Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Fence or an Ambulance

I found this great poem in the back of one of my naturopathy textbooks. You've heard that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This poem illustrates beautifully the dynamic between health prevention and cure. I looked up a little background on the poem and the funny thing is that it was written in 1895.

A Fence or an Ambulance

"Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
but over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pound or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is all right, if you're careful," They said,
"And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below when they're stopping."
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would these rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked; "its a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief." cried he,
"Come neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."

"Oh, he's a fanatic," The others rejoined,
"Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?"

But a sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice , and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young then reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
"To rescue the fallen is good, but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley

-Joseph Malins

What is your vote? Fence...or ambulance?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Diabetes Prevention

Unfortunately, yet another member of my family has been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. This is a disease that I am doing my best to try to prevent through healthy eating habits and exercise. I believe that the whole foods diet I embrace will go a long way toward preventing it's onset.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are five healthy lifestyle tips for the prevention of diabetes:

Tip 1: Get more physical activity
There are many benefits to regular physical activity. It can help you lose weight but even if it doesn't, it's still important to get off the couch. Whether you lose weight or not, physical activity lowers blood sugar and boosts your sensitivity to insulin — which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Research shows that both aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes, but the greatest benefits come from a fitness program that includes both.

Tip 2: Get plenty of fiber
It's rough, it's tough — and it may reduce the risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. Fiber intake is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease. It may even promote weight loss by helping you feel full. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Tip 3: Go for whole grains
Although it's not clear why, whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, pasta products and ready-to-eat cereals. Look for the word "whole" on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.

Tip 4: Lose extra weight
If you're overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health. And you may be surprised by how much. In one study, overweight adults who lost a modest amount of weight — 5 percent to 10 percent of initial body weight — and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent over three years.

Tip 5: Skip fad diets and make healthier choices
Low-carb, low-glycemic load or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first, but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn't known; nor are their long-term effects. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy-eating plan.

Start today. I think we all know, whether we remind ourselves on a daily basis or not, that we cannot abuse our bodies by eating poorly or leading a sedentary lifestyle and think that everything is automatically going to be okay. Look honestly at your family history and do your best to be the exception. That is my goal.

- Shannan

Friday, June 26, 2009

Step By Step Instructions for Freezing Fruits and Vegetables

Freezing Fresh Vegetables

Step One: Choose fresh, and tender produce. Freeze soon after harvesting to preserve as many nutrients as possible. Choose organic or locally grown produce that is grown without chemicals.

Step Two: Wash the vegetables and cut them into uniform-size pieces where practicable.

Step Three: Steam blanch the vegetables by filling the wire mesh basket of a steamer with prepared produce. Set it over 1 to 2 inches of boiling water and cover the pot. Begin timing.

  • Steam for 3-4 minutes: Asparagus, beans, cabbage, peas, bell peppers, summer squash, and zucchini.

  • Steam 5-6 minutes: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, and okra.

  • Steam 8-10 minutes: artichokes

  • No steam necessary for onions, leeks, and garlic.

Step Four: Cool the vegetables quickly by plunging them into a sink or bowl of ice water. You only want to lightly steam them to save as many nutrients as possible.

Step Five: Pour the cooled vegetables from the basket onto a clean towel. Gently roll up the towel to remove excess moisture, but don't squeeze.

Step Six: Pack in freezer containers at once, seal, label, and freeze. For many things including soups, vegetables, and other dishes that I thaw all at once, I like to use glass jars. I'm moving away from using plastics as much as possible. I still use ziploc bags for fruit that I freeze. I use frozen fruit for smoothies and it's nearly impossible to get a chunk of frozen fruit out of a glass jar. Remember that moisture and air (oxygen) are the main enemies of frozen foods. It's important to use air tight packaging. Moisture loss occurs when ice crystals evaporate from the surface of frozen food, and the result is freezer burn.

Freezing fruits

Fruits lend themselves to freezing much better than vegetables as they retain nutrients and don't degrade the same way vegetables do. They generally don't need blanching and so can be frozen and used in their delicious raw state. They do suffer some softening in the process of being frozen. Freezing converts the water contained in any food from a liquid to a solid. Because the water expands when it freezes, the structure of the cells is altered, breaking down the cell walls. Consequently, all food will be softer once it has thawed. The more water in a food, the greater this change will be, and that's why some frozen fruits with more water don't fare as well.

There are two ways to freeze fruit - a dry pack or floated in a sweet syrup. Since I use most of my frozen fruit for smoothies, I prefer to just wash the fruit and freeze it immediately in a plastic bag. If you are thawing your fruit and serving it or using it in a recipe, experts recommend floating your fruit in a syrup and then freezing it. This method will preserve the taste and appearance of your fruit. An easy syrup to make is 1 cup of honey or agave to 4 cups of hot water. Let the syrup cool to room temperature. As you pack your fruit in bags or glass jars, fill to just cover the fruit with the honey/agave syrup.

