All posts in Natural Health

Before You Shop For Herbal Supplements

Before You Shop For Herbal Supplements

A few years ago, the Attorney General of New York ordered Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, and CVS to remove ALL herbal supplements from store shelves. He prematurely claimed that testing showed nearly all of them to be missing the herbs listed on their labels.

Really, what do you expect from a big box or chain store where the motto is “Always low prices”?

“At the intersection of cheap and quick”, more accurately.

Convenience is King
It helps to remember why these stores exist. They’ve figured out that your attention span as a consumer is short. Lots of products and brands are competing for your dollars. So, you’re likely to make a choice based on what’s in front of you at any given moment, NOT based on hours of researching for the best quality (or price) product.

When I shop at a gas station and see a hot breakfast sandwich smelling so yummy, I know I’m getting a poor substitute for a real breakfast. But I buy it anyway, because I’m in a hurry and it’s convenient. I don’t have time to sit down for a restaurant or home-cooked meal, so I’m sacrificing quality for something that’s more important to me – convenience. In that moment, it’s good enough.

Good enough is ok when it comes to the occasional meal on-the-run. But for something you take every day to promote vitality and strength and health, it’s worthwhile to give more thought. To ask around.

When you shop at big box stores for health products, you have to know that health is not the business they’re known for. Their business is making money selling household and personal items you want at cheap prices.

Giving Us What We Want
Americans want herbal supplements, to the tune of $8 Billion in 2018. That number is growing rapidly for lots of reasons; mainly, an expanding public awareness of the human and financial expense that pharmaceutical meds have laid on us.

You want healthier alternatives, and you’re turning to dietary and herbal supplements in record numbers. Big business has picked up on these trends and served it up on a platter. There it is, the Echinacea you saw on your Facebook feed last week, touted by a doctor in scrubs, and it’s only $5.99. Why not try it?

After all, it’s safe. Some federal body somewhere is keeping herbal supplement manufacturers accountable for quality, right? Yes. There are regulations governing the claims made on labels and the processes of manufacturing itself.

It’s Not That Simple
But like every industry, some manufacturers take every cost-cutting shortcut they can get away with, and others stake their reputation on quality by pulling out all the stops. They take steps beyond what’s legally required to identify and ensure the purity of the plant matter in their products.

Those are the companies I want to stay in business. And you probably do, too. So why do some consumers accept questionable quality from their herbal supplements? Why is it ok to buy herbal products from a discount store that’s all about price-slashing?

I ran this by one of my clients, and here’s how she explained this phenomenon.

You have a mental checklist of what it means to be healthy. And that list includes maintaining peak performance so you can continue to “go, go, go”.

Take a daily vitamin. Check.

See the doctor once a year. Check.

Five servings of vegetables. Check.

Beyond the act of checking off healthy activities, there’s very little thought given to whether these practices have any value for you personally. If the TV doctor says its good, and your sister-in-law says it works, then it must be good for you.

It’s hard to blame people for checking boxes and choosing cheap. Access to reliable information about what’s effective and safe is hard to come by.

Too often, information about herbal supplements is provided only by the companies selling them– NOT an impartial way to judge reliability.

So what’s a discerning consumer to do?

Here are 5 Ways you can sort out herbal supplement quality:

  • ASK your friends, coworkers and relatives where they buy their supplements and why.
  • BE SKEPTICAL of pyramid and multi-level products sales. The products may be good quality, but they’re often very overpriced.
  • Save your money and EAT THE FOOD EQUIVALENT. Concentrates and juices are easy and convenient, but they usually don’t contain any of the fiber and other materials that maximize the nutrition of that healthy food. Fresh blueberries beat blueberry supplements, any day.
  • TALK TO YOUR HERBALIST. Their clients have taken lots of herbal products in liquid, capsule, tablet, fresh and dried plant forms, and they’ll be aware of brand names of the highest quality herbal supplements.
  • FORM A RELATIONSHIP with an herbal or holistic provider. Get to know them, so when you need help making healthy choices, they can recommend alternatives to fit your budget and personal needs.

You can’t send a sample of every dietary or herbal product you take to a lab to verify its authenticity. And you don’t have to.

Working with a professional herbalist means you have the best chance of finding herbs that are appropriate, safe, and effective. Save yourself time and money.

Set up an appointment with Mo. Check!

Related posts:

How to Choose An Herbal Remedy That Works

If You Were a Plant, What Kind Would You Be?

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What My Insurance Agent Taught Me About Health

What My Insurance Agent Taught Me About Health

Tony and I meet in a small room once a year for a couple hours, and what we do is enough to satisfy both of us for another year. I feel so good after we’ve spent time together. We don’t waste time on small talk. We get right down to business.

Tony is my health insurance agent.

We get along great, because we agree completely on one very important thing – the best way to lower health costs is to take care of yourself.

Taking His Own Advice
Tony’s an ambitious guy, and he makes it a priority to keep my health insurance cheap. He’s gotta make a living, just like me, so he makes it his job to keep me happy. I’m not his typical client, as you can imagine.

And he’s not your typical insurance agent. We had our annual insurance review recently, and I noticed that Tony, who is 70 years old, looks as good or better than he did last year. From the smile on his face to his enthusiasm for work, he’s one of those rare people you know you’re gonna like right when you meet ’em.

“Did you lose weight?” I asked him.

Feet on yoga mat is money in the bank
“About 12 pounds,” he answered in his typical no nonsense, matter-of-fact tone. Then he excitedly shared that he recently took up practicing yoga at home 4 days a week. “I want to improve my flexibility and strength so I can keep golfing 3 days a week.”

Can you believe this guy?

My 70-year old insurance agent is practicing downward dog to his “Yoga for Wimps” CD 2 hours a week, between a 15–minute recumbent bicycle warm-up and 15 more minutes of stretching and hamstring work.

The Power of Inertia
For the same reason that I want my healthcare providers to be the picture of health, I appreciate that my health insurance agent practices what he preaches. And does he ever.

What keeps a guy like that working – and working out – at his age? It’s like that law of physics – an object in motion tends to stay in motion. His philosophy is “use it or lose it”.

People fascinate me, especially the ones who live in ways contrary to popular habits. On my morning walk one day, I greeted this guy who had paused his daily jog momentarily to pick up trash from the street. During our brief conversation, I discovered he’s long past retirement but still teaches at a local university Math department.

What compels him to jog in his 70’s? “You gotta keep moving to feel young and healthy.” Today, after our usual quick exchange of hellos, he proudly announced that he’d beaten his one and only health problem (insomnia) by quitting soft drinks. This guy totally gets it – he’s exercising his power to choose health.

Uphill Battle Worth Fighting
I’m 52 next year, and staying in shape and good health takes a bigger commitment than it did 20 years ago. This is truer every year.

Up through my 40’s, I could take a 45-minute walk 5 days a week and that kept me at a consistent weight, without too many reasons to see a doctor, other than yearly checkups.

These days, I need twice as much exercise, plenty of daily herbs, and I have to be on guard about everything I put in my mouth. Weight goes on SO easily and comes off only with serious struggle. And it’s not just me. Women around my age tell me this every day.

I watched my dad exercise every day until he died jogging at age 60 – 15 years longer than his father and brothers lived. He set a good example, and I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t quit exercising, no matter how lousy I felt.

Walking, yoga, Qi Gong and hiking make me feel energetic. When I feel good, I’m likely to eat well and feel optimistic. I try not to resent the time it takes. Of course, sometimes I’d rather be spending it on my butt watching TV or eating vanilla sugar wafers. Man, I love sugar wafers. But they don’t love me.

Some days it’s a struggle and some days I look forward to the time outside or on the mat, sweating and swearing at my yoga teacher under my breath – “Oh pleeeease, not another plank”.

The Lesser of Two Evils
Staying healthy as we age takes a bigger chunk of our time and attention. And some days that kind of sucks.

But it doesn’t suck as much as being sick all the time.

If you need help getting well enough to start working out, let’s talk. Adaptogen herbs can restore the strength and energy you’ve lost to chronic illness or poor lifestyle habits. You can read more about adaptogen herbs in this earlier blog.

The next time I see Tony will be around Christmas next year. And that’s soon enough. He’s already given me the gift that keeps on giving – a cheaper monthly premium than last year and a good reminder to keep moving.

I’m planning for plenty of healthy years ahead of me.

