Mommypotamus 2016-02-13T16:52:36Z http://www.mommypotamus.com/feed/atom/WordPress Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[The Beginner’s Guide To Adaptogens]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=42000 2016-02-11T16:47:15Z 2016-02-11T15:59:21Z The mysterious ancient pyramids of . . . Khafra and Menkaure probably don’t affect your daily life, but there are a set of pyramids that most definitely do. They’re called the adrenals, and they’re pyramid-shaped glands that sit just above the kidneys. These little powerhouses secrete hormones that make us resilient during times of stress and/or busyness, which […]

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adaptogens

The mysterious ancient pyramids of . . .

Khafra and Menkaure probably don’t affect your daily life, but there are a set of pyramids that most definitely do. They’re called the adrenals, and they’re pyramid-shaped glands that sit just above the kidneys. These little powerhouses secrete hormones that make us resilient during times of stress and/or busyness, which is super important for those of us who . . . um . . . breathe.

Whether it’s a sleepless night, illness, surgery, stress at work, meltdowns at the store with a toddler, financial pressure, or just a go-go-go season of life, we all go through times that require a lot of our adrenals. Ideally, are able to rest between these experiences so that they can recover – similar to the way muscles do after a workout. In real life, that doesn’t always happen.

As I shared in this post on Dr. James Wilson’s at-home test for assessing adrenal fatigue, my default approach to life is to DO ALL THE THINGS. Sometimes that leads to amazing experiences, and sometimes it gets me in trouble.

Last year, I started noticing that I wasn’t bouncing back from stressful experiences like I used to. I knew my adrenals needed some TLC, so I experimented with a lot of suggestions and eventually shared my top fifteen tips for helping the adrenals thrive.

In this post, I’m going to expand on tip #4 – using adaptogens. We’re going to talk about what they do, and which ones are considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

What are adaptogens?

Unlike caffeine, which is a stimulant that encourages a specific response within the body, adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stress by nudging it toward balance. To put it a different way, if caffeine is like a map from point A (sleepy) to point B (alert), adaptogens are more like a GPS system that figures out where you are and helps you get where you need to go (balanced).

Now, you may be thinking,”Eh, balance. Are we talking about that woo stuff that will happen to me after I learn how to shine my collarbones and relax my spleen?”

I’ll admit that’s pretty much how I felt when I first looked into them, but after reviewing the research I was blown away by how they’re different from other herbs. Here’s the best way I can describe how I experience them: Sometimes life feels like trying to hold on to a firehose that’s going full blast – it’s intense to say the least. Adaptogens have a grounding effect, almost like adding weights to my body while I hold the hose so that I have more stability and control.

adaptogen

Adaptogenic Herbs For Adrenal Health

If you’re new to adaptogens, here are some tips I picked from various herbal books that you may find helpful:

1. Most adaptogens can be used as single herbs, many herbalists prefer to blend them together to create a synergistic effect. While some herbs cancel each other out when taken together (for example, a stimulating one with a sleep promoting one), I believe all the ones listed below are considered compatible with each other. One herb – licorice – is safest when used in small amounts and blended with other herbs.

2. Although some herbs, such as eleuthero, can be used safely for extended periods of time, many herbalists recommend rotating the adaptogens used every couple of months. Fortunately, most herbs are very affordable, and there are quite a few to choose from.

3. Some herbs may interact with medications, so please check with your doctor before consuming a new herb if you are taking medicine. (You can also check the Botanical Safety Handbook for information on potential contraindications – it’s an incredibly helpful guide.)

Safety Class 1A Adaptogens

According to the Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition, Safety Class 1A adaptogens can be described as:

“Herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately.

  • History of safe traditional use
  • No case reports of significant adverse events with high probability of causality
  • No significant adverse events in clinical trials
  • No identified concerns for use during pregnancy or lactation
  • No innately toxic constituents
  • Toxicity associated with excessive use is not a basis for exclusion from this class
  • Minor or self-limiting side effects are not bases for exclusion from this class”

Here are some of the Class 1A adaptogens thought to be most beneficial for adrenal support:

  • Cordyceps  Once rare and mostly reserved for nobility, cordyceps is now cultivated and widely available. It is considered one of the most valuable traditional herbs in China. Read more about it here.
  • Dang shen
  • Eleuthero – Before it was the subject of classified Soviet research, eleuthero was regarded as one of the most precious herbs in the known world by Li Shih-Chen, a 16th century herbalist who compiled the Compendium of Materia Medica. Find out why here.
  • Panax ginseng – According to Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief “In Western clinical practice, Asian ginseng is considered the most stimulating of the adaptogens.” Read more about it here.
  • Reishi – Sometimes referred to as the “mushroom of immortality,” the reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushroom has long been believed to promote vitality and resilience. Learn more about it here.
  • American ginseng – This species is endangered in the wild, so please take care to only obtain it from sources that are cultivating it for use.
  • Holy basil – Although Holy basil is classified as 1A when used appropriately, large doses of Holy Basil have caused a reduction in embryo implantation in animal studies. Therefore many practitioners recommend that it be avoided by those who wish to get pregnant or are currently pregnant. Read more about holy basil here.

Safety Class 2B/2D Adaptogens

  • Ashwagandha – Considered beneficial for sleep and adapting to stress – that’s my kind of herb! However, it is not recommended for pregnancy due to conflicting reports about whether it may act as an abortifacient. With regard to breastfeeding, ashwagandha has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition to support lactation. (Source: Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition) Read all about ashwagandha here.
  • Licorice root -Considered a harmonizer, or an herb that brings the properties of other herbs together in a formula. It is not recommended during pregnancy, and there are other guidelines regarding its use that need to be considered. Learn more about licorice here.

