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6 Things to do daily that boost your immune system

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how to prevent the flu

written by contributor Jessica

As summer comes to a close, it’s time to look forward to fall and winter weather. Yup, I know, it feels like summer just started didn’t it??  I really do love each season, but I could do with winter being a tiny bit shorter…or less cold….or at least less snow.

The transition time between summer and fall  is the time I start to look at what herbs, supplements, and oils I want on hand for the cold and flu season. I don’t like to be caught off guard and like to be prepared with things to reduce cold and flu symptoms. (Nobody likes to be sick or running to the store when you are sick. Blah!)

But, my motto is, ‘prevention is best’ when it comes to just about any ailments. Besides looking at what I like to have around when we are sick, I like to look at what we need to help prevent us from being sick. Those range from herbs, supplements and oils when symptoms start, to things that I like to make part of our daily routine.

There are so many things you can do to help boost your immune system to help ward of those germs. Most of them are pretty easy to incorporate into your day! (I promise- because if it isn’t easy, it doesn’t happen at my home either!)

1. Keep your gut happy

80% of our immune system is in our gut so if your gut isn’t up to par, your ability to fight illness will not be either! Cold and flu season is the time to buckle down and eat well. Cut out the foods you know bother you, back away from the Doritos (I know, I know!), and cut down on your sugar consumption.

Feeling like you’re having trouble digesting? Take enzymes with your meals or use herbal bitters. These items will help you digest your food and will make it is easier on the system. This makes for an overall, healthier gut.

Also, feed your gut some good bacteria. Incorporate fermented foods and drinks into your daily diet. They range from kefir, kombucha, to sauerkraut and sour dough bread. Full of healthy bacteria and they taste good.

Is that not your thing? Then get a good quality probiotic and take it daily. (you can find good probiotics at health food stores or online at Beeyoutiful)

2. Get to bed on time

Sigh…this one is hard for me. I like to stay up when the house is quiet. However, this is not good for my adrenals or my immune system.

The body needs to get rest and sleep. Sleep is when the body recharges and works on repair. If you are not getting the sleep you need, your body is not building up the way it should. Now a late night here or there isn’t what gets you…it’s when you make a habit of going to bed late. If you’ve been exposed to an illness, then it even more important to get those hours of sleep logged in. Your body needs to fight those germs!

For me, I try to get to bed at a good time five night out of the week. It’s best to start by turning off those screens and doing something relaxing. A good book and a soak with epsom salts and essentials oils (which is also great for building up the immune system!) sets the tone for me to go crawl in bed and tune out the world.

3. Move lymph fluid

The lymph system helps carry things out of your system. You want your lymph system to be moving and healthy to beat off illness. There are a lot of ways to do this and picking just one a day is going to help keep your body healthy and happy. One of the easiest ones for me has been dry skin brushing.

Skin brushing involves getting a natural bristle brush (available on Amazon) and brushing your skin before your shower or bath. The bristles stimulate the lymph and help it move through the proper channels. (This is also awesome for stretch marks and cellulite!) Check out this video on the more specifics of how to skin brush.

The truth is, any type of physical movement is great for keeping the fluid moving. Rebounding and TTapp are really awesome for this as well.

4. Keep up with the water

Yes, something as simple as drinking water helps keep the immune system healthy. Water helps to flush our bodies of toxins. It is so easy in the winter time to not drink enough water. But, it is really important to remain hydrated so your body is functioning at its best.

5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important vitamin in our body. Keeping up the proper levels will help the immune system function better. Increasing the amount you take if you start to feel symptoms can some times be enough to stop that illness right in its tracks!! My favorite way to get vitamin C is in citrus fruit, but there are a lot of good supplement out there to have on hand for daily use.

For an herbal vitamin C boost, reach for rose hips or hibiscus. They work well for daily tea infusions and are fully of vitamin C. (you can find them at Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store)

echinecea for immune system

6. Herbs

One of my favorite topics, so I saved it for last. Herbs are amazing for helping reduce cold/flu symptoms but did you know that there are herbs that are great at boosting the immune system? Yes, there are!

Medicinal mushrooms like chaga and reshi, are great in tincture form to give your system a daily push. The best part about the medicinal mushrooms is that they help modulate the immune system, not just boost it. Basically, they help give your system what it needs.

Astragalus is another great herb for daily use. It can help repair and build the immune system without stimulating it. (This is a great option for those with autoimmune conditions)

Echinacea, while a great boost to the immune system can be too much for daily use. (You can also grow immune to it) It can also over stimulate your immune system is your system is already compromised.

You can find all of these herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs.

 

See, as promised, the above steps are so easy to make part of your daily routine to keep your immune system fighting of the winter yucks.

So, tell me, what are your favorite tips and tricks to keeping well over the winter?

 

 

Rainbow Baby Thoughts : pregnancy & post partum after miscarriage

rainbow baby thoughts

This post is written by contributing writer, Renee.

“You’ll get pregnant again.”

“Don’t worry, you have 2 other babies so your body knows how to get pregnant. You’ll have another baby.”

“I’m sure you’ll get pregnant again – this just wasn’t the right timing and it will be just perfect next time around.”

Certainly not the most helpful of things to say to someone right after miscarriage.

And yet, I did long to get pregnant again. And while I spent the next couple of months learning a new normal, trying to figure out how to grieve the loss of a baby I never met, and healing my body, without much thought, I found myself staring at another positive pregnancy test.

Only this time, the tears were out of fear instead of happiness. My heart racing was out of anxiety instead of joy.

It was really hard to type that. How could I possibly admit that I was not excited about being pregnant?

