Every Wise Woman

Real Food, Real Health, Real Birth

Filtering by Tag: Children's Health

Radically Natural POV: Teach Your Children the Three Rs

I once heard a wise man say that if you have children, you are a parent.  It's more profound than it sounds, isn't it?  Being a parent is your number-one, full-time job...it is your life's calling.  Everything else is secondary to it.  And the beautiful privilege and weighty responsibility of any parent is to raise adults...to make people...intelligent, creative, caring, thinking, balanced, self-sufficient, happy, healthy people.  When our children leave our nests, they take with them the bodies we have made for them, the spirits we have nurtured in them, the perspectives we have imparted, and whatever education and indoctrination they received during their formative years...from us and from others.

We parents desire to see our children master the basics of education...the three Rs of Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic...as well as the other subjects that add enrichment to their understanding of life and the world in which we live.  Should we not also desire that they excel in the basics of healthy, nourishing life skills?  If we send our children out into the world without full knowledge of health and wellness, are they truly educated and ready to care for themselves and their future families?  It is essential that we actively teach our children the three Rs of healthy natural living:  Real Food, Real Medicine and Real Birth.

I used to believe that my children would just absorb, as through osmosis, the knowledge and lifestyle my husband and I model for them...that they would seamlessly adopt our nourishing and healing lifestyle.  But if we expect children to grow in wisdom and understanding, we must instruct them.  Anything worth knowing and worth doing is worth studying.  Children need to be actively taught so they will be firmly established in correct knowledge and practices.  Whether it be faith, academics, arts, music and craftsmanship, or nurturing health habits, instruction is key to developing worthwhile skills and lasting principles.

There is a war on for our children's minds and their future consumerist habits.  The industrial models of food and medicine reign supreme as the established default position in our modern culture.  If our children are not firmly entrenched in truth, which path will they choose?  If we don't equip them with the tools of knowledge and skills, they may fall prey to our society's "trust the experts" conventional mindset.  We don't want our children to be intellectually illiterate...neither should we allow them to be "healthily" illiterate.  If we don't actively choose an alternate path...seek ancient and traditional and sensical and natural (and somewhere-buried instinctual) wisdom...we all end up on the Standard American Diet and our culture's standard of health care and birth practices.  It is simply the truth of cultural influence, conventional education, and the prevailing established industries.  [For example: Despite a cornucopia of evidence to the contrary, we still live in a society where most conventionally trained dietitians and medical students are still taught the lipid hypothesis and the S.A.D. basics of macronutrient theory.  They don't distinguish between high fructose corn syrup and honey, hydrogenated soy oil and butter...they play a numbers game.  If the label shows the right percentages of fat, sugar, protein, and a sundry list of vitamins, that's all that matters.  Food source and preparation technique is largely irrelevant.  They remain willfully ignorant of the fact that industrial, synthetic, refined, processed edible goods are not Food.]

Why would we sacrificially and lovingly invest our time and effort for the benefit of our children (from conception)...to protect their health and work to establish a strong physical foundation for their future lives...only to have them leave our home and go on to poison themselves with a conventional industrial life of synthetic food and medicine and fear-based practices?  It is our duty to make sure they fully comprehend the principles of genuine health and nourishment on which we raised them.  If we neglect to actively educate them about the benefits and value of traditional healthy living, can we assume they are invested in pursuing the right choices?  They need to understand...before they are autonomous...the why and the how of nourishing and healing.  If we care about our children, we desire for them good and not ill.  We want to make sure they care and that they are capable and that they desire spouses also "in the know."  Because we will certainly want the same good for our grandchildren that we desired for our children.

Many of us are pioneers in this real food, real health realm.  When I left my parents' home, I was a "dumb cluck."  I knew nothing about being a wife and mother, about food and health.  My husband and I were blessed to grow together in our knowledge as I was mentored by older women who knew better and lived better.  Before I became enlightened to the truth about nourishment and real healing, I continued to perpetrate the damage to my body that was begun in my childhood.  I know firsthand how terribly difficult it is to reverse long-established chronic health problems.  I know firsthand the effects of industrial food and medicine.  I have suffered "garbage in, garbage out."  When I learned what it meant to heal, how to do the hard work to try to reverse ailments, how to create healthy bodies from before conception, I dedicated myself to a new...a better...way of living.  Would I want any less for my children?  I am creating for them a legacy and I desire to see them carry the mantle forward when they are no longer under my direct care.  I want more for my children, so I do the work for them now.  And I expect more from my children in their future choices because they were raised in this healing lifestyle.  They are being reared with a proper perspective on food and healing...much is being invested into creating for them strong and healthy bodies.  They are being given a foundation for their futures.  They are being given the precious gift of good health.  Their quality of life, their abilities to achieve and to conquer and to create and to enjoy life, depends upon maintaining good health (physically, mentally and spiritually).  Our children need to apprehend and adopt the path of nurturing upon which we have set them.  They don't get to play dumb cluck when they graduate into adulthood and leave our homes.  They are leaps ahead of where most of us were in our youth, and they need to understand how good they have it, how well nurtured they have been, and how grateful they should be to have the opportunity to experience life from a platform of health and wellness.

Whether you homeschool or not, you can teach your children the skills and knowledge they need to sustain the healthy lifestyle you are working so hard to establish for them.  Talk to your children about the choices you have made for yourself and for them.  Explain sowing and reaping.  And when they are old enough, assign your children reading materials that teach the principles of Real Food, Real Medicine, Real Birth.   Our children should be prepared to cook traditional nourishing food for themselves.  They should understand holistic physiology and know basic botanical medicine so they can successfully deal with ailments and minor emergencies.  And should they need deeper assistance dealing with disease or extreme acute trauma, they should know how, when, why and from whom to seek help.  They should understand a nourishing fertility diet, and comprehend the truth behind our profit-driven technocratic birth industry.  They should know why homebirth actually is safer for the majority of women and babies.  They should know how to avoid being victimized by industrial medical protocols.

Teach your children well...train them now, and when they grow older they will be prepared to thrive.  Don't leave it up to chance.  Whatever you want your children to know, give them opportunities to explore and acquire foundational knowledge.  Make them active participants in their own healing and nourishing.  Don't just serve them, teach them to minister to themselves and to others.  Make it fun, make it appealing, and make sure they understand why we do what we do.

Young children can begin to learn the basics of how the body works, how it is amazingly self-healing when treated properly... they can begin to learn about healing plants, and good vs. bad foods.  They can be given the default position that women's bodies were made to have babies and that is not a scary or impossible thing.  By the time they are in high school, children should have a basic food and healing curriculum that includes topics on traditional nourishing foods; how diet affects growth and degeneration, wellness or illness; the truth about fat and cholesterol; basic anatomy and physiology from a holistic perspective; botanical medicine; natural birth; and food and medical politics and history.

We work diligently so our babies and children are spared the devastation that the alternatives to nourishing food and botanical medicine can wreak.  We are protecting our children from the S.A.D life that greedy corporations wish they would live.  Let us not take for granted that our children will vicariously adopt our nurturing guiding principles.  Let us actively instruct them so they will not fall prey to the mistaken elitist notion that they need some expert to take care of them or control them.  Let us teach them that they can and should take charge of their own health and make their own nourishing meals and apply their own healing remedies.  Let us be proactive in giving our children the tools and education they need to understand why and how they should do the rewarding work required to pursue and enjoy the naturally nourishing, healing lifestyle.

Some References for Getting Started

Vaccination and the "Scientific Method"

I read this week one of the most succinct, thoroughly researched presentations on the continually raging vaccine controversy.  I wish I had written it!  LOL 

The author highlighted numerous important aspects of this issue, including individual rights, medical efficacy and scientific veracity.  She echoed sentiments and research I have presented, and she emphasized a key component to the controversy: the illegitimate "scientific method" used in vaccine safety trials.  The double-blind placebo controlled trial is the empirical standard of medical science.  But vaccine trials don't use this method.  

You see, vaccines are not research effective because they are not subjected to double-blind placebo controlled studies using a saline solution that is the standard for evidence-based medicine. Vaccinations are tested against other vaccinations, adjuvants, and complex vaccinations – this not only yields inaccurate results but altered and inaccurate safety data. How can you know if something is truly safe if it is not tested against a placebo? -- Megan Heimer, Livingwhole.org
It seems to me that even people who trust that pharma companies are using honest, objective scientific methodology to test their drugs (I am not one of those people) would assent to the falsity of the vaccine safety test methods.  Other drugs are not (supposed to be) tested thus.

Some people might agree with the unscientific vaccine testing protocol, excusing it by saying it would be "unethical" to withhold a "necessary" medicine from a child (I read this in the comments section on Megan's post).  Hmmmm...are vaccines truly necessary?  The jury is certainly out on that one.  Consider that there are thousands of unvaccinated children in this country alone...many of them by parental choice...not to mention the unvaccinated adults.  No child died after a well-check from not receiving a vaccine, but children have died after receiving their vaccines.  I do not believe it is acutely life threatening to withhold a vaccine, so a legitimate study, even a short-term acute reaction study, could certainly be done.  

Kudos to Megan for her Response to Eliminating Vaccine Exemptions!  

Radically Natural Remedies for Impetigo

Impetigo is a common contagious skin infection producing blisters usually on the face, neck, hands and groin area. These blisters often fill up with or ooze yellow fluid or pus, resulting in honey colored scabs. A bacterial infection, impetigo is caused either by Staphylococcus aureus (in which case, impetigo is also referred to as golden staph) or Streptococcus pyogenes.

In addition to antibacterial botanicals, coconut oil is an effective treatment for impetigo.  Coconut is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.  Among natural healers, coconut oil is know as an effective remedy for yeast infections, and research shows that coconut oil could be an effective weapon against drug-resistant bacteria.  A published study in the medical journal Dermatitis revealed virgin coconut oil's effectiveness in combating Staph aureus.

Coconut oil's medium chain fatty acids have proven to be destructive to various viruses, bacteria and fungi.
"Laboratory tests have shown that the MCFAs found in coconut oil are effective in destroying viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis hepatitis C, and AIDS; bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, throat infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, and toxic shock syndrome; fungi and yeast that lead to ringworm, candida, and thrush; and parasites that can cause intestinal infections such as giardiasis."  -- Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle
Combining coconut oil with the antimicrobial essential oil Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) makes an even more effective impetigo treatment.  An ancient medicine extracted from the resin of the Olibanum tree, Frankincense oil has strong anti-infectious properties and numerous medicinal benefits.  Its regenerative properties are particularly useful for skin ailments.

Raw honey, particularly Manuka honey, is another antimicrobial medicine effective for healing and soothing skin infections, wounds and burns.  Researchers are discovering that Manuka honey kills Strep pyogenes  and even helps to prevent the bacteria from binding to wound tissue.  The product of nectar from the Manuka tree in Australia and New Zealand, Manuka honey's unique antibacterial properties are rated by producers using the UMF scale (Unique Manuka Factor)...the higher the rating, the stronger the antibacterial activity.

To treat impetigo and sooth blisters and scabs, just mix high quality organic cold pressed coconut oil (like Nutiva Organic or Tropical Traditions) with a therapeutic quality Frankincense EO and gently rub over affected areas.  Use as much as needed, starting with a ratio of 1 Tb. coconut oil to 5 drops Frankincense.  Go ahead and add some raw honey (Manuka if you can get it) for good measure.  Or alternate the coconut oil with honey.

Bathing the skin in raw apple cider vinegar (like Bragg's), another natural antibacterial and antiseptic, can help combat the infection and reduce inflammation and relieve itching.  Dilute one part ACV in three parts water and apply as a rinse to the affected skin, or dab on with a soaked cloth.  Follow the ACV rinse with the oil/honey treatments.

If swollen glands or other signs of systemic infection accompany the impetigo, speed healing with a lymphatic cleanse using mullein and lobelia tinctures.  Give 10 drops of each in a glass of water every three hours.  Also, support immunity and combat systemic infection with herbal medicine and nutrients, as outlined in my post on fighting infections.  Also look at my remedies for coughs and sore throats if either of these accompany the impetigo episode.

The following is a testimonial written by a friend of mine about their impetigo episode from last spring:

"Last evening we applied coconut oil for the last time on my son’s face for an impetigo infection that began more than three weeks ago, and I am reminded that healing time is directly relational to the extent of the wounding. I had never seen a skin infection like this in my life, although I had heard of impetigo and have vague memories of my sister having scabs in her ears that my mom called by that name. None of our children have ever had a skin infection before, and when our 12-year-old son woke up with a few tiny pimples around his mouth, my first thought was simply that he hadn’t washed his face well the night before after eating dinner. Three days later I was surprised that they were still there, and wondering if it was maybe hormonal changes causing them... 
Then the next morning he emerged looking so awful that I was not only seriously alarmed, but knew that something had to be done immediately about his condition! What was this thing? Not only were there golden, crusty scabs all around his mouth and nose and spreading up one side of his face, but the worst one on his cheek was like a large blister that had broken open and was sliding down his face. It was literally like his skin was coming apart at that location.
It is an awful feeling to not know what is happening or how to deal with it! (We are not medically minded, and going to the doctor was WAY down on the list for me. Like, not even on the list, unless my husband said that we had to.) But I knew even in my alarm that God knew exactly what was wrong with Benjamin, so before I did anything… I prayed. I asked Him to show me what it was, and to give me tools to deal with it. I didn’t have a ton of time to do research. The very first thing that turned up on the Internet was a picture of golden staph infection. None of the pictures was anything like as bad as Ben’s face, but it looked identical, and so my next search was for natural treatments for that condition. (I have since learned through more research that impetigo is caused by either a strep or a staph bacteria infecting the skin, and that the staph bacteria – also called bullous – produces a toxin that reduces cell-to-cell adhesion, causing separation between the top skin layer epidermis and the lower layer dermis).

The first natural cure that I found online was manuka honey, which I called Dr. Dad for right away. This wonder honey began healing the open wound on his cheek immediately, causing it to close and scab over in a nice, healthy looking type of scab. But it did not seem to be working as quickly on the areas that were still full of pus and infection. In addition, it didn’t seem to be able to keep it from wanting to spread, and little pimples were forming around the large areas of golden crust. The honey also proved to be difficult to work with in a practical manner, as I couldn’t keep his nose and mouth covered, and he had to sit still with a rag under his face to catch the warm, melting drips. I also began giving him a strong immune-system tincture by Wishgarden Herbs and olive leaf, which is reputed to kill staph bacteria. For his skin, I decided to add bentonite to draw the infection out. This did have a good effect, and I liked how the honey kept the bentonite semi-moist, but it was hard on his skin after several days of application, and it truly was not having the hoped for dramatic improvement effect.
After a week of effort, I began to resign myself to maybe going to the doctor. My good, sweet husband praised my efforts and said that he would take care of everything. Before he made the doctor’s appointment however, he decided to do his own Internet research! After about 3 minutes of being online, he called to me to wash and dry Ben’s face and to put coconut oil on it. The infection by this time was up both sides of his face, as well as spreading down his neck. It was a continuous mass of red, or blister, or golden crust. About 5 minutes after applying the coconut oil to his face, we could see white skin appearing between the red patches. It was like a miracle. I knew in my heart that this was going to take care of it! Because of the extent of the infection, it has taken two weeks of twice daily application, but it never again broke out anew or attempted to spread further, and has only continued to look better and better. His skin now is ever so slightly pinker in all of the areas that had the infection, but otherwise completely healthy. We will be continuing internal immune-system building herbs, and are so incredibly grateful for this coconut oil cure!"

For more Information

Radically Natural Remedies for Winter Ick

This winter seemed to be a particularly long illness season.  Since these bugs like to hang around into spring, I thought it wasn't too late to share some remedies.

In December, I posted a long list of remedies for sore throats and coughs.  I wanted to follow up with a couple of my favorite tips for ear infections and general remedies for colds and congestion.  I'm thankful that my family did not suffer bounceback infections this winter.  I think we got one mild upper respiratory bug that lasted a few days.  Aside from a nourishing Real Foods diet with regular consumption of homemade gelatinous broths, a basic remedy repertoire can improve or ensure wellness.

When we enter cold/flu season, I begin pulling out certain herbs and nutritional supplements to give to my family prophylactically.  When we are exposed to friends who are sick, or when we feel we might be coming down with something, I increase dosage and add a few essentials to the mix.

My first secret to wellness?  We swab our ears daily with 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide.  We also use it as a gargle if we feel the slightest scratchiness in our throats.  If we know we've been exposed to a bug, we do our ears and our noses and throats.  My husband travels frequently (by air) for business, and he takes H2O2 with him to use prophylactically and he always doses when he gets home.  

Colloidal silver is another natural medicine I constantly stock and use frequently during illness season.  For general illness, we drink a teaspoon three to five times daily in water.

For immune boosting and infection fighting, I dose the family daily with:

  • Elder berry elixir (three tsp. daily; I make my own, but you can buy Sambucol)

My "winter ick" botanical necessities include:

  • Garlic (broad spectrum antibiotic)
  • Usnea (more potent broad spectrum antibiotic, particularly effective against strep)
  • Red clover (blood purifier)
  • Pure, therapeutic grade essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lemon (good EO info can be found at Heritage Essential Oils)...taken internally; diluted and applied externally to bottom of feet, palms of hands, on throat, chest, back; inhaled through diffusion
  • "Thieves" type essential oils blends

General advice for dealing with cold/flus/infections:

  • Homeopathics for respiratory infections include Boiron Coldcalm, Boiron Oscillococcinum (take at first sign of flu), Dulcamara, Aconite.
  • For sinus and/or chest congestion, do an essential oil steam with eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint.  Boil water and pour it into a large bowl.  Add one to two drops of each oil to the steaming water, lean over the bowl, tent a bath towel over your head, and breathe slowly (through mouth or nose depending upon condition) for a few minutes.  Keep your eyes closed, as the EOs can sting.
  • Do not fear fevers.  The body utilizes heat to destroy invaders; to allow your body's defenses to work, fevers should be left alone.  If you want to help a fever to burn more efficiently, use a combination of yarrow, elder and peppermint.  (Tincture dose is 30 drops every hour for high fevers.) This can bring comfort and regulate fever without eliminating the fever.  Do not be concerned with any fever under 104º unless it is a very little baby.  Temperature readings vary depending upon method used (oral, axillary, tympanic).

My favorite tips for ear infections:

  • First, get an otoscope and learn how to examine your child's ears.  Learn what a healthy inner ear looks like and what an inflamed ear drum looks like.  This will save you trips to a doctor.
  • Gauge the severity of the ear infection by monitoring your child's temperature and discomfort.  If the child is screaming in pain, has a high fever, and liquid draining from the ear, you may have a perforated ear drum.  In my opinion, this does not necessarily require medical intervention, as it can resolve naturally, but you need to be the judge of what you believe is best for your child.
  • It is helpful to treat both ears, even if only one is affected, as the canals are connected.
  • If the eardrum is not perforated, use garlic/mullein ear drops, an antibiotic treatment that relieves pain and inflammation.  (Make your own (see below) or purchase Herb Pharm drops.)  You can also use colloidal silver as drops or swab canal.
  • To relieve pain and help heal the infection, heat half an onion and secure it over the ear.  Make sure it is warm, not hot enough to burn the ear.  Cut an onion in half and peel, then gently heat in a small covered sauce pan with a bit of water, just until quite warm.  (Don't use the microwave...for anything...ever.  Please.)  It is helpful to secure the onion over the ear with an ace bandage or by tying a large thin tea towel around the head (like a flour sack towel), or an old t-shirt cut into a large strip.  [I have personally used this method and it works well to bring relief!]
  • Clogged sinuses can lead to clogged ears...remember, the tunnels are all connected.  :)  To relieve earache pain and ear congestion, do a massage with lavender EO, rosemary EO, eucalyptus EO combined with mullein oil (or coconut or olive if you don't have any mullein).  Massage around the front of the ear, up over the ear, behind the ear, down along the jaw and down the throat.  Use firm (but not agonizing) pressure, go slowly, use little circular motions with your finger pads as you follow the path:  up, around, down.  Do this five times a session, throughout the day.

Garlic/onion honey syrup recipe

Chop half an onion and a head of garlic.  In a saucepan, just cover onion and garlic with raw honey.  Gently simmer (don't boil, keep the heat quite low) for at least 30 minutes, an hour is better.  Bottle and keep in the refrigerator.  Serve by the spoonful throughout the day.  You can strain the honey or just serve whole.

Garlic/mullein ear drop recipe

In a small saucepan, gently simmer a chopped head of garlic and a handful of crushed mullein leaves/flowers in enough olive oil to cover the herb matter.  Keep the heat low and simmer for 20-30 minutes and allow the herb matter to steep in the oil until it comes to room temperature, or allow it to steep overnight.  Strain the oil and bottle, refrigerate when not using for long periods of time, but warm to apply.  Administer a few drops into each ear as often as needed, at least every 30 minutes.

You can buy mullein and other high quality bulk herbs from

Mountain Rose Herbs

For more information:

My writeup on 

Treating Pink eye

My writeup on 

Treating Croup

Relieve Earache with Natural Medicine

Skipping Intro Will Hamper Your Success with GAPS

If you don't do GAPS Intro, you aren't really doing GAPS...you're basically just eating paleo.  Believe me, I know Intro is a challenge.  But if you skip the "I eat, sleep, breathe, dream homemade soup from meat stock and bone broth" part of GAPS, you won't experience the complete healing that you seek.  The Intro portion of the GAPS protocol is where the lion's share of the gut healing work takes place.  The goal of the GAPS program is to heal the gut lining, destroy the malevolent pathogens living in your body, repopulate your beneficial flora, and detoxify your entire system.

GAPS Intro was designed to not only jump start the gut healing process and pinpoint food sensitivities, but to achieve particular healing actions that cannot be successfully accomplished otherwise.  McBride recommends that all GAPS participants complete Intro before moving to the "Full" portion of the protocol, but you can move through the stages of Intro at the pace you determine depending on your body's needs.  Full GAPS alone does not offer the intense detoxifying, healing processes of Intro.  

One of the cornerstones of the GAPS program is the diet of highly and easily digestible foods that will not further irritate an already compromised gut (the best of these is the mineral and collagen rich homemade stocks/broths).  Some foods allowed on the Full GAPS portion of the program are not highly digestible, such as greens, fried meats, coconut flour, dairy (even fermented), and are only appropriate for the person who has attained a good level of healing through the program.  Fibrous foods must be avoided during the initial healing stages.  Another extremely important component of GAPS Intro is the elimination of sugars (in the first few stages of Intro).  This aspect of the protocol allows your body to suffer (sorry, but anything worth doing is hard) the withdrawal necessary to begin massive pathogen die off (you're starving the nasty things) and to cleanse your body of sugar cravings/addictions.  The amazing part is how aware you will become of just how addicted to sugars you were.  

To begin the program of gut healing, we eat only the most digestible foods, which is why the Intro portion is composed of quickly and highly digestible, gentle healing foods.  Intro is an excellent elimination diet, which is essential to healing food allergies.  Intro also works to reseal the injured gut lining, repairing the leaky gut dilemma contributing to food allergies.  Intro is a highly detoxifying diet, allowing your body to shed toxins in stored fat and the liver and colon, etc., and flush them from your system.  To understand more about GAPS Intro, why you need it and what to expect, please read the summary I wrote on the topic.

Intro is incredibly healing, so much so that it is an effective treatment for cold and flu.  We've all heard by now that homemade broth and soup is potent natural medicine.  [Anytime a GAPS participant (or anyone, for that matter) suffers a physiological trauma or a nasty viral bug, etc, a return to Intro for a week will strengthen the body, bringing about systemic healing and homeostasis, returning one to wellness.]

The Intro portion of GAPS does work that cannot be achieved by simply following the Full GAPS diet or by eating paleo or "no carb."  The methodical steps of the Intro stages help your compromised body to shed toxins, to experience a great deal of pathogen die off, to begin the gut sealing process, to identify food allergens...it is an excellent colon cleanse.  Without the step-by-step process involved, your healing journey will take much longer and may not be concluded successfully.  Intro is necessary for maximum and complete healing.

As you move from Intro into Full GAPS, your body has already begun a significant amount of healing and you are avoiding the foods that you have identified to be problematic.  You have learned to be keenly body aware.  If you remain dedicated to the program as it is designed, you will continue to experience healing day by day.  Foods you may not be able to consume in the beginning of your GAPS journey should become available to you as you continue the work.  During your time in Full GAPS, you will likely still have some die off as you correctly balance your flora, and you will continue to seal your gut lining, allowing you to heal from food sensitivities.  This only happens, though, if you continue with the homemade stocks/broths/soups full of healing gelatin and minerals, and if you eat homemade fermented foods (like sauerkraut).  The soup is the lifeblood of the GAPS program, and the genuine fermented foods are crucial to re-establishing flora balance.

I know many bloggers have been talking about GAPS, explaining it, sharing experiences with the program.  I think that's wonderful; the more people sharing, the better.  But if you want to successfully heal through the GAPS program, you really should read McBride's book for yourself, and The GAPS Guide (I believe there is an updated version available on her blog).  Even on Full GAPS, you are supposed to be eating homemade soup and homemade fermented foods daily.  Otherwise, you're not doing GAPS.  

Healing sensitivities and allergies...sealing and healing the gut, obliterating malevolent pathogens, is an important process.  Healing neurological maladies caused by toxic overload and gut pathogens is an important process.  Resolving toxicity and achieving lifelong wellness is an important process.  We need to be sure we are performing the process correctly so we don't continue to drag out our healing journey or continue to suffer needlessly.  Believe me, I empathize completely with how difficult the process can be.  But the end results are so worthwhile!

To learn more:
Natasha McBride's site
GAPS Guide site
GAPS Diet site
Simple GAPS Intro Summary
GAPS Protocol Summary

Skim Milk Is Not a Nourishing Food

The fraudulent "lipid hypothesis" that has given our culture (good) fat phobia since the 1950s...and done wonders for the food and drug industry...has perpetuated the myth that butter is bad and that skim milk is healthy.  Au contraire!  Skim milk is not a nourishing food.  If you aren't drinking whole (raw grass-fed) milk, you aren't doing your body good.

The essential nutrients in milk is in its fat.  Cream from grass-fed cows is rich in vitamins A, D3, and K2 (industrial pasteurized milk is "fortified" with synthetic vitamin D2, known to be toxic to the liver).  Real milk's vitamins (A, D, E, K) and its CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) are fat-soluble, and are transmitted via the cream (they exist in the fat of the milk)...and they cannot be absorbed, nor utilized, without the fat.   Low-fat (commercial) milk is always supplemented with vitamins, because they are naturally missing after the milk's processing.

