The common pickle is a naturally healthy probiotic
Have you ever had a food craving for something so strange that you almost can’t admit it?
I have a secret like that.
I love pickled food, and the more sour and vinegar-y, the better. I’m one of those people who puts pickled beets on salad and eats them right from the jar. Sauerkraut? Love it. Especially with a meaty sausage and tangy mustard. Pickled herring was a favorite of my dad’s growing up, so I learned to appreciate that early on.
These days, everyone is talking about yeast and candida and all sorts of bothersome digestion problems. Most of these problems occur because stress, antibiotics or a diet of processed foods upset the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies.
Eating a small portion of some sort of pickled or fermented food every day helps repopulate the ‘beneficial’ bacteria so normal digestive functions have a fighting chance.
Eating that pickle next to your restaurant hamburger could help you avoid an upset stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea, reflux or heartburn later tonite.
The reason I’m coming out with my secret is I know now there’s no shame in craving pickled food. I have to thank Jennifer Wilford, the self-described ‘real food advocate’, who taught me 8 great reasons to eat fermented foods during a class last weekend.
Jennifer explained that pickling is not only coming back into vogue, it’s also an old-fashioned way to introduce natural probiotics into the diet. A couple generations ago, this was common knowledge.
I won’t share all Jennifer’s secrets, but she did share that the process of pickling, which is pretty darn easy by the way, encourages the growth of a plethora of gut-friendly bacteria – especially lactobacillus. Try saying that three times fast!
And get this: because a huge majority of immune system action happens in the gut, a larger colony of friendly bacteria down there can even improve your protection from illnesses going around this winter. How ’bout that?
Guess what else happens in the gut? Most of your body’s seratonin – a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation – is made there. Improve your mood just by eating a little condiment-sized serving of sauerkraut. If you’re salt sensitive, try kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sourdough bread, or sour cream. Read more about this in my November 2012 newsletter.
Holistic health doesn’t have to be complicated. It can even save you money when you replace expensive bottled digestive enzymes and probiotics with natural ones made from whole foods like cabbage and beets.
Want to know how to ferment your own foods at home? Jennifer recommended Fermented by Jill Ciciarelli [here’s a link – http://amzn.to/1auQOaF].
As an herbalist, I like to pair probiotics with herbs for patients suffering from chronic yeast and urinary tract infections. Tasty natural probiotic foods can help you avoid the side effects of antibiotic use, such as loose stools and yeast infections.
I told you my secret craving. What’s yours? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does the start of a scratchy, sore throat signal a week long misery-fest for you? Then you might be interested in a naturally healthy substance called bee propolis.
Propolis is the sticky goo made from resinous trees that bees use to seal up holes in their hives. Lucky for us, propolis has another quality that makes it excellent for immune challenges in human.
The presence of flavonoids in bee products like propolis and honey stimulate the immune system to spring into action and surround, smother and suffocate unwanted pathogens.
When a foreign bacteria or virus enters our body, your body’s defense system produces an army of white blood cells, which do their valuable immune-protective work in the lymph nodes and then flush the neutralized invaders. This process goes on continuously and without notice 24 hours a day when we’re healthy.
When we’re fatigued from ongoing emotional and physical stress, our immune system can become a little sluggish. Then, what starts as a typical day becomes a scratchy, sore throat followed by a lousy week of cough, fever and fatigue. Protecting yourself at the start with a throat spray containing bee propolis is your first line of defense. When you use an herbal throat spray, you get instant relief from the pain and a sizzle that signals anti-microbial action.
During cold season, have a propolis-containing spray on hand, or even better, enjoy a teaspoon of pure honey every day, which contains all the germ-fighting power of propolis and tastes sweet and smooth on a scratchy throat.
Honey has been used in healing systems around the world for centuries, and its special healing properties are being rediscovered as anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria become more common. Find a local honey supplier and stock your cupboard with plenty of that golden goo this fall and winter.
Honey products should not be given to children under 2 years of age or to those sensitive to bee products.
