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The Best Wellness Supplements to Keep Sickness at Bay

When you’re sick or starting to feel sick, these are the four supplements that you WON’T want to be without. When I feel myself starting to get run down, I of course try to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating a nutrient dense diet, eliminating processed foods, and washing my hands regularly, but sometimes all of these things aren’t possible or enough, and I need a little boost.

Being a busy stay at home mother of four (soon to be five), I don’t get to take “sick days” (although my husband does pamper me on the weekends and when he’s at home). So, when I see everyone around me dropping like flies, or when I start to feel the first onset of an illness, I try to take it easy as much as I can and start loading up on these supplements. It’s amazing how when you take a supplement that’s REALLY good, you can feel the positive effects right away.

Over the years through much research and experimentation, these are what I have found to be the best wellness supplements on the market!

1. Pure Radiance C

I have done a TON of research about vitamin C supplements and tried everything under the sun. These pills are simply AMAZING! If I take ONE PILL when I am starting to feel sick, within 30 minutes, I can literally feel my symptoms start to reverse.

Pure Radiance C

Pure Radiance C

Vitamin C is an excellent supplement when you’re feeling sick because it helps to boost the immune system, but this vitamin C from Pure Radiance is different from the acidic chewable tablets you’ll find at the grocery store. Instead of containing the synthetically manufactured component of vitamin C known as ascorbic acid, Pure Radiance C contains only vitamin C derived naturally from berries. And although studies show that they both boost the immune system equally, I have experienced different results. I think it’s because it’s very concentrated, and that is why I notice such a difference from just one pill.

You can obtain vitamin C naturally from diet in foods such as raw milk (vitamin C in pasteurized milk is destroyed) and fruits and vegetables such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries and brussel sprouts, but fruits and vegetables today don’t pack the same nutrient dense punch as they used to because of the depletion of nutrients from the soil. That is why I especially try to make sure to buy organic produce during cold and flu season.

2. Activate – C

This dietary supplement drink mix has blown me away with its effectiveness. The powerful combination of ingredients and the ease of taking it in delicious liquid form makes it something that everyone in our family enjoys. When I start to feel sick and drink one of these, I feel a noticeable improvement in my health right away.

Activate - C

Activate – C

Activate – C is a supplement you add to water that contains 1,200 mg of Vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid, water soluble, acts as an antioxidant), 15 mg of zinc (white blood cells can’t function without zinc), vitamin E (a fat soluble antioxidant…so take this with a meal that contains fat), astragalus extract (a powerful immune booster), and aronia berry extract (which has more antioxidants than elderberry).

3. Wellness Formula

This used to be the ONLY supplement we ever needed to keep sickness at bay, but since they changed their recipe, it just doesn’t pack the same punch as it used to. But still, if I take these pills when I FIRST start feeling sick, I am usually able to prevent the illness from settling in. They also have liquid and chewable options for children (although they don’t boast as impressive of an ingredient list).

Wellness Formula

Wellness Formula

I actually wrote an entire blog about how this was the ONLY wellness supplement I needed, and even though this is a part of my “wellness arsenal”, it’s no longer at the top of my list ever since they modified their ingredient list to pretty much include less of everything…so it’s still effective, you will just need to take a LOT of it.

*There is a warning label advising that this is not for pregnant or breastfeeding moms…although I believe that this is because not every ingredient has been through a clinical trial for this demographic. I personally have taken it after researching each ingredient and have had no problems, but this is also why I prefer having other sources for wellness supplements while I’m pregnant and/or nursing. 

4. Umcka

My sister married a man from South Africa, and Umcka is his family’s secret weapon against illness. Unlike the other supplements, this doesn’t need to be taken at the onset of illness. It’s meant to be taken during illness and will shorten the duration and severity. I usually like the cold care formula in a drink, but the chewable tablets are good too and the kids love them!

Umcka

Umcka

The main ingredient in Umcka Cold Care is pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as African geranium, a medicinal herb. It is especially effictive for treating acute bronchitis and increasing the body’s natural healing rate. Read more about it here!

5. Other Supplements

These supplements aren’t currently part of my regular regime, but I have had success with them in the past, and they might work perfectly for you!

  • Throat Coat Tea – When you wake up in the morning, and it feels like your throat is clogged with phlegm or is sore from coughing, preparing this tea with a bit of raw honey will do wonders!
  • Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough Syrup – If you have a little one who is having trouble sleeping because of a bad cough, this all natural syrup is amazing! It has vitamin C and zinc to boost the immune system along with honey (so don’t give to children under 12 months) and melatonin (a natural hormone, safe for kids) to help them sleep.
  • Chewable Vitamins for Kids – For our kids, sometimes giving them some cheap chewable vitamin C and chewable vitamin D (especially when they’re not getting much sun) can help them keep sickness at bay. I also like giving them these children’s vitamins that are designed to be recognized by the body as food.
  • Bee PropolisBees create this propolis out of tree resin and honey to seal small cracks in their hive. It basically acts as nature’s antibiotic and is great for ear infections, killing very harmful bacteria, stopping the growth of candida, and boosting the immune system. I have noticed really good results after using this.
  • Elderberry Syrup – You can make your own by boiling dried elderberries or you can buy it. It’s supposed to be an amazing immune booster, but I have just never found it to be super effective, although I have heard many people swear by it!

In Conclusion

If you’re scouring the internet because you’re feeling sick or want to prevent illness in your home as we embark on yet another cold and flu season, then you will be bombarded with one article after another touting a variety of different claims, so I am here to tell you that these are the supplements that have worked for me and my family.

Nothing is as good as getting lots of quality sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating nutrient dense foods, and avoiding overly processed food substitutes, especially for our little ones, but sometimes the cold and flu season is especially brutal and we need a boost (or a break), and that’s when these supplements can make all of the difference.

What's So Bad About Phthalates?

What’s So Bad About Phthalates?

I’ve done a bit of research about phthalates to know that they are bad, but I wanted to dig a little deeper to see just how bad and learn more about the possibilities for exposure.

My Health Journey

As a health conscious mother of four (soon to be five) and also on a pretty strict budget as a stay at home mom, I’m always trying to balance out health and cost. I first of all try to serve my children as much nutrient dense food as possible while at the same time try to eliminate as many toxins as I can. That being said, stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol which leads to inflammation, free radical damage, and a weakened immune system, so I try to avoid that too by not getting too paranoid about things that can affect our health.

That being said, I believe the best health journey is one that is continuous and involves baby steps. Once, I tried throwing out everything processed and only purchased organic whole foods, but the cost was overwhelming and something we couldn’t support on one income. So now, we do what we can, and I’m always trying to just focus on the next step rather than the final destination.

In this series of articles, I would like to explore some of the toxins that are lurking in our everyday lives, explain what they are, how they are hurting us, and discuss how they can be avoided. I hope that this research will serve our family as we continue our health journey, choose better and safer products, and try to live the best life that we can every day for both our current and future health.

What are Phthalates?

Most phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-ates) are plastcizers that are added to plastics (such as vinyl flooring, raincoats, shower curtains, plastic toys, and IV drip bag tubes) to make them more flexible and harder to break. They are also added as a dissolving agent (solvent) and fragrance carrier to many personal care products including soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and laundry detergents.

*On a side note, phthalates are not commonly found in things like plastic wrap, food containers, and water bottles…although these plastics do contain other dangerous chemicals that can leech into your food and beverages that I will discuss in future articles.

Finding Phthalates on Labels

If you’re a label reader (like me), the scary thing about phthalates is that under current law, they can simply be labeled as “fragrance”, even if they make up to 20% of the product.

If you’re looking at your labels, you may notice different acronyms and names:

  • DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) – used in nail polish and other personal care products
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate) – used in personal care products, such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, aftershave lotion, shampoo, hair gel, and hand lotion
  • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) – used in vinyl flooring, car-care products, and personal care products
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate) – used in insect repellent, plastics, and solid rocket propellant
  • DEHP (di-phthalate, bis-phthalate, or 2-ethylhexyl phthalate) – used as a softener in PVC products, such as IV bags, tubing, and other medical devices

*In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a law calling for the phthalates DBP, DEHP, and BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate) to be banned in all toys (including teething toys) and bedding intended for children 12 and under. There are, however, no regulations on phthalates in toys made in China, and they have been tested to have very high levels (28%-38%).

Why are Phthalates Dangerous?

While most studies reflect the effects of phthalates on animals, the results have been disturbing enough for people to start taking notice. Most adults will metabolize phthalates through the digestive system and excrete them via feces or urine, but this isn’t really possible for fetuses in the womb and particularly dangerous for the immature digestive system of infants and young children, so they are most at risk.

While more research is needed, animals studies show that low exposure to DBP phthlates (found in most grocery store cosmetics) can damage the reproductive system of males and that DEHP (used to soften plastics) is toxic to the developing fetus (especially at high exposures such as experienced by those undergoing medical procedures). Other studies show that,

“there is a potential for phthalates to impact birth outcomes, including gestational age and birth weight, fertility (lower sperm production), and anatomical abnormalities related to the male genitalia,” states Maida Galvez, a pediatrician and director of the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in New York City.

Phthalate exposure is also linked to asthma, the timing of puberty, childhood obesity, and other health conditions such as breast cancer.

How to Avoid Phthalates

While I don’t think it’s practical or possible in this day and age to chuck every man made material possession and move deep into the woods to be free from human influence or innovation, there are some ways that we can start to eliminate our phthalate exposure both gradually and practically.

