Lyme Disease is on Vancouver Island: What Can You Do to Stay Safe

      Lyme-infected ticks are, and have been on Vancouver Island for much longer than the public has been aware of. Part of the problem has been that until very recently, health officials here were told that Lyme disease did not exist on Vancouver Island. Medical boards & health authorities did not have accurate information and were not trained to test for Lyme disease.

        Many people on Vancouver Island that have been infected with Lyme disease were given inadequate testing (if any) as well as inadequate treatment, including Dr. Martin Rodgers who was bitten at his home on the Malahat. Rodgers developed a bulls-eye rash (rashes only occur in approximately 30% of Lyme patients with only 9% reporting the classic "bulls-eye" formation) and was given two days of antibiotics and told not to worry. After developing classic Lyme symptoms such as chronic fatigue and pain, he had to obtain a test result from a US private labratory which confirmed the presence of Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria which causes Lyme Disease.

       Dr. Lucy Kinninmonth, a veterinarian from Vancouver Island has seen about 20 specialists who had tested her for everything but Lyme disease because doctors told her "We don't have Lyme disease here". She finally had to spend 900.00 to send her own blood sample to a lab in California and her result came back as strongly positive for Lyme. 

       There are at least four species of ticks known to carry Lyme disease on Vancouver Island. There is also a species that is carrying another Lyme causing bacteria called "Borrelia genomospecies 2" that is commonly found on rabbits, but can bite anyone and potentially spread Lyme disease. 

      Thankfully, things are starting to shift- largely in part because of the work of non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) as well as new legislature thanks to Elizabeth May and the Green Party that will start to change the way Lyme Disease awareness, testing and treatment occurs in Canada. Elizabeth May's Private Member’s Bill, C-442, the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act was passed unanimously at third reading by the Senate the morning of Friday, December 12, 2014, making it the first piece of Green Party legislation in Canadian history. Just one more reason to love Elizabeth May and the Green Party! 

      Now that the medical community are recognizing that Lyme disease is on Vancouver Island and that it is a serious potential threat to public health, it should make proper diagnostic and treatment more accessible as time goes on. To prevent Lyme disease, it is important that everyone become aware of tick prevention methods as well as safe removal techniques and that people make themselves aware of what to do as far as medical attention and testing are concerned if bitten by a tick. 

      When hiking in the woods, or generally spending time outdoors, wearing light colored clothing can be helpful. It is easier to spot ticks on white or very light colored clothing than dark colors like brown or black. Tying hair back, tucking socks into pants and wearing long-sleeves and pants will help decrease surfaces for ticks to bite. Remember, ticks do not jump down on you from above- they cling to you when you brush by bushes (like Scottish Broom), plants and animals or if you are laying on the ground and crawl up until they find a nice place to bite. 

      When you finish your hike or time outdoors, do a tick check of yourself and kids. Especially inspect around and inside ears, belly buttons, arm pits and the groin area as ticks like dark, moist areas where they will be most concealed. Give your head a thorough check as well. A brilliant and inexpensive tool that can help pull off unwanted, unattached ticks, is a lint roller. Simple roll the lint roller up and down your legs, arms and torso to help remove any ticks you may have missed with just your eyes (ticks can be so tiny!). 

      Officially, the recommendation is to wear an insect repellent with DEET (yikes!) but if you're like me and want to avoid potentially harmful substances- try making your own or purchasing one like I make with herbal tincture and essential oils. My general recipe is as follows: 4-6 oz of Yarrow tincture (1:2 from fresh flowers) with 40-50 drops of catnip, eucalyptus, lavender and lemongrass essential oils and about a 1/2- 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin. I spray this on every 15-30 minutes when tromping through the woods. 

      The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) states that Lyme disease is less likely to be contracted if a tick is removed within the first 24 hours of it biting you. They recommend that you NEVER burn or smother a tick, but instead use a pair of needle nose tweezers to gently but firmly pull the tick straight out by gripping its mouth piece. For more information on safe tick removal check out their website here: https://canlyme.com/lyme-prevention/tick-removal/

      CanLyme also has a really awesome tick kit that includes several tick removing tools, an ID card, containers to place a tick and directions on where to send it, etc. The best part is, it's only 15.00! It can easily fit in your backpack, pocket or first aid kit. I highly recommend it, especially if you have children or pets and love to play outdoors! 

