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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.

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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.

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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.

ultra3

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

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Recipe Book: Deodorant!

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today, we’re going to learn how to make deodorant.  If you read my last post on ways to prevent cancer, you already know how important it is to avoid conventional personal care products, especially deodorant.  Homemade deodorant is fabulously simple, cost effective, and, best of all, free of heavy metals!

unknownFirst, let’s take a look at why deodorants are so bad.  Surprisingly, there is a difference between products marketed for women and for men.  Most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants, while it’s relatively easy to find a deodorant for men that’s just deodorant.  What’s the difference, you ask?  They’re pretty self explanatory: deodorants prevent your sweat from smelling and antiperspirants prevent you from sweating.  Sweat is actually a mixture of fat, proteins, and toxins secreted by your body, but it’s the sweat-munching bacteria hanging out in your crevices that cause you to stink.  Deodorants use many different ingredients to kill these bacteria; antiperspirants use heavy metals like aluminum or zirconium to plug the pores in your pits, preventing the sweat from escaping.  While deodorants can contain harmful chemicals like artificial fragrances and parabens that seep in through the skin, antiperspirants are even more harmful.  Not only do they contain heavy metals and other harmful chemicals, but they block the secretion of sweat, which is a necessary part of daily detoxing.  No bueno, mis amigos.

The solution: homemade deodorant!  While there are definitely some great options out there (I’ve heard people swear by Thai crystals) making your own is the only way to know exactly what’s in it, and what works for you.  I’ve used several different brands – Tom’s of Maine, Jason, Nature’s Gate – but none seemed to really work for me.  homepage_banner_1_imgThen I discovered Trulys Natural Deodorant.  Made by a local Delaware woman with only 4 ingredients, it was so simple and yet so fabulous.  Coconut oil, baking soda, powdered sugar, and cornstarch.  And it works.  While using it, however, I noticed that if I left it on too long, say overnight, I’d have some slight irritation in the morning.  Nowhere near as bad as when I used conventional products, but enough that I knew something in there was bothering me.  I was worried at first that there was aluminum in the baking soda she used, but after doing some research, I found that while baking powder is still suspect, most baking soda is additive-free, including Arm & Hammer.  The powdered sugar then?  Or perhaps the corn starch?  Sugar and corn both are both common allergens, so perhaps one of them was giving me the itches.  I therefore decided to make my own, but what to use in place of the offending ingredients?  Thanks to one of our customers at the farm store, I found a great deodorant recipe that did the trick.

Ingredients:
-1/3 cup coconut oil (I used refined since it’s cheaper, but virgin has such a lovely coconut smell…)
-1/3 cup arrowroot powder
-3 tbsp baking soda (I started with 2, but it was too oily and not absorbent enough for me)
-10-15 drops essential oil (optional – for fragrance)

Heat the coconut oil so it’s liquid, mix, let cool, apply, and breathe deeply all day!  With the antibacterial properties of coconut, the absorbancy of arrowroot and baking soda, and the lovely smells of essential oils, this will definitely keep you smelling fresh all day.  Trust me, I work on a farm.  If it keeps my pits smelling good, you have nothing to worry about!  Unless you have a have a real Dirty Job, that is…

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Have You Had Your Daily Dose of Cancer Today?

My Facebook is full of cancer.  Cancer talk, that is.  If you follow any natural living websites or Facebook pages, I’m sure you’ve noticed that cancer has been the topic of choice lately.  So many new studies have been published recently linking this ingredient or that chemical to cancer that it’s hard to keep up with what you should and should not buy. To make matters worse, I recently stumbled across a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information on environmental and genetic risk factors for cancer.  Their conclusion?

Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.

You can blame your mother for giving you small boobs, but not breast cancer.

