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What Is It

Turmeric is an amazing root, that can be very beneficial for the body! Its origins are from India and it’s what gives curry dishes their distinctive yellow colour. It likes to grow in India because the temperatures are so warm there. It is a perennial plant there which means it comes back each year without needing to be planted again.

It grows to be approximately three feet tall and has large fan-shaped leaves above the surface. The plant also produces a beautiful white or pink flower above the surface. But it is actually what is growing below the surface that people want! The root, or rhizome, is where the medicinal quality of this plant is stored.

The root is harvested from the ground and washed in preparation to be used. Turmeric can be used either fresh from the garden in cooking or dried; it will not lose its beneficial qualities when it is dried.

Turmeric has a distinctive yellow colour and some would assume that it makes a wonderful natural dye for fabric. But it is not very resistant to fading by the sun’s light; so many people do not use it for this purpose. However, it is widely used as a natural food colouring agent in foods like salad dressings, yogurts, prepared mustards, and canned chicken broths. Or it can be used as a natural dye for children’s play dough that doesn’t contain the harmful additives that other synthetic dyes normally used to colour play dough. These synthetic dyes have been known to cause behavioural issues in some children.

Why Is It Beneficial For The Body

People who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic Medicine have used turmeric for thousands of years in their remedies. The component in turmeric that is beneficial is called curcumin. It’s the curcumin in turmeric that can be life-changing for some people’s health conditions!

Pain and Inflammation

People have reported that using curcumin helps reduce pain. It does this by acting as a powerful antioxidant to reduce the amount of inflammation in the body (1.) This antioxidant activity can also help the body to detoxify the harmful substances we encounter on a daily basis (2).

Brain Function

Another amazing thing that curcumin can do is boost the brain’s ability to produce Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (3), which is a hormone that is necessary for healthy brain function. People have reportedly been using curcumin and seeing benefits with conditions like depression, memory loss, and other age-related conditions.

Heart Health

Curcumin could be considered important for the health of your heart! Along with its ability to reduce inflammation, it is also useful for helping to reduce blood pressure by improving the health of the vascular system in the body (4.) Improved heart health could mean fewer heart attacks and improved quality of life!

Cancer

Many people are affected by cancer. The current rates of cancer are approximately 1 in 3. It’s exciting that some forms of cancer have been shown to be responsive to the use of curcumin (5.) More clinical studies need to be done in the area of cancer and curcumin to see whether or not it could be used in cancer treatment or the prevention of cancer development.

How Can You Use It

Turmeric is best used in combination with a couple of things in order for the curcumin in it to be properly utilized by the body. The first is that it is best consumed with a meal that contains a good amount of fat. This is because curcumin is fat soluble. Without eating fat alongside turmeric the beneficial components of it will be flushed out of the body before they are used.

The second thing you need to properly utilize the curcumin in turmeric is a component of black pepper called piperine. It will boost the amount of curcumin in your blood so that your body can reap more benefits from this amazing rhizome! You only need a small pinch of black pepper to get the amount needed to boost the effects of curcumin in your food. No need to go overboard with the black pepper! More isn’t always better in this case.

The traditional Indian knowledge of cooking their curried dishes using ghee (clarified butter), turmeric, and black pepper is very wise! All of those components are needed in order for the curcumin in turmeric to be properly utilized!

Turmeric can also be used topically to help slough off dead skin cells and protect our skin’s natural microbiome. There are many ways to use turmeric topically to get its benefits!

Supplements

If adding Indian food to your cooking regime is too far out of your comfort zone there are supplements that you can take, in capsule form, that is just as beneficial. What you want to look out for here is that the turmeric was grown organically, the supplement also contains piperine and that the dose isn’t too low to gain any benefit. Also remember to take your curcumin supplement with a meal that contains a good amount of healthy fats!

Golden Milk

Another yummy way to get your curcumin is to drink Golden Milk or Turmeric Tea. They contain all of the beneficial ingredients your body needs to properly utilize curcumin.

Do you like to eat Indian food? Have you used curcumin supplements and noticed an improvement in your health condition? Sources:
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569207
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jat.1517
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306027144
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10543305
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18462866

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Men, women, pregnant and lactating women, and children all have different iron needs. Find out how to tell if you have an iron deficiency and how best to raise your iron levels.

By Janine, Contributing Writer

What Is Iron And Why Do We Need It

Iron is one of the most common elements on earth. Every cell in our bodies contains iron. It is needed for vital functions of the human body including transporting oxygen to all of the cells in the body. We cannot survive without getting adequate iron into our bodies.

Men, women, pregnant and lactating women, and children all have different iron needs. Women generally need more iron than men since we lose iron during menstruation and childbirth, where men do not. For this reason, women are more commonly found to be deficient.

Other things can lead to the loss of too much iron including some gastrointestinal diseases — such as Crohn’s Disease and Celiacs Disease — that can cause excess bleeding in the colon. This excess bleeding causes iron deficiency in these people since they lose too much blood. Parasitic infections can also cause iron deficiency since the parasites living in the body use up most of the available nutrients including iron in the person’s diet. Alternatively, parasites can cause gastrointestinal bleeding that can lead to deficiency if they are living in the person’s colon.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Symptoms of iron deficiency can vary depending on the individual. These are the most common signs and can occur alone or together:

  • Feeling cold all the time.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hair loss.
  • Restless legs or other muscle twitches.
  • Pica (craving to eat non-food items.)
  • Infant failure to thrive.
  • Thinning hair.
  • Brittle nails.
Iron Deficiency In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume will increase by 50% as her baby grows and her placenta grows to supply her baby with nutrients. It can be easy for pregnant women to become deficient both because her blood volume has increased so rapidly and because her need for iron has increased to support both her and her baby. Women may also be lacking iron because of nausea and vomiting early in pregnancy can make it hard for women to eat the types of foods that contain iron.

