Learning to Listen to Your Gut

By Rachel Sircy

This post is going to be short, since it’s basically a personal story without a whole bunch of evidence to back it up. I will start off by saying (as I’m sure I’ve said before), that I am a big believer in going to the doctor if you feel that something is wrong with you. I would strongly advise against anyone who thinks they have a gluten sensitivity beginning a gluten free diet without going through the proper tests first. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly the reason is that if you have celiac disease, you could also have a whole host of other problems that sometimes go along with it. If no doctor really diagnoses you, then no doctor will be looking out for your other symptoms either.

However, there are times when you need to listen to your gut. I am in the middle of learning this lesson myself. You see, some people with celiac disease can eat oats while others can’t. When I say “oats” I am talking only about the strictly certified gluten free oats. No one with a gluten sensitivity should eat just any old oats. Oats and wheat are often processed in the same factories, stored in the same silos and grown in adjacent fields. All this means that cross-contamination is inevitable in regular oats. Certified gluten free oats cost more than regular oats because they are grown in fields away from wheat and they are also stored and processed in gluten free facilities. So, when I talk about oats, I mean ONLY the oats with a label that claims that they are certified gluten free.

Okay, that being said, some people with celiac disease cannot digest even the cleanest, most certifiably gluten free oats. I am going to give you a basic run-down of why that is, though I may need some correction here. I really haven’t seen many articles on this that haven’t been really technical and scientific. There is a genetic component, I think, that is the cause of the additional sensitivity. There is a protein in the oats that is not related to gluten, but which some people are extremely sensitive to. I believe you can either be allergic to this protein in the oats or intolerant of it. (the same is true of gluten – some people are allergic, while celiacs like me are not allergic, but intolerant)

To be perfectly honest with everyone, I have thought for a number of years that I have an intolerance to oats, but I go back and forth on whether or not to eat them. There are two reasons that I have not made up my mind about whether or not to give oats up forever. Firstly, I LOVE oats. When I was a kid (many years before my celiac diagnosis), I would sneak into the pantry and grab handfuls of dry oats from the Quaker Oats box and eat them plain and uncooked, like a horse. I could eat oatmeal every day of my life and not grow tired of it. I could also probably give up desserts entirely if I just ate one of those dark chocolate chunk Kind granola bars instead. The second reason that I have hemmed and hawed about giving them up is that I figured that there was no test to prove that it was oats that I was allergic to. Plus, everything I read online about celiac disease and even about how to manage high cholesterol seems to indicate that we should eat oats. The arguments are that celiacs need more fiber in their diets and oats are the perfect way to get that fiber. The fiber that you get from oats is also really good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.


However, for several years now, I have cut most oats and most oat containing products out of my diet – though I’ll admit I’m not a saint. I have relapses. Each time I relapse and eat my way through a box of gluten free granola bars, or eat oat-based cereals or crackers, etc. I get sick. I start having the same symptoms that I had before my celiac diagnosis: bloating, nausea, severe stomach cramps, fatigue – you name it. My most recent relapse ended last Wednesday when, after eating granola on my morning yogurt for about a month straight, I collapsed on the couch after work and just didn’t have the strength or energy to get up. My husband panicked, thinking I was either pregnant or sick with the flu. When I told him that I had been eating oats again, he just put his head in his hands and said “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” And I finally realized that it was time to stop. I started looking online for answers about oat intolerance and, as it turns out, there is a test for it. So, my next step is going to be to speak to my doctor and try to get tested. A printout of lab results always makes me feel better. Those pieces of paper confirm that I am not a hypochondriac and my symptoms are not just in my head.

As I get further into this life lesson, I will be writing updates. Meanwhile, if anyone out there is a celiac and you’ve been on a gluten free diet for a long time and aren’t feeling any better, try cutting oats out for a while and seeing how you feel. Oats are an excellent source of nutrition if your body can handle them, but if you don’t feel good, they may not be good for you. Just food for thought.

Move over to the sunny side of the street

By Jeanne Reynolds


I’m a fairly focused, goal-oriented person. And although I don’t take myself too seriously, I do take what I do seriously. So I’m not one of those people walking around with a big smile all the time (and I so hate it when someone, especially a stranger, says “Smile! It can’t be that bad.” I mean really, how the heck would you know whether it is or not?)

That doesn’t mean I’m not happy most of the time. Even joyous occasionally. Able to see the humor in most situations. And overall, pretty optimistic. Which is great, because it’s … (drum roll, please) … National Optimism Month.