Saturated fat is an essential human nutrient.  It builds and strengthens multiple bodily systems, hormones and organs, including the brain and the heart.  Inefficient saturated fat intake is a major factor in the modern epidemic scourge of chronic disease and endocrine disruption in our culture.

I've had people tell me that they can't (won't) drink whole milk...they don't like "creamy" milk.  This is the ubiquitous adverse palette programming of two generations being raised on skim or reduced fat milk, the unfortunate result of the food industry's "fat is bad" mantra.  If you will not retrain your palette to consume whole milk, at least do not relegate your children to the same nutrient-deficient fate.

[In fact, one of the reasons I prefer goat's milk is its natural homogenization.  Not well suited for butter making, but excellent for drinking, goat milk is smooth, creamy, satisfying and sweet.  Yes, sweet...we've had people say our goat milk doesn't taste at all like "goat" milk.  I'm sure this factor varies depending on breed and feed, but we have found that keeping bucks away from the property helps immensely.  I've also heard you should not let your goat milk sit for more than 4 days in the fridge without consumption, as the fats will develop that "goaty" aroma.  We have not experienced that, though...we consume our milk rather quickly and make yogurt.]

So, if you want your kids to benefit from healthy brain development, strong bones, vital cardio systems, fully functioning hormones, thriving guts, well-developed collagen and cushioned joints, feed them good fats...lots of them!  Certainly, you want them to receive and absorb body-building essential vitamins and minerals.  So, Don't Skim the Milk!  (Unless you're making butter, in which case, you could pour the skim milk onto the earth in your garden for microbial benefit of the soil.)

Why Skim Milk Isn't as Healthy as You May Think

Rethinking Skim Milk

Secrets of Skim Milk

Radically Natural Remedies for Coughs and Sore Throats

Cold and flu season is upon us once again.  It's amazing how quickly a year passes!  My kiddos had their first respiratory complaints of the season at Thanksgiving, so I thought it would be timely to share some Real Medicine approaches for coughs and sore throats.  

Coughs and sore throats tend to accompany colds and flus; they also develop as standalone illnesses.  Thankfully, the complex constituents of botanical medicines make each plant well suited as a remedy for multiple maladies.  Dealing with any cold or flu requires a similar botanical approach.  We desire to support the immune system and use herbs that have natural broad-spectrum antibiotic properties, to either ward off or shorten the duration of the virus.

Feeding your immune system regularly in sickness season will help reduce your illnesses.  Of course, eating Real Food every day, throughout the year, develops a healthy body that can better fight whatever viruses you may encounter.  A fantastic sickness-season, body-building superfood is homemade broth, rich in gelatin and minerals.  Soup really can heal what ails you!

Red clover
Whether viral or bacterial, ailments of the respiratory system (encompassing the area from nose to lungs) respond well to botanical treatment, especially when treatment begins in the early stages of illness.  Colds and flus are often accompanied by various ear, nose, throat, bronchial and lung complaints.  Upper respiratory infections are those affecting the sinuses and throat, while lower respiratory infections affect the trachea, bronchial passageways and lungs.  Coughs and sore throats, the hallmark of respiratory infections, are soothed and healed using numerous demulcent, expectorant, antispasmodic and sedative herbs.

There are times that suppressing a cough may be beneficial, such as during a croup spasmodic episode, or when suffering a dry cough caused by throat irritation.  But in general, we do not want to suppress the cough and interfere with its work.  As irritating as the cough may be (or sound), it is doing the job of clearing the lungs and airways of foreign substances...in the case of a viral or bacterial infection, the cough is helping to expel invaders being fought by your immune system.  Expectorating mucus is the main function of a wet cough during a respiratory infection.

One of the hallmarks of a cold or flu is excessive mucus production.  As icky as it can make us feel, mucus serves a valuable purpose.  When we have a viral infection, mucus production is the normal effect of a functioning immune system.  The cell linings of our mucus membranes (respiratory tract, GI tract, reproductive tract) create mucus for various reasons:

  • to keep tissues from drying out 
  • to provide antibodies and enzymes to fight pathogens (increased mucus production during cold/flu virus)
  • to trap foreign particles in lungs
As infectious agents are encountered, they are wrapped in mucus and phlegm (mucus of the respiratory tract) to be sent packing out of your body through your nose and mouth.  

In the following section I will list my preferred herbal medicines for the ailments discussed.  I buy from and recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for herb purchases.  Remember, herbs all have multiple medicinal constituents and actions and are useful in healing various systems and organs in the body.  I am going to list only the herbal actions and bodily systems most pertinent to our topic illnesses.

My favorite virus busting/immune boosting herbs, foods and nutrients:
A note on fevers

For a childhood flu or illness accompanied by fever, an herbal preparation of elder flowers, yarrow and peppermint is especially helpful.  Our desire is not to suppress the fever, but to support it and help it to work effectively.  Fever is part of the body's defense in fighting pathogens.  Allowing a reasonable fever to burn (for me, this is a fever up to 104º for children, 101º for babies) will decrease illness duration...it is a healing mechanism.  The herbal fever combination will help your child to be more comfortable, will increase the immune system's viral- and bacterial-fighting powers, and will help the fever burn more efficiently.  An excellent homeopathic fever treatment is belladonna.  Again, this is used for beneficial fever regulation, not elimination.

Herbs for coughs/sore throats

Slippery elm lozenges
Different types of coughs require different treatments.  Sore throats often accompany coughs or are caused by them.  Expectorant herbs help to loosen and break up offending substances, particularly mucus, so they may be expelled.  Demulcent herbs soothe irritated mucus membranes.  Sedative/nervine  and anti-inflammatory herbs help to reduce pain and irritation.  Antispasmodic herbs treat spasmodic coughs.  I recently did a writeup on specific remedies for croup, which is a spasmodic, dry cough resulting from infection of the larynx.  Other cough-based respiratory ailments:

  • Whooping cough = a childhood disease with two stages.  First stage includes cold with runny nose, sneezing, fever; patient may have painful cough and difficulty breathing.  Second stage comes when fever subsides and cough increases; cough is spasmodic/convulsive with whooping sound; coughing fits bring up mucus and increase breathing difficulties.
  • Bronchitis = inflammation of bronchial tube membranes.  Symptoms are hoarseness, tickling in windpipe, difficulty breathing, frequent cough, scanty building to copious mucus, tightness in chest, wheezing.
  • Pneumonia = inflammation of lungs, usually beginning with chills followed by high fever.  Patient's pulse is quick and full, patient has trouble breathing, has sticking pain in chest; cough quite painful, begins dry and later becomes loose with expectoration of much mucus (may be blood-streaked).  Other symptoms include rapid, shallow breathing, headache, thirst.  Signs of recovery are first indicated by skin resuming natural moisture and temperature.  Danger is usually passed when patient is coughing up large amounts of mucus.
Herbal expectorants AND demulcents
  • chickweed (moistens phlegm and aids expectoration)
  • mullein (also anti-tussive, antispasmodic) = excellent treatment for respiratory ailments and swollen membrane conditions; clears lungs, relieves spasms, soothes inflammation, relieves pain, calms nerves; moves out excess mucus, demulcent (and bacteriostatic) properties used historically to treat tuberculosis.
  • licorice (also anti-inflammatory) = soothes lungs and helps expectorate phlegm, heals inflamed mucus membranes of respiratory tract.
  • slippery elm (also mucilant, nutritive) = soothing to irritated mucus membranes, encourages removal of phlegm from respiratory tract; lozenges especially helpful for soothing coughs/sore throats (see link for more info and recipe).
Herbal expectorants
  • angelica = particularly suited to bronchial problems.
  • red clover (also antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, sedative, blood cleanser) = one of the most potent botanical medicines we have; excellent mucus clearer; historically used as sedative for whooping cough; its antibiotic properties useful against multiple bacteria, including tubercular bacilli; moves toxins out of blood; nerve tonic well suited to spasmodic afflictions...warm infusions particularly soothing to bronchial nerves; drink as much red clover tea as desired during illness.
  • wild cherry = calms respiratory nerves, soothes coughs and asthma, loosens and expectorates phlegm/mucus in throat and chest; especially suited to bronchial disorders caused by accumulated mucus.
  • elecampane (also antibacterial) = treatment for bronchial coughs and chest congestion with much mucus.
  • horehound (also anti-inflammatory, anti-tussive) = well-known throat and lung remedy; treats coughs and croup, expels phlegm from respiratory bronchial system, soothes larynx.
  • fennel (also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, high in vitamin A)
  • thyme (also antispasmodic, antiseptic, sedative) = historically shown to be beneficial for whooping cough; removes mucus from lungs and respiratory passages.
  • mustard = particularly good used as chest compresses (called mustard plaster); clears lungs, eases breathing; dispels phlegm, alleviates pain; to make mustard plaster: take portion of mustard seed powder (determined by size of area to be treated) and mix with warm water to form thick paste, wrap in clean thin cloth, place plaster on another cloth already placed on skin, remove plaster as soon as heat becomes uncomfortable (like garlic, mustard poultices are potent and can burn skin...for children, remove after 5 minutes, reapply as needed).
Herbal demulcents
  • burdock root (also excellent blood purifier and bacteriocide)
  • marshmallow (also mucilant, tonic, nutritive) = calcium-rich mucilaginous herb used historically to soothe and heal mucus membranes, including lungs, digestive tract and bowel.  Soothes irritation/inflammation in respiratory organs.

Herbal nervines/antispasmodics
  • lobelia (also analgesic, antispasmodic, decongestant, expectorant) = considered by many herbalists as most important of herbs; treats asthma, bronchitis: relaxes bronchial muscles, dilates bronchioles; removes congestion in body; powerful relaxant of nervous system; soothes inflammation; expands contracted parts of respiratory system; large amounts can cause vomiting (relaxes stomach sphincters), which can be cathartic and useful for expunging toxins.
  • oatstraw (also antispasmodic, nutritive)
  • ginger (also analgesic, anti-inflammatory) = blood vascular stimulant, body cleansing herb used in lung/chest clearing combos and sore throat syrups.

Homeopathy for Coughs/Sore Throats

I always use homeopathic remedies in concert with herbal medicines when treating any illness.  I find that coughs and flus respond quite well to homeopathy.  Choose the homeopathic that most closely fits the general symptom picture being exhibited.  The proper dosing in homeopathy is not in the number of pellets taken, but in the frequency of the dose given.  Even the slightest improvement in symptoms indicates that you have chosen a correct remedy.  Often, more than one remedy will work.  A general 30C or 30X potency, given 3 pellets per dose, is a good place to start with homeopathic remedies.  During severe acute illness, high burning fevers, or spasmodic coughing episodes, give a dose every 15 minutes.  For less emergent illness or suffering, administer the remedy every hour to three hours.  If you see no improvement in a couple days, switch to another remedy that matches the symptomatology.  Avoid food or drink (except water) 15 minutes before and after administering homeopathic remedies.

Homeopathic general cough remedies
  • Aconitum = dry, hoarse, croupy cough; tends to be worse at night (especially after midnight); dry mouth, shortness of breath, often accompanied by thirst; patient restless, anxious; cough worse from cold drinks.  This remedy is given for the initial stages of croup, bronchitis, pneumonia.
  • Antimonium tart = deep cough turning toward bronchitis; loud rattling cough with difficulty expectorating mucus; difficulty in breathing makes patient sit up; patient anxious, irritable; feels chilly but dislikes stuffiness.  This remedy is rarely given at beginning of illness.
  • Bryonia = common cold starts with nasal discharge, then moves into chest; cough dry, made worse by motion or inhaling; patient holds chest while breathing; cough aggravated by warm rooms; may be tickling in larynx; sometimes vomiting or headache accompanies cough.
  • Drosera = bouts of dry, barking cough, spasmodic, tickling cough, ringing sound; larynx inflamed, aggravated by lying down, worse after midnight; pain in chest, hoarse voice; cough irritated by talking, eating, drinking cold fluids; patient may perspire; coughing spasms may cause vomiting, patient may hold chest.
  • Ferrum phos = symptoms not intense or sudden; cough becomes worse from cold air, in early morning, after eating; dry hacking cough, expectoration may include blood; stitching pain on inhalation and during cough; patient has poor appetite, hoarseness.
  • Hepar sulphur = barking, croupy cough, worsened by exposure to cold; cough exacerbated by dryness in larynx, cold food/drinks, deep breathing; much mucus/rattling in chest, patient may not be able to expectorate mucus; patient sweats during coughing episodes, irritable.
  • Ipecac = hacking cough with tendency to retch/nausea; constriction of chest, tickling in throat, excess saliva; cough damp and deep; rattling mucus in chest; cough worse in hot, humid weather; accompanied by sneezing, hoarseness.  This remedy common for infants with cough accompanied by vomiting.
  • Kali bic = cough expectorates stringy, yellow mucus; worse after eating, drinking, around 3 a.m.; relief from expectorating mucus, warmth; sensation of hair in back of throat, perhaps hoarse voice; sometimes pain in mid-sternum extending to back.  This remedy is not useful at beginning stages of cough.
  • Phosphorus = dry hard cough, sometimes with persistent tickle behind sternum; aggravated by lying down, awakes at night to sit up and cough; tightness and pain in chest, relieved by warmth; patient may crave cold drinks; patient exhausted; nasal discharge may be blood-tinged.  This remedy common for serious respiratory conditions like pneumonia.
  • Pulsatilla = cough aggravated in warm room, lying down, nighttime; cool air provides some relief; patient sits up in bed to breathe better; dry cough during day, mucusy at night; patient weepy, clingy, moody, craving sympathy/affection.
  • Rumex = dry, shallow coughs very sensitive to cold air, patient may wrap head in blanket to avoid breathing it; tickling in throats, irritations below larynx; aggravated by touching base of throat; patient usually hoarse, desires warmth; symptoms aggravated during night, worsened by movement.
  • Spongia = primary medicine for dry, barking, raspy, croupy cough; sound distinct like sawing wood or barking dog; jarring, surprise quality to cough; air passages dry, sputum absent, patient hoarse; cough worsened by cold air, warm rooms, talking, cold fluids; cough worse in early part of night; warm food/drink provide some relief; patient sits up/leans forward.  This remedy is considered second-stage croup remedy, after Aconitum and before Hepar and Kali.
Homeopathics for whooping cough
Because first stage whooping cough is difficult to distinguish from a cold, the remedies listed here are specific to the second stage of the illness.  For first stage, choose from general cough remedies above.
  • Aconite = dry cough with whistling sound; skin hot, dry; burning sensation in windpipe; pain in throat during cough.  This remedy brings relief, but rarely clears symptoms of whooping cough...follow-up remedy will be needed for total clearing.
  • Antimonium Tart = patient seems to be drowning in mucus; rattling in lungs, deep breaths cause coughing spasms; patient sleepy, thirsty, exhausted, may vomit.
  • Arnica = specifically indicated if patient begins to cry after coughing or cough after crying; feels bruised all over, head hot, body cold; left cheek red.
  • Arsenicum = suffocating fits of dry coughing; scant urination, pale complexion/cool skin; patient chilly, seeks warmth.
  • Belladonna = patient cannot bear light, noise, motion; throbbing headache accompanies cough, perhaps nosebleed; burning fever; patient thirsty, exhausted, but thrashing.  Bryonia often follows Belladonna in whooping cough.
  • Bryonia = similar picture to Belladonna, but fever stage passed; patient worsened by motion, even motion of coughing; suffocating coughing fits, more in evening; may expectorate brownish mucus.
  • Carbo veg = major remedy for whooping cough; works best if given just as cough takes on whooping sound; terrible sore throat on swallowing; patient worse in evening, in cold/damp weather.
  • Drosera = good general remedy for whooping cough; actual whoop sound to cough; violent fits of coughing, wrack body; may be accompanied by fever, hot perspiration at night; patient better for motion, thirsty, may vomit.
  • Dulcamara - loose, moist cough; thin, clear mucus; good for cough brought on after exposure to cold/damp.
  • Ipecac = patient becomes stiff during coughing fits, becomes blue in face; chest sounds full of mucus, yet none expectorated; coughs bring on gagging.
  • Mercurius = first remedy to consider if patient coughs up blood, may bleed from nose during coughing fit; patient worse at night; may cough all night and not during day, or cough all day and not at night; night sweats; two bouts of coughing and period of calm before two more bouts of coughing.
  • Phosphorus = excellent for whooping cough, especially if first stage appears to be simple cold that moves quickly to throat and chest, bypassing nose; burning pains in throat/chest; patient may hold painful throat during coughs; thirsty for cold drinks, may vomit.
  • Pulsatilla = great deal of mucus being coughed up; patient may vomit, have diarrhea at night; feels chilly, even in warm rooms, but eels he cannot breathe in warm room.
  • Veratrum album = for patient greatly weakened by illness; pulse quick and weak, constant low fever, cold sweat; patient does not want to move or speak, may have red rash.  This remedy follows Drosera well in whooping cough.
Homeopathics for bronchitis
  • Aconite = acute attacks; chill with fever, dry, hot skin, restless; short, dry cough, constant irritation in larynx; fear/anxiety.
  • Antimonium Tart = large mass of mucus in bronchia; difficulty breathing, feeling as if drowning in mucus, but cannot easily expectorate mucus; may vomit mucus; chest heavy, patient exhausted.
  • Apis = chest sore feels stung/bruised; clear, stringy phlegm in throat.
  • Arsenicum = dry, hacking cough; chest sore; patient sits up to breathe; thirsty but drinks scant amount.
  • Belladonna = face flushed, eyes red; pressure in head, throbbing headache, hot skin, spasmodic cough that cuts off breathing.
  • Bryonia = breathing difficult, shallow; patients must sit up to breathe but doesn't want to move; chest tight; dry cough with pains in chest; violent cough in morning with mucus expectoration.
  • Carbo Veg = obstinate hoarseness, severe burning in chest; violent cough, discharge of yellow phlegm; difficulty breathing.
  • Causticum = throat rough/hoarse, especially in morning; short, hacking cough with involuntary urination.
  • Chamomilla = hoarseness and cough with rattling mucus in trachea; tickling in larynx, worse at night; one cheek red, one pale; patient irritable.
  • Hepar Sulph = dry cough with rough throat; rattling, choking cough worse after midnight; wheeze during breathing, throat feels like stick is caught in it.
  • Ipecac = rattling mucus in bronchial tubes; bouts of suffocating cough; difficulty breathing; chest full of phlegm, but trouble expectorating mucus; may vomit mucus.
  • Kali Bic = burning pains in trachea and bronchia; cough may expectorate green mass of stringy, ropey mucus (keynote of the remedy is stringy mucus).
  • Lachesis = voice feeble, hoarse; constriction of throat, short, hacking cough; tingling in throat; difficult expectoration of yellow mucus; throat painful when touched, pressure on throat brings on coughing fit.
  • Mercurius = sore throat with violent cough, especially at night; patient feels head and chest will burst; feels hot, then cold, then hot; swollen glands, sweat.
  • Nux Vomica = larynx feels rough, scraped, causes coughing from attempt to clear throat; dry cough all night; headache; stuffy nose; fever with chilly feeling; may be accompanied by constipation.
  • Phosphorus = total loss of voice; larynx exceedingly painful; chest tight; cough expectorates reddish mucus, cough severe and exhausting; patient dreads cough, tries to stop it, may hold throat.
  • Pulsatilla = dryness in throat; dry cough at night worse when sitting up in bed; loose cough, expectorates yellow mucus; patient chilly, with hot, dry skin, no thirst; patient prone to tears.
  • Rhus Tox = cough brought on by sensation of tickling under breast bone; cough worse from laughing/talking; accompanied by rheumatic pains in bones, better from gentle motion; worse at night.
  • Spongia = dry larynx, hoarse, hollow, wheezing cough; worse at night; sounds like sawing wood.
  • Sulphur = hoarseness and loss of voice; sensation of something crawling inside throat; loose cough, expectorates thick mucus; sore chest, pain in left side.  Single best remedy for chronic cases of bronchitis.
  • Veratrum album = dry, hollow cough, as if from abdomen; rattling mucus in chest cannot be coughed up; cough may be accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, exhaustion; face covered in cold sweat.
Homeopathics for sore throat
  • Aconite = comes on quickly, especially after exposure to cold and wind; throat red/swollen, patient feels chilled, even with fever; face may be red.
  • Apis = throat red/swollen, feels stung/burning; worsened by warm drinks, better for cold drinks; throat dry, patient thirsty; throat may look shiny; pain with and without swallowing.
  • Arsenicum = usually begins on right side and moves left, or more painful on right side; better by warm drinks; patient chilly, restless.
  • Belladonna = indicated for tonsillitis, and other sore throats; pain comes on quickly; tonsils/throat bright red; pain burns, patient swallows constantly, painfully; look for accompanying fever.
  • Carbo Veg = long-lasting hoarseness worse morning and evening.
  • Causticum = hoarse, rough throat with hoarse voice; worse in morning; pain in chest.
  • Chamomilla = comes on in cold air; stinging/burning pains in throat; sensation of wanting to cough something out of throat; good remedy for children, especially if patient is cross.
  • Ferrum Phos = common remedy for tonsillitis; pain not as quick or severe as with Belladonna; fever, hoarseness common; good remedy for loss of voice from overuse.
  • Gelsemium = voice very weak; loss of voice due to nervousness; raspy pain in throat, difficulty swallowing, throat feels burnt.
  • Hepar Sulph = sensation of stick caught in throat; ache into ears, especially on swallowing; better for hot drinks.
  • Ignatia = better for swallowing solid food, worse for liquids; sensation of lump in throat; emotional cause of lost voice indicated this remedy.
  • Lachesis = pain usually on left side, or begins left and moves right; left side more swollen and red/purple in color; pain worse for swallowing liquids (particularly warm), better for food; throat very sensitive to touch, nothing can cover it.
  • Lycopodium = pain begins right and moves left, more painful on right; better for warm drinks, worse for cold; sensation of plug in throat; pain worse in late afternoon.
  • Mercurius = infection present; often situation where cold has settled into throat; this remedy not for new throat condition, but when throat is sore for period of time; swollen glands under jaw; swollen tongue, copious saliva; pain raw, throat constricted, tonsils swollen.
  • Nux Vomica = scraping pains in throat; hoarseness/loss of voice; patient chilly, has postnasal drip, stuffy nose; sore throat slow coming on, slow to build, slow to leave.
  • Phosphorus = great remedy for losing voice from overuse; exhausted (as if nothing left to say); cold drinks, ice helps; tightness in chest.
  • Rhus Tox = lost voice from overuse; pain worse on initial swallowing, better for continued swallowing; worse for cold, better for warm drinks; patient feels better from damp warmth of hot shower.
  • Sulphur = general tonic for throat; pain better from cold drinks, worse from warm in any form; patient feels hot, sweaty; pain in throat is burning.

Essential Oils for respiratory ailments

Essential oils are distilled, concentrated preparations of plants.  I like to think of EOs as the "blood" of the plant.  EOs are very potent and therapeutic in small doses.  Only high quality, pure EOs should be used; these are hard to find in stores.  I will list my preferred sources at the end.  Pure, therapuetic grade EOs can be ingested (a few drops in a glass of water), diffused in the air, added to steam preparations, added to spray bottles, and applied topically (dilute with carrier oil to avoid burning skin with strong oils).

EOs for coughs
These will also help to clear sinuses.
  • rosemary (great for steam inhalations in combination with eucalyptus: boil water, pour into bowl, add 2-3 drops EO, tent towel over head while leaning over bowl, breathe deeply through nose and mouth)
  • eucalyptus
  • pine
  • tea tree
  • frankincense
  • fir
  • thyme
  • ginger
EOs for sore throat
  • peppermint (drink a few drops in water, gargle with it, apply directly to inner back of throat, especially for strep...use 1-2 drops initially, peppermint can burn)
  • oregano
  • cypress
  • lemon
  • tea tree
  • ginger
  • myrrh
  • geranium
  • lavender

Herbal preparations

I am not going to provide an herb making tutorial in this post, but will give you a general overview of options for herbal preparations and remedies that are beneficial for coughs, colds, flus and sore throats.

Glycerites are herbal tinctures particularly suited to children because of their unoffensive flavor and lack of alcohol.  Unlike an alcohol tincture, though, glycerites are not as potent.  You can give alcohol tinctures to children; generally the dosage is lower than with glycerine-based tinctures.

Tincture dosage is generally 30 drops every three hours, though this varies depending on acuteness of illness and the herb involved.  For most herbs, a more frequent dose of 20 drops per hour can be used for severe cases of flu, strep throat, coughs, etc.  (Lobelia, for example, is a very potent cathartic relaxant that can cause vomiting.  This can be beneficial when the body is overrun with mucus.  But if you do not want to vomit, do not take high doses of lobelia.  Usually 30 drops in water every three hours is a reasonable dose.  Stronger or more frequent doses could cause vomiting.)

Acetums (vinegar extracts) are particularly good herbal preparations for the respiratory tract.  Because of its nutritive/healing properties, I make all my vinegar extracts with apple cider vinegar.  ACV helps to dissolve phlegm.  Acetums combine well with honey to soothe coughs and sore throats.  An acetum is an easy way to get herbs into your diet, by using the herb-infused vinegar in salad dressings and other places you would normally use ACV.

Infusions and decoctions (strong teas) are easy to make, but require that you have herb matter.  They also do not last long, but are meant to be consumed within a day of being made.  You can store herbal teas in the refrigerator to be drunk in a day or two.  Teas are not as strong, but can be drunk throughout the day and night.

Recipes and Remedies

An excellent general cough/sore throat remedy (especially dry cough):  1 Tb. hot honey in glass of hot water with lemon. 

Coughs respond very well to onion/garlic/honey syrup.

Whooping cough (pertussis), a bacterial infection that causes violent coughing and restricted breathing (sometimes accompanied by vomiting), responds well to vitamin c, thyme, marshmallow, and red clover.

