Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Daughter's Orthodontics - One Year Update

Last year I wrote a series of posts about my daughter's orthodontics and why we are not using conventional braces for her teethIt has now been one year since she started using her orthodontic appliance, so I wanted to share our results thus far. My daughter Alina is currently 8 years old and is in the age of "mixed dentition," meaning she has some adult teeth as well as some baby teeth.

 

How Does the Appliance Work?


Alina is using a one-piece plastic myofunctional appliance made by Ortho-Tain. This appliance is
encouraging Alina's palate and jaw to grow so that there will be plenty of space for her adult teeth.

Alina wears her Ortho-Tain orthodontic appliance every night while she sleeps. Because we started early, she does not need to wear the appliance during the daytime at all (whereas if we had waited a few more years before starting, she would have needed to wear it at night as well as for a few hours in the daytime).

Alina has been very cooperative with this whole process and has done a fantastic job of wearing her appliance.  Her (wonderful) orthodontist is very pleased with her progress and gives her all the credit for being the one to do the work of wearing the appliance and following his instructions.

Our Results From One Year of Treatment

Over the last year, Alina has progressed through two sizes of orthodontic appliance. This means that her palate and jaw have grown enough to need to increase the size of her appliance!

By the time she had been using her appliance for six months, her minor cross-bite was corrected so that her top and bottom teeth now line up correctly. 

And now for the pictures!

Pre-treatment (April 2014) - Alina's baby teeth have no space between them (minus the one spot where she is missing a tooth)


After one year of treatment (May 2015) - Alina has currently lost 8 baby teeth. She has plenty of space for her new top adult teeth.




(May 2015) Alina's teeth no longer have a cross-bite.

(May 2015) There is still some minor crowding with her bottom teeth, but considering that there are 4 adult teeth where there were previously smaller baby teeth with no space whatsoever, you can tell that her bottom jaw has also expanded.  

 

Have you tried any alternatives to conventional orthodontics? What were your results?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Although her tolerance for grains is increasing over time, I still like to make grain-free baked goods for my daughter that she can enjoy with impunity.  Last weekend I developed a new muffin recipe that she loves: Lemon Blueberry Muffins. 

Rich in healthy protein and fat, these muffins are moist and delicious. I like to make these muffins using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener; the lighter taste of sugar allows the bright flavor of lemon to really "pop" in this recipe. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to use only unrefined sweeteners.


Lemon Blueberry Muffins
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp celtic sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • zest from 1 lemon, which makes about 1 tsp of packed zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) grassfed butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of sucanat 
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of sucanat and raw sugar for a lighter flavor)
  • 5 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
  • 1 Tb organic vanilla extract (or use homemade vanilla)
  • 3/4 tsp organic almond extract 
  • 3 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb organic sour cream, preferably from pastured cows
  • 1 heaping cup organic frozen blueberries*
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. Then use a lemon reamer to juice the lemon. If your lemon has a very thick rind, you may need to juice more than one lemon to get 3 Tb of fresh lemon juice.
  3. Combine the coconut flour, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. Combine the butter, sucanat and sugar in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  6. In the meantime, combine the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  7. Once the butter and sucanat/sugar have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  8. Add the sour cream and lemon juice to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  9. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  10. Stir or mix in the blueberries.
  11. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  12. Bake the muffins at 325 degrees F for 33-37 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry. (The baking time will be less if fresh berries are used instead of frozen berries.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen berries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Importance of High-Vitamin Butter Alongside Cod Liver Oil

Nutrients in Butter and Cod Liver Oil Work Synergistically


Photo from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

In Weston Price's research into Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he found that the diets of traditional people contained much higher nutrient-content than modern diets.  For instance, traditional diets contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets.  The higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities, heart disease, or cancer. One easy way to boost the amount of nutrients in our diets is through the use of superfoods such as extra-virgin cod liver oil, which is a nutritional powerhouse providing Vitamins A and D, plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA.

