Category Archives: Health & Wellness

How to make your own magnesium oil

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Magnesium oil is my method of magnesium supplementation. Here is a blog post that I wrote explaining why. Luckily, magnesium oil is super easy to make! This is how I do it:

Materials:

  • 1 cup Magnesium flakes
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • glass container to store it in (must be big enough to hold at least 2 cups)
  • glass dropper bottle (optional, but makes application easier)

Directions:

  • Combine magnesium flakes and water in a stainless steel pan over low-medium heat
  • Heat just until the flakes dissolve all the way. Stirring occasionally
  • Remove from heat and let cool
  • Pour into glass container to store.
  • I then pour some into a dropper bottle for easier application and refill when necessary

Apply to your skin. Use daily for best results.

Note: when applied you might notice that it can be itchy. I have found that my lower back tolerates it best, with the least amount of itching.

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15 Sleep Enhancing Tips That Really Work!

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After having children, I discovered how much I love sleep….because I was not getting any! Oh wonderful, beautiful, elusive sleep. In my on-going exploration of health and nutrition I decided to investigate sleep optimization, and here is I found to work the best for me and my family.

First, if you are having trouble sleeping, you should try to get to the source of your insomnia and eliminate that source if possible.

Getting to the source…

Dr. Andrew Weil lists the potential causes of insomnia:

  • Exposure to extreme temperature fluctuations or environmental noise
  • Disruption in sleep/wake patterns due to jet lag, work schedules, or other reasons
  • Side effects of medications
  • A change in the surrounding environment
  • Premenstrual syndrome, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
  • Depression (the most common cause)
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disease
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Heart failure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma

If no source of your insomnia is discovered, then try my tips… 

1) Cut out caffeine (caffeine can stay in our systems for anywhere from 5-15 hours!). If you can’t cut it out completely, then go half-caff and have your last cup no later than noon. Caffeine is in chocolate too, sorry to burst your bubble.

2) Eat the majority of your harder to digest protein earlier in the day. Meat is harder for your body to digest (especially if you don’t chew it well enough) and if you eat a large meal that focuses heavily on meat later in the evening, your body will be focusing on digestion all night instead of restful sleep and detoxification. Gelatin is a great source of easy to digest protein. Stir some gelatin into your tea or have a cup of bone broth. Gelatin also helps with sleep.

3) Buy a bed that is right for you. For example: a sleep number bed. My husband likes firm and I prefer soft. A good bed is a great investment!

4) Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary:

  • Block out all light… I mean it! Even the tiniest amount of light can decrease melatonin production
  • Install blinds that black out your windows
  • Turn alarm clocks to face the other direction, so you can’t see the glowing numbers. Try a more natural alarm clock that uses gentle light to wake you up in the morning: a wake-up light
  • Wear a night mask
  • Wear earplugs if you need to or turn on some white noise like a fan or a noise machine. There are tons of white noise apps out there to!
  • Get the TV out of your bedroom…absolutely…go do it right now, I’ll wait
  • Keep the temperature of your bedroom below 70 degrees

5) Install F.lux on your electronic devices so you aren’t exposed to blue light emissions in the evening hours (this also decreases melatonin production). F.lux is free so what are you waiting for?

6) Turn your lights down in the evening hours as the sun goes down, or use candle light. This naturally stimulates melatonin production and starts our sleep-cycle. On the flip-side you will also want to make sure you have exposure to the wide-spectrum light (natural day light) during the day. This boosts serotonin levels, which increases melatonin production later in the day for restful sleep. Bright light is especially important to get earlier in the day so get outside in the morning!

7) Go to bed when you start to feel tired, or before. Don’t force yourself to stay up and watch all of your favorite recorded TV shows so you can “relax” at the end of your busy day. If you feel tired then go to bed. You will be much happier you chose to forgo TV and get some extra (much needed!!!) sleep.

8) Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It increases wakefulness and decreases sleep quality.

9) Avoid sugar before bedtime. This can cause blood sugar fluctuations that can wake you up in the middle of the night. Blood sugar drops, cortisol spikes and you wake up.