The good news, folks, is that cancer should not be as scary as doctors make it out to be.  If we can’t blame our genetics for this disease, that only leaves ourselves – and that’s something we have control over.  We can eat healthy, live healthy, and think healthy.  We can let mother earth nourish and protect us instead of filling our bodies with toxic chemicals and synthetic foods.  I found a wonderfully simple 10-step guide to preventing cancer on the Alternative Health Solutions Facebook page.  Obviously, the road to perfect health is never straight and easy, nor can two people take the same route.  But this list is a great basis for any health plan, whether or not you’re worried about cancer.
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1.  Eat organic!  Yes, I remember last year’s study, the Dr. Oz article, and all the hype surrounding California’s Prop 37.  But there really is no way to deny it; if you’re eating conventional fruits and veggies, you’re eating chemicals meant to make bugs’ stomachs explode.  Literally.  Sounds tasty, no?  Or perhaps you’d like to eat corn with fish genes?  (Are frankenfoods still considered vegetarian?  Because when I swore off meat products, I’m pretty sure that included their DNA…)  And don’t forget to JUICE your organic produce!  The best source of vitamins and minerals will always be wholesome, healthy foods.  And since cooking veggies (even with things other than a microwave) destroys some of their nutrient content, juicing raw vegetables and herbs is definitely the way to go.
2.  Avoid conventional animal products.  This is so important, especially for anyone who has had or is especially at risk for reproductive cancers.  Livestock raised the conventional way are given regular doses of antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones, and they are fed GMO grains instead of their natural diets.  Those things aren’t any better for the animals than they are for us, so meat raised in those conditions is nutritionally inferior – and full of pharmaceutical leftovers.  Synthetic hormones throw our hormones out of balance, leaving our bodies open to reproductive an organ cancers.  Like all brothers, Big Pharma and Big Ag are constantly in competition to see who can pump the most chemicals into our bodies.
3.  Do not use microwaves.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to stand in front of the microwave while your Spaghetti-Os were cooking?  Have you ever heard the urban legend of the serial killer whose signature was putting the family chihuahua in the microwave?  There’s a reason microwaves have a bad rap, and that’s because the emit… microwaves.  Shocking, I know.  But seriously, microwaves should have their own list, because that’s how bad they are.  They emit radiation, and while it’s not the same kind that turned Dr. Banner into the Hulk, it still wreaks havoc on the body all the way down to the DNA.  Because they use radiation to heat your food rather than actual heat, they destroy almost all the nutrients in your food – up to 90%.  And, let’s face it, they simply do not know how to cook.  Leftover pizza tastes more like cardboard after being microwaved.
4.  Filter your tap and shower water.  This is probably the most important rule of all.  Water is essential to all life, and ingesting water loaded with pollutants, chlorine, fluoride, and synthetic minerals is the fastest way to poor health.  But don’t be fooled by all those cheap tap filters like Brita and Pur.  They remove barely half of the contaminants in ordinary tap water.  The best filtration system is a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system, but they are expensive to install in a home.  Many local health food or grocery stores have RO machines for customers to refill their water jugs.  But if you aren’t excited about hauling gallons of water home each week, invest in some quality home filtration systems.  And don’t think that the shower is safe simply because you don’t drink from it.  Anything that touches our skin is absorbed into our bodies, so each minute you spend in the shower is another gulp of toxic chemicals.  ZeroWater  and New Wave Enviro have great products for both the kitchen and bathroom (and you can find most of their products on Amazon, which is always a plus!).
5.  Use only natural skin care products.  Name brand lotions, soaps, and hair care products are loaded with chemicals: parabens, sulfates, and dozens of other carcinogens.  My favorite brand of natural body care products is Shikai (their Reflect line of color-enhancing shampoos is awesome!!) and I mentioned a few others in my last post.  Deodorant falls into this category, and seeing as how most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants and therefore contain aluminum, I’d say start here!  Natural deodorants are not only free of heavy metals, but cause a LOT less skin irritation, which I always had a problem with in that area.  They’re also super easy to make yourself, and I’ll tell you how in the next post!
6.  Use fluoride free toothpaste. 
I’ve been wanting to write a post on fluoride for a while, but there is so much information on it that it’s hard to figure out where to start.  So let me just say here that it is bad, especially if you love your thyroid.  If you can’t wait for me to get myself together and write about it, check out the short documentary The Fluoride Deception.  Scary stuff, man.  I stick to brands like Tom’s of Maine or Spry, and I’ve started oil pulling with coconut oil.  Oil pulling helps remove unwanted buildup from your mouth, upper respiratory tract, and sinuses, and coconut oil is antibacterial, so put the two together and you get an amazing grime-fighting duo.
7.  Avoid using pharmaceuticals and synthetic supplements as much as possible. 
I want to take this moment to share with you my favorite post from my favorite website, like, ever, The Holy Kale.  Her series on supplements called Dirty Little Supplements is the best resource for anyone who has ever questioned which brand to buy.  Her message is simple: not all supplements are created equal, and if you’re going to invest money in them, you might as well make it worth it.
8.  Limit your use of plastics. 
 Plastic contains harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates that interfere with your body’s natural hormone balance.  These chemicals are released when plastics are heated, so never ever cook with plastics or put plastics in the microwave.  But these sneaky devils can also seep out into food and liquids even in the fridge, so it’s best to cut plastics out of the kitchen completely.  Use wooden spoons for cooking, ceramic plates and bowls, and glass containers to hold your leftovers.  I wash and save jars – pasta sauce, peanut butter, salsa, anything with a wide mouth – and use those as tupperware.  I also use a mason jar as a water bottle because water is simply too important to compromise on.  The documentary Bag It is a great one on plastics, especially if you or anyone you know has kids; the part on plastics for kids will make you sick.
9.  Avoid artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and processed sugars and grains. 
If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of holistic health and already know that these things are bad, bad, bad.
10.  Use only nontoxic household products.
  Some of the best ways are the old ways, and baking soda and vinegar are still king and queen of the household clean team.  There are definitely green products out there, but it’s so easy to make your own that it’s almost a shame to pay for them.  Water and vinegar are best for streak-free windows, baking soda is awesome for cleaning the bathroom, and together they can double team a clogged sink like Drain-O never could.  I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps as laundry detergent (as well as body wash for the family, including the dog).  Remember, anything you can smell is entering your body via your lungs, so keep it clean!