 

Related Post: An Ounce of prevention and a Pinch of Attention

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Has Your Progress Stalled Out? Try This Trick.

Has Your Progress Stalled Out? Try This Trick.

LouAnn suffers from painful arthritis and persistent fatigue.

LouAnn’s been coming to see me for a year, but around 6 months ago, her progress started to level off. When this happens, sometimes it’s because the client is tired of taking herbs and constantly having to monitor their health habits and practices.

Getting healthy when you’ve been struggling with chronic illness can be a chore. It’s like a full-time job with no vacation.

But LouAnn takes her personal health seriously. She never takes a day off from the herbal and lifestyle plan we put together.

Definitely not a quitter.

No one to blame
But something happened. She stopped improving. For a month or two, whenever she visited me, we’d try to sort out why no changes were happening.

“Did you stop taking your herbs?” No.

“Has your life been extra stressful lately?” No, not particularly.

“Are you still exercising?” Yep, still at it.

Do you ever feel like just when you have a grasp on something, you have to return to the basics and re-learn what you thought you knew?

It was so tempting to take her lack of progress personally.

Digging deep for answers
Instead of blaming and quitting, or seeing another practitioner, LouAnn talked about her stalled progress and asked if I had anything else in my bag of tricks. She wanted me to go deeper, talk to my colleagues for ideas, do some research.

Rather than guessing based on what I already knew, I questioned what information was missing. Then I leaned into the complexity of her health history. Outside our regular appointments, I had hours of extra work to do.

I set her file aside and in my down time, I dug deep into my herbal resources –  professional books, textbooks, practitioner guides and Chinese Medicine philosophy – for answers.

It paid off.

Studying clients like LouAnn, with complicated health histories and unusual symptom patterns, has made me question my assumptions. And in the end, it’s rearranged what I understand about ALL of my clients.

I’m glad my practice is attracting clients with more complex concerns.

Otherwise, my clinical skills might get a little stale.