The other day, a patient shared with me that after a very long relationship, she decided it was time to get her own apartment, move out and start taking care of herself. The day she told her partner she was leaving, all the digestive symptoms that had been plaguing her for months of visits quickly cleared up. No more constipation, no more tummy problems. Just like that. She could breathe easily again.
Maybe you’re hanging on to an unhealthy relationship, or maybe it’s a bad habit you can’t shake, like gossiping or nighttime snacking. Sometimes, we just get hung up on what someone said to us 20 or 30 years ago and can’t let it go.
Whatever your hangup, it’s time to hang it up.
The weight of your emotional baggage is a giant burden on your physical health, whether you see it or not. Letting it go means a chance at feeling light and playful again. Smiling and joy are guiltless pleasures that we owe ourselves.
Let go of worries and feel playful and healthy again
I swear, letting go is one of the hardest lessons to learn in life.
Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes a clear connection between the Lungs – which play a role in expressing grief, releasing the past and detaching from unhealthy patterns and behaviors – and the Large Intestine, where another kind of ‘letting go’ happens.
A healthy and balanced Lung/Large Intestine pair helps you withstand the stresses of respiratory threats like colds and flus, and environmental imbalances like dryness or excess humidity and dampness. Did you get that? Letting go of unhealthy people, patterns and even poop 🙂 gives you protection from seasonal illnesses.
My patient discovered on her own that simply making up her mind to let go helped her physically release, making space for something new.
The season of the Lungs and Large Intestine is here right now. This is a great week to start a Fall cleanse.
A seasonal diet and herbs that focus on preparing your lungs, large intestine and lymphatic system for the cold weather can give you a leg up on immune system challenges.
Two weeks of delicious foods like squash, root vegetables and wild game, and herbs like cleavers, burdock root, stillingia root, poke root and cascara sagrada bark provide a lymph, lung, large intestine and deep tissue detox that stimulate and renew your sluggish system.
I tell my patients to get a good massage and indulge themselves in an afternoon nap. This is time to really let go of unhappy thoughts and enjoy the shocking blue skies and comfy sweater weather to the fullest.
I can help you understand how to accomplish cleansing with healthy, nourishing foods, herbs and simple daily practices. Everyone deserves a healthy start to Fall. Email me at email@example.com and get started.
Herbs like vitex can virtually eliminate uncomfortable PMS symptoms
Is breast tenderness or pain an early warning sign that your period is on its way? You know, you don’t have to put up with that every month.
The Latin name for the plant that soothes PMS symptoms is Vitex agnus, but it’s commonly called Chaste tree berry or simply Vitex.
Vitex has this handy talent for balancing hormone levels in a way only plants can. In my herbal practice, I’ve seen this little odd-flavored berry perform it’s herbal magic on women with PMS symptoms like irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, sugar cravings, acne, headaches and other pre-period pains (in tincture or capsule).
Once a period starts, Vitex does a great job of reducing heavy bleeding and even shortening a long period. Many women report changes within one cycle, but I encourage my patients to continue taking the herb for at least 3-6 months for maximum effect. There’s no standard amount to take, but I generally recommend one 500 gm capsule daily in the morning. Vitex works so well for the girls in my family that we make a whole year’s supply of tincture at once from the dried berries.
What if your cycles are irregular or infrequent, or you’ve lost track of when to expect a period?
It’s always helpful to your healthcare provider to know just what you mean by ‘infrequent’. I recommend you download one of those handy period tracker apps to your phone. I like MyCalendar, which lets me keep notes on recurring symptoms like headaches or heavy days.
A phone app or even a little bedside notepad will help you get a handle on the rhythm – or lack of rhythm – of your cycles before you see your healthcare provider or herbalist.
Yes, Vitex is excellent for women with irregular or frequently skipped periods. It’s like a multi-vitamin for your hormones!
Are you ready to say good-bye to PMS and hormone hell? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how Vitex fits into your healthcare needs.
