Monthly Archives: March 2014

Natural Common Cold Remedies

Since I’ve noticed a significant increase in my tissue usage over the past couple days, I thought this would be a perfect time for a blog on natural cold and flu remedies!

While allopathic medications, such as NyQuil and Robitussin, can effectively mask the symptoms of a cold, they really aren’t helpful at eliminating the root cause of the discomfort. In addition, there are numerous side effects associated with cold and flu medicine consumption, such as drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision.  Some extreme side effects include severe allergic reactions, hallucinations, seizures, and irregular heart beat.  These side effects can be even more problematic for small children.  While there are still contraindications with some herbs and other natural remedies, they are not as pervasive or debilitating. However, the downfall of all of these methods is that none of them are completely effective.  They are all just essentially putting a band-aid on the problem, but not fixing it.  There is no real “cure” for the common cold, except not catching it!

Here’s a little secret: keep the body happy and healthy by feeding it nourishing food and you’ll have less need for both allopathic and alternative sources of cold and flu remedies.

Natural Cold Remedies

Ginger Tea: While ginger is well-known for its digestive benefits, it is touted as an impressive immune booster as well.  This is because of ginger’s ability to promote the production of sweat, which helps with detoxification.  Also, sweat contains a powerful germ-fighting compound that may help ward off infections. It can help with reduction of high fevers and affiliated headaches as well.  Grate an inch or two of fresh ginger and squeeze the pulp into a cup of boiling water for delicious ginger tea! Add lemon for a vitamin C boost as well.

Oil of Oregano: This potent herb has powerful antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, making it nature’s antibiotic! Whenever I feel like I’m coming down with a cold (like right now), I put 3-4 drops under my tongue and swallow.  I’ve been “dosing” for the last couple days and I already feel over my cold, before it even started.  It’s amazing.  In terms of its intense, oregano-y taste, I LOVE the feeling I get from taking it and, therefore, enjoy it.  For those that don’t like watery eyes and burning sensations in their mouth, put 3-6 drops in a small glass of water and gargle to heal a sore throat, or drink to stop infections.  This herb is not meant to be taken long term due to its strong antibiotic properties, which can negatively alter the gut flora balance.  Only take while you are sick.

Epsom Salt Baths: This is a super cheap and effective way to both prevent and shorten the duration of a cold or flu.  As a result of its high magnesium content, these detoxifying baths can ease muscle pain and tension associated with colds, or life in general. After 15 minutes or so in the tub, I’m so relaxed I can barely get out! Trouble sleeping? Not with these serene soaks.  Add 1 or 2 cups to bath, along with a cup of baking soda for its alkalizing and detoxifying properties, and chill out until the water is chilly.

Warm Water with Lemon and Honey: Simply sipping on warm water is, you got it, warming to the body and therefore stimulating to the immune system. Lemon water with honey can also help clear up congestion, calm a sore throat, and help re-hydrate if you’ve lost fluids.  It encourages movement of the virus from your body as well.

Vitamin C: It’s almost as if vitamin C supplementation and the common cold are synonymous with each other; they go together like sunshine and good times … or do they? According to a review of the scientific research, the findings are mixed in regards to using vitamin C for prevention and/or treatment of colds. However, some research suggests that mega doses of vitamin C at the onset of a cold or flu can prevent symptoms from occurring. Overall, its main effect is improvement in resistance to viruses. Try it out for yourself and see if it works for YOU.

Zinc Lozenges: This is another controversial cold remedy. Though its been used for decades to prevent and reduce the duration of the common cold, the scientific evidence is conflicting. Some trials showed a significant decrease in the number and duration of colds per year in individuals taking zinc lozenges and supplements, but others show no difference between zinc and control groups.  At the very least, these lozenges appear to be effective at treating symptoms, and, therefore, the discomforts that come with a cold.  This isn’t to say that zinc isn’t ridiculously important for your body’s overall health. I’m just saying it may not stop a cold in its tracks.