Strep throat remedies

  • osha root herb (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, expectorant, decongestant) = well-suited for respiratory ailments, viral infections of throat and sinuses; often combined with echinacea and goldenseal for use against viral infections; large amounts can be stimulating.
  • usnea herb (antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, parasitic, tuberculostatic) = a beneficial lichen, usnea is one of the strongest botanical antibiotics we have; effective against strep, staph, trichomonas, tuberculosis and infected wounds. 
  • charcoal sludge: Mix 1 Tb. activated charcoal powder with a small amount of water (4 to 6 oz.).  Stir and sip slowly, even gargle and then sip.  Also coat a wet Qtip with charcoal and swab affected areas in the back of the throat.  The charcoal coats the throat and significantly reduces pain.
A wonderful remedy for sore throats of any variety is gargling with 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide.  Dilute a small amount of H2O2 in warm water and gargle, repeat as often as needed.  The burning, stinging, fizzing sensation means that the H2O2 is destroying pathogens.  Do the gargle the moment you feel a sore throat coming on and continue throughout the day.  

Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar has some wonderful respiratory remedies suitable for both adults and children.  Here are two of my favorites.

"Cough be gone" remedy:

4 parts fennel seed
2 parts licorice root
2 parts slippery elm bark
2 parts valerian
2 parts wild cherry bark
1 part cinnamon bark
1/2 part ginger root
1/8 part orange peel

Make very concentrated tea with 2 oz. herb mix to 1 qt. water.  Simmer over low heat, reduce liquid to 1 pint.  Strain herbs and pour liquid back into pot.  Add 1 cup honey (or liquid glycerine).  Gently warm honey and liquid together to mix.  Remove from heat, bottle and keep refrigerated.  Take 1 to 2 tsp. hourly (half for small children).

Children's formula for lung congestion:

2 parts licorice root
1 part cinnamon
1 part echinacea
1 part elecampane
1/4 part ginger

Make as tea, tincture or syrup.

For more information

Vitamin C treatment of whooping cough
How to make herbal preparations
How to make herbal tinctures
More tincture making info
Herb Glossary: Definitions of herbal actions
A-Z Herbal remedy chart
Homeopathy for coughs
Heritage Essential Oils

Fat Is Your Friend!

I have had so many titles for this long-in-the-works article swimming about in my brain...
  • Lean Meat: The Scourge of the American Diet
  • Embrace Fat: Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
  • Real Fat: The Essential Human Nutrient
  • When Bad "Science" Won't Die: The Lipid Lie
  • Fabulous Fat: The Beautiful Truth about a Fabulous Nutrient, Starring Cholesterol, Your Hormones' Best Friend!
(That last one seemed just a tad long, LOL!)

I desire to say so many things about fat. I want to share highlights from every book I have on the topic, but I know I cannot, lest this article be 20 feet long.  So let's see where this takes us.  I dedicate this article to the numerous people who have been on the receiving end of my gushing, "I love fat...everything you have been told is a lie" raves.  And it's true...everything we have been told about fat since the 1950s IS a lie.  Many honorable nutritionists and scientists have worked to reverse our fear of fat indoctrination.  I am grateful for their tireless efforts.

 I know many people have neither the time nor the resources to read all the books I recommend, so I will borrow from a couple of my current favorites to expound upon this necessary topic (my comments, peppered throughout the quotes, will appear in purple).

Fat is your friend.  Once again, with a little spin...Real Fat (from clean food sources) is your Best Friend...your body's most essential nutrient. Every system of your body needs good fat, and lots of it...from your hormones to your brain, your skin and joints to your heart. Fat never has been and never will be bad for you. An absence of this essential nutrient, however, will cripple and kill.  The message that fat is dangerous and should be avoided is based neither on science, nor history.  In fact, saturated fat is vital to your body's development and functioning...to your overall vitality and quality of life.

At this time of year, especially, I become frustrated by the holiday recipes vilifying fat: the "how to make low-fat versions of your holiday favorites" messages make me cringe.  Low-fat cookbooks and nutritional advice make me want to pull out my hair.  It's all so senseless and never was based on good science.  Like a dog with a bone, the government and modern health "experts" just won't let go of the public-duping, dishonest "fat is bad" message.

Let’s begin by first taking a look at how fat got such a bad rap. Then we’ll examine fat as the most essential, beneficial human nutrient.

Some fat myths:
  • Eating (real) fat makes you fat.
  • A low-fat diet protects your heart and helps you lose weight.
  • Fat (and its partner, cholesterol) clogs your arteries and causes heart disease.
  • Saturated fat is bad for you.
  • "Vegetable" fats are real fats, and they are good for you.

Debunking the Lipid Hypothesis

“The diet-heart hypothesis is the greatest scientific deception of this century, perhaps of any century.”  -- George Mann, American physician and scientist 

Medical and food politics are the enemies of Real Medicine and legitimate health care.  
Numerous authors, scientists, nutritionists and honest doctors have for years raised their voices in protest of the flawed “diet-heart hypothesis” (also called the lipid hypothesis) first proposed in 1953 by Ancel Keys.  Simply put, the lipid hypothesis is junk science, and it has been debunked.  We must put the final nail in the coffin of this erroneous but profitable lipid legend.

In her book, Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, neurologist and creator of the GAPS healing protocol Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride writes:

“Everybody has heard about cholesterol and dietary fats “clogging up your arteries” and “causing heart disease.” Even children have been told that cholesterol and fats are “bad.” For decades we have been “educated” in that direction by the popular media, advertisements and labels on our food. Doctors are also convinced: the prescription of cholesterol-lowering medication has steadily grown by more than 20% every year in the UK. The pharmaceutical powers are now working very hard on an ultimate goal: to put everybody, including our children, on “preventative” cholesterol-lowering medication."

McBride then poses the obligatory question:  How did we get here?

The answer is the lipid hypothesis put forth by Keys, who set out to prove that dietary fats cause heart disease. To support his hypothesis, Keys designed a diagram, showing the correlation of fat consumption and heart disease mortality in only six countries, selected out of the 22 countries for which data existed at that time. Keys’ diagram showed that heart disease deaths rose with increased fat consumption.

McBride:  “However, when all the remaining countries are added back to the diagram this correlation disappears. In fact, the diagram now shows that there is no correlation between fat consumption and dying from heart disease. Using Ancel Keys’ method, one can prove anything one likes. … It is completely baffling as to why on earth the scientific community at the time accepted this kind of “scientific evidence!” For whatever reason, it did! That is how the diet-heart hypothesis started its long life--from a deception.”

Despite its deceptive “built on air” science, Ancel Keys’ hypothesis was seized eagerly by politicians and the medical industry, and the dollars followed.

McBride:  “Institutions and laboratories were set up around the diet-heart hypothesis, thousands of people were employed and scientific grants were awarded to “prove” the hypothesis. The popular media followed by trumpeting the new “breakthrough.” Once politicians and the public had bought the idea, the researchers had to come up with science to fit the bill. … no other medical hypothesis has been researched so much! Hundreds of studies have been conducted around the world to prove that dietary fat and cholesterol are the causes of heart disease. The Chinese have an old saying: “Cut the feet to fit the shoes.” Proponents used their data selectively: they ignored the data that did not support the hypothesis and inflated and advertised the data that did. [Welcome to the medical industry’s version of the scientific method.] In the meantime, for every study that attempted to support the idea, honest studies were coming in from different countries proving it to be wrong. However the political and commercial machine was in motion, and it was not prepared to stop. [The birth of the vegetable fat industry, including heavy hitters soy, corn and canola, along with the boom to the pharmaceutical industry, was just too profitable to allow truth to get in the way.] As all this was going on, many renowned doctors and honest scientists, who had the training to analyze the accumulated scientific data for themselves, opposed and criticized the diet-heart hypothesis and the “science” conducted to support it.”

These truth crusaders included (you all know I'm no fan of the elitist view of the "expert MD," and the conventional medical establishment, but I share this list as proof of professional peer opposition to the lipid hypothesis):
  • Dr. Raymond Reiser (retired biochemistry professor at Texas Univ.)
  • Professor George Mann (retired professor of medicine and biochemistry at Vanderbilt Univ.)
  • Dr. Paul Rosch (president of American Institute of Stress, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College)
  • Dr. Mary Enig (international expert in lipid biochemistry, president of Maryland Nutritionists Association, consulting editor to Journal of the American College of Nutrition)
  • Dr. William Stehbens (professor at Department of Pathology, Wellington School of Medicine and director of Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Dr. Ray Rosenman (cardiologist, retired director of cardiovascular research in the Health Sciences Program at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA and associate chief of medicine at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco)
  • Dr. Russell Smith (American experimental psychologist, publisher of two reviews on scientific data of lipid hypothesis)
  • Professor Lars Werko (retired professor medicine at Sahlgren’s Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden and head of the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care)
  • Dr. Edward Pinckney (former co-editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and author of The Cholesterol Controversy)
  • Dr. Uffe Ravnskov (most comprehensive professional review of lipid hypothesis published in The Cholesterol Myths)

In her excellent treatise and cookbook, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, native Aussie chef Jennifer McLagan shares her perspective on the lipid hypothesis history:

"(In the 1950s) a theory was advanced suggesting that increased consumption of animal fat raised our cholesterol levels and resulted in heart disease. The link between cholesterol, saturated fat, and heart disease was only associative, not causal, and it did not account for the fact that some populations that eat diets high in animals fats don’t have high rates of heart disease. During the following two decades science failed to prove conclusively that there was any direct connection between eating saturated fats and developing heart disease, but the theory persisted. [Because it was PROFITABLE.] Then, in 1977, the theory gained widespread credence when the U.S. Congress endorsed it. Americans were urged by their government to reduce their fat intake...Thousands of years of human history showing the importance of animal fat in our diet were overlooked, and instead it was labeled the greasy killer. While many experts still promoted a diet including eggs, meat, and animal fat, their voices were drowned out by industry and science. “Low-fat” and “nonfat” became the new mantras...we obediently replaced the cholesterol-containing animal fats in our diet with new, manmade ones."

“oops! Everything I said about saturated fat was really about margarine.” — (Cate Shanahan) paraphrasing Ancel Keys

In her chapter on the lipid hypothesis (Good Fats and Bad: How the Cholesterol Theory Created a Sickness Epidemic), author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, (unconventional) Dr. Cate Shanahan shares her summary of the birth of Ancel Keys’ lipid hypothesis:

“The father of the “diet-heart hypothesis” was not a cardiologist or even an MD. [Not that MDs or cardiologists are the only ones who can possess nutritional and pathophysiological wisdom...but she’s building up to a good point.] Keys had earned his PhD in the 1930s studying salt-water eels. His nutritional credentialing originated in the fact that, during WWII, the military assigned him to create the ready-to-eat meal that could be stored for years and shipped to millions of soldiers. Dr. Keys named his pocket-sized meal the K-ration, after himself. [And we’re supposed to take food advice from the father of mega-processed freeze-dried food?!] When the war was over, the Minnesota public health department hired Keys to study the problem of rising rates of heart attacks. [Maybe it had something to do with the rising use of environmental chemicals during and post-WWII? Maybe it was the proliferation of processed foods...including all those soldiers’ freeze-dried meals?  In fact, the assumption of a growing epidemic of heart disease is itself subject to criticism.  Was coronary heart disease rare before the 1920s?  Or were doctors and public health officials simply observing heart disease more often due to improving diagnostic technology?]

“At his first scientific meeting, he presented the idea that, in countries where people ate more animal fat, people died of heart disease more often, suggesting a possible causal relationship. But his statistical work was so sloppy that he was lambasted by his peers. Rather than cleaning up his act, Keys vowed vengeance: “I’ll show those guys.” More than anything else, it seems, Keys wanted everyone to think he single-handedly discovered the cause of heart disease. And so did the country’s margarine producers, who now had the perfect spokesperson. Though Keys‘ work failed to convince professional scientists (at least for the first decade or two), the margarine industry knew he still had a shot at convincing the man on the street. If the public thought butter and other animal fats would “clog their arteries,” they might buy margarine instead.

"A few years after the embarrassing performance in front of an audience capable of sniffing out misleading statistics, Keys was on TV laying out those same misleading statistics to a trusting public. The American Heart Association, which depends on large donations from the vegetable oil industry, jumped on the bandwagon with Keys. They took his sloppy statistics and ran, eventually convincing most doctors that “steak is a heart attack on a plate” and that margarine made from hydrogenated vegetable oils (full of trans fat) was healthy. Within a decade, grocery store shelves were loaded with ready-to-eat foods, and Americans were buying.

“By 1961, under increasing scientific scrutiny, Keys began to waver in his support for his own (now publicly accepted) diet-heart hypothesis. Scientists had pointed out Dr. Keys’ misleading use of scientific terms. In public, he denounced animal fat as the culprit behind the rising rates of heart attacks. But in his laboratory and human experiments, he didn’t use animal fat. His subjects were fed margarine made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. And what was in the margarine? Trans fat--a full 48%! To conclude from studies that used hydrogenated vegetable oil that animal fat causes heart disease is utterly nonsensical. Unfortunately, the public never heard the straight story."

And we are surprised?! So it goes…the never-ending story of how "scientists," the "medical" establishment, and the "food" industry amasses profits while shaping our food and health destinies. And the consequences of the perpetuation of the ridiculous lipid hypothesis?

Shanahan: “Prior to Keys’ campaign, people ate far more saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods than we do today, but heart attacks were so rare they were almost unheard of. Over the past century, as butter consumption dropped to less than one quarter of what it was, vegetable oil consumption went up five-fold. …. Natural fat consumption: down. Processed fat consumption: up. Heart disease: up — way up. … At the dawn of the second millennium, heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women. Forget for a moment what the “experts” are saying and ask yourself what these trends suggest to your inner statistician. [yes...we are being asked to think for ourselves!]… What’s been dropping us like flies is not any upsurge in saturated fat consumption, but an upsurge in consumption of two major categories of pro-inflammatory foods: vegetable oils (a.k.a unnatural fats) and sugar. Cutting both from your diet will not only protect your heart, it will help protect you from all chronic diseases.”

I heartily echo Shanahan’s message: Nature doesn’t make bad fats. Laboratories do.

In his heavily researched, detailed tome dissecting the controversial politics of fat, carbs, obesity and chronic disease, Good Calories, Bad Calories, science journalist Gary Taubes shares the enlightening tale of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his heart attacks.

"Eisenhower was assuredly among the best-chronicled heart attack survivors in history.  We know that he had no family history of heart disease, and no obvious risk factors after he quit smoking in 1949.  He exercised regularly; his weight remained close to the 172 pounds considered optimal for his height.  His blood pressure was only occasionally elevated.  His cholesterol was below normal: his last measurement before the attack...was 165 mg/dl, a level that heart-disease specialists today consider safe."

After his first heart attack, Eisenhower changed his diet...to a low-fat, low-cholesterol regimen.  His meals were cooked in soybean oil and margarine.  His weight began to creep up, so Eisenhower switched his breakfast fare from oatmeal and skim milk to melba toast and fruit.  Still frustrated with his weight, Eisenhower nixed breakfast and eschewed all fats, replacing them with corn oil.  His cholesterol continued to rise; Eisenhower's doctor regularly lied to him about his increasing cholesterol numbers.

Taubes:  "Eisenhower's cholesterol hit 259 just six days after University of Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys made the cover of Time magazine, championing precisely the kind of supposedly heart-healthy diet on which Eisenhower had been losing his battle with cholesterol for five years.  It was two weeks later that the American Heart Association--prompted by Keys' force of will--published its first official endorsement of low-fat, low-cholesterol diets as a means to prevent heart disease. ... Eisenhower died of heart disease in 1969, age 78.  By then, he'd had another half-dozen heart attacks.

"From the inception of the diet-heart hypothesis in the early 1950s, those who argued that dietary fat caused heart disease accumulated the evidential equivalent of a mythology to support their belief.  These myths are still passed on faithfully to the present day."

However unjust, however detrimental the results to the generations that followed, fat was forever vilified by the lipid hypothesis: the flawed, falsified and debunked study that refuses to die. “Vegetable” oils and margarine (both fake foods linked to hormonal disruptions, obesity, heart disease and cancer) took the place of butter and saturated fat became a bogey man.

And we must ask and answer the crucial, yet simple question:  In the recent decades following the establishment of the lipid hypothesis, during a time when Americans eat less real fat than ever before...and more carbohydrates, are we healthier?  Are we experiencing significantly reduced rates of heart disease and other chronic maladies?  


Taubes: "Indeed, if the last few decades were considered a test of the fat-cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease, [which they of course should be, because that would be true science at work] the observation that the incidence of heart disease has not noticeably decreased could serve in any functioning scientific environment as compelling evidence that the hypothesis is wrong.  Throughout the world, on the other hand, the incidence of obesity and diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate."

Taubes' book is an intelligent, deeply researched study into the abuses of science that have created and perpetuated dietary myths, including the lipid hypothesis.  It is not an "easy" read, but it is a worthwhile one.  To get an overview of Taubes' work, listen to his conversations with Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk, a podcast produced by the Library of Economics and Liberty.

“And take you father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.”  Genesis 45:18

I love McLagan's Fat book.  In fact, I love her trio, which includes Fat; Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore; and Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.  I fully intended last year to write a review of Fat, but (surprise, surprise) it never materialized.  I'll just work it in here, by sharing the highlights of her fabulous primer on fat.  Oh, and the recipes are wonderful, too!

McLagan's Fat chapters:

  • Butter: worth it
  • Pork fat: the king
  • Poultry fat: versatile and good for you
  • Beef and Lamb: overlooked but tasty

She covers each animal fat extensively, with instructions on how to make butter, render lard and duck fat, create confit and much more.  Her recipes cover the spectrum from sweet to savory, from biscuits to cassoulet.  No stone is left unturned.  The pages are lavish with beautiful photos and historical, culinary and nutritional tidbits.  

In her Introduction, A Matter of Fat, McLagan reminds us that:
  • All animal fats are not saturated.
  • Eating fat does not make us fat.
  • A low-fat diet is not good for us.
Types of fat

All fats are lipids (they don’t dissolve in water), and all fats are a combination of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (omega fatty acids) = not made by body, must be ingested
  • Saturated fatty acids = less vulnerable to heat and oxygen, don’t turn rancid easily
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids = softer than saturated fats at room temperature, almost as stable and slow to turn rancid. Most common MFA is oleic acid, found in pork and beef.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids = liquid at room temperature; very fragile, turn rancid quickly.
  • Trans fatty acids = except for naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), these are manmade solidified “fat,” created by adding hydrogen to polyunsaturated fat. CLA is a healthy nutrient that protects against cancer, heart disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance.  All other trans fats are manmade health scourges.
Cholesterol is NOT a fat; rather, it is a sterol (type of alcohol) found in animal protein. Our cell membranes and much of our brains are made of cholesterol. Cholesterol is the “mother hormone” and our vital organs need it to work; our bodies use cholesterol to repair themselves. Low cholesterol is linked with various diseases, depression, and increased risk of infection.  But we'll dig more into this wonderful sterol below.

McLagan:  “Every cell in our body needs fat, our brain and hormones rely on fat to function, and fat supports our immune system, fights disease, and protects our liver. Fat promotes good skin and healthy hair, and it regulates our digestive system and leaves us feeling sated. Yet after more than 30 years of reducing our intake of animal fats, we are not healthier, but only heavier. Diets low in fat leave people hungry, depressed, and prone to weight gain and illness. We reduced the animal fat in our diet but increased our intake of sugars and other refined carbohydrates, then were surprised when we got fat. We shouldn’t have been.”

Traditional, accepted wisdom was that fat and protein were satisfying, nourishing, filling foods and that starches and sugar made people fat. Animals are fattened by grain feeding...the same applies to humans.

McLagan:  “Fat is the body’s preferred fuel, providing us with more than twice the amount of energy as the same quantity of carbohydrates and protein. It helps the body to absorb nutrients, calcium, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat and protein are found together in nature because it’s the fat that helps us digest the protein, so it makes good sense to eat a well-marbled steak, or a roast chicken with crispy skin. Because fat is digested slowly, eating it leaves us feeling sated, and we’re less likely to snack between meals. Eat the right fats and you’ll probably lose weight! And, as we all know, fat tastes good.”

“For millennia people have known how to make their food. They have understood animals and what to do with them, have cooked with the seasons and had a farmer’s knowledge of the way the planet works. They have preserved traditions of preparing food, handed down through generations, and have come to know them as expressions of their families. People don’t have this kind of knowledge today, even though it seems as fundamental as the earth.” -- Bill Buford, author and journalist

Fat is critical to the flavor of our food, because the flavor of meat is in the fat. As McLagan reminds us, “Many aromas and flavors are soluble only in fat, so unless you use fat in your cooking, they are not released.”  Without marbling, meat has little flavor and becomes dry and tough when cooked.  And, honestly, who doesn't adore slathering warm bread with real butter?  Mmmmmm.....

After the educational introduction, McLagan's book is broken down into four sections, regaling the qualities of and sharing recipes starring: butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef and lamb fat.

Aside from its wonderful flavor and delightfully creamy texture, butter is an incredibly healthy food. A saturated fat, butter is composed of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy to process by our body...they are not stored as fat (unlike long-chain fatty acids), but used for energy. Butter contains lauric and butyric acids, which boost immunity; stearic and palmitic acids, which lower LDL cholesterol; fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (especially in pastured butter), copper, zinc, chromium, selenium, iodine, and lecithin.  Butter’s complex flavor and its texture are influenced by the breed of cow, its diet, and the season. For pastured butter, spring and early summer will produce a deeper yellow butter (carotenes in the grass) that has a stronger flavor. Winter butter is paler and milder in taste because the cows are supplemented with silage.

Pork fat (including lard) is useful in the kitchen and incredibly nourishing. Pork fat, like all fats, is a mixture of saturated, polyunsatruated, and monounsaturated fatty acids. While the fat forms vary by breed and diet of the pig, the majority of pork fat is monounsaturated, specifically oleic acid in addition to palmitoleic fatty acid (which has antimicrobial properties).  Pork fat’s saturated fatty acids are stearic acid, which converts to oleic acid in our body, and palmitic acid...both lower “bad” cholesterol. Pork fat does not oxidize or become rancid easily, and remains stable when heated. Additionally, pastured lard is an excellent source of vitamin D.

McLagan similarly sings the praises of poultry fat and beef and lamb fat, which contain similar nutrient profiles to butter and lard. Foie gras, french for “fat liver,” is made from the enlarged liver of duck or geese. Well-prepared foie gras is smooth and silky, and contains the beneficial nutrients of liver: it is rich in B vitamins, copper, iron and iodine.  Grass-fed beef and lamb are particularly rich in both CLA and omega-3 fatty acids. Beef bone marrow is of particular nutritional interest, as it contains body-building collagen, iron, phosphorous, vitamin A, thiamin and niacin.

I highly recommend McLagan's book(s) and encourage you to add them, especially Fat, to your collection.

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream."  -- Julia Child, American culinary icon

Good fats vs. Bad fats

As a result of the diet-heart hypothesis takeover, people reduced their intake of animal fats and vastly increased their consumption of manmade fats, particularly hydrogenated trans fats. These substances are not easily processed by the body and are stored as fat, rather than used as energy. These manmade fats increase “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as interfere with insulin production.  There is no such thing as a safe manmade trans fat...nor a safe "vegetable" fat.

Polyunsaturated fats, another popular “anti-animal fat” option, are highly unstable, oxidizing quickly. Oxidized fat damages our DNA.  Polyunsaturated fats suppress our immune system, and severely imbalance our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, causing an excess of omega-6 in our bodies (which inhibits absorption of omega-3). High levels of omega-6 lead to cancer, heart disease, liver damage, brain chemistry disorders, weight gain, immune malfunction, digestive malfunction, and reproductive malfunction. Grain-fed animals are higher in omega-6, while pastured animals are a good source of omega-3.

Good fats are Real Fats, and they include all animal fat (especially saturated fats), nuts, and fruit oils:
  • Egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Grass-fed, raw milk (with its cream)
  • Coconut
  • Palm
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Fatty fish (especially cold-water species like salmon and sardines)
  • Red meat
  • Pork (especially bacon)
  • Poultry (especially duck and goose)

Bad fats are everything else, which leaves "vegetable" fats...all the commercial, laboratory-produced, manmade fats, liquid or hydrogenated (especially corn, canola, and soy). These “fats” do not exist naturally; they are neither nutritious nor stable. They are chemically processed and easily oxidize and become rancid, producing ravaging, inflammatory, carcinogenic free radicals.

“Fat” that requires heavy technical processing is not good fat. “Fat” that is designed and created in a laboratory is not good fat (nor is it Real Food).

A diet deficient in the regular consumption of good fats, particularly animal fats, leads to:
  • Brain chemistry disorders (OCD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, memory loss, etc.)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (a disintegration of the myelin sheath, which requires fat/cholesterol)
  • Leaky gut syndrome (your intestinal lining requires fat for stability)
  • Malnourishment (from poor vitamin absorption)
  • Infertility (and other hormonal imbalance maladies)
  • Increased cancer risk (omega-3 can slow tumor and cancer cell growth)
  • Heart disease and high cholesterol (low-fat diets reduce HDL)
  • Etc.....
On the other hand, real fats (principally saturated fats):
  • Protect your heart (reduces lipoprotein, which increases heart attack risk)
  • Build your cell membranes
  • Build your hormones
  • Act as a carrier for vitamins A, D, E, K
  • Build your bones (calcium requires saturated fat to be incorporated into bone)
  • Protect your liver from toxins
  • Improve lung function (lung lining is composed of saturated fat)
  • Improve gut function (intestinal lining is composed of saturated fat)
  • Strengthen white blood cells

Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
"The idea that too much animal fat and high cholesterol are dangerous to your heart and vessels is nothing but a myth."  -- Uffe Ravnskov

Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, in his ground-breaking comprehensive critique of the lipid hypothesis, The Cholesterol Myths, tears down the myriad myths produced by Keys’ outrageously popular bad science, including:
  • High-fat foods cause heart disease.
  • High cholesterol causes heart disease.
  • High-fat foods raise blood cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol blocks arteries.
  • Animal studies prove the diet-heart idea.
  • Lowering your cholesterol will lengthen your life.
  • Polyunsaturated oils are good for you.
  • The cholesterol campaign is based on good science.
  • All scientists support the diet-heart idea.

Alzheimer’s? Infertility? Heart disease? Auto-immune disorders? Immunity malfunctions? Brain chemistry disorders? You can thank your fear of fat and cholesterol-lowering diet and drugs. In fact, dreading and disparaging food sources of cholesterol is rather imprudent, considering that the body produces about 85% of its own blood cholesterol.

Not only is cholesterol NOT the villain we have been led to believe, it is a vital nutrient, essential to the proper and vibrant functioning of our bodies. Every cell of every organ in our bodies has cholesterol in its structure. Cholesterol is a vital part of cell membrane composition and it helps our cells communicate.