       If you have been experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease and even if you have received a negative test result in Canada- that doesn't guarantee you don't have Lyme disease. Tests in Canada are highly controversial and considered by many to be faulty and inaccurate. Many people have spent months or years trying to get a proper diagnoses only to finally send away their samples to a private lab in the states and get back the result that they are positive for Lyme disease. For more information on testing see here

     Finally, remember that our herbal allies are all around us and they are powerful healing and restorative beings. Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner (one of my favorites... and he's from British Columbia!) has an entire book dedicated to helping people with Lyme. He outlines the most powerful herbal allies in combating Lyme Disease- with or without antibiotics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about herbal medicine for Lyme Disease. You can find it on Amazon here.

      Enjoy the outdoors, everyone! 

Boost & Ensure: Junk "foods" Masquerading as Health Products

        My grandmother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer three years ago; she could barely swallow. The emotional stress of being diagnosed with cancer coupled with the physical stress caused by the invasive treatments of chemo, radiation and surgery left her further weakened and with little appetite- and still a very difficult time eating and drinking, let alone just swallowing. 

       My grandmother put all of her trust and good faith that the doctors would "cure" her. She truly believed that they knew best and that it was their job to get rid of the cancer. When she was first diagnosed, I wanted so badly to help her understand cancer through a more holistic approach; help her understand about the interplay between our environment (both internal and external) and its effects on our genes, about oncogenes and proto-oncogenes, nutritional deficiencies and especially about the immune system and how malfunctioning of the immune system is most likely one of the most important factors that lead to cancer. 

      I brought over books and DVD's to help inform my grandmother- but all this accomplished was drastically raising her blood pressure. Grandma was in her early 70's, she did not want to make drastic dietary and lifestyle changes. She was stressed out, and scared. It was then that I realized that my methods were not going to help my grandmother. I realized that all I could do was be there and love her.

     It broke my heart, however, to see the way the hospital was feeding her- with sugary liquids containing little to no real nutrition. I comforted myself that when she came home, that would change- but the doctors sent her home with bottles and bottles of "Ensure" and recommendations for "Boost". I had my grandfather try to make smoothies, broth and soups (which he did), but she kept on drinking the Boost and Ensure despite our attempts.

This is the ingredient list and nutrition facts on Boost:

These are labels from Ensure products:

       To give you something to compare this to, keep in mind that a 50g Coffee Crisp Candy Bar contains 32g of total carbohydrate. The Ensure 57g serving contains 34g of total carbohydrate and the Boost contains 41g of total carbohydrate! Aside from water, the main ingredients in this disgusting concoction are all just forms of sugar (from GMO corn to boot!). 

      Ensure is owned by Abbott Nutrition²- a giant food corporation trying to greenwash you into thinking their products are health foods. Abbott Nutrition is part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Abbott has given nearly a million dollars to fight GMO-labeling¹(not surprising given that most of their ingredients come from GMO crops). 

Lets look closer at some of these nasty ingredients:

Corn Syrup Solids: This is made by dehydrating corn syrup. It's 100% glucose. 
Corn Syrup: There are many studies linking corn syrup and corn syrup solids to diabetes and cancer (that's right, cancer, the very ailment my grandmother was trying to overcome). See this article.

Corn Maltodextrin: Read "sugar" with a high glycemic index. Read here for more information about maltodextrin and it's hazards to health. 

Corn Oil: Ignoring for a moment all arguements for or against GMO's, I want to highlite that corn oil is primarily made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids most of which are called "omega 6" or Linoleic Acid. Your body will convert this acid into GLA which will in turn convert to smaller amounts of arachidonic acid as well as prostaglandins (eicosanoids). An important enzyme, D6D (delta-6 desaturase ) is required to produce eicosanoids and if D6D is impaired, then the body is not able to use the Omega-6 it’s getting to produce the required prostaglandins. For the majority of people, this isn't a major problem- but diabetics and people with thyroid conditions commonly have difficultly making adequate amounts. Overeating, undereating, nutritional deficiencies, overconsumption of alochol and sugar can also all affect D6D production. In North America, most people already consume far too many omega 6's in relationship to omega 3's (largely because of vegetable oils in processed foods). Basically the corn oil in this formula is a highly processed oil that should be replaced with healthier alternatives.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/302830-health-risks-of-corn-oil/
https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/know-your-fats/gamma-linolenic-acid/

Cupric Sulphate: A fungicide that is toxic and can cause gastrointestinal issues, anemia, and even death at high doses. It is also genotoxic, meaning it can cause the cells to mutate due to genetic damage.  ³

Natural & Artificial Flavors: Can include dozens of different chemicals derrived from inorganic or organic materials that can all negatively impact our health.

Chromium Chloride: Toxic. See here.