Vitamin B12: While supplementing with B12 hasn’t been shown to alleviate cold symptoms, being DEFICIENT in B12 could be a reason behind why you’re getting so many colds.  Do you eat lots of fish, seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy products? As long as you’re absorbing the B12 out of these foods (this can be really difficult for people with low stomach acid), then I wouldn’t worry about it. However, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you MUST take a sublingual B12 supplement, period.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Not to be confused with medical marijuana or magical mushrooms, these special shrooms contain anti-viral properties, as well as compounds called polysaccharides, that may help stimulate the immune system.  However, not all mushrooms are created equal; only certain kinds contain these immune enhancing properties. Take a combination of maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, and/or gypsy mushrooms in liquid extract form throughout cold and flu season for immune system support.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a traditional home remedy for, well, just about everything, from household cleaner to wart remover. This universal panacea can also be used to relieve a sore throat and has been shown to possibly help shorten the length of a cold. Put a tablespoon of ACV in a small glass of water and drink over the course of a half hour. It is very important to make sure your ACV is RAW in order to obtain maximum benefit.  I like Bragg’s Raw, Unfiltered, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar; it comes in a large bottle and is under $5.

Vitamin D: This important “sunshine” vitamin is essential to the activation of our immune system and without sufficient intake, our immunity cells will not be able to ward off infections in the body. Unfortunately, most people are deficient in this hormone (yes, vitamin D is actually a hormone), and if you live in San Francisco like I do, then you are definitely deficient due to the lack of regular sunshine. But have no fear, there is a simple solution to this problem! Eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as eggs, fatty fish, and pastured butter, and/or take a 1/2- 1 teaspoon/day of fermented cod liver oil, which is high in bioavailable forms of vitamins A, D, and K. The only brand I recommend is Green Pastures, due to their superior processing methods.

Eleuthero: Also known as Siberian Ginseng, this adaptogenic herb has shown potential in alleviating upper respiratory infections, including colds, flu, and sinusitis. I drink this herb in tea-form regularly for general health purposes, but taking it in a standardized extract may be more effective for respiratory pain relief.

Echinacea: Despite its popularity as a cold and flu prevention aid, the scientific evidence is, in fact, mixed. While some studies report a positive effect of echinacea on the duration and severity of a cold, others show a total lack of impact. Because of these conflicting studies, its difficult to claim that echinacea has consistent, beneficial effects on cold and flu prevention. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer!

These are just a few of the many different natural remedies that can be used to help prevent and alleviate common cold symptoms. In my personal opinion and experience, these alternative remedies are both more effective and have less side effects than allopathic medications. Next time you feel a cold coming, try a couple of these antidotes and see if any of them work for YOU. Because that’s what really matters, right?

To avoid getting sick all together, try utilizing stress reduction techniques, engage in positive thinking, and eat a balanced, whole foods diet. Oh, and wash your dirty hands! It really can be that simple.

 

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Dirty Times in Santa Barbara

What a fun weekend in Santa Barbara!

For my Besty’s 30th birthday, us and six other chicas made our way to SB from all over the state and country to celebrate the arrival of our friend’s third decade of life.  From beachin’ it to poolin’ it (both occasionally at inappropriate hours), starting a “bike gang”, hiking in the hills, and simply enjoying life and the company of good women, one couldn’t ask for a better time.

I’m just so grateful for living in such a beautiful state, where you can go from mountains to city to beach all within a few hours of each other.  Oh, and the fact that winter doesn’t exist is nice too!

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Compost Mineral Broth: Cheap and Nutritious!

A universal tonic for healing and rejuvenation, compost mineral broth is an inexpensive way to get your “fix” of nutrients, while reclaiming your vitality.  Though mineral broth can certainly be made with whole vegetables, some may find this to be wasteful and somewhat expensive.  When making compost mineral broth, one is using the stems, ends, and greens of vegetables and, therefore, utilizing the whole plant and leaving nothing to waste.  This is a more economical and environmentally friendly approach to making mineral broth.  Use this nourishing broth in soups, as a cooking base for grains or legumes, in sauces, or simply as a warm drink.