Our brains simply cannot develop or function properly without regular consumption of brain-building fats, including cholesterol (not technically a fat, but a sterol), lecithin, choline, and especially saturated fats. Our brain and nervous system is cholesterol-rich; 25% of our bodies’ cholesterol stores go to the brain. The fatty substance, myelin, which is a primary material in our brain and nervous system, is 20% cholesterol. The myelin sheath coats every nerve cell and nerve fiber. The breakdown of the myelin sheath results in the devastating illness, multiple sclerosis. Synapse formation in the brain, affecting brain cell communication and memory centers, depends heavily on cholesterol (memory loss is a side effect of cholesterol-lowering drugs). A developing baby’s brain and eyes require large amounts of cholesterol.

Our hormones will not function without cholesterol. Known as the “mother hormone,” cholesterol is crucial to the endocrine system...particularly our adrenals and sex glands, which produce our steroid hormones. All steroid hormones are made from cholesterol. Steroid hormones regulate vital bodily functions, including metabolism, energy production, mineral assimilation, brain, muscle and bone formation, fertility, and brain chemistry. Adrenal fatigue is a common problem in our modern, multitasking, over-stressed society. [A typical “side effect” for men on cholesterol-lowering drugs is decreased testosterone (and other steroid hormone) production.]

The human liver regulates blood cholesterol and uses cholesterol to create bile, which is the substance that allows us to digest and absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Without good bile production, we cannot properly absorb and assimilate vitamins A, D, E, and K. In fact, cholesterol-rich foods and sunlight are our best sources of vitamin D. Because of our desperate need for this fat-soluble vitamin, we can thank cholesterol for helping us to build and maintain healthy bones, as well as protecting us from cancer, inflammatory disorders, brain chemistry imbalances, heart disease, osteoarthritis, auto-immune diseases, poor immunity, obesity, and diabetes.

So why do cholesterol levels vary from person to person and season or time of day? Why do cholesterol levels soar after surgery or when we have an infection? The answer is simple: cholesterol is one of the body’s healing agents. When healing needs to occur, the liver produces cholesterol and sends it to the site of damage.

Let’s look a bit at the myth that cholesterol cause arterial and heart disease. McBride explains by examining blood vessel structure and physiology. The inside of the vessel walls are covered by a layer of endothelium cells, which are attacked by any damaging agent to which we are exposed. 

McBride:  “Whether it is a toxic chemical, an infectious organism, a free radical or anting else, once it is in the blood, what is it going to attack first? The endothelium, of course. The endothelium immediately sends a message to the liver. Whenever our liver receives a signal that a wound has been inflicted upon the endothelium somewhere in our vascular system, it gets into gear and sends cholesterol to the site of the damage in a shuttle, called LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Because this cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our “science, in its wisdom, called LDL a “bad” cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided “science” called it “good” cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance traveling from the base to the patient, a “bad ambulance,” and the one traveling from the patient back to the base, a “good ambulance.

“Why does the liver send cholesterol to the site of the injury? Because the body cannot clear the infection, remove toxic elements or heal the wound without cholesterol and fats. Any healing involves the birth, growth and functioning of thousands of cells: immune cells, endothelial cells and many others. As these cells, to a considerable degree, are made out of cholesterol and fats, they cannot be born and grow without a good supply of these substances. … Scar tissue in the body contains good amounts of cholesterol. … Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant in the body, dealing with the free radical damage. … When we have surgery, our tissues are cut and many small arteries, veins and capillaries get damaged. The liver receives a very strong signal from this damage, so it floods the body with LDL cholesterol to clean and heal every little wound in our blood vessels. … After dental treatment, in addition to the damage to the tissues, a lot of bacteria from the tooth and the gums finish up in the blood, attacking the inside walls of our blood vessels. The liver gets a strong signal from that damage and produces lots of healing cholesterol to deal with it, so the blood cholesterol goes up. The same thing happens when we have an infection — LDL cholesterol goes up to deal with the bacterial or viral attack. Apart from the endothelium, our immune cells need cholesterol to function and to heal themselves after the fight with the infection. Our stress hormones are made out of cholesterol … Stressful situations increase our blood cholesterol levels because cholesterol is being sent to the adrenal glands for stress hormone production. In short, when we have a high blood cholesterol level it means that the body is dealing with some damage.”

Understanding the action of the cardiovascular endothelial cells and their relationship to cholesterol, as well as the functions and traveling route of LDL and HDL, begs the question: Why are some people suffering increased endothelial damage and therefore increased cholesterol activity? I think the answer is simple. Those people are introducing malevolent substances into their blood streams (such as chemical pollutants in the form of drugs or processed/industrial foods), causing the damage that spurs the healing cholesterol response. Instead of blaming LDL levels, the sufferers should stop abusing their bodies with the toxic substances ravaging their blood vessels. 

 Clearly, stress also plays a part in raising cholesterol levels, and should not be ignored as a significant culprit in health maladies.  Additionally, dehydration is a significant factor in heightened cholesterol levels. When the body becomes dehydrated, cells become dehydrated and begin to weaken. This signals the production of cholesterol to repair and hold the cell walls together. Lowering cholesterol can be as simple as increasing your daily water intake: aim for 1 oz. pure water for every pound you weigh.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes reveals what I believe is a fascinating paradox.  Ancel Keys, the man who gave us the blight that is the lipid hypothesis, originally established that there was no link between cholesterol and heart disease.  As Taubes explains, "In 1937, two Columbia University biochemists, David Rittenberg and Rudolph Schoenheimer, demonstrated that the cholesterol we eat has very little effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood.  When Keys fed men for months at a time on diets either high or low in cholesterol, it made no difference to their cholesterol levels.  As a result, Keys insisted that dietary cholesterol had little relevance to heart disease."  Yet Keys would go forward in his attempt to substantiate his diet-heart hypothesis, fingering fat as the culprit in cardio ailments.

Taubes:  "Ironically, some of the most reliable facts about the diet-heart hypothesis have been consistently ignored by public-health authorities because they complicated the message, and the least reliable findings were adopted because they didn't.  Dietary cholesterol, for instance, has an insignificant effect on blood cholesterol. ... Nonetheless, the advice to eat less cholesterol--avoiding egg yolks, for instance--remains gospel."

A fuller understanding of the hows and whys of cholesterol production and functions does spur various cogitations. One begins to wonder, why all the fuss over “high” cholesterol? How high is too high? And why aren't doctors asking, how low is too low?

Studying the anti-lipid hypothesis evidence makes it clear that cholesterol is not the cardio killer that we’ve been led to believe. Ravnskov points out that the coronary artery studies hoping to prove that high cholesterol levels cause atherosclerosis actually showed an increase in sclerosis in patients with low cholesterol. Repeated studies confirmed that cholesterol levels were unimportant in determining increased atherosclerosis risk.

Ravnskov: “The fact that coronary atherosclerosis gets worse just as fast or faster when cholesterol goes down as when it goes up, the opposite of exposure-response, should have led scientists to question the whole diet-heart idea. But nobody did. … Isn’t it much more likely that something else causes atherosclerosis than cholesterol? Something that may vary between the arteries, such as blood pressure. … For instance, the tension of the coronary vessels, but not necessarily of other vessels, increases significantly when we are mentally stressed. … That people with low cholesterol become just as sclerotic as people with high cholesterol is, of course, a devastating blow to the diet-heart idea. But the names of Lande, Sperry, Paterson, and Mathur (researchers) are absent in the hundreds of papers and books that the proponents publish every year.”

"We've got a drug for that."  -- (me) paraphrasing the pharmaceutical and medical industry

The dangers of cholesterol are a myth, but the dangers of cholesterol-lowering (statin) drugs are very real and include:

  • Decreased hormone production
  • Impaired male sexual function (see above)
  • Depletion of CoQ10 (a necessary cardiovascular and muscular nutrient)
  • Muscle pain (see above)
  • Memory loss
  • Depression (likely related to decreased hormone production)
  • Anemia
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas)
  • Immune depression
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Neuropathy (pain resulting from nerve damage in peripheral nervous system)
  • Heart failure (can you say irony? This side effect related to depleted CoQ10)
Fat and cholesterol are more than good for you...they are crucial to your physical development and well-being. Fat consumption affects brain development, vibrancy and longevity, skin development and elasticity, heart health, joint health, hormone development and regulation, intestinal lining integrity, and more.

Good Fat Does Not Make You Fat

Obesity is a plague of modern living.  The blame fingers seem constantly to be moving, pointing one way and then another.  "Fad diets" have been part of our collective conscious for decades.  The prevalent desire to lose weight drives a profitable diet and exercise industry.  The medical and food industries have a stake in this game as well.  "Low fat" and "low calorie" foods have an incredible market share of the offerings on grocery store shelves.  So it should come as no surprise that weight-loss dietary advice that would undermine profits of companies touting "conventional wisdom" will be routinely lambasted and ridiculed.  An entire food industry has grown around the proliferation of "vegetable" oils and cereal grains.  Ergo, the food politics of dietary principles are highly controversial.

But how many Americans are aware that the low-carb, high-protein weight-loss regimen is centuries old?  From the mid-1800s, French doctors identified the solution to obesity as a diet restricted in sugars and starches.  By the time the Atkins revolution was introduced in America in the 1970s, the "low-carb to lose weight" concept had been tried and proven by practitioners and people who were willing to look to nature, history and evidence-based traditions for answers to the obesity puzzle.

Until the 1970s in America, it was conventional wisdom that starches and sugars led to weight gain. But coming on the heels of the AMA and AHA fully endorsing the lipid hypothesis and advocating a low-fat diet to combat heart disease, we saw the birth of the low-fat, high-carb diet to control weight.  Despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, the low-fat diet craze was born, gained momentum, and mushroomed.  We are living with the reality today that the low-fat myth is an idea that dies hard.

Taubes: "Despite the depth and certainty of our faith that saturated fat is the nutritional bane of our lives and that obesity is caused by overeating and sedentary behavior, there has always been copious evidence to suggest that those assumptions are incorrect, and that evidence is continuing to mount.

"It is possible that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all share a single, underlying cause.  The surge in obesity and diabetes occurred as the population was being bombarded with the message that dietary fat is dangerous and that carbohydrates are good for the heart and for weight control. ... [William Harland, former associate director of the Office of Disease Prevention at the National Institutes of Health] told me that public-health experts like himself assumed that if they advised all Americans to eat less fat, with its densely packed calories, weights would go down.  'What we see instead,' he said, 'is actually weights have gone up, the portion sizes have gone up, the amount we eat has gone up.' ... If 150 years of anecdotal evidence and observation suggest that carbohydrates are uniquely fattening, it would be unjustifiable scientifically to reject that hypothesis without compelling evidence to the contrary.  Such evidence does not exist."

In the vein of WAPF, Taubes shares that decades of evidence regarding chronic disease and obesity, collected by missionaries and doctors studying isolated populations living traditional lifestyles/diets, indicates that "diseases of civilization" were rare before the introduction of processed carbohydrates.  Taubes also points out that our society has fully accepted the non-evidence-based idea that dietary fat, calories, fiber and physical activity are the critical variables in obesity and disease.  Medical research, however, has revealed a "web of physiological mechanisms and phenomena involving the singular effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar and on insulin, and the effect of blood sugar and insulin, in turn, on cells, arteries, tissues, and other hormones."

So just to put the final nail in the "fear of fat" coffin, believe me when I tell you that consuming good fats will not make you fat; in fact, the opposite is true. Most people lose weight when increasing fat consumption (and consecutively decreasing sugar consumption).  Good fat is an excellent energy source: it is dense and easily converted by the body into energy.  

Remember pork fat (lard) and its oleic acid content?  Oleic acid is one of the reasons that fat doesn't make you fat.  Besides containing medium-chain fatty acids that are easily absorbed and converted into energy, oleic acid begins production of oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which gets absorbed into nerve endings.  Once there, the OEA tells your body that it is full.  This is one of the excellent side effects of fat consumption...satiety.  Oleic acid is found in other animal fats, as well as in olive and nut oils.

Omega-3 fatty acids assist in burning fat because they tell your body to more effectively use the hormone leptin.  Leptin helps to suppress your appetite, rev your metabolism (by increasing thyroid output), and tell your body to burn fat for energy.  Medium-chain triglycerides (a type of medium-chain fatty acid) are quickly broken down by the body and converted into energy.  Fewer MCTs are converted to fat than are long-chain fatty acids.

 An MCT, coconut oil is a particularly potent weight loss agent. Rich in those easily digested, "instant energy" medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil increases metabolism and encourages ketosis (the process that helps to burn glycogen stores).  Other MCTs are milk fat and palm oil.

Manmade fats (especially trans fats), however, can make you fat.  Your body cannot process these fake fats and they will accumulate as toxic deposits.  These bad fats become stored fat and produce inflammation (sometimes you aren't registering "fat" on the scale, but swelling).

How you consume your fats matters, too.  As Mark at Mark's Daily Apple remind us, "Fat is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Dietary fat in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrates can make it difficult to access fat for energy, while dietary fat in the presence of low levels of dietary carbohydrates makes it easier to access fat for energy. studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets not only reduce weight, they also retain or even increase lean mass. That means it’s fat that’s being lost (rather than the nebulous “weight”), which is what we’re ultimately after."

It is difficult to overeat fat. Because of its dense, filling effect, fat effectively signals your body’s satiation impulse. You are more likely to become ill before you can consume enough real fat calories to actually gain weight.  Healthy fats, including saturated animal fats, are easily processed and used for energy.

I will leave you with these important mantras to memorize:

  • Fat is the most essential human nutrient.
  • Good fats are great for you.
  • Cholesterol is not your enemy...it is a magnificent ally.
  • Real Fat doesn’t make you fat...sugar and fake fat does.
Now go and enjoy some brain-building, hormone-producing, heart-protecting, gut-healing, delicious fat!  And forget the fear, banish the guilt!  To your health!

For more information

Coconut oil burns fat

The myth of the low-fat diet

WAPF examines good vs. bad fats

Seven reasons to eat more saturated fat

Why a high-fat diet is healthy and safe

A holistic approach to cancer (your body needs more fat)

Pasta, not bacon, makes you fat

Myths and truths about nutrition

EconTalk podcast archive: Gary Taubes

The last days of the low-fat diet fad

Vegatable oils: The "refining" of our health

Toxic effects of vegetable oils

Why you should never eat vegetable oil

The truth about cholesterol

WAPF Truths and Myths about cholesterol

Cholesterol Con

Ravnskov's Cholesterol Myths

Low cholesterol is NOT good for you

Statin drug dangers

WAPF Dangers of Statin Drugs

Natural News Statin drug info

Check out this great graphic from Massive Health about how carbs are killing you.

ACOG Continues to Wage War Against Birth Freedoms

My ire was kindled this week by information shared in a news email I received from the Citizens for Midwifery:

ACOG Rejects the Ethic That Autonomy Is a Fundamental Human Right

The newsletter describes yet another attack by the ACOG (American College of Gynecology) on homebirth and patient-centered pregnancy care in the United States.  An October 2012 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology outlines the faulty ACOG position.  The article actually coaches OBs on how to counteract the "resurgence" of homebirths, and on how to deal with mothers who express a desire to birth at home.

CFM summarizes the issue well:
The attack is based on poor research and runs roughshod over established rights to bodily integrity. 
This article was “Presented at European Congress of Perinatal Medicine, Paris, France, June 13, 2012.”  So not only does the article attack home birth, it also represents an attempt to “export” to the rest of the world a position that the obstetric profession, not mothers, should have the final decision on birth, at a time when that isn’t even legally defensible here in the United States.   
The primary author, a Fellow of ACOG, faculty member at Cornell University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, should be aware of American jurisprudence supporting patient autonomy and right to informed consent.  We can also assume that he is aware that systems of midwife attended homebirth are well established and integrated into the health delivery systems of many European countries.  And yet, it is the decision of the 2010 European Court of Human Rights case that seems to have prompted this "critical evaluation."  This was a case where obstetrician, Agnes Gereb, was imprisoned for attending home births in Hungary.  Her story is told in the movie “Freedom for Birth,” produced by One World Birth.
The authors’ conclusions are the height of hubris: “We urge obstetricians, other concerned physicians, midwives and other obstetric providers, and their professional associations to eschew rights-based reductionism in the ethics of planned home birth and replace rights-based reductionism with an ethics based on professional responsibility.”  In other words, reject the ethic that autonomy is a fundamental human right.  
Fiduciary responsibility is, by definition, putting the needs of the patient first.  If fiduciary responsibility was the same as professional responsibility, this would not be an either/or proposition.  The author defines professional responsibility as a model of decision making where “the patient has the right to select from medically reasonable alternatives.”  Who gets to decide what is reasonable?  Why, the obstetrician, of course.  And if the patient opts for an alternative the obstetrician has not deemed reasonable, then the obstetrician is justified in placing the “rights of the fetus” ahead of the rights of the first patient (the mother), although what is actually being asserted is the obstetrician’s own agenda over the rights of his/her patient. 
Buried in this article, and lost in the conclusion, is one very true statement: “The first professional responsibility of obstetricians is to ensure that hospital delivery is safe, respectful, and compassionate.” The author goes on to describe what that needs to look like, and in an easily overlooked fashion concedes that hospitals aren’t always safe places either.  In fact, both infant and maternal mortality are on the rise in the United States, at a time when hospitals have a near monopoly on birth.  
This failing falls squarely at the feet of ACOG and the collective actions of its Fellows, which calls to mind this quote:
“ACOG no longer has the moral authority to set standards in maternity care…. It has made too many self-aggrandizing and self-protective recommendations (e.g. against home birth, videotaping birth, and VBAC) that limit the freedom of American women and families.” (M. Wagner, Born In The USA, 2006, University of California Press, p. 32)
Overlooking this reality completely, the author also overlooks the most reliable research on the safety of home birth, while noting that ACOG “accepts the findings of Wax et al,” a thoroughly discredited piece of published research that does not stand as prima fascia evidence against the safety of home birth.  Even Amy Tuteur (no friend to home birth) says this AJOG article is “poorly researched, relies on bad studies and is woefully paternalistic.” 
One contradiction stands out as the authors call for “safe, respectful, and compassionate” hospital delivery.  No hospital birth can be truly respectful if the birth is happening in the hospital because the physician disrespects the woman’s right to an alternative and has rigged the system to eliminate access to all legal alternatives.

This is quintessential ACOG behavior, displayed regularly in the war on Real Birth.  The ACOG's desire to eradicate homebirth is not only fear-based, bad "medicine," it is an assault on our fundamental human rights to make our own life and health decisions.  Pregnancy is not an ailment and birth is not an emergency medical condition.  Anything less than autonomy in this realm (just as in the ream of food choices) is nanny state tyranny.  We are not wards of the government or the food and medical industries.  

We are free, thinking beings; our health and well-being choices belong to us alone. Contrary to ACOG propaganda, homebirths are not the bogey man OBs would have you believe.  Hospital births routinely end undesirably to some degree for mother and/or baby; such is the cost of unnatural, profit- and policy-driven interventions.  The majority of homebirths are beautiful, natural, empowering, spiritually enriching, safe experiences.  (Can we say the same for the industrial birth system?)  Whether at home or in hospital, even in the most blessed of circumstances, unhappy twists can occur.  Such is reality.  But the rare instance of undesirable outcomes certainly does not justify the vilification and outlawing of mankind's successful historical, traditional birthplace: the home.  If that is to be the case, the same measuring stick must be applied to the birth industry itself and hospital births must come under fire.

The fact is that we do not need (nor should we desire) to be protected from ourselves, especially not by the medical industry.  Doctors, of any persuasion, are to be our consultants IF we desire their input...they are not our dictators.  It is neither logical, nor reasonable, to allow the exception (women who suffer pregnancy complications) to define the rule (normal birth).  

Yet, the non-evidentiary technocratic model of birth rules the day.  And the "little gods" in white coats are not content to wield their power over the women who volunteer for their regime.  These practitioners of overplayed intervention seek to exert political power over us all, working to ban the practice of traditional midwifery and homebirth.  Just like Monsanto, the power-hungry conventional birth industry OBs are not content with their market share...they desire to annihilate the competition.

We can fight to stem this tide.  Check out the Citizens for Midwifery website to learn more and see what you can do to help.

Laboring Under Delusions: How Fear Facilitates Our Broken Birth Culture

I am glowing this week, as I just discovered I am pregnant with whom we hope will be child number four. I have a history of infertility and miscarriages, along with debilitating nausea and vomiting that lasts the entire gestation, so each pregnancy is met with prayerful anticipation. My births, however, have been wonderful, natural, empowering events...that necessitated commitment, preparation and hard work on my part. And I can promise you, Ladies, home waterbirths are every bit as wonderful as you’ve heard. I’ve had a land birth and I’ve had waterbirths...and you couldn’t pay me to give birth out of the water. They don’t call it the “aqua”dural for nothing! (Check out the myriad advantages of waterbirths for Mom and baby at the Waterbirth International website.)

So, on the heels of my positive pregnancy test, I wanted to resurrect and consolidate some essays I’ve penned previously on my passionate concern for our broken birth culture. I’d like to take some time to share my heartfelt conviction regarding the damage being perpetrated upon women and their babies as a result of our technocratic, fear-based, factory birth system.

We’ve all seen the quintessential cinematic or television portrayal of birth: Surrounded by monitors and equipment in a brightly lit room, a screaming woman lies in a hospital bed, begging for drugs. The room bustles with nurses and an OB or two, the scene is rife with panic. Someone yells, “PUSH!” or “I see a head!” in a voice edged with terror that should be reserved only for a devastating catastrophe like an impending Tsunami wave about to engulf an entire village. What drama! What trauma! What rubbish! But this is the typical version of birth we serve to society. The message is that birth is damaging, dangerous and an event to be feared.

The fear of birth is the beginning of intervention disaster. Our culture (the industrialized world, primarily the United States) teaches women to fear birth. Fear is paralyzing...it is powerful...it is profitable. Fearful parents are more easily led down the lockstep of “standard procedure” interventions. A fearful woman in pain has trouble making wise decisions. So much of birth is a mental exercise. Just like an athlete, you must “get your head in the game.” Attitude has a significant impact on outcomes. An attitude of fear debilitates. An attitude of peace, understanding, acceptance and a sound mind empowers. Fear-based decisions are faulty decisions. When you fear or fight the pain of birth, the laborious activity of birth, you impair your body’s natural ability to work with the baby and the process to achieve a positive outcome. Women who do not fear birth, who have not been indoctrinated to do so, who do not fight or interfere with the process, have much higher likelihoods of positive, natural results. What you believe about your body and your ability to birth has a tremendous impact on your birth outcome. Attitude is one of the most crucial elements to a successful birth.

Our modern birth system is a technocratic system. A technocracy is a society controlled by an elite of technical experts. Much of our society, including the entire medical industry, is technocratic. In the pregnancy/birth realm, the technocratic model defines the female body as broken...a compilation of defective parts that creates a dysfunctional reproductive process necessitating medical and technological intervention. This could not be further from the truth! Our bodies were designed for birth. The female body is not inferior and every human body is a wonderful, incredible organism of holistically integrated members.

“Anybody in obstetrics who shows a human interest in patients is not respected. What is respected is interest in machines.”
— Rick Walters MD, February 1986
We exist within a broken birth culture. We are told we cannot birth on our own. We are told that pregnancy is an illness and birth is dangerous. We are told that we are broken and we believe the lie. We are told that we need to be saved from ourselves when neither evidence nor experience supports that claim. Even women who desire and pursue “natural birth” often operate with ingrained presuppositions fed to us by the industry. The majority of women (and men, too) labor under a (sometimes subconscious) fear of the process, “giving ear to the voices of doctors, tests and technology that assert birth is dangerous and needs highly skilled assistance ‘just in case something goes wrong.’" (quote from Anne Frye, CPM, prominent midwifery educator)  That fear is unnatural...it is something in which our society has been indoctrinated over many decades. The assertion that hospital births are the safe option and that homebirths are risky is simply fallacious. An honest assessment of the evidence-based data refutes that claim. We must stop the hypermedicalization of birth (to borrow a phrase from the great birth liberator Ina May Gaskin).  There is no such thing as a safe drug, nor a risk-free surgery.  Both carry side effects and complications that corrupt our bodies.

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for those women who choose home birth. The reason for this is that these women trust themselves more than doctors and hospitals.”
— Christiane Northrup MD, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
If you are one of the five percent of women who has a legitimate physiological/anatomical difficulty/malfunction that precludes you from normal birth, that necessitates medicalized birth, you have my genuine sympathies and my respect for battling your impediment and bringing your baby into the world. You are the minority...the rare exception...for whom the protocol of emergency/technological birth measures are prescribed. But for the industry to apply that paradigm to the rest of us...to seek the medicalization and enforced technological protocol for all normal birth...is criminal. Normal birth is NOT a medical event.

OBs who desire to normalize “abdominal” birth have completely lost touch with the reality of the human form and its natural function. There is no such thing as abdominal birth (aka cesarean section) without the risk-bearing tools of the factory birth system. A c-section is not a birth process at all...its “intent” is to be an emergency, last ditch effort. To elevate the c-section to a place of normalization along with natural vaginal birth borders on insanity. A c-section is an invasive surgery, not a birth. A woman is restrained to a table, she (and consequently her baby) is drugged, and her abdomen is sliced open, her internal tissues, musculature and an organ cut into, and her baby forcefully removed. As a genuine lifesaving, RARE procedure, we can accept such a violation. But let us never accept or promote it as an elective, normal birth option. Christiane Northrup, in her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, describes OBs that believe the c-section model to be the preferred baby delivery system. These doctors, at best, are deluded. According to their paradigm, it’s nothing short of miraculous that the human race made it to the 20th century.

