Come Play!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Natural Awakenings Article, Jan 2016

Hi friends,

If you are new to this (very new) blog, jaunting over here from my article in the January Natural Awakenings, you will not need this post. If, however, you're new to this (very new) blog and have NOT read my article in Natural Awakenings, here is the link below!

Michelle xoxoxo

Natural Awakenings "Easy Does It" Jan 2016


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Easy Therapeutic-Strength Tea

(photo credit:
I absolutely love to drink warm mugs of things. Teas have always been a calming agent for me, and when I can do something medicinal in the process, I think it's a win-win. The benefit of a tea or tincture is especially prominent for people with impaired digestion as there is no tablet or even veggie capsule to break down first. It goes right into the bloodstream.

The problem with a teabag is there's no way to know the strength of what you've brewed. For someone with a weak constitution, this may actually be ideal, as it is a gentler way of introducing a healing agent and testing how you respond to it. Many times I've directed my clients to steep the tea for just 1-2 minutes and drink the weaker product as a means of testing response. Swallowing a capsule of 500mg of something, or even taking drops from a tincture, is still a lot more powerful than a weak tea and if you do not respond well, it can mean an exaggerated response for the body as it rejects a larger amount of the item.

For teabag users - You can make teas a tad stronger with your brewing method, such as to pour the near-boiling water atop the teabag, cover the cup with a plate, and let it steep for many, many minutes, too. Covering the cup has purpose. If you can smell the tea on the air as it steeps, some of the medicinal components are being lost into the air - that's what you're smelling. I tend to shake the condensed water droplets that have formed on the plate back into my teacup too, just to ensure I get all of the medicinal benefit.

I use a teabag a lot for things that offer digestive support or for gentle liver toning, for example, when dosage is not critical. I enjoy sipping on Dandelion and Milk Thistle tea - yes steep both teabags in the water together, with a splash of cream or dot of butter or coconut oil (milk thistle is a fat soluble herb and is utilized best when taken in with fats). This tea is not as enjoyable as drinking chai, so please don't expect it to be. It is, however, pleasant enough, and warming, and I feel a lot stronger after drinking it because it balances me.

But what if you want to take your tea as an exact measurement and milligram dose?

Open a capsule of your herb into the water, or put your tincture in the water instead.

There are some agents you wouldn't use this method for, for obvious reasons, like HCl (hydrochloric acid) because you could burn the delicate tissues of the throat!

My favorite way to use this method is for things that I want to reach my stomach already usable, or things I want to coat my throat with, such as Slippery Elm. Slippery Elm has long been a favorite herb of mine. It binds to damaged mucosa all along the digestive tract, and once in the bloodstream, also binds to mucosa in the respiratory tract too, coating them and soothing them until they heal. I have Slippery Elm tincture in my cabinet apothecary but I still prefer to use the powdered bark in tea sometimes too, as it has a lubricating effect on the intestines. It creates a mucilogenic gel that helps calm a damaged gut and also adds a softness and slipperiness to the bowels, helping them pass by damaged intestinal membranes with ease.

Teas tell us to slow down. Teas help us comfort ourselves. It's nice to incorporate those elements with healing herbs at the same time.

As I write this, I'm sipping on "ginger tea" which is one capsule of powdered ginger root (550mg) in a mug of warm water. You can sweeten with raw honey if you desire but honey is irritating to me right now. I'm using the ginger as a Prokinetic agent to speed the movement of my breakfast through my intestines, preventing non-beneficial bacteria from feasting on my food for very long. But in the process, I'm relaxing and enjoying this tea. It's quite lovely.

The important disclaimer to insert here is this: Don't do this without guidance because when you use an herb at a structured dose, it becomes a NATURAL DRUG. Like any other drug, it carries side effects, toxicity risks, etc. There is a vast difference between drinking two cups of ginger tea via a teabag than using two measured dosage capsules! I'm just offering you a way to take some of the supplements you may already be using, or ones recommended by your healthcare practitioner, in new ways that might offer differing benefits. Always check with your healthcare provider to ensure the item you want to use as a tea is best used in that fashion.

Respecting herbs, vitamins, minerals and nutrients is all a part of this. This is not a willy-nilly process.

So having said that, I encourage you to consider taking some of your natural treatments in the form of a tea, and relax and enjoy the moment!

To your next cup,
Michelle xoxoxo

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Vague Sense That Something Is Wrong

Have you ever had a moment where you just knew something was very wrong or off with you, but you could not find exactly what?