Pregnancy is a time where mothers should really be careful to get adequate iron in their diets. Inadequate iron can cause issues with fetal development as well as bleeding issues for the mother during childbirth and immediately post-partum.

But what is the best way? There is some controversy about the best way to keep your iron levels adequate. But following the advice below is a good general guideline to keep your iron levels in check.

Supplementation

Many doctors will prescribe pregnant women an iron supplement if they are found to be deficient, typically ferrous sulfate in pill form. But is that the best approach? No. Ferrous sulfate can cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation in pregnant women since it is so hard to absorb, which isn’t helping anything. Pregnant women don’t need to feel anymore nauseous than they already do, and constipation can lead to pelvic organ prolapse. Neither of those things sounds like any fun for a pregnant Mama!

Some naturally minded Mamas might turn to using a “natural” product called Floradix as an alternative to the doctor prescribed ferrous sulfate pills. The problem here is that Floradix is still a synthetic form of iron and contains preservatives that aren’t good for us to be ingesting. It is also an isolated nutrient. Consuming any nutrient in an isolated form can be problematic since the body needs many nutrients to work synergistically to be properly absorbed.

Sources of Iron In Food

Sticking with food sources of iron is the best approach. But there are things to consider, like whether or not your body absorbs Heme-Iron from animal sources best or if it absorbs Non-Heme from plant sources best. If your body responds better to animal sources then supplementing with desiccated liver pills will work to boost your iron levels. You can even make you own liver pills! If your body responds to plant sources better then consuming adequate dark leafy greens, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice powder and spinach will be beneficial.

Herbs like yellow dock root and dandelion are great for boosting iron as well. This herbal iron formulation can help to keep your iron levels in check.

The Role Of Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a large role in how well your body absorbs iron from the foods you eat. The two nutrients work together to make absorption possible. Whenever you eat anything with iron it is crucial to eat something that contains Vitamin C as well. Foods that are high in Vitamin C include:

  • Potatoes
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Brussels Sprouts
Other Factors

Some people who are found to be iron deficient are actually struggling with other deficiencies, such as Vitamin B12 deficiency, folate, or magnesium deficiency. These nutrients work synergistically with iron for absorption. So if you are found to be iron deficient then it would be beneficial to have tests done to see whether another nutrient deficiency is complicating things.

Sticking with food sources of iron is best since foods contain a wide variety of other nutrients that all work synergistically for proper absorption in the body. Make sure you eat your colors and include one large salad loaded with lots of vegetables every day. There are many yummy and healthy salad dressing recipes out there that can make a big salad feel very filling and satisfying.

Have you struggled with iron deficiency? What do you do to make sure your iron levels are in tip-top shape?

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The post Iron: What You Need And How To Supplement appeared first on Modern Alternative Health.

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MTHFR is a group of letters we seem to be seeing everywhere lately! But, what do they mean, and how can they affect our health?

MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It is an enzyme that helps to process proteins in the body. If the MTHFR genes are not functioning properly a wide array of things can go wrong in our bodies and cause many different signs and symptoms. These problems can be greatly helped once we know which genes are causing our unique issues.

The types of problems that MTHFR methylation issues can cause are wide-reaching and can often seem unrelated until you look at their origin in the body. Methylation is a mechanism that affects how your genes are expressed, and dictates how your cells are formed and function. So what signs should you look out for? Here are some signs that you may have MTHFR gene issues:

Miscarriage

Many couples experience the heartbreaking issue of infertility. Some of these pregnancy losses may be attributed to issues with the MTHFR gene. In this case, the gene interferes with the proper formation of the baby while in the mother’s womb. It can also cause issues with the proper absorption of folate in the body. The quality of folate you take just before you become pregnant and in the early weeks of pregnancy is crucial.

All women of childbearing age who choose to supplement their diet with a multivitamin should be taking a quality prenatal vitamin that contains folate NOT folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of naturally occurring folate and cannot be properly utilized in the body. Some professionals have even said that it can cause the issues it’s purported to prevent. SCARY!

You can never go wrong with consuming foods that are high in folate during pregnancy. This is an excellent way to get the nutrients your body needs in a way that nature has expertly engineered for our bodies.

If you have issues with infertility or reoccurring losses then it might be worth exploring whether or not you or your partner are having issues with MTHFR. It can affect both men and women’s ability to conceive a healthy child.

MTHFR Issues In Babies

Babies have unique signs of MTHFR issues and these can include:

  • Tongue and lip-ties
  • Stork bites
  • Hemangiomas
  • Sacral dimples
  • Facial dimples
  • Blue vein on the bridge of the nose, or “sugar bug”

You can find out more about these issues and other markers here. If you notice that your baby has some of the above symptoms you might want to read about how formula feeding can impact their health.

Poor Gut Function

Leaky Gut is another term that has become more widely known recently, and with good reason. It’s become a major health issue for people of all ages as our diets have become less nutrient dense and our mental stress levels have risen.

Leaky gut can be associated with:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Histamine intolerance
  • ADHD and other behavioral disorders
  • Skin issues like eczema and psoriasis
  • Malabsorption issues where the body doesn’t properly use the nutrients you get from your food
  • SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
  • Autoimmune conditions

All of these things can be attributed to issues with methylation because improper methylation will lead to imbalances of our gut bacteria, and our gut bacteria is very important in helping to keep many of the above conditions in check.

