Guest post from Denise on Herbal Preparations : Which type of herb is right for you?

 

herbal preparations

Which type of herb is right for you?

By Denise Brusveen, MS

Teas, tinctures, infusions, decoctions, capsules, powder. There are so many options when it comes to herbal preparations! How do you know which one is right for you? Let me break it down for you.

Water-based Preparations (Teas, Infusions, and Decoctions)

Preparing your herbs this way does a good job of pulling out the water soluble nutrients in the herbs. They are also very easily digestible in this form, which is especially great for people with low stomach acid or gut issues. They are also one of the cheapest ways to consume herbs. You can buy a whole pound of loose herbs and then add the amount you need for your daily dose. Nettles, for example, are usually $13-15 for a whole pound on Amazon.

Disadvantages of teas, tinctures, and decoctions is that you have to spend the time preparing them usually daily or every couple days because they spoil easily. The taste of some herbs is another downside, but sometimes it just takes some trial and error to find the right flavor combination. And it can be inconvenient to take them to work. Tea bags make it a bit easier to take with you to work, but teas don’t really provide a lot of nutrition because the dose is so small.

Infusions are basically a much stronger tea that deliver a LOT of nutrition. Susun Weed recommends using an ounce of dried herb, which is approximately a cup. If you’re super particular like me, you can
weigh the herb the first few times to figure out how many cups equal an ounce. For example, an ounce of nettles is actually closer to 1.5 cups. So you put that ounce of dried herb in a 1 quart jar and then top it off with freshly boiled water. Put the cap on, and then let it steep for 4-8 hours. Strain the herbs out and then begin drinking at room temp. or refrigerate. Most herbal infusions don’t last longer than a couple days before they start to go bad, so don’t make more than you’ll drink in that time.

With decoctions, you bring your water to a boil and then add your herb and simmer for at least 20 min. Some people simmer longer for an even stronger drink. You can start with just a couple tbsp. of herb in a quart of water and work your way up to 4-5 tbsp. Decoctions are very nutritious like infusions.

So how do you choose whether to make an infusion or decoction? Infusions are typically made out of the above ground plant parts, including the leaves, flowers, stems, fruits, and aromatic seeds. Decoctions are best for the roots, bark, and non-aromatic seeds because they need the longer direct exposure to the higher heat to pull the nutrients out.

Tinctures

The major nutritional benefit of tinctures is that they can pull out both the water and alcohol soluble nutrients because the alcohol also has water in it. They also have a much longer shelf life (usually several years). Some of the constituents can start to break down in as little as 3-6 mo., but there aren’t enough studies to determine which plants this is most likely to happen with. So it’s best to store your tinctures in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to help them last longer. If you’re buying from a company like Herb Pharm, they also print an expiration date on the bottom of the bottle.

Another benefit with tinctures is that it’s much easier to carry a small bottle in your purse or even keep it in your desk at work and add a dropperful to some water. I am really loving the even more convenient sprays that herbal companies are now coming out with. It’s so simple to spray a couple sprays of these bitters in my mouth before every meal.

The major downside to tinctures is that they can be pricey. But for simple tinctures, some people buy the bulk herb and make their own.

Glycerites

The alcohol in tinctures slightly increases absorption of many of the nutrients, but some people wish to avoid the alcohol, so they prefer glycerites instead. While glycerites actually slightly decrease the absorption of nutrients, they are a very good alternative to tinctures. They are made with glycerin instead of alcohol, so they are sweeter, which makes it easier to get kids to take them. And because they’re less potent, they’re great for people who are really sensitive to trying new remedies for healing.

The downside is that they mostly only provide the water-soluble compounds, since they don’t contain alcohol to pull out additional nutrients, and their shelf life is shorter than tinctures.

Powder and Capsules

In these forms, the entire herb is presented to the GI tract. In some cases, such as for IBS, it’s important that the herbs have direct contact with the gut. Another benefit of powdered herbs is that they can be relatively cheap, and if you prefer capsules like I do, you can make your own much cheaper than buying the herb already in capsule form. I currently make astragalus, cream of tartar, salt, and cat’s claw capsules. People often ask if they can take nettle leaf capsules instead of infusions. While some is better than nothing, you’re not going to get nearly as much nutritional value out of capsules as you will
infusions.

One risk with grinding an herb into powder is that the heat from the process can break down the constituents. Once an herb is ground into powder, it can oxidize more easily, so the shelf life is typically shorter than for tinctures. It’s important to try to buy from a reputable company that sells fresh herbs. Companies like Frontier Co-op print an expiration date on their bulk herb bags, so always be sure to check your bag to make sure it’s not close to expiring!

 

Have any questions for Denise about herbs? Let us know in the comments!

Preparing for a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy

happy, healthy pregnancy

Preparing for a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy- naturally!

We really need to start working on our health YEARS before even thinking about conception. There are a few main reasons why:

  1. So many women are dealing with postpartum depression (or other postpartum issues) these days.
  2. Kids are dealing with extreme health issues these days, and now they have shorter life spans than we do. (more on this here!)
  3. We need to break this cycle of depleted, toxic, and burnt out people having children that start life out with these same issues. Cases of children with adrenal burnout have been reported since the 90s (source)! It’s time for change!

It can take a few years to fully undo the damage of a Standard American diet coupled with a fast-paced, stress-filled lifestyle. Most of us don’t even think about taking care of our health until a few months before we want to get pregnant (or worse- we don’t make changes UNTIL we are pregnant!). If we want to have happy, healthy pregnancies that lead to happy, healthy babies we need to start making changes sooner. Let’s go over the main changes to make and what we can do to really have a great pregnancy!