Many, many of us (me included) have gone to our doctors with nothing more than this. Occasionally there are mild complaints that seem unconnected - "Doc, I just don't feel well. I sleep restlessly. I get reflux at night. I'm achy." A lot of doctors are basically unable to help us. Symptoms and signs are very different things when it comes to a medical presentation needed for a diagnosis. Insurance won't pay for the diagnosis of "she has the sense that something's off".

I have counseled numerous clients who have come to me with nothing more than this description, though, and I always tell them, "you know your own body", because you do. It doesn't mean that you're in stage 4 cancer to have the sense of something wrong, although I have actually had a client with advanced cancer who had almost no symptoms sans the feeling of being "off". He was not the norm.

The norm is that we are exhausted, depleted individuals with hectic lives. We eat meals that, if prompted to journal them for a week and present them to someone like me, we would probably be embarrassed to write down. The term "boil the frog slowly" comes to mind because we humans are highly adaptive and we acclimate fast to things we once said we'd never let happen to US.

For instance:

* We make a minimum of 2 fast food runs a week because we are genuinely too tired to even PLAN how to make a meal that day.

* We put off routine checkups and dental cleanings, addressing problems only when they are, in fact, now problems.

* We snap at our kids at night because we can barely drag our bodies through our nighttime routines, only to stare at their sweet sleeping faces and fill with regret for all the time we're losing.

*We live in marriages that were once thriving, alive organisms, but now we stare across the room at a stranger.

* We sit on our devices, isolating ourselves from the people that matter most whilst reading the "highlight reels" of others' lives on social media - people we may never even actually meet.

* We grocery shop based on sales instead of plans, because who can make a plan? After all, if you had time to plan, you'd have time to make better food. We hope to get inspired at the grocery store, falling prey to the advertising schemes that keep us addicted to unreal, unwhole, processed fake foods.

* We save up all our spiritual energy for one Sunday morning church service, which, if we were honest, we attend more from guilt or emptiness than positive motivation. We hope that someone else will somehow inspire us to keep going and to remind us of who we are inside.

* We know that we're empty on many levels, and that something is wrong. But we don't know exactly WHAT, or, how to fix it.

This life is a VICIOUS CYCLE. And no one I've ever known has been immune to this cycle. We all fall victim at one point or another.

Imagine yourself as a 6 ounce teacup. Every morning, you wake up with 6 ounces of tea in you. But the hurry of the morning takes an ounce. A fight with a coworker takes an ounce. The fast food meal that inflames your depleted body takes 2 ounces. By the time the kids and your spouse need an ounce or two, you're scraping the bottom. What's left for you?

There is an alternative. We first fill and nourish our own cups, and then nourish others with the overflow. We honor ourselves, our temples, as a vehicle of Light in this world.

We have a chance to show our children that the legacy of misery we've created is not their destiny. The best gift we give our children is the example we set in our own self care. (Or would you prefer they wind up sitting here reading an article like this in 20, 30, 40 years?)

The best gift we give our spouse is the way we show ourselves love first. It sets a tone for the entire relationship.

And most importantly, the best gift we give to God is the cream from the top. Because He rewards us by overflowing our cups.

Don't PANIC. You can turn this round. Humans are habitual animals. When something is askew, you merely have to slowly retrain yourself.

But don't do like you've always done when you've launched a campaign of self care - don't jump in with both feet, an arm, and two ears, all at once. Just dip a toe in. Start small, and let it become habit. Then add something else. I'm not kidding, before long you could move an ocean with a teaspoon, if you simply made up your mind to do it and kept going.

Please keep going, once you start. And start now. But start small. Pick something do-able. Start it tomorrow.

Before you know it, you'll have the vague sense that something is very, very right, my friends.

All my love and well wishes this fresh, bright, sparkly New Year,
Michelle xoxoxo

Monday, December 7, 2015

Eggroll Cabbage, for Cabbage Haters of the World

So, my husband.

Prior to us marrying, he was a starchy veggie lover and a raw veggie lover only. And I was cool with that - after all, I said to myself, I can cook the other stuff just for me, or just when he's at work.

Yeaaaaaah, right.

What happens down the road, and especially with kids, is by the time you've made a dish to make all three of you happy, and another, and one more, you're not geared up to make one just for you.

Okay so chalk this up to self-care issues if you wish, but, time is a factor as well. Truly.