“We do not see childbirth in many obstetric units now. What we see resembles childbirth as much as artificial insemination resembles sexual intercourse.”
— Ronald Laing, Psychiatrist
The industry seems blind to the fact that women have been populating the earth into the billions for millennia before the medicalization of birth. To claim that birth can only be safe and successful as a result of our modern, technocratic system is both arrogant and ignorant. The United States boasts the most technological birth system in the world, yet suffers one of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world.  In California alone, the maternal death rate tripled between 1996 and 2006.  Nationally, cesarean sections are a significant factor in maternal death.  And rather than doing some serious self-reflection, the ACOG spends its time and resources vilifying homebirth. Even the CNM paradigm has shifted through the years to become aligned with the ACOG version of reality. So many CNMs now are just mini-OBs. Some know very little about botanical and nutritional therapies and do not advocate the complete pursuit of the instinctive, unfettered birth process.  I recently heard a student CNM rail against homebirths, saying she would never support a woman’s desire to birth outside the hospital system. “Babies die at home!” she said. Well, it is rare, yet sadly, it can happen. I grant you, life can be harsh. We despair to see a baby die in any environment. Bad things can happen, sometimes out of our control. But let us not be ignorant of the facts. Babies die in hospital births. Moms die in hospital births. Why does mainstream media neglect to seriously report the plight of maternal deaths as a result of the hospital birth system?

Hospital L&D protocols and procedures create a cascade of interventions that routinely results in harm (from mild to severe) to mothers and babies. The typical crisis outcome is the c-section, which accounts for 33% of births nationally (some states are at 40% and some hospitals are at 50%).  Too often, the hospital instigates the cascade of events and policies (epidurals, pitocin, fetal monitoring, mom in bed, etc.) that leads to birth complications, ends in a risky surgical delivery, and later the OBs thump their chests, claiming to have "saved" you and your baby. Well, it's partly true...they did save you...they saved you from the harm they caused you, significantly adding complications to you and your baby's birth and postpartum recovery. Yet the birth industry "experts" profess that they are providing the best, safest care...that they are protecting you. From what is the ACOG so desirous to protect women and babies? Peaceful, empowering, health-promoting, drug-free vaginal births? The fear-based, “broken body” paradigm causes industry practitioners and protocol makers to see every pregnancy as an illness and every birth as a disaster waiting to happen. They foolishly apply a (profitable) “one-size-fits-all” approach and work to convince all of us that it is sound practice. The industry needs to take a step back and begin to accept and practice what I believe is an essential, needful mantra: “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD!”

The birth industry applies the emergency procedure approach necessary for only five percent of women to all pregnant women. They treat all infants at birth like the endangered babies of drug-using, disease-riddled mothers. These presuppositions determine hospital birth policy. When was the last time you knew a pregnant mom who had gonorrhea? Not common. Yet the industry has made it standard treatment to fill ALL newborn’s eyes with chemical gunk to "protect" from that disease. How many moms do you know who are prostitutes or IV drug addicts?  Not too many?  Yet industry policy is to vaccinate ALL newborns for Hepatitis B.  The industry’s policies are not evidence-based necessities. The ACOG-driven policy of punishing midwives...of vilifying, outlawing and delegitimizing homebirth...does not stand on evidence-based science; it can only be compelled by profit and/or a desire for control and conformity. The ACOG stands ready with PR pitbulls and regulatory buddies to attack the moment they perceive (or design stories of) anything going awry in the homebirth realm. But where is that fire in the belly for publicizing and prosecuting those responsible in the hospital system when babies and mothers are harmed...even killed...by their interventions and procedures?!

“Birth matters. It matters because it is the way we all begin our lives outside of our source, our mothers’ bodies. It’s the means through which we enter and feel our first impression of the wider world. For each mother, it is an event that shakes and shapes her to her innermost core. Women’s perceptions about their bodies and their babies’ capabilities will be deeply influenced by the care they receive around the time of birth.”
— Ina May Gaskin, CPM, Birth Matters
The birth industry operates with a factory widget approach. Because of this flawed technocratic paradigm, the OB system sorely lacks good prenatal care. Good prenatal care involves a genuine relationship (including quality and quantity time spent) between the pregnant mother and her chosen support practitioner...it is more than tests and technological monitoring. It is not common for OBs...or even many CNMs, sadly...to educate women about how to be truly healthy during their pregnancy and to prepare for their best possible birth outcome (nutrition, exercise, herbs, lifestyle, etc). Birth industry practitioners don't tell women about the wonderful red raspberry leaf that strengthens, tones, then repairs the uterus, and helps to alleviate postpartum depression. They don't teach women about how to avoid posterior baby positioning that leads to labor complications (even c-sections), and what you can do to rotate a posterior baby before/during birth. They don't teach women about the optimum exercises and practices for birth preparation, nor do they encourage women to move into and explore the best birthing positions during labor/birth. In general, typical OB care includes vast unnecessary (and problematic) technological interventions, viewing all women the same, giving them all the standard protocol...it is the factory approach to childbearing, and it doesn't work. This birth culture disempowers women, keeps them disconnected from their bodies, babies and the birth process...it keeps women steeped in fear and self-doubt...and it perpetuates the lies to the next generations.

“The gap between actual obstetric practices in the Unites States and what scientific evidence indicates obstetric practices should be continues and will be slow to change until there is sufficient pressure—from women, scientists, politicians, and the media—to force more evidence-based practices.”
— Marsden Wagner MD, Born in the USA

Any perspective, finding or practice outside the established accepted industry norm is routinely vilified, slandered, mocked, or suppressed. If you don't walk to their beat, you're out of line. The minute someone questions "conventional wisdom" and it gets big enough to make ripples, the hounds are released. It's so typical and common that it's humorous. Someone comes close to rocking the boat and the PR dogs bark out their mantra..."that cannot be proven," "that is unsafe," "that is not approved." And when the establishment gets caught with dirty hands, caught in deceptions, caught altering results, caught with egg on their faces, the response is first silence, then more mud-slinging at those who are outside the box...the hounds just shout their mantras louder: "Unproven, dangerous, unproven, dangerous! We are the only truth, we are your only hope." As if saying it will guarantee their continued stranglehold on society. 

In 2007/8, there sprang forth a handful of exposes on the birth industry, including Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born, Jennifer Block's book Pushed and Marsden Wagner's book Born in the U.S.A.  Their message was neither new nor revolutionary (the flawed technocratic, medicalized, for-profit American birth model is rife with problems), but perhaps it was the frequency or consolidation of the voices that created ripples in the sea of public consciousness. As a result, growing numbers of women began to question the "party line" and sought alternatives. My friend, a licenced midwife in California, told me that she had never busier. As the seedlings of this rogue enlightenment nudged their way to the light of day, the threatened status quo responded in typical form to squash any growing opposition. The ACOG came out with its bald-faced lie...um, I mean statement...that homebirths are dangerous. This was followed by a bout of propaganda in which news outlets ran stories about the horrors of out-of-hospital births. My then-pregnant, homebirthing friend told me, with infuriated passion, "It makes me so angry that I want to go outside, squat in my front yard and just push this baby out!" My sentiments exactly! 

After a significant study was published in 2009 that showed planned homebirths with professional midwives were "just as safe as hospital births," the ACOG released more negative press, decrying homebirth. This kind of defensive fear-mongering flies in the face of the historical facts regarding the safety and desirability of the age-old natural birthplace...the home. As the interest in homebirth and empowered choice has grown, so has the establishment's mud-slinging. The message is clear...you cannot birth without us. The birth industry chants this disinformation as loudly as it can, using various mediums to do so (including popular television series, corporate media "news reporting," advertising, control of the medical journals, etc.).

“Women were...telling me they’d felt tremendous pressure from their medical providers to go against instinct and research—to induce labor, to schedule a cesarean, to lie back during labor when every cell in their body felt like moving. Women are supposed to push their babies out; instead, they felt they were being pushed around.”
— Jennifer Block, Pushed
One of the most irksome segments for me in The Business of Being Born was the OB interviewee who likened homebirth to driving without wearing a seatbelt. Not quite! Driving without a seatbelt in the birth realm is a couple who refuses to become informed consumers. It is a mama-to-be who doesn’t take advantage of the essential therapeutic modalities (like botanical medicine, chiropractic care, acupuncture, exercise and nourishing diet) that create a healthy baby and positive birth outcome. I’m turning the tables on the OB’s statement. Homebirth is akin to driving without a seatbelt? Nonsense.  Let's use an analogy to describe the risks women take when they enter the hospital birth industry. That scenario is akin to a woman being tranquilized, strapped into a straight jacket, shoved into a giant hamster ball and pushed toward a cliff.

The system says, “You can’t do it.” The system says, “Our way is the only way. Our drugs are safe...this procedure is necessary...you have no alternatives...those other options are dangerous, unproven, ineffective, blah, blah, blah. Trust us. Believe us. Obey us.” We listen to the voices and we make ourselves victims.  Why do we listen to the lies?  Truly, there is no substitute for the care of a well-trained, knowledgeable midwife (literally "with woman").  The birth industry cannot offer you anything that comes close.  The birth industry's drugs carry significant risks to mother and baby. Epidurals are anesthetics derived from the Caine family of drugs, such as bupivicaine (a relative of cocaine), and are often combined with opioids and narcotics.  These drugs are certainly not benign; neither is pitocin (which is not even approved for elective inductions). The birth industry's standard protocols (such as constant electronic fetal monitoring
) do not facilitate the birth process, have not been proven to improve outcomes, and often lead to unnecessary and undesirable complications. Babies are negatively impacted by drugs and procedures used during hospital births...a possibility that is avoided with homebirth.  The placenta is not an impenetrable fortress through which no toxins pass.  Women understand this instinctively and work during pregnancy to protect their babies from drugs and toxins.  So why would we expose our babies to a dose of extraordinarily potent and toxic drugs during birth?

Fundamentally, it is a distrust of our bodies that makes us vulnerable to the factory system. Why do we listen? Our bodies DO work...it is a rare event that they need medical help.  We need to understand that good midwives can alleviate many undesirable acute situations that could emerge during birth at home (such as shoulder dystocia or neonatal resuscitation).  Midwives also know to recognize the signs of impending complications (both prenatally and during labor) and seek help if necessary.  But above all, midwives RESPECT and support a woman's choices in pursuing her best birth.  We need to redesign our paradigm.  We need NOT be led by fear and expect undesirable outcomes.  Expect success, work for it, and you will be amazed at the results.

As a society, we choose how young women view birth...either with fear, or with awe and confidence. The tragic irony is that for all our modern female liberation and empowerment, American women allow themselves to fall prey to the patriarchal technocratic baby delivery system that is founded on the erroneous belief that our bodies are flawed and broken and that we need to be saved from ourselves. We allow ourselves to be abused by a misuse of technology. As a culture, how far will we stray from the natural processes of life? How long will we continue to disempower women in this most natural feminine realm? Why are we allowing them to destroy our right to choose how to birth our babies? How many of you know a woman (perhaps yourself) who regrets her industrial birth outcome? How many of you know someone, mama or baby, altered or harmed by the standard procedures? Ladies, if you want to be empowered, start by taking back birth! Our daughters need not be victims of this system. We have the power to change the factory birth model and our cultural attitude...one birth at a time.

For citations, statistics and information:

The Technocratic Model of Birth

Differences Between Technocratic and Holistic Models of Care
Birth "attacks" against women
BMJ Study:  Outcomes of Planned Homebirths with CPMs
Canadian Study: Planned Homebirths Safe
The Rituals of American Hospital Birth
Midwifery Today Responds to ACOG Homebirth "Study"
Technology in Birth: First Do No Harm
The Truth About Epidurals
Risks of Epidurals
Epidural Epidemic
The Truth About Pitocin
Cesarean Rates and Information
Benefits of Waterbirth
Medication During Pregnancy Causes Fetal Damage
US Infant Mortality Rates
Deadly Delivery: Amnesty International Report
The Safe Motherhood Project
Maternal Death Rates Linked to C-Sections
Risks of High-Tech Births
Wombecology by Michael Odent
Ina May Gaskin
Midwifery Today

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block

Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First by Marsden Wagner
Birth as an American Rite of Passage: Second Edition by Robbie Davis Floyd
Birth Models That Work by Robbie Davis Floyd
Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities: A Guide to the Medical Literature by Henci Goer
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin
Birth without Violence by Frederick LeBoyer
Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick Read
Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper
Birthing Normally by Gayle Peterson
Expecting Trouble: What Expectant Parents Should Know About Prenatal Care in America by Thomas Strong

Celebrating Crunchy Mamas and the Dads Who Love Them...

This radically natural mama wanted to give a round of applause to MamaNatural and her funny bone tickling series of videos highlighting those oh-so-comically wise things we crunchy mamas say (and do).  How many times have I said so many of these things?!  My kids were thoroughly entertained, blurting out, "that sounds like you, mom!" more than once.  Their favorite clip was (spoiler alert) what they now just call, "Run!  It's the FDA!"  The final video in the series (thus far) is a little bravo for the crunchy dads who support (and even echo) us.  My hubby enjoyed identifying with some of the all-too-familiar banter.  Hooray for the crunchy natural parents everywhere!

Radically Natural POV: Yes, Breast Always IS Best

I am a huge fan of the work of Weston Price and the WAPF; I fully support traditional diets and applaud the work the foundation does to education people about health and true nutrition...I'm a WAPF member.  But I acknowledge that the WAPF is not perfect.  Gasp!  Shocking?  Of course not...no one is perfect, not even me.

Recently, as I was reading through some post comments on one of my favorite blogs, I was reminded of some less-than-desirable breastfeeding advice shared by the WAPF.  Instead of being privately frustrated, I wanted to take a few moments to briefly address what I consider to be errors in WAPF's perspective.  But I also acknowledge that I could be misconstruing the foundation's advice, so forgive me if you feel I have improperly interpreted the information.

First, I want to say that I agree with the basic presupposition that WAPF shares in its breastfeeding information:  that it is crucial to properly nourish the mother in order to nourish the baby.  I also understand that in atypical cases, a woman is physiologically or anatomically unable to produce adequate breastmilk (I have a friend who struggles with natural milk production), but we need to understand that such a condition is rare.  If you are such a woman, feel free to skip the rest of this post, as I have no desire to cause contention or disconcertion to you.  I am addressing the "norm" here.

OK.  Now to address the problems I see when reading the breastfeeding info presented in WAPF writings.  One particular article seems to advocate early weaning, formula feeding, early introduction to solids, seems to downplay the superiority of breastmilk, and spreads seeds of doubt about the incomparable benefits of breastfeeding.  Whether those opinions are completely intentioned, they can be inferred from the writing.  We should never degrade breastfeeding just because some women have difficulty with it, and we should not gloss over the superb and essential benefits of breastfeeding because many women in the world (including the Unites States) are malnourished.

I'm sure we can all agree that feeding mama nutrient dense foods is the key to making good breastmilk.  And I know that WAPF is not in favor of commercial formula, but rather provides recipes for a more nourishing Real Food formula.  However, formula, even made from liver and grass-fed raw milk, can never equal breastmilk.  Not only is breast best, it is the perfectly designed food for humans.

Just as cow's milk is the perfect food for baby cows and zebra milk is the perfect food for baby zebras, mother's breastmilk is the perfect food for baby humans.  A baby's nutritional needs can be met by breastmilk alone for the first year of life.  Early weaning and/or early introduction to solids can create a host of problems for baby's immature digestive system, primarily gastro-intestinal upsets and subsequent allergies/sensitivities.  It is important to better promote long-term, nutritious nursing and to educate women about how to nourish their bodies.  A few weeks (even a few months) of nursing is hardly adequate to build a strong, healthy baby with vibrant immunity and robust digestion.  The worldwide "natural age" for weaning is somewhere around 3 years, yet our culture seems aghast when mamas (like myself) nurse for two years or longer (my current toddler is 30 months and has no interest in weaning).

While colostrum truly is liquid gold, extremely high in active antibodies and full of super nutrients, immunity strengthening antibodies (like IgA molecules) are passed on for well beyond the first months of breastfeeding.  [Antibodies seem to be most potent in the first six months, but they do not become nonexistent with time, they just diminish.]  These antibodies are unique to humans and unique to you for your baby.  Your breastmilk will carry some amount of antibodies as long as your body makes breastmilk...antibodies to illnesses you suffer.  I have often noted how my nursing baby/toddler is least afflicted when our family comes down with a cold/flu.

Baby's flora population depends much on breastfeeding; passing good flora to your baby is a boon to her health.  In addition to the probiotic bacteria found in breastmilk, the oligosaccharides in mama's milk feeds the beneficial bacteria in baby's gut, helping to establish good gut flora population.  The skin contact during nursing also passes your flora to baby (from nipple to mouth...flora lives on your skin, too, not just in your gut and mouth).  Be careful, however, of imbalanced pathogenic flora...consider doing GAPS to alleviate this condition before pregnancy.  

Baby's brain development relies heavily upon intake of omega fatty acids, and mother's milk contains the EPA and DHA perfectly suited to baby's needs.  The fatty acids unique to human breastmilk have an important impact on brain chemistry and on retinal and cortical development and function.

Extended breastfeeding provides more than physical health benefits to baby; the emotional bond of breastfeeding nourishes the heart and soul of both baby and mama.  Extended breastfed children tend to be more independent and confident.  Yes, at times all that nursing can be wearying, even inconvenient and painful, but it also provides joy, humor, and moments of relaxation.  In the end, this precious experience is such a short phase in our entire lives.  I wouldn't miss it for the world.

My desire would be to see WAPF partner with extended breastfeeding advocates and lactation groups to educate women on how to be nourished.  Don't give normally functioning women the comfort of thinking a formula short-cut is the same as (or better than) breastfeeding their babies.  The focus needs to be on feeding mom!  If the well-intentioned people at WAPF can teach women to make baby formula with coconut oil, liver, grass-fed raw milk, CLO, etc., they can certainly encourage women to eat those foods themselves, thus allowing mamas to provide nutrient-dense breastmilk for their babies.  Mom, if you have those foods around, put them in your body, not a baby bottle.

For more information and facts about the benefits of breastfeeding:

How Breastmilk Protects Newborns

Human Milk Is Optimal Food for Brain Development

Breastfeeding Effects on IQ

Breastfeeding and Later Cognitive and Academic Outcomes

Duration of Breastfeeding and Developmental Milestones... (scholarly abstract)

Benefits of Breastfeeding

101 Reasons to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding Past Infancy Fact Sheet

Role of Breastfeeding and Baby's Gut Health

Protecting Our Children from Fear-Based Medicine and Vaccine Damage

I have long been a skeptic of the modern medical establishment's paradigm and practices.  Because I am wired to question and contradict the status quo, it was natural for me to eject from a broken medical system.  I believe the modern allopathic system is irrevocably flawed; I do not trust drug companies or the institutions and doctors over whom they hold sway.

Before my children were born, I determined I would never vaccinate any of them.  I had studied and queried enough to know that the fear-based vaccination agenda would not be a part of our lives.  At that time, my position was somewhat unusual...much more so than now.  Because of the wealth of information being quickly disseminated in our society today, growing numbers of concerned parents have begun to question the sanity of the vaccine program. 

The vaccine debate is certainly heated, with powerful, collusive interests propagating the tale that there is nothing to fear, nothing to question, nothing to reject.  Despite continued loss of support by parents and doctors alike, despite continuing evidence that tells a different story, the vaccine industry uses its clout to proliferate the myth that vaccines are safe, efficacious and necessary.  Saying something loudly over and over and over does not make the thing true.  Forcing a paradigm and a procedure upon the public because you have the power to do so does not make that paradigm and procedure legitimate.  The popular answer is not by default the correct answer.  And making health decisions based solely upon the advice of drug manufacturers and the doctors who trust them is not informed consumerism.

I am encouraged as I see parents rightly questioning fear-based medicine...as they adopt a willingness to take personal responsibility for their children's health, to educate themselves outside the established box, to stand against medical bullying...so they can make informed decisions based on knowledge and conviction.  Freedom of choice is a key aspect to creating and preserving health and wellness.  People seem to have forgotten that the modern medical industry is a service provider offering one approach.  Too many MDs perceive and present themselves as little gods in white coats offering the best and the most appropriate treatment for all that ails us.  This premise is fundamentally false, based on faulty education and cultivated by an extraordinarily powerful and profitable technocratic, drug-based industry.

The medical industry, in collaboration with governmental regulatory agencies, has time and again exhibited its inclination to control our health choices.  Whether someone desires to participate in the modern medical system should be an act of will, not the result of coercion.  And when persons determine to seek assistance from any medical practitioner, they should remember that the power lies with the consumer.  We write the checks, they work for us!

When I exercised my freedom of choice all those years ago, determining to direct the health and development of my children outside the established medical system, I wrote a paper summarizing my decision.  Since that time, the vaccination issue has continued to expand, with new information regularly appearing on the scene.  What follows is the link to my treatise on vaccine refusal (with a bibliography of links and resources), as well as links to recently appearing vaccine news and some of my favorite vaccine information sources.  

Recipes, Remedies and Herbs for GAPS Intro

I had hoped to write this post sooner, but have been quite busy working in the garden now that summer has arrived to our neck of the woods.  And the fact that I have been working in the garden is a fantastic segue into today's GAPS article (if you have not already, please read my GAPS summary).

For (just a tad under) the last four decades (yes, I'm almost revealing my age, LOL), I have suffered terribly from allergies, particularly pollen.  I am/have been "allergic" to nearly every green thing that grows on the face of the earth.  Except for the dead of frozen winter, I have experienced varying levels of excruciating misery being outdoors.  This is our sixth week on GAPS Intro and I am ecstatic to announce that I have been actually enjoying spending time outside.  I am certainly not yet reaction-free, but I am at least 50% better...and for me, that's phenomenal...you have no idea.  I am experiencing an amazing freedom from lifelong debilitating pollen allergies.  This defies the conventional understanding of "allergies," which, of course, makes me quite happy.  

Life is taking on a new flavor with the healing that I and my family are experiencing.  Another notable positive change is in my toddler, who since she was born has never slept through the night...no longer than two to three hours at any stretch, and usually less.  This has been the typical pattern for all my children, and I have always accepted it as a result of their allergies.  But the most wonderful change has occurred in my insomniac daughter, who for the last two weeks has been sleeping for five hours without waking.  That is tremendous for us.  

Now that I've shared more of the wonderful results we are seeing with our gut healing protocol, I'd like to share those recipes and tips that I promised previously.  

The first week on GAPS Intro was quite difficult for us...our bodies were adapting and we experienced significant die off.  Once we adjusted to the new diet (we got over the worst slump at about day 5), we noticed a roller-coaster effect in our die off...it seems to come in waves.  I understand that destroying the malevolent flora and repopulating with beneficials can continue through the first year of GAPS (maybe longer), and I imagine we will continue to experience peaks and valleys as we continue on the program.

To ameliorate die off symptoms and assist our bodies with the healing process, I made herbal teas that contain nutrient-dense plants, as well as herbs that have anti-inflammatory and cell proliferation properties.  I believe it advantageous  to nourish the body during a healing crisis, and to use botanical medicine to assist in the repair of the intestinal lining.

Our daily GAPS Intro tea (recipe for 6-8 cups...I use a large French Press)
1 Tb dried comfrey leaves
1 Tb dried peppermint leaves
1 Tb dried nettle leaves
1 Tb dried oatstraw
1 tsp. slippery elm bark powder
1 small chunk (about the size of a quarter) fresh ginger root
1 pinch (about 1/2 tsp) dried stevia leaves

Steep for 10-15 minutes.  The stevia is a slight sweetener for the tea, as it is best to avoid raw honey on Intro (although it is allowable to begin testing in small quantities in the final stages of Intro...but when beginning, the sugars will complicate your withdrawal/die off).  I admit that we erred with the raw honey early on during Intro and we paid for it...so I strongly suggest that you avoid the temptation to sweeten your tea, your food, (and your pathogens LOL) until the end of Intro or even after transitioning to Full GAPS.  At that point, your body should be better able to tolerate a bit of raw honey without creating addictions and worsening your die off.

In addition to the herbal tea, I began administering herbal/food medicines to assist in pathogen destruction.  It can be difficult with younger children if your herbs are in capsule form, and certain herbs are quite bitter tasting...so the method of having them drink the herb powder with water can be unpalatable.  In our case, I make herbal tinctures that I add to their drinking water.  When I have no tincture available, I use powdered herbs.  I was able to mix some herbs with our food and all my children tolerated them without complaint.  But I should admit here that my children since birth have been conditioned to mama's health concoctions and will take just about anything.  I found that certain remedies blended nicely into the squash soup that has become a staple of our diet (recipe to follow), and certain things were indistinguishable when added to our evening sauerkraut (also to follow).

Our daily remedy regimen

  • 2 Tb. diatomaceous earth blended into soup to serve our family...if making individual servings, use 1/2 tsp. for small children and 1 tsp. for larger kids and adults.  DE (fossil shell powder) kills parasites and is high in silicon, a building block for your hair, bones, nails, teeth, collagen, etc.  DE has essentially no flavor (slightly chalky) and actually helps to thicken the soup.
  • Herbal tincture (15 drops 1x/daily for small children, 2x/daily for larger children/adults) of black walnut hull, wormwood, pau d'arcocloves and garlic (I prefer to use fresh for tincture making).  This combination of herbs is antiparasitic, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial.  I did not start using this combination until halfway through GAPS Intro, as the herbs are potent and I felt our bodies needed time to establish some homeostasis with the initial healing crisis.  In lieu of using a tincture, take powder/capsules.  Cloves make a delicious accompaniment to the squash soup and garlic should be in all your meals, so you'll get the benefits of that miracle food as you eat.  
  • Cinnamon sprinkled in the soup, baked into the bread, added to the tea, or even just chewed on as sticks.  Cinnamon is extraordinarily healing to blood sugar levels and can kill viruses (as do cloves), including strains of Staph, malevolent E coli, and Candida.  This makes cinnamon a wonderful addition to the GAPS protocol.
  • Activated Charcoal = 1 tsp. powder mixed into water to drink (it's black sludge, but it doesn't taste bad at all) safe for any age.  AC is an excellent remedy for removing toxins...it is a necessary and efficient multi-purpose remedy (see my First Aid post for more info).  I have found AC to be quite helpful during GAPS Intro in alleviating die off...it adsorbs the toxic by-products of the pathogens and helps the overall detoxification process. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar = 1 Tb. 3x/daily safe for any age.  Aside from the incredible nourishment and healing powers of ACV, which is a future post in itself, ACV is particularly useful during GAPS as it combats acidic conditions.

