pan will continue to brown (not burn!). If it’s burning, you have the heat too high and it’s ruined. Browning of the milk fats creates that special, nutty flavor.
Once the oil is clear (no more foam), turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Carefully pour the oil through the cheesecloth into the mason jar (hold the cheesecloth down on the outside so that it doesn’t fall inside). Toss the cheesecloth.
Cool completely before sealing with a lid or putting in the fridge.
Once completely cool, tighten a lid on it and date the outside. Your ghee should last up to 3 months on the counter at room temperature, or up to 1 year in the fridge.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
Thanks to my fantastic Aromatherapy instructor, Jade Shutes (she was a past president of NAHA, ya’ll!), I learned the number of ways to discern the difference between QUALITY and FRAUDULENT essential oils.
There are a few different ways of checking if your oils are 100% pure, and worth your hard-earned money. I’m spreading this knowledge on to you in hopes that you spread the word as well.
You may have noticed, essential oils are sold at every department store, grocery store, drug store and even home improvement stores (!?!). Everybody wants in on the action. Unfortunately not every oil company cares about you and your family’s health – their only goal is to make the Benjamins!
If you’re an oil newbie, you may be thinking: 1) every oil company is created equal, and 2) the words “pure” and “100% pure” on the packaging must be true, or they wouldn’t be able to sell it, right? WRONG.
I can almost guarantee you that every essential oil at your local stores, and even online stores, sell bottles of oil containing only a portion of actual essential oil (grown and harvested Lord knows where!). It is usually mixed with a less expensive nut or seed oil as a filler. Or, it is a complete fake made with perfumes or fragrances that mimic the aroma.
Why are they able to do this? Because it’s not illegal to lie. Seriously though, they do this in order to extend their product and increase profits. Shady, right?
When I sniffed and tried essential oils for the first time, I had the privilege of using the purest oils currently on the market. They were breathtaking and effective and I wanted ALL of them!
Once you sniff a quality, 100% pure essential oil, and then sniff the fakes, you immediately notice a YUGE difference. It’s like night and day, black and white, oil and water! See what I did there? 😎
Before I dive in to the telltale signs of a fraudulent oil, FUN FACT!:
Essential oils aren’t actually oils at all.
Say whaaaaat?!? Well, they’re not oils in the same sense that you would normally think of an oil, such as olive, sunflower seed, avocado, etc.
So, why are essential oils called “oils” anyway?
Polarity. The compounds in essential oils don’t mix well with water – just like typical nut or seed oils. Water has polar molecules and essential oils have non-polar molecules.
Substances with similar polarities can dissolve within one another. Like dissolves like.
So, how can you determine whether your oil is REAL of if it’s FAKE?
Let’s check out the indicators:
The Paper Test. Place a single drop of your essential oil on white printer paper and let it dry. If an oily ring is left behind, it’s not a pure essential oil.
There are some exceptions: Sandalwood, Vetiver, German Chamomile, and Patchouli. These oils are naturally heavier in consistency and deeper in color, and you may not get an accurate test out of them.
Cost. Be VERY wary of “Frankincense” being sold for $4.99 at your local drug store. I’m going to flat out say it: DON’T BUY IT. I’ve seen this at stores and in a recent Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
Pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils can be expensive, depending on value and availability of the plant it comes from. But, I have to stress that if you get good quality oils, you are making a great investment. Considering that you only use a few drops at a time, you’re only paying pennies per drop.
It takes 250 lbs of lavender to make just 1 pound of lavender essential oil. While there is an abundance of lavender, lemon and rosemary, there are those that are harder to come by, such as rose, melissa, jasmine, helichrysum, and chamomile. The former will be cheaper, and the latter will always be more expensive.
I was at Home Depot the other day and saw a starter pack of “essential oils” for around $10. The kicker was that there was a bottle of “frankincense” in there! Come on folks, when you start buying essential oils from a store that also sells toilets, pine wood 2x4s, ceiling fans and kitchen sinks, you know you have fraudulent and adulterated oils.
Latin Binomial. A quality oil bottle should also contain the plant’s Latin binomial on the label (the genus/species).
For instance, a bottle of lavender should also contain the words “Lavendula Angustifolia,” which is a species of high-quality lavender. If the bottle only contains the common name “Lavender,” you’re most definitely paying for a an oil that’s been cut with something else. It won’t have the same therapeutic properties as Lavendula Angustifolia, and people who try it will think essential oils don’t work because they don’t see any results.
Container. Essentials must always come in glass containers. Pure essential oils are made with chemical compounds that are so strong that they can break down plastic and leech it into your mixture.
You normally will find oils in amber or cobalt blue colored glass bottles. This keeps the oil from oxidization and spoilage.
Texture. All essential oils have different viscosity and texture because they come from different plants with different chemical components.
For instance, vetiver and myrrh oil are so thick that their texture is more like a syrup. They take a long time to pour out of a bottle!
Whereas, lavender or frankincense oils are thin and slippery. They pour out fast.
If you buy a kit of oils from a store, and they all have the exact same texture – RED FLAG! They are more than likely just a filler oil with perfume/fragrance added to it.
Inside the Cap. Essential oil bottles should have an orifice reducer (white plug when you remove the cap).
Orifice reducers not only control how fast the oil comes out when poured, but because oils can oxidize (some quicker than others) and spoil, it helps with the shelf life of the oil.
Be wary of any oils that come with a dropper top. The black squeeze part of the dropper top is made of rubber. The potency of the oil’s chemical components can break down the rubber, letting in unwanted air, and oxidize/spoil the oil. I’ve seen this happen when I put a dropper top in my vetiver oil bottle. Within months, the dropper top lost its shape – it looked as if it puffed out. Thankfully the bottle was almost empty, and so I tossed it and bought a new one.
Disclosure of Sourcing & Testing. A good essential oil company will be forthcoming with where there oils are sourced and harvested, as well as completely transparent about their testing process.
The company I purchase from has a great weblink that shows you, in depth, each country an oil is harvested from.
Research has shown that essential oils grown in their countries of origin have a higher quality and effectiveness. Some try to argue that this is not so, and just a ploy to get more sales, but there is research by unbiased scientists who would tell you the former.
They are tested multiple times in-house and then third-party tested for purity. Third-party testing is very important. It gives you confidence that the oil in your bottles contain exactly what the company says is in them.
As you know, essential oils are not just cheap air-fresheners. Well, maybe the cheap ones at the grocery store are, but real essential oils are a whole different ballgame.
Any time you are putting something on and in your body (only use oils internally if you know how, and if the bottle has a Supplement Facts on it), be sure you have first done your research. The whole purpose of using essential oils is because they are healthier and safer for us, right? If we are using cheap essential oils, then we aren’t being very healthy or safe.
I hope this has been of some help to you. We all need to be cautious and informed consumers.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
The other day I posted a luxurious body cream recipe containing water-based ingredients. It’s a little more involved that your typical body cream. Who has time for that! So, in the alternative, I wanted to give you another recipe that is simple, contains very few ingredients, and effective – AND NON-GREASY.
The other day I had to formulate a tummy tightening/stretch mark blend for one of my Aromatherapy course case studies, and I ended up loving the end product. I don’t yet know if it will tighten saggy skin, or lighten stretch marks (because there isn’t much out there that can do that!) – but it is super hydrating and velvety and will make the perfect every day moisturizer.
If you’re into DIY personal products, you’ve most likely seen a bazillion recipes for whipped body butters containing coconut oil. I’m sorry guys, but I’m soooo over that stuff… Really, it was a great discovery for me over 5 years ago, but I’ve moved on to something more sophisticated (i.e. LESS GREASY!!!!) – Babassu Oil. Yes, I do have a Silky Whipped Body Butter recipe that contains coconut oil, which is very good, but only before bedtime…under socks and pajamas. For years I brought that stuff to every “Make & Take” essential oils class that I taught. From this point forward, I’m using this newer, snazzier, simpler body butter recipe. And you may want to as well!