Freezer Life
  • Vegetables will last about 10 months
  • Fruits will last about 8-12 months
  • Citrus Fruits will last about 4-6 months

For more information on freezing foods and how to avoid nutrient loss see Tuesday's post by clicking here.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cool Summer Salads with Cilantro

My intention with this post was to pass along a couple more summer salad recipes I have recently tried and enjoyed. Then it struck me that they both contain quite a bit of cilantro. I will still pass the recipes along, of course, but I also took a minute to look up the health benefits of cilantro.

Now this is an herb that could easily be confused with flat leaf parsley at the grocery store, but really packs a punch in the flavor category and smells great (at least I think so). Cilantro is a relative of the carrot and it's seeds are known to us as coriander.

So other than a unique fresh flavor, what are it's health benefits? Cilantro and coriander are believed to provide the following benefits:

1. Protects against the Salmonella bacteria
2. Reportedly works as a natural chelation treatment
3. Aids in digestion and helps settle the stomach and prevent flatulence
4. Is an anti-inflammatory that may alleviate symptoms of arthritis
5. Protects against urinary tract infections
6. Prevents nausea
7. Relieves intestinal gas
8. Lowers blood sugar
9. Lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesteraol (HDL)
10. A good source of dietary fiber
11. A good source of iron
12. A good source of magnesium
13. Rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids


This first recipe was a hit at a recent neighborhood party.

Aida's Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad


For the dressing:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
4 ears corn, kernels removed (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 pounds grape tomatoes, halved (about 3 cups)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced
2 medium avocados, diced

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender, using 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste; process until smooth. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

My whole family enjoyed this next salad. If you are not a fan of beef, try ground turkey or no meat at all. I would still be good!

Loaded Taco Salad

3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 pound ground chuck
1 packet taco seasoning
2 scallions , including the greens, chopped thin
1 cup roasted corn or 1 cup canned corn , drained
1 shredded carrot , approximately 1/4 cup
1 cup cilantro , coaresly chopped
1 can (15 ounces) black beans , rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese , grated
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese , grated
1 ripe avocado , sliced thin
1 head lettuce (or equivalent amount of mixed greens, such as arugula or baby romaine)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt and some cracked black pepper

Heat a fry pan on medium-high heat until hot. Pour the canola oil in and coat the bottom of the pan. Add the meat, breaking it up and letting it brown. When the meat starts to sizzle, add the packet of taco seasoning mix and 1 cup of water. Cook according to package directions. When done, drain the fat and set the meat aside to cool to room temperature.

To make the vinaigrette dressing: Place all the ingredients in a glass bowl and whisk, cover and set aside. Can be made 3 days ahead and kept for a week in the refrigerator.

Chop the lettuce, arugula and baby romaine into small chunks and add to a large salad bowl. Add the scallions, corn, carrot, cilantro, black beans and cheese. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and vinaigrette dressing, mixing well.

Add the avocado and toss gently. Serve with your favorite salsa, extra lime wedges, a dollop of guacamole and some crushed tortilla chips!


- Shannan

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Won't Last Forever! Freeze Some Of It Now

The farmer's markets around here are just starting to pop with great summer produce. Because I live in a colder climate with a later frost date, the first few weeks of farmer's market are filled with beautiful flowers and vegetable plants to put in your garden. This last week though I scored the first of many flats of fresh strawberries - YUM! There is nothing to be compared to the first sweet strawberries of summer! (Unless it's the first blueberries, cherries, and etc!)

Because I live in a colder winter climate, I know that this growing season will be gone before you know it and any fresh produce I get will have to be trucked in from a warmer climate. That's why I do what I can to preserve a little bit of the summer by filling my freezer with things that I either grow myself or purchase all summer at the farmer's markets. It's not too soon to start and in fact, it's easier if you do a little bit all summer and then before you know it, your freezer is full, fall is here, and you can relax knowing you are ready with healthy treats all winter long. I recommend buying twice the amounts of what you will need for the week when you go to the farmer's market. Make a double portion of say, green beans or broccoli and then freeze half for a dinner in winter. I buy a whole flat of strawberries; wash and cut the tops off; freeze half to three-quarters for smoothies; and then let the family snack all week on what's left.

Why do I prefer freezing to other methods of preservation like canning? Freezing food is in my opinion superior to other preserving methods because more nutrients are preserved and the texture, color, and flavor of frozen foodstuffs are better than in food preserved by other methods. While no method of preservation completely saves all nutrients, freezing will preserve the most.

Here are some ways to minimize nutrient loss while freezing your food

  • Prepare and freeze food as soon after harvest as possible.

  • Blanch your vegetables and for maximum nutrient retention steam blanch them for a short period of time. Most fruits need no blanching and can be frozen as is.

  • Take care when blanching your food and work as quickly as possible - the quicker you work the less time the food has to interact with oxygen in the air and oxidize which results in nutrient loss

  • When thawing foods do so in the refrigerator and not on the counter for the cooler refrigerator temperatures will thaw the food more slowly and mean less cellular breakdown and less nutrient drip which occurs during thawing.