  1. Look for phthalates or fragrance on labels. Avoid anything with “fragrance” or any mention of any type of phthalate. Instead of using air fresheners, just put a few drops of essential oils into a spray bottle filled with water.
  2. Look for phthalate-free labels. This may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but it is a pretty good way to find things that are free from phthalates. 🙂 Look for phtalate-free labels on cleaners and cosmetics especially.
  3. Check the bottom of plastic bottles and choose those labeled #2, 4, or 5. Avoid #3 and #7 because they may contain phthalates.
  4. Use a french press for coffee. The plastic tubing and high heat in coffee pots are a recipe for high phthalate exposure.
  5. Don’t buy plastic toys from China. If you buy children’s toys in the U.S. (made after 2008), they cannot contain phthalates, but even still, you might want to steer towards wooden toys like these wooden teethers that my friend makes! And don’t buy plastic toys from China (or other countries) where there are no regulations on phthalates.
  6. Know where your milk comes from. Even organic milk may have passed through plastic tubes (with DEHP) on the way from the cow to the bottle. The fatty acids in milk basically pull the the DEHP out of the plastic tubing and into the milk. We actually get raw milk from a farm (that we have visited) where the milking is done by hand and never touches plastic of any kind.
  7. Sweat more. Sweating helps your body to eliminate phthalates twice as effectively as elimination through urine. So, adults can exercise more or visit the sauna!
  8. Be careful when painting. Most paints have DBP to help them spread better, so make sure there are no children are around and the room is well ventilated, or look for natural paints without DBP.
  9. Choose non-vinyl options if possible. For example, you can check out these non-vinyl shower curtain options and these PVC and phthalate free raincoats at Puddlegear that will not produce chemical off-gassing bringing phthalates into your environment. *These options are expensive and things I would save for more advanced elimination.

Conclusion

The people most at risk from phthalate exposure are unborn babies and infants (especially males), so it’s especially important for pregnant mamas and parents of young children to be aware of things that contain phthalates. During human studies, women have tested higher for the type of phthalates found in cosmetic products, so women are typically at greater risk as well. So before slathering lotion on yourself or your baby, spritzing on some perfume, or washing your clothes, check your labels and know what you’re putting onto and into your body.

Like I said before, I don’t think it’s worth the stress to get super paranoid about every possible danger in life because we’re all going to die one day anyways, but by taking thinking of it as a health journey instead of a health destination, we can continuously choose one thing at a time to improve in our lives that will help not only our current health, but our future health, and the health of future generations as well.

Embracing Motherhood How to Make Bone Broth

How to Make a Nourishing Chicken Bone Broth

Making a good chicken bone broth (or chicken stock as it is also called) is one of the simplest and most nourishing things you can make. You can use it immediately to make some chicken soup, put it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it to use later, freeze it in ice cube trays to have little bursts of “bullion” to use whenever you need it, or you can simply sip a nice hot mug of it instead of coffee or as a snack/meal replacement.

Health Benefits of Chicken Broth

I love making soup of any kind because it provides a nice complete meal that can feed my family at a moment’s notice for the week, but I especially like making any kind of soup with chicken bone broth because it is pretty much the most healing and most nutritious food there is.

Chicken bone broth is easy to both digest and metabolize (two things that are very different yet people think are the same…I’ll be exploring this in more depth at a later time). This makes it perfect the perfect food when you are trying to heal from any chronic illness or are sick with the flu or the common cold.

During digestion, the gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, which helps to support proper digestion. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon also states that chicken soup,

“Has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system. It is easily pulled away from the intestine through too many laxatives, too many additives…and parasites.”

Chicken broth also contains valuable minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals that are in a form your body can easily absorb. When your body is healing, you NEED these nutrients from nutrient dense food to heal.

Another cool thing about bone broth is that because of the anti-inflammatory acids such as arginine, it helps to inhibit infection caused by cold and flu viruses. In her article, Broth is Beautiful, Sally Fallon explains,

“Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.”

My Recipe

Ok, so are you ready to make some broth? For such a simple meal, there sure are a lot of different recipes for bone broth. With four young children underfoot, I like to cook food that’s as nutritious as possible as simply as possible. This is why I don’t add anything (except apple cider vinegar, which helps to draw out the minerals) to my bone broth. You can surely get creative and add whatever you’d like, but if you’re looking for simple, you’ve come to the right place!

Ingredients

  • One Whole Roasted Chicken (Preferably organic and pastured, the stock will not gel properly with a battery-raised chicken.)
  • One Large Pot
  • Cold Filtered Water
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (This pulls the minerals, especially calcium, out of the chicken bones.)
  • Optional: Carrot tops and pieces, celery stalks and leaves, onion skins and onion, parsley, and salt (I usually don’t add any of these ingredients except the salt, and I wait to add that at then end so that I can salt it to my taste preference. If you’re going to add parsley, wait until the very end.)
  • Advanced: Chicken feet (Provides a more gelatinous broth.)

Directions

  1. Roast your chicken. You can read more about my roasted chicken here, but basically, I stuff mine with a stick of butter and season with salt, pepper, and onion powder and bake at 350° F for 1.5 hours.

    roast chicken

    Roast Chicken

  2. Pick off the meat. I like to cut my breasts into cubes before cutting off the bone. Then I methodically pick off all usable pieces of meat, cut into bite size pieces, leave all pieces to soak (Don’t you dare waste the drippings!) in the remaining chicken juice, cover, and store in the refrigerator until the next day.

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

  3. Save all skin, bones, and other parts. I do typically discard the giblets (unless my cats want to eat them), but other than that, every last little scrap goes into my pot including the carcass, bones, skin, and any other little tidbits. I also like to leave just a titch of meat on the bones for extra flavor.

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

  4. Cover with water. After filling the pot with your chicken scraps, fill to just about the brim with cold filtered water.

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

  5. Apple cider vinegar. You have to be careful that you don’t add too much or you will really taste it. You might want to start with just a teaspoon and adjust to taste. Even though 2 tablespoons would be most effective, I usually only add about a teaspoon because that’s the flavor I like.
  6. Slow boil. Bring the water to a slow boil and skim any scum that comes to the top. (These are impurities.)
  7. Cover and simmer. Cover and reduce to a low rolling boil. (On my stove, this usually hovers around a 2 or 3.) Ideally, you’ll want it to simmer for a good 24-36 hours for the maximum benefit, but at the very least, just let it simmer overnight.

    bone broth cooling

    Bone Broth Cooling

  8. Cool and strain. Turn off the burner, let it cool, then strain into a separate bowl through a colander. You’ll notice that the bones will be soft and break apart easily. Do not feed them to any animals, it will tear up their insides.

    straining the broth

    Straining the Broth

  9. Enjoy! Time to put your broth to use.
    • Chicken Soup: Add some chicken, celery, carrots, and soaked barely to make a simple chicken soup.

      Chicken Soup Bowl

      Chicken Soup

    • Egg Drop Soup: Bring it to a boil, add some Bragg Liquid Aminos, Sriracha, and eggs to make an egg drop soup to die for.

      egg drop soup

      Egg Drop Soup

    • Store in the Freezer: Store your stock in Ziploc bags in the freezer. (Just be sure to lay them flat instead of plopping them on a rack where they will freeze while seeping through the cracks and then rip open when you try to take it out later….um, personal experience!)
    • Freeze into Cubes: Freeze in ice cube trays to save for smaller size portions to use instead of those MSG laden “bullion cubes”.
    • Sip It: Pour into a mug to sip on. Sometimes, I like adding some Bragg Liquid Aminos and Sriracha for a spicy oriental flavor!

      Bone Broth in a Mug

      Bone Broth in a Mug

In Conclusion

If there is one food that you could add to your family’s meal plan that would make the most difference, I would say that bone broth is in the top ten for sure! If you’re not much of a cook, don’t worry! You can hardly get this recipe wrong! If you are, there are certainly a lot of variations you could try to make this a gourmet dish. As we enter another cold winter season full of viruses, I’m sure that I’ll be finding ways to incorporate this bone broth into our diets on a regular basis.

See more ideas for what to make with this broth in my soup section.

Embracing Motherhood Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Ever since the Flint water scandal, my husband and I have both been a bit more concerned about lead being in our water. We are fortunate enough to live in a city that does not flouridate its water…check to see what’s in your city’s water here, and we’ve always used a simple faucet filter, but we wanted to learn a little more.

 

So we ordered these testing strips and learned that our water had no noticeable levels of lead, chlorine, copper, or bacteria. And when I tested the water that came through the filter, I got the exact same results, so guess what? We ditched our filter. 🙂 Our water did test at being very hard (which is probably why the previous owners installed a water softener system), but after doing some research, I learned that having hard water means that it’s full of a lot of minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that are very good for your body, but will clog up your coffee pot tubes, shower heads, and leave dirty rings in your tub and toilet. We have opted to simply clean things out a bit more and enjoy the benefit of the extra minerals!

In this article, I’d like to share what I learned about the Flint water scandal, what’s so bad about having lead in your body, how to detoxify from lead poisoning, how to know if your water has lead, the best filters to get lead out of your water, and other sources that might lead to lead poisoning, .

The Flint Water Scandal

Basically, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early, was faced with the task of saving the failing city money and on April 25, 2014, he oversaw the switch from Detroit’s water supply (that drew from Lake Huron) to the Flint River (while waiting for their own regional water system connection to Lake Huron to be built).