Nutrition

The absolute first step on the road to better health is to get an HTMA. This is the best way to determine your personal mineral imbalances, your adrenal strength, and your metabolic rate to figure out what YOU need as an individual.  With an HTMA protocol, you will get the ultimate start on healing your body and preparing for pregnancy.  Plus, HTMA is something great to keep up with during pregnancy and in the postpartum period to make sure your body is running as well as it can.

What are the basics of fixing our nutrition though?

  1. Nutrient Dense Foods- Fruits, vegetables; full fat foods like butter, ghee, and coconut oil; organic/grass-fed whole milk dairy products; fermented foods; eggs; grass-fed meat; beef liver every so often if you can handle it! You can see my whole post on general diet recommendations here, including what to avoid.
  2. Herbal Infusions– Nettles and Red Raspberry leaf are the 2 best herbs for pregnancy and nursing. Nettle infusions are full of vitamin K, iron, copper, magnesium and calcium, and they help the kidneys, liver, and adrenals.  Red Raspberry leaf is a well-known uterine tonic and helps to keep hormones balanced, especially after birth. Both of these are great to use pre-conception to heal hormones and replenish nutrient levels.  Nettles are best for everyday use, while RRL is best for use around your menstrual cycle. (If you are dealing with menstrual cycle issues, check this post out here).
  3. Focus on Gut Health– we need sufficient stomach acid and bile to digest a lot of our nutrients and to take care of nasty things like bacteria and parasites. Using either a probiotic or eating fermented foods is essential as well.
  4. Heal your liver! What does the liver have to do with pregnancy?! Quite a bit! We need happy livers to keep copper balanced (which is something that can get extremely imbalanced during pregnancy as copper tends to triple!). We also need happy livers to utilize fats and fat soluble nutrients, and to keep our detoxification system working properly. My favorite liver lovers are Liver Life from BioRay, dandelion root tea, nettle infusions, ACV, lemon, beets, sunflower lecithin, and castor oil packs.
  5. I recently spoke to someone at BioRay about what is best for use while pregnant or preparing for pregnancy. They recommend the Total Body Detox as the best solution if possible. If not, then go for Detox Quartet, followed by Lady Passion for women and Red Rooster for men until you are pregnant. . Loving Energy, Liver Life, and Belly Mend are ok to use with guidance during pregnancy as well. Check out the chart with more info here! Plus, you can use the code SASSY at checkout for a discount!

Clean up your home!

No, I’m not talking about spraying the whole house with disinfectant. I am talking about switching out all of your current household products for CLEANER versions. This includes soap, shampoo, deodorant, candles, laundry detergent, and even furniture if possible!

Why, you ask?

There has been at least one study done on US infants about how babies are born with about 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord blood (source). This was done in 2004, so imagine how much worse it is these days, especially knowing that there are 82,000 known chemicals used in everyday household items, and most of them have never been tested for safety. These chemicals are cancer causing, hormone disrupting (especially causing infertility), and skin irritants. The skin is the largest organ in our bodies and using these harsh products on our skin daily is truly wreaking havoc for our health. Not only do WE absorb these- these can be passed on in utero to our babies!

Here is my entire list of things to switch out in the home, and what I use personally!

There you have it- my top tips for preparing for a happy, healthy pregnancy! As you can see, it can take a lot of time, effort, and commitment to prepare for this, which is why we need to start taking care of our health from an earlier age. But, baby steps are fine! Start with one thing at a time to ease into the changes. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can create a healthier generation that has a brighter future with less chronic illness.

What to do when people think you are crazy for living holistically

livng holistically

Why is it CRAZY to be living holistically?

You know the look you get when you tell someone that you tried to feed your family organic food? Or that you don’t vaccinate? Or that you avoid antibiotics at all costs? Yea, I’m sick of that look, as I’m sure many other people are. People think that eating organic is “trendy”, that thinking for yourself when making decisions like vaccinating is “dangerous”, and that you’re incredibly stupid if you don’t listen to your doctor 100% because they are “Experts”.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but things are a-changing! People are waking up to the devastation that is “health care” and they are being forced to take care of their own families when it comes to health. So many people just don’t understand the “why” behind natural living, so I wanted to put together a list of reasons why I personally came over to the dark side (which does have gluten-free cookies, by the way haha)

(Of course though, if you are able to just ignore the nay-sayers, that is even better! You don’t have to argue with anyone if you don’t want to. However, so many people just don’t know the TRUTH!)

Some Points to make for those all worried about natural living:

  1. Medical Error is one of the top causes of death in this country.  The third main cause to be exact; right behind cancer and heart disease (which are pretty much man-made diseases for the most part thanks to environmental toxins and terrible dietary advice over the last several decades). (source)
  2. The USA is last in health on a list of the 17 most developed countries
  3. Kids now have shorter estimated lifespans than we do! Want to read more about the massive increase of health issues in kids? Click here.
  4. The leading cause of death of children ages 5-14 is CANCER. 1 in 5 children will get a diagnosis of cancer now.
  5. On top of that, 90% of cancers are environmental! Read more about these causes here!
  6. Over 2 million people are harmed each year because of the overuse of antibiotics. Superbugs are on the rise because of this overuse too. (source)
  7. 11% of the population of people aged 12 (!!) and over on at least one anti-depressant. (And take into consideration that “About 8% of persons aged 12 and over with no current depressive symptoms took antidepressant medication.” SOURCE-CDC So people ARE being given these pills for no apparent reason)
  8. More people die each year from properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs than illicit drugs. Plus, so many of these other top causes of death on this list are related to DIET and are treatable or even preventable.

Anyone have any other main points to add? Anyone else scared of what the future will bring when it comes to how we view health too? Something really needs to change here as things are not sustainable as they are.