Mental Health Issues

People who have issues with their MTHFR genes are more likely to have issues with their mental health. It’s been shown that mental health issues are more common these people. Issues like:

  • Anxiety
  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder

How are these conditions affected by MTHFR gene issues? All of these disorders can be associated with the body’s inability to properly absorb and utilize nutrients that are essential for excellent mental functioning. The nutrients that are affected include:

  • B Vitamins
  • Essential Fatty Acids (like fish oil)
  • Folate
  • Minerals

All of these nutrients and minerals work together to perform various tasks in the brain to keep a person mentally healthy. If the body cannot properly utilize them due to issues with the MTHFR gene, then essentially the parts of their brain that need them become deficient. A brain that is deficient cannot function properly.

What Should You Do About It?

There is testing available to find out whether or not you have issues with your MTHFR gene. It is a simple saliva test that you can take in the comfort of your own home. A kit will be mailed to you, you fill up the container they provide with your saliva, and then you mail the sample back to them with the provided return shipping materials. Once they receive your information they will send you the raw data about your specific gene issues. You can then take this information and have it analyzed to get more details.

You can then take this information to your natural health practitioner and get help in putting together a healing plan for your specific issues. There is a lot you can do for yourself at home, too, once you are armed with this information.

Do you notice any signs or symptoms that you are experiencing that could be related to the MTHFR gene mutation? Sources: https://blog.23andme.com/, http://mthfr.net/, https://www.drbenlynch.com/

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Histamine intolerance is a relatively new health ailment on the scene, but it can be a very serious thing for some people.

By Contributing Writer Janine

What Is Histamine?

Histamine is a substance that is stored in our cells. It can be released during times when we’ve had an allergic reaction or if there is inflammation present in the body. Histamine is either stored in the body in mast cells — which are a type of white blood cell — or dissolved by enzymes that eat up histamine. It functions in the body in a variety of ways that include:

  • Protecting against infection.
  • Regulating the digestion of proteins.
  • Regulating sleep and the function of your mind.
What Causes Histamine Intolerance?

Diamine Oxidase (DAO) is the enzyme that is responsible for the deactivation or storage of histamine. When the body loses its ability to properly produce DAO then histamine intolerance arises. There are many things that can contribute to the body’s loss of ability to produce adequate DAO.

The body is usually able to handle the elimination of histamine. But, when the body can’t, it becomes overloaded and then many different symptoms can manifest. It works sort of like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Normally, you can keep putting water in the bucket and it will always drain out of the hole before spilling over the edge of the bucket. But if you begin to fill the bucket too quickly then the water will spill over the top. This is how the histamine in your body can build up and overflow. When there is too much histamine in the body your histamine bucket will overflow.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

There are many ways histamine intolerance can manifest in the body. If you notice any of the following things occurring — especially if there is more than one — it would be worth exploring whether or not histamine intolerance is a factor for you.

  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Acid reflux
  • Nausea
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Memory retention issues

It seems like a laundry list of symptoms. But they can all be caused by histamine intolerance.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance Gut Function

Many times a person’s intestinal health can be found to be the root cause of a person’s development of histamine intolerance. Conditions like Crohn’s Disease, IBS, leaky gut, colon resection, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and some infections like H. Pylori can cause the loss of the body’s ability to properly deal with excess histamine.

Stress

Chronic stress is very bad for your body. In the case of histamine intolerance, if your body is under chronic stress the increased HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) activity in your brain will trigger your body to activate mast cells and produce excess histamine in response. This constant flow of histamine will build up over time and cause histamine intolerance.

Food

Eating the wrong foods for you can trigger the excess production of histamine, or they can block the body’s DAO enzymes. Foods that commonly cause issues for people are:

  • Alcohol
  • Slow cooked foods
  • Leftovers
  • Cured meats
  • Fermented foods (kombucha, kefir, pickles)
  • Foods that contain vinegar
  • Dried fruit
  • Citrus fruits
  • Nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Preservatives and dyes

So it is important to limit these foods in non-severe cases. People who have more severe cases of histamine intolerance will have to completely eliminate some foods since they can cause dangerous anaphylactic responses in these people.

Genes

Your genes can play a part in whether or not your body can properly deal with histamine. Some people are genetically unable to keep histamine levels in check since variants on the DAO and/ or HNMT genes keep them from doing so. You can learn about your genetic profile by having a simple saliva test done.

Environment

Some people’s system becomes overloaded by things they encounter in their environment. These things can include:

  • Seasonal allergens
  • Chemicals
  • Exposure to cleaning products and perfumes

Healing Plan

What can someone who has histamine intolerance do to heal their bodies and stop experiencing the side effects of high histamine? It will depend on the individual, but most people can greatly help their symptoms by following these steps:

  • Eliminate consumption of alcohol.
  • Eat a low histamine diet while keeping a food diary to track foods that cause a reaction.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Eliminate environmental allergens.
  • Improve gut function.

Foods that are okay to eat while trying to get your histamine levels in check include:

  • Fresh meats
  • Young cheeses
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mango
  • Grapes
  • Fresh herbs
  • Coconut and almond milks
  • Coconut and avocado oil
  • Avocado

Some people may also want to talk to a professional about doing further genetic and blood testing to see whether their histamine intolerance is caused by the inability to produce adequate DAO. Food sensitivity testing may also be useful for people to assess whether or not the foods they eat are nourishing or hurting their bodies.

Some people may need to employ the use of anti-histamines in order to control their symptoms while they work on the tips above. These can be found over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.

