Feb 17, 2023

Cultivating Health, Mid-February Edition


Welcome back for my second installment of Cultivating Health! I shared my story with you in part 1. What a journey this has been, with daily insights, new steps forward, and progress in a short time. A LOT can happen in a month, friends! In keeping with my word for 2023, and knowing little by little steps add up, here’s what happened over the last month.

February Steps Forward:

— First and most importantly, I got a new diagnosis on my neck. After years and years of being treated for degenerative disc disease, which I still have, a new doctor revealed my pain is coming from my left trap! This new orthopedist took a different approach, dug deep into all my records, and wooosh – a new and correct diagnosis! Finding out I’ve had steroid injections and unnecessary pain for years was not the most fun thing to hear, but you guys — in a way, GOD HEALED MY NECK. In a miraculous and sideways turn of events, this is the healing I’ve been praying for. Multiple doctors have told me that it was my disc pressing on a nerve in my spinal cord, and she saw a different picture. I walked out of her office like…

I cried, clicked my heels, and called Ari in shock. My upper back/trap imbalances are very treatable, and I am elated! The best thing that happened this month with my health was seeing a doctor who took the time to dig deeper. I’ve already started PT for this with a new therapist, which has been exciting!

We could just stop right here with this post. Nothing quite compares to this, but there was, indeed, much more this month. Affiliate links are used in the post – enjoy!

— Ari and I got our biomarker results and had a chat with the nurse and nutritionist from the lab. This included genetic testing specific to mutations in the methylation cycle, food sensitivities, antioxidant protection assay, and a panel of micronutrient levels. This has been insightful for both of us, specifically learning about the methylation cycle. I have the MTRR variant, and Ari has COMT. Ari and I both have the MTHFR variant, something we now know we’ve passed to our kids. These all significantly affect how we process (or don’t process) folate, B vitamins, and many other things. I’ve learned a ton from this podcast about MTHFR.
— Ari got hardcore. Before I go any further, let me note that I started this journey feeling like a sponge and so pumped about all I’m learning. I’ve been on a whole new path, one that feels full circle back to my personal training days. I did not expect Ari to take to any of this as someone who doesn’t love change. I’ve sometimes wondered if he’ll tire of me talking about functional medicine, but he outpaces me every time. He has been able to stop his blood pressure medication (huge!). He weaned off his PPI (proton pump inhibitor) for acid reflux, which he took for decades without a second thought till now – like me. And, if that wasn’t enough, he was convinced by our learning to stop drinking coffee. God has put a new spark in both of us to use the days we have here with our children as best we can – in the best health we can. We’re listening to podcasts at night, reading books, swapping notes during the day, and doing things we never thought we’d do (like going to get redlight therapy before our Valentine’s dinner date!?). I’m proud of Ari and amazed at the renewed energy he has already. The kids have even encouraged him, noting how much more energy he has. We’ve done as much as we can safely without more expert input, so we are talking to a functional medicine doctor we love soon. We can’t wait to hear what he says. We’re in this together!
— So, on that note, Ari wanted to get us WHOOP’s for Valentine’s Day. Our friend who owns the gym down the street has one and can’t say enough about it. I have wanted to track my sleep and recovery and considered the Oura ring, but ultimately went with the WHOOP for the added fitness features. We watched a lot of comparison reviews and asked friends who have both. You get better overall data with the WHOOP that has already proven useful in the two weeks we’ve been wearing them. I can track many factors (how much protein I get daily, morning sunlight, contrast therapy, stress levels etc.) and see how they impact my sleep and recovery each night. As I continue to gather data, I’ll let you know what patterns I see! Have you thought about getting a WHOOP? We used our friend’s code for a discount, so I’ll share mine here for you, too. Get a free WHOOP 4.0 and one month free when you join with my link.