Ingredients Yields roughly 2 quarts

  • Cut off stems, ends, and greens of veggies- enough to fill a large stock pot- and any other veggies that are about to go bad
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3-5 inch piece of ginger, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 nori sheet
  • ½ cup wakame, hijiki, kombu, or dulse flakes
  • Enough filtered water to cover veggie ends completely
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. During the course of the week, save the ends and stems of your veggies that you would otherwise throw into the compost bin.  They can be saved in a plastic bag or recyclable container. This includes the greens from root veggies, ends of onions and carrots, stalks of kale, and any other part of the vegetable you do not use in a dish.
  2. Throw all the vegetables into a large stock pot and cover with cold, filtered water.
  3. Place the ginger, garlic, nori, and additional sea veggie on top of veggie pile.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 4-6 hours.
  5. Take off the heat and let sit for 10-20 minutes to allow it to cool off.
  6. Strain vegetable mixture through a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth into a large bowl (or two). Press solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Salt to taste.
  7. Allow to cool on countertop, then store in mason jars or Tupperware for up to one week in the refrigerator.  If freezing stock, leave two inches of head room at the top of the mason jar.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

“How can you afford to eat exclusively organic?!”  “Aren’t organic and grass fed products, like, double the cost of regular food?!”

These are some of the most frequent questions I’m asked when talking to people about healthy eating and living.  And while yes, organic food is usually more expensive than conventional, it most certainly does not have to break the bank! As a broke student (graduating this month!), I totally understand budgetary concerns, but the importance of eating quality food is just too valuable to compromise.  Before I give tips on how to save money when buying organic, first, I’d like to delve into the REASONS behind why eating organic, high quality food is so crucial to our health.

  1. Organic is nutritionally superior to conventional- Organic crops contain higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.  In addition, grass-fed animals are lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, vitamin E, and antioxidant nutrients than grain fed animals.  Plus, though the research is conflicting, I truly believe organic tastes better than conventional, and I know I’m not the only one!
  2. Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is lower in grass-fed animals- When cows are allowed to eat their natural diet of grass, their body composition (i.e., their meat) will be in its most ideal state, meaning it will contain higher levels of the healthy omega-3 fats and lower levels of the inflammatory omega-6 fats.  Grain fed animals have a much higher O6: O3 ratio because of their unnatural diet of soy and corn, which is problematic in terms of health for a variety of reasons.  Excessive amounts of omega-6 fats have been implicated in the pathology of numerous diseases and conditions , such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, and asthma. In addition, these fats are responsible for inflammation in the body, which is increasingly being viewed as the fundamental reason behind the genesis of chronic and degenerative diseases.  I could go on and on about the importance of maintaining a low O6: O3 ratio in the body, but that’s for another blog post!
  3. Organic food must be certified to contain no hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals- This is pretty self-explanatory.  Do we want these synthetic, mood altering substances in our bodies? I certainly don’t.  Creating widespread antibiotic resistance in the population sounds pretty devastating as well…
  4. Organically produced crops are more environmentally sound- Since organic crops must be grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides, this naturally leads to less damaging run-off and environmental toxins.  Also, farmers that grow organic crops tend to be better stewards of the land than Big Farm operations, using more environmentally sustainable practices, such as crop rotation, cover crops, and biological pest control.
  5. It’s the ethical and responsible thing to do- Commercial slaughterhouses and factory farms receive large subsidies from the federal government, making it possible for them to sell their products at cheaper prices than organic farmers.  Also, while their farming techniques are more cost-effective, the long-term health of the soil certainly isn’t taken into account.  They are trying to maximize THEIR profit at the expense of OUR environment. The inhumane practices going on at commercial slaughterhouses are rampant as well.  Just the other day, legislation was passed in Idaho making it a crime, punishable of up to a YEAR in prison, for someone not authorized to be in an agricultural facility to tape or record the conduct in these facilities. This is obviously to dissuade activists from shining light on the deplorable practices occurring that these slaughterhouses. By buying organic, you’re voting with your dollar to support smaller, more environmentally and ethically friendly enterprises, and that feels good!