The contents of the water in the Flint River are actually not to blame for all of the lead. Instead, the blame lies with the high levels of chloride ions (present from the over deicing of the roads which causes chloride ions to run off into waterways) that are really to blame. Nick Krieger explains in his article, “What Makes Flint Water So Corrosive,”

“The negative chloride ions are corrosive, so when the high-chloride water is pumped through lead pipes (or iron and copper pipes joined together with lead solder), lead leaches into the water.  It’s as simple as that.”

Flint could have added orthophosphate to neutralize these chloride ions for $100/day, but it chose not to. As a result, the lead pipes corroded and leached lead into the water. In addition, the corroded pipes allowed other contaminants such as bacteria from the soil that led to a spike in those contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease.

One of the most disturbing factors of the Flint water scandal were the people in charge who KNEW it was going on and yet did NOTHING!

On October 1st, 2104, 6 months after the switch to the Flint River, General Motors complained that its car parts were corroding when being washed on the assembly line, so they were quietly hooked back up to the Lake Huron Water. Meanwhile, residents complained about tainted, foul-smelling tap water and health symptoms such as rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it, but nothing was done for them. It took ONE YEAR of complaints, independent tests, lawsuits, national, and global recognition and FINALLY in October of 2015, the switch back Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system was made. (Read A Toxic Timeline of Flint’s Water Fiasco for a truly flabbergasting timeline of events.)

Now, under the public eye, Flint is faced with the insurmountable task of replacing all of the corroded lead pipes, which could take over two years and cost upwards of $60 million! And what are residents of Flint supposed to do in the meantime? You can only drink and bathe in bottled water for so long…and not only that, but plastic water bottles leach chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the water. (Which is why we try to stick with glass water bottles when we can!)

What’s So Bad About Lead?

Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children whose bodies and brains are still developing and growing. There are no levels of lead in the blood that are considered safe for children. While lead exposure can be stopped, the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

Even low levels of lead can cause the following side effects.

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage
  • Seizures, unconsciousness, and death

If adults ingest lead, 99% of it will leave in their waste in a couple of weeks. But with children, only about 32% of the lead taken in will leave in their waste. Under conditions of repeated exposure, lead (and other toxic metals…mercury, aluminum, cadmium) can accumulate in body tissues, even the bone. Even if you have removed the threat of lead, lead that has accumulated in the body can continue to do damage.

Get Lead (and Other Toxic Metals) Out of Your Body

If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to lead, go to your doctor (or free health clinic) to get a test done right away. They will be able to tell you after a simple finger poke if there is any lead present in your child’s blood and what the implications are. Lead that has accumulated in the body can take months or years to be expelled, so it’s a good idea to continue taking precautions to get rid of it long after the threat has been removed.

There are certain foods can help to get rid of lead accumulation in the body. The phytic acid present in all grains, seeds, nuts, etc. prevents our bodies from absorbing valuable minerals, but also chelates (binds to and removes) toxic metals from our bodies. One of the best sources for phytic acid is brown rice (that hasn’t been properly soaked and fermented to get rid of the phytic acid). Other sources would be any nuts, seeds, or anything “whole grain”.

Cilantro oil and chlorella are also really good at working in tandem to to eliminate lead (and other toxic metals) and they will actually add more vitamins and minerals to your body rather than leech them away! Get some cilantro oil here and some chlorella here. It’s also a good idea to take some really good vitamin c (not with ascorbic acid) to boost your immune system while you detoxify. *Check out some other great detox ideas here.

Check with your doctor or naturopath before starting a detox program with your child, but some general rules of thumb are to start with small doses using just a few drops at a time, and make sure it is really diluted with some other liquid.

Is There Lead in Your Water?

It’s not just Flint who has a problem with lead in their water source. In a Rolling Stone article by Tessa Stuart called, “It’s Not Just Flint: America Has a Major Lead-in-Water Problem” she explains that,

“There’s always going to be some amount of lead in some amount of homes — it could be from the service line, or from lead solder used as glue in some pipes, from leaded brass plumbing, or a myriad of other sources. “Most homes in the United States are going to have some form of lead-bearing plumbing,” Lambrinidou says.”

Check your water: You can go to the National Drinking Water Database, enter your zipcode, look for your city, and see exactly what they have found in your water.

Test your water: Or you can buy your own kit, like this, for $20 and it will test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH.

Best Water Filters to Get the Lead (and Other Toxins) Out

If you decide that you want to filter your water (probably a good idea), here are some filters you might want to consider. (FYI: Stay away from reverse osmosis filters because they filter out EVERYTHING including all of the good minerals that you want to keep!)

  • Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System ($1,595) – This is WAY out of our price range, but if you’re looking for the best of the best…It gets rid of ALL toxins, and you can tuck it away under your sink. (Also, if you’re trying to convince your significant other that you want to buy a $120 water filter, give them a choice between the $120 one and this one. The $120 one will suddenly seem like a much better deal!)

  • Berkey Complete Water Filtration System ($289) – This system is incredible! Not only will it work on city water, but you can take it with you camping to use on some pond water! It will filter out bacteria, parasites, pesticides, nitrites, nitrates, and gets rid of 99.9% of heavy metals (including lead and mercury). This model also comes with flouride filters.

  • AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System ($120) – This is cheaper than the Berkey and takes up less room on the counter (or you can get an under the counter version for $261). It filters out bacteria, parasites, 99% of chlorine, 99% of lead, 98% of other heavy metals, 95% of arsenic, 99.9% of glyphosates, 92% of nitrates, and gives an 85% reduction in flouride. It easily connects to a standard faucet with no tools and requires no electricity or permanent modifications to plumbing.

Lead Isn’t Just In Water

In 1978, the government banned the use of lead based paint in houses, so most homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead. When the paint chips and peels, children are especially susceptible to ingesting it because little fingers like to pick and peal and those little paint chips and then they don’t wash their hands before eating food. Not only that, but the dust from the peeling lead paint can be inhaled.

If there are no chips or scratches, you can paint over the lead based paint, and keep painting it every 4-10 years to prevent any from showing through. If there are, it’s best to call in a professional to remove the paint…or just move!

In Conclusion

 

The Flint water scandal was an eye opening headline that got everybody thinking about what is in our water. We bath in it, we cook with it, we water our garden with it, and we drink it…so it’s good to know what we’re taking in with our water. I highly recommend getting your water tested, and if you live in an old house, do some research about lead paint. I also highly recommend getting your children tested for lead poisoning if you have any doubt or even just to ease your mind.

Embracing Motherhood The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

Before I delve into articles about what we should eat and why, I wanted to first take a look at one of the most basic functions of human physiology: digestion. After this, I will explore cellular respiration, which is how we metabolize food to make energy. In doing so, I hope to have a strong foundation of understanding to build future health articles upon.

So often, we hear about foods and ways of eating that are “healthy”, and as a whole, we have held many erroneous beliefs about what should constitute “healthy”. (Although this is changing…just look at the February 2016 issue of Time’s article, “The New Rules of the Heart” which talks about how cholesterol is actually good, why we should avoid statins, how saturated fat is actually good, how weight loss isn’t about calories in/calories out, and how we shouldn’t be taking an Asprin a day!)

The science behind what makes food “healthy” or not is simplified too much and the truth is hidden behind too many corporate slogans rather than actual science. Once we can understand the building blocks of food, how we digest them into individual molecules, and how we metabolize those molecules to make energy, the term “healthy eating” shouldn’t be so debatable or vague.

I have been reading about this information for years in an attempt to search for and serve my family the healthiest foods possible. Reading Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions was the first thing that changed my view about food and made me realize how misguided we have been about fat and the food pyramid. (Check out the Weston A. Price website to learn more!)

In writing this article, I started with Sally Fallon’s ideas as a framework in my brain, then used a college textbook called Understanding Nutrition by Whitney and Rolfes to really delve into the scientific explanations of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and how we digest them (throughout this article, my descriptions come from this textbook unless otherwise linked). But even this seemingly benign textbook was not written without bias and made many leaps about what we “should eat” based solely on government recommendations rather than actual science.

So after reading this textbook and using it to explain the facts, I continued to ask my own questions, do my own research, and am now presenting an in depth synthesis of what I’ve learned about the foods we eat and how they are broken down during digestion.

In a Nutshell

When we eat any food, from cookies and cakes to burgers and fries to salad and dressing, it is all broken down into single molecules before being absorbed through the small intestine and sent into the bloodstream to be used as energy, for building, or stored for later use. All food can be categorized as and broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates –> Monosachharides
  • Fat (Triglycerides) –> Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids
  • Protein –> Amino Acids
Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

*It takes about 6-8 hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine. In a study with 21 participants, it took  men an average of 33 hours for the food to be eliminated from the large intestine. It took an average of 33 hours for children too, but an average of 47 hours for women. Interesting!

Digestive System

Here is a picture of the entire digestive system just to give you a visual reference for where we are going. In my drawings, you’ll notice that I have included only what is necessary and exaggerated certain things for the purposes of clarity.

digestive system

Digestive System (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, LadyofHats, 2006)

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are primarily an energy source for plants, some animals, and humans.

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

Foods with Carbohyrdates

There is a misconception (probably due to that silly food pyramid!) that carbohydrates only refer to things like breads and pastas and not things like fruits and vegetables. But the truth is that lettuce is a carbohydrate, apples are carbohydrates, grain is a carbohydrate, and sugar beets are carbohydrates.

When you look at the nutritional profile of these carbohydrates, however, you’ll notice that the amount of carbohydrates differs greatly among different food sources. Also, keep in mind that carbohydrates (which all come from plants) can be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals if grown properly and not overly processed.