Weston Price found that cod liver oil worked synergistically with high-vitamin butter. Price wrote of controlling and preventing cavities through the following:
"The program that I have found most efficient has been one which includes the use of small quantities of very high vitamin butter mixed in equal parts with a very high vitamin cod liver oil... When this butter oil is mixed in equal parts with a very high-vitamin cod liver oil, it produces a product that is more efficient than either alone...The quantity of the mixture of butter oil and cod liver oil required is quite small, half a teaspoonful three times a day with meals is sufficient to control wide-spread tooth decay when used with a diet that is low in sugar and starches and high in foods providing the minerals, particularly phosphorus. A teaspoonful a day divided between two or three meals is usually adequate to prevent dental caries and maintain a high immunity; it will also maintain freedom from colds and a high level of health in general. This reinforcement of the fat-soluble vitamins to a menu that is low in starches and sugars, together with the use of bread and cereal grains freshly ground to retain the full content of the embryo or germ, and with milk for growing children and for many adults, and the liberal use of sea foods and organs of animals, produced the result described."
It is clear that, to get the most benefit from taking cod liver oil, the nutrients in high-vitamin butter should be consumed alongside cod liver oil.

My Family's Experience with Butter Oil


My family stopped taking fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) years ago because of digestive and flavor issues. Back when we were still using FCLO, my family tried taking high-vitamin butter oil along with our cod liver oil, but we had a hard time with the flavor.  The butter oil had a very strong smell and flavor that I found to be unpleasant; my toddler daughter did like the butter oil, but my husband and I could never get ourselves to take it with any regularity.  At that time, I gave up on the idea of having butter oil, and just focused on liberally using high-vitamin butter (usually on toast or waffle) whenever we took our dose of cod liver oil.

For nearly a year now, we have been using extra-virgin cod liver oil (EVCLO), which we aim to take a couple times a week. EVCLO has such a light, pleasant taste that it is no chore to take it regularly. Thus far, I have been continuing to rely on high-vitamin butter to enhance the benefits of the cod liver oil.  However, recently Corganics sent me a complimentary bottle of their extra-virgin butter oil to try.

I opened the extra-virgin butter oil with the expectation that it would have the same strong and somewhat offensive smell and taste as the butter oil I tried years ago, but I was in for a surprise. Extra-virgin butter oil has a pleasant smell that reminds me of the smell of homemade popcorn, and it tastes like unsalted butter.  I like to add a tiny pinch of salt or dab of raw honey to the butter oil and that makes the taste truly fantastic. Both of my children enjoy the flavor of extra-virgin butter oil and like taking it along with their EVCLO.

We will still be using high-vitamin butter liberally, but especially for those times of year when the butter from the store is on the pale side, it will be a pleasure to supplement with extra-virgin butter oil to make sure we are getting the most benefit from our extra virgin cod liver oil.

 

What are your experiences with butter oil? Do you take cod liver oil and butter oil together?



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Friday, May 8, 2015

Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip (probiotic : nutrient-dense)

Ranch dressing is a staple item in our household. We use it as a salad dressing, as a dip for veggie sticks and homemade pizza, and as a sandwich condiment. I previously blogged my original ranch dressing recipe 4 years ago; this new recipe is another version of ranch dressing that we have been enjoying for about a year now.  The milk kefir adds wonderful flavor and a good dose of healthy probiotics to this ranch dressing.


Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl or 2-cup measuring cup. (Putting all of the ingredients into a 2-cup measuring cup saves on having to dirty many different measuring cups.) Whisk or stir well to combine. 
  2. If possible, make this dressing at least an hour before it will be consumed, so the flavors have a chance to meld.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.  This ranch dressing will keep for at least a week. If separation occurs, just give it a quick stir before using it. 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Easy Homemade Sunscreen, Mosquito Spray, and Arnica Lotion

With hot weather arriving here, I thought I'd share some of my favorite homemade skincare products. I blogged previously about my Top 10 Storebought Body and Hair Care Products, and now I am excited to share some of my favorite homemade products. I love using homemade skin products as they are healthier than most of the storebought products, and I can customize them to fit my family's needs. 

Sunscreen


On a daily basis, I don't use any sunscreen at all, but on days when I will be outside for extended periods of time I find that I am likely to burn without sunscreen.  We have a high UV factor here in the dry desert with its many sunny days, especially at our altitude. I have always abhorred store-bought sunscreens: they were too heavy, some were greasy, and they often led to breakouts on my face.  About a year ago I decided to try making my own sunscreen after reading this Natural Homemade Sunscreen post.