10) Invest in some orange safety glasses. These also block blue light emissions. I wear mine every night, whether my husband likes it or not!

11) Supplement when absolutely necessary, and only temporarily:

  • Melatonin: this is generally recommended to take when adjusting to jet-lag and traveling across time zones. Not recommended to use regularly, remember it is a hormone after all
  • Tryptophan/5-HTP: boosts serotonin and thus increases melatonin production
  • Chammomile tea: a mild sedative and anti-anxiety agent, helps you relax and fall asleep
  • Kava tea: a mild sedative used for it’s ability to treat insomnia, restlessness and other nervous disorders

12) Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Yes even on the weekends. This allows your body to get into a sort of sleep routine. Plus, on the weekends you can really get a lot done around the house in the morning. I sure do!

13) Make sure you are getting enough magnesium. Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system and allows you achieve a deeper level of sleep. It also decreases cortisol production. Every noise waking you up at night? You might be low in magnesium. Do you get leg cramps at night? You might be low in magnesium. You can supplement orally with supplements like Natural Calm or make your own magnesium oil to apply topically. I use my homemade magnesium oil every night. You can also take a bath with epsom salts.

14) Stop drinking water 2 hours before bedtime (the exception being your sleepy time tea). This way you wont be getting up to go pee right after you fall asleep.

15) De-stress! How do you expect to fall asleep when your mind is running a million miles an hour and you are rigid with tension? Practice meditation, get a massage, get regular exercise, do yoga, or practice deep breathing.

What tips and tricks do you use to fall asleep? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to give them a try!

Resources:

Homemade toothpaste

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After reading this article on what really is in our toothpaste and how harmful it is (even though we have been using Tom’s brand for years) I decided it was time to start making my own toothpaste and tooth powder. I’ve had a few recipes stashed away for a while and had even purchased the ingredients. What was holding me back?! Well, I finally made some and we are totally thrilled with the results. Here is how I made it, from a recipe by the Wellness Mama that I adapted a bit. Bonus: it also remineralizes your teeth.

If you live near a co-op or Whole Foods, you can find all of these ingredients at those stores. If you are having trouble finding the items, they can be ordered online (I have included links to them…in orange)

Tooth powder:

Mix ingredients and put into a jar. We each have our own jars because we dip our toothbrushes into the powder. To give the toothpaste a minty flavor we use Orawellness brushing blend drops, which is an essential oil blend that is specially formulated for tooth and gum health. Wet your toothbrush, add a few drops of the oil blend to the brush, dip in the tooth powder and brush away. It’s just that easy.

I also made a paste which was super easy to do….I added coconut oil to the tooth powder until I achieved the desired consistency….same recipe, same jar. My husband prefers paste to powder.

Everyone is happy, and our smiles show it 🙂

Running in the snow! The health benefits of outdoor exercise

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Minnesota is getting nailed with snow right now and I could not be happier for two reasons:

1) I don’t have to commute to work today

2) I absolutely love running in extreme weather conditions!

So with our current snowfall averaging 1″ per hour I hit the trails. Exercise in the outdoors is superior to hitting the old treadmill (aka cortisol inducer) for a number of reasons. Mark Sisson writes extensively about moving often and lifting heavy things and he is known for beach running while toting large objects (snow running feels very similar to sand running). Well, out there bounding through the snow banks, I felt a bit like Grok! I made sure to do a few sprints as well (like any good Paleo person would do!). Sprints are something that I have incorporated into my running and have seen great benefits. I have also minimized my long runs in an attempt to decrease my adrenal stress. But on a day like today I had to put in a longer run because the benefits outweighed the negative cortisol effect.

Here are some of the benefits of exercising outdoors:

  • Natural terrain means more variability in the workout and muscles worked. For example, hills and uneven trails strengthen your ankles and work different muscle groups than just running on a flat treadmill would do.
  • Increased Vitamin D production. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D.
  • Improved oxygenation. Running through the woods is like running in a giant oxygen tank. Breathe deeply and let your body soak it up!
  • Some studies have found that people who exercise outdoors (as compared to indoor) have lower blood levels of cortisol.
  • Exercising in nature improves mood and connects you to the earth. I know I get a huge mood lift after a run outside. The treadmill tends to depress me.

