Category — Stress
After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself. Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality. I personally drank it through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time. At $5 a bottle that really adds up! To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!) but I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing (okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am). But back to the point – making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch (pictured above) turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing. Here’s what you do:
- Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader. If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option. I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and gave me a free SCOBY. Here’s what they look like: While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
- Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over. White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses. The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
- Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lipton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea from Vitacost). Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea. (You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.)
- Cool to room temp. If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
- Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use storebought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if storebought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation) and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathe-able cloth (I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also) and secure with a rubber band. Place this in an area where the temp is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone. Here’s how my first brew looked:
- Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month. My first brew I fermented for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now. You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is. Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container. Mine looked like this:
- Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it! Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch. You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring. It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries (but I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product).
Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha. I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.
TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT: For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha at the beginning of this blog is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recently recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were giving people Hepatitis A!!! Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha. I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A – but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news. Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease. I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity). In the future I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.
June 5, 2013 9 Comments
As the new year approaches, many people start focusing on what is to come and putting together their lists of resolutions and other things they want to do differently in the coming year. I personally like to take a moment at the end of the year and make a list of things that made me feel thankful over the past year. I find it to be a calming and encouraging ritual during the craziness of the end-of-year holiday season. While there are many things I’m thankful for personally, this is not my personal musing blog – it’s my nutrition blog! So I thought I’d make a list of a few things in the world of health and nutrition that made me feel thankful this year. Hopefully they make you feel the same!
I am thankful:
- That the human body is much smarter than we realize and it is always looking out for our best interest. One example of this over the past year was learning that candida (the type of yeast that grows in the body) eats heavy metals. So, for people who have stubborn candida problems that won’t respond to anything else, sometimes the body is allowing the candida to grow in excess because that is helping to relieve their body’s burden of heavy metals such as mercury (and in some cases, copper). People in this situation may benefit from having a mineral profile test done by their doctor to see if they have an excess of toxic metals and/or a deficiency of healthy minerals and how to deal with it. This knowledge helped me give hope to a few clients who were struggling with candida and angry at their bodies for letting it overgrow!
- That a fetus feeds off of the yolk sac for the first few weeks of life, which means it gets the nutrition it needs (as long as mom was building up her own nutrition prior to pregnancy) and is not as directly affected by what its mother eats the way it is later in pregnancy. This is such an amazing adaptation that I am so very thankful for because in those first few weeks of life a woman may not know she is pregnant and may decide to go on an exciting party date with her husband while on vacation in California because their toddler is with grandma for the evening, and maybe the restaurant they ate at had a $5 martini special and maybe she had too many lemon drop martinis and then found out a few weeks later that she was not alone in her body! Not that this ever happened to me personally in the last 6 months…
- That plastics are being recognized as a significant source of health problems for men, women, and children – especially those containing Bis-phenol A and phthalates. Maybe this seems like something to be sad about, but I am actually thankful that the knowledge is getting out there and more and more people are making changes to avoid plastic exposure.
- That the FDA recently conceded that raw milk can be transported across state lines for personal consumption. This doesn’t mean raw milk is becoming legal for sale, but it is quite encouraging to finally have the FDA not persecuting people for ridiculous things such as drinking milk from their own healthy cow. Yes, there are many other things I am not happy with the FDA for approving (Splenda, aspartame, pesticides, the list goes on) but this is one small victory.
- That the CDC is working with hospitals and taking steps to encourage women to breastfeed their babies at least through the first 6 months of life. This is still much less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2 years or more, but it’s an encouraging step!
There are many other things I could list, but these are the first that come to mind. When you have a minute, I encourage you to make your own list of things over the past year that you are thankful for and tuck it away somewhere – it’s always fun to come across lists like that later on and read them again. It’s also a great exercise that acts kind of like a mental “feng shui” treatment – clearing out the clutter of stress and worry and helping your mind focus on the things that make you happy. I have found that being thankful for what I have helps to bring more things into my life to be thankful for. Happy new year!
