It’s CSA Time!

If you aren’t familiar with the term CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is basically a way for an individual to buy a ‘share’ in a farm and in return receive local, fresh produce weekly from that farm. It’s a great way to support a local business and really get to know where your food comes from.

Our CSA officially started the first week of June and was I ever so happy for the fresh produce! Did you know that lettuce actually has flavor? I know that I for one forget about how good fresh food actually tastes after eating tasteless produce, shipped in from who knows where all winter long.

Early in the CSA season greens dominate and we’re suddenly thrust into eating salads every day, at least once (sometimes twice) and spinach, kale and chard are thrown in just about everything. It makes me feel better just thinking about eating all that green stuff! At the same time if you’re not used to eating that many greens (which most of us, myself included, are not) then it can be pretty overwhelming to figure out what to do with everything and not have your compost pile turn into an outdoor salad bowl.

The most basic way to use your greens is salads, and I’m not talking about ice burg lettuce with some cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Get creative.

  • Try lots of different types of lettuce and greens. Even though some of them look like they were picked out of the weed pile in the back yard, they add flavor and texture to basics like romaine and spinach.
  • Try different cheeses. Feta is a favorite around here, goat cheese, chunks of parmesan, and mozzarella all make for great additions.
  • Throw in whatever fruits and veggies are in season (or look good at the grocery store) Berries are great, along with apples or citrus fruit. Dried cherries, raisins, nuts, and seeds are all easy to keep on hand and really enhance the variety and texture of salads.
  • And lastly the dressing. Don’t be stuck in the pre-made dressing rut. A simple vinaigrette is an easy way to keep the salad as the main attraction and not just turn it into a ranch-drenched creamy mess.

Simple Vinaigrette

2 parts Olive Oil
1 part acid of your choice (vinegar or citrus juice)
1-2 tsp dijon mustard (works as an emulsifier to keep dressing together)
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar and mustard until it comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This is a basic recipe and can be adapted in many different ways, from using different acids to adding in fresh herbs, garlic, shallots, etc.

Use your imagination and change things up. This will keep you and your family eating those greens and enjoying it all summer long!

Check back as we eat our way through CSA season and hopefully get our kids to eat some veggies too!

How many of you participate in a CSA program? What are your favorite ways to eat the multitude of greens?

Safe Sun Protection

sun grass

photo credit: davedehetre

It’s that time of year when we want to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather, and soaking up some much needed Vitamin D, but we also have to be aware of the damaging effects of the sun. With skin cancer on the rise and more and more studies coming out about the harmful chemicals in most sunscreens how do we protect our children and ourselves?

Stay out of the sun. Trying to stay out of the sun when it is the strongest is the easiest step. Depending on where you live and the time of year this can vary between 11am and 4pm. For those of us with little ones this is a good time to go inside, eat lunch and hopefully catch a nap.

Learn to love shade. If you are going to be outside during these hours try to find some shady areas that will you some respite from the sun. Stepping out of the full sun for a few minutes here and there will give your skin some much needed relief from the suns powerful rays.

Wear clothes and hats with SPF protection. Rash guards are short or long sleeved shirts that are usually worn with bathing suits. They are becoming more and more popular and available almost anywhere these days. These are great as you don’t have to worry about re-applying sunscreen throughout the day and as an added bonus they dry very quickly. Companies like Coolibar are coming out with full lines of clothing that have SPF protection to wear day to day.

Find a safe sunscreen. The Environment Working Group just came out with their Sunscreen Guide for 2011. This is a great place to find out what sunscreens you can feel safe about using for yourself and your family. We have personally used both California Baby and some Alba Botanica sunscreens with success. Safe sunscreens are generally pricier than their not-so-safe counterparts, but by using the tips the above I am usually able to make a bottle last a long time while still feeling like I’m protecting my family’s skin, and it’s an investment I’m willing to make.

How do you stay safe in the sun?

Dealing With the Discomforts of Pregnancy

natural pregnancy

photo credit: meaganjean

 

For some lucky women pregnancy is a breeze and they wouldn’t even know they were pregnant if they didn’t have a cute little belly with a squirming baby kicking them from the inside. For most of us though, there are some discomforts along the way. Starting with fatigue and morning sickness and ending with heartburn and aching joints, the majority of women experience at least some uncomfortable times throughout pregnancy. Today we’ll talk about some of the more common discomforts and ways we can try to reduce or eliminate their effects on our bodies.