Because the emotions were still so raw.

Because the nightmares were still happening.

Because the feelings of being alone and scared staring at a blank ultrasound screen when there was supposed to be a little bean with a heartbeat there were still so vivid.

Because being discharged from the emergency room and told your “never really a baby” blighted ovum was already gone, and you will probably just have some bleeding like a period for a few days was so far from true. When labor pains started so intense it reminded me of my first delivery, and my husband stood by my side wondering how this could be normal, I have never been so frightened. When the contractions were ramping up and down like every other labor I had, I never felt so alone.

There I stood. Never being told that I would probably pass “tissue” in the primal form of a real baby, I was not prepared for what I saw, and I still get chills thinking about it today.

So how could I possibly move on to prepare for another baby when the grief from the miscarriage was still there, and the fear of going through it all over again was in the front of my mind?

One day at a time.

Some days were pure joy. Seeing an ultrasound heartbeat at 6 weeks and then hearing it again at 10 weeks. Pulling out the maternity clothes, feeling the baby kick, and finding out we were having (another!) girl.

Other days I could hardly get out of bed. Friends that had been pregnant at the same time I miscarried having their babies. The day that would have been my baby’s due date. The days following that due date wondering how things would have been different.

The pregnancy was more of a roller coaster than I want to admit. I never truly experienced relief from grief. Or ever really admitted grief for that matter. And yet…I think I connected to this baby in a way that I never knew could exist.

She would move the instant I would start fearing miscarriage to reassure me. In fact she started kicking the earliest of my girls, and the relief of feeling life and movement at 14 weeks was more than I could hope for. She would be still when I just needed sleep. The name God chose for us to call her means “pure trusting faith” and every time I would worry, I could sing her name to her.

Her delivery was probably the most enjoyable and relaxed experience I have ever had. Beautiful home laboring and practically fell out at the hospital with a half push. She latched right on, gazed directly into my eyes and put her hand on my heart. She is the most beautiful miracle rainbow baby. Her smile is as big as the ocean and she has stolen our hearts.

And while she has absolutely “completed” our family…I still have days where I am definitely not complete.

She did not “replace” the baby I miscarried. She isn’t the one that “made up for” losing a baby. There are days that I stare at the “forget me not” gift my mom gave me after losing my baby and cry. There are days where I scold myself for being selfish for wanting both my miscarried baby and my sweet rainbow baby.

What I have learned in the 9 months of being pregnant, and the subsequent first year of having a baby after miscarriage is…you never forget that baby. And since you never forget that baby, it is so important to grieve her. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on” mentality is more crippling than anything in this world.

So crippling that as I sleeplessly rocked my 1 month old to sleep on September 25 of last year, I was not thinking about if I should change her diaper. I was re-living the nightmare of that night in the ER. I could still hear the voice of that ER doctor taking my vision of a baby away and making it into a lifeless tissue that was never a being.

miscarriage memorial tulips

So crippling that as I chased around my newly toddling and cruising 8 month old outside by the sprouting tulips I was not thinking about catching her next fall. I was heartbroken as I remembered planting those tulip bulbs with my oldest in anticipation of them blooming right about when that baby was supposed to have been born.

Don’t get me wrong. I have enjoyed every milestone, snuggle, and smile. In fact, I probably savored them more than I did with my other two girls sadly. It is impossible to take those things for granted after going through that kind of loss. If I could go back I would allow myself to not just “pull it together” and get on with life.

My sweet rainbow baby turned 1 on August 28th. In the year since her birth I have learned the importance of allowing myself days to grieve and process what would have been her big sister. Letting myself make our angel baby a part of our family has helped make my family feel more complete.

My scars are still healing. Because when you keep pulling off the scab instead of just letting it take the time to heal underneath, it always takes longer.

tulips miscarriage and rainbow baby

5 Things you probably don’t know about Endometriosis

endometriosis

I remember the first day of finding out about Endometriosis. I was sitting across from my Gynaecologist and he attempted to explain exactly what the condition was to me. Words like cysts, adhesions and things being in places where they shouldn’t be, kinda started swirling around in  my head. They were swirling because only a week ago, I had received my first Laparoscopy and I was still feeling the tenderness of the operation – combined of course with all the pain-killers I was on at the time!

Initially, all I understood about Endometriosis was that it was made worse with excess hormones in my body and by taking a synthetic hormone like the pill, Danazol or any other options my doctor presented to me, I would be able to stop it from growing. To me, stopping it from growing sounded good. Ultimately, the pain was made worse by these adhesions and cysts so I just wanted those to reduce and stop. Perhaps this is all you understand about Endometriosis at this point too…. a hormonal imbalance?

After 15years of trying all those hormonal treatments and trying to “stop the Endometriosis from growing”, I have learned a few things about Endometriosis, which I wish someone had told me about, in those first few days of finding out I had Endometriosis.

 5 things you probably don’t know about Endometriosis

1. Our hormone imbalances stem from somewhere

I just kinda accepted that hormone imbalances were just part of having Endometriosis. I never truly understood what they were or how they might influence Endometriosis. I can tell you that most of us with Endo, suffer from excess oestrogens in the body, which means…. in simple terms, we tend to encourage more growths in our bodies. These excess oestrogen reactions are often in the form of xenoestrogens which are environmental pollutants which our bodies perceive as hormones. Things like plastics, cosmetics and household cleaning products contain them.

Obviously we can avoid many of these environmental toxins but the key thing we want to do is figure out a better cleansing system within our bodies to flush them out. Which leads me onto my next point…..

