Here are a couple of easy ideas for giving your mom (or partner) a special homemade gift she will actually use.
Natural Supplements for Bruising
Think there’s nothing you can do for a bump or bruise? Think again!
(This guy looks like he could use a few supplements.)
Herbs and Supplements for Students
Students have special requirements whether they are in middle school or working on their PhD. Herbs and other supplements can help with optimal brain functioning and also with the stress of schoolwork. Read more on how to help them in their studies here.
Herbal DIY Gifts (Great for Kids)
Looking for some new ideas for DIY gifts this year? Find some inspiration here including bath and spa products, gifts for cooks, and luxurious personal care touches, all natural and herbal, of course!
Today….there is not enough chocolate.
The sun still rose, but it shone on a country that has disappointed me to the core.
I am not a political person, and I don’t care to write a political blog, but I am a person with a big heart for humans, animals, and the earth, and that heart is very, very broken today.
Tonight, I’m breaking out the boxed mac n cheese. The deluxe version.
I actually add more (jovial) noodles to Annie’s boxes b/c the cheese is more than enough for the eager mouths here. I’m roasting broccoli and serving smoked salmon too, just because comfort doesn’t have to mean lack of healthy options. We can have balance. We can have balance. And wine of course.
And dessert all around, because I swear, just like in Harry Potter books, chocolate really does make one feel better.
Probiotics and 365
For something that lives in our gut, our intestinal bacteria are sure getting a lot of time on stage lately. It’s their time to shine I guess, now that the anti-bacterial obsession has begun to wane (thank you science) and awareness about what problems arise when we lack our good bacteria is on the rise. (Thank you once again, science.) There’s a new book about germs and bacteria and what little gems some germs actually are, and there’s never been a time riper for this information. It seems aimed at parents, in hopes of encouraging them to raise children with rich microbiomes and immune systems, but it sounds like anyone who’s ever wondered if they should wash their hands yet again, or eat that last bit of chocolate that fell on their floor, would appreciate this book. It’s called Let Them Eat Dirt and it’s by B. Brett Finlay, PhD and Marie-Claire Arrieta, PhD and although I haven’t read it yet, I heard an interview with Dr. Finlay and am putting it on my rather long can’t-wait-to-read list. On their website, there’s a link to a scientific study of probiotics and what diseases the specific brands help. Check it out! I was surprised to see my favorite brand on there, but not surprised to see it listed as helpful in multiple disease situations. This list also serves as more evidence to support switching up your brands since you can see that not all probiotics are meant for all cases.
In other news, Whole Foods is hard at work rolling out their 365 stores and I had the opportunity to visit one today which just opened in Bellevue. When my friend told me it was already open I was quite surprised because I had only just started hearing peeps and rumors about a 365 opening in Bellevue and certainly didn’t expect to see one up and going so quickly. It’s at Bellevue Square and has a more urban feel to it than the Whole Foods Markets nearby. The selection is smaller, but the brands are mostly familiar, and there seems to be an emphasis on grab-and-go foods. The salad bar was packed with the lunch crowd, there was pizza to buy by the slice, and a multitude of other packaged items to go. I’ll be curious to see how these do.
I hope everyone is enjoying their fall so far.
There is a study being carried out at the University of Washington (where I got my MA~ go Dawgs!) which is looking at probiotics in a slightly different way than the usual probiotic news. They are studying how birth by C-section vs. through birth canal effects the baby’s microbiome, and also the differences that occur in only breastfeeding, only bottle feeding, or mixing the two. As you might guess, the baby gets probiotics by actually traveling through the birth canal, kind of like the mama’s last parting gift as her little one moves into our germy world. I can’t help but think of it as a parting party bag…only the beginning of many party bags for the next 6 years at least. The baby does get some probiotics when delivered by C-section, but not anywhere near the same quality or quantity that the birth canal gives. And also as you might guess, breastfeeding offers the baby a host of probiotics that bottle feeding cannot replicate. What you might not guess, and what seems to have surprised the researchers, is that when mixing breast and bottle feeding the baby does not get the same amount of probiotics that pure breastfeeding gives. This is intended to inform only~ anyone who has a baby to feed needs to decide for themselves how best to do it. If you happen to have been a C-section, bottle-fed baby (like many of my generation) then it is yet another reason to look at taking probiotics. Or if you are a parent, then the same information can be used when making decisions for your kids. It makes me think about the rise of food intolerances and allergies of late and the part that infancy and the actual birth might play in those issues. Obviously the causes are multifaceted, but I do not doubt that our modern birthing and feeding changes play a role. A person’s microbiome is a magor player in their immune system their entire life, and it is never too late, nor too early, to start building a good defense system.