Sodium Selenate: Some question this byproduct of copper metal refineries and believe it to be toxic. Read here.

Synthetic forms of vitamins and poor quality minerals: Synthetic forms of vitamins do not work as well in our bodies. Period. They are harder to absorb, harder to eliminate and can actually contribute to other nutritional imbalances. All of the vitamins and minerals in Boost and Ensure are synthetically produced or derived and of the cheapest quality. 

In conclusion, Boost & Ensure are not healthful products for anyone- let alone sick or dying people. Their cheap ingredients bring them millions of dollars in sales (Ensure brought in 1 billion in sales in 2009 and has been steadily growing) but won't bring you the results they advertise on their packaging. You would be better off to throw some fruit, milk, maybe a greens powder supplement, or some herbal infusion into a blender and drink that. Broth has historically been consumed as a healing food for the sick- and with good reason. Properly prepared bone broths contain large amounts of gelatin and easily absorb-able minerals as well as other nutrients from the marrow. Ditch the inadequate sugary substitutes, break out your blender and eat some soup! 

 

 

Soy: Cautions & Truths

         In North America, soy foods have appealed to vegetarians and health conscious men and women for decades now, as more and more people seek alternatives to animal products and seek to make substitutions for dairy due to allergies. 

         There is this huge misconception that the Asian populations have been consuming soy for thousands of years and that they consume it in place of meat. The reality is that soy was originally used as an important rotation crop for the Chinese populations in order to fix nitrogen into the soil. It was only after the discovery of important fermentation techniques something during the Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC) that soy became a popular food in the form of highly fermented tempeh, natto and tamari. 

      The average consumption of soy in China is actually only about two teaspoons per day and one or two tablespoons per day in Japan. Soy is considered more of a condiment and definitely not as a replacement for animal foods, as it is most typically consumed in a mineral rich fish broth. 

        The truth is, over consumption of soy foods can lead to mineral deficiencies, a depressed thyroid (hypothyroidism), disrupted endocrine function and potentially infertility and breast cancer. 

       Soy contains the highest levels of phytates of any grain or legume that has been studied and unfortunately those phytates are incredibly resistant to normal reduction methods such as sprouting and long, slow cooking and are only minimized during an extended and lengthy period of fermentation. Phytates interfere with mineral absorption and block enzyme activity. 

       Soy foods also contain Trypsin inhibitors, phytoestrogens as well as the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, which are potent inhibitors of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of the thyroid hormones.

        In this author's opinion, fermented soy foods such as miso, tamari, natto and tempeh are they only safe soy foods. I encourage anyone consuming soy to treat it as a condiment, the way the Asians do, and to consume it along with mineralizing fish or bone broths. 

Sources:

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-ploy-of-soy/

http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/soy-alert/thyroid-cancer-on-the-rise-is-soy-a-cause/

        

       

The Shocking Truth About Heart Disease

     Rudolf Steiner (if you don't know him, look him up!) had ideas that the three most important ways for humanity to reach further evolution were: 1. That people stop working for money. 2 That people realize there is no difference between sensory and motor nerves and 3. The heart is not a pump. 

     After reading the latest addition to my personal library, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart by one of my personal heroes, Dr. Thomas Cowen, MD and anthroposophical physician, I felt very called to bring further awareness to his research and try and give a very oversimplified summary of the information presented in this book, with a sincere hope to inspire further curiosity in readers that might lead to improved health benefits and disease prevention. 

      I'll try and boil it down for you. The true causes of heart disease are as follows: Hypertension, smoking, diabetes, physical & emotional stress, a sedative lifestyle and a poor diet. Don't roll your eyes at me yet. The exciting and new revelation about these causative factors is that they are causing heart attacks, not because of blocked arteries, because of cholesterol, (According to Dr. Cowen, more than 50% of people that have heart attacks don't have sufficient stenosis as to cause a heart attack) but because these factors are throwing off balance in the sympathetic nervous and parasympathetic nervous systems. Dr. Cowan points to four studies showing that "patients with ischemic heart disease have, on average, a reduction of parasympathetic activity of more than a third. Typically, the worse the myocardial infarction, the lower the parasympathetic activity" (56). 

     Basically, if you are chronically in "fight or flight", your body is always using it's sympathetic nervous system and unable to rest and heal from the parasympathetic nervous system. Heart attacks do not occur in people with healthy parasympathetic activity whom experience high levels of stress. It is only when the parasympathetic nervous system is chronically unable to nourish itself and that its overall activity is reduced, or down-regulated due to poor lifestyle choices, which leaves a person suffering from severe stress very vulnerable to a myocardial infarction. 