 

2. The liver regulates and flushes out excess hormones

When we clean up our liver – reduce bad fats, excess sugars, eating more dark leafy greens and doing some good cleanses, our hormone imbalances substantially reduce along with it. The liver regulates our hormones and when it is stagnant (I reckon 80% of Endometriosis Women have a stagnant liver), then these hormones don’t leave the body and are simply recirculated.

 

3. It is an auto-immune condition

Endometriosis is often described as an inflammatory condition. Inflammation is a way our body protects us from danger. Tissues become inflamed to draw extra nutrients and blood to the area. With Endometriosis, the body is exaggerating this response, which is why many of us experience bloating and a heightened sense of inflammation in our abdominal area. Much the same way our bodies over react to pollen, the same can be said for an over reaction to these dispersed cells in the abdominal cavity. We can naturally reduce this response by the body by reducing inflammation and by minimising this auto-immune response.

 

4. Candida is closely related to Endometriosis

Candida is a fungus that lives in the digestive system and can live there, quite comfortably without causing any harm. In cases of Endometriosis it is believed that Candida has become systemic (has entered the blood stream and spread to other areas of the body). This is why many women with Endometriosis often experience thrush and digestive issues. You can send Candida packing with a plant rich diet, plenty of natural sunshine and herbs you can drink in a decoction or tea.

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5. Surgery as a treatment plan

I went through 7 operations with Endometriosis and believed that this was my best option for reducing it spreading. It was only after years of research that I discovered that with every surgery, the body will repair internal damage with more adhesions and scaring. Over years of having operations, this could be making pain and inflammation worse as the body is in a constant state of repair more. You can read more about this through the articles on my site: Adhesions with Endometriosis. 

 

The good news with all of this is that you now have a whole range of approaches to try for Endometriosis. There is more choice to feeling better than just hormone treatments, surgery and pain-killers! Try focusing on the liver, candida and reducing inflammation in the body.

 

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Endometriosis can seem like an incredibly complex condition but I like to approach it from different angles using nothing but holistic approaches.

It gives us an endless selection of things to try to explore – certainly taking away any of that feeling of helplessness :)

 

If you have endometriosis, what things have you done to reduce your pain and symptoms?

Gluten-free apple crisp

A recipe by contributing writer, Jessica who blogs at Simply Healthy Home.recipes for fertility

While I always find it a little bit sad to end a season, I can’t help but love some of the transitions. My favorite being summer turning into fall. The excitement as the air is a bit cooler at night or you start to hear the crunch of leaves as you walk across the grass, fall is beautiful.

Autumn is also probably my favorite time to bake. With the fresh bounty of new vegetables and fruits, the oven warms the house on the slightly cooler mornings and evenings. Squash, pumpkins and apples become readily available and I love to take advantage of the times when I can eat and use fresh, local produce.

Apple time is a busy time, but a fun one. We love to go apple picking and come home to make all sorts of goodies…applesauce, apple pie, dried apple rings and one of our all time favorites, apple crisp.

Apple crisp is less labor intensive than pie, but always yields a  happy response from those that get to enjoy it. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ve got something good going on! The crisp is easy to throw together and it’s not picky so even the less experienced baker can enjoy making this treat!

homemade apple crisp

With the apple crisp being a little less particular, this recipe was also super easy to convert to be gluten-free. Awesome, right? While the directions below are for a gluten-free apple crisp, you can sub exactly one cup of flour for the rice flour and tapioca starch.

Need a bigger serving? No problem. If you double this recipe, it fits well into a 9×13 baking dish, which is the perfect size to bring to potlucks and family events.

Are you dairy-free? That’s easy to fix. Just substitute coconut oil for the butter and an extra pinch of salt to make up for using salted butter with the topping.

gluten free apple crisp

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten-free apple crisp
 
A fall recipe for gluten-free apple crisp.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of peeled, sliced apples
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • ¾ cup evaporated cane juice crystals (easily found on Amazon)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup melted butter
Instructions
  1. Grease an 8 inch baking dish and preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt butter and set aside
  3. With a fork, work eat into flour mixture and set aside
  4. Peel and thinly slice apples
  5. Place apples in greased baking dish
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the apples
  7. Drizzle butter over the whole mixture
  8. Bake for around 45 minutes, until the top is a golden brown.
  9. Serve warm (With ice cream!)

I can guarantee, this simple recipe will quickly become a favorite. I have brought this to plenty of events and I never return home with any left in the baking dish.

I also love to make this as a dessert when bringing a meal to a family in need. Apple crisp tends to be a favorite among people of all ages.

With the fall season approaching, tell me, what are your favorite ways to use apples? I’m always looking for new ideas to try!

The lazy (or busy) girl’s guide to kombucha

easy kombucha

You’re probably making kombucha more difficult that it has to be.

And ain’t nobody got time for that!

So I’ll show you how I make my kombucha in less than 5 minutes of active time each week, first a written tutorial and then a video I made earlier this year and never posted for you. Yea, sorry about that.

For those that don’t know what it is:

  • Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea, rich with probiotics. (which means it’s healthy for you)
  • It’s made with a starter culture and SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Yeasts and Bacteria)
  • The yeasts and bacteria consume the sugar in the tea causing fermentation to occur. This is similar to how a yogurt culture consumes the lactose (milk sugar) in yogurt.

You can find it in most health food stores as well as bigger box stores now, but making it at home will make it the best for you. Not only can you control the type of sweetener used, but you can also control the flavor and the level of fermentation.

How to make kombucha in just a few minutes

Items needed:

1. Boil one quart (four cups) of water and remove from heat.

2. Steep the tea in the hot water for about 5-10 minutes.

If you forget about the tea, no worries. I forget All. The. Time. You won’t ruin your kombucha, it will just have a slightly stronger flavor. I try to do other things in the kitchen while I wait (prep food for later meals, empty the dishwasher, clean the counters, etc). This way I remember more often than not.

3. Take out the tea bags and stir in the sugar.

4. Pour hot/warm-ish sweetened tea into a one gallon jar.

5. Add 2.5 quarts of cold water to the jar.

Hot water + cold water = room temperature water which = no waiting for it to cool down.

6. Add the 1/2 cup of kombucha and stir.

7. Place the SCOBY on top.

8. Put the lid back on the jar and screw it on just so it won’t fall off, but isn’t closed tightly.

9. If you’ve never made it before, taste it every day so you can taste what’s happening.

10. After 7-10 days (or a few days longer if you’re like me and completely forget….) take the SCOBY and 1/2 cup of kombucha out for another batch.

Either make another batch right away or stick it in the fridge. If you do refrigerate it, be aware that it begins to slow down and hibernate, so your next batch may take a day or two longer.

11. Pour the kombucha into quart size jars with fruit or fruit juice if you’d like, put a two-part canning lid on it, screw all the way closed, and let sit for an additional 24-48 hours if you want a bit more carbonation, otherwise you can drink it right away.

12. Start back at step one to make another batch!

The lazy (or busy) girl’s guide to kombucha from Donielle on Vimeo.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe during pregnancy and for small children?

While many people disagree on this fact, there are women and small children who drink kombucha. If you are one of the ones that decides this is a safe practice for your family, please don’t use my lazy techniques and make sure to use pH test strips to make sure it is fermenting properly.

Can I use green tea/herbal tea/does it have to be black tea?

From what I understand, and have experienced myself, you need at least 3 black tea bags or the pH may not be acidic enough and will cause it to mold. So use a few black tea bags and then add a couple of green tea (or your favorite naturally flavored tea/herbal tea) bags to the mix for a lighter flavor.

What’s the best way to cover it while it brews?

Stop messing around with towels or coffee filters and rubberbands if it’s cumbersome. I never had good luck with rubberbands keeping out fruit flies and I’ve lost many batches due to contamination from flies so I no longer use them. If it works for you, great. If not, just use a lid.

Kombucha doesn’t need yeasts from the air like sourdough does, but it does need to “breathe” in order to release… I dunno. Whatever gases the yeasts and bacteria produce as fermentation occurs. (I’m super scientific if nothing else!)

Can I use well/tap water?

If you have well water – Yes. If you have a high mineral content it may negatively affect your kombucha or give it an “off” taste though. I’ve been brewing it with well water for over 5 years with no issue, but we also have a water softener, so it will depend on your specific well.

If you have “city” municipal water – Yes, but… you should boil all of the water and let cool (so not quite as quick). This way the chlorine will off gas. You can also fill a one gallon jar with water and let it off gas overnight.

What type of sugar do I need to use?

I’ve used everything from regular supermarket white sugar to organic cane sugar to whole sugar (sucanat/rapadura). White or evaporated cane sugar will give it a lighter flavor while whole cane sugar will have a richer/stronger flavor. Any sugar works, but whole cane sugar does provide more minerals for the SCOBY.

What do I do with all the SCOBYs?

Stop pulling them apart! I have friends that pull them apart and start making jars upon jars of kombucha at one time. Having multiple SCOBYs in the jar may cause it to ferment slightly faster, but it won’t hurt it at all. I only take mine apart every couple/few months or when a friend needs one (whichever happens to come first).

Each batch will produce another SCOBY, so one becomes two, and two become four, and four becomes eight…. I know ladies who “breed” SCOBYs like Henry Huggins bred guppies, and you will quickly run out of counter space! If you want to brew more kombucha, get a bigger container, there’s no need to have multiple jars taking up space.

If you do end up with a super thick SCOBY and no one to give it to, you can dehydrate one for later use or do like I do and place them in a glass jar with sweet tea in the fridge. I’ve had no problems leaving them in the fridge for 6 months, tossing in a couple of tablespoons of sugar now and again.

Do I have to worry about metal utensils?

Many tutorials mention that you shouldn’t use anything metal near kombucha. I’ve used a metal strainer and/or spoon to stir mine for many years without a problem, but what do I know. ;-)

I do not, however, use a metal or plastic container to brew it in – always use glass for that.

Can you brew it too long?

Yup. If the culture runs out of sugar the whole batch will begin to turn.

How long is too long? That’s going to depend on a lot of things: how warm it is, the type of sugar used, and how strong the starter kombucha was. I’ve left mine out on the counter for over a month with no problems, though the longer it sits, the more like vinegar it will taste and I normally just dump it out (except for 1/2 cup to start a new batch).

If you are going for consistency, make sure you remember how long you’re brewing it.

It’s fizzy after the first brewing, should I still allow it to “second ferment”? 

No. If you routinely let it ferment (with or without fruit or juice) a second time after taking the SCOBY out, and it’s already fizzy, don’t put it in bottles or jars with tight lids.

Unless you’re trying to get the jar to explode.

Once it’s fizzy, flavor as you wish and put it in the fridge.

How do you remember when it’s done?

I don’t. Heh.

Seriously, some batches ferment for a week, other batches ferment for two. I basically just brew a new batch when we need more to drink. (which is anything but consistent and also leads to slightly inconsistent tasting kombucha, but we’re ok with that) That way my fridge doesn’t get overwhelmed with massive amounts of kombucha AND I don’t have to try to remember when I made it.