The total carbohydrates measured on nutrition labels include both simple sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and soluble and insoluble fiber (polysaccharides).

Types of Carbohydrates 

types of carbohydrates

Types of Carbohydrates (The numbers refer to the number of molecules.)

  • Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are one molecule of sugar. Some foods contain monosaccharides and others are created when disaccharides are broken down during digestion. They are small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine.
    • Glucose: The primary product of photosynthesis, found in all fruits and plants, most carbohydrates that we eat are converted to glucose during digestion
    • Fructose: Found in fruits, some root vegetables, cane sugar, and honey
    • Galactose: Combines with glucose to make lactose (milk sugar), not found on its own
  • Disaccharides: Disaccharides are two molecules of sugar. Some foods contain disaccharides and others are created when polysaccharides are broken down during digestion.
    • Sucrose: Made up of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose, found in the stems of sugar cane and roots of the sugar beet, occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables alongside glucose and fructose (especially in certain fruits and carrots), table sugar
    • Maltose: Made up of two molecules of glucose, formed during the germination of certain grains, mostly barley which is converted into malt, found in beer
    • Lactose: Made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in milk
  • Oligosaccharides: 3-10 monosaccharides connected together.  They are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine (so they give us no calories yet give us that full feeling). Instead, they pass directly to the large intestine where they are consumed by microflora thus increasing the amount of healthy bacteria. Examples include: artichoke, burdock, chicory, leeks, onions, and asparagus.
  • Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides consist of many monosaccharides connected together.
    • StarchStarches consist of tens to hundreds to thousands of monosaccharides connected together. They are how plants store glucose for future use. About 70% of a plant’s structure is typically made up of the starch amylopectin (which is highly branched making it easy for the plant, and for humans to hydrolyze, or break down in the presence of water) and the other 30% is typically made up of the starch amylose (which has a more linear structure that makes it easy to store, but can’t be broken down without the enzyme amylase).
    • Resistant Starch: Resistant starches cannot be broken down during digestion, and so they are sent to the large intestine where they feed the healthy bacteria residing there. Examples include: green bananas, rolled oats, green peas, white beans, lentils, pearl barley, cold potato and cold pasta (occurs due to retrogradation).
    • Fermentable FiberWe can’t digest the cell walls of plants, but some of them can be fermented in our large intestine like fructans (that occur in agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions, and wheat), inulin (occurs mainly in chicory), pectins (occurs mainly in the skins of citrus fruits and in apples, oranges, plum, guavas, and gooseberries), and raffinose (found in beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains). This fiber is soluble, meaning that it can mix with water, which creates a viscous gel that slows down digestion as it passes to the large intestine to be fermented by the microflora that resides there.
    • Nonfermentable Fiber: Humans do not possess the enzymes to digest some components of cell walls like cellulosehemicellulose, and lignin (which provide plants with the stiffness they need to stand upright), nor do we possess the bacteria to break them down either. (Ruminants and termintes possess symbiotic bacteria that help them to break these elements down.) These types of polysaccharides will pass through us unused. They are what is referred to as insoluble fiber (not soluble in water and NOT digestible or fermentable) and what gives bulk to our stool. Examples include pretty much any part of the plant that is hard to chew such as cucumber skins, the outer hull of grains, the hull of popcorn kernels, potato skins, grape skins, 80% of lettuce, and more.

How we Digest Carbohydrates

The digestion of carbohydrates occurs mostly in the small intestine.

carbohydrate digestion

How We Digest Carbohydrates

  1. In the mouth: The breakdown of carbohydrates begins in the mouth with the salivary enzyme amylase. Amylase works to break up the starch amylose, and hydrolysis begins breaking down the starch amylopectin. Very little digestion actually takes place here, however.
  2. In the stomach: Carbohydrates are churned into a paste in the stomach, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this process. The stomach actually neutralizes any amylase that was swallowed.
  3. In the duodonom: When carbohydrates enter the duodonem (which is the beginning part of the small intestine) the pancreas releases the enzyme amylase which breaks down polysaccharides into shorter glucose chains and maltose. (Babies produce very little amylase until over the age of one, although human breast milk contains a significant amount.)
  4. Throughout the small intestine: The brush boarder that lines the small intestine performs the final breakdown of carbohydrates by releasing the enzymes sucrase, maltase, and lactase that break down the disaccharides sucrose, maltose, and lactose into the monosaccharides glucose, fructose, and galactose.
  5. Absorption: The monosaccharides of glucose, fructose, and galactose are now small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. Glucose and galactose need to hitch a ride on a sodium-dependent hexose transporter which will only transport them with a sodium ion. Fructose hitches a ride on another hexose transporter and doesn’t need sodium. As the blood circulates the liver, cells there take up fructose and galactose and covert them to other compounds, mainly glucose. This is why we say that most carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the blood!
  6. In the large intestine: Within one to four hours after a meal, all of the sugars and most of the starches have been digested. What passes into the large intestine are things that could not be digested or absorbed. This includes resistant starch (such as asparagus), fermentable fiber (such as the peel of an apple), and nonfermentable fiber (which includes cellulose, one of the components of cell walls). Resistant starches and fermentable fibers are water soluble and attract water which softens the stool. They are also able to be fermented by the good bacteria that (hopefully) resides in the large intestine releasing water, gas, and short chain fatty acids.
  7. Elimination: The nonfermentable fiber merely “bulks up the stool” and passes through unchanged. (Ever notice whole kernels of corn or popcorn hulls in your poop?)

Fats

Fats are the most efficient source of long term energy storage in both animals and humans.

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

Types of Fatty Acids

(*The following description of fats is adapted from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.)

Fatty acids can be categorized by how saturated they are:

  • Saturated: All available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom
  • Monounsaturated: Has one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and therefore lacking two hydrogen atoms
  • Polyunsaturated: Has two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms

In addition, they are also categorized by how long they are:

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Has four to six carbon atoms (always saturated, found mostly in butterfat from cows and goats)
  • Medium-Chain Fatty Acids: Has eight to twelve carbon atoms (found mostly in butterfat and tropical oils)
  • Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has fourteen to eighteen carbon atoms
  • Very-Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has twenty to twenty-four carbon atoms (DHA)

How We Digest Fats

In children and adults, fat digestion occurs mostly in the small intestine (although in infants, it occurs mostly in the mouth). Most of the fat in our bodies and the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides (three fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule).

fat digestion

How We Digest Fats

  1. In the mouth: Fat digestion starts slowly in the mouth. Some hard fats begin to melt as they reach body temperature. A salivary gland at the base of the tongue releases an enzyme (lingual lipase) that plays a minor role in fat digestion in adults and an active one in infants. In infants, this enzyme efficiently digests the short and medium chain fatty acids found in milk.
  2. In the stomach: Once fats hit the stomach, they would float if it were not for the muscle contractions that direct all contents towards the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This churning action emulsifies the fat by dispersing it into large droplets. The gastric lipase enzyme in the stomach (that performs best in an acidic environment) starts to work on breaking these droplets down. But very little fat digestion takes place in the stomach.
  3. Bile in the small intestine: When the large fat droplets enter the duodonem (the beginning part of the small intestine), they are coated with bile. (Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When fat enters the small intestine, it triggers the release of the hormone cholecystokinin which signals the gallbladder to release its bile.) The bile emulsifies the large fat droplets into smaller droplets. This increases their overall surface area making it easier for the next step. (Bile acids in the bile often pair up with amino acids which have one end attracted to water and one to fat. This helps with the emulsification process.)
  4. Lipases in the small intestine: The pancreas secretes a lipase enzyme that hydrolyzes (breaks down in the presence of water) the triglycerides into monoglycerides and free fatty acids. *Infants do not secrete much of this enzyme; this is why the lingual lipase excreted from under their tongues plays more of an active role.
  5. Absorption: Monoglycerides and free fatty acids are now small enough to pass through the intestinal wall.
  6. Elimination: If you are eliminating too much fat in your stool (white poop anyone?), it is a sign of poor health (i.e. your intestines don’t absorb food, your pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, or your gallbladder isn’t passing on enough bile).

Protein

Protein is the building block of life.

From Protein to Amino Acids

From Protein to Amino Acids

Foods with Protein

There are both animal and plant based sources of protein. Animal based sources of protein have all of the essential amino acids that we need, including the ones that we can’t make and can only get from dietary sources. Here are some examples of different foods and the amount of protein they contain:

  • Chicken (31 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Hamburger (27 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Salmon (25 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Eggs (19 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Milk (3 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Kidney beans (9 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Tofu (8 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Barley (2 g of protein per 100 g)

How we Digest Protein

The majority of protein digestion occurs in the stomach. *Watch a cool video that explains the entire process here.

protein digestion

How We Digest Protein

  1. In the mouth: Protein (basically a bunch of amino acids all connected and bunched together) are crushed and moistened in the mouth, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this part of the process.
  2. In the stomach: Hydrocholoric acid in the stomach uncoils, or denatures, each protein’s tangled strands so that the digestive enzymes can attack the peptide bonds. Hydrocholic acid in the stomach also converts the inactive form of the enzyme pepsinogen to its active form, pepsin. Pepsin cleaves large polypeptides into smaller polypeptides and some amino acids.
  3. In the Duodonem: When the smaller polypeptides enter the duodenum (the beginning part of the small intestine), proteases are released from the pancreas that hydrolyze them further (break them down in the presence of water) into short peptide chains, tripeptides, dipeptides, and amino acids.
  4. In the Small Intestine: Then peptidase enzymes on the membrane surfaces of the intestinal cells split these tripeptides and dipeptides into single amino acids.
  5. Absorption: These single amino acids are now small enough to be absorbed through the small intestine and enter the blood stream. Only a few peptides escape digestion and enter the bloodstream intact.
  6. Elimination: Only a small amount of dietary protein is lost in the feces.