Morning Sickness

Feeling queasy is one of the first signs of pregnancy for many women. Hormones are surging at this point to sustain the pregnancy and those raging hormones send many women running for the toilet, especially in the morning, but lasting all day and night for others. This is generally a good sign of a healthy pregnancy, albeit not very fun to deal with. Many women find that keeping crackers or some other bland snack next their bed and eating a little bit before getting up can help settle a queasy stomach. Eating as much protein as you can handle can help to keep blood sugars balanced which can also help with nausea. It’s important to eat, so if something sounds good, go for it, even if it’s not the most healthy. The baby will take everything it needs from you, so as long as you were healthy before getting pregnant you should have ample stores of nutrients available for your growing baby. If you are experiencing extreme morning sickness be sure to consult your doctor, there are some prescription anti-nausea medications that are considered safe in pregnancy and are necessary in extreme cases.

Fatigue

Fatigue is another common early pregnancy symptom. Again, your body is going through a lot of changes to sustain the pregnancy this can take a toll on your stamina. Eating lots of protein and fresh fruits and veggies, along with taking a good prenatal vitamin can help combat some of the fatigue. However, sleeping or resting whenever you can is going to be your best choice.

Heartburn

As you move later into pregnancy, digestion slows, hormones continue to wreak havoc, and space in your abdomen becomes a premium. For many women this can lead to heart burn or acid reflux. There are a few things you can do to help prevent heartburn including:

  • Probiotics in the way of capsules, yogurt or kefir help some women with the pain of heartburn. Papaya enzyme is another effective heartburn remedy that is safe during pregnancy.
  • Papaya contains digestive enzymes and can be taken in a variety of ways – fresh, dried, canned, juiced, or even in tablet form. Eat a small amount of it after meals to aid digestion and discourage heartburn.
  • Drinking anise or fennel seed tea after meals will also aid digestion.
  • Eating small meals frequently instead of your normal three meals a day routine.
  • Chew lots and eat slowly.
  • Don’t drink while eating (though it is important to then drink plenty between meals).
  • Pay attention to which foods seem to produce heartburn and eliminate them from your diet. Common triggers include coffee, tea, spicy food, tomatoes, chocolate, etc.
  • Also give yourself time to digest your food after eating before lying down – take a walk or play with your older children for a bit.

If you’re like me, even all these preventative methods may fail. A couple more pregnancy heartburn remedies to try if you still find yourself suffering from heartburn include eating raw almonds, chewed slowly and finally slippery elm. You can mix slippery elm powder with honey or take it in the form of throat lozenges that can be found in most health food stores.  The slippery elm bark soothes the stomach, neutralizes stomach acids and helps absorb intestinal gas. Ultimately, at least for me, giving birth is the only thing that has been a long-term remedy for my heartburn, but hopefully one of these suggestions will help you!

Low Back Pain

As our bellies get bigger and your center of gravity shifts forward, pressure is put on the lower back causing pain and discomfort. Chiropractic adjustments are my first suggestion as they generally seem to be the most effective and provide longer term relief than anything else. Stretching is always beneficial, whether you are in pain or not. Getting on your hands and knees and rocking your pelvis back and forth can help to relax the joints and is also good for getting and keeping the baby in a good anterior position. Many women find relief from pre-natal yoga which can have more benefits than just pain relief for both mother and baby. Sleep with a pillow between your legs can help to keep your hips aligned and take pressure off of your aching back. If none of these techniques are giving you any type of relief you may need to find a pregnancy belt to give your body some extra support until after delivery.

Thankfully all of these discomforts should resolve shortly after birth and seeing that sweet baby will make everything you go through so worth it!


How do you deal with the discomforts of pregnancy?

When Illness Hits

Hot tea

photo credit: marcoarment

 

We’ve talked about the negative side effects of antibiotics and how to build your immune system, but now what do you do when you’ve done everything right, but illness still hits?

Rest
For pretty much any illness that strikes the first thing to do is rest. Yes I said it, slow down, let the house cleaning go, let the kids watch TV and eat snacks all day, do whatever you have to let your body get the rest it so desperately needs. Without some down time your body will take much longer in ridding itself of the invading bug.

Immune Support

Start upping your immune boosting supplements, especially things like Vitamins C and D, echinacea, garlic, onions, etc.