  • Use air tight packaging or double pack things. Moisture loss occurs when ice crystals evaporate from the surface of frozen food and the result is freezer burn. Yuck! A lot of people prefer to us vacuum packaging. I haven't ventured into that arena yet - but I know it keeps things fresher much longer.

On Friday I will continue this theme of freezing by going over step by step instructions and giving you other helpful tips. In the mean time, here is a great link to more helpful freezing info from Kristen at Kristen's Raw on why she freezes raw vegan food.

Enjoy your day!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Exercise and Age

As I may have mentioned in past posts, I am an avid exerciser and over the last 13 years or so, I have maintained some sort of cardio and weight training routine. Just like most people some periods were a little more off than on, but I always come back to it. I bring this up only to make the point that I am in okay shape. Oh, and by the way, I recently turned 40.

On Thursday I was in my regular Kick-Punch cardio kickboxing class. I was still feeling sore from Monday's weight training and suffering from a sore foot that seems to be a chronic problem at this point. It was hard to motivate (I was feeling old) and I mentioned it to one of my classmates who just happens to be 5 - 10 years older than me. At that point she said the greatest thing which has stuck with me ever since. "We just work harder. As you get older, it is like running up hill. You have to work harder to maintain the pace." The best part is that she said it with a smile on her face and I completely understood where she was coming from. We are strong and we have the ability to work harder mentally and physically. Thinking about this has motivated me to push forward.

So what is my point? It is so important to maintain OR improve as we get older. Even if you don't exercise today, you can still reap the benefits and you will. Here is an excerpt from a great article I found regarding staying active at any age.

Staying Active: Time's Natural Impact

With each passing decade, our bodies lose more muscle mass and bone density, and, in turn, strength and flexibility. Fortunately, this process can be reversed at any stage in your life by revving up your physical activity. "You're never too old to exercise," says Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, professor and vice-chair of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City. "There are clinical trials, even in nursing home patients over age 90, showing that you can improve your health and well-being by starting to exercise at any age."

Most people in good health don't need their doctor's okay to start a moderate exercise program, such as daily walking. Under certain circumstances, however, a visit to the doctor's office is in order. "If you're past age 60 and have a serious chronic disease, let your doctor know before you begin exercising," says Dr. Church. "And if you're planning anything more rigorous than walking — say, biking, rowing, or swimming — certainly check with your doctor first."

Staying Active: The Exercise Rx

For overall health and well-being, it's important to incorporate four types of exercise into your routine:

Aerobic, or cardiovascular, activities, to make the heart and lungs work harder. Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day engaging in activities like biking, walking briskly, dancing, swimming, or taking a water aerobics class. You can also raise your heart rate simply doing chores around the house: vacuuming, gardening, raking leaves, or washing the car.

Strengthening exercises, to build bone density and strengthen muscles used for daily activities, such as climbing stairs. Aim to do strengthening exercises two to three times a week, using dumbbells, resistance bands, weight machines, or foam weights in a pool. To learn correct form and prevent injury, take a class at a gym, YMCA, or senior center.

Stretching, to increase flexibility and allow easier movement. Stretch on your own for 10 minutes a day, or sign up for a stretching class. Yoga and Pilates also incorporate many stretching techniques.

Balance exercises, to reduce the risk of falling. Tai chi and yoga can improve your equilibrium. Or practice standing on one foot, then the other — if possible, without holding onto a support.

So no matter what your age or your physical ability, I hope you will take the opportunity to move today. It's never too late!

- Shannan

Friday, June 19, 2009

Avoiding Food Additives

I've had some great discussions since Tuesday's post on Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG). I was surprised to find out how many people thought that MSG was just a Chinese food/restaurant phenomenon and had no idea it could be lurking in their processed foods.

I thought today I would give you all a quick list of some other common food additives to watch out for and why. Once again, do what you can to move from eating a processed food diet to eating a whole foods diet that you prepare yourself. It's a little more work, but in the long run you and your family will be so much better for it!

Common Food Additives

  • Sugar substitutes have long been blamed for things from headaches all the way to cancer. Some of the big ones are Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), saccharine (Sweet’n Low), and sucralose (Splenda).
  • High-fructose corn syrup: Animal studies have linked it to diabetes and high cholesterol and experts blame if for contributing to the rise in childhood obesity.
  • Trans-fats: Also known as partially hydrogenated oils – they are artificial fats that make oil more solid and thereby increase a product’s shelf life. They directly contribute to heart disease and high cholesterol levels. Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated canola, soybean, or cottonseed oil.
  • Food Coloring: Big ones to avoid are FD&C blues #1 and 2; green #3; and yellows #5 and 6. They are all made of toxic chemicals though and have been linked to such things as ADHD, multiple types of cancer, male sterility, and many other issues.
  • Sodium Nitrites: these are used to preserve cured and processed meats like bacon, sausage, and ham and keep them looking red and juicy. These compounds have been linked to various types of cancer and high blood pressure.
  • MSG: monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer found in many foods. It’s taste is so potent that it allows companies to use fewer real food ingredients. It can cause reactions from headache and shortness of breath to changes in heart rate. It’s flavor is also addicting which causes many to overeat. Look for msg, mono sodium glutamate, or hydrolyzed protein on labels.
  • Avoid genetically modified or engineered food (GMO or GE): this is a way for farmers to create pest-resistant crops by breeding a pesticide right into a grain. No long term testing has been done on these foods and research is showing a link with GMO foods transmitting food allergens.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Visiting the Farm

We are trying out Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) this year. As mentioned in a previous post, this is a local farm that sells shares of it's produce, eggs, milk, etc. to individuals for an entire growing season. We purchased one of those produce shares and pick up whatever is ready that week every Monday. This week I took the girls out to see the farm and the farm animals.