In Conclusion

I have been reading, learning, making big posters, drawing models, redrawing models, talking to anyone who will listen, synthesizing, and applying all that I have learned about digestion for years in an attempt to understand it as best as I can. I feel like I could keep drawing better diagrams or synthesizing the information better and further, but I have to just stop here and move on knowing that I am going to continue to dig deeper, learn more, write more, and draw more, and keep building on this with future posts.

I think that understanding digestion is one of the fundamental building blocks for understanding health, and I hope that my synthesis of this information can help you understand it better as it has helped me. I am excited to move on and keep learning! I hope you’ll join me!

See it in action! Watch a camera go inside the digestive system to see a 5 minute video of what the process looks like first hand!

 

Embracing Motherhood Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Beat a Cold!

Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Keep Sickness at Bay!

Being a mother of four little ones, I cannot afford to get sick. That’s why at the mere hint of a cold, I start to take my Wellness Formula capsules. In doing so, I have been able to avoid all illnesses for the past 3 years (when I discovered Wellness Formula).

Unfortunately, this time around, I ran out of my magic pills right when I needed them most. I really didn’t think too much of it at first. The fact that I have not been sick in so long has given me a sense of over confidence about my immune system. I put off ordering more and instead went to work on my usual sick routine of making some bone broth soup, eating lots of fresh garlic and ginger, and supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin D-3. I even had some bee propolis around that I took as well.

Well flash forward to the day after I stopped taking my pills, and I felt MISERABLE! My head was pounding, my head was stuffy and clouded, there was so much pressure and pain in my ears, my nose was runny, I had a horrible cough, and because I hadn’t been sick in so long, it just hit me really really hard.

Since it was going to be two more days until my fresh shipment of pills from Amazon arrived, so my mother brought me over some of her Wellness Formula Tablets. I took some right away, and they stopped the progression of the cold in right its tracks. Unfortunately, these magic pills aren’t so good about reversing the progression. When taken at the first hint of an illness, they give your immune system the strength to stop things before they get started, but once a cold has settled in, it’s a bit harder to get rid of.

I made a solemn vow to myself to never ever again take for granted the magic that is in these pills. Even though I had just ordered a bottle, I went online and ordered another one and then every other product they made..my back up stash. After seeing most of my children sick with this terrible cold, I thought, “Boy, I wish they made a kids version!” And lo and behold when I typed in “wellness formula” and “kids”, I found out that they do!

Here are all of the products they make, where to get them, prices, quantities, recommended dosages, and my notes about each one of them.

Where to Get It

  • Wellness Formula Capsules 
    Wellness Formula Capsules

    Wellness Formula Capsules

    • Recommended Dosage: 2-4 capsules per day for wellness maintenance and 6 capsules twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: If you’re not sure what to get, get these. The capsules are about the size of Tylenol, and it’s the best value. When I take these and the illness is particularly strong or advanced, I’ll take 6 capsules every three hours until I can feel my symptoms subside. As my symptoms stop progressing, I’ll scale it back to the recommended 6 tablets twice a day.
  • Wellness Formula Tablets 
    Wellness Formula Tablets

    Wellness Formula Tablets

    • Recommended Dosage: 1-2 tablets per day for wellness maintenance and 3 tablets twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: These tablets are bigger and more potent, so you need fewer of them, but they are HUGE! I cannot swallow pills this huge, so I have to crush them up, mix them with water, and try not to puke as I swallow it because it tastes gross! But lately, I even have trouble swallowing the capsules (darn esophageal spasms) so these tablets have become my preferred source of Wellness Formula. Sometimes with the capsules, I can burp up the taste much later, but crushing these tablets gets them into my bloodstream much quicker and I can feel them taking effect right away!
  • Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers 
    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    • Recommended Dosage: 2 wafers four times daily for adults, for children 14 and up 1 wafer four times daily, for children 9-13 1 wafer three times daily, for children 4-8 1 wafer two times daily, and for children 3 and under, it says to consult your physician.
    • Notes: This is great for kids (and/or adults who don’t like swallowing pills). I didn’t even know these existed until now, and I am very excited to start giving them to our 5 and 6 year old the next time they start getting sick. We just opened our package and so far so good! They taste great and the kids love them.  *I will update this post to report how they work! These would also be great to keep in your purse or car to take whenever you start to feel a little under the weather. There are far less ingredients in these wafers than there are in the capsules and tablets however. The vitamin A is also significantly lower (from 5,000 IU to 500 IU). The ingredients in these wafers are exactly the same as the product called Children’s Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers.
  • Wellness Formula Liquid
    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: I have never purchased this, but I think it would be a nice thing to keep in my purse so that I can take some on the go no matter where I am if I start to feel ill. There are far less ingredients in this compared to the capsules and tablets, however, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.
  • Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid 
    Children's Wellness Formula Liquid

    Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid

    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: This is not recommended for children under one (probably because of the honey and risks of botulism), but I ordered this for my 1 and 2 year old who I know won’t eat the chewable wafers. It tastes about as unpleasant as Zarbee’s Cough Medicine (which is a great natural product to treat the symptoms of a cold), so I know that my little ones won’t be too thrilled about it, but I know I can get them to take it if I have to. I just baked some of my healthy oatmeal cookies and added a few drops into the batter for six of them, and I feel like this is the easiest way to get them to take it of all!

Why It Works

Instead of dealing with the symptoms you get AFTER getting a cold, this Wellness Formula gives your immune system the boost it needs to deal with the illness BEFORE it even begins. Watch this really cool animation to see how the flu virus invades your body.

Basically, a virus will hijack normal healthy cells, unlock them with little “keys”, and trick the cells into replicating more viruses. Only one virus needs to enter a cell to make millions more viruses. But humans have a 100 trillion cells, and when your immune system sees the virus, it will attack and kill it. It’s just about keeping that perfect balance in harmony and keeping your immune system as strong as possible.

Things like getting plenty of rest and sunshine, keeping stress levels to a minimum, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet void of processed foods and rich in nutrient dense foods like bone broth soup are all things that will do wonders for your immune system. But when any of these factors are lacking (like when you’re not getting any sleep because you’re up in the night with sick kids), then this boost of over 30 powerful ingredients including antioxidants, herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals will give your immune system the support it needs to fight the incoming virus! Check out more about how it works here.

List of Ingredients

Click here to see the package label from Source Natural. I’ve copied the list here so that you can see at a glance all of the goodness that’s going on. To the right of each ingredient is the amount found in 6 capsules and in parentheses is the percent of how this rates with what you need daily.

  • Vitamin A (as palmitate 4,000 IU & beta-carotene 1,000 IU) –  5,000 IU (100%)
  • Vitamin C (from ascorbic acid and zinc ascorbate) – 1,300 mg (2,167%)
  • Vitamin D-3 (as cholecalciferol) – 400 IU (100%)
  • Calcium – 40 mg (4%)
  • Zinc (as zinc citrate and ascorbate) – 23 mg (153%)
  • Selenium (as sodium selenite) – 60 mcg (86%)
  • Copper (as copper citrate) – 150 mcg (8%)
  • Sodium – 10 mg (<1%)
  • Garlic Bulb – 360 mg
  • Propolis Extract – 295 mg
  • Echinacea purpurea Root Extract – 270 mg
  • Elderberry Fruit Extract – 240 mg
  • Aromatic Solomon’s Seal Rhizome – 120 mg
  • Horehound Aerial Parts Extract – 100 mg
  • Olive Leaf Extract (10% oleuropein) – 100 mg
  • Andrographis Aerial Parts Extract (10% andrographolides) – 100 mg
  • Isatis Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Eleuthero Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Elecampane Root – 70 mg
  • Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts Extract – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts – 300 mg
  • Goldenseal Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Angelica Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Astragalus Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Isatis Leaf Extract – 40 mg
  • Elecampane Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Mullein Leaf Extract – 30 mg
  • Pau D’Arco Bark Extract – 30 mg
  • Cayenne Fruit – 30 mg
  • Ginger Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Grape Seed Extract (Proanthodyn™) – 10 mg

Other Info

  • If you read through the reviews on Amazon, you’ll notice that in 2013 and 2014, there are a lot of people complaining about the formula changing. Basically, it looks like a lot of the expensive ingredients were scaled back. A lot of people say that this is why it doesn’t work as well, but I still think it works great. This is also why I think that if it’s just not working, take a little more.
  • Don’t stop taking Wellness Formula the second you start feeling better after a brush with illness. I like to at least take half of the recommended dosage until I’m a day or two past it.
  • Unfortunately, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but some herbs like olive leaf extract could reduce milk supply and andrographis aerial parts extract may cause miscarriage. I have taken it while breastfeeding and had no problems with my milk supply, but I would encourage you to share any questions you have with your midwife or doctor and let me know what you find out!

In Conclusion

Being sick is no fun. Now that I’m currently sick after years and years of keeping illnesses at bay, I can definitely attest to that! I have since ordered every Wellness Formula product and hope to not let illness strike me (or my family) again. Back in the day when I was a teacher, I used to swear by Airborne, which is still okay in a pinch, but no where NEAR as effective as this Wellness Formula. This is hands down the best thing you can do (after sleeping, getting sunshine, yada, yada) to prevent illness from taking you down. So many people swear by this product. Just take a minute to read the plethora of positive reviews on Amazon. I’m sure once you try this, you’ll be a believer too.

