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.

 

From the Garden: Easy Basil Dressing

Basil leaves on old wooden table.It was a cold and rainy day in April and the winter felt endless. My friend, Stephanie, and I were both desperate for warm, spring sunshine. We met at a French/Senegalese restaurant in Brooklyn called Cafe Rue Dix and ordered a simple salad of baby, mixed kale and avocado with basil dressing. I took my first bite and the fresh basil burst on my palette. It was as if the cold rain disappeared and my friend and I were transported to a sunny picnic in the middle of a flower field. Sometimes you need inspiration to imagine a different world and this was one of those moments. My friend instructed me to figure out how to replicate this dressing so here is my humble attempt. This one’s for you, Steph!

Easy Basil Dressing
Serves 1
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 4 large basil leaves
  2. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Rinse 4 large basil leaves (or 6 to 8 small/medium leaves) lightly under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Using a mortal and pestle, crush the basil with 4 tablespoons of good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Do this for a few minutes, releasing the oils from the basil until the leave begins to turn brown. The oil should taste sort of spicy in the back of your mouth.
  3. Strain the oil using a fine mesh sieve, and pour over your favorite salad, grain and vegetable dish, or lightly cooked fish.
  4. Sprinkle with rock sea salt. (This will cut some of the spice.)
woodenspoonwellness.com http://woodenspoonwellness.com/

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

Green corn field growing up

Fresh corn-on-the-cob may be a favorite grilling vegetable but don’t toss out its outer shell too quickly. Indigenous Americans and communities throughout Latin America, Central Europe, and the Middle East have long used corn silk as a remedy for urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder infections, bed-wetting, as well as prostate problems. [1]

Many of you may be asking, “But what about cranberry juice? Isn’t that the tried and true all natural go-to for UTIs?” Because of its bitterness, cranberry juice most often contains sugar which can actually contribute to bacterial overgrowth. It can also sometimes irritate the bladder or aggravate preexisting acid reflux.

Like cranberries, corn silk is a diuretic that flushes the system and makes you urinate 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.

Use non-GMO corn or organic corn if possible. Most standard corn in the US is sprayed with chemicals or is derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which have been shown to have potential negative effects on human cells. [2] If organic corn is not in season or you can’t find it, most herbalists or apothecaries should have it.

The tea that’s made from corn silk is very mild: It tastes like sweet corn water. It generally resolves mild UTIs within 3-5 days. 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.

Cornsilk Tea
For Adults
Write a review
Print
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.
woodenspoonwellness.com http://woodenspoonwellness.com/

 


 

[1]  A 2012 article published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmocology reports scientific evidence for corn silk’s healing properties.

[2]  See Arjun Walia, “10 Scientific Studies Proving GMOs Can be Harmful to Human Health,” April 8, 2014.

 

 

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

One of the things I love most about New York in the Spring is rolling carefree around town in my sundress and strappy sandals, hopping on and off my ride to meet friends and run errands.

As easy, breezy as this sounds, your vaginal health is no joke. A variety of factors can lead our lady parts to become the ideal playground for yeast infections and other infections so if you’re like me, you need a vag strategy when you venture out on two wheels. Here are four tips to staying fresh and sprightly during those sweaty days:

  1. Wear breathable undies. Synthetic underwear, all thongs, including cotton ones, and bathing suits trap moisture creating a ripe environment for fungus (Candida) or bad bacteria to grow. Full cotton or moisture-wicking material that let in air are a better bet. And especially if you’ll be out for a while, carry an extra pair with you to change into once you’ve arrived at your destination and rinsed off. (See #4 below.)
  2. Shave or wax your bikini line the day before you get on your seat. Removing hair in the lower regions often creates skin inflammation or cuts that can be breeding grounds for infections or can become further irritated by your cycling. Wait at least a day between hair removal and hopping on your ride.
  3. Limit or cut out your sugar intake, especially if you’re going from bike to bikini and back. Candida, the source of yeast infections, and bad bacteria feed on carbohydrates (including alcohol) so the more you consume, the more they consume which can lead to overgrowths and thus infections. If those BBQ cocktails are just too much to resist, at least replace the sugary mojito or yeast-filled beer with a vodka or gin and seltzer. Vodka and gin have fewer sugars than sweet mixed drinks or beer. (And then of course make sure you’re sober by the time you get back on your bike.)
  4. Wash with water. Gynecologists and women’s health practitioners the world over agree that it is best just to wash with water. Soap can disrupt your natural flora which is designed to fight off infections. This makes staying clean even easier when bike riding. Carry a little empty squeeze bottle with you that you fill in the bathroom or just use your water bottle to quickly give yourself a rinse while sitting on the toilet. Just make sure to grab a few paper towels or carry a handkerchief with you so you can dry off.