Not such a hard task list, right?  Unfortunately, while these things are easy to change, there are some factors that are out of our control, like air quality, product availability, restaurant foods, budget, and other people (because you can’t stop your landlord from spraying Round Up on your lawn or tell your roommate to stop filling your house with the smell of Windex).  Fortunately, there are dozens of proven methods to heal cancer naturally, some of which Big Pharma has even succeeded in banning to keep the chemo patients rolling in.  (Case in point: apricot kernels were outlawed by the FDA in the 1970s because they are the best source of B17, the miracle cancer-fighting vitamin.  Seriously.  Apricot seeds are illegal because they cure cancer.)  The website that provided the above list is also a great resource for natural cancer-fighting strategies.  Tamara, the author of Alternative Health Solutions, healed her own breast cancer without Big Pharma and has since compiled a wealth of information on the topic.  I highly suggest you check it out if you or anyone you know is dealing with this disease.

Now get going, you’ve got some homework to do!

1

Cuckoo for Coconut Oil

imagesI used to hate coconut growing up, which led me to miss out on so many delicious treats (namely Samoas – oh, how many Girl Scout cookie seasons did I waste!).  Then one day, my parents came home from a wedding with a giant piece of coconut creme cake, and I was instantly hooked.  It was like crack.  Nutritious crack.  Only I didn’t know it at the time.

A few years ago, my former boss introduced me to the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.  I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in nutrition; this book changed my life, setting me down the path of amateur investigative health journalism.  It also reintroduced me to coconut; or rather, introduced me to coconut’s healthy side.

In her book, Keith addresses many of the nutritional lies Big Ag has spread to nourish America’s reliance on cheap, processed foods.  One of which is the Lipid Hypothesis, or the claim that saturated fats lead to high blood pressure which leads to heart disease.  Fats are actually an extremely important part of your diet, but only the good fats.  And, despite the claims of Big Ag’s health experts, saturated fats are on that list, along with monounsaturated fats – both of which are found in abundance in coconut oil.  It’s the polyunsaturated fats you have to look out for; those pesky vegetable oils that are touted as “heart healthy” actually cause a world of problems – including heart disease.  Keith breaks down the science of fats in her book (starting on page 179 for those interested) but here’s the quick version: fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached.  Saturated fats, like butter, coconut oil, and palm oil, have a hydrogen in every available bond, so they form a straight line and are stable at all temperatures; monounsaturated fats, like olive, avocado, or peanut oil, are missing two hydrogens, so they have a slight bend but are still stable; and polyunsaturated fats, which come from vegetable oils coconut-oil-DSC_1718like corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola, are missing four or more hydrogens and are extremely unstable, meaning they go rancid when heated.  These PUFAs contribute to a long, long list of health issues, including many types of cancer, organ damage, heart disease, immune system deterioration, neurological disorders, and digestive problems.  So… why do we cook with them?

Keith cites several studies done by Weston Price and other researchers on the diets and overall health of indigenous peoples.  All of these peoples – including Eskimos, Aborigines, African tribes, and other peoples whose diets had not been contaminated by modern processed foods – had little to no instances of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, or other “diseases of civilization.”  Their diets comprised of animal products, some vegetables, very few if any grains, and lots of saturated fats.  Say hello to the original Paleo Diet.

