Bone Broth

Next on our list of foods to eat in the “No guts, no glory” series is Bone Broth. Fermented foods re-stock our guts with beneficial microbes to help keep it healthy. Bone broth repairs the gut lining itself. Bone broth contains collagen, which reduces inflammation in all areas of our body, including the gut. Leaky guts become less leaky when we have strong collagen stores, and bone broth is an excellent place to get natural collagen. It is also very easy to digest.

Here is my favorite homemade bone broth recipe from Dr. Josh Axe. I typically use chicken feet from Carlton Farms to make this.

If you’re not into stewing chicken feet for 24 hours (my hubby has real problem with seeing the claws!), then you can buy it too. Bonafide Provisions makes excellent bone broth that you can find in the frozen section of Whole Foods.

Happy stewing!

Fermented foods

We are starting with fermented foods as part of the “No guts, no glory” series inspired by Pique Tea’s Gut Health cheat. If you haven’t downloaded the cheat sheet, I highly recommend it! (And tell you how to, here.)

Otherwise known as cultured foods, fermented foods are made with live bacteria, and are a true foundation for gut health. And good gut health is the foundation for the overall health of our minds and bodies.

Fermentation is a method of food storage that every ancient culture used in one form or another. The key to its life-giving benefits are the live cultures (or bacteria) that are used to preserve the food. Modern technology like refrigeration, and our growing addiction to convenience have taken us away from fermented foods, and our microbiomes have suffered as a result. I believe (as do many others) that unhealthy microbiomes have resulted in so many of the chronic mental and physical health conditions we face in our modern society. So let’s get back to basics.

Two awesome metro Atlanta companies that sell a whole lot of different types of fermented foods and drinks are Ancient Awakenings in Woodstock and Cultured Traditions in Suwanee. And Carlton Farms, my very favorite, will actually deliver these products to your door, as well as literally every other food on the Gut Health Cheat Sheet that you should eat. If you prefer just to shop at the big box store, never fear, there are plenty of non-local fermented foods, like Bubbies pickles. Look in the refrigerated section, you won’t find these pickles in the middle of the store. You may also look for kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and more.

Try one serving of fermented foods per day, for a week, and see how it makes you feel!

No guts, no glory

I recently reviewed the “Gut Health Cheat Sheet” I downloaded from Pique Tea. Somehow, the time was right for me to digest it, and I am struck by how simply this guide takes us through basically everything we need to know from a dietary perspective to improve the health of our bodies and minds.

I was inspired by this to do a series of posts on the elements of this simple but profound plan. It really summarizes everything I’ve learned (and that has “stuck” with me as truth), over the years.

Since I did not ask permission to re-publish the sheet, I encourage you to visit the Pique’s blog, The Flow, to get it. Follow the link, and once you are there, a pop-up should appear, asking you for your email. If you enter your email you can download the guide to keep. I love concise, pretty information. This fits the bill.

The first step is to use tea to improve your gut health. I’ll let Pique tell you all about that.

Then they get into the foods you should focus on. We’ll take these one by one in upcoming posts. Fermented foods is first. Pique even doubles up on fermented foods in the guide, so we know they are important! Tune in tomorrow for the skinny on fermented foods.

Five Feng Shui Certainties

I have been interested in feng shui for years, but I struggle with it because it is vast, varied, and feels full of contradictions.

To start, there are two schools of feng shui. Classic feng shui, like its Indian cousin vastu shastra, requires fidelity to compass readings, while Western feng shui allows you to apply the bagua to any home the same way, no matter the direction it faces. Comparing the two schools with each other, or with vastu shastra, can leave you confused and feeling like it is all very hokey.

On top of this, Wikipedia describes feng shui as “Chinese geomancy” and as a “pseudoscience.”  Geomancy means divination. I believe feng shui probably did start out as a form of divination, and I certainly agree with the word pseudoscience due to all of the inconsistencies.

So why can’t I dismiss it? Because I have dabbled with it enough to know that there are some principles of feng shui that speak truth. I also believe that subtle energy may become more measurable someday. I take this from Douglas Johnson, of Mahapatha Yoga. He often talks about how science simply hasn’t caught up to subtle energy, and as research in the quantum field becomes more sophisticated, scientists may learn how to measure this energy and how it is affected by our actions. Then ancient practices like yoga, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and feng shui may come into their own from an empirical perspective.