Others may find relief using a combination of these natural remedies after speaking to their natural health practitioner:

  • Quercetin (can help reduce histamine.)
  • B-Complex Vitamin (can help with stress levels.)
  • Juicing beets, celery, ginger, apples (can be healing for the gut and nourishing.)
  • Magnesium (can help with getting the restful sleep your body needs to heal.)

Nettles are a powerful natural anti-histamine and can be used to make a nice herbal tea.

It could take a few months of actively working on histamine levels before seeing positive results. The key is to keep at it and not give up! Your body is working hard to fix the issue!

Do you find yourself with a list of symptoms that can’t be explained? Do you feel like you are just not yourself and should be feeling better?

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How much do you know about vitamin E? Find out all about this important vitamin, how to eat it, supplement, and why you need it!

By Danielle, Contributing writer

Vitamin E is a crucial, fat-soluble vitamin that aids in neurological, organ, and digestive processes. It is made up of two isomers, tocopherol (the more commonly found form) and tocotrienol, which act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Vitamin E can only be found in plant foods, so eating those foods is the best way to get your needed amount of this vitamin.

What Does Vitamin E Do in the Body? 1. Destroys Free Radicals, Limits Inflammation, and Prevents Aging

We have all heard about inflammation, free radicals, antioxidants, and oxidative damage, but how does that all work? Free radicals are naturally present in your body or are toxins which sneak their way inside. They can damage the healthy cells in your body, leading to cell degeneration, death, or cancer. When these cells oxidize, they can become even more powerful. Antioxidants, very simply, help stop and limit free radicals and the damage they cause.
Vitamin E contains a high number of antioxidants which helps fight against this process happening in your body.

2. Fights Cholesterol

Just like your cells, cholesterol can oxidize and become dangerous. The antioxidants in vitamin E can prevent cholesterol oxidation, and repair its damage. Cholesterol is needed for proper function of the body, so don’t believe the bad rap it’s been given. It just isn’t good when it oxidizes.

If you’ve been told you have high “bad” cholesterol, look into supplementing vitamin E, and also the damage that sugar causes in your blood vessels (and how poor, old cholesterol is just trying to bandage it).

3. Helps Hair Grow and Strengthen, and Promotes Good Vision

Vitamin E has been shown to prevent eye degeneration, including diseases which can lead to blindness. It also promotes blood circulation to the scalp and new hair growth. Applying a few drops of vitamin E oil to your hair also strengthens and moisturizes it (naturally!)

4. Supports Healthy Skin

Vitamin E strengthens the small capillary walls in your skin, creating more elastic, tight skin, while also fighting oxidative stress to the skin which causes aging. It provides a protective layer of moisture, which also prevents aging and helps heal any damage or scarring. In combination with vitamin C, it is useful to treat scars, sunburns, and any skin damage.

5. Helps Balance Hormones

While vitamin E is essential to help balance hormones because of its great antioxidant load, it also helps neurological functions that keep hormones firing at the right amount and time. Orally-consumed vitamin E has been shown to reach the brain, and affect the areas which control hormones.

6. Also Helps Balance PMS and Menstrual Hormones

The majority of women today would say that they struggle with PMS symptoms monthly on a moderate basis, but Vitamin E is essential to having healthy hormones, including the hormones which manage your monthly cycle. In fact, the concept of cycle seeding, eating certain (flax and pumpkin, then sunflower and sesame) seeds during certain times of a woman’s cycle can help with negative cycle issues, such as PMS, excessive bleeding, cramping, and irregular cycles. These seeds have high levels of vitamin E that help your hormones release at the proper times.

7. Crucial During Pregnancy

Vitamin E is essential for neurological development and growth, and so it’s important to obtain enough vitamin E throughout pregnancy, as well as before conception and during your child’s first years.

8. Lower Cancer Risk and Assist Cancer Treatment

A handful of studies have shown that vitamin E can help limit cancer tumor growth, possibly by cutting off the blood supply to tumors, and cancer cell death because of the powerful antioxidants. It has been used to defer the effects of prescription drugs that cause hair loss and lung damage, as well as the harmful effects of radiation for cancer treatment.

9. May Help Treat Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants in vitamin E may help prevent and even treat Alzheimer’s and some forms of dementia, especially when taken in combination with vitamin C.

10. Aid in Muscle Recovery After Exercise

The antioxidants in vitamin E reduce the oxidative damage to your cells, resulting in quicker recovery times after vigorous exercise. Many long-distance runners ensure they maintain adequate levels for this reason, as it allows their muscles to recovery from consistent damage and build endurance.

Foods Sources

Though you can supplement vitamin E, like all vitamins and minerals, it’s best to get this through natural, raw foods, which are the most bioavailable for your body to process and use. Try adding these foods to your diet to reach your daily needs of the vitamin:

  • Seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and flax all contain high amounts. Adding a handful of these to your daily snack schedule can ensure you have enough of this essential vitamin.
  • Fruits: Mangoes, avocados, and kiwis are also rich in this vitamin. Mangoes and avocados will contain about a quarter of your daily needs, while you will need to eat four kiwis to reach that level.
  • Veggies: Squash, spinach, broccoli, and tomato all are good sources. One cup will get you around 10% of your daily value, so consider these a good “add-on.”
  • Other: Wheat germ contains your daily needs in just one cup.
Supplementing Vitamin E

As stated above, most supplements only contain one of the vitamin E isomers, tocopherol, and leaves out its important buddy, tocotrienol. However, research has shown that both of these isomers are essential for the vitamin’s amazing benefits, so both should be considered when supplementing. The easiest way to do so is eating vitamin E rich foods, as these are easiest for your body to digest and assimilate. However, if you cannot eat these foods, you can find some good supplements on the market. I am a fan of Carlson brand supplements, including their full E-complex vitamin.