I have a longstanding romance with cruciferous veggies.... aka, cole crops... aka "the stinkiest" of the plant kingdom. The Farties, if you will. Cabbage (purple, savoy, green, Bok Choy) I love you all. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kale, Cauliflower, Mustard Greens, you're my best friends.

Nom Nom Nom. Forty years of Nomming.

Enter Matthew. No Nomming except raw, which is really the way I least like to eat them. Many years pass on the Nom Nom rivalry.


This glorious "Eggroll Cabbage". See, I knew he ate eggrolls and he didn't spit out the cabbage, and I got to thinking, how can I make it taste eggroll-ey outside of a deep fried dough?

It turns out it was so easy that I groan, just thinking of all the cabbage love we could have been having all these years.

May I introduce you to the world's easiest yummo cabbage for cabbage haters:

You wanna know why this picture sucks? Because we ate almost all of it before I realized I'd not snapped a pic. I put the pan leftovers on a paper plate and grabbed a pic.

Now onto how simple it was to bring cabbage onto our dinner plates all these years without my knowing.

1. Buy a bag of coleslaw blend - you heard me right, there's not even any chopping involved. Because I love you.
2. Get a relatively shallow baking pan. I use Granite Ware over glass because I want the crispies, with their developed flavor that makes this extra YES.
3. Here's the order: 1/8 cup (2T) of the fat of your choice. Real butter is my fav by far (and Earth Balance or coconut oil for a Vegan version is also fine). Olive Oil leaves it a little flat, coconut imparts an extra dimension that I didn't enjoy as much. Then just shy of 1 tsp of sea salt. (These ratios are for the gigantic bag of coleslaw blend that we buy at Sam's Club. If you're using a grocery store (small) bag, cut these measurements down to 1T of fat and 1/2 tsp salt.) If your gut allows onion, a 1/2 tsp of onion powder would rock here, too. Sprinkle these cabbage atop and prepare to bake at 400. It will look like this going in:

Bake this for about 20 min before stirring, to ensure you get a lovely brown going on on top and the sides. If not brown, let it go to 25 min before stirring. Then stir once, and let it go to desired tenderness - I did 20, stir, then 10 more. Brown is good. Brown crispy edges. Oh yes. Flavor development.

I'm soon to take this shreddy goodness and turn it into Colcannon with a twist. More on that soon. For now,
Michelle xoxoxo

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's Not The Chocolate You Crave, It's The Magnesium

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause crazy stuff to happen inside us.

I'll never forget when I was in college for nutrition, I caught an episode of a medical show where a woman had a condition called Pica, characterized by eating and drinking all sorts of nonfood items - although in underdeveloped countries it is usually dirt that people crave. The woman in the episode was drinking everything in sight - and in an emergency room setting, would you care to imagine the things she could get a hold of? {{{shudder}}}

It was literally days later that my next class module began, and it was about nutritional deficiencies and how they manifest. Copper excess or deficiency can cause everything from schizophrenia to hair loss. B12 deficiency can cause a sore tongue. Vitamin A deficiency can cause those creepy pimply looking bumps on the back of the upper arm (I know, because I had them at one point). Pica can be caused by a lack of minerals, hence the eating dirt.

In my practice, the most common deficiencies I saw were water soluble vitamins, and alkaline minerals.

Water soluble vitamins include the B complex spectrum and also Vitamin C.

This is a pretty basic list of the major B's, although I don't see Choline, Biotin, PABA, or Inositol on here:

Speaks to self briefly: This post is about magnesium, Michelle. Don't go crazy talking about water soluble vitamins.

Okay so back to magnesium! ... Magnesium deficiency causes.... well,l first let me say that all vitamins and minerals work to maintain..... stop, stop Michelle, you're going to get sidetracked....

Meh, too late, there's no stopping this train now.

So why do we need water soluble vitamins and how do we become deficient? Well, we can't store them in fat cells, like we do with fat soluble ones. They literally have to be continuously consumed. And they're heat and light sensitive. In fact, by the time you buy an orange that has sat on the grocery shelf for a week it has lost perhaps 30% of its Vitamin C content, and when you pull back the peel, exposing the flesh to air, it loses another 10% or so. That's just crazy. Not to mention that when you COOK a fruit or veggie high in Vitamin C, you generally destroy the C completely.

Oh the pressure!