Eliminate Sugar

This one’s pretty simple. Sugar feeds bacteria and lowers your immune response so just say no to sweets while you’re sick. And yes, this even means cutting back on things like fruit or sugar filled yogurt from the store.

Drink Nourishing Broths and Teas

Homemade bone broths contain many minerals and other nutrients that are easily absorbed by the body. There is a reason that chicken noodle soup is long standing cure for sickness. Tea contains anti-oxidants and other immune boosting properties, plus just being soothing to a fever ridden body.

Homeopathic Remedies
If you choose to go the homeopathic route you can find many different combination cold and flu remedies at most heath food stores or contact your homeopath for a remedy that fits your specific symptoms.

Get Adjusted
Like I’ve said before, chiropractic adjustments can stimulate the nervous system and help the body to better heal on it’s own.

I know there are no ‘sick days’ in the parenting world, but we really to remember to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to take care of our families.

What are your go-to remedies for when sickness hits?

Naturally Building Your Immune System

bacteria

photo credit: ricephotos

 

Last week we talked about antibiotics and how they are often over prescribed and some of the side effects associated with them. Today we’ll focus on building your immune system to decrease your chances of getting sick in the first place.

The Germ Theory

In the early 1800’s Mr. Louis Pasteur was credited with discovering the germ and along with it came the germ theory. He believed that germs were the cause of all disease and if germs could be eradicated, then disease would naturally be eliminated. This theory has taken hold in the medical community and has launched the development of antibiotics, vaccines and many of drugs aimed at eradicating germs. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and it’s obvious that just eliminating germs has not eliminated disease. If germs are all around us, and are truly the cause of disease, then why are we not always sick? Why does one person in a family get sick and the others don’t? This is where the immune system comes in. When our bodies are healthy and strong we are able to fight off these foreign invaders and not succumb to the illnesses they cause.

 

Building Your Immune System

Breastfeeding – Beginning immediately after birth mothers can start building their child’s immune system by breastfeeding. Human breast milk contains protective antibodies that pass from mother to baby and shield them from infection early on. These antibodies are an important piece of the puzzle that will help build a strong immune system later in life.

Diet – Starting early on focusing on real, whole food will give you and your family the best chance at becoming and staying healthy. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, good fats and probiotic containing foods is going to literally ‘feed’ your immune system and help keep you healthy. Compare this to a diet high in processed foods full of man made flavors, chemicals and sugar, which causes increased stress to your body and a decrease in immunity. Sugar is a major immune suppressor and studies have shown that your immune system is less effective starting 30 minutes and lasting up to 5 hrs after you consume it. Therefore, if you are consuming a steady stream of sugar all day, your immune system will be in a constant state of suppression.

Stress Reduction – When your body is stressed it is in a state of what we call fight or flight. This keeps all systems on high alert and is helpful if you are really in danger, but when it is prolonged you end up with a weakened or compromised immune system. Stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercise have all showed positive effects on overall health. Eliminating stressful situations for you and your children as often as possible will go a long way in helping you stay healthy.

Rest – Sleep is crucial to good health and lack of sleep can negatively impact your overall health and well being. Sleep is a restorative time for our bodies and without sufficient amounts our bodies do not get that crucial recovery needed to continue to thrive. Striving for 7-9 hours per night for adults and 10-13 hours total for children (depending on their age) are the recommended minimums for getting the full restorative benefits of sleep.

Supplements – Though focusing on a whole food diet goes a long way, most of us are still not getting all the nutrients we need. Vitamins C and D, along with fish oil for essential fatty acids and a good probiotic are top on our list for keeping ourselves healthy. These are especially important in the winter months where sunlight and fresh produce are scarce. There are many other immune building supplements available which may also be beneficial. When choosing supplements I like to make sure that they are derived from whole foods and as minimally processed as possible.

Chiropractic Care – The nervous system affects the immune system and plays an important role in the immune response. Chiropractic focuses on removing interference from the nervous system and therefore has positive effects on immune function. Because of this many patients report fewer or less severe illnesses after starting chiropractic care.

Taking these steps to build a healthy immune system will go a long way in preventing illness, though they are not a guarantee. Its virtually impossible to always eat right, reduce stress, get good rest, remember to take our supplements and get adjusted regularly, but we can hope that by doing these things as consistently as possible we can give our bodies their best chance at fighting off illness in spite of the presence of germs all around us.

What do you do to keep your immune system strong?

Antibiotics: Please Don’t Ask!