Our family goes through one batch (3.5 quarts) in 1-2 weeks, so this works well for me. If you go through more, I’d suggest getting a bigger jar. If you go through less, get a smaller jar.

Basically, just use a container to ferment that will hold what you would regularly drink in a 7-14 day time span and you’ll never have to look at a calendar or write yourself notes. You’ll just make a new batch when you’re done!

 

Have some kombucha tips or brewing questions? Leave them in the comments!

 

 

 

What essential oils should you buy? Which ones are the best?

what essential oils to buy

Essential oils are a super hot topic right now.

So hot that I’ve seen scathing comments when people mention they should or should not use a specific brand. So many ladies seem to go from helpful to knock-down-drag-out in two seconds flat.

And it’s unfortunate, this great divide. Because we all just want the best for our families health!

It seems that a few years ago, when I purchased my first essential oils (lavender, lemon, and tea tree) that there was no controversy in the natural health world, or maybe I was just oblivious to it. I was excited to find a product that I could use in my natural medicine cabinet to complement the herbs I already used.

I began to happily use them, and then I got stopped in my tracks. I was told I bought the wrong kind, that I could be hurting myself and my family by using them.

Then I was told it was ok, but I was using them wrong.

Next up was that again, I had purchased the wrong brand, AND I could use them like I had before.

Let. Me. Tell. You. I think I’ve been spun around a few different times over the last few years and I feel like I finally have my head on straight.

I will not participate in the brand wars and I will err on the side of caution when it comes to neat and internal usage. (Unless I am under the care of a qualified aromatherapist or someone trained in EO use.)

 

Let’s cover a few basics:

What are essential oils?

They are natural oils found in plants that are usually extracted through a process called distillation. Essential oils are highly concentrated and it takes many, many pounds of plant material to produce them. In the case of lemon essential oil, it takes about 83 lemons to produce one ounce of oil. Lavender essential oil uses about 9 pounds of flowers to produce just one ounce of essential oil, and 250 pounds of Bulgarian rose petals are used to make one ounce of essential oils.

Essential oils are convenient as they are easily stored and carried when traveling. They are good for the budget since all usage is counted by simple drops and there are about 600 drops in a 30ml bottle. And they are effective for multiple uses; from cleaning the home and getting rid of pests, to calming nerves, taking care of headaches, and fighting illness.

 

So which brand is best?

I think if I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question my house would be paid off! Or I could at least buy a freezer full of grass-fed beef to feed my family for a year.

There are two big players in this arena of course, both multi-level marketing companies, (MLMs are like a pyramid, people sign up to become reps and sells the oils, earning a percentage of the sales, many times it’s as high as 50%. They also sign up other people under them to sell the oils and make percentages of their sales.) and there are smaller guys out there stressing they have good oils too.

Let me just tell you, there are multiple “good” brands out there! Companies who source their oils to the best of their abilities, making sure they are pure and unadultered. There are certified aromatherapists that blend these oils for each brand to create healing blends, each a bit different from the next.

The prices between all of these oils can vary widely depending on the source, and is often why people assume one oil is better than another.

I have personally decided to use oils from multiple companies and this works out best for me.

I currently have oils from four different companies and it works out great for me. Here’s why:

  • Many of my single oils are purchased less expensively from a company I know and trust.
  • I have a blend from one of the bigger EO companies that I can’t diffuse due to too much cinnamon in it, (it makes me dizzy and light-headed) but a blend from another company (used for the same purpose) doesn’t cause me issues at all.
  • On the other hand, it’s reversed for a different blend of oils! The lower priced option bothered me, but the pricier option didn’t.

My advice would be to find what works for you!

 

How should we use them?

Oh golly gee.

This issue is almost hotter than the brand war itself.

  • Should you, or should you not ingest essential oils?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Should you put them on your skin without a carrier oil? (called “neat” use)
  • How often should you use them?
  • What resource should you use to use them?

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about essential oil use from my master herbalist program through Vintage Remedies. It’s not a cut and dry issue and I think everyone should do research through several places before coming to a decision that works for them.

The good news is that if you want to take the aromatherapy course through Vintage Remedies you can take it for FREE when you purchase the Healthy Living Bundle.

Seriously.

I wasn’t planning on spending money for more natural living ebooks right now (when I have about 30 I still need to read!), even though I normally take any chance I get to stock up on books. But when I saw that the VR aromatherapy course (a $95 value) was being offered as a bonus to everyone who purchases the bundle, I didn’t give it a second thought. I purchased it last night and already have a few books on my kindle to dive into and I really wanted to make sure you knew about this sale too! (It’s over on Monday – or whenever they sell 30,000 bundles. Which from what I heard, it’s selling like hot cakes. As it should.)

While I feel I have a good handle on essential oils from my course and other research, I really want a better grasp on using them for health and healing. For that reason I’m all in!

As a side note – the other bonuses are pretty amazing in this bundle, which costs just $29.97 (but I paid $10 more to get the Kindle versions of all of the books. It worked out perfectly that I picked up a used Kindle Fire from friends earlier this week!). Last night I spent 20 minutes going through and ordering free herbal products from TriLight Health, free glass straws, a free amber bracelet, as well as a few other natural products. And I can’t wait to watch the Making Herbs Simple course in a couple of weeks! (I’d watch it now, but ain’t nobody got time for that at the moment!)

Anyways, if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty and figure out how to effectively and safely use essential oils, this aromatherapy course is for you!

