Bone Broth for Building Energy and More

Bouillon, broth, clear soup

One of the latest nutrition trends hitting American cities and diets is bone broth. The New York Times recently published an article about it and New Yorkers can now snag a shot of mineral-rich goodness on their way out for the night. [1] While bone broth may be a recent discovery for hip restaurateurs and 21st century popular diet-makers, bone broth has long been used in various cultures around the world as a staple health elixir, particularly to support women’s health.

So what it is? Bone broth is made from animal bones boiled in water on their own or with select vegetables or herbs. Vinegar and salt are often added to help break down the bones and heat is applied for long periods of time, generally 6-48 hours, so the nutrients can leech into the liquid. Unlike a boxed or canned stock that you might find in a grocery store, bone broth is generally made with more bones than vegetables or meat. [2]

In some parts of China bone broth is called “longevity soup” and is taken for ailments of the digestive tract, to address weakness, and to reduce joint inflammation. Bone broth is part of postpartum recovery regimens in Hong Kong and “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” is a South American proverb according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. [3]

The widespread use of bone broth speaks to its many healing properties. Rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and many other trace minerals, bone broth nourishes the blood and is ideal for building energy and vitality in people who have just had surgery, are menstruating or about to menstruate, or who have just had a baby. Many natural and holistic healers also use bone broth to help boost fertility. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine for example, the marrow from the bones is said to build the kidney energy which must be strong if conception is to take place. [4]

The luscious gelatin that the bone broth contains has also been shown to help re/build joints and sooth connective tissues, including the lining of the stomach and intestines so whether you have a torn ligament or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bone broth may just help. How does it work? The jiggly gelatin that bone broth becomes when it cools essentially is made of all of the proteins, collagen, and goodness contained within the animals’ marrow and ligaments so the animals’ parts are essentially helping to rebuild your similar parts. Many people turn to supplements for these nutrients but bone broth provides a more bioavailable and digestable form. [5]

Before I share a recipe to make your own bone broth, I need to underscore how incredibly easy it is to make this. I demonstrate how to make bone broth in some of my cooking class workshops and people are overwhelmingly surprised at how simple this is and how little time it takes to make. In addition, it freezes well and is delicious on its own, as a warming drink on its own, or as the basis for soups or stews. Bone broth and stock can generally be used in recipes interchangeably but the amount of bone broth you use depends on how concentrated it is. If you’ve made a particularly rich and gelatinous broth, use a smaller amount, approximately 3/4 to 7/8’s the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, and dilute it with water.

Bone Broth Recipe

I actually base my chicken bone broth recipe on Weston A. Price Foundation’s recipe. I make a few tweaks but to learn those, you will need to attend one of my workshops. 🙂

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[1]Julia Moskin. “Bones, Broth, Bliss: Bone Broth Evolves from Prehistoric Food to Paleo Drink.” The New York Times, January 6, 2015.

[2]  Sally Fallon Morell. “Broth is Beautiful.” January 1, 2000.

[3]  Paul Pitchford. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002, p. 296; Aviva Jill Romm. Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2002, p. 179; Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Bone Broth—One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples.” December 16, 2013.

[4]  See for example: Aimee Raupp, “Using Homemade Bone Broth for the Treatment of Infertility.” Acupuncture Today. October, 2012, Vol. 13, Issue 10; Margarita Alcantara, “Traditional Chicken Bone Broth: A Recipe to Build Qi and Blood for Immune Building, Fertility, and Postpartum.” May 6, 2013.

[5]  RW Moskowitz. “Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease.” Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. October 30, 2000(2): 87-99; Mercola “Bone Broth.“; Dr. Josh Axe. “Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite.”

Turmeric: An Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory & Blood-building Powerhouse

Fresh turmeric

To me, turmeric is the golden nugget of medicinal foods. Its healing properties abound and it has been used in its native South Asia for thousands of years to address a variety of ailments from common colds to cancer, as well as heart and circulation issues, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, chronic joint pain, and as a poultice on cuts and scrapes.

Most people in North America know turmeric in its dried form, as a key ingredient in yellow curry powder, but turmeric is also increasingly available in its original root form. Like its cousin ginger, it grows in knobs underground and it looks a lot like ginger on the outside but the inside is a deep rich orange. Turmeric is generally more bitter than its yellow relative but it is also less spicy.