I opted to try the "Even Faster Way to Make Sunscreen" from that post, and have been very happy with the results.  My own homemade sunscreen is made by combining the following:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added zinc oxide powder.
    • Using a funnel, very carefully pour the zinc oxide into the lotion bottle. Beware that the zinc is a very fine powder, so you may choose to wear respiratory protection during this step.  
    • Put the lid back on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Shake well before each use. Apply the sunscreen and rub it in to reduce any whitening effect from the zinc. Re-application may be necessary if there is heavy perspiration.
I don't know the equivalent SPF of this homemade sunscreen, but I do know that this keeps me from getting sunburned when I am outside for several hours. This sunscreen is not waterproof, so I will stick with my Badger Sunscreen for those times when I will be perspiring greatly or swimming outdoors.

Arnica Lotion

I've blogged previously about the many wonderful uses of homeopathic Arnica in treating soft tissue injuries such as bumps and bruises, sprains and strains. For particularly strong injuries we do take Arnica pellets internally, but for very minor injuries I prefer to use Arnica lotion externally.

Because I was dissatisfied with the inactive ingredients in storebought Arnica lotions, last year I decided to make my own as follows:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added Arnica liquid.
    • Pour the Arnica liquid into the lotion bottle.
    • Put the lid on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Apply lotion as needed for bumps, bruises, or sore muscles. (NOTE: Arnica should NOT be applied externally to broken or scraped skin.  Calendula salve is better to use in those instances, and can be used alongside Arnica taken internally for any shock or pain with the injury.)

Mosquito Spray

Here in the desert, the mosquitoes arrive with our yearly monsoon season in July. I've always been one of those people who is highly attractive to mosquitoes, and I can be literally covered in mosquito bites in just a short time outside.  Sadly, I seem to have passed this trait on to my children as well.

For several years, we used natural mosquito-repelling bracelets, and we did have some success with those (especially if we used multiple bracelets per person). However, the smell of those bracelets is so very strong and even leaves a taste in my mouth, so so I was still open to finding a better solution.

Thankfully, last year my sister-in-law passed on a recipe for homemade mosquito spray that is made with essential oils.   My family used this spray last year and found it to work very well so long as it is applied often.  It smells heavenly, so it is no chore to spritz myself and my children with it every 30-60 minutes when we are outside during mosquito season.

(This recipe is re-printed with permission from Camp Wander.) 

What are your favorite sunscreen and mosquito-repellent products?

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Home Birth is Safe and Healthy


In planning to have a home birth for each of my children, the response I typically encountered from others was something along the lines of “what if something goes wrong?” or “you are really brave”. These responses underscore the fact that most people in our society have no idea that home birth is a safe option, and they certainly don’t think labor is something we are designed to handle naturally, without interventions or drugs. As an avid researcher of so many decisions in my life, it was surprising that people would think I was somehow being cavalier by deciding to have a baby at home, as if I was potentially sacrificing the safety and health of my unborn child.

In fact, home birth is as safe (if not safer) than hospital birth for low-risk women. A recent study of nearly 13,000 births was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal [1]. There were three groups of women in this study: those planning home births with a registered midwife, those planning hospital births with a registered midwife, and those planning hospital births with a physician. Both groups of women that were attended by a registered midwife were attended by the same group of midwives; additionally, all of these women met the eligibility requirements for home birth, which means that women in both of these groups did not have any preexisting disease, significant complications of pregnancy (such as hypertension and gestational diabetes), or multiple fetuses, among other criterion.

The study showed that rates of perinatal death (i.e. death during the last weeks of pregnancy and up to four weeks following birth) were slightly lower in the planned home birth group (0.35 deaths per 1000 births) than in both of the groups of women planning to give birth in the hospital (0.57 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a midwife and 0.64 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a physician). This means that there were fewer deaths of mothers and babies in the planned home birth group than in both of the hospital birth groups.

All obstetrical interventions, such as episiotomy, electronic fetal monitoring and assisted vaginal delivery, pose some risk to the mother and/or baby. The same study [1] showed that “women who planned a home birth were significantly less likely to experience any of the obstetric interventions [that were] assessed, including electronic fetal monitoring, augmentation of labour, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean delivery and episiotomy.” For instance, 3% of mothers in the planned home birth group received an episiotomy, while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had episiotomy rates of 7% and 17% respectively. 24% of women who planned homebirths had some augmentation of labor (such as rupture of membranes or oxytocin), while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had labor augmentation rates of 40% and 50% respectively.