— We swapped our salt out for Redmond Real Salt.
— We are taking several new supplements, which I’ll discuss in a future post. Ari is a fan of his morning AG1, and I’ve been piecing together what fits my body’s needs from Pure Encapsulations, Thorne, and others. If I were to pick the number one supplement Ari and I talk about the most, though, it’s magnesium. Magnesium deficiency causes a whole host of complications (more in a future post, but start here), and it’s a low-risk supplement with a ton of upside. Ari loves Magnesium Breakthrough from BioOptimizers, and I’ve been adding Magnesium Glycinate from Pure Encapsulations before bed. We have both been sleeping better and recovering faster. I listened to two podcasts where health professionals I trust raved about Magnesium Breakthrough. My husband is such a fan that anytime someone has a booboo or really any problem in our house, he looks at me and jokingly says, “Magnesium?” with a smile. I’m always looking for discount codes on things, so here’s one for BioOptimizers. Use code LARA10 for 10% off.
— I’ve continued lifting weights and making strength gains. I can finally do a plank-to-push-up with more ease.
— I changed to a savory breakfast after 20 years. Friends who know me well, you know this was a big deal! Ha! I’ve had everything from chicken with kale and avocado salad to eggs and purple sweet potatoes. It has been a whole new world for me in the mornings.
— Ari and I joined Restore Hyper Wellness. We are loving it! Our favorites are red light therapy, PEMF, and infrared sauna, and we recently had our first intramuscular injections. Again, a whole new world for us.
— I started taking ice baths at home to help with recovery and inflammation. Josh thinks this is especially cool (pun intended) and loves to help me fill the tub with a few pitchers of ice. Okay, mostly, he loves seeing me squeal when I get in the water! We call him “Ice Man Josh” as he also has taken the job of counting down for me when I plunge. Some favorite resources are this podcast and the book Winter Swimming.
— Ari and I have been a little blown away by learning about nose vs. mouth breathing.

Making a childhood favorite – artichokes with lemon and ghee!

— We swapped out our old Teflon cookware set for a few select Our Place and Caraway pieces. This has been a game-changer. First of all, we have far less cookware now. When you have just a few good pots and pans, you don’t need as many. I am cooking far more than I used to, and these non-stick surfaces make it easier and more fun. I rarely need to oil pans, and they clean like a dream. While the care instructions took some getting used to, this has been one of the best investments in our health. Our Lodge cast iron has also been an adjustment, but worth it. Oiling the surfaces after cleaning is second nature now, and the high heat capacity gives me some variety in cooking modalities, specifically for meat.
— Figuring out how to filter our water was a priority this month after looking at our local water report. Yikes! After much research and MANY recommendations, we bought the AquaTru system. We aren’t ready to commit to a whole-house set-up, so this was a solid first step. This reverse osmosis countertop system is easy to use and comes with great reviews from people we trust. We add back trace minerals with Hi Lyte. Highly recommend the AquaTru! Clean water is the best foundation.
— I learned how to properly store my vegetables (video). Our fridge looks like a garden some days with asparagus, dill, and rainbow chard in water-filled mason jars!

Good Things This Month:
— I feel happier and more energetic. Learning about my neck, the needs of my genes, and starting new treatments has been a gift.
— Ari feels better and is happier, too. We’re having fun.
— All of this progress is spilling over to our children. They are enjoying the new foods we’re trying and how much more energy both of us have.

I’m excited to keep learning and taking small steps forward. I’ll look forward to a quick check-in next month.

Your turn! How are you cultivating your health this year? Any favorites?


  1. Joy on February 19, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    What fantastic news about your neck!

    I’ve committed to two times a week at the gym and daily planks on my non-gym days. I’m already stronger and feel better.

    Thank you for the salt link. I’ve been looking for good salt for daily use.

    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 2:56 pm

      Good for you for the planks! They are not my favorite, but I’m using them as a challenge to breath and practice resting in them with good form.

  2. Jen K on February 20, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    I follow this epigenetics doctor on IG and he wrote and book called Dirty Genes and he is always sharing tons of info on IG. His name is Dr Ben Lynch. I always see him talking about mthfr but haven’t really took the dive to begin this research how we my curiosity is growing now thanks to your story!

    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 11:57 am

      We are on the same track, Jen! : ) I just found him recently, too, and have enjoyed his research. He had some good things to say about COMT for Ari as well. I also love his approach to cleaning up our systems to help our genes: start with the gut, environmental factors, etc.

  3. Joy on February 20, 2023 at 1:13 pm

    Lara this is all so cool. 90% of what you’ve listed here are things I implemented 6 years ago with my cancer diagnosis and I know PEMF was a huge player in that healing process. I actually bought a unit for home and we all use it daily. So excited for you to have found all these things that are working for you.