This recipe does not contain any water-based ingredients, such as aloe vera, hydrosols or distilled water. This means that no preservatives are needed! Raw oils and butters do not need preservatives and so your end product should last you a much longer time (12 months or more) if stored in a dark, cool area (Antarctica has nothing on my house! I just keep it on my nightstand). And if you add essential oils with antibacterial properties to it, it couldn’t hurt!
While water-based body creams soak in to your skin a tad quicker, I usually make up every excuse in the book NOT to make them because of the possibility of bacteria and all the stress of sanitizing everything with alcohol first. I also hate having to use up an expensive bottle of natural preservative before it expires. Ironically, natural preservatives don’t stay preserved very long…go figure.
This body butter has a light, fluffy, almost whipped cream-like texture. It soaks in pretty quickly, but is thick enough to create a great moisture barrier – keeping moisture inside where it belongs. It leaves my skin moisturized all day and incredibly velvety.
How is this possible? The Babassu Oil.
If you hadn’t read about Babassu Oil on my other blog, here are some of the benefits:
It is light weight
It doesn’t clog pores
It soaks in faster than coconut oil
It is less greasy/messy than coconut oil
It has a very mild scent
It mixes better with essential oils
It helps heal damaged skin
It reduces redness & inflammation
It cools on contact
It repairs, softens & shines hair
It nourishes your scalp
It promotes healthy nails & cuticles
It locks in moisture
It helps prevent body odor
If you have the food grade, it’s a healthy alternative to other cooking oils
Just look at these photos. Doesn’t it look scrumptious? Like a white buttercream frosting?
So, let’s crack on already! (Sorry, I’ve been binge watching “Being British: Joel & Lia” YouTube videos lately, and am starting to use their slang!)
Easy Breezy, Non-Greasy Body Butter
(Makes just over 4 oz body butter)
2 Tbs (1 oz) sweet almond oil (substitutes w/ jojoba or apricot kernel oil) 6 Tbs (3 oz) raw mango butter (substitutes w/ raw shea or cocoa butter) 1 Tbs (1/2 oz) babassu oil (I found mine here) 120-180 drops of your favorite essential oils (it mays seem like a lot, but for body oils and butters, it’s the recommended amount)
Before you start, you will want to liquify the babassu oil. It’s a solid in cooler temps, but melts when you put the bottle in a hot water bath. So, fill a large bowl with hot water, and let your bottle of babassu sit inside it for a bit until you can get it to melt a bit.
In a double boiler (or a pot full of water, with a smaller pot sitting on top of the water), melt the raw butter and the babassu oils together. Add sweet almond oil and stir until fully melted together. Let sit to cool in the pot, or pour into a clean mixing bowl, until it’s thickened and no longer clear. You can refrigerate it, but make sure it’s cooled down first, so that it doesn’t create condensation on the lid.
If you refrigerated your mixture, let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to soften it before mixing.
Add your essential oils to the cooled mixture. Beat the mixture for a few minutes with an electric mixer until white and fluffy.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE: (body only):
Hands, feet & elbows before bed (add Frankincense, Lavender & Tangerine)
Moisturizer after shower (add Lavender, Jasmine & Bergamot)
Hand cream at work or your kitchen/bathroom sink (add eucalyptus & orange)
This lotion/cream recipe is literally perfect! (Too bad I can’t take credit for the original recipe, as it was created by well-known herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, but I’ve done some tweaking to make it my own). I hope you love it as much as I do! Difficulty level is a little higher, but your skin will thank you for the efforts! (I’m going to post an easier version shortly).
When my Aromatherapy instructor shared this recipe with us, I was thinking we were sort of special – but apparently there are many variations of it all over the Interwebs… This cream has probably been made a bazillion times by people all over the world. So, while we weren’t especially special, this recipe is truly special!
What I love most about this recipe is that you can change it up with different base oils and/or hydrosols, to suit your needs and it always turns out perfect (but make sure you don’t replace a liquid oil with a solid-type oil, or the results won’t be so perfect!). It yields approximately 16 oz. of cream, so make sure to have the appropriate containers.
Let’s get started!
FIRST! Let’s extend the shelf life of our cream by disinfecting all utensils, bowls, spoons, blender, etc. with 70% rubbing alcohol. Put the rubbing alcohol in a clean spray bottle and spray all items to disinfect them. Lay them on clean paper towels to dry, or hand dry them. Bacteria from the tap water could cause nasties to grow in your luxurious cream (this is another reason why we use distilled water or aromatic hydrosols versus tap water).
Preservatives are a must with any type of cream with a water-based ingredient, such as aloe vera gel and hydrosols. There is a longer shelf life for body butters made with oils and butters only. This recipe contains aloe vera gel and a hydrosol, so it will grow funky stuff within weeks if not preserved! I’ve found some naturalpreservatives on the market to help increase the shelf life of our cream.
Leucidal SForLeucidal Complete are nice, broad-range and more natural preservatives used mostly in creams and lotions. Leucidal also provides extra silkiness to your cream. Who doesn’t want silky skin!? I sure do…especially since I recently hit 40!
One of the main base oils I chose to use instead of cocoa butter (and am currently obsessed with) is the incredible, but somewhat pricey, Babassu oil. It is like coconut oil in that it is a solid and melts when warmed in your hand, but it seems to get a bit harder when cooled.
Babassu oil comes from the nuts of the babassu tree in Brazil. It has so many benefits. Here are a few to persuade you into loving it:
It is light weight It doesn’t clog pores It soaks in faster than coconut oil It is less greasy/messy than coconut oil It has a very mild scent It mixes better with essential oils It helps heal damaged skin It reduces redness & inflammation It cools on contact It repairs, softens & shines hair It nourishes your scalp It promotes healthy nails & cuticles It locks in moisture It helps prevent body odor (this would be great in my Deodorant recipe!) If you have the food grade, it’s a healthy alternative to other cooking oils It improves pet health It rejuvenates wooden surfaces
…just to name a few.
You can read more about Babassu oil HERE. I may replace coconut oil in all of my recipes with babassu from this point forward – if I can find a good quality, lower-priced supplier.
Below are photos taken step-by-step as I moved through the process. The actual recipe is at the bottom:
Pour into glass cosmetic jars if you prefer, but make sure your hands are clean when you scoop some out.
I had on hand three 4oz lotion squeeze bottles, and one 2 oz round cosmetic container. I filled all containers the top, and there was enough remaining for me to apply to my super dry arms and legs.
This recipe is velvety, silky and luxurious, and I slather it on after the shower (make sure to have clean & dry hands before putting them into your jar, or use a utensil to scoop it out)
ROSEMARY GLADSTAR’S “PERFECT CREAM” (my personal variation)
Group 1 (Waters) 2/3 cup white rose water/hydrosol (or you can used distilled water) 1/3 cup pure aloe vera gel (no junk from a drugstore – the real stuff) 48 drops of essential oils of your choice (or less) 1/2 oz. Leucidal Liquid SF (natural preservative/antimicrobial)
Group 2 (Oils) 3/4 cup apricot kernel or sweet almond oil 1/3 cup Babassu oil (or shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter) 1/2-1 oz grated beeswax 1/2 tsp. Vitamin E oil
FIRST, see my note above about cleaning everything with rubbing alcohol and drying with/on paper towels.
Combine your hydrosol, aloe vera gel and preservative in the glass measuring cup and set aside (cover with saran wrap if you have cats in the home – their fur gets into everything!)
Measure the babassu/mango/shea butter (whichever you chose), and beeswax into a double boiler and heat on low until melted completely. Transfer the melted liquid to your blender, cover with a paper towel, and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to help cool it down.