     When the person with a lowered parasympathetic activity is exposed to severe stress (emotional or physical), the increase in adrenaline directs the cells of the heart to break down glucose (sugar) using aerobic glycolysis, rather than it's preferred fuel of ketones and fatty acids.. Dr. Cowan states that "[a]s a result of the sympathetic increase and resulting glycolysis, there is a dramatic increase in lactic acid production in the myocardial cells... This increase in lactic acid results in localized acidosis, which makes calcium unable to enter the cells and the cells less able to contract".  This causes edema and diminished muscle function and the build up of lactic acid in the cells leads to cell death "which we call a heart attack". (58)

     Dr. Cowan states that "known things that nourish our parasympathetic nervous system are contact with nature, loving relations, trust, economic security, and sex". He stresses the importance of a diet high in good quality fats (especially grass fed butter) and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. 

     A simple theory- and yet it makes more sense than anything else I've ever read in medical texts or physiology books. Dr. Cowan's book also provides the most shocking, yet naturally logical scientific theory on the role of the heart. He talks about Steiner's theory about the heart as a seven sided form in a box as well as the fourth phase of water.

     To quickly summarize, when water is exposed to sunlight, the earth's energy, or energy from other living things, and touching a hydrophilic surface, it forms a fourth phase in which the water touching the hydrophilic surface becomes negatively charged in relation to the water not touching the surface. The negatively charged water excludes any toxins or other particles. When that hydrophilic surface is a tube (such as in our circulatory systems) a perpetual motion "machine" is created in that the positively charged water in the center is propelled upwards.

      Our heart isn't really "pumping" blood at all- in fact, when our blood reaches the capillaries, it stops and then gradually picks up speed again as it heads back for the heart. It is the structure of the water in our cells that propels our blood, not the heart. Dr. Cowan agrees with Steiner, who suggested that the heart is more like a hydraulic ram. In allowing the chambers of the heart to fill with blood, create a negative pressure and then flow on and vortices are created.  

      I feel that I am still digesting and integrating this knowledge. I encourage everyone to read Dr. Cowan's book, "Human Heart, Cosmic Heart" for more information! I hope all of you will take the time after reading this to go outside for a forest walk, hug a loved one and enjoy a healthfully prepared meal together!

     

Grains, Legumes & Nuts: A Guide for Proper Preparation

     It is a huge accomplishment and something to give yourself credit for when you make the switch to from white flour products and refined grains to whole grain flour and grain products. I love when I hear about people snacking on almonds instead of potato chips. You are doing your body a big service by ditching the refined stuff that does nothing for you (except rob you of much minerals & upset your blood sugar), yet, there are other important steps to preparing grains, nuts and legumes, that must eventually be incorporated into any holistic lifestyle approach. Without taking these steps, those whole grains may actually lead to mineral deficiencies and associated issues such as tooth decay! Not what you are going for!

     Grains, nut and legumes contain anti-nutrients (substances that interfere with nutrient absorption or cause us to lose more nutrients than we gain by eating them) such as phytic acid (phytates) &  lectins, the primary anti-nutrients I am going to focus on in this post. These anti-nutrients bind important minerals and prevent them from being absorbed as well as can act as enzyme inhibitors, interfering with digestion. The good news is that there are plenty of things we can do when preparing foods to minimize the presence of phytates and lectins. 

      Firstly, let's deal with the issue of trying to neutralize or reduce the overall amount of phytates in our grains, legumes and nuts. There is an enzyme called phytase that neutralizes phytates. Human's do not produce enough of it to safely consume high volumes of phytates, and different grains contain varying levels of the enzyme. Furthermore, heat destroys it. For grains, sprouting (malting) reduces some of the phytates by activating phytase, but fermentation is the best way to reduce the most phytates. I generally try and sprout my grains, or start with a sprouted flour and then put that up for a long soak with sourdough starter, freshly ground rye flour (rye contains the most phytase enzyme) or whey before cooking. Oats contain almost no phytase and require a very long soak with rye starter. Rice also contains very little and requires a long soak in hot water (a mason jar with a lid will do). Be sure to cook brown rice in bone broth with kombu sea-weed and add a generous amount of butter. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate all phytates, but simply trying to reduce them to safe and acceptable levels.

     For beans, sprouting seems to reduce phytates the best. Soak your beans over night and then sprout them using proper sprouting guidelines for 2-5 days. When my beans are finished sprouting, I soak them again for 12-24 hours in warm water with a few tablespoons of whey before cooking. 

      Nuts require a long soak (18 hours) before dehydrating and a light roasting to minimize phytates as much as possible. It is not recommended to eat more than a handful of nuts or seeds per day- especially if they have not been properly soaked first.

Here is a table to help you remember general soaking guidelines: 

td>
Grain/Legume Soaking Times Neutralizer & Water Amount Cooking Guidelines
Rice & millet 8-12 hours minimum at least twice as much water: grain 40-60 minutes
Quinoa 24 hours min w/ 1x rinse 1:3 water + 1 Tbsp acid (whey, ACV) 30min
Oats 12-24hours warm, add acidic, add rye 20-40min
All other grains 12-24 hours 1:2 water; add something acidic 20-60 min
Lentils 7-24 hours, warm add whey, APV or lemon juice 45-60min
Garbanzos 24-48 hours in warm (rinse every 7 hrs) Add whey, ACV, or lemon juice 4-6 hours, shorter the longer soaked
Kidey-shaped beans 18-24 hours warm recommend to use 2 Tbsp Baking Soda for every cup Simmer 4 hours or until soft
Nuts & seeds 18-24 hours warm Add salt & something acidic Dehydrate & gentle roast

       The soaking and fermenting of these foods will help reduce anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins and increase the available mineral content of the foods. To minimize the risk of these anti-nutrients further, cook with bone broth and sea-weeds for added minerals, add grass-fed butter and make sure your diet contains plenty of vitamin D, vitamin A and Vitamin C. These nutrients have all been shown in studies to help mitigate the effects of phytates. For example, vitamin D is used up in the body to reduce impacts by phytates and consuming extra vitamin D had a positive effect on phytate impact. For more information on this, research the Mellenby Studies. 

       Soaking and fermenting grains and beans may seem like a lot of work- but once you start doing it, you'll realize that it actually saves you cooking time and improves the flavors in the food- two added bonuses that make it well worth the extra few minutes it requires to improve the nutritional content of your food! 

      

St. John's (or Joan's) Wort. Hypericum Perforatum

        This marvelous plant with beautiful little yellow flowers never ceases to amaze me with it's healing powers. Hypericum is in the Hyperaceae family and flowers near the end of June on or around St. John's Day near summer solstice (hence it's common name). Some have confused this plant with it's relative, creeping St. John's wort, botanical name Hypericum calycinum but the two are not interchangeable. There are several plants of the Hypericum genus that can be used for herbal medicine purposes though they possess different properties. This post will focus on the Hypericum Perforatum variety only.

       This plant has been used since ancient times as a would medicine and is a specific for wounds to areas rich in nerve endings. It can be used for burns in all degrees, cuts and scrapes, and historically was even used to prevent tetanus. It is especially useful when wounds cause sharp, shooting pains or inflammation along the course of a nerve or where there is a pinched nerve.

       I have personally found the oil incredible effective for relieving neck and shoulder tension when massaged into that area. A few years ago, I had a low grade tension headache with a ultra tight neck and shoulders for four days. I had tried a handful of other remedies internally without much success. It seemed the other remedies were keeping a migraine at bay, but not addressing the underlying issue. It dawned on me to try St. John's wort oil , I could actually feel the tension melting away from my neck and shoulders until there was complete relief within a couple of hours. The tension did not come back.

      This year, due to poor posture with breast-feeding, baby hip-holding, and other self-inflicted injuries that result from being a mother to a baby, combined with a serious lack of exercise on my part, my lower back kept going out and causing me severe shooting pains. I would pick up my little guy and hold him for a while and when I would go to put him down, my back would jar and remain like that for days. I put on several topical pain remedies that offered some relief, but didn't fix it and then again I remembered I had St. John's wort tincture macerating. I strained out the flowers and took 10 drops. It took about an hour and then the entire area let go and relaxed, the tension was gone, and I regained full mobility and a sense of joy.

       St. John's wort has a special affinity to the solar plexus/nervous system of the body. It can be used to support people with anxiety, fear or depression. It is said to bring emotions and thoughts into synchronicity. It's flower essence is good for overload of information to help with processing.

     There are recommendations to exercise caution in taking St. John's wort internally if you are on antidepressants. Herbalist Susun weed says tincture is perfectly safe and people only run into problems when consuming capsules, watch her quick video on Hypericum here. I like to let people know about possible contraindications so that they can do their own research about their medications. This herb is so effective for the winter blues and depression that it has helped numerous people come off of medications altogether. 