Lucky for me, optimism isn’t about walking around with a goofy grin on your face or spouting Pollyanna-ish sayings all day. Optimism is about seeing the positive in situations — you know, that glass-half-full thing.

There are plenty of good reasons to look on the bright side:

  • Better health. Optimists tend to have healthier hearts, making them less prone to attacks and strokes. Being optimistic in a stressful situation can raise your immune response, increasing your ability to fight infection and disease. And we’ve all heard stories of patients who stayed positive bouncing back faster from illness and injury.
  • Higher achievement. Researcher Martin Seligman found athletes and teams that are more optimistic perform better than pessimistic ones. That’s one reason some employers seek out optimists as job candidates.
  • Longer life. If optimism and good health go hand-in-hand, no wonder research shows links between optimism and avoiding early death from heart disease, cancer infection and other diseases.

Even if you’re not naturally super-optimistic, there are ways to cultivate a more optimistic mindset. Try these:

  • Examine your habitual thought patterns. Do you pay more attention to complaints than compliments? Often describe things with words like “always” and “never,” and tend to jump to conclusions with all the information? These are all signs of negative thinking. Techniques such as cognitive restructuring can help you learn to challenge your negative thinking and replace it with more optimistic thought patterns.
  • Develop optimism-enhancing habits. Try keeping a gratitude journal (Oprah does), a coincidence journal or a vision board.
  • Get outside and get moving. Exercise is proven to alleviate symptoms of depression, and completing that walk, run or tough class will feed your sense of positive accomplishment. Plus, it’s hard not to feel a sense of wonder and awe when seeing a beautiful sunrise, a shooting star on a clear night or the first brave buds of spring about to open.
  • Laugh at yourself. The ability to see the humor in a situation can go a long way toward dissolving stress, disappointment or embarrassment. Add more laughter to your life with a funny page-a-day calendar or watching silly movies.

Now, ready to break out that happy dance? (And it’s OK if you can’t help smiling while you do it.)

Rearview Mirror

By Katie Austin

As I log into my laptop to write my next Every Woman Blog article, I close my eyes to allow my mind to wander as I try to come up with a topic to write about.  It feels good to sit still, thinking about life in general. It’s not often that we find those quiet times in our busy days to just think without having a deadline or having to be somewhere.   I try to come up with something and look at my calendar to see if there are any life events coming up I should write about.

Then it hits me.   The day on the calendar is the only one I see.   It’s like there is a glow around it and my mind begins to race, my emotions flooded with memories of that moment.  When my life stood still and everything changed.

I will never forget that day.  It was Friday, March 5th 2010 and the time was 11:15.  My parents and I were at the house waiting for a phone call.  You see, I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy the day before and the hospital’s breast health nurse navigator, Kelly Jeffcoat, was planning to call me by 11:30 with the results.  I already had a feeling there was something wrong just by the reaction of those around me the day before.  I tried to take my mind off things all morning but all I could think about was wanting to know.

Then the phone call came.  Nothing can prepare you for that moment.  I actually let it ring two times before picking up because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I needed to know but I knew picking up that phone could change everything.   I was right, my life was going to change forever with that phone call.   I was told that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

From that phone call, I underwent eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy), 26 days of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy (Herceptin).  Shortly thereafter I had my port removed and then was on medicine to lower my estrogen levels for almost five years.   I met the most amazing people along the way and their friendships continue to this day.


Katie with Sharon Nipper (her infusion nurse)


Katie with her breast friend Brandy

It’s hard to believe that on March 5th of this year it will be eight years since I was diagnosed!   As I let my fingers move across the keyboard, I think back to the day I rang the bell and how much I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.  Over the years, I would try to motivate myself to get healthier and it would work, but then I would fall back into the same habits.  I would allow myself the excuse that I am lucky to be alive so I shouldn’t worry about that.  But that’s not true.   It’s been almost eight (8) years since that fateful day and I am no closer to finding that new normal than I was then.


I spend more of my time thinking back to when I was in shape, when I felt better, when I had more energy, when I didn’t have cancer.  As I type this, I realize that during my cancer batter I had to be strong.   After my treatments were done, I had to be strong and to get back to life I had to put those feelings aside so that I could enjoy myself again.  I realize now I never dealt with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the diagnosis.   I need to take the time to deal with those emotions.  It’s ok to think about and miss my survivor sisters who are no longer here.  I need to be ok with being afraid of my cancer coming back but not allow it to hold me back.  I need to put God first and my health needs to be a priority.  I want to be ready if/when my cancer rears its ugly head

As I sit here writing down my thoughts, I realize I wrote quite a bit and my next blog post 🙂

I can’t change my past but my future is what I make of it.  I can’t expect things to work out on their own.  Sometimes they do, but for the most part I know that I need to heal before I can move on.  Then I will be ready to take on the changes I need to make in my life.

