Saturday, February 26, 2011 Mini Minty Chocolate Chip Muffins has published another one of my articles. This one was mint (get it? get it?) to come out around the holidays, but I guess they had too much to publish at the time and it got stuck in a long line of articles waiting to see the sunshiney day of publishing. Check it out, try it out, and you won't be disappointed!

Mini Minty Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's the Little Things

Somebody made my day today by stopping by our house to pick up some scaffolding that's been sitting on our front porch since we moved in 3 months ago. There are still half a dozen or so 5 gallon buckets of noxious liquids of various kinds, but just having the scaffolding gone makes my little heart want to leap for joy. It's the little things.

Speaking of little things, what little things do you like to do to make life easier or more enjoyable? Here are a couple ideas:

  • Vacuuming has always been my least enjoyed chore. This chore has become more necessary since our move as our beautiful new flooring seems to create dust bunnies out of thin air, so while the frequency of vacuuming has necessarily increased, the chore itself still hasn't become any sweeter since moving into the new apartment. Why? I'm always afraid I'm going to pull a muscle getting the vacuum out of the closet! I have to pick the canister and wand up together (which at the angle they're at becomes quite awkward even though they're not very heavy) and hoist them over a pile of unused flooring (which I have admittedly made worse by putting a large unused crockpot on top of said flooring). Once the vacuum has been safely removed from the closet though, it's time to get busy. It sounds completely ridiculous as I'm formulating how to phrase this in my head, but I like to imagine I'm a great hunter off to kill as many Vicious Dust-Bunnies as possible. There's danger at every turn, and you never know if the next Dust-Bunny will be the end of you. Don't they just sound terrifying? Okay. So they're actually not that dangerous, and I honestly don't go through that mental routine every time I vacuum, but it doesn't hurt on the days when I'm feeling the most unmotivated. 
  • Laundry rooms should be pleasant. I know many people are in the habit of doing very little to beautify this area of the home, but why? We housewives (and especially mothers of babies and young children) spend a lot of time in this space that is often tucked away into the darkest, dingiest, creepiest corner of the home. I like to find those little things that will make my laundry area more enjoyable to be in, whether that's attractive baskets to contain stain-removers and my homemade dryer-balls, or finding a pretty container to put laundry detergent in. If your laundry space is in a dark garage or basement, consider things like painting the walls a cheery color (not that I'd recommend painting the sky and clouds; in fact, my decorating senses would strongly oppose that particular idea), or hanging some fun artwork that you enjoy but wouldn't necessarily want in your main living space. Another little thing you can do to help make laundry day enjoyable is to keep your space tidy. Nobody wants to try to work in a space packed to the ceiling with with a mess of "stuff". Oh, it makes my skin crawl! If your laundry space is already packed with junk, start with the little things to clean it up. Before you know it you'll have a spic-n-span space that you can thoroughly enjoy working in.
  • Hand-washing dishes doesn't have to be just about getting the dishes clean. Pick an all-natural dish soap in a scent you love (mine is Natural Pear!), and spend that time focusing on the little things. I keep a shelf full of small items that each remind me to pray for something or someone. 

Well I think that's it for now. What about you? What are some little things you like to do to make your day, your chores, your work easier and more pleasurable?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Stuff

Precisely Mine is giving away a quart of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to one lucky entrant. Check out their blog for ways to enter and win!

Grammy Janet's Place is offering a giveaway of 5lbs of Household Traditions Dishwasher Detergent! Check out the blog and enter to win today!

Contest Corner is giving away a jar of Organic Coconut Peanut Butter to one lucky reader. Who doesn't love peanut butter?!

Mommy Is Green is also giving away a great Tropical Traditions product: Coconut Flour! 5.5lbs of it, to boot. Can anyone say "Lemon Coconut Pound Cake"?

A Nations of Moms is offering a bottle of Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Lotion. Perfect giveaway for the dry winter months.

Tropical Traditions has a lot of other great products, so be sure to check out their website!

Or if you're in the mood to nourish the soul instead of the body, check out Noise Trade for some free music.

Also, check out Fantastic Freebies & More on Facebook for regular updates on free samples and things you can grab.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Things We Use

My sister recently inspired me to write a post on what we currently use in our home and on our bodies for personal care/hygiene and home care. I'm always fascinated to learn how others are doing these things naturally and inexpensively. If we could afford it we would be using all-natural/organic products exclusively. I am convinced that they are safer than conventional products and foods, and will contribute to good health whereas their not-so-natural counterparts are often damaging to our health. We cannot afford to go completely organic at this point in time though, and that's okay. We're doing the best we can with the options we have available to us.

One thing that we try to keep in mind, too, as we attempt to lead a healthy lifestyle is that we don't want it to become all-consuming (which can be a difficult balance to keep when your occupation is quite literally all about natural health!). I don't want to make an idol out of "natural living" or make those who can't afford to do as much as we do feel like they are somehow failing in life because they can't live up to my standard. I want to honor and glorify God in all that I do, and I do believe that as such, I am required to care for my body to the best of my abilities.

So what do I actually do for personal care and beauty products? Let's see....

Hair Care
Shampoo, conditioner, dyes, etc., 

SHAMPOO has been a difficult issue for me. I have tried the "no-poo" route, Dr. Bronner's, Jason, and many others that are at least safer alternatives to what you might find at Walmart. When I used Dr. Bronner's alone my hair just didn't feel nice and soft, like it does when I use "bad" shampoo like Herbal Essences. Knowing all that I do about the chemicals in those types of shampoo though makes it impossible for me to use them without guilt.