    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 11:55 am

      Ahhh I was JUST thinking about you. I think I saw you have a new baby : ) I am so grateful PEMF helped your healing. Praise the Lord!

  4. Emily on February 20, 2023 at 2:53 pm

    Lara! I love learning about this stuff! When you say you swaped your salt, what were you using before? Right now I use kosher salt and sea salt, depending–does Redmond take the place of both?
    I’ve been making strength gains too and I’m SO happy with them–slow and steady, the body gets stronger! 🙂

    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 11:54 am

      Yes, I was doing the same: sea salt and kosher. This relaces both, and it’s soooo good (I know, weird to call salt good?). I realized after switching that other salt tasted a little chemical-y, and this has more nutrients for hydration and better cooking.

      So happy to hear about your strength gains, my friend!

  5. Ann on February 20, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    Lara! I am so happy you got a solid diagnosis re: your neck. I’ve also had severe trap issues that caused odd (and painful!) symptoms…but PT absolutely worked wonders and I am good as new! Little by little, PT made a huge difference 🙂
    Wishing you all the best!

    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 2:31 pm

      I’m so sorry you had this kind of pain as well, and I am SO encouraged that your PT helped! What a gift! Thank you for these very kind words, Ann.

  6. Kimberley on February 20, 2023 at 5:43 pm


    Such great stuff! And wonderful news about your neck!! I found myself saying “exactly!”, in reference to the comment that the retired doctor said to you about cervical surgery. Neck surgery (and, might I add, ANY surgery) should be a last resort. I say this as a physical therapist who is married to a surgeon.
    My family saved up and purchased a Clearlight infrared sauna for our home several years ago. We use it almost daily. It also has red lights for a double boost. The purchase was well worth it!

    A couple of thoughts:
    1- Slunds like your magnesium plan is working for you. Magnesium breakthrough gave me horrible diarrhea, but bio optimizers, gave me a refund when I returned the product. Have you considered taking magnesium Threonate? It’s Huberman’s go – to for magnesium. I’ve been taking it for about six months and love it. I also appreciate his reasoning behind avoiding melatonin – that was very helpful for us.

    2- Consider seeing a structural soft tissue practitioner to address your trapezius (in concert with PT). I bet you have some good Rolfers in your area. I see mine 1–2 times a month and half for the past 10 years. She is phenomenal. Rolfing is my favorite soft tissue treatment.

    3- Thank you for the recommendation for cookware! I’m embarrassed to say that my Le Creuset pieces have been chipping, which I’m sure is really horrible for us. I will look into the two brands you recommended! We love our cast iron!!

    4- I force myself to take an ice, cold shower – only two minutes – most days. Our water gets really cold in Virginia… My teenager wants us to buy a cold plunge pool. Looks interesting…

    5- For a quick breakfast, I love my Kachave shakes with coconut milk. I also really like Organifi’s green blend.

    6- I’m with you on helpful supplements. My husband and I do methylated B vitamins, 2000 mg EFA’s, Seed probiotic, Z-stack for overall immunity plus extra K2, and Zyflamend for joint Inflammation. Sounds like you’re doing something similar with turmeric? I love Zyflamend’s blend, and my husband recommends it to his orthopedic patients.

    I’m also an Oura ring gal. I have a friend who uses both Oura & Whoop & likes each of them for different reasons. I’m excited by these fantastic positive changes you are implementing. Our bodies may not be the very most important aspect of ourselves, but it doesn’t take long to see the benefits for your whole person when you start taking better care of your body! I look forward to following your progress!

    • Lara on February 21, 2023 at 11:52 am

      You are speaking my language, Kimberly! I love all you shared!
      – I am so glad to hear your sauna recommendation. We have been considering that exact brand!
      – Interesting about threonate – I am going to look into that. I love learning about all of this! Ari told me the other night that he feels like his brain is clearer than ever – he thinks it’s the Magnesium Breakthrough balancing his recovery at night. My body is also different than his with recovery (I need more – ha!) and I am taking a variety of things. Excited to look into threonate.
      – So smart about soft tissue – that is encouraging, and I am going to ask my PT for a rec! She is also going to try some dry needling on me when I go next.
      – Yes! The cookware has truly been one of the best investments we’ve made. Our Place is super lightweight and Caraway is a non-stick dream come true.
      – I have heard great things about Zyflamend. Thank you for that recommendation, too!
      Graetful for all you shared!

