The $1.49 solution

Cheap solution for a big messy problem in the national news

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Warning: This is a natural health post. Health, as we all know, has to do with normal body functioning…including poop. Proceed with caution if you get weirded out by that kind of thing.

I have to hand it to him. Kudos for taking on the topic, that is.

Recently “All In with Chris Hays” did a report about the impact of “flushable”  wipes (adult and otherwise) has on the sewage systems. Whether the demand for personal hygiene wipes was consumer-driven or industry-driven doesn’t matter. What matters is that it doesn’t have to happening at all.

The wipes, not the wiping. The wiping part is good. Clean is good. Wet style is fine…that’s why they invented the bidet. Compared to the full on hose-off, a wet wipey is pretty tame by comparison. The problem isn’t removing unwanted excrement from unmentionable body parts…the problem is the tons of non-biodegradable thingy-whazzits we use to do it. Bidets just use water, then normal toilet tissue. That stuff breaks down if you look at it crossways. Toilet paper hasn’t been an issue for modern sewage systems and septic friendly versions have been around for quite a while, too, as I understand it. The pop-up wipes are the new thing…and the problem.

According to the “All In” report, wipes of this types contain some sort of acrylic element (acrylic – you know, plastic. Like the stuff in nail polish, and aquariums). Since when is plastic not a major environmental problem?

There is a solution. And it is yours for around $1.49.

Witchhazel.

Easy. And cheap. And environmentally friendly.  So of course, it probably will never happen. Consider, just for a moment, this:

Get an inexpensive bottle of witchhazel solution from your local big box store. It’ll cost pennies compared to wipes, baby, adult or otherwise. Keep said bottle within arms reach of the toilet. Feel the need for a wet wipe? Fold up several sheets of ordinary toilet paper, put a few drops of witch hazel on them and have at it.

First and foremost, it is going to feel COLD. But no more than a pop up wipe I would imagine. Second of all, it soothes skin anywhere on the body, including the posterior private portions. Third, for all you mamas out there…it does very nice things for external hemorrhoids.

Repeat at liberty. You’re clean, and the wipes you just created are well and truly flushable, natural and biodegradable.

Bam. Drop the mic. Millions of dollars and poopie bummies saved.

WitchHazelFlower

The Itchy Summer Time

the itchy summertime

lavendar

Summer can do some wonderful things for your mood. Sun, fun, relaxation…it’s all good, right?

Occasionally there can be little nuisances, like insect bites, itchy rashes, and sunburn.

It’s true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…this is where mainstream medicine and holistic health agree on a couple of common sense things: wear sunscreen and insect repellent. It doesn’t take pounds of chemicals to enjoy a summer day however. Unless you are going to be doing serious yard work or in the deep woods, there are natural ways to help the little uh-ohs, especially the ones that kids in particular seem to collect this season.

There are lots of recipes for natural insect repellent. None I know of are water repellent, so make a big batch and keep spritzing…a lot. But then, it is as good of a way as any to cool off a little bit. In addition to smelling nice, home insect repellents are usually water or dilute vinegar based which is a little cooling when you spritz it on. Key aromatherapy oils to use in a blend include geranium, eucalyptus, sometimes peppermint.

Accidents happen, and sometimes the most careful of us get a little sun singed around the edges. The classics apply – aloe is gold standard. Ocean Potion makes an after sun lotion that is based on natural carrier oils and also, wonderfully, contains some chamomile which is also amazing for soothing skin. It is my go-to for too much sun or just simple moisturizing after a day of swimming.

While the blister-y weeping contact dermatitis that comes from poison ivy, poison oak and sumac are a separate issue, rashes, bumps and itching can come from other sources too. Insect bites and contact with other plants (if you are allergic to them) can sometimes result in bumps and itch. Consult your doctor, of course, for stronger relief, but for mild cases with no worries about drowsiness or side effects, try a soothing baking soda bath (about 1/2 cup baking soda in a tub of water) or applying a  cool cloth soaked in some baking soda water. Follow that with a few spare drops of good quality lavender oil. Never use any other essential oils directly on the skin without supervision. Although lavender oil is generally safe and well tolerated, even full strength, the scent is pretty strong. You still might want to dilute it with a light oil. Once again my favorite here is grape seed oil because it is light and astringent and balances the essential oil well. Don’t forget … wash those paws! Keeping clean hands before and after applying anything to itchy areas or rash helps to keep the offending plant oils or pollen from getting over everything, and it help keep bacteria off of the compromised skin and avoid a secondary infection.

Enjoy the summer sun and fun, knowing a few easy, abundant and inexpensive aromatherapy oils can help with the little nuisances that can go along with the season.