When oils have reached room temperature, secure lid and turn blender on high. Add the water/aloe mixture through the hole at the top of the blender in a slow and steady stream. (Adding slowly is KEY to getting the waters and oils to emulsify well). When 3/4 of the water has been added, monitor the cream in the blender. At a certain point, it will thicken and pull above the blades, no longer accepting more liquid. If okay, add the rest of the liquid.
Scrape as much out of the blender as you can, into an alcohol disinfected bowl, and gently fold in your essential oils with to make sure all oils and water are incorporated evenly.
Transfer to disinfected storage jars. The cream will thicken as it sets.
Label your jars with all of the ingredients used and store in cool location (the fridge is best!). Use within 3 months, or until you see mold (Eek!). If you added preservatives, it should last 6 months to a year in the fridge.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, nurse, or any other type of medical professional. I’m only a Certified Aromatherapist who enjoys research. All of the information I’ve written about below was gathered through my own research and personal experiences in order to help my own frustrating bodily symptoms. Everything stated below is my own opinion, and I do not recommend you doing the same unless you’ve first talked with a Functional Medicine doctor or other medical professional.
About 5 years ago, my insides felt like they were coming undone. I had horrible acid reflux, constant belching, nausea, a dull ache under my right rib. On top of all of that, I had constipation/diarrhea, gas and bloating. After a quick visit to the gastroenerologist, I was diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and given a prescription for an acid blocker medication called Omeprazole.
Having GERD makes it hard to eat because of the wrath your favorite foods take out on your innards. If you love pizza, cookies, pasta, french fries, chocolate or burgers, you will be in a lot of pain after eating them. I assumed that my doctor was correct in his diagnosis, and didn’t question his authority. Taking Omeprazole helped my reflux and excessive burping, and I was able to eat again without many issues. I added digestive enzymes to my diet and that seemed to help with the gas and bloating.
After some research, I discovered that there are multiple causes of GERD symptoms, and by treating them, you could be rid of GERD symptoms forever. One of those reasons is LOW STOMACH ACID. That’s right, low stomach acid – not high.
Unfortunately, most doctors today are quick to write a prescription for an acid blocker, rather than seek out the root cause of your digestive issues. This is how they miss the fact that you may have low stomach acid. I suggest making an appointment with a Functional Medicine Doctor to get your symptoms checked out. Taking Omeprazole could cause your body further harm if you don’t actually have GERD.
Below is a list of symptoms you might be experiencing if you are suffering from either GERD or LOW STOMACH ACID:
Frequent heartburn Trouble sleeping from heartburn “Vomit burps” Sore/scratchy throat Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
Constipation/diarrhea Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat Damaged teeth from stomach acid Chest pain Bad breath Nausea
Dry, brittle, peeling nails
Loss of hair
Acne on your chin
Red broken capillaries on cheeks Vomiting
During the years I was taking Omeprazole, it felt as though it gave me my life back. I still had some bloating now and then, and so I took a good digestive enzyme with every meal and it helped with that to an extent. The entire time I was taking Omeprazole, I had a strange fungal rash on my upper back. It would never go away. I assumed the rash was gut-related and that I had a lot of gut healing to do. My doctor told me it was just tinea versicolor, a non-contagious fungal skin rash. I’d put anti-fungal creams on the rash, but they would only fade the rash – never heal it.
I noticed that over time, I’d gotten a lot of red broken capillaries over my cheeks. My clear skin was ruined, as nothing seemed to lessen the redness. Expensive creams, homemade creams, eating less sugar, etc. I didn’t know what this was related to, and so I chalked it up to just having fair, Scandinavian skin.
When I’d gotten my Omeprazole My prescription, it apparently had unlimited refills – which is just wrong in and of itself. So, month after month, year after year, I continued to refill my Omeprazole prescription, not thinking anything of it. I didn’t want to be on this drug forever, but a few people I know told me that they’d been on it for years and that they were just fine.
Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I actually had an appointment with the doctor who gave me the Omeprazole prescription. Out of the 4-5 years I was taking the drug, I believe I only saw him 4 times. Once for our initial consultation and diagnosis, and a check-up and then for 2 colonoscopies (are you jeally?).
Last year, my friend Erin, a Nurse Practitioner, posted an article on Facebook about the dangers of Omeprazole. This somewhat piqued my interest because I’d never heard of there being any issues with acid blockers. After reading the article, I shrugged it off. I figured there was no way I could ever stop taking Omeprazole. Imagine Gollum from the “Lord of the Rings” holding a bottle of Omeprazole – that would be me. It would take an elephant tranquilizer dart to the neck to pry “My Precious” Omeprazole from me.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m making my usual errands on a Saturday. I stopped at Walgreens to refill my Omeprazole prescription. The pharmacy assistant said there was a problem and they had to call my doctor to confirm a refill. I thought to myself, that’s odd, and went about my day.
A week later I receive an online message from my doctor, at the patient portal website, stating that he’s no longer going to refill my prescription because PPIs aren’t recommended for long term use (uhm, okay…why didn’t you tell me this like 4 YEARS AGO, doc???). He also recommended that I use over-the-counter Omeprazole as needed (No thanks…OTC omeprazole is only good for 14 days at a time, and to be used no more than every 2 months or so).
A few days after taking my last Omeprazole pill forever, I ate my usual food and got acid reflux. It was worse than before. I was hoping it had magically gone away – I was wrong. After some online research, I discovered this was called “PPI withdrawal.” I had bloating, gas, vomit coming up to my throat and excessive burping.
On the weekends, I’m a foodie, food junkie, gorger of goodies, cookie chomper, butter slurper, cheese muncher, pizza hoarder – you name it! I eat out ALL the time – it’s one of the things my husband and I really enjoy doing together on our date nights. I love food so much that I was nominated to be on the Yelp ‘Elite’ team for my area – meaning I write Yelp reviews when I go to restaurants and then I get invited to all of Yelp’s free food tasting parties throughout the year. It’s my thing, and I love it. How was I going to continue this with such horrible acid reflux??
After some research, and I discovered that there are many natural means to help with acid reflux. Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, licorice root, DGL, digestive enzymes, just to name a few. I’d already been using digestive enzymes, which helped my bloating greatly. A glimmer of hope! The only problem was that these just mask acid reflux symptoms. I needed to figure out the root cause of my GERD symptoms.
This is when I learned about low stomach acid, and how its symptoms can mimic high stomach acid symptoms. This was something I never would have imagined. Was it possible that all my problems have been caused by low acid? I mean, if my doctor put me on an acid blocker, it must mean I have high stomach acid, right?
People are diagnosed with GERD because they present various symptoms to their doctors, such as heartburn and acid reflux. They’re given a PPI prescription and sent on their merry way. What some doctors aren’t telling you is that those PPIs can cause unnecessary harm to your body if taken longer than 8 weeks. Some of the side effects of long-term use of PPIs could include: bone loss, potential increased risk of hypocalcemia, hypomagnesemia, Clostridium difficile infections and pneumonia.
When you have low stomach acid and eat a large meal, the food gets to your stomach, but there isn’t enough acid to break it up/digest it. So, the undigested food ferments, which causes gas. The gas pushes up on the opening that usually keeps your food in your stomach, and causes some stomach acid and food particles to get pushed back up your esophagus and into your throat. You then complain to your doctor that you have acid reflux, heartburn, etc., and they assume it’s GERD.
The main problem with taking acid blockers when you have low stomach acid is that it’s blocking even more acid from doing its job! Your stomach, for lack of a better word, is ‘starving’ for acid. It needs acid to help you digest, and if you’re not digesting well, you’re not absorbing the minerals and nutrients as well as you could be. Mineral deficiencies makes your body susceptible to a host of other diseases.