Course description:

This course covers the use of essential oils in body care, as antimicrobials, for green living, in traditional aromatherapy, and even addresses the myths and facts surrounding the controversial internal use of these potent oils! Course content is delivered in the interactive student portal through audio lectures, PDF downloads, video demonstrations, interactive quizzes, and a personal course instructor for feedback, guidance, and encouragement! Once you begin, you’ll have a full 90 days to access the course content, which includes reviews of scientific studies and over 45 aromatherapy formulas for natural health.

This program includes video demonstrations, online quizzing, audio lecture delivery, and other features which require high-speed internet access for optimal benefit. Satellite internet is not compatible with our online quizzing feature. All of Vintage Remedies’ programs are self-paced, and upon course completion, you do have the option of purchasing extended access or upgrading to an advanced course at a discount.

 

And you can totally take it when you pay just $29.97 for the bundle. Plus you get tons of other cool stuff like popular ebooks on health, free stuff from companies, and view-able courses online.

I am an affiliate for the bundle, so when you make a purchase through my link, I’ll get a commission. It doesn’t cost you more, but totally helps me run this site. Or buy grass-fed beef for my freezer (cause y’all know that I haven’t purchased any lately!). And this is the coolest bundle I’ve seen yet.

Anyways, I’ll be chatting more about how I use essential oils in the coming weeks. Hopefully we’ll also be learning about them together through the VR course!

What I really buy at the supermarket (confessions of a real foodie)

eating whole foods

Something happens when a person starts looking at the foods they buy and they meals they eat after realizing that whole foods leads to better health outcomes. All of a sudden they feel badly, or secretive, if they eat something that isn’t considered “real food” or “nourishing”.

But did you know that stress (or feeling worried about the ingredients in your food) while eating has a disastrous effect on digestion?

Did you know that we are not only what we eat, we are not only what our animal products eat, we are what we digest.

So one might gather that eating food under stress, even of poor quality, might be worse for us than if we ate it under a relaxed and pleasurable state.

In my last newsletter I asked what topics you all might want me to write about and the one response I got many times over was how to eat when you’re in survival mode. Or how to eat when you don’t have the time/money/resources.

Everyone moving to a whole foods diet wants to be able to cook everything from scratch, buy only organic produce, and organic/grassfed animal products. We see others doing it and we see other bloggers doing.

I have done it.

I have learned how to source my food from farmers and farmer’s markets, traveling all over town and making special trips for the foods I desired. I’ve made all of our meals, snacks, and desserts in my kitchen. I have gardened and preserved a majority of the food we eat.

If I’m honest, I like when I’m able to say that! I take pride (maybe sometimes too much pride) in how my family eats. But on the other end of pride, can also be shame. We feel shame that we know better than to eat like this. (been there) We can feel shame that our income isn’t high enough to purchase the farm fresh milk, meat, and eggs or that we’re so busy that our time in the kitchen is at a bare minimum. (been there too)

We can feel so much shame that we hide from each other what we’re really eating.

Let’s be real with each other, shall we?

I want to be able to talk about food here without shame, knowing that each of us is in different stages of life and in different places in our journey to whole foods. Sometimes that journey moves forward in leaps and bounds, other times at a crawl, and some days may feel like you’ve taken a giant step backward.

My goal in buying food for my family is to make it work for my lifestyle, my budget, and my sanity. 

The above is what I bought today at the supermarket. I decided on my way home that I needed to share it with you, so it most definitely isn’t staged. If I had planned on it, I probably would have made different purchases.

Produce:

  • bananas
  • organic apples
  • red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • kale
  • snap peas
  • corn on the cob
  • organic potatoes
  • strawberries
  • butternut squash

Dairy:

  • organic butter
  • cheese sticks
  • 2 single serve yogurts as treats for my littles after we shopped

Meat:

  • chicken breasts
  • nitrate free bacon
  • breakfast sausage
  • deli turkey meat
  • pepperoni

Pantry goods:

  • black beans
  • white beans
  • diced tomatoes
  • salmon
  • salsa
  • mustard
  • basmati rice

“Junk” foods:

  • Doritos
  • Cereal
  • Fruit snacks

These foods (some already in our freezer/pantry) will be made into dinners like:

  • tacos with homemade shells
  • aussie chicken, rice, corn on the cob, and asparagus
  • homemade chicken strips, potatoes fried in coconut oil, and green beans
  • homemade pizza for movie night (unless I’m over exhausted from little sleep at night in which we’ll order out)
  • salmon patties, crispy potatoes, broccoli
  • butternut squash soup

Just showing that picture is enough to give me pause. I want to quickly explain why I bought meat from the store and not the farm, to tell you the Doritos are for Todd (they are…but I’ll have some too), and to make it seem like this week at the store was unusual for me. To tell you that I’m currently unable to make multiple stops per week, or multiple trips to the store as my littlest one screams through most car rides. That I’m also unable to purchase grassfed beef, raw cheese, and pantry staples in bulk due to financial constraints as I have taken most of this year off from working at home.

That some weeks I’m able to purchase different foods depending on if I’m able to get to my preferred grocery stores, but some weeks all I can get to is our “country-bumpkin” grocer who carries only the main essentials and rarely anything organic.

Do those reasons really matter though? Why must I feel like I need to put on a front?

What kind of crazy world do we live in that there are moms out there who feel bad for spending an extra quarter to get their cheese pre-sliced? Why should anyone feel like a failure for picking up a package of sandwich cookies now and again? And, really, since when is one’s worth, intelligence, or intention all wrapped up in a decision to use Velveeta? … What you buy at the grocery store does not reflect your compassion, your brilliance, or how much you love your kids. It really doesn’t.” 

