Friday, July 8, 2011

5 items I would have in my medicine cabinet

At baby showers, it is not uncommon for the expectant mom or set of parents to receive a goody basket full of baby ibuprofen or tylenol, diaper rash cream, gas drops or nursing cream.  In fact, I received all of these things and have at one point or another tried all of them, and was happy to not have to run out to the drugstore to grab them on a rainy night.

There are times though when the conventional treatments don't *work* or fix the problem like I would've liked, and thanks to a few friends, I have learned some different ways to treat certain ailments that may afflict your little one or other family members!

If I were to make my own all-natural/homeopathic goody bag for an expectant parent, here is what I would include, and why:

Aconite Flower, c/o Wikipedia

  • Aconitum Napellus, aka "Aconite," is a homeopathic treatment that I buy in the little blue Boiron tubes at my local healthfood store and always try to keep it in stock because according to B.B.H., it's the best thing to give at the onset of any illness.  Cold, fever, sore throat, vomiting, etc., if given within the first 12 hours it can really lessen or reduce the impact of the symptoms.  
  • Hepar Sulphuris Calcareum.  This is a great homeopathic treatment for the croup cough that is common in children under 5.  Aside from using hepar sulph, we'll use a humidifier in the room, and try to get as much rest as possible.  Using tea tree oil, lavender and the other essential oils on the hands or feet can help with croup, but try not to use both treatments at the same time.  Oils are powerful and can sometimes overpower the homeopathic treatment.  
  • Chamomilla tablets are great for a teething baby; it's essentially the same herb in teething tablets you can buy at any drugstore or Target.  Sometimes we give Mia chamomilla when she's freaking out for no apparent reason; it's great for reducing agitation and fear in an unsettled child.  When a child is older, you could also try real chamomile tea.  
  • Coldcalm can be used for cold and flu and similar to Zicam, is best when taken immediately and with greater frequency at the onset.  It is analogous to a conventional cold medication you'd buy at your pharmacy, treating a whole host of symptoms with various homeopathic ingredients. 
  • Black Elderberry Syrup (technically I would keep this in my refrigerator upon opening) is wonderful for that persistent cough or reducing the duration of the flu.  One day when Mia was hacking in church services, a family friend came up and just said, "Black Elderberry Syrup, that's what you need for Mia."  We quickly picked some up on our way home and Mia's cough was gone within days.  Some studies have even shown that it can reduce your flu by 4 days!  It was also shown to be 99% effective against the Avian Bird Flu.  
    Black Elderberry, c/o Gaia Herbs

    What I love about these remedies is that they are proven over time and have a greater track record than many of your typical over the counter remedies.  They have lasted over the years and stood the test of time, which gives me great comfort as a young mother treating a young child wondering, "Is this safe? Will this work? Am I hurting my child?"  

    Whenever we travel away from home for days at a a time, I will often pack Aconite and Hepar Sulph in my bag, because it seems Mia always comes down with something when we're away from home (stress, fatigue, less rest usually accompany our travels!).  It's nice to know we have a quick way to treat the symptoms before they blow up into something worse.  

    So the next time you're thinking about natural remedies for common ailments in your family, know that you can rely on many of the herbs and plants God has provided us on this earth!  

    Happy homeopathy!

    Disclaimer: Of course, I am not a medical doctor or a doctor of natural medicine, so if you have any concerns about you or your child's physical health before taking these remedies, please consult with a DOM, DNM or someone experienced in homeopathy.  There can be contraindications with herbs as well, i.e., if you are on prescription medication, nursing or pregnant.  /Concluding the "don't sue me" spiel.  

    This post was also shared at Chiquita Bambina & on Monday Mania.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Today's Health: Article Round-Up

    Photo Credit
    Our family did not escape the 2011 flu season without finally succumbing to a stomach virus.  Just last week, each member of our family slowly fell prey to a bug that had some intense effects at first onset, and then "generously" lingered around for a few more days with just a general "crud" feeling.  Not much felt or sounded good, so we slowly consumed our fluids, some homemade chicken broth, and crackers.