  7. Brianna on February 22, 2023 at 6:42 am

    I am so excited about all of this information! I’ve just begun to dip my toe into the world of functional medicine and am enjoying researching and learning. I’ve been taking magnesium for awhile and love it! In your opinion, what has been the biggest factor in your increasing energy levels? That’s where I need the most help!

    • Lara on February 22, 2023 at 10:31 am

      It’s great to have buddies in this! So glad you are into functional medicine as well! For both Ari and me, at this point the biggest factors for more energy have been:

      1. Getting labs done. We were shooting in the dark before getting biomarker testing, and it revealed where we were deficient and helped us customize a plan. With that, we’ve both cleaned up our diets and honestly have been eating a ton more than we were before. More on that in a future post, but getting labs done is #1.

      2. Focusing on sleep. We now plug our phones in another room, turn off the wifi at night, keep the lights dim when the sun goes down, and don’t watch TV at night. I just got a copy of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and it’s already blowing my mind. Sleep is a huge factor, and one we’re still learning about.

      3. Finally, I have to include reducing stress here, especially late in the day to get cortisol to calm down before bed. I’m just dipping my toe in these waters and learning more. A great podcast episode I listened to this week about recovery (and they talk about the science of cortisol): https://hubermanlab.com/guest-series-dr-andy-galpin-maximize-recovery-to-achieve-fitness-and-performance-goals/

      Now you’ve got me thinking! : ) I’ll definitely include more in my next post.

      I look forward to hearing what you’re learning, too!

    • Kimberley Patterson on February 24, 2023 at 11:05 am

      I believe Ben Greenfield has a coupon code for Clearlight saunas right now! LOVE ours for the low-EMF & the ability to remote turn it on if we are out and about. We got the Basswood and really love it!

  8. Megg Allison on March 12, 2023 at 7:56 pm

    I love hearing about your health journey! Please keep sharing and praise God for finding out ways to heal your neck pain! I’m curious, what did you and Ari swap out for coffee in the mornings?

    • Lara on March 15, 2023 at 1:21 pm

      Great question! I have never been a coffee drinker, so no sub for me. But Ari just changed to having his protein shake in the morning. For me, I learned recently WHY caffeine has always made me feel crazy – it has a lot to do with my genetic makeup and methylation. I just don’t process it well. He said weaning off of coffee was hard for the first three days, but then he realized he was more addicted to the habit – the smell, taste, and rhythm of it. I do think it helps that he had a strong motivation to reduce stomach acid. That was worse for him than a lack of morning energy in weaning off of coffee. I hope that helps! : ) I’ve heard others switch to various substitutes with success.

  9. Amy on April 7, 2023 at 5:31 pm

    Lara! This is so encouraging to hear the strides you and Ari (and the family) are making on this health journey! I love hearing how much can change once you learn about functional medicine. Once you know, you can’t unknow! 🤯 I started a functional medicine practitioner course in the fall of 2021, and I’m nearly complete with my training! I hope to help women with many of the same things you’ve shared. I love hearing your testimony and positive experience with the power of functional medicine!
    Looking forward to reading more as time goes on!

    • Lara on April 8, 2023 at 8:16 am

      Hearing this thrills me! You will have to text me and tell me all about the program you’re in. And I feel the exact same: once you know, you can’t unknow! I am so excited for you, and everyone will get to learn from you. How wonderful!

    • Maddie on September 15, 2023 at 10:06 am

      Lara, this is so helpful! Quick question – for bio marker testing, did you use a specific company for that or was that handled by your functional doctor?

      • Lara on September 18, 2023 at 10:33 am

        Great question – our first biomarkers were through Cell Science Systems lab (through Restore Hyper Wellness, although you can order them directly at https://previmedica.com/). You don’t need a doctor for those and some labs come with a consult with a nutritionist who can explain them after. This was extremely helpful for us. We did the CMA, MethylDetox, and ALCAT. They were pricey but some of the most helpful info we received – ended up saving us a lot of money on supplements that were not doing a thing based on our results. Our next post is all about data/labs. More to come!

  10. Sis on August 20, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    back/trap imbalances are very treatable…..maybe I need PT too…its helping?

    • Lara on August 21, 2023 at 5:08 pm

      Yes, such great improvement with PT and dry needling! : )

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