It is precisely this rich color that signals its powerful healing properties. Like other brightly-colored vegetables such as blueberries, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes, turmeric is loaded with antioxidants. Studies have recently begun to proliferate about turmeric’s anti-cancer properties and in fact, it purportedly contains more cancer-prevention compounds than other antioxidant-rich vegetable or roots according to a study published on Pharmacology Online. [1] It uses these compounds not only to starve certain types of cancers of the genes they need to grow but it also incites some cancer cells to kill themselves. [2]

Powerhouse almost seems too tame a word for the superhero that is turmeric. It also can help you feel like a superhero because of its anti-inflammatory properties. A key component of turmeric, curcumin, blocks some of the proteins that build up and cause pain. It thus makes a great addition to a post-workout smoothie, and is increasingly being used to prevent and treat chronic joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. [3]

Turmeric is also used to address PMS, calm uterine cramping, and help bring on menstruation by stimulating blood flow and balancing hormones. Its support for the circulatory system has been previously mentioned in my blog about treatments for varicose veins but turmeric is also used by herbalists to address ectopic pregnancies and as part of treatments to shrink fibroids. This is in part due to turmeric’s rich Vitamin B6 content which tones and fortifies blood vessels. [4]

Before diving into recipes and ways to integrate this amazing food into your diet… A warning: Turmeric’s rich color can stain sometimes temporarily but sometimes permanently. If using the root, be careful with porous surfaces that you care about (like wood, ceramic and certain knives). A bit of salt or baking soda usually remove its rich tannins but this type of abrasion may scratch the surface. In addition, it may take a while for the stain to come out and sometimes repeated use alone will ultimately remove the stain.

And now for the fun part….

Turmeric Root Tea
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2-inch piece of turmeric
  2. 1-inch piece of grated ginger
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. black pepper
  5. raw honey
Instructions
  1. Grate turmeric into 10 oz of water.
  2. Bring to a boil with grated ginger, cinnamon stick, and a pinch or two of black pepper.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, strain and add a few drops of raw honey.
Notes
  1. This becomes a rich-treat when made with your favorite milk instead of water. (I like almond, hemp, or coconut milk beverage.) Just be sure to warm it on a lower heat and do not allow the mixture to come to a full boil.
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Turmeric Powder in Indian Dal

Dal is a classic, warming Indian dish made from lentils or mung beans. It always contains a mixture of spices but turmeric is definitely the star. Check out this interesting article with a recipe at the bottom: Felicity Cloake. “How to Make the Best Dal.” The Guardian. 2 June 2011. [FYI, 400 grams of mung beans = a little bit less than 1 cup.]

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[1]  Sheel Sharma, et al. “Fortification of Traditional Recipes with Antioxidant Abundant Food Stuffs and Their Acceptability Evaluation.” Pharmacologyonline 3: 1374-1383 (2011) p. 1377.

[2]  Robin Rose Bennett. The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2014, p. 453; Dr. Claudia Welch. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2011, p. 185; World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric.

[3]  Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Curcumin: The Spice That is Better Than Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis.” June 16, 2012.

[4]  Susun S. Weed. Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health The Wise Woman Way. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 2011, p. 271; Dr. Robert E. Svoboda. Ayurveda for Women: A Guide to Vitality and Health. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000, p. 83; Lisa Gallant, “Turmeric: The Golden Goddess.” California College of Ayurevda.

Postpartum Exercise: Running Tips from a Breastfeeding Mom*

Crossing the Finish Line.RealGuest blog by: Stephanie Harad

I’ve always hated running and I’ve never thought of myself as athletic but after becoming a mom I decided to train for and run a half marathon. Becoming a mom was a huge identity shift for me and I lost my focus on pretty much everything else. After a while I felt like I needed to re-ground myself a little bit.

I began jogging with the stroller once or twice a week when my daughter was about 3 months old. I found that leaning on the stroller actually helped with the discomfort of running with heavy, milk-full breasts because it minimized the bouncing up and down motion. I also hiked a lot as long as my baby was willing to sleep in a carrier. As time went on she became less and less interested in being in a carrier for more than a few minutes and I simultaneously felt more and more healed from the birth and wanted to exercise a little more vigorously, so I started to increase my running. Though it was difficult, I found that I really cherished those times that I was really in my body, using it to get fit and take care of myself after spending the rest of my time dedicated to my baby’s needs.

So why running? It seemed like a realistic form of exercise for me as a nursing mom. I love the bicycle but it took way too long to get a good workout on a bicycle and my toddler will not happily sit in a bicycle seat for hours. Swimming or going to the gym was out of the question for me because driving took an impossible amount of time. Running is something I could do with a stroller if necessary and I could do it right out of my front door. I could have used exercise machines and DVD’s at home of course but leaving the house was a very important mental health component of my exercise choice.

Eventually, I needed a goal that was going to be hard to achieve but possible, that was completely about me and something I’ve always kind of wanted to be able to do but never thought I could. I happened to hear that there was going to be a half marathon in my town in the fall and it felt like the perfect thing to try. There were many things that appealed to me about racing (though I had never done it before) but the social component was a huge factor. Being a new mom has been such an intense experience for me, figuring out so much on my own because no other baby is exactly the same as mine– it can be isolating. Running a race, however is an incredible feeling because there are hundreds or thousands of you all undertaking the same challenge in the same way and so many people cheering for you and supporting you along the way and after. And if you’re lucky you can even find a buddy to train with, though I did not regularly train with anyone because I wanted to make sure I was going to go slowly enough to avoid injury – more on that below.

When I started training, I was still breastfeeding on demand around the clock, about 6-8 times in a 24-hour period. I was concerned about the impact that increasing mileage would have on my body because I still hadn’t gotten my period so I wasn’t sure if I was already lacking something nutritionally and was going to further tax my body and thus deplete my milk supply. I was unable to find professionals to consult about this but I did know another breastfeeding mom who ran a great deal more than I would be running and I figured I would just try it and listen to my body. In terms of finding information about how to train for a run and what to do when injured, etc., I just used my social networks. I posted questions on Facebook and found that I had a lot of acquaintances who are experienced runners. I found them to be much more helpful resources than the local doctors I visited. For example, there are a lot of training plans out there and, after consulting my runner friends, I decided on the Hal Hidgon Novice program even though it is not geared specifically for mothers but it was the most reasonable for me.

Training for a distance race felt pretty rigorous as an inexperienced runner. Most training plans require you to run 4x a week and cross-train another day. If you are a nursing mom, that kind of time commitment can be really difficult to pull off but I also felt like it provided a very real and compelling reason for me to take a break from all my mom-related duties almost every day. I felt I couldn’t miss too many workouts or I wouldn’t be ready for the race so I was very motivated to carve out that time for myself in a way that I wasn’t when I was just running for fitness a few times a week.

Of course a nursing mom may not be the running-focused, shockingly unencumbered, fit and resilient male athlete who is the intended audience of running books and blogs. A nursing mom is full of bone- and ligament-softening hormones and is often getting very little sleep, not to mention giving most of her calcium and vitamin D away all day. So we are much, much more prone to injury and have to be a LOT more careful than most people. Running injuries are ubiquitous anyway and can be serious, sidelining athletes for 3-6 months or longer, which is also devastating on a mental health level. I sustained some minor injuries to my feet and knee always after running faster than I should have. Again my runner friends were incredibly helpful with advice on how to take care of myself when injured. While seeking professional help can be important, people who have a lot of experience running have usually dealt with a lot of injuries and can share what works and what doesn’t.

When you start training you will start to see how incredibly addictive running can become even if you used to hate it, even if you still hate it. The race itself was a party the whole time with people playing music and cheering all along the way. And that feeling when I crossed that finish line, achieving my goal is something I will remember forever. I’m grinning as I type this. I felt unstoppable, even as I choked on the watermelon Gatorade that I foolishly drank at mile 12.5. And my baby saw all of this. She saw that I worked so hard to do something that I used to dismiss as impossible. (Also, babies and toddlers really like race packets. My daughter still asks me regularly if we can go get a race packet.) Now I’m thinking of training for a full marathon next year. My breast milk supply was not affected and I’m still breastfeeding on demand. I am so glad I took on this life-changing challenge and was able to model this for my baby. I highly recommend it or something like it!

And if this is something you are considering, here is some advice to help you stay healthy:

  1. Don’t let the time commitment to train scare you off! You can totally adjust as needed! I went on vacation towards the end of my training and didn’t run for a week and I didn’t lose my fitness. An important thing that I was advised though, is that when you do miss workouts don’t try to make up the miles because that may lead to injury. Just skip it if you skip it.
  1. If you nurse right before running, wait until the fuzzy, gooey, gummy-boned feeling goes away before you run or stretch too much. That feeling happens as a result of a hormone surge and it increases your likelihood of injury because the hormones are softening your ligaments and tissues and bones. For me, it takes about 45 min to go away but it’s different for everyone. To protect those bones and ligaments and muscles further, I was advised to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements if you are not already.
  1. Go slow and don’t do speed work. Most of us with little time want to get the biggest bang for our buck when we exercise and are used to working out very hard. Training for long races is all about learning how to hold yourself back. It is hard in the beginning but so important to minimize the risk of injury and hopefully help you learn to run negative splits (not burning yourself out in the beginning of the race so you can run the second half of the race faster than the first half) . If this is your first long distance race a great goal is just to finish so you don’t have to worry about speed. Even if you do have a time goal remember that you generally go faster on race day than you do in training, especially in long distance races, so you don’t have to worry too much about speed in your training My race was mostly downhill but I ran about 2 minutes per mile faster in the race than when I trained.
  1. Hydrate! Breastfeeding mothers need a ton of hydration so hydrate more than you think you do. I’m all about sports drinks when running even though I know they’re gross.
  1. Always stretch after each run. Use a foam roller as often as possible at night before bed. I know as soon as you walk in the door you’re on baby duty and it’s very hard to stretch but some stretches you can do while nursing. Or stretch outside in front of your house before you walk in even if you feel ridiculous.
  1. And finally, make sure to eat healthy fats and carbs. Runners need increased amounts of fats and carbs and breastfeeding runners even more so. Pregnancy and the first year and a half or two after giving birth are such a special and intense time regarding your relationship with your body and the way that it changes. I know for me I was carrying around more weight than I ever had when I began running, and when I did introduce running I felt a not-even-totally-conscious desire to try to get my body back to my ideal of a totally fit/athletic body. But this really isn’t the time to do that and I had to work very hard to resist it. Your body is working so hard to provide fuel for you to breastfeed, to function on no sleep, and to do all this running. You need the carbs and fats that you are craving in order to stay healthy and keep making milk. (Wooden Spoon Wellness’s Pre- or Post-Workout Muscle-Builder Smoothie, for example, satisfies a lot of these needs, FYI.) Back in the thousands of years ago times, we used to live in tribes where there would be lots of lactating women who could feed each others’ babies in a pinch so evolutionarily your body is wired to keep your vitamins and minerals for yourself and stop producing milk if need be. You have to make sure your body feels like it has enough to go around. The positive side to this unique period of closeness with your body is that you are able to hear loud and clear what your body needs and it’s easier to listen to it.

Stephanie Harad is a social worker, mother to a very enthusiastic nurser, and an addicted runner. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her wife and daughter and sometimes blogs at Dispatches from the Motherland.

*Health coach’s disclaimer: This post is not meant to provide medical advice. If you are considering taking up long-distance running, even if you ran at one point in your life, first check with a licensed medical professional to ensure that it is safe for your body. Once cleared, rock on with your bad self!

Touch… for Your Health

As the weather begins to cool, it becomes easy to retreat into our caves. Hibernation syndrome starts to kick in (particularly amongst those of us who live in pedestrian or bike culture), we crave more sleep as the sun sets earlier and earlier, or we start to feel that change of season cold and stay inside to rest. While listening to our bodies is important, various medical practices believe that going the route of the hermit may not always serve us, especially if we are not feeling well or if we are low energy. In fact, safe touch with another human being in sexual or non-sexual ways can heal various physical and mental ailments.

A recent articleHolding hands on wooden background in Women’s Health magazine, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” discusses new studies about the many ways non-sexual touch can help cure physical and emotional ailments. [1] Massage, for example, has been shown to trigger immune-building cells. In addition, it stimulates the brain to release hormones that relieve stress, reduce pain, create a sense of peace, and sometimes even happiness. [2] Even a soft touch on the arm or back when you’re not feeling well… Perhaps it depends on who is doing the touching but in situations that feel safe, how do you feel when someone you trust makes even that small gesture? If you’re not sure, notice your body’s response the next time someone touches you in a platonic way.

Safe sexual touch can trigger similar responses according to many schools of thought. As my acupuncturist said to me the other day (and as if we need another reason), Marvin Gaye had it right: sex can be healing. This is a core tenant of ancient Indian Tantric philosophy as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tantric beliefs posit that deep healing can result from sexual acts that stem from spiritual connection (as opposed to ego, pleasure-driven motivations). See for example, Dr. Rafe Biggs’ writings about the ways Tantric practices have enabled him to heal parts of his body and sexuality following a severe accident that left him quadriplegic. [3] Even WebMD asserts that doing the deed can cure the sneezes and a recent story published on CNN’s website claims that kissing can HELP migraines and cramps. (There goes the ol’, “I have a headache excuse…”) [4]

Whether we are in the mood to connect with other humans or not, platonically or sexually, if the opportunity arises and you are considering it, or you are craving connection, know that this can be a gift that you give to yourself. Ya know, for your health…

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[1]  Sushma Subramanian, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” Women’s Health magazine, March 7, 2014. See also Norine Dworkin-McDaniel. “Touching Makes Your Happier,” CNN Health.com, January 5, 2011.

[2]  See Ironson, G., Field, T.M., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I. , Tetenman, C., Patarca, R. & Fletcher, M.A. (1996). “Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity.” International Journal of Neuroscience, 84, 205-217; Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 May; 42(5):414-22. “Pilot study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and aggression in a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit.” Garner B1, Phillips LJ, Schmidt HM, Markulev C, O’Connor J, Wood SJ, Berger GE, Burnett P, McGorry PD.

[3] Dr. Rafe Biggs, “Tantra as a Healing Modality.” AwakeningBody.com, August 2008.

[4] Kara Meyer Robinson, “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex.” WedMD; Valerie Reiss, “8 Health Benefits of Kissing.” CNN Health, February 7, 2014.

Moving through Varicose Veins: An Overview of Eastern and Western Paths for Smoother Transit

Stop light, the red traffic lightAccording to a 2014 report from the Chicago Vein Institute, women are 10% more likely to develop varicose veins than men but women who have at least one parent with varicose veins are 35% more likely than men to develop them. [1] Why do these tricky veins affect more women than men and what are the various treatment options to encourage smoother blood flow?

Varicose veins are veins that are twisted and close to the surface of your skin and most often occur on legs and ankles, i.e. the places furthest from the heart and the places that bear the most weight. They swell and act like a really long stop light for the blood: Instead of the blood flowing down the body and back up to the heart smoothly, the blood builds up in the windy veins like bad traffic and becomes delayed in its return north. [2]

Externally they create blue-ish bumps on the skin and even mild cases of varicose veins can make some of us self conscious enough to keep our legs covered at all times. More severe cases of varicose veins can contribute to serious body image issues because they do not meet the dominant perception in Western cultures that sexy legs are smooth legs. Varicose veins emerge sometimes for reasons that are outside of our control though.

In addition to the genetic susceptibility mentioned above, varicose veins can be caused or affected by numerous factors. If you are susceptible to varicose veins, various things can aggravate your condition such as constipation and hemorrhoids, smoking and being overweight or obese. Women may be more affected by varicose veins because of unsupportive footwear, such as high heels. In addition, estrogen and progesterone stimulate blood vessels to dilate so if you are low in either of these which happens during menstruation, pregnancy, and during menopause veins may have a more difficulty opening and closing. In addition, pregnancy increases the volume of blood flowing through the body, adds extra weight, and puts more strain on vascular walls. [3]

Chemical birth control methods that hormonally regulate your menstrual cycle (what I call CBCMs) may also worsen varicose veins according to the Office on Women’s Health. [4] Chemical birth control methods act like traffic lights for your blood flow on top of an already existing air traffic control system. Imagine the air traffic control tower saying that the plan can land and go to Gate 44. The plane lands and then the CBCMs act like a stoplight on the runway telling the plane when to go or slow down or stop altogether. Your blood flow throughout your body is one system and their intervention into your menstrual cycle can assure a reliable schedule but it can inhibit the flow of blood in other places and cause delays.

As I’ve discussed in my other blog about chemical birth control methods, CBCMs help a lot of women but it is important to understand the risks on the rest of your body. Obviously, one way to potentially address varicose veins if you are on CBCMs is to stop taking them but this has other implications and may not be a realistic option for many women.

Eastern and Western medicine have treatment options as well as methods for easing symptoms. A (not-so-comprehensive) comparison is available on Natural Health Magazine’s website and includes suggestions from a yoga therapist, a naturopath and a dermatologist. In addition to putting your legs up the wall each day as mentioned by the yoga therapist and the supplements recommended by the naturopath, alternative treatments include acupuncture, massage, and low impact movement which can be very helpful in stimulating the circulatory system to move. [5]

Western health practitioners advocate for wearing supportive footwear and compression stockings, among other things. Surgery may be recommended for acute cases as well. This surgery used to be quite intensive and risky from what I understand. It involved a catheter through the groin and something called ‘vein stripping’ but according to WebMD, new, less invasive interventions have emerged. [6]

Many Eastern and Western trained health practitioners advocate for strong digestion that enables nutrients to nourish your connective tissues, strengthen veins, and help your body generally flow well without undue strain. Fiber in the form of ground flaxseeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruits can help with digestion. Fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles without vinegar, yogurt, and probiotics introduce healthy bacteria to the gut to help break down your food. In addition, bioflavanoids which are compounds found in berries, dark leafy greens, and onions, Vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits, and anti-inflammatory foods such as green tea, cayenne, and turmeric are all believed to support vein health. [7]

Regardless of the path you choose, there may be emotional components to your varicose veins as well. Generally speaking, are there other places in your life where you are experiencing a pooling of some sort—of toxic people, of non-nourishing thoughts that have lived in the back of your mind for some time, or an aversion to change or growth? Are there metaphoric red traffic lights that are stalling you and if so, what will it take to remove them from your path?

Here’s to a smooth journey.

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[1] Chicago Vein Institute. “Varicose Vein Statistics.” May 5, 2014.

[2] National Institutes of Health. “What Are Varicose Veins”.

[3] ibid.; Dr. John McDougall. “Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Varicose Veins.”; MotherNature.com. “Varicose Veins.”; A. Mashiah, et al, “Estrogen and progesterone receptors in normal and varicose saphenous veins,” Cardiovascular Surgery, 1999 April 7(3): 327-31.

[4] http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.html; See also Jamie Hergenrader, “The Dangerous Side of Birth Control,” Huffington Post, 7/31/13.

[5] Check out “Varicose Veins? Natural Secrets for Restoring Beauty,” by Maoshing Ni for more information on traditional Chinese medical approaches.

[6] WebMD. “New Treatments for Varicose Veins.”

[7] University of Maryland Medical Center, “Varicose Veins.”; Hamilton Vein Center, “Eat This, Drink That for Healthier, Stronger Veins.” February 12, 2013; “Health Advice: Varicose Veins.” The Telegraph.18 January 2010.

From the Garden: Eggplant for Your Delayed Aunt Flow

EggplantSeptember is perhaps one of the best produce months because we have the overlap of the end of the summer leaves, squashes, and cruciferous vegetables and the fall roots and squashes. Among the new plants we can eat fresh are eggplants (aka, aubergine, brinjal, bengan, elabatu).

Like other purple and red skinned produce, it is loaded with antioxidants. It is also high in fiber so it cleanses the digestive tract and is rich in Vitamin C and its skin is tauted as a excellent for the skin because it protects cells from inflammation. (See Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles by Allison Tannis)

Eggplants hold a special place in women’s health. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda recommended eating it if you want to bring on menstruation. For some, it works just by eating it once or twice. For others, it may take regular consumption to have an effect. (For more reading on this, see Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Michael Tierra.)

Some but not all practitioners believe that eggplant is best avoided if you have painful cramps, once your period starts, and during pregnancy. If you have questions as to whether it is right for you, as always, consult a natural health practitioner such as an acupuncturist, Ayurvedic healer, or integrative doctor. (If you would like recommendations in NYC, let me know.) This is also not to say that eating eggplant will cause a miscarriage. If you have made the choice to terminate a pregnancy, eating eggplant may not be the solution you are looking for. Feel free to contact me if this is an area where you would like support.

Eggplants are especially delicious roasted but if you’re not ready to turn your oven on just yet, here is a simple stovetop side-dish that includes cumin seeds which are a great source of iron according to one of my favorite sites, The World’s Healthiest Foods. The iron in cumin is helpful for building blood and thus helpful support before, during, and after menstruation. ¡Buen apetito!

  1. If you have a hard time digesting peels and/or you really do not like to eat the peel, peel the eggplant. Otherwise, just peel off a few strips and leave some of the peel on to gain from the antioxidants in the purple shell.
  2. Dice small-ish eggplant into 1-inch cubes, about 2 cups
  3. SIDENOTE: Many culinary traditions recommend salting eggplant before cooking in order to reduce the bitter taste as well as oil absorption. For the purposes of using eggplant as a healing food, consider NOT salting the eggplant as salt can inhibit circulation and the purpose of cooking this superfruit is to improve blood circulation.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil of your choice over low heat. (Extra virgin olive oil, ghee, or untoasted sesame oil are my favorites for this dish.)
  5. Add 3/4 Tbsp cumin seeds and ½ Tbsp crushed, dried rosemary in a sauté pan or wok and toast until fragrant, about 5 mins.
  6. Add eggplant to the sauté pan, coating the egpplant well in the oil and fragrants.
  7. Cover and sauté over low heat, approximately 15 minutes, tossing regularly until the eggplant are tender and a fork easily goes through and each piece is brown.
  8. If you have not eaten much salt or salty (often prepared) food that day and you generally do not have issues with blood pressure or blood flow issues, add a pinch or two of salt in the middle of cooking.
  9. Serve with a sturdier whole grain like millet or brown rice or fish. Click here to download the latest guide and app to determine which fishes are sustainable and healthy.

 

Corn Silk: A Natural Remedy for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Green corn field growing upFresh corn-on-the-cob may be a favorite grilling vegetable but don’t toss its outer shell too quickly. Indigenous Americans and communities throughout Latin America and Central Europe have long used corn silk as a remedy for urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder infections, bed-wetting, as well as prostate problems. A 2012 article published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmocology reports scientific evidence for corn silk’s healing properties as well.

While many people in the US turn to cranberry juice or cranberry supplements when they have signs of a UTI, cranberry juice most often contains processed sugar and additives and can sometimes irritate the bladder or aggravate preexisting acid reflux. Like cranberries, corn silk is a diuretic but it also contains unique anti-inflammatory compounds as well as Vitamin K and potassium, which support blood circulation. Note that corn silk’s high amounts of potassium can interact with some blood pressure medication so you should check with your doctor if you have questions about this.

The tea that is made from corn silk is very mild: It tastes like sweet corn water. It generally resolves mild UTIs within a day or two. According to many herbalists, small amounts of corn silk tea are safe to drink during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and for children but, as with any herbal remedy, consult your physician if you have concerns.

It is important to note that most corn in the US is sprayed with chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Many studies have shown that these toxins can negatively affect human cells. Use non-GMO corn or organic corn if possible.

Cornsilk Tea
For Adults
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Ingredients
  1. 1-2 tbsp of freshly peeled corn silk
Instructions
  1. Bring approximately 10 oz of water to a boil.
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of freshly peeled corn silk.
  3. Turn off heat and cover.
  4. Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Strain and enjoy.
Notes
  1. Herbalists generally recommend drinking 1-3 cups per day. Note that this does not last in the refrigerator beyond more than a day or so.
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In-vitro Fertilization: Take One, Take Two….

thoughtful business woman(Guest blog by Anonymous in Brooklyn)

Nearly a third of all cases of infertility are unexplained. For many women, this diagnosis can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re the kind of person that’s accustomed to knuckling down and getting sh*t done. There’s no “solution” to find—just a whole lot of hope. This was just the first of many things I had to learn to surrender to during my 5-year journey to attain the seemingly elusive and miraculous gift of pregnancy.

My partner and I eventually arrived at a point where IVF was our only remaining option. Again, this can be a very fraught decision for many couples: it’s taxing physically, emotionally and financially, and, you’re taking a huge leap of faith that all of this will result in an entirely new life. For me, the scariest part was investing all this money and failing (me, personally, disappointing my husband, my family, myself). When you do IVF, you feel like everything is riding on whether or not your body does what it’s “supposed” to do, which it hasn’t done up to this point. It’s far more complicated than that, of course, but it’s hard not to feel the weight of this venture on your shoulders.

Our first attempt, which fell over the December holidays, resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. I was devastated, and as much as my partner wanted to support me, I think it’s a difficult thing for a man to relate to, especially a loss early in the pregnancy. I didn’t know it intellectually at the time, but instinctively I sought out the support of other women – my mother, my sister, but also women who had the resources and knowledge to help me heal and prepare for my next try. This is what brought me to Rachel.

Rachel came to our meeting armed with bags of raspberry leaf tea (good for toning the uterus and balancing hormones) and an informational packet on other herbal and foods that would be helpful during this restoration period. She also strongly recommended that I seek out an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility and could treat me for three months or so before I tried again. At the time, the suggestion that I needed to slow down and wait was difficult to hear, but she helped me see that this time could be a blessing in disguise if I fully embraced it.

I followed all of Rachel’s advice, taking the space I needed to recover and build my confidence in my ability to get pregnant. I visited a fertility acupuncturist weekly, improved my diet by adding more greens and reducing sugar and gluten, and made time for yoga, running and mediation. I also focused on trying to kick ass at work, since I hadn’t been at my level best during the pregnancy loss. I actually ended up pushing my next fertility treatment back an additional month so I could take a trip with friends to Puerto Rico. The sunshine and warm seawater was the perfect, final preparation for my second try (which was a frozen embryo cycle, not full IVF).

I’m happy to report that this cycle was successful. All mothers-to-be face the uncertainty that the first trimester inherently brings, but now I feel l have the tools to sit with my anxiety (thank you, Pema Chodron) and take positive steps toward maintaining my health and, hopefully, the pregnancy.

I’m sharing this story because I know from my visits to the clinic that there are so many women struggling with infertility and finding the right resources and support is essential to maintaining your wellness and sanity. Truly, there is a good bit of magic to how this baby thing happens, for every woman who tries, and learning to let go, in whatever form that manifests, can be an enormous help.

 

4 Ways to Stay Fresh “Down There” during Biking Season

Woman On Cycle Ride In Countryside

I am a seasonal, recreational biker: like many around the city, I roll around town in my sundress and strappy sandals to meet friends and run errands, hopping on and off my ride multiple times throughout the day. Perhaps you or your friends are similar.

As easy, breezy as this sounds, your vaginal health is no joke. If you are like me, you need a serious vag strategy each time you venture out because a variety of factors can lead our lady parts to become the ideal playground for yeast infections and other infections. So how can we stay fresh and sprightly during the upcoming sweaty summer days? Here are four tips.

  1. The case for full cotton undies: they breathe. Synthetic underwear, all thongs, including cotton ones, and bathing suits do not breathe. They trap moisture and all of the things that grow in moist conditions much more than full cotton underwear. One day someone will make sexy, affordable organic cotton underwear. (Can someone please get on that already???!!!) Until then, give yourself the gift of air and rock the cotton while you ride. If you must, change into the sexy pair only once you arrive at your sexy destination and after you’ve cleaned off. (See #4 below.)
  2. Don’t shave or wax right before you get on your seat. Do it the day or the night before if you can. Especially if you have sensitive skin and/or are prone to bumps, rub a small amount of virgin coconut oil onto the outer areas where hair has been removed. Do not glob it on. A little bit goes a long way. Coconut oil moisturizers and has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can prevent chafing, bumps, and potentially infection.
  3. Limit or cut out your sugar intake, especially if you’re going from bike to bikini and back. This includes alcohol. Candida, the source of yeast infections, feed on carbohydrates so the more you consume, the more they consume which leads to candida overgrowth and thus infection. If you must drink alcohol (responsibly of course), at least replace the sugary mojito or yeast-filled beer with a glass of wine or vodka and seltzer with lime. Wine and vodka have alcoholic sugars in them but they contain fewer carbohydrates than sweet mixed drinks or beer.
  4. Wash. Gynecologists and women’s health practitioners the world over will agree that it is best to wash with mild soap and water after and in between rides. If you are in a pinch or feel that a refresher is in order, many find it helpful to wipe down the outer and inner lips with a mixture of water and tea tree oil. Fill a small, spill-proof bottle that you can easily carry around in your bag with 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and 1/3 cup of water. The tea tree oil disinfects and feels oh-so-nice. It may tingle for a few minutes but it should not severely burn. If that happens, it is possible that you added too much tea tree. Wash yourself off well with soap and dilute your mixture with more water. Be careful to use this trick in moderation (not more than once a day and not several days in a row) because tea tree can dry out your skin.

If all else fails, and you fall prey to a yeast infection, check out this updated blog, “Curing That Not-So-Fresh Feeling,” with natural remedies for returning your hoo-hah to its healthy, beautiful state.

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A Mother’s Day Revolution

circle of armsTo all the mamas out there and to the people who support them: Thank you. For the hours of labor, the sleepless nights, the tears (ours as well as yours), thank you. This blog however is directed to those of us who have mamas in our lives: I propose a cultural revolution that requires your action if it is to succeed.

Some cultures throughout the world—various Latino and West African communities and perhaps others— do not have a specific day dedicated annually to all mothers rather they honor their mothers on their birthdays– not on their mothers’ birthdays but on their own birthdays. They commemorate their birth each year by thanking the person who gave them life and by celebrating the anniversary of the work they did to bring them into the world and raise them.

Motherhood takes so many forms that we can expand the practice to include the many kinds of mamas we may have in our lives—biological mothers (the person who supplies the egg), birth mothers (the person whose body carries us), adoptive mothers (the person who made us who we are today), people have two mothers, their grandmother or an aunt raises them…

These people should be honored as part of any celebration of our own lives. What could this look like? On your birthday, call the mother/s in your life and thank them. Send them a card or a gift. Write a song to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” and sing it to them.

And there would likely be few protests to celebrating these fine people again on the second Sunday in May.

Who’s in???