They enjoyed petting the goats (and the family cats), picking strawberries and gathering eggs.

It is fun knowing where our food is actually coming from. I can't help but think about the rows of lettuce as I eat my lunchtime salad. I could tell that the owner of the farm loves what she is doing and it feels nice to be able to support her efforts and have healthy, chemical-free food for my family.

CSA's where we live usually work on selling their shares in January or February for the season. Here in Michigan the season is about 20 weeks long. If you are interested in finding a CSA where you live, check out Local Harvest. In addition to CSA information, you can also find out about local Farmer's Markets, another great way to support your community growers.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monosodium Glutamate: A dangerous and addictive food additive

As you know from reading our posts, Shannan and I wholeheartedly subscribe to a whole foods diet. We try to introduce ideas and recipes that encourage you to choose natural, unprocessed foods full of the most nutrition possible. One of the reasons for this is that convenient, processed foods contain a lot of harmful food additives. It's hard to say which one is the worst, but one I'm becoming more and more concerned about is MSG or mono sodium glutamate.

MSG is used as a "flavor enhancer" in many pre-packaged foods and even in restaurant prepared foods. It's found mostly in meats, canned soups, crackers, chips, salad dressings, and frozen dinners. Now, even before you understand the danger to your health that MSG can pose, it's use as a "flavor enhancer" should bring one pause. I mean, if the food needs a "flavor enhancer" what's wrong with it? Fresh, nutritious food usually tastes pretty good on it's own. What kind of low quality, stale, non-nutritious food needs a "flavor enhancer"? MSG actually has very little actual flavor. It's a chemical that tricks your tongue into thinking that the food you are eating has more protein and tastes better.

Problems associated with MSG:

  • Food addictions and obesity: Have you ever started eating a bag of chips only to find that you couldn't put it down? A study of elderly people showed that people will eat more of a food with added MSG. Conversely, has eating an apple or carrot ever made you want to eat the whole bushel or bag? Most would attribute this to whole foods not "tasting" as good as packaged foods. I think the truth is that we are influenced by the chemical MSG when eating packaged foods and when eating whole foods our bodies and brains can tell when enough is enough. (Although, a bowl of watermelon can make me want to overeat at times!)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • MSG is an excito-toxin which excites cells possibly leading to or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, etc
  • Damage to nerve cells in the brain
  • MSG can also overstimulate heart muscle leading to cardiac arrhythmia's and death. This may in part explain some of the sudden deaths seen in young athletes.
  • Eye damage
  • Migraine headaches
  • Fatigue and disorientation
  • Endocrine Problems
  • Increased insulin production: To study diabetes, scientists had to create obese rats. To do this, they injected the rats at birth with MSG. They found that MSG triples the amount of insulin the pancreas creates, causing the rats to become obese.

How to avoid MSG

  • Avoid eating foods with labels as much as possible. If a food is processed you can almost assume it contains MSG.
  • Eat foods prepared in your own kitchen where you know what has been added to your food.
  • If you eat out, ask your server at restaurants if their food contains MSG. Ask that they prepare your food without adding MSG. Fast food restaurants are notorious for adding large amounts of MSG.
  • Check all food purchased for any of these listed names of MSG - hydrolyzed protein, textured protein, glutamate, glutamic acid, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, and the general "seasonings".

It's scary to me to think that an additive in foods can have such a dramatic impact on my health and the health of others. Join me in avoiding MSG. Check out the ingredient decks on foods in your pantry and remember to carefully check labels next time you are at the grocery store. Even better, buy food without labels!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Remembering your Reusable Bags

I wholeheartedly believe in using reusable bags. I want to use them. I own several. I actually feel like a better person when I remember them...

The problem is remembering them. At my house they are usually sitting in the garage right outside of the backdoor. They are there because I have actually used them, unloaded groceries and then set them there. It is when I am standing in the checkout line at the store and remember that they are all still sitting next to the backdoor in the garage that I really get frustrated. Not only am I not helping the environment when I forget them, I am adding to the pile of plastic I need to remember to take back to the store to recycle and I am missing out on the .5 cents (some stores give .10 cents) per bag that my grocery store gives me when I use my own. The thing is .5 or .10 cents would never normally move me to do much, but I do love knowing that the store is paying ME to use my own bag.

So how to remember my bags EVERY time I head to the store. Here are a few ways others try to remember their bags.