If you have low stomach acid, technically all of your GERD symptoms can go away if you just take Betaine HCL with Pepsin (which is betaine hydrochloride with the digestive enzyme Pepsin. Pepsin breaks down meat proteins). Betaine HCL with Pepsin helps aid your body in creating it’s own stomach acid over time.
IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY NOT ON ACID BLOCKERS, and experiencing GERD symptoms, it wouldn’t hurt to test for low stomach acid before going to see a gastroenterologist. It’s a simple test, and could be the answers to all of your digestive issues!
I’ll explain the test below:
TESTS FOR LOW STOMACH ACID:
Baking Soda Test (Least reliable). When you first wake up in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of baking in 4-6 oz. of water and drink it down. After you drink it, check the clock. If you do not belch within 5 minutes, you have low stomach acid. If you belch within 2-3 minutes, you don’t have low stomach acid. If you belch a lot, then you have high stomach acid. Don’t mistake small burps for belching. We swallow air when we drink, and little burps might be caused by that. Do this for 3 mornings in a row so that you get a good average reading.
Betaine HCL w/ Pepsin Test(Most reliable). Get a good bottle of Betaine HCL with Pepsin (about 650 mg) from Amazon. Take one pill with a meal that consists of at least 4-6 oz of meat protein. Pepsin helps break down proteins. If you don’t feel a burning sensation in your stomach, that’s a sign you don’t have enough stomach acid. You will then take 2 pills the next time you have a meaty meal. If you still don’t feel the warmth/burning, add another pill on to the regimen until you feel a warmth/burning sensation in your stomach or chest. Some people take over 10 pills per protein meal! When you feel that sensation, you know that your dosage from now on should be one less than you just took. I currently take 5 with a large protein meal.
You will take this dose of pills with each protein meal for as long as you need to manage the symptoms. Once you feel the burn again, you will decrease by another pill, and so on, until you don’t need to take them anymore.
Finding out about low stomach acid has been a game changer for me. Knowing that I don’t actually have GERD after all, is great news. Now, I can easily treat my issue with Betaine HCL until my body can produce enough acid on its own. I no longer have GERD symptoms – unless I don’t take enough Betaine HCL with a meal.
Obviously, if you have other worrisome symptoms, please make an appointment with a doctor – a Functional Medicine Doctor, if you have one in your area. Before taking any new supplements, be sure to contact your doctor to be sure that there are no interactions with any medications you might be taking already.
I have a good routine going right now, which seems to help me feel my best. My routine consists of:
1. Before a Protein Meal: I take 1-2 aloe vera gels by NOW Foods (I got mine here), and two-three digestive enzymes and my individualized dosage of Betaine HCL w/ Pepsin.
2. After a Protein Meal: If I overdid it with junk food, and I feel reflux or bloating, I will either take another Betaine HCL, or I’ll just take another aloe vera gel. The aloe vera gels help coat the gut and esophagus to keep it from irritation. I may also take a digestion calming supplement from my essential oil company, which contains a synergistic group of essential oils that all help ease stomach discomforts.
If you purchase aloe vera gels, please make sure to get the good stuff. It should not contain the part of the plant that contains latex. That part is toxic.
3. Probiotics Daily. I also take a good probiotic daily. With the American diet, I believe everyone should be on a good probiotic. They are necessary for maintaining a healthy gut.
4. Sacchromyces Boulardii. This is a very specific probiotic that survives your stomach acids and makes it into your lower intestine to fight any bad bacteria that may be causing SIBO. It is also great to take when traveling to other countries where there might be digestive bacteria that you could pick up in their water, or if you have any type of stomach bug, such as gastroenteritis.
It’s hard to believe, but I’m SO grateful that my doctor cancelled my Omeprazole prescription. It’s one less prescription that I need to pick up at Walgreens and less harm to my body.
I should note that, as always, changing your eating habits and exercising regularly help greatly. I am in the process of finding a lot more Whole30 recipes to add into our family’s mix of meals, so I’m not purposely provoking my gut. I’m also making my own Homemade Ghee to cook with instead of butter. It’s great immune systems, it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and doesn’t contain lactose or casein – great for lactose sensitive folks! And it’s delicious.
You can read about Omeprazole’s harmful effects in this article.
If you’re currently on a PPI prescription for major digestive illnesses or ulcers – please stay on your medication and talk to your doctor first about using natural means to manage symptoms. And DO NOT take Betaine HCL with Pepsin IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY TAKING PPIs. You need to have your doctor wean you off of the PPIs before trying Betaine HCL.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
In January 2018, had a total thyroidectomy and a parathyroidectomy and lived to tell about it. Below I’ll share with you as many details as I can remember (but my memory still isn’t the best – thanks to hyperparathyroidism!) I’m hoping to give hope to those having this procedure in the future. If you’re like me, you’ve been grasping for positive stories online – but you can’t find any, am I right?? That’s because there are very few positive stories online. There’s a much smaller percentage of people actually going online to tell their positive stories than negative ones. Remember that. 😉
I’ve had a multi-nodular goiter (a/k/a lumpy thyroid) for many years (over 20), and Grave’s Disease, which were treated in 1995 by radioactive iodine. More recently, my surgeon discovered the goiter was growing downward, under my sternum. It was also pushing on my windpipe causing me to cough a lot and making it hard to catch my breath. Doc said it would continue to grow if we didn’t remove the whole thing, which would be dangerous down the road.
I also had Primary Hyperparathyroidism, which is basically a tumor on one of your parathyroid glands. It is caused by the parathyroid gland producing too much PTH hormone. The only cure for primary hyperparathyroidism is to remove the tumor. So many people think they can naturally support their bodies and not need surgery. I’m sorry, but that isn’t the way parathyroid tumors work. They will slowly ruin your health if not removed.
I did not know if the goiter, nodules or parathyroid tumor were cancerous because I never got a chance to have a Fine Needle Aspiration biopsy on them. Fine by me! I was terrified of that needle for some reason. My surgeon, Dr. De Jong, said that since my whole thyroid needed to come out, it wasn’t necessary to biopsy anything. He would have my thyroid sent to pathology once it was out, and then we’d find out if it was malignant and go from there.
Apparently, the goiter was the size of my doctor’s fist. :-O At least, that’s what he told me from inspecting my neck. My incision was to be about 3 – 4″ long. He said that by looking at my neck from the outside, you could only see the tip of the iceberg. Nice visual. I was ready to get it all out and move on with my life. We booked surgery for a month out.
Ten days prior to surgery, I was asked to stop taking Advil and all herbal supplements. I hate missing 2 days of my fabo supplements (they hugely help my mood), let alone go completely off of them for 10 days! It was a bit rough because I rely on those supplements for mental clarity, stomach issues, energy and more. My head wasn’t very clear at work during those 10 days – but then my mind hasn’t been clear at work for a LONG time thanks to the parathyroid tumor.
Two weeks prior to surgery I went in for pre-anesthesia testing. They took 5-6 vials of blood to make sure I was healthy enough for surgery. They like to see where your hormone and calcium levels are. Makes sense. My poor nurse though… She was telling me how she has a horrible anxiety disorder, and so she had visibly shaky hands. I tried not to look nervous as her shaking hand came towards my vein with a needle! In my mind I was thinking, “aren’t nurses supposed to have steady hands??” Everything worked out though – blood was drawn and I lived to see another day.
January 11, 2018, (my thyroid and parathyroid eviction day!) came before I knew it. I’d gotten a lot of prayer from a lot of people, and so I was as cool as a cucumber on my way to the hospital (I was ready to get this thing out of me). I wasn’t afraid of the surgery as much as I was the recovery, and the thought of being hypothyroid (weight gain, more depression, hair loss).