The USDA’s suggested daily intake of vitamin E:

Children aged 0-6 months: 4 mg
Children aged 7-12 months: 5 mg
Children aged 1-3 years: 6 mg
Children aged 4-8: 7 mg
Children aged 9-13: 11 mg

Adult males and females, including during pregnancy, should take 15 mg. Lactacting mamas should bump their levels up to 19 mg.

Remember that vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means you can take too much. The USDA reports that food consumption of vitamin E has never reported any issues, but over supplementation of alpha-tocopherols can lead to hemorrhage and blood coagulation issues. Do not supplement vitamin E if you are taking niacin or blood anticoagulants.

Do you supplement vitamin E? How has it helped you?

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What Are Elderberries?

Sambucus, as the elderberry plant is formally known, is a variety of plant that comes from the honeysuckle family. The berries on the plant are very tiny and dark purple/black in color. They grow on low bushes in clumps. First, a small white flower emerges followed by the tiny dark purple/black berry. Picking elderberries is a slow process since the berries are so small and closely spaced.

These berries might be small, but they are packed full of essential nutrients and antioxidants that are very beneficial for a person’s immune system. Elderberries actually have more antioxidants in them than other berries like blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, strawberries, and raspberries.

Elderberry bushes are hardy plants that would make a nice ornamental addition to your garden at home, while also providing the wonderful health benefits of its berries when they are in season. Just be sure to plant them where toddlers and young children won’t pick them and eat them by mistake before they can be cooked.

The berry is ready to be harvested in late summer in Northern climates. This is the perfect time to make them into a syrup, tea, or tincture for the coming fall and winter when colds and flues seem to be more prevalent. It is important to cook elderberries in some way before consuming them since they can be poisonous if used raw in large quantities. If you have consumed uncooked elderberries and begin to notice that you have nausea, are vomiting, or have severe diarrhea seek medical help immediately.

Cautions for Elderberries

Some medical professionals caution against the use of elderberries in pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is merely because it would be unethical to study elderberry usage in these women, not because there has been documented evidence of harm.

Also, if you are taking medications to suppress your immune system you should use elderberry with caution since it is known to have immune system enhancing effects. This is also why people with autoimmune diseases should proceed with caution. If you have a condition like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis be on the look-out for flares in your condition if you are trialing the use of elderberries, and stop immediately if your condition worsens.

How To Use Elderberries

Many naturally minded people have likely heard of elderberries being used in syrup form in the fight against common illnesses. But, another easy way to get the benefits of elderberries without all the sugar is to use it in tincture form. Tinctures can be much easier to use than something like a syrup for the prevention of the common cold. Elderberry tinctures have so many benefits! Not only do they have no added sugar, but also they are shelf stable, and the dosage is smaller than with a syrup.

Do you like to DIY? Not sold on the idea of a tincture? You can also make a lovely cough syrup using elderberries and cinnamon, which can be very soothing when you have a cough.

It is important to store any tincture or syrup in a dark colored jar away from light and heat. Syrup should be refrigerated and lasts for a couple months. Tinctures, however, have a very long shelf life making them an excellent option for preserving the health-promoting benefits of elderberries.

If you don’t have time to make a tincture or syrup from your elderberries when they are fresh you could also dehydrate them or freeze them for use later in the year. Freezing berries is very easy! When you are ready to use the berries simply thaw them out and then follow the directions for making your tea, syrup, or tincture as you normally would.

Other Benefits of Elderberries

Elderberries are also excellent if you have heart issues since they have lots of potassium. Potassium is essential for keeping your heart healthy. They are also said to help control insulin which can help to keep diabetes in check. The antioxidants and minerals in elderberries are also great for keeping bones and joints healthy. The antioxidants in them reduce inflammation that affects joints, and the minerals they contain are essential for proper bone formation. (1)

Have Fun with Elderberries!

If you’re looking for a fun experiment, you could even use elderberries as a natural dye. They produce a lovely true royal purple color on natural fiber fabrics. These fabrics can be used to sew beautiful non-toxic clothing for your children or yourself, and you won’t have to worry about all of the toxins that are in industrially dyed clothing. Industrial dyes use harmful chemicals that can be absorbed into our skin and cause chemical build-up in our bodies. This build-up should be removed from your body by detoxifying. Industrial dyes also heavily pollute the environment since they are normally produced in countries, like China, which do not have strict laws about how the chemicals used in the dying process are disposed of. These chemicals are normally dumped into the waterways, making the water not suitable for drinking.

Where Can I Find Elderberries?

There are local producers growing elderberries all over the country! Check in with your local market manager to see whether they know someone in your area who is growing them. You could even get a discount for buying in bulk from a grower, and then you could make tinctures and syrups for everyone in your family! If you cannot find a local grower there are many online sources you could buy them from as well.

Elderberries are a powerful addition to your natural toolkit for keeping you and your family healthy. If you have not already benefitted from this tiny little powerhouse of a berry, try them today!

Do you and your family get stuck at home sick a lot of the time in the winter? What are your favorite ways to use elderberries to keep illnesses in check? Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315737/

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Magnesium is an essential mineral that our body needs for over 300 cell functions (1). These include things like regulating blood pressure, controlling blood sugars, and controlling the muscles and nerves in your body. It works together with other minerals to perform its job. Calcium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin D are all needed in order for magnesium to be properly utilized by the body. So it is important to consume them together to maximize magnesium’s effect.

How Can We Become Deficient?

Unfortunately, many of us are deficient in magnesium. There are many factors that can contribute to a person becoming deficient. Keep reading to find out!

Farming and Our Food

Modern farming practices have stripped the Earth of the essential minerals in that used to exist in the top layer of the soil (2). Modern farmers will fertilize their crops in an attempt to balance the depleted soils, but they typically only fertilize with three nutrients; phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium. They completely leave out all the other minerals. This means that the food that is grown in these soils are deficient in all other minerals — including magnesium.

This makes it very hard to get all the nutrients you need through eating a regular diet. Extra care needs to be taken to make sure that you regularly consume foods that are packed with nutrition in order to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to get loads of nutrition all at once. Salads are great at providing a variety of nutrients and lots of beneficial fiber. Herbal teas are great at providing a nutritional boost.

Stress

Stress is another major factor causing people to become deficient since magnesium is needed for a healthy nervous system! If you’re stressed your body is using magnesium at a much higher rate than a person whose body is in a non-stressed state. Things that can contribute to your stress levels include work, family illness, being pregnant, having young children, and exposure to chemicals in our environment. All of these things can make the body use magnesium at a much higher rate than if there weren’t any stressors involved. The less physical and mental stress you have the less magnesium your body will use.

How Can We Find Out if We’re Deficient?

There is a blood test that you can request from your health care provider called the Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium test. This test will look more closely at your blood at the individual cell to see how much magnesium is INSIDE the cell and not just floating around in your bloodstream. The more magnesium inside the cell the better, since that is where it will do its job!

Another way is to listen to your body. Do you find yourself with any of these complaints? You might be low in magnesium!

  • Restless legs
  • Constipation
  • Eye twitching
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of energy

Are Supplements the Answer?

Supplements are an easy way to bring up your levels fast. Just be sure to steer clear of magnesium citrate since it will cause loose stools if you consume too much. It would be better to take other forms of magnesium such as orotate, glycinate, or taurate. These forms won’t cause an upset stomach like citrate and can be taken at higher doses as directed by their labels. But there are no documented cases of magnesium overdose in any medical literature, so rest assured that you won’t cause any harm (1).

Alternately, you could use Epsom salts in your bath water to increase your levels. Just add one cup of Epsom salts to your bath water and soak for 45 minutes three to four times per week. Make sure that you do not rinse off after your bath, or the magnesium on your skin will be washed off instead of being absorbed.

Another easy way to increase your levels is to use something called magnesium oil. This wonderful form of magnesium comes in a spray bottle. It is made by dissolving magnesium chloride flakes into water. You can spray it on, all over your body, and let it absorb for 20 minutes before a shower. Or you can apply it to the bottoms of your feet before bed. There can be a slight tingling sensation in people with sensitive skin. If it becomes too much, you can always rinse it off in cool water. Just be sure to avoid applying the oil to an area that contains mucus membranes.

Not a fan of the oil but still want to take advantage of how well magnesium is absorbed transdermally? Magnesium lotion is another option great option. Just a small amount used nightly will increase magnesium levels and promote restful sleep.

What Foods Could I Eat?

Food is always a great way to get the nutrients you need! As we know from earlier, though, our food sources can be low in the nutrients we need. So it’s important to try to consume foods that are very nutrient dense to help make up for this. Foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Black beans
Herbs

Herbs are an often overlooked source of nutrients, but they are actually PACKED full of minerals! It’s worth becoming versed in how to use herbs to season your food to add that boost of nutrition to your meals. Here are some herbs that are little powerhouses of nutrition:

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Nettles
  • Oat straw
  • Rose hips
  • Tarragon

You could also make teas using herbs to add even more nutrition to your diet!  A couple of cups of tea per day can really boost your nutrition. And it’s a nice relaxing stress reliever, too, which will help you to use less of the magnesium you are consuming by reducing your stress levels.

Growing your own herbs is a great way to have fresh, nutrient-dense herbs right at your fingertips. Think your space is too small to grow herbs? All you need is a windowsill that gets decent sun and you can have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Do you struggle with magnesium deficiency? What is your favorite way to supplement?

Source:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586582/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743437/

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Vitamin K is an often forgotten vitamin, but it is crucial to your health. It’s also contained in an injection typically given at birth that is very controversial.

By Danielle, contributing writer

Vitamin K activates a protein which causes blood clotting and bone building. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is actually manufactured by the bacteria in our guts, but it can also be derived from food and synthetic means.

Vitamins K1 and K2 are available through foods, while vitamin K3 is available via synthetic chemical as a supplement. K3 does not absorb into the body well nor is utilized by the body effectively. It is suggested to avoid supplementing with the synthetic version and instead get this vitamin through whole foods, boosted by gut health.

Deficiency has been associated with cancer, brittle bones including teeth, and heart disease. Vitamin K can help prevent or be used in treatment for liver, nasal, oral, and prostate cancers, as well as heart disease or oral issues, such as cavities, decay, and tooth infection.

Whole Food Sources

The best way to get vitamin K is to get it through natural whole foods and to keep your gut in tip-top shape. Consume these foods to increase levels, especially in the days before birth and while breastfeeding.

  • Leafy Greens, such as Kale. Justone-halff cup gives you your daily value.
  • Brussels Spouts. These babies also contain just under your daily requirements for one half cup.
  • Spinach. Just over one half cup will fill you up for the day.
  • Mustard Greens. One half cup contains your daily value.
  • Asparagus. Twelve spears of asparagus will get you to your daily needs.
  • Prunes. A half cup provides over half of your daily requirement.
  • Broccoli. One cup provides over your daily needs.
  • Soybeans. Two ounces contains your daily value. (Go for fermented, nonGMO soy.)
  • Cabbage. A half cup provides your daily value.
  • Cucumber. One medium cucumber contains over half of your daily needs.

Vitamin K Injection – Yes or No?

An injection of vitamin K is routinely given at birth in hospitals. Some states have laws, likely with an exemption, to give this injection to every newborn. This stems from an era when harsh births (forceps) were the norm (and maybe they still are), and new science found that babies have lower levels of vitamin K at birth, which is true.

Let’s think about why that is. Mothers aren’t the only ones who struggle at birth, babies also have a lot of work and squeezing to do. If their blood clotted a lot, they may run into blood clots during their first moments and days. Therefore, they’re born with less vitamin K. However, the body adjusts the vitamin K levels to the highest ever during the life on day 8.

So what’s the concern? It’s something called vitamin K deficiency bleeding and happens when the baby has been through trauma and cannot control the bleeding. This occurs in about four babies in the United States per year.

Most babies who experience vitamin K deficiency bleeding are born to mothers who were consuming antibiotics or prescriptions which cause vitamin K deficiency themselves.

Though the vitamin K injection is not a vaccine because it does not contain any pathogens, it is not harmless. It contains loads of aluminum — to the tune of 250 micro grams (studies show 4-5 mcg per kilogram of weight per day can spell kidney, bone and central nervous damage, and of course heavy metal toxicity), 9 mcg of benzyl alcohol (associated with liver toxicity, jaundice, and breathing issues), and a black box warning, not to mention a nice dose of the synthetic vitamin.

Babies typically need no extra vitamin K in their body at birth. If the baby experienced a difficult birth such as a forceps delivery or cesarean section, the vitamin can be supplemented orally or through the mother’s breast milk.

Supplementation

If you must supplement, locate a K1 or preferably K2 version, such as this one, and steer clear of K3. The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin K is 120 micrograms per day for men,  90 micrograms per day for women.

For birth, vitamin K drops may be consumed by the mother, given to the baby through breast milk, or dropped into the baby’s mouth. However, unless there were medical interventions or a difficult birth, the baby likely does not need to be supplemented in any way.

Do you supplement vitamin K?

The post Vitamin K: What You Need and How to Supplement appeared first on Modern Alternative Health.

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Find recipes, the 10 top uses, information, and history of the super healthy herb burdock.

By Danielle, contributing writer

What is Burdock Root?

The scientific name for burdock is arctium lappa. It is common to Asia, North America, and Europe. It is also known in Asian countries where the steamed leaves are served as a common dish. Though the root is mostly used in healing teas and tonics today, the entire plant is edible and useful.

It is a towering green plant which can reach up to nine feet in height. The weeds can descend up to three feet, which is great for a tea supply but not always easy to harvest. It has furry and large oblong leaves and a thistly-purple flower. Chances are you’ve walked past burdock hundreds of times and ignored this weed.

Top 10 Uses for Burdock Root

Burdock root has shown to be one of the heaviest hitters among healthy herbs. This plant is implied to slow tumor growth and wrinkles. Here are ten of its awesome abilities.

  1. Skin Health
    Native Americans were known to make a facial tonic of burdock root to liven mature skin. The leaves were used as a poultice for insect bites and to regenerate blood circulation.
  2. Respiratory Issues
    Much like slippery elm, it has a slippery texture that has been used to soothe mucous membranes, such as a sore throat or a hoarse cough.
  3. Stomach Troubles
    In Chinese medicine, it was said to be a cold, base (alkali) herb that helped balanced out acids in the stomach, and as such was used for stomach ailments regularly.
  4. Cancer and Other Serious Illness Treatment
    Burdock root has been used to treat cancer successfully, especially when paired with a few other herbs in what is called “essiac tea.” Scroll below for more information and the tea recipe. It has also been shown to help diabetic patients, too.
  5. Food
    The herb has been used from seed to root as a food for thousands of years. Read more below to learn how you can use burdock as food.
  6. Blood Detoxification
    This herb greatly improves circulation, moving blood throughout the body and to the skin and liver for detoxification. The blood carries your nutrients, but also your toxins, so it’s extremely important to keep it clean – and flowing.
  7. Lymphatic Health
    Your lymphatic system does not have a pump, like your heart, so it relies on you to keep things moving. Burdock has been shown to improve lymphatic circulation as well, which is a huge boost to your overall immune health.
  8. Anti-inflammatory
    The high antioxidant count in burdock root has been shown to help lower inflammation, including joint issues such as arthritis in medical studies.
  9. Diuretic 
    Burdock assists in bile production and circulation, which is why it has been used (specifically the seeds) as a mild diuretic for years.
  10. Liver Support 
    Burdock root has been used to treat and even prevent liver damage. As your liver is the primary device to both process nutrients and expel toxins, it needs to stay in tip-top shape.
How to Prepare Burdock

Seed
The seed has been used as a mild diuretic by boiling a decoction in water.

Fruit
The fruit of the plant has been used for thousands of years to help with stomach and lung issues. Consume raw in salads and soups, or dry and use as a tea.

Leaves
The leaves can be eaten fresh or chopped and sauteed as is the common method in Japan in a dish called “gobo.” The leaves have also been used to cover wounds and balance blood flow when wrapped around or a poultice is applied to the skin.

Stalks
The stalks can also actually be eaten raw or steamed, and resemble the rooty taste of asparagus.

Root – Raw or Dried

You can purchase bulk burdock root, or many stores carry teas containing burdock root. It’s also an option to forage your yard and neighborhood for the stuff for free. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried and used in teas.