Check out how deep the snow was on the trails in my photo below. It’s still coming down….I might just have to go out for round 2 later on!

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Winter Blues? Boost your Vitamin D levels with Cod Liver Oil

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It’s that time of year, the holidays are long gone, but the cold and darkness still drudges on. Double boo-hoo! Here in the Upper Midwest we are all pale, suffering from cabin fever, and Vitamin D deficient right now. When we get less sun our sense of well-being declines and our moods suffer, this is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Studies show that 50% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:

  • muscle pain
  • weak bones
  • low energy
  • fatigue
  • lowered immunity, which leads to an increase in incidence of illness
  • symptoms of depression
  • moods swings
  • sleep irregularities
  • impaired cognitive performance

There is help! Seafood and sunshine are the best sources of Vitamin D. But with limited sun exposure this time of year and the high price of good quality seafood, we need to supplement.

Benefits of Vitamin D supplementation:

  • strong bones: it helps the intestine absorb calcium and phosphorus
  • prevents osteomalacia, which causes weakness of the muscular system and brittle bones
  • regulates blood pressure
  • reduces stress and tension
  • relieves body aches and pains by reducing muscle spasms
  • boosts immunity and reduces respiratory infections
  • boosts serotonin production which helps treat depression, and regulate the sleep-wake cycle
  • improves cognition

Which supplement should we take? Start taking your vitamin D, from a quality, highly bioavailable source….Cod Liver Oil! I know it sounds gross, but it is the way people have been traditionally getting their Vitamin D for many generations before us. Cod Liver Oil contains Vitamins A, D and K2. These vitamins work synergistically to increase absorption and are naturally better assimilated in our bodies. There are a ton of fish oils and cod liver oils out there in the vitamin stores and online. Unfortunately, many are not of good quality and are full of fillers like soybean oil. Talk about gross! Most don’t even have the Vitamin D still intact, as it is usually destroyed in their method of processing!

The only place that we buy our Cod Liver Oil is Green Pastures (no, I do not get paid by this company or get anything for endorsing their products). They have a great selection of flavors (my kids take the chocolate flavored gel) and a very high quality product that has not been highly processed or diminished in nutritional content. Here is the quality statement of their Cod Liver Oil, as described on their website:

  • Whole Food Form
  • Wild, as Provided by Nature
  • Real, Unsurpassed Nutrition
  • Unadulterated
  • Natural fatty acid complex, nothing removed or changed
  • Full, deep range of Vitamins A, D, E, K; CoQ enzymes; and other quinones
  • Deep, Rich, Historical Processing Methods
  • Non-industrialized Production
  • Clean, Pure, and Third Party Tested

It turns out that Grandma was right after all, so take your cod liver oil!

Sources:

The health benefits of Bone Broth

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We try to get bone broth in some form every day, either via a cup of broth or a scoop of the broth gelatin straight from a jar in the fridge. Bone broth is a very nutritious food that has numerous health benefits. It is made by slow cooking the bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, and even feet from an animal in water for 24 hours or longer. Typically made from the bones of chicken or beef, it can also be made from lamb or fish. An acidic medium (vinegar or lemon juice) is added to the cooking liquid to pull the minerals out of the bones while they cook, depositing the minerals into the broth. After the broth is cooled in the refrigerator over night it congeals into a gelatin. The longer the bones cook in the broth, the more gelatinous it becomes. The end result is a rich healthy source of nutrients that is a key component to a healthy diet.