In the same study [1], women who planned to birth at home were also much less likely to have adverse maternal outcomes, such as 3rd- or 4th –degree perineal tears or postpartum hemorrhage. Additionally, newborns in the home birth group were less likely to have birth trauma, require resuscitation at birth, or have meconium aspiration.


All of these trends make it clear that mothers and babies in the home birth group were safer and healthier than those that planned births in a hospital.

This article is part of a series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out these articles:
Why home birth?
Natural birth is optimal and empowering
Home birth allows mothers the freedom to move
Home birth facilitates bonding and breastfeeding
Home birth works cooperatively with the Sphincter Law 
Home birth is great for siblings 

Are these home birth statistics surprising to you?  How was your birth experience?



Reference
[1] “Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician”, Patricia A. Janssen PhD, Lee Saxell MA, Lesley A. Page PhD, Michael C. Klein MD, Robert M. Liston MD, Shoo K. Lee MBBS PhD, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 15 September 2009, Volume 181, Issue 6-7.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Traditions : How We Celebrate Birthdays

Back when we had only one child, we had the typical yearly birthday parties with lots of presents, food, and friends.  While this was enjoyable in some ways, once we had a second child I felt like the work that went into birthday parties was overly stressful.  Since our two children have birthdays just one month apart beginning shortly after the winter holidays (in February and March), followed shortly by my husband's birthday in April, the birthday festivities just felt like too much -  too many presents following so closely behind Christmas, too many festivities in too short of a period, and too many times that I felt burned out by it all. 

Rather than continue the cycle, a few years ago we decided to do something different. Instead of  having birthday parties for the children year-after-year, we decided to create our own birthday traditions. And now that we are three years into our new family birthday traditions, we are loving the simplicity and family closeness that they bring.

Birthday Family Trips

For their birthdays, each of our children selects a fun activity for our family-of-four that doesn't require driving very far. These birthday family trips give us a chance to spend time together in different ways, and they eliminate the stress of hosting birthday parties. Both of our children have thoroughly embraced the opportunity to choose these family outings. We schedule birthday family trips on weekend days so we can all participate. 

Examples of some of our recent birthday family trips are: 
  • For her 7th birthday, our daughter chose to visit Rockhound State Park (just over an hour away).
  • For her recent 8th birthday, our daughter chose the local Farm and Ranch Museum.
  • For his 4th birthday, our son chose to go to the zoo and ride the toy train in Alamogordo, New Mexico (about an hour away).
  • For his recent 5th birthday, our son chose to go to the Space Museum and ride the toy train in Alamogordo.
We have intentionally kept these family outings simple. We do not invite anyone outside of our household, and that allows our trips to be relaxed so that we can leave whenever we are ready instead of trying to keep to a specific time-schedule. We also typically enjoy a restaurant lunch as part of each birthday trip, so there is no stress over preparing or transporting food.

Minimal Presents

My husband and I do not buy the children gifts for their birthdays; instead, our family outing becomes their present. We do look for small, unique toys for the children during our family outings, such as the few colored rocks and marbles that caught their eyes at the Farm and Ranch Museum during our daughter's birthday trip. But we have intentionally shifted the focus of birthdays away from presents and onto creating family memories.

Of course, we don't deny the grandparents their rights to give the children birthday presents, but by eliminating the birthday parties we have much-reduced the volume of toys flowing into the house. Given the close proximity of their birthdays to Christmas, and the fact that our children tend to be happier with less toys (and have more strife when they have more toys), having less birthday presents is a very good thing.

Simple, Special Birthdays

In addition to the family outings on the weekend, on my children's actual birthdays I do some simple things to make the day special:
  • I schedule a day-off from my usual homeopathic appointments so that I can spend more time with the children. 
  • The birthday-child chooses their favorite school activities and games to play in the mornings during our usual school time. (Since we switched to Leadership Education, my kids LOVE school, so they are excited about this aspect of their birthdays.)
  • The birthday-child gets a day off from the usual daily chores (such as washing breakfast dishes, putting away laundry, taking care of chickens, etc).
  • The children and I go on a small outing together, chosen by the birthday-child, such as a trip to the park or museum. 
  • The birthday-child's favorite dinner is served that evening, as well as a dessert of their choice (with birthday candles of course). Grandma is invited to join us for the evening as well.
By breaking away from the traditional birthday parties, our family's new traditions allow us to spend time together, make fond memories, and enjoy each birthday.