Unclassified Adaptogens

I could not find any reference to Rhodiola rosea in the Botanical Safety Handbook, so I personally would avoid it during pregnancy/breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a clinical herbalist.

Other Lifestyle Tips

For more information about supporting the adrenals, don’t forget to check out this post.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Ashwaganda Benefits and Uses]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=42099 2016-02-12T02:22:43Z 2016-02-10T15:53:57Z I’m not gonna mince words . . . The fact that ashwagandha translates literally as “smells like a horse” is not something I consider a selling point. But many experts believe the intended meaning is more like “strong as a horse,” and that’s something this DO ALL THE THINGS mama can totally get behind. As a […]

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ashwagandha-benefits

I’m not gonna mince words . . .

The fact that ashwagandha translates literally as “smells like a horse” is not something I consider a selling point. But many experts believe the intended meaning is more like “strong as a horse,” and that’s something this DO ALL THE THINGS mama can totally get behind. As a bonus, ashwagandha’s botanical species name, somnifera, means restful sleep. Who doesn’t want more of that? (Psst! Here are some tips if you’re not waking up refreshed.)

Okay, back to ashwagandha. We all know that life is TOTALLY EASY and never stressful, but there is a percentage of the population (say, um, 99.99%) that sometimes finds themselves in need of some extra support during challenging experiences.

In times like those, ashwagandha (Latin name Withania somnifera) is a fantastic adaptogen to have on hand. Like other herbs in this category, it helps the body adapt to stress by nudging the body toward balance in whatever way is needed.

What I love most about this particular herb is how versatile it is. According to Donald Yance, clinical herbalist and author of Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, ashwagandha is “an excellent overall tonic that should be incorporated into everyone’s daily adaptogenic formula(s).” (Except pregnant women – see notes below.)

He adds that, “Ashwagandha, like eleuthero, is a well-balanced herbal adaptogen that is well suited for all people, although it is best combined with other plant adaptogens to optimize herbal synergy.” (Source: Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism) You can find a list of adaptogens that it can be blended with here.

ashwagandha

Benefits of Ashwagandha

According to Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, “Most adaptogens are stimulating; ashwagandha is a bit unusual in that it is a calming adaptogen.”

It is considered helpful for:

Additional animal studies suggest it may have a positive effect on bone mineralization (source

Is ashwagandha safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

According to the Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition, ashwahandha is a Safety Class 2B herb, which means it is not recommended for pregnancy due to conflicting reports about whether it may act as an abortifacient.

With regard to breastfeeding, ashwagandha has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition to support lactation.

How much is recommended?

Adaptogens are herbs rather than pharmaceutical drugs, so there are no dosages. However, herbalists do share knowledge about what methods of consumption seem to produce a beneficial effect for most people.

In Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, ethnobotanist David Winston and herbal expert Steven Maimes recommend the following:

  • For a 1:5 tincture (1 ounce dried ashwagandha by weight, mixed with 5 ounces of 60 proof or higher alcohol) – 30-40 drops, three times per day. (Or you can buy an organic, pre-made tincture like this one and follow the instructions on the label.)
  • As a decoction – Simmer 1-2 teaspoons dried ashwagandha in 8 ounces water for about 30 minutes, then let infuse for an additional 30 minutes. Strain and take 3-4 ounces three times per day.
  • Capsules – One 400-500 mg capsule, twice per day.

What else do I need to know about ashwagandha?

Ashwaganda is in the nightshade family, so it is recommended that you avoid ashwagandha if you are sensitive to nightshades. Also, ashwagandha is not recommended for individuals that have excessive iron levels, or have hyperthyroidism. Also, please check with your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedy.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Broccoli Cheddar Soup]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38451 2016-02-09T21:56:42Z 2016-02-03T15:42:40Z It transforms butternut squash in to grain-free mini-pizzas, spinach into a dish worth making again and again, and plain old broccoli into hearty, belly warming goodness. I’m talking about cheese, of course. If you’ve ever encountered an opinionated eater in your home, you know that a little can go a long way in making a dish more […]

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broccoli-cheese-soup

It transforms butternut squash in to grain-free mini-pizzas, spinach into a dish worth making again and again, and plain old broccoli into hearty, belly warming goodness. I’m talking about cheese, of course.

If you’ve ever encountered an opinionated eater in your home, you know that a little can go a long way in making a dish more enticing. In this recipe, cream and cheese actually serve a dual purpose – increasing the yum factor while also providing a key source of dietary fat. One of broccoli’s primary nutrients, vitamin K1, is best absorbed when consumed with fat, so it’s a win-win. (source)

As a bonus, broccoli is also considered a good source of natural folate, which is extra important for the estimated 50% of the population that has the MTHFR genetic mutation.

This broccoli cheese soup has a higher ratio of broccoli than most – the cheese is more or less a vehicle for getting more broccoli (and bone broth!) into little bellies. It’s super easy and little potami approved – I hope your family loves it as much as we do!

broccoli-cheese-soup-1

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli florets, fresh or previously frozen and thawed
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces cheddar, grated
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional toppings if desired – bacon, cheese, green onions, etc.