I use: Mill Creek Keratin Shampoo (
Cost: $4.11
Free of: Parabens, SLS/SLES, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Colors and Fragrance.

HAIR DYE is honestly one of my favorite things. I love dying my hair. It's a fun way to change things up without cutting my hair (something in inevitably regret after 2-3 days of fun with the new-do). Most hair dyes are chock full of dangerous chemicals though, so I no longer use the temporary dyes I used to use like Clairol's Loving Care. I have tried some of the dyes sold in little herb shops that claim to be all natural and safe but somehow manage to look, act, and be used exactly like traditional at-home dyes. They're "okay" and certainly safer than other more common brands, but usually still contain some harsh chemicals. Not to mention they're pricey!  

I use: Rainbow Research Henna. I honestly don't love the smell of henna, but I love how safe and natural it is (you can even safely use it during pregnancy), and that unlike all other dyes it is actually good for your hair, working as a natural protector and conditioner, and gives my hair nice body as well. I've only tried this one brand which you can find on and I love that it is completely free of all additives, chemicals, and pesticides. Some brands of henna dyes have a laundry list of ingredients, but Rainbow Research is pure henna.
Cost: $4-$6

Body Care
Soaps, lotions, moisturizers, deodorant, make-up, feminine hygiene, etc.

SOAP is something else we don't use a whole lot of. I believe that the no-shampoo theory ( is sound, and applies to the body as well as the head (though I did unintentionally give up the no-pooing on the head thing, though it was going fine!). We do use soap now and then, but overall since reducing our usage, my skin has felt better, and even in the middle of winter, I rarely have to use any sort of moisturizer and yet my skin is almost never dry.

I use: Dr. Bronner's. My favorite is the almond and the lavender, though I like them all.

LOTION/MOISTURIZER is another product I need to use rarely, which I believe is due in part to my other lifestyle choices (i.e. no excessive use of oil-stripping soaps, sufficient water intake, etc). Because it's something I apply directly to my skin though, instead of something like hair gel I likely only use on the ends of my hair, I feel strongly that it should not be full of chemicals. 

I use: Home-whipped shea butter in various scents. My favorite is scented with an essential oil blend called "Sensual" which contains ylang ylang and jasmine (I'm not sure what else is in it).

BODY SCRUB is something I've only started using recently, after I attended a "lotion making party" at a friends home. She made up some easy coffee body scrub and we all tried it on our hands and loved it. I came home and made some myself, and wrote about it here: Saturday Docket. This scrub contains a little bit of oil (I used walnut) and because of this I have been able to further reduce my usage of lotions/moisturizers since I started using it almost a week ago. I use it on my entire body every time I shower (usually every other day) and love it. One warning: Shave your legs after using this scrub, and not before. I found it highly irritating to my legs when I used it once after shaving. Another thing I love about this particular scrub is that it gives your skin an almost sun-kissed glow. Not enough that you look like you've gotten a fake tan, but just enough to make you look a little healthier during these dreary, sunless winter months. It's also extremely inexpensive to make, as you can make it up with used coffee grounds!   

DEODORANT was no easy thing for me to switch to natural on. When I was younger and very sick with Lyme disease I sweated like crazy, and while I didn't smell badly, I couldn't imagine life without antiperspirant! The more I read as I tried to improve my health, the more convinced I became of how harmful conventional deodorant/antiperspirants are, though, and I forced myself to switch. There was a slight adjustment period during which the deodorant didn't seem to work very well, but eventually my body readjusted and now it works like a charm! 

I use: Thai Mineral stone. It is my favorite by far and is completely natural, and aluminum-free. It works great for me and David. We recently switched to the Crystal brand to try it out since it cost less and it works, but not quite as well. David has to combine it with a Zum Frankincense & Myrrh cologne I got him for his birthday last year for it to work perfectly, as without the cologne, it seems to randomly (though rarely) fail him. 
Cost: my preferred brand, Thai, runs around $6-$9 depending on where you get it, and what size you purchase. The stone that comes in the tubey thingy lasts around 1 year if only one person is using it. So though the initial cost is more, you still spend less annually on deodorant than if you're buying regular stuff.

MAKE-UP is one I am just not giving up. I won't use the kind of stuff you can get a the grocery store, or drugstores, but I like it and I'm going to keep using it. My husband likes it, too, which is a huge factor for me. I don't wear much though. In the summer I usually wear little more than some eyeliner and maybe some mascara. Maybe a light blush if it's one of "those" days. In the winter though when I'm more pale due to the lack of good sun, I will apply foundation, some blush, and the eyeliner and mascara. 

I use: Bare Escentuals. Like I said before, most of their products do contain titanium dioxide, but that's about it as far as potential toxins go (and there is some debate on the issue of whether or not titanium dioxide is a danger at all when applied topically versus ingesting it), and as much as we've eliminated toxins from other areas of our life, I don't feel horrible about my moderate use of these items that have very small amounts of that in them.
Cost: Varies.

PERFUME/COLOGNE is one it took me a while to think about. Initially when I considered the issue and realized I didn't want to be spraying unknown chemicals all over my skin, I switched to spraying them on the outside of my clothing. An improvement, but if you can smell a substance that means that small particles of it are entering your body through your airways. So I've done away with all of my traditional perfumes!