Life isn’t how quick you get there, but the steps taken to get to where you want to be.” – Katie Austin

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog,

Katie Austin


Essential Oils Craze

By Chaunte McClure

Have you shared with anyone recently that you have been experiencing an ailment and they’ve said to you, there’s an oil for that?

I’ve heard it a time or two – or maybe a dozen.

There’s a craze for essential oils that are believed to help the mind and body. And there are some women out there who are serious about their oils! I have a couple of friends who are advocates and they are sure to help you with anything from cleaning solutions to remedies. Whatever ails you, they’ll likely have this to say: There’s an oil for that.


Another friend recently gifted me a set of oils and two diffusers. I have one of the diffusers at work and this week the smell of eucalyptus filled my office. Surprisingly, I like the smell, and eucalyptus oil is good for colds and congestion. I usually diffuse the tea tree oil because it has a fresh scent and it’s believed to boost your immune system, fight infections and kill bacteria.

Prior to being given oils, I purchased the lemon oil after desperately wanting to lower my blood pressure. I keep it in my purse and when I remember, I just place a drop under my tongue. You can also add it to your water bottle. When I had a sinus infection in January, I rubbed it behind my ears for relief. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as consistent as my advocate and friend recommended.

Back in the day, we didn’t have essential oils for remedies or alternative medicines. Vick’s was one of the solutions for all things congestion growing up. And although we despised taking them, Grandma forced us to take cod liver oil and that god-awful castor oil. She’d also rub tallow, an old home remedy, over our chest when we had a nagging cold. If you’ve never heard of it, take my word when I say that you do not want to go to bed, or anywhere for that matter, smelling like tallow. It’s made of some sort of animal fat and I remember she’d have to melt it before applying. I wonder if anyone still uses that stuff.

From home remedies to essential oils – what are your go-to oils?

Have you bought into the essential oils craze?

Happy Trails!

By Stacy Thompson

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I enjoy a good hike and, even better, a good challenge.  Although I’ve always loved the outdoors, hiking only recently became a favorite pastime, as I decided to follow in the footsteps of a pretty incredible mother (mine) who felt the pull of the peak.  Since her first climb six years ago, we’ve been on some incredible journeys together – but in finding joy in our journey, we have to prepare and prepare hard.  In truth, the hikes are amazing, but our prep time together is the greatest gift that leads to our ultimate goal.

So how do two land-locked, Lexington County natives living at 292 feet prepare for Machu Picchu (7,972 feet), base camp of Mt. Everest/Kala Patthar (18,514 feet) and Kilimanjaro (19,431 feet)??? One foot in front of the other, in stairwells, steps and trails anywhere and everywhere we can find them!  Maybe our fellow hikers with the benefit of high altitudes in the vicinity have an advantage, but we make the most of what we have available to us, and to date we have met every challenge.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to train and enjoy the outdoors in the Midlands (leaving out the parking garage, of course!)—

  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park – still a work in progress and still recovering from the Great Flood – the flattest path you’ll find and a great place to train for a 5k, 10k or ½ marathon – particularly nice on cooler days, as most of the paths are sun-filled!
  • Sesquicentennial State Park – probably better for the bikers, but these trails are accessible and have campsites available for overnights, if that’s your thing
  • Congaree National Park – I’ve only explored the shorter trails and the area by kayak, but plan to venture further into the area to see what this National Park has to offer
  • Cayce Riverwalk – accessible from the amphitheater off Gervais or the lot off Naples in the Avenues of Cayce – one of the easier boardwalks and trails for bikers, runners, hikers and dog-walkers – this trail is continuing to improve/expand and cannot be missed – and speaking of ‘don’t miss,’ be sure to check out the chainsaw artistry of Wade Geddings while you take in the beauty of the Congaree
  • Timmerman Trail – venture down the 12th Street Extension in Cayce toward SCANA to find this gem of a trail – eventually downtown Soda City will meet River Rat as the Timmerman Trail / Cayce Riverwalk will join with the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park for miles and miles of enjoyment – until then, Timmerman Trail does not disappoint!
  • Harbison State Park – we’ve been hiking the park for a couple of years now, but still manage to find new areas, new parts to get (semi) lost in, and new trails that have us marveling that we are still within the county limits! Trails for bikes, hikes and pups – what could be better (nothing, based on the look on my boy Lincoln’s face!)  There are trails for newbies, those wanting a little challenge and those looking to take it to the next level!