I might start to think I know everything.

~~~

Today, I’m back to blogging just long enough to tell you that I’m still here.

I’ve just been a little quiet lately. Questioning my assumptions.

Sharpening my herbalist skills. Coming up with a new plan for LouAnn.

Thanks for hanging in there with me…

 

Related post:  Are You Listening Or Just Waiting Your Turn?

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Are You In Heavy Period Hell?

Are You In Heavy Period Hell?

Is this you?

“My period is like clockwork – it comes every two weeks.”

“Seven days of hell, that’s what I call it.”

“It’s like a crime scene every time I go the bathroom.”

You don’t put up with horrible periods because you have some twisted relationship to pain and misery. You don’t know what else to do.

You’ve worked with your doctor, tried multiple combinations of hormones, maybe even put yourself through major or minor surgery looking for solutions.

The Queen of Period Problems
One of the most distressing and exhausting problems for women is heavy periods. What does heavy mean?

  • Super absorbent tampons are a joke
  • Backup pad protection is no guarantee you’ll contain the overflow, especially at night
  • Embarrassing stains are so common that you never, EVER wear white pants
  • You make frequent bathroom visits to check for leaks

Excessive bleeding can make it feel like the life is draining out of you, ounce-by-miserable-ounce. And often it comes with a crampy, dull, aching sensation, like your pelvic cavity is being turned inside out.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If you’re a client of mine, you’ve probably heard me talk about Qi [pronounced ‘chee’]. Qi is an elusive but vital energy source your body uses to support every breath, digestive function, and blood cell. It’s like wind – you can’t describe what it looks like, but you can see it’s effects.

You can see the effects of weak Qi in heavy bleeders. Strong body Qi keeps blood in the vessels. When blood is flooding out, and for that matter, when skin sags and the bladder or uterus prolapse, these are signs that your Qi isn’t doing its job of holding things in place.

Why does Qi Get Weak? It’s a bummer, but heavy blood loss, from childbirth or trauma, or even periods themselves, can deplete Qi. You end up in the proverbial vicious cycle. Blood loss takes Qi away, which weakens blood.

Number two, you pay a heavy price for long-term emotional and physical stress. Be honest with yourself – do you get regular exercise, uninterrupted sleep, healthy groceries? Have you dealt with the emotional issues behind the anti-depressant you’re taking? All this takes time, money, and commitment to self-care, and let’s face it – that’s a hard prescription to swallow. It’s easier to ask your doctor for a pill.

The Downside of Hormones
Hormone therapy can regulate monthly blood flow, but it doesn’t address what caused the problem. It’s symptomatic relief at best.

Tinkering with hormone levels, and procedures like ablation and hysterectomy, can and do halt heavy bleeding, usually for good. Months later, some women find that symptoms they ignored, like fatigue, insomnia, and weight gain, take the place of period problems. The symptom went away, but the nagging root cause is still there.

Here’s Where Herbs Do Their Magic

The herbal approach to hormone imbalances nudges your body’s built-in capacity to heal, without the risks associated with hormone replacement.

A classic Chinese formula for deficient Qi, Four Gentlemen, can relieve the most common side effect of excessive menstrual bleeding, fatigue. When you’re feeling bone tired, tonic herbs restore strength, improve digestion, and bring back your luster.

Blood loss starves the heart and mind of vital nutrition, robbing you of restful sleep and weakening your memory and focus. Blood tonics like the well-known Dang Qui, and lesser known rehmannia, white peony, and ligusticum, restore blood to a rich, nourishing fluid needed to keep your heart and mind sharp.

Relief from insomnia, poor memory, fatigue, and digestive weakness is a lot to ask from any hormone supplement or surgical procedure. Fortunately, this is where herbal and natural therapies do their best work.

Yes, Girl, Herbs Can Do That

While Chinese herbal formulas help rebuild Qi, herbs like yarrow, shepherd’s purse, raspberry leaf, eclipta, ladies mantle, tienchi ginseng, and even our kitchen friend, cinnamon, can lighten blood flow and tone the female organs. These herbs individually, or in combination, give you hour-by-hour relief from heavy bleeding.

Mineral rich herbs like nettle leaf and oatstraw gradually replace lost nutrients and freshen a sallow complexion. Yellow dock root releases stored iron into the blood, relieving mild anemia.

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine”
Naturally, food also helps to gently restore Qi and blood.

A nourishing diet of warm root vegetables including squash, beets, and sweet potato, fill your plate with color and your mouth with the mildly sweet flavor that strengthens Qi. Dark, leafy greens restore iron and other minerals to a weak, depleted blood supply. Beef and lamb are a protein power duo when you feel wiped out by your periods.

Self-Care is NOT a Luxury
Rebuilding Qi takes some time and patience. In the meantime, light exercise, rest, extreme self-care, and major de-stressing maneuvers have to be moved to the top of the list.

Start with something as simple as letting those calls rollover to voicemail and taking a few moments for a power nap. Do you have a supportive family member who might alternate meal prep or shopping duties with you?