They wheeled me into a prep room where I put on a gown, hospital socks, a gigantic hospital maxi-pad (in case my period came during surgery) (sorry, TMI?). They also wrapped electronic massage sleeves around my calves that constantly squeezed and massaged my calves. This was to prevent blood clots. Dr. De Jong came to say hello and that he’d be ready for me in a few minutes.
Some people (nurses, medical students?) came by to wheel me away, but not before first putting a weird metallic shower cap hat on my head. Once I was in the operating room, they exchanged the metallic cap hat for a knit cap. I am not sure what that was all about…
After moving me to the operating table, they put a mask over my nose and mouth and asked me to breathe in deeply a few times. That was the last thing I remember before actually waking up in the recovery room after surgery. Surgery was over before I knew it and I was on to recovery. The surgery was apparently 3.5 hours long, and Dr. De Jong successfully removed the very large goiter and parathyroid tumor – leaving the 3 other parathyroids and vocal cords intact and in good shape. Thank God! If you have a poor surgeon, you may get damage to your vocal cords. Please do your research and find the best surgeon you possibly can.
I don’t remember much about waking up from anesthesia except that the nurse administering my pain meds wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy gal. (I thought nurses were supposed to be warm and caring?) I was drenched in sweat – dripping from my forehead down into my eyes. I felt disgusting. Oh, and guess what? Aunt Flo came to visit me DURING surgery (wasn’t that thoughtful of her??!!??). While I was trying to wake up from the anesthesia, I felt stabbing cramps in my uterus. Perfect timing… They couldn’t give me Advil, only Tylenol. So…essential oils to the rescue! Thankfully I’d brought a roller-ball blend of my female/hormonal support oils to ease my cramps (a mix of Geranium, Clary Sage, Lavender, Marjoram, should you want to make your own). 😉
Once I was more alert, I was wheeled into a real recovery room where I would spend the night. I’d heard that you are usually in a room with a bunch of people, but I got a single room, with a TV and sink. Not too shabby! My husband arrived shortly thereafter, kissed me and sat down…and then I don’t remember much of what happened over the next hour or so. I was so foggy and sleepy from the anesthesia.
I don’t know if you are aware of this, but apparently some people can’t handle anesthesia, and they puke after surgery. Can you guess what type I am? That’s right – I’m a puker! It is a good thing they put a vomit bucket on my lap right away. If it weren’t so easily accessible, I’d have made quite the mess all over their nice sheets. After vomiting, my mind was clearer.
At this point, I didn’t feel any pain in my incision, but I did have a scratchy/sore throat. The sore throat was due to the breathing tube and camera tube that were put down my throat during surgery. They brought me Cepacol lozenges to suck on for throat pain. Other than that, the only other issue I felt was a stiff/sore neck and weakness. The stiff neck is from how your head is positioned during surgery. I also had to keep the IV in my hand overnight just in case they needed to use it. And the massage sleeves were still pumping away at my calves – I need one of those for my house!
Below is a photo of me not long after I puked. Still out of it, but forcing myself to smile…because you can’t take a picture without smiling. Well, you can, but I usually don’t. It’s not very often that I will share a photo of myself without any makeup on, so you’ll notice this particular photo is extra small compared to the rest. Yeah, a tad vain…
A few hours later I felt much more alert, so I took another photograph. This time my bandage had been removed and I forced an even bigger smile even though I was wiped OUT.
I was starting to get hungry but could only order from the liquid diet portion of the menu. Chicken broth and Jell-O sounded the least likely to induce vomiting, so that was dinner. It was horrible – but can you really expect anything more from a hospital? You basically get a bowl of broth, with a packet of protein powder to mix in. It was like eating Ramen noodles….minus the noodles. All salt.
The nurses gave me Tums to chew on every few hours. This was to provide my body with calcium because my 3 remaining parathyroids still needed to “wake up” and start doing their job in regulating my calcium level. You don’t want to have low calcium in your blood. It causes hypocalcemia, which is very dangerous. I won’t get into that now, but it’s a serious issue.
My husband and I watched TV – sort of – I kept nodding off. When he had to leave for the night, I tried to get some sleep – but everyone knows you don’t sleep much in a hospital. Nurses came in every few hours to give me the Tums, take my vitals, take my blood, etc.
I don’t remember sleeping much, but somehow the night went by pretty quick. Though weak, I had to keep trying to get myself up and walk to the restroom out in the hall. I had to remember to hold my gown tight so I didn’t give the other patients a “show”! Before I knew it, it was morning and I was hungry! I ordered an oatmeal and a yogurt and ate about half of each. A nurse came by and gave me my very first Levothyroxine pill, which I was told I would be taking for the rest of my life. “Hello Levo, so nice to meet you. We’re going to be lifelong friends…as long as you do your job and don’t jack me up!”
At one point before my husband arrived, I got up to use the restroom and got a whiff of my armpits. Holy mother of pearl…it was horrible. I don’t know if the hospital gown hadn’t been properly washed before I got it, or if a family of skunks had burrowed into my armpits and died. I just knew that I needed to freshen up quick – my husband was going to arrive soon and I didn’t want to smell like roadkill. Thankfully my room had a sink with handsoap and paper towels. I scrubbed my pits as best I could with that pink junk soap, and asked a nurse for a fresh gown. Muuuuch better. I smelled like a human, and even put on a little makeup to make myself feel better.
One of the medical students came in that morning and says to me, “so, now we’re going to take out your stitches.” What the what?!! I apparently said that out loud – not just in my head – so she made some type of comment about how “I wasn’t scared, was I?” I’m no baby, but I did have to squeeze a pillow while she plucked each one out. It pinched a little bit when she tugged on them. That last one stuuuung! It was stubborn and didn’t want to come out. They remove stitches the day after surgery so that the scar is less noticeable – totally fine by me.
My husband arrived that morning and we watched a little TV until I was able to leave. The nurse came by and gave me a prescription for Levothyroxine and post-surgery instructions to rest, drink lots of water, take 4-5 Ultra Strength Tums (1,000 mg) per day for the next week, etc., etc. We would discuss more at my 1 week follow-up appointment.
I was given the go-ahead to get dressed and was able to leave around 10:00 a.m.! I couldn’t wait to get home – I missed my kitties…and my cozy new pajamas and comfy couch. A very nice nurse took me down to the hospital entrance in a wheelchair. Wheeee!! It was the most fun I’d had in over 24 hours.
It was about 20 degrees and snowing that morning, and there was ice covering our parking lot. My husband took my arm and lead me into the house. Then he led me straight to the couch – where I would spend the next couple of weeks watching TV.
I felt pretty good the next morning, and so I was able to take a shower. But not without packaging and taping up my neck so that the water didn’t soak the steri-strips. I need the help of my husband because it was a lot of work and I was still weak. Here’s a lovely photo of me pre-shower:
It felt so good to wash off all hospital odor from my body – especially being able to wash my armpits without paper towels and hospital soap! A little water ended up seeping in and touched my incision area, but all-in-all it was a productive first shower.
Below is a photo of my incision 2 days after my surgery. It wasn’t looking so bad for only 2 days!
We purchased a bunch of applesauce and yogurt so that I could eat soft foods for the first few days. By the 3rd day or so, I grew tired of yogurt so we ordered pizza! Probably not the best idea, but my throat felt a little better and I needed something tasty.
Note: You’ll have a bunch of disgusting yellow mucous stuck in your throat. You need to get that out. You don’t want it getting into your lungs. So, hopefully your surgeon will give you a breathing tube (which looks sort of like illegal drug paraphernalia), that seems to help it come up.
On the 4th day post-surgery, I felt pretty good. I had some irritating leg cramping, and so the nurse called in a prescription for Rocaltrol, which was an active form of Vitamin D. It seemed to help the cramping a bit, but it kept coming back throughout the day. I had to keep rubbing a blend of essential oils to relax my legs. It helped a ton, but I didn’t want to keep doing that every few hours. Eventually it subsided and the cramping stopped. I think part of the cramping was due to inactivity. Sitting on the couch for 4 days wasn’t good for circulation or my leg muscles. I got up and walked in place for a bit, which helped.
