And Men Have Lost Their Reason

Yesterday, March 26, while I was happily biking to my local farmers’ market to buy dinner ingredients from local organic vendors, Obama signed into law bill H.R. 933, which contained the rider known as the Monsanto Protection Act.  This bill gives Monsanto and other biotech companies complete immunity to any safety act in place on either the federal or state level.  It grants the Department of Agriculture the ability to veto any judicial ruling that halts the planting or sale of GM seeds due to safety concerns, effectively overturning the principles of judicial review and check and balances.   Hoping to avoid the furor it knew would arise, Big Ag quietly attached the rider to a budget legislation meant to prevent a government shutdown when the previous budget expired.  Faced with the coming budget crisis, the legislation was certain to pass, along with any riders attached, and Monsanto took advantage of that fact.  Despite a petition circulated by Food Democracy Now that garnered over 200,000 signatures, Obama failed to veto the rider when he signed bill H.R. 933 into law.  Obama, who promised during his first campaign to label GMOs, whose wife is a health food activist, who eats from his very own organic garden on the White House grounds, has given Monsanto dominion over his countrymen and their food.

The news is even worse for Marylanders.  The rider was introduced anonymously while the bill was under review by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by our own Senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski.  Instead of forwarding the rider to the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees, whose branches are directly affected by its contents, Mikulski allowed it to slip through without even reviewing its language or provisions.  It’s easy to criticize the president, so far away behind his white walls and bodyguards.  Betrayal from your home state is harder to ignore, and wounds much more deeply.

What does this mean for us, the people?  It means that the purses of biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont are more important to our government than our safety.  It means that not only are we denied the right to know what’s in our food, we are denied the assurance of that said food is safe to eat.  It means that eating organic is more important now than ever.  Most importantly, it means it’s time to get angry, get active, and get LABELED.

Food Democracy Now has started another petition expressing their outrage at Obama’s betrayal and demanding that he protect his constituents by labeling GMOs.  While I’ve lost any trust in our government that remained in my being, I can’t give up hope yet.  This country was built on the will of the common people; if one revolution can start a country, surely another can save it.  If not, well, I hear the waves are great in Australia – and so are the labeling laws.  Maybe I’ll learn to surf.


Blame it on the Groundhog

It seems that mother nature has forgotten about the east coast in her yearly springtime fashion show.  Instead of flowers, we get snow.  Instead of bright mornings with birds singing, we get snow.  Instead of colorful skirts and light jackets, we get… snow.  Sigh.  Shiver.

For those of you who suffer from asthma, you probably dread cold weather as much as I do.  And with the bizarre, frigid weather we’ve been having lately, your snow days probably haven’t been anymore fun than mine.  Cold weather, as well as allergens like pet dander, dust, pollen, and harsh chemicals, can trigger an asthma attack that can leave you breathless in seconds.  I’ve had several pretty terrible ones in the past few days, and while I told you in an earlier post that my Earth Solutions aromatherapy inhaler works well for small issues, it was simply no match for the kind of problems I’ve been facing.

Then, lo and behold, Natural News came to my rescue.  I found an article on their site this morning about 10 superfoods that help keep asthma symptoms at bay.  These shouldn’t be used in place of a rescue inhaler, but eaten daily, then can help reduce your risk of having an attack.

Natural News’ List of Breath-Friendly Foods:

images1) Avocado. The fruit with the highest known concentration of L-glutathione; avocado is an excellent anti-asthma food that helps protect cells against free radical damage and detoxify the body of pollutants and other harmful substances. Widely recognized as the “master” antioxidant, enabling all other antioxidants to function, the L-glutathione in avocados helps quells inflammation systemically and repair damaged gut health, a process that in turn helps prevent triggers of asthma from engaging.

kale-bunch-lg2) Kale. An excellent source of all-natural vitamin C; kale possesses a unique ability to block the free radicals responsible for causing contractions of smooth muscles in airway passages. Kale is also a great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant phytochemical capable of both alleviating existing asthma symptoms and preventing future ones from forming.  [Really, though, who needs yet another excuse to eat kale?  It’s so delish!]

images23) Spinach. A study involving 68,535 female participants found that high intake of spinach is directly correlated with a lowered risk of asthma. This may be due to the fact that spinach is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is prevalent among people with asthma, and emergency intravenous (IV) treatments with magnesium have been shown to help halt an asthma attack. Spinach is also high in potassium, a deficiency of which is also said to exacerbate asthma symptoms.

images34) Banana. A banana a day could keep asthma away, according to a 2011 study out of the U.K. Researchers from Imperial College London found that children who eat just one banana a day reduce their risk of developing asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing by about 34 percent. Bananas are also naturally high in fiber, which can help prevent respiratory conditions like asthma from developing.

images45) Water. For many of the people diagnosed with asthma, dehydration is the true cause of their asthma symptoms. In fact, according to water expert Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, the set of symptoms commonly labeled as asthma is actually just the body crying out for more water. So unless you have aquagenic urticaria, also known as water allergy, it is definitely worth your while to drink more clean, fluoride-free water every day to avoid developing asthma symptoms.

