Posts tagged: health

Philosophy Friday: The Most Valuable Thing You’ll Ever Own

By , August 17, 2012

Yesterday I was telling you about the resting day I had. How often we all need these rest days and don’t take them! What if, when our bodies insisted on them, we actually rearranged our schedule to accommodate?

What if we treated our bodies as if they were the most valuable thing we will ever own? Because, they are!

I think our culture is too mind centered. We think we can heal our bodies with our minds, while simultaneously disrespecting them and driving them into the ground by continuing the frantic pace we set for ourselves. Positivity of thought is part of it, but I believe it’s not the only part; if we just give it a minute, our bodies can heal themselves in near-miraculous ways, without any mental intervention at all. Sleep, as I’ve discovered over and over and over through my life, is the Number One Healer. When we have the flu, we don’t get rid of it by repeating “I’m totally healthy! Totally healthy!” whilst ignoring our body and maintaining our frenzy even though we feel awful. No. We get rid of it by going to bed and sleeping and letting our body do its thing.

Let’s respect our bodies and work with them. They’re not pitted against us. They love us. We just have to learn to listen and heed their message better, I think. They’ll tell us what we need to do. We have to shut off our brains and listen, though!

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That rest day I took felt so wonderful. To not struggle against my tiredness was a relief. I’m naturally a doer… I don’t sit still very long before I pop back up and am doing something again. There’s so much I love to do and am interested in, that I find it very hard to rest! — partly because resting can feel boring. So if you don’t want to sleep, you might look through a fun magazine (Sunset, Coastal Living, Martha Stewart Living, and Mother Earth News are all faves of mine). Or draw. Or sit on your front porch and watch the world go by. Or read. Or listen to music. Or load an audio book onto your MP3 player if you’re too tired to read. Or close your eyes and just think, and allow your mind to go wherever it wants to (I’m a big fan of this one; maybe that’s a post for another day).

I’m still learning. It can be a tricky mental shift to tune in and work with my body instead of ignoring it in favor of the activities my mind wants to do.

Are you still learning, too?

What are some of your favorite restful activities?

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Kelp Noodles!

By , August 13, 2012

Have you tried kelp noodles? I just tried them for the first time this week and I like them! They have an unexpected crunchy texture and, somehow, a completely neutral taste. They’re also a raw food, and made only of seaweed. I mixed them into my solar-cooked “stir fry” for breakfast this morning, yum. I like the fact that they’re made from kelp, so they add iodine and trace minerals to my meal. My still-delicate tummy also gave them a thumbs up, as far as digestibility goes.

They cost about $3.50 at our local health food store.

Have you tried them? How do you like to eat them??

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The stir fry was delicious by the way — I love making those because you can toss anything in and it always comes out great. This time it was: Bean sprouts, yellow squash, onions, garlic, Nama Shoyu soy sauce, and a tiny bit of sesame oil…steamed in the solar oven…and served over kelp noodles…topped with more Nama Shoyu, fresh Thai basil, culantro (or you can use cilantro which is similar), and chopped green onion tops.

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Around the Garden – July 19th

By , July 20, 2012

Yesterday was a special day. July 19th is the official death date of my best friend Sonja. It will forever be “that day.” It’s been eight years since her death, and finally it doesn’t hurt anything like it used to. That awful pain has released its grip on me. I acknowledge the date with sadness, of course…but the sting of it has largely gone. If I pause to remember that terrible phone call, and the sequence of it all and how I felt, it still hurts very much. Of course it does. I’m sure it always will. But it doesn’t clutch me and drag me to the underworld like it used to; I feel so much more in control of the memories and my emotions about it all.

If you are currently toiling through grief, it is a very hard path. And it will get easier. It doesn’t seem like it ever will, but it will.

When I was in the middle of that searing grief, I was convinced it would never end. It did. You will never be the same person after a journey like that (you’ll be stronger, for one thing), but the pain will let up.