So, now that you have a few reasons for choosing organic over conventional, let’s move on to how you can make it happen:

  • Since organically produced food is nutritionally superior, you can eat less and get more out of it, nutrient-wise.
  • Buy local! Shop at farmer’s markets! Not only are you supporting local farmers, but the produce is cheaper than what you will usually find at grocery stores, AND you are being environmentally responsible because less fossil fuels are used for transportation needs. Go towards the end of the day for even better deals; they usually start auctioning off the last of their produce at bargain prices so to get rid of it. Here is a thorough list of all the farmer’s markets in San Francisco, courtesy of Stephanie Morimoto’s blog, Together in Food: http://togetherinfood.wordpress.com/s-f-farmers-markets-the-full-list/
  • Purchase cheap cuts of meat and throw it in your Crock Pot. Even tough cuts will be juicy and soft after some slow cookin’.  Also, try to buy your meat with the bone still attached; it will be more nutrient dense AND cheaper.  After you slow cook the meat, you can use the remaining bones to make bone broth, so every part of the animal is being used as well.
  • Speaking of bone broth, roasting a whole chicken (or buying an organic, roasted chicken from Whole Foods for $16)  is economical because the meat can be used throughout the week for sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, etc. and then the bones can be made into bone broth.  Another great way to use the whole animal, and cheaply!
  • Organ meats will be substantially cheaper than muscle meats, though I don’t necessarily recommend them unless you’re a fan.  I tried making liver and onions the other night, and oh my god, I literally puked in my mouth upon tasting it.  SO. GROSS. However, making it into a pate is more palatable, I hear.
  • Use the bulk bins at natural food stores. It’s usually cheaper per ounce when using them. Some of the items found here include: nuts, seeds, flours, grains, sea veggies, herbs, spices, and pastas. Whole Foods stores usually have a pretty decent bulk section, and if you live in San Francisco, Rainbow Grocery is unparalleled in its bulk bin selection and prices.
  • Grass fed ground beef is usually around $8/lb, though I’ve gotten it on sale from Whole Foods for $3/lb. You must ALWAYS look for deals. I use it to make tacos, chili, and koftas.
  • Apparently, Costco sells affordable grass-fed products when bought in large quantities. However, I don’t have a Costco membership and cannot attest to this being completely accurate.
  • Making mineral broth from the ends, stems and leaves of veggies is a super economical way of using the whole plant to your nutritional and budgetary advantage. I will post my recipe for making this nutrient-dense and delicious broth ASAP!
  • Refer to the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” charts on Environmental Working Group’s website. When buying exclusively organic is out of your budget range, like it is for me on occasion, using this chart helps to prioritize what to buy organically and conventionally produced.
  • Buy canned salmon to get your fish-fix without spending your last dollar (or $20) on a pound of fresh salmon. Make sure it is wild-caught, Pacific/Alaskan/Sockeye salmon. Atlantic salmon will be farm-raised and fed corn, which is obviously not their natural diet and will alter their O6: O3 ratio.
  • Make your own dressings, dips, etc. Buying the raw ingredients and putting them together is a lot cheaper than store-bought items.  You’re not only paying for the food, but for the packaging as well.  Shop outside the box! Also, a majority of packaged items contain low quality, rancid oils and other hidden ingredients that don’t serve our body. When you make your own, you know EXACTLY what you’re eating.
  • Grow your own food.  Okay, so I know this is impractical for those of us that live in a city, but windowsill herb gardens are totally feasible, as is renting plots of land from community gardens in your area.  To be honest, I don’t grow my own food (hypocrite!), but maybe you can and will!

So, there you have it folks, a variety of ways to eat organic, high quality food on a budget. I hope this gives you some inspiration and motivation to take control of your diet and make the best decisions possible for your body.  It will thank you, I promise.

Does anyone have any more suggestions or tips for eating healthy on a budget?

What a Beautiful Day!

It’s been lovely weather in San Francisco lately, so why not take a run over the Golden Gate Bridge?! Yeah, I couldn’t think of a reason not too either.  I’m not a big runner, due to the unfortunate pattern my right knee has developed of producing sharp pains after about 3 miles.  It happens EVERY TIME. ugh. It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the 100+ days of snowboarding I was getting in every year while living in Tahoe… poor me. However, I love physical exercise, sun, and bridges with lots of people on them, so my criteria for good times were met!

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