Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Economy and Stress

During times of economic hardship, we undergo a great deal of stress. The body needs extra support during stressful times in order to maintain optimal health. Studies have consistently shown that the first things to be eliminated from the budget are health club memberships, family vacations, and healthy eating. As of late, sales for prescription drugs are on the increase such as Cymbalta - up 26%, Effexor up 8%, and Lexapro up 6%. Prescription drugs cause nutrient loss in the body.

It is ironic that as times become tougher, prescription sales climb given the financial burden we are currently under. Someone has to pay for those drugs, so insurance companies respond by increasing monthly policy premiums. As more people continue to eat poorly and don't live a healthy lifestyle, the entire system feels this weight and costs rise in every aspect of healthcare.

Without proper support, we lose many vitamins and nutrients during stressful situations. Two of the vitamins we become most commonly deficient in are Vitamin B and Vitamin D. According to last month's issue of Annals of Rhematic Diseases, Vitamin D is involved with bone and immune system health. It promotes normal bone development. There is evidence that getting enough vitamin D helps protect against MS, type 1 diabetes, and certain cancers. Vitamin B is essential in regulating metabolic function, and are a support nutrient for stress, depression, and anxiety. In today's society where we are under monumental amounts of stress daily, stress can actually be exacerbated or caused by an improper diet.

Foods that can help with Vitamin B deficiencies include :
  • oats
  • grass-fed meats and dairy
  • leafy green vegetables
  • barley
  • wheat bran
  • salmon
  • avocado
  • Brazil nuts
Foods to eat for Vitamin D deficiency include:
  • grass-fed meats and dairy
  • fish
  • whole, sprouted grains
  • obtain some natural sunlight each day or 20 minutes three times a week

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Air Fresheners

Are store-bought air fresheners safe? According to researchers, being exposed to air freshener chemicals just once a week can increase your risk of developing asthma by 71 percent. People with high blood levels of the chemical 1,4 dichlorobenzene (commonly found in air freshener products) were at higher risk of developing lung deficiencies.

Additional studies indicate a connection to cancer. When used in small rooms with poor ventilation, many air fresheners emit toxins containing significant levels of formaldehyde. This chemical has been proven to cause cancer in animals and respiratory decline in humans. In 2007, The Natural Resources Defense Council conducted studies on 14 air fresheners. Twelve were found to contain phthalates which are chemicals found to affect fertility, increase the risk of cancer, and cause developmental problems in infants.

Good alternatives to artificial air fresheners are making sure to keep your home clean by using a natural cleaner such as a diluted solution of water and vinegar and/or baking soda. Hydrogen peroxide also makes an excellent cleaner and keeps unpleasant odors away. Elimination of odors is the key to keeping your air fresh and clean - don't merely mask the source of the problem with artificial air fresheners. Open your windows periodically, dust, vacuum, and use few rugs or carpets. Replace carpet with wood or tile. Keep aromatic plants in your home such as lavender, fresh flowers, and herbs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Choosing Meat

Do you eat meat? If so, you may be interested to know that the health communities at large do not disseminate truthful information about meat to consumers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you should keep the following in mind regarding which meats are healthy to consume:

  • Select for low-fat meats and chicken, and avoid eating high-fat ground beef or chicken with the skin.
  • Don't forget to count the fat and calories in cooking additives. For example, if you cook chicken in shortening, add the extra calories to your count.
  • Include fish in your diet, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.
  • Avoid organ meats such as liver, which are high in cholesterol.
  • Also avoid processed meats such as hot dogs, ham, sausage and lunch meats, which can be very high in sodium and other additives.
Even with our nation's health condition in the crisis it is, there still exists a great deal of misinformation from major news outlets, doctors, and other health sources about which meats are healthy to consume. In general, most meat you will find in grocery stores should be avoided. Why is this? Most grocery store meat is from factory farms, which neither maintains the integrity of the animal's health nor the environment. Maintaining the guidelines above can can actually cause more health problems to occur.