One ounce of coconut oil contains about 24g of saturated fats, 1.5g of monounsaturated fats, and .5g of polyunsaturated fats; among those goods fats is a large amount of lauric acid, which has powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.  In addition to not causing a laundry list of health problems, these good fats can do a lot of, well, good.  The antiviral and antibacterial properties of lauric acid help fight infections and diseases, and its high concentration of good fats helps fight many neurological and degenerative diseases.  The Coconut Research Center lists the many benefits of coconut oil, but here are a few:
-used topically to cure skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, dry skin, dandruff, and wounds
-great for the hair as well (I use it as a deep conditioning treatment about once a month or so)
-its antibacterial properties make it a great deodorant (you can easily make your own with it, or use coconut oil-based products like Truly’s, which is what I use)
-helps reduce the risk and symptoms of diabetes and heart disease
-has recently been shown to stop and even reverse Alzheimers by feeding the brain with its good fats
-fights viruses that cause influenza, STDs, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, the flu and other illnesses
-gives you a great, healthy energy boost when added to smoothies, tea, etc. (I always add a tablespoon or so to my hot chocolate or coffee to make it extra rich and creamy)
-controls hunger and boosts metabolism, so it’s a great tool to use in any diet plan, plus it improves digestion, helping you absorb more nutrients
-when used for oil pulling, it detoxes your body of harmful bacteria and improves oral health (I started oil pulling a few days ago, and I will let you know how it goes soon!)

CIMG2799So next time you have stir fry or curry for dinner, use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.  (Also, use some of Pappardelle’s Spicy Thai pasta – it’s fabulous!)  It won’t give you cancer, and it will make your food taste fabulous.  After all, why coat your delicious, nutritious veggies with tasteless, toxic vegetable oil?

Oh, and check out Delicious Obsessions’ 122 uses for coconut oil.  There are indeed some downright odd uses for nature’s miracle oil, including using it to clean showers and heal new tattoos.

4

Health Food Advice From the Queen of the Underworld

persephoneWhen the Greek goddess Persephone was abducted by Hades, lord of the Underworld, she doomed herself to half a life of darkness by eating six pomegranate seeds from his platter.  Even after her rescue, those seeds left their mark on her spirit, and for six months of the year she was bound to return to Hades as his queen.  Persephone’s mother, the nature goddess Demeter, spent those lonely months in mourning, allowing no crops or flowers to grow while her daughter was kept out of the sunlight.  We know this time as winter, the time of rest for the land, the barren months that give mother earth time to gather her strength for spring.

Persephone probably doesn’t eat pomegranates anymore.  But you should.  Because actually, pomegranates can help keep you out of the underworld – or whatever place/state of being you believe follows death.  They have some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, including the super potent flavonoids and polyphenols.  These phytochemicals have potent anticarcinogen properties,  and they stimulate estrogen production, increasing bone mass and preventing osteoporosis.  They are also amazingly beneficial to heart health.  Poms contain phytochemicals called punicalagins, and studies have shown that these compounds can not only significantly lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels, but they actually help break down the plaque that causes dangerous heart and artery blockages.

images3When we visited my (actively anti-holistic health) family for Christmas, we spent the first half hour or so listening to my relatives compare the side effects of their blood pressure meds – this one caused a bad cough, this one caused insomnia, this one caused muscle pains but hey, as long as The Doc says it’s ok…  The best part about using pomegranates for heart health: zero side effects.

Actually, poms have the exact opposite effect as pharmaceuticals.  One of the benefits of the wide array of phytochemicals is an increase in serotonin, which improves mood.  Imagine that, something that tastes good, keeps you healthy, AND makes you happy – without crappy side effects!  Beat that, Big Pharma!

Pomegranates can be somewhat of a pain in the butt to eat, what with the tough skin and the billions of seeds you have to dig out (think of it as buried pirate treasure – it helps), but pom juice is a delish and healthy alternative.  However, Dr. Mercola cautions against drinking too much fruit juice.  It’s high in fructose, which is naturally occurring in fruits but which triggers the release of large amounts of insulin when not tempered by the nutrients and fibers found in the fruit flesh.  Dr. Mercola recommends choosing brands that contain only 100% juice, lots of pulp, and only dark, anti-oxidant rich fruits like pomegranates, blueberries, and cranberries.  After all, what’s the sense in protecting your heart while giving yourself diabetes?
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0

All You Need Is Love, Not Heartworms (Or Heartworm Meds)

Heartworms are some pretty nasty parasites, straight out of creepy crawly nightmares and mosquito-borne terrors.  Any pet owner has probably been schooled many times in the dangers of heartworms and been scared shitless of them by their vets – and been made to feel guilty if you’ve opted to skip the preventative treatment.  Which is, of course, ridiculous.  My biggest pet peeve when it comes to pet parentship is being made to feel guilty about my petcare choices, and our vet is the conductor of the heartworm guilt trip.