Another important component to the detoxification process of GAPS is detox baths.  Baden at gapsguide.com describes a nice detox protocol in her book and discusses it on her site.  I designed a simple detox bath using baking soda, Pascalite, and epsom salts (and/or sea salt...we alternated).  You can also add ACV.  You can even add charcoal, though it gets messy, LOL.  I like to save the full bore detox with the aforementioned five ingredients for a foot bath, which is easier to clean.  For a full bath, use warm (not really hot) water, and 1/2 cup each of the soda, clay and salt (if you want to add ACV, I like to just "dash" it into the tub...about 1/4 cup I suppose; the charcoal would be less, under 1/4 cup).  Sit in the tub for 10 minutes and then rinse off.  Be careful not to let the clay go down the drain (it can clog your pipes).  It tends to stick around the sides of the tub anyway, so you can wipe it out when you're finished.  Foot baths can be done in a small basin (even a large Pyrex baking pan works)...just use 1/2 the amount of detox agents and soak 10-15 minutes.  When detoxing, you want to be slow and gentle...you will be drawing out toxins and that can make you feel ill.  So don't overdo.  

Finally, don't forget...water, water, water!  I know I am delinquent in my goal of writing my water article...but until it shows up, just remember that you need to drink copious amounts of pure water to flush out toxins during this process.  And be certain to consume at least 1/2 tsp of mineral-rich pure salt (I love Real Salt, Himalayan salt, and Celtic grey sea salt) for every gallon of water you drink.  Also, generously salt your food to taste...this is good for you!

OK, let us move forward to some recipes...Let me begin by emphasizing that you need to follow the food protocol outlined in the GAPS books; resources and info are available in my initial GAPS post.

Because the backbone of GAPS is nourishing bone/meat broths, you will be eating quite a lot of soup, especially on Intro.  Despite our consumption of fats and significant calories, we were still feeling hungry...I think it was more of an emotional hunger due to the restricted daily food regimen.  I found that just by blending our soup with cooked winter squash, we suddenly felt satiated.  Perhaps this is not a new Intro recipe for accomplished GAPS families.  But for us, this discovery was a great help to our initial Intro stages.

(I know it aggravates my friends that I rarely measure anything, thereby sharing obscure recipes.  And I'm going to do it again, so I hope you'll forgive me.)

First you need to make your bone broth.  For the sake of your nourishment and health, it is important to make stock from organic, properly fed animals; that's grass for cattle and sheep, browse for goats, and grass/bugs/organic grains...NO soy and NO GMO corn...for birds (I avoid corn altogether for various reasons).  We tend to not each chicken...but when doing GAPS, it became impossible to keep up our stock supply without chickens.  We purchased some from an organic pasture-based family farm near us (we also had some of our own because we had a few roosters in the freezer from our initial flock of layers).  I far prefer the flavor and nutrients of red-meat animal stock, such as beef, lamb and wild game.  You can purchase soup bones, which have some meat on, but any bone, especially joints will do.  You're after the marrow and the saturated fats.  Fatty fish is a good option as well.  We also regularly eat wild Alaskan salmon, so when we get whole fish, we save the "parts" for stock.  

So whatever bones/parts you have collected for your stock supply, it's simple to make good stock.  If you're using a chicken, just put the entire thing in a pot that can accommodate it and enough water to cover it.  If you're using soup bones or other animal bones, do the same.  Add a roughly chopped onion, a few carrots, some garlic, sea salt and peppercorns.  I also add a bay leaf when I have some.  Sometimes I add a small chunk of ginger.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 12-24 hours.  If using a bird, remove after cooking the stock and pull the meat off the bones for separate meals or soup.  Any red meat on bones tends to fall apart during the long simmer.  You can take it out and cut it up for soup.  You can do these broths in a crock pot if it is large enough.  Lamb shoulder is wonderful this way.  OK, that's the quick version.  For more great info on stock, see cheeseslave's post on bone broths and WAPF's excellent article on broths.

When your broth is finished, make it into meat/veggie soup by adding additional veggies, like zucchini and cauliflower, more fresh garlic, and simmering long enough to soften the veggies.  This is the base for the recipe below.

Intro Squash Soup
  • 1/2 of entire Cooked winter squash (we love butternut, but also use acorn, delicata, kubota; spaghetti squash is not a good option for soup in my opinion...but makes a great meal with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground peppercorns!)
  • 6 or so large ladles of prepared bone broth (including the veggies cooked in it)
  • salt, pepper, dash cinnamon, pinch cloves
  • couple spoonfuls ghee and coconut oil (to make ghee, simmer butter til melted and strain off milk solids and all white froth)
  • spoonful coconut cream (this is SUCH a treat!)
  • Blend
  • Add some meat pieces
  • Enjoy the delicious nourishment and the absence of children crying over yet another bowl of plain broth...LOL!  It's not that bad, I'm attempting to inject levity.
Once you achieve stage 3-4 of GAPS Intro, you will be able to bake a bit.  Because my son is severely reactive (hives, swelling, asthma) to nuts, we are unable to use the nut flours recommended by McBride.  Now, coconut flour is not protocol for GAPS Intro (because of its high fiber content), but it was our only option...so I used it as sparingly as possible.  I came up with a bread/cake that my family loves so much, it is going to become part of my baking repertoire for future, even when we are finished with GAPS.  We call this bread, but it's really like a cake...it is extremely moist and very satisfying.  We are going to set aside this bread until we move to Full GAPS because it is off Intro protocol and I'm seeing some flareups in the family that I believe are being exacerbated by the bread.  But I wanted to share the recipe for those of you who can use nut flour...try adapting the recipe and see how it turns out!  Or, wait until Full GAPS and make this delicious coconut bread!

Squash Coconut Bread (not protocol for Intro)
  • 1/4 of entire cooked butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour (I imagine pecan or almond flour would be so yummy!...amount of flour would need to be adjust up for nuts, because they are not as dense/fibrous as coconut flour)
  • 3 generous spoonfuls ghee
  • 3 generous spoonfuls coconut oil
  • 8 eggs
  • Big dash cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 spoonful coconut cream
  • Blend
  • Pour into greased (with CO) large Pyrex baking dish (or equivalent)
  • Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes...I'll be honest, this is an estimate because I just know when the bread is done by smelling it...but my son timed it one day and said 40 minutes, LOL.  Test the bread for doneness by sliding a butter knife into it...should come out perfectly clean.  The edges will brown and perhaps the top a tad, too.
Having a bread/cake can make GAPS Intro actually enjoyable...having some "comfort food" is emotionally and physically fulfilling, especially after the initial Intro stages.  And it helps to have a food that can travel when you need to be away from home.  I have found that the above recipe, with some tweaking, makes a nice batch of mini "souffles."  And this eliminates the Intro coconut flour dilemma.  

Intro Souffles
  • 1/2 entire butternut squash
  • 8 eggs
  • generous dash(es) cinnamon and some cloves if desired
  • 3 spoonfuls each ghee and coconut oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • Blend, pour into greased ramekins (or muffin tins) and bake at 375 for 30ish minutes; check for doneness with the "clean knife" test

The souffles have an amazingly light and creamy texture.  And they are firm enough to eat by hand, just a tad "slick," LOL.

Well...that took more time and space than I anticipated, so I am going to save the sauerkraut for the next post.  

I hope this has been helpful to those of you considering or beginning your GAPS journey.  For a host of recipes and meal ideas, I recommend Cara's cookbooks/meal plans at healthhomehappy.com.  You will also find recipes and meal ideas at the GAPS info/help sites and in the books I listed at the end of my GAPS Summary post.  The "official" GAPS shop sells a cookbook, Internal Bliss, which is geared towards Full GAPS.

Until next time, be well and keep researching!

Our Progress with GAPS Intro...The Benefits Abound

As promised, I'm back to talk in more detail about the GAPS Intro protocol and my family's experience thus far.  This is very exciting territory and I am eager to share.  I'm going to follow the sage advice of my favorite journalism professor (boy, does that bring up memories) and try to "Keep It Simple."

If you have not already, please read my GAPS Summary.  Now, before I dive into what GAPS Intro is and how we have implemented it, I'm going to tell you all the fantastic results we have seen to date.  Lead with the "meat," right Prof?

Because I am the worst case of gut dysbiosis and overall health in our family, I'll start with my current results.  The most significant improvement has been with my headaches.  Normally, I suffer two to three migraines a week.  Since beginning the Intro protocol, I have experienced.....drum roll, please.....three headaches altogether in four weeks.  That is AMAZING for me.  And, the headaches have been less intense and of shorter duration.  TaaDaa!  I'm pleased enough with that outcome, but wait!  There's more!  

Since my last pregnancy (with toddler who is nearly two), I have suffered nearly debilitating back pain.  For the first year after her birth, I could not get out of bed without someone pulling me out.  The low-back pain was nearly constant, but most debilitating in the morning, and anytime I tried to go up/down the stairs, take a long walk, and lift something...like a laundry basket, or my child.  I actually hobbled regularly.  Guess what?  Yup...since week two of Intro, the back pain is reduced significantly!  Estimating 85%...still get twinges once in a while, but NOTHING like it was...I can even skip down the stairs.

My chronic insomnia has not yet resolved, but has improved.  Current personal circumstances complicate my ability to sleep soundly through the night (noise of our location and my teething toddler who does not sleep through the night), but I am actually waking some mornings feeling rested, and I have not had a nightmare in three weeks.  Again, very unusual for me.  My constant tinnitus is also not resolved, but the roaring in my head has subsided...I notice an improvement.

My husband claims that my allergic responses have dampened significantly.  I am not as optimistic as he quite yet, but I can say that my allergic responses have diminished.  Normally, I cannot spend any amount of time outside without significant suffering.  But since beginning Intro, I have been outside for our daily walks and even spent a couple days outside visiting with friends, without the severe reactions that I would normally experience!  It is a notable improvement.  I did have a bit of an allergy attack yesterday, though, so I'm not out of the woods yet, LOL.

Perhaps the most significant improvement overall is my clearing brain and mood.  Brain fog, for anyone who has experienced it, can be beyond vexing and discouraging.  My brain fog has appreciably lifted and my mind feels more refreshed than it has in years.  I also find myself feeling less angry during the past weeks on Intro.  Typically, I get frustrated easily and I tend to have a short fuse for particular annoyances.  I cannot fully explain it, but somehow I just feel more calm...less tempted to ignite.  These are happy changes.

Finally, the surprise side effect that I teased in my previous post...I have lost 15 pounds!  I am back to my ideal weight, and I wasn't even trying!  I want to emphasize that the GAPS program is NOT a weight loss diet.  It is a healing protocol.  GAPS Intro certainly restricts the types of foods you eat, but not the amount.  We were consuming the same calories as before, and copious amounts of saturated animal fats...I mean A TON!  And both my husband and I have just effortlessly dropped the extra weight we've been carrying since my pregnancy (isn't he sweet to gain weight, too, just to be supportive? LOL).  It literally has melted away.  In my opinion, it's all about detoxifying.  The body stores toxins in fatty tissue.  On GAPS, we have been detoxifying rather quickly.  Ergo, body dumps toxins, body dumps excess weight.  Like taking out the trash.  And we feel great!  Body and mind feel much clearer.  I feel like I did eight years ago when I was at my optimum weight and flexibility.  Now I just need to tone up these flabby muscles, LOL, and I'll feel even better!

Now I'll share what we're seeing in the children.

The most sensitive of the three is our four-year-old.  For somewhere over a year, he has suffered night terrors, a type of seizure.  He would have an episode every night between 12 and 1 a.m.  He would scream out, talk garbley-gook, shake/tremble, and his eyes would be fluttering/rolling back.  He was not awake during these episodes...this is not a child who was awakened by a nightmare.  This was an attack of neurons misfiring in the brain.  Every night, I dreaded the time when I knew he would have the episode.  When it occurred, I would need to pick him up, take him out of the room, and gently try to wake him and then calm him so he could go back to sleep.  Some weeks before starting GAPS, I had begun to give my son doses of vitamin B6, which can be therapeutic in cases of epilepsy.  We did notice an improvement with the B6...the episodes were not as severe, nor did they last as long.  Well, after five days on GAPS Intro, the night terrors ceased.  Completely.  He hasn't had one in the past three weeks.  Perhaps of all the improvements in our family thus far, this is the biggest blessing.

My four-year-old also suffers the most significant allergies, with chronic eczema and an anaphylactic/hive reaction to tree nuts.  I am not sure if the GAPS program will be able to heal him completely of his nut allergy, but I long to see if it does.  We did have an event two weeks ago where Daddy arrived home from a business trip, during which he had eaten nuts (the poor man was trying to stick to stage 3 of Intro while traveling).  When he hugged our son, his eyes immediately began to swell up...his typical nut response.  The child is so sensitive that he even reacts to nut dust residue on clothing. I administered my treatment protocol to our son and he was fine, but it indicates that the allergy is still present.  However, his eczema is 75% better.  It is apparent that his body is healing.

Both my sons (the other is 11) routinely suffer from leg cramps.  It is something I've been working on in the past year through nutrition and herbal supplements.  Since beginning the Intro protocol, neither of them have complained of any leg cramping.  Additionally, my husband has suffered from a terrible case of nighttime restless leg syndrome for a few years.  When he takes the herbal tonic I make for him, he doesn't have an attack.  But if he would forget to take the tonic, he would pass a miserable night.  Guess what?  Right...GAPS Intro, no more restless legs.  Hubby also has shed 12 pounds and says he feels great.  

Certainly, we have not yet overcome all the ailments/dysfunctions for which we began GAPS, but these monumental improvements so far are exhilarating.  I am so thankful for the protocol.

So I presented all the upsides for our family...should we delve into the less-than-pleasant aspects of our journey with GAPS Intro?  I don't want to scare anyone away from doing the program; I'm hoping the positive outcomes I shared above will convince any seekers that the protocol is worthwhile.  But it is also difficult and I feel it necessary to be honest regarding the challenges.  Of course, the challenges will vary depending upon your current lifestyle and level of dysbiosis.

Before continuing, I want to emphasize how valuable it is to read McBride's GAPS book and Baden Lashkov's GAPS Guide, which you can purchase together at gapsdiet.com.

OK...now for the nitty-gritty...how did we adapt to the GAPS Intro?  What difficulties did we experience?  I can tell you that die off and sugar withdrawal were quite unpleasant the first couple weeks.  Children were crying, our bowels have been sketchy, people were hungry (again, cue the crying children), we were grumpy and lethargic.  But none of that is unusual considering the incredible changes the body goes through on the protocol.  And the old adage is absolutely true here..."it must get worse before it gets better."

The Intro diet consists of six building stages.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm going to direct you to a great post written by Cara at healthhomehappy.com, where she describes the Intro diet's phases.  Of course, the Intro diet is outlined in detail in the GAPS books.  Aside from the incredibly nourishing and gut-healing bone broth soups and saturated fats, the lack of sugars is designed to starve the pathogens inhabiting your gut.  And believe me, it works.  As those little buggers begin to die, you experience die off to some degree, and also likely sugar cravings.  And, if you happen to have a sugar addiction going into GAPS, you will have withdrawal.  I did...

And now it's time for True Confessions...I have long had a sweet tooth...not unusual in our culture, right?  Mine is not the candy/pure sugar variety, but the baked goods variety.  And chocolate, of course.   A genuine bakery (especially of the French or Persian variety) is an exceeding temptation for me.  But because I have long been a "health nut," dessert was never part of our routine, and baked "treats" were rare occurrences rather than the norm.  And then, we moved.

Coming close to two years ago, our family relocated.  Since the move, I have been...shall we say...less than happy and more than frustrated with the circumstances.  As a result, I found myself seeking solace in food; I became an emotional eater.  And the comfort foods I chose were, of course, baked goods...primarily cookies.  Even though they were made with "healthy" ingredients, they were carb/sugar-rich delights.  Even healthy raw honey "feeds the beast." 

Needless to say, I was not prepared for sugar withdrawal my first week of GAPS Intro.  Even though somewhere in my brain I knew I had been eating way too many baked goodies, I still thought of myself as the health/nutrition guru who knew and did all the right things.  Funny how we can deceive ourselves sometimes.  GAPS Intro Stage One was a wake-up call.  I was miserable!  I said, probably multiple times every day, "I would kill for a cookie!"  And I know that's a terrible thing to say...outrageous hyperbole...of course I would never even think of k-i-l-l-i-n-g anyone, but I was genuinely going through withdrawal.  I also made the mistake of dealing with some low blood sugar moments by eating a tiny spoonful of raw honey.  Woah...that just made the cravings all the worse!  What a crazy rollercoaster!  I actually told my husband he needed to remove the jar of honey from my kitchen before I ate the entire thing on the spot.  

After two weeks on that roller coaster, the cravings subsided.  I now crave sugar a bit, but am not chomping at the bit.  I realize that part of the cravings belonged to me (from my abuse of the sugar in the past year), and part were due to the hungry organisms I was starving in my gut.  Nevertheless, I actually had newfound clarity about and compassion for people who struggle with addictions.  I experienced what I've been teaching for years...  We need to be so careful what we get "hooked on," whether it is sugar, caffeine, or pharmaceutical or "recreational" drugs.  Addictions are never a good thing.

Despite the fact that we ate as much as we wanted of the allowed foods in stage one, including lavish amounts of saturated fats, we were all hungry.  The body goes through an adjustment when you deprive it of certain food types.  Any major change in diet will cause the body to recalibrate.  This may be uncomfortable, but it is harmless, temporary, and actually part of the crucial healing process.  After the first three of four days, we began to feel satiated again.  

And I cannot tell you how wonderful fresh, raw homemade carrot juice tastes after two weeks of no raw veggies or fruits.  I am a salad fiend.  I have missed salads desperately during Intro.  But juicing really put us all in a better place physically and emotionally.  It also contributed to the detoxification and cleansing process, which is essential to the protocol.  My husband and I chuckled a bit at how ecstatic we were to be drinking carrot juice...it felt like a lascivious treat after days on end of vegetable/meat soup.  This is the part where I want to encourage you to believe that anything worth doing takes effort...it can be hard.  We view this protocol as a short-term sacrifice to reach a long-term goal.

Besides adapting to the food regimen, each member of our family experienced different degrees and forms of die off.  Remember, die off occurs as the pathogens inhabiting your gut starve and die, and as your beneficial flora begin to take control and destroy the bad guys.  Good flora repopulation occurs as you eat naturally fermented probiotic foods (whey and sauerkraut primarily) and take a potent, viable probiotic supplement.  After experimenting on myself a bit (using the "kill them as fast as possible and get it over with" approach), I must concur with McBride's recommendations and advise you to proceed slowly and steadily with the probiotics (see book for details).  Otherwise, you could end up pretty miserable.  But each system is unique and your experience will depend upon your level of dysbiosis.  

I'll not take the time to share each of my family member's die off details, but simply say that our die off picture included lethargy, crankiness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, exacerbated symptomatology (ie eczema flareups), highly acidic urine/stools, sleeplessness, gas/bloating, constipation, food cravings....I'm certain to forget something.  My brain fog is lifting, but not cured yet. LOL

Where are we now?  We are essentially in stage six of Intro.  Some members of the family are improving at a faster pace and seem ready to move on, others of us are not.  But we will progress one last week through the final Intro stage and then see how we do on Full GAPS.  I suspect that there may be a need to back-pedal a bit, but now that we are familiar with Intro, I am confident I can go back as needed.

I am coming to the end of my steam, and have yet to share my tips regarding detoxing, healing herbs to compliment the protocol, and recipes I created as we traveled through the stages.  So I will leave that for the next post.  But as a sneak peek, I'll mention activated charcoal; Pascalite; comfrey, nettle and peppermint; homemade sauerkraut; and butternut squash/coconut cake.  Mmmmm...

GAPS in My Thinking...or, How Your Gut is Ruining Your Life

My Story
Let's start at the very beginning, with my personal health journey.  As I shared in a previous post, I have suffered allergies all my life and have "passed along" the malady to my children.  In addition to "typical" physical allergies (pollen, dust, molds, animals, foods, chemicals, etc.), I have been afflicted with other ailments (some of which are allergy-related) such as asthma, bladder/bowl problems, insomnia, chronic migraines, autism spectrum-like over-sensitivity threshold disorders, candida overgrowth, depression, OCD, muscle/joint pain, debilitating pregnancies, and hormonal imbalances (including thyroid, adrenals, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone...) causing infertility and mood disorders, extreme fatigue and brain fog.  I produced children who have been extraordinarily colicky, over-sensitive, allergic (to varying degrees), asthma-prone insomniacs with various levels of GI distress.

I have spent much time and effort through the years in an attempt to discover and implement healing for our life-altering "disorders."  We pursued multiple remedies and treatments.  My endeavours have proved to be fruitful, at times nearly complete, but overall far less successful than satisfied me.  My regimen of allergen avoidance, systemic healing through herbs and real foods, using homeopathy and essential oils for acute attacks, as well as supplementation with myriad nutrients and probiotics was a necessary and beneficial healing program...but the results left me frustrated as I continued to suffer and I watched my children struggle in different ways.  I began to despair over my inability to "fix" our problems and refused to believe that my most sensitive child would forever be plagued with potential anaphylaxis (when exposed to nuts), eczema, night terrors (which are a type of seizure) and asthma.

And then, one winter day, a serendipitous epiphany occurred.  My oldest son happened to drop into my lap the latest edition of the Beeyoutiful catalog, asking me to look at one of the humorous anecdotes inside.  As I thumbed through the pages, I came upon an article about gut health and immediately began reading.  When I finished, I knew I had discovered the answer for which I had been seeking for so long.  When I showed the article to my hubby, who is generally "hands off" in the health realm, happily deferring to Mama Herbalist, his reply was simply, "Order the book."

Well, that is the story of how I discovered gut dysbiosis, GAPS, and the answer to everything.  Now, let us take this apart, bit by bit...and in under five minutes!  Just kidding...can't make any promises there, LOL.  So...what is gut dysbiosis, GAPS, and why should you care?  The answers are forthcoming...stay with me.

How Your Gut Rules Your Life

All diseases begin in the gut.  -- Hippocrates
The importance of gut health was not a new concept for me.  As holistic healers will tell you, health begins in the gut.  That simple but profound truth cannot be over-emphasized.  This concept begins to crystallize when you understand that an estimated 70% of your immune system is in your gut (not only does your small intestine house a network of lymph nodes, but the bifidobacteria meant to live in your colon also activates the production of lymphocytes...and this is just the beginning of the immunity processes provided by your gut).  Your gut is the primary "gate keeper" to your bloodstream and it is the system by which you are fueled.  It houses the majority of your beneficial flora, which are necessary for processing the food you eat, and which play a key role in your overall health.  It is vital that the gut be in good working order.

When we speak of the "gut," we refer to the gastro-intestinal system (the digestive system from mouth to anus), including stomach, pancreas, intestines, etc., with a particular focus on the intestines.  In the holistic health realm, overcoming leaky gut syndrome and fungal (candida) overgrowth are often suggested for conquering various ailments.  Both concepts are familiar to most of us who have struggled with allergic "sensitivities" and chronic GI difficulties, as well as "brain fog."  I have completed numerous candida cleanses and diets in the past, receiving relief, but found the results to be frustratingly short-lived.  Combatting leaky gut was another area where I did not achieve the desired results.  It was not until learning about GAPS and putting together all the pieces that I understood why.

GAPS is the acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a protocol designed by neurologist and nutritionist Natasha Campbell-McBride to heal gut dysbiosis and its subsequent physical and mental disorders.  Her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, clearly outlines the issue of gut health and malfunction, and describes the healing program that will free you from the ailments caused by a malfunctioning gut.  The program consists of three elements: the dietary protocol (composed of the Intro diet and the Full diet), detoxification, and repopulation of beneficial flora.  (See Resources at the end of the post for McBride's book, GAPS websites and other information.)  

The following is a simplistic overview of gut dysbiosis, its components and results.  For detailed information and a thorough understanding of this critical subject, please read McBride's GAPS book (I believe this book should be read by every family in America).

Gut Dysbiosis...What It Is
Gut dysbiosis is the term used to describe the ailing state of the intestines when the balance of beneficial flora becomes overrun with malevolent flora...harmful pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, protozoa, etc) that colonize in and take over your gut.  [Did you know that there is a "good" E coli population meant to exist in your gut that produces K and B vitamins, antibiotic substances, and fights the "bad" E coli that enters your body?]  

Candida albicans
This pathogen overload causes detriment to the physiology of the gut and its actions.  One major side effect of this dysbiosis is that the lining of the intestines becomes compromised, leading to the condition known as leaky gut.  For example, bacteria like Spirillaceae push apart intestinal cells and fungi like Candida put roots into the intestinal lining.  These actions effectively "rip open" the gut lining, hence leaky gut.  

With the host of necessary beneficial flora suppressed and the gut lining no longer intact and working effectively, all sorts of things are able to pass through the intestines and enter the bloodstream...things not intended to pass through, such as undigested food molecules, microbes, viruses, toxins, etc.  Furthermore, this weakened condition of the gut and its friendly bacteria causes malnourishment through the body's inability to absorb and distribute nutrients.  In fact, many bad flora eat your ingested nutrients!

How It Happens
In a well-functioning system, bad flora (McBride calls them "opportunistic flora") are held in check by the resident good flora.  When your good flora are damaged/destroyed, the bad flora move in and take over.  What destroys good flora?  I won't even give you three guesses for the first answer...right, you guessed it...pharmaceutical drugs, primarily antibiotics; but most drugs will damage good flora (especially when taken regularly or for prolonged periods), such as pain killers, steroids, contraceptives, sleeping pills, antacid/heartburn drugs, antipsychotic drugs, cytotoxics, etc, etc, etc...  Next on the list of beneficial flora killers is diet, primarily an overabundance of sugars, grains and processed foods.  Illnesses and infections can damage gut flora, as well as stress.  And the final assault on flora comes from the modern scourge of environmental pollutants, such as mercury, lead, fluoride, radiation, and the rest.

One of the most important elements of understanding gut dysbiosis and how it affects children is that babies inherit the gut flora of their mothers, primarily through the birth process.  I won't delve into the details on this point here...McBride covers it thoroughly.  But ladies, you need to understand that if you (and you likely most certainly have) lived/live with any level of gut dysbiosis when you were/are having your children, you have passed this dilemma on to them.  We'll look in detail at symptomatology in a bit; it is important that you understand and acknowledge this malfunction as a family affair.  Fathers are involved as well, because through sexual contact, their flora (the good, the bad and the ugly) transmit to the mother, where it takes up residence in combination with her own flora.  So mama alone is not "to blame" when we discuss how baby's gut gets populated.

What It Does
The detailed explanation of the malevolent flora and their negative effects on all aspects of our health is far beyond the scope of this post.  I have no desire to overwhelm readers here with the technicalities of gut physiology and anatomy (enterocytes, villi, T-cell production, etc) and why it is so essential that this system be healed.  But you need to know these things, so McBride's book is a critical component to your achievement of wellness.  Let's look briefly at the results of gut dysbiosis.