 

Balancing 3 of the Main Minerals: Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium

Balancing Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium

Hair tissue mineral analysis is an amazing tool to use to determine how your body is handling stress, how well your adrenals are working, and where your mineral levels are. Minerals are needed for millions of enzymes as co-factors, inhibitors or even as the enzyme themselves. Enzymes are what keeps our bodies running. When we are low on minerals or if they are imbalanced, our bodies cannot physically function correctly. We look at the whole picture with HTMA- levels, ratios, and the person’s individual symptoms.

In this post though, we are going to go over 3 of the main minerals in HTMA which include: Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium.  Our goal with HTMA is to BALANCE these minerals. These 3 have a very delicate balance, but they are all incredibly important.  (and Calcium makes up the 4th main mineral- but it doesn’t seem to be as hard to balance as the other 3 for most people).

Balancing Mg/Na/K: A Delicate Mineral Dance!

In the mineral balancing world, magnesium lowers sodium, which in turn can mess with the sodium/potassium ratio. From ARL Labs: “Sodium and magnesium tend to be antagonistic. As one goes up the other goes down. The ratio of the two minerals often gives a better picture of adrenal activity than the sodium level alone. “

If both sodium and potassium are low and one takes their dose of mag (whether it be the RDA of 400mg or their body-weight dose of about 800+), one can experience both low sodium and low potassium signs. Also, while potassium might not directly be affected by mag, it is very closely related to cortisol on its own and magnesium can lower cortisol. So a very low potassium reading on the HTMA can indicate low cortisol output (roughly), which would indicate an issue with tolerating magnesium.

With HTMA, there are clear indications if someone truly can handle mag or not. About 80% of people in general are slow oxidizers, which means that adrenals are sluggish. Magnesium *decreases* adrenal function, while sodium supports it. Mag *lowers* sodium and further decreases adrenal activity. For some, it can take months and other it takes years to see the negative effect. HTMA is about balancing in the long run, not taking massive doses of any one nutrient.

I am seeing that *so many people* are reacting poorly to magnesium.

Adrenal crashes, severe insomnia, anxiety, low blood pressure, dizziness- these are all of the side effects of too much mag and not enough sodium and potassium. I know it can be frustrating, as there are oodles of articles out there coming out about how magnesium can be a cure-all mineral for so many illnesses. Magnesium is crucial but when we have low sodium and potassium, it can be hard to tolerate any amount of magnesium. This is why the HTMA is important so we can determine your sodium and potassium, as well as the state of your adrenals. The whole point is to get a personalized plan. Healing happens in stages: we cannot fix everything all at once!

You can read my whole post on the sodium/magnesium ratio here and how it relates to adrenal health. In short: Those with OVER-active adrenals need more magnesium, and those with UNDER-active need more sodium (and often cannot tolerate any magnesium!).  Usually with over-active adrenals, one will have high cortisol and high sodium levels- taking magnesium can help balance this. Those with under-active adrenals are more complicated, as they tend to have mixed cortisol and very low sodium- so magnesium *might* help someone if they deal with high nighttime cortisol, but overall they need to focus more on sodium through the day to support the adrenals.

So how much Mag, Potassium, and Sodium do we need?

Looking at the minerals separately: Magnesium recommended daily amount is about 400mg. Potassium RDA is about 4700mg. Sodium RDA is about 2300mg. (These obviously approximates as the RDA doesn’t always cut it when it comes to info- just using these as a reference). That is a pretty big difference here: 400-4700-2300. So if you are using more than that amount of mag, imagine how much more sodium and potassium you would need to properly balance it. Many are doing 800+mg of magnesium, and doing maybe 2-3 adrenal cocktails (which have about 500g of potassium and about 500mg of sodium).

Needs for each mineral will vary person to person depending on HTMA results and symptoms, as well as what a person tolerates. A majority of people are not getting nearly enough potassium in their diet. Unless you are focusing on potassium intake, it is extremely hard to get to that almost 5000mg amount!  Usually I suggest going for about 3000 a day just to get used to getting more potassium and that way we slowly introduce it instead of flooding the body with it (especially as potassium can cause copper dumping!). Read my post on potassium here for more info and my giant list of favorite potassium rich foods.

Sodium intake seems to vary person to person. Many people with adrenal fatigue crave salt like crazy. We have the potential to waste up to 30,000mg of sodium a day when adrenals are stressed (and I cannot find the source I had for this as I read it several years ago now- but it is an alarming amount, and mineral balancing agrees at least that sodium is the first mineral that we start burning through like crazy in adrenal fatigue.) I usually have people listen to their body on this: if it tastes good to you, go for it! Eventually your body shouldn’t crave it as much as levels are replenished. Adrenal cocktails, salt water sole, doing sea salt baths, making your own salt capsules, and obviously just salting food are all helpful.

When sodium, potassium, and magnesium are all low it is VERY hard for someone to raise all 3 at once. They all have to be in balance because too much of one can bump another around. It can be easy to determine which one is the lowest when looking at an HTMA though, and that is usually the main one that people need to focus on. I try to tell people to take note of their symptoms: low sodium signs include dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle weakness or a very rapid heartbeat. Low potassium signs include a hard, thumping heartbeat; thirst; insomnia; or muscle cramps. Low magnesium signs include muscle pain/stiffness, headaches, and skipped heartbeats.