Q&A: Does Debittered Yeast Have Chromium?

Q&A: More on brewer’s yeast – revisit

questionmark

Q: Does “debittered” brewer’s yeast contain chromium?

A: Nope.

It’s that simple. The de-bittering process takes out chromium from brewer’s yeast. Other strains of yeast (they are all basically the same species of one celled fungus.)

Baking yeast isn’t a source of chromium anyway… and is best used for just that, baking. Think of them as Alton Brown’s burping sock puppets on “Good Eats”  (love that show). They are “active”…some of the wee beasties are still alive to ferment your dough. Let them live! And burp! nd make wonderful things in your kitchen.

There is also “nutritional yeast”. It has a stronger flavor, but adds a wonderful cheesy element to soups and sauces without adding the fat and calories of actual cheese – if you are into that kind of thing. It’s a wonderful culinary tool for vegans. I think this is the stuff they use in vegemite and marmite. I’ve never had the privilege of trying either spread, but after having nutritional yeast, I imagine it is actually kind of tasty. They could definitely wake up your morning toast. I’ve used a powdered blend of brewer’s and nutritional yeast in vegetable broth until I could find a non-debittered yeast tablet.  Definitely had a zing to it. I can see where the flavor wouldn’t be for everyone. Brewer’s yeast alone is much milder in my opinion.

“Brewer’s yeast” that you find in health food and supplement stores is a little bit of a misnomer. It is, like nutritional yeast, INactive – the wee beasties have done their brewing duty and expired. It is like harvesting a mushroom. It isn’t alive anymore, but boy does it taste good. I like to think of nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast supplements as itty bitty one celled mushrooms…you know, food. The yeast you actually brew with…in making beer for example…is more of the active burping sock variety. The “brewer’s yeast put into tablets has already done its burping and is now the harvested mushroom kind of thing.

The up side is actual brewers yeast does contain all sorts of lovely trace minerals, like chromium, selenium and others to go along with the B vitamins and iron. The down side is that brewer’s yeast has trace minerals…which can give it a pretty funky flavor. That’s why the debittering process came about in the first place. Originally, most people used brewers yeast as a source of iron, back when meat was only for the wealthy and leafy greens were not available year-round. Back then iron deficiency anemia was more common. The trace minerals were less of a concern and gladly purged to get a better-tasting iron source.

In the first-world nations, where meat, greens and whole grains are now abundant, the chromium in non-processed brewer’s yeast is the part we want. Often marketed as “glucose tolerance factor” or “chromium gtf” chromium in yeast form is easily absorbed, inexpensive, natural and according to several studies effective too. (University of Maryland has an excellent list of supporting research HERE).

So whether you choose dibittered brewer’s yeast or unprocessed brewer’s yeast depends on which part of the yeast you want to use. For iron intake and B vitamin supplimentation, either form will do. For chromium supplimentation, only the NON processed, NON-debittered form will work.

It is a challenge to find this non-debittered form…even some tablets labeled as “natural” are still debittered, since the yeast itself is a natural food and the debittering process is fairly ‘natural’ too. Powders are more likely to be non-debittered than tablets.

BUYER BEWARE! Read, read, read those labels! Reputable manufacturers will list  the trace minerals in their product, so if there is no chromium listed, it is better to assume it is a debittered product. If it has chromium, it should list chromium, and what form the chromium takes.

Be cautious when you see the term “chromium” or “gtf” as well. Non-biological chromium is very abundant, so take care to read. If you are looking for brewer’s yeast, make sure the “gtf” isn’t chromium piccolinate or chromium nicotinate.

MEDICINE TAKERS BEWARE! There are some medicine that can block chromiums absorption and other medicines where chromium changes the medications absorption and action. Please read this fact sheet from the National Institutes of Health for more information.

It seems very easy to process chromium right out of foods, so chromium deficiency may ironically be on the rise in industrialized nations where processed food are a large part of the diet. Brewer’s yeast to the rescue! Just like it used to help with iron deficiency and B-vitamins, now it can safely help with chromium deficiencies.

Broccoli, grapes and whole grains also contain chromium – so eat your veggies and whole grains, and you are less likely to need chromium supplementation in the first place. For those with special needs, like glucose intolerance, extra may be needed. However, those with diabetes or other health concerns should coordinate using chromium suppliments like brewer’s yeast with their doctor.

If you are healthy, though, brewer’s yeast is just wee tiny food with a big health impact.

Ph of Debittered Brewer’s Yeast

Q&A: What is the ph of debittered brewer’s yeast?

questionmark

I love to answer questions and know what your are thinking.