    But now we're back on the up & up and the following articles found their way into my Facebook feed.  These articles have given me much to think about as I reflect on how we can improve our family's health after being down and out, and unfortunately, relying on more processed food than we had in a while.

    See for yourself:
    Confession: I May Be Orthorexic (And Why You May Be Too via Wellness Mama

    Are you enjoying your daily chemical cocktail? via Grist

    Athletes Looking To Meat As Performance Enhancer via CNBC

    It has reaffirmed to me the value of cutting down or completely cutting out processed foods, things with artificial dyes, chemicals or additives, and eating food properly prepared.

    Of course, I know I can't be perfect (or else I might be "orthorexic") ... but each little step in the right direction can boast big gains in the future.

    So with that, my new project for this weekend is making liquid whey, as shown here or here.
    I can't wait to try my hand at homemade cream cheese once the whey separates from the curds!
    Photo Credit:

      Future post will include what all you can do with whey!  I'm excited to find out and share with you.


      Tuesday, April 12, 2011

      Why Fermented Foods?

      Fermented Foods...isn't that like wine and stuff?  I didn't know what the hype was about all this fermented stuff until I started eating more nourishingly.  I didn't even know that yogurt was a fermented food!

      Basically, fermented foods improve digestion, restore beneficial bacteria in the gut, increase vitamin content, and improve flavor.  Yogurt has a tangy taste because it's been fermented.  Cheese is fermented.  Sourdough bread -- which I've always had a hankering for -- is fermented. 

      There are beverages that are fizzy & carbonated...and fermented...that are healthy for you!  Have you ever tried kombucha or water kefir soda?  I have tried the former but not the latter, which is why I'm entering Wellness Mama's Cultures for Health Water Kefir Giveaway.  Since eating more nourishingly, we have given up our sodas & pops from a frequent basis to a very infrequent basis, but we still love the taste of something that sizzles and would hop on the chance to make our own sodas.

      If you're interesting in learning how to make a soda for your family that will be tasty and helpful for your digestive system, jet on over to Wellness Mama's blog to learn how you can enter!  There are several ways you can increase your chances of winning and thus improving the quality of your food.


      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      4 things you can do right now to improve your health

      I've spent quite some time reflecting on the changes my family and I have made in regards to the food we consume. They have taken time and have occurred over months or in some cases years.  I was on the right track in 2008; I'd say that's where my "real food" journey began, when I first came across the Environmental Working Group's guide to buying organic.  I decided then that I wanted to buy more and more of my produce organic and their lists helped me figure out where to hone in my focus.  Not that I'm a 100% organic produce person all the time, but when I can find it, when it fits and when it's what we want, I get it.

      But here is a quick list of simple things you can do RIGHT now that will improve your health:

      1. Consider buying any fruits or vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list as organic.  It may be an extra $1-2/type of fruit to go this route, but the pesticide count and toxic load it will place on your body will be SO much less.  Tons of research over the last year has indicated pesticides are linked to learning disorders in children and to memory deficit problems in older aged adults, so prevent what you can NOW while you can!  If it's hard for you to swallow the price tag, just remember you are making an investment in your health which can seriously pay off years down the road!
      2. Buy little to no processed foods.  Not only will you better be off for it health-wise, but your pocketbook will thank you as well!  You may have found that some processed foods are really cheap, but consider how nutrient-dense they really are?  Buying less processed foods means you can buy higher-quality organic fruits & veggies, or grass-fed meat!  One of my friends is a nutritionist in Indianapolis, and she frequently recommends to her clients to shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  Most of the stuff in the middle aisles of the grocery store truly isn't healthy for you.  You've heard it before, but if you read the labels on the boxes of food and can't identify what an ingredient is, perhaps you shouldn't buy it.  It's taken me a while to realize that additives and artificial ingredients or food colorings truly weren't made to be consumed by our bodies. 
      3. Try Coconut Oil.  You can find coconut oil in many of the natural sections of your grocery store and certainly at a health food stores.  There are many brands so while you familiarize yourself with coconut oil, just pick a bottle/jar that feels right to you.  Coconut oil has so many amazing properties; you can cook with it and you can even slather it on your face or your hair.  It's an amazing moisturizer!  It is one of those products, like vinegar or baking soda, with which you can do a lot.  I use coconut oil as a moisturizer, on my sweet potatoes, when I make popcorn, in baking and cooking.  Being antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, are just a few of its health-boosting properties. 
      4. A Coconut!
        Photo Credit
        Photo Credit
      5. Lastly, consume probiotics.  You may get it through your yogurt, or via fermented foods, but if not, there are tons of pills and capsules on the market now. You want to find a probiotic that has BILLIONS of good bacteria, so check the label to see how diverse your probiotic is.  Why do you want to take probiotics?  Probiotics (which literally means 'for-life') help restore the healthy bacteria in your digestive system; if you've been on antibiotics for a longer course of time then consuming probiotics should be something you seriously consider as the antibiotics not only wipe away the bad bacteria, but the good bugs as well.   If you've watched TV over the last 5 years then surely you've seen those Activia commercials--that is what probiotics do!  I had to do a double-take the first time I was prescribed probiotics.  It was after Mia was born and I was struggling getting over mastitis even with antibiotics (bless her gut & mine)!!  My doula recommended probiotics with probably at least 10 billion cfu/gram.  Now I take Bio Kult every single day and if Mia is around when I take them, she gets one capsule as well!  I just open up the capsule and dump the contents on her tongue and she eagerly swallows with no whining.  Love sharing healthy habits with my daughter. 

      Making these changes will not necessarily guarantee explosions of happiness in your home, but it will foster more nourishment.  You can feel better about the foods you and your family are consuming and know that you will be much healthier in the long run.  A plus side is, even if you STILL get sick from time to time on a "diet" such as this (as we have experienced 2x this winter season -- Mia's had both a cold & a cough), your symptoms will probably be much less severe and its duration much shorter.  Your immune system will be even more robust to fight off the evil bugs and keep your health & home in good shape.

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      Did Wall Street Journal read my blog?

      My younger brother tweeted at me that I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal and tagged it "GotMilk".  At first I was afraid to know what in the world he was referring to until I saw the article.

      Admittedly, the article is mostly about almond milk, which this household has consumed in moderation here & there, but there is a shout-out to coconut milk and how the two (primarily almond milk) are making a racket in grocery stores. 

      Almond milk is a decent alternative but it is something I would also stress in moderation.  Without knowing all the chemistry and science behind it, I understand that there is not a perfect balance of Omega-3's and Omega-6's in almond milk, which make it not as ideal.  Yet I would venture to say it is still a better alternative to soy milk, which the article points out "contains estrogen-like chemicals, called phytoestrogens, and heightened exposure to estrogen has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer."

      In this case, homemade almond milk is also superior because by soaking the almonds, you'll improve the almond milk's digestibility and be able to avoid preservatives or other funky ingredients manufacturers might add to the mix.  

      But I'm not going to lie, this Nourishing Newbie knows not every one can strive for homemade all the time, and has been known to purchase almond milk for the little one when coconut milk was not easily accessible.  I will also note that she woke up screaming 2 out of the 5 nights when I was rotating her milk choices like that, for what that's worth!! ;)

      On behalf of the WSJ just kidding, this is the Nourishing Newbie, signing off.

      PS: If you enjoy cow's milk, but find yourself with some sort of lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, look in your area for a distributor of raw milk or check out

      Wednesday, January 5, 2011

      Why coconut milk?

      Photo Credit:

      Occasionally I am asked why my little one drinks coconut milk.  In truth, I know I know the reasons, but I can't always spout them off lickety-split.  So, imagine my delight when The Nourished Kitchen (a neat new foodie blog I've been following) does an expose on how to make your own coconut milk, from a real coconut.  Not that I've ever done that, but maybe that will be just one of the things I try this year!

      In other news, here's something new I started doing the last few months of 2010, and maybe it will be helpful for you too.

      Do you always pick up the same items at the store, nearly in the same quantity?  Now that we're a family of 3 with a pretty regular schedule, it seems that we consistently go through the same food items from month to month.  Of course, I try to stock up and save when these items may be on sale at the local grocery or health food store, but I have found that sometimes an even better option is shopping online.

      Guzzling down her "coco" & discovering her
      Dyson vacuum cleaner on Christmas morning!
      I follow Saving Naturally and from time to time, she'll post updates of deals on  You can "subscribe & save" and save 15% more on those items if you subscribe to buying that particular item every month, two months, or so on.

      So for us, because our little one is a little coconut milk drinker, we regularly "save" and receive a shipment of 12 cans of coconut milk per month, and Coombs Grade B Maple Syrup every 2 months.  These prices are just as good or better than what I can get at my local health food store with coupons. And shipping is free.  So why not do that?  I promise I'm not being paid by Amazon or these companies.  Just wanting to help a brotha or a sista out!!

      Tuesday, January 4, 2011


      This nourishing newbie has taken several baby steps in 2010 to get to where she is now.  If I look back at where my food thoughts & philosophies were at the beginning of 2011, I realize as a whole we've come a looong way, even if it feels like I still have forever to go.  However, let's take a walk down memory lane to see what prompted several changes within our family unit to eating more nourishingly.

      Early last year, I wanted to make a commitment to eat more sustainably and economically. I initially thought this meant eating animal meats sparingly (for cost-effectiveness, as I didn't want CAFO meats but mostly organic or grass-fed meats) and eating more vegetarian-like.  While eating vegetarian now and then may be okay, after I read how true vegetarianism isn't the healthiest option, I decided to disembark on this quest and instead seek out organic and grass-fed meats on sale and eat these regularly.

      As my only child approached the age of 1, I knew she'd be weaning off breastmilk soon and would need a suitable milk replacement.  Many told me, "It's okay if she doesn't drink milk, it's not that essential," which was fine or may be true for them, but I knew if she didn't really care for much juice (which was a good thing, in my opinion), and water alone wouldn't sustain her, we'd need to find something.  The thing was, she had already shown reaction to milk-based formulas.  So I tried giving her goat's milk, store-bought cow's milk, and farm-fresh milk, only to find she had resistances to all 3 (by vomiting).  Those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies often do fine with raw milk, which was why I tried that route.

      So instead, I chatted around, and decided I'd try making a homemade coconut milk mix for my little one.  It involves mixing 1 can BPA-free coconut milk (we use Native Forest); 3 tablespoons Grade B Maple Syrup; 1 teaspoon vanilla; and 1 quart of filtered water altogether.  I gradually mixed this in with bottles of breastmilk and she transitioned wonderfully.  My little one is still growing and in the 50th percentiles for height & weight and most of her teeth have come in.  The coconut milk speaks for itself!

      After she turned 1 and was weaned at 13.5 months, I began to think about what I needed to do for myself in terms of health.  There were some initial challenges I had had with myself & my daughter after she was born that were a bit disconcerting for me.  She was low birth-weight.  I had a postpartum blood clot in my leg.  I got mastitis 3 times.  It was like one blow after another and I felt like I couldn't recover.  I started to take an honest look at my health and wonder, "How could I improve things for the next time?"  Admittedly, I had been on antibiotics for acne for years, and even though they were mostly topical in nature, the years where I had taken them orally had surely done some damage.  I wasn't crazy about being on prescription medication any more if not absolutely necessary, and felt like it was time to press the reset button, so to speak.  Additionally, I experienced many painful stomachaches and cramping that would leave me debilitated, laying on the couch while my little one played around me.  Not very much fun for a new mom or a little toddler seeking parental interaction.  So over the summer, I began looking into my options, spoke to my birth doula and a few others, and met with an integrative medicine doctor who started me on a month-long liver cleanse and modified diet.

      This diet meant the following things went out the window:
      • Red meat; bacon; all dairy milks & milk products (except for live unsweetened cultured yogurt); gluten-containing bread & gluten products; artificial sweeteners; white, refined sugars; chocolate; caffeine (meaning all my teas & coffees!); peanuts; citrus; etc. 
      At first it felt like a death sentence.  What will I eat?  But I knew about the GAPS diet and knew this diet was easy compared to that, and I was hopeful I'd still see benefits.  But here's what I could eat:

      • Chicken, turkey, lamb, cold-water fish, eggs, legumes, some beans; white or sweet potato, rice, gluten-free products; fresh/frozen fruit & vegetables; unrefined oils; ghee, etc.
      • Basically, if I made it, if it was pure, unrefined, and didn't have dairy or gluten or red meat, I could eat it.  It actually meant I could be creative and find new yummy, nourishing things to eat.
      The diet worked and I kept on it for a good 3.5 months.  I felt relieved of my symptoms almost immediately and during the first week of the detox, noticed the so-called "die-off."  My limbs felt achy and sore, which meant the bacteria was probably working  its way out of my body.  My favorite anecdote from this experience is that even my chiropractor noticed a difference.  After a few adjustments into the diet & detox, he noted that I was even easier to adjust than before, because I had probably gotten rid of a lot of inflammation!  The stomachaches ceased and I believe my gut was heading back to "realignment."

      Throughout the diet, several other changes occurred in our kitchen and pantry.  I started cooking with coconut oil.  When dairy was okay to be added back into the diet, I began cooking with low-temp pasteurized butter, obtained from a local dairy.  I found a few decent gluten-free flours, with which I can use in moderation.  I experimented with almond, hazelnut and pecan flour.  I made grain-free brownies and grain-free nut butter cookies, all yummy and worth eating again.  
      I began ordering free-range chickens and eggs from a local farmer as well, and in December, participated in my first big red-meat order from a grass-fed farm!
      And perhaps the biggest shock for me is that I finally started taking Fermented Cod Liver Oil!  Yes, almost every day, if I can tolerate it, I'll gulp down a helping of that.  

      There are so many other changes I could document, but perhaps the biggest are these:

      At the start of 2010, I was eating your Standard American Diet (SAD).
      By the end of 2010, I was eating more paleo-like, with the exception of adding raw dairy into the mix.  

      • Instead of cereal for breakfast, I'd have eggs, a smoothie, or a homemade gluten-free muffin or bread.
      • For lunch, I'd eat leftovers, like chicken, fish or turkey burgers, a sweet potato with coconut oil & cinnamon, etc. instead of sandwiches or granola bars.
      • And for dinner, I'd try out things like stir fry, salmon, gluten-free dairy-free pizza.  

      That is not to say whatever I was eating before was all bad.  Those "other foods" all have their place and in my opinion, are okay in moderation, depending on what your dietary needs are.  As Dr. Saxena said at The Center for Living Wellness, "There are good foods which just may not be the right fuel for your body."  Can I get an "Amen"??

      Here's what I'm looking forward to trying in 2011:
      • Kombucha
      • More grass-fed meats (and learning how to prepare them)
      • Making my own yogurt, mayonnaise, or coconut milk!
      • Picking our own fruits & veggies from local farms and learning how to preserve them so they'll be good, fresh & ready to eat year-round!
      The point is, not all of these changes were made overnight, and what I thought I needed was much, much different than what I believe it is now.  I tweaked how I shopped and cooked throughout the year and I believe if you want to make similar changes or see a positive impact in your overall health, you can too!

      So, what are your goals for 2011?