images56) Ginger. Loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients that pervade the entire body; ginger root is another powerful anti-asthma herb that some people say works better than antihistamine drugs like Benadryl at clearing up airways and stopping inflammation. And the best part about ginger root is that it does not cause harmful side effects, which means you can safely add it to everyday foods and beverages for good health.

images67) Turmeric. The inflammation responsible for swelling the lungs and constricting breathing passages during an asthma attack is no match for turmeric, the active ingredient of which is proving to be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients in existence. Because it helps dilate blood vessels and relax muscles, turmeric is a powerful weapon in keeping asthma symptoms at bay.

images78) Elderberry. One of the richest plant-based sources of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant compound, elderberry is an incredible immune-boosting fruit that helps fight colds, flu, and respiratory illnesses like asthma. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), quercetin is particularly effective at blocking the release of histamines and other allergic and inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those associated with asthma.

images89) Apple. Similarly high in quercetin; apples have been shown to provide powerful protection against asthma. A study out of Europe found that pregnant women who ate at least four apples per week were 53 percent less likely to bear a child with doctor-confirmed asthma. And the same study that linked banana consumption to lowered asthma symptoms also found that children who drink apple juice are about 50 percent less likely to develop asthma symptoms.

images010) Chia seed. A powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and quercetin, chia seeds are another excellent addition to your anti-asthma diet. The omega-3s in chia seeds are known to help decrease inflammation in both children and adults, as well as restore natural balance to the lipid walls of cell membranes. A study involving the long-term use of omega-3 supplements in asthmatics has also confirmed that the nutrient can lead to a significant reduction is asthma symptoms, particularly in those suffering from allergy-related asthma.

I use most of these ingredients daily in my juicer, and my asthma most definitely has less of a choke hold on my life than it did before I discovered fresh veggies.  But as I’ve recently found out, there are still times when I need my inhaler.  If, like me, you threw yours out in your quest to rid yourself of pharmaceuticals, severe attacks can be pretty scary.  I’ve learned two tricks that can help: coffee and magnesium.  During the worst of my recent attacks, I frantically scoured the interwebs for any home remedies that sounded promising.  All the sites I visited agreed on one thing, and that was caffeine.  Countless asthma sufferers touted the benefits of a strong cup of coffee during the attack, as the caffeine helps relax the inflamed muscled in your airway.  (Sounds counter-intuitive, no?)  So there I sat, gulping down air and extra dark java, and within minutes I noticed the vice on my chest starting to loosen its grip.  I haven’t tried the magnesium trick yet, though I have Natural Calm mag powder and Ancient Minerals mag gel on hand for the next time the cold gets its icy claws onto my lungs.

Maybe Mother Nature needs some caffeine.  Or maybe we need to teach this groundhog a lesson, because his penchant for extending winter is not cool.  Watch out, Puxatony Phil.  We’re onto you.


Spring Has Sprung a Leak


Truffula trees in spring – Dr. Seuss Wiki

Happy spring folks!  This is one of my favorite days of the year, and today couldn’t be more beautiful.  The sun is shining and warm, there’s a vase of fresh-picked daffodils on my windowsill, and baby veggies are sprouting in the greenhouse at Greenbranch.  I’m celebrating the day by watching The Lorax and reinforcing my belief that everything you need to know about life can be learned from a Dr. Seuss book.

While spring brings sunshine and flowers, summer has the potential to bring some serious environmental troubles.  Congress faces a host of crucial decisions, as do many individual states.  GMO labeling is a hot topic in several states, fracking is spreading its poisonous gases (the Maryland Senate just dropped a bill that would ban fracking in MD – sign the petition to revive it!!), and the Monsanto Protection Act could ruin our crops and our health if passed.  But today, I want to focus on a topic I haven’t touched yet: the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.  Fancy name for a tube of toxic sludge, no?

In The Lorax, the Onceler chops down all the trees to further his own business plans, polluting the land, water, and air.  Old and sorrwful, the Onceler tells a boy of his mistakes and his hopes for a brighter, greener future.  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not,” he says.  I think every politician could learn something from the Onceler.  And it’s a lesson that needs to be learned soon, before the pipeline brings Canada’s toxic tar sands to the US.

Let’s start with the basics.  The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is a 1,200 mile oil pipeline that will bring tar sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast for refining.  TransCanada, the company in charge of the project, promises that it will bring thousands of jobs and help free America from its foreign oil chains.