Kissing my sweet tooth goodbye!

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Studies show that sugar’s effect on our brain can be as addicting as cocaine. Yet the American Heart Association recommends that adult women eat no more than 24 grams, or six teaspoons, of added sugar. (The current average is over 30 teaspoons of sugar per day.) So what’s a woman to do?


These days, I’m working to loosen the grip added sugar, particularly in the form of those pesky, persistent candies wrapped in holiday foil.  While Hershey’s Kisses may seem innocent enough, especially wrapped in pastel shades of the season, a handful contains the daily recommended allowance of sugar.

Excess sugar in your diet is unhealthy for many reasons, not the least of which is weight gain. It can raise your cholesterol; cause liver trouble and insulin resistance, which is a stepping stone towards diabetes.

From Rally Health, here are some tricks to help you successfully kick the sugar habit:

  1. Start with a solid breakfast. The less sugar you eat in the morning, the more balanced you will be all day. High-protein breakfasts have been proven to reduce cravings.
  2. Plan your meals in advance, to prevent dips in blood sugar.
  3. Dehydration can make you feel hungry, so drink plenty of water. Add lemon, berries or other fruit to your water to make it more flavorful.
  4. When you crave sweets, wait 10 minutes and change your environment. Take a walk, or get into a project. Perhaps you can distract yourself out of at least one sugar fix.
  5. To satisfy your sugar cravings in a more healthful way, turn to vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, beets and carrots. Other naturally sweet foods include coconut, bananas, frozen grapes, dates, vanilla, raw cacao and cinnamon (which has been shown to reduce sugar cravings by helping to manage insulin sensitivity). Berries are another option, and their sugars are released more slowly than those of other fruits. And high-fiber foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale make you feel full longer than many quickly digested foods such as cereal, bagels and other simple carbohydrates.
  6. Smoothies are a sweet treat that, if made without added sugars or too many sweet foods and with plenty of fiber, will satisfy without causing a blood sugar surge.
  7. Avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, which have been shown to increase sugar cravings.
  8. Trick your body by eating something sour when you want something sweet. The sour flavor can stimulate the taste buds and distract you from the sugar craving.
  9. Ginger and turmeric help prevent insulin resistance so don’t be afraid to consume them freely, in turmeric lattes or ginger-infused smoothies, as you work to balance your blood sugar.

If sugar has already hijacked your body and you want off the bumpy ride, hold on tight because you will likely have those drug like withdrawal symptoms for two or three days, and the cravings will likely remain for at least the first week. After that, some of the negative habits and hankerings will dissipate, and hopefully, you can take off your seat belt and enjoy a smoother ride.

Is added sugar a problem for you? What is your weakness? And how do you control your sweet tooth?


If Your Life Were a Movie…

By Shannon Boatwright

I recently came across a post that one of my dear friends shared on Facebook. It was an app that lets you choose one of your profile pictures to edit into a movie poster with other celeb quotes. The app states, “What does your Hollywood movie poster look like? See yourself as a Hollywood celebrity, starring in the movie of your life.”  This is enough to grab anyone’s attention because it’s just flat out cool and fun! For me personally, having lived in Hollywood and as a person who has made a career out of working in the entertainment business and the Fine Arts, well, I certainly couldn’t resist trying out this app! Needless to say, I had a blast playing around with integrating my pictures into a movie poster and checking out the celeb quotes they put on the posters.  Serious cool fun!


But this got me thinking…if my life were a movie (which it certainly could be with all the drama, excitement, romance, hardships, soap opera & comedic moments!), what would people say about me? Would they consider me a great beauty? Would they claim that the world has fallen in love with me, that my power, beauty, strength, and kindness are mind blowing and give others hope? Would I be considered as having charmed the world? It’s something to consider for sure and goodness knows I would hope that at least a majority of the people that are a part of my life would think of me in some sort of lovely, positive light.


We should all live our lives in such a way that our movie poster would possess quotes that share a small taste of who we are and the mark we make on those around us.  It’s something to strive for and always keep in mind.  If your life were a movie, what would the quotes say on your movie poster??