- quote from “No Shame in Being Real” by JessieLeigh from Parenting Miracles

In no way do I want you to think that I eat a “perfect diet”. Sure, some days I’m a heck of a lot closer to it than other days, but know that I am, most likely, just like you. I believe that food is the foundation to good health, but it’s not the only thing that keeps us healthy. Our state of mind and our stress levels can increase or decrease our health the same way our diets can, and it’s finding the balance that works for us that’s most important.

When we know better, we do better, but let us strive for progress, not perfection if it isn’t within our means. And let’s enjoy our food without shame shall we?

oreos and whole foods

What seasons of your life have you had to relax your whole foods standards?

Do you ever feel badly for how you eat? Why?

 

A simple form of exercise that can transform pain levels with Endometriosis

by contributing writer, Melissa.

exercise and endometriosis

All the time I had Endometriosis, throughout my teens and twenties, I had a huge aversion to exercise. To me, Endometriosis and exercise just didn’t go together. It meant: pain! and I didn’t need any more of it…. thank you very much!

So, when someone suggested that exercise was actually a really large part of any form of healing for the body, I tried really hard to incorporate it into my day. I started with walking as I felt this would be easy enough to handle. It did seem to offer some benefits but inevitably, the weather would change and I would stop going and then it was really hard to get back into the habit. I am sure you know what I mean!

I then decided to try some at home DVD packs. Out came Zumba and dance DVD’s which seemed really fun but even those, left me with inner pain and aching which wasn’t encouraging me to carry on. I focused my energies on other forms of natural balance but exercise was always put on the back burner…..

Over the years, I had managed to reduce my Endometriosis pain substantially through diet but there was always a hidden guilt factor in knowing that I wasn’t incorporating exercise into my routine. I knew it was important for my bones, muscles, heart and immune function but somehow I struggled to find something that felt good and was a chore for me to do each day.

Through my online business, I have been lucky enough to meet many amazing women and one of those women was Allannah. She has been a Yoga Teacher for the last 15 years and explained to me how she doesn’t experience any pain with her Endometriosis since becoming a Yoga Practitioner. I was instantly interested. She seemed to understand the deep connection with Endometriosis and exercise and had found a way to provide some real benefits, without causing pain or discomfort.

I decided to try it for myself and discovered some amazing benefits with Yoga that I never got from walking or any other forms of exercise. I was lighter, freer and felt far less stressed after each practice. It was the perfect form of exercise for Endometriosis, not just because of these benefits but because anyone could practice it, regardless of where they were at during their healing journey.

See, for me, I could only really take up more intense forms of exercise once I had followed other principles of healing, such as changing my diet and cleansing. Before getting pain relief from these methods, I simply couldn’t bare the thought of doing any form of exercise as it always felt too hard and tiring. What is great about Yoga is that it doesn’t require much energy and the poses Allannah teaches for Endometriosis are gentle and really enhance healing.

Yoga also works very closely on the peripheral nervous system and actually de-stresses and calms the mind. With anxiety and worry being such huge emotions experienced with Endometriosis, it is so vitally important to let those emotions free themselves from the body. Every vibrational thought we have affects our cells, so we need to find ways to reduce any stress or anxiety emotions going on.

Since joining in on Allannah’s practice for Endometriosis, I have felt somehow more connected to my being, myself and my body. I have gained a strange kind of inner awareness and a state of calm. This has been a huge benefit for me since starting my business and studying all at the same time.

 

I highly recommend Yoga for Endometriosis as the best form of exercise and if you can find a teacher like Allannah, who knows about the condition and knows which poses really provide the best forms of healing, even better.

Super snacks for women

Woman running a marathon and looking very happy
Much of my adult life has included easy and convenient grab and go snacks such as cheese sticks, a small container of yogurt, cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, and more cheese and more yogurt.For me, fruit and dairy were automatic go to for a filling snack.  Though they are good choices, these days my body isn’t tolerating fruit or dairy at all due to the sugars.  Initially I was a big hangry (yes, hangry….you know, hungry AND angry) about it, because isn’t fruit supposed to be so good for us?  Yes, but when our body becomes so challenged with immune issues, the fructose can be a bit much.

Dairy and I have long since had a hit or miss relationship, so I always appreciate the confirmation of Nutrition Response Testing to give myself the current What’s So on what should/shouldn’t be going into my body.

For the past 8 weeks of having no dairy, fruit or grains in my diet to support my health, I’ve created some super easy nutrient dense snacks that have become my new go to’s.  There are also many a resource online when it comes to repatterning your brain to eating a grain-free diet.  What I have found interesting is that I actually eat less than ever before because I’m not hungry and don’t have any cravings.  When I do get hungry it’s because it’s time to eat, not because my brain is doing a sugar dance.

3 Easy Super Snacks for Women

  • Grain Free Granola-served either with full fat coconut milk and a hint of liquid vanilla stevia, or alone.  This granola gets clumpy so you can easily grab a bite.  This vanilla one is a favorite of mine.
  • Turkey Cucumber Wraps are another new favorite.  I slice a cucumber into quarters and wrap each piece with a thin slice of roasted turkey breast, such as Applegate Farms. Yum!
  • Lettuce wraps are an easy way to fill up with a lot of flavor, textures and protein.  We put everything from tuna or egg salad to salami or sliced chicken breast in a big piece of bibb or romaine lettuce with sprouts, cucumber, mayo, mustard or hummus and sunflower seeds for a hearty snack or light meal.  I find if I want to make a meal out of it, making 3 of them fills me up, and 1 is the perfect quick snack.