* I also have a few other favorite wellness supplements that you might enjoy learning more about!

Embracing Motherhood Why We Avoid Commercial Processed Cereals

Why We Avoid Commercially Processed Cereals

I remember how when I was growing up I would always read the side of the cereal box as I ate my breakfast and marvel at all of the nutrients that I was getting so early in the morning. It seemed too good to be true…and it was!

The Facts

In her book, Nourishing Traditions (my food Bible), Sally Fallon talks about the evils of commercially processed cereals.

Granola, like all processed breakfast cereals, should have no place on our cupboard shelves. Boxed breakfast cereals are made by the extrusion process, in which little flakes and shapes are formed at high temperatures and pressures. Extrusion processing destroys many valuable nutrients in grains, causes fragile oils to become rancid and renders certain proteins toxic.

In her article, “Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry” on the Weston Price website, Sally Fallon explains in further detail the reasons why cereal is unhealthy. She also cites two startling studies done with rats, one of which was designed as a joke, but the results turned out to be anything but funny.

In this study, there were three groups of rats. The control group was fed rat chow and water and remained healthy throughout the experiment. The second group was fed cornflakes and water. Before they died, these rats developed aberrant behavior, threw fits, bit each other, and finally went into convulsions. Autopsies revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver, and kidneys, and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, which are all signs of insulin shock. The third group was fed the cardboard box that the cornflakes came in and water. This group lived longer than the group that ate the cornflakes. (The first box rat died the day the last cornflake rat died.)

The bottom line is that cereal, fortified or not, is anything but healthy. In our home, we have worked hard to not make commercially processed cereal a regular part of our lives, and this healthy homemade cereal recipe has really helped. We also enjoy properly prepared steel cut oats.

The Reality

When I first learned this information, I threw out all of my cereal (along with all of the other processed food that was junking up my cupboards), but since then, I’ve found more of a happy medium. In our family, we try to eat mostly good most of the time, and we especially like our routine meals and foods to be as healthy as possible. But that being said, I do have a few “go to” items in my pantry such as granola bars, Cheerios, Saltines, and Ramen Noodles that I can bring out in a pinch. Sometimes, I am terribly tired and sometimes my kids are incredibly picky, and they just need something to fill their bellies. There are many food purists that would completely disagree with me, and there are other parents who only feed their kids mostly processed foods. I’d like to think that we fall somewhere in the upper middle (leaning as much as we can to the healthy food without becoming obsessed about it).

For Futher Reading

Going Barefoot Will Improve Your Health

Earthing and Grounding: The Benefits of Going Barefoot

Why is it that our children always rip off their socks and shoes as soon as they get outside? Maybe they intrinsically know that going barefoot not only feels good, but it is good for us in so many ways. Going barefoot is so good for us in fact, that it has been studied extensively and given the fancy names of “Earthing” and “Grounding”.

What is Earthing?

Earthing (also known as Grounding) is when we connect with the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot outside on grass, sand, dirt, or concrete. These are all conductive surfaces through which your body can draw the Earth’s energy. Wood, vinyl, and asphalt are not conductive surfaces.

The Earth’s Surface Has a Negative Charge

It is pretty commonly accepted that the Earth’s surface carries a negative charge, but there isn’t really a consensus as to why this occurs. Some say that at the inner core of the Earth, the temperature and pressure are so high that the atoms there are ionized which creates a positive charge, therefore the surface is negatively charged. Others explain that thunderstorms are an electrical generator pumping electrons from the air to the ground against the electrical field in the form of lightning.

Here’s how that happens: When frozen raindrops in thunderclouds move around and bump into each other, they create an electric charge. As the cloud fills up with electrical charges, the positive charges (protons) accumulate at the top of the cloud, and the negative charges (electrons) accumulate at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, this causes a positive charge to build up below the cloud. The charge coming up from the highest points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds, and ZAP, lightning strikes!

Lightning Strikes

Lightning Strikes (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Tó campos1, 2007)

Other generators in the global electric current are ionospheric dynamo and magnetosheric dynamo, which you can read about more here if you’re interested.

Basically, just know that the Earth’s surface has a whole bunch of extra electrons just waiting to be picked up by our bare feet.

How Electrons Act as Antioxidants (by Eliminating Free Radicals)

So now you understand (hopefully) that the Earth’s surface is flush with extra electrons, but why is that good? Well, these electrons act as antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in our body. Free radicals (which we get from exposure to X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals) are atoms that have unpaired electrons in their outer shell. These unpaired electrons make free radicals highly reactive to other substances that can lead to mutations, cancer, and oxidative stress (where your body is literally rusting from the inside out). Antioxidants stabilize the free radicals by giving them the electron they need to calm down. In the process, the antioxidant sacrifices itself. What a pal!

This Free Radical is Missing an Electron Which Makes it Highly Reactive

This Free Radical is Missing an Electron Which Makes it Highly Reactive (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Healthvalue~commonswiki, 2012)

For more information about free radicals and antioxidants, check out my blog How to Stay on Top of Free Radicals with Antioxidants.

Benefits of Going Barefoot

So not only will you be boosting your immune system and overall health by getting rid of free radicals with the extra electrons that you accumulate from the Earth’s surface, there are a myriad of other health benefits as well. Studies have shown that earthing (or grounding) has so many health benefits, that it suddenly seems silly to wear shoes, especially plastic soled shoes that aren’t conducive to the Earth’s electrons like leather soled shoes are.

  • Thins the blood (lowers blood pressure)
  • Reduces risk of heart attack
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Sense of calm
  • Improved mental clarity
  • Fewer headaches
  • Better recovery from adrenal fatigue
  • Better sleep
  • Less phosphorus and calcium loss thus leading to a reduced chance of osteoporosis
  • Reduces inflammation (which leads to many chronic diseases)
  • Less chronic pain
  • Slows the aging process (by getting rid of free radicals)
  • Less muscle tension
  • Quicker healing from exercise-induced muscle pain
  • Faster immune responses
  • Protects the body from EMFs

How to Do It

It’s not rocket science really; it’s just a matter of going barefoot as much as possible on surfaces conducive to the Earth’s energy (grass, sand, dirt, or concrete). Or better yet even, take a nap the next time you are outside sprawled out in the soft warm grass or getting some sun at the beach.

Ophelia Playing Barefoot in Our Sandbox

Ophelia Playing Barefoot in Our Sandbox

In order to maximize on your grounding time when you’re inside, you might want to get an earthing mat like this that can be plugged in and placed on top of a desk under your keyboard and mouse or under your desk for bare feet contact. Or you might like something like this half sheet to place under your bottom sheet on your bed to get the full effects of grounding while you’re asleep. If you have sleep problems, I highly recommend this!

In Conclusion

So when you see our family playing at the park and all of our shoes have been cast aside, now you’ll know the reason why! And at the end of the day when my little ones are done playing outside and ready for pajamas, I’ll know that I did a good job if I can see that the bottoms of their feet are covered with well worn dirt. (And no, we don’t bathe everyday, but that’s for another post!)

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steamed broccoli with melted butter and salt

Why Broccoli is So Good for You and How to Make the Best Steamed Broccoli

Steamed broccoli smothered with butter and sprinkled with salt is a favorite side dish in our household. I like to buy organic broccoli (when I can) and cook it a couple times a week. It makes a great accompaniment to a roast chicken or salmon dinner, and the kids love it too!

Why Broccoli is So Good For You

Broccoli is high in carotenoids, vitamin C, chromium (which helps prevent diabetes) and contains B complex, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium as well. It also contains some protein and fiber. It is rich in indoles (as are all members of the cruciferous family), which is a potent anticancer substance as well as.

Broccoli is loaded with glutathione! Glutathione is found at very high concentrations in the lens of the eye and when eaten in the form of broccoli, cabbage, and parsley, it helps to protect the eye from cataracts. Glutathione is also an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer. Studies show that people who prefer to eat broccoli have lower rates of all kinds of cancer. When you cook broccoli, 30-60% the glutathione is lost. (100% is lost in canning.) (From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, p. 192 and p. 374)

But Watch Out!

Broccoli also contains glucosinolates which prevent the uptake of iodine and affect the function of the thyroid so they are considered goitrogens. When iodine uptake is interfered with, it can result in an enlargement of the thyroid, known as a goiter. This is really only something to watch out for if broccoli and other cuciferous vegeatables (brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower) are eaten in excess. So don’t go too overboard on eating them!

Steaming is the Best

By steaming broccoli, you are lessening the effects of the goitrogens while maintaining the valuable nutrients packed within. I also think it tastes the best!

Ingredients/Materials

  • Broccoli (One head of organic is best.)
  • Steamer Pan (Get one here.)
  • Butter
  • Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here. You can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)

Directions

  1. Prepare the Steamer: Fill the steamer with water and turn the heat to high.

    Steaming pan

    Steaming Pan

  2. Chop up the Broccoli: Sometimes I like cutting it into more bite size pieces before steaming, and sometimes I just chop off the stalk. (You can eat the stalk too if you’d like.)
  3. Add the Broccoli: Place the broccoli in the steamer. When I can, I like to position the head of the broccoli facing up so that the top doesn’t get overcooked.

    raw broccoli ready to be steamed

    Raw Broccoli Ready to Steam

  4. Cover and Steam for 5 Minutes: Once the water comes to a boil, I like to turn down the heat just a bit so it’s still boiling, but not spurting water out. The broccoli should be bright green and tender when it’s done.

    bright green and tender steamed broccoli cooked to perfection

    Steamed Broccoli

  5. Cold Water Bath: Run the broccoli under cold water to stop it from cooking any further. This will help the broccoli to hold its color. I usually skip this step, however, because I want the butter to melt easily.
  6. Butter and Salt: Cut into florets, smother with butter, sprinkle with salt, and serve.

    steamed broccoli topped with chunks of butter and sprinkled with salt

    Steamed Broccoli with Butter and Salt

The Dangers of Phytic Acid and What to Do About It

When you eat a bran muffin, brown rice, or whole wheat bread, you think you’re making a healthy choice, right? Well, because of the phytic acid present in these foods, that is not the case. If you are not going to properly prepare your foods that contain phytic acid, it is actually a better option to eat a blueberry muffin made with white flour, white rice, and white bread.