Do you have any special birthday traditions?  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Natural Menstrual Alternatives

Why avoid conventional tampons and pads?

Disposable tampons and pads can contain chemicals, such as dioxins and furans, that may lead to ill health.  According to Katie Singer's fabulous The Garden of Fertility book,
 Most tampons are made from rayon (for absorbency) and cotton; most are bleached.  Dioxin, a chemical produced in the bleaching process, can be toxic to the immune and reproductive systems.  Dioxin is potentially cancer-causing, and it's been linked to endometriosis... there is no acceptable level of exposure to dioxin, given that exposure to it is cumulative, and the chemical disintegrates slowly.  The real danger with dioxin comes from repeated contact.
In a lifetime, a woman may use 8,000 tampons. 
Because it's very absorbent, rayon contributes to the danger of a woman being exposed to dioxin through tampon use; when rayon fibers remain in the vagina after the menstrual period (as they commonly do), so, too, does dioxin.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Dioxins and furans are among the most hazardous chemicals known - extremely tiny doses have been shown to cause negative health effects. These chemicals are listed by several governmental agencies as known causes of cancer in humans. Indeed, studies have linked dioxins and furans to many types of cancer, as well as to reproductive problems, abnormalities in fetal development, immune alterations, and disruption of hormones. Because dioxins and furans are attracted to fat and are resistant to metabolism, they are notorious for accumulating in the animals humans eat, and by that route accumulating in humans. Within the human body, the highest levels of these chemicals are in fat and breast milk.


Pros and Cons of Natural Menstrual Options

In the 9 years since I learned about the dangers in conventional tampons and pads, I've tried out many natural menstrual alternatives.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Currently, I use sea sponges.   

Unbleached cotton tampons
My experience
I initially switched to using Natracare unbleached cotton tampons without applicators.  I used these for about 8 months with no problems, then became pregnant with my daughter. I tried using these again after my daughter was born, but didn't like them because I had some scar tissue from an internal tear that made insertion particularly uncomfortable.  I also used them for a few months after my son was born, when I started having problems with the Diva Cup. 

Advantages:
  • Unbleached cotton tampons don't contain dioxins or other undesirable chemicals.
  • They are very convenient to use, just like conventional tampons.
Disadvantages:
  • They are rather expensive, and since they are disposable, you'll keep paying the high price month after month.
  • There seems to be a little bit more "friction" during insertion with these tampons than conventional tampons.  So they don't insert quite as easily as conventional tampons, but they're still pretty easy to use. 
  • It seems like these tampons are probably more likely to leave some fibers behind.  But, these fibers would just be cotton, so it seems like they wouldn't be harmful anyhow.  I never noticed any fibers left behind, but these just aren't quite as smooth as conventional tampons. 
  • Just like conventional tampons, there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with cotton tampons.
Menstrual cups
My experience
I switched to the Diva Cup, which is a silicone menstrual cup, after my daughter was born when I was having problems with cotton tampons.  (There is also a natural rubber version of the menstrual cup, called The Keeper.)  I absolutely LOVED the Diva Cup, and used it for a year until I got pregnant with my son. After my son was born, I had problems with the Diva Cup not staying in quite the right place when I wore it. Apparently my son's quick arrival (just over two hours of labor) changed my internal landscape a bit.

Advantages:
  • The Diva Cup is made from health-grade silicone. The Keeper is made from natural rubber.
  • Menstrual cups are convenient to use.  When they get full, just dump the contents, rinse the cup, and re-insert.  (The rinsing can be skipped if necessary, such as in a public restroom.)
  • Menstrual cups can last for years and years, so they are very cost effective.
  • Menstrual cups can be worn for up to twelve hours.
Disadvantages
  • There is a little bit of a learning process in learning how to properly insert a menstrual cup. (But, once you get the hang of it, it is really quite simple.) 
Cloth pads
My experience
I started using LunaPanties all-in-one underwear with menstrual protection as backup protection in combination with the Diva Cup.  Then, when I started having problems with the Diva Cup, I bought a kit of LunaPads liners and pads, and used these exclusively for a few months.  But, this mostly just reminded me of why I always preferred internal menstrual methods as I don't really like the messiness of using pads alone.  So now I only use cloth pads for very light days.  

Advantages:
  • Cloth pads are much more breathable than conventional pads. Breathability is great for overall vaginal health.
  • Because they are breathable, I found that wearing cloth pads ensures that I never develop those unpleasant odors that can sometimes arise with conventional pads.
  • Cloth pads are quite pricey initially; however, since they will last for years they are really economical in the long run. 
  • Cloth pads are very absorbent, and I've had any problems with them leaking.
Disadvantages
  • Because they hold onto fluids so well, it can take quite awhile to fully rinse the blood out of cloth pads.  The best method I found was to put them into the bathtub while I showered and periodically step on them to squish the liquid out.
  • Cloth pads don't stay in place quite as well as conventional pads (this is one reason that I prefer the Lunapanties that have built-in protection).  I have found that the cloth pads often require a bit of adjustment after going to the bathroom, but then they stay in place just fine once they are positioned where you want them.
  • If you need to change your pad while out-and-about, you'll need to have some way of transporting your soiled pads back home.
Sea sponge tampons
As recommended by a friend, I started using Jade and Pearl sea sponge tampons over 3 years ago.  I really like these, and plan to use them for the foreseeable future.  I bought a multipack with three different sizes, and I use only the small and medium sizes.

Advantages:
  • Sea sponge tampons are made of natural materials.
  • It is very easy to wash sea sponge tampons in the sink.  They are much easier to clean than cloth pads.
  • Sea sponge tampons are very absorbent.
  • Sea sponge tampons are easy to insert and can be trimmed to fit if desired (although I haven't had to trim mine at all).
  • Sea sponge tampons can be left in during intercourse.
  • Sea sponge tampons can be sterilized using apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, sea salt, or tea tree oil.
Disadvantages
  • Just like normal tampons, sea sponge tampons can require some re-adjustment after you use the restroom. 
  • I have installed a Biffy bidet attachment on my toilets to spray clean after I use the bathroom.  I find it best to remove my sea sponge tampons each time I use the restroom if I plan to use the Biffy; otherwise, they soak up too much water.
  • Sea sponge tampons should ideally be sanitized once or twice a day (using one of the methods described above).
  •  If I haven't sanitized the sea sponges often enough, they tend to develop a bit of unpleasant ocean-like smell.  This is only noticeable if you actually sniff the sea sponge itself, though, and can be easily remedied by a quick soak in one of the sanitizing solutions.

Have you tried any natural menstrual alternatives? What natural menstrual solutions do you recommend?

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Can a Perfect Diet Lead to Perfect Health?

GAPS, Paleo, Primal Blueprint, Perfect Health Diet, Weston Price: There are so many different diets that are touted as being "the" answer to the question of finding health.  Does following these diets lead to perfect health?

My Family's Experience With Finding Health Through Diet

2005
Nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I embarked on our journey of finding health through diet.  Prior to that time, we were following a typical Standard American Diet, with lots of processed foods, low-fat foods, and restaurant foods.  While neither of us suffered from any very serious health issues, we did have some health issues since we both had cavities, we had both been prescribed inhalers for asthma, I had acne rosacea, irritable bowel syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and my husband had long-standing issues with eczema, insomnia, and sinus problems (which had not been improved even with two sinus surgeries).

I learned about Weston Price's groundbreaking research into traditional diets and jumped right in to changing our diets.  We were looking forward to having children soon, and I wanted to make sure we were both very healthy before conception. We started consuming plenty of grassfed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, butter, raw milk and cheese, fish eggs, homemade chicken stock, sprouted and/or soaked whole grains, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables, and a daily dose of cod liver oil.

My husband and I both saw health improvements from these dietary changes.  The frequency of illnesses decreased and we both saw some improvements in our chronic health issues. For instance, my acne rosacea and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared, and my husband had less frequent sinus flareups. We kept on following the Weston Price-based diet and making it a normal part of our lives.