The third piece is to start getting that snack food doesn’t mean packaged, refined and processed foods. We can do some work ahead of time (which is really no different from the time it takes to pull off the road to grab something while on your way somewhere).  It’s like getting that breakfast food doesn’t have to be a bowl of cereal, a pancake or a Pop-tart, as dinner re-heated from last night would suit just fine.

Keep in mind your goal is to fuel your body with a variety of color (your carbs), a protein and a healthy fat.  It helps to meal plan and grocery shop with those three categories in mind.  You’ll never go wrong or worry about having the wrong food in your refrigerator when using this as a guideline.

The common housewife’s guide to making mozzarella

by contributing writer Natasha

Cheesemaking used to scare me. Then I lived in a foreign country where cheese was not readily available. It’s really true that necessity is the mother of invention. Did you know that powdered whole milk can be reconstituted and made into cheese? It’s not as smooth as cheese made from fresh raw milk, but it is very doable. And when you haven’t eaten any cheese in three months, it’s even delicious!

When we moved home and bought dairy cows, I made my first batch of mozzarella with fresh milk straight from the tank. Um, yum, y’all. Seriously.

I’m not a fantastic cook, nor am I good at following directions (there may be a correlation there) but even I can handle this simple cheese. The biggest thing to remember is that cheesemaking is not a science (no matter what the books tell you!) it’s an adventure. And as long as you stick to the ingredients given, you can’t mess it up too bad. Even if your mozzarella turns out crumbly, lasagna is very forgiving.

The common housewife's guide to making mozzarellaMozzarella is a great starter cheese because the ingredients are minimal, and the directions simple. You’ll need:

The best milk to use is unpasteurized raw milk but any milk will do. The only kind that doesn’t work is milk that has been UHT (Ultra-High Pasteurized) to extend its shelf-life.

Fun trivia: Mozzarella was originally made from Water Buffalo milk in southern Italy.

For rennet, your best bet is to order cheesemaking rennet online. Unless you have a cheesemaking store in your town, you’ll probably only find “Junket Rennet” which is not strong enough to congeal the curds. If Junket is the only available rennet, use 1-2 whole tablets instead of 1/4. Liquid rennet  is easier to measure but doesn’t last as long. Tablets can be stored in the freezer and retain their strength for years.

Fun trivia: Legend says rennet was first discovered by an ancient traveler who used a re-purposed calf stomach as a flask for his milk. When he went to get a drink, the liquid had formed curds. Today some rennet is still made from the lining of calf stomachs, but it is more popular to use the vegetable alternative.

Citric Acid can be found at any grocery store in either powder or tablet form. It is basically concentrated citrus. Most cheeses use either citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar to help curdle the milk.

I use Real Salt in all my cooking, but any salt will do.

The tools needed for mozzarella are also simple:

  • large stockpot
  • cooking thermometer
  • slotted spoon
  • knife
  • colander
  • microwaveable bowl

Ready to make cheese?

Step One: Measure 1 cup water and add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid. Measure 1/4 cup water separately and dissolve the rennet into it. (easy so far, eh?)

Step Two: Pour milk into stockpot and add the cup of water/citric acid solution. Mix thoroughly and turn on medium heat. You’re shooting for 90 degrees, which doesn’t take too long, so keep an eye out! Stir enough to keep the milk from sticking. The milk may begin to curdle. No worries.

cheesemaking 2

Step Three: Once you have the milk at 90 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the rennet solution. Keep stirring for thirty seconds. When your thirty second are up, stop the milk from moving, cover and set a timer for five minutes. Don’t touch the pan. You’re letting the rennet do it’s job.

cheesemaking

Step Four: When your five minutes are up, uncover and look at your milk. If the rennet did its job correctly, the milk should have formed into a soft jelly-like substance that is slightly separated from the whey (the whey is the watery substance around it). If the milk is still liquid, cover and leave it an additional 5 minutes. If it still has not set, your rennet may not have been strong enough. You can still use the milk, just heat it back up to 90 degrees and add new rennet. (Yes, I know this from experience!) When it is set, take your knife and softly cut the curds, making sure you slice to the bottom of the pan. Cut a grid-like pattern.

Cheesemaking 4

Step Five: Heat the curds to 105 degrees. Stir gently if needed. The curds will be loose and soft. Treat them nicely!

Step Six: Using your slotted spoon, lift the curds gently and place them in the colander. Spin the colander, allowing the whey to finish draining off.

Cheesemaking 6

Step Seven: Place your curds in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. If you have an especially strong microwave, you might want to start with 30 seconds.

cheesemaking

Step Eight: Carefully (it’ll be hot!) knead the cheese, adding your teaspoon of salt and mixing it through. Knead very gently and do not over-knead. The more you mess with the cheese, the tougher it will get (though still yummy, I promise!). If your cheese is very stretchy, it’s done. Form it into a ball, pat it gently, and tell yourself good job. If it isn’t stretchy yet, return it to the microwave for 30 second increments until it stretches easily. Form it into a ball, let it cool, and cut yourself a slice.

cheesemaking

And all that leftover whey? Don’t throw it away! It’s perfect to stick in smoothies, bread, or soups.

Troubleshooting: There are two common complaints when making mozzarella cheese. The first is that the cheese turns out crumbly instead of smooth. This can be caused by using pasteurized milk, or from using too much citric acid which can make the curds separate too quickly. The cheese is still perfectly edible. If it’s not pretty, just shred it up and use it as normal.

The second is that the cheese turns out tough and slightly yellow. This is caused by too much rennet, microwaving it too long, or from over-kneading the cheese. It’s still super yummy. No worries. Melt it on your pizza and enjoy.

Cheesemaking isn't a science, it's an adventure!

 

Have you ever made cheese? What are your best tips?

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