Phytic acid is present in all seeds (which by definition includes nuts, beans, grain, oats, rice, corn, tubers, etc.), and is an anti-nutrient that protects plants, but is harmful to us if we eat it in its raw state. In order to unlock the phytic acid so that we can get the phosphorus within and prevent it from leeching additional nutrients from us, we need to unlock the phytase within the seed (or add it if enough isn’t there). We can do this by using proper preparation techniques such as soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening.

What is an Anti-Nutrient?

There are many different types of anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors, lipase inhibitors, amylase inhibitors, oxalic acid and oxalates, glucosinolates, trypsin inhibitors, lectins, flavonoids, and saponins, and they are all good for plants, but bad for us. Basically, they are the protection system of plants. They are found most often in the hull or husk of a seed and acts as a protective coating that can be “taken off” when the conditions (for growing) are just right.

child's coat

This Coat is Like the Anti-Nutrients in a Plant


child's coat open

Taking the Anti-Nutrient “Coat” Off

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient

Phytic acid is the specific anti-nutrient that I want to focus on here because it is prevalent in so many of our foods, and by properly preparing foods to unlock the phytic acid, we will also be unlocking the mechanisms of some of the other anti-nutrients as well.

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Harbinary, 2009)

Good for Plants: When a seed is in conditions that are just right for growing (the right acidity or soil pH, enough moisture, and nutrients are present), phytase will be released that will unlock the phytic acid and release the phosphorus that it needs to grow. Because of phytic acid, seeds can stay dormant as they pass through the digestive tract of an animal and are in locations or conditions where the growing conditions are not ideal. Soil has a specific pH that when combined with water and nutrients unlocks the phytic acid so the seed can germinate and grow.

date seed sprouting

A Seed is Protected by Phytic Acid Until it Sprouts (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Amada44, 2010)

Bad for Us: We have enzymes to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, but we do not have an enzyme that allows us to break down phytic acid. So when we eat foods with phytic acid, we are not getting access to the valuable phosphorus inside. Phosphorus isn’t as widely recognized as calcium, but it is just as important. Phosphorus is a mineral found within every single cell in the body. It works with calcium to make our bones strong. Too little phosphorus in the diet can lead to osteoporosis. (*Too much, mainly from soft drinks, can lead to calcium loss as well as cravings for sugar and alcohol.)

In addition, the phosphate arms of the phytic acid molecule attach to valuable minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, making it impossible for us to absorb them during digestion. (It binds with these minerals regardless of when they were consumed, meaning that by eating phytic acid, we could actually be getting negative nutrients from the food we’re eating.) Phytic acid also inhibits the enzymes amylase, pepsin, and trypsin that help us to digest carbohydrates and proteins.

Osteoporosis

Over Time, Phytic Acid Can Cause Osteoporosis (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, BruceBlaus, 2013)

When growing children are deprived of these minerals, their growth is stunted and the results can be severe such as poor bone growth, short stature, rickets, narrow jaws, and tooth decay. As adults, we can go for years and years consuming a diet high in phytic acid and not notice any immediate damage until we get something like osteoporosis in our later years when it is too late to do anything about it.

Seeds That Have Phytic Acid

The following list of “seeds” contain phytic acid and are listed from the highest phytic acid content to the lowest. When we eat these foods, some of them easily come to mind as seeds and with others, you’ll be like, oh yeah, I guess those are seeds! (Just know that for the duration of this article, I’ll be referring to the following as seeds.)

  • Seeds (like sesame and pumpkin)
  • Nuts (like pecan, walnut, and peanut)
  • Grains (like wheat, rye, barley, rice, and corn)
  • Beans (like kidney, soy, and chickpeas)
  • Tubers (like yams, sweet potatoes, and potatoes)

Phytic Acid is Located in the Hull of the Seed

wheat seed labeled

Phytic Acid is in the Hull (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Laghi.l, 2007)

Phytic acid is mostly found in the bran, hull, or the hard outer layers of the seed. You would think that we would just be able to remove it and problem solved, but when we separate the bran, we are also separate the embryo, and these two places are where all of the nutrients are located.

What Will Neutralize the Phytic Acid?

Phytase is an enzyme that resides within plants alongside phytic acid that neutralizes it and unlocks the organic form of phosphorus by acting as a catalyst to the hydrolosis of phytic acid. In nature, this occurs during germination.

Where Do We Get Phytase?

Ruminant animals such as deer, cows, and sheep, produce phytase that helps them to unlock the nutrients in the phytic acid. They also have four stomachs, regurgitate their food so they can chew it again, and have longer intestines. They are made to eat food like this.

Abomasum

Ruminant Have Four Stomachs that can Break Down Phytic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pearson Scott Foresman, 2008)

We are not. We produce such a small amount of phytase that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Some people do have really good gut flora with probiotic lactobacilli and other good bacteria that actually produce phytase. They are able to handle low to moderate amounts of phytic acid.

But here’s the good news: By soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening, we can mimic the conditions that stimulate germination which will release the phytase and break down the phytic acid thereby releasing the phosphorus mineral and unlocking any other minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron) that are bound up as well.

Organic Chemistry

This might be a section that you gloss over, and that’s fine. Just know that I have spent weeks upon weeks and hours upon hours reading hundreds of pages of studies and scientific explanations in order to understand this very complicated, yet beautifully simple, process. Here is what I learned about phytic acid and how it is affected by the three things that seeds need to germinate.

  1. The Right Moisture: The first thing seeds need to germinate is water, or H2O.
  2. The Right Acidity: When the pH reaches the optimal level of 5.1-5.5, which is slightly acidic, the phosphates in the phytic acid (where the phosphorus is being stored) convert to dihydrogen triphosphate ions (H2PO4). This is when the phytase that is in the seed catalyzes (or starts a reaction with) the hydrolysis of phytic acid. Hydrolysis is a reaction involving the breaking of a bond in a molecule using water. So basically, when the conditions are slightly acidic, the phytic acid is able to be broken apart with the help of the phytase enzyme. 
  3. The Right Nutrients: Now that the phosphates have been released from their phytic acid bond, the seed can access the phosphorous which it uses to sprout and grow. When the seedling sprouts, the phytase levels are at their highest and they phytic acid levels are at their lowest.

Kitchen Chemistry: Soaking, Sprouting, and Sour Leavening

Once we understand the organic chemistry behind germination, we can understand the chemistry that needs to take place in our kitchen. In order to break down the phytic acid and unlock the nutrients that are trapped within, we need to mimic the process of germination.

  1. Soaking in an Acidic Medium: Soaking is what prepares the seed for germination. By adding an acidic medium such as whey, buttermilk, yogurt, or clabbered milk, which creates an optimal pH level of about 5-5.5 where the phytic acid will be able to be broken down. Apple cider vinegar has a slightly lower pH of 3 and lemon juice is the most acidic of all with a pH of 2. By adding a few tablespoons of either of these to a large pot or glass container of filtered water (never plastic), it should be diluted enough to create a slightly acidic medium. Soaking works best when it’s warm (about 90 degrees) and when it lasts for at least 24 hours.
    barley soaking in an acidic medium to break down phytic acid

    Soaking Barley in an Acidic Medium

  2. Sprouting: Seeds that are soaked in filtered water and then sprouted for 4 to 5 days will have the time to neutralize a good amount of the phytic acid. Sprouting also increases the vitamin C content tremendously! I personally find the sprouting process too time consuming, but give it a try if it sounds like fun to you or you can buy some sprouted grain flour here!
    sprouting mung beans in a jar

    Seeds Sprouting (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Alex Ex, 2007)

  3. Sour Leavening: Sourdough creates the perfect pH of 4.5-5.0. This is the BEST way to get rid of ALL the phytic acid. Not only that, but the naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria that convert lactose and other sugars into the lactic acid that gives it its perfect pH, are also the good bacteria that you want in your gut to crowd out things like candida. When making sourdough, it is important to work with freshly ground grain so that the phytase is readily available. Check out some of my sourdough recipes if you are ready to get started.
    sourdough starter using fresh ground wheat

    Sourdough Starter

Some Seeds Don’t Have Phytase

In order for the phytic acid to be broken down, there MUST be phytase within the seed. If there isn’t, no amount of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting will break down the phytic acid. Rye, wheat, and barely, for example, have high amounts of phytase. Oats, rice, and corn, however, have hardly any phytase at all. Here’s a simple trick you can do for seeds that don’t have enough phytase.

  1. Grind some fresh grain that is high in phytase. (Rye is the best, wheat works too.)
  2. Add one or two tablespoons during the soaking process to seeds that are low in phytase.
  3. *The grain MUST be ground fresh (which is why I would recommend buying a little coffee grinder to keep on your kitchen counter) and cannot be frozen or stored for a long time (the phytase will no longer be active.)
  4. The added phytase will break down the phytic acid and your precious nutrients will be unlocked.