My favorite way to use magnesium is topically. It seems to have less of a chance to mess with sodium this way, and I’m seeing people raise levels well with it. There was a study that showed that in only 12 weeks of use, most of the people rose their magnesium levels by almost 60%! Compare that to oral supplementation which can take 9-24 months to raise mag levels. (Source)

You can try mag oil baths or foot baths: try 1-2 ounces mag oil (or ½ cup to 1 cup of flakes), 1 cup of baking soda (for increased mag absorption and to neutralize chlorine in the water); add ½ cup of pink salt if desired so you can get the balance between sodium and magnesium. Soak for 20-40 minutes at least twice a week.

Or you can use magnesium lotion! I love this mag lotion for adults (250mg per tsp), and this one for kids(150mg per tsp), but you can also see this recipe to make your own.

Common questions I get:

“But don’t we burn through magnesium like crazy under stress?” Yes we do. We can also burn through sodium, potassium, zinc, and even copper (technically, stored copper can get pushed out under stress, along with other toxins). Magnesium is not the *only* mineral that has to do with stress!

“Our soils are so depleted of mag, don’t we need high doses?” Yes, our soils are depleted. A Standard American diet is also very devoid of most nutrients. Switching to a whole foods diet can help increase nutrients in your diet (plus healing your gut– we need stomach acid to utilize many nutrients). If you look in nature, you will *never* find any food right now with the whole RDA of magnesium in it. The most you will find is about 150mg in a cup of cooked spinach or an ounce of pumpkin/squash seeds- plus you will be getting SO much more from the food: enzymes, co-factors, more minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, protein, etc.  You can check a list of high magnesium foods here. Also, nettle and oatstraw infusions are very magnesium rich. More is not always better. We need to look at nutrients in a complex, not in isolation, especially when you are trying to heal your body and not just treat symptoms.

“I NEED magnesium for xyz reason. I can’t live without it.” Yes, I believe that. Magnesium supplementation acts like a crutch (sort of like any other isolated nutrient). I’m coming across many people that supplement with mag or any other nutrient in isolation for years and their symptoms are managed, but their levels never rise much, or they even drop. Isolated oral magnesium is not the kind that your body utilizes so while you might find symptom relief, it isn’t solving the actual deficiency. As soon as one stops supplementation for a day or 2, their symptoms come right back.

Conclusion

I preach caution with high doses of anything in general, but magnesium is the most common one right now that is creating so many issues for people. In our quest for better health, we see to believe the “more is better” lie. We became ill because our diet was imbalanced to begin with- flooding your body with the full RDA of each nutrient (or more) is not the way to get yourself back in balance. There is a huge difference between treating an illness and healing your body. The more that time goes on, the more I am an advocate for whole food nutrition, nutrient dense foods, and focusing on the body as a whole.

If you want more of an idea on how I do approach healing, you can check out my posts: The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Healing and my ultimate collection of favorite remedies for specific conditions.

Need more reading?

Adrenaladvice.com: “If you are unfortunate enough to get to the exhaustion stage ……too much magnesium can cause you to crash since it lowers sodium.”

ARL Labs: Sodium and the Adrenals

ARL other mineral articles

Nutrient interactions: what happens when you take one nutrient on its own and the other nutrients it can lower/raise

What is Biochemical Individuality?

biochemical individuality

Biochemical Individuality

There is no denying that as humans, we are all connected in some way. At the same time though, we are all unique individuals! The old saying “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” is NOT true when it comes to healing illnesses. While we might all have similar deficiencies and and imbalances, there are so many other factors to consider while healing.

Biochemical individuality is essentially a concept that the nutritional and chemical makeup of a person is unique. Because of this, nutritional needs will vary from person to person. Dr. Roger Williams was the biochemist that pioneered this concept in the 1950s, when people were just starting to feel the damage done by poor nutritional advice, depleted soils, and pharmaceutical medications.

This issue is just getting worse as time goes on!

This issue has just become even more complicated as time has gone on- now we are dealing with an epigentics epidemic! The environment and the state of our food is in an even more terrifying state these days, and the need for individualized nutrition is even more dire.  People are in varying stages of the same illness (like adrenal fatigue for instance: one person can be dealing with overactive adrenals and another can be dealing with underactive). 10 people with the same exact diagnosis can be dealing with completely different symptoms, and they will all have different healing journeys.

So if someone is trying to tell you that we ALL need the same supplements in the same exact amounts at the same exact time- please reconsider this! This is NOT how people heal. This is another way of allopathic thinking, a one-size-fits-all approach.  Becoming your own best health advocate is the BEST way for you to heal. Instinct and intuition are invaluable as well, because you need to learn to listen to your body’s signs when you are trying to heal from illness.

Things that influence our health and individuality:

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • How we react to stress
  • Genetics
  • Job
  • Hobbies (because of exposure to chemicals or climates)
  • Environment (toxins, climate, stress, etc)
  • Past traumas
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Tobacco or alcohol use
  • Drug use (whether illicit or pharmaceutical)
  • Attitude
  • Sleep habits
  • Detoxification ability
  • Metablism
  • Temperament
  • Digestive status
  • And the list goes on!

I hope this post is helpful! I am seeing wayyyyy too many people getting injured from one-size-fits-all recommendations, especially since people are being told just to “push through the pain”!What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. This is why there are SO many aspects and modalities for healing: nature has given us a wide array of choices!

There are dozens of generalized protocols out there that are all supposedly designed to be for the good of everyone, no matter what stage of health they are at. This is just not true. If you aren’t sure about what a doctor or practitioner is recommending you, please question them! We should all be aiming to help people heal on their own terms.

More Reading:

TEI labs on Individuality

Biochemical Individuality by Dr. Roger Williams, the original expert on this topic. Written in 1956!