If all else fails, and you fall prey to an 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.

Like what you read? Sign up here to receive more tips to keep your lady parts luscious.

Mother’s Day for Women Who Are Not Mothers

pic of woman with ballons

I’m in my late 30s and I’m not a mother. Many amazing, successful, beautiful women I know are also not moms. Some of us hope to have kids one day, some are actively trying to become moms but are having fertility issues, some lost their babies, and some of us are either not sure if we want to be parents, or are choosing to lead very fulfilling lives without kids.

For those of us who are not mothers, Mother’s Day can just be another day or it may be really difficult and painful or it can just be annoying. I mean, I know mothering can be unquantifiably difficult but I also know some seriously badass women who give their whole selves to making the world a better place for us all. Why don’t they have a day to celebrate their contributions to the world and receive a brunch discount?

If you’re having a tough go of it, consider turning this day upside down. It may be easier said than done, especially if life without a child is not a choice and you feel a void. Women are more than our children though. We have value beyond the human babies we may or may not produce. We birth an infinite number of beautiful, magical, important things in this world. Consider treating this day as an opportunity to honor other parts of your creative self and nourish your Shakti (divine feminine cosmic energy). Here are three ideas:

  1. Sleep late and have a lazy morning. This is something people with kids in the house are generally not able to do. Take advantage of your ability to wake up whenever the f*k you want! Find ways to relax and even revel in your bed. Make it luxurious.
  2. Be sexy. Whether you have a partner or not, buy yourself some lingerie or a special toy, run errands commando-style, dance naked in your living room, share a fantasy with a lover—whatever activates your pleasure center.
  3. Express your creativity. Cook, paint, sculpt, write, dance, play music, or just mindfully BE yourself in the world however loudly or quietly you’re comfortable with. Generate with intention today.

 

 

From the Garden: Dandelion Greens

Foraged edible dandelion flowers and greens in bowlMay marks the beginning of fresh greens season in the Northeast, and top on the list of nutrient-rich, super foods are dandelion greens. Rich in calcium and iron, Vitamins A & K, amongst many other nutrients, they can be helpful for restoring minerals during and after your period. Herbalists recommend drinking an infusion of dandelion greens starting in the third trimester of pregnancy to increase milk production. Dandelion greens also deep clean the liver, they are a diuretic and are used to break up kidney stones, and they regulate blood sugar so they are great additions to a spring detox.

This super food has a bitter bite that can be mellowed by combining the leaves with something a bit richer, like nuts, or something sweeter, like beets.

To eat, wash the leaves and cut off the bottom stems, then mix some of them raw into a rich basil pesto or your favorite salad mix, sauté them lightly with your favorite healthy oil and garlic, use them instead of spinach in cooked dishes, or incorporate them into your morning juice.

 

 

Transitioning Off of Chemical Birth Control Methods

Contraceptive pill blister pack hanging from line on pink backgroundMany people find natural birth control methods to be effective but chemical birth control methods that contain hormones (what I’ll call CBCMs in this blog) save the day for many women. This includes birth control pills, IUDs with hormones, the ring, and the Depo Provera shot, which afford women and their partners many benefits and freedoms. That said, women’s bodies change because of CBCMs and we become dependent on them. When we go off of CBCMs, our bodies experience a kind of withdrawal and it can take up to about a year for the body to figure out its natural cycle again. The effect of this transition varies for each person but common negative symptoms include weight gain, bloating, acne, erratic emotions, missed periods, and spotting. On the upside, many women say their sex drive increases and they have more energy.

Here are a few tips to help ease your transition but above all, be gentle with yourself and your body:

1. Let people close to you know what’s up so they can be understanding and compassionate if they end up on the receiving end of your rant or cry-fest.