My life coach says I’m ‘up to big things’, which explains why my mind’s been chattering lately with lots of self-talk. Not the happy Oprah kind.
Is your monkey mind distracting you from success?
I’ve learned this is a good time to sit on the floor beside my bed, take a few breaths, and listen to what’s going on between my ears. Instead of calm, peace and universally loving thoughts about my life, the words lately sound more like this:
“I can’t do that”
“I’ve had it hard and that’s why I’ll be a failure”
“I’m not smart enough – so-and-so is better at this than me”
“You’re not successful enough to try”
“People will be watching and you might make a mistake”
“You don’t know enough”
“You’re gonna fail”
“Someday you’ll be good enough to do this, but not right now”
“You’re selfish to even try”
“It’s gonna cost too much money”
It’s like I’m trying to talk myself out of success so I’ll have an excuse when things don’t go like I expect.
This pattern of self-destructive thinking is sometimes called monkey mind. Pretty accurate description, I’d say. That monkey in my head is distracting me, jumping all over the cage, throwing insults and trying to push me off my game. She’s on full blast when I’m getting ready to accomplish something I’ve never done before.
I used to think I was the only person who struggled with this. Other people just got up in the morning, made up their minds to do something and did it. No self-doubt, no ‘poor me’, no excuses. Now I know better.
The most successful people you know hear this same monkey jabbering away when it’s time to face a big task or step out of their comfort zone. Somehow they learn how to tame the monkey and go ahead anyway.
Me? I wrestle with the mind chatter every day. Sometimes the monkey wins, sometimes I do. On the good days, I manage to keep calm and focus on where I’m going and what I love – sharing what I know about holistic healing, herbal medicine, and how it changed my life.
On those other days, when the self-doubt bubbles up and threatens to sabotage my plans, I forgive the monkey, act gently with myself and breathe. Sometimes, I just write a blog.
How do you handle the self-destructive mind chatter? What’s your strategy to keep the monkey mind from holding you back? Do you have a little retreat in your home or office, or a mantra that helps you cope or get beyond the critic in your brain? I’d love to hear your ideas!
“You’re kidding me. It’s only been 2 months.” When my sister told me a benign nodule on her thyroid shrunk from the size of an egg to a peanut in two months, I did a little happy dance. For her and for herbal medicine.
Tummy troubles? Maybe summer heat and humidity are aggravating an old pattern
Every time I turn around lately, someone’s blaming a healthy food for causing indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and probably last week’s summer flu. With all the GMOs, antibiotics, hormones and chemicals in our food, it’s an easy conclusion to draw.
But I have another theory. And Chinese medicine will back me up. People with chronic Heat and Damp imbalances in their constitution often don’t feel good this time of year.
Hot, damp weather can aggravate existing problems in the gut, as well as the skin, urinary tract and not surprisingly, the mind.
Heat and Dampness are two of the six ‘pernicious evils’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]. The theory goes that too much heat outside can aggravate heat inside the body. Same goes for dampness.
Summer is prime time for Heat, with a capital H, to mess with people who already suffer from one or more symptoms like:
- Acid-indigestion or ‘hot burps’
- Persistent acne breakouts, boils or red-toned skin eruptions or rashes
- A tendency to be more irritable, cranky or even talkative in hot weather
- Concentrated, dark urine or burning urinary tract infections
- A tendency to be thirsty, especially for cool or cold fluids
- Dryness and constipation (heat has a tendency to dry things out, right?)
- A red tongue, a fast pulse (more than 20 beats every 15 seconds) and a flushed face
When you add in the dampness that Summer humidity brings, it can complicate a Heat pattern in your body, causing dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and almost a flu-like feeling. We call this Summer Heat in TCM. It’s so nasty it falls into its own special category of ‘evil’.
Even if you’re not taken by the extremes of Summer Heat and Dampness, you can still feel occasional and persistent bloating, nausea, heartburn, acid burping, constipation/diarrhea or any of those uncomfortable digestive symptoms we like to blame on the picnic food or weekend splurges.
What to do about it? It’s not always the food’s fault, but it helps to avoid greasy, fried foods, cheese and alcohol, which contribute to the Heat and Damp imbalances.
Cool watermelon, berries, garden salads and cooling sun teas made from herbs like mint, lemon balm, basil, hibiscus with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of stevia are great Summertime options to balance digestion. And when digestion is working well, everything else tends to fall in line.
5 Tips for digestive health during hot, humid weather:
- Eat until you’re 70% full – not until you’re burping and bloated
- Fill up on green, not grain – think kale, salad greens, cucumber, bell peppers, snap peas, zucchini
- Ditch the drink with dinner – it’s NOT helping an already sluggish digestive system (this includes water, milk, and soda)
- Get up early on the hottest, most humid days to work on outside chores, or save them for another day
- Consider bitters – a few drops of swedish bitters on the tongue 15 minutes before eating will stimulate digestive juices and help break down food. Or enjoy a little dandelion root tea in the evening to smooth things out the next morning
Here’s another idea: visit a trained, professional herbalist.Why feel miserable one more day? Call me at 402.933.6444 and schedule your appointment now. No time? Try my Quick Stop 15-minute visit for $20, plus herbs.
You’d be surprised what women lump into the ‘hormone’ category of health problems. Pretty much anything and everything.
Midlife misery doesn’t always call for the heavy hand of hormone therapy
Girls, it’s time I said it loud and clear, because there is still alot of confusion around this message:
Herbs really DO lessen or completely eliminate many peri-menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, sleeplessness, hair loss, loss of libido, crazy periods, the whole deal.
It works gently. Quickly. Alot of times, permanently.
And safely. Up next to artificial or ‘natural’ hormone and surgical interventions, herbal medicine is so free of side effects and risks that it really doesn’t fall into the same category of healing.
Week after week, I visit with women who share stories of soaking the bedsheets from wicked night sweats, suffering weeks or months of exhausting insomnia, tracking periods that run the gamut from every 2 or 3 months to every 2 or 3 weeks, with flooding and sometimes debilitating pain, migraines and too many other miseries to name here.
They call me days or weeks after starting their custom herb formulas to say thank you for the relief.
My patients find me through a girlfriend or sister who didn’t have luck with conventional medicine and tried something ‘sort of out there’, as one woman referred to my work. I’m not offended.
Women come to herbal and natural medicine for lots of reasons – dissatisfaction with traditional medicine, bad experiences with drug side effects, a reputation for safety, and a desire to explore options to surgery.
For me, it was fear. During chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid to lose my hair, so I went to visit a naturopathic physician my friend was seeing.
I still lost my hair, but the pills and capsules cleared up my lifelong digestion problems and most of my fibromyalgia pain – conditions I’d resigned myself to dealing with forever.
Even if fear or drug side effects point them to herbal solutions, it’s the results that keep my patients coming back and getting more involved in their own healthcare decisions. When they get results, they stop worrying about what their doctor, their mother, or their husband might think.
Google the phrase ‘hot flashes’ and the results are a confusing assortment of 15 million quasi-scientific and product-centered websites. That’s alot of information to sort through, and having a professionally trained herbalist guide you through the quagmire can come in handy.
Taking a problem like night sweats to a professional herbalist might be the LAST thing you consider. It’s not the sort of healthcare option you see splashed across billboards on Dodge Street. Without drug company profit margins, those billboards and expensive advertising campaigns are pretty much out of the question for herbalists.
We rely on word-of-mouth, and let me tell you, women talk. Good results are the main reason my patients are telling their sisters, moms, daughters and co-workers to go see ‘that herb lady’ when they’re a hot mess of hormones.
Take your time and think it over. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you’re ready to explore your options. You’ll get the truth if I think herbal medicine is a less effective choice for your very personal situation.
So, come sit in a comfortable chair and let’s talk this thing through. No judgement, no obligation. Just one woman to another. That’s the most natural thing I can offer.