      Many practitioners consider St. John's wort oil to be like a homeopathic chiropractic adjustment. For me, my personal experiences definitely confirm this opinion. It's also incredible anti-viral! The little yellow flowers of this beautiful plant make a vividly red tincture and oil. It will always have an important place in my herbal medicine chest and my heart!

      Starting on December 9, 2016 my apothecary, consultation space and educational services will be open! I have a limited stock of fresh Hypericum tincture and oil but once they're gone, I won't have more until next season! 

 

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

A Brief History of Kefir

Have you heard about water kefir yet? While many people have become familiar with a popular fermented beverage called "kombucha", water kefir remains a much lesser known fermented beverage. 

According to Sandor Ellix Katz, author or one of my favorite books, 'Wild Fermentation', "The kefir story is full of intrigue. The first kefir grains are said to have been a gift from Allah, delivered by his prophet Mohammed. The grains were treasured by the people who possessed them, passed down from generation to generation, and definitely not shared with strangers. Early in the twentieth century, the "All Russian Physicians' Society" became interested in obtaining the mysterious source of this healthful drink. Since the keepers of the grains did not wish to share them, this required deception and culture thievery. The scheme involved a young Russian woman named Irina Sakharova, whom the physicians hoped would be able to charm a Caucasus prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov, into giving her some kefir grains. He refused, she tried to leave, he had her kidnapped, she was rescued, and he was charged in the Czar's courts. For reparations, the young woman was awarded the treasure she sought; the court ordered the prince to give her some of his cherished kefir grains. In 1908, she brought the first kefir grains to Moscow. Kefir became, and remains to this day, a popular drink in Russia. In 1973, at age 85, Irina Sakharova was formally recognized by the Soviet Ministry of Health for her role in bringing kefir to the Russian people".

Wow! Isn't that amazing? And now thanks to that woman I have a fridge full of both milk kefir and water kefir to keep my family healthy!

I make both kombucha and water kefir (and milk kefir), but my first choice of beverage between the two, is definitely water kefir. It actually has more probiotic strains than kombucha and takes much less time to make. It is the perfect beverage for a hot summer day! Unlike kombucha, which has about a 2% alcohol content, water kefir is alcohol free, making it a wonderful probiotic drink for children, as well as adults! My son guzzles it! 
 

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease! What's a Mom to Do?

        My eldest son, eight years old, came down with a fever this past Sunday. Given that Pertussis is going around his school, I immediately put him to bed, started a pot of bone broth, put on some thyme infusion and garlic lemonade (recipes to follow) and started getting him to drink lots of each. His fever remained between 100.5 - 102 for 36 hours, after which he had a slightly sore throat for another day before bouncing back to his regular self (which is literally bouncing... off the walls). 

        He was back in school on Thursday, so when my 18 month old also came down with a fever on Wednesday night, I knew he caught what my eldest son had and was simply relieved that it wasn't Pertussis. He also had a mild fever between 100-102 for approximately a day and a half. During his fever, he didn't have much of an appetite and I really had to coax him to drink fluids. With any illness where fever is present, dehydration is always one of the main concerns. When his fever cleared, his appetite came back with vehemence and he was taking fluids normally.

         Imagine my surprise then, when I pulled back into my driveway this morning (Friday) after drop off. My little one had pulled off his booties and I noticed that he had a blister on his foot. I brought him inside and applied my herbal salve to his blister, changed his bum, gave him a big kiss and put him down. He grabbed a book and urged me to come read to him. When I pulled him onto my lap on the couch and saw his little fingers holding his book- I noticed a second blister on one of his fingers. Two blisters in different spots, when my child has never even had one- I knew it wasn't coincidence. 

      A quick google search for "blisters on hands and feet of baby" told me he most likely has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. It sounds awful, right? So I pulled out my text books, herbal guides and go to resources and learned all that I could about this virus. It turns out, luckily that it isn't nearly as awful as it sounds.

       Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD for short) is caused by a class of enterovirus called Coxsackievirus. There are numerous strains of the virus, so though exposure to one strain will result in permanent immunity- it is still possible to contract another strain and develop symptoms again. This class of viruses is so common that they are second to the common cold. Like so many childhood illnesses, the initial symptoms closely mimic the common cold.

       Symptoms include fever, sore throat, a rash or blisters on the mouth, hands and feet, though it may spread up the legs or arms, or onto the genitals too. There is sometimes little white sores in the mouth, loss of appetite (likely due to sores or fever) and diarrhea. Most children do not experience all symptoms. 