2010
Fast forward 5 years through the birth of two children and things weren't looking so rosy. Despite having consumed an excellent Weston Price-based diet her whole life, our 3-year-old daughter had poor weight gain and a pattern of recurrent illnesses. She would get sick roughly 8-10 times per year, each time running a high fever for several days, and often she had a lingering cough for 2-3 weeks after each illness. When other kids had a minor "tummy bug", she had an extreme version with vomiting for 48 hours and losing over 10% of her body weight.

My exclusively-breastfed infant son slept horribly, waking frequently every night; he had eczema and was constipated, and he cried inconsolably for 30-45 minutes several times every day. During my recent pregnancy, I had developed three new health issues that did not subside after the birth - insomnia (awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night every night), joint pain (that made normal activities such as holding the baby very difficult), and irritability (losing my temper and being impatient with my daughter, which had never been an issue previously). My husband's sinus problems flared up and he had a sinus infection for over 6 months. My husband and I were getting sick more frequently as well. 

Thinking that we would be able to fix these problems through an even stricter diet, my family started the GAPS Diet in the late summer of 2010. The GAPS Diet is similar to Paleo and Primal Diets, except that it has a specific emphasis on curing health conditions through healing the gut. The GAPS Diet is based on healthy fats (such as butter and coconut oil), meats, fruits, veggies, broth, and fermented foods. The GAPS Diet does not allow any grains or starches, and allows no sweeteners except honey.

We followed the GAPS Diet strictly for over 16 months, and completed two rounds of the Intro Diet. Initially, we had amazing results: our daughter got sick less frequently and she started gaining weight, my joint pain was gone, and my husband's 6-month-long sinus infection finally abated. We thought we had finally found the answer to our health problems.

2012
Even though we were still strictly following GAPS, some of our old health problems started to come back. My husband's sinuses started to flare up again, and his eczema flared up and became worse than ever.  I developed adrenal issues including spells of extreme low energy, and yet if I went off GAPS my joint pain came back again. Our (already low-weight) daughter stopped gaining weight and even started losing weight.  A full rundown on the positive results and set-backs for each of us on GAPS can be seen in this post.

The positive benefits of GAPS had waned and we had developed new problems while on the diet. We stopped strictly following GAPS and found that we now had food sensitivities that we had not observed prior to following the GAPS Diet. And many of our previous health concerns were once again in effect.

At this point I finally realized that diet alone was not sufficient to heal our chronic health issues. While different dietary strategies were able to give us temporary improvements, over time our old issues always came back, no matter how strictly we followed the diets.

Why Didn't Diet Heal Our Health Issues?

In the intervening three years since we stopped the GAPS Diet, I have learned a great deal about health and healing chronic health issues.Through constitutional homeopathic treatment, my family is finding health in ways that diet could never even come close to. Through my intensive search for answers, I have come to understand health in a whole new way.

Using diet to heal chronic health issues is somewhat like putting a band-aid on a cut: diet can aid in the process of healing, but it can't actually cause the healing process to occur. Just as a band-aid alone cannot heal an infected wound, diet alone cannot heal chronic health issues. Diet can certainly lead to temporary improvements, but unless the underlying imbalance is healed, the chronic issues will keep coming back again despite any dietary measures. Homeopathy works differently than dietary measures because it seeks to correct the fundamental imbalance that is leading to the symptoms in the first place.

What Is the Root Cause of Chronic Health Problems?


From a homeopathic perspective, chronic health issues are an indication of an underlying imbalance, often as a result of genetic predispositions (which are referred to as miasms in homeopathic literature).  Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was well ahead of his time in that he developed an understanding of genetic influences on the health of subsequent generations nearly 200 years ago. Constitutional homeopathy works differently than diet (and many other healing modalities, including herbalism and conventional medicine) in that it seeks to uproot those underlying miasms and thereby remove the fundamental cause for the illness rather than just addressing the outward symptoms. 

