Flu and Cold Season is Coming

The last time I got a cold or flu was February 2011. There were a few times since then that I felt like I was coming down with something, but I fought back quickly and was the victor. I firmly believe that the best way to avoid colds, the flu, and other viruses is by keeping your terrain strong like by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, avoiding stress, exercising, and avoiding junky, processed, sugar-laden foods. It is also very helpful to wash your hands frequently and not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, which are all entry points for the bugs.

The way viruses work is they get in your system and start multiplying. So the best way to fight a virus is to launch a strong attack when you feel the very first symptom signaling a viral attack; attack it back as fast and hard as you can. Viruses multiply insidiously, kind of like that money thing I am sure you have heard about where if you start off with one penny on January 1st and double the amount each day, by the end of the month you would have about a gazillion dollars. In this respect, viruses are like pennies, except cold and flu viruses work much faster than doubling pennies. It is also important to remember that when you feel better stay diligent for the next few days in case there a few little viruses hanging around ready, like Jason in those horror movies, to assault you just when you think that you are safe.

Interesting virus fact: It is very rare to get a cold when you have the flu, and vice versa, at the same time because your body has already mounted an attack on viruses.

Attacking Oncoming Virus Regimen:

My top 2 recommendations are coconut oil and elderberry extract when I feel like I am coming down with something. I make green tea and add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 1-2 tablespoons of elderberry extract (see note below), and drink that a few times a day. Prophylactically, I drink this concoction on most days that I work during the flu season.

Then also hammering it with:

  • Vitamin C: 1000 mg 3X daily or more
  • Echinecea: I brewed my own in vodka, but you can also buy the tincture at a health food store like Whole Foods. Hold it in your mouth for a couple of minutes, then swallow. If it is effective stuff you should feel tingling in your mouth. This is good for the gums too.
  • Garlic: Raw, anyway you can get it in your body or capsules for the wimp
  • Cold-Eeze: According to package. This is important because the zinc is toxic to the virus and sucking on it bathes the virus in one of the places it is first hanging out: your throat. Use caution. You can use too much of zinc.
  • Lots of liquids, chicken soup, tea, etc.
  • Reduce stress, increase rest
  • Mentally attack the virus and resolve not to give in
  • Sweating can be helpful, and hot baths
  • Vitamin D3

The more artillery you use the better, in my opinion. A final thought I would like to pass on is that I use a lot of coconut oil all of the time.  I cook with it like with roasting or sauteeing vegetables, I stir it in my tea, and I have a jar in the bathroom which I use on my skin.  I think this keeps me from getting cold and flu viruses and explains why I rarely get them even though I am highly exposed to them being a nurse in a facility where many people come in sick.

***Elderberry Extract is a syrup you can buy at a health food store or on Amazon.  It is kind of pricey, especially for the amount needed if you actually get sick. However, I recently came across a recipe from Wellness Mama to make your own that sounds easy and will be a lot less expensive.  Also, I think it will be more healthy because you can control the ingredients.  

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Food Inspiration

Well here it is, autumn, and I have felt inspired by it and a couple of other things lately to cook more delicious food.  I now have a pot of pork green chili stew simmering in the oven.  A recipe I kind of made up based on the ingredients I had on hand today.  I hope it is delicious.  One thing I know is that it is chock full of nutrients.

As for one of my other inspirations, the other night we watched an old movie called Babette’s Feast.  I highly recommend it if you are in the mood for a deeply satisfying movie that you will want to ponder over afterward.  Anyway, in the movie, surprise, Babette makes a feast. So, I wanted to make a savory small scale feast for when Husband gets home from a tiring day at work.  Another thing that has been inspiring me is watching Emmy award winner Anthony Bourdain on TV.  He is a very engaging chef who travels to cities in the United States and exotic places around the world sampling their food and culture.  Warning #1: Do not attempt to watch it unless you have a plate of food to eat in front of you.  It will just make you hungry. Warning #2: Do not attempt to watch it with young children.  It should be rated PG-13 due to rough language at times.  Bourdain actually has two shows, The Layover, which showcases a city that he experiences for 24-48 hours depending, and Parts Unknown, a great travel show focusing a lot on food.