Years ago when I worked at a natural foods store, there was confusion over that word, ‘Homeopathy’. Some used it in reference to all alternative or traditional forms of healing, when it is in fact, a very specific form of medicine. Homeo, just like homo, means same or similar to, while pathy means disorder in the body, which is exactly the theory behind homeopathy know for action based on “like treats like”. In other words, homeopathic medicine uses substances that would create the same symptoms that one is trying to treat. Sound crazy? It should actually sound familiar, because this is the same theory behind vaccines~ small doses of a trigger element inspire the immune system to kick in and heal the body. While herbalism is best used as a daily practice to maintain balance and work to fix issues long-term, homeopathy is in its element when something is in need of immediate attention, such as when you fall and bonk your head, or come down with a cold despite the fortress of herbal walls you’ve built around yourself (like I did).
There are several homeopathic remedies I always carry with me, especially since I have two young boys who tend to collect bumps and bruises like others collect Star Wars paraphernalia. Arnica is for bumps, bruises, falls, sprains, anything that surprises your body with unwelcome force, including surgery. It works incredibly well, especially for kids who are usually surprised at putting little pellets under their tongue after falling down and they forget all about being hurt.
Another one that is always in my purse is Hyland’s Motion Sickness for obvious reasons. If I’m not in the driver’s seat, I’m sick, and my boys tend to get sick on long trips too, especially when they can’t keep from reading in the backseat. This stuff really works well and even though everyone says ginger or peppermint will help motion sicknesses, I’ll stick with homeopathy over herbs on this one.
To ward off flu symptoms, nothing beats Boiron’s oscillococcinum. It’s a homeopathy remedy with a nearly unpronounceable name and yet during flu season it sells off the shelves like candy at Halloween which is proof this stuff packs some serious power.
When my kids get a cold I use Hyland’s Cold n’ Cough (if they are coughing) which is a liquid and works quite effectively. It is similar to over the counter brands where you give a dose every 4 hours or so but it isn’t toxic in any way and it doesn’t make kids tired or feel drugged at all.
I also like Hyland’s Defend Severe Cold and Flu packets that you add hot water too and drink like a tea. They work really well and don’t have that weird suppressing feeling where the cold has been temporarily buried deeper while I walk around in a lethargic daze extending the time the cold resides in my body.
Tea with lemon and honey works great too, but the homeopathic boost is a great addition to the winter virus battlefield. After all, the more tools in your toolkit, well, medicine cabinet, the better.
Everyday Herbalism Featuring Thieves Oil
This morning I was reminded of how herbs as essential oils are just part of my family’s everyday life, making it better, healthier, sweeter smelling, and even a little sillier. Before getting out of bed, I heard my oldest son sniffle a couple of times. The boys went skiing yesterday so I wasn’t overly concerned, but I did put some Thieves oil into my little diffuser instead of my usual morning wake-me-up blend. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Four Thieves Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.
The boys and I use it almost everyday. I have added Thieves Oil to almond oil (10 drops per ounce of base oil) and put it in a glass roller bottle so we can easily apply it. I like to rub my whole neck with it but the boys are pickier. Since it was at first difficult to convince them to start rubbing themselves with this perfume-like substance I resorted to telling them they had my permission to write swear words on themselves with this oil. They found that to be hilarious and even now, after months of this, my youngest still takes the oil from me with mischievous glee and waits for me to pull a face of shock and horror as he writes something spectacularly naughty on his arm. Whatever works.