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, sauté the onion in butter until slightly softened.
  2. Add in the broth, cream, broccoli and carrot and simmer on low until the veggies are soft – about 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in cheese and arrowroot flour and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and allow to thicken for five minutes. If desired, blend some (or all) of the soup to make it smoother. I grab my immersion blender and give it a whir in the pot. Top with bacon or other garnish if desired and serve.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Easy Quiche Recipe With Bacon, Tomato and Green Onion]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38524 2016-02-01T03:29:01Z 2016-01-28T19:24:26Z Stop waiting for Friday, for summer, for someone to fall in love with you, for life. Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in right now.” -Unknown A leisurely Saturday morning breakfast almost feels like a holiday to me. Being with the people I love, […]

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Easy Quiche Recipe

Stop waiting for Friday, for summer, for someone to fall in love with you, for life. Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in right now.” -Unknown

A leisurely Saturday morning breakfast almost feels like a holiday to me. Being with the people I love, pancakes, sausage, COFFEE. Playing a board game or mapping out plans for the day. I love it, which is why I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate a little bit of “Saturday” into each morning. Slow cooker “baked” apples with salted caramel and this easy quiche recipe are two of my favorite ways to make that happen. They require very little “hands-on” time, but they add a sense of occasion to our morning meal.

As a bonus, I usually have enough quiche left over for a simple lunch, which means more time to do something fun with the potami  . . . or sneak away for a few minutes alone while they build with blocks!

This recipe can be made in a cast iron skillet from start to finish, which means there’s only one pan to clean. If you don’t have one, I’ve also included instructions for making it in two pie pans.

Easy Quiche Recipe With Bacon, Tomato, Onion & Potato Crust - This simple quiche can be made in a cast iron skillet from start to finish, which means there’s only one pan to clean. If you don’t have one, there are also instructions for making it in two pie pans.

Easy Quiche Recipe With Bacon, Tomato and Green Onion

Makes 1 quiche in a 12 inch cast iron skillet (this is the one I have) or two quiches in 9 inch pie pans.

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato, diced
  • 8 oz. cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

If you’re using a 12 inch cast iron pan:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Begin frying the bacon in your skillet. While the bacon is frying, cut the potatoes into very thin slices.easy-quiche-recipe-potato-crust
  3. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside. Pour out any excess bacon grease that is present. A thin layer of grease should be left to prevent the potato crust from sticking, but you don’t need much.
  4. Place potato slices in the skillet to form a crust, like this: easy-quiche-recipe-potato-crust-2
  5. Whisk eggs together in a medium bowl. Grate cheese and mix it in, along with green onion, tomato, salt and pepper. Crumble bacon and add it in, then pour mixture into the skillet.
  6. Place skilled in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the center.

If you’re using two 9 inch pie plates:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Begin frying the bacon in a skillet. While the bacon is frying, cut the potatoes into very thin slices.
  3. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside. Pour out any excess bacon grease that is present. A thin layer of grease should be left to prevent the potato crust from sticking, but you don’t need much. Place potato slices in the skillet to form a crust. See instructions above for an example of how it looks in a skillet. The method is exactly the same for the pie plates, but you may need to cut the slices that go up the side of the plate in half because the pie plates are more shallow.
  4. Whisk eggs together in a medium bowl. Grate cheese and mix it in, along with green onion, tomato, salt and pepper. Crumble bacon and add it in, then pour mixture into the pie plates.
  5. Place skilled in the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes, or until set in the center.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Homemade Stain Remover]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38493 2016-01-30T18:57:23Z 2016-01-26T17:51:27Z I’ve been using the same tried-and-true homemade powdered laundry detergent for years, and recently I discovered a simple liquid version that I love. (Happy accident – I was trying to make shampoo!) Unfortunately, as the potami get older – and MESSIER – I’ve found myself losing more and more battles to the stain monster. My old stain […]

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Homemade Stain Remover

I’ve been using the same tried-and-true homemade powdered laundry detergent for years, and recently I discovered a simple liquid version that I love. (Happy accident – I was trying to make shampoo!)

Unfortunately, as the potami get older – and MESSIER – I’ve found myself losing more and more battles to the stain monster. My old stain remover recipe just wasn’t up to the task – especially when it comes to oil stains – so I’ve been testing a few variations with ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, castile soap, glycerin, cornstarch/arrowroot flour, and lemon essential oil.

Using the leftovers from my potholder project, I rubbed all kinds of things (ketchup, grass, oil) on several t-shirt strips. After letting the stain set, I sprayed them with several different recipes and then rinsed the cloth in the sink. Formula #3 was by far the best – especially in dealing with oil stains – so that’s what I’m sharing with you today. It’s worked beautifully for me in removing ketchup, oil stains, grass stains, and a few mystery stains.

Below is a before/after photo of one of my son’s favorite shirts. The stains are many months old so I wasn’t expecting much when I started using the new recipe, but just spraying the shirt and letting it sit overnight before washing has made a huge difference. (I’ve sprayed it three times so far.) There are still a few very light spots that I’ll continue to spray before washing, but this shirt has moved from the “only at home” category to “wear in public.” (I’m not the only one who has those categories, right?)

Homemade Stain Remover - This recipe was the best when tested against several other stain removers - it works beautifully on ketchup, grass stains, oil stains, and those mystery stains you don't notice until something has already been washed and dried.

The science behind homemade stain removers

So why does it work? Hydrogen is a weak acid, and castile soap is a base. Normally when you mix the two together they cancel each other out, so I was shocked that this was the winner. I wouldn’t have even tried putting the two together, but I’d seen so many sites recommend Dawn dish soap mixed with hydrogen peroxide that I had to see what all the fuss was about. (This recipe is based on that formula, only with natural castile soap instead of Dawn and the addition of lemon essential oil for extra degreasing oomph.)