Our Successful Path to Health 


Over the last 3 years, we have been finding answers to our health problems with homeopathy. In fact, our results have been so astonishing to me that I became a homeopath to share this healing modality with more people. A brief rundown of the benefits we have seen through homeopathy are:
  • We all get sick much less frequently now, and when we do get sick the intensity is much less than previously.
  • Our low-weight, poor appetite daughter now consistently gains weight and eats well. Her previously-poor immune system has been boosted so much that she has averaged only 1-2 minor illnesses per year over the last 2 years (as compared to her previous average of 8-10 more serious illnesses per year). Her homeopathic treatment has evened out her emotions so that she no longer cries at the drop of a hat, and also improved her focus and uncoordination (clumsiness).
  • Our son, whose sleep had degenerated over time to where he was waking every hour every night by the age of 2 years old, now sleeps 8-9 hours straight consistently. His intense temper tantrums were greatly improved and eventually stopped altogether through his homeopathic treatment. He has become much more cooperative and easy-going as well, and the correlation between these changes and his doses of homeopathic remedies is very obvious. He is the member of our family who is nearest to completing his homeopathic treatment, as evidenced by the fact that these improvements remain even while he is taking less remedy, less often.
  • My joint pain is gone, no matter whether or not I eat grains. I now very rarely have problems with low energy, and my irritability/mood is so much better! My insomnia is not completely resolved, but has improved from waking every single night for 2-3 hours to now waking about 10-15% of the time. My menstrual cycles have also normalized through my homeopathic treatment.
  • My husband, who has the most chronic health problems in our family, has seen steady improvements in his chronic health issues over the last few years on homeopathic treatment. His homeopathic treatment is turning back the clock on many of his health complaints, so that they are now better than they have been in over 12 years. His eczema is minimal, he is sleeping longer stretches of time at night (whereas previously he would wake every 1-2 hours), his weight is steady, and his sinus issues have much diminished over time.

I think it is very interesting that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of the GAPS book, recommends combining homeopathic treatment with the GAPS Diet.  Through my post-GAPS experiences, I wonder how many people who were "cured" by GAPS were actually healed through homeopathic treatment. Several of my homeopathic patients had previously tried the GAPS Diet, but are now seeing better results through homeopathic treatment than they experienced with the GAPS Diet.


Where Does Diet Fit In To Overall Health?


People are often very surprised to find out that I have serious reservations about recommending the GAPS Diet. For my family, the GAPS Diet ended up being an empty promise. Given the extreme amount of time and effort involved in following the GAPS Diet (I spent an average of 6 hours per day in the kitchen), that empty promise is not something I would recommend to others. In the end, it was not able to solve our chronic health problems, and it actually ended up creating more problems.

However, I do believe that diet is an important part of maintaining overall health. Providing the body with an abundance of nutrients, through eating nutrient-dense foods, gives the body resources to use in healing. The body does need those nutrients, just as it needs adequate sleep and physical activity. But those nutrients alone are not enough to heal underlying imbalances that lead to chronic health issues. Good nutrition is important, but it is not the solution to healing chronic health problems.  

What is your experience with healing chronic conditions through diet? Have you had any increased food sensitivities after grain-free dieting?


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lemon Raspberry Muffins


Those of you who've been following my blog for awhile have probably figured out by now that I like a lot of variety in my diet. While I would enjoy the simplicity of a regular meal rotation, I just couldn't bear to eat the same things over and over again.  I also delight in developing new recipes. I love to unleash my creativity through experimenting with new flavors, and sometimes it feels like magic when a new recipe comes together just right.

My latest new recipe is Lemon Raspberry Muffins.  These are based on my current favorite flour combination: coconut flour, ground crispy nuts, and Einkorn (an ancient variety of wheat that is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat). I like to make these muffins using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener; the lighter taste of sugar allows the bright flavor of lemon to really "pop" in this recipe. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to stick with only unrefined sweeteners.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. Then use a lemon reamer to juice the lemon. If your lemon has a very thick rind, you may need to juice more than one lemon to get 3 Tb of fresh lemon juice.
  3. Combine the Einkorn, coconut flour, ground nuts, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Combine the butter, sucanat and sugar in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  6. In the meantime, combine the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  7. Once the butter and sucanat/sugar have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  8. Add the sour cream and lemon juice to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  9. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time.  Because the Einkorn flour does contain gluten, make sure not to overmix or the muffins will be tough.  The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  10. Stir or mix in the raspberries.
  11. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  12. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees F for 27-32 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry. (The baking time will be less if fresh berries are used instead of frozen berries.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen raspberries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.

What is your favorite muffin flavor for Spring?


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