  • Keep the bags in your car. (Note: this is my favorite method but I think I will need to put a note on my dashboard to grab the bags as I go into the store.)

  • Keep the bags on a hook near your door.

  • Keep a note on your door to "Remember your bags"

  • Purchase a bag that is small enough to hook on your keychain.

  • Purchase bags that can be rolled up and carried in your purse.

  • Use a large bag that is fashionable to carry everywhere.

  • If you forget your bags, make yourself purchase another one instead of using disposable. (This might work, there is a consequence. If I am motived by the .5 or .10 cent rebate, I should be discouraged by having to pay .99 cents for a new bag.)

And last but not least, check out this YouTube video by a British comedian, Tim Minchin about 'taking your canvas bags.' Maybe you can get the catchy tune stuck in your head as a reminder.

Please feel free to share any other methods that work for you!

Good luck and happy shopping,


Friday, June 12, 2009

Colloidal Silver: Nature's Disinfectant

I came across another helpful natural remedy not long ago and wanted to write about it today. Colloidal silver is an inexpensive healing agent and disinfectant. It is a liquid composed of 99.9 percent pure silver particles that are suspended in water. The basic premise is that bacteria can't grow in the presence of silver and this makes colloidal silver a great internal and external disinfectant. In fact it has been shown to be effective agains more than 650 disease-causing bacteria, including such organisms as Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria and the fungus Candida albicans. It even works agains viruses.

Colloidal silver has been used for years in homeopathic, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It's completely safe when used as directed, even for infants and children. (I know, someone is about to mention the "blue man." A man who purportedly used colloidal silver and turned his skin permanently blue. I looked into that story and apparently he was trying to make his own funky colloidal silver at home. Don't try that.) Back before antibiotics, refrigeration, and pasteurization people used to put silver coins in milk to keep bacteria from growing. You've heard the "born with a silver spoon in her/his mouth" phrase - well, apparently, the wealthy of the time would have their eating utensils made of silver in order to prevent bacteria growth on their food. Silver coins would even be thrown down into water wells to keep stagnant water drinkable.

Here are some ways that colloidal silver can benefit you and your family.

Colloidal Silver...

  • is effective externally on burns, abrasions, and cuts - it fights infection and helps to heal skin damaged tissue.

  • can be applied directly to the ears for an ear infection or used in a neti pot for sinus infections.

  • can help get over the cold and flu virus

  • can be used to treat drinking water. It is recommended to use some in travel and camping trips as you can add one ounce of colloidal silver in a quart of water and get the germicidal benefits from it.

  • can be used pretty much any time when bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections are suspected. Note: for serious or life threatening conditions one should always consult their physician.

Safe Doses: It's important to use this product as recommended. The bottle you purchase will give you the correct amount to take daily and do not take for more than 2 weeks at a time with a two week rest window in between the next round. Do not take if you are currently on thryroxin, quinolones, penacillamines and tetracyclines as the silver has a definte reaction with these pharmaceuticals.

This is a great addition to your medicine cabinet - check your local health food store or email me and I can give you some other options.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bye-bye Bedtime

Tomorrow is our last day of preschool. That means that summer vacation officially starts for my family. Some of you have already left the school year behind and are experiencing the joys of summer.

With all that summer brings - picnics, playing at the park, running in the sprinklers, it also brings with it a lack of routine and therefore, a later bedtime. Around our neighborhood it is not unusual for the kids to play until dark, running from house to house, playing tag, riding bikes or shooting baskets.

For some reason the lack of an official bedtime in the summer makes me a little anxious. I try to keep my kids on some sort of schedule, but it just seems mean of me to make them come in while everyone else is hanging out having fun. And, if you have younger children as I do (5 yrs.) you know that a later to bed does not necessarily mean later to rise.

So how much sleep do kids really need? According to WebMD.com, kids between the ages of 3 and 6 need 10 1/2 to 12 hours of sleep a night. This means going to bed between 7 and 9 p.m. and waking between 6 and 8 a.m. That sounds about right to me. Children up to the age of 12 need at least 10 hours of sleep per night.

Your child's sleep helps:

  • manage daily stresses

  • promotes growth of bones, muscles and other body tissue

  • rejuvenate the immune system

  • promote mental alertness the next day

  • prevent depression (long term sleep deprivation can cause serious depression)

  • prevent psychological problems and disorders like anxiety, attention disorders, bed-wetting and post-traumatic stress disorder. (all possible results of prolonged sleep deprivation)

So, although the freedom and fun of summer are a nice break, try not to lose track of the importance of bedtime. I know I won't.

- Shannan

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Homeopathics and Bach Flower Remedies to Keep on Hand for the Stomach Flu

Preschool ended last week for my kids, but not before they were exposed to one last bout of the stomach flu. One of the sweet little guy's in the class was sent home on Wednesday with the big D. I hoped maybe the kids would miss it, but sure enough Sunday morning L. woke up with a fever and complaining of a tummy ache. I kind of twirled for awhile wondering what to do for her and then I thought duh - I can use homeopathics and Bach flowers for her! By dinnertime Sunday night she was up laughing and playing with her brother; her fever was gone; and we had no vomiting or diarrhea. Yeah! I love natural medicine!