Please don’t hesitate to send free “ask the expert” questions. It makes writing the blog a kajillion times more fun!

But since that hasn’t caught on yet, I often read the top search terms, for ideas for blogs that are timely and relevant to my much appreciated readers (HINT: if you don’t find what you are searching for in the blog…please keep trying. I’ll get the hint and create what you are looking for eventually!)

But sometimes, I will wonder why anyone would want to know that? Holistic Health is a very practical, pragmatic thing. So you learn something, now, what are you going to DO with that tidbit of knowledge? Science for science sake, tight focus on numbers above all else…that’s allopathic type stuff.

I keep seeing an interest in th ph of debittered brewers yeast. From what I’ve found, it depends on how it is processed…how they “debitter” it: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16084365

Debittered Brewer’s Yeast seems to be largely neutral (ph around 7), especially if it microfiltered instead of akalai washed. BUT the  process removes many of the trace minerals that are part of natural brewer’s yeast benefits. Chromium and selenium are key examples. Unless you are only looking for B-complex supplimentation, natural forms of the brewer’s yeast has more to offer despite the taste. It is bitter, but persoanlly I don’t mind the taste: I like dark stout and european beers. Obviously that is the taste the yeast evokes. Some powders really aren’t bad, having an almost cheesy kind of flavor. If I didn’t have to keep my intake very precise for my own health reasons, I’d be cooking with the stuff…it would add a fantastic richness and depth of flavor to sauces and gravies. Hmm, bet it would add some zing to fondue or nachos too. Anyway, NATURAL non-processed, non-debittered seems to be the way to go, especially if you are interested in any of the glucose tolerance that can be associated with chromium. You can read more in my original brewer’s yeast post HERE.

There is some interest in brewer’s yeast in conditions where the ph of the intestinal tract has been altered by medication or disease. As I understand it, the benefit comes from the B-comples vitamins in the yeast that are present in both yeast types. As I understand it, an overly acidic gi tract can result in a reduction in certain types of “good bacteria” like acedopholis. This decrease in the ‘good guys’ can affect levels of B vitamins, and taking brewer’s yeast would replace what is lacking while at the same time (through probiotics) helping the ‘good bacteria’ return to normal levels. This is true of both natural and debittered brewers yeast. If this is the effect you want, then debittered makes the most sense if taste is an issue.

I don’t see how the ph of the yeast itself would have any role to play in it’s benefits. The only known adverse effect from Brewer’s Yeast that I’ve found (it’s basically food, like mushrooms) is some stomach upset that comes from difficulty digesting the proteins, not from the yeast’s ph. It is possible to be allergic to the yeast, so do not take it if allergy symptoms emerge (see links below). Headache is rare with it, but can happen. Brewer’s yeast should not be used if you are taking MAOI medications or Demeral type medications.

Additional Sources:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/brewers-yeast

http://www.healthline.com/health/brewers-yeast

 

All information in this post and blog is for general interest, entertainment and personal enrichment only: Can not diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease and can not replace professional medical care. Use at your own risk. Age 18 and over please.

Water of Life

Water makes a news splash – again

I know “water of life” sounds like an exaggeration, but as a science fiction fan, I couldn’t resist that little shout-out to “Dune”, one of my favorite sci fi novels.

But if you think about it, associating water and life is no exaggeration at all. We die from lack of water much faster than from lack of food. There has been seemingly unending buzz in the popular media about how much to drink, contaminants in tap water, plastic bottles leeching chemicals into the water they contain (which might just be filtered tap water anyway), you name it. The latest ruckus is the First Lady’s “Drink up ” campaign. While it is true we need to drink enough fluid to maintain optimum health, it is easy enough to get that optimum. I don’t think the point is to drink a higher volume of water, I think the point of the thing is to drink more water INSTEAD of all the sugary, or artificially sweetened beverages. Instead of ‘drink more water’ the message should be to “stop polluting the water you already drink with processed corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.”

But let’s dial all that back a bit. In the bigger picture, water has been associated with health and healing for hundreds of years.

Mostly because the water we take for granted was a difficult thing to get in the past. It was hard enough to get decent water for drinking (often impossible…leading to a panoply of diseases still found in developing nations today) – much less get enough water for cleaning and bathing. Basic hygene could have gone a long way to mitigating the great epidemics of the past.  Mineral and natural hot springs were thought to have miraculous healing properties (although it may have been less a matter of divine intervention, and more an instance of heat and minerals killing germs) Even ‘normal’ water was a revered healing method in the 18th and 19th centuries. Extended showers, mineral spas, hot and cold compresses, saunas, and “Kniepp therapy” are just a few examples.