It’s possible that the soap dampens the effect of the hydrogen peroxide just enough to make it a color-safe form of oxygen bleach. (Most “color-safe” bleaches contain stable ingredients that turn into hydrogen peroxide when added to water. Still, it’s important to do a patch test before applying just in case – some fabrics will fade even with color-safe products.)

Or maybe the soap works as a degreaser while the hydrogen peroxide lifts the stain and breaks down organic components. I’m not sure. All I know is it works way better than my old recipe!

Oil Stain Tip

Sometimes, when I have an oil stain that is particularly stubborn, I’ll spray this stain remover on it and then sprinkle it with arrowroot powder or cornstarch. The powder will help absorb the oil from the stain.

Stain Remover Recipe - This homemade stain remover was the best when tested against several other recipes - it works beautifully on ketchup, grass stains, oil stains, and those mystery stains you don't notice until something has already been washed and dried. Before and after photos in the post!

Homemade Stain Remover

Ingredients

To Make

Combine ingredients and pour into a dark glass spray bottle. Hydrogen peroxide is sensitive to light so a dark bottle is essential for maintaining potency.

To Use

Shake well, then spray stain remover on the affected area – do a patch test first if there is any concern about colorfastness. I sometimes allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, then rinse while rubbing/scrubbing the fabric, then reapply and repeat until the stain is gone. Other times, I just spray it on and just throw it in the wash.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Yucca Fries]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38392 2016-01-23T20:07:16Z 2016-01-22T16:27:19Z I’d managed to pull together . . . Some “normal” snacks for the sweet college student that had come to watch the potami – cheese and crackers, chicken nuggets with ranch dressing and whatnot – but then I saw it. It was right there on the counter, bubbling away with golden, gut healing goodness. You could almost have mistaken my slow […]

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Yucca Fries

I’d managed to pull together . . .

Some “normal” snacks for the sweet college student that had come to watch the potami – cheese and crackers, chicken nuggets with ranch dressing and whatnot – but then I saw it.

It was right there on the counter, bubbling away with golden, gut healing goodness. You could almost have mistaken my slow cooker chicken broth for soup, except um, a chicken foot was visible.

Cover = BLOWN. I can’t hide my weird foodie ways. Fortunately, Operation Couple Time is currently overseen by a craft-and-storytime-ninja who loves food as much as I do. Her family comes from Brazil, so when she discovered that I had yucca in my freezer, she immediately shared this recipe with me.

It’s so simple and we absolutely love it. The fries are crispy on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. They’re delicious simply sprinkled with salt and then dunked in your favorite sauce, or you can add some smoked paprika and garlic powder for a rich, earthly flavor.

Oh, and if you or someone you love is avoiding nightshades – good news! Sometimes referred to as cassava root, yucca is not a nightshade – it’s a starchy root that grows in temperate climates.  Pair it with something like ranch or homemade mayo instead of ketchup and you’re good to go.

YUCCA FRIES RECIPE - Yucca can be found in the frozen food section of many grocery stores in my area, but until recently I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Well, now I know. Yucca fries - they're so crispy and delicious! If you or someone you love is avoiding NIGHTSHADES - or even if you aren't - definitely try them.

Yucca Fries Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup frozen yucca
  • coconut oil for frying
  • unrefined sea salt

Instructions

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.

Add in a pinch of salt and ½ pound peeled, frozen yucca. This is what it will look like before you put it in.

yuca-fries-recipe-frozen

Remove yucca when a fork can be easily inserted and removed – how long this takes depends on how thick the yucca root is. Place yucca on a plate or cutting board.

In the center of the yucca is a stringy stem that is too tough to chew. Remove it and cut the yucca in to french fry strips that are about 1/4 inch wide.

yuca-fries-recipe

Fry in 1/4 inch coconut oil over medium heat until golden brown.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Soothing Herbal Throat Spray Recipe]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38308 2016-02-02T23:08:33Z 2016-01-20T17:09:18Z Earaches? Been there.  Pinkeye? No problem. Fevers, coughs, and tummy aches? I’ve seen those, too.  Last week I noticed that my daughter’s voice dropped a couple of octaves, and then my son started feeling a little off – yep, sore throats! Fortunately, it was nothing an afternoon on the couch watching The Secret Garden and a soothing homemade throat […]

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Homemade Throat Spray

Earaches? Been there.  Pinkeye? No problem. Fevers, coughs, and tummy achesI’ve seen those, too. 

Last week I noticed that my daughter’s voice dropped a couple of octaves, and then my son started feeling a little off – yep, sore throats! Fortunately, it was nothing an afternoon on the couch watching The Secret Garden and a soothing homemade throat spray couldn’t handle.

This recipe incorporates slippery elm bark and marshmallow root, which both take on a silky, gel-like texture when heated. They’ve long been used to coat and soothe sore throats, but they’re helpful to have on hand for other purposes, too.

If desired, you can add licorice root, which according to herbal folk wisdom can also be helpful for soothing sore throats. (Interestingly, modern research is exploring the potential benefits of licorice, too. In this study, they found that using licorice water as a gargle soothed patients throats after surgery.)

A pinch of cayenne – which contains capsaicin – is also a great addition for adults. It is thought to stimulate blood flow to the area, which supports the body’s natural healing processes. Flavorings such as warming ginger or soothing peppermint can also be added in.

What about using essential oils?

Because strep throat can sometimes lead to complications, when the potami developed sore throats I decided to take them to our family doctor and have them checked out. On my way, I messaged my friend Lea – essential oil safety advocate and founder of the Using Essential Oils Safely Facebook group – to ask what “big guns” she might suggest if the culture came back positive. I wanted some possible immune support strategies to discuss with our doctor just in case.