Can you fit in a 20-minute walk after dinner? Exercise, rest, and support are not luxuries when you’re exhausted and weak; they’re a prescription for recovery.

Qi deficiency by itself isn’t a life-threatening matter, but ignored long enough, it morphs into a depleted immune system and lower resistance to disease.

Today is always a good time to start new habits that support a long, healthy life. If you’re tired of heavy, draining periods every month, choose something safe, natural, and effective for long-term relief.

Call today for an appointment that could change the way you think about health care. Period.

Related Blog Posts in this Series:

Herbal Relief for PMS-related Acne, Cramps and Migraines

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What if Doctors Handed Out Vegetables, Not Prescriptions?

What if Doctors Handed Out Vegetables, Not Prescriptions?

As a student in herb school, I remember learning about a system of medicine where families would pay the village doctor to keep them healthy, but once a family member became ill, the service was free. What a brilliant twist on today’s approach to medicine – provide incentive to keep you from becoming a patient.

I’m not suggesting you pay me in chickens to keep you well all year. But if you could correct unhealthy patterns before they become disease, would you? If you could switch the focus to staying well instead of insuring expensive fixes to preventable problems, wouldn’t that make good sense?

Today, I saw a client who totally gets this approach. She isn’t suffering from any serious problems, eats a healthy diet, does work she loves, and is in a fulfilling relationship.

She’s a model client, and frankly, seeing her was a no-brainer. Until I understood what she was asking from me.

She wanted a different kind of client-provider relationship than I’m used to having. Instead of struggling to correct problems, she wanted my support and guidance to stay well.

She saw me as someone who could step back, look at her whole life, her daily practices, her dreams for the future, and offer some advice on how to stay in the good health place she’s in.

In the end, what she wanted was help managing her enthusiasm for the projects ahead of her, without getting overwhelmed and disorganized.

Health care isn’t about insuring against what might go wrong. It’s what you do to prevent that: exercise, schedule down-time, stay in community, laugh, work, eat a variety of foods, and check in with someone who asks what you’re doing right, not what’s going wrong.

Who’s keeping you accountable for your own good health? Is there someone you can call to ask about minor concerns before they become major problems?

For years of vitality, not a future of prescriptions and surgeries, start now with a baseline herbal assessment,  then follow up regularly to stay on the health track.

You can expect to feel healthy and vital as you age, and if that’s not the message you’re getting, then it’s time to see someone who practices health, not medicine.

What are your practices for staying healthy? Do you follow a special diet, workout plan or spiritual practice that keeps you well? Share your comments here and let us know what’s been working for you.

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How to Choose an Herbal Remedy That Works

How to Choose an Herbal Remedy That Works

Jan sat down across from me with a familiar look on her face. Hope. Resignation. Confusion. Overwhelm.

And next to her, in one of those reusable grocery store bags, was a jumble of every health food store supplement she’d bought in the past 6 months, some still unopened.

This was how Jan understood her health problem up until now – as a collection of deficiencies that she could supplement her way out of. It’s a pretty common misunderstanding, and it’s not her fault.

We fall prey to this thinking because we’ve been trained to think of wellness as a one-for-one proposition.

If anti-depressants are for depression, and statins are for high cholesterol, then there’s probably a vitamin, mineral, anti-oxidant, enzyme, or protein for every disease, symptom or syndrome.

That’s a piecemeal approach that never gets to the bottom of things. When heartburn, bloating, headaches, pain, insomnia, rashes, are viewed as unrelated and disconnected problems, each with their own separate solution, we miss the big picture.

When you take a this-for-that approach to health, you never see the patterns that emerge from looking at the bird’s eye view – like the tendency of your problem to be spasmodic, or worse in cold weather, or have a damp quality, or that stress makes it flare up. These patterns provide subtle clues to the remedy or healing method for you.

Instead of asking what pill goes with what symptom, ask what’s the nature of your misery?

  • Is the problem worse or better with heat?
  • Does it stay in one place or move around?
  • Is there pain, and is it sharp and stabbing or dull and achey?
  • Does the problem get worse when you feel tight and tense?
  • Are there other symptoms that mimic the sensation, frequency or severity of the issue?

Your problem has unique qualities that distinguish it from everyone else’s. So it makes sense that the remedy you take to feel better matches YOUR variety of trouble.

Let’s look at digestion, for instance. When symptoms like heartburn, gas, abdominal pain, bloating, belching, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, or hemorrhoids get to be a regular thing, it’s time to look for patterns and apply some general rules:

Cold makes things loose, clear or white, mucusy and slow. If your digestion or stool has these qualities, you need a remedy that warms things up. Herbs like fennel seed, cardamom pod, cinnamon bark, thyme leaf, sage leaf, oregano leaf, horseradish, ginger root, rosemary leaf, garlic bulb and black pepper introduce warm, stimulating, toning properties, lessening the constant need for over-the-counter anti-diarrhea products and even relieving a constantly runny nose.

Heat makes things activate. That’s mostly a good thing, until there’s too much heat. That looks like burning or heat sensations, hot burps, irritation, bleeding, redness and swelling (anywhere in or on your body). Look for herbs that cool and calm the heat– lavender flower, mint leaf, basil leaf, dandelion root, plantain leaf, elder flower, marshmallow root.

Most of these herbs for heat coat and soothe irritated tissue, especially in the digestive tract, reduce swelling, and allow heat to clear. This can eliminate or reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medicines or antacids, which deplete essential stomach acid and worsen digestive irritation over time.

When energy gets stuck, there’s usually cramping, pain, gas, bloating or constipation. Choose herbs that relax tissues and allow the ‘Qi’ to flow. Anti-spasmodics like cramp bark, skullcap, wood betony, hops, and oat seed blend well with the hot or cold herbs mentioned earlier, depending on which category you fall into.

When both your mood and your stomach are fussy and irritable, choose herbs that soothe, heal and calm your over-sensitive nervous system: catnip, chamomile flower, lavender flower, oat seed, meadowsweet, peppermint, anise seed, blue vervain, and lemon balm.

Plants know how to repair themselves and grow in cold, hot, soggy, dry, crowded or stressful conditions. They reach around obstacles for light, water and nutrients. In you, they gently nudge your built-in healing capacity.

Remember Jan? Jan was off to a good start buying and trying supplements one at a time. Her intention was to find a natural way to solve an imbalance before it became a disease with a name.

Like Jan, you might be looking for an answer to solve the supplement puzzle and avoid expensive medical visits, tests, and medications. Looking for patterns in your symptoms helps you decide where to start.

Next time you reach for a supplement bottle at your local health food store, ask yourself ,“Is there a plant with this name that grows in nature?” If it doesn’t grow in nature, it’s not an herb. If it’s not an herb, it doesn’t carry the healing energy of a plant that’s survived and thrived against all odds. Start over and look for an herb that matches your symptom pattern.

Multivitamins, CoQ10, fish oils, and iron supplements might be useful replacements for simple deficiencies, but they won’t stimulate your body to heal itself the way herbs do.

If you’ve been struggling with a chronic problem that’s not responding to ordinary dietary supplements, turn to the plants. Herbalism, and especially Traditional Chinese Herbalism, have safe, natural, and effective answers for many of today’s common ailments.

Tell me how you applied an herb to a health problem. Did it help?  What was the result?

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Food Fear Isn’t Making Us Any Healthier

Food Fear Isn’t Making Us Any Healthier

8 seconds. That’s how long I scrolled on Facebook to find a blog/link/post about the latest unhealthy food. Then, when I Googled the phrase ‘bad food’, I got 2.1 billion search results. Billion!

Food-fear is nothing new.

In the 70’s, we were warned that fat was bad for our arteries, so Mom switched us to margarine instead of butter. Remember how that margarine thing worked out?

Then, my dad’s doctor warned him against too much salt, so out the door that went. And forget about eggs. No way. Big killer.

In the 80’s, we counted calories, to drop the weight from the processed foods that replaced the evil fats we cut out in the 70’s.

In the 90’s, convenience was king, and we threw out all the rules and enjoyed our fast food lunches crammed into our 10-hour workdays. Life was all about success and big houses and keeping up with the Joneses.

Honestly, I don’t remember all the food fads over the past 40 years (and excuse me if I mixed up my decades), but some pretty lousy advice has been handed down under the guise of ‘research’ from food manufacturers, healthcare providers, and mass media.

I feel so guilty eating practically everything these days. Every food on the shelves, in the CSA box, or from the garden, has been so demonized.

Even something as purely healthy as an egg gets analyzed, researched, and questioned, until someone comes up with a ludicrous list of qualifications a simple egg should meet to enter our mouths:

  • Free-range
  • Omega-3 enhanced (what in the world did those poor chickens have to go through to qualify?)
  • Gluten-free (seriously?)
  • Farm-raised – is ANY farm strict enough to meet this standard?
  • Local (that’s always nice, I guess)
  • Fresh (doesn’t that go without saying?)

Once upon a time, eggs came in 4 sizes and by-the-dozen only.

Remember when the only bread choice we considered was homemade or store-bought? Now we worry about gluten, whole-grain, trans fats vs polyunsaturated ones, and food coloring. Since when does bread need to be colored?

For just one meal, I want to eat without running through the pedigree of my meal. I know I should be buying my food from local, organic farmers with free-range animal products and environmentally sustainable practices. I fully support these practices, but this takes an enormous amount of time. And a good plan.