We often take our water supply for granted. We are able to drink all we want without fear of disease or parasites. We can easily keep ourselves and homes clean. A study from Kyoto University proves that simple gargle with plain water 2 or 3 times a day can help reduce colds and flu.

Simple water is a wondrous thing – drink up.

Related posts and sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Kneipp

http://www.cartercenter.org/news/documents/doc130.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/12/first-lady-michelle-obama-ask-everyone-drink-more-water

How to drink water

Head Pressure or Pain after Meditating – revisit

Head discomfort or pain after meditation – revisit

A while ago, I was asked about the sensation of head pressure or discomfort after “intense” meditation sessions.

With his permission, I shared the question with you in this Q&A post, but it is hard to translate an individual situation into a general interest / general information post. Particularly since one the big advantages of holistic health is how acutely it can be individualized.

The question of head discomfort after “intense” meditation has come up again, in a different context, so I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

One key difference is the location of the discomfort. Later mentions have the discomfort in different places on the head and face…no big surprise that would clue us in to different causes, different solutions.

In the first case, the discomfort was behind both eye brows and under the eyes, more face than head. That is smack dab over the frontal and maxillary sinuses, so that is why those were such a focus in the last discussion. The location is a key detail that built the case for a strong connection between the complaint and mainstream medicine. It was a situation where allopathy might be a key tool to bring out of the healers toolkit in this particular case.

In later instances, the location was a whole other story. This time mind-body connection was at the forefront. This time mind and spirit would be the focus, with less of a ‘body’ component. In fact, some of you might think this time the answer is too “fringe”, but the proof is in the pudding as they say…individual experience is still valid data, especially to the individual experiencing it! An open mind goes a long way when it comes to stress management.

Another person might indicate a tightness or pain in the head, less so in the face. A tight cap-like or band-like feeling often is simple muscle tension. (Mainstream medicine will agree with me there). If meditation relaxes you, how can it give you a muscle tension headache? Mind-body connection of course. If someone is meditating to relax, that can heap a lot of expectations on the meditation experience. Expectation is a big stumbling block to anyone working with meditation, intuition, visualization, imagination etc. That goes double if you are new to the process.

Meditation works in its own time in its own way…that is one of the biggest lessons it can teach us. Meditation is about letting go of those kinds of thought-bound expectations. Meditation is about being right here, right now, and letting things be as they are…NOT about getting your blood pressure down to X by Y date,  or by expecting to feel peaceful and blissed out NOW DOGGONEIT! It is very very easy to let those cultural expectations and old, well-established thought habits slip into relaxation time. It is a hard switch to turn off. The solution is persistence, and a whole lot of patience for yourself. Even in tea and mint candy commercials, wise gurus are seldom young. It takes a while to get the hang of the peace and serenity thing, especially in a ‘normal’ fast paced modern life.

The solution to this kind of head discomfort is easy to say, a little harder to enact. Let go. Don’t put any expectations on your meditation.

In the category of “when you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras”: if you are feeling muscle tension in you head after meditation, pay attention to your posture. Don’t slouch, but don’t try to force yourself into a full lotus zen master sitting position if you aren’t ready for it. Keep the spine erect, but comfortable. It is OK to sit in a chair that way if you aren’t comfortable cross-legged on the floor. It is even valid and effective to lay down…but I don’t recommend it unless you are fairly experienced or well-rested. I don’t know about you, but the laying down and relaxing thing is a fast-track to a NAP for me! Stretch, do a little yoga when you are not particularly meditating if you want to work your way into a pillow sitting zazen thing but aren’t flexible enough right now. Just like in the last post, working with a meditation mentor or teacher (Shameless plug: I offer meditation tutorials) can help sort some of the posture issues out.

The other scenario that I’ve heard lately is even more esoteric – this is where things get a little fringe-ish for some people.

In Eastern medicine and philosophy, there are energy centers (some might say nerve clusters) in the body that help regulate energy flow. You might have heard of “chakras”. Entire books have been written about that, and explaining it all is way outside of a blog post. Each chakra is assigned a specific location, and the one for the third eye, in middle of the forehead just above the eyebrows, is associated with meditation. If the pressure after mediation is in that location, then this is way way into mind-spirit territory.

Improper meditation (for you) can take that energy center out of its natural balance. It might become drained, or overcharged. It might just be a matter of adjusting your habits…meditating for a little less time, or changing the focus, or redirecting the energy to other things. Even little things like wearing dark blue (the symbolic color of the chakra) or making sure to drink adequate water after a session can help. The key here is to individualize your mediation practice to your particular needs if discomfort appears here. Get a little help and arm yourself with knowledge.

