Category Archives: Immune Support

The Great Do-Over Pt. 2 – Sleep, Rosehips, Nettles, Lemon Balm and Digestion

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I have begun the process of re-prioritizing my health and the choices that I make which impact it.  The latter is a long list, sigh.  It’s a funny thing how the mind can convince you that just because you know better means you are doing right.  It doesn’t.   I know how to ensure quality restorative sleep.  I do  the opposite.  I know how to feed and fortify my body against disease and illness.  I choose to eat as much taxing junk as I can get away with.  I know how to release and protect against the serious damage of daily and circumstantial stress.   I act like every other over stressed, adrenally fatigued person I know.   I know how to use herbs to rebuild my body, but I fail to do much but forget them in my cabinet because herbs heal by shear proximity, right?
Step one has been to take a good look at all these moment by moment, day by day choices and see what reality I’ve created over the past couple of years, the proof being in the pain pudding.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been consistently replacing breakfast and lunch with a large mug of broth.  This is one that I thought would be difficult, especially with the whole family at home eating actual meals, but it hasn’t been difficult at all.  As I’m beginning this I am dealing with

  • one or two days of pain per month,
  • at least two weeks of heavy fatigue each month,
  • difficulty in falling asleep, difficulty in staying asleep,
  • difficulty digesting food (stomach bloating, churning)
  • several times per month I get a terrible electrical feeling in my body that is tied to intestinal irritation
  • sensitivity to gluten, guar and xantham gum, carageenan, corn derivatives, beans, tomato sauce/paste, potato and potato derivatives

These are all things that allow me to live my life, but limit it surely.  My goal is to regain complete health and freedom from all Fibro/CFS symptoms as I did for 2008/09.

To prepare I placed a bulk order with Mountain Rose Herbs.  I will outline each of the herbs as I add them to my routine.

To help with sleep I have begun using approximately 30 drops of Skullcap tincture along with 5 drops of Motherwort tincture, and 5 drops of Five Flower Formula.  I take it twenty minutes before going to bed.  Whenever possible I take a 30 minute long bath that is as hot as I can tolerate (meaning I have to ease myself into it very slowly and likely don’t lay down for several minutes – about 112 degrees) just before going to bed.  If I’ve done it right when I get out of the bath I will have the “I need to lay down and don’t care if I’m dry” feeling and will fall directly to sleep.  If I’m having a night where I feel certain that I won’t fall asleep readily I add a soothing essential oil to the bath like Lavender or Clary Sage (clary sage being my preference), and drink a night time tea that includes things like chamomile, passionflower, etc.  On such nights I play an effective guided relaxation/hypnosis/meditation by Jan Bennet Collier while I fall asleep.

Sleep is a top priority.  Nothing else that I can do will bring the heft of results that restorative sleep will bring.  This week’s goal is to regain control of my bedtime and what I do with myself in the hour leading up to it.  I long ago abandoned my nighttime routine and schedule to disastrous results.  This week I’m aiming for a consistent 10:30pm bedtime, with no stimulating media for an hour before bed.  This means that I will be staying off of the computer (or TV if I had one) and be skipping any books that are emotionally charged or cognitively stimulating, in favor of soothing, calming works like Shambhala Sun Magazine, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, etc.  These are things that bring me a sense of peace, quiet and certainty at the end of a day.  In fact I need to get back to reading them until I regain that place of keeping peace, quiet and certainty with me throughout the day.  If you read through the Cage Free Family archives you can see those things slip from my writing over time.  I regain them here and there, but I eventually lose them and lose my thread of writing altogether.

Of the herbs that I ordered I have introduced three of them into my every day, Lemon Balm, Rosehips, and Stinging Nettles.  I drink the Lemon Balm and Rosehips together as my morning tea, which I have with my cup of broth when I first wake up.  Together they make a really yummy citrusy tea with added honey.  I brew them, covered, for 15 minutes each morning.

The Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and is powerfully soothing to the nervous system treating everything from anxiety and depression to very tough viruses like Herpes and Mono.  It eases the heart and the mind (much like Motherwort) and is a wonderful tonic not just for those with chronic illness or sleeplessness, but for anyone dealing with daily stress.  It has long been absent from my routine, and I am better for having it back.

Rosehips, which are actually the fruit of the rose bush, boast one of the most concentrated sources of Vitamin C available from plant or animal. In addition, they contain assimilable and high levels of iron.  Not by accident, the key to digesting and using iron is the presence of Vitamin C.  They strengthen the tissues of the body, support the vascular system, are cooling to the body and tonic for the mind, they treat chronic diahreah as well as stomach weakness.  Native American’s used Rosehips to treat muscle cramps, and they contain many vitamins and other beneficial supplements, including lycopene, essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, pectin, sugar, resin, wax, malates, citrates and other salts, tannin, malic and citrus acids, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zin c and vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, C, D, E and K.

For the all-amazing Nettles I make an infusion every night before bed and drink it all day.  Aside from it’s truly incredible list of balanced vitamins, minerals and protein (yes, protein!!) it is long renowned for it’s benefits for the kidneys (one of our toxin elimination pathways) and the adrenal system (what sick person isn’t dealing with adrenal stress, heck, what modern person isn’t?)   Herbalist Susun Weed says “A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.  There is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae; and nettle is much more reasonably priced than any supplement, especially if you buy more than an ounce or two at a time.”  It is amazing for increasing energy and general wellbeing.  For more info click here.

In addition to the herbs I am dealing with my poor digestion with the introduction of Betaine HCI and a pancreatic enzyme that contains amylase, protease, and lipase.  I have found that taking these with a meal eliminates the painful bloating and the hours of churning.  Both are available at any herb or natural food store as well as many sources online like Amazon.

Get Cultured!

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cover

“Born of necessity and waste-not-want not attitude, probiotic foods have nourished the human race for thousands of years and appear in one form or another in traditional cuisines cross-globally.  Fermented foods are rich in probiotics – those beneficial bacteria that keep our immune systems and digestive tracts running smoothly and healthfully.”

Get Cultured: Probiotic Foods from a Nourished Kitchen, the first of many e-books detailing tried-and-true nourishing recipes, Get Cultured details thirteen recipes from classics like pickled jalapeños and real sauerkraut to the exotic like Vietnamese preserved limes, green salsa and cortido.

Each recipe in Get Cultured focuses on nourishing pro-biotic, naturally fermented vegetables and all the recipes are dairy-free.

>>> Check it out at nourishedkitchen.com/get-cultured/


Healing Beef Stock

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Broth, made from the bones of animals, has been consumed as a source of nourishment for humankind throughout the ages. It is a traditional remedy across cultures for the sick and weak. A classic folk treatment for colds and flu, it has also been used historically for ailments that affect connective tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract, the joints, the skin, the lungs, the muscles and the blood. Broth has fallen out of favor in most households today, probably due to the increased pace of life that has reduced home cooking in general. Far from being old-fashioned, broth (or stock) continues to be a staple in professional and gourmet cuisine, due to its unsurpassed flavor and body. It serves as the base for many recipes including soup, sauces and gravy. Broth is a valuable food and a valuable medicine, much too valuable to be forgotten or discounted in our modern times with our busy ways and jaded attitudes.  – Allison Siebecker

Throughout my healing journey broth and stock have played starring roles for everything from Fibromyalgia to the most severe stomach flu.  It is humble, unassuming, and so easily dismissed, but it is a true healer.  It took me a while not just to give credit to the benefits of broth, but to implement it as a mainstay in my daily life, but the process has been well worth it.  Not only does it help to heal the body, but it soothes the rough patches of the healing process like die-off, stomach irritation, fatigue and inflammation.  While chicken stock is considered the cream of the stock crop, it is beef stock that we prefer around here because it is easier for us to acquire great bones.  We have made stock from everything from Yak (yes, yak!) to fish and even combined poultry and beef bones.  Each family member has their favorite, but all stock can be wonderfully beautiful in flavor while it does it’s healing work.