That's why I am a believer in *some* micronutrient supplementation. Many recent foodie camps don't suggest it, and even say it harms or stresses the immune system. Speaking as my own patient, and as a woman who was born with an immune disease, I can tell you that when you need 'em, supplements can rock your world. Some stuff is not especially safe for long term use, like Echinacea. It is designed for short term, less than 3 weeks, as an immediate stimulant to white blood cell production. Long term it can actually REDUCE production via overstimulation.

But I literally cannot get enough water soluble vitamins, as someone with adrenal issues and immune issues. Even if I grew my own food, in perfectly fertile soil rich in nutrients, and ate only foods containing water soluble vitamins, I'd probably still have deficiency. Your endocrine system practically RUNS on them, ESPECIALLY the adrenals - that's why B vitamins give you energy - they help your own energy-producing glands work better. And strong adrenal function is life preserving. 

So yes, I supplement. And I supplement in ways I can digest and I boost digestion when I am taking them, because there's nothing worse than buying expensive supplements and not breaking them down.

...Okay, okay, so back to Magnesium, finally...

Why do we need to ensure we get enough? Well, do you enjoy your heart regularly beating? Do you like to poop? Do you want to avoid panic attacks, anxiety and depression? How about headaches - do you enjoy not having those? Do you want strong bones as you age?

Then you absolutely need to attend to your magnesium intake. 

Especially if, like me, you have a condition of anxiety. I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from some very severe traumatic experiences, and my brain used to be stuck in terror mode, unbeknownst to me. I drained my reserves of essential vitamins and minerals by running my adrenals around the clock. I was so distressed that I couldn't think, and therefore, didn't think about how I could have eased my PTSD, in part, with nutritional medicine.

This article is in my opinion the best thing ever written on magnesium and psychology. I love that it was written by a reputable source like Psychology Today. Even if you don't understand all the lingo, you'll be better off having read it. The relationship between magesium and neuron excitement is profound. Magnesium is literally a chill pill.

This year I went through an intense period of severe reflux which was so bad that I needed actual prescription medicine from a gasteroenterologist. It was wreaking havoc on my asthma, causing me chest pains (an ER trip resulted) and causing enough inflammation that I could not digest food. I believe in natural and preventative medicine as the first line of defense AGAINST the experience I had. However, now I was in it very thickly, and Western medicine has its place - I knew I needed help. This was all during the time period when I got diagnosed with PTSD and I was having a lot of trouble eating at all. I didn't eat well for several months.

After I went through treatment for PTSD, and I got the reflux backed down with a prescription proton-pump inhibitor, I was able to step back and think about what I could do, dietarily, to help my body calm down. I prefer to use medications as if they were for acute illness, on a short term basis, because most of the chronic illness in this country is treatable with lifestyle modification. The first thing that came to mind was eating food, , but in ways that did not irritate my healing digestive tract. 

Once that was in place, I began noticing that I was having some odd specific food cravings, particularly at certain times of the day. I was having daily cravings for fruit (bananas especially) and chocolate in the afternoons. Coupled with a new severe constipation and thick, large stool, I realized that I was experiencing a magnesium deficiency! 

The moment I took the first magnesium supplement, I knew I'd done something right. In fact, a sense of calm came over me about 35 min later and I thought, "Wish I'd thought of this sooner...".

We create such dependency on Western medicine because we do not intervene with the appropriate agents for healing. Even me, and I do this for a living. We're all human after, all, and even nutritionists don't always see the forest for the trees.

There's so much more to be said about magnesium, and really, about nutrient deficiency in general, than today's post can even cover. I hope this piques your interest and gets you wondering what deficiencies might be causing some of your mental and physical symptoms.

If you'd like to know more about the role of magnesium in the body, please ask questions in the comment section below. I love talking about vitamins and minerals! 

May we all realize what we're truly in need of, so we can heal.
Michelle xoxoxo


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Can Sodium Intake Really Affect Blood Pressure?

Well, it's partly about your adrenal function.

And most of us are not especially kind to our adrenals, right?

When we hear "adrenals" we all think about cortisol.

Cortisol, our fight-or-flight hormone, when secreted in large amounts has been coined the "death hormone". It accelerates the aging process at an alarming speed by constantly keeping us in hyperdrive. Our blood pressure and heart rate rise, to allow blood to be available to muscles and organs that need to take flight, or to defend. Our blood sugar also rises, allowing glucose to be available to the brain and muscles, for energy to think fast on our feet and to run when needed. That's really the shortened version of a complex system that's in place to literally be lifesaving.

