Category Archives: Health

Eggshell Seedlings

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a gardener. This is my husband’s project. He has a MAJOR green thumb, but he doesn’t have a blog, so I’m sharing his fun project with y’all today!

 

Starting Seedlings

It’s smart to start seedlings indoors between 4 and 6 weeks before you plan to transfer outdoors. This depends on the plan, so make sure you research the duration of sprouting! Where we live, the golden-rule is to not plant anything outside until Victoria Day weekend (for my friends south of the border, that’s the weekend before Memorial Day). Even if it feels nice enough, Mother Nature will bite you with a random night of frost if you attempt to plant too early!

Eggshell Seedlings

It is common to start seedlings in peat-pots or the classic plastic-cells. We’re not fans of the plastic-cells, for obvious reasons, but the peat-pots which are a great option, come with a price tag and do require energy inputs into making them. So instead, we chose egg-shells because they are free; they are incredibly environmentally friendly (especially because they were used twice!); they provide nutrients into the soil; and they are really easy to transfer. 

Process

1. Collecting Eggshells

We started collecting eggshells in March, being careful to try and crack the egg so that 2/3s of it remained in tact. This allowed for a fairly large little pot to fill with soil! Within a few weeks we had multiple dozens ready to go.

2. Preparing Eggshells and Soil

Once we had gathered enough shells, and the timing was right, the hubby rinsed all of the egg shells, poked a hole in the bottom (to allow excess water to drain and prevent drowning) and filled them with potting soil (ideally organic) making sure not to leave any air pockets. He moistened the soil every day for a few days, before planting, to bring it back to life (his words). Which means, to give any dormant microbes the change to wake up! Microbes are important for everything! Not just gut health!

 

3. Planting Seeds

Next, he planted the seeds at depth instructed by packages. He watered every day with a misting spray bottle, so as not to over or underwater, or displace the seeds. It takes a bit more time, but it is more effective.

 

4. Transferring Seedlings

Once the seedlings are mature enough, and when the weather is nice, he will transplant them into our raised garden beds. 

Using a garden trowel or your hands, dig a hole large enough for the egg. As you place the egg into the hole, gently squeeze the egg to crush the shell. This makes space for the roots to escape! Gently cover with soil and pat down around the plant, being sure not to break the seedling. Make sure not to allow any air pockets in around the egg (which can result in fungal growth). You can avoid air pockets by firmly pressing down on the soil around the seedling.

(photo coming soon!)

NOTE: If a seedling outgrows the egg, because you planted them too early, or the weather isn’t cooperating, you may have to transfer them into a larger pot in the meantime. While it’s an extra step, the nutrients still go into that soil so make sure to dump the soil from the new pot into the garden when you eventually replant outdoors!

Detox Your Home

When you start down the path of more natural living and trying to detox your home, it can be a bit overwhelming as you realize how insidious toxins are. This can be especially scary for parents, or soon-to-be parents!

Note: as someone with a rigorous science degree, I’m careful of using the word “chemical” as a bad thing. Everything is made up of chemicals! So many scientific terms are misappropriated in common language. For the sake of this article, I am going to use the word “toxin” to describe chemicals that can be harmful to the body.

Pretty much everything we use is full of toxins – make up, perfume, dishwasher detergent, tile cleaner, carpet cleaner, air deodorizers, sunscreens, moisturizer, toothpaste, food containers, food, water… Like I said – overwhelming. I’m not going to get into what these toxins are and how they impact your body, because that’s a HUGE can of worms. Instead, I’m going to share my favourite products that I use on a daily basis, after years of trial and error! If you want to dig deeper, check out The Environmental Working Group, or read Slow Death by Rubber Duck.

I always recommend taking a slow, methodical approach to detoxing your house because it’s less over-whelming and less of a financial impact! So each time you finish a product, make a conscious effort to replace it with a cleaner one (either from the health food store/health section or make your own!) However, according to Gretchen Rubin what’s most important when making change is to know yourself. Are you the complete overhaul, 180 degree turn, all or nothing kind of person? Then go for it. Toss it all and replace accordingly! Once you figure out what works best for you, here are the main areas I recommend addressing.

1. Cleaning Products

Have you ever noticed how many different products you are told you need for your house? It’s all marketing friends. And marketing of some serious toxins. The majority of the ingredients in household cleaning products are hazardous – the warning is right there on the label. And the funny thing is, it’s totally not necessary! There are 3 amazing house-hold products that are just as effective at cleaning (both aesthetically and bacterially-speaking) as toxins, without any of the nasty side effects. These are:

Baking soda. Vinegar. Lemon.

There are a few additional ingredients that can be used too, such as borax, castille soap, washing soda and essential oils. But it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The cleaning products I use in my house are:

  1. Lemon vinegar cleaning solution (for the kitchen and greasy areas) – I also dilute this and put it in my reusable swiffer-type mop
  2. DIY bathroom cleaner

And that’s it…. honestly. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on products over the last 5 years or so? I wish I had the numbers, but it’s gotta be up there. I haven’t bought laundry detergent, or the ingredients to make it in over 18 months.

If you’re a little more particular and want some specific cleaning products for targeted areas (like hardwood, antiques etc.), check out One Good Thing by Jillee.

For clothing / hands / dishwashers, I use:

  1. DIY laundry detergent
  2. Dr. Bronner’s castille soap or The Soap Works bar soap (found at Bulk Barn).
  3. EcoVer dishwasher detergent 
  4. Nature Clean dish soap (I’m partial to the lavender and tea-tree oil)

And for natural deodorizers I use:

  1. Pure essential oils or an essential oil spray.
  2. Poo-pourri. (if you haven’t seen the commercial for this stuff, check it out now!)

But there are lots of clean options if you visit a health food store! Be skeptical though. Green-washing is a major thing these days since “going green” is super trendy. Check the ingredients and make sure there aren’t any wonky ones like parfum, parabens, or sodium lauryl sulphate.

TOP PRIORITY: the strongest smelling product in your arsenal, or the one that makes you a little woozy if you don’t open the windows. Bathroom cleaners and deodorizers (Febreeze, Glade plug ins etc.) are often the worst!

2. Personal Care

First and foremost – stop using perfume/cologne. It is purely synthetic and made of almost exclusively dangerous toxins. Over hundreds of toxic chemicals that the company is not required to disclose – it’s proprietary info. It’s the number one thing you can do to reduce your toxin exposure. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, here are my favourite products (sort of in order of use during the day):

  1. Shampoos & conditioners by Prairie Naturals. They have a variety of types based on hair-type. I personally use the avalanche line in the winter (helps with dry scalp) and the moroccan moon line the rest of the year. Some people have success with the no-poo method, but it didn’t work for me.
  2. Soap by The Soap Works. I use this for my hands and any parts of my body that need a good scrub – like my feet if I’ve been barefoot! But honestly, I usually just use a loofa and water in the shower.
  3. Toner – DIY. I dilute 1 part apple cider vinegar with 4 parts water and store in a little spritzer container in the shower. I use this on my face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back. It tightens pores, but also helps mitigate blemishes. If my diet has been off a bit and I find some odour emanating from the armpit region, I’ll spray some on there too. I rinse off immediately after spraying!
  4. Moisturizer – argan oil or olive oil (as part of oil cleansing method, see below)
  5. Make up by Pure Anada. I love this brand. It’s Canadian and works so well. I used to buy it at The Big Carrot on the Danforth, but now order it online. It’s mineral make up, so it lasts me years. Other mineral-based make ups are great options as well. Just be careful not to inhale!
  6. Deodorant – DIY. I used to use my DIY deodorant, but a client of mine makes her own and it’s the best I’ve ever tried. I’m working on getting her to sell it!! Before I changed my diet, healed my gut and balanced my hormones, I was a major sweater. It was bad. I never wore t-shirts. Grey was a nightmare colour. Ugh, it was the worst. So this was the last thing I changed. For the longest time I used Tom’s anti-perspirant – which still had the aluminum for reducing sweating, but the rest of the ingredients were pretty darn clean. I still sweat a fair amount, but not anywhere near what I did before balancing my body! I even own a grey t-shirt! That I wear on not very hot days… πŸ˜‰
  7. Perfume. I’ll be honest, I don’t use any. It was never really my style anyways, they always bothered me. However, I do sometimes use essential oils as perfume (especially blends designed for mood balancing like Peace & Calming if I’m going to an event which I know I’ll find overwhelming, or Valor if I need a confidence boost). Pacifica is an easy to find brand of perfume that is mostly essential oils.
  8. Face-cleansing / moisturizer. I follow the oil-cleansing method which I learned in The Purely Primal Skin Care Guide. It works wonders for my skin (after a few weeks of adjusting) and I can’t imagine going back. It took a little trial and error to determine the right oils (which is complicated by the fact that winter and summer have different requirements – always have for me), but it’s amazing. Another way I save a TON of money.
  9. Toothpaste – Earthpaste is my favourite (it does a great job whitening too), although we sometimes have Jason’s.

UPDATE: I am also including a variety of Beautycounter products as part of my regular routine. Click here to learn more.

TOP PRIORITY: anything that has the word “perfume” or “parfum”, followed by things that stay on your skin. So moisturizer is more important than shampoo.

3. Water

Drinking/ice/tea/kombucha etc. This was a very important area for us, since it is a major area of exposure and our water is full of SOOOO much junk. As soon as we bought house, we did some digging into the best water-filtration unit. We were willing to spend thousands on a whole-house system, but after doing some research (made easier by The Wellness Mama) we ended up going with a Berkey. At around $450, it was perfect for our soon to be growing family. Easy to use and gets rid of everything we don’t want, while also remineralizing. Bonus is it’s free-standing so when/if we move, we can take it with us. The best compliment we received was from a friend who said our water tasted like the water on his parents farm (in a very remote area!) – especially cool since the water that goes into the filter smells like a swimming pool. NOTE: previous to the Berkey, we used a Brita which has its downsides but is better than nothing. As soon as the water filtered through I dumped it into a glass juice jug so it wasn’t sitting in plastic all day.

Shower/bath – we also installed filters on our shower heads, and bought a bath ball. This is important because we actually absorb more chlorine through baths and showers than drinking. One of the mechanisms for this is gaseous chlorine in steam gets inhaled and crosses the lung barrier. There are several options available at health food stores – we’ve used both the Santevia and The Original Bath Ball.

TOP PRIORITY: this is a tough one, I’d say both. But from a financial perspective, I’d do what we did – shower filter + basic water filter to start.

4. Food

First and foremost, stop eating man-made, fake foods. It is a good idea to always avoid the following:

  • Food dyes / artificial colours (That means sprinkles, candy and common beverages like gatorade. There are dye-free options at health foods stores if you absolutely need it.)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial flavours
  • Vegetable oils

After that, we purchase organic whenever we can. Not because organic foods contain more nutrients (although many do), but because of what they don’t contain – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified DNA. The order in which we prioritize that is as follows:

  1. Meat. This gets the top priority since it concentrates toxins up the food chain. Purchasing quality meat impacts your health, the health of the animals and the health of the environment. This includes animal-fats like lard, tallow, bacon-grease, duck fat etc. The fattier the meat, the more important, since toxins are stored in animal fat.
  2. Dairy. We don’t eat dairy (both have serious allergies), but if we did, it would absolutely be grass-fed or organic for the same reasons as above. This includes butter/ghee.
  3. Dirty Dozen vegetables & fruit. The reason this isn’t at the top, is if our budget is a little tight, we don’t buy these guys. We’ll stick to the veggies on the Clean Fifteen and buy them conventional.
  4. Other produce. If the price isn’t too much different, I”ll buy the organic version of the Clean Fifteen – because it is better for us and the environment. However, if it has been flown across the continent/world, I won’t.

Other foods to consider buying organic include:

  • Corn. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to secrete it’s own pesticide that damages the intestines of the pests that eat it, which kills them. (sound familiar?)
  • Soy. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to withstand ridiculously high levels of RoundUp, so everything around it dies, but the soy doesn’t – it just gets covered in it and then we eat it! Keep in mind that RoundUp used to be used on lawns (remember the commercials??) and is now banned in areas like Toronto, because it is so toxic.

TOP PRIORITY: fake foods, followed by fatty cuts of meat.

5. Plastics

Even BPA-free plastics. Plastics are toxins. End of story. BPA-free plastics have just had a different plasticizer used, that doesn’t have the drama around it. Same stuff, different day. The most important ways to avoid plastic include:

  1. Temperature. Never heat food in plastic! Even for a few seconds! Don’t put hot food in a plastic container either. This includes leaving your water bottle in the car in the sun.
  2. Acid. Highly acidic foods break down the plastic, which then leaches into your food. Tomatoes and citrus are the most common culprits.
  3. Fat. Foods that are high in fat/oil also leach plastic out of the solid state. So whenever possible buy oils and nut-butters in glass.
  4. Water. With the amount of water we need to drink, our exposure to plastic sky rockets. Recyclable water bottles start to degrade as soon as you open them, so definitely don’t reuse those. But even standard water bottles break down over time. Choose stainless steel or glass instead.

Dry foods are not nearly as much of a concern. So storing things like baking ingredients, grains (if tolerated) and spices in plastic isn’t something to worry about! For kids dishes – silicone is great option! Keep an eye on places like Canadian Tire, which often have sales on glass tupperware. Also start reusing jars instead of recycling! I wash salsa and nut butter jars, and reuse them for freezing food, DIY mayo and broth!

TOP PRIORITY: heating food in plastic.

SUMMARY

Reducing your overall exposure to toxins is a process – trust me, I know! It probably took me a good 2 years to fully clear out my house of toxins. You don’t need to change everything all at once (unless that’s your personality type). Just making 1 or 2 small changes can have a huge impact. Do some research. Determine your priorities. Consider speeding up the process a bit if you are / plan to be pregnant or have little ones at home, but don’t stress! To help prevent stressing, at the end of each section above, I highlighted the top priority, to help you start your detoxing journey. Enjoy the process and learn as you go!

Please share in the comments below, what your favourite clean products are and where you find them!

Fever: The Role in Immune Function, Benefits & Risks of Treatment, Natural Remedies

FeverSo I’ve been sick. Really sick. It came on as a slight cough last Tuesday – I thought it was residual from a cardio-intensive workout that morning. But by the evening it was still there. I immediately started hitting it with everything I had. Now normally my arsenal is pretty large, considering my hubby is a naturopath and we have a dispensary in our basement, lol. But considering the fact that I’m pregnant, most of the herbs we have on site are off-limits. So I stuck with a large dose of Vitamin C, some essential oils, and a plan to sleep in as late as possible the next morning.

And then the morning arrived. I felt ok. The cough had settled in for sure, but not too bad. By mid-morning my whole body hurt. Again I chocked it up to yesterdays workout, but the level of discomfort was not appropriate for that workout. That’s when I started realizing I was seriously sick. This wasn’t just a little cough. When I started feeling listless and realized I had laid in bed for an hour doing nothing (no TV, reading, podcasts – nada), I took my temperature: 

101.6F

Yowza that’s high (ish). And I’m pregnant. And the risk of injury to the baby with a chronically elevated temperature is real. I was able to bring it down a full degree within an hour, by implementing some classic natural anti-febrile techniques, which I’ll share with you below! But first, a bit on fevers…

 

NOTE: I am not a medical doctor. I am not making any medical recommendations and this is not medical advice. I am simply trying to provide some clear information on a common health occurrence. Please speak with your health care practitioner before making any changes to your health care routine.

 

What is a fever?

A fever is a natural rise in your body temperature, in response to an infection – either bacterial or viral. It is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying issue. So like all health issues, it’s important to address the underlying cause, instead of just suppressing the symptoms.

Why do we develop a fever?

It is believed that the elevation in temperature is actually a critical step in helping our bodies fight off infection. It seems to (a) activate our immune system by sending white blood cells and macrophages to the infection site, and (b) inhibit enzymes and other functions required for viral and bacterial replication. For example, it has been hypothesized that most bacteria can’t survive in temperatures above 101F and viruses, above 102F. 

In fact many cold-blooded animals, when inoculated with pathogens, will instinctively find ways to increase their body temperatures to feverish levels, by seeking out warmer environments. Fascinating eh?  (<– btw, clearly I’m Canadian, if you didn’t already know…)

Isn’t a fever dangerous?

Well yes, it can be. Uncontrolled, very high body temperatures can result in severe dehydration and possibly induce febrile seizure. Which is why you want to monitor it. But mostly, they’re just damn uncomfortable.

Now, when it comes to fever during pregnancy, there’s a little more to consider. Your baby is developing and that requires a specific temperature for everything to work properly. This is why your doctor told you not to use a hot tub or take hot baths. Prolonged, elevated body temperatures may impair important developmental processes, specifically in the brain.

Anti-Febrile Meds?

The conventional approach is to take an anti-febrile medication as soon as your temperature gets a little above normal. Ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen (Aleve) are the 3 recommended meds. Do they work? Oh hell yeah. Are there side effects? Definitely. So it becomes a relative risk-reward assessment situation.

NSAIDS (like Advil and Aleve) cause leaky gut. Period, end of story. If you have a history of health issues or an autoimmune condition, this is something to consider. Importantly during pregnancy, Ibuprofen is considered  level 4 risk, during the 3rd trimester. As in, there is significant evidence of it causing harm to the baby, specifically their heart.

Acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the USA. The metabolic byproduct of detoxifying acetaminophen is NAPQI, which is responsible for necrosis of the liver. While NAPQI does not cross the placental barrier, acetaminophen readily does. Which needs to be considered since a developing baby’s liver starts being responsible for its own detoxification at around 18 weeks.

Additionally, suppressing a fever has been shown to prolong the duration of the illness, which makes sense since you’re also suppressing your immune system from doing its job!

Natural Approaches to Reducing a Fever

So what did I do?

MONITOR: Most importantly I was monitoring my temperature every hour, making sure it didn’t get to a temperature that we (my husband, my health care provider and I) had decided would be our “time for serious action” temp. I also monitored every few hours at night.

WARMING SOCKS: This age-old home remedy is a favourite amongst crunchy mamas. You take a pair of thin cotton socks and soak them in cold tap water. Put them on your feet, and add a second pair of socks, preferably wool to keep the water in. When the socks warm up, rinse them in cold water again and repeat. The idea behind this hydrotherapy technique is by keeping the feet cold and wet, you create a sort of “heat exchange”. Your body increases circulation to your feet, dissipating heat in order to warm up the feet/socks.

ICE PACK: Place a cool ice pack at the base of the neck, where there is a high concentration of temperature receptors. This can help dictate the internal temperature of the body.

ESSENTIAL OILS: I’m new to the field of essential oils, but I’m quite enjoying learning how to use these additional tools. I hit up the Wellness Mama (she’s my go-to for natural remedies) and she recommended pure peppermint essential oil (I use Young Living brand) on the back of the neck and on the bottom of the feet (see above for why those locations). 

I did all 3 things and brought my temperature to 100.1 within an hour. 

BACK UP…MEDS: Considering the risk of a high fever and developmental issues regarding the baby, I had an Ibuprofen on stand by, just in case my temp got above the predetermined comfortable zone for us (I’m purposely not sharing, because that’s something for you to determine with your health care provider). I chose Ibuprofen because although I have a history of major gut issues and serious autoimmune risk, I am 18 weeks pregnant. Which is far enough out from my third trimester to decrease the risk of ibuprofen and heart defects, but definitely far enough in that I didn’t want my baby’s liver to take the hit of the acetaminophen. Luckily I didn’t have to use either, because the above tricks worked tremendously. 

Additional Support

There were a few other things I did to help my body recover from this (likely) flu as fast as possible. 

  1. Convalesce. I did nothing. Nada. Even though by day 3 I was so bored of TV, I rested, napped, and generally took it easy. Pushing through is a sure way to stay sick and get sicker. I’d rather take a few days off and get better, then push through and 2 weeks from now find out I have pneumonia and have to go on antibiotics.
  2. Bone broth. Like crazy. It helps keep the gut strong and regulates your immune system. I had soup multiple times a day. I also cooked white rice in broth, to get some calories in me. Find out how I store my bone broth to make it easy to use, even when you’re sick and have no energy for food prep! I added onions and garlic to my broth for an additional immune boost. I also added some gentle veggies like spinach.
  3. Vitamin C. There aren’t very many supplements that are considered safe during pregnancy. Again, I worked with my team and determined a few herbs that are generally recognized as safe during pregnancy, but mostly focused on the simple stuff. High doses of vitamin C at regular intervals can shorten the duration of an illness. Good rule of thumb with vitamin C – take to bowel tolerance. As in, when you start noticing loose stool, pull back on your dose!
  4. Ginger, lemon and raw honey tea. I took a few slices of ginger root, a ΒΌ lemon and about 2 cups of hot water. I let simmer for about 20 minutes on the stove top. Strain and add a spoonful of raw honey. Alternately, you can juice a whole whack of ginger and lemons, and store the potent elixir in the fridge, adding a few tbsp to a mug of hot water and a spoonful of raw honey. This is what we normally do, but I was by myself during this illness and didn’t want to deal with the mess of the juicer (normally my hubby would take care of that), and by the time he returned home, he was sick too. 
  5. Fluids. Water, tea (see above), bone broth, mineral water and kombucha (specifically homemade lemon/ginger booch) were on constant rotation. Fever causes dehydration so keep your fluid intake high! 

 

Conclusion

Fevers can be a scary situation, especially in young kids or during pregnancy. But understanding their benefit can help decrease the stress around them. Monitoring and implementing some solid, natural remedies – combined with immune support to help your body fight the cause of the infection – can help you recover quickly and decrease the potential need for risky pharmaceutical intervention. Keeping in mind, that drugs save lives so there is definitely a time and a place for their use!

 

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