I use: Crystallized essential oils by Eden Botanicals, or straight essential oils. I found the crystallized version by Eden Botanicals and fell in love around 5 years ago. I've been wearing almost nothing but them since then. 

David uses: Zum Eau De Zum, Frankincense & Myrrh. A dab under each arm keeps his natural crystal deodorant working, and makes him smell... *sigh* wonderful. According to the guy I bought it from at the herb shop, it's their most popular scent and both men and women wear it. I've used it on occasion, but it definitely has a little more of a manly scent to it than I prefer to wear, even though it does smell different on me than on David. 

NAIL POLISH is another item I use only a couple times per year. Thanks to my older sister I recently tried out Piggy Paint. It doesn't last even as long as regular nail polish (which I already find lacking and is one of several reasons I rarely use it) before chipping, but it's great that there are safe alternatives out there! She got me some Piggy Paint for my birthday, and shortly after that I discovered another safe, non-toxic brand marketed to adults, called Honeybee Gardens. They have a variety of more mature colors, and best of all, this nail polish can be removed with rubbing alcohol, so no highly toxic chemicals there, either! Since I originally wrote this post, Piggy Paint has come out with a new line of nail polish, "Piggy Paint Refined" which is a line of grown-up colors!

I use: Honeybee Gardens & Piggy Paint.
Cost: $6-$9.


Nobody who wants to lead a safer, more natural lifestyle can ignore the issue of traditional pads and tampons for long. Both disposable pads and tampons can contain dangerous chemicals, and many believe that these chemicals can cause or increase menstrual period discomforts, such as increasing cramping, and adversely affect your hormone balance as well, not to mention increasing your risk of contracting life-threatening infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome. There are some "natural" pads and tampons which are supposed to be chemical free, organic cotton, but they can be very costly, and still carry some of the same risks as other tampons. 

I use: A menstrual cup, specifically "The DivaCup" -- unlike tampons that may only last a couple hours (which can be especially scary if your bleeding is ever unpredictable), The DivaCup can be left in place for up to 12 hours, making embarrassing trips to the bathroom a thing of the past! Made from medical-grade silicone, they have a yet unknown lifespan, but evidence points to our cups outlasting our reproductive lifespans (which means instead of throwing out thousands of tampons or pads over our reproductive lifetime, we'll end up throwing out only one small cup instead). Talk about being eco-friendly! I also use homemade, cloth pantyliners as a form of "insurance" or for light days when the cup seems like overkill.

Household Products
Dish soap, dish washer detergent, laundry detergent, etc.,

DISH SOAP makes me happy. Especially when it's non-toxic, natural, and pear scented! 

I use: Earth Friendly Ultra Liquid Dishmate Natural Pear -- it smells AMAZING, is completely safe and natural, and is fairly inexpensive, too, which is great since I hand wash dishes more often than I use the dish washer!
Cost: $3.10 (

Earth Friendly Dishmate is made with: water, coconut oil derived surfactants, salt and pear oil.
And is free of: Phosphates, dyes, perfumes, SLS, cocamide DEA, animal testing and animal ingredients.


I use: Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Detergent -- it's not perfect, but it's a far cry better than Cascade! Prior to purchasing this I used Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder, which was a gift when we got married and I only just bought this other brand (which goes to show you how rarely I use the dishwasher!). I prefer the Biokleen as far as ingredients, and how well it works, but the Seventh Generation was cheaper, and I decided to give it a try. I will switch back to Biokleen when my 7th Gen is gone.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT is currently Earth Friendly. Once the detergent I currently have is gone though, I plan on making my own, which can be done for mere pennies per load!

I use:  Earth Friendly Ultra Ecos Magnolia & Lily Laundry Detergent. They have a fragrance free variety as well, though they're naturally fragranced.
Cost: $6.37 for 50oz, approximately 50 loads ( 

BLEACH can be almost essential for whites if you want to keep them looking fresh and clean. In place of dangerous chlorine bleach, I prefer to use chlorine free products, which still help to keep whites bright, but are safe enough to use on colors and can help remove tough stains. In my experience, oxygen bleaches work well enough that you don't have to use them every single time you wash, either, but just now and then to keep whites looking new longer!

I use: Biokleen Chlorine Free Oxygen Bleach Plus
Cost $4.93

General household cleaners: I use homemade cleaners for wiping down counters in the kitchen and bathroom, for mopping my floors, and for cleaning my shower and toilet. My favorite is very simple and inexpensive! Just fill a spray bottle with water, add 5-15 drops of grapefruit seed extract (depending on the size of your bottle and the strength of cleaner you want), and viola. Done! I also like to add a few drops of essential oils like tea tree oil which also have anti-microbial properties, iodine, or castile soap, depending on where the cleaner will be used. For my flooring I use a simple combination of water and vinegar in a Swiffer mop (though I don't buy the disposable pads; I use old dish rags and they work wonderfully -- perhaps even better than the pads -- and are more eco-friendly!). 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Living With(out) PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (also known as PCOS, PCO, Syndrome O and Polycystic Ovary Disease or PCOD) is, without a doubt an increasing problem with as many as 1 in 15 women in the world suffering from this disease (some suggest it may be as high as 1 in 5). PCOS is a condition of hormonal imbalance in which insulin resistance and high androgen levels are present, and often includes other variations of hormone imbalance. The effects of these imbalances include reproductive, cardiovascular, and metabolic dysfunctions. Symptoms include male pattern hair growth (excess and darker hair on the face, abdomen, or chest), acne, and irregular periods as well as ovarian cysts, high BMI’s, and subfertility (difficulty becoming pregnant). The severity of PCOS varies from woman to woman, as do the symptoms. It is possible to have PCOS without ovarian cysts, without overweight, and without fertility trouble. However, these are the most familiar complaints, and PCOS is often thought of primarily as a dysfunction of the reproductive system, though the risk of heart disease and diabetes is greatly increased in women with PCOS, as is the risk for cancer, if left untreated long-term.