From ediblearia.com..

“…if there’s one preparation that separates a great home cook’s from a good home cook’s food, it’s stock.  Stock is the ingredient that most distinguishes restaurant cooking from home cooking.”  -Michael Ruhlman

Here, then, is a proper yet relatively easy way to make a rich, delicious, and (most importantly) healing beef stock at home..

Beef Stock (makes about 1 quart) (informed by recipes by Ruhlman and Darina Allen)

6 cups (more-or-less) cold, filtered water, divided
2 pounds meaty beef bones (shin bones with meat attached are ideal) from a clean, non-industrial source
1/3 pound unpeeled yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/3 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1/3 pound celery, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large fresh, ripe tomato, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2-3 whole cloves
1 bouquet garni of parsley stalks & leaves, fresh bay leaves and fresh thyme

Arrange the beef bones on a roasting pan or in a large cast iron skillet, allowing plenty of space between each (as you can see, I wasn’t able to find any bones with meat attached, so I rummaged around in the freezer and found an old tri-tip to add to the pan).  Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and roast until nicely browned, about 45 minutes.  Take care not to let the bones burn, or the stock will be bitter.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chopped vegetables, garlic and peppercorns over and around the bones.  Return the pan to the oven and roast until the vegetables are browned around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the roasted bones, vegetables, garlic and peppercorns to a clean stockpot or Dutch oven.

Pour the grease off from the roasting pan and deglaze with 1 cup of the water.  Bring the water to a boil, then use a wood utensil to scrape up the fond (the brown bits) from the bottom of the pan.  Pour the liquid over the bones and vegetables in the stock pot.

Add enough of the remaining water to cover the bones, then add the cloves and bouquet garni.

Bring the pot to a rapid boil, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.  Skim and discard any foam that may be present on the surface.

Partially cover the pot and allow to simmer for 6-8 hours, skimming and adding water as necessary to keep the bone submerged.

Turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool in the pot for 30 minutes.  Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer to ensure a clear and clean-tasting stock.

Store stock in the refrigerator and use with 3-4 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Detox blues

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It seems that cutting the wheat cold turkey and adding in more bone stock and coconut oil are causing some serious detox symptoms for me and pretty minor ones for J.  First it was breakouts and dry patches on my face.  Then I started what seems to be a cycle of 4 or 5 days of increasing nausea, exhaustion, intestinal struggles, dizziness and that general “I’m getting the flu” icky feeling.  Then it subsides and I have 4 or 5 days of increasing health before I start over again.

About four days ago I started to have this unpleasant tingle-hurt feeling in my lip where I found a tiny lump deep inside.  By the time I got home 5 or so hours later it was blooming into a cold sore such as I have never seen.  I have had about 5 small cold sores in the same spot over the past 10 years.  I know the drill and the look of this one was beyond my comprehension.  I knew it would be bad as it was clearly going to be some 6 times larger than anything I’d ever seen before, but I wasn’t really prepared for all of the symptoms of it to be multiplied so.  I spare you the details, but I’ll tell you that the pain literally brought me to the floor two mornings in a row.  On the afternoon of the worst day I nearly fainted from the intensity of the unceasing pain.  I’ve had three home births.  I can do a little discomfort, but this was wicked, searing, torturous pain that will likely have me quaking in my boot the next time I think I may be getting one.

Now that it’s winding down and on its way out I’ve got an absurdely large canker sore forming inside my lip near my gum line.

Oh the joys of detoxing.  The answer I suppose is to work the other lines of elimination a bit better… more detox baths, more skin brushing, more water…  Being that I’m still nursing little S, I cannot partake in any of the more rigorous detoxing methods, so this could drag out for me for a while.

I’m also planning to go ahead and get some blood work done with a naturopathic doctor or a DOM to see exactly what’s going on in my body and what I can do to ease symptoms and better support my body.  I’ll be meeting with a master herbalist as well to get the lowdown on what exactly I can and cannot take to aid this process of healing up my body.  This kind of thing is a bit beyond my family herbalist training.

Another thing that I have been thinking of, but not acting on is acupuncture. It was such a huge help through this process the last time and I went three times a week for several months.   We’re lucky enough to  have a group session clinic even in our small town and this is how I was able to afford the treatments last time.  As with anything, consistency and regularity make a difference when it comes to healing, and it would be best for me to get out there at least once per week right now.  However, even once per month would be better than nothing at all.

A little note: if you haven’t checked your household cleaning and beauty products with the Environmental Watch Group’s databases yet, I highly recommend it.  It is hard to clean up your body and begin the path of healing if the poisons are still coming in and piling up.  Also consider staying away from anything with Nitrates and Nitrites, even wine.  Wine is something that though I love it, I can really only handle one glass every few months without feeling badly.   When I’m in a state of regular illness like I am now and anyone just beginning would be it is best to stay away from it entirely.

I’m doing better with the sugar that I’ve been getting in my Alter Eco chocolate bars.  I’ve cut down to only one small square in the evening which equates to a fraction of a gram of sugar.  I’ve also added in a few doses of Motherwort tincture (5 drops) three or so times per day while the detoxing symptoms are present and leaving me feeling stressed and sleep deprived.

Are you out there?  How are you doing?

 

Walking the Walk

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It is one thing to know what you have to do, and another completely to actually do it.  Consistency is a matter even beyond that.

Having successfully healed from Fibromyalgia and it’s corresponding depression, anxiety, exhaustion, etc.  I know what I have to do.    You might think that this would make it easier.  And yet, I still struggle with disbelief, and the myriad of other hurdles that keep people from making the choices that they want to be making.   I know that I feel dramatically better when I drink herbal infusions each day, when I take my fermented cod liver oil and probiotics consistently.  I know that sugar makes me feel sluggish with bouts of depression, irritability and heightened sense of stress and fear, and yet, I still eat bits of chocolate bar almost every night; telling myself that because it is dark, organic, fair trade and unrefined it is okay.  Well, it’s not likely to kill me, but it’s not going to allow me the feeling of health and strength that I want so badly.   The sometimes intense cravings for baked goods haven’t subsided yet either.

The healthiest I have ever felt was when my diet was completely free from all grains, additives and sugar.  I drank infusion and many glasses of water each day, took my probiotics and oils, went for regular acupuncture treatments, went to bed at 9 or 10, and listened to a guided meditation as I fell asleep. I was not only free from all symptoms, but also filled with a sense of vitality, peace and happiness that I had no memory of having before.  Simple it seems.  Easy even.   But beneath these simple things lies many lifestyle changes and a shakeup of belief systems.  It also takes the kind of will power and energy that we already feel deficient it.  It’s simple, yes, but not so very easy.

Sometimes I need the reminders of why these things work… in so many words.  Always I remember the underlying lesson.  Always I remember about heavy metals, deficiencies, sensitivites, dysbiosis, candida, fungal and bacterial imbalance… years and years of research fuels the affirmations that I make, but sometimes, I need a little boost.  Sometimes I need to remember the exact why of it all.  Sometimes I need to get real with myself and remember that if I don’t get a different life with the same old choices.

I have the most intensly desire inducing memory of having total freedom not just from symptoms, but also from feeling like a slave to the “lifestyle” and a soldier against cravings.   Food became a side note to my life, a means to an end.  Yes, I enjoyed the food, I made things that tasted good, but all in all I left behind that feeling of need attached to it.  Meals were not the highlight anymore.  I didn’t need chocolate or coffee even, and could hardly remember why I ever thought that I needed them.  I was grateful for the immensity of the feeling of freedom that I had.  That it what I want to get back to.   I don’t just want to be disease free.  I want more than that.  I want to be back to the person that was so alive, so healthy that I stood out in a crowd.   I didn’t have to talk to people about how I lived because they were constantly asking about my skin… the thing they assumed was the source of my “looking so healthy.”  I want to be back to falling asleep easily, waking up refreshed and ready, and filled with a sense of possibility through the days.  I’m ready to let go of being irritable and tired, short with my family, fearful of doing things and tired of life.

We have never juiced before.  It’s something that I never really researched, seemed expensive and possibly unnecessary, but today we decided to give it a try.  Last year I watched a documentary called the The Gerson Miracle and juicing has been on the back of my mind ever since.  We are planting almost 1,000 square feet of vegetables and herbs right now and juicing seems like a reasonable choice for us at this point.  Miso soup with sea vegetables is another thing that I would really like to get into our lives, but I am taking it in chewable doses.  Right now I’m working to continue with going to bed at the same time every night, remembering to stay fully hydrated, drink my infusions and take my oils.  I am recommitting to eliminating the sugar completely and increasing my vegetable intake.

I’ve also started taking 2 teaspoons of Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar mixed with a heaping teaspoon of raw honey, and 8oz of water.

Currently I have a series of days without pain and oppressive fatigue, but I’m still getting bouts of exhaustion, pain and general feelings of illness ever 5 days or so.  I’ve been without any pain relieving prescriptions for too long to count now.  Months I think.  I’m getting there, and oh god I swear when I get there I will not look back again.  I have learned my lesson.  Nothing that I want to eat, nothing that I want to not be bothered with is worth feeling like this.  I will do what it takes to be healthy and I will remember.  I wish so much that I had made some kind of journal of the process the last time, but it is what it is.  I am doing it now and I know that I will be damned if I forget again.

To our heath, Rebels, to our health.

 

 

Update – Two Difficult Weeks

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After the last post I was feeling dramatically better; expecting that if the improvements continued at that speed that I would be Fibro free again in no time.  Unfortunately, the improvements didn’t continue as such.  I have not gone back on “the rules”, but quite suddenly I started to get symptoms flaring up; pain, serious fatigue, itching, etc.

Looking at what I was doing, fearfully because of the rise in pain, I noticed a few important things.

One: the fear that rises up when I feel the beginning of the pain, if someone asks me how I feel, or if I accidentally leave home without anything for a pain flare up, the fear causes the minor beginnings to flare like blowing on a fire.  Fear/stress = pain when at this delicate stage.  When I am stronger and more sound this is not the case, but at this level of weakness and sensitivity to all triggers, it is a real problem.  It was actually my 8 year old son that helped me work through this.  Taught him well, I did 🙂  He just said, “Well, mama, sometimes I feel afraid and then I get all of those ‘afraid feelings’ like sweating, and tummy ache, but then you tell me that there isn’t anything to be afraid about and you help me feel okay about whatever is happening and all of those things go away so that being afraid isn’t bad anymore. Then it isn’t even there anymore. That’s what you have to do.”

He was right.  I closed my eyes, and forcibly relaxed my whole body starting from my scalp and working my way down and up again.  Then I made sure that I was breathing deeply and slowly, and starting visualizing things that made me feel happy or excited like a walk on a tropical beach (so different from the high desert where we live), a picnic by the lake with cake (it’s a dream, there can be cake!), warm coffee – cup hot on my palms, etc.  After about 5 minutes I realized that the flare had subsided back to a minor sensation that couldn’t really qualify as pain.  Without the fearful response to what this feeling means, it would likely have stayed there.  It made me wonder how much of my suffering is skyrocketed to severe pain because of the fear that it will progress to that.  I’ve been keeping a close eye on this and am finding a lot of truth in it.  In more stressful situations, it can be hard for me to keep a handle on how deep and firey the pain gets.  I have been working to tell myself, It’s OKAY.  This is what it feels like.  You know this feeling.  Maybe it will get worse, maybe it will disappear… either way, the only thing to do is relax as deeply as possible.  Accept.  Know that it will pass.  Breathe, and don’t tense up!  It’s been helping a lot.

Two: Water.  Water is the next key point.  I have come to understand that it is at least as important as staying away from gluten and preservatives.  Any degree of low hydration will  result in pain for me.  And it will result in the most stubborn, deep, widespread variety.  For me this means a gallon of water every single day.  One day of poor intake, say a quart or two, will result in pain before the day is out (usually around dinner time) and if I don’t remedy the situation I will wake up achy and at a difficult deficit in the morning.  Sadly I do this at least twice per week.  Living in the high desert I have to consider that missing some of the water I need is only going to add to the battle that I deal with everyday with the high, gusting winds, 8,200 ft elevation, desert arid air, sun exposure, and year round wood-stove heating (mountain temperatures).  I think of it like this:  I pretend that I am trying to keep a garden alive in the desert.  This requires constant watering, and reduction of anything that will dehydrate me, such as excess sodium, and certain foods.  When I’m dealing with a real dehydration situation, I help myself out and add some coconut water to the mix.  This increases the rate at which I can rehydrate without increasing the inevitable trips to the bathroom.

Sleep.  Oh, my, sleep!  It is so very important.  Quality, undisturbed, delta-wave sleep is necessary.  Without it I might feel okay for a few days or weeks, but I will be tired, and I will be ever so much more susceptible to all environmental triggers.   A thing to understand:  nearly every single sleep drug, antideppressant, anti-anxiety drug, and alcohol will dramatically reduce ability to achieve delta wave sleep or completion of a full sleep cycle.  Most will prevent it entirely.  Sleep is such a deeply, widely complicated issue I’m going to have to cover it over a series of posts.  I spent years and years battling this issue.  I first became aware that I did not sleep easily or deeply when I was about 5 years old.  I struggled with it until I was 27 and it rises up again and again when I don’t stick to the “sleep rules”.  I will have to cover those in another post.  The last five years have been overlapping issues of pregnancy, breastfeeding and nightwaking/teething babies.  It is possible to overcome a block as big as a waking baby to get the kind of sleep necessary, but it takes real dedication and a sacrifice or two.  It’s worth it though.  Nothing will change your outlook on life and your strength against pain like quality sleep.

I’d like to touch quickly on detoxing/die-off symptoms before leaving you.  I realized about a week into the rising of symptoms that I was dealing with detox/die-off symptoms.  After making dramatic changes in my diet, like cold-turkey removal of all grains and sugar, I should have expected it, but somehow didn’t.  Depending upon how long I have been abusing my body with things like gluten, sugar, carageenan, etc. I will experience a whole slew of symptoms ranging from mildly irritating to two days of feeling like I may be dying of cancer, unable to move, hardly speak, etc.  I had been abusing it pretty badly for a long time, so I got two days of the latter.  The pain was too severe to mask, even with pharmaceutical opiates and herbs combined, my stomach ached, the fatigue was deep enough to make it difficult to speak and remember to keep my eyes open.  My heart palpitated, my skin itched, my bones burned and I suffered breakouts all over my face and a few other enjoyable issues.  The thing to know:  given the opportunity, your body  will heal itself.   This will include a forceful removal of toxins through every avenue possible: kidneys, liver, skin, bladder, bowels…  It usually doesn’t feel great, but proper support of your systems while it is happening can reduce the length of severe suffering to a day or two.   Watering your body like you have the flu, REST, vitamins, probiotics and essential fatty acids like those found in fish, (freshly ground) flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and especially fermentd cod liver oil will go a looong way to helping you recover more quickly.   Gently scrubbing your skin in a warm bath at least once per day and then oiling your skin with a quality, unscented oil like olive oil or coconut oil will help prevent rashes, breakouts, dry or rough patches, redness, itching and swelling.  Your skin is the largest organ of detoxification and your body’s preferred first route.

I’ll leave it there for now, and follow up with more detailed posts on all of these topics.

To our health, Rebels.  We can level this thing.