Nebraska portion of the pipeline - ResourcefulEarth.org

Nebraska portion of the pipeline – ResourcefulEarth.org

Now, let’s get to the facts.  Namely, the things TransCanada doesn’t want you to know.  Yes, it will create badly needed jobs.  But once the pipeline is completed, most of those construction jobs will vanish.  Yes, the US will get some of the oil produced by the refineries.  But the majority of the refineries TransCanada plans to sell to are in Foreign Trade Zones, where the oil can be exported without being taxed by the US.  And the oil that we do get is the dirtiest, costliest fuel on the planet.  “Producing synthetic crude oil from tar sands generates three times the global warming pollution of conventional crude production. Extracting tar sands bitumen – a low-grade, high-sulfur crude oil that must be extensively refined to be turned into fuel – uses vast amounts of energy and water,” says the National Resources Defense Council.  Extraction of tar sands releases high levels of heavy metals and toxins into the environment, including mercury, arsenic, and lead – all known carcinogens.  Countless citizens of both Canada and the US have come together to protest the use of tar sands on the Sierra Club’s website.  And while TransCanada has thrown out numerous environmentally-friendly promises, the oil industry has made it clear that the environment is last on their list of concerns.  We’ve seen enough oil spills in the recent past to know that no oil container is foolproof.

The money-grabbing schemers in Congress are so impatient for the promised fortunes to start rolling in that they’ve introduced bills into both the House and the Senate to approve construction of the pipeline before the State Department finishes its environmental evaluation later in the summer.  Congress is expected to vote on the bill in May, taking the reigns from Obama and forcing the issue to be resolved months before all the necessary information has been collected.  In other words, screw the people and the land, we want the money.

I am the Lorax!! - Dr. Seuss Wiki

I am the Lorax!! – Dr. Seuss Wiki

I wonder what the Lorax would have to say to our Congressmen.

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you sir, at the top of my lungs – that thing! That horrible thing that I see! What’s that thing you’ve made out of my truffula tree?”  The Keystone XL pipeline!!

Since the Lorax can’t actually speak out again the pipeline, it’s up to us to do so.  Several online petitions have been started to stop the pipeline, so take a minute and sign one – or all of them!


Recipe Book: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Since it’s a wet, rainy day here on the eastern shore, I’m curled up with a few good movies, a pot of tea (a new favorite, Celestial Seasoning’s Gen Mai Cha) and some leftover french onion soup.  What a treat!  Being a vegetarian in today’s society means missing out on a lot of delicious smelling foods because animal products are cheap and therefore in everything.  Including most soups, in the form of beef or chicken stock.  That means that a trip to Panera isn’t actually all that exciting for me.  I have, however, tried their french onion soup (after a certain someone told me it was vegetarian and I stupidly slurped it into my mouth before doublechecking the menu) and once I got passed the initial tidal wave of regret and nausea, I must admit that it was pretty darn tasty.  So I vowed to make up for breaking veggie law by finding the best vegetarian french onion soup possible and sharing it.

And so… I present to you the Best Vegetarian French Onion Soup Ever.

-3 large onions (I used 1 white, 1 yellow, and 1 red for variety)
-4 tbsp butter
-5 cups vegetable stock
-1/3 cup red wine
-1/3 cup coffee
-3 large garlic cloves, minced
-fresh thyme
-salt & pepper
-agave nectar or maple syrup

-Gruyere cheese (be sure to get cheese that melts, as the smoked Gruyere I used only browned)

-Slice the onions into thin strips.  Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-low heat.  Add onions and stir until evenly coated with butter.  You want to caramelize the onions, not brown them, so this step requires patience.  Cook them for about an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they’re a nice golden brown all the way through.  This was the first time I’d tried caramelizing onions, and I took the “slow and steady” advice a little too seriously… Needless to say, using too little heat isn’t good either, as they will take forever and you will end up eating dinner at 9 at night.  So start with medium-low and just adjust as needed to keep them from browning (or wallowing in their butter not-so-hot springs).
-Once onions are caramelized, add broth, red wine, minced garlic, and seasonings to taste.  Remember, since it’s lacking the beef broth, this soup is going to rely on seasonings to give it the rich, bold flavor french onion soup needs.  So be generous with the spices.  I used a few sprigs worth of fresh thyme, a good amount of season salt, a dash of pepper, a dash of cumin, and maybe a tbsp of maple syrup.  The onions will have a sweet taste, so you don’t need to add much more sweetness, but the smoky tastes of agave and maple syrup go so well with the caramelized onions that I couldn’t resist adding some.
CIMG2945-Add coffee a little at a time, tasting each time.  You don’t want the soup to taste like coffee, just add to the flavor.
-Simmer for about an hour.
-Heat broiler.  Slice the baguette into thick slices.  Fill individual ramekins or one large casserole bowl with soup and top with a layer of baguette slices.  Cover with a layer of shredded or sliced Gruyere cheese.  Broil for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve.  Drool.  Enjoy.  Live a meatless & soupful life.


Monday Inspirations

Happy Monday folks!  And it is indeed a happy one this week.  The weather is gorgeous, spring is almost officially here, and for once we can start the week off with some good news.  Last Friday, at the Natural Products Expo West, Whole Foods announced that all products on its shelves must be labeled if they contain GMOs by 2018.  Hoorah for taking such a huge leap forward!  Whole Foods is not only the first grocery store chain to carry over 3,000 Non-GMO Project verified products, but now they’re the first to demand labeling.  Now if only they’d put one closer to Salisbury…

To celebrate, I want to share this awesome video from TED with you.  (Thanks to Allie for sharing it with me!!)  See how one man from LA got tired of “driving 45 minutes round trip to get an apple that wasn’t impregnanted with pesticides” and planted a “food forest” for his neighborhood.  As if that isn’t fabulous enough, Ron Finley also invented some of my new favorite terms, including: “ecolutionary” and “gansta gardener.”