Meditation should be a comforting, relaxing, pleasant experience. Even if these head-discomfort problems come up, they can be handled. There are many different way to meditate, many schools of thought. If problems like these turn up, then it is just a clue to make an adjustment or slight change…don’t give up!

Sources /suggested reading:

“Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.

Brewer’s Yeast – Not Just for Making Beer

Brewer’s yeast can provide inexpensive, natural, nutritional support

It’s a little bit ironic. When we think of “natural” health and nutrition, often the first thing we do is reach for manufactured, processed and refined vitamin supplements. Some argue that the extra vitamins are just excreted by the body wasting time, money and effort. Others question just how well vitamin pills are absorbed by our digestive tract in the first place.

The best way around this nutritional irony is to eat an unprocessed, healthy, balanced diet. With a good diet, most people get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, no pills needed. But as we all know, our fast-paced and busy lifestyle makes that kind of diet a challenge. Sometimes, because of special health concerns, extra supplements really are needed over and above what a healthy diet provides. Instead of isolated, processed vitamins, there are wholesome natural plant (or in this case, fungus) sources for the extra vitamins and minerals we sometimes need. Brewer’s yeast is an example.

Brewer’s yeast has been helping mankind for literally thousands of years. Beer was made in Egypt as early as 5,000 BC. After the beer making process is done, the inactive yeast that is left behind is still a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Natural Healers have used this specific form of yeast for fatigue, constipation, skin conditions, overweight and poor nutrition for almost as long as mankind has been using it for. Modern science has discovered the reasons for its usefulness. Brewer’s Yeast is rich in B-complex vitamins (but not B-12, so it isn’t  useful for vegans looking for a non-animal source of B-12). It also has a variety of minerals, including iron, selenium and chromium.

Its chromium content has won brewer’s yeast a lot of attention lately. In 2011, a controlled, scientific study was done with type 2 diabetics. Their medicine, exercise, and diet were all kept the same except for one change: half of the group was given natural brewer’s yeast with its natural chromium intact, and the other half was given “debittered” (slightly processed) brewer’s yeast that had the chromium removed. The group that received the chromium-containing version showed much improved blood sugar control. (Chromium group HbA1c reduced from 9.5 to 6.8, while the non-chromium group decreased less than 1 – if you want to be technical about it). The cholesterol slightly improved in the chromium group as well. Granted, this is just one small study, but it goes to show how helpful chromium in brewer’s yeast can be, and how processing can muck things up with vitamin supplements.

Consider chromium in its highly processed, chemically bound form, chromium picolinate. This is the form used in most scientific studies, and this is the form with the most adverse results. Focus is beginning to shift from chromium to the picolinate part of the compound as being the real cause of the problems. To the best of my knowledge so far, natural brewer’s yeast has few adverse effects other than stomach upset and gas in some individuals. Because the non-picolinate version is so helpful with blood sugar, individuals with diabetes should only use brewer’s yeast (or any form of chromium) under a doctor’s supervision. Brewer’s yeast should not be used by anyone who also takes demeral or a MAOI inhibitor type of medication. Of course anyone with a known yeast allergy should avoid it.

If you would like more information about brewer’s yeast, University of Maryland Medical Center has a detailed page of information and a long list reliable, peer-reviewed sources on the topic. It provided much of the information for this post and the link is provided in the source list below.

The down side: You can’t get brewer’s yeast by raiding the kitchen cupboard. Bread-making yeast is a different strain of yeast, is still living or “active” and doesn’t have the same proteins, vitamins and minerals as brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast.  “Nutritional” yeast is in between the two. It is inactive, and has plenty of B vitamins and protein, but not quite the chromium or minerals of the brewer’s version. Brewer’s yeast is available as a powder or in tablet form in health food stores and the dietary supplement sections of many grocery or department stores. You have to be careful to avoid the “debittered” version if you want the benefits of chromium.

The up side: Brewer’s yeast is natural, inexpensive, rich in B-vitamins, iron, selenium, chromium and other trace minerals. Some small, preliminary scientific studies show that non-debittered brewer’s yeast can improve sugar metabolism, possibly cholesterol levels too. The B-vitamins in either form can help energy levels as well as contribute to general health.

The really up side: It tastes vaguely like beer. Kind of like a nice, dark, hoppy extra stout if you ask me.

If you want to get some extra vitamin support, the closest bottle of multi-vitamins may not be the best choice. Eating well is the best option. The next best choice would be to choose a supplement that is as whole, natural and unprocessed as possible. Brewer’s Yeast is a perfect example of just such a supplement.

Sources: