Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Apr 18, 2016

How I Cured an Irregular Heart Beat...Naturally

The women in my family have a problem. (Well, probably more than one...Ha!) We tend to have irregular heart beats. That is to say, we experience heart palpitations. Our hearts will lope quickly one minute, skip beats another. It's a bit unsettling, and has caused many of us to seek the help of a heart specialist.

But the heart specialists always say the same thing: "There's nothing wrong with your heart." One of my sisters was given medication to help regulate her heartbeat, but the drug made her depressed. So she does what so many doctors suggest: Cough hard. This "resets" the heartbeat.

But last year, I discovered an actual cure for my irregular heartbeat, via my naturopath: Potassium. This was fascinating to me because the women in my family also tend to have low potassium levels.

Turns out, potassium is "crucial to heart function" and, despite the fact that no MD or heart specialist ever mentioned this to any of the women in my family, low levels of potassium (known as hypokalemia) are recognized as causing an irregular heartbeat.

The thing is, I found it tough to get enough potassium through my diet. (Click here for a list of foods with high levels of potassium.) But as soon as I started taking a quality potassium supplement? My irregular heartbeat went away almost immediately.

Such a simple fix!

Now, a couple of caveats:

1. Heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious health problem, so if you experience them, you should definitely see a physician.

And 2: Not all supplements are created equal. You may have read in the news that some common supplements are complete frauds. So I always ask my naturopath to recommend a brand of supplement that's high quality and trustworthy. She recommended Designs for Health K+2 Potassium supplements.

How much do you need to take? Adults need 4,700 mg of potassium daily. I usually take a 300 mg tablet daily, and try to eat lots of potassium rich foods. But if I notice I'm experiencing muscle cramps or twitches, I take two capsules a day for a couple of days.

Do be smart about taking potassium, though. You should discuss it with your doctor because too much potassium (hyperkalemia) can lead to heart palpitations - and in severe cases may even make the heart stop beating.

Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Mar 8, 2016

How to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet - Easily!

When the kids recently spent a couple of weeks at their grandparents' house, I admit I slacked off when it came to cooking. I still cooked from scratch, but somehow there was a lot less cooking to do when the kids weren't around - and I found myself not always eating very healthy. The main issue? Lack of vegetables! And did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say ½ of every plate of food we eat should be covered with vegetables? Whoah! I was way under my quota - and probably you are way under that quota, too. That's why I wrote A Vegetable for Every Season Cookbook. But even with that recipe-packed paperback, you might be wondering how to easily get more vegetables into your daily diet. Here are some ideas.

Breakfast

Pancakes, eggs and toast, cereal…The most common breakfast foods don’t contain any vegetables at all. But it's not that hard to add some to the breakfast table. For example, try making an omelet with vegetables in it. Common veggies to add include diced tomato, diced bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, chopped chives or green onions (scallions), sliced leeks, chopped spinach, and/or diced onion. (Have trouble making omelets? Try following these directions. For me, though, the key is simply to use a smaller pan; this results in a smaller omelet that's easier to flip.)
Vegetable omelet. (Courtesy Wendy.)

If you don’t like making omelets, make a scramble or hash instead; here are directions, but basically you just mix scrambled eggs with a bunch of veggies (and maybe some meat, like chopped ham or bacon). Just be sure to add vegetables that take a little while to cook (like potatoes, onions, and bell pepper) toward the beginning of cooking. More tender veggies, like greens or tomatoes, should be added toward the end of cooking.

Another idea is to add shredded zucchini to some flour-based breakfast foods, like pancakes or waffles, or muffins. You really won't taste the zucchini, but you'll get it's added nutrition. In fact, this is a great way to sneak veggies into the breakfast of a picky eater. I've not tried it myself, but many readers tell me shredded yellow summer squash works just as well as zucchini for this kind of thing.

Lettuce wrap "sandwiches." (Courtesy of
Lunch

Unless you're more ambitious than I am, sandwiches are probably your go-to lunch food. You can make them healthier several ways. One is to omit the bread entirely and substitute large leaf lettuce. Another is to keep the bread, but instead of using iceberg or other pale-colored lettuce (which doesn't pack much punch when it comes to nutrition), use dark leafed lettuce - or maybe even other greens, like cabbage or kale. Also take a look at what you're putting into your sandwiches. You can easily add things like cucumber slices, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, sliced olives, thin-sliced onion, sliced peppers, thin-sliced (or shredded) kohlrabi, shredded carrots, sauerkraut, or shredded cabbage leaves.

Salads can also make an excellent lunch, and are filling if you make them large and include some protein, like sliced egg or chunks of ham, chicken, beef, or fish. Again, avoid light-colored lettuce and choose dark lettuces for more nutritional punch. You can also add things like cauliflower or broccoli, diced chives or green onions (scallions), sliced cucumber, sliced celery, sliced radish, shredded carrot, sliced mushrooms, sprouts, diced peppers, shredded cabbage, snow peas, sliced olives, fresh or sun dried tomatoes, sliced or shredded kohlrabi, artichoke hearts, and cooked or pickled asparagus spears.