How I Learned to Tell Time the Female Way

**WARNING: This is a highly feminine & immensely personal post, so if you aren’t willing to read about my ladyparts, please hit the back button NOW.**

Since this is my 100th blog post (woop woop!!) I figured I’d make it count.  AND since it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to choose a subject to fit the day.  So I picked a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, one I feel is at the root of women’s health.  I deeply believe that women have immense power: the power of creating and nurturing life.  The same power mother earth, God, Allah, or whatever Powers That Be possess.  I therefore believe that a woman’s ladyparts (inside and out!) deserve nothing but the best of care; after all, they have a pretty damn important job to do.  While I do believe this is a highly personal subject deserving the utmost spiritual and logical consideration, I’m going to bare my soul (or rather, uterus) in this post in hopes that my story can help someone faced with the same choices as me.

PeaceBlossomCandles on Etsy

PeaceBlossomCandles on Etsy

A few years ago, when I was going through a very difficult but necessary breakup, a good friend of mine gave me a goddess candle to remind me that every woman is a goddess, no matter how broken or bruised she may be.  She probably did not realize the significance of this gift at the time, but the idea swirling within that wax figurine has become a central part of my being.  I’ve made the mistake of thinking too little of myself far too many times in the past, and that gift has helped me past many of my insecurities.

I’ve been on the birth control pill since I was 19.  I’ve never wanted kids, and in the 6 years since I made that choice, my feelings on that matter haven’t changed.  My favorite part of life is the ease with which you can change your course, and my vision of an adventuresome life gets all kinked up when you throw a baby into the mix.  Moreover, I can’t justify bringing a child into a world already so overpopulated – and faced with so many horrible social, economic, and environmental disasters.  Children are simply not a part of my life plan.  So I went on the pill.


Microgestin, the pill I’ve been on for the past 3 years.

When I started down the holistic health path a few years ago, my first goal was to get off birth control pills.  But I was seeing a guy who didn’t like condoms, and I wasn’t informed enough to trust any natural methods, so I decided to stick it out.  A few more pill packs couldn’t do that much more damage, right?  So I continued to read about the subject here and there.  I was working at a health food store at the time, and it seemed like every other women who came in had the same questions as me: are synthetic hormones really that bad?  Isn’t taking the risk of an unwanted pregnancy worse?  My boss gave every one of them the same answer: Yes, they really are that bad.  I listened to her give the same speech to young women like me, women recovering from hysterectomies, women going through menopause.  Synthetic hormones wreak havoc on the very parts of your body you’re trying to protect, the parts that give you the sacred power that makes you a goddess.

Like many of those women, I didn’t listen.  The pill was convenient, much more so than having to worry about condoms breaking or trying to calculate what days I was fertile.  And then I went in for a routine pap smear and heard the one word no one ever wants to hear: cancer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I had high-grade dysplasia, which is a mutation of cells in the cervix that often leads to cervical cancer.  And considering every woman in the past three generations of my family has had either breast cancer, cervical cancer, or both, I was at extra high risk for it.

I ran to the health food store to talk to my boss.  I’d heard her give the speech a hundred times to customers, but I needed to hear it again, this time for me.  She told me that dysplasia is usually caused by a folic acid deficiency, and the thief is none other than the pill.  Along with causing hormone imbalances that can cause reproductive cancers – as well as depression, blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, increased candida populations, and a host of other negative side effects – oral contraceptives rob your body of essential B vitamins, most importantly B2, B6, and folic acid.  My first priority, obviously, was to get the hell away from that pill.  With the help of my boss, we came up with a plan to get my body back in goddess condition.  Our plan of action included the following:
-Stop taking the pill
-Start taking probiotics to get my gut in on the detox plan (I started with Enzymedica’s Candidase to help get my candida – or yeast – populations back in check, then I switched to Dr. D’Adamo’s Polyflora O, a probiotic formulated specifically for people with O blood types)
-Take folic acid and B vitamins (I was taking 1000 mcg of folic acid daily)
-Restore my hormonal balances by taking New Chapter’s Broccolive (I wouldn’t recommend taking anything from NC now that they’re owned by Proctor & Gamble, but you can get the same hormone balancing and anti-cancer effects by eating raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, watercress, collard greens, and arugula)

I took the supplements for the month between my pap and my kalposcopy (cervical biopsy).  When I went in and the doctor got a closeup look at my cervix, she seemed a bit confused.  Fearing the worst, I told her to just lay it on me, that I was prepared for the worst.  She told me not to worry because… there was nothing there.  No dysplasia, no abnormalities, not a single cell out of place.  My temple was pristine again.  All it took was taking out the trash and replacing it with wholesome foods and vitamins.  I remember laying there, my most private, powerful places exposed to the world, crying and promising my body that I’d never take the pill again.