The precise cause of PCOS is unknown, though there are significant correlations with poor diet and high levels of toxicity, and most experts agree that insulin plays a prominent role. As such insulin resistance is sometimes pointed to as the “cause” of PCOS, but what is causing the insulin resistance itself? Genetics? Environmental toxins? Diet? I would venture to suggest that it’s a little bit of all those things. Genetics may not “cause” insulin resistance, but may cause someone to be predisposed to insulin resistance. With the appropriate diet and lifestyle, someone who is predisposed to a particular disease or dysfunction may never actually fall ill. But with improper diet, poor lifestyle habits, and exposure to excessive environmental toxins, genetic predisposition can be the difference between health or chronic illness.

Many medical professionals view PCOS as a problem to be managed at best, often prescribing drugs like metformin which is intended to increase insulin sensitivity (studies do show that it reduces insulin, testosterone, and glucose levels). There is increasing evidence, however, that PCOS may be controlled and even reversed through proper lifestyle changes, supplementation and bio-identical hormone replacement therapies, instead of merely "managing" it. Any time you desire cure, you must first discover and then address the cause of the illness. Conventional medicine is in the habit of looking to hide symptoms with drugs, rather than discover the root of the problem and heal it, and this is reflected in the fact that many doctors will put a patient diagnosed with PCOS on drugs before giving lifestyle changes a try (this is likely due to the fact that doctors are trained to go to drugs first. If, however, a doctor has been further educated and knows that lifestyle can play a role in any condition of ill health, he/she has probably also learned that most of their patients will be non-compliant because eating right and exercising is "too hard", making drugs the "best" choice).

Diet & Lifestyle Changes

One of the first places to start when trying to control or reverse PCOS ought to be diet. Evidence is piling up that shows that a low-carbohydrate diet is essential for managing PCOS. Scientific studies are now backing up anecdotal evidence of practitioners like the late Dr. Atkins, who put his PCOS patients on his famous low-carb diet. Those with absent cycles had their cycles return in just a couple months and in all PCOS patients signs of high androgen levels began to subside after the same time on the diet. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed significant improvements in women with PCOS when they went on a carbohydrate restricted diet. All the women who completed the study saw significant improvements in weight reduction, waist circumference, body fat, insulin, total testosterone, and free androgens. 57% of the study participants also saw significant improvements in their menstrual cycle regularity. Another study published in the same journal showed similar positive results, detailing their research on protein versus glucose on women with PCOS. This study showed an immediate drop in cortisol and DHEA levels during a protein challenge, and a spike in cortisol and DHEA levels during an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. DHEA is a precursor hormone and is often too high in those with PCOS, as is cortisol. The study concluded that:

“Glucose ingestion caused significantly more hyperinsulinemia than did protein, and it stimulated cortisol and DHEA. Protein intake suppressed ghrelin significantly longer than did glucose, which suggested a prolonged satietogenic effect. These findings provide mechanistic support for increasing protein intake and restricting the simple sugar intake in a PCOS diet.”

Dr. Michael Fox of the Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine has a successful practice with an astonishing natural pregnancy achievement rate amongst his patients who follow his dietary guidelines, which includes highly restricted carbohydrate intake. He says the low-carb world has "transformed" their practice. Prior to their switch to a very low-carb diet (VLCD), their success rate was around 40%. Now with a VLCD their patients enjoy a pregnancy achievement rate of over 90%! Dr. Fox says that, "Again, in simple fashion, we looked at physiology and realized that insulin is released only in response to dietary carbohydrates. Thus, elimination of carbohydrates should resolve the problem. This, in fact, is the effect that we have seen. " To read an enlightening interview of Dr. Fox, check out The Heart Scan Blog. It is important to note that Dr. Fox reports in his interview very little change in their success rates with only moderately low-carbohydrate diets (such as South Beach), and stresses that it was the VLCD that so vastly improved their outcomes.

Low-carb diets are not "one size fits all", which is a potential shortcoming of a lot of popular low-carb diets. A great way to customize your diet to your unique physiology is to get a glucose meter and test your blood regularly after any foods that you think could be provoking a higher insulin response than you want (levels shouldn't go above 100, as anything past that begins to increase your cardiovascular risk). Ideally a low carbohydrate diet will contain lots of fresh, non-starchy vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats (such as coconut oil, olive oil, and grass-fed butter), some nuts and seeds, and moderate fruits. Berries are the ideal fruit when you do have some as they are more nutrient rich, and lower in sugar than other fruits.