In the meantime, on to the five things I feel are certain about feng shui.

1. Chi exists, and it moves. It’s best when it can move freely. Clutter and ill-placed objects block the flow of chi.   How do I know? I can feel it. It’s the same principle in yoga. When you open lines of energy in your body, you feel better. When you clean out a closet or rearrange a room, everyone can feel the difference, whether they realize they are attuned to subtle energy or not. 

2. Rearranging can at first lead to “stirring up” of the mental and emotional body. We are re-doing my son’s room and I moved a wooden dresser out of there and into my closet for storage. This introduction of a large piece of wooden furniture into my closet (what I have deemed as the Children/Creativity section of the house) was shortly followed by a little strife related to the tension of wood (stable yet sometimes oppressive) and metal (creativity and mental activity). I have since mitigated this effect by adding metal to “chop” the wood, and all has been well. I like the dresser in my closet.

3. If you want to change your life, move 27 things around in your house. This is a Chinese proverb, and if you don’t believe it, try it! Be intentional! You have been warned…

4. The elements are legit.  Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth and Water have their own characteristics and interactions with each other. Balance is important. Look outside, and you will see that Mother Nature offers us balance through the trees (wood), sun (fire), rocks (metal), ground (earth), and water.

5. Live with what you love. This was the advice I received from my first (and only, so far) feng shui consultation. Marie Kondo has made a fortune by helping people to clear clutter, and keep in their space only things that bring joy into their life. She is helping people with this basic principle of feng shui, without calling it feng shui.

I have learned to use feng shui as a guide, and try not to be too analytical about it. I once read somehwere that thinking too much about feng shui is not good feng shui for the mind, and I totally agree! Would love to hear your about your experiences when changing your space made a change in your life!

Garden 2019: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

It’s almost harvest season and I wanted to include my takeaways from my first year of a real veggie garden since I have lived in this house. I had delayed planting one for the past couple of years because I wanted raised beds. This year I decided not to pressure my hubby into making them anymore, and look for what was readily available. I came upon these Big Bag Beds, and decided to give them a try.

Love them! We got a big yellow bag of compost from Super Sod, and it took about half a huge bag to fill the two beds up. By the time this all occurred, it was mid-May. This was a totally experimental year, and here are my findings.

The Good

Okra. What a beautiful plant!! Next year I will know that if you let the okra get too big, they will become tough and woody. Best to harvest when they are just a few inches long.

Herbs – most of my gardening experience has been with herbs, with an occasional pepper and tomato plant. This year I was heavy on the herbs: parsley, oregano, chives, thyme and lavendar. They are so neat and contained. Next year I will give them their own bed because I think they get offended by their sprawling veggie cousins. One herb that will not be welcomed back is the Thai basil. It is big and I like regular basil better.

Speaking of sprawling, the cucumber plant I will not do again. What a mess! My garden consists of two round beds, and really doesn’t have the room for cucumbers to creep. Besides, I don’t eat them that much and no one around me likes them.

I will do a few peppers next year, but not as many as I did this year, and I will be careful to get the bell peppers rather than the hot.

Tomato will be outside of the beds in a pot. Yes they are anti Plant Paradox, but a good homegrown tomato is the absolute best. Need to find a variety that will stay contained within my tomato stakes though.

Eggplant – these were my first pick this year and I was so proud of my little purple delights. I did like the plant, but like with cucumbers, I just don’t eat them that much. And Plant Paradox is in my mind. Next year I am going to try to adhere to PP a little more when planning my garden. This year I was late in planting, since it took me a while to get the beds and the soil. I’ll be ready at proper planting time next year, and will be more intentional with my choices. I may do more seeds as well.

We are going to just keep playing with which vegetables to plant so that the garden is neat and beautiful within the small space, and so that I’m able to take care of it.

I value the garden because it invites mindfulness, it is beautiful, and growing and eating variety of herbs and vegetables is good for the gut and good for the soul.

Somehow I feel like the more experience I get in gardening, the more I will come into my own as a wise person, and as someone who is able to sustain herself from home.