Preparation Tips and Tricks

If you’re ready to start getting rid of phytic acid, here are some tips and tricks to use with seeds that have a lot of phytase (like rye, wheat, and barely), seeds that have very little phytase (like oats, rice, and corn), and seeds that are in kind of a grey area (like tubers, beans, nuts, and seeds).

Seeds with Plenty of Phytase

Rye, wheat, and barley are high in phytase. This means that when properly prepared, they can break down their own phytic acid.

Making Flour: I love grinding my own grain to make bread or any other recipies. Freshly ground flour has all of the active phytase and all of the vitamins and minerals intact. The heat of industrial grinding destroys the phytase along with many of the nutrients. Combine that with a long shelf life and buying whole wheat flour is just an empty gesture. Even grinding grain fresh and keeping it in the freezer destroys the phytase.

The best thing to do is to freshly grind what you are going to use. That is why I like keeping my WonderMill within easy reach in the kitchen. I know the price tag seems like a lot, so if you don’t have one yet, maybe you’ll want to try a hand grinder for a lot less to see if you like it first. For grinding small batches of grain to add to my sourdough and other recipes, I like using this little coffee grinder. *Post update (January 2016):  After I grind my wheat, I just leave it in its container and keep it on the countertop to use as needed. 

I have found that sourdough is the best way to eliminate pretty much all of the phytic acid. Soaking grains before grinding them to make flour just doesn’t make sense to me, and sprouting is a LOT of work and won’t get rid of all they phytic acid, but it’s an option if you’re interested. You can soak your flour in an acidic medium after it’s freshly ground and it should do a pretty good job of getting rid of the phytic acid as well.

  • Rye – Rye grains have the most phytase of any seed. They have 14 times more phytase than wheat grains. This is the recommended grain for making bread because of its high phytase content, but I have tried using it to make my sourdough and it didn’t rise very well. It tastes great, but it’s a very dense grain. I prefer keeping some on hand to grind fresh to add to other seeds that don’t have as much phytase.
    rye grains

    Rye Grains (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Agronom, 2013)

  • Wheat – Wheat grains don’t have as much phytase as rye, but they have enough to do the job. I find that the lighter grains like Organic Prairie gold wheat berries are the best for making sourdough bread. You can also use something similar like this Soft Winter Wheat or some ancient Einkorn grains. It may seem like a lot to buy 50 lbs at a time, but it is the most cost effective way to get your grains if you have the place to store them. I just keep them in a cupboard in the bag it comes in and roll it down when I’m not using it, but you can get some 5 gallon buckets from the hardware store that would work great too. If you don’t feel like grinding your own grain, here’s a good alternative. Sifting your freshly ground flour to take out the big chunks of bran can help too.
    wheat grains

    Wheat Grains: High in Phytase

  • Barley – Barley is more of a superfood than you think. It has an impressive nutritional profile with 23 g of protein per serving (way more than beans or rice) with more vitamins and minerals than just about any other grain. Barley grains have the same amount of phytase as rye grains, so before I use them in my soups, I soak them for 24 hours in an acidic medium. I also order them in bulk from CLNF, but you can also buy them here. I like to get the hulled kind, but if you don’t want to soak them and you don’t care about the nutrient profile, then you can get the pearl kind.
    barley grains

    Barley Grains: High in Phytase

Seeds with Very Little Phytase

Oats, rice, and corn have very little phytase, so they will need a little help to break down the phytic acid. By adding a few scoops of freshly ground phytase rich rye flour (or wheat) to an acidic soaking medium, and soak for a full 24 hours, a good amount of the phytic acid should be broken down.

  • Oats – Oats have more nutrients than just about any other grain. Organic rolled oats are the best because part of the bran (where the phytic acid is) is removed during the rolling process. Just stay away from instant rolled oats because they have been subjected industrial processing with such high heat that nearly all of the nutrients have been destroyed. I used to like steel cut oats, but they have an extremely high phytic acid content. If you prepare them properly, you might be able to get rid of about half of the phytic acid.
    steel cut oats

    Steel Cut Oats: Very Little Phytase

  • Rice – Brown rice isn’t as healthy as you would think. It only has 5 g of protein per serving in comparison to barley’s 23 g and more impressive nutrient profile. I much prefer using barley in my soups over rice. In addition, studies have shown there to be concerning amounts of arsenic in rice, especially in brown rice. In our family, we enjoy organic jasmine or basmati rice from time to time as a vehicle for other healthier foods like salmon and stir fry.
    white rice

    White Rice: Very Little Phytase

  • Corn – Are you surprised to see that corn is a grain instead of a vegetable as it’s often peddled? Well, because corn is such a genetically modified food, we try to stay away from it anyways unless it’s in season and we can buy it fresh from a local farmer. Otherwise, we might enjoy some organic corn chips as a vehicle for other more healthy foods like my homemade tacos on occasion. You can get these sprouted organic corn tortillas in bulk here, and here’s a recipe for some fermented corn bread that sounds pretty good if you’d like to still include corn in your diet in a safe way.
    white popcorn kernals

    White Popcorn Kernals: Very Little Phytase

Kind of a Grey Area

All of the seeds in this category are kind of hard to define, but the one thing they have in common is that they should NOT comprise the majority of the calories in your diet. Many people will turn to things like nut flours (including coconut) if they trying to go grain free, but here’s a look into why that’s not such a good idea.

  • Nuts – Nuts have phytic acid amounts equal to or greater than that of grains, but unfortunately we know very little about how to reduce phytic acid in nuts. If you soak them, you might be able to get rid of some of the phytic acid, but not much. A handful of nuts here and there should really be of no concern, but watch out for things like almond milk, nut flours, and peanut butter. You can buy nut butters that have been soaked, and that is a better option.
an assortment of nuts

Mixed Nuts: Very Little Phytase

  • Seeds – Seeds are extremely high in phytic acid. Some of the phytic acid may be removed by soaking, sprouting, and/or roasting, but it’s debatable. It is best to keep seeds to a minimum and to avoid snacking on raw seeds. If you want to buy some that are okay for occasionally snacking on, you might want to check out these organic sprouted pumpkin seeds.
sesame seeds

Seeds: Extremely High in Phytic Acid (Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons, Jitujetster, 2009)

  • Cacao Seeds – Oh, and here’s some bad news: cacao is a seed, and it is extremely high in phytic acid. Do you know what that means? That’s right, chocolate is made from cacao seeds and is therefore high in phytic acid. Boo! The best thing to do is look for raw cocoa and cocoa powder that is fermented. Maybe I’ll have to give some of these a try.
    where chocolate comes from

    Cacao Seeds (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

  • Beans – Do you ever get gas after eating beans? That’s probably because they weren’t prepared correctly. If you soak beans for 24-36 hours in an acidic medium with some added phytase from some freshly ground rye flour, change the water at least once, rinse the beans, add fresh water, cook at a low boil for 4-12 hours, and skim the foam that comes to the top (those are the phytates and other anti-nutrients), you can get rid of about 50% of they phytic acid. If you want to get rid of ALL the phytic acid, you’ll have to soak for 12 hours, germinate for 3-4 days, and then ferment them.
    Dark Red Kidney Bean

    Beans: High in Phytic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, BetacommandBot, 2007)

  • Coffee Beans – Ready for some bad news? Coffee beans are BEANS! Therefore, they contain phytic acid too. According to research, espresso is the best way to get your caffeine kick while minimizing the phytic acid content. Here are some good espresso beans to get you started.
    espresso beans

    These Espresso Beans are the Best Way to Get Caffeine (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ailura, 2015)

  • Tubers – Sweet potatoes and potatoes contain very little phytic acid, but yams and other starchy staples do contain enough to be a concern. Cooking does not significantly remove phytic acid in potatoes or other tubers, but consumption of potatoes with plenty of butter or other animal fat in the context of a nutrient dense diet should be enough to mitigate their effects.
    different kinds of potatoes

    Potatoes: Very Little Phytic Acid

Benefits of Phytic Acid

There are some health benefits to phytic acid, however, that is worth taking a look at. It can be beneficial for detoxification because even though it is binding with needed minerals such as zinc and iron, it is also binding with unwanted toxic metals such as cadmium and lead and ushering them out of the body. And when phytic acid binds to excess iron (which never comes from animal products by the way, only plants) that can oxidize and form a rusting in the body, it is serving as antioxidants against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. But instead of buying inositol hexaphosphate or IP6 (the scientific names of phytic acid) as a supplement, just know that if you’re looking to detoxify your body because of illness or some other ailment, you can just eat a bowl of plain old brown rice to help flush out your body.

In Conclusion

There is a big misconception in a lot of health circles that if it comes from nature and it’s minimally processed, that it is the best and healthiest option.

Phytic acid is just one the many anti-nutrients out there, and its negative effects such as trapping phosphorus, leaching important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, and inhibiting the enzymes amylase, pepsin, and trypsin that help us to digest carbohydrates and proteins, should be enough to make us think twice about the seeds (grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and tubers) that we eat.

It therefore stands to reason that the “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” axiom by Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) isn’t the simple solution we should be looking for. If we are to keep these foods in our diets, however, it is important that we take the steps to prepare them properly in order to degrade these anti-nutrients as much as possible. By learning (or re-learning) the ancient arts of soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening, we can take steps to ensure the best nutrition not only for us, but for our children, and for our future.

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