Banner is my first dog, and so I really knew nothing about dog ownership until my fiance called me at work one day and said he’d be picking up a puppy the next day.  I’ve therefore done a lot of research in the 8 months we’ve had him in preparation for my endless war with the vet over his healthcare.  After a while, however, I got smug in my holistic petcare knowledge and slacked off on my research, and when we brought him in yesterday for his last puppy shot, I had few facts in imagesmy arsenal for the Great Heartworm War.  I will admit that nothing has scared me quite as badly as her heartworm talk, and the ASPCA website only worsened my fear.  Larvae carried and deposited in my dog’s bloodstream by mosquitoes?  Foot-long worms crowding his heart and lungs?  Labored breathing, blood obstructions, death?  These things mean business.

Luckily, there are a lot of great resources out there that helped allay my fears.  Dr. Becker, who partners with Dr. Mercola on his website, is my go-to source for holistic petcare wisdom.  She begins her article on heartworm prevention by reassuring her readers that instances of heartworm are definitely not as common as your vet makes them out to be: The American Heartworm Society has an incidence map which depicts the frequency of heartworm infections.  Your dog really isn’t at high risk unless you live in southern Texas, Florida, or some areas near the Gulf.  There are pretty specific environmental conditions that have to be met for heartworms to breed (the temperature cannot drop below around 57 degrees F) and your dog has to be bitten by a specific type of mosquito that happened to have bitten an infected dog within the past 2 weeks.  So even if you live in a risky area, the chances of infection drop significantly in the colder months.Incidence-Map-logos

If you do live in a risky area, and even if you’d rather just be safe than sorry, there are much better preventative methods than pharmeceuticals.  Ivermectin, the active ingredient in most heartworm meds including Ivomec, Heartgard, Zimectrin,Iverhart, and Tri-Heart, is not even a preventative; it is an insecticide that causes neurological damage to heartworm larvae, paralyzes them, and kills them. And it comes with a list of side effects that I am not willing to deal with.  The most common complications are vomitting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and lethargy.  In some cases, ivermectin can cause shock-like symptoms like severe vomitting, hypothermia, and depression as well as nervous system damage that causes loss of coordination, seizures, and even death.

Have no fear!  Not only are heartworms pretty hard to contract, but they’re also extremely easy to prevent – and there are lots of natural remedies should your dog actually get infected.  Hippocrates said it best when he said, “Let food be thy medicine.”  The best prevention is a healthy diet.  By feeding your dog real (if not raw) foods devoid of preservatives, rendered scraps, and artificial ingredients, you not only boost their immune system, but you give their kidneys and liver a leg up in the detox process by limiting the amount of toxins they have to cycle out.  Limiting the amount of pharmaceutical toxins (flea & tick sprays, medicines, vaccines) in their system also helps keep their immune system in prime condition. TheWholeDog, a great resource for holistic petcare, makes a great point:

The heartworm has been out there forever as far as we know, but we don’t read reports of wolves and coyotes being wiped out by heartworm, and yet domestic dogs are falling prey to it…  Surely they are healthier than the wild canines, with all our feeding of ‘scientifically balanced,’ processed foods and vaccinating them to prevent them from getting all the nasty and sometimes fatal diseases, right? … Wrong!

If you want to take extra measures to protect your dog, there are several safe options.  While most resources agree that the best prevention is keeping your dog healthy and limiting his exposure to toxins, there are homeopathic and herbal remedies that can help.  Dr. Jeffrey Levy recommends heartworm nosodes, which is a homeopathic treatment.  The homeopathic vets at TheWholeDog suggest several herbs, including Mugwort (Artemisia), Clove Flower Buds, Garlic, Spearmint, Turmeric, Black Walnut, and Wormwood.  They also stress the immune-enhancing benefits of Colostrum, or “first milk,” and fulvic acid, an antioxidant-rich compound extracted from humus, the material produced by decaying organic matter.  The herbal experts at TheHerbPlace recommend Mugwort and Garlic as internal treatments (Garlic helps repel mosquitoes and boosts immune function while Mugwort is a natural insecticide) and Geranium oil as a topical mosquito repellant.  Most of these can be found at your local health food store or online.

938_624575853299_1252124818_nNext time we take Banner to the vet (which will hopefully not be until he needs his next rabies shot) I’ll have a full list of reasons why I’m not giving my puppy heartworm meds.  We spend too much money on good, wholesome food for him to ruin his body with toxic drugs that do more harm than good.  I’m head over heels in love with this pup, and I want to keep him around as long as possible.  And that means keeping him as healthy as possible – and as far away from Big Pharma’s toxic claws as I can.