Whole Food Nutrition: The Missing Link in Vitamin Therapy: The Difference Between Nutrients WITHIN Foods vs. Isolated Vitamins & how they affect your health by Dr. Vic Shayne

Have we created Allopathic Natural Health?

allopathic ntural health

I came across the term “allopathic herbalism” a few weeks ago, where an herbalist mentioned that even modern herbalists are treating symptoms instead of trying to heal the whole person.

That phrase REALLY got me thinking: What in the world have we done with natural health??

Most natural health practitioners are using allopathic thinking when they treat people. They are STILL just treating symptoms! Instead of synthetic drugs though, they use synthetic nutrients or herbs just for symptoms. They aren’t usually looking at the body as a whole, nor do they ever use whole foods in their natural form to create a balanced way for a person to heal.  Deficiencies and imbalances never deal with just one nutrient, one organ, or one symptom. And when it comes to fixing deficiencies, more is NOT always better.

I see it on so many natural health blogs too:

Dealing with anxiety? Take zinc. Have depression? Use magnesium. Adrenal fatigue? Here’s some ashwagandha. People are still “popping and praying” with natural remedies. This can be just as detrimental as pharmaceuticals! We are not just symptoms: we are all individuals, and this is why biochemical individuality is the best approach to health.

There are SO many variables when it comes to biochemical individuality: diet, stress levels, environment, thought patterns, activity levels, childhood trauma, genes, etc. You can have 5 different people dealing with the same symptoms but have 5 different root causes for each of them.

There is no problem with using certain nutrients or herbs for symptom relief while you are healing, we have to distinguish what is a crutch, and what is actually going to help us fully heal.  We also have to take into account that nutrients in isolation can create a huge chain reaction with creating other deficiencies and imbalances. Not convinced about that? Read my Nutrient Interaction post!

While it is great that more and more people are turning to natural health, I wish more people would take a step back and realize something:  All nutrients, foods, herbs, and spices have more than one function!

 

Nutrients also have many co-factors that are required for proper functioning, which synthetic nutrients won’t have in a proper balance (most will just have 100% daily value of each nutrient, something you’ll never find in nature).

Food isn’t important just for vitamins and minerals. There are SO many other components to food that you will never find in synthetic supplements: phytochemicals, fiber, fat, protein, carbs, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, plant pigments, amino acids, fatty acids, isothicyanates. indoles, coumarins, antioxidants, enzymes, and more! Some of these components (like bioflavoinoids) used to be considered vitamins all on their own because of their importance to our health.

Many of these components have been studied in their roles to help to protect against cancer and other serious illnesses. However, most of these studies show that they work best when in a WHOLE FOOD and not as an isolated substance, and especially not in very high doses.

The Tricks to Getting the most of your diet:

Healing the gut and liver, as well as having a varied diet is the key to getting the most out of your food. You HAVE to eat anyway- why not tailor it to your needs? As your gut heals, your tolerance for more foods will increase as well!

My ultimate goal is to help people realize that there are better ways to heal. We have individualized testing to help determine your personal deficiencies! You don’t have to guess. You don’t have to “pop and pray” when it comes to supplements (and some go upwards of 30-50 supplements a day!).

Love essential oils? Check out Poofy Organics’ selection!

[ReviewDisclaimer]

Who doesn’t love essential oils?! I’ve never been a huge fan of the big MLM essential oil companies, mostly because I do NOT agree with ingesting oils. Some of the information out there about oils is absolutely terrible. I would only recommend ingesting essential oils under the supervision of a TRAINED aromatherapist (I highly recommend Learningabouteos.com to learn more about essential oils). Because of this dangerous info, I refuse to support those big companies and I’m so glad that Poofy has great information on safe essential oil use.

One thing I love is that they have a guide on how to properly dilute the essential oils. Using oils neat on the skin can actually lead to chemical burns or even create an allergic reaction after a certain amounts of time (not always on the first use, but it can happen with frequent use) (source)

eo-dilution-chart

Some of the most popular blends (that already have a carrier oil) that Poofy has include: essential oils

Check out all of Poofy Organic’s available blends and single essential oils here.

You can also “like” my Poofy Organics with Sassy Holistics page on FB to see more pictures on safe essential oils for kids, pregnancy, and even more info on reducing environmental toxins.

Herb Spotlight: Milk Thistle, A True Liver Lover!

[ReviewDisclaimer]

milk thistle

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle has been used for thousands of years, mostly for helping to repair liver damage. It helps to regenerate the liver and it aids in detoxification. It is a well-known remedy for preventing hangovers too since it can help your liver metabolize alcohol faster!

Milk thistle is a potent antioxidant that can help people heal from hepatitis, cirrhosis, damage from drugs and alcohol, fatty liver disease, mushroom poisoning, and environmental sensitivities. Many sources claim that it works best to take it at night since that is when the liver works the hardest and it needs extra help. This is why insomnia and night sweats are so prevalent- the liver gets MAD at night if it’s overworked! Milk thistle can help to take some of the burden off of the liver so you can get a full night of sleep.

Milk thistle is one off the few herbs that can interact with certain medications it’s important to check with your doctor or look up the information about the drug you are on before you decide to try milk thistle.

Milk thistle is the most studied herb. There have been over 400 studies completed on milk thistle according to the United States National Library of Medicine and the National institutes of Health. (Here is one from PubMed) It’s been determined that milk thistle is a very safe herb, and the only possible side effects include loose stools if you take too much too quickly. Some sources claim it is even safe while pregnant and nursing- but again, that is something you need to speak with your doctor about and do your own research on.

In Europe, milk thistle is actually a prescribed medication! Can you imagine that? A place that actually uses herbs as medicine??