Raw veggies, like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, radishes, and snow peas are also excellent on the side - maybe with homemade Ranch dressing, vanilla yogurt, or hummus.

Dinner
Parsnip fries (from A Vegetable for Every Season.)


I think it's easiest to find a way to use vegetables at dinner time, especially if you use them as a side dish. Right now, my favorite side dish is roasted vegetables. (Click here for the how-to.) Or, if you roast a chicken, for example, you can easy peasy toss in some chopped veggies, like carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), winter squash, onions, and/or asparagus. The only trick here is to chop them so they are all approximately the same size; that way, they cook evenly.

If you like to serve stews, soups, or casseroles, be sure to add tons of veggies to them. I try to double the number of veggies called for in such recipes. Just remember, more dense vegetables (like potatoes and

Snacks

I try to serve vegetables as snacks before I offer anything else. Not only are veggies a very affordable snack (compared to more common, processed snacks), but they are so much healthier, too. Raw veggies are an easy choice, of course. Or you can make veggie chips at home with a food dehydrator (or your oven). Good choices for chips include kale and dandelion leaves (picked before the weeds send up flowers and stems), zucchini and summer squash, parsnips, carrots, beets...and yes, potatoes.

You can also make "snack sandwiches" by substituting bread for slices of cucumber. (I prefer to cut them into rounds, which makes them "snack sized.") Add a little mayo, a tomato slices, and a strip or two of bacon. Delish!

A similar idea is to make snack sized pizzas, but instead of using dough or English muffins for the crust, use a sliced zucchini round or a large mushroom as the crust.

And, last but not least, an easy peasy way to add more veggies to your diet is by making smoothies. In fact, I'd go so far as to say you should avoid smoothies that are mostly fruit; they will spike your blood sugar, making you more tired and prone to snack. Instead, pack the veggies in, and then add a banana (my favorite) or a handful of berries to sweeten up the drink.


Now it's your turn. What are YOUR favorite ways to add more veggies to your diet?

Feb 16, 2016

The Truth About Salt

Recently, I had a conversation with someone that made me realize there's a lot of misunderstanding about salt out there. "The only healthy salt is pink sea salt," this person insisted. "All other salts have been bleached and the nutrients removed." I was stunned...because, well, that's not true at all.

So which salt is the healthiest? How much should we be eating? And how is sea salt really processed?



How Salt is Harvested or Processed

Harvesting salt is fairly simple process, really. First, salt water is driven into a pool. Sun and wind slowly evaporate the water. The salt crystallizes and is harvested - usually with a truck that scoops the crystallized salt into a factory. It may take five years for the salt to go from the pond to the factory. In the factory, the salt is washed to remove impurities. It may also be boiled in water  - which is the most transitional method. What's left is dried, packaged, and sent to stores.

A San Francisco salt pond. The pink color is due to organisms in the pool, not the salt itself. Courtesy Doc Searls and Wikipedia Commons.
In fact, this process is so simple, it's basically what humans have been doing for thousands of years - and what you can still do today. (In fact, it's possible for those who live near the ocean to harvest their own salt. Learn how here.)

Another way salt is harvested is through "solution mining." Here, wells are installed in natural salt beds and water is added to dissolve the salt. The resulting brine is pumped out and taken to a plant where it is evaporated. Salt can also be mined much like minerals, but this type of salt is typically made into rock salt - not the type of salt you cook with.

A mountain of salt in France. Courtesy of  Rolf Süssbrich and Wikipedia Commons.
The Healthiest Salt?

All salt is basically the same: it's sodium chloride. And, until recently, most health experts would have told you no salt is better for you than another. But now studies show that processed salt - any salt with additions to it - is linked to autoimmune disease.

Table salt is highly processed.
The type of salt that's sold for salt shakers - table salt - is the worst offender. It's processed to remove minerals and has anti-caking agents added (actually, any salt that's finally ground may have anti-caking agents, too; read labels carefully), as well as iodine. The addition of iodine began in the 1920s, when many Americans didn't have access to iodine in their foods - or just neglected to eat foods rich in iodine. They didn't know then, as we do now, that adults need just 150 micro grams of daily iodine, which is easily obtained by eating dark leafy greens, seafood, grains, and eggs. (Dairy products are also a good source of iodine, but largely  because of the iodine feed supplements and iodophor sanitizing agents used in the dairy industry.)


However, differences in unprocessed salt are very minor.


Pink Himalayan salt.
What About Pink Salt? 