I ended up going back on the pill about a year later simply because I was terrified of getting pregnant.  I hadn’t quite made up my mind about which side of the abortion debate I was on, so I decided to avoid it completely, even at the cost of my own body.  I left the condom-hater (with the help and empowerment of my goddess candle) and eventually met the man whose ring I now wear.  Neither of us want children, so I figured my decision to get back on the pill was a good one.  But the arrival of my fiance in my life coincided with the loss of something even more important… my period.  It was a gradual disappearance, not a middle-of-the-night kidnapping; each month it would be shorter than the last, until finally it would only last about 24 – 48 hours.  It started when I moved in with him, in a new town, where I saw a new GYN, who gave me a new pill with a new dosage of estrogen.  All this newness threw my ladyparts into hysterics, and my mind followed suit.  Why were my periods shrinking?  Was my uterus shrinking too?  Was something wrong with my eggs?  I wasn’t planning on using them, but I liked knowing they were there, the sacred seeds of life passed down from generations of women before me.  Without them, could I still call myself a goddess?  Could I still call my body a temple?

Not only were my periods shrinking, but so was my well of desire.  This was a problem I’d never, ever faced, and it scared the holiness out of me.  For the first time in my life, I was wholly, madly, deliriously in love, and yet half the time it felt like my ladyparts were asleep.  WTF?

I started frantically researching alternate birth control methods.  I’d broken a promise I made to my body, and now I was paying for it.  My temple was crumbling, and I had to stop it.  I had to get off synthetic hormones once and for all.  A number of my friends simply lived by their cycles; they knew the days they were fertile, and they either avoided sex during those days or used barrier methods.  For thousands of years, women have been living by their cycles, and what better example to follow than that of my grandmothers?  So I made up my mind that this was my new path… until I got on Facebook and saw a picture of my friend’s darling baby girl, who is living proof that this method does not always work.  Her big blue eyes and tiny nose awakened a deep, deep fear in me, for as adorable as tiny noses are, I still did not want one in my life.

So I looked into tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied).  I found that the procedure causes a hormonal imbalance similar to menopause called post tubal ligation syndrome which can lead to menstrual irregularity, hot flashes, anxiety & depression, decreased libido, thinning hair & nails, and osteoporosis.  Besides, having any of my ladyparts cut, burned, or wrapped up with wire like a Christmas tree didn’t sound too appealing.  Then my feminist self jumped in.  What about him?  Why does it have to be my body that’s mutilated?  Men are the ones who are fertile 24/7, while we’re only fertile a few days a month.  They’re the ones who need birth control!  So I looked into vasectomies.  Their side effects were just as scary as getting your tubes tied.  In a vasectomy, the tube through which sperm mixes with semen is cut, preventing any sperm from being released into the woman.  The man’s body should simply reabsorb the sperm the way a woman’s body reabsorbs unfertilized eggs.  But for some men, this doesn’t happen, and the unreleased sperm form granulomas, which the body then attacks in a painful autoimmune response.  I couldn’t expect him to take that risk, just as I wouldn’t take the risk of getting my tubes tied.  So I was at a dead end.

Organix South Neem Leaf Oil

Organix South Neem Leaf Oil

Then, as if by fate, I stumbled across an article about neem oil being used as a contraceptive.  When I first heard about neem, there wasn’t much research out on it, so as exciting as this news was, I didn’t consider it as an option since there weren’t many studies citing its effectiveness.  Then summer came, and workdays at the farm stretched into 10 and 11 hours, and my quest for natural birth control took a back seat to sleep and spending precious little time with my fiance and the puppy.  But each month the wolf of dread would howl louder and louder as I watched my period get shorter and my well drier.  I finally decided that my 2013 New Years resolution would be to end this once and for all.

I dove into the research.  I found several studies and testimonials touting the effectiveness of neem oil (leaf, not seed, as it’s the leaf oil that inhibits sperm mobility) as both a spermicide and an oral contraceptive for men (examples: Sister Zeus, Male Contraceptives, Natural News, Neem Foundation, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Well Tell Me [a forum for people actually using neem & reporting results]).  I also found information on a few other herbal contraceptives, such as Queen Anne’s Lace seeds and Wild Yam, on Sister Zues’ website, which I recommend for anyone interested in herbal contraception.  (Note: she also has a section on herbal abortive methods, which, while very informative, I would not be comfortable using without the guidance of an herbalist or holistic doctor.)

Toni Wechler

Toni Weschler

I also looked more into fertility scheduling, since almost every testimonial on herbal contraceptives said they used it in conjunction with cycle scheduling.  With the help of what I believe is the most important book any woman could read, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, I learned that natural birth control is much more than the Rhythm method, about which I’d heard so much negative hype.  Rhythm assumes that all women have 28 day cycles and ovulate on day 14, while the reality is that a woman’s cycle can safely last anywhere from around 24-36 days, with ovulation falling somewhere in between.  In her book, I learned of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) in which you use your waking temperature and your cervical discharge to chart when each month you’re fertile.  While it’s a process easily done on your own with a basal thermometer, there are multiple saliva and urine tests to help calculate your fertile days.  The consensus online was that Lady Comp is the best fertility monitor, but it’s wicked expensive, and there are definitely accurate but cheaper generic tests available if you don’t feel comfortable charting on your own.