Lea suggested up to a 3% dilution of tea tree oil in water as a throat spray. That would be up to 9 drops per tablespoon of water or tea, shaken well before use. We didn’t end up needing it and I wouldn’t use it unless absolutely necessary, but I was thankful for her advice and wanted to pass it along. Like gargling, the tea tree in the spray would simply have contact with the back of the throat rather than being ingested.

I checked with her on what ages this would be appropriate for, and she said that as long as the child is old enough to cooperate with you spraying the back of the throat rather than on the tongue, it should be fine. Also, she said that an even better alternative to water would be to mix the tea tree with a little honey (to help it disperse better), and then add it to chamomile tea.

A quick note . . .

If you pick up marshmallow root for this recipe and have some left over, you can use it to make homemade hair detangler. Slippery elm also makes a wonderful, digestion soothing tea.

Herbal Sore Throat Spray Recipe - Soothes and coats sore throats with a mixture of herbs and honey. #sorethroatremedies #sorethroatremedy

Homemade Herbal Throat Spray Recipe

Because this is not something my family needs often, I prefer to make it in small batches so that it doesn’t go bad. It’s technically a syrup according to the definition in Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health, and therefore should last in the fridge for several weeks.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons teaspoons whole slippery elm bark (find it here) or marshmallow root (or a combination of both)
  • 1/2 cup water (this will boil down to about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons raw honey*
  • pinch cayenne (optional, probably not the best idea for little ones)
  • 1/2 teaspoon licorice root (this is what I use)
  • Optional flavorings:
    1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/16 – 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger or 1½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger

*Honey is not recommended for children under one-year-old.

Instructions

Bring water to a boil and stir in marshmallow root and slippery elm. If using fresh ginger or dried licorice, add it in as well. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, then strain and set the liquid aside to cool a little. After the herbs have been strained out, you should have 2-3 tablespoons of concentrated liquid.

While the liquid is still warm (but not hot), stir in the honey and any flavorings you haven’t already added, such as ground ginger or peppermint extract. Pour the liquid into a clean spray bottle and store in the fridge when not in use.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[MTHFR Gene Mutation FAQs]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38275 2016-01-25T18:06:38Z 2016-01-18T17:13:44Z Daddypotamus: I know you’re tired. Let’s just stop at Taco Bell or McDonald’s for dinner. Me (laughing): Stop.  Katie: Daddy, why are you saying that? Those aren’t real places! It wasn’t intentional, but somehow Katie was six years old before she realized these places really do exist. We’ve done our best to nourish them from […]

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Frequently asked questions about the MTHFR gene mutation, including recommended foods and lifestyle changes

Daddypotamus: I know you’re tired. Let’s just stop at Taco Bell or McDonald’s for dinner.

Me (laughing): Stop. 

Katie: Daddy, why are you saying that? Those aren’t real places!

It wasn’t intentional, but somehow Katie was six years old before she realized these places really do exist. We’ve done our best to nourish them from the start, and we are very careful about what goes into their little bodies.

I used to believe that was enough. With a real food diet and minimal supplementation to make up for things like soil depletion, our family would thrive.

However, when I discovered the MTHFR gene mutation, things got confusing for awhile. Is it enough to eat folate-rich foods or do I need to supplement? And if so, do I have to supplement forever? How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin B-12 and the other cofactors needed to utilize folate? (Note: If you’re unsure about what folate has to do with the MTHFR mutation, go back and read this post.)

I don’t have all the answers, but I wanted to share with you some of the information I’ve found most valuable as I sort through this. Now, please keep in mind that – as I’ve said before – “Best Boo-Boo Kisser South Of Puckett’s Grocery” is about as official as things get for me professionally. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice or a diagnosis. I’m just passing along information gathered from some of the top experts in the field.

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the top questions you may have . . .

What are the most common sources of kryptonite, er, folic acid?

As mentioned in my previous post, folic acid is a synthetic vitamin that is not well-converted into usable form by individuals with MTHFR mutations. However, free-floating unconverted folic acid doesn’t just sit around and twiddle its thumbs – it attaches to receptor sites intended for usable forms of folate, thus blocking the body’s ability to get enough folate.

That’s a big deal, because getting the right kind of folate is essential for DNA synthesis and repair, neurotransmitter production, detoxification, and immune function.

So how can we avoid it? Here are some tips:

1. Read labels carefully and avoid “enriched” or “fortified” foods.

In 1996, the United States mandated the addition of folic acid “to enriched bread, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta, and other grain products.” (source) The goal was to reduce neural tube defects in pregnant women, but unfortunately even institutions such as Harvard now believe this policy has had a detrimental effect. (source)

This study has shown that unmetabolized folic acid in the body depresses natural killer cell (immune system) activity. That’s huge for people with MTHFR since they have a limited ability to metabolize folic acid. Other studies have found a possible link between folic acid supplementation and an increased risk of certain types of cancer. (source)

2. Avoid supplements that contain folic acid.

Instead, I opt for something that says L-5-MTHF, L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate, 6(S)-L-MTHF, or 6(S)-L-Methyltetrahydrofolate. According to MTHFR expert Dr. Lynch, these forms are all synonymous with each other and well-absorbed. (source)

A quick word of caution: According to MTHFR experts, supplementing with methylfolate can actually make some people with MTHFR mutations worse, especially if there is underlying B-12 deficiency which has not been addressed. Before starting a supplementation protocol, I recommend signing up for Dr. Lynch’s email newsletter. It starts off with very helpful beginner info, including what he calls his “safe and sane” way to supplement. Consulting a MTHFR-literate practitioner is also a very good idea – here’s a list of individuals that have completed some training with Dr. Lynch.

What are the best foods for people with MTHFR?

Natural sources of folate are considered top priority, along with other nutrients that support the methylation cycle. Folate comes from the Latin word “folium,” which means leaf. Not surprisingly, that’s because leafy greens are one of the best sources of folate.

Because cooking tends to break down folate, Dr. Lynch recommends eating raw leafy greens daily. If oxalates are an issue, this article has a list of low oxalate greens that can be eaten raw.

Here are some other good sources of folate:

  • Liver (turkey or chicken, cooked) – contains approximately 420-518 mcg per 2½ ounce serving (source)
  • Liver (beef, pork, cooked) – contains approximately 122-195 mcg per 2½ ounce serving (source)
  • Liver (lamb, veal, cooked) contains approximately 122-195 per 2½ ounce serving (source)
  • Lentils, cooked – contains approximately 180 mcg per 1/2 cup serving (source)
  • Beans, cooked (black, navy, pinto, kidney) – contains approximately 115-145 mcg per 1/2 cup serving (source)
  • Broccoli, cooked – contains approximately 84 mcg per 1/2 cup serving (source)
  • Artichoke, cooked – contains approximately 79-106 mcg per 1/2 cup serving (source)
  • Avocado, one-half – contains approximately 81 mcg (source)
  • Asparagus – 4 spears contain approximately 85 mcg (source)
  • Egg, whole – contains approximately 25 mcg (source)
  • Strawberries, 8 medium – contains about 80 mcg (source)
  • Brussels sprouts, cooked – contains about 80 mcg per 1/2 cup (source)
  • Milk kefir – exact amount not known but higher than what is found in milk*(source)

Also important are vitamin B-12 (best found in pastured meats, wild caught fish and eggs), choline  (also found in eggs) and other cofactors that support methylation. This article gives a good breakdown of what to eat and why.

*Dr. Lynch recommends limiting dairy, and opting for goat milk if dairy is a must.

Is diet enough or is supplementation needed?

I haven’t seen this question answered directly, but most practitioners who work extensively with MTHFR seem to recommend at least some supplementation, at least initially. Personally, I’ve opted for supplementation AND optimizing my diet to support methylation.

However, as I mentioned earlier there is no one-size-fits-all supplementation protocol. Some people can have negative reactions to methylfolate, especially if they start at a high dose. Dr. Lynch shares tips tips for avoiding side effects here, and he shares additional information on supplementation considerations in his newsletter – you can find a link to it above in the section on avoiding folic acid.

Frequently asked questions about the MTHFR mutation - What are the best foods for people with MTHFR? What lifestyle changes are recommended?

What other lifestyle changes are recommended?

1. Because MTHFR mutations can affect our ability to detox efficiently, it’s important keep our toxic load as light as possible. I do this by making homemade, non-toxic cleaning supplies and personal care products. Drinking clean, filtered water is also important. (source)

2. None of us live in a bubble, so some level of toxic exposure is inevitable. For that reason, practitioners recommend incorporating gentle detox therapies into our weekly routine. Here are a few ideas:

  • Time in an infrared sauna – I bought this portable one after reading Wellness Mama’s article on the benefits of using a sauna. It has some helpful safety tips, as does this article from Dr. Lynch.
  • Epsom salt or Ancient Minerals magnesium baths (Epsom salts are more affordable, but some people are sensitive to magnesium sulfate. In those cases, the magnesium chloride sold by Ancient Minerals is a better option.)
  • Dry skin brushing
  • Exercise – In the fascinating study described here, researchers found that “physical activity purges the blood of a substance which accumulates during stress and can be harmful to the brain.
    Previous studies have suggested that people feel more positive after exercise because it releases a rush of endorphins. But it now appears that during exercise, the muscles begin to act like the liver or kidneys and produce an enzyme which clears out a molecule linked to depression.’ Muscle filtering things out like the liver or kidneys?       Just . . . whoa.

3. Optimize digestion and overall gut health. Certain types of gut problems can impair the methylation cycle – also, poor digestion prevents us from absorbing folate, B-12 and other vital nutrients from food. (source) Attempts to mask symptoms of digestive distress can make matters even worse. For example, antacids interfere with the absorption of vitamin B-12, which is essential for helping the body use folate. Though I don’t have any obvious digestive issues, I know that nourishing the gut is a lifelong endeavor. That’s why I focus on gut healing/nourishing foods like bone broth, gelatin, and fermented foods, and supplement with high quality soil-based and lactic-acid based probiotics (you can find the two I buy listed on my resources page). For those struggling with heartburn who want to avoid conventional medications, I recommend reading The 30-Day Heartburn Solution by Craig Fear, NTP.

4. Eating grass-fed beef (plus other pastured meats), and eggs, because they supply highly-usable forms of many nutrients needed for methylation.

5. Here are some additional suggestions from Dr. Lynch. I consider them a helpful general guideline, but I also listen to my body and make adjustments as needed.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Whole Roast Chicken]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38289 2016-01-21T21:43:55Z 2016-01-14T16:20:39Z It wasn’t the kind of question I expected to be asking myself while changing diapers, and yet a few months ago it was definitely something I was mulling over . Turns out, they’d just discovered the magic that is the Instant Pot – phew! Now, I’ve had a pressure cooker for a few years, but […]

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Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Whole Chicken - This "roast" chicken is one of my favorite Instant Pot recipes. It's so tender, and I can make it AND start a batch of broth in less time than it used to take me just to roast the chicken.


It wasn’t the kind of question I expected to be asking myself while changing diapers, and yet a few months ago it was definitely something I was mulling over . Turns out, they’d just discovered the magic that is the Instant Potphew!

Now, I’ve had a pressure cooker for a few years, but I hadn’t developed such a strong relationship with it that I named it or anything. (My slow cooker’s name is Betty, if you’re wondering.)

Anyway, the lid to my pressure cooker just so happened to break when the 7-in-1 Instant Pot was on sale, so I decided to give it a whirl. Oh. My. Goodness. I didn’t realize how much I was babysitting my old pressure cooker until I pressed a few buttons on my Instant Pot and walked away for an hour.

Since then I’ve been been on a mission to figure out more ways to use it. This “roast” chicken is one of my current favorites. It’s so tender, and I can have it on the table with broth already bubbling away (in the Instant Pot, of course) in less time than it used to take me just to roast the chicken. That means there’s more time for Llama Llama Red Pajama and extra snuggles at the end of the day, which is fine by me.

P.S. In case you find yourself wondering, it’s not a mistake that there are no instructions for adding liquid to this recipe. Chicken has a naturally high water content, so it cooks in its own juices. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Whole Chicken - This "roast" chicken is one of my favorite Instant Pot recipes. It's so tender, and I can make it AND start a batch of broth in less time than it used to take me just to roast the chicken.

Instant Pot Whole “Roast” Chicken

Ingredients

  • One small chicken – about 4 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Additional seasonings if desired (the chicken pictured was seasoned with lemon pepper)

Instructions

  1. Turn on the sauté setting and add in the coconut oil. When the oil heats up, place the chicken in breast-down and brown. I move mine around a few times to brown the sides as well.
  2. When the chicken is nice and brown, turn it over and sprinkle with seasoning.
  3. Lock the lid into place and set the valve to “sealing.” Select “Poultry” and then increase the type of pressure from normal to high. (If you have the 7-in-1, you can do that by pressing the “Adjust” button.) Set the time to 20 minutes.
  4. When the 20 minutes is up, turn the valve to “venting” and allow to depressurize. Turn the chicken over and then cook for another 15 minutes on high. It should be ready at this point, but check and make sure. If needed, cook for 5 more minutes, then serve.

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Heather http://www.mommypotamus.com <![CDATA[MTHFR Gene Mutations: A Beginner’s Guide]]> http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=38217 2016-02-05T20:26:14Z 2016-01-13T17:45:23Z I’ll admit, I thought it was the first time I read it, but as it turns out it’s something much more important. MTHFR is an abbreviation for a genetic mutation that affects 30-50% of our population, although most of us don’t know whether or not we have it. If you tuned out in high school biology and […]

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What’s the big deal about MTHFR gene mutations? Approximately 30-50% of our population has this genetic mutation, but most of us know very little about it. Click to find out why folic acid is toxic to people with MTHFR, how it can affect health, and what to do about it.


I’ll admit, I thought it was the first time I read it, but as it turns out it’s something much more important. MTHFR is an abbreviation for a genetic mutation that affects 30-50% of our population, although most of us don’t know whether or not we have it.

If you tuned out in high school biology and need a refresher on how genes work, here’s the deal:

Your body contains 50 trillion tiny cells, and almost every one of them contains the complete set of instructions for making you. These instructions are encoded in your DNA . . . If you imagine your DNA as a cookbook, then your genes are the recipes. (source)

So what is MTHFR, exactly?

Ahhh, good question. Before we jump in, let me just say that this “Beginner’s Guide” is simply an overview of the issue from my perspective as someone who has MTHFR. I’m not a genetic expert, but I do link to resources created by experts at the bottom of this post. Now, let’s get started . . .

Imagine one of the recipes in your DNA cookbook is for mayo, except the instructions got a little garbled and you ended up with something that is almost like mayo, but not quite. Every other dish in the cookbook that calls for mayo would be affected, right? That’s essentially what a mutation is – a slight change to the instructions that can have sometimes small, sometimes significant impacts on other recipes.

MTHFR specifically is a gene that holds the recipe for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase – an enzyme that helps our bodies convert vitamin B9 (also known as folate) into a usable form called methylfolate. This process is called methylation.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Oh, no problem! There’s folate in my multi-vitamin,” it’s important to note that the “folate” in most foods and vitamins is folic acid, which researchers believe is harmful to those with MTHFR gene mutations. (More on that later)

What’s the big deal about MTHFR mutations?

When the MTHFR gene is functioning properly, it’s highly efficient at helping our bodies convert vitamin B9 (folate) into a usable form called methylfolate. When the gene is mutated, this capacity to convert vitamin B9 into methylfolate is reduced by 40-70%.

That’s HUGE, because converting folate into a useable form is essential for DNA synthesis and repair, neurotransmitter production, detoxification, and immune function. (source)

Researchers are just beginning to study the connection between MTHFR mutations and different conditions, but so far it has found an association with quite a few. Here’s a short list of conditions that have been studied:

  • Tongue and lip ties (Though not necessarily severe, I mention them because discovering that my children were tongue and lip tied was my first hint that I needed to be tested for MTHFR.)
  • Heart disease (source)
  • Alzheimer’s (source)
  • Depression (source)
  • Recurrent miscarriage (source)
  • Asthma (source)
  • Prostate cancer (source)
  • Bladder cancer (source)
  • Multiple Sclerosis-like symptoms (source)

Dr. Ben Lynch, who is considered one of the foremost experts in the field of MTHFR genetic mutations, has a more complete list here. (See the third paragraph for a link to additional supporting research.)

What’s the big deal about MTHFR gene mutations? Approximately 30-50% of our population has this genetic mutation, but most of us know very little about it. Click to find out why folic acid is toxic to people with MTHFR, how it can affect health, and what to do about it.

Are all MTHFR mutations the same?

No. There are over fifty types of MTHFR gene mutations . . . possibly more that have yet to be discovered. However, the two that are most commonly studied and tested for are C677T and A1298C.

Let’s look at the C677T mutation for a moment. Because we inherit one copy of each gene from our mother and father, that means that for those that have the C677T mutation there are two possibilities. They can be:

  • Heterozygous – having one copy of the C677T mutation and one normal copy
  • Homozygous – having two copies of the C677T mutation

According to Dr. Ben Lynch, individuals who are:

  • Homozygous for C677T have an estimated 70% loss of function
  • Heterozygous for C677T have an estimated 40% loss of function

There is a lot of debate about whether those with the A1298C mutation experience diminished function. Some say no, but based on what I’ve read of Dr. Lynch’s work he seems convinced that it can in certain circumstances. (source)

In cases where an individual is compound heterozygous – having one one C677T mutation and one A1298C mutation – there is an estimated 50% loss of function. (source)

Can’t we just supplement with folic acid?

Unfortunately, folic acid – which is a synthetic vitamin found in fortified foods and almost all vitamin supplements – is considered harmful for people with MTHFR mutations. Though it is easily absorbed by the body, people who have low levels of the MTHFR enzyme are not able to convert very much of it into usable form. So what happens to the unconverted folic acid? It attaches itself to the same receptors in the body used to absorb folate, effectively blocking the body’s ability to absorb any usable folate that is floating around. (source 1source 2)

Side note: Many lab tests do not distinguish between folic acid and folate when measuring blood levels. If folic acid intake is high, the results may show an individual has adequate amounts of folate when in fact what they actually have are high levels of unusable folic acid (but very little folate).

Here’s the good news: Our DNA is not our destiny.

Really, it’s not. One of my favorite analogies for explaining why goes like this: 

DNA is like a musical instrument. It’s there, but in order to make music it needs something – or someone – to play it. That something is epigenetics, which literally means “above” genetics. The epigenome is literally a second genome that plays the first like a violin, turning genes on and off according to the sheet music.

What is that sheet music, exactly? Our lives. Our choices. The food we eat. The way we interact with stress. Whether or not we get enough sleep. And for those of us with the MTHFR mutation, how we compensate for it in order to support overall function.

Here’s a real-life example: In the lecture available here, Dr. Lynch explains that certain populations have higher rates of the MTHFR mutation. Most also have higher rates of neural tube defects, which makes sense because they are a result of decreased folate status. However, one population in Italy has high rates of the mutation but very few neural tube defects. Researchers believe that nutrition and positive aspects of the environment are modulating the effects of the mutation. (Here’s a link to the study he cites)

How to get tested for MTHFR

If you have symptoms that relate to MTHFR and your doctor orders the test for you, there is a possibility that it will be covered by insurance. However, if for whatever reason the insurance company decides it is not covered, your out-of-pocket costs can be very high – sometimes over $1000. Definitely check with your insurance company and the lab you are ordering through to determine what your max cost might be.

Personally, I opted to test through 23&Me. The cost is $199, and you get more information than just MTHFR status. However, I agree with the advice Dr. Lynch gave in this interview with Wellness Mama, which is not allow yourself to get overwhelmed by all the information they provide. He suggests just starting with MTHFR (if you have the mutation), then exploring other genetic mutations if the supplements/lifestyle changes recommended don’t have the desired results.

Should children be tested?

My husband and I opted to test our two older children. (Toddlerpotamus is too young to produce enough spit for the test.) Our reasoning was that if they did have the mutation, it would be best to know so that we could take appropriate action to optimize their health.

Okay, I have the MTHFR mutation. What now?

Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to MTHFR. Supplementation with methylfolate (labeled as 5 L-MTHF or 6(S)-L-MTHF) is often recommended along with vitamin B-12 (in the form of SL methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin). HOWEVER, there are cases in which supplementation can cause serious side effects, especially when high doses are introduced at the beginning. This is often the case when the individual has other genetic mutations that interact with MTHFR. (source)

When I began the process of addressing my MTHFR mutation, here’s what I did:

  1. I educated myself as much as possible on the subject. Some of the resources I found most helpful are:
  • This video from Dr. Ben Lynch. It’s long, but a very good starting point for understanding MTHFR. You have to sign up for his Seeking Health newsletter to access it. He doesn’t send emails via this newsletter very often.
  • I also signed up for Dr. Lynch’s other email newsletter that is available via MTHFR.net. It starts off with very helpful beginner info, including what he calls his “safe and sane” way to supplement.
  • Wellness Mama has a great podcast interview with Dr. Lynch posted here.
  • Chris Kresser also has a couple of helpful podcasts: “Methylation 101” can be found here“Methylation: What is it and why should you care?” can be found here. Personally, I found that hearing different people explain MTHFR and methylation from their different perspectives helped me understand it better overall.

2. I sought the guidance of a MTHFR literate healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation. Though it’s not a complete list, you can find practitioners who have completed some form of training here. In my experience, the level of knowledge can vary widely from practitioner to practitioner, so I would personally do some additional research and/or interview the provider before beginning a protocol.

Next in this series, I’ll cover some of the most frequently asked questions about MTHFR gene mutations.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

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