Contrary to what my acquaintance said, sea salt is not bleached, nor does it have it's nutrients removed. I can only guess she thought all sea salt was pink, and that the white stuff in the store somehow had it's pink removed. I have no idea, however, where she'd get such erroneous ideas.

Pink salt comes from the Punjab region of Pakistan, about 186 miles from the Himalayas. (Hence it's other name, "Himalayan salt.") It does have some trace minerals in it, and while I sometimes buy and enjoy pink sea salt, claims about it are usually exaggerated. The minerals in Himalayan salt are so minute in quantity that scientists say they make zero difference in our diet. Further, the only list I can find of the minerals found in pink salt (which may or may not be accurate, since nobody seems to know exactly how or where the salt was scientifically examined) has a few disturbing items in it, including arsenic, lead, plutonium, uranium, and polonium. Fluoride, too, which I know many people try to avoid.


Trying to find true Himalayan pink sea salt can also be difficult. Many manufacturers lie about the origins of the salt, or add things to it to make it look pink. Also, it's important to know that salt can be colors other than pink or white. There are gray salts, red, black, and so on - it all depends upon the minerals that naturally occur where the salt was harvested.

Perhaps some confusion comes from the fact that the pools in which sea salt are harvested are sometimes pink. But this isn't due to the color of the salt, but to algae and (sometimes) brine shrimp that are attracted to the pool. 

So, long story short, pink salt is not healthier than any other unprocessed salt.


Why Salt Isn't Bad For You

I grew up hearing that salt is terrible for your blood pressure. However, salt is something everyone needs in order to stay healthy. In fact, too little salt can be dangerous, too. Salt only becomes a problem when it's highly processed, or when we eat processed foods.

Yes, it's true. Anyone who eats processed foods (foods not made from scratch) or restaurant food is consuming huge amounts of salt - far more than is healthy, and far more than they'd be consuming if they made their own food and salted it as they cooked.


Putting it All in Perspective

If you want healthy salt, consume only pure sea salt. Read ingredient lists carefully, since salts often labeled "sea salt" may have added ingredients you should avoid.
This is a healthy daily intake of salt. That's a LOT!
If using pure sea salt, you can salt your food liberally and you will eat far less salt than if you were consuming processed food. The CDC recommends adults eat up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That's about 1 teaspoon of fine salt...in other words, a lot! I can't imagine using that much salt, even for a day's worth of food for my entire family. Another way to put this into perspective: Experts estimate that in the average person's diet, only 5% of their salt intake comes from cooking at home, with another 12% coming from natural foods. 6% comes from adding salt at the table...and a whopping 77% comes from processed/restaurant food!

Courtesy the CDC.
What I Recommend

I personally use Old Thompson's sea salt because I can buy it locally (at Walmart). It comes in coarse form and is sold in a grinder. For most cooking, this works perfectly. But if I need to measure out salt (say, for fermenting or canning) it's a bit of a pain to grind the salt, then measure it. One of these days, I may buy fine sea salt without additives, like Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt.

Just read labels, my friends, and you'll be well on your way to outing unhealthy salt in your diet.



Jan 11, 2016

Dandelion Root Medicine - Where to Find It, How & Why to Use It

Dandelion Root Medicine Where to Find it How and Why to Use it
The more I learn about dandelions, the more amazed I am. Not only is this common weed a wonderfully edible plant, but it has great medicinal properties, too. For example, my mom-in-law has had some painful kidney stones. I recently recommended she drink dandelion root tea - a pretty widely accepted remedy for them. Dandelion root is especially good for her, too, since she's a cancer survivor, and there's some evidence (currently being studied scientifically) that ingesting ground up dandelion root is an effective cancer treatment.

I also consume dandelion root daily, in an effective natural treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease called Lipotropic Complex. Dandelion root is one of the main ingredients - and if I ever run out of the pills, I make sure I have a few cups of dandelion root tea a day. Other medicinal uses for this root include detoxifying the body, gallbladder woes, yeast infections, gout, PMS, diabetes, eczema, and urinary tract infections. Dandelion roots are also rich in inulin, a prebiotic that encourages healthy microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. You can read more about the medicinal value of dandelions here.

But here's the thing: I find that many people just never get around to harvesting dandelion roots for themselves. Some people tell me they have trouble finding dandelions except where pesticides are sprayed - or they can only find them by roadways, where the plants leach up fumes and therefore are unsuitable for consuming. I have one friend (who lives in a different state) who says there are no dandelions in her area (!). I even have one friend who gets the heebie jeebies just thinking about digging up and touching live plant roots. Fortunately, there are several options for obtaining dandelion roots - and for consuming them, too.

Where to Buy Dandelion Roots
Dandelion Roots
Dandelion roots fresh from my yard.


Believe it or not, you can buy dried dandelion roots in many places. I've seen them on Ebay and Etsy - but I recommend buying them from a more trusted source, so you can be sure you are getting real, organic roots. Mountain Rose Herbs, for example, sells dandelion roots in several forms. There's also a product called Dandy Blend that combines roasted dandelion root with a few other herbs for a really delicious drink that tastes similar to coffee; I've seen Dandy Blend in health food stores, and on Amazon.

Another option is to look in an ordinary grocery store, in the tea section. The brand I see most often is Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Root Tea. I've found it at Walmart for a little over $4 a box.

And, of course, you can harvest your own roots. Click here for complete directions on harvesting and drying dandelion roots. 

Finally, I've seen dandelion root in pill form. However, not only is this the most expensive option available, but I haven't seen these pills from a high quality and trustworthy supplement company.

Which Type of Dandelion Root is Best for You?

Dandelion root comes in four basic forms:

Dried:

dried dandelion root pieces













Roasted:
roasted dandelion coffee













Powered:

powdered dandelion root











and in tea bag or "coffee" form:

dandelion root tea












Plain dried dandelion root is quite bitter; I actually enjoy the flavor, but many people add red raspberry leaf or a bit of real honey to lesson it's bitterness. Roasted dandelion root tastes a lot like instant coffee. Which you choose is really a matter of personal preference. In either case, though, you'll need a coffee grinder to prepare the roots for medicinal use. (Here's the grinder I've used for years).

Pre-ground dandelion root is, in my opinion, not as good an option, since grinding the root and letting it sit means it's lost more of its medicinal properties. You'll always end up with a better quality drink if you grind just before consuming.

Dandelion root in tea bags or "coffee form" is, in my opinion, the least medicinal option. That's because it's pre-ground, and - in the case of tea bags - none of the power actually gets consumed by the tea drinker. (The powdered root is held inside the tea bag.) Nevertheless, this is the easiest way for most people to get dandelion root into their diet, and if brewed according to the package directions, personal experience tells me it's still pretty effective. To make it better still, considering breaking open the tea bag and following the directions in the next section.

How to Consume Dandelion Root

For medicinal purposes, dandelion root is usually turned into some type of drink. Ideally, that drink allows you to digest some or all of the powdered dandelion root. This is accomplished by grinding the root at least partially and using it to fill one half of a mesh tea ball.  (Whenever you make medicinal tea, steep it covered until the drink stops steaming. Click here to see full instructions for grinding and making the tea.)

ground dandelion root in tea ball
When making dandelion root tea with a tea ball, fill half the ball with partially powdered root.

Or you can completely powder the root 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time and place it in a glass of water. If you really dislike the flavor of dandelion root, place the powder directly in orange juice, which completely or mostly (depending upon who you talk to) covers up its flavor.

__________________________________


Ultimate Dandelion CookbookDid you know you can turn dandelion roots into tasty treats, including ice cream, meat marinade, and beer (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)? Learn more about eating and cooking with dandelions - including the roots - in my #1 Amazon Bestselling paperback or ebook, The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook.



For more information about harvesting and using dandelions, see these posts:

"Ah Sweet...Dandelions?" (including a recipe for cooking dandelion leaves)
How to Make Dandelion Tea (from the roots of the plant)
Making Dandelion Jelly
Teaching Children to Forage (with dandelion cookie recipe) 
Eating Dandelion Flowers
How to Preserve Dandelion Greens
Dandelion Leaf Green Smoothie
Dandelion Flower Fritters
Dandelion Leaf Noodles
Dandelion Medicine 
How to Make Dandelion Wine 



Cautions: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, very rarely, people have reactions to dandelion root. If you're allergic to "ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin. People with kidney problems, gallbladder problems, or gallstones should consult their doctors before eating dandelion." Dandelion is a diuretic, which means it may also make other medications less effective. To learn more about this, visit the University of Maryland Medical Center website.

Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Jan 4, 2016

What You Need to Know About the FDA and Natural Medicine

Last week, I received an email notifying me of FDA regulations that affect this little ol' blog. I wasn't the only one, either; in fact, bloggers all over the Internet are pretty darn freaked out about the FDA  preventing us from telling readers about natural remedies. This deeply saddens me, since for decades I received no help from the medical establishment, but am finally finding health through natural medicines. I recommend you learn what you can about natural remedies now, because every year the FDA is tightening things up to make it harder.
Part of the problem is that the FDA hasn't been clear about what they expect from bloggers. The email notification I received was actually from a popular affiliate program, concerned about following federal law. (An affiliate program is something nearly every blogger joins; we know we want to recommend certain items - in this case, natural medicines - to readers, and affiliate programs allow us to earn pennies if you happen to click on our link and buy the item.) This affiliate company stressed that the FDA makes it illegal for bloggers to make any type of disease claim. Unless I'm a doctor (which I'm not), or am talking about a medicine the FDA has approved for a specific use, I cannot recommend any natural remedy, I'm told. In fact, I specifically cannot even mention a disease (or a portion of the name of the disease). I cannot use words like "treat," "prevent," "correct," or any other word that might suggest healing or prevention. I also can't make "unsubstantiated claims" - in other words, claims about a medicine the FDA hasn't approved for a specific disease. Of course, the problem with this is that very, very few natural remedies have been studied scientifically; there just isn't enough money to be made selling natural medicine for scientists to bother studying them at length.