My sister came to visit me on my 4th day post-op. We ended up talking too much, as I normally do, and it irritated my throat. I started to feel something swell inside my throat. It felt like a little ball was inside my throat every time I swallowed. I freaked out and thought I was having a side effect from the Rocaltrol (“throat swelling”), so I called the nurse. She assured me that it wasn’t going to be the death of me. She explained that they have to cut through a pretty thick muscle in order to remove the thyroid. Ewwww. Apparently that muscle gets “angry” for being disturbed and takes a little time to heal. I didn’t need to hear this.
Below is a picture of my 4th day post-op incision. It was healing up pretty nicely:
As the days progressed, it was easier for me to get around and do a few small chores, without lifting anything over 10 lbs. I tried to do as little as possible. You know what? Cable TV stinks. They replay episodes over and over and OVER. I was incredibly bored . I literally spent most of my mornings searching OnDemand for movies, without actually deciding upon one.
I don’t remember what day it was, when I got the surgical pathology results, but when they came in, it showed that everything was BENIGN! Praise God!
Below is a photo of my incision on my 5th day post-op. Just a couple of days before my 1 week post-surgery appointment with the surgeon. He would be removing my steri-strips, and I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like once removed.
I saw my surgeon a week after surgery for my 1-week follow up. One of the medical students removed my steri-strips and I checked myself out in their mirror – not bad! It felt less tight, but I still felt like my neck was pulling if I moved my head around.
A few of days later, my incision was looking even better. See the photo below. Some of the scabs had come off with the steri-strips when they removed them.
At this point (10 days post-op), I started to do what my surgeon told me to do. And that was to gently massage Vitamin E oil above and below the incision for 2 minutes at a time, twice a day for two months. He told me that it was better to rub it above and below, versus on top of the incision, and that it would heal beautifully.
The Vitamin E oil I had was incredibly sticky, so I switched to rosehip seed oil and a blend of essential oils: helichrysum, frankincense, lavender and a skin blend that my company makes. The steri-strips had irritated the skin around my incision, and so it was super sensitive and irritated easily. Knowing how potent essential oils are, I decided to back off of them for a bit, to let the sensitivity/redness go down.
Once the sensitivity healed up, I began using organic calendula oil, which is very soothing to skin, along with a with a drop of Copaiba essential oil. This didn’t irritate my incision, so I kept doing it every day from this point forward.
It’s now been 4 weeks since my surgery, and the photo below shows my scar looking a lot darker and more pronounced than it did a week ago! I’m not sure if this is because I hadn’t begun using a scar-diminishing oil, such as Neroli, or if I stretched it out somehow? I think when I took the above photo, I may have had the “skin toning” feature on that blurred out skin imperfections. Durrr.
Now that the incision is sealed and healed, I’m going to start massaging Neroli oil into it 3 times a day. I don’t want it getting any darker than it already is. Don’t bother with the Scar Away silicone patches. Maybe they work on some people, but they irritated my skin.
Now that it’s been a month since my surgery, and I’m back at work (returned after 3 weeks), I am feeling pretty good. Some days I feel achy/fatigued, and other days I feel fine. My main complaints are moodiness and depressive episodes, anxiety, fatigue and some body aches (feeling like I have a fever), cold feet and restless legs. The cold feet has been improving a bit over the last week or so. I’ve had depression and anxiety for over 20 years, so I am not sure either of those will ever improve.
I don’t think I’ve lost any extra hair, and I have only gained 3-4 lbs (but I’d lost that exact amount right after surgery, so I guess I’m just getting it back by eating too much junk food!). I believe my surgeon said they would probably be increasing my Levothyroxine at my next appointment in 2 months. I am hoping once they do that, my hormones will regulate and the remaining symptoms will improve. I’m currently taking 100 Levothyroxine, and 2 Calcitrol +D supplements per day. But that may change at my next appointment. I’m staying positive because the surgery was a success, so I know that future healing will be a success as well.
So far, at 4 weeks post-op, some of the symptoms that I used to have due to my hyperparathyroid tumor have begun to improve. Such as:
Frequent urination (I go much less often – almost normal now)
Extreme thirst/dry mouth
Brain fog/confusion (feeling somewhat clearer and able to focus better)
Breathing better (no more goiter pushing against my windpipe!)
A tad more energy
Joints not as achy when sitting still for too long
I’ve read that it can take up to 6 months to really notice improvements after removal of a hyperparathyroid tumor, so I must be patient like grasshopper. It will come in time. I am praying I am one of the success stories of those who do great on synthetic thyroid hormone and can feel completely normal one day.
If you’re about to have this surgery, please make sure you have a fantastic surgeon. Make sure you have help for the first few days post-surgery. And be sure to get a lot of rest, drink lots of water, and give yourself time to heal. Don’t rush back to work if you don’t have to. I pray your surgery goes well and that you have a positive story to share as well!
UPDATE: It’s been close to 3 months, and here’s how my incision is healing. This is with massaging Neroli oil into the healed scar 3x per day:
Other changes include: hair loss, hypo fatigue, 5 more lbs of weight gain. and depression and moodiness. Dr. De Jong switched me over to the name-brand, Synthroid, and increased my dosage to 112, so I’m hoping this regulates me. I miss going to the gym!
But, this is life, and I’m glad I had the surgery. I would rather deal with meds, than have my goiter continue to grow down into my chest.
4 MONTH POST-OP UPDATE:
It’s been just over 4 months, and I’ve had some ups and downs.
I’ve gained a total of 9 pounds (not bad) after surgery. Brain fog was gone for a bit, but it’s back somewhat. I have no motivation to go to the gym nor do I have motivation to clean my house (but who does!?). I have lost a lot of hair. It doesn’t come out in huge clumps, but every day I lose way more than I used to. I don’t know if this is from the shock of surgery (surgery can cause hair loss out within a few months of the procedure), or if it is from Hypothyroidism – either way, it stinks. My hair was fine and limp to begin with. Now it’s fine, limp and thinning. Lovely. I sleep pretty well, but wake up exhausted and weak – as if I didn’t sleep at all.
So, I kept hearing/reading about how many people do better on T3 medications, like Cytomel, when taken in combination with their T4 medicine, like Synthroid. I asked my doctor for Cytomel, and he gave me a prescription to start on 5mcg per day. Within the first week, I started getting headaches, I felt wired but fatigued at the same time (how is that possible?!?), I was having hot flashes, my brain felt heavy/foggy, my legs seemed a little crampy, I was irritable (on a recent date night, I almost jumped out of our truck and verbally attacked the person that cut us off in the mall parking lot – SO not me!), and I had serious worsening of my depression and anxiety. My doctor told me to stop taking it, and he increased my Synthroid to 125 mcg instead. I’m hoping and praying that I finally start to feel some energy and that my mood lifts, so that I don’t lose my mind and actually attack someone!
While I am not a fan of most Endocrinologists, mine seems to be doing a pretty good job. I’m grateful that he at least listened to me when I asked to try Cytomel, and didn’t shrug off my request. I think I’ll let him be the doctor next time and listen to his suggestion!
Here’s a recent photo of my scar. I covered it a little with makeup this morning:
5 MONTH POST-OP UPDATE:
It’s been 5.5 months since my surgery. Since the increase to 125 Synthroid, I lost a few pounds, but basically feel the same. Perhaps a tiny big less depressed. I left a message with the nurse today to ask my doctor if he would increase my dosage to 137, even though it’s only been 5 weeks since the last increase. I want energy!! And, I want my hair to stop falling out!
7 MONTH POST-OP UPDATE
It’s been 7 months since surgery, and I’m finally feeling better! I believe I’m now on the right dosage of medication – which is .125 of Synthroid. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!