Burdock Root Tea Recipes Simple Burdock Root Tea

Combine 1 tablespoon of loose, dried burdock root with one cup of boiling (filtered) water. Allow to cool 5 minutes, then enjoy.

You can also make a decoction – essentially a slow-brewed tea, which is much stronger. Boil 1 quart of water and place with 3 tablespoons of burdock root in a heat-safe glass jar. Allow the jar to sit for 6-8 hours, then strain the root out.

Essiac Tea Recipe

Burdock root is also an ingredient in the famous cancer treatment dubbed “essiac tea.” A recipe for the tea is below.

*This is a recipe for a half gallon of tea. You can multiply or divide the recipe based on the amount you wish to make.

Ingrendients

  • 5 tablespoons of burdock root
  • 2 teaspoons of slippery elm bark (not the powder)
  • 4 tablespoons of sheep sorrel
  • 2 tablespoons Turkish rhubarb root

Directions

Bring a half gallon of water to a boil and add all the herbs. Cover, and allow to sit for 24 hours. Heat again, but do not boil. Allow to cool, and strain out herbs. Keep in a sealed glass jar for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Learn more about essiac tea here, here, and here.

Burdock may be one of the most underutilized healthy plants. Forage or buy some for your home, and use regularly for potent health. 

***Burdock root should not be consumed during pregnancy, nor for those who are allergic to the asteraceae family, such as dandelions and daises. 

Have you ever used burdock root?

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When the little one wakes up with a mild fever, tugging at his ear, most parents assume (often correctly) — it’s an ear infection!  So, like all good parents do, they quickly make a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription for antibiotics, to take care of that nasty infection fast.

But wait.

Is this really the best way to handle ear infections?  Are there natural ways to treat them successfully?

Here’s what you really need to know about ear infections.

The Truth About Ear Infections

Ear infections are incredibly common.  Most children will have experienced at least one by the time they are 5 years old.  Some children get them repeatedly, and they are a top reason for doctors’ visits every year.

There are different types of ear infections.  It’s possible to have fluid in the ear without pain/symptoms, which usually requires no treatment.  A middle ear infection can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and often resolves within 2 – 3 days without any treatment.  The CDC currently recommends waiting those 2 – 3 days to see if the ear pain or infection resolves before resorting to antibiotics (source).  Up to 82% of children will get better within a few days with or without treatment, and treatment increases the risk of gut-related side effects (source).

Depending on the severity of the infection, the ear drum can perforate (or burst).  This happens in anywhere from 5 – 30% of cases.  When it does, it is not considered a medical emergency (unless the child has a high fever or is in extreme pain), and in 85% of cases, it heals fine on its own (source).  There is no increase in complications if antibiotics are not used (source).

In general, ear infections are not serious.  Hearing loss as a complication is extremely rare, and typically mild, and only occurs after recurrent ear infections (source).

Risks for ear infections include:

  • Age (<5 years old)
  • Male sex
  • Ethnicity (white)
  • Low birth weight (<2.5 kg)
  • Premature birth (<37 weeks gestation)
  • Pacifier use
  • Season of birth (spring/summer)
  • Lack of breastfeeding
  • Day care attendance
  • Number of siblings
  • Parental education/employment (lower socioeconomic groups)
  • Household income (below poverty level)
  • Personal and family history of ear infections
  • Prenatal/postnatal exposure to cigarette smoke

(source)

How to Treat Ear Infections

From the information above, it’s easy to see that it’s not necessary to run to the doctor to get antibiotics at the first sign of ear pain.  It’s better to wait a few days and provide some symptom relief, or use natural remedies, to see if symptoms resolve first.  Usually, they will.

It’s actually important to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, because they have a very negative effect on the gut flora, and because using them too frequently contributes to antibiotic resistance. (source)

So, how does a parent treat ear infections at home?

Garlic-Mullein Oil

Use garlic-mullein oil (or just mullein oil) in the ear if the ear drum has not burst.  Place a few drops in the ear, gently tug on it to get it down in, and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then drain, and do on the other ear if needed.

If you prefer, you can also use hydrogen peroxide for this.

Essential Oils

Use rosalina, lemon, or fir needle essential oils diluted to 0.5% and rub around the outside of the ear.  Spearmint is also safe.  These are for young children.

Adults and kids over 10 can also use eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint.

Anti-Bacterial Herbal Teas

Drink warm mullein tea (1 tbsp. in 1 cup boiling water, sweetened as desired).  Elderberry is also a good choice.  Astragalus root is a general immune booster.

We use Elderberry Elixir (a tincture) to help promote immune boosting and knock stuff out quickly.

Warm Salt Socks

Fill a sock with a natural salt, then warm it for a minute in the microwave (or about 10 – 15 min. in the oven).  Place this over the affected ear to help draw out the pain.

Chiropractic Care

If more help is needed, chiropractic care may be beneficial.  There aren’t enough studies to prove that it is helpful (source) but many parents swear by it.

In general, these remedies will help to reduce pain and relieve symptoms so the ear infection can get better, naturally!

When Is It Serious?

Typically, ear infections will get better on their own, even if the ear drum ends up perforating.

These are signs that you may need to see a doctor:

  • Severe pain that natural remedies don’t help
  • Very high fever (over 104)
  • No improvement after several days
  • Lethargy, inability to rest
  • Additional symptoms that could be serious (trouble breathing)

Most commonly, it’s not an issue.  If you have a serious concern, you can always make a call and see.

How do you handle ear infections?

The post The Truth About Ear Infections appeared first on Modern Alternative Health.

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