Glyde Ultra condoms

I felt like I’d finally dove off the nail-studded diving board and into ovulation heaven.  There were so many options I’d overlooked, and so many stories of real women using them successfully.  Finally, I could keep my temple clean and baby-free!  There was a tiny hole in my pristine piscine, however, and that was the fact that many of my herbal oral barrier options would not work until all the extra estrogen from the pill was out of my system, which would take at least 3 months.  Those hormones also increased my chance of having an irregular cycle, so even fertility monitoring wouldn’t be 100% accurate until they were gone.  Which left… condoms.  Let’s be honest, no one actually likes using condoms.  They’re awkward, way less intimate, and actually a mood killer for some.  Luckily, I found Glyde condoms.  Made from plant-based rubber latex, free from animal by-products and animal testing, Fair Trade certified, and chemical/paraban/spermicide-free, Glyde is definitely the Whole Foods of condom brands.  And when you order a box, they include samples of their organic fruit extract flavored condoms.  (Can’t wait to try the strawberry!)  For once in my life, I was excited to use a condom.

So, armed with my new knowledge, I broached the subject to my fiance.  An unwanted pregnancy was something we would both have to deal with, and I felt that he therefore had a say in what contraceptive methods we used.  I told him that while I most definitely did not want kids – or an abortion – I could not poison my body any longer.  I’d already had pre-cancerous cells once, proof of the harm that the pill was doing to my body.  Bolstered by my research, I fully believed we could keep ourselves free & clear without synthetic hormones.  There were several herbal oral options, the spermicidal properties of neem oil were almost 100% effective, and the FAM method allowed us approximately 20 days of sexual freedom (assuming my pill-free cycle was around 28 days).  My health was much more important to me than the health of a possible future child, and with so many natural options, I’d assumed he’d be on board.

He wasn’t.

He didn’t want to risk a pregnancy and the subsequent abortion, and that trumped any health risks I faced.  I was hurt, shocked, and angry.  He’d been so accepting of all my herbal remedy suggestions in the past, so much so that he’d even argued with our vet a few times about giving our puppy potentially harmful vaccines.  I thought that if he agreed on avoiding harmful medications for our dog, he would definitely agree on the same plan for me.  But it seemed his fear of tiny noses was even more powerful than mine.

I stewed over his answer for a few weeks.  I went from being angry to understanding to hurt and back to angry.  The only thing I knew for sure was that I was not going to refill my pill prescription.  Tiny nose phobia be damned, I was not going to break another promise to my body.  I ordered a box of condoms.  I bookmarked online sources detailing the FAM method and all the herbal contraceptives I’d deemed worth trying.  My pill count steadily decreased, and I waited for the right time to talk again.

When I finally worked up the courage to tell him I’d stopped taking the pill and that we’d have to come up with another plan, he was surprisingly accepting.  He agreed that it’s my body and my choice.  He agreed to look over all the options, but said it was ultimately up to me.  Because, like most people on this planet, he was raised to believe that contraception is the woman’s responsibility.  But I’ll say it again: men are the ones who are fertile at all times, not us.

February 1st was the beginning of my first pill-free cycle, and the beginning of a healthier me.  Even within the first week, I could feel the difference.  My ladyparts not only woke up, but dove into life with a vengeance.  I had more energy, more happiness, more love.  But I won’t lie, detoxing from the pill is not all butterflies and rainbows.  I rapidly gained weight (almost 10 pounds in 2 weeks) even though I was juicing and dieting.  My acne flared up.  My period came back instantly, complete with cramps, bloating, even more acne, and floods to make Noah swoon.  But don’t panic, these effects should lessen as you progress through your detox, though the fact that I can barely fit into my favorite pair of pants was almost enough to make me go back on the pill.  And though he hasn’t come out and said it, the increase of booty-related comments from my fiance has lead me to believe that he’s noticed my recent weight gain also.

We’re still figuring out our contraception plan for my fertile days, mainly because our society has stupidly made this a taboo subject, even for couples, and I’ve yet to force the subject yet again and hammer out a distinct plan. What we do know is that we’re using the FAM method with some sort of barrier method during my fertile days, either my new fabulous condoms, neem as a spermicide, or neem oil as a daily male birth control. I’m still in my second month of pill detoxing, so any testing I do will probably not be completely accurate because of the residual synthetic hormones in my system.  I did start testing though, using a generic urine test each morning to figure out when I’m fertile  (packs of 7 tests are only $12-$15 at my local pharmacy).  I learned in Taking Charge, however, that urine tests, which test for the spike in your secretion of the luteinizing hormone (LH), may not always be accurate; some women produce too little LH to register, some too much so they register as fertile all the time, and some produce LH irregularly due to synthetic hormones – like the pill.  So I added the FAM method to my testing; I invested in a basal thermometer and began monitoring my ladyparts’ saliva.  Your temperature only changes after you ovulate, so though this helps with monthly charting and even pregnancy testing, the changes in your ladyparts’ discharge is what tells you when to start opening the condom box.  For me, this means testing until my LH surge, using barrier methods for a week or so after that, and charting my waking temperature daily to figure out exactly what day I ovulate.  Once the pill is out of my system and I start getting regularly scheduled results each month, I can stop testing and rely on my lady time to know when we can have us time.