Benefits of Milk Thistle:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • reduces cancer cell growth in lungs, colon, prostates, cervix, and kidneys
  • prevents Alzheimer’s
  • helps balance blood sugar
  • Helps hot flashes and other hormonal issues
  • reduces cell damage caused by radiation and chemotherapy
  • helps to regenerate the liver
  • helps block the entrance of harmful toxins and removes them from liver cells
  • has anti-oxidant properties
  • helps prevent gallstones in the liver
  • increases bile flow
  • heals inflammation
  • Supports healthy glutathione metabolism

Buying Milk Thistle

When you are looking for a milk thistle supplement, make sure you are getting one that is 80% silymarin. This is the bio-flavonoid complex that is in milk thistle. Silymarin has 3 main flavonoids: silybin (most beneficial part), silydianin, and silychristin (my favorite one, haha- silly Kristin!)

There are MANY great milk thistle supplements out there. You can even find your own milk thistle seeds to make your own tinctures or you can grind them up to make your own capsules! Your local health food store or even vitamin stores will carry some of these products.

Typical supplements have about 100-150mg of milk thistle seed per serving. This is a good maintenance dose for daily use, or you can test out what a good personalized dose is. Some people use up to 500mg a day and find amazing results. I wouldn’t suggest that dose long term but it can be helpful for those looking to really heal their livers. Alcohol based tinctures tend to be the most bioavailable sources of milk thistle, but the Jarrow brand has great reviews from consumers.

My Favorite Brands:

Jarrow Capsules

Herb Pharm Tinctures- plain Milk Thistle or in a formulation with other great liver healing herbs: Liver Health

Or go for a powder! That is what you will find in the Jarrow Capsules. Easy enough to add to smoothies.

Have you used milk thistle before and had good results? Let us know in the comments!

The “Ideal” Diet

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There are so many diet fads out in the world right now and it is getting so confusing to figure out which diet is the “right” one.  The truth is that there is no “one” diet for everyone.  Many health advocates will use studies to “prove” their point on why their diet is the best.  The only thing is that there are studies proving and disproving EVERY topic out there.

For example, it has been proven that coffee is unhealthy and dangerous in one study, but it’s also been proven to be a superfood in another study! How are we supposed to trust anybody if they can’t even agree on something small like coffee?  Studies can be paid for by the people that want a certain result to come about them- that is why it is time to use common sense and start listening to our bodies about what we consume.

First, let’s focus on what we shouldn’t be including in our diets.  This includes genetically modified organisms, food coloring, artificial sweeteners, and MSG.

What is a GMO?

Genetically modified organisms are a hot topic these days.  The genetic material of the food has been artificially manipulated in a lab to create these “foods”. Their purpose is to withstand massive amounts of herbicides or to produce their own insecticides. They were supposedly going to increase yield, have tolerance to drought, and enhance nutrition but so far none of that has happened.  GMOs are linked with many cancers, autoimmune illnesses and digestive disorders in both humans and animals alike.  No long term studies have been done and most studies were done by GMO giant Monsanto.  There is evidence that one major study that Monsanto did proved that GMOs were cancer causing, but they hid this from the public because they would lose a lot of profit if the truth came out!

GMOs are banned in about 60 countries around the world- so 60 other countries understand the risks of eating food created in a lab.  They are not labeled in the US, but they are in several other countries.  Recently, Congress just approved a bill that would deny labeling GMOs.  They want to keep us in the dark about what we are truly consuming.  About 80% of processed foods contain GMOs so they are truly everywhere you look.  Most common GMOs include corn, soy, beets, canola, cotton, squashes, and many supplements.  Ascorbic acid is actually made from GMO corn, while citric acid is usually made from GMO mold.  The Non-GMO project has thousands of products verified to not contain GMOs.

Fake Ingredients are Everywhere

Artificial sweeteners are also becoming very controversial.  Many people are noticing that they are the cause of their illnesses, especially neurological diseases.  When these people discontinue their artificial sweetener consumption, all of their symptoms magically disappear! Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin are the most common artificial sweeteners.  Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar- which is why it tastes so fake. These harmful chemicals are in more than 6000 products on the shelves-food, drinks, cough drops, and vitamins.

Sweeteners like aspartame are linked to many health issues: MS, heart issues, brain cancer, joint disorders and they cause weight gain and diabetes despite being a “zero-calorie sweetener”.  Stay far away from SUGAR FREE items, especially from big brands because they will be laced with artificial ingredients.

Food coloring is another ingredient that many people are starting to avoid. Vitamins, juice, cookies, pastries, fruit snacks and more all contain food coloring.  These colors are being linked to behavior problems in children as well as chromosomal damage, tumors, allergies and asthma.  Some other countries have banned artificial coloring!  When other countries start banning what is “normal” to us, it truly is time to reevaluate what we are consuming.

High fructose corn syrup is one of the worst ingredients that you will find in food.  It is a cheap sweetener made from GMO corn. It is much different than REAL sugar despite the propaganda you might see claiming that there is no difference.  Real sugars like honey, maple syrup, and blackstrap molasses have an abundance of vitamins and minerals.  Corn syrup is just pure sugar.  Cancer, heart disease, liver failure, and diabetes are just some of the illnesses that high fructose corn syrup is linked with.  You will find this particular poison in soda, juice, baked goods, most processed foods and even some medicines.

Everyone has heard of MSG.  It is one of the most common ingredients that you will find in processed foods.  You can even buy it as a spice!  What most people don’t know is that MSG is actually an excitotoxin- it literally excites your brain cells to death.  This is why it is linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many neurological issues.  The FDA actually has information about the MSG Symptom Complex because reactions to MSG are so common-numbness, chest pain, and headaches are all common symptoms of this.

Since people are starting to learn about MSG and try to avoid it, the companies are starting to give it many other names.  Some of these names include autolyzed yeast extract, torula yeast, glutamic acid, anything “hydrolyzed” and soy protein.  There are dozens of other names that correlate with MSG.  Glutamate is naturally occurring in small amounts in some food, like bone broth and gelatin.  This form of glutamate is good and essential for health.  But MSG is a man-made, processed form of this amino acid.

Most of the food on our shelves is made in a lab.  It is no wonder why so many of us are suffering with illnesses- we cannot thrive on fake food!  It is time to get back to basics and eat like our ancestors ate.  Which leads us to the next section- what we should be eating.

The Ideal Diet is a Balanced, Whole Foods Diet

Aiming for a balanced whole foods diet is the ideal diet.  Switching to a whole foods diet can take time and patience, but it is truly worth it.  It is hard to learn how to cook food when you’ve lived off of boxed foods your whole life, I have been there!  It is a challenge but it will benefit your health so amazingly.

A whole foods, traditional diet focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, grass-fed dairy products, pastured eggs, properly prepared grains (some cultures soak their grains and legumes before cooking to help break down phytates and aid in digestion), and real sugars such as maple syrup, raw honey, and coconut sugar.  Eating high quality fats like butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, and even lard is important- fat does not make us fat.  Fat and cholesterol are essential for hormone production, as well as imparting many other health benefits.  Avoid as many fast and processed foods as you can and eat organic or non-GMO certified when possible.

Meat and Dairy: Superfoods when they are Good Quality

When it comes to animal products, quality is key.  Grass-fed meats and dairy are extremely important.  Cows are natural herbivores.  Making them eat grains is not only going to make them unhealthy, but it is going to lower the quality of dairy and meat given from them.  Raw dairy is extremely beneficial but it is a controversial subject.  Pasteurization and homogenization are processes that change the healing property of the milk.  Pasteurization heats the milk to kill pathogens, but it also kills the lactase enzyme which helps the body digest the milk better.

Many lactose-intolerant people find that they can actually enjoy raw or minimally pasteurized dairy because it contains that crucial enzyme for digestion.  Raw dairy can be a very big part of healing illness.  Many people find that it helps digestion, soothes inflammation, and even helps to get rid of allergies.  Many farmers are starting to realize the demand for raw dairy so they are finding natural ways to keep their cows healthier and pathogen free so we can safely enjoy raw milk again- just like people have for thousands of years.

Properly Prepared Grains

Grains and legumes were often soaked before cooking in order to help remove anti-nutrients and to help them to be digested better.  These foods have enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid in them that can negatively affect our health.  Enzyme inhibitors are molecules that bind to the healthy metabolic and digestive enzymes in our body- this makes the enzymes useless and inhibits our ability to digest the food.  Phytic acid is where a plant stores its phosphorus.  We can’t digest this form of phosphorus plus it renders other minerals useless like zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium.

Soaking, spouting or souring beans, nuts, seeds, and grains mitigate the negative effects of these anti-nutrients.  Many people that have issues with modern wheat find that traditional sourdough is perfectly fine for them to eat.  That is because sourdough is technically fermented.

There are many ways to soak grains but the most important ingredient to remember for some of them is the “activator”- this will be an acidic medium like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or whey.

For example, to soak oatmeal follow the follow directions:

Pour one cup of uncooked oats in a mason jar or a pot (you will need to cover it overnight).  Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and a pinch of unrefined salt.  Add enough filtered water to just cover the oats, cover, and let sit overnight.  The next morning, you can drain and rinse the oats, add them to a pot with a fresh cup of water (or milk if that is your preference) and cook for about 5 minutes. Viola- soaked oatmeal!  Very easy and delicious.

You can find many different recipes on how to soak beans, rice, wheat, nuts, oats, and seeds.  Some of these require just soaking, some required sprouting which is a little bit of a longer process. It is definitely a different method of cooking than many of us are used to but it is what our ancestors did and it worked for them!  We live in a world where we expect instant gratification so sprouting, soaking and fermenting are not very common since they take a little more work.  But once you get used to doing them, then it will not seem like it takes much effort and it will become a regular habit for you.

 

Organic vs. Conventional

Organic produce will have less pesticide residue than conventional produce.  Some organic foods can be more expensive than conventional- compare prices in your local grocery stores. Some organic foods are not even more money than conventional foods!  You just have to take notice of prices at your local stores and farmer’s markets.    Farmer’s Markets are AMAZING places for affordable produce, plus buying local is good for the small businesses and local farmers.

Prioritize your foods for budgeting- meats and dairy are most important to be higher quality.  The important part to remember is that it is healthier to eat fresh produce as opposed to boxed cookies.  If you cannot afford all organic, do not fret.  Just do your best!

The biggest threat of not eating organic is Round-Up. This is the pesticide used on most produce out there. It is a mineral chelator, antibiotic, and it is linked to MANY health issues.  The most recent link was to adrenal issues because it is an endocrine disruptor. You can read about this study here.

There are two lists for produce that will help you figure out what you should buy organic and what can be bought conventional.  These lists are called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.  The Dirty Dozen should be your priority for organic because these items have the most pesticide use when grown conventionally.  The Clean Fifteen can be bought as conventional because pesticide use is a little less of an issue.  For example- apples are on the Dirty Dozen because they tend to have residue of about 47 different pesticides!  Talk about poison apples!

 

Dirty Dozen:

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Nectarines
  5. Celery
  6. Spinach
  7. Grapes
  8. Cherry tomatoes
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Potatoes
  12. Snap Peas (imported)

Clean Fifteen:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Cabbage
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Onions
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Papaya
  11. Kiwi
  12. Eggplant
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

 

Learning to Cook and Bake

When it comes to switching to a whole foods diet, the hardest part is knowing what to cook.  Pinterest is a great starting point for whole food recipes, fermented foods, and post on buying organic on a budget.  YouTube has tons of videos on learning how to cook and bake.  Once you get used to it, you will LOVE what you make.  It is very hard to find real, wholesome foods in restaurants so cooking your own food ensures that you know what is in your food.  There is nothing better than homemade baked goods! Eating clean doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself.

The trick to baking with real ingredients is to make sure you use real sweeteners and cut down on them.  So many recipes call for 1-2 cups of granulated sugar but there is no need for that!  Each time you bake something, reduce the amount of sugar and find a good amount that you and your family like.  I usually never use more than ¼ cup of organic cane sugar in anything that I make.  In many recipes, you can even substitute the sugar for maple syrup, blackstrap molasses or honey.  I don’t recommend using honey often in baking because heating it kills the enzymes and makes it a little less nutritious.

Back to Basics

I will definitely never tell anyone that there is *one* diet for anyone.  It is important to listen to your body, especially when switching to a whole foods diet.  Consuming more fat and unrefined salt may take some getting used to, but these two things will make such a positive impact on your health that you will wish you had known about this all sooner.  The basic point in this whole chapter is that we need to eliminate fake “foods” and get back to the way that our ancestors ate because that way of eating worked for thousands of years.  Since the invention of processed foods, our health has deteriorated so quickly.

Cancer is now the leading cause of children.  This is a huge issue because when our bodies are depleted of nutrients, we are not creating healthy children.  They are being born deficient and since the medical community completely ignores vitamins, minerals, and diet, they are suffering more than they need to.

Gaining Weight while Healing

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No one wants to gain weight any more than they have to, I get it. But unfortunately weight gain is a common (short term!) side effect of beginning a nutritional balancing program. I’ve heard a theory that this weight gain happens for the same reason why women gain weight while pregnant- we need extra nourishment! Let’s talk about why this happens and what we can do about it.

After we start giving the body the nutrients it needs, our bodies start to wake up and they start to “clean house”. I like to think of it like a house that has dozens of layers of paint and wallpaper that needs to be taken down.  As nutrient deficiencies are fixed, we start to peel back those layers as new tissue replaces the old. The old, toxic junk needs to come out though! This is where we are likely to gain weight as the liver, colon, and whole detoxification system gets a little overloaded. Our goal is to support all of these systems so we don’t get recirculating toxins. Healing reactions can stink but they are a good sign!

The Liver and Gut

When the liver gets overloaded, it cannot filter toxins so it stores them in fat. So we literally can be full of toxins!  This is why when we embark on a natural healing path, we can experience these healing reactions- these toxins can finally get filtered out. They cause an increase in symptoms as they get released. This is why liver and gut health are CRUCIAL to the healing process. They work in tandem to eliminate these toxins in a timely manner.

So how we do love our livers? My favorite remedies include Bone broth, gelatin(or collagen) Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, ginger, apples, Milk thistle, dandelion root decotions or tea, garlic, taurine, turmeric, coffee enemas (if tolerated) and Castor oil packs (read about castor oil packs here!). My absolute favorite liver support supplement is BioRay Liver Life and most of my clients see pretty amazing results with it. Also, you can try a glass of warm water with a freshly squeezed lemon in the morning before you eat to kick start your digestive system.

And don’t forget to love your guts! We have to increase stomach acid to assist in nutrient absorption as well as kill off critters like parasites.  We need to heal and seal the gut lining which can get holes punched in it and allow food to enter the bloodstream- this can create an inflammatory reaction. Repopulating the gut bacteria is essential as well, especially for people that have been on antibiotics countless times in your life. Sticking to a whole foods, as-organic-as-possible diet is crucial as well.

Bile flow is probably the most crucial part in this issue. We need bile to assimilate fats, flush out toxins, and to help assimilate fat soluble nutrients. A bitter herb supplement can be the biggest helper in this area! Find my other bile boosting tips here.

Read my entire liver healing and gut health posts to learn more about keeping them up and running.

Lymph System

The lymph system doesn’t have its own pump- we have to keep moving to keep the lymph flowing. We all know the importance of regular movement but many struggle with exercise because of fatigue, pain or simply because they do not have the time. There are a lot of light, easy and quick exercises you can try to see which works best for you. Rebounding, walking, yoga, swimming, and even light stretching can help your lymph system to keep things moving. Staying hydrated is huge too.

Rebounding is the number one best exercise you can do- it is gentle, easy, and extremely effective!  Check out my other tips for keeping the lymph moving here.

Colon health

The colon is a part of the body that tends to get overlooked. But it is vital to our health!  When our livers start working properly, they tend to get a little overzealous and that can put some strain on the colon. If the colon is already sluggish, this can cause huge problems for people like constipation, pain, insomnia and even anxiety because toxins can get recirculating. We have to make sure we keep things MOVING.  Ideally, we should all be having at least 3 bowel movements a day.  Most people barely have one!

Some tips for keeping the colon happy:

  • Fiber is your friend!
  • Staying Hydrated- 1/2 your body weight in ounces is a typical recommendation. I would say go for water, herbal infusions, lemon water, ACV water, etc)
  • Yoga
  • Enemas (coffee, honey, ACV, whatever floats your boat and works for you)
  • Light exercise

These are just some of the main points to focus on while on a healing protocol. Weight gain may be undesired but it can happen to some people. The more we get into balance, the easier it will be to get back to our normal weights. Not everyone experiences this weight issue, so don’t panic! This is just an explanation for those that have had this happen.

Happy Healing!