In addition to destroying your intestinal lining and the balance of beneficial microbial activity there, pathogenic overgrowth creates an extraordinary toxic load in the body.  As with all living organisms whose life-cycle includes taking inputs and producing outputs, the "bad guys" living and feasting in your gut release metabolic by-products; theirs are quite toxic.  The deleterious effects of the toxins released by the pathogenic overgrowth in your gut have far-reaching physical and mental repercussions.  Some of the toxins suppress stomach acid production, further complicating the inability to properly digest food.  Certain pathogens (like the Proteus family, the E. coli family, and the Staphylococci family) produce histamine; when these bacteria take hold in the gut and are not controlled by beneficial flora, the overload of histamine in the system (your cells' production + bacterial production) wreaks havoc, resulting in increased allergic responses as well as low blood pressure, excessive production of bodily fluids, hypothalamus dysfunction and hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances, emotional instability and addictions.  

Besides causing physical ailments, the toxic by-products of pathogenic flora lead to cerebral depression and mental dysfunction.  
For example, the fungus Clostridia produces a toxin similar to tetanus, which causes over-sensitivity to light and noise, abnormal muscle tone, and severe inflammation of the digestive system.  It is important to understand that malevolent gut pathogens change brain chemistry.  Their neurotoxins affect the development and function of the brain and nervous system, leading to such malfunctions as depression, anxiety, learning disorders and autism spectrum disorders.  Again, McBride's enlightening book comprehensively covers the pathogenic flora families and their negative impacts.

Before continuing our discussion of how gut dysbiosis affects the brain, I want to briefly touch on the issue of food intolerances that I broached in the close of my Real Milk post.  Despite the health benefits of raw grass-fed milk, some sensitive people still react to it.  While raw milk advocates rightly point out that real milk can help allergies, there still exists a population of children and adults who cannot tolerate it.  I believe many people do not connect physical or mental ailments with milk (or grains, etc) when it most likely is a culprit.  And why would a "real food" be a problem?  The answer lies in GAPS.  

When the gut lining has been compromised, undigested food molecules can pass through.  Certain food molecules are more detrimental than others.  Casein is one of the worst.  A recent awareness of "good vs. bad" casein has arisen after the publication of Devil in the Milk.  I respect Woodford's work and his efforts to explain the issues involved in varying forms of casein and its deleterious effects.  I believe it is a valid piece of the entire puzzle.  But I am of the opinion that the more harmful component promoting casein damage is leaky gut syndrome.  Casein can be broken down only when a healthy population of beneficial flora is doing its job.  So in GAPS, not only is the casein not being digested and/or contained in the gut and moved out safely, but its components are seeping through the gut lining and entering the bloodstream.  The resulting undigested milk protein causes typical dairy intolerance symptoms (mucus production, GI distress, headaches, rashes, etc); but physical stresses are not the only result of improperly digested casein.  The most detrimental casein peptide is casomorphin, an opiate.  These opiates cross the blood-brain barrier, causing various disorders and malfunctions (they contribute to the list that will soon follow).  

Grains can cause similar problems due to the gluten peptide, gluteomorphin.  Many people find themselves to be grain intolerant, even when soaking the grains to break down the phytic acid.  When we pursue a traditional real food lifestyle (ie Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions), it can be frustrating to find our bodies responding badly to the nourishing diet we are consuming.  McBride's GAPS protocol is a "pre-Nourishing Traditions" program that addresses the existing gut malfunctions, healing us so we can enjoy a real foods lifestyle.

The Gut-Brain Connection
The physical disorders and ailments caused by a malfunctioning gut are often painfully obvious.  But many people are unaware of the connection between their mental/emotional dysfunctions and their impaired gut physiology.  While the gut-brain connection may not yet be a widespread concept, it is a well-established fact.  As others in this realm have rightly noted, the brain is an organ.  It is ludicrous to suggest that mental/emotional disorders are unrelated to the physiology of that organ and other bodily systems, but are rather solely the province of the "thought life."  It is even more absurd to suggest that the dysfunctions appear arbitrarily and that they cannot be effectively healed.

The gut-brain connection in autistic children was observed and explained by Andrew Wakefield.  His studies on groups of afflicted children revealed the common factor of colon inflammation.  The severity of bowel disturbances ranged from mucous membrane erosion and pus-filled abscesses to severe enlargement of intestinal lymph nodes.  To learn more about Wakefield's ground-breaking discoveries in the realm of autism and the gut-brain connection, please see Mercola's interview with Wakefield.

Neurogastroenterologist Michael Gershon has spent many years studying the gut-brain connection, and has termed the gut our "2nd brain."  His book, The Second Brain is a thorough technical read on the subject.  You can read about his findings in the following articles:  Scientific American articleNYT 1996 article, and NYT 2005 article.

The following articles demonstrate and discuss the gut-brain connection and its significant impact:
Gut bacteria influences behaviour
Holistic health and 2nd brain
Nutrient molecules and gut-brain

When we struggle mentally or emotionally and seek to understand both mild and debilitating brain malfunctions, we need to remember that in many cases...
It's not all in your head; it's in your gut!

GAPS Ailments
While McBride's present work focuses principally on the mental ailments caused by gut dysbiosis, we do not want to overlook the physical ailments associated with and caused by impaired gut function.  McBride's work mentions many physical disorders; numerous health practitioners have written/taught about these issues through the years.

So let's look at the multitudinous list of symptoms/ailments/disorders/malfunctions that encompass the world of GAPS and which can be healed with the protocol.  This list is a compilation of McBride's clinical findings and practice, as well as my body of knowledge and experience in this arena.  (I undoubtedly will leave off something from the list that belongs...)
  • compromised immunity
  • any allergy/intolerance/sensitivity (this category involves a host of symptoms)
  • asthma
  • skin eruptions and abnormalities (acne, rashes of all types, psoriasis, hives, eczema, etc...remember, rashes are never about the skin, but about something going wrong inside the body...unless you've rolled in poison ivy, LOL)
  • headaches
  • excessive mucus production
  • ear infections/sinus infections
  • Yeast overgrowth (vaginitis, fungal foot growth, bad breath, etc.)
  • bladder difficulties: excessive urination, incontinence, infections (excess urine production is one of the body's mechanisms for flushing toxins)
  • bowel difficulties: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea [An important note: A healthy system will pass a normal bowel movement at least once daily...normal being not hard/rocky/pebbly, not watery/mucusy, no straining required, no burning, not terribly foul smelling and the occasion not necessitating reading material, LOL]
  • acidic urine/stools, acid reflux, heartburn, belching, etc.
  • GI disorders:  "irritable bowel syndrome," ulcerative colitis, Crohn's, Celiac, etc.
  • liver malfunctions, blood sugar imbalances
  • pain/inflammation syndromes (such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • tooth grinding/nail biting
  • eating disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders (includes vast symptomatolgy)
  • mood disorders: PMS, excessive swings, depression, anxiety, anger, etc.
  • "personality" disorders: schizophrenia, manic depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, fear disorders, hallucinations, heightened senses, etc.
  • seizures: an umbrella that includes night terrors, tics, fainting, narcolepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, et. al
  • insomnia, night waking, nightmares (and night terrors, as in seizures)
  • lethargy
  • learning dysfunctions (dyslexia, speech "defects," learning delays, et. al)
  • dyspraxia
  • lack of mental clarity, confusion
  • poor concentration, hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD)
Well, that pretty much covers everything, doesn't it?  If you do not see yourself even mildly in the list above, count yourself as extraordinarily blessed and unusual.  I personally do not know anyone who doesn't exhibit some symptomatic variation of gut dysbiosis.

Parents, before you exclude the possibility that your child suffers from even a slight form of gut dysbiosis, do a mental historical picture of your child from babyhood.  Consider the following questions (you need not answer yes to all of them):

Did your breastfed baby routinely spit up after nursing?  Was your baby colicky or fussy or subject to crying jags?  Was baby sensitive to overstimulation?  Did baby wake frequently?  Were there skin eruptions (from some pimples to full-blown eczema)/diaper rashes?  Were urine and/or stools acidic (even to the degree of burning the skin)?  Was there constipation (remember, stools should be passed daily) or diarrhea (stools should be soft and formed, not runny or acidic)?  Routine hiccups, burping, gas?  [These are all signs of food intolerance; anything a mother eats can irritate her baby through the breastmilk.  The primary candidate is dairy, then eggs, wheat, corn, soy...but any food can do it.  In the past, my advice has been an elimination diet to clear the breastmilk of offending foods...this would be practiced as long as needed to ease baby's suffering and protect baby's GI development.  For example, for the two years I nursed my first son, I was able to consume only three to five foods to keep him from being miserable and reactive.  When he started eating on his own, he lived with a restricted diet for a long time.  While trigger avoidance is necessary for your child's health and well-being, I now see a better way.  The intolerances are a principal symptom of gut dysbiosis; rather than perpetually avoiding irritants, it is better to heal the system altogether, which is what the GAPS protocol does.]

As your child grew...was your potty-trained child troubled with bed-wetting?  Rashes/skin disorders of any sort?  Sinus/respiratory problems?  Ear infections?  Frequent colds?  GI problems?  Bowel issues? Sleep disturbances?  Tooth grinding?  Mood/behavioral/concentration trouble?  Learning/speech difficulties?  The list could continue....[These symptoms indicate food intolerances, but also begin to involve other allergic reactions such as pollen, dust, dander, molds, etc.  Again, GAPS is the superior answer.]

Many people, including myself, have attempted to resolve their (or their children's) imbalances and ailments through a particular nutritional regimen or with supplementation of varying forms.  I am now fully convinced that without first sealing/healing the gut, no amount of nutrient supplementation will help to the degree that you need or desire.  As long as the gut wall is compromised and your system is overrun with pathogenic flora, you cannot absorb/use said nutrients; much of those supplements and your money are being flushed.  (Think of a Netherlands' dike that has sprung multiple leaks.)  So fix the wall first, line it with defenses, and then address any remaining nutritional needs.

Ladies, it would behoove you to seriously consider doing even an abbreviated GAPS program before becoming pregnant.  This will provide a wonderfully nourished body in which to grow baby and will help to ensure that baby's gut is colonized properly at birth.  Doing the Intro diet followed by six months of the Full GAPS diet is a recommended minimum for women looking forward to pregnancy.

Final thoughts and Gleanings
I've done anti-fungal diets in the past.  I've done allergy elimination diets.  I've been vegan, I've gone dairy-free, I've been grain-free.  Nothing brought the complete results for which I was searching (although I felt much better when I was grain- and dairy-free).  Why is GAPS different?  This protocol seals and heals the gut, detoxifies the body and repopulates necessary beneficial flora.  Rather than following a practice of "trigger" avoidance, we are actually healing the physiological mechanism that protects us from being reactive.  Additionally, it is ineffective to individually treat for parasites or fungal overgrowth without first sealing/healing the gut and repopulating your beneficial flora.

If you want to achieve legitimate healing, it is important that you:
  • Read ALL the materials (GAPS book and GAPS Guide) first before beginning the program.
  • Begin with the Intro phase.
  • Do NOT be tempted to cheat or "change" the protocol...stick with it as it exists.
Even if you previously ate a real food diet and used probiotic supplements, progress slowly and gently through the program, adding probiotic foods a little bit at a time; work your way methodically and patiently through the Intro stages.  Many people venturing into GAPS territory attempt the program by going straight to the Full GAPS diet, skipping the Intro phase.  Perhaps moreso than even McBride, I highly discourage this maneuver.  If you desire complete healing, DO NOT SKIP INTRO.

The amount of healing and the speed at which it will take place depends largely upon the severity of the disorder and how long it has been present.  

You need to be prepared for die off during this process.  Because bad flora thrive on the sugars you ingest (carbs, ie grains, starchy veggies, sugar itself), implementing the Intro diet immediately begins to starve the buggers.  Additionally, your consumption of probiotic foods (and supplements) will nourish your good flora, enabling them to grow and begin killing the invading pathogenic colonies.  As the pathogens die, their toxin releases intensify, which can make you feel ill.  Die off is described in McBride's book, the GAPS Guide, and GAPS support websites.  I will briefly relate that your level of die off will depend on how many and how quickly toxins are being released.  Symptoms can be your normal ailments exacerbated; die off can cause powerful sugar cravings, headaches, lethargy, nausea/vomiting, incontinence, crankiness, hyperactivity, and a host of other issues.  But be not dismayed...die off is temporary (from a few days to weeks depending on your level of dysbiosis)...and you will be delighted in the knowledge that you are destroying the invaders and healing your system.

Things I love about GAPS
I love that the program is built on the truth that saturated fat is GOOD for you!  This is a fundamental truth whose suppression has caused serious health problems for our entire society.  The essential nutrients and protective fat in animal and other saturated fats (like coconut and palm) are crucial to our bodies' normal functioning and optimal health (especially the brain).  Americans' obsession with "fat-free" foods and "lean" meats has contributed heavily to their health downfall.  This topic will be explored with more depth in a future post.  Until then, you can begin understanding the truth about good fats by reading The Cholesterol MythsDiet & Heart DiseasePut Your Heart in Your MouthKnow Your FatsNourishing Traditions, and The Good Fat Cookbook.

I love that McBride recommends juicing for detoxification and nourishment.  Juicing is very cleansing and a wonderful way to support your liver (especially when you add beet to your combination).  And I can attest that you will never so much enjoy carrot-pineapple juice as when you are allowed it during the Intro diet.  Homemade raw juices (must be juiced...no fiber...no blending) are a vitamin shot...a cleansing energy boost.  The daily juices are a real treat.

I love that bone broth is the backbone of the GAPS program.  This potent medicine of "days gone by" is wonderfully healing.  We all should have some every day.  It truly heals what ails you.  

I love the emphasis on home-fremented sauerkraut as a flora-populating, immune-boosting,  vitamin C-rich, probiotic food.  Truly not difficult to make, sauerkraut is a super food that belongs in everyone's diet...and it just tastes good, too!

I love the emphasis on non-toxic living, especially a chemical-free home.  That is good advice for everyone, GAPS or not.

I love that McBride emphasizes that GAPS is a family affair.  And who wouldn't benefit from such a richly nourishing diet and wellness lifestyle?

In Closing 

While I respectfully disagree with McBride's (and other GAPS authors) positive views of vaccination and pharmaceuticals, I believe her work to be eminently vital to our collective understanding of how to be well.  Countless people are suffering needlessly from physical and mental malfunctions; they are being told (by the establishment...AMA and Big Pharma) that there is no cure, only control and suppression.  Imagine the pain and suffering that could be alleviated...the drugs and psychiatric treatments that could be avoided...if people knew the beautiful truth about gut dysbiosis.  These ailments, some quite serious and debilitating, can be HEALED...simply and effectively.  

What have you to lose by pursuing this protocol?  Yes, the program demands diligence and dedication.  There is a learning curve.  Yes, you will experience temporary discomfort as your body sheds the pathogenic flora and (most often) goes through some degree of sugar withdrawal.  It is a short-term sacrifice for a worthy long-term goal...it is for your health and future well-being.  Looking at the big picture, only certain foods must be avoided for an interim in your life; once you learn the program, it will become routine.  And the extra time it takes to make the homemade healing foods is a worthwhile investment in your future eating habits and continued wellness.  Because, frankly, if you have not yet been living a homemade/real food lifestyle, this is the time to start.  Aside from healing your gut and ailments, this program will spur you to a necessary lifestyle change.  

I have written a tome without describing in detail the actual GAPS healing protocol.  Other resources, which are listed below, do an excellent job.  It is very important that you read the GAPS book (and preferably GAPS Guide) before attempting the program.  I will be posting through the next week (as I can) to share with you the journey my family is making through the Intro portion of the program.  In those posts I will provide specific attributes of the diet and protocol, as well as share the additional herbal/supplementary program I have designed to aid the healing process of the GAPS diet.  I will describe the healing my family has already begun to experience, as well as a pleasant, unexpected "side effect."

My personal journey for answers to the allergy riddle has made many twists and turns over the years.  Discovering the GAPS protocol is the first time I feel full clarity of the issues involved and have hope for long-term healing.  I cannot say with assuredness that all allergies are the body's response to a compromised gut, but I feel certain that most are.   The fact that people's "allergies" are being overcome by healing the gut makes it apparent that they are not an inherited genetic destiny, but rather the result of abnormal gut flora colonization and the resulting gut damage.  (For those of you unfamiliar from my previous writings, I do not adhere to the fatality of genetics; predispositions are not necessarily genetic convictions.) 

You and your family may have no difficulties with allergies, but you most likely have some malfunction that can be addressed by healing the gut.  Remember, health begins in the gut.  I cannot overemphasize this...solving gut dysbiosis is essential to regaining (or, in the case of your children, establishing) good physical and mental health.  True wellness cannot take place until the gut is sealed, healed and colonized with good bacteria. 


 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. paperback Buy Now!
 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. epub file (most versatile file type) Buy Now!
 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. mobi file (Kindle) Buy Now!

McBride's book(s) and recommended protocol supplements are sold at www.gapsdiet.com.  I highly recommend that you purchase the discounted combination of McBride's GAPS book and the GAPS Guide book, written by Baden Lashkov, a richly experienced mother who healed herself and her son of significant mental and physical defects using the program.  The GAPS Guide is now in its second edition and available in two electronic file forms.  While McBride's book details the GAPS program, the GAPS Guide was written as a practical manual (full of Q&A and valuable instructions) to help people begin and use the GAPS protocol.  Baden maintains an exceptionally helpful website, www.gapsguide.com.  

Cara at healthhomehappy provides GAPS meal plans/menus, and explains many aspects of the GAPS program.  Please peruse her site and see especially the following entries: GAPS family, recipes, info and Who's Talking Grain-Free?

Again, gapsdiet.com is one of the main sites that offers McBride's materials, recommended supplements, and maintains a wealth of FAQs, Q&A, and GAPS info.

Mercola interview with McBride, great summary!

McBride publishes an information site at doctor-natasha.com and also gaps.me.

Online community support can be found at the GAPS yahoo group.

Baby GAPS chronicles one nursing mama's (and her toddler's) experiences with GAPS.

Let's Talk About Real Milk

The elixir of life...liquid gold...it does a body good...???  Milk is good for you, right?  Well, not exactly...It all depends on how you define milk.

I know...I've come a little late to the dance, LOL.  But I may have a slightly different perspective to share, or just some helpful reminders, so I will sally forth.

What is real milk?  Simply defined, it is the unadulterated milk obtained from a lactating mammal that is eating its natural diet and living a natural lifestyle.  Historically, human cultures consumed or used milk from cows, goats, sheep, camels, water buffaloes, and likely others.  As far as compatibility to the human system (comparable nutrient profile and protein density), resulting in the most efficient digestibility, I think the evidence points to goat (or sheep) milk.  But our society's milk of choice is that of the cow, so we will focus on cows' milk here.

Before diving in, I should share a caveat...I am not of the opinion that milk is an absolutely crucial part of everyone's diet.  I believe that humans and mammals have been designed to provide the perfect, appropriate food to their babies (ie mama's milk).  I believe as we mature from childhood to adulthood, we lose our need for milk...that we should progress from "milk to meat" and other types of dairy foods, if desired.  I believe a variety of plant and animal food sources provide the essential nutrients we need that are often attributed solely to milk.

Having said that, I believe that anyone who desires to consume milk has the right to Real Milk and should pursue it above any other form of "milk."  Personally, I LOVE butter and real whipped cream; I enjoy many cheeses (especially chevre) and do not want to eat my oatmeal "dry."  In our household, raw milk is a vehicle for homemade kefir and yogurt, which are indispensable fermented foods.  I see milk as a means to creating other delicious and nutritious foods; but I do not believe that a milk deficit would be damaging.  OK, let us return to defining Real Milk.

Real cows' milk comes from grass-fed, free-ranging, drug-free cows; the milk is not corrupted through pasteurization and homogenization, both of which destroy its nutrients and make the milk nearly undigestible to the human body.  It is important to understand the anatomy and physiology of our food animals when we seek to understand what they should eat.  When man, out of a desire for convenience or profit, changes the natural diet and lifestyle of an animal, he creates health problems for that animal and less nutritious (and potentially dangerous) food for the consumer.  Cows need exercise, sunshine and their natural diet to be healthy, which ensures healthy milk and meat.

A cow is not designed to eat anything other than grass.  Period.  Feeding a cow grains, particularly corn, causes physiological distress to the animal and the proliferation of potentially harmful pathogens (one of which is e coli 0157...read more about e coli and corn-fed cows).  The health benefits of grass-fed raw milk (and beef) are numerous, including gut-healthy beneficial bacteria; higher levels of vitamins D, A, K and Activator X; higher levels of omega fatty acids and cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid; and a proliferation of good fats.  Additionally, because of its beneficial bacteria, raw milk sours with time rather than turning rancid; sour milk is a usable and healthy food.  Information abounds on the health benefits of grass-fed milk, eggs and meat, so I will not generate a long list here.  Check out these links: benefits of grass fed milk, meat, eggs and grass fed facts as well as a tale of two milks.

Simply put, if you are going to consume dairy, it should be the real thing.  DO NOT fall for the half-truths, manipulations and lies sold by the establishment regarding the "danger" or raw milk, such as shared in this article.  If you cannot obtain raw, grass-fed, organic milk and dairy products, you are better off not consuming any milk at all.  Commercially produced dairy products are not health-giving foods (more on this below).  Please do not attempt to drink raw milk from a conventional dairy with grain-fed, confined cows...it will not nourish you and it could make you sick.

And here is one of the areas where I part ways with Sally Fallon (I'm sure it is anathema to disagree with Sally, but I will brave potential disapproval).  Don't get me wrong...I really like Nourishing Traditions.  I greatly appreciate the work of Weston Price and the foundation.  I routinely share NT with others; I find it to be an important asset to the growing body of knowledge about real food and how to prepare it.  But no one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  I was once a vegan who ate copious amounts of processed soy.  I shudder to remember the long-lasting health problems I gave myself with that diet.  But I digress...

One of Fallon's flaws, which I suspect stems from her seemingly ardent affinity for milk, is her recommendation to consume pasteurized whole milk in the absence of being able to find raw milk.  With all due respect, this is horrid advice.  Pasteurized milk is far more than merely inferior to raw milk.

I can think of no nicer way to say it...industrial milk is poison.  Avoid it like the plague.  There is no lack of information about the deleterious health effects of industrial milk.  Allow me to highlight a few of the problems with industrial milk:
  • It is the most allergenic "food" on the planet, creating intolerances and allergic sensitivities; it causes and contributes to inflammation, mucus production, digestive upsets, constipation, eczema, colic, ear infections, acne, arthritis, autism-spectrum disorders, diabetes, leukemia and more.
  • Pasteurization kills natural milk enzymes that help break down lactose (the "problematic" milk sugar) and assist with calcium assimilation.
  • Pasteurization kills most of milk's vitamins, such as A, C and B12; it damages essential nutritional elements, such as iodine.
  • Pasteurization makes much of the milk's calcium insoluble and indigestible; the "you need milk for calcium" campaign perpetually heralded by the dairy industry is incredibly misleading...that usable calcium even exists in industrial milk is a myth.
  • Pasteurization decreases milk's amino acids, changing its protein structure; it turns milk's fatty acids rancid.
  • Homogenization (the process of breaking apart milk's fat molecules) damages milk's good butter-fats and its fat soluble vitamins like A and D; destroying the butter-fat makes any vitamins and minerals left in the milk harder for the body to use.
I will stop here and encourage you to continue your research on the dangers of industrial milk.  The following links contain a plethora of information, links and summaries of studies:

We covered the basics of industrial milk's nutritional deficiencies and its negative health effects; let's take a moment to examine a few more detrimental facets of industrial dairies.

  • Modern cows are "freaks of nature" bred and drugged to produce up to 12 gallons of milk daily; real cows naturally produce only three to four gallons daily.
  • Factory farm dairy cows have over-active pituitary glands, producing larger than normal amounts of growth hormone; in addition, the cows are given synthetic growth hormone, which passes through the milk...this hormone has been shown to increase insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) in humans.
  • Nearly 90% of American cattle are infected with leukemia; in Dec. 2003, researchers from UC Berkely published findings that 74% of people in the community (study population of 257 people) were infected with bovine leukemia viruses (read about the study here).
  • As a result of their forced unnatural diet, dairy cows suffer chronic mastitis, diarrhea, liver problems and early death (the average lifespan of a modern dairy cow is five to six years, half the normal lifespan); the milk from these cows is often filled with pus from infections...to combat such infections, routine mega-doses of antibiotics are administered.
  • The cows are confined in a factory farm setting (CAFO = Concentrated Animal Feed Operation), receiving little sunshine and fresh air, and spend much of their time standing or lying in their own feces.
  • After pasteurization, the milk is "replenished" with synthetic vitamin D2 and D3 (D2 can be toxic and has been linked to heart disease).
  • Chemicals to restore taste and reduce odor are added to the pasteurized milk.
Even if we were to believe the industry's claims that none of these elements can harm us, which is a ludicrous claim, the fact remains that dairy industry practices and the CAFOs are inhumane and downright disgusting.  I defy you to drive by a CAFO, roll down your window, look and smell, and say otherwise.  And I don't know about you, but I have had mastitis in my years of nursing, and it is miserable.  Can you imagine being forced to produce four times the milk your body can naturally create...and the structural pain associated with the enormous "mammary glands" you would be wearing?

Industrial milk (and beef) producers are raising animals in a completely unnatural environment, feeding them substances their bodies were never designed to process, which destroys the health of the cows and leads to dangerous illnesses and pathogens in the milk (and meat).  And to compensate for this absolutely ridiculous and dangerous practice, to cover their foul deeds (and to "protect" consumers on the other end), the producers want to boil the milk to death (or irradiate the meat).  It defies reason.  If the animals were fed a natural, nourishing diet of food they can actually digest and were allowed to roam freely in clean pastures rather than standing ankle deep in their own feces, industrial dairy farmers would not have a resultant slew of nastiness in the milk of sick cows that needed to be eradicated.  Utter madness.

To read more about CAFOs and the conventional dairy industry, go to Sustainable Table on Dairy Issues (not necessarily championing raw milk, but good info on the dairy industry), Cheese Slave's post on Dairy Differences (a fun read providing a peek at the way milk should be produced and a look at a very clean, not-to-be-considered typical industrial dairy), What Dairy CAFOs are hiding, the No CAFOs website, and CAFO photos and more photos.