And I’m working on it, little by little. I started by shopping the organic section of my grocery stores, reading food and farming blogs, and I’m finally going to join a CSA this Spring and see what THAT’S all about.

But for now, I’d like to pour a bowl of oatmeal without worrying about whether it’s organic or gluten-free, and top it with walnuts without wondering if they’re covered in pesticides, and mix it up with some organic milk that might not be from a farm nearby, and top it off with dried cranberries that probably have some sugar added because I couldn’t find the unsweetened ones I’m supposed to buy.

It would be a little slice of heaven to enjoy a warm spoonful of breakfast and not for a split second wonder if the grain is genetically modified.

I love to eat, but we’ve taken all the fun out of eating in our culture. Food is a minefield of potential cancer-causing, inflammation-inducing terror. No wonder everyone is so confused and stressed about what to feed their families.

Today, for just one meal, eat without guilt, or fear, or disappointment. Before you start your new eating habits – low fat, high fat, low sugar, no sugar, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, grass-fed – enjoy that juicy steak and baked potato smothered in gravy with a side of delicious, and sugary, gluten-laden pie for dessert with a smile on your face.

Life is stressful enough. Enjoy your food, even if it’s not the most healthy thing you’ve had this week. Then tomorrow, pick just one thing to do differently. Eat a little less, skip dessert, add a vegetable to your plate without worrying about who grew it. You’ll get there. It’s a process. One step at a time.

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How Long Have You Carried Your Grudge?

How Long Have You Carried Your Grudge?

Could forgiveness heal a relationship that’s important to you? My guest blogger, Life Coach Nancy Dennis, shares personal insight on how she learned the lesson of forgiveness.

I remember when I was first presented with the concept of forgiveness being a conscious choice. It had nothing to do with how I felt, wrongs being righted, or justice. Now this was news to me, because I had been wronged, deeply wronged, and anyone would agree with me. But here was an opportunity to see something differently. Not looking at what had happened, but looking at how I was going to choose to ‘be’ in the light of it.

What I learned was that forgiveness was not about saying what had happened was now OK or forgotten. It simply meant two things:

1. I would choose to no longer allow myself to roast the other person on the spit – to turn over and over again the wrongs done, and turn up the heat of my anger and resentment.
2. I would choose to no longer play the victim card — not in my mind, my conversation or my actions. The facts were facts, without right or wrong, and I was no longer reopening the wound and poking at it.

Up until that time, I believed that you had to feel ready to forgive, to in some way say “this is now OK”.

But forgiveness had nothing to do with feelings, or never remembering, or saying it no longer mattered. It had everything to do with moving on.

I was encouraged to begin this process when I was ready to commit to those two things – no more roasting on the spit, and no more victim.

Now here’s the interesting part…I found myself resisting this guidance. I convinced myself I just needed to get my head around it, needed more time, wanted to feel better about the concept – you get the drift. And then I proceeded to wrap this up in a nice tidy bundle and put it on the shelf way back in the recesses of my mind – in my “someday I’ll do this…” box.

It wasn’t until about 6 months later that forgiveness came up again. I was asked to look at how much time I had spent reviewing and rehashing the wrong done to me. And then to look at how long in physical time, the event had taken.

Lastly, how much longer was I going to surround myself with this toxic essence, when I could just decide to set it down, let it go, and be present and thankful for the here and now?

I realized it was time to forgive. To just lay it down, no more roasting on the spit, no more victim, no more looking back. Just let it go. I made the conscious decision to forgive, and I made the promise to myself that if I ever again brought up the thoughts or feelings, as soon as I recognized what I was doing, I would remember that I was no longer allowing myself to think like that – I had let this go. Love and peace and blessings to all.

If you’re reading this, and you find there is something or someone you need to forgive – if it’s niggling your heart – then I encourage you to make the choice to forgive. I guarantee you it is not serving you well.

From my own personal experience, forgiveness has been one of the best things I have done in my life.

You can reach Nancy for more life wisdom at coachnancy.dennis@gmail.com or http://www.coachnancydennis.com.

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A Strong Nervous System Helps You Withstand Extremes

A Strong Nervous System Helps You Withstand Extremes

On my morning walk today, the street was littered with little and big branches from a wild snow tornado thing that blew through the city the day before. Every few steps I was kicking away or stepping around fallen pieces of the trees, garbage can lids and stray yard stuff that was swept up and dropped off in the vortex of air.

The trees were just fine. As far as I know, very little damage was done to the city’s bare, brown maple, ash, apple, and every other species of Midwest tree. Those winds were up to 60 miles per hour, and still, the trees looked like they always do this time of year. Stark. Tall. Braced for winter but undamaged by it.