You can make your own as there are plenty of recipes online, or just buy it already blended at any Whole Foods or herbal shop. I’m using Uncle Harry’s Four Bandits Anti-germ blend right now and realized after I bought it that the company is based right here in Redmond, WA, where I live! Now that’s pretty cool.
Candida’s Role in Food Sensitivities and Allergies
I’ve been thinking about candida overgrowth lately because of several reasons. One of those reasons is that I’ve lately let my youngest intentionally eat gluten twice to see how he handles it. So far I haven’t seen any issues, but I’m keeping a close eye on him. The reason my kids were tested for food intolerances is because I have such a bad reaction to gluten, but as for them, their reactions were more subtle and not necessarily the gluten. My oldest used to complain about an upset tummy all the time~ almost every day it didn’t feel right. Once he was off all the things he was found to be sensitive to, including gluten and dairy, his stomach issues went away. He can now eat everything that he was once intolerant to, except we haven’t tried him on gluten b/c the naturopath thought that was his main issue. My youngest on the other hand, had less intolerances in general, but a higher sensitivity to dairy. She thought his main issue might be dairy instead of gluten, though he tested intolerant to both (and not much else.) He didn’t complain about stomach issues as much as he had cheeks that were constantly red and bumpy, and bouts of constipation. (If he ever reads this he’ll be furious I just shared that!) He now seems to handle dairy fine, which is why I thought he could try gluten. It’s all just trial and error and figuring out what’s going to best support optimal health, which is why I thought I should probably take a look again at Candida, because a candida overgrowth is bad on its own, and most people don’t even know when they have an overgrowth, but not only that, an overgrowth can actually cause food intolerances and allergies. So, if I want to cure these intolerances of my boys and mine, which I do, then I need to check and make sure our guts are able to support these troublesome foods and that has everything to do with the microbiome.
The simple way to think about it is that candida (which everyone has) can start growing in numbers that cause an imbalance in the digestive system, and when that happens, whether caused by a round of antibiotics, a diet too rich in sugars and processed foods, or any other reason then the candida population can explode. If you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch, then you have experienced candida getting out of control, and if it made it to one of those places, you can be fairly certain you have too much in your gut, and quite possibly a systemic situation throughout your body. So how does this relate to food intolerances and allergies? Candida can cause leaky gut syndrome, where larger molecules of food can pass through the holes in the gut. These bits of food are too large for the body to recognize outside of the gut, so the immune system kicks in to fight the invader. The offending food becomes ‘labeled’ as bad, so the body reacts to it badly. In this way, food can often go from an intolerance to a full on allergy (with a full immune response). When you stop eating an offending food for a few months, or years as is our case here, then the body forgets that it needs to react badly to it, and if the digestive tract has had a chance to heal in the meantime, so much the better. Probiotics are essential. Now that my kids have had a few years to rid their body of intolerance reactions and have taken daily probiotics (always changing the brand every time we get new bottles~ that’s important too! Not a time for brand loyalty b/c the microbiome is incredibly diverse and all those brands use different probiotics so you get the most diversity by switching up what you use.) My kids seem to be doing pretty well but I do notice that my oldest son’s stomach has a tendency to still bloat very easily. I certainly know the feeling! This is indeed a candida symptom, though can also be a symptom of other things of course, but this particular kiddo used to have a bad issue with yeast and a doctor had him on Nystatin for about six months or even longer, so I know he has the tendency towards candida overgrowth. Before he tries gluten, he’ll have to do some kind of candida cleanse. And as for me, my issues have gone on for decades instead of the small amount of years my sons’ issues have, so I know it is going to take much longer for me. But I do think I’ll get there. It’ll take more work, and a lot more time, but I do think food intolerance can be beaten. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and if there is a path the intolerance traveled to become fully present, it makes sense that one can reverse the path.
By the way, there are tons of great articles on candida overgrowth out there, and how to fight it and how to know if you have it. Just do a quick search and you’ll be inundated. To get you started, here’s one I recently read: Candida info.