Despite the dairy industry's persistent lobbying, marketing, misdirecting, and truth suppressing, the raw milk revolution continues to gain ground and more people are becoming aware of the truth about real milk.  This is a good thing.  Many people however, either because they cannot find a raw milk source or they feel they cannot afford to buy it, are purchasing Organic industrial milk.  This is not a good thing...

Many producers of Organic milk have been industrial dairies desiring to profit by jumping on the Organic bandwagon.  Few of their industrial practices have been abandoned.  To be certified Organic, the milk producer must merely "allow access" to the outdoors (that tricky, slippery regulation again...check out my "Truth in Labeling" post on this issue), use organic, non-GMO feed, and refrain from administering growth hormones and routine antibiotics.  In theory, Organic milk should be a boon for health-conscious consumers...fewer toxins, higher nutrient profile.  Right?  Not exactly.  The truth about Organic milk is not what most consumers suspect (read more about Horizon Organic milkthe truth about Organic milk and the Wal-Mart effect and industrial Organic cheating).

So, some Organic milk cows are still grain-fed, living in CAFOs, producing an unnatural amount of milk, suffering from the same illnesses as the "non-Organic" cows, and the milk is still being pasteurized and homogenized.  In fact, much of the Organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (ultra-dead); shall we wonder why?  General claims are to extend shelf life, but I suspect the extra precaution might be taken because of pus and pathogens present in certain dairies' milk as a result of the cows' lifestyles and diets.

But let's assume that you don't buy your Organic milk from Walmart (WM degrades organics) and that you know the Organic milk you purchase is produced by grass-fed, non-CAFO cows.  New USDA Organic legislation says that Organic dairy cows must graze outside for 120 days/year.  That would certainly be a healthier and more humane option.  But the milk is still pasteurized and homogenized.  Ah, there's the rub.

So, buying Organic milk is not saving you from all the nutritional deficits and negative health effects of industrial milk.  Organic milk is a waste of money.  Don't bother...save yourself the headache (and the GI distress) and save your money; if you cannot purchase raw grass-fed milk, buy organic kale and Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil.  And don't worry...you won't develop a calcium deficiency by missing milk.  Do some research on calcium and mineral-rich foods (seaweeds are fabulous, as are homemade bone broths).

A word on cultured and fermented dairy products...  Homemade, raw kefir, yogurt and soured milk products are a nourishing and helpful component of the "real food pantry."  Much has been written about these foods, so I will not elaborate here.  I would like to emphasize how important it is that you culture your own dairy products and that you use raw milk.  In the debate over whether you can/should use adulterated milk (pasteurized, Organic or conventional), I certainly side with those who say you cannot create a living food from one that is dead (especially ultra-dead Organic ultra-pasteurized milk).  Inputs determine outputs...it's a simple truth.  The myriad lost nutrients in dead milk cannot be resurrected by kefir or yogurt starters.

As for store-bought dairy products, like sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, etc, the same holds true.  If the milk used to make such items was pasteurized, don't bother consuming them.  These foods are completely different animals from those created using traditional processes.  For example, commercially produced sour cream is created using acids to artificially sour the cream, while traditional sour cream is made with a bacterial culture and natural fermentation process.  The industrial and the home-cultured products are altogether different.  Commercial dairy foods will do you more harm than good; adulterated dairy contributes more heavily than any other food to allergies, sensitivities, intestinal maladies and the brain malfunctions that result from the gut-brain connection.  You are not doing yourself any favors by consuming such foods.  The only way to achieve nourishment and avoid deleterious health effects from dairy foods is to start with raw, grass-fed milk and culture/create all your own products.

In closing, I would like to touch on a point of personal significance.  Many allergic/dairy intolerant people have found that switching to raw milk alleviates their sensitivities and numerous maladies.  This is a reasonable expectation, considering the facts.  Yet some sensitive adults and children still struggle with even raw, grass-fed milk.  A few theories exist as to this dilemma, and I have my own cogitations on the subject, which I would like to share in future.

I hope I have been able to compel readers not already in the grass-fed-raw-milk-only camp to abandon the other illegitimate options.  And perhaps those of you already in camp now have more ammunition to share with people who need to know the truth about real milk.  Until next time, be well and Become Your Own Expert!

The following websites provide excellent general information about real milk and where to find it:
Raw milk facts
Real Milk
Eat Wild

For further reading (Disclaimer: I have signed up to be an Amazon affiliate; if you buy a book from one of these links, I will receive a small commission.  Just wanted to be honest about that):
The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid

Radically Natural Remedies: Healing with Hydrogen Peroxide

My family has enjoyed the healing benefits of hydrogen peroxide for some years.  This remedy is so easy to use and fairly inexpensive; it makes a nice addition to the natural medicine repertoire.

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a multi-purpose anti-microbial and, as one pro-H2O2 author has stated, is "essential to life."  Most people are familiar with hydrogen peroxide as an antiseptic for wounds, but its myriad further uses are less well known.  Rather than re-inventing the wheel here, I would like to share a few facts about hydrogen peroxide via quotes from an excellent article on its health benefits, which is an essential read (Benefits of H2O2):

"...the cells responsible for fighting infection and foreign invaders in the body (your white blood cells) make hydrogen peroxide and use it to oxidize any offending culprits. The intense bubbling you see when hydrogen peroxide comes in contact with a bacteria-laden cut or wound is the oxygen being released and bacteria being destroyed. The ability of our cells to produce hydrogen peroxide is essential for life.
...we now know that vitamin C helps fight infections by producing hydrogen peroxide, which in turn stimulates the production of prostaglandins. Also lactobacillus found in the colon and vagina produce hydrogen peroxide. This destroys harmful bacteria and viruses, preventing colon disease, vaginitis, bladder infections and a host of other common ailments. 
The friendly bacteria in the colon and vagina are aerobic. In other words, they flourish in high oxygen environments and thrive in the presence of oxygen rich H202. On the other hand, most strains of harmful bacteria (and cancer cells) are anaerobic and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen or H202."

The article continues with a discussion of using H2O2 in oral and intravenous applications, and the numerous ailments/disorders that respond positively to H2O2 therapy.  The entire discussion is beyond the scope of this post, but I encourage you to read the article as well as the other links I will add below.  You may discover a vital personal use for H2O2.

Outside of using H2O2 as a wound cleaner, our primary application of hydrogen peroxide has been to ward off colds and flus, which it does admirably.  Using H2O2 as a gargle can prevent a sore throat from taking hold and developing into a full-blown upper-respiratory infection.  I gargle with a mixture of 1 Tb. H2O2 to 1 cup filtered warm water.  Often one round is all I need to avoid a sore throat.  For a more stubborn situation, continue gargling every hour throughout the day.  Swallowing the hydrogen peroxide is safe AS LONG AS you have a proper dilution and you are using food grade H2O2.

Many holistic practitioners rightly advise H2O2 for ailment therapy, but neglect to specify the need to eschew typical store-bought "pharmaceutical grade" peroxide.  While certainly "cheap," those H2O2 products contain toxic additives (stabilizers) that are best avoided.  Food grade H2O2 is the correct choice for both external and internal applications.  It is more expensive, but can be purchased in larger quantities and because it must be diluted, it lasts a long time.  As the above cited article instructs, you want to dilute your H2O2 to 3% before using.  [You can actually be "burned" by higher concentrations...it is not very painful, depending on the strength, but not desirable...I have done this and it is interesting; the skin turns white and "prickles."]

The best technique I have learnt and used to avert a potentially developing flu/cold is the H2O2 in the ear trick.  Viruses enter your body through open cavities, and the ears are a favorite place.  Microbes can travel from the outer ear through the semi-permeable tympanic membrane, invading and multiplying in your body.  By applying H2O2 into the ear canal at the onset of virus symptoms, you can stop the illness before it starts.  This is not a guaranteed cure, but it has worked so incredibly well for us that I hope you will try the therapy.  You will want to lie on your side and put about 10 drops of H2O2 into the exposed ear (if you are like me, you cringe at the thought of liquid in your ear...but it is for your own good, LOL).  Allow the H2O2 to stay in the ear at least 5 minutes, or until the bubbling/fizzing/popping stops. If you have any microbes (bacteria, virus, etc) in your ear canal, the H2O2 will encounter it and begin killing it (this action releases oxygen, which causes the fizzing).  Turn your head over, draining the ear onto a towel, and repeat with the other side.

This technique is easy, inexpensive and effective.  We have adopted the H2O2 ear canal protocol as a prophylactic against viral infections whenever we know we have been exposed to such an illness or we are traveling.  Take a small glass bottle of H2O2 with you on your trips and administer before and after flying.  (We use the H2O2 as an illness preventative once daily for the duration of our travels.)  Remember to leave a small amount of head room in the bottle for expansion with air pressure changes, or you might end up with a wee bit o' mess.  [Amber boston round bottles with caps in the 2 oz. size work nicely and can be found online or at health food stores.  I do not recommend the dropper tops because the expansion caused by the H2O2 gases damages their rubber.]

Young children may not allow you to drop H2O2 into their ears, in which case I use cotton swabs soaked in the peroxide.  Gently swab around the ear and just into the opening of the ear multiple times if you can.  You might be able to convince a skeptical child to allow you to administer drops by making it a game of listening for the "popcorn" in his/her ear.

[This remedy works wonders at the onset of viruses, but be careful if you or your child already has an ear infection.  In that case, you don't want to pour the H2O2 directly into the ear canal, as it can irritate the swollen ear drum and cause more pain.  It would be fine, though, to swab around your ear and inside the ear gently with a cotton swab soaked in H2O2.  This will help to combat the microbes involved in the infection.]

And don't forget that you can swab inside your nostrils, too.  Ear, nose, throat...H2O2 has you covered!

The following links provide additional information on H2O2 and the cold/flu technique, as well as purchasing options.

H2O2 for colds
H2O2 Info, including dilutions
Mercola on colds, including H2O2 info
12% Food Grade H2O2 at Lucky Vitamin
35% H2O2 at Pure Health Systems

While I did not intend to expand the H2O2 discussion beyond these simple health techniques, I would be remiss if I did not mention H2O2's wonderful qualities in home cleaning!  You can use hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria in your house rather than using toxic bleach.  Just dilute the peroxide half and half with water, and voila!  Natural germ removal.  I should have put H2O2 on my cleaning essentials list!  I think I will do so as an edit even now.  I will be discussing H2O2 in laundry applications in that future post.  But I digress....

Until next time, be well and Become Your Own Expert!

Radically Natural Recipe: Put It in a Smoothie!!!

I love smoothies!  I love playing with flavor combinations; I love refreshing frozen fruit; I love a smooth, creamy texture; I love the color; I love the healthy ingredients that impart amazing flavor without any unnecessary added sugars/franken-foods.

And I LOVE that you can hide otherwise less palatable things in smoothies and get your kids to drink them.

We drink an abundance of smoothies and I never neglect to use them as a vehicle for an extra "health shot."  I add powdered herbs, vitamins, liquid algae, cod liver oil, kefir, wheatgrass, etc. ... whatever needs to be in my children's bodies that otherwise might take excessive work and/or fussing.  The key to successful smoothie supplement "hiding" is FLAVOR!  And the key to good smoothie flavor is excellent, organic, ripe fruit.

I have seen smoothie recipes that call for the addition of sugar...maple syrup, honey or the like (or worse!). While I have been known to add a tablespoon of raw honey to a smoothie (either to cover the flavor of an "overripe" kefir addition or to make up for less-than-ripe fruit), I generally do not like to add generous amounts of sugars to my fruit smoothies.  Honestly, I cringe at the thought of children drinking a "cup full" of sugar...and when I look at the amount of maple syrup some people suggest as a smoothie addition, it doesn't scream, "pure, healthy, blended fruit;" rather, I see children bouncing off the ceiling!  LOL  If your smoothie is so unpalatable that you feel you need to add a 1/2 cup of maple syrup to it, you're doing something wrong.  Save that wonderful maple syrup for topping whole-grain kefir pancakes or baking an apple crisp!  If you really need to sweeten your smoothie a bit, your healthiest option is a small amount of raw honey.

Certain fruits provide sweeter flavor; a no-fail sweet smoothie boost is a really ripe banana.  Ripe pineapple also gives an otherwise potentially "under flavored" smoothie a nice kick.  And adding good, strong cinnamon (preferably ceylon) enriches not only the flavor, but also the healthiness of your fruit smoothie (cinnamon balances blood sugar levels; quite good for people who suffer from hypoglycemia).  My favorite frozen fruit for smoothies is strawberry...when picked ripe and frozen right away, these delicious berries never fail to execute smoothie delight!

Berries typically are the frozen fruit that give smoothies their chill and color.  When you play with different combinations, you will find your own favorites as well as become more familiar with flavor blending for your desired outcome.  I find raspberries and blackberries to be more tart than strawberries, and blueberries tend to fall in the middle of that spectrum.  Exotic fruits such as papaya and mango are a boon to fruit-sweet smoothies, but again, ripeness is key.

A few years ago, when we had access to a local organic farm that offered u-pick days, we brought home 20 lbs. of absolutely perfectly ripened strawberries and froze them.  We had never before, nor since, had such delightful smoothies.  Finding u-pick opportunities and making sure the berries/fruit are at their height of ripeness (which means the height of the fruit's sugar production) can be a wonderful way to stock your smoothie ingredient larder.  Be sure to freeze as soon as you can, and remember not to wash strawberries (and other highly fragile berries such as raspberries and blackberries); the water damages the flesh and encourages mold.  One of the benefits to buying truly organic fruit is that you don't need to wash it...if dirt from the farm remains, just gently brush off the flesh.  A little organic dirt is actually good for you, so don't worry about every minute bit...it will blend! LOL

Here is my basic smoothie recipe, which generally feeds my family of five (all organic ingredients).
[You can add ice cubes if needed to satisfy temperature/texture preferences; this recipe is cold and smooth to our liking.]
  • 1 can coconut milk (I like Thai Kitchen brand...very thick and creamy)
  • 1 can chunk pineapple or a bunch of freshly cut pineapple
  • 1/4 cup kefir (from raw, grass-fed milk...cow or goat...whatever is available)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • a generous handful frozen strawberries
  • some spinach or wheatgrass
  • 1 Tb. cinnamon
  • some raw cocoa nibs (I like Earth Circle Organics)
  • whatever herb/vitamin blend chosen for the day; or liquid algae or cod liver oil
Sometimes I will add an organic protein powder, but we don't use it as a regular practice.  I currently enjoy the Sun Warrior raw, organic, fermented brown rice protein powder.  Whey is an excellent source of protein and is easiest to obtain from your own homemade kefir and yogurt (from raw, grass-fed milk). My family smoothies are not designed as a meal replacer, so I am not concerned about making sure they are extremely protein rich.  If you need more protein in your smoothie, you may want to add more kefir or natural whey, or consider purchasing a good-quality whey or rice protein powder (a discussion of which is not my intent for this post, but suffice it to say that "good quality" would mean not highly processed, no corn syrup or other unhealthy sugars, etc.).  Another great thing to add to your smoothie is raw organic pastured egg yolks.

I always use powdered herbs and superfoods as smoothie additions.  I often add bilberry, goji berry and various nutrient-rich, mildly flavored herbs (such as nettle, ginkgo, and oatstraw).  These whole foods are high in essential vitamins and minerals and contain healing compounds that nourish your body in a way that supplements cannot.  Check out my Links section for websites that sell herbs and powdered superfoods; you can design your own smoothie health blends for your family's needs.  (One of my favorite superfood powder suppliers is http://livesuperfoods.com/)  For children who cannot yet swallow vitamin/mineral/probiotic capsules or tablets, smoothies are a wonderful supplement vehicle.  Just open the capsule into the smoothie and mix (or blend the tablet into the smoothie).  Fish oils disguise nicely in flavorful fruit smoothies.  You'll be amazed at what your children will NOT notice in a smoothie.

One night a few weeks ago, our toddler was suffering from a mild bout of tummy trouble that was causing diarrhea.  My routine remedy for this condition is activated charcoal and pascalite clay.  I mix the two powders in water, making a black sludge, and serve it up.  This is not a favorite drink of my children, LOL, but it is usually drunk without much agitation.  However, the hour of night and the discomfort of my little girl prompted my husband to recommend that I blend up a quick smoothie for the addition of the charcoal remedy.  I was hesitant to make such noise so late at night, but hubby was convinced that the whole ordeal would be better served by a smoothie.  He was right.  My little girl LOVES smoothies and daily begs for them...so when she saw the ingredients going in, and she finally had hold of her cup of happiness, she had no suspicion of the added "sludge."  She devoured the smoothie and the complaints only began when she realized there was no more!

So the next time you are wondering how to get your child to take some necessary healthy (but perhaps "distasteful") supplement/remedy, put it in a smoothie!  And while you are at it, don't forget to drink a daily family health smoothie...it is a delicious way to enjoy your nutrients!

Tumble Troubles

Children and falls...an inevitable part of growing up for them; sometimes a hair-graying experience for us!  Whether insignificant or serious, falls require immediate attention and the physical aftermath can be greatly helped by prompt and proper treatment.

This topic moved to the top of my list after my toddler took a spill down the stairs this week.  While such an incident is not an uncommon childhood happenstance, it certainly was stressful.  Thankfully, having a well-rounded regimen backed by experience made the situation less traumatic and accelerated the healing process.  ("Prescription" descriptions follow the story.)

The first thing I assessed, after rushing to my daughter's side, was her level of pain (as determined by her cry) and her mobility.  Because I still nurse her, my first instinct was to offer the breast for comfort.  I wanted immediately to scoop her into my arms, but, not having seen the complete tumble, I wanted to be sure moving her would not cause any damage.  Because she was already attempting to sit up on her own to get to me, I felt there was no danger in setting her in my lap...her neck and upper body seemed normal.  I began to nurse her, which soothed her crying, and I executed a gentle manual exam of her head, neck, trunk and limbs.  If any bones had been fractured, she would most likely have accelerated her crying or shown pain.  She showed no signs of increased pain and I did not discern any breaks, nor were there any large red marks visible on her face, head, abdomen, back or limbs, which would indicate impact wounds/contusions.

About one minute had passed during this initial "exam."  Of course my little one was still upset, but not as greatly as before, and I was also more calm.  I asked my eldest son to run and get the homeopathic arnica; I administered three tablets to my daughter and continued to nurse her until she was finished.  (Had her upset been much greater, I would have also given her some Bach's Rescue Remedy.)  Her crying abated and she became more placid, though desired to be held and comforted.  My next step would be an ice pack, but in this case I was not sure where to apply it.  There was not yet any bruising or swelling that I could see.  I held her for about five minutes, continuing to gently but firmly "massage" along her limbs (all the way to fingertips and toes), manipulating and rotating to see if it would elicit an acute pain response.  As she did not react negatively, and she wanted down from my lap, I put her down and went to get her some water to drink; at that time, I administered a second dose of arnica.

I noticed as she walked across the room that she was limping.  Uh-oh...that's not a good sign.  A limp can indicate a couple different injuries...it can be a malfunction in the low back, the hip, the knee, the foot, the leg bones, a combination of these things or all of the above.  I knew at that point I needed to apply the full arsenal.  The first thing I wanted to do was get my daughter in to see the chiropractor.  Since the intricate manipulation of the spine is not yet one of my skills, I seek knowledgable and experienced pediatric chiropractic care.  This is one of the only outside sources I use and highly recommend.  To find a pediatric chiropractor in your area, visit http://icpa4kids.org/ and click on the "Find a Chiropractor" link.  Our closest best option is a nearly 4-hour roundtrip drive, but it was worthwhile.

We took our daughter to the pediatric chiropractor who assessed the physical situation and did a manual exam.  We talked through what we both had evaluated and agreed there was likely a slight hip dislocation, as well as sacral spinal impingement.  I was also concerned about a tight swollen spot I had felt in my little one's neck.  The chiropractor did a full spinal adjustment as well as work on the affected hip socket.  As soon as the adjustment was complete, my daughter got up and walked around the room, her limp much less pronounced.  While she previously had been doing the "peg leg" walk, she now was bending her knee.  This was a good sign that the adjustment had an immediate ameliorating affect.  However, she still would not flex her foot while walking, which indicated continued irritation and perhaps a sprain in the foot/ankle.  We scheduled a visit for the next day and went home.

That evening, I put my daughter in an epsom salt bath to soak for 15 minutes, which she enjoyed.  During her bath, while Daddy sat with her, I brewed some herbal tea* that would act as a nervine (relaxant), help repair tissues/ligaments, implement rapid cellular repair, and provide nutritive minerals.  I also prepared a poultice to place over the affected hip and low back, which would increase localized healing.  I got out homeopthic Ruta tablets, which are a follow-on to Arnica...Ruta is excellent for sprains, injured tendons, bone injuries (especially knees, elbows, wrists).

I gave my daughter the herbs to drink before she left the bath; after she was dried, I applied the external herbs and dressed her.  I wanted to apply an ice pack to her back and hip, but she would have none of it. LOL  Because her injury was not so grave, I did not insist upon applying the ice.  I gave her a dose of the homeopathic Ruta and put her to bed with me.  The next morning, she was up and cheery as usual.  The limp seemed pronounced upon her rising, but loosened within 10 minutes of her being up and around.  She walked nearly normally but still would not flex her affected food.  I administered more internal herbs and Ruta, and applied external herbs (now a salve) to her hip, low back and foot.  We then went to our second chiropractic appointment; after the adjustment, my daughter walked better than she had earlier in the day.  Both the chiropractor and I were happy with the rapid improvements.  We scheduled another appointment for early next week if necessary after watching my daughter's improvement over the weekend.

Later that day, I began to gently manipulate the affected foot...flex the toes, rotate the ankle, flex the foot.  Sometimes when a child experiences physical pain in a limb, such as that resulting from a sprain, the child will not bear weight on the limb.  This can continue even beyond the injury, becoming a habitual incorrect "muscle memory" that can cause long-lasting errors in gait.  To avoid this, we can do physical therapy to send the proper nerve signals from the limb to the brain.  It is as if we are telling the brain, "It's OK to move this limb...these parts work well."  My daughter did not show any signs of pain when I manipulated her foot or hip, so I conducted these exercises throughout the rest of the day.  I continued to administer the homeopathy and herbs, gave another epsom salt bath and applied herbal salve to the necessary areas.

The result is a speedy recovery and a happy little girl who is eager to once again run headlong down the stairs...oh, how soon they forget!  But we do not, so the gate is firmly latched (and brothers are reminded to close it after they go through).

In summary, dealing with falls and the potential resulting injuries is far less stressful when we are prepared and knowledgable.  My first recommendation is that you gain a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology, as well as massage/physical manipulation techniques.  These skills can be immeasurably helpful in assessing and treating injuries.  Secondly, find a good pediatric chiropractor in your area...chiro care for kids is great not only for the normal accidents that accompany childhood (which can cause long-term spinal and postural complications), but also for a healthy and well-functioning immune system.

Rx Review
*Many herbs are excellent for sprains, ligament/tendon injuries, fractures, etc.  If you cannot make your own herbal tea/tincture, Dr. Christopher's Herbal Formulas of BF&C and Kid-e-Calc are good choices for these occasions.

My preferred herbs for injuries of this nature in children are:

  • Comfrey = cell proliferant (causes rapid cellular regeneration)
  • Marshmallow Root = anti-inflammatory; excellent in poultices (very soothing to inflamed tissues)
  • Lobelia = anti-spasmodic, strengthens vessel walls
  • Horsetail = collagen production; excellent source of silicon (tissue/bone builder)
  • Oatstraw = nerve relaxant, calcium/magnesium source
  • Nettles = high nutritive value: iron, silicon, potassium, calcium, vitamin k; increases circulation, shrinks inflamed tissues

These herbs (in "whole herb" form...look for a forthcoming post on that topic) can be used both internally and externally.  If you have a prepared tincture, give up to 15 drops in water a few times daily. To make a tea, use equal parts of each herb, combining to form approx. 2 Tb. for a pint of boiling water.  Steep the herbs for at least 15 minutes (the longer you brew, the stronger the infusion).  You can administer this tea warm or cold; store it in the refrigerator and use within a couple days.

To make a poultice, grind the herbs as fine as you can (if you have powdered herbs, use those); I find it helpful to add ground flax seed to any herbal poultice mixture, as the flax binds the herbs together well.  Depending on the size of areas to be covered, you may need more or less herb mixture.  For small children, make about 1/4 cup of herbs.  Add warm water until the herbal mixture is paste-like.  Make more if necessary.  Apply directly to skin and wrap with a cotton cloth (flour sack towels or strips of old t-shirts work well).

An easier way to apply herbs externally to small children is to soak a cotton cloth (or flannel) in a warm preparation of a strong herbal brew.  Wring out the cloth and lay it on the affected area overnight.

The easiest way to apply herbs externally is a salve (or ointment).  My Super Salve (soon coming to the store section of this website) contains bone/tissue/ligament building, cell regenerating, nutritive herbs that provide therapeutic healing for injuries and many more complaints.  Salves are a convenient way to quickly (and more cleanly) apply herbs to acute injuries.

Using ice on injured areas is an excellent part of the healing regimen.  If possible, it is quite helpful to alternate ice and heat in 20 minute intervals a few times daily.  This protocol, however, seems to work better for adults than for perpetually squirmy children.

Don't forget to use epsom salt baths for your injured children.  Soaking in the magnesium reduces inflammation and pain, and aids muscle and nerve repair.  Check out the epsom salt council web site for more information.

Finally, a brief primer on helpful injury homeopathic remedies:

  • Arnica = trauma, bruising, strains/sprains, shock; use first and immediately
  • Ruta = injuries to bone covering (periosteum), particularly useful for wrists, knees, elbows, teeth; sprains/strains, injured ligaments/tendons; alternate with Arnica, every other hour during acute injury
  • (Rhus Tox is also useful for sprains, but is more applicable to general muscle stiffness with aggravation upon initial movement; this remedy is not indicated as strongly for bone and ligament injuries)

Depending on your child's injury, you may need additional or varying treatment protocols; use your best judgment.  Remember, no one knows your child as well as you do...listen to your instincts and do what you believe is best for your child.  See my Library for recommended reading resources.

Be well, and become your own expert!

EWWHerbals                                                                              "Every wise woman builds her house..."  Proverbs 14:1

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