The following outlines correct ideologies in selecting healthy meats:

  • No matter how low-fat meat is, it will be unhealthy to consume if that meat is not naturally raised, organically produced, and fed proper types of feed.
  • Animals must live in a relatively stress-free environment with room to roam and grass and/or alfalfa to eat as their primary feed.
  • Meats must not contain antibiotics.
  • Meats must not contain steroids or growth hormones.
  • Meats from factory farms (which represents the majority of meat available) contain dangerous chemicals and additives including the above mentioned substances.
  • If the meat is from a healthy source, skin is not unhealthy to eat. The skin contains vitamins and other nutrients necessary for health. The same goes for other meat parts from the body such as the liver.
  • Meats like bacon and hot dogs are fine to eat occasionally as long as you know the source of the meat - i.e., the meat is pasture-raised, organic, not administered hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. Of course, use common sense. Avoid processed meats that are full of nitrates, chemicals, erythorbates, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics. A good rule of thumb is, if the package does not read "organic", "hormone", "antibiotic-free", or "no hormones used", it's probably not safe to consume.
  • Do eat safe fish to include in your diet essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s.
For more information about eating healthy meats, visit Agriculture Society and read "Why Meat Gets The Heat" featured in the March 2008 issue of Healthy Beginnings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Plant a School Garden

Does the school your child attend have a garden? School gardens are becoming more and more prevalent. Why? Because gardens placed in the school environment help to foster both environmental and nutritional literacy in children. Children learn to appreciate naturally-grown food, eat healthier, and become part of a community that works together to produce food. It is a powerful tool to both teach and raise awareness about health and nutrition. When children grow food and eat healthy, they begin to understand the connection between food and well-being, and realize the importance of creating something that can build relationships, stewardship, and health.

How can you make a difference?
  • Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Ask your child's teacher about activities, lessons, and field trips in which the children in your child's class can participate in and become educated about community agriculture.
  • Talk to your principal and other school officials about starting a garden at your child's school.
  • Get involved locally and build relationships with other parents who care about children's health. Find out if other schools in your community have already planted gardens and can lend some advise or resource information.
For more information about school gardens, visit Better School Food and School Garden Wizard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ADHD and Essential Fatty Acids

Is your child hyperactive? Unable to focus? Having trouble in school? If so, your child may be suffering from a nutritional deficiency in essential fatty acids. Children need these important substances for brain health and development. Without them, children become irritable, frustrated, and unable to focus. Long-term effects of these deficiencies can mean a lifetime of health disorders and degenerative diseases.

Many behavioral problems such as these are typically treated with drugs. But drugs such as Ritalin only mask the symptoms and don't get to the heart of the problem. They also deplete the body of nutrients. In honor of National School Lunch-in Week, we urge you to pay attention to what your child is eating at home and go to school with your child and see what they are eating each and every day. Are the foods your child eating healthy, fresh, and free of chemicals? If not, get involved locally and start asking your legislative body and school board important questions, and make movements for change to get healthy food for your children.

Be especially aware of ingredients in your child's food - don't just assume by looking at the food that it's healthy. Read labels on packages in your child's food. You can do this by asking to tour the warehouse where your child's food is stored. Be assured that if you tour a warehouse full of food for school children, you are in for an eye-opening experience.

Children should receive good, natural fats and proteins each day, as well as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. If they are not receiving these basic building blocks of nutrition, that can spell trouble for your child's development, growth, and success in school and life.

Every day, make sure your child eats some of the following:
  • Healthy, organic proteins from grass-fed meats and dairy products (raw is a bonus). Grass-fed meats and dairy contain high levels of protein, lower levels of carbohydrates, and Omega 3 essential fatty acids necessary for brain development and maintenance than the grain-fed varieties.
  • Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
  • Raw nuts
  • Moderate amounts of grains - make sure your grains are truly whole (not made from flour) such as Ezekiel sprouted grain products and/or soaked grains for cereals. Anything that has been ground up into flour, combined with other ingredients, and is baked (such as many breads, bagels, tortillas, crackers, cold cereals, and pastas) is going to have a higher glycemic index, contain the wrong amounts of Omega 6s and 9s, is processed, and will contribute to health issues such as ADHD, depression, and other related disorders. Many of these products also contain cheaper, unhealthy vegetable oils which also contain too many Omega 6s and 9s.
  • Healthy fats from oils such as fish oil from deep-sea sources, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and unrefined, virgin coconut oil. All of these oils are best when eaten raw (such as on salads and vegetables), but grapeseed and coconut oils are the best oils for cooking as they have a higher smoke point and can tolerate heat better without breaking down.
  • Limit processed foods, drinks, and refined sugars. All of these products contribute to degenerative health diseases such as ADHD, mood disorders, depression, fatigue, irritability, lack of ability to concentrate and study, and over time can escalate to other problems such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's Disease.
For more information on how deficiencies in essential fatty acids can contribute to ADHD and related disorders, visit Healing With Nutrition.

To become involved in changing what your child eats at school, join the revolution - Two Angry Moms. Check out what the folks in Boise, Idaho are doing - we are hosting a Two Angry Moms film event on October 15th in our fair city.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Your Vote Counts!

This election season, make your vote count. Educate yourself on the issues and learn which candidates support important platforms such as renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

It's true that the way our leaders think about these topics will have a profound impact on how the youth of our nation views these things for generations to come. Foundations of eating healthy and respecting the earth and environment start at a young age. If our leaders (i.e., the president), show our youth that eating a truly healthy diet and leading a healthy lifestyle are meaningful, those individuals who are vocal about eating slow and homegrown foods will inspire many others to follow suit. If our next president follows The WhoFarm petition's request to invite students in the public and private schools to help garden at The White House, this could have a notable effect on the edible landscape in our school rooms and America.

Here are some other things you can do to bring awareness to your community about living and eating healthy:
  • Get involved locally wherever you can to make a difference in the way people live and eat.
  • Start a local garden.
  • Find out what your children are eating in school and strive to make changes. Visit the Two Angry Moms web site and find out how you can affect your community locally.
  • Form wellness groups in schools, places of business, and other arenas to help educate people and bring about change.
  • Plan events that are centered around slow food and sustainable living such as cooking and educational events. Organize events at private homes, schools, health clubs, libraries, or places of business.
Please take a look at and sign this nonpartisan petition to request our next president to plant a garden in the lawn of The White House. And, don't forget to go to the polls and make your vote count!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Keep Up the Laughter

Have you ever heard that laughter can cure what ails you? It's true. Laughter is a great mood lifter and can cause positive changes in the body in many different ways. Here are just a few:
  • Relieve stress - A drop in the stress hormone cortisol occurs when your mood improves in response to laughter.
  • Improve your outlook - Looking on the bright side and embracing positive thoughts helps relieve physical and emotional tension associated with negative ways of thinking. Laughing, smiling, and focusing on something positive pushes out the bad feelings created by mental stress and strain more quickly than you would imagine.
  • Positive self-talk - people who practice positive talk tend to have better outcomes in their lives, regardless of whether things always work out exactly as you believe they should.
  • Reduce aches, stiffness, and pains - Humor has been found to increase pain tolerance
  • Give your immune system a boost - During laughter, T-cell antibodies (those that fight infection in the body) are found to increase and have a positive effect on the immune system.
Along with moderate, regular exercise and a healthy diet, the ability to laugh and engage in stress-releasing activities are two of the best friends your health can have.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More Ways to Save?

Recently, Prevention Magazine featured an article about savy ways to watch your money and still stay healthy. It's important to be able to recognize information that may or may not be useful. Here is our cautionary warnings about some of those tips:
  • Beware of generic Although nearly every mainstream supermarket now carries organic store-brand options, including Safeway's O Organics line, H-E-B's Central Market Organic Selections, Wal-Mart's Great Value private label, Stop & Shop's Nature's Promise, and Supervalu's Wild Harvest. Organics are also available within Kroger, Publix, and Wegman's store brands. Because generic brands are cheaper, the likelihood of organic standards not being adhered to is much higher. Avoid "cheaper" brands that may be trying to capitalize on the organic buzz word to market a product, as your health may suffer.
  • Think before joining a price club Organic options can be found at Costco, BJ's, and Sam's Club. Actually, purchasing food from big, corporate stores like these may not be a good idea because some of these stores sell compromised quality, genetically modified, and irradiated foods. Remember -- in many cases, if something is being sold at a cheaper price, there is likely a reason why.
  • Use caution when replacing meat with beans Replacing meat with beans may not be advisable. As meat is considered a complete protein, finding a substitute is difficult. This is especially true when eating canned beans, which are typically higher on the glycemic index than fresh or dried beans. Canned products also contain plastic lining which leaches into the food in the container.
Keep in mind that if you are paying less for something, it may in some cases mean you are compromising health. The best rule of thumb to keep in mind is that purchasing organic may be expensive up front, but the costs it saves in your long-term health care expenses could be substantial if your lifestyle consistently reflects that of healthy choices. You decide - is it worth it to pay expensive prices in the grocery line now, or get yourself in substantial debt later because of big medical expenses such as hospitalization, drugs, and surgery?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Is Irradiated Food Safe?

Are you eating irradiated foods? At a time when there has been over two years of incidence in chronic food-borne illnesses in everything from meat to tomatoes, the stakes are growing higher for health in the fight to keep irradiated food off the shelves in supermarkets by consumers. The FDA, the CDC, and the government claim irradiation is safe and effective. Many other organizations, doctors, and others refute that is a dangerous practice that can cause the development of diseases like cancer and genetic damage. Who's right? Let's look at the facts.

What is irradiation?

Irradiation is ionizing radiation, applied to food as gamma rays from radioisotopes, or electron beams or X-rays from machines. It penetrates into food to kill germs, and also kills insects on the surface of foods. Irradiation extends a product’s shelf life. Irradiation is intended to make foods safer to eat, but it cannot stop mad cow diseases such as hepatitis and E. coli. It also kills all bacteria -- both the good and the bad, rendering the nutrient value of the article effectively dead.

What is being said about irradiation?

“It’s the latest in a series of PR moves designed to mislead the public from the fact that the government is asleep at the wheel here,” commented the national director of the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins. The OCA is an organic food watchdog group."Food irradiation is a pseudo fix,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety in Washington. “It’s a way to try to come in and clean up problems that are created in the middle of the food production chain. I think it’s clearly a disincentive to clean up the problems at the source.”

Mainstream food growers and producers place high priority on production and profit, meaning that less care is given to sanitation and the manner in which food is produced. Because in the conventional industry quantity is valued over quality, practices have been used for years that are considered unsafe and unhealthy such as the use of genetic engineering, pesticide and herbicides, chemicals, steroids and antibiotics, unnatural feeds for cattle and poultry such as corn, soy, and grains, and now irradiation to take care of problems caused by the aforementioned practices. Accountability has not been made a priority for many years in the farming industry, and each time something negative occurs as a result, a new unnatural process must be designed to come and clean up the mess which reflects in that lack of responsibility.

Those not in favor of this harmful process maintain that irradiation kills vitamins and nutrients, and also changes the chemical composition of foods. The have also issued warning that irradiation will provide license to food manufacturers for cutting corners on other required food safety requirements, since irradiation might be viewed as a more effective food safety measure.

FDA's responds to negligence in farm systems

The 2006 outbreak of E. coli in bagged spinach grown in California was the impetus behind the FDA’s latest decision regarding irradiation. Investigations by the FDA revealed that the most likely culprit of E. coli was the close distance of cattle operations to produce fields, and the likelihood that cattle feces tainted the local water supply. E. coli is a deadly bacteria located in intestinal tracts of cattle - but is generally not found in organically-produced meat. E. coli is more typically found in the factory farm environments where meats are produced due to array of unnatural methods used in farming such as the feeding of corn, soy, and grains, which causes the necessity of using antibiotics and the subsequent overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

The FDA was requested by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America to approve irradiation of leafy greens several years ago. This legislation was opposed by various consumer groups, and the FDA was requested to requre more stringent farm-to-table safety standards.

Although food that is irradiated must be labeled as such, the industry is in the process of trying to change this requirement.

In the end, the consistency of safe food growing and producing practices required by the FDA and government laws would ensure that harmful bacteria such as E. coli and others would not be able to take over in the way they have in recent years. Accountability and the use of healthy methods to farm is the best defense against these issues, which is why avoiding irradiated food sources and growers that use this process is certainly better for health.

For more information on irradiated foods, visit, Sustainable Table, and True Health.

Take action! Write to your congressman or woman today and let them know how you feel about this unsafe practice and take a stand for democracy and health.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Natural Pain Relievers

Do you take over-the-counter pain relief medications? How about prescription drugs? Here are some alternatives recommended by MDs and Naturopathic practitioners that might be worth a try:

For arthritis:
  • Capsaicin (an active component of chile pepper) ointment - one to three times daily & Boswellia - a tree herb (60% concentration, 250 mg 3x daily), & curcumin (400 to 600 mg 3x daily)
  • or Capsaicin (2 - 3 x daily) & acupuncture (1-2x weekly) & fish oil (1,000 to 8,000 mg daily) & magnesium (500 to 1,000 mg daily) & Vitamin D (1,000 to 5,000 IU daily)
  • or Inflathera (must be ordered by a doctor) or Zyflamed brands (contains ginger, turmeric, and holy basil - all are anti-inflammatories; 2 - 3x capsules daily) & fish oil (1,000 to 3,000 mg daily) & acupuncture (1 - 2x weekly) for one month.
For arthritis or fibromyalgia:
  • Fish oil (1,000 to 8,000 mg daily) & Vitamin D (1,000 to 5,000 IU daily) & magnesium (500 - 1,000 mg daily) make sure you are also taking calcium to ensure proper use and absorption of magnesium in the body. Ratio should be either 2:1 or 1:1 - ask your health care practitioner.
  • or SAM-e (400 to 1,500 mg daily) & curcumin (500 mg 3 - 4x daily) & fish oil (1,000 - 3,000 mg daily).
  • or Curcumin (1,000 - 2,000 mg daily) & fish oil (1,000 - 8,000 mg daily).
Of course, a healthy lifestyle is always beneficial toward reducing the need for any types of treatments for health issues - whether it be natural or pharmaceutical. But these treatments are good alternatives to drugs for when your health isn't what it should be. Always check with a qualified healthcare practitioner before starting a new regimen of supplements.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Soaking Grains

Have you ever soaked grains before eating them? It has only been in the recent past that people have stopped using this ancient, traditional practice. What's the reason to soak grains before eating them? All whole grains contain enzyme inhibitors which greatly reduce your body's ability to digest vital nutrients. Soaking the grains releases enzymes into a form your body can absorb more readily. Many people who have digestive issues and would normally have issues with eating grains (and in particular, wheat) such as irritable bowel, Crohn's disease and related ailments find they can consume soaked grains without the problems associated with grains and flour that is not soaked.

We are repeatedly told by "health experts" that whole grains are healthier than grain flour, which is true. Unfortunately, there also exists a large amount of confusion over what really is a whole grain. Companies selling grain products commonly use marketing language on packaging such as "whole grains" to convince the consumer that what they are buying is healthy. Beware! Most of the time what you are buying is actually some type of flour as the main ingredient and not a whole grain. This is where label reading is of the utmost importance.

Back to the importance of soaking grains. If you are going to consume grains, the best variety to eat are those that are sprouted and/or whole. The great news is that there are a variety of healthy grains to consume - in moderation of course, as many people have allergies and/or intolerances to wheat. Good choices include:
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Millet
The process is simple, it's just a matter of remembering to do it ahead of time. Soak grains like rice, millet, or quinoa at room temperature in water overnight. Add 1-2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir -- this provides an acidic environment in which to produce fermentation. Fermentation is important for health because it allows the foods to develop good bacteria which is beneficial for your digestive tract and immune system.

Water by itself is fine to use as some grains begin sprouting in simple water (which means enzymes and phytic acid become neutral). If you do use one of the other methods besides just water, you will acheive a somewhat sour taste due to the acidic additive. Nutritionally speaking however, this is the best method to use. After you are finished soaking your grains you can add fruits, nuts, honey, real maple syrup, and healthy fats such as raw milk, butter, kefir, or cream.

If baking, soak flour in buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir overnight. Add remaining ingredients to flour the following morning. When your grains or flour has finished soaking, simply drain water and other ingredients out and move on to your next step of cooking or heating.

Suggested reading on the subject of soaking grains can be found in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site.