However, the mechanism of fight-or-flight, while vital for the very preservation of our lives, does not need to be activated very often. When we are being chased by a sabre tooth tiger, you certainly want it to work. But nowadays, we create sabre tooth tigers in all sorts of settings - home, at work, our commutes, even on vacations, and our adrenals stay on high alert... sometimes constantly. This was the case for me, having PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Over time, this constant "hyperdrive" wears out our organs and glands, and strains our circulatory system, preventing it from adequately transporting blood and fluids.

Cortisol is also responsible for controlling inflammation. If you read anything anywhere online, especially Facebook, you've heard that the underlying cause of practically everything we die from is related to inflammation. More on that in a later post, but, tuck that away in the 'ole noggin.

Cortisol is seriously important. We ask so much of it, and of the glands that produce it, by the lifestyles we live. We beat those poor glands into submission. But that can't last forever.

And just as an aside, we also create plenty of fight-or-flight in our bodies artificially, with food and drinks and medications. Sugar and caffeine work to stimulate the adrenals like a sabre tooth tiger attack. (Bummer. Yes, I know.) In small doses these agents are not harmful. But since when does the average person moderate items like sugar or caffeine?

Yes that's nice, but how does this tie into sodium and blood pressure, Michelle?

Glad you asked! The adrenal glands, those tiny glands that sit atop each of your kidneys, do not just make cortisol.

The adrenal cortex (outer part) produces cortisol, aldosterone, and small amounts of the precursor to the sex hormones.

The adrenal medulla (inner part) produces epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Truthfully, all the above hormones play a vital role in maintaining the pressure and volume of blood. But for now, to keep things simple, let's talk about our friend Aldosterone.

This little goody is directly responsible for how much sodium or potassium the body stores. It works in relationship with a kidney hormone called renin.

Sodium and Potassium work on a "negative feedback mechanism". Imagine a see-saw. When one goes up, the other goes down. Eat a banana, and your potassium rises, which means sodium declines. Go get McDonald's anything, and your sodium levels skyrocket.

At least, until your kidneys and your adrenals (via Aldosterone) do something about it. Your glorious, gorgeous kidneys manage so much bodily crap as you are sitting there watching TV, blissfully unaware. They excrete everything from white blood cells that have eaten invading bacteria, to excess sugar or sodium, to acids created by metabolic processes and eating acidic foods. They work hard.

I'd say your adrenals probably work harder.

Even so, it's basically a link-in-the-chain thing. When one of the links weakens or breaks, the whole system goes down.

When your adrenals are weakened and not producing the above hormones with steady regularity, or not able to meet the demands of a sudden stressor because you're constantly creating stressors and overworking them,...

Then when you need them they cannot perform.

So, here we are back to the original question about the relationship between sodium and blood pressure. When I was growing up, my father, who literally spewed misinformation like a font 24/7, repeatedly told me that eating salt like I was would give me high blood pressure.

Not true.

Having organs and glands that are overworked and unable to process out the sodium we take in CAN cause hypertension.

Your body works very hard at maintaining status quo. That's basically its #1 priority. Just as your body will rob your bones/organs/tissues/teeth of calcium in order to keep a specific blood pH level, (preventing you from dying instantly), so the kidneys and adrenals work in harmony to maintain your blood volume and pressure and keep the heart from having to work super hard.

You, dearest Glorious Temple owner, are an entire ecosystem. Does sodium affect blood pressure? Certainly, in persons whose kidneys and adrenals are strained or diseased. But we regenerate all the time and we can HEAL nearly all of these issues at the core. We simply must be kinder and more loving to our Temple.

Now there's an idea that's worth its salt. ;-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

For The Love Of The Game

After a 3 year pause from the world of nutritional medicine, I'm returning, but in a new way.

For The Love Of The Game.

Back in the day I pursued my career because it was a passion, but, it was also my daytime job. At present I have a pretty hefty daytime job, educating my son and running my home. Now I'm in the wellness game for the sheer love of it.

I think I have more to say now than I ever did. With a pregnancy wrought with endocrine disasters under my belt, and still rewiring my body from that, I come with a perspective on post-motherhood bodies that I never had.

I'm anxious to share a lot of what I've studied as I've regained my health. I'm not to the "vibrant" phase yet, but, I'm headed there. I think a lot more factors go into that than I realized, back in the day.

For as difficult as it has been, it is also exciting to be here!

To our Health, and our glorious Temples,
Michelle xoxoxo