So yesterday I spent my July 19th working in my flourishing garden. What an uplifting, life-affirming way to spend that day! It was very hot, in the upper 90s, but the clouds moved in which made it much more bearable. And my strong, healing body held up so nicely, even in that heat… even through six hours of hard physical work. Instead of feeling miserable in my body, I felt strong and healthy and agile. After more than two solid years of feeling like absolute shite, I had sadly forgotten what “normal” feels like. I’m getting re-acquainted with normal!! It was so enjoyable!

Anyway, here are some pictures:

[left to right] Jaune Flamme, Black Russian, and Black Cherry heirloom tomatoes:

The peach on my 3-year-old tree is getting bigger!

I grew some Black Kabouli bush garbanzo beans this year as an experiment. It was a success, and it told me what I needed to know. They’re very easy to grow, even in areas of lower soil fertility and water levels. I haven’t yet cooked them up, but overall I’d rate them as ‘8.5/10, would grow again.’

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Everybody needs… places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength…

– John Muir

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The Magical Bee Sting Cure

By , July 16, 2012

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Lavender essential oil!

It’s a shame this isn’t more common knowledge. Maybe you already know about it but if not, I want to tell you that lavender essential oil is the most magical treatment for a bee sting (or wasp, etc.). I’ve been treating stings this way for many years and it’s truly incredible. The pain disappears! As do the redness and swelling. Very soon your sting is a distant memory. Every single time I use this remedy I am completely blown away by its efficacy.

Just apply some lavender essential oil, neat (undiluted), to the bee sting. Lavender oil is gentle enough to be used neat for most folks, unlike some other essential oils.

Lavender oil is a great thing to keep in your first aid kit, if only for this reason alone.

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Do you know of other magical uses for lavender oil? Do share!

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Nettles!!

By , May 1, 2012

As I mentioned in this post, I found nettles! This was really very exciting because now I can collect my own instead of continuing to purchase my usual dried nettles for tea. And for the very first time, I had freshly cooked nettles and they’re amazing! A mild and pleasing taste. I cooked them in some salted water, and ended up drinking every last drop of the broth too — it was thick and delicious — almost meaty. They’re so good for you, too. High in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Cooked nettles

Nettles & white beans

And I love nettles tea because it works better than an antihistamine pill for me. This was an accidental discovery; I’m allergic to bee stings, and I get honeybee and ‘mixed vespids’ venom immunotherapy shots every 6 weeks so that my body gets desensitized to the venom. Normally I get a big, itchy 3″ wide welt on each arm where I get the shot, and I take a Claritin pill the morning of the shots to help counteract that. However one day I had some strong nettles tea before my shots, along with the pill. No welt! No redness! No itchy! At first I didn’t realize it was the nettles, until another time when I’d forgotten to take the antihistamine pill and only had nettles tea, and same thing! No welt. Finally I realized it was the nettles tea, and the pill wasn’t even really necessary. So now I make sure to have nettles tea before my shot, and every day for at least about a week afterward. It’s quite magical. If you have seasonal allergies (mercifully, I don’t), you might try nettles tea!

My favorite nettles tea:

2-3 Tbsp dried nettles

~1/2 Tbsp dried mint

~1/2 Tbsp dried lemongrass

In a mug, pour 8-12 ounces boiling water over herbs, cover, and steep about 15 minutes.

So anyway, back to the fresh nettles. I couldn’t believe my luck with finding patch after patch of them, and while I often travel with an empty plastic bag (you never know what you’ll need it for!), I didn’t have one with me on the walk. However my mom had packed snacks in a bag, and thank goodness she had! Precious, precious bag. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to collect any. Disappointing!

I had an empty little sandwich baggie which I used as a glove to pick them, though still got plenty of stings on my wrists. (The stinging compounds are easily neutralized once the nettles are either boiled or dried to a crisp.) I stuffed the bag full, and also took some plants with roots and have planted those in pots outside, hoping they’ll decide it’s a satisfactory location to grow. I’ve read that nettles are particular about where they grow; you might think you have the ideal location for them — but they have the last word.

Do you cultivate your own nettles? Have any growing tips?

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As you can see, the living room was full of nettles for a while. I ended up getting about 3 gallons, dried.