Sometimes we need inspiration.  Sometimes we bore ourselves to tears.  I hope this inspires you to throw some broth, meat, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, greens, and whatever else seems good, into a pot and let it simmer.  I won’t add, “all you need to do is add a loaf of crusty bread” because I hate it when people say that.  I love crusty bread. They need to be more sensitive to the gluten-free people, the paleo crowd, and those wanting to lose some weight who need to avoid crusty bread.

The flipside of fast, life-draining food like Taco Bell and McDonald’s is easy, life-giving food like I described above that can be started in the morning in a crock pot or later in the day simmering on the stove or in the oven. It probably took me 20 minutes to throw into a pot, in this case a Dutch oven, then it cook for a few hours while I did other things.

Addendum: The pork green chili stew turned out great and was very satisfying. And clean up was a cinch-just one pot.

 

 

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Quirky Thursday: Eating Placenta Healthful?

One of my four pregnant daughters recently asked me to do a blog post on eating the placenta after one has given birth.  Yes, it does have a name: placentophagy.  Said daughter is considering doing this.

Before we discuss why one would do this, we will discuss how.  The placenta is usually encapsulated after being dried and ground. But some people eat it raw, or steam it and incorporate it into food sliced or ground, make it into jerky-like pieces, or freeze small pieces to add to smoothies. Some people choose to process the placenta themselves; others hire people to pick up the placenta right after the time of delivery and take care of the unsavory business. The cost for the latter ranges from about $150-$350.

Most mammals eat their placenta. Most humans do not.  It is postulated that animals may do this more due to a housekeeping issue like keeping predators away rather than an instinctive healthful practice. According to Beacock (2012) and Schwartz (2014), however, some humans think that placentophagy can be healthful by providing nutrients, especially iron and vitamin B6, hormones, and opioids; all adding to a sense of well-being.  It is also thought to increase milk production. Some, on the other hand, worry that the placenta may contain toxins and other undesirable substances that the placenta filters.

Supposed benefits: (1) replenishes iron losses more effectively than iron supplementation or eating iron-rich foods.  Iron-deficient anemia is associated with post-partum depression, (2) placentophaphy is thought to replace hormones that the mother’s may have suddenly become deficient in.  These include cortocotropin-releasing-hormone which affects cortisol levels; progesterone; and lactogen, which is thought to help stimulate milk production, (3) pain relief or suppression due to placental opoid-enhancing factor (POEF), (Schwartz, 2014). The placenta also contains calcium, magnesium, and other healthy trace minerals and amino acids.

Unfortunately, the evidence and research is limited to support the various claims. However, it has been used by traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1400 years, and, anecdotally,  many new mothers attest to placentophaphy being very helpful.

One study done by the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2010 using 189 women showed that most women said they would eat their placenta again.  Forty-three percent reported negative side effects: the gross factor-unappetizing, burping, and headaches, which do not really sound very daunting.

Although I am not actually opposed to placentophagy, I am not sorry that I did not partake in it after giving birth to my six children, even though I certainly could have used the reported benefits.  Can I give my opinion here?  It just doesn’t seem natural.  I would rather obtain these benefits in other ways, or perhaps even suffer a little. But it is an interesting practice to consider.

Just a side note, interestingly, as I finish writing this, the first of four daughters due to have babies within five months of each other is now in labor.  All four of them are having boys.  Now that is quirky.

Beacock, M. (2012). Does eating placenta offer postpartum health benefits.  British Journal of Midwifery, 20(7), 464-9.

Schwartz, S. (2014). Maternal placentophagy as an alternative medicinal practice in the postpartum period. Midwifery Today, (110), 28-29.

 

 

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Quirky Thursday: Chicken Feet

I never really saw that chicken feet were available for purchase before, at least that I can remember.  Maybe I did see them and my brain did not register it; after all, what normal modern day brain would consider them to be food.

Chick Foot

Your conclusion is correct. I did buy some, as evidenced by one of them posing on my plate for a photo.  “But WHY?”, you may ask.  Answer: They make good bone broth, and I like good bone broth.

chickfeet

A crockpot full of chicken feet.  Admittedly, they are pretty creepy.  What lengths I will go to for health.  However, they are cheap way to obtain many good nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, amino acids like glycine, calcium, as well as other macro and trace minerals. These nutrients are great for bone and joint health, for healing a leaky gut, fighting off colds and flu’s, and a bunch of other compelling reasons to consume bone broth. If you haven’t already, check out my recipe for Bone Broth.

This time I plan on cooking the chicken feet in the crockpot with some celery scraps for about 24 hours.  I cannot wait to taste the goodness.

Addendum: The results were extremely gelatinous, which is a good sign of nutritious awesomeness.  The taste was wonderful as well.  And I wanted to report that the chicken feet at Whole Foods is $2.99 a pound as of this writing. Some people inquired about adding vinegar. I always use apple cider vinegar with the “mother”, like Bragg brand.  I add 2-3 tablespoons for a crockpot full.  It aids in leaching out the minerals from the bones thereby making the broth that much more nutrient dense.

 

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Microwave Cooking: Safe or Unsafe

I have been on an intellectual teeter-totter preparing for this blog on microwaving foods. I am really quite surprised which end of the board I am left on. I have consistently vacillated on my comfortableness regarding using a microwave for years. For instance, for many months I will use it unabashedly, (although I do usually stand a couple of feet away during use); then I will go through a leery-of-it-again phase, at which time I dig my teapot back out to heat water for my tea, and use a saucepan and toaster oven again to heat my leftovers. I do this for a while, then I get lazy, careless, expedient, or smart, however you want to look at it; and I start using my microwave again, warily at first, then full throttle. Until my microwave pendulum swings again.

So, I decided to make up my mind about it this time, research it, and be scientific about it. Well, I came to find out that there is not a lot of research to be found, especially recent research, even though I have access to the latest peer reviewed journals. I had really thought this would be a slam-dunk, and was very disappointed to find out that is was not.

However, I will share on what little I could find. There was one study done in Spain over ten years ago with broccoli, which showed that steaming did not destroy any of the nutrients, but all of the antioxidants in the microwaved broccoli were destroyed (1). However, I read criticism that the microwaved broccoli had too much water added to it during cooking. Then another article in Natural Life (2005) reported on several studies. One done in the early 1990’s at Stanford University showed that breast milk heated on low in the microwave adversely affected the nutrients; one of them was lysozyme, which is important for combating bacterial infections. IN 1989 Lancet medical journal included a study, which maintained that microwaving baby formula converts the molecular structure to substances that are synthetic and harmful to the kidneys and the nervous system. Another study was done in 1989 by Dr. Dans Ulrich Hertel. He used the blood samples of 8 human volunteers taken before and after eating microwaved food. He claims that it showed a decrease in hemoglobin, white blood cells, and HDL, the good cholesterol (2). Some have suggested this study could be criticized for having such a small number of people tested.

In addition, the anonymous author of Natural Life May/June 2005 issue claims that microwaved broccoli loses 74-97% of the 3 major antioxidants while steamed broccoli loses only 8-11%. This author also states that the Soviets banned microwave ovens in 1976 (but they have since overturned the ban) due to 60-90% of vitamin and mineral content loss in foods. In addition the Russians discovered chemical alterations in microwaved food caused it to be carcinogenic and caused a reduction in immune function.

Then I went to big names in the health field for kind of an informal poll. Basically, I googled their name and “microwave” and looked at what came up. To use or not to use, here are my results in no particular order:

Terry Wahl’s, MD—No. Plus food tastes worse.