Here is a great list of homeopathics and Bach flowers to keep on hand to get you through the stomach flu.

Homeopathics: The basic principles of homeopathy are that the natural state of the human body is one of health and that we possess the natural ability to heal ourselves. What we describe as symptoms are actually the body's efforts to protect itself against disease. Therefore, to effect a cure, we should not suppress the symptoms, but seek to stimulate the body's own natural healing processes.
  • Arsenicum Album - Person is restless, fearful, aching, and irritable. They are thirsty for sips of water and are better from warm drinks, worse from cold ones. They dislike the smell or even sight of food. They have burning pains here and there and usually feel worse after midnight.

  • Bryonia - Person has a painful cough and pain in the throat and chest. They feel worse from even the slightest motion. They are irritable, quiet, and want to be left alone. They are usually very thirsty with dry mouth and lips.

  • Euphatorium perfoliatum - Person experiences deep aching in the bones and even the eyeballs are sore. They may feel totally "wiped out," unable to exert the least effort. They are usually thirsty, especially as the chill begins to come on.

  • Gelsemium - There is gradual onset of chilling, aching, lassitude, and fever. Person is not thirsty. They are persistently apathetic and indifferent to life. They lie quietly with eyelids drooping.

  • Nux Vomica - This remedy is indicated when a cold has developed into influenza. The patient is irritable, chilly, sensitive to noises and odors, worse from cold or open air. They are better lying down and from warmth.

  • Phosphorus - This remedy is for the person who doesn't even act sick. A child, for example, with a temperature of 104 degrees may play happily. Person may feel very weak. They are thirsty for refreshing ice-cold drinks, but may vomit as soon as the water is warm in the stomach.

That is an extensive list. We found Arsenicum Album and Nux Vomica helpful. If you are unfamiliar with homeopathics, look for them in your local health store or you can order them online at 1-800-homeopathy. For more information you can also check out the National Center for Homeopathy.

Bach Flower Remedies: Generally I think of using Bach Flower Remedies during times of stress or emotional problems, so I was surprised to find that they are also very helpful during the flu or other physical symptoms. This shouldn't be so surprising as we generally get "sick" after a period of mental, emotional, or physical stress.

Here is a list of the primary essences one should take as soon as the flu shows up.

  • Clematis: This strengthens the resolve to stay healthy.

  • Crab Apple: Promotes purification of the blood and helps divert the virus.

  • Olive: Gives one reserves of strength.

  • Walnut: Strengthens the immune system against pathogens

All of the above can be taken together or mixed in a bottle. Here is another list of complementary essences and you may choose up to two depending on your particular circumstances. (Only up to six essences should be mixed at a time).

  • Chicory for a conspicuous craving for love or comfort.

  • Elm for sudden exhaustion.

  • Holly for groundless irritation.

  • Mustard for an inexplicable bad mood.

  • Water Violet to treat the need for quiet and the need to be left alone.

  • Gentian in case of a prolonged illness or prolapse.

If you are unfamiliar with using Bach Flower Remedies, once again check your local health store as they usually sell them there. My local health store doesn't sell them, but I order them from Frontier. For more information you can also check out the Original Bach Flower Remedy site.

Hopefully this helps you the next time you or someone in your family is faced with the stomach flu! I know it was helpful here.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Cool Summer Salad

I am very excited...my CSA starts today. That means that every Monday morning for the rest of the summer I will be picking up fresh organic produce from a local farmer. I am really looking forward to the nutritious surprises coming my way every week and trying lots of yummy new recipes. Here is a refreshing summer salad for you to try!

A summer staple, this flavorful salad is good on it's own or with grilled fish or chicken. Like all fresh tomato salads, it provides some fiber and a healthy dose of vitamin C.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup diced seedless cucumber (1/4 medium)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, parsley, olives, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl; toss gently to mix. Serve within 1 hour.

Enjoy! - Shannan

Sources: EatingWell.com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bilberry Leaf

It's time to talk about herbs again! I've been enjoying a new one that makes a nice tea. It's called Bilberry Fruit or Vaccinium Myrtillus. Some other names you might recognize are huckleberrry, whortleberry or hurtleberry.

Nutrients: This herb is especially high in iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc.

Nutritional Healing

  • This plant contains anthocyanidins which have anti-aging properties. These compounds inhibit collagen destruction, scavenger free radicals, reduce capillary permeability, increase blood circulation to periperal blood vessels and the brain, reduce inflammation and pain, and relieve muscle spasms. In Europe where herbal medicicine is so much more common than here in the States, Bilberry is one of the most popular over-the counter medicines.

  • This herb is a wonderful tonic for eyesight. It has been shown in studies that it improves night vision. In fact, during World War II, British pilots took Bilberry before flights to improve their night vision. It is also thought that Bilberry might be useful in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma since it strengthens connective tissue and prevents free radical damage.