My Ideal Morning Routine

Many people living extraordinary lives say they have a morning routine that sets them up for success. Here’s the one I have been striving toward.

  1. Meditate for 30 minutes.
  2. Yin poses.
  3. Journal, including a prayer. I focus better when I write my prayers. Often brainstorms are natural at this time. While I try to hold them off in my meditation, they can come on strong during the yin session.
  4. Push-ups. I have recently added this one. Strength is important for physical longevity as well as daily fortitude to stick to one’s commitments.
  5. Blog – if I do not get this creative time in first thing in the morning, there is no room for it in the bustle of the day.

What time do I need to get up to accomplish all of the above? Around 4. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It also doesn’t happen every day. If I get up at 5:30, I may only fit in meditation and a quick prayer. If I get up past 6, all bets are off. It’s time to make the donuts.

When I go on a streak of accomplishing above, I feel alive and true to my higher purpose.

Matters of the Microbiome

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The unseen fascinates me. Somehow I am drawn to explanations of reality that no one can prove, and which usually go against the mainstream. Alternative medicine, planetary positioning, and plenty of other ideas that are generally unacceptable to talk about at cocktail parties are the very ideas that stoke my inner flame.

I get really excited when I hear about science catching up and supporting notions that were previously unverifiable (and therefore unpopular). That is why I am currently captivated by research on the microbiome.

I have heard plenty of claims about gut health from the alternative medicine community — from figures like Josh Axe, Steven Gundry, etc. — so I decided to look into what “real scientists” have to say about the matter.

So far I have found two who inspire me: Giulia Enders, a lovely German gastroenterologist, and Rob Knight, Professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering at University of California, San Diego.

Enders has written a book called “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ.” What I appreciate about her is she is careful to stick to research, and not draw too many conclusions that are unsubstantiated. She has plenty to say just from the facts. One of my favorites is that, of the total communication that travels between the gut and the brain, 10% goes from brain to gut, 90% goes from gut to brain. Let that sink in and then decide which organ to give a little extra love on this special day. Fermented vegetables, will you be mine?

Rob Knight gives a fascinating talk on the microbiome on YouTube. A couple of stats to consider:

  1. Our bodies consist of roughly 30 trillion human cells, and 39 trillion microbial cells, and so one could make the claim that we are only 43% human.
  2. If you look at genes rather than cells, the human genome consists of about 20,000 genes. Our bodies house anywhere from 2-20 million microbial genes. This math points to our being at best 1% human at the DNA level.

In light of these numbers, it only makes sense that these little life forms’ impact on our health and well-being may be colossal. But so much of our medicine and health advice ignores (and may even sabotage) the balance of this inner ecosystem, and we wonder why we cannot solve the health crises we face today: obesity, allergies, diabetes, and other autoimmune and chronic diseases that plague us and our loved ones.

Knight cites a graph published in 2002 by the New England Journal of Medicine, which illustrated the incidence of Infectious Diseases as well as Immune Disorders between 1950 and 2000. Over that 50 year period, infectious diseases like Rheumatic fever, Hepatitis A, Measles, Mumps and Tuberculosis plummeted, while the incidence of Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Asthma, and Type 1 diabetes rose higher and higher.

This correlation begs the question: Has our ability to control disease-causing microorganisms, in the form of antibiotics (and possibly vaccines and other medicines) adversely affected our microbiomes, and therefore been the cause of the rise of the chronic diseases over the same period of time? It’s highly possible, and it’s probable that the typical western diet has played a role as well. The more salient question to me is: If our microbiome has been compromised, what can we do about it?

On this Valentine’s Day, I am declaring my love for the microbiome, and all the researchers who are contributing to our understanding of it. More to come from what they are learning, and how we can use their findings to impact our lives for the better.

Livers and Colons … and Kidneys? Oh my!

This one is for my auntie, who is already down a kidney. Many people talk about colon and liver cleanses, but this is the first I have heard of a kidney cleanse.

Since it doubles as an adrenal fatigue diet, it sounded like a great thing to cover. Both posts are from Dr. Josh Axe, who is currently in my Top 5. (Not that Top 5 — the Top 5 of resources I go to for the Wellness leg of my Ws.) He’s pretty sales-y when you share your email with him, but I love the information he publishes.