My scar is looking a little better – unless that’s because I dabbed some makeup on it this morning? Sometimes I hate the way it looks, and other times I just don’t care. I mean, getting that huge thing out of my neck was the best thing I ever did, and most likely saved me from an earlier death, so I can’t complain about a scar, can I!?!
I copied the list of symptoms from my older blog and noted the improvements next to each. Here’s what’s up:
– Extreme fatigue – GONE! Still a little tired – but I’m 40 years old now, so…
– GERD – still have it, but I’m off Omeprazole and managing it with essential oils.
– Depression – somewhat improved.
– Anxiety – somewhat improved.
– Hair loss – finally slowed down! I was losing chunks for a while there.
– Brain fog/confusion – much better! I finally don’t feel like an idiot.
– Memory loss – improved in some areas, but not others.
– Frequent urination – GONE!
– Constant thirst/dry mouth – GONE!
– Dry/scratchy eyes – GONE! I can wear contacts (the “moist” kind) again.
– Stomach issues – improved with essential oils use, but still bloat if I don’t use my oils.
– Hoarse/scratchy throat/voice – GONE!
– Trouble sleeping – only when I eat too much before bed.
– Irritability – GONE! (except for when I’m hangry and tired!)
It’s so odd to me to read these symptoms now, because I don’t even remember having some of them! These symptoms were mostly caused by my parathyroid tumor, but some were hypothyroid symptoms from having my thyroid removed.
My doc ordered blood tests the other day and I got my results within 24 hours. My levels are all normal, and he wants me to continue with this dosage until something changes. I’m hoping and praying that my symptoms continue to improve, but for the most part, I’m all good.
So, this is happening:
I think these are new baby hairs growing back after losing so much from hypothyroidism and the shock surgery had on my body. I’m so happy to see them, although they are almost impossible to tame throughout the day! My hair used to come out in clumps, and now I may find 5-10 hairs on my comb each morning after I use it.
I can only see my symptoms improving from this point forward.
1 YEAR POST-OP UPDATE:
So, it’s been just over year, and while my Synthroid is relatively regulated, I still don’t feel quiet like myself. A few months ago, I hit a pocket of time where I was feeling fantastic. I had more energy, my joints felt good, and my mood was leveling off. I’m not sure what happened, but I then took a turn for the worst. My depression got horribly strong. It could be due to all of the sugar that I was eating. I’m trying to back off of that to see if my mood improves.
Since I wasn’t feeling the greatest, I called my Endo and asked if he would put an order in for me to get blood tests. My levels were fine. TST was .10, T3 and T4 were both within the standard range. I see him next month, so I’m not sure what he’s going to say about my mood issues, continued hair loss (not as bad as before), weight gain and irritability.
But for the most part, I can’t complain. The huge goiter is gone. I can breathe much better. My hormones will be easier to regulate with Synthroid being that I don’t have a thyroid that gets disrupted so often. And the most weight gain I’ve had in 1 year is 10 lbs. That’s not horrible, as compared to stories I’ve heard.
This will be a lifelong journey, but it’s not something I can complain about. There are much worse ailments out there, and I’m grateful to have been able to remedy this one in a relatively easy way.
If you’ve recently had this surgery, or had it in the past, will you please comment below and let me know how you are doing? I know our bodies are all different, but I’d like to hopefully hear some positive stories about depression going away and weight loss after Synthroid regulates!
God bless and make sure you check your TSH and calcium levels whenever you get a blood test!
I’ve been a rep with a very well known essential oils company now for 4 years. While I get gobs of education and information from them, I figured it was about time I take that leap and go one step further in my botanical therapy education to become a Certified Aromatherapist.
I’ve always tried to educate my clients/customers as much as possible with information on how to safely use essential oils and help them figure out which to use, but now I can do it with much more confidence and knowledge.
Sure, I knew enough about essential oils to get by, and what I didn’t know I’d just ask my team or Google it. I mean, Google has the answer to all things, right? 😉 Totally kidding…please don’t rely on Google as your answers to everything.
Becoming a Certified Aromatherapist has given me much more in the way of business and educational opportunities than I had ever had before. There are various types of work you could do with this title, besides sales, and I cannot wait to find my niche!
For those of you who love learning about oils, or even do it as a business, I highly recommend getting certified. With Certification, you will:
Have the education and certification to back up your business.
Feel even more empowered to take your health into your own hands.
Feel more confident explaining essential oils and their benefits to others as you will understand the science behind them.
I am beginning to think that all sales representatives who educate on and sell essential oils should become certified before teaching anyone how to use them. Or at least get extended training from their uplines.
As for certification courses, there are multiple levels of certification. My school also has extra courses to further your education in various specialties. My school of choice is approved by NAHA and taught mainly by Jade Shutes.
Jade Shutes is a past President of NAHA, and has been studying the science and use of essential oils for over 20 years. She’s studied and worked in France, among other countries and is extremely knowledgeable. Jade, as an instructor, is very soothing to listen to and makes it very easy to learn. Her love of plants and natural alternatives is evident, and she loves to teach. The audio and video clips make it easy to sit back and listen from the comfort of your own home. The school also has a Facebook page where students can interact with each other and ask questions.
So, what school is it?: The New York Institute for Aromatic Studies (they recently changed the name from The School for Aromatic Studies). Click here to be directed to their website: The New York Institute for Aromatic Studies.
I completed their first foundational course. This course gives the title of Certified Aromatherapist, Level One once complete. The course is online, which allows you to work through the modules as quickly or slowly as you wish. This was perfect for me because I work full time as a legal assistant. I was able to fit my studying in during my free time, although it took me a year to complete because life kept getting in the way!
Once you complete all of the modules and quizzes, you will then need to find five people to be your case studies (i.e., guinea pigs). Your case studies will give you hands-on aromatherapy experience by helping these five people with any health issues they might have by creating various aromatherapy products for them to use. Please note that it takes at least 4 weeks to complete your case studies. You might have an experience like I had, wherein a couple of my case studies did not respond to my emails when following-up with them. I had to be vigilant in following up with them myself. You will find that people are not always as reliable as you would like them to be.
When your case studies, and reports on each of them, are completed and submitted through the website, you will need to take a final exam. It’s pretty short and you can use your notes. Piece of cake.
Once your case studies and final exam are complete, the school will mail your certificate to you and you’re ready to become a member of NAHA!
If you have any questions, I’m always available to answer them.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
As you may have read in my previous blog, I had Grave’s Disease (hyperthyroidism) as a teenager, and had toxic multi-nodular goiter (which is, in a nutshell, an enlarged thyroid with nodules on it, that produces too much thyroid hormone). After taking PTU and Synthroid medications for about a year, and not seeing any changes, my doctor decided it was time for the Radioactive Iodine Treatment (“RAI”).
RAI treatment consists of a large radioactive pill that a doctor drops down your hatch while donning special gloves to protect themselves from the radiation. They don’t want it to touch your mouth, and can only touch your throat enough for you to swallow, due to its radioactivity. Sort of scary…not gonna lie.
For the following 3 days, I was to flush the toilet three times each time I used it. I could only use plasticware and disposable plates when I ate and I couldn’t sit next to anyone who was pregnant. Yikes!! I didn’t glow, nor was I green, but apparently I was dangerous to an unborn fetus outside my own body! This whole ordeal was meant to stop my thyroid from overproducing thyroid hormone. And, it worked! For the most part…
All was well in the thyroid department for the next 23 years – or so it seemed. My goiter stopped overproducing thyroid hormone, which was great, an and added bonus was that my thyroid didn’t become hypo (which normally happens to patients who have this treatment). I think the goiter even shrunk a little after treatment.