However, when I look at the FDA's website, I don't find any regulations like this for bloggers. I do see the FDA has all the rules I mentioned above for those who are selling herbal supplements. Therefore, I suspect the FDA is mostly concerned about bloggers who are making money (no matter how little) through affiliate links for natural medicine.

That said, I'm no lawyer, and many bloggers disagree with my conclusions. Indeed, given the fact that the FDA has been going after herbalists and other alternative practitioners, many of my fellow bloggers are convinced the FDA is trying, little by little, to make it impossible for consumers to learn about and use natural remedies.

I don't have the means to hire an attorney to figure this out, and the FDA doesn't seem to want to make this clear for bloggers. So I'm going to assume that if I'm just recommending something to you as a friend - not as someone who will earn anything off a sale - the FDA will leave me alone.

I didn't go into blogging to become rich. I blog because I want to help people. So I'm going to continue to recommend natural medicines I believe (often from personal experience) work. I just won't be earning pennies if you click on a link and buy a natural medicine.

In the meantime, though, I hope you'll try to learn as much about natural medicine as you possibly can. It's difficult for me to imagine the FDA won't soon be going after authors who write books about natural medicine; even if those authors are herbalists, there is no government-approved herbalist training, so the government isn't, in my opinion, going to consider those books proper medical advice. And from there...who knows where the FDA will go?

With that in mind, I recommend learning as much as you can about natural remedies. I'll be posting more natural medicine/herbal education links on this blog's Facebook page. You may also wish to view my Pinterest "Herbals" board. In addition, past posts from this blog will give you a nice start learning more about this topic:



Dec 7, 2015

How to Kill E. Coli on Vegetables and Fruits

In the last few weeks, there have been several recalls on fresh produce due to possible E. coli contamination. Since then, I've seen a myriad of Internet articles and posts claiming all sorts of ways to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria on fresh produce. The question is: Do any of them work?
How to Kill E. Coli on Vegetables and Fruits
First, How Common Are E. Coli Infections?

According to the CDC, there are an estimated  265,000 illnesses E. coli infections in the United States each year. However, it's important to note that this figure is an estimate only; experts say most people don't seek medical care for infections, and even those who do usually don't have a stool test for positive identification. Also remember that not all incidences of E. coli outbreaks are caused by contaminated food. For example, E. coli is also spread by hands (which are usually contaminated with human waste), or when human hands touch (live) animals (for example, at a petting zoo)

Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/prevention/how-to-kill-e-coli-on-vegetables?page=all#sthash.0ZdcRWYw.dpuf
Does Washing Kill E. Coli?


Most Internet articles, videos, and news reports about bacteria on produce say to scrub fruits and vegetables in hot water to remove bacteria. But according to Dr. Robert Brackett of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology, washing fruits and vegetables - whether with plain water, vinegar, bleach, dish soap, or hydrogen peroxide - does not remove harmful pathogens that make you sick.

This is because E. coli actually attaches itself to the surface of the food and produces something called a biofilm - which you can think of as a sort of protective bubble that makes it extremely difficult to wash away the bacteria. Because of this biofilm, something like bleach, which would normally kill E. coli, is ineffective. (Not to mention that putting bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your food could make you sick all by itself)

So yes, something like a vinegar wash may remove some bacteria (and certainly dirt and some portion of the pesticides used on the food), but it certainly won't get rid of everything that makes you sick.



How to Kill E. Coli on Produce

The only way for consumers to be sure their produce is free from bacteria is to cook it thoroughly. Sadly, a quick toss in the skillet or a light steaming isn't enough to kill E. coli and other bacteria. Instead, you'll have to make sure your produce reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. for at least 15 seconds. (That means testing it with a good thermometer, folks.)

What About Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables?

There are no statistics about home grown food and E. coli. This is probably mostly because most people don't know what's making them sick. Is it the flu? Or food poisioning? Most of us never learn. My personal belief, however, is that home grown produce is less likely to make you sick. After all, it's not fertilized with sludge (human waste), watered with manure-contaminated water, or handled by very many people. However, home gardeners must follow certain basic precautions:

* Don't use greywater on edibles. (Though it should be fine for watering fruit and nut trees.)
* Don't use roofline water on your edibles. (It can contain animal feces and other contaminantes.)
* Never use fresh manure in the garden. Always age it at least 6 months before applying it. As an added precaution, dig composted manure into the soil, instead of using it on top of the soil.
* When handling produce, always make sure your hands are clean. (Wash them for 30 seconds in the hottest water you can stand, using soap, then rinse thoroughly.)