     Adults rarely get HFMD but it does happen. Since this virus is most contagious before symptoms ever show up, it is important to quarantine and treat the entire family. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-7 days and is spread via direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. This means sneezing, coughing, saliva, and feces so remember to make sure everyone is washing their hands really well! Wash your hands well after changing diapers too mums and dads! You may want to do a quick vinegar wash of door knobs, cupboard and fridge handles and frequently touched items as well. 

      Since conventional/modern medicine has little to offer children who have HFMD aside from Advil for discomfort or reduction in fever, it's important to know that there are many herbal remedies available that are antiviral, help support the immune system, and can help your child keep calm and rest. It is also important to note that fever suppression is not something to do when a fever is in a normal and safe range of 100-103. Fevers are the bodies way of literally burning off up the virus and should not be suppressed. If a fever goes higher than 104, you can try a tepid (luke warm) bath or herbal remedies- but do seek medical attention for an uncontrollable fever.

      My favorite herbal remedies with antiviral and immune boosting properties for children include lemon balm, peppermint and elderberry. These herbs are powerful, yet delicious and easy to get children to take. My eighteen month old loves lemon balm! You can make infusions (strong tea), use tinctures added to other liquid or syrups. Please don't give honey to children under the age of one due to risk of botulism and avoid giving juice to children unless is is heavily diluted as the high level of sugar is suppressing to the immune system. Contact your local herbalist (such as myself) if you are interested in having a custom anti-viral or immune boosting blend made up!

      Other helpful herbs that can and should be put into a soup or bone broth include Garlic, Onions, Astragalus, sea-weeds, Calendula, Oregano and Thyme. Make this into a delicious immune boosting soup or stew for your kids.
         Garlic "lemonade" can be made by adding 3-4 garlic cloves to a 1 litre jar and pouring boiling liquid over top. Allow this to steep and then mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice, and honey to taste. Note that this may be too acidic for children with very sore throats.

      To prevent secondary infection of the blisters, you can apply a salve made from one or a combination of the following: calendula, st. john's wort and usnea. You can also apply lemon balm tincture externally.

       If the rash is sore and irritating, oatmeal baths may be given and marshmallow or slippery elm tea can help sooth blisters and any irritation in the mouth or throat.

       Childhood illnesses are actually important strengtheners of a child's immune system. They exercise it, in a way, and I encourage everyone to look into the Anthroposophical view of childhood illness as a "soul-cleansing" experience. In other cultures, fever and childhood illnesses are through to help the child rid toxins from the body that may have accumulated in the womb. It is helpful to view illness as a positive and necessary process of becoming a strong, highly functioning, spiritual being. 

       One last note I want to leave you with is to continue to care for your child and keep them well nourished and rested in the convalescing period of the illness. My general rule of thumb is to allow for a convalescing period that is half the length of the duration of the illness. So if your child was sick for 4 days, allow 2 days of convalescing. 

      I'm officially on quarantine this week, friends while I help my child overcome this illness and support his development. Within an hour of the appearance of the first blister, several more had developed. Luckily I've got all the right remedies on hand! I hope this information can help other parent's in our area too! 

      

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My little guy having his nap... notice the little rash on his mouth. That rash appeared after his fever and I didn't link it to HFMD until this morning when I saw his foot. 

What's in YOUR Nutritional Yeast?

      According to Norm LeMoine, President of Radiant Life and Kayla Grossmann, RN there is only one brand of nutritional yeast currently on the market that is both non-gmo and non-fortified. You may be wondering why fortification is or isn't important and why I would bother writing a blog post about it.

       While nutritional yeast is a great source of many vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, iron, selenium, zinc and potassium. It is not, however a good source of any significant folate, nor does it contain B12 (of which the active form of is only found in animal products). Due to this, many companies decide to fortify their products with synthetic folic acid and/or vitamin B12 among others. According to LeMoine and Grossmann, if you see those nutrients on nutritional yeast labels "it is fair to assume they have been added". 

       While some companies openly admit to using synthetic nutrients (in which it is my professional opinion that only naturally derived nutrients are ideal for health) others claim to use naturally derived nutrients. The problem is that anyone can slap the word "natural" on anything because natural isn't regulated. This makes determining the quality of any naturally derived fortified nutrients really difficult to determine. 

     The other major issue when selecting a brand of nutritional yeast is whether or not it is grown on a genetically modified medium. Most nutritional yeast is cultured on sugarcane/ and or molasses. Since most of the sugarbeets grown in the United States are genetically modified or contaminated with genetically modified materials (95 % according to researchers at the Non-GMO Project) it is important to ask manufactures about their growing medium and GMO standards. There have been no non-GMO certificates granted to any producers yet, though many claim to be non-GMO. 

The following table has been excerpted from the Fall 2016 Issue of Wise Traditions, pg 43, published by the Weston Price Foundation. 

Company Name Fortified with Nutrients GMO Status
Bob's Red Mill Fortified with Synthetic nutrients Not Available
Bragg Fortified with natural nutrients Non-GMO
Frontier Fortified with Natural nutrients Non-GMO
Harmony House Fortified with Natural nutrients Non-GMO
NOW Foods Fortified with Synthetic nutrients Not Available
Red Star Fortified with Synthetic nutrients Not Available
Sari Only Naturally Occuring Nutrients Present Non-GMO

      Remember when shopping to take nothing at face value. Read labels and ask questions and remember that whatever you buy directly impacts your health, but also dictates which foods are in demand, how consumers what those foods produced and processed. Purchasing anything is like voting and the voice of the consumer matters. If products aren't selling, they will cease to be manufactured and if consumers demand higher quality foods and more transparency in order to purchase- companies will meet those demands in order to gain sales.

      A little bit of yeast may not appear to have a large impact on your health as far as synthetic nutrients or GMO is concerned, but when taking into consideration all the other sources of possible consumption of these things, you can see those levels start to rise and rise relative to an individual's intake. In any case it is some food for thought because at the end of the day "Nutrition Matters". 

Why Your Body Needs Carbs and the Dangers of Avoiding Them

        There was recently an article published in the Weston Price Wise Traditions Newsletter, titled "Why We Need Carbs" by Chris Masterjohn, PhD. It was great to see an article bringing attention to the importance of carbohydrates when there are so many people out there following highly restrictive diets that are severely minimizing or completely restricting carbohydrates, under the recommendations of many health advocates who mean well, but are misinformed or have been misguided. 

      While there are populations of people (such as diabetics, as an example) who absolutely need to pay close attention to their carbohydrate intake and restrict carbohydrates when necessary- the vast majority of people need not restrict or eliminate carbohydrates all together- but should instead focus on the quality of the carbohydrate (whole grain, sprouted, sourdough) while selecting a broad range of different sources of carbohydrates depending on what is locally available and in keeping with an individual's traditional background. 

       In the Wise Traditions article, Chris Masterjohn PhD reminds us that carbohydrates are integral to the body for structural purposes (for example,in DNA/RNA, in energy carriers, ATP, in extracellular matrices, and glycoproteins) for energy metabolism (especially for anaerobic glycolysis) and for antioxidant defense and nutrient recycling. 

        Many advocates of low-carb or zero-carb diets argue that we don't need glucose because our body can make it from proteins or fat via a process called gluconeogenesis. It is true that our well-designed bodies have made it almost impossible that we would ever actually suffer a deficiency of glucose- but gluconeogenesis has its downsides and forcing your body to compensate for excluding one of the key, basic dietary requirements may result in undesirable consequences to one's health.

         Chris Masterjohn PhD explains, "Gluconeogenesis in primarily stimulated by the adrenal hormone cortisol. Cortisol antagonizes thyroid hormone [they compete for receptor sites] and, when chronically elevated, impairs immunity. As we move away from burning glucose and toward greater reliance on fat, free fatty acids elevate. Cortisol augments this rise even further by causing us to release free fatty from adipose tissue. High levels of free fatty acids can impair thyroid hormone's ability to carry out its physiological functions within our cells even if blood levels of thyroid hormones remain normal". 

         It is not recommended to restrict carbohydrate intake below 100 grams per day. If someone wishes to do so Chris Masterjohn PhD recommends "a prudent approach to safety[:]... monitor stress, thyroid, and sex hormones, to ensure they all remain in optimal range." He also stresses that "physically active people...need considerably more than 100 grams [of carbohydrate per day] to prevent these hormones from going out of range.

          The most important advise anyone can receive in regards to nutrition is to listen to their body. Everyone is unique and therefor require varying levels of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Take into consideration where you come from, what your ancestors ate, as well as where you are living now and what is locally available. Those factors offer important clues for what constitutes an ideal dietary intake for someone. When it comes to choosing foods, it is always my recommendation to choose the most fresh, nutrient dense and properly prepared foods as possible. This ideally constitutes local, unsprayed vegetables and fruits, wild or organically raised, free ranged animal products and appropriate whole grains, lentils or pulses which have been soaked, sprouted or fermented prior to cooking and consuming.

         There is so much conflicting information available out there now. It is not surprising that many people are feeling frustrated when it comes to the simple question of what to eat. Remember that beginning on December 9th, 2016 I will be available to help you with all of your "Nutrition Matters".