Mehmet Oz, MD—OK, but stand several feet away and use only glass and ceramic dishes.

Julian Whitaker, MD—OK, but advocates steaming vegetables for maximum nutrients, and must use proper container.

Andrew Weil, MD—OK, but he only does for defrosting and reheating leftovers. States that microwaving bacon lowers the carcinogenic nitrosamines, which is good. Also states that he does not “cook vegetables or anything else in the microwave” (so I guess just reheats?).

Chris Kresser, LAc—OK, but does not use himself out of preference.

Joseph Mercola, MD—No. No. No.

Mark Sisson—OK, but use common sense.

William Davis, MD—OK, apparently, because he has microwave recipes.

Steven Masley, MD—OK, apparently, because he also has microwave recipes.

Barry Sears, MD—OK, has lots of microwave recipes.

This is certainly not a huge list, just a smattering of people that first popped in my mind. And there were a number of others that I didn’t add because I could not determine their opinion on the subject. Not that any of them are experts on the subject, it is just interesting that 80% of them think using microwaves are an okay thing.

I find it super odd that there has not been more recent research on this subject. I would like someone to volunteer to do a study. I will even let you publish it on my blog. I am suggesting something like obtaining 300 new mice, feeding 100 only microwaved food, feeding 100 only steamed food, and feeding the last 100 raw food. And see what happens.

Until that takes place, we will have to kind of wander in the dark hoping that we are making the right choices.

I will try to sum this topic up, which might be difficult, being the microwave schizo that I am. Just before starting my research a few days ago I was like 80/20 against microwaves, but a couple of weeks before had only been 60/40. Just as the totter was climbing up and up, it peaked after a couple of hours of research and started its fall. Then began an ascent on the opposite side. So, now I am probably a 30/70, 30 indicating my continued wariness of the microwave, to where I would not use it for breast milk, baby formula, or cooking, but will use it for barely heating leftovers. I will also never use plastic containers to cook in, nor will I stand too close when it is on. And I will never use a microwave to heat blood that I am going to transfuse like the nurse in Oklahoma did which killed a patient, but that story would make this article too much longer.

I hate to end on that note, but I am teetered out.

 

  1. Anonymous. I’d appreciate having your view on microwave cooking. I am confused …Natural Life; May/Jun 2005; ProQuest Family Health pg. 6.
  1. Randerson, James. New Scientist 180.2418(Oct 25-Oct 31, 2003): 14.

 

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Astaxanthin: Shockingly Awesome Supplement

Somewhere in the far reaches of my mind I had heard of astaxanthin before but had no idea what it was until recently when I read an excellent article written by Dr. Joseph Mercola. It actually sounded too good to be true. Fortunately I have access to a great library through my school where I can look up peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Mercola says this is one of the few supplements that he would advise everybody to take, and after doing my research I agree. As an antioxidant, astaxanthin is 500 times more potent than vitamin E and 6,000 times more than vitamin C.  That alone is astonishing!

Interestingly, astaxanthin has a reddish color and is the component that gives the red color to such things as salmon, the shells of lobster and crab, quail retina’s and flamingo feathers. Maybe interesting is an understatement. Algae makes it, then the creatures consume it. Humans cannot make it; they must get it by consuming foods high in astaxanthin or supplementing with astaxanthin capsules. Just to give you an idea, if you ate 6 ounces of wild caught salmon that would provide about 3 mg of astaxanthin. More about amounts further on.

So, back to proclaiming astaxanthin’s virtues. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, it is wonderful in many other ways. According to Kidd (2011), studies have shown it to be anti-inflammatory. It also boosts mitochondria production. This is important because the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells in our bodies. Kidd also stated that one 8 week double blind study done with rheumatoid arthritis subjects indicated that the group reported significant improvement in pain. Other studies have shown that it increases physical endurance and speed, increases fertitility by positively affecting the sperm, that it improves anxiety, lowers triglycerides, and increases HDL cholesterol levels (the good ones!).

Moreover, astaxanthin suppresses tumor growth (Jyonouchi, 2000), and Hawkins (2013) reports that it not only lowers the risk of cancer, but also prevents cancerous cell replication, and metastasis. That is not all. Astaxanthin is anti-aging, rejuvenating “the skin from within”, reducing wrinkles, age spots, and increasing elasticity (Hawkins, 2013). Additionally it balances the immune system by suppressing overactive immune responses that are seen in autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions, as well as stimulating white blood cell production and other helpful immune responses. Hawkins also writes that astaxanthin is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is able to protect brain tissue. Studies have shown it helps with cognitive function, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. It can improve eye health, helping macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. It also has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood glucose, and protect against the ravages of diabetes by improving the microcirculation.

This well-studied supplement has been shown to be safe and non-toxic even in doses as high as 80-120mg daily. From everything I could gather, a good daily dose would be 4-12mg, perhaps starting at 4 mg and working up to 12mg if you desire. (Update 10/20/14, my naturopathic doctor recently advised me to add astaxanthin to my supplement regimen. I told her I already had been for a few weeks and that now I am taking 8 mg. She informed me that 4 mg is adequate. So I cut back, mostly due to the cost.) It should also be noted that it is best utilized by the body if eaten with a meal with adequate fat content since it is fat-soluble. It is a little pricey to say the least, but if it actually does all that it is proported to do, it looks like a good way to spend that money, getting a real bang for your buck.

Again, it almost seems too good to be true. But I purchased some from Amazon, BioAstin, a couple of weeks ago, and Husband and I are putting it to the test. I read that it may take a few weeks to notice any results, but after that you are free to tell us that we look 20 years younger.

References

Hawkins, L. (2013). Astaxanthin Provides Broad Spectrum Protection. Life Extension,             19(4), 1-8.

Jyonouchi, H., Sun S.,Iijima, K. & Gross M. D. (2000). Antitumor Activity of             Astaxanthin and its Mode of Action. Nutrition & Cancer, 36(1), 59-65.

Kidd, P. (2011). Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and             Anti-Aging Potential. Alternative Medicine Review. 16(4), 355-364.

Mercola, J. (2013). Astaxanthin-Nature’s Most Powerful Antioxidant. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/02/10/cysewki-discloses-astaxanthin-benefits.aspx

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Quirky Thursday: Word Health

Speaking of health, how is your vocabulary health? I love words!  They don’t even have to be real words.

Am I the only one who gets a kick out of those “verification words” that you have to copy when posting a comment on someone’s blog or buying tickets over the internet? Words like sonsh, gulapi, havsjul, or moxbo. I confess, a couple of times I even copied the word wrong on purpose to see what word I would get next. I think it is just that I really like words and the sounds of words. How do you get that job of inventing those verification words? I want to apply for it.

Speaking of words, I love to read good writers because they have such amazing ways of stringing words together. Like this quote written by a well known British author, P.G. Wodehouse, “He was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say when”!  Reading books by authors like John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens are word indulgences.  The thoughts they can convey using words sometimes just floor me.

I recently realized that there are some words that I feel pretty confident that I have never used in any of my writings, and I am looking forward to fitting them in somewhere. Great words like foment, denigrate, and avuncular.  I think it is a fun thought to know that you can do something new and fresh just by using a word for the first time yourself, especially in writing.

Remember Reader’s Digest section called, “Increase Your Word Power”? I miss that.

Then there is the Bible, which is God’s Word to us humans.  Words from the Creator to the creatures.  That is pretty awesome and humbling.

Words: written, spoken, sign-languaged; real or non-sensical; in a multitude of languages; encouraging, destructive, or neutral; funny, serious, instructive, accusatory, loving, or meaningless; poetry, prose, or conversation.

I cannot imagine the world without them.

 

 

 

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