Since I can’t fully rely on the FAM method until I’m free and clear of the pill, I’ve started employing several detox strategies daily to help get my body back to its natural state faster.  Using the knowledge I gained at the health food store, I came up with a detox strategy that includes drinking lots of water for cleansing, drinking raw apple cider vinegar for its probiotic benefits, and juicing raw fruits and veggies for their nutrients.  detox-juice_article_newI got my juice recipe from my favorite website The Holy Kale, and I drink a version of it almost everyday.  My juice recipe usually includes 3 or 4 leaves of kale (or another cruciferous veggie like broccoli, cabbage, or collard greens), a beet, the juice of half a lemon, 1 or 2 carrots, cranberries (or other antioxidant-rich berries), an apple, some mix of detoxifying herbs (like ginger, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, and garlic), and coconut oil.  I’ve also read great things about the DIM detox supplement, but I prefer the benefits of fresh, raw veggies.  The Master cleanse is a great detox option to start out with, but no-food cleanses are hard on the body, and while they may work for some, they don’t agree with my body.  (I’ve tried this cleanse three times now and even after just 2 or 3 days, my body feels like a limp noodle.)  Protein and good fats are the building blocks of hormones, so I’m also eating a lot of quinoa and healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil.  And I’ve started incorporating brewer’s yeast into my diet for some extra B vitamins (great popcorn seasoning!) and variety lettuce for folate, the natural version of folic acid.  With luck, daily prayers, and all the benefits of fresh, organic vegetables, I hope that my ladyparts regain their goddess-dom soon.  I also pray that this whole process helps me get more in tune with myself physically, a skill I fear has fallen dangerously out of practice among women.  I’ve already learned so much about my body throughout this journey, and I look forward to learning even more.  After all, what better friend to make than yourself?

I hope some of you are facing the same choice I did.  But more importantly, no matter what contraceptive method you choose, I hope you learn to love and respect your body the way I have.  Feeling your own hormonal changes is a wondrous experience.  Feeling your body produce a life-giving egg is nothing short of remarkable.  And knowing that you hold the gift of life in your womb is the most empowering feeling you will ever experience.  If nothing else, I hope this post makes you aware of your female power, whether or not you choose to use it, and ignites the supernova of respect your ladyparts deserve.  Because they are nothing short of a miracle.

These are the sources I used to make my decision about natural birth control:
Sweetening the Pill
-The Holy Kale – Getting Off Birth Control Pills, The Birth Control Pill, IUDs
-Natural News: Modern Birth Control
Sister Zues
-Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility
**Neither this blog post nor any of these sources were published by medical professionals, so while they can help you make your choice, they are not meant to replace the advice of your doctor.**

imagesWoman is the molder.   You are the molder of time, space, and of man: the man of tomorrow, the child; the man of today, the husband; and the men of yesterday; the ancestors.   The entire society, in theory and reality, is based on the spirit of woman.

Yogi Bhajan


My Diet Needs to Go On a Diet

Heidi Klum - Sports Illustrated

Heidi Klum – Sports Illustrated

While sleepy-eyed March is one of my favorite times of year, with the earth waking up from its winter snooze, it’s also one of the most stressful.  Spring means that summer’s on its way, and with summer comes (dun dun dun…) the dreaded bathing suit. This spring is going to be extra frantic for me because not only do I have a beach wedding to attend in April and a Baltimore wedding in which I’m a bridesmaid in May, but I have my own wedding at the end of May.  Eeek!!  So many dresses to fit into!

Since most of us put on a few pounds in the winter (after the first dozen Christmas cookies, there’s just no going back) spring is the season for dieting.  I’m not going to be prancing around wearing only paint like Heidi here, I’d just like to have the option to prance nude should the opportunity arise.  But there are so many diets out there, how is a girl to tell which one works for her?  So I decided to dig into some of the most popular diets and get the skinny on them.

This isn’t what I would consider a diet, more like a lifestyle choice, though some people do use vegetarianism/veganism as part of a health plan.  I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years now, and while I didn’t choose this for nutritional reasons, it was definitely the push I needed to start down the path to good health.  Very few people realize how complex this lifestyle can be when they begin it, however, so I wanted to give some basic guidelines.

There are several different levels of vegetarianism, depending on what animal products you include in your diet.  Pescatarians include fish, and ovo-lacto vegetarians include eggs and dairy.  Vegans consume no animal products (that includes honey!) and use no animal byproducts, like leather, wool, and fur.  The depth to which you take vegetarian/veganism is totally up to you because, as I said, it gets a little complex.  Many foods have hidden animal products that some choose to avoid, such as gelatin (made from livestock bones & found in anything that gels, like pudding, Jello, gummy bears, etc.) and rennet (made from livestock intestines and used in cheeses).  Fun vegetarian fact: white sugar is white because it’s processed with bone char, so white sugar is off limits for anyone strictly avoiding animal products.  And think about how many products contain white sugar…  Bye bye candy aisle, see ya next lifetime!