  • Bilbery is also useful for the treatment of diarrhea and for topical relief of minor mucus membrane inflammation such as canker sores.

  • Bilberry's flavenoids aid in decreasing blood platelet aggregation which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Bilberry flavonoids may also benefit varicose veins by strengthening capillaries and vein structure, as well as strengthening the blood-brain barrier.

Wow - I just thought it tasted good as a tea!

Ways to Use

So check out your favorite herb store and purchase a little Bilberry for your health! If you need some resources online to find it - try Frontier or Mountain Rose Herbs.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

My husband and other members of his family have been long-time sufferers of acid reflux. And despite my best efforts to help him control his heartburn through some small diet changes, he continues to take a daily dose of medication against my better judgement. I am back on a kick again.

As I have done a bit of reading about natural remedies for acid reflux, it is clear that there are lots of thoughts on the subject and that no "one-size-fits-all" solution has yet to be identified. In fact, most experts say that you need to experiment and see what works for you. If one remedy doesn't seem to help try the next.

Below is a list of 10 home remedies you may want to try. Keep in mind that these are not medically proven solutions, but may be worth a shot.

1. Drink a glass of milk. Even though opinions differ on whether it should be whole or skim milk, this is an accepted and often recommended measure for immediate relief for heartburn and acid reflux.

2. Drink water. The water will dilute the stomach acid and wash down anything that might be planning on defying gravity, so a big glass ort wo of water after your meal might do the trick.

3. Chew almonds. A few almonds, taken in the morning and/or after meals, chewed very well, have been hailed as the new miracle treatment for acid reflux by some people.

4. Chamomile or fennel tea. The soothing effects of chamomile or fennel tea are also known to provide acid reflux relief. The tea should best be sipped, not gulped, and should be of a moderate temperature, not too hot or cold.

5. Eat an apple. Eating an apple after a meal has also been found to alleviate acid reflux. Choose organic apples and chew well.

6. Candied ginger. Chew a piece when you're feeling the acid reflux kick in. You can also put a piece of candied ginger in your tea and let it sit for a bit before drinking it if you don't like eating candied ginger.

7. Apple cider vinegar. Swallow two to three table spoons undiluted for an acute attack, or dissolve the same amount in warm water to drink to prevent acid reflux from recurring.
Note: Concerns with swallowing undiluted vinegar include the fact that it can start to eat away tooth enamel. Our recent post on fruit juice/honey apple cider vinegar by Body Ami recommends diluting a few teaspoons with 8 or more ounces of water.

8. Papaya enzyme. Available in the form of papaya enzyme pills, this enzyme has helped end acid reflux symptoms for some people.

9. Aloe. Despite its consistency which takes some getting used to, aloe juice also is some acid reflux patients favorite remedy.

10. Chew gum. After your meals, chew sugarless gum for 30 minutes. This stimulates saliva production which in turn like water that you drink dilutes the contents of your stomach and helps wash down anything from your esophagus into your stomach.

I also read that eating a piece of celery before and after a meal helped one person. Hey, why not try it!

I personally feel that diet is the key to controlling acid reflux and often press on this point when discussing this issue with my husband. It makes sense that a more alkalizing diet (mainly fruits and veggies) would at least help relieve this constant heartburn. Below is a table of foods that should be avoided as you try to get your acid reflux under control.

Foods To Avoid

Fruit • Orange juice • Lemon • Lemonade • Grapefruit juice • Cranberry juice• Tomato
Vegetables • Mashed potatoes • French fries • Onion, raw
Meat • Ground beef, chuck • Marbled sirloin • Chicken nuggets • Buffalo wings
Dairy • Sour cream • Milk shake • Ice cream • Cottage cheese, regular
Grains • Macaroni and cheese • Spaghetti with sauce
Beverages • Liquor • Wine • Coffee, decaffeinated or regular • Tea, decaffeinated or regular
Fats / Oils • Salad dressing, creamy • Salad dressing, oil & vinegar
Sweets / Desserts • Butter cookie, high-fat • Brownie • Chocolate • Doughnut
Processed Snacks • Corn chips • Potato chips, regular

Note: This is by no means a complete list, and in your personal situation, you may either find you can eat the foods from the "Avoid" group with no problem or have problems with foods not listed. It is a good idea to keep a Food Diary. For approximately two weeks, write down what you eat, when you eat and any symptoms you may experience. This will help you and your doctor plan your diet and decide on any change in eating habits you may need.

- Shannan

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Body Ami: Apple Cider Vinegar on a Whole New Level

Recently, through the crazy medium of Twitter, I came into contact with Beverly Parenti of Body Ami. She has a some wonderful products that I really think you should all try. It's such a great idea...flavored apple cider vinegars.

Many swear by taking a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day for it's many health benefits. These include:
  • better digestion and assimilation

  • better elimination

  • prevents infection and increases immune system

  • helps remove toxins

  • natural allergy relief

  • quicker healing fom coughs and colds

  • promotes pH balance

  • rich in nutrients, minerals and enzymes

  • and of course increased metabolism and greater success with weight loss.