Prescribed

photo credit: carbonnyc

 

In light of many recent studies showing that antibiotics are no more effective than waiting an illness out, why are doctors still prescribing them so often?

One big reason doctors give is that parents are asking for them.

According to a study published in Pediatrics, physicians will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections 62 percent of the time when asked by a patient, as opposed to only 7 percent of the time when they think a patient does not want them. As parents we want to do what is best for our children and we don’t want to see them suffering in pain and discomfort, so we try to fix what is causing their pain. When it comes to many childhood illnesses, especially ear infections, colds, coughs and some sinus infections, many think antibiotics are the answer though research is now showing that may not be correct. Most of these common illnesses are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics, or in the case of the majority of ear infections, will resolve in the same amount of time whether antibiotics are administered or not.

Some of you may be thinking ‘Well it must be okay if the doctor prescribes it, right?”

This is not always the case.

Antibiotics are associated with a wide range of side effects, including, but not limited to:

  • Allergic reactions (mild to severe)
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased resistance to future infections
  • Staining of teeth
  • Kidney damage

So why you may ask, with the known side effects and lack of effectiveness, are doctors still writing so many prescriptions?

The answer may be many things from parental pressure, to good marketing by the pharmaceutical companies, to a lack of time to explain things to parents, but many in the natural health field believe a big reason is that they just don’t have any other options. Medical doctors are essentially taught to diagnose an illness and then treat it with a drug. Beyond that they would have to go out of their way to learn more natural treatments and many don’t have time with their already over loaded work and continuing education schedules. This is where educating yourself and/or seeking out alternative health care providers can be a huge advantage for you and your children.

Alternative health care providers like chiropractors and naturopaths have been trained in treating the underlying causes of illnesses instead of simply treating the symptoms. Many will focus on prevention and helping your body come back into balance if you have already went down the antibiotic path. Diet, immune boosting supplements, vitamins, herbs, spinal adjustments, and stress management techniques are some of the things that have been found to positively influence your immune system.

All of this being said, don’t feel guilty if you have previously asked your doctor to prescribe something for your ailing child. There are certainly many instances where antibiotics are effective and necessary. If you or your child has ever been on antibiotics be sure that you are taking a high quality broad spectrum probiotic. This will help with not only with some of the short-term side effects like stomach upset and diarrhea, but also long-term to help rebuild the good bacteria in your gut, helping to better fight off future infections.

In future posts we’ll discuss more specifically some of these alternative treatments and more things you can do to try to prevent these illnesses before they start. In the mean time you can start by educating yourself about your options and fully discussing them with your doctor. Then hopefully your next visit will end with you leaving the office without a prescription in your hand.

Natural Health through Chiropractic

chiropractic

“Chiropractic is a health care discipline which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs and surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.” Association of Chiropractic Colleges

Essentially chiropractors believe that the body is able to heal itself when it is functioning at it’s optimum ability, starting from the inside out.

In general when people think about going to see a chiropractor it is usually related to pain somewhere in their spine or some other physical ailment like headaches or leg pain. Chiropractic is a very effective treatment option for these problems, however, is also capable of helping with so much more.

Going back to basic anatomy, the central nervous system is composed of your brain and spinal cord, and is the master control center for your body. This system is then connected to to every other cell, tissue, organ and muscle in your body, through nerves that exit between each spinal segment called the peripheral nervous system. Information is exchanged between these two systems to keep your body functioning.

As chiropractors we look for what is called a ‘subluxation’ which is an area of the spine where bones or joints are misaligned and/or stuck in the wrong position. This in turn causes muscle spasm, inflammation and pressure to be put on the nerves in the affected area. As I said before these nerves go to every cell, tissue, organ and muscle in your body, so outside of causing pain in the area, it is also causing dysfunction to wherever those nerves are going. The effect is kind of like stepping on a hose, information is still coming out, but not as fully as it should. Long term this interference can cause severe dysfunction and ultimately disease of the affected areas. That being said, it is important to restore nerve function so that the body can heal itself.

Outside of “back and neck” pain, parents can also look to chiropractic to help with a variety of other conditions their children may be afflicted with:

  • Ear infections
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Headaches
  • Immune deficiency
  • Colic
  • Reflux
  • Breech Presentation

In future posts I’ll explain how chiropractic may help with these common childhood problems and also present other natural treatment options as well. In the mean time you can check out the ICPA website for more information and research on these topics.

photo credit: kaex0r