If trees are made to withstand freak ‘snow tornados’ and windy squalls, the weight of a heavy snow, and wide temperature variations (sometimes up to 60 degrees in one day around here), then aren’t we?

Yes. And no.

Yes, you have the capability to bend without breaking against the forces of cold and flu viruses, bacterial infections, mild stresses, and life’s unexpected events.

But you aren’t built to withstand the chronic levels of 21st century stress, with attention-draining electronic devices, ever-greater demands on time, and an environmental load of ‘approved’ chemicals that kills off several species a day*!

At least not without some serious damage.

Trees and plants handle the stress of a strong wind gust by bending their flexible extremities. They might shake loose a weakened branch or a few leaves, but 50 or 100 feet of roots anchor them solidly for survival.

It’s also in your nature to have a strong foundation, so, when stress happens, you bounce back. When a loved one dies, when you lose your job, your marriage, or a beloved pet, you grieve and feel the hurt and loss. After a while you’re on your feet again, wounded but alive.

There’s no denying that some people get an unfair load of stress dumped on them, and who wouldn’t crumble a little under that weight? That’s when you call in extra support, sort of how you’d brace a tree with rope and a stake until it can stand on its own again. You get more rest, nourishing foods, ask family and friends for help.

This is where herbs really shine. They take the load off by calming down the nervous system, helping you sleep more soundly and lifting the fog of fatigue, even in the midst of the hell swirling around you.

Herbs called ‘nervines’ help dial back your anxious energy and feed the nervous system. Passionflower, for instance, puts you to sleep when your head is spinning with repetitive thoughts. Motherwort regulates a heartbeat that’s racing from nervousness, and Lavender soothes the mind and calms an upset stomach.

Wood betony loosens tension in the neck and shoulders, where we hold so much of our stress. These are just a few of the many herbs that lend their gentle nature to our over-stimulated lives.

Like a tree under the constant stress of poor soil, drought or injury, stress leads to disease. If you’re planted where you can’t thrive, your foundation weakens and you’re vulnerable to disease.

Practice a little self-care right now. Make yourself a cup of tea, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, close your eyes, and rest your mind for 3 minutes. You just gave your mind a mini spa treatment!

Can you learn to bend and relax when life throws a snow tornado in your path? You can. Start by bringing some gentle natural healing into your day with calming herbs.

*https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

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Adaptogen Herbs Give You Strength of An Athlete

Adaptogen Herbs Give You Strength of An Athlete

One of the biggest factors threatening your immune health is fatigue.

Do you ever have that dream where you’re running as fast as you can but you’re getting nowhere? Your legs are dragging like cement and every step is a ridiculous effort. When you wake up, you’re exhausted and frustrated. THAT dream.

When ordinary tasks begin to seem disproportionately hard, you could benefit from a group of herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogens provide immune support by gently, steadily enhancing your feeling of well-being and energy.

Adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda, eleuthero, rhodiola, and ginseng (in medicinal doses), are deeply nourishing to over-stimulated nervous systems.

Russian scientists discovered that adaptogenic herbs boosted the performance of Olympic athletes and astronauts, who were subjected to constant, extreme levels of pressure to excel under stressful conditions. Does that sound like your life sometimes?

Months or years of high-stress living is a major drain on your kidney/adrenal organ system. And that’s exactly where adaptogens have a magic that no other substance can match.

By helping you ‘adapt’ to your very own, personal life stressors, like your mother-in-law’s voice or tight deadline demands, your nervous system can shift into neutral, allowing you to keep your cool more easily.

With long-term herbal support, your body avoids firing up adrenaline when it isn’t needed. In effect, adaptogens act as a supreme regulator of your fight-flight-freeze response.

Adaptogenic herbs allow your body to get out of security guard mode, into bystander mode, without losing the ability to respond quickly and effectively to REAL, life-threatening situations, like when a deer suddenly appears out of nowhere on a dark highway.

Not all adaptogens are created equal. Some are better for high-energy, Type A personalities that deal with stress by getting busier, while others are more effective for people who turn to food, sleep, and reclusiveness when life gets overwhelming.

Taken in appropriate doses with the guidance of a trained and experienced Herbalist, these healing plants can buffer the effect of stress on your immune system and protect you from colds and flu all year long.

Have you had the flu or a nasty cold yet this season? How did you treat the symptoms – rest, supplements, herbs, antibiotics? Share your experience with Natural Healing Omaha readers in the comments below.

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