Body Ami has more great health benefits and testimonials listed on their website. They even have a Facebook page where many have written in testimonials or sent video clips to watch. Cool!

The one really big dis-satisfier with apple cider vinegar seems to be the strong taste. Body Ami has found a wonderful solution to this problem. They blend their organic, unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with super fruit juices and honey. Some of the choices include acai berry, goji berry, currant, pomegranete, and mangosteen. Don't those sound delicious not to mention incredibly nutritious. This is a wonderful idea.

Beverly sent me a trial size sample of Body Ami. For the last week my husband and I have been enjoying Currant Honey Apple Cider Vinegar. I mix a few teaspoons with water in my stainless steel water bottle and sip on it throughout the day. I really love it and I feel so energized throughout the day. I love that my body is getting so many enzymes and minerals and detoxing in the process. I'm trying to decide which flavor I want to try next!

I had the opportunity to chat with Beverly on the phone last week and found her to be a wonderful, sweet person with a great story of how she came to create Body Ami. Her grandmother who lived to the ripe age of 98 gave her apple cider vinegar as a child for sore throats, to ease sunburn pain, and etc. As an adult, a friend re-introduced her to the healing benefits of apple cider vinegar but she found the taste difficult to overcome. When suggesting apple cider vinegar as a remedy to friends and family, again taste was always an obstacle. Beverly decided to experiment with adding super fruit juices to apple cider vinegar to improve flavor and nutrition, but not lose the efficacy of the product. Her apple cider vinegar is organic, unpasteurized, and unfiltered with the only the finest fruit juices and honey added and bottled in Napa Valley.

Do me a favor today...let's show Beverly some internet love! Here is your to do list.

  1. Check out Body Ami's website and while you are there grab your free trial size Body Ami product.
  2. Check out Body Ami on Twitter and follow her updates.
  3. Have a wonderful day!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Veggie of the Month - Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark green leafy vegetables are a good source of many vitamins such as A, C, E and K, as well as a rich source of minerals including, folate, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. They are also a great source of fiber. Research suggest that the nutrients found in dark green vegetables may prevent certain types of cancers and promote heart health.

The vitamins in these dark green leafy vegetables like vitamin K, A, D and E are fat-soluble vitamins. This means that these vitamins require a little bit of dietary fat in order for your body to absorb them. So, when you eat dark green leafy veggies you should make sure to add a teaspoon or so of dietary fat like olive or canola oil, cheese or salad dressing to ensure your body absorbs all of the available vitamins.

What are some examples of dark green leafy vegetables and how should you eat them?

Arugula has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium. Arugula can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fry, soups, and pasta sauces.

Broccoli has both soft florets and crunchy stalks, and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and fiber. Broccoli can be eaten raw or steamed, sautéed or added to a casserole.

Collard Greens have a mild flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, fiber, and calcium. The best way to prepare them is to boil them briefly and then add to a soup or stir-fry. You can also eat collard greens as a side dish. Just add your favorite seasoning and enjoy!

Dandelion Greens have a bitter, tangy flavor and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best when steamed or eaten raw in salad.

Kale has a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavor and is rich in vitamins A, C and K. Kale is tasty when added to soups, stir-fries, and sauces.

Mustard Greens have a peppery or spicy flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and calcium. They are delicious when eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups.

Romaine Lettuce is a nutrient rich lettuce that is high is vitamins A, C, and K, and folate. It is best when eaten raw in salads, sandwiches or wraps.

Spinach has a sweet flavor and is rich in vitamins A and K, folate, and iron. Spinach tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.

Swiss Chard tastes similar to spinach and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium and iron. It is best stir-fried or eaten raw in salads.

Of course I enjoy most of these greens (mustard greens are a little spicy for me) raw in a green smoothie as well. Add some avocado as a source of dietary fat in your smoothie. It also makes it rich and creamy.

Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas:

Dark green vegetables are very tasty and easy to add to your daily meals. Look for them at your local grocery store and try some of these recipes!

Make a salad: Leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach and arugula taste great when mixed in a salad with different kinds of veggies, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce.

Wrap it up: Make a wrap with tuna, chicken, or turkey and add romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other veggies for some extra flavor.

Add to a soup: Try mixing leafy greens such as collard greens, kale or mustard greens into your favorite soup. Try this great Tuscan Vegetable Soup recipe. It includes spinach in addition to tons of other great veggies. My family loves it!

Stir-fry: Add chopped leafy greens or broccoli to your stir-fry. Chicken or tofu stir-fried with olive or canola oil and your favorite dark green vegetable is delicious!

Steam it: For something new; steam collard greens, kale, or spinach. Add water to a pot and place a steamer with the vegetables into it. Next, bring the water to a simmer, cover with a lid, and wait a few minutes until your vegetables are slightly soft.

- Shannan

This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog is intended to replace the advice of a physician. We recommend consulting a physician before embarking on diet changes or a fitness routine. In addition, we recommend that you thoroughly research alternate points of view and make your own decisions as an informed consumer. You are ultimately responsible for your health.