Reducing carbohydrate should be the goal, but don't forget that increasing protein intake is also important (in other words, don't get on a low-carb diet and think that means it is time to pig out on bacon, which is mostly fat. Fat isn't evil, but shouldn't be the singular macronutrient that replaces carbohydate, but instead a combination of healthy fats and protein is essential). Ideal protein intake, according to natural fertility specialist Gabriela Rosa (BHSc, ND, Post Grad NFM, DBM, Dip Nut, MATMS, MNHAA), is around .75g per pound of bodyweight for women who are attempting to become pregnant, are pregnant, or lactating. This means that a 140 pound woman should set her protein intake goal at around 105g of protein per day, barring any other cause for that number to be increased. Another essential element in the fight against PCOS, however, is exercise, which also increases your need for protein, which ought to be kept in mind when determining your personal daily protein goal.

As stated above, exercise is also key for those with PCOS. Exercise helps to maintain (or regain) proper hormone balance, and this effect is best achieved through weight-bearing exercises. Weight lifting helps you to maintain muscle mass, and lose weight (this is another reason sufficient protein intake is essential -- losing weight without sufficient protein consumption will result in loss of muscle mass, so while you may be losing weight, it's not the kind of weight you want to shed). Both weight loss and the hormone balancing associated with exercise make it a crucial addition to your lifestyle changes.

As is the case with most illnesses, a wholistic approach must be taken for best results. One shouldn't presume to treat heart disease by popping a couple fish oil capsules each day, nor would we tell a lung cancer patient that quitting smoking will cure them. We must look at each aspect of a persons lifestyle from diet, to exercise, to sleep habits, and beyond, and make healthful changes. So what about sleep habits, then? It's an issue that shouldn't be ignored, whatever your health condition may be, but as it relates to PCOS one Netherlands study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that insulin sensitivity decreased in study participants by 19-25% after only one night of poor sleep. Imagine the havoc persistent poor sleep produces in the body!

Detoxification is also helpful in those with PCOS, as toxins can adversely affect hormone production. Heavy metals and other toxins block hormone receptors which can cause or at the very least contribute to the hormone imbalances that define PCOS. The average American lifestyle no longer includes significant physical activity, which can impair natural detoxification pathways such as sweating and regular bowel movements. Safe detoxification programs may include the use of high quality chlorella, zeolite, and MicroSilica. Talk with a qualified health-care practitioner about your options.

Stress reduction methods should also be employed. Chronic stress increases cortisol, insulin, and testosterone levels. Reducing stress and learning to take a few minutes each day to relax and perhaps perform some deep breathing exercises can prove very helpful in lowering chronic stress.


B12, B6, and Folic Acid:

Women with PCOS tend to be deficient in vitamin B12 – there also seems to be a correlation between taking metformin (a drug commonly prescribed to women with PCOS) and increased B12 deficiency. In one study, the longer a patient was on metformin, and the higher the dose, the more significant their B12 deficiency became. Regardless of whether you are on metformin or not, it is important to have sufficient levels of B12 (and also B6 and folic acid) as it reduces homocysteine levels (homocysteine is an amino acid that, when too high, damages cells), which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and insulin resistance.

Fish Oil:

Because PCOS is an inflammatory condition, reducing inflammation should be emphasized. Fish oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory. It has now been shown in studies to reduce insulin resistance (in some studies by as much as 70%), reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, high triglycerides, etc., which are all concerns for women with PCOS. It improves the rate of glycogen storage and enhances insulin secretion from beta cells in the pancreas. Both of these actions improve glucose and insulin control.  Between 3-12 grams taken in divided doses three times a day has been shown to be most effective in women with PCOS.

Vitamin D:

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with weight gain and insulin resistance. Supplementing with doses of at least 4,000-6,000IU a day should raise vitamin D to a more optimal level. It is ideal to get a blood test to find out what your level actually is and supplement accordingly.


Cinnamon is commonly used by naturopathic physicians to help lower postprandial glucose levels. Any time you eat something with any sugar in it (even fruit!), sprinkle it with cinnamon first, or take a cinnamon capsule – cinnamon slows gastric emptying, which in turn slows the bodies glucose response.


Attacking the hormonal imbalance of PCOS from as many sides as possible is the swiftest way to achieve the desired results (a return to full health). With that in mind we turn now to the “antiandrogens”, or supplements that will lower high androgen levels.

Saw Palmetto has been shown to be effective for reducing androgen levels. Testosterone is converted in the body into dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. This is far more “potent” than testosterone, and is often the cause of troubling symptoms such as hirsutism (male pattern hair growth) and hair loss. Saw Palmetto reduces these symptoms by inhibiting DHT production, promoting the breakdown of DHT, and inhibiting DHT from binding to its cell receptors. A recent British study showed that women with PCOS have significantly higher levels of 5-alpha-reductase, which is the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. 5-alpha-reductase is inhibited by Saw Palmetto. Typical dosages of Saw Palmetto in treating PCOS are around 320mg daily.

Saw Palmetto does have some potential side effects but they are mild and can be reduced or eliminated by reducing the dosage of Saw Palmetto slightly, or taking it every other day instead of daily. Side effects include GI disturbances such as loose stool or flatulence, and may potentially cause breast tenderness.

Spearmint tea is my favorite natural antiandrogen – it tastes fantastic when iced and sweetened with a little stevia! It’s more like a twice-daily treat than medicine, and has been shown in studies to reduce testosterone levels. Spearmint tea doesn’t reduce total testosterone but it does reduce the amount of free testosterone, which is the problem-causing testosterone – only the free testosterone is metabolically active, so reducing that reduces symptoms. A study was done in 2007 specifically using spearmint tea with test subjects with PCOS and they all showed a reduction in their testosterone levels.

Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy

Visiting a doctor is essential at some point in order to determine the specific hormone imbalances that you need to address, and to confirm that you do have PCOS and not some other constellation of hormone imbalance. Hopefully your doctor is familiar with PCOS already, as well as bio-identical hormones. In case your doctor isn't familiar with this condition though, here is a list of blood tests you should ask to have run:

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
Thyroid Panel (TSH, T4, Free T3 and Free T4)
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
Fasting Glucose
Fasting Insulin
Blood Lipids (including triglycerides and HDL/LDL cholesterol)

It is important to be aware that not all of these tests must come back abnormal for you to be properly diagnosed as having PCOS. Multiple follicles in the ovaries, menstrual irregularities, and excess hair growth and acne may be enough for a diagnosis.

After your bloodwork comes back, your doctor should recommend appropriate bio-identical hormone replacement therapy to help give your body that extra nudge it needs to get back into balance. This should almost certainly include thyroid medication (it is rare to find anyone these days who doesn't need a few grains of Armour or other bio-identical thyroid medication), and varying combinations of other bio-identical hormones.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Docket

Today it was up "early" to prepare for an hour long drive with my sister-in-law, over to BibleChik's house for a lotion making party (why yes, in point of fact 8AM is early on a Saturday, especially when you were awakened in the middle of the night with mysterious stomach pains that you were pretty sure were going to kill you; my first thought was that I had somehow ingested an alien and he wanted out! Turned out it must have been nothing that exciting because after about 40 minutes lying on the couch wishing my husband were awake so I could moan and wail to somebody about how badly it hurt, the pains disappeared as quickly as they came on)! What better way to insure you're slatherin' on the good stuff than making it yourself? I've never made lotion before so this will be a fun new experience. I plan on bringing my camera to document the morning, but anything can happen when I'm running on little sleep, so I won't make any promises there.

Check this post again late this afternoon though and it will hopefully be updated with a fully illustrated fairytale about my adventure in the land of Homemade-Moisturizer-Or-At-Least-Some-Hand-Scrub-Or-Other-Good-Smelling-Stuff.

After I get home, I hope to have a closet to organize! Wahoo!

5:00PM EDIT: I forgot my camera. Probably because I jinxed myself by saying I might! I took a couple photos with my phone, but those are typically pretty poor quality and probably won't be worth sharing. So no fairytale, I'm afraid. You're probably better off though. I never could make up a good fairytale.

I am now greatly inspired to try making some more of my own beauty products. Must get some bees wax or other emulsifying wax of some sort.

9:30PM EDIT: So I made some coffee body/hand scrub after writing the above addition. Both David and I tried it in the shower and it is fantastic. My skin feels so soft now I can't stop touching it. I can't wait to get up in the morning and wash my face (gently; it's pretty course) with something so delightful smelling. The recipe I used is as follows:

Coffee Body Scrub
2 cups ground coffee (I hear you can also prepare this with used coffee grounds -- another great way to recycle!)
1/2 cup salt or sugar
2-3 tablespoons oil, to desired consistency

Those are really only approximate measurements, and I am a huge fan of "throw it together and hope it turns out" (and it usually does). I also added a few drops of vanilla essential oil to it to make it smell sweeter since I used salt instead of sugar.

I also threw together a little lip balm which I think turned out well considering I didn't really have the proper ingredients for it. The real test will be how well it holds up if it starts to get warm. I tinted it with some mineral make-up I have. I will try to add some photos of the lip balm process tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

small changes for a healthier home

We've all been there. It's that moment when you've finally become convinced that for the sake of yourself, your family, and the environment, something's gotta give. If future generations are to enjoy even a smidgen of good health we must change the way we live, and change it quickly. Sometimes, and especially early on in the process of trying to educate ourselves on what some of the biggest dangers are we end up more overwhelmed than ever, wondering what on earth to start with. Here is a short list of some of my favorite changes that you can easily make in the quest for a healthier home:

  1. Go "all-natural" with your laundry detergent. You may be surprised to see this on a "Top 5" list but think logically about it for a minute. Our freshly laundered clothes are something that stays in contact with our bodies nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do we really want those clothes to be laundered in chemicals that may be harmful to us, our families, and the environment? No thank you! Choosing all-natural laundry detergent really isn't very expensive, but if cost is a concern there are plenty of recipes floating around the internet for making your own detergent some of which claim to cost only pennies per load! I have yet to try making my own laundry detergent, but plan on it in the future once my Earth Friendly detergent is gone.
  2.  Make your own cleaners for wiping down counter-tops, cleaning toilets and showers, etc., Our culture is obsessed with cleanliness. Many common household cleaning products are far more dangerous to our health and the environment than the germs they were created to destroy. One of the simplest and most effective household cleaners can be made by taking a spray bottle, filling it with clean water, and adding a few drops of grapefruit seed extract (studies have shown that 10-15 drops per gallon of water is effective for killing many pathogens), along with a few drops of essential oils. GFSE has been shown in studies to be more effective than chlorine bleach at killing bacteria in hospital settings. And the neatest part? It keeps on killing! When researchers tested hospital bedsheets they found that when they were washed in a solution containing relatively minuscule amounts of GFSE, bacteria was essentially nonexistent on those sheets hours after a patient lay in them versus the sheets washed in the traditional cleaners. I like to add essential oils such as tea tree and clove which have their own antibacterial properties. These cleaners are so safe, I even use them on my produce to remove bacteria and pesticides.
  3. Toss the plastic! Many plastics contain Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a dangerous toxin which has estrogenic effects on the body. BPA is linked to reproductive problems in men and women, and is linked to various cancers and other health problems. Consider eliminating use of plastic dishes (especially for infants), and water bottles, and also reducing the number of plastic toys your children play with, opting instead for glass, ceramic, or wood dishes, and cloth or wooden toys for your children. If you "must" keep using plastic for any reason, look for plastics marked "1", "2", and "4" on the recycling label. These still contain other potential toxins, but at least are free of BPA! Also avoid using plastic in the microwave, or washing them with harsh detergents as this can increase the leeching of chemicals into your food.
  4. Buy a plant. Live houseplants can help to purify the air in your home, removing dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, as well as being aesthetically pleasing, especially during the winter months when living green things are hard to find. Repurposing old containers can make this even more fun. Just don't forget to water from time to time!
  5. Purify your water. You can find fairly inexpensive under-the-sink purifiers, or just get a pitcher that you can fill directly from your faucet. Our bodies are mostly water, so it only makes sense that the cleaner our water, the healthier we will be. A whole house purifying system is ideal, but if all you can manage is to purify your drinking water, it's a good move in the right direction! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HB301 - Voting to Take Away our Options

Most of you may not be Missourians. But for those of you who are, a moment of your time is what I ask of you today. 

State Representative Mike Talboy has filed a bill in the house that will dramatically and adversely change state law regarding midwifery. You can read a summary of the bill to see for yourself what it says, but what it boils down to is the end of legal midwifery in the state of Missouri. He wants to require that all CPM's carry at least $500,000 of malpractice insurance, which would essentially end their practices; most midwives run small, home-based businesses and insurance that high would easily cost them $100,000 annually, which is more than most of them likely make in a year. Midwives would also be required to practice in conjunction with an obstetrician. My first question is, "What OB is going to agree to this?" and the answer is that very few would , which is precisely the point. The few that would agree to practice with a midwife would not be likely to agree to the method of care that midwives currently provide. This is just one more nail in the coffin -- if a midwife can't find an OB who will agree to practice with her, she will be forced to quit, or go underground. Here is what the local midwife who alerted me to this bill had to say about it: 

 "I would recommend contacting your state representative and simply tell them how you feel about the following: to have an obstetrician in charge of who a midwife can attend (HBAC* would almost assuredly be eliminated), OB's will not sign collaborative practice (thus eliminating all CPMs from practicing), malpractice insurance would cost a midwife at least $100K per year, meaning if a midwife could even GET insurance and GET a collaborative practice agreement, homebirth would cost about $10K, requiring you to see a physician along with your midwife, requiring your personal information (name, address, phone number and due date) publicly available in a permanent database. This bill will effectively completely eliminate all CPMs from practicing. For updated information on committee hearing dates and how best to assist preventing this bill from being passed, contact @Friends of Missouri Midwives."

 I wrote to Mr. Talboy and stated respectfully yet firmly what I believe is wrong with his bill and asked him to reconsider his position on the matter. This was two weeks ago and I've heard nothing back. Not surprising. It's fairly common that state representatives don't want to hear from anyone outside their constituency. I am not one of his constituents, but the fact is that if his bill passes, we will all be affected by it, so it is only fair that we should be allowed to voice our opinions to him. I also wrote to my local representative, and was pleased to find out that he already planned to vote against this bill. Here is part of my letter to him:

"If it becomes impossible for CPM's to continue practicing legally, midwives will likely be driven underground and women will continue to see them for prenatal care, essentially reducing the quality of care they receive instead of increasing it as I hope and pray that Mr. Talboy's intention with this bill is. This would not be good for anyone. And if there were a few midwives who somehow could afford the exorbitant malpractice insurance he wants to require them to have, their prices would increase to the point where families who in the past could pay a midwife without the aid of insurance or the government would no longer be able to do so. This would force many low-risk women to undergo their prenatal care in a hospital setting, which has been shown time and again to increase risk of infections, unnecessary interventions during labor, and even increase mortality and morbidity in both mother and infant. Again, this is not good for anyone.... It is a fact that many highly educated families are choosing midwifery care over that of an obstetrician. Not because they are ignorant or scared of hospitals. But because they have done the research and came to the inescapable conclusion that midwifery and homebirth is the safest option for them and their babies. We know that the healthcare system in this country is broken -- taking prenatal care out of the hands of midwives and putting it into the hands of OB's is not going to make that problem any better." 

So what can you do? Write to Mr. Talboy and to your local state representative telling them how you feel about this bill. Remember, it is so much easier to stop legislation before it is passed than to overturn it after the fact. Don't ignore this issue because you're not starting a family yet, or are done having children -- consider that this will affect not only your ability to choose, but your sisters, your neighbors, and your own children.

If you want to be a part of stopping this legislation from passing, go to the Missouri House of Representatives website where you can find contact information for your local state representatives. Don't forget to send a note to Mike Talboy, as well! He needs to know that Missourians do not want this legislation.  

*HBAC stands for "Home Birth After Cesarean." Most obstetricians automatically tell patients that they must have a cesarean section  in any subsequent pregnancies after an initial cesarean (which obviously would automatically make home birth out of the question), when research shows otherwise.

And speaking of voting, check out my new poll gadget and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eat Your Crucifers!

Trying to eat right is one of the biggest health challenges we face on a daily basis. Finding the time to slow down and make healthful decisions about dinner is often the furthest thing from our minds and we all seem to need more time and more energy. There's nothing the right food choices can do to make our 24 hour days longer, but making healthier food choices can provide us with the extra energy we need to get through the day. The recipe below for low-carb shepherd’s pie is great for those of us who are always busy; you can make it up (quickly!) in advance and simply pop it in the oven when dinner time comes around. It can even be frozen and pulled out on those days when the clock seems to jump straight from noon to 6PM and you're left wondering how it happened. This version of shepherd’s pie replaces the traditional potato topping with mashed cauliflower, providing the same appearance and very similar taste and texture, without a high carbohydrate content and the energy crash that typically follows a high carb meal! I especially love this one on chilly winter evenings.

Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie

1 head cauliflower
1 lb ground beef
1 med onion
3/4 c. beef stock
1 c. frozen peas and carrots
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
2 tsp powdered mustard
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
⅔ tsp sage
⅔ tsp thyme
⅔ tsp marjoram
2-3 freshly crushed cloves of garlic
1 tbsp almond flour (glucomannan or xanthan gum also work well, and you can use far less of it than the almond flour)
butter, to taste
heavy cream, to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Steam the cauliflower until tender. While cauliflower is steaming, dice the onion and saute in butter until clear. Add ground beef, beef stock, thyme, rosemary, mustard powder, chili powder, poultry seasoning, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat over medium until beef is well done. Add thickening agent and pour into 9 inch deep dish pie plate.

When cauliflower is tender place it in a food processor with 1/2 stick of butter, some heavy cream (start out with 1 tablespoon or so and check consistency), salt, and pepper. Beat until smooth and creamy. Season to taste. Dollop onto beef mixture and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly and the mashed cauliflower turns golden.

Cauliflower Goodness

Cauliflower works well as a substitute for potatoes in this traditional Irish dish, which was first mentioned in writing in the 1870’s and likely came about as a means of using up leftovers. This version which uses cauliflower in place of the more traditional potatoes tastes great, and has some added health benefits that you won’t find in traditional shepherd’s pie! Cauliflower is part of the family  Brassicaceae, which are known as cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are probably most well known for their cancer fighting properties, but they also provide other important health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds which have the ability to reduce estrogen dominance, which is a very real concern for an increasing number of the population due to aging and exposure to toxic, estrogenic chemicals. This is a problem for men as well as for women, and in fact, studies have shown that the average 54 year old man has higher estrogen levels than the average 59 year old woman! Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts, bok choy, rutabaga, watercress, daikon, and more.

Adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet can help to lower estrogen levels, reduce the risk of cancer, and some studies on Diindolylmethane (DIM), a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables, suggests that it can also increase insulin sensitivity, making this family of veggies a real powerhouse for your health and using them to replace starchier foods like potatoes and rice is a great way to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In the beginning...

There's nothing like the relief you feel when starting up a blog (or small business, or naming a baby, or a puppy, or anything else) when you finally find "the name". You may spend hours, days, or weeks, laboring over the decision, hoping to find that one name that perfectly fits the vision you have for your little seedling of an idea. When genius finally strikes, the relief comes like a flood. It washes over you like cool water on a hot summer day and there is such bliss.

I just experienced that wonderful moment this afternoon. Euphoria followed. As did a brief nap. And now here I am, ready for the next step: The first post. If I can get through this part, I will join the ranks of millions of bloggers across the world. It makes one feel small, and insignificant, doesn't it? I am not doing anything new. Do I really have anything special to offer? One can hope, but really I think it just comes down to a matter of proper wrapping. So let's hope my bows shine and my paper is nice and crinkly (and biodegradable, too)!

So the big question in your mind may be, "What can I expect to find here in future posts?" Frankly, your guess is probably as good as mine at this point! If you read my "About Me" section you know that I am a Christian housewife, and work with my husband in his natural health consulting business, so you can safely assume you will find posts pertaining to natural health. I also write articles for, which can be found here. I plan on posting extended versions of some of the articles I write for Natural News here as well. They allow articles of only up to 600 words and it's not uncommon for me to have more to say on a subject than I can with only 600 words! We eat a low-carbohydrate diet, and I am always experimenting with new recipes, often made up as I go. I love food, nature, staying active (though it remains a challenge for me), friends, babies, cooking, caring for my home and husband, and learning new things. I love learning how to do things in safe, natural ways. I am a relatively new transplant to the beautiful state of Missouri, and I have a lot to learn about gardening in a new climate, but plan on posting about what I'm learning as I go as I attempt to care for my first Missouri vegetable garden this year. Hailing from south Texas, I feel more than a little unsure of how to deal with the strange, sticky soil here and the longer, significantly colder winters.

So let's raise our imaginary glasses to a successful blog and all-things-natural!