Bone broth contains:

  • antioxidants
  • vitamins
  • minerals (calcium, silicon, sulfer, magnesium, glucosamine, phosphorus, trace minerals, and glucosamine chondroitin sulfates)
  • amino acids (proline, arginine and glycine)

Bone broth health benefits:

  • Heals leaky-gut related conditions and lessens inflammation in the mucosal lining
  • Helps to heal autoimmune conditions by healing the gut
  • Aids in detoxification by supporting the liver
  • Aids digestion by regulating the synthesis of bile salts and the secretion of gastric acid
  • Improves nervous system function and keeps our minds (and moods) in good working order
  • Boosts antioxidant activity in the body, thus decreasing oxidative damage
  • Balances blood sugar, helps maintain muscle, and regulates human growth hormone (for all you gym-goers out there)
  • Helps to reverse heart disease by reducing atherosclerotic plaque build-up
  • Reduced cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles (from the collagen content)
  • Improves hair and nails
  • Re-mineralizes teeth

My favorite Scientist (ThePaleoMom) sums up the science behind bone broth better than anyone out there…

“Glycine and proline are two key components of connective tissue, the biological “glue” that holds our bodies together. There are many types of connective tissue and these two amino acids feature prominently in most of them, from the cartilage that forms our joints to the extracellular matrix that acts as a scaffold for the cells in our individual organs, muscles, arteries etc. Without these two amino acids, we would literally fall apart. So, it is no surprise that we need these two amino acids to heal, not only gaping wounds, but also the microscopic damage done to blood vessels and other tissues in our body caused by inflammation and infection. In fact, glycine is known to inhibit the immune system and reduce activation of inflammatory cells in your body. Whether you are trying to heal from an infection, address an auto-immune disease, or reduce inflammation caused by neolithic foods or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, high levels of dietary glycine are critical. In addition, glycine is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and many proteins in the body. As such, it plays extensive roles in digestive health, proper functioning of the nervous system and in wound healing. Glycine aids digestion by helping to regulate the synthesis and of bile salts and secretion of gastric acid. It is involved in detoxification and is required for production of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Glycine helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from proteins in the liver). Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland. This wonderful amino acid is also critical for healthy functioning of the central nervous system. In the brain, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters, thus producing a calming effect. Glycine is also converted into the neurotransmitter serine, which promotes mental alertness, improves memory, boosts mood, and reduces stress.” (ThePaleoMom)

We buy a large container of grass-fed beef soup bones from our local co-op for super cheap and end up with a ton of health-giving bone broth. Such an inexpensive way to get a nutritional boost every day! Most recently I made a batch of broth over the course of 7 days, using the carcass of one chicken. Here is the recipe. Go make a batch right now!

Be well!

“Good broth will resurrect the dead” South American proverb.

Flu prevention: take this, not that!

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Even though I work in a hospital, I do not turn to medication to treat or prevent illness in my family. In fact, my children have never even had antibiotics! In my granola mama journey to achieve optimum health for my babies, I have focused more-so on prevention and it seems to have paid off with some very healthy little ones. This flu season has hit…HARD. I see it both at work and out in the community. I decided to take action and keep it out of my home. I came across this recipe for Elderberry syrup and just had to make it immediately!

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup black elderberries
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 2 T fresh or dried ginger root
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey (we get from our farmer’s market)

Directions:

  • Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey because the heat will destroy many of its medicinal benefits)
  • Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Pour through a strainer into a glass bowl.
  • Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
  • When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
  • Standard dose is 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp for kids and 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear. Also, it tastes great on pancakes or ice-cream!

Just a few words on the alternative…

Back in 2008, the FDA started reviewing reports of abnormal behavior and disturbing brain effects in more than 1,800 children who had taken Tamiflu. The symptoms included convulsions, delirium and delusions. In Japan, five deaths were reported in children under 16 as a result of such neurological or psychiatric problems. Seven adult deaths have also been attributed to Tamiflu, due to its neuropsychiatric effect. According to a 2009 study, more than half of children taking Tamiflu experience side effects such as nausea and nightmares. Other more rare and bizarre side effects have also been reported, such as the case of a 19-year old British girl who developed toxic epidermal necrolysis and blindness after taking Tamiflu last year.” (Mercola.com)

I don’t know about you, but I think some delicious Elderberry Syrup on my grain free Mickey Mouse pancakes sounds a heck of a lot better. Be Well!