Do Does This Mean We Shouldn't Eat Raw Vegetables and Fruits?

Most experts say no; it's unlikely you will get E. coli from produce. Some experts recommend peeling fruits and veggies to lesson your risk of exposure (but often the most nutritious part of a veggie is it's peel). Others suggest removing the outer leaves from lettuce and cabbage heads to reduce the risk of exposure of harmful bacteria.

My best advice is to grow the veggies you eat raw and to cook all those you buy. Those who are at higher risk of death or serious injury from E. coli, such as small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, should probably only eat vegetables if they are well cooked.


they produce a substance called “biofilm,” which encases the bacteria in a sort of shell and helps them stick to whatever they’ve latched onto. This coating keeps them from being washed away and also protects them from chemicals that could otherwise disable them.  In other words, adding a few drops of bleach to the water you use to wash vegetables will kill any bacteria in the water but won’t do much to the bacteria on the vegetables. - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/prevention/how-to-kill-e-coli-on-vegetables?page=all#sthash.0ZdcRWYw.dpuf
Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/prevention/how-to-kill-e-coli-on-vegetables?page=all#sthash.0ZdcRWYw.dp
Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/prevention/how-to-kill-e-coli-on-vegetables?page=all#sthash.0ZdcRWYw.dpu

Nov 5, 2015

Blue Light: It's Everywhere - and It May Cause Blindness

Last week, I took my children to a routine eye exam. I was in for a shock. Not only did both my kids need glasses, but I learned something else that made me say, "How did I not know this? Why have I never heard of this before?" And I'm betting you don't know about it, either, even though it may put your family at risk for blindness.


The Danger

Our society is inundated with electronic devices, and more and more of us are using them for more and more hours of the day. As a parent, you may know that limiting your child's use of electronic devices is better for their social well being and brain health, but you may not realize that many modern conveniences are actually causing eye damage.

Televisions, computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones, fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and LED light bulbs. What do they all have in common? They all emit something called blue light - the most intense form of light the human eye sees. Blue light is troublesome for at least two reasons. One is that it tells the brain to decrease melatonin in our bodies - a hormone that regulates our sleep. (And this, in turn, may cause depression and cancer.) The second is that it's linked to macular degeneration.
A scene as it might be viewed by someone with macular degeneration. Courtesy of the National Eye Institute.
What is Macular Degeneration?

According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. This incurable disease causes blindness as the retina degenerates. In the past, macular degeneration was something seen almost exclusively in the elderly, but more and more doctors are seeing it in young people - including those in their 20s and 30s.

While the causes of macular degeneration aren't completely understood, increasingly, studies show that blue light damages retinal cells. And since children are spending more of their lives exposed to high levels of blue light, they are considered at highest risk for developing macular degeneration - perhaps at a young age.

What You Can Do
  • The best thing to do is avoid LED and fluorescent light bulbs and reduce screen time. Most experts seem to recommend only one hour of screen time a day for children. Others think that it's most important to limit tablet and cell phone use to that amount of time. 
  •  Use the "20/20/20 Rule." Screens that are held closer to the face (like tablets and cell phones) put us at higher risk of eye problems. When you do use tablets and cell phones, experts recommend that for every 20 minutes of use, take a 20 second break looking at something 20 feet away. This can be a very difficult rule for children to follow, so I recommend giving the child a kitchen timer. Set it for 20 minutes, and make sure you've given your child a specific thing to look at when he or she looks up. Have the child sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or count to 30 (for good measure) before they go back to staring at their screen.
  • Get regular eye exams. Experts recommend children get an exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (not just a pediatrician) once a year. It's smart for adults to do this, too.

If you or your child already wears glasses, ask your optometrist about putting a filter on the lenses that reduces blue light exposure.

If you don't wear glasses, but have significant exposure to blue light, you might consider what my neighbor (who works for our ophthalmologist ) recommends: Getting eye glasses without a prescription, but with a blue light filter on them. She believes in this so strongly, she had her niece (who uses a tablet at school) get some.


Aug 5, 2015

Processed Food: Are You Eating it Without Knowing It?

Recently, I've bumped into a handful of people who've made me realize that not everyone understands what processed food is. Since even the most conservative health experts agree that processed food is bad for us - and since many believe that processed food is the number one cause for ill health in the United States - let's examine the issue a little.


I know one woman - I'll call her Linda, though that's not her real name - who's fond of posting photos of her meals - and her grocery shopping goods - on social media. She considers herself a coupon queen, and is devoted to staying home to raise her children; her bargain hunting is all about making it possible to live on her husband's salary alone. However, Linda also often complains about her health. Although she's only in her mid 30s, her body often aches. She's usually exhausted. She has heart palpitations and other life-altering health issues. Tell her she eats processed food and she scoffs. To her, processed food is something from a fast food chain, or "junk food," like chips and candy.

Jane (again, not her real name) suffers from hidradentis supparativa (HS), a condition that causes many painful boils in the most private areas of her body. Doctors don't understand this condition very well, but it's been proven that HS can go into remission if patients eat a whole food, autoimmune diet. In an online group for those who suffer from HS, Jane got excited when someone popped into the group trying to sell food that could "help cure" HS. The food was in boxes and plastic bags.

James (also not his real name) considers himself a healthy eater. If someone offers him a doughnut for breakfast, he makes a big deal of saying "no thank you." He'd rather eat organic cereal, thank you.

All of these people are real. And all of them have no clue what processed food is.


Is cereal really healthy?
So What Is Processed Food?

Processed food is anything that has been manipulated from it's natural state. It's the opposite of whole foods like apples, wheat berries, or whole squash. For example, if you buy pre-sliced apples, chopped squash, or wheat flour - these are all processed food. But what most experts mean when they talk about processed food is food that has been changed chemically, or has chemicals added to it.

Much of the food in the average American grocery store is this type of processed food. The organic cereal James loves, for example, is chemically processed with many additives and preservatives. The food that Jane thinks will cure her HS is also processed: Boxed meals that only require the addition of water, canned soups with preservatives and other chemicals, and meal replacement bars. And the food Linda buys so inexpensively for her family? Mostly boxed meals, laden not just with GMO ingredients, but with many chemicals used to artificially flavor, color, and preserve the food.


Frozen vs. Canned
Frozen salmon label.


I was on Pinterest the other day, and saw a pin claiming that frozen foods were healthier than canned because they don't have added ingredients. But the fact is, many frozen foods do have added ingredients. For example, I cannot buy frozen fish locally, because the only brands available to me have added chemicals designed to make the fish look fresher and last longer.

Canned foods are about the same. Sometimes I can find them without added ingredients, but mostly I can't. (Another good reason to can your own food.) Salt is the most commonly added ingredient, and experts used to think that if you ate little to no processed food, this wouldn't be a health problem...but now we know  processed salt (anything other than sea salt) is directly linked to autoimmune disorders.

But don't think that just because you're in the refrigerated section or the produce aisle you won't encounter processed foods. Sadly, this just isn't true.


Macaroni and cheese label.
Labels

To really know whether or not you're eating processed food, you must read every single label. Every. Single. One. If you start doing this, you'll discover a shocking number of foods that many people think are healthy are actually highly processed.

Usually, anything with an ingredient list is processed. The longer the ingredient list, the most processed the food typically is.


Ingredients

I do still buy some processed foods for my family (like catchup and milk) - but I choose carefully. Here are the ingredients I refuse to compromise on:

1. High fructose corn syrup. This is used as a cheap sweetener in most processed foods. However, it's made from GMO corn, and is linked to obesity and whole body inflammation, the precursor to all disease.

2. Bad-for-you fats. Last year, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The cause? My
Diet bar label.
genes - and eating bad-for-me fats. I grew up on margarine and Crisco and vegetable oil. All the wrong things. When thinking in terms of fats, think about what is processed the least: Real butter (especially grass fed, if you can afford it), extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil.

3. GMO ingredients. Currently this includes any corn or soy product - both extremely common in processed foods. For more about GMO ingredients and the problem with GMO food, click here.

4. Artificial colors. My daughter is sensitive to them, as many children are, but they aren't good for anyone. They are artificial. That means they aren't real food.

5. Artificial flavorings. Again, this is fake food, laden with innumerable chemicals.

6. Sweeteners other than real honey or cane sugar. Agave is highly processed and high in fructose, corn syrup is GMO and linked to health problems, and artificial sweeteners...well, they're fake food, linked to many health problems. Yes, cane sugar is processed, but my family isn't ready to completely give up sugar (though we don't eat much of it), and at least cane sugar isn't GMO.

Hamburger meal label.
7. Low fat foods. If it's low fat, it's highly processed. This includes low fat milk and milk products. (Actually, and sadly, cow's milk from the grocery store is always highly processed.) The good news is, a growing body of evidence shows that low fat diets are bad for our brains, bad for our bodies. (Nourishing Traditions explains this thoroughly.) It's better to eat natural fats.

8. Processed salt. I've completely switched to no-ingredients-added sea salt, now that other salts are linked to autoimmune disorders.

9. Anything with a long ingredient list or ingredients I don't recognize as real food.


Getting Started with Whole Foods

If you've been eating processed food all your life, chances are the idea of ditching them is overwhelming. My suggestion is to start little by little. Read every food label and stop buying the worst offenders. Slowly learn to make your own foods from scratch. (It doesn't take as much time as you think!) Don't expect to feel better suddenly. It will take time for your body to detox. Eat foods that help your liver function better (dandelion root tea or coffee; dark, leafy greens like dandelions, collards, and kale; radishes; onions; and artichokes). Consider omitting wheat products, linked to "leaky gut." Add some fermented things to your repertoire of foods. In time, you will feel better.



May 28, 2015

My Top 4 Favorite Herbal Medicine Books

Once upon a time, all medicine was herbal, and most women understood enough herbal medicine to treat their families for many illnesses (though certainly not all). Gradually, this changed until Americans began seeking help from allopaths (modern doctors) for nearly every health complaint. Yet these days, as more and more people are unable to find help or answers through modern medicine, and as many people suffer from the side affects of prescription medicine, ever more Americans are turning to herbal medicine for many of their health complaints.

Interestingly, more scientific studies are being done on herbal remedies - but very few look at the herbs in their natural form, which means even those studies aren't necessarily all that helpful. Still, science often finds that those old time herbal remedies really do work. My personal experience tells me they do, too.

But learning about herbal medicine can be overwhelming. The internet is full of information, but how much of it is accurate? And even those who wish to pursue herbalism professionally discover there is no official certification for it - no set study that is sure to teach you all you need to know. Fortunately, however, there are a number of excellent books for the Proverbs 31 Women who wishes to learn how to treat her family with natural medicine. Here are my four favorites.

Forgotten Skills of Backyard Herbal Healing and Family Health by Caleb Warnock and KirstenSkirvin. This is a good book to start with because it focuses on just a few herbs, and therefore isn't overwhelming. Warnock is the author of several "forgotten skills" books (including one on winter gardening, which I reviewed here), and he adds plenty of personal anecdotes to this book, explaining how much herbal medicine has changed his life. His co-author Kirsten Skirvin is a Master Herbalist, with some compelling herbal medicine stories of her own. This book gives a good explanations on why you might want to use herbal medicine, and why it's important to take you and your family's health in your own hands. It explains the difference between medicinal grade herbs and varieties of those same herbs that are pretty in the garden, but not of true medicinal value. You'll also learn to make two basic forms of medicine: teas and tinctures. (The best and longest lasting tinctures are made with alcohol, so I like that the authors teach how to make such tinctures non-alcoholic for children or those who are sensitive to alcohol.) Then the authors focus on some basic herbs to start with: Cayenne, lobelia, cinnamon, garlic, and onion - plus apple cider vinegar. The next section gives formulas and examples of how to use these and other herbs for various applications, such as "healing flesh and bones" and "women's health and pregnancy." I appreciate that the authors encourage readers to learn more through some trustworthy online sources. And while I've read a lot of books on herbalism, I still learned some helpful things from this book - including how to use a weighted tuning fork to detect broken bones. (Buy this book.)


10 Essential Herbs by Lalitha Thomas. This is a nice supplement to Warnock and Skirvin's book, as it goes into greater detail about 10 herbs: Cayenne, chaparral, cloves, comfrey, garlic, ginger, onion, peppermint, slippery elm, and yarrow. Thomas gives some amazing stories of how she's helped heal people with these herbs, and gives plenty of specific examples of how and when to use them. Later in the book, she talks about using a specific mixture of herbs as a good remedy for many ails, and offers bonus information on using honey and echinacea as medicine. My only criticism of this book is that the author suggests using garlic directly on the skin. You can do this - I have done it - but it must be done with a great deal of care, or you will burn the skin horribly. The author gives no such warning - which is odd, because elsewhere she's good about explaining precautions. (Buy this book.)


Herbal Medicine by Dian Dincin Buchman, Ph.D.  This is an older book, but it's easy to find on Amazon and other used book sources. It covers a much wider variety of herbs than the two books I've already mentioned. Here, again, the author lists some of her favorite herbs for healing, then gives a wide ranging list of health issues - from acne to worms, with information on how to treat them herbally. Finally, there is an excellent section on how to make herbal medicine: How to dry herbs for medicine; and how to make infusions, waters, decoctions, tinctures, herbal oil, medicinal wines, vinegar, ointment, suppositories, poultices, and more. This is by far the best book I've seen for learning how to make various types of herbal medicine. (Buy this book.)


Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes by Rosemary Gladstar. This book is for the more advanced amateur herbalist, since it's focus is on combining herbs to make medicine, rather than teaching the medicinal value of specific herbs. In fact, this is a book of medicinal recipes - which are mostly broken down into four basic categories: for children, for women, for men, and for "elders." I especially appreciate the section on children, because it covers safety precautions and how to make herbal medicines appealing to kids. Cradle's cap, diaper rash, iron deficiencies, liver ailments, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, ulcers, migraines and other headaches, earaches, and a host of other common health complaints are discussed in this book, with recipes for treating each. The book ends with a brief section on specific herbs and their medicinal uses. (Buy this book.)



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