2. Increase dark leafy greens like turnip greens and spinach, asparagus, beets, citrus, ground flax seeds, and beans and legumes such as lentils and pinto beans. Many studies show that CBCMs can deplete some nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, and zinc so you may be going into your transition with a deficit already. This makes you more vulnerable to emotional spikes and inflammation. You may experience more energy after going off of CBCMs because your body is better absorbing these nutrients so focus on foods with these particular minerals and vitamins and take advantage of the opportunity to replenish your supply.

3. Be kind to your liver. Hormones are processed through the liver which acts like a traffic cop for hormones—it directs hormones to different places. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and experiencing a lot of stress can cause kerfuffle in this vital organ, slow down your transition or increase the severity of symptoms.

4. Reduce or cut out sugars. Sugar produces hormones, such as insulin, that can mess with your other hormones. Give your sex hormones extra space to figure themselves out by staying away from sweets including fruits, processed flours (i.e. anything that is not a whole grain), yeast-products including beer, and all other alcohol. In addition, the pH in your vagina changes when you go off of CBCMs and you may be susceptible to yeast infections which thrive on sugars. Especially if your sex drive increases, cut out those cookies and keep your honeypot free and clear for more fun things than yeasties. 😉 (If you do fall prey to a yeast infection, check out Curing That Not-So-Fresh Feeling for all natural remedies. )

5. Tone your uterus with herbs such as red raspberry leaf and dong quai. Your reproductive system may be really confused but red raspberry and dong quai contain properties that particularly support your womb, enrich the lining, and blood flow. They are particularly great if you are not getting your period. If you don’t have an acupuncturist, herbalist, or naturopath who can advise you, Yogi Tea company makes a Women’s Moon Cycle tea as well as a Women’s Energy tea that are great and have each helped me bring on my period many times.

Vacation Veg-ing

office workerEating healthy while traveling can be tricky. Good vegetables in particular are not readily available in airports, train stations, or at highway rest stops. It can be particularly important to consume nutrient- and water-rich foods while traveling because sitting for a long time prevents consistent blood and airflow to our muscles and joints. These systems can be further slowed down by complex foods, such as fatty and protein heavy foods, that take a lot for our body to process. In addition, the dehydrating affect of planes on our bodies can take its toll. How many of us end up eating foods we know do not support our health though when we travel? It can be easy to find excuses to not eat the way we eat at home but how much better do you feel when you eat well?

I was in a very resort-y area of Arizona recently for a beautiful, fun family wedding and found some great gems at the local supermarket: mini, colored peppers. These mini peppers are about the size of one of my fingers so they travel well and have very few seeds so they do not make a mess. They also are hearty enough to hang in your bag for a while and leftovers can fit neatly into a small hotel refrigerator. A bag of them costs about the same amount as a bag of chips and they are delicious! They are super sweet so our families’ little kids loved them and we adults couldn’t stop eating them.

The downside to these peppers– they are not organic. There is a chance that they have been sprayed with pesticides. Until rest stops and hotel mini bars and supermarkets in tourist areas have a better, affordable selection of pesticide-free produce however, what do we do? When given the choice between chips made with unhealthy oils or pretzels made with processed flour or mini peppers that may have been sprayed with pesticides, what do you do?

I know that chips start me on a cycle of cravings that do not serve me and flours do not work for my body and I do not otherwise eat a lot of foods that are not organic so I chose the peppers. What accommodations do you make while traveling in order to continue to eat as healthfully as possible and feel as good as possible?

From the Garden: Turnip Greens

Turnips on the tableWe’re approaching the end of the local winter crops here in the Northeast and *some of us* might be a little sick of the all too popular kale at this point. If you are looking to switch things up, consider turnip greens. They are packed with calcium (4 times more than broccoli, cabbage, and their relatives), folate and Vitamin K1 (good for the pregnant ones out there or those trying to get pregnant). Turnip greens might be a little harder to find than spinach or kale so check your local farmer’s market. Some might find turnip greens to be on the bitter side so I’d recommend that you give them a quick steam (5 minutes) and then toss with something rich or tangy, like browned pieces of local bacon sautéed with onions and crushed red pepper, or this vegan dressing: mix raw tahini with hot water (3 parts tahini: 1 part water). Stir in a small amount of non-soy miso paste while the water is still hot (available at most health food stores in the refrigerated section) and add more paste to taste depending on how salty you like it. Take note: those with existing kidney or gallbladder issues might stay away from turnip greens as they may exacerbate your symptoms.