December 30, 2011 1 Comment
The other day I was talking to a friend when suddenly, just like Jennifer Lopez, a luxurious lock of hair that was fabulously cut to cheek length fell across my face. And of course, I – again like J. Lo – swept it away deftly and gracefully and kept talking. And then I realized that I don’t have bangs and haven’t had them since I was about 6 years old. This realization prompted me to flash back to the months right after Mr. Muscles was born a little less than 2 years ago when I would look in the mirror and see little sproutlets of hair standing straight up all around my hairline like the awkard feathers of a silkie chicken. My luxurious movie star bangs are just the remnants of the hair shed during the postpartum days, those magical days when your body hurts, you feel like a milk cow, you’re exhausted, and you still look pregnant enough for people at the grocery store to ask how far along you are even when you’re holding your newborn. And oh yeah, your hair falls out. Any man reading this post – single or married – should make a mental note at this time to be absolutely certain to tell ANY woman in their life who just had a baby how beautiful and wonderful they look, while also remembering to never ask them why their hair looks like that and never ever offering to buy them hair gel as a gift to keep their weird hair spikes down as my wonderful, loving husband did (he is in fact wonderful and loving and luckily he made this comment when our son was about 6 months old and I was far enough past the post-partum months to think it was funny).
But enough about that! Let’s talk about why postpartum hair loss happens and how to keep it as under control as possible:
- In a non-pregnant woman, about 90% of hair is in a growing phase and 10% is in a resting stage. The resting stage hair is what tends to fall out with brushing and every day activity.
- During pregnancy, estrogen levels get very high. Estrogen is the hormone that (among other things) encourages cell growth, so it makes sense that high estrogen levels would encourage more hair to stay in the growing phase and discourage hair from falling out.
- After baby is born and breastfeeding begins, estrogen and progesterone levels fall as prolactin levels rise. This abrupt change in hormones is what makes some women susceptible to postpartum depression and it is what is responsible for the bulk of hair loss after pregnancy. It’s not so much that MORE hair is falling out, it’s that all the hair that was delayed from falling out when estrogen and progesterone levels were high starts to wake up and realize it’s time to fall out. And most unkindly of all, they decide to all fall out together in those months after baby is born.
- Other factors contributing to postpartum hair loss include stress (but new moms are never stressed so ignore that one), low iron levels (check with your midwife or doctor to see if you need to take iron after the birth), insufficient protein intake, insufficient vitamin and mineral intake, and hair being pulled too tightly by hair clips and/or baby.
- To help keep hormones in balance during the fantastic transition after birth, I highly recommend drinking red raspberry leaf tea up to and after the birth. I actually kept drinking it all through the nursing phase and now that I’m pregnant again it’s another regular part of my tea rotation. At the rate I’m going, I will probably be drinking red raspberry leaf tea for the next ten years and beyond!
- Nutritionally, it’s also really important to take iron if your healthcare provider recommends it. This would usually be the case if you were anemic during pregnancy or you had a lot of bleeding during or after the birth. You can also include iron-rich foods such as grassfed beef and blackstrap molasses in your diet.
- Since low protein levels contribute to hair loss in everyone (not just pregnant women), it’s important to make sure that new moms get adequate protein in the postpartum months. Since it’s not always easy to sit down and eat 3 square meals a day with a newborn, I encourage moms to keep protein-rich and easy-to-eat snacks handy, such as nitrate-free cold cuts, yogurt or cheese from grassfed cows, hummus or other bean dips (if your baby is ok with beans), nut butters, deviled or hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, and protein bars made with whey or rice rather than soy. If you have friends or family nearby that can help with cooking, enlist their help in keeping your fridge stocked with protein-rich meals and snacks. In addition to preventing hair loss, eating protein in the postpartum months helps to prevent postpartum depression and accelerates the rate at which you’ll be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans!
- I also usually recommend that nursing mothers take a double dose of their prenatal vitamin for the months following birth, since it’s such a time of transition. Depending on the vitamin you’re taking, you may want to double check this with your healthcare practitioner.
- Another thing that is obvious to some people but not to others (like myself) is that you want to avoid pulling on your hair in the same spot. When Mr. Muscles was born, I had my hair back in a bun or pony tail most of the time pulled straight back from my face which is probably why most of my postpartum hair loss happened around my forehead hair line. Most women lose hair from the front and sides of their hair rather than the back, so this is normal, but looking back I could have varied the natural part of my hair and tried braiding it into pigtails once in a while to reduce the weight of my hair always pulling on the same spot.
- If you feel your hair loss is extreme and you see visible bald spots after having a baby, be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about it. They can run tests to see if your thyroid needs support or if there is another underlying imbalance that needs to be addressed.
Above all, if you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, try to remember that it’s a normal thing that will eventually stop. And in a couple of years you may be lucky enough to have surprise movie star bangs without having to pay your stylist!
November 7, 2011 5 Comments
It has been a really stressful week! I won’t get into the details because they’re really nothing to focus on but the point of it all is that I’ve found that when things don’t go the way I planned I tend to get stressed. Maybe that is a normal response, and maybe the fact that I am a Virgo/Libra cusper makes me even more of a control freak than normal, but the thing I have been watching in myself is the tendency to focus on the negative. When one or two things don’t go right it’s so easy to throw out all the hundreds of things in life that ARE going right and just focus on what is being a struggle. What hit me today, and the thing I wanted to blog about, is the importance of being thankful even when things seem to be hard. You’re probably thinking this is a nutrition blog not Jessica’s Deep Thoughts blog, but give me a minute.
After realizing the importance of thankfulness in my own mental world, I got into doing some research on the health benefits of thankfulness. There are tons of studies that confirm the importance of having a thankful attitude and several that link “counting blessings” to better sleep, increased desire to exercise, fewer physical complaints, and even the tendency to have healthier heart rhythms.
So, my idea was to make the month of November into a month to try a thankfulness experiment. Each day I’m going to write a few things in my journal that I am specifically thankful for that day. Please feel free to join me in this! If I can get to a computer I will also either tweet something (I’m @ForbesNutrition if you want to follow) or if it’s something blog-worthy I’ll post a blog to help you remember to recognize and write down specific things you are thankful for. If you’re not a computer person just try writing down a few things each day that you’re thankful for and see how your health improves!
Since it’s the third day of November I’ll play a little catch-up and list 3 things I’m thankful for right now:
- My husband, who is so patient with me even when I’m following him around the house spraying him with magnesium oil or doing other weird nutritional experiments on him.
- Mr. Milk, who is finally (at 10 months!) sprouting some teeth so I can stop having a complex about why he doesn’t have teeth and if he is willfully repressing their growth in order to stay on an all-milk diet for the rest of his life.
- Brie cheese, which is freakishly delicious. Thank you French people for inventing it!
You might think it’s weird to include cheese on a list with my husband and son, but they were the first 3 things to pop into my mind. So take a second now and write down a few things that you are thankful for! Once you start I bet it will be hard to stop. If possible, keep your list in a place that you will see it and remember each day for the rest of the month (or forever if you choose!) to count your blessings.
November 3, 2010 6 Comments
We moved into a new house and have not yet signed up for cable tv. It’s sort of becoming a game of how long we can hold out until the lure of mindless television becomes a priority (hopefully never!). Since I am missing such quality television as The Real Housewives of New Jersey to keep me entertained during Mr. Milk’s ever demanding nursing schedule (which you think would have slowed down with the introduction of solids but he still wants milk within an hour of eating bowls of poi, coconut milk, and egg yolks), I have been catching up on my reading. My most recent read worthy of sharing is Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen, MD. It was loaned to me by a very health conscious friend and is a great read.
Dr. Amen specializes in mental health and uses brain imaging as part of his diagnostic process. He has found a strong correlation between mental and emotional health and brain injury (even that caused by minor head injury – NOT a comforting read for a new mom whose 8 month old’s instinct for exploration surpasses his instinct for depth perception) and provides many fascinating case studies in his book. There are several chapters that discuss patterns of thinking and the specific areas of the brain that are involved, which I thought was very interesting. He also offers limited but useful nutritional advice (avoid caffeine and sugar, eat protein, use ginkgo and other brain-boosting herbs as needed) which I appreciated reading in a book written by a medical doctor.
One thing that bothered me while reading this book was his sometimes casual approach to psychotropic medications – in one case study in particular he couldn’t fathom why a patient would be hesitant to start medicating. However, I really can’t fault Dr. Amen for that because the world he lives in is very medication oriented and I’m sure the people he works with in his practice are dealing with serious enough imbalances that they need pharmaceutical support. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here – I absolutely believe there is a time and a place for psychotropic medication and I know they save lives every day and can be a real answer for those of us who need a stop-gap while figuring out how to balance our emotional and physical health. I just think it’s important to really look at the long-term effects of the medication and make sure that they know what they are getting into. I have worked with too many people who thought they would just go onto a short round of anti-depressants but then stopped taking them cold turkey and ended up having to be put back onto several medications just to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. So, if someone is considering antidepressants and their doctor feels they are stable enough to take some time and explore other options first, I think it is worth looking into programs such as those run by Joan Matthews Larson or The Road Back (this one is especially helpful if a person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms and has a doctor who will work with them to prescribe proper doses for weaning off medication).
My favorite section of the book, which in my opinion makes it worth sharing with you all and well worth the $4 you’d spend for a used copy on amazon.com is Chapter 4: “Enhancing Positive Thought Patterns and Strengthening Connections”. In this chapter, Dr. Amen clearly defines several “automatic negative thought” patterns (ANTs for short) and discusses the importance of identifying these thoughts and then retraining the brain by replacing them with positive thoughts. It is definitely not a smarmy “think positive” or self affirmation chapter – he explains the science behind such things because thoughts are real and create real chemicals in your brain which exert real chemical reactions in your body as well as really affect how you behave. He includes information on how to protect children from future mental instability by helping their limbic system blossom with plenty of cuddling and interaction (important for adults too!). There is also information on how good smells and good memories can interact to keep the brain functioning healthfully.
There is an exercise in the above mentioned chapter to help practice identifying and killing ANTs. In it, you write down the negative thought, identify what type of negative thought it is (he gives 9 species including always/never thinking, focusing on the negative, and blaming), and then correcting that thought. When I completed the exercise I found that I tend to have always/never negative thoughts such as “I am always behind on everything I need to get done and I am never going to catch up.” When I wrote this thought out on paper I realized how ridiculous it was and then replaced it with the truth, which is “While I may not complete every thing on my to-do list today, I get a lot done for a new mom who has many different plates spinning and as time passes I’m learning to be more and more efficient.” When I wrote that out (and said it out loud, since I believe in the power of the spoken word) I could feel the self-imposed pressure in my brain lightening and my whole day felt more fun.
I don’t think that watching The Real Housewives quite has that effect.
September 20, 2010 7 Comments
It’s in my nature to buy weird exercise gadgets. Between my mother and I you could probably set up your own exercise contraption storefront including such gems as the Tony Little’s Rock ‘n Roll Stepper (it may look silly, but it’s smaller than an actual stairstepper, does provide a moderate workout, gives your husband something to laugh at while you watch the morning news, and if nothing else small children enjoy using it as a see-saw) and the Ab Lounge Ultra (I don’t own this but there are about 15 different variations of it in my mom’s exercise room so I feel like it’s a long lost sibling).
I’m telling you this not to impress you with my online gadget purchasing abilities, but as a way to confess that I am a nutritionist who does not like to exercise. Most people assume that someone as excited about food and health as I am would naturally be excited about exercise because that is the healthy thing to do. But you’re wrong! I regularly talk myself out of exercising with such mental gems as “my husband thinks my love handles are cute” and “why do I need strong arms if I never lift anything heavy anyway?”
But enough about me, I am writing this because I thought if I have a hard time getting motivated to exercise then maybe some of you do too. With that in mind, I decided to put together this list to give you 5 reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with how you look in a bathing suit. Wearing a bathing suit is not a daily occurence (unless you’re a lifeguard or swimsuit model, in which case I know of an extra ab lounge or two – are you interested?), and therefore is not a strong motivating factor when deciding between some time with the Tony Little stairstepper and some time on the couch drinking wine and eating potato chips.
Reason #1: Exercise burns off excess stress hormones. Every time that you have a stressful encounter in your day, whether it’s as simple as an irritating phone call or as intense as being chased by a rabid chupacabra, your body responds by releasing stress hormones. Ideally, they would be broken down and disposed of throughout the day but if you’re someone whose day seems to be one stressful encounter after the next then you may be walking around with a lot of circulating stress hormones. Short burst of stress are important for life (life would be boring if there was no resistance!) and the body knows how to recover, but chronic, day-after-day exposure to high levels of stress is dangerous. Stress hormones alter body chemistry in such a way that they promote fat storage, encourage muscle breakdown, and inhibit growth and repair of body tissues. Exercising helps to metabolize these hormones and get them out of the body, which over time (or for some people, immediately) may result in improved mood, increased tolerance to stress, and better sleep.
Reason #2: Exercise boosts detoxification. When you exercise, you encourage filtration of lymph, the white-blood-cell-rich fluid that resides in lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system does not have its own pump (like the circulatory system’s pump – your heart) so it relies on physical movement to clean out lymph. The lymphatic system is basically the garbage collection system in the body, so getting it moving means that you’re cleaning up from the inside out. If you have to be convinced that you need to be cleaned up (nothing personal, all of us do) just visit www.bodyburden.org and see how many hundreds of toxins were found in average people just like you and me. I don’t mean to scare you – the body is smart and knows what to do with most toxins, it just needs a little extra care to keep it running well in today’s world.
Reason #3: Exercise can relieve joint pain. When you exercise, you get blood moving through the joints, which “cleans out” inflammation and helps joints repair. Exercise also strengthens the muscles that stabilize joints, which makes it less likely that you’ll be injured or suffer from chronic joint pain. As a personal example, I’ve been practicing my Pilates Workout for Dummies workout (lame name, but good workout) routine because I was having some lower back pain from sitting at a computer so much. After my first workout I immediately noticed that my back felt as good as it does when I leave the chiropractor, and it feels better each time I do it. Getting rid of the back pain was nice, but my main take-home point here is that if you exercise to relieve joint pain, you technically have an extra $35 or so that you didn’t spend at the chiropractor which you can now spend on important things like buying yet another pair of high heels that will probably contribute to back pain but boy are they cute. Not that I’m speaking from experience…
Reason #4: Exercise can improve your sex life. Yes, exercise increases endurance, but on a very practical level it increases blood circulation in the entire body which improves blood flow to the reproductive organs. In fact, proper blood flow is so important to sexual function that medications for erectile dysfunction target circulation. Specifically, Viagra works by improving blood flow to the extremities (well, one extremity in particular) and is currently being studied as an aid to improve blood flow to the uterus for women with problematic pregnancies. With that in mind, you can now change your romantic talk to something like, “Honey, I spent twenty minutes on the Tony Little stairstepper today and my circulatory system is in great shape.”
Reason #5: Exercise makes you strong. Yes, it improves the strength of your muscles but I feel that on a deeper level there is something about exercising yourself physically that makes you realize just how strong you really are as a person. Not to be too mushy, but when you push yourself to walk a little farther up that hill or make it all the way through a difficult yoga workout you realize that you’re the one behind the controls and no matter what shape your body is in, you’re getting stronger every day. And that knowledge makes the question of how you look in a bathing suit completely irrelevant.
April 21, 2009 No Comments