Archive for the ‘Health and Wellness’ Category

Today I am grateful for the American innovation, the muffin: a heart-warming, semi-sweet, quick bread for one.

Perfect for breakfast, dessert, a snack, or sometimes even a meal replacement on the go, I do love a good muffin pretty much any time of day!

Well, at least I used to …  months ago, on a quest to resolve some health issues, I eliminated dairy, eggs, and wheat from my diet. I am, in fact, feeling better, but ohhhhh, the cravings!

I’m happy to report that I’m finally over my cheese-and-creamy-foods cravings (I ate a whole avocado a day for weeks, to help fill the creamy void!), and could quite easily walk by a fragrant loaf of crusty French bread without blinking an eye.

But lately I’ve really been craving an earthy, wholesome muffin, chock full of good and healthy ingredients. And so my research for “gluten-free” and “vegan” baked goods began.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no vegan! Omnivore all the way! But I’ve learned that if you want a baked treat with no eggs or dairy in it, “vegan” is the buzzword to look for.

A few substitutions and additions to this recipe resulted in muffins that were moist and delicious.  And despite NO refined sugar whatsoever, the dates and raisins contribute enough sweetness to please even little taste buds.

I held my breath when my oh-so-finicky Little Ecogirl took the first bite. Her wrinkled nose and frownie mouth turned into a big crumby smile, and she promptly gobbled down the rest and asked for more!

almond flax muffins

Gluten-free Almond Flax Muffins

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 4 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup ground flax seeds, separated
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 7 dates, pits and “crown” removed
  • 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup water, separated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. In a small bowl, whisk 4 Tbsp ground flax with 3/4 cup water and set aside for at least ten minutes. (This is your egg replacer.)
  2. In a large bowl combine almond flour, 1/4 cup flax, coconutbaking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a Vitamix or other high powered blender, blend dates, flax and water egg replacer, 1/8 cup water, oil, and vanilla on high speed until very smooth
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then stir in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins.
  5. Spoon batter into lined muffin pan. These don’t rise much, so fill right up to the top of the liner.
  6. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool and serve.

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I discovered virgin organic rosehip oil from Chile when trying it out as a facial moisturizer. I knew very little about it, but it was on sale through my wholesale buying club/co-op one month so I bought it. After a few weeks of use, I noticed the splotchiness of my face was greatly diminished, and my skin tone seemed more evened out. I was amazed!!! I did some online research and was impressed to learn the following about rosehip oil:

Native to South America, rosehip oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds of the fruit of the rose plant (the little red bulbs that appears after the flowers fall off). It is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and natural anti-oxidant properties that help improve the elasticity of the skin, regenerate skin cells, slow down premature aging, and reduce the formation of wrinkles and scarring.

Rosehip oil is extremely high in Vitamin C, in the form of essential fatty acids, which retain and attract moisture for healthier skin. Vitamin C is also necessary for the production of collagen, one of the main proteins in the skin.

It is great for mature or damaged skin and can be used to fade blemishes such as pigmentation spots, acne scars, stretch marks and sun-damage. Just a few drops go a looong way, especially on damp skin. Face, neck, decolletage, and tops of hands are the main anti-aging spots you want to hit. But really, use it anywhere. Rough elbows, dry feet … it feels very luxurious on the skin.

Rosehip oil helps regenerate tissue, and is excellent for treating burns immediately after they happen. Apply multiple times daily to affected area; heals skin quickly and vastly reduces visibility of scars.

The only thing for which it seems to be contraindicated is active acne. It’s good for diminishing the appearance of acne scars, but not for use when acne is active.

It is a nongreasy carrier oil which absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving behind shiny residue. It has a light, nutty aroma which can easily be enhanced with a variety of essential oils. The color is a beautiful and surprising deep amber.

Here’s another personal testimonial from the perpetual clutz. yours truly: I burned myself not long ago when the lid of the wafflemaker fell on my hand and left me with a nice little grid pattern on it

Ouch! *sob* Keep going. Must. Feed. Children. Breakfast.

After the little creatures were held at bay with healthy whole-grain waffles and nitrite-free turkey bacon, I started treating my tic-tac-toe-board-for-a-hand with a few drops of rosehip oil every day. A few weeks later, my hand had NO gridmarks, NO scar, NO sign of damage to the skin whatsoever!!!

I sort of feel like a born-again because I’m so convinced of and vocal about the magical properties of this oil. So much so that I even went out and bought a gallon of virgin organic cold-pressed rosehip oil from Chile and separated into 2-oz amber glass bottles with glass dropper in lid to distribute amongst my friends and loved ones. I want the world to enjoy the benefits of this oil, and I still have a good number of bottles left.

If you are interested, send me an email at ecomamasays at gmail dot com

My favorite thing about rosehip oil: How it evens out my splotchy skin tone, flattens my keloid scars, and plumps up my skin in general.

Tell me and our other readers below what you like best about what rosehip oil is doing for your skin. Good things, no doubt!

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Since Ecobaby was born, my immune system just hasn’t been the same. I appear to be plagued by a variety of autoimmune disorders that manifest with a variety of symptoms that are entirely new to me.

I hate to say that cold sore outbreaks are among the list of unpleasantries.

Throughout my life, I had occasionally gotten what I referred to as an “itchy bump” on my lip, but it never turned into anything more. I’d chew on it a bit to relieve the itch, it would get all big and puffy that day, and then it would shrink down and disappear overnight.

After a horrible case of strep throat last year that left my weak immune system even weaker, now when I get an itchy bump on my lip, it is the precursor to something much worse.

It starts as a burning, raw, chapped feeling, and is usually preceded by a lot of time in the sun without protecting my lips, more stress than usual, and not drinking enough water.

Then, the itchy bump appears, grows, and slowly turns into a blister. The blister grows and ultimately erupts, oozing contagion and forcing me to wash my hands like a hospital employee, and endlessly dab, dab, dab with tissues.

Worse still, it forces me to avoid kissing my precious Ecofamily til it clears up.

Sniff, sniff … *sob*

Anyway, it gets worse.

A misguided attempt last year to treat a cold sore topically with tea tree oil (combined with the lack of knowledge that the oozing sore is VERY contagious) resulted in my entire upper lip reinfecting itself and crusting over for nearly two weeks. Ecobaby was just a few months old, and it was absolute torture not to be able to kiss her.

I consulted my holistic parenting group for natural remedies, and I kept getting the same answer over and over again.

L-lysine. L-lysine. L-lysine.

Before we talk about the amino acid L-lysine, which is naturally present in the body, let’s briefly touch on another amino acid, L-arginine.

An abundance of L-arginine in the body creates a hospitable environment for the herpes simplex virus (ie, cold sores) to run rampant. Foods that are naturally high in L-arginine include chocolate (guilty) and nuts (guilty again).

L-lysine on the other hand represses the metabolism of L-arginine. Dairy products are very high in L-lysine, and I didn’t eat any for a year, and still don’t eat much of it now. In high enough doses, L-lysine reverses the visible symptom of cold sores.

How high? Opinions differed, but I went with the suggestion of one mama friend I trust who said, “Pop ’em like candy.”

I began my attack with 1000 milligrams of L-lysine every few hours that night, and all day the next day. By the second night, it had already started drying up and shrinking.

When I woke up the next morning, the top layer had dried up and fallen off, and I was on my way to a normal looking lip once again.

Now when I get an itchy bump on my lip, and recognize those other signs like tingly lips, too much sun, not enough water, etc., I immediately start taking loads of L-lysine. Bump never materializes into anything more, and is usually entirely gone the next day.

L-lysine. Stops cold sores in their tracks.

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I must tip my hat to the Barefoot Contessa for this one. I enjoy so many of her recipes because of her choice of simple ingredients and simple flavors that really let the flavor of the food shine through.

Plus, spending my days chasing after my one year old and three year old Ecokids, I usually don’t have much time for anything more complicated than this!

Like other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), Brussels sprouts are high in antioxidants. Include crucifers in your regular diet, and you are decreasing your chances of cancer. Brussels sprouts also fight inflammation in the body, which is a leading cause of disease and general “unwellness” in the United States.

Brussels sprouts are also one of Ecodaddy’s favorite veggies since his childhood, so I knew I’d have one fan before I even began. He cooks with a lot more spice than I do, so I wondered if the simplicity of this dish with just salt and pepper would appeal to him. I salted them heavily, like French fries, per Ina May Garten’s recommendation.

He went back for seconds. And thirds. Nuff said.

And hey: when your three year old asks for more, then shovels them in like there’s no tomorrow, you know this recipe is a keeper!

photo credit: MsPia

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 2 pounds Brussels Sprouts
  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), enough to coat without being too wet
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt
  • about ten turns from your fresh pepper grinder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim tough brown ends of Brussels sprouts and remove any yellowed leaves.
  3. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients until Brussels sprouts are well coated. Turn them out onto a baking sheet lined with silicone mat, parchment paper or foil.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, giving the pan a shake every ten or fifteen minutes to insure they brown evenly. Serve immediately.

For me, the best part is the outer leaves that fall off when you toss everything in the bowl … lay them out on the baking sheet with the Brussels sprouts, and they will crisp up like tiny little potato chips!

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Hello, dear Ecoreaders; today I write from the trenches.

I’ve been at war with my arch-nemesis, Candida albicans. I’ve had problems with it for years and years, and have mostly kept it under control, but lately it seems to have taken on a mind of its own.

Candida albicans is a yeast that is part of your gut flora. It is a teeny tiny microorganism that lives in everyone’s mouth and gut. For such a little guy, Candida sure packs a wallop when its population grows out of control, passes through the intestinal walls, and into the bloodstream.

Candida overgrowth is also called candidiasis. It can manifest in symptoms that vary wildly, from obvious ones like vaginal yeast infections or thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth and/or nipples) to athlete’s foot, eczema, fatigue, weight gain, depression and mood swings.

Since Candida lives in everyone and is usually in balance with all the other microorganisms in your gut, something has to set off the imbalance that causes overgrowth.

It could be antibiotics, which kill the good flora that keep the bad Candida in check.

It could be oral contraceptives (ie, “The Pill”), which is high in estrogen and promotes the growth of yeast.

It could be a diet high in foods that “feed the yeast”, like white sugar and refined carbohydrates.

It could be heavy metal toxicity, like from the mercury in your fillings, which weakens your immune system and creates an environment where Candida can proliferate.

It could be even just be plain ol’ stress.

Hmmmm … check, check, check, check, and check. *sigh*

My journey with Candida has been a long strange trip dating back to the late nineties. I used to get recurring yeast infections, and went to several different doctors to try to figure out why, not just to treat the symptoms.

One doc had the gall to tell me I shouldn’t make myself crazy trying to chase down an answer … since most women get yeast infections 3-4 times a year, I should just treat the symptoms and move on.

So doc, you’re saying that because lots of women get this, I should just suck it up and deal with it?

Ummm … no!

Needless to say, I never saw that doc again.

I found a holistic gynecologist who diagnosed me with Candida overgrowth and put me on a restrictive anti-Candida diet. Starve the yeast, and it will go away.

“Starve the yeast”; that does sound funny, but yeast eats to get bigger and stronger, just like we do. If you ever baked bread, you know that you need to mix your yeast with a little sugar in warm water to get it started. The yeast literally eats the sugar in order to grow.

This is exactly what is happening in your body, too. Unfortunately, it’s not just sugar that needs to be restricted. Many foods convert to sugar in the body. Wheat and other carbs convert to sugar. Dairy has lactose in it, a milk sugar.

Candida also likes mold, so any foods that do or could potentially contain mold are also off-limits. No vinegar, mushrooms, peanuts, dried fruit, soy sauce, or certain fermented foods.

In a nutshell, it’s a really hard diet to be on. So many foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD, for short) have sugar, wheat, or dairy in them, so it really is a task to starve those little yeastie beasties.

Take breakfast for example. Short of eggs, it is truly an effort to make myself something yummy that doesn’t feed the yeast.

Anyway, I went on the elimination diet, eliminated all the offending foods, and lo and behold, the infections went away.

But once the symptoms were gone for a while, I slowly let those foods seep back into my diet. Human nature. We are all addicted to our taste buds, big time.

Fast forward a few years …

I caught a cold/cough that wouldn’t go away for months. My brain felt kind of foggy, and my memory was worse than usual. My energy levels felt like I was operating at about 60% of my full potential, all the time. I just felt like something was off.

I went to two different doctors to figure out what was wrong with me, and both of them prescribed me anti-depressants. I tried to tell them that I was not depressed and I wasn’t unhappy, I just had low energy.

Soon after, a friend loaned me the book Depression-Free Naturally by Joan Larson. He said there might be some natural remedies in there that could boost my energy.

Well, whaddaya know. Candida albicans, my old enemy, was right there in that book. And all of a sudden I remembered what to do, and cleaned up my diet, pronto.

Away went the mucousy throat and cold I hadn’t been able to shake for three months. My energy levels skyrocketed within three days. My focus seemed sharper.

Ok, so you’d think I’d have learned by now, but …

When I got pregnant with Ecogirl, I went hog wild on Candida-feeding foods. Me, a healthy eater who loved salad, couldn’t even look at a salad unless it was drowning in ranch dressing. I don’t even eat ranch dressing, normally!

Furthermore, I was craving pizza and doughnuts, of all things. I never eat donuts. I have no idea where that came from. Thank goodness those cravings passed after a few weeks!

I satisfied my cravings with the foods I desired, and surprisingly had no ill effects. Hallelujah, pregnancy rocks! I can eat all the wheat and sugar I want!

Then Ecogirl was born via c-section after a looooooong natural labor. She was forward facing with a head tilt, and I just couldn’t push her out, so she came “out the sunroof” as a friend of mine likes to say.

Of course, the surgery came with all the requisite antibiotics, and my incision got infected a week later, leading to a second round of antibiotics.

Ugh. Can you guess what happened next?

The most raging, painful, like-fire-and-needles-and-knives-in-my-nipples-all-at-once case of thrush you could ever imagine. And it lasted for ten miserable weeks, because Ecogirl and I kept giving it back and forth to each other: from her mouth to my nipples and then back to her again.

I breastfed through the toe-curling, sobbing pain. Oh yes, I cried plenty when I nursed, it hurt so much. My nipples actually hurt all the time, it even hurt to wear a shirt; just the fabric rubbing against my nipples was excruciating. Ecodaddy couldn’t even hug me, for months.

I tried every natural remedy under the sun, then gave in and got prescription anti-fungal medications and took them religiously for two weeks. Still nothing.

Silly rabbit. Don’t you remember that you need to eliminate the foods from your diet that feed the yeast?

Oh yeah. Darn. There just is no easy way out, is there?

Back on the anti-candida diet, and finally, the thrush went away.

Thank goodness. Thrush is just awful.

Fast forward to second pregnancy, with Ecobaby. I ate what I wanted, which was often dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter. I did eat plenty of carbs too, with no ill effects, just like during the first pregnancy.

Ecobaby’s birth couldn’t have been more different than Ecogirl’s: a peaceful, unassisted waterbirth at the home of a dear friend. But the thrush that followed was the same as before.

This time, I got rid of it in a week. I jumped straight to the anti-Candida diet, plus a cocktail of natural remedies, including:

  • Several spoonfuls of coconut oil every day. Coconut oil is high in lauric and caprylic acids, natural anti-fungals which target Candida but leave the healthy gut flora alone.
  • Garlic pills. Garlic is a strong natural anti-fungal.
  • Grapefruit seed extract. Another strong natural anti-fungal.
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV). Yeast thrives in an acidic environment, but ACV makes your body more alkaline. It also doesn’t contain mold (which feeds the yeast) like other vinegars do.
  • Probiotics. These are the good gut flora that help to keep bad Candida in check.

Even though the thrush was gone in a week, I stayed on the anti-Candida diet for three months after Ecobaby was born. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the excruciatingly painful thrush wouldn’t return.

But then my old habits returned, slowly. But honestly, not as bad as in the past. I wasn’t eating a lot of bready carbs, but I was eating a lot of fruit. And dark chocolate. And peanut butter.

In my weakened state from childbirth and breastfeeding, sleep deprivation and chasing a two year old, and not having enough time to pee much less feed myself nourishing foods, apparently that was enough to jump start the Candida overgrowth all over again.

This time, it was manifesting in new ways. Itchiness between my pinky toe and fourth toe. Itchiness all around my big toe nail. Eczema on one elbow. Fatigue.

Me. Who hardly ever gets sick. Feels like I’m falling apart at the seams. *shakes fist at Candida*

Fatigue?! you might exclaim. Why, Ecomama, you have an almost-three-year-old and an almost-five-month-old, of course you’re fatigued!

Yes, yes, of course. But I feel weak, I really feel like my immune system is depleted. A good, solid detox is what I need, but because I’m breastfeeding, I can’t do anything drastic.

You see, detoxing forces the toxins in your body to leave the body via any route they can. Breastmilk included.

So until I can fast and cleanse, I need to stay on the anti-Candida diet, and get these yeastie beasties out of my body as best I can.

Wish me luck. The long strange trip continues …

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Ecobaby has been drooling up a storm. Her fist has been in her mouth at every possible opportunity. She’s been chewing on my fingers and knuckles every chance she gets.

Not even four months old, she has only been grabbing at things with her hands for a few weeks now. She can direct objects to her mouth, but struggles to keep them there, so she has been getting very frustrated.

Normally, she sleeps through the night, from around 9:30pm until 5:30 or 6am (I know, I know, it is truly miraculous!), but last night, she woke up three separate times throughout the night.

Only three? some moms might be muttering to themselves. To them I offer a deep bow of admiration for trudging through each day under the effects of extreme sleep deprivation. You are unsung heroes, mamas!

Anyway, combining all these different clues … the drooling, the fist sucking, the night-waking … I’ve concluded that she must be teething. Or pre-teething. Whatever you want to call it, something is going on in her mouth that’s causing her discomfort and disruption of the usual program.

Having identified teething as the culprit, out came the baltic amber necklace from big sister’s jewelry box. At age 2.75, Ecogirl won’t have any new teeth coming in for a while, so her necklace can be handed down to Ecobaby for now.

Baltic amber is a fossil resin from ancient pine trees. It contains large amounts of succinic acid, a powerful anti-oxidant that has been shown to boost the immune system. Succinic acid helps restore strength and energy, enhances brain function, and reduces stress. It is also a natural analgesic and exhibits both anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.

Reduces stress? Restores energy? Hmmm, I could really use one of these necklaces too, I think …

Baltic amber necklaces have been used for centuries to treat many different ailments. When the necklace is in direct contact with warm skin, succinic acid is released and absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

But how can a baby wear a beaded necklace, you might ask? Won’t she pull on it and break it, sending beads everywhere?

The necklaces are strung by hand one bead at a time, with a knot in between each bead. If your child pulls on the necklace and it breaks, only one bead will be lost instead of a whole necklace worth of beads scattering all over the place. The necklace will still be shot, but it will pose significantly less potential hazard to your little one.

You can leave the necklace on all the time, though some people like to remove it at night for fear their child will get tangled and strangled. Ecobaby is a veritable mummy when she sleeps; she doesn’t move an inch, so I feel comfortable leaving it on.

You do want to remove it when bathing, however. Soap buildup can create a barrier between the bead and the skin, preventing the succinic acid from entering the body. To keep the necklace clean, just wipe with a damp cloth from time to time.

If you have a child who is teething and you are a skeptic: just try it. At best, your child gets relief, which means you get relief.

At worst, your child looks really darned cute.

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