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Classic Tabbouleh

By , April 4, 2012

One of my all-time favorite foods, ever! This is my mom’s famous recipe.

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And since my diet has gone essentially low fat vegetarian, which is presently all my body will handle, this stuff is my mainstay. I plow through an entire batch all by myself every 2 or 3 days! And since I can’t eat much oil at all, I change up the dressing to be only a small drizzle of oil, and tons of lemon juice, and I’ve grown to really love it this way!

Also, tabbouleh is normally made with bulghur. I always make it with quinoa now since I love the taste of it and it’s more nutritious and also a complete protein — but bulghur is of course delicious too!

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Mom’s Tabbouleh

1/2 cup uncooked bulghur or quinoa*

1-2 cups chopped tomatoes — (2 cups = about 1 lb) (I always make it with 2 cups of tomatoes now, but if you do, you may need to increase the amounts of lemon juice and olive oil slightly)

2 cups finely chopped parsley — chop first and then measure (about 1 medium-large bunch parsley…but do measure it first)

1/2 cup chopped green onion or 1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 level Tbsp dried mint, crushed (or 2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped)

1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp), or to taste

Pepper to taste

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Cook the 1/2 cup bulghur or quinoa* (1/2 cup grain to 1 cup boiling water + dash of salt; cover, simmer till water’s absorbed, about 20 minutes). Cool it to room temperature. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll put the hot quinoa into the freezer to cool it quickly.

Mix everything together in a big bowl. But if you don’t think you’ll eat all of it within a day or two, mix the dressing separately, and add it to the tabbouleh right before you eat a helping of it. That way the tabbouleh will stay fresh several days longer in your fridge.

Enjoy!

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*Cooking quinoa:

Be sure to rinse the quinoa well to remove bitter saponin residue. The quick way to cook it is to boil your water (ratio of 1 cup grain to scant 2 cups water), add some salt, add quinoa and cover, simmering until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

However, if you’re able to plan ahead enough, it’s much better, healthwise, to soak your quinoa for at least 12 hours to make it more digestible — the way traditional cultures do. Soaking grains neutralizes phytic acid (which binds to essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and blocks their absorption) as well as enzyme inhibitors in the grain. Soaking also breaks down difficult-to-digest proteins and encourages the production of beneficial enzymes which in turn increases the vitamin (especially B vitamin) content of the grain.

So…

To soak quinoa: Thoroughly rinse 1/2 cup of dry quinoa to remove bitter saponin residue. Put 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and fill to the 1/2 cup mark with warm water, then mix with the quinoa in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or up to 24. When you’re ready to cook, rinse and drain the quinoa well, and place in a saucepan. Add a scant 1/2 cup of water, and a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Cool, and proceed with the recipe.

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Purifying

By , January 5, 2012

It was a beautiful day today! 60°+ temperatures and sunny. So spring-like, and it made me feel like doing some spring freshening of the house. Consequently, there was lots of laundry-doing, floor-sweeping, vacuuming, and airing out of rugs and bedding. The windows were open, and I burned a stick of my favorite piñon pine incense that I bought in Santa Fe. I carried it around to all the rooms, and into the corners and crevices of each room, clearing any stagnant energy that might be lurking. In addition to making the house smell wonderful, the incense smoke is thought to be good for cleansing the energy of your home. Many cultures the world over use it for this purpose. I find it interesting when divergent cultures all happen to share a common ritual, because then I think ‘hmm, there might really be something to that.’

I took a break to sit in the sun, and was reading random pages in the book 168 Feng Shui Ways to Declutter Your Home, and came across a section that talked about the energetics of living near a hospital (and how to remedy that energy), and another section talking about living near a cemetery. I realized while reading this that my whole entire life has been lived — in one place or another — within a few blocks of two or three hospitals. And the apartment we currently live in is actually sandwiched — within just a couple blocks — between a cemetery and two hospitals! And not only that, but the very house we live in was used during WWII as a makeshift hospital. (And I hardly dare go this far, but I’ve always said “this house is cursed!” much to my hubby’s chagrin…because many of the plants I bring here have quickly died for no apparent reason.)

The hospital section says:

“If you live near a hospital, you are in close proximity to yin spirits. This is because hospitals are where the yin chi of sick (and dying) people accumulates, and this is not healthy for yang living abodes. It saps the vitality of your home. Even apartment houses and mansions on land where a hospital used to be are said to be afflicted with left-over energy. This energy can be so yin as to cause residents illness and problems. … Fire energy, in the form of incense smoke, absorbs yin chi and dissipates it, and so is an effective way to balance the yin emanating from hospitals or hospital land, and also police stations, abattoirs, and other places where there is death, sickness, and dying energy present. Many Chinese, who observe space-cleansing rituals purify their homes with incense smoke each Friday evening just after sunset. …”

The cemetery section says:

If your home or apartment house is located near a burial ground, it is a good idea to cleanse your home regularly with incense. … Homes located near cemeteries are vulnerable to what is known as yin spirit formation, an affliction that often brings illness to children or those whose astrological timing is low and weak. The Chinese are especially sensitive to this kind of affliction and often combat it with fire-energy cleansing, which makes use of incense and smoke. It is believed that smoke from holy fragrant incense that is placed on a burning coal keeps yin spirits away from your home.

I was reassured, however, by reading this particular paragraph regarding negative energies in your home:

When negative chi has seeped into the spirit of a home in this manner, it must be released. Releasing it is not difficult. It is not hard to cleanse spaces of their left-over energy, regardless of how strong the negative energy is.

Thank goodness for that! And you can bet I’ll be carrying out incense space-clearings on a more regular basis! I also like using the Australian Bush Flower Essence Space Clearing Spray and will most certainly be making up a fresh batch of that spray for much more regular household use!

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What do you do to clear the energies in your home?

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When the weather gets warm, the rugs get put out on the roof!

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How to Juice a Pomegranate (without a juicer)

By , December 2, 2011

Have you ever tried fresh, raw pomegranate juice? It’s incredible! Pomegranates are in season now, so give it a try sometime!

You can easily juice a pomegranate without a juicer; in fact, even though we have a juicer, I prefer to do it this way. And it’s only a little more effort above and beyond the task of separating the seeds from the pith. One large pomegranate will yield roughly 1 cup of juice.

Now when you’re doing this, I suggest wearing black — or at least a big apron. The distance a juice splatter will travel seems to be directly proportionate to how much you love the shirt you’re wearing; this phenomenon also appears to be heavily influenced by the color of the shirt — with white inducing bigger and more far-reaching splatters than any other color.

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1. To peel your pomegranate, make perpendicular cuts (both going all the way around the fruit) — deep enough to cut through the skin, but not through the seeds underneath:

2. Grab a section and break it away:

3. Over a large bowl, gently separate the seeds from the white pith. This is the most time-consuming step.

4. Discard the pith & peel:

5. Empty the seeds into a blender or food processor:

6. Pulse them quickly about 8-10 times; we just want to burst the juicy outer red part without grinding up the crunchy white inner seeds:

7. Empty the contents of the blender into a mesh strainer over a bowl:

8. With clean hands, squeeze the seeds to get the rest of the juice out:

9. Pour the juice from the bowl into a glass. Enjoy it!

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My Illness Finally Has a Name!!

By , November 25, 2011

Finally.

So you know how I’ve been so sick, and just getting sicker? Well it took 39 vials of blood to get there, but we’re pretty sure I’ve got brucellosis. No wonder I’ve been feeling so awful… walking around with a massive systemic bacterial infection for the past 19 months. Good grief.

So here’s a little background on brucellosis:

According to the New England Journal of Medicine: “Brucellosis, like tuberculosis, is a chronic granulomatous infection caused by intracellular bacteria and requires combined, protracted antibiotic treatment.”

Basically, the bacteria live inside the cells of the immune system — namely macrophages, which are the cells normally responsible for destroying invading bacteria. The Brucella bacteria multiply inside the macrophages and then further invade the body when their numbers are greater. And because they live inside cells, and are very slow growing and hard to eradicate, treatment requires many months of a combination of antibiotics.