Now, rewind to about 10 years ago. I began experiencing annoying symptoms that no one could explain. My leg muscles were always cramping. My anxiety had gotten worse. I was extremely fatigued, often depressed, and rarely wanted to clean my house or go out with friends. Over the years, more symptoms were added to the list. Below is my running list of symptoms (the list isn’t conclusive to the actual disease – there are a few others that I never acquired – thank the Lord):
– extreme fatigue (even brushing my hair poops me out)
– GERD (acid reflux)(diagnosed and taking Omeprazole)
– depression(let’s not even go there)
– anxiety (waking up every morning with a nervous stomach ache, fears, inner shaking and sometimes hand tremors)
– hair loss (pony tail? more like a weathered paintbrush)
– brain fog/confusion (bosses think I’m an airhead)
– memory loss (I’m apparently a very large goldfish)
– frequent urination (I should set up my work computer in the stall)
– constant thirst/dry mouth (drinking so much water makes frequent urination even frequent-er)
– dry, scratchy eyes (some mornings, my lids literally are stuck to my eyeball)
– stomach issues (let’s not even go there)
– hoarse/scratchy throat/voice (no, not the sexy kind – the phleghmy, groggy kind)
– trouble sleeping (due to frequent urination all through the night)
– irritability (sorry, hubs!! I’ll be normal soon, I hope!)
– muscle & joint aches (I’m only 39!)
– frequent headaches (sort of dull, and sometimes daily)
Over the years, my previous doctor would test my thyroid hormone, to see if my thyroid was over- or under-producing thyroid hormone. The results always came back normal, and so I assume the doctor (and possibly friends and family members) thought my bodily complaints were all in my head. I mean, I constantly Googled my symptoms, always trying to find a diagnosis. I’m sure the word “hypochondriac” came up in conversation when I wasn’t around. I didn’t care – I knew there was something wrong with me and I was determined to figure it out.
Finally, in October 2017, after the frequent urination was just ridiculous (I’d go 20-30x in a 24 hour period), I decided to get a ton of blood tests to see if I had diabetes. Frequent urination is a symptom of diabetes, and we have a lotof diabetes in our family. I figured I was bound to get it at some point. It had also been 2 years since I’d had a complete blood workup, so…
My blood tests came back “prediabetes,” but that didn’t concern my doctor. He was more concerned with my consistent abnormal calcium level. It had been high in 2014, 2015 and again in 2017. He wasn’t my Endocrinologist before 2014 (I skipped seeing one for many years, so I am guessing my levels have been high for at least 10 years). I also had low Vitamin D. He was concerned about the frequent urination, high calcium and low vitamin D, so he sent me back for a PTH test, which tests for raised parathyroid hormone in your blood.
Being an avid, self-professed, online medical researcher (i.e. “Compulsive Googler”), I found out that high calcium, high PTH hormone and low Vitamin D means that you have a disease called Hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism basically means you have a tumor on one…or two…or theee…or four of your 4 parathyroid glands. It’s most common to only have one parathyroid tumor, but some have multiple diseased glands.
This disease is slow progressing, but in time it can cause major problems if you don’t get it taken care of. Problems such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, cardiac issues, kidney failure and more.
From my limited understanding of biology, and proficient Googling abilities (don’t laugh), these parathyroid tumors cause the overproduction of parathyroid hormone. This will cause calcium and phosphorus to be pulled from your bones – not good. You can’t absorb the calcium, and so it floats around in your blood, wreaking havoc and causing annoying symptoms. This is called hypercalcemia. This leads to bone loss and that is where the osteoporosis can come into play. I have never had a bone density scan (DEXA) done, so I don’t know how my bones are, except for the fact that my dentist keeps telling me how much bone loss they notice at every one of my dental visits.
This extra calcium can even attach to various tissues in your body and cause calcification of that tissue. Basically, it’s like growing a tooth over your organ! (I’m sorry if you have nightmares tonight…). One of my thyroid nodules was calcified. Parathyroid tumors must be removed. Surgery is the only treatment for them.
I am eternally grateful that my primary car physician noticed the high calcium levels in my bloodwork, and catching this before I spent any more precious years feeling miserable. Please, if you have any of these symptoms, and no one can figure out what’s wrong with you, please advocate for yourself and ask your doctor to order blood tests for Calcium, Vitamin D and PTH. If your doctor won’t do it, find a new doctor. Seriously. Or, if your doctor says “let’s keep an eye on it,” so you can go longer feeling miserable…find a new doctor. Unfortunately, there are many endocrinologists out there who will only go by the numbers, and not consider a patient’s symptoms. This should not be happening. If you don’t have any good endocrinologists near you, but you believe you might have a parathyroid tumor, you can try contacting the Norman Parathyroid Center in Florida. They are experts in all things parathyroid.
Always read your bloodwork (if you can access it online like many medical groups are doing these days), and if any levels aren’t in the normal range – ask your doctor why. Again, if your doctor shrugs it off, find a new doctor!! See as many as you can until you get answers.
As a member of a parathyroid disease support group on Facebook, I’ve learned a lot from many poor souls who have experienced my same symptoms, but worse. Many of them have developed painful kidney stones due to the damage done to their kidneys from the excess calcium in their blood. Most people end up discovering they have a parathyroid tumors by accident – through a CT scan or blood test that they are getting for some other ailment.
So, once my doctor referred me to an Endocrinologist, everything starting coming to light – and fast! My blood tests confirmed I had hyperparathyroidism. That was the first step. The second step was to send me for a 4D-CT scan. This scan showed 2 parathyroid tumors. We wouldn’t know if I actually had 1 or 2 until I was actually opened up (they aren’t always correct). The third step was to refer me to a surgeon to remove the bugger(s). Being the proactive researcher that I am, I already did my homework and had already chosen my surgeon. If anyone was cutting my neck open, it would be one of the best in the Chicagoland area: Dr. Steven DeJong at Loyola. He’d been doing these surgeries for over 25-30 years, and it appears he does them every week. That’s a lot of experience!
I met Dr. DeJong for a consultation and he spent a lot of time with me, showing me my CT and Ultrasound photos on the computer. He basically told me that my thyroid/goiter was the size of his fist, and that it had started growing down into my sternum. Oh my wow – a little freaked at this point. This meant that I didn’t just need to have 1 (or 2) parathyroid tumors removed (which would have been a quick non-invasive surgery), but I needed my entire thyroid removed, and 1 or 2 parathyroid glands that contained tumors. This was more involved than I imagined, but I trusted him and agreed to schedule surgery for January 11, 2018.
Removal of the entire thyroid will mean that I need to supplement my body with a synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. Strangely, I know a lot of people who have had this surgery, and who are on this drug. I’m not worried about that. What gives me the creeps is that there is always a possibility of malignancy, AND there is always the possibility of complications during surgery. One complication would be permanently damaging the vocal cords.
So, being this is an essential oils-themed blogsite, I figured my surgery would be the perfect way to show off my favorite essential oils after surgery. I’ll use some for comfort and aches from the surgery it self, and then I’ll use skin, wound and scar-mending essential oils on the incision. I’ll be posting pictures of the progression of healing of my incision in a separate blog, once I get to that point. So if you are squeamish, you might not want to read my post-surgery blog.
Before the steri-tape is removed, I’ll be using a blend of essential oils, such as frankincense, lavender, helichrysum, rose, sandalwood and melaleuca around the area for inflammation, tenderness and skin recovery.
When the tape is removed, I’ll be using the same blend on the already-healing incision. I’m going to add some Vitamin E oil to the mix and also be using an “everything ointment,” which my company sells, that includes many of those same oils. They are all fabulous for skin repair/soothing.
You can also view my videos at my YouTube channel: Karen – Aromatherapy
Click here to read my post-op story and see all of my incision healing photos.
Karen Kornichuk Certified Aromatherapist Member of National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy