Allergies don't have to be a life sentence! Here are 4 steps that will get you on your way to healing and reversing allergies! Find out more!
Happy New Year everyone!
In the last post, I shared about mindsets to have (or not) that will help with successful habit change. This week I want to share about some of the habits I think are most important to consider integrating into your family. This is not an exhaustive list! These habits are simple and sound. They are not flashy or trendy (necessarily), and they have stood the test of time. And remember, I am not suggesting you start ALL of these habits at once, or that these are the highest priority for your family. I am merely suggesting ones I think are important. For your consideration. Here they are:
Six Habits I Recommend on a Regular Basis:
1. Eat More Animal Fat
This is my number one recommendation, and it is something you can incorporate into your food right now! Everyone should be eating more animal fat! Here's a post about why you should add more animal fat to your diet. Animal fats are butter, lard, tallow, ghee, chicken, duck and goose fat, bacon, and sour cream. This is where the money is! But what about avocados, coconut oil, and all the "healthy fats"? Those fats are fine and healthy (if they are good quality), but they cannot replace the amazing benefits that animal fats bring to your body. Those fats are fine to eat, but focus on increasing the animal fats. I recommend people work up to eating a minimum of 1/2 cup added animal fat per person per day. This includes children (they need fat for their developing brain!) This can be accomplished by adding fat to everything! Fry everything in butter, lard or bacon grease. Butter your steak! Eat butter cubes and dried fruit for a snack. Eat a tub of sour cream with a spoon! These are just some ideas to get you started. And if you are worried about fat and heart disease or obesity, I recommend you check out the book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride called Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, which explains the real reason for these epidemic diseases.
2. Drink Meat Stock Daily
Meat stock (not necessarily bone broth) is a liquid gold that I think every person can benefit from. To learn how to make it, view my post about it. I recommend that every person (children included) consume at least 1 mug of meat stock every day. With every meal is even better. This doesn't have to be in the form of soup—it can be a mug of the strained stock. And this is great place to add in extra fat (see previous point). And yes, there is a difference between store-bought and homemade—you can make something of infinitely higher quality than anything you can buy. And please, even if you use a microwave for other things, warm up your meat stock on the stove!
3. Eat a Fermented Food
Until the age of refrigeration, we naturally had some time of fermented food at least once a day. Either foods were fermented on purpose to preserve them longer (like sauerkraut), or during the course of a few days stored at room temperature, they grew some amount of mold, yeast, or bacteria on them.
Today, food in this state goes instantly into the trash (often container included), but for most of history food was rarely wasted due to a little mold! Now, I am not saying you should eat food that is molded or rotten, but our bodies function in a more healthy state if we regularly eat microbes. After all, a large part of our bodies are microbes! Here is a fun little video about how microbes work in your body. To help your body get or stay healthy, it's good to get these healthy microbes in us! You can do this by taking a probiotic, or eating fermented foods. There are different reasons why one is better than the other, and sometimes both are needed, but eating a ferment (or fermented food) is a great way to start out!
You can buy your ferment (like live, refrigerated sauerkraut), or make it yourself. In addition to sauerkraut, beet kvass and vegetable medley are two of my favorites. When you start with any probiotic or fermented food, go slowly! Too much too fast can cause what's known as a die-off or Herx reaction. This is not fun, but can be avoided by increasing the amount you eat slowly! Start with one bite of sauerkraut, or 1 ounce of beet kvass. See how you feel for the next 24 hours, then use that as a guide to let you know how fast you can increase (or if you need to decrease).
The last three habits are related to detoxing and cleansing your body.
4. Filter Your Water
This is a fairly simple change to make, yet it can reap large benefits. City water, most bottled water, and some well water contains chlorine in one or more forms. It is put there to keep species of bacteria, fungus and other microbes from multiplying to unhealthy levels. However, when we drink this same water the chlorine negatively affects the flora living inside us as well. And when we bathe and shower in it, not only do the chemicals dry out our skin and the fumes irritate our lungs, the protective barrier of our skin (maintained by skin flora) is damaged. You can largely prevent all of these things by filtering the chlorine (and some other things) out of your water. There are many levels of filters, and depending on how sick you are and what's in your water supply, a stronger filter may be necessary. But most people see benefit with simple filters for their drinking, cooking and bathing water. I use this filter or this filter for my drinking and cooking water, this filter for my baths, and this filter for my shower. You could get them all, or start with one and build from there.
5. Take a Detox Bath
A detox bath is an excellent way to help your body get rid of toxins that have accumulated there. There are three factors in a detox bath: water temperature, time, and amount of detox material. You can adjust all three of these to find your perfect bath! Common detoxing materials are Epsom salt, baking soda, and raw apple cider vinegar with the mother. And as we just discussed, dechlorinated water is preferred. The goal of a detox bath is to make you feel lighter, clearer and better. If you go too high on any of the three detox bath factors, you may get nauseated, a headache, increased heart rate, brain fog, muscle cramps, irritability or other like symptoms. If this happens during your bath, no worries! Just get out of the bath right away, drink plenty of water, and your symptoms will usually disappear in a few minutes. If they don't, lie down for a little while to let your body rest and recover.
Water temperature: you want a warm bath, but if it gets really hot, your body can jump to that other level of detoxing that will give you all the undesirable symptoms. This temperature will be determined by you, and may vary slightly day by day.
Time in the bath: to detox, most people need to stay in the bath about 20 minutes. You can stay in longer. But sometimes staying in more time can cause you to start having symptoms. If that happens, bath time is over! It's time to get out! Shorten your bath time by a few minutes the next time.
Amount of detoxing materials: for each bath, you want to use one of the detox materials listed above. Amounts vary between 1/4-1 cup. Test and see what works for you. It's good to rotate the material, using all three at different times, for a more comprehensive detoxing.
Enjoy your bath!
6. Walk Outside in the Sun
This is actually a two-for-one! Sunbathing (with nothing on your skin) is a great way to detox AND increase your levels of vitamin D. Of course, different seasons will have a different influence on vitamin D levels, but talking a walk in the sunshine has undeniable benefits (and probably ones we don't even understand yet!) The full light spectrum can help fight daytime fatigue, which in turn helps our hormones to balance. And you are getting gentle movement exercise on top of it! This will stimulate blood flow and increase your body's ability to remove toxins, as well as stimulate lymph movement, which does the same. It's important to expose your skin to the sun without any barrier, including light barriers such as coconut oil. Commercial sunscreens should be avoided altogether as they contain many known carcinogens. If your skin is not ready for the amount of sun exposure it's going to get, it's best to cover up with clothing, and/or gradually work up the time in the sun. As a side benefit, the more animal fat you eat the less likely you are to sunburn! So use this winter wisely! By the time spring and summer come, you should be able to increase your sun time gradually without problems! And yes, this includes you blondes, redheads, and fair-skinned people!
So there you have it!
The top six changes I recommend on a regular basis. Let me know which one you tried out first, and how it went!
Last time we talked about the first two ways to support your body's immunesystem. In review, there are four ways or areas we can strengthen our immune system.
Eat a diet rich in nourishing foods
Support the good microbes in your body and environment
Detoxify to give the inflammatory arm of the immune system a break
Use essential oils and herbs to support your body's natural defenses
To read about the first two on the above list, check out the previous blog HERE. Today we are going to discuss the other ways you can prepare your body to be ready for environmental attacks. This is a longer post. Hang in there, and bookmark this so you can come back to it for reference.
Detoxify Your Body
Detoxification may not automatically come to mind when you think about supporting your body's immune system, but a high toxin level in your body can lead to an overwork of your immune system. How?
Toxins that are loose in the body cause damage to tissues, interfere with hormones and neurotransmitters, and in other ways increase the overall inflammation in the body. This is not a problem when it is happening on a small scale—in fact, our body was designed to handle this very thing—but when the toxins increase, so does the damage. This means that inflammation (a branch of the immune system) has to become more and more active to address the increase of damage from toxins. The more active it becomes, the more resources it needs. The "resources" of the immune system are nutrients (like cholesterol, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, etc.), energy from metabolic production, and different (specific) immune cells. Many of the same resources are needed both to fight infection and to deal with inflammation. So if toxin damage is high, causing increasing inflammation, then the resources will be directed to the inflammatory branch with the purpose of reducing inflammation. This is good, until a pathogenic microbe decides to invade the body. Then the infection branch of the immune system finds itself understaffed and under-resourced. Without enough resources to fight off the invaders quickly and efficiently, the immune system does the best it can, but it often takes a longer time to restore the body to health and balance. Sometimes the immune system cannot remove the invading threat, and that microbe finds a "corner" to take up residence in. If this happens, these microbes stay in the body and put a constant, low-level drain on the immune system that is constantly fighting to keep them in check. And when the immune system is weakened, these microbes may surface, causing more obvious and acute symptoms.
You can help your immune system out by detoxing.
A simple way to support your immune system is by reducing the amount of toxins, which then reduces the amount of inflammation in the body. There are some simple ways to detoxify your body. Walk in the sunshine!
Sunshine (on unprotected skin) initiates detox through one of your body's normal pathways for detox. Getting enough sun can be challenging in the colder months, but try to expose as much skin as possible, depending on the weather. And you will be able to stay outside longer if you are moving! And movement is not just about staying warm: when your muscles are worked your lymphatic system pumps stronger, as does your heart, which also help your body to remove the toxins.
Drink plenty of water!
I am not a huge fan of the "8 glasses of water every day" rule, because each individual body is going to have different water needs at different times, and this will likely change several times a day. Sometimes 8 glasses are too many, and sometimes it is not enough! Listen to your body to know what "enough water" means. To get you started, enough water means that your urine is pale yellow and does not have an odor, your lips are not dry, and you are not thirsty. When detoxing, it's very important to drink enough water to allow the body to flush the toxins from the body.
Get enough sleep!
Did you know that your body does most of its detoxing and repairing while you are sleeping? And this is not just sleeping whenever... actually your body heals the body more before midnight than after. In the words of Joseph Antell, a Clinical Nutritionalist and a Certified Herbalist, "Every hour [of sleep] before midnight is worth two hours after midnight in terms of healing..." So get to bed! Your body needs to rest. If you have problems sleeping, which is common in many health conditions, doing things like detoxing, eating nutrient-dense foods, turning off WiFi and leaving electronic devices out of the bedroom, and using natural sleep remedies like essential oils, herbs, or even a warm bath or warm milk can help your body get into a pattern of sleeping.
Support the Body's Natural Defenses
Sometimes our body needs some extra help. Maybe you just started eating nutrient-dense foods. Maybe your body's defenses were weakened by a stressful day, or not enough sleep. Maybe the microbe that is trying to invade is especially strong, or one your body hasn't seen before. Or maybe your body is doing a fine job fighting off the invaders, but it will appreciate any outside help you can give it. When you feel sick, do all the things we have talked about so far. Drink lots of meat stock. Avoid sugar, even from fruit. Double up on your fermented cod liver oil dose. Get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water. You can go out in the sun if it is sunny, not too cold or windy, and you are well wrapped (including your head and neck). In addition to all these, there are things provided in nature that support our bodies through the natural course of being sick. This is a large topic in itself, and today I will just introduce some of these to you.
Candied Onion: Cook in lots of butter, ghee or lard, then topped with a fried egg boosts the immune system and soothes a sore throat
Fermented Garlic (or raw): Raw or fermented garlic boost the immune system and can kill some pathogenic microbes
Honey: Raw, unfiltered honey has immune-supporting properties and is effective as a cough suppressant
Unpasteurized milk: Raw milk contains the active form of calcium (calcium lactate), which kills pathogens. Will help reduce a fever
This is not an exhaustive list of food!
Lavender: This is an antihistamine, so it will help calm inflammation from allergies or invading microbes
Oregano: This is a powerful antibacterial. It is a very hot oil, and should always be diluted with a carrier oil if applied to the skin
Protective blend: This is a blend of essential oils with antimicrobial properties, like clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary. It also supports the body's natural immune system
Respiratory blend: This blend contains things like eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon, which help to open up the airways and sinuses
Tea Tree: This has antiviral and anti-fungal properties, and can be helpful to support the body in fighting these types of infections
Many other essential oils support the body in a particular circumstances, but they are too specific to write about here
Important Note: I only recommend therapeutic grade essential oils. Essential oils bought at a health food store, or Walmart, are likely synthetic, diluted, and/or manipulated. To find out about the essential oils I recommend, and how to purchase them, click HERE.
Flower essences (work with a practitioner or look in reference books)
Food-based supplements (like Acerola Cherry Powder, Indian Gooseberry, Calcium Lactate, etc.)
Herbs and tinctures (including Elderberry syrup, Echinacea, etc)
Homeopathic remedies (work with a homeopath or look in reference books)
As you can see, there are many specific ways you can support your body's immune system, both before an infection, and during one. Every body responds a little differently, so try different tools to see what works best for you and the members of your family. But don't forget to start with the basics!
If the immune system doesn't have enough resources or immune cells, or if the body is overwhelmed by inflammation, or if you aren't drinking enough water for things to move quickly, additional support can only help you so much in your sickness. And don't get overwhelmed with how much you could do! Just pick one thing and start doing it. Then keep going, and keep learning. You are going to do great!
This post contains affiliate links. Your trust is important to me, and I only recommend products that I trust.
Summer is the time that vegetables shine! Many people are pulling beautiful zucchini, tomatoes, beans, peppers and greens out of their gardens. Fresh vegetables are in season, and you may find yourself desiring them more than usual. Go with it! Until the recent days of automobiles, airplanes and refrigeration, our bodies were used to getting fresh vegetables only during the short months of the growing season. Thousands of years of eating does leave an impression, and a healthy body will naturally crave more fresh fruits and vegetables in the summertime.
Side note: I have observed that people who are in a focused time of healing don't have this craving for fresh produce, and people who are needing to focus on detox can have fresh vegetable cravings year-round. That's okay, your body knows what it needs! Listen to your body's innate intelligence!
But depending on your situation, you may not have a garden, which makes fresh vegetables a little harder to come by. This is the case for me again this year. So today I thought I would share some ways to get fresh vegetables.
#1 Find a friend who gardens
Now, I am not telling you to mooch off a friend, leaving them to do all the hardwork. But many gardeners find themselves overflowing with vegetables right about now. Some of them may be happy just to see their hard work end up in a grateful stomach, while others would appreciate some help harvesting, preserving, or weeding in exchange for some produce. This is the best way to get vegetables, in my opinion. You will get to spend time in the wonderful sun, get to know your friend better, and maybe even learn a little about gardening. And nothing beats a fresh, hand-picked vegetable served up for dinner!
#2 Join a CSA
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. In a "working share," individuals come together under the leadership of the organizer and spend a set amount of time working around in a garden or farm for a share of the produce. There is usually a monetary investment as well. Most CSAs accept members only around the beginning of the year, so look for one to join for the next growing season. Some CSAs also offer a "non-working share," which allows an individual to pay only, and is a great option for those with jobs or situations that don't allow them the flexibility to work in the garden.
#3 Visit a local farmer's market
This one is an option for most people, but it can be a little tricky. Just because it's at a farmers market does not mean it was grown in a way that is different than the commercial food. That being said, there is going to be some benefit from eating local, naturally-ripened food, so don't rule it out if it's all you can get. The best way to know what you are buying is to talk to the farmers. Ask them how where they are located, and about their farm or garden. See what types of things they use for pesticides (organic food is often grown with organic pesticides), and what other farming/gardening practices they use. While it is not a guarantee, you may be able to find amazing and fresh produce, and at the same time provide support to that small local farm.
#4 Buy local produce at your grocery store
Here is Colorado, at the peak of the season, stores carry many things that are "Colorado Proud," meaning they are grown in Colorado. Not all stores label where their produce comes from, so ask your grocer which items are grown in your area, state, or in the United States. Made in the USA does not automatically make that food better, but knowledge is always power!
So there you go! Four ways to get garden-fresh produce without a garden. How about you? Where do you get your garden-fresh produce?
Grass! It's a wonderful thing to lay in the grass and look up at the sky!
Until this weekend, there have only been a few tufts of grass on my property. Most of the landscaping is river rock and mulch. But there was one area of dirt that I have had my eye on for grass, and on Friday it finally happened!
With some (okay, a lot) of help from my sister, we laid patio stones (for a fire pit), pounded in metal edging, and hauled and laid 50 rolls of sod (transported in two trips in the back of my Santa Fe).
Viola! Instant lawn!
Padfoot was quite interested in the goings-on... although he preferred supervising from on top of the rolls of sod still in the back of the car (sorry, I was too dirty and tired to think about getting a picture of it, you'll have to take my word for how adorable it was) or playing in the dirt. Silly puppy didn't want to be on the grass until we were almost done.
In keeping with my desire to be as chemical/pesticide/fertilizer free as possible, I did some research about grass to find out my best option. A quick internet search revealed: There probably isn't such a thing as organic sod, or if it does exist, it would be WAY more expensive. It's possible that sod contains significantly lower amounts of chemicals than I was expecting. While dogs do eat grass, they eat little of it. It would be unlikely that a little grass eaten from a non-organic lawn would be a problem unless I regularly put chemicals on it (which I don't plan on doing). It appears to be possible to get organic grass seed (about $40 to cover 1000 square feet), but I still had questions about what they put in the seed mixes. There was not a huge price difference between any sod company, especially for the small amount of ground I needed to cover (about 500 square feet). So then I was faced with the question... do I just get sod (and take whatever chemicals may be included) or do I get seed so I can get an organic yard? The decision may seem very black and white...the only option for organic grass is seed. So you may think that of course my choice was seed. But first I had to factor in what I call "the reality of life."
Here is my reality of life:
I am not very good at watering and there is no sprinkler system. If I did seed, the chances of needing to re-seed at least once are high. This adds more time and money. I would have to research if I needed fertilizer or other additions to make my seed grow, and then pick from the available options. It is now the middle of summer. I was planning on doing grass right when I got so sick two months ago. Now it's July. If I want to enjoy a lawn this summer, sod would be faster. My landlord sprays for weeds. He is spraying less with me here (I'm pulling weeds as much as I can), but the ground already has years of stored chemicals in it. It's not organic soil. I've never seeded, but I have laid sod. My brain can only handle so many new things to learn at one time. And learning how to raise an organic lawn didn't feel like the correct focus for me right now. If I sod, I can immediately put up and use the clothesline I bought a month ago (this truly factored in to my thought process, I love line-hung clothes, and I don't have an electric drier).
So I decided to buy sod.
From Home Depot. I paid with a credit card. I picked it up and put it in the back of my car. You can't get any less alternative than that. But my goal is not to be alternative. My goal is to be healthy, and to make conscious choices. I really want an all-organic yard. And one day I hope I can. But right now (and in the future) I need to make the best of what I've been given. Maybe I could have succeeded in an organic grass seed lawn. Maybe. But I want to do other things with that time. Things that feel more important right now. Because taking time away from important things to do something "perfect" isn't better.
My plan for making this grass as healthy as possible:
#1 No more chemicals!
I'm sure there have been some chemicals on this grass, but that stops now! Any "fertilizers" will be food-based (like old milk or yogurt, or the Green Pastures product below). Any weeds will be extracted by hand, providing me with sunshine and some light exercise.
#2 Add back microbes and nutrients!
I purchased a by-product of fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures called Liquid Fish Soil Rescue to re-vitalize my soil. I actually meant to put some in the ground right before we laid the sod but I couldn't (reality of life check: I was not strong enough to open the container, my neighbor-with-all-the-tools was gone, and I don't own a pipe wrench). So later (when I get it open) I will spread it over the top of the grass. It will be a little fishy for a day, but fish oils smell is not new to me!
#3 Water to encourage deep roots!
It's recommended to water sod frequently at first, but to still let it become just a little dry to encourage the roots to reach down and establish. Here in Colorado we are having 90 degree days, so I'm needing to water 1-2x/day, and the grass is still getting a little dry in between waterings. Soon I will be able to water less often, and next year I should be able to water once every 2-5 days.
You don't have to do everything perfect.
Sometimes the "best choice" is outside your budget for money or time, and sometimes there are circumstances that happen outside of your control.
That's okay... it's normal. That's life. And today, life is good!
Beets... either you love 'em or you hate 'em...
...but did you know they really are really good for you?
Not only are beets high in many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, beets have been shown to lower blood pressure, detoxify the body (especially by cleansing the blood and the liver), fight inflammation, boost stamina in workouts, and more! And, of course, beets may turn your stool and urine red or pink when you eat them, which should be enough to make your ten-year old boys try it!
Ya don't dig beets, ya say? Here's how to get dem good beets in ya!
#1 Try golden beets. These beets are milder and have less of the "dirt" taste.
#2 Buy or raise homegrown. Fresh beets are more delicious and nutritious!
#3 Juice your beets. Caution: a little beet goes a long way--use just a little!
#4 Drink beet kvass. This fermented drink has intensified cleansing properties.
#5 Bake your beets with lots of butter and salt. Try the delicious recipe below!
Oven-Baked Beets recipe
Ingredients for oven baked beets:
Beets (you will want more than 1, believe you me!)
Sea Salt (I recommend Celtic, Himalayan or Real Salt)
Butter (none of that fake stuff!)
Oven safe dish (glass or ceramic is best), a size that snugly hold the beets
Directions for Oven Baked Beets:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash the beets.
Cut off the tops and tails of the beets--not too much or all the juice will bleed out!
Cut an X into the beets, going only about halfway through the beets.
Place the beets in the oven-safe dish, cut side up.
Place a generous pat of butter in the middle of each X.
Salt lightly--you can add more later.
Cover the beets with parchment paper, then cover with a lid or tin foil to trap in the moisture.
Place the beets in the oven, cook for 20-30 min, then check for doneness. They are ready when a fork or knife pokes in easily.
Consume immediately as a side or a snack.
Drizzle some of the butter from the bottom of the pan back onto the beets when you serve them.
If you have any left, you can later reheat them in the oven or on the stove-top, or eat them cold!
You can't beat butter and beets!
Do you have a favorite beet recipe? Share with us your favorite way to eat beets!
Simple Roasted Beets
- Beets (you will want more than 1, believe you me!)
- Sea Salt (I recommend Celtic, Himalayan or Real Salt)
- Butter (none of that fake stuff!)
- Oven safe dish (glass or ceramic is best), a size that snugly hold the beets
How to cook Simple Roasted Beets
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash the beets.
- Cut off the tops and tails of the beets--not too much or all the juice will bleed out!
- Cut an X into the beets, going only about halfway through the beets.
- Place the beets in the oven-safe dish, cut side up.
- Place a generous pat of butter in the middle of each X.
- Salt lightly--you can add more later.
- Cover the beets with parchment paper, then cover with a lid or tin foil to trap in the moisture.
- Place the beets in the oven, cook for 20-30 min, then check for doneness. They are ready when a fork or knife pokes in easily.
- Consume immediately as a side or a snack.
- Drizzle some of the butter from the bottom of the pan back onto the beets when you serve them.
- If you have any left, you can later reheat them in the oven or on the stove-top, or eat them cold!