Unlike tuberculosis, though, brucellosis is not normally passed from human to human. You get it by consuming raw or undercooked milk or meat from infected animals (goats, sheep, cattle, bison, elk, caribou, dogs, and others) or, less commonly, by coming into contact with their secretions or carcasses. Nice.

It’s rare in the United States — only 100-200 cases are reported to the CDC each year; however it’s thought to be an underreported illness here and is much more common in other areas of the world that don’t have effective public health and animal health programs. Brucellosis is also known as Malta Fever, Mediterranean Fever, Bang’s disease, and Undulant fever, as well as several other names including my two personal favorites — ‘Satan’s fever’ and ‘Fist of mercy’ — which describe it well indeed!

I had never heard of brucellosis in my life, except that on our trip to Argentina last year I was reading the label on some cheese we bought, which said “Le Serenisima products are officially free of Brucellosis & Tuberculosis.” I remember saying out loud to my Hubby, “Brucellosis — GROSS! What’s THAT?” …and then taking a picture of the label, below! Little did I know I already had that exact illness as I was speaking those words! (I was already sick by the time we went to Argentina, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it there; however things got a lot worse in the months after Argentina, so I still can’t be 100% sure.)

So actually, there’s a lot more to this saga than I’m going to write tonight. But I do want to write it because I’ve learned a lot thus far from this crazy experience (and it’s not over yet, to be sure). But for that, I’ll wait until I’m feeling better and can sit up at the computer for a bit.

Anyway, the short story is that I’ve tested positive 3 times for brucellosis. Why I wasn’t treated for it after the first positive is part of the longer story. But 10 days ago, I went to see a new (and better) Infectious Disease doctor at the urging of my family. We did some some blood cultures, I turned down a bone marrow culture (still hoping that was the right choice), and he started me on the standard treatment of two antibiotics — doxycycline and rifampin, which is a strong and toxic anti-tuberculosis drug. I’ll need to get liver bloodwork checked every 2 weeks while I’m on that one.

The big bottles are blood cultures. Don’t worry, that’s not ALL blood in there! Only about a teaspoon of blood in each bottle, and the rest is the culture medium.

Both arms get poked for blood cultures. The upside of all this is that blood draws don’t bother me a bit anymore!

The drugs may take several weeks to kick in according to the leaflet that came with them. What I’ve noticed so far is that my symptoms are more intense; it feels like there’s a war going on in my body. All my lymph nodes and lymph channels hurt even more than before, including thymus pain (weird!). Hopefully it’s one of those things where you get worse before you get better. But stuff’s definitely happening; Hubby thinks my body’s gearing up and kicking this crap out, and we both feel like it’s a good sign, somehow. I hope so. But it’s been a very rough week to put it mildly, and I’ve just been hanging extremely low in bed. The drugs make me nauseous on top of the way I was already feeling (like I have a mega-hangover that never goes away). It’s not fair, is it, that the diseases that are already making you feel really awful are the ones that require strong treatment that makes you feel really really awful. I’ll be glad when the barf bucket next to the bed is a thing of the past.

But the nausea does seem to be calming down a little bit, and I can actually look at the food in the refrigerator again — instead of grabbing my bottle of applesauce while trying not to look at anything else in there, and shutting the door as fast as I can! I seem to have lost my taste for any and all tea at the moment, which is sad since I just got my big order of wonderful teas from Mountain Rose Herbs…but I expect I’ll want tea again once I’m feeling better. Man, I hope so!

The real treat was yesterday at Thanksgiving! I feared I would only be well enough to eat pretzels and baby food at Thanksgiving, since that’s what I’d been eating for several days. But I actually felt well enough to want to eat, and was able to eat little bits of the delicious feast my mom and dad cooked up! Bites of stuffing and mashed potatoes have never tasted so good.

And another really wonderful thing is that a good friend has been giving me the gift of 30-minute reiki sessions from a distance for the past 3 mornings in a row. All I have to do is lie there in bed and soak it up; it’s heavenly!

I’ve got lots of love and support around me, that’s for sure, and it makes such a huge difference. I’m eternally thankful for that.

(March 2014 health update HERE)

The drugs

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