While I’ll admit that I’ve never felt healthier since becoming a vegetarian, there are a lot of serious health risks associated with this lifestyle.  When I worked at a health food store, I saw my fair share of unhealthy, skeletal-looking vegans, and so I would never recommend that diet to anyone unless it’s serving a specific health purpose.  Removing meat removes a huge chunk of your protein, good fat, and nutrient intake, and removing all animal products pretty much ensures that unless you’re taking supplements, you’re depriving your body of everything it needs to thrive.  Our bodies were created to eat meat; everything from out teeth to our gut to our brain is built to run on both meat and plants, and I’m a firm believer that mother earth knew what she was doing when she created the world.  I therefore supplement my diet with B vitamins, protein powder, fish oil capsules, and superfoods like spirulina.  Yes, it can get pretty expensive buying supplements on top of food, but vegetarianism for me it a spiritual rather than nutritional choice, and this is how I’ve found my balance.

Veg links:
101 Cookbooks – This isn’t a completely vegetarian/vegan site, but there are some great recipes, including a vegan peanut butter cookie recipe that is banging!
The Vegetarian Myth – I’m sure you’re all sick of having this book thrown in your face, but it really is an important resource for anyone considering choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Lierre Keith examines the political, environmental, and nutritional reasons why people go veg, and then explains why those reasons are unfounded.

caveman-cookingThe Paleo Diet
Pretty much the opposite of the veg diet, the paleo diet is, well, paleo.  You eat what your Paleolithic ancestors ate, what your body was meant to eat.  The paleo diet limits you to meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungus, roots, and nuts.  That means no grain, dairy, potatoes, or processed foods.  Produce should be organic and meat must be grass-fed to get closest to how cavemen really ate, though I’m sure not everyone follows this rule.  From what I know of holistic health, this diet seems to be the best overall.  Grains and dairy come with their own health risks, and we all know by now that processed foods offer very little nutrition.  Say goodbye to chocolates though, unless you make your own!

Paleo links:
The Paleo Diet – A great place to get started, though you do have to subscribe to get all the good info.
PaleOMG – This site has some excellent paleo-approved recipes.  I made the blueberry chocolate chip cookies last night and they’re pretty good for being gluten-free.

raw-food-intro-400x400Raw Food Diet
The next step after the paleo diet would be the raw food diet, in which you eat only uncooked, unprocessed foods.  This is perhaps the only diet I could never do, because I simply cannot understand how one lives without a warm dinner on a cold night.  I do incorporate elements of this diet into my life, though, such as juicing.  Heat destroys the nutrients in produce, so the more you cook your kale, the less good it will do you.  Juicing fruits and veggies is a great way to start your day – and a great way to incorporate things like spirulina or flax seeds that taste like butt by themselves.  Dehydrating foods is another way around cooking them.  I haven’t invested in a dehydrator yet, so I can’t say yay or nay to its cooking skills.  With a raw diet, it’s your choice whether or not to include animal products, though I can’t imagine a raw steak is very tasty…

Raw Food links:The Best of Raw Food – A good website to get you started, it gives you a lot of pointers and even a shopping list!
Raw Food Life – Excellent source of information and articles on the raw food diet.
Sunfood Superfoods – A good (if slightly overpriced) shopping site for the raw food lifestyle.

blood_typesThe Blood Type Diet
If you’ve never heard of Dr. D’Adamo’s book Eat Right For Your Type, I highly suggest you check it out.  While I’m not a fan of diets that place everyone into a category based on only one or two criteria, this diet can be highly beneficial when used in conjunction with other healthy eating habits.  D’Adamo’s premise is that each blood type stemmed from different regions where different foods were available and therefore adapted to its surroundings.  His book has lists of beneficial, neutral, and detrimental foods for each blood type, as well as lifestyle recommendations.  Type O is the hunter and should eat a high protein, meat-based diet for maximum health.  Type A is the farmer and should eat a primarily vegetarian diet.  Type B is the nomad who can eat most anything, and they thrive on dairy products.  Type AB is a mix of A & B and should eat accordingly.  Blood plays a vital role in our bodies, so I can’t completely dismiss this diet, but I would argue that because it does not take into account things like gender, age, and overall health, it can’t accurately generate a diet plan.

Blood Type Diet links:
D’Adamo’s website – See what he has to say about his diet.

Notice that I did not include things like Weight Watchers and Atkins in my list.  That’s because these are not real diets.  They’re money-making gimmicks that may help you lose weight in the short term, but don’t give any thought to nutrition or helping you build good lifestyle habits to prevent you from putting the weight back on.  The bottom line is that eating right, drinking plenty of water (half your weight in ounces per day is a good guideline), and exercising is the key to any good weight loss program.  Just find out what kind of foods your body likes and feed it!

My goal?